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Human Rights

Prohibits employers from inquiring about job applicant’s criminal record before making a job offer

In 2015, the Council passed the “Fair Chance Act,” which prohibits employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal record before making a conditional offer of employment. This helps prevent employers from discriminating against qualified candidates based on their criminal conviction, and ensures that formerly incarcerated individuals have a real opportunity to find gainful employment and reduce rates of re-incarceration.

“I am proud New York City has joined the ranks of more than 100 cities across the country to give all job applicants a fair chance at employment This is the strongest ban the box law in the nation, and will ensure that all New Yorkers, including those with convictions for previous mistakes, will have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs they qualify for.”

Council Member Jumaane Williams
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: Council Members Johnson, Torres, Miller, Gibson, Chin, Palma, James, Arroyo, Cornegy, Dromm, Koo, Levine, Reynoso, Richards, Espinal, Levin, Menchaca, Dickens, Barron, Rosenthal, Cumbo, Rose, Rodriguez, King, Koslowitz, Wills, Mendez, Kallos, Lander, Eugene, Cabrera, Constantinides, Ferreras-Copeland, and Maisel

70 million
adults in the United States have been arrested or convicted of a crime 1

27,000 people are released from prison every year 2

1 in 3 Adults
have an arrest history that may be revealed during a criminal background check done by a prospective employer 3

Marilyn Reyes-Scales spent two years incarcerated upstate on felony drug charges in the mid-1990’s. Upon coming home, she kept getting denied jobs due to her criminal record. She had children to support and bills to pay. “My sentence should have ended when I completed my prison time. Instead, I am overlooked and ignored because I am forced to check a box on job applications disclosing my conviction history.” Fueled by her experiences and passion, Marilyn became a leader at VOCAL-NY, helping to pass the Fair Chance Act in 2015. She stood beside the Mayor and Council Members when the bill was signed into law. Now she, and all New Yorkers with criminal records, can get a fair chance at meaningful work and to support themselves and their families.

Supporting Organizations
  • Community Service Society
  • Vocal New York

This bill was introduced at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Human Rights

Prohibits discrimination against people who are—or are perceived as—caregivers (one who is caring for a minor, disabled, or dependent child, parent, or relative)

People with caregiving responsibilities face discrimination, especially in the workplace. In 2015, the Council passed the Caregiver Discrimination Law, which adds caregiver status to this list of protected classes under the City’s Human Rights Law. Caregivers in New York City can feel confident that they will not be terminated or overlooked for a promotion or a raise just because they are responsible for caring for a minor, disabled, or dependent child, parent, or relative.

“I introduced this bill, with Borough President Brewer, because I know firsthand that many workers across our city also care for dependent children, parents and other family members.”

Council Member Deborah Rose
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: Council Members Chin, Eugene, Johnson, Mendez, Rosenthal, Mealy, Koslowitz, Rodriguez, Kallos, Reynoso, Lander, Williams, Miller, Menchaca, Dromm, Richards, Torres, King, Cumbo, Levin, Arroyo, Van Bramer and Constantinides

Expected growth in number of Disabled Adults in NYC over next 20 years 4

of NYC women with children under age 6 are also working 5

of NYC households headed by single mothers with children under 18 live in poverty 6

“I lost my job of 15 years because I am a single mom. My employer re-vamped my co-workers’ schedules because of their schooling, but refused to do the same for my childcare responsibilities. I said, no, no, no – something is not right here. Lots of parents like me have lost their jobs because of childcare. The Caregiver Discrimination Law victory belongs to all of us.”

–Dena Adams, former clinic caller

Supporting Organizations
  • A Better Balance
  • AARP

This bill was introduced at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Civil Justice

Ensures that civil legal services are available to all low-income New Yorkers

The Council is committed to providing New Yorkers with legal representation, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2015, we created the Office of Civil Justice, headed by the Civil Justice Coordinator, to oversee programs to ensure that civil legal services are available to all low-income residents of New York City. The Coordinator will work collaboratively with the Mayor and city agencies to advise, plan, implement, and coordinate citywide civil justice initiatives.

