Participatory Budgeting 2017 Voting Has Begun!
While national developments continue to be deeply concerning, the City will not cease stepping up to do our part. We are committed to our “Sanctuary City” status and will denounce hate at every opportunity. I was honored to speak at last Friday’s Fourth Universalist Church Interfaith Assembly in response to swastikas etched into their door.
We stand vigilant and undeterred. Locally, we have much to be proud of as we fight to improve the quality of life for all residents.
2017 Participatory Budgeting is just around the corner. Voting runs from Saturday, March 25th through Sunday, April 2nd. Get all the information you need — the projects on this year’s ballot, along with where and how to vote, on my website. Also, don’t hesitate to call my office if you have additional questions.
In recent weeks, I and countless other New Yorkers have spoken out about some of the Trump administration’s policies — whether by reading excerpts from Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter regarding Jeff Sessions on the floor of the City Council with my colleagues; demanding that the U.S. Senate preserve critical protections for students with disabilities after the House voted to overturn parts of the Every Student Succeeds Act; urging federal authorities to free DREAMer and DACA recipient Daniel Ramirez Medina; and protesting a House vote to dismantle Title X protections for family planning providers.
On March 8th, I joined the NYC Council Women’s Caucus (along with women across the country) in observing “A Day Without A Woman” on the steps of City Hall. Elected officials, advocates, and everyday New Yorkers came together to discuss the profound economic and societal value of “women’s work,” whether paid or unpaid; and the critical role that women have played in professions that put people first.
According to a study by Public Advocate Letitia James’ office, women in New York City earn over five billion dollars less than men every year. This is a startling revelation that not only hurts women and families, but our entire economy. In an effort to address pervasive gender wage discrimination, I co-sponsored a bill introduced by the Public Advocate that will ban employers from asking for previous salary information from any job applicant.
When women are asked for their salary history, employers are perpetuating the wage discrimination that existed at a previous job, thus creating a cycle of underpayment. This important bill will prevent any employer from asking for this information and will instead require companies to pay an employee based on their experience and merits. This bill is part of the Women’s Caucus Legislative Package, which we are committed to passing in 2017.
In late February, I was honored to meet with and bring information to a group of “targeted” students at John Jay College. Their faces conveyed the fear that has permeated their community. I am proud to stand with those at John Jay who are advocating for undocumented young people in our community. It is essential that every New Yorker –especially members of our immigrant communities– know their legal rights. Please check out my website for hotlines, fact sheets, and other legal resources.
An issue of tremendous concern across the country, and in our city, is the dramatic increase in hate crimes. As I mention above, I joined our own Fourth Universalist community on March 10th after a hate crime was committed against the congregation. Congregants, neighbors, interfaith allies and public officials stood together to reject bigotry and racism.
On Thursday, March 23rd at 6:30pm, my office is co-hosting a forum on hate crimes at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School at 140 West 102nd Street. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., will lead a discussion on the legal definition of a hate crime, and how to report a hate crime as a victim or witness. This is the third in a series of post-presidential election community forums co-organized by my office. Please RSVP for the event here.
My office is helping to facilitate public participation in the fight for social, economic and environmental justice across our country. In recent weeks, a coalition of residents has formed Upper West Side Resist, seeking to uphold American democratic and constitutional values. UWSResist plans to organize around issues like education, health care, racial justice, and climate change, along with women’s, LGBTQIA and immigrants rights — creating legislative change through community action. To learn more, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out my website to learn more about issues you can work on, along with the latest rallies, protests and other public events throughout the city.
Student Voter Registration Day was this past Friday, March 17th. SVRD has been a major initiative of my office over the last two years. Last year, 8,500 New York City high school students registered to vote and thousands more participated in civic education activities. Once again, high school students across the city registered to vote this week through the great work of the NY Immigration Coalition. Unfortunately, however, several schools cancelled their participation in SVRD this year because of concerns for undocumented students. While SVRD is careful to educate all participants that undocumented students cannot register to vote, some schools chose not to risk exposing their undocumented students in any way.
