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Press Release

City Hall
New York, NY 10007
                                                                                                                                                                            (212) 788-7116
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**                                                                                                         
February 11, 2016



Contact: (212) 788-7116
Release #:010-2016
Pledging to Bring More Justice to New Yorkers, Mark-Viverito Outlines Ambitious Agenda to Make New York a More Fair and Equal City for All
Speaker Mark-Viverito: “It’s New Yorkers who make New York great.
And it’s New Yorkers who need more justice.”
South Bronx, NY – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today delivered her second State of the City address, “More Justice,” a vision for 2016 to make New York a more fair, more just and more equal City for all New Yorkers.  Doubling down on her commitment to reform the criminal justice system, end the homelessness crisis, increase civic engagement and support young women and girls, Speaker Mark-Viverito laid out a wide-ranging agenda to make New York City more secure, more just and more inclusive for all people.
Mark-Viverito: “When we commit to improving how communities and the criminal justice system interact; when we lay out ambitious plans to help the homeless or to engage our youth - or when we stand up for our neighborhoods,  immigrants, caregivers, new mothers, and young women - the world takes notice.”
In the Speaker’s State of the City address, which was simultaneously broadcast in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Bengali, Speaker Mark-Viverito outlined a bold new vision for New York City, including proposals to:
•         Increase Civic Engagement and Ease the Voting Process
•         End the City’s Homelessness Crisis
•         Double Down on Criminal Justice Reform and Enhance Public Safety
•         Increase Language Access Services
•         Invest in Young Women and Girls
•         Enhance Community Input in Neighborhood Development
•         Support New York City’s Families and Caregivers
 Increase Civic Engagement and Ease the Voting Process:
Mark-Viverito: “The public cannot stand up and be counted if we fail to modernize our voting process.”
The City Council has a proud history of supporting increased public participation in government. The Council’s Participatory Budgeting (“PB”) process gives New Yorkers a voice in deciding what projects they want to see funded in their neighborhoods. This year, 28 Council Members are involved in PB, committing over $30 million to the process. In last year’s cycle, more than 50,000 New Yorkers, including non-citizens, teens, and others who are excluded from most elections, cast ballots. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will pledge $1 million for the City Council’s PB process.
Ease the Voting Process:
Unfortunately, many people do not exercise their right to vote. In the 2014 midterm elections, New York State ranked 49th in the nation for voter participation—only 29% of eligible voters voted. In New York City, only 20% of eligible voters cast ballots, hitting an historic low. Part of the blame for low voter turnout rests with New York State’s antiquated voting laws, which have failed to keep up with improvements to registration and voting accessibility seen in other jurisdictions.
Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito proposed sweeping changes to engage and support New York City’s youth and ensure that they have a voice in governance.
The most significant reforms are only possible at the State level, and today, the Speaker called  on the State take the bold steps necessary to modernize New York’s registration and voting policies, including implementing automatic registration, preregistering youth, establishing early voting, allowing for same-day voter registration, and facilitating absentee voting.
The Council will call on the State to enact:
•         The Voter Empowerment Act (A.5972 Kavanagh/S.2538B Gianaris), which would enact reforms including automatic agency-based registration, online registration as a universal option, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds, and moving the registration deadline closer to Election Day.
•         Early voting, which would allow voting prior to Election Day.
•         A constitutional amendment to allow same-day voter registration.
•         A constitutional amendment to allow no-excuse absentee voting, so any registered voter can vote absentee in-person or by mail.
At the City level, the Council will also work to ease the process of registering and voting by pursuing new initiatives:
•         The Online Voter Information Portal and App will be a one-stop shop for voter information, where users can find the absentee ballot application; track their absentee ballot’s status; look up their voting history, registration status, party enrollment, and sample ballots; find polling hours, their polling place, and the voter guide; and sign up to be a poll worker.
•         Voter Notifications through Email and Text Messaging will provide voters with the option of receiving e-mail and/or text message notifications about elections, including much of the information contained in the Online Information Portal and App. Text messages have been used to engage voters and drive turnout in the Council’s participatory budgeting efforts.
•         Notice on Former Poll Sites will require formerly used poll sites to have posted notices directing voters to their new site.
In order to empower New York City’s youth and increase their participation in government, the Council will:
•         Fund civic engagement programs, so that high school and college students move from civic theory to civic action, advocating for their points of view on real-world issues affecting their communities.
•         Expand Student Voter Registration Days in New York City’s high schools, with the goal of registering 10,000 students to vote. This will expand the Council’s current initiative that funds student voter registration and engagement at 56 high schools to 125 high schools.
•         Establish the New York City Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship, an exciting new program to place diverse and talented graduates of professional and graduate schools in full-time, year-long positions in City government. This Fellowship will harness the passion of young New Yorkers, including social workers, lawyers and policy analysts, who want to make a difference in their communities.
 End the City’s Homelessness Crisis:
Mark-Viverito: “We have a moral, humanitarian and legal obligation to end the City’s systemic homelessness crisis.”
Every night, over 58,000 New Yorkers sleep in the City’s shelter system, and over 3,000 more sleep on the streets. This has been a growing challenge for decades, and for thousands of New Yorkers, the only thing standing between them and homelessness is a missed paycheck or an unforeseen medical emergency.
The City Council is proud to play a key role in the fight to end homelessness. Last year, the Council provided over $11 million in funding for anti-eviction services and emergency assistance for families in danger of becoming homeless. Additionally, the Council passed legislation making it easier for domestic violence survivors to qualify for shelter.  
But the City cannot end the homelessness crisis alone. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito outlined a comprehensive strategy for the City and State to end the homelessness crisis and called on the City, State and federal government to:
•         Raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers. The current minimum wage is not high enough - full-time workers who earn the minimum wage simply cannot afford housing in the City.
•         Accelerate the commitment to develop thousands of units of supportive housing. Supportive housing is the most effective way to end chronic homelessness among those individuals and families with mental health and substance abuse challenges. The City and State’s commitment to create permanent supportive housing needs to be implemented immediately.
•         Recommit to and expand the Section 8 voucher program. This federal program provides subsidies for eligible low-income families to rent decent, safe and affordable housing. However, the demand for Section 8 vouchers far outpaces the supply – more than 120,000 people are currently on the New York City Housing Authority’s Section 8 waitlist.
At the same time, the City can take steps to expand access to more stable housing. Specifically, Speaker Mark-Viverito called for:
•         An expanded, permanent rental subsidy program. It is unrealistic to expect families to go from living in a shelter to making full rent payments after only a few years of temporary assistance. A permanent rental subsidy program would help establish stability by preventing families from cycling in and out of shelters. Furthermore, both recipients and property owners would benefit from knowing there was a consistent support system in place that wouldn’t cease after a few years. Such a program could be modeled on the federal Section 8 voucher program, and would require the State to provide appropriate funding.