“For decades, defendants in criminal courts have had a right to an attorney, regardless of whether they could afford to pay. However, in civil courts, where people face life-altering judgements, ranging from eviction to deportation, low-income New Yorkers are left to fend for themselves. This has created an uneven playing field for tenants, immigrants, and New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet. By passing this legislation, the City Council is leveling the playing field.”

Council Member Mark Levine
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Chin, Dromm, Johnson, Lancman, Lander, Rose, Rosenthal, Rodriguez, Kallos, Menchaca, Barron, Van Bramer

Evictions in NYC have risen every year since 2005. Many of these could be avoided through legal representation. 7

In one year, civil legal services helped low-income residents claim $3.9 million in child support and $1.2 million in spousal support 8

It’s estimated that every $1 in civil legal services creates more than $6 in economic payback to the state 9

“Numerous studies show that tenants represented by counsel default less often, receive better settlements and win more often at trial. Landlords who know that tenants are represented by attorneys are less likely to attempt to deceive or bully tenants out of their homes.”

–Randal Jeffrey, New York Legal Assistance Group

Supporting Organizations
  • Legal Services NYC
  • Urban Justice Center
  • MFY Legal Services
  • Center For Family Representation
  • New York City Bar Association
  • New York Law School


Protects the rights of New York City’s workers

In 2015, The Council created the Office of Labor Standards to ensure that the rights of New York City workers are protected. The Office will study and make recommendations for worker education, safety, and protection. The goal is to educate employers on labor laws, create public education campaigns to increase awareness about worker rights, and collect and analyze labor statistics. The Office will also help enforce the City’s labor laws, including the Earned Sick Time Act and transit benefits.

“New Yorkers deserve an office dedicated to ensuring that all their rights are being protected. In recent years, the Council has been hard at work passing legislation to improve the lives of New Yorkers, such as Paid Sick Leave and Transit Benefits for working New Yorkers and commuters. With the creation of this new office, the City will be able to ensure that the rights of workers under these laws and others are protected.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: Council Members Lancman, Johnson, Levin, Ferreras-Copeland, Miller, Arroyo, Cabrera, Chin, Constantinides, Dromm, Eugene, Gibson, Koo, Koslowitz, Palma, Richards, Cohen, Rodriguez, Rosenthal, Torres, Menchaca, Kallos, Lander, and Barron

339,000 minimum wage violations per month occurred in New York State, covering 6.5% of all non‑exempt jobs in the state 10

More than 50% of surveyed workers experienced wage violations the previous work week  11

Restaurant workers have been paid $400/month or less, yet they work 60‑70 hours/week (less than $2/hour) 12

Violations cost employees $20.1 million in weekly lost income (~47.5% of their earned income) 13

Supporting Organizations
  • A Better Balance
  • Staten Island Community Job Center
  • DC37
  • New York State Nurses Association

Small Business

Helps small businesses avoid summonses

New York’s 220,000 small businesses are the engine of the city’s economy. The Council has made it a priority to improve the City’s support of small businesses by expanding inspector training to provide language translation services and enhancing outreach with surveys to let regulators know how they’re doing. We have also established more customer-friendly ways for businesses to get information and resolve regulatory issues by expanding Business Education Days and creating Small Business Advocates within the Department of Small Business Services.

“Going forward, non-English speakers will have a fairer chance during inspections, the number of education events across the boroughs will be increased, owners will be encouraged to give meaningful feedback and there will be a clear entry point for business owners to share their concerns with the Department of Small Business Services.”

Council Member Robert Cornegy
Chair of Small Business Committee

Primary Sponsors: Council Members Cornegy, Espinal, Gentile, Rosenthal, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

customer service surveys will be analyzed every other year

Business owners were provided relief for
violations because of legislation the Council passed 14

Supporting Organizations
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Hospitality Alliance


Commits $300 million in the next three years for NYCHA capital improvements to eliminate mold and increase lighting

The Council is dedicated to the health and safety of NYCHA residents. Mold continues to be a severe health concern for NYCHA’s most vulnerable: seniors and children. This year, we set out to permanently eradicate the mold issue through extensive roof replacements, to be completed over the next three years. In addition, we partnered with the Administration to provide security improvements through the MAP program, funding $30 million of security enhancements.