After a severe fire damaged more than a dozen apartments at 509 and 511 Amsterdam Avenue on February 24, community members have rallied to help our neighbors recover, especially those forced to leave their homes. I have met with residents to understand what they need most and will continue to provide them with legal services and other helpful resources.
“Our heart goes out to our neighbors,” say the owners of Jacob’s Pickles. They have announced a month of fundraising that will culminate with an event at Maison Pickle on Wednesday, April 26th. Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chairman Ken Biberaj, the director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Greg Silverman, and my office will host the event. Jacob’s Pickles will send an e-vite next week and will also publicize on their Facebook page. They are hoping the entire community will join them at this event.
On February 27th, Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell and I were pleased to celebrate with the tenants at 711 West End Avenue that the plan to build a 10-story structure on top of their home had been halted by the New York City Department of Finance.
Tenants of residential buildings throughout New York City could find themselves in a similar situation, where developers will literally seek to build on top of theirs, to generate luxury housing. This kind of construction raises numerous serious public safety and development process concerns. We continue to urge the City to reject these types of developments.
In other housing news, I am happy to announce that the City has come to an agreement with the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing to take over management of Independence House on West 94th Street. This will enable the building to retain its Mitchell Lama status and remain affordable, especially for the many seniors who live there.
And don’t forget that our office continues to hold a Monthly Housing Clinic with pro-bono lawyers available for consultation.
News from City Hall
Each year, hundreds and hundreds of residents come to my office to seek help in the face of harassment from their landlords. This harassment sometimes comes in the form of illegal or unscrupulous construction work. We need a Department of Buildings that works for tenants, not just for owners and contractors.
On February 23rd, I was proud to stand with my colleagues in the City Council and tenant leaders to support a package of bills called Stand for Tenant Safety. These reforms would be an important step toward re-centering the DOB’s priorities to put residents’ safety first and prevent the harassment that too often goes undetected.
In addition, I introduced legislation this past week that would establish an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the DOB. The advocate’s duties would include approving all tenant protection and site safety plans for multiple unit dwellings; establishing a system to receive comments, questions and complaints with respect to tenant protection and site safety plans; establishing a system to communicate with tenants who are affected by construction work; and monitoring sites where a tenant protection plan and/or site safety plan is required.
It is critical that we pass all of these bills in order to protect tenants rights. I am pushing very hard and believe some of the legislation will be passed and signed into law by June.
This budget season, a key focus for my office is NYC’s essential human service organizations which collectively serve more than 55,000 older adults, 10,000 children in foster care, and 60,000 New Yorkers living in homeless shelters. Tragically, these organizations are chronically underfunded, and almost 20% are insolvent.
As chair of the Contracts Committee, I am working to right-size human service contracts. Construction contracts with the City, for example, receive full funding, but human services contracts do not. We have a priorities issue — services for children, the elderly and the homeless matter just as much as construction projects.
As a society we can, and must do better — for human services workers and the New Yorkers they serve. At preliminary City budget hearings beginning March 2nd, I have been joined by advocates in calling for a 12% increase for all human service contracts. We have built a strong coalition among my Council colleagues, who have joined in this effort by asking pointed questions at our budget oversight hearings.
Finally, I am thrilled to report that last Thursday, the City Council passed my legislation requiring that all new or renovated City of New York assembly areas install “Hearing Loop” technology for those with hearing loss.
To the best of our knowledge, New York City is the first major municipality in the country to enact such legislation, enabling tens of thousands of New Yorkers to fully participate in public hearings and meetings. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, almost 20 percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss.
A hearing loop, also known as an induction loop, is a wire that “loops” or otherwise crosses a room and is connected to a sound system. The loop transmits sound electromagnetically to telecoils in hearing aids and cochlear implants, eliminating background noise and providing a dramatically clearer signal to the wearer. [Check out this youtube video demonstrating how a hearing loop works at a NYC subway station.]
In our district and at City Hall, I will continue to fight for protections for tenants, immigrants rights, equality in education for our kids, environmental sustainability, fair wages, and human dignity. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with suggestions about what the Council can do to improve life in our community.