•         The allocation of more public housing units each year for homeless families, including survivors of domestic violence who are homeless. While approximately 5,000 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) units of public housing turn over annually, the Administration has only committed to setting aside 1,500 such units for homeless families each year through 2025. NYCHA can and should accommodate more homeless families until the crisis has ended.
 Double Down on Criminal Justice Reform and Enhance Public Safety:
Mark-Viverito: “It is time to take our criminal justice system out of the shadows – and finally address the institutional racism which has plagued it for far too long.”
The City Council has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, working to reduce the unnecessary pre-trial detention population at Rikers by supporting diversion and supervised release programs, creating fairer and more proportionate penalties for low-level, non-violent offenses, and establishing a Citywide bail fund to ensure that a person who is accused of a low-level offense does not languish in jail because they can’t afford a few hundred dollars bail.  Speaker Mark-Viverito and the Council also pushed to fund 1,300 new police officers to enhance community policing efforts and allocated $7.3 million for bullet proof vests in order to support the brave men and women of the NYPD. These successes demonstrate that criminal justice reform and enhanced public safety can be achieved simultaneously.
Despite the Council’s collaborative efforts and the presence of a federal monitor, Rikers Island remains a stain on New York City. Every year, there are about 70,000 admissions to Rikers and other City jails, but only about 16% of those admitted are ultimately sentenced to prison. And violence rates continue to rise, even as the inmate population falls. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito proposed a comprehensive package of bills to further reform and increase transparency at the Department of Correction (“DOC”):
• Create an independent Criminal Justice Commission. This new, independent Commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, will recommend ways to continue to reduce pre-trial incarceration rates and explore a community-based justice model for New York City. The Commission will examine, among other things, accelerating and expanding on reforms related to diversion, alternatives to incarceration, supervised release, the bail system and the Constitutional right to a speedy trial; moving youth and those with serious mental health problems off Rikers in the short term; increasing the number of community courts; and expanding the use of borough-based jail facilities. The Commission will work closely with Elizabeth Glazer, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. It’s work will complement current reform efforts and create a blueprint for justice for New York City.
• Fight to Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility. New York is one of only two states in which all 16- and 17- year-olds are treated as adults in the criminal justice system. Numerous studies show that treating defendants under 18 as adults leads to a higher likelihood that they suffer physical and emotional abuse, and ultimately results in higher rates of recidivism. Moving the majority of these cases to Family Court is the only just solution to this problem, allowing young people to receive the developmentally appropriate services they need.
• Create a Municipal Division of Transition Services (“MDOTS”) Each year there are tens of thousands of admissions to Rikers Island and other City jails, but only about 16 percent are ultimately sentenced to prison, meaning the vast majority of those caught up in New York City’s pre-trial detention system will reenter communities directly from jail. Even after short periods of confinement, many people have difficulty finding housing, developing job skills, obtaining steady employment, accessing treatment programs, or obtaining other necessary services that enable them to become productive members of society. MDOTS will be a “one-stop-shop” for re-entry services, offering an initial point of contact to facilitate immediate access to services, as well as an on-going presence in communities to ensure access to services over the long-term.
• Enhance DOC accountability and create an Inspector General (“IG”) for the DOC. In 2013, the Council created an IG for the NYPD, which has been proven to be successful in enhancing oversight and increasing reform. Similarly, the Council will establish an IG for the DOC to focus on systemic issues that affect the rights of those who are incarcerated. Despite the temporary presence of a federal monitor and other oversight entities, there is a real gap in clarity regarding the scope of investigations these bodies can or should take. An IG with statutorily established duties will bring meaningful reform to the DOC.
• Expand violence-based adult programming at Rikers. The DOC has demonstrated in certain units, particularly with adolescents, that the expansion of programming and “idleness-reduction” efforts directly correlates with a decrease in violence. However, the DOC reports that only 10.5% of its adult population are engaged in skill-building activities or discharge planning. Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that the Council will therefore fund an expansion in programming for adult inmates, specifically targeted at violence reduction.
• Establish a video visitation program at Rikers. Maintaining contact with an inmate’s community is highly correlated with reducing recidivism. But in order to visit an inmate at Rikers Island, friends and family members usually spend an entire day of travel for a 1-hour visit. The Council will establish a program so that friends and family members of inmates can communicate via videoconference facilities located in their communities. These efforts will not only decrease the burden on families, but should also help reduce recidivism. The Brooklyn Public Library already has a promising program that allows detainees to read to their children through videoconferencing.
Crime Victim’s Service Coordinator
Speaker Mark-Viverito also announced that the Council will help victims of crimes by establishing a Crime Victim’s Service Coordinator. Currently, there is no centralized resource for victims of crimes to turn to for assistance and services. This Coordinator will utilize existing resources and programs, while identifying gaps in services, to ensure victims get the help they need.
The City Council is also working with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to help reduce the over 1.5 million summons warrants still active in our City – some of which are decades old. It is simply unfair that someone should spend a night in jail because of an old warrant based on a minor, low-level offense, such as being in the park after dark. This is especially true now that the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) will provide for a civil penalty, without the possibility of a warrant. Even after this is accomplished, there will still be hundreds of thousands of warrants left on the books, so we will increase the use of programming, outreach, and events to address the remaining warrants the right way – without spending a night in jail.
Finally, the Council will take a proactive approach to criminal justice reform by passing legislation to focus resources on neighborhoods with high crime rates and low quality of life.  The Council will ensure there is a multi-agency plan to provide social services to certain high-crime areas that addresses underlying factors, such as unemployment, inadequate education or substance abuse - problems that often cause or correlate to increased crime rates. The Council will also pass legislation that will improve the quality of life through the creation of targeted Neighborhood Support Teams. These neighborhood support teams will replicate the successful work the Council has conducted in East Harlem, where we have seen improvements in street cleanliness, built a new pedestrian plaza, and addressed the K2 epidemic head on through legislation, enforcement and the delivery of health services. This coordinated approach will address the varied and often unique quality of life concerns experienced by other communities throughout the City.
Increase Language Access Services:
Mark-Viverito: “English proficiency should never be an obstacle to accessing City services.”
With close to 800 languages spoken across the five boroughs, New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Half of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and almost one-quarter of New York City’s population is limited English proficient (LEP). Despite existing requirements, too many New Yorkers continue to face language barriers when trying to access public services. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that the Council will pass a comprehensive package of legislation to better enable all New Yorkers to effectively communicate with City agencies.
