Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
Quote of the Day:
“[The city is] warehousing people in rooms infested with rats and roaches, with holes in the wall, leaks in the ceilings, and doors with no locks.... These miserable little rooms cost taxpayers up to $2,100 per month.” - Councilmember Eric Gioia on a bill to require the city to provide better housing for homeless people with AIDS.
In 1997, the city enacted Local Law 49, which created the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) and outlined the kinds of services and benefits that government must provide to low-income individuals with AIDS. Since the passage of the law, the city has faced a series of lawsuits challenging the quality of those services, particularly housing.
Because homeless people with AIDS have compromised immune systems, they cannot stay in the usual shelters. The city routinely places clients in single room occupancy hotels and pays a high price â€“ up to $2,100 a month â€“ for these rooms, where conditions often do not meet the “medically appropriate” standards that the law requires.
A City Council report (in .pdf format) on transitional housing for people with AIDS, found that 73 percent of facilities surveyed had building code violations; 50 percent did not provide basic amenities such as mattresses or toilet paper.
In an effort to address the situation, the City Council passed a bill (Intro 541-A) which requires that the city issue quarterly reports on the services and housing it provides to people with AIDS/HIV. It is named the “Keith Cylar Act,” after the AIDS activist and co-founder of Housing Works who died a year ago.
The bill aims to strengthen Local Law 49 and create clearer standards that the city must meet for its 41,000 clients.
“Over the years, one thing that became clear is if you left any wiggle room, the agency would find it,” said Councilmember Christine Quinn. “We will eliminate that.”
With the council chambers packed full of cheering corrections and sanitation workers, the City Council passed a bill (Intro 380-A) to give certain uniformed workers stronger collective bargaining powers.
New York City Collective Bargaining Law gives certain uniformed employees â€“ police, firefighters, sanitation, and corrections officers - unique bargaining rights, however these do not apply to related positions like sanitation enforcement agents, fire protection inspectors, and school safety workers. This measure would extend the same bargaining rights to those city employees.
The mayor, not the City Council, has the power to negotiate contracts with city workers; the council said the bill does not overstep its powers.
“This legislation doesn’t guarantee anybody anything except the right to bargain for fair treatment from their employer,” said Speaker Gifford Miller.
Bay Side Rezoning
In recent months, the City Council has passed a series of rezonings meant to protect neighborhoods made up of single-family homes in Staten Island and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Now a 380-block area of Bay Side, Queens has been rezoned to make it more difficult for developers to build multi-unit apartment buildings that are taller than surrounding houses.
“It eliminates the loopholes in the building and zoning code that allow for the `McMansions’ to be built in many one-family home districts across the city,” said Councilmember Tony Avella.
The council also passed a measure (Intro 423-A) that gives the city’s buildings department more power to enforce regulations on the size and scale of outdoor advertising. In the past, the law allowed the billboard industry to police itself, but lawmakers say the policy cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
All of the bills passed unanimously with exception of the outdoor advertising measure; Republican Councilmember Dennis Gallagher voted against it.
Allan Jennings Sexual Misconduct Ruling
After months of investigating sexual harassment charges filed against Queens Councilmember Allan Jennings, the City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics has recommended disciplinary actions. The committee wants Jennings to:
- pay a $5,000 fine
- undergo court-certified anger management and gender, racial and harassment sensitivity training
- receive a public censure
- and be stripped of all of his committee assignments.
The full council must vote on the penalties at the next Stated Meeting scheduled for April 20, 2005.