Not even a month into the new administration, we find our deepest values threatened in unprecedented ways. In this tumultuous time, it is heartening to see the Upper West Side and the City stand up to affirm core American principles of fairness and social equality. I was thrilled to join the millions across our country who Marched for Women’s Rights on January 21. In the days to come, we must continue showing up and living out our values with love, decency, and solidarity.
Joining the National Conversation
In response to the outpouring of interest, my office is helping to facilitate public participation in the fight for social, economic and environmental justice across our country. Learn about issues you can work on, along with the latest rallies, protests and other public events throughout the city.
Council Member Rosenthal speaks at Riverside Church on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
A key issue for all of us during this time of national upheaval is the role of the media in enhancing — or hindering — public understanding. On February 1st, my office hosted FACT vs FICTION, a community conversation about the current state of the media, and ways we as “news consumers” can decipher between real and fake news in an age of information overload.
Almost 300 Upper West Side residents turned out for this important discussion in which the National Association for Media Literacy Education explored a myriad of issues. In a nutshell, the most important fact-checking tool that each of us has is a willingness to consume news carefully and thoughtfully, with special attention to the sources used by news outlets. Find out more at my website’s “Media Literacy” page. Many thanks to B’nai Jeshurun for hosting our community.
In March, we will be hosting a hate crime/upstander training event. Stay tuned for more information.
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.
News from City Hall: Focus on Small Businesses
We are all deeply concerned about the loss of our independent local businesses. One way to make a difference is to shop local. Another way is for local government to help relieve businesses’ rent burden. The City Council is actively working on legislative means to eliminate the Commercial Rent Tax (CRT) on businesses that pay less than $500,000 in rent annually.
Currently, businesses below 96th Street in Manhattan with annual rents of $250,000 – $500,000, are required to pay a 3.9% surcharge on top of their already exorbitant rent. This is the equivalent of an extra half-month’s rent–or potentially the salary of an employee. The CRT unfairly penalizes businesses and entrepreneurs who choose to invest in our neighborhoods and is yet another barrier as we try to maintain community character in the face of rising rents.
Earlier this week, the Council’s Finance Committee reviewed legislation that would begin to remedy this inequity. In advance of the hearing, I spoke on the steps of City Hall in favor of legislation introduced by Council Member Dan Garodnick and myself which would exclude all businesses paying $500,000 or less in annual rent, from having to pay the CRT. This would exempt our most vulnerable businesses from the tax and be a good step toward a fairer system.
Our legislation will bring direct relief to thousands of Manhattan small business owners. I also sponsored accompanying legislation which would require the Department of Finance to issue an annual report on the impact of the CRT so that we can craft a long-term solution using more detailed data. Another key bill considered would exempt grocery stores from paying the tax. This is an important step as well, as the sheer size of grocery stores means that their CRT burden is often significant.
My office also held a Small Business Clinic on January 9 for local restaurants. The NYC Department of Small Business Solutions presented “Restaurant Manager Bootcamp,” which provided key steps to successfully start and manage a restaurant or bar. Pro-bono attorneys were also available for consultations on any business-related legal concern. My office will hold small business clinics quarterly throughout the year, with the next one this spring. If you would like to be added to our small business email list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news, Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that, for the first time, the City will fund universal access to legal services for tenants facing eviction in New York City Housing Court. The City began providing these services on a pilot basis and the result have been impressive — evictions by City Marshalls have decreased by 24 percent since 2015. Going forward, the City’s program will provide free legal representation to New Yorkers with household incomes below roughly $50,000 (200 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four), and legal counseling to those earning more.
Don’t forget that our office continues to hold a Monthly Housing Clinic with pro-bono lawyers available for consultation.
Honoring the 20th Precinct’s “Cops of the Month”
In January, I was very pleased to join the 20th Precinct in honoring their 2016 “Cops of the Month.” In a special ceremony, each officer was thanked for their heroic service and commitment to the community.
Officers Olivo, Hunter, Conde, Richards, Provenzano, Groger, Irwin, Loughren, Slaughter, Caniglia, Bloomfield and Campbell, along with Sergeants Jackson and O’Connor, were honored for their contributions to public safety in 2016. Read more about each officer’s crime-fighting and life-saving accomplishments.
In the days and months ahead, we must remain vigilant. Please stayed tuned to my website and reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. I appreciate all those who’ve stopped by to get answers to the question: “What can I do?” And, pace yourself. We are in this for the long haul.