The Council will overhaul the City’s language access law by:
•         Codifying Executive Order 120, requiring City agencies that provide direct public services to develop and implement language access plans; designate a language access coordinator; provide translation and interpretation services in the top six languages spoken in the City, including the translation of essential public documents; train staff on language access policies; and create public awareness strategies regarding available language access services.
•         Expanding Executive Order 120 to additionally require that translation and interpretation services be provided in the top six languages spoken by the agency’s service population.
The Council will ensure the City gathers information on the language needs and demographics of people accessing direct public services, so agencies have a better understanding of the communities they serve. This legislation will require the Administration to:
•         Develop a language access survey that will allow each agency to understand the language needs, both spoken and written, of its service population. Each agency will incorporate its survey results into its language access plan, thereby improving its provision of services.
•         Survey agencies’ staffing capacity for providing language access services.
•         Direct certain agencies to survey the populations they serve to collect demographic information about primary language and other languages spoken, as well as information regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry and ethnicity, including whether an individual is multi-racial.
The Council will also work with its partners in City government to increase the availability of NotifyNYC emergency alert notifications in multiple languages.
Additionally, the Council will use the power of information to increase access to financial health and the affordable housing system by:
•         Establishing financial outreach and education programs for immigrants, seniors, and women, who each face unique challenges to achieving financial stability and independence.
•         Funding financial literacy outreach teams, including translated materials for languages beyond the six most commonly spoken, in neighborhoods with new affordable housing opportunities.
Invest in Young Women and Girls:
Mark-Viverito: “Young women are the very foundation, the core of our City’s hope for the future. So we don’t need cracks in the glass ceiling - we need to shatter it once and for all.”
In May of 2015, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the creation of the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) in order to support and uplift young women and girls throughout New York City, particularly those of color. Over the last several months, the City Council convened over 200 community-based organizations, policy experts, and young women and girls themselves to identify where the disparities are the greatest, and to make policy, legislative and budgetary recommendations that will transform the lives of young women and girls.
In a process that represented the diversity of New York City, the YWI ensured that the voices and experiences of transgender women, gender-non-conforming New Yorkers, and young women and girls directly impacted by systems such as criminal justice and foster care were central to the recommendation development process. Multiple agencies also partnered on this effort.  
Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that the City Council and philanthropy will invest $20 million over two years on programs and services recommended through the YWI. 
The City Council will be releasing a comprehensive set of recommendations that have emerged from the Young Women’s Initiative this spring. Recommendations expected to be discussed include proposals the Speaker highlighted during her State of the City address, including:
•         Supporting programs designed to end sexual exploitation and connecting survivors to safety, justice and opportunity;
•         Ensuring schools provide meaningful access to guidance and career counseling, and promoting leadership development opportunities for young people;
•         Expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program to a comprehensive, year-round program that provides real job skills and offers a pathway to career readiness;
•         Improving transgender health care services; and
•         Creating a fund for access to contraceptives.
  Enhance Community Input in Neighborhood Development:
Mark-Viverito: “Planning for the future of our neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions.”
Planning for the future of New York City’s neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions at every level. Indeed, communities across New York City are in the midst of rezoning and land use discussions about the diversity, character and livability of our neighborhoods. When the City seeks zoning changes, it makes important commitments to neighborhoods to build schools, mitigate environmental impacts, and improve infrastructure, and we should ensure that these commitments are part of a transparent process. 
Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito proposed the City develop Neighborhood Commitment Plans to accompany rezoning proposals, describing and tracking commitments for housing, schools, infrastructure and other City services.
Neighborhood development is also affected by siting decisions. The City has a process called “Fair Share” that is meant to result in an equitable distribution of important services throughout the City - both those that are popular, like libraries and daycare centers, and those that may be less desirable but necessary, like waste transfer stations and drug treatment centers.
Unfortunately, the Fair Share guidelines are vague and difficult to enforce, and they haven’t been updated in 25 years. Furthermore, limited information is available to the public to help communities and the City make fully informed critical siting decisions.
The Council will work with its partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process. Areas to address include:
• Expanding and enhancing the Citywide Statement of Needs, through such steps as including more capital projects and improving accompanying maps and explanatory texts.
• Reviewing and studying the criteria and process for siting City facilities with an eye toward possible revisions and improvements to the Fair Share process. 
Speaker Mark-Viverito also announced that the Council will launch a planning study to develop recommendations for strengthening our small business community through land use policy and other tools, such as tax incentives, so that the City can support small businesses and work to maintain the character and diversity of New York City’s neighborhoods.
Support New York City’s Families and Caregivers:
Mark-Viverito: “With our aging population on the rise, it is incumbent on our City to ensure that our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents receive the care and companionship they need to age with dignity.”
Strong families are vital to a flourishing City. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito doubled down on her commitment to parents and grandparents, sons and daughters as they provide care across the lifespan, for their newborn child or their aging parent.
Many New Yorkers balance jobs with family responsibilities, and some feel that they must choose between reaching their full potential in their careers and providing essential care to their loved-ones. Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that the City Council will provide families with support to ensure their children are given a meaningful start to life from the day they are born, and that the City’s most vulnerable adults are cared for while their caregivers are given the resources they need. 
The Council will act to support New York City’s families and caregivers by:
• Increasing Funding for the Nurse Family Partnership:  The Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) is a nurse home-visit program for low-income and at-risk first-time mothers that begins during pregnancy and continues until the child’s second birthday. NFP is proven to reduce preterm and infant deaths, child abuse and neglect, subsequent unwanted births, and reliance on safety net programs, and has also been shown to improve behavioral, educational, and cognitive outcomes for children. Speaker Mark-Viverito today announced that the Council will increase funding for the Nurse Family Partnership by $8 million. By intervening early, the City can eliminate many of the risk factors and challenges that complicate pregnancy and child-rearing.
• Increasing Funding for  Elementary School After-School Programs: After-school programs provide children with enrichment opportunities and a nurturing place to go after school, while allowing hundreds of thousands of parents to balance jobs with family responsibilities. This year, the City’s Comprehensive Afterschool System (COMPASS) has offered 42,540 free slots for elementary school students. But across the five boroughs, programs still have waiting lists that leave thousands more parents struggling to find alternative childcare options. To address this, Speaker Mark-Viverito and the Council will work with the Administration to increase COMPASS funding and add at least 5,000 more slots for elementary school students.
• Continuing the Fight at the State Level for Paid Family Leave: The Family and  Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees working at firms with fifty or more employees with up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a twelve month period for specified family and medical reasons. However, many employees either are not covered or cannot afford to lose the pay even if they qualify. New York State provides partial wage replacement through its Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, but only in the event the employee becomes temporarily disabled. If an employee’s child becomes seriously ill, TDI provides no protection.
• Working to expand the City’s child care tax credit: The Council will work with its State partners to increase the maximum eligible income from $30,000 to $45,000, increasing the maximum benefit from 75% of the State child care tax credit to 100%, and for the first time extending the credit to caregivers of adults who cannot care for themselves. Expanding the credit for children alone is estimated to increase the number of recipients by 18,700.
• Establishing a Plan to Address the Needs of the City’s Informal Caregiver Population: The Council will pass legislation requiring the Department for the Aging (DFTA), in consultation with the Human Resources Administration, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, and other relevant agencies, to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the City’s informal caregiver population. This plan will include an assessment of the City’s caregiver population, including demographics and the amount of care they provide; an analysis of whether they are being reached by the City’s existing caregiver support programs; and discussions of how cross-agency collaboration can address the needs of caregivers of both seniors and non-senior adults with disabilities. DFTA will receive input from informal caregivers, service providers, academic experts, and others to make recommendations on how programs and services can be improved to effectively serve and support the City’s caregivers.
• Creating a Division of Paid Care within the Office of Labor Standards: The Division will research workforce issues related to homecare and childcare workers to ensure that workers in the caregiver industry have the supports they need to provide the best care for our seniors, children and disabled family members. The Division will also educate workers, clients, and their families about their rights and responsibilities. Greater oversight of this industry will improve working conditions for tens of thousands of paid care workers, decrease turnover, improve the continuity of care, and enhance the cost-effectiveness of existing City programs.
Leading advocates for criminal justice reform, legal service providers, community organizations and advocates praised Speaker Mark-Viverito’s comprehensive proposals to make New York a more fair, just and equal City for all:
Increase Civic Engagement:
"More justice for our neighborhoods means fixing NYC's 'fair share' system for siting City facilities (those we all want, and those we mostly don't), so all our communities are treated fairly. It means real 'neighborhood commitment plans' when communities are rezoned, so promises-made become promises-kept. It means more participatory budgeting and more civic engagement. It means -- as Samuel Gompers said, and Speaker Mark-Viverito showed so eloquently today – ‘more schoolhouses and less jails, more books and less arsenals, more justice and less revenge," said Council Member Brad Lander.
“I applaud the Speaker for making increased access to voting information one of her priorities in her State of the City speech,” said Council Member James Vacca. “Creating a mobile app to keep voters informed of general voting information such as polling locations, hours, and dates of elections is a great idea that will engage civic participation. Additionally, my legislation would allow for last minute and emergency announcements, which will ensure that New Yorkers are able to vote when an unforeseen circumstance, such as a natural disaster or local emergency, prevents voting at a regular polling place. I have long been an advocate for using technology to increase access to voting or voting information in any way possible, and I look forward to these proposals becoming a reality.”
“This generation was lucky enough to be born with the right to vote, regardless of race or gender. Our next challenge is to raise awareness of the value of voting and civic participation. Every voice matters, and Student Voter Registration Day gives students the opportunity to understand the impact they can make through civic participation – both in and out of the voting booth,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
“Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Council for creating the NYC Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship program,” said New York Law School Dean Anthony W. Crowell.  “This fellowship is long needed and will be a critical onramp for today’s law graduates and other new professionals to start meaningful and rewarding careers in City government. New York Law School looks forward to being a partner in helping make the program as successful as possible.”    
“Common Cause/NY applauds the Speaker's outstanding leadership to support and strengthen the pathways to civic engagement,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “Democracy is about access and inclusion for all, but especially the next generation, and these proposals represent a true commitment to those ideals. We look forward to working with the Speaker and urge Albany to follow her lead.”
“New Yorkers will vote in as many as four elections this year. Yet the state has one of the most confusing and outdated voting systems in the country,” said DeNora Getachew, Campaign Manager and Legislative Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “We applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for her advocacy in support of much-needed state legislation to ensure all New Yorkers have flexible and convenient options to register to vote and cast a ballot.  Until the state legislature acts, the common sense local reforms that Speaker Mark-Viverito proposed are a step in the right direction.”
"Kudos to the Council for taking the lead in increasing opportunities for New Yorkers to register to vote. 2015 saw the implementation of Council legislation to dramatically expand and improve voter registration efforts in city agencies and NYPIRG is particularly pleased to join in efforts to register young voters through the Council-led Student Voter Registration Day," said Neal Rosenstein, Election Specialist at the New York Public Interest Research Group.  "We hope the City's efforts will help break the logjam for additional reforms at the state level.”
“The announcement by Council Speaker Mark-Viverito of the new Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship is an innovative, exciting development in city government,” said Jennifer Zelnick, MSW, ScD Associate Professor and Social Welfare Policy Chair, Touro College Graduate School of Social Work.  “In our social work policy curriculum we stress the importance of policy practice in pursuit of social justice aims, and this fellowship creates recognition of what students like ours—New York City natives from across the boroughs different neighborhoods with dedication to improving their communities—have to give.  Our policy students attend city council and community board meetings as part of their social work curriculum, and I’ve often regretted that there are not more opportunities for them to connect with local public service in city government.   This program will be a fantastic learning opportunity and an investment in our students, future leaders, and the human infrastructure of the city.”
“The National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter, is very pleased to learn about Council Speaker Mark-Viverito’s proposal to create the Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship, and to include social workers in it,” said Robert Schachter, DSW, Executive Director, National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC) “Social workers are committed to social justice and would value the opportunity to work in key places to gain experience in city government.  The benefit of such experiences would be felt for many years to come through the development of meaningful careers, both in government and elsewhere.”
“Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Council for creating the NYC Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship program,” said New York Law School Dean Anthony W. Crowell.  “This fellowship is long needed and will be a critical onramp for today’s law graduates and other new professionals to start meaningful and rewarding careers in City government. New York Law School looks forward to being a partner in helping make the program as successful as possible.”    
‘We are pleased that the City Council is focusing on Election Law and Voter Service in 2016, a year when NYC voters will be asked to vote in as many as 5 elections.  We commend the Council, and the Speaker's leadership in promoting technical improvements in collaboration with the NYC Board of Elections, and we support efforts to restore effective civics education in the City of New York. The NY State League of Women Voters welcomes City Council support of Election reform in Albany,”  said Kate Doran of the NY State League of Women Voters.
End the City’s Homelessness Crisis:
"We are deeply indebted to the Speaker and the Council for their early and unwavering support of creating 35,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years,” said Laura Mascuch, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “We thank both the Mayor and the Governor for their extraordinary leadership in making this historic pledge and look forward to working with the Council to speed the actual development of this housing and ending homelessness among our most vulnerable citizens."
  “Tonight over 23,000 children will be sleeping in homeless shelters, in part because wages have not kept pace with the costs of housing in New York City.  We are so grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for recognizing the need to do more to help homeless children and their families and to address the housing crisis,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director, Citizens’ Committee for Children.
Criminal Justice Reform:
“However well meaning, we know that the unintended consequences of existing criminal justice policies fall unfairly on minority communities. Criminal justice reform is critical to our fight against homelessness, imperative to decreasing the population on Rikers Island, and fundamental in our efforts to make sure all of our young people believe in their own success. I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her unwavering commitment to law enforcement policy that delivers reasonable punishments for minor offenses and offers redemption for those who are not a threat to public safety. As Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, I look forward to working closely with the Speaker to make New York City a fairer and safer place for all,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson
“For far too long, our City jails have been plagued by a culture of violence. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will combat these incidents of illegal activity by creating an Inspector General for the Department of Correction. This would allow the City to put forth reforms based on true investigations and oversight. I additionally applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for calling for a commission to improve overall operations in our City jails, and I look forward to working with the commission to bring about real reform,” said Council Member Crowley
"Excessive summonses and warrants for low-level offenses have been burdening families and overwhelming our courts for far too long," said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. "I applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for her dedication to fixing this broken system while continuing to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.  I will do all that I can to support this worthy initiative."
“I am honored that Speaker Mark-Viverito has asked me to chair this commission that is so important to the future of the criminal justice system in New York,” said Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.” As Chief Judge, I was privileged to be a part of the dialogue in our city and state regarding the fairness of our criminal justice system, including on issues related to juvenile justice, pretrial detention, bail and sentencing.  The Commission will work to create a blueprint for reform efforts, including a careful examination of the populations presently held at Rikers and the future role of that facility in the years ahead.”
“The Speaker's comprehensive proposal recognizes the importance of evaluating each stage of the criminal justice system to make sure that it is making the city a safe and fair place for all New Yorkers,” said Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice. “We share the Speaker's commitment to shrinking the footprint of justice system involvement so that the negative impacts of unnecessary incarceration do not derail the lives of our neighbors, and we applaud her ongoing national leadership on issues of justice.”
“Today, the Speaker has once again demonstrated her commitment to addressing the challenges of our problem-ridden criminal justice system,” said Seymour W. James, Attorney in Chief and Tine Luongo, Attorney in Charge, Criminal Defense Practice, Legal Aid Society.  Her announcement of an independent commission to explore community-based justice and detention is a promising development towards reducing the jailing of those too poor to pay bail and towards moving those who must be detained away from the chaotic and violent environment of Rikers Island.  The plan to expedite dismissal of old summonses and warrants will help remove barriers that interfere with housing and employment opportunities and in many cases lead to more needless incarceration.  Recognition of re-entry as a critical need through better coordination of transitional services will make a significant difference in the lives of Legal Aid’s clients and others who are striving to move past criminal justice encounters and resume law-abiding civilian life.  We look forward to these reform efforts and working with Speaker to makes them a reality.”
"We welcome the Speaker’s initiatives to reduce the city's jail population and to mitigate the harms caused by decades of hyper enforcement of low-level offenses, which took a massive toll on low-income communities of color in New York City," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Time is also long past due for establishing an inspector general to identify systemic problems and policy changes to end to the culture of violence at Riker’s Island.”
“New York City has made real progress in recent days toward reducing the use of jail and bolstering the legitimacy of the justice system,” said Greg Berman, Executive Director, Center for Court Innovation. “The Commission created by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and chaired by Jonathan Lippman has the potential to take this work to the next level, advancing a new vision of justice that emphasizes community-based alternatives to incarceration and treating individual defendants and victims with dignity and respect. The results achieved by projects like the Red Hook Community Justice Center suggest that this approach can help reduce crime and improve public trust in justice. At the Center for Court Innovation, we applaud the Speaker's leadership and look forward to supporting the efforts of the Commission in any way we can.”
“I applaud the Speaker's initiative to create a blueprint for the future of the justice system in New York City,” said Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.” Under the leadership of former Chief Judge Lippman, a proven reformer, this commission can build on the momentum for reform, take promising innovations to scale, reduce pretrial detention and bring justice closer to the communities of our city. This blueprint can be a model for the nation.”
"The Speaker is providing strong leadership in taking a smarter, more humane approach to our criminal justice system," said JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society.  "We welcome the formation of the Commission and her other initiatives that address the tragic impact on individuals and communities of over reliance on pre-trial detention, violence at Rikers Island, and the need for services for those reentering society."
 “I am happy to support any effort to reduce the population at Rikers Island and improve the conditions for both the inmates and staff who remain there,” said Jerome E. McElroy,  Executive Director, NYC Criminal Justice Agency.  “Determining the most appropriate and effective course to achieving that goal should be the mandate given to a commission consisting of all the relevant stakeholders.”
“Brooklyn Public Library is thrilled that Speaker Mark-Viverito has identified our Telestory program as a model that can be expanded throughout the city,” said BPL President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “Telestory unites incarcerated parents with their families through teleconferencing equipment in our libraries, allowing us to facilitate bonding activities for families impacted by the criminal justice system.”
“Latham & Watkins is pleased to support the city’s criminal justice reform efforts through our support of this new Commission and Judge Lippman in his role as chair,” said Michele Penzer, Office Managing Partner of the New York office of Latham & Watkins.  “Our firm has a long-standing tradition of offering pro bono services in the communities where we live and work, including providing free legal services in the areas of civil rights and access to justice. We appreciate the opportunity to help address some of the complex questions the commission will face as they proceed.”
“The Osborne Association has operated a video visiting program connecting children to their parents incarcerated in upstate prisons and Rikers Island for many years.  The video visiting rooms in our Bronx and Brooklyn offices are family-friendly and easy to reach, and while a “Skype” visit will never replace a parent’s embrace, people can still feel the love of a family member – and provide reassurance to the incarcerated that their families still care. Incarcerated people who stay connected to their families do better on release, and we are very grateful that the Speaker recognizes that people in jail are still part of our families and communities and that she wants to pursue every possible avenue to preserve family ties,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, President and CEO, The Osborne Association.
"We commend Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who has chosen to tackle the historic homelessness crisis head-on and has once again demonstrated her commitment to addressing the challenges of our problem–ridden criminal justice system. By building on proven successful housing-based strategies and partnering with the State to expand housing assistance for homeless families and individuals, New York City can stabilize – and ultimately substantially reduce – NYC’s homeless population. The Speaker’s support to raise the minimum wage; call for NYCHA to set-aside more housing units for homeless families; call for the City and State to partner to accelerate plans to develop supportive housing; push for the creation of a permanent rental subsidy program; and request for more federally funded section 8 will go a long way to ensure that vulnerable homeless New Yorkers can access and maintain permanent housing, the only lasting solution to homelessness. Regarding the criminal justice system, the Speaker's announcement of an independent commission to explore community-based justice and detention is a promising development towards reducing the jailing of those too poor to pay bail and towards moving those who must be detained away from the chaotic and violent environment of Rikers Island. The plan to expedite dismissal of old summonses and warrants will help remove barriers that interfere with housing and employment opportunities and in many cases lead to more needless incarceration. Recognition of re-entry as a critical need through better coordination of transitional services will make a significant difference in the lives of Legal Aid’s clients and others who are striving to move past criminal justice encounters and resume law-abiding civilian life.  We, at The Legal Aid Society, look forward to these reform efforts to dramatically reduce homelessness in NYC and improve the criminal justice system. We shall work with the Speaker to make them a realty,” said Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Chief Seymour W. James.
 Increase Language Access Services:
"In my district where language skills, unemployment and poor insurance enrollment are factors that negatively impact pregnant families, the Nurse Family Partnership offers many teen, immigrant and first-time mothers unique support to keep their children healthy and help lift them out of poverty. This program for mothers and families is essential in our communities, and applaud the Speaker for her unwavering support of New York's most vulnerable populations," said Council Member Julissa Ferreras
“We enthusiastically support and applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for her continuing and consistent commitment to the unique needs of New York’s immigrant communities. The time is now for the City’s language access policies to be codified, and for all New Yorkers to have the same access to the same services and the same opportunities,” said Beth Goldman, President and Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group. “The need for language assistance services has never been more critical. When access to translators or interpreters is denied, the result can be loss of services, public benefits, or vital legal protections – leading to hunger, poor health, homelessness, physical danger, and the breakup of families.”
“The Legal Aid Society enthusiastically supports the Speaker’s efforts to expand the City wide Language Access policy beyond the six top languages,” said JoJo Annobil, Legal Aid Society. “The proposed expansion will provide more immigrant populations who are not English proficient with meaningful access to city government programs and services.”
“We thank the Speaker for her action on language access, an absolutely critical issue for New York City's 3 million immigrant residents who speak different languages from all over the globe,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The NYIC is proud to have played a key leadership role in language access victories in New York City and State, including the landmark 2011 Executive Order 120 that required language access for City services into the top 6 languages spoken in our City. We applaud the Speaker's efforts to put more teeth into this Executive Order and work closely with the Mayor to ensure that services and materials - including critical emergency alerts - are accessible for communities who look to our City government for information and leadership. We look forward to working with our City's leaders to make sure any new language access measures have the maximum impact.”
“MFY Legal Services applauds Council Speaker Mark-Viverito for making a commitment to strengthen consumer protections and increase consumer education for all New Yorkers, especially those who are targeted for fraud and abuse” said Jeanette Zelhof, Executive Director at MFY Legal Services.  “Each day we get calls for help from consumers who have had their identities stolen or are victims of various forms of financial exploitation. By working with community organizations to provide workshops and educational tools to consumers, the Department of Consumer Affairs can empower consumers so that they don’t fall victim to scams and they are armed with knowledge to better handle their finances.”
“Language access is extremely important for New York City’s immigrant, low-wage workers who are especially vulnerable to workplace violations and trafficking. Increasing language access at City agencies will provide vulnerable immigrant workers with more opportunity to report violations and assert their legal rights. Damayan congratulates Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on her proposal to expand language access services in New York City,”  said Linda Oalican, Damayan Executive Director.
"Catholic Charities' commitment to welcome New York's immigrants--be they families seeking to reunify, children,  refugees, the undocumented, or workers--is rooted in respect for their human dignity and for the value they bring to our communities of work, of family, and of faith. The Speaker's proposal to expand and codify language access is an exciting and important way for New York City to offer immigrants a lasting welcome, just as their many contributions will be and have been a lasting part of its history," said C. Mario Russell, Director, Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New York.
Strenghten Young Women:
"The Young Women’s Initiative will bring vital resources to underserved communities throughout New York City, and Speaker Mark-Viverito’s leadership and focus on young women ensures we are promoting their abilities to build stronger futures. I thank the Speaker for her work on this initiative and her continued commitment to bringing real opportunities to young women,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.
"The Young Women's Initiative is an avant-garde approach to how government creates opportunities for young women. This initiative is identifying real yet unaddressed burdens to our girls' success, including equal opportunity in education, health and more. Speaker Mark-Viverito's vision for New York City is reflected in her investment in our girls, where she is leveling the field; and I am proud to be a strong supporter of the Young Women's Initiative,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras.
“Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito continues to demonstrate how you center the needs of our young people in courageous and innovative ways by spearheading the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI),” said Joanne N. Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity. “YWI is made possible because the cis and trans young women of color, that are the most affected, are listened to and trusted as experts.  NYC youth and advocates are committed to continuing the work locally so that the recommendations from each work group have a deep impact; while offering a replicable national model in the hopes that all girls will thrive.”
“The recommendations championed by the Speaker, and put forth by the members of the Young Women’s Initiative, represent an important commitment to the talent and resources young women of color bring to our City, as assets to our workforce and to our economy,” said Alicia Guevara, Executive Director, Year Up. “By making these crucial investments in professional development of young women in our city, we are not just contributing to their personal growth but to the development of our society and the wellbeing of NYC as a whole. As we aide in the career exploration and counseling of these young women, we provide them with the necessary tools for them to recognize and realize the potential that resides in each and every one of them. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Speaker for taking strides in closing the Opportunity Divide that exists in our City. “
"Young women cannot be what they cannot see- and every young women in NYC, particularly young women of color need a chance to explore, experiment and test out different types of jobs, industries and experiences,” said Angie Kamath, Executive Director, Per Scholas. “It is only with this experiential foundation that our young women can make informed and smart choices about their futures and careers. We are excited to amplify and bring new ideas to the table that enable young women to learn about and experience a diversity of choices for their careers while in school and after graduation. We are so grateful for the leadership of the Speaker in championing how important  career exploration is to a young women's school and career choices."
“I am proud to support the City's commitment to the Young Women's Initiative,” said Haydee Morales, Executive Director, Casita Maria. “Successful program models are needed throughout the city to make an impact on the disparities that exist for young women and girls. Scaling programs such as the Nurse Family Partnership Program as well as expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program ensures a significant impact on New York's most promising communities.”
“Young women in NYC are brilliant, vibrant, and creative, yet many are faced with staggering obstacles and lack the resources to truly thrive,” said Heather McGhee, President, Demos. “We’re thrilled that Speaker Mark-Viverito’s State of the City calls for the comprehensive programs we need to help our next generation—the guidance and support that will make them shine all the brighter.”
“We applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and The New York City Council for their steadfast leadership and commitment to the Young Women’s Initiative, which declares that the lives of girls, young women, and trans youth of color deserve greater attention and investment. The New York Women’s Foundation is a proud co-chair of YWI and remains committed to advancing the lives of girls and young women across New York City as we have for the past 29 years,” said Ana Oliveira, President & CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation.
Enhancing Community Input in Neighborhood Development:
“Neighborhoods are what define the daily lives of New Yorkers. They’re what we rep and what we want our children to be able to return to, should they choose. Rich opportunity for every New York City neighborhood is what our Council, led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, is designed to fight for. On behalf of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, I applaud the Speaker for her commitment,” said Council Member Rob Cornegy.
"Community groups across the city spend a tremendous amount of time and energy analyzing, negotiating and fine tuning various land use changes to ensure that those changes meet each community's needs. But those agreements are not the end of the process," said Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. "Many community concerns are addressed through commitments to provide services or make capital improvements that must eventually be implemented through a completely distinct process. If nobody ever tracks their implementation, the hard-won commitments and community participation are really an illusion. The Speaker's proposal to create a commitment tracking process is absolutely essential to honest, effective community participation."
“Speaker Mark-Viverito has been a real leader in modeling a new approach to community planning that prioritizes community engagement, consensus building and problem solving as part of the development of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan,” said Jerry Maldonado, Co-Chair of the Neighborhoods First Fund for Community Engaged Planning and Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.  “We all recognize that the creation of strong neighborhood plans need to go far beyond zoning to ensure more holistic investment in neighborhoods to create the kind of vibrant communities that all New Yorkers deserve.  The successful implementation of these plans require strong accountability mechanisms and interagency coordination to ensure that we deliver on the promise of more equitable investment in schools, parks, transit and economic development.  To that end, we look forward to continuing to partner with the Speaker, the City Council and The Mayor’s Office and communities to develop innovative mechanisms for ensuring that we deliver on the promise of a better New York for all of its residents.”
“The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce is very interested in exploring all opportunities to support small businesses in our neighborhoods and it is heartening to see the Speaker create a dialogue to help keep our entrepreneurial communities vibrant and successful,” said Nancy Ploeger, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and a driving force behind our thriving neighborhoods, so it is vital that we do everything in our power to support them and facilitate their success,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “I commend Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for commissioning this study, which I hope will result in the implementation of policies that benefit our business community and allow our mom and pop stores to grow and prosper.”
“We must overhaul our Fair Share policies to ensure that all our communities are treated justly and equitably in the siting process,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director,  NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “Too many neighborhoods are both underserved and overburdened by vital city services – updating Fair Share will bring more fairness to this long-stagnant system.”
“Community groups across the city spend a tremendous amount of time and energy analyzing, negotiating and fine tuning various land use changes to ensure that those changes meet each community's needs and fairly distribute the City's infrastructure. But the agreements that are reached are not the end of the process," said Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. "Many community concerns are addressed through commitments to provide services or make capital improvements that must eventually be implemented through a completely distinct process. At the same time, if nobody ever tracks their implementation for fairness and accountability, the hard-won commitments and community participation are really an illusion. The Speaker's proposals to create a commitment tracking process and to take a close look at 'Fair Share' are absolutely essential to honest, effective community participation.”
“As a small business owner in New York, I’m very grateful to have a principled and energetic City Council Speaker so committed to making New York a better place to do business, both for the people who own small businesses and the people who work for them,” said George Weld, Founding Chef and Owner of  Egg Restaurant.
“Speaker Mark-Viverito has been a real leader in modelling a new approach to community planning that prioritizes community engagement, consensus building and problem solving as part of the development of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan.  We all recognize that the creation of strong neighborhood plans need to go far beyond zoning to ensure more holistic investment in neighborhoods to create the kind of vibrant communities that all New Yorkers deserve.  The successful implementation of these plans require strong accountability mechanisms and interagency coordination to ensure that we deliver on the promise of more equitable investment in schools, parks, transit and economic development.  To that end, we look forward to continuing to partner with the Speaker, The City Council and The Mayor’s Office and communities to develop innovative mechanisms for ensuring that we deliver on the promise of a better New York for all of its residents,” says Jerry Maldonado, Co-Chair of the Neighborhoods First Fund for Community Engaged Planning and Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.
Support New York City’s Families and Caregivers:
“Caregivers face many challenges, including juggling work, family responsibilities, and important medical decisions, and they deserve our support. This important announcement is way to lighten the load on these dedicated individuals, and allow them more financial flexibility. As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Aging, I thank the Speaker for her work on this important issue for seniors and their families,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.
"Creating a division of paid care with a coordinator and an advocate within the Office of Labor Standards will empower paid care workers against the risk of exploitation and abuse. The individuals who care for our most vulnerable populations are often the most hard-working, under-paid and compassionate people in our society. The services they provide are vital, even so far as to take care of another's basic human needs when he/she is unable too. By creating this division we are now able to protect the ones who look out for our children and home-bound loved ones from being taken advantage of, themselves," said Council Member Andrew Cohen.
“Nurse-Family Partnership has been proven to produce good outcomes for the children and their mothers, including a reduction in child abuse and neglect, a reduction in the likelihood the mother or the child will be arrested, a reduction in injuries to the child, and better academic outcomes for the child--- all with a return on the investment of nearly $6 for every $1 invested.  This makes the Speaker’s $8 million investment to expand Nurse-Family Partnership a win-win for NYC’s children, parents and communities!,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at Citizens’ Committee for Children.
"On behalf of the 20,000 older New Yorkers we serve each year, I would like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and focus on our City's caregivers. We know that the adult children of our elders play a critical role in keeping them safe and living independently, in coordination with our expert professional staff. We specifically look forward to focusing on the needs of caregivers caring for individuals with Alzheimer's and other memory-related impairments and promoting the use of technology to best support the individuals  doing such compassionate work for our City's elders,"  said Stuart C. Kaplan, CEO, Selfhelp Community Services, Inc.
“With this funding increase, New York City can expand this transformative community health program to reach more first-time mothers and their children and spark multi-generational change. Research shows that both mothers and babies thrive if we focus on the critical early years of life,” said Renée Nogales, Nurse-Family Partnership Business Development Manager for the Northeast Region. “We applaud the Council’s leadership and vision for this smart investment in NYC and its families.”
“As advocates for the improved health and wellbeing of children, we roundly applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito’s commitment to invest $8 million in the Nurse-Family Partnership,” said Samantha Levine, Acting Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York.  “While New York City has a lower infant mortality than the rest of the nation, real disparities exist in low-income communities and communities of color. The Nurse-Family Partnership is a critically important resource in connecting first-time mothers to free health care services and the Speaker’s commitment will benefit those New Yorkers most in need.”
“Across New York City every day, thousands of regular New Yorkers miss work, become ill, and face insurmountable barriers and staggering financial consequences while providing unpaid care to family members or friends who have Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia,” said Lou-Ellen Barkan, President and CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders New York City. “We congratulate Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council for focusing critical attention on the growing needs of older New Yorkers and their caregivers.  I am sure the Council’s survey will reveal that their sheer numbers and the hardships they face are far more extensive than currently believed.  We look forward to working with the Speaker to implement a smart and effective action plan to address this growing caregiving crisis.”
“The proposal for a Division of Paid Care within the Office of Labor Standards is a singularly important step in protecting the rights of home care and day care workers who serve thousands of New Yorkers,” said Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute. “Recent changes in wage and hour laws for home care workers, while improving hourly compensation, are not well understood in the industry.  Fair treatment for these workers depends on workers and employers having a place from which to get accurate information.  We salute the Speaker for this progressive idea which puts New York City on the side of its workforce, particularly the thousands of women who care for our young, our elderly and people with disabilities.”
"LiveOn NY applauds Speaker Mark-Viverito and City Council for taking a major leadership role to develop a plan for New York City family caregivers who are caring for their elderly parents, spouses or others. Access to affordable elder care and supports for family caregivers are the workforce issues of the 21st century, particularly for women,” said Igal Jellinek, Executive Director, LiveOn NY.  “Too many women have to make the difficult decision of having to leave the workforce to care for their elderly parents. LiveOn NY looks forward to working with City Council and the Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive caregiver plan for New York City."
“On behalf of the 20,000 older New Yorkers we serve each year, I would like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and focus on our City's caregivers. We know that the adult children of our elders play a critical role in keeping them safe and living independently, in coordination with our expert professional staff. We specifically look forward to focusing on the needs of caregivers caring for individuals with Alzheimer's and other memory-related impairments and promoting the use of technology to best support the individuals  doing such compassionate work for our City's elders,” said Stuart C. Kaplan, CEO, Selfhelp Community Services, Inc.
“New York’s caregivers are the backbone of the city.  New Yorkers are able to go to their jobs and to school every day because of the invaluable labor provided by the city’s home care workers, nannies, and housekeepers.  But we must do more to ensure that these critical workers earn a living wage and get the protections and supports they need.  Speaker Mark Viverito’s proposal to create a Division of Paid Care is a much-needed investment in the well-being of the caregiving workforce, a crucial step forward that will benefit not only the workers themselves, but their families, their communities, and every New Yorker who relies now or may one day rely on the services of a caregiver,” said Sarah Leberstein, Senior Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project.
“After-school programs ensure that children are safe, in academically and socially supportive and stimulating environments while their parents are at work in the evenings and during the summer.  Most of NYC’s elementary school age after-school programs have long waiting lists, so the Speaker’s plan to expand after-school access for more elementary school children will make a tremendous difference and bring peace of mind for thousands of families,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations, Citizens’ Committee for Children.
“Good Shepherd Services applauds Speaker Mark-Viverito’s plan to expand elementary afterschool programming in New York City,” said Sr. Paulette LoMonaco, Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services. “As a long-time provider of afterschool programs in The Bronx and Brooklyn, we see a great unmet need for programs that can offer our youngest students a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment during the critical after school and summer hours when school is out and parents and caregivers are working. Elementary afterschool programs give participants an opportunity to continue to learn and build skills and we applaud the Speaker’s effort to extend this life-changing experience to so many more of the elementary students who need it.”
“The American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapters 2 & 3, covering the 5 boroughs of NYC and representing more than 3,000 pediatricians, applauds the Speaker for specifically targeting city budget resources to the Nurse Family Partnership programs,” said Elie Ward, MSW, Executive Director of AAP Chapters 2 & 3. “Nurse Family Partnership programs are evidence based and have demonstrated significant positive outcomes for the low income children and families who participate. By supporting these programs, the Speaker is making a wise investment; improving children’s health and well-being during the crucial early years of brain development, and creating and sustaining child and parent resilience.  Taking this important step to bring this vital program to scale, as the Speaker is proposing, is an important public health priority for the hundreds of thousands of low income infants, toddlers and families across the City.”
“Parents throughout New York City are clamoring for high-quality programs for their children after school and during the summer. After-school programs are essential for working families and they provide children with activities and recreation that support their growth and education.  We applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for proposing an expansion of year-round after-school programs for elementary school students and look forward to working with the Speaker and the City Council to ensure high quality after-school programs for every child and youth in New York City,” said  Susan Stamler, Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses.
“Caregiving is one of the most critical issues facing New York City and our nation today. The Division of Paid Care within the Office of Labor Standards in New York City will ensure that the workers who care for our children, our aging parents, and our loved ones living with disabilities have the support they need to thrive," said Ai-jen Poo, Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of Caring Across Generations. “This is precisely the type of focused leadership we need, focused on improving the quality of jobs for the workforce and the quality and continuity of care for working families.”
“The Nurse-Family Partnership is a very significant and innovative effort to address maternal-child healthcare needs in the community.  This program has been proven to achieve outstanding outcomes in the early years of a child's life that continues well into the future. Our role as registered nurses is to provide professional quality care in all settings.  We applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for supporting this great program,” said Jill Furillo, RN, Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association.

“Solving a problem starts by recognizing it. AARP New York thanks the City Council and Speaker Mark-Viverito for acknowledging that the city’s family caregivers need help, and for promoting legislation to determine how they can better be supported,” said Chris Widelo, Associate State Director of AARP for New York City. “Family caregivers help our loved ones age with dignity at home – as nine of every 10 city voters 50 and older hope to do - rather than in costly and mostly taxpayer-funded institutional care settings. Across the state, family caregivers provide care valued at a staggering $31.3 billion a year. But they are stressed and susceptible to burnout. Supporting them is both compassionate and cost-effective. As the city’s population continues aging, more will be in need of care and fewer caregivers will be available to provide it. Now is the time to confront this ticking time bomb.”

Read the full text of Speaker Mark-Viverito’s speech at
Today the City Council also released its midterm report highlighting the Council’s achievements over the last two years. Read the report at