“Safety and security in our city’s public housing is of the utmost priority, The City Council also committed over $28.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for essential security upgrades and community programming. These investments will not only bring down crime at NYCHA developments, but also connect residents with tools, resources, and opportunities for growth and success.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Primary Sponsor

$100 million/year
for roof replacement and mold abatement

$118.4 million
for capital improvements throughout system

“When we marked the first full year of the initiative in July 2015, violent crime was reduced by 11.2% in the 15 [NYCHA] MAP developments, compared with the preceding year.”

–Amy Sanaman, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety

Supporting Organizations


Creates inquiry-based, collaborative learning opportunities in 17 NYC schools

Students deserve access to quality math and science programs, regardless of gender, race, or economic status. This year, the Council worked with NASA to bring their Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program to 17 NYC public schools. The program works hands-on with primary and secondary schools to support students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment.

“Picture having real-time conversations with astronauts living on a space station, or working with NASA scientists to support international climate change research—these are the possibilities for our young people.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Primary Sponsor

Only 2.2% of Hispanics/Latinos, 2.7% of African Americans, and 3.3% of Native Americans and Alaska Natives earn a first university degree in Natural Sciences or Engineering by age 24

The majority of college students and roughly 46% of the workforce are women. However, fewer than 1 in 5 bachelor’s recipients are women in fields like computer science and engineering.

Women hold only 25% of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics jobs 15

Supporting Organizations
  • NYC Department of Education
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • City University of New York


Increases transparency around school discipline practices

We must disrupt the school to prison pipeline. Building on the Student Safety Act, the Council mandated that the NYPD and Department of Education include in their reports instances of disciplinary action relating to substantial student disciplinary actions, including suspensions, teacher removals, transfers of students during a suspension period, and instances when EMS is called or when a student is hospitalized. The law also requires the NYPD to provide data on the use of handcuffs in schools, arrests, summonses and violations issued in a school or on school grounds, complaints lodged against school safety agents, and injuries sustained by agents because of student misconduct. This information will help to ensure a healthier school climate for New York City students and school agents, as well as prevent disproportionate policing of certain students, especially youth of color.

“Zero-tolerance policies have been proven to adversely impact our most vulnerable students and ultimately do not lead to positive behavioral changes.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: Council Members Gibson, Johnson, Arroyo, Chin, King, Lander, Levine, Menchaca, Mendez, Rose, Cohen, Williams, Richards, Reynoso, Torres, Greenfield, Rodriguez, Levin, Kallos, Ferreras-Copeland, Palma, Cumbo, Rosenthal, Koslowitz, Lancman, Dromm, Eugene, Barron, Espinal, Deutsch and Wills

63/100 Students
Rate of suspension at ten highest suspending schools

98/100 Students
Rate of suspension at ten highest special needs schools (average suspension rate = 4.8/100)

Black students comprised 28% of enrollment and 61% of arrests

White students comprised 15% of enrollment and 5% of arrests

10 campuses account for 49% of all summonses and 19% of all arrests

Supporting Organizations
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • Urban Youth Collaborative
  • Advocates for Children
  • Make the Road New York
  • Brooklyn Defender Services
  • Girls for Gender Equity


Provides increased digital learning in public schools for low-income students

Digital learning must be in reach for all of our kids. The “digital divide,”—unequal access of low-income populations to information and communication technologies and knowledge of how to use them—affects classroom instruction. This is why the Council provided funding for the Center of Technology and School Change to create a pilot program for 10 public schools serving low-income students. For each school, the Center will provide a needs assessment, design and implement workshops and conduct classroom visitations.

“The most effective way to expose young children to the value of technology is not by focusing on the technology itself, but more importantly by incorporating technology into teaching practices.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Primary Sponsor

56% of teachers
of lowest-income students say students’ lack of access digital technologies is a “major challenge”

39% of teachers
of low-income students say their school is “behind the curve”

Supporting Organizations
  • The Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College
  • Columbia University
  • New York City Department of Education


Builds positive, not punitive, disciplinary practices to address student behavior in schools

Millions of New York City school students are suspended every year, with a disproportionate number of suspensions among Black and Latino students. This year, the Council allocated $2.4 million to provide restorative justice programming in our schools. This includes intervention, increased individual engagement, conflict de-escalation, and other methods to promote positive behavior. This approach to discipline helps to prevent negative behavior by helping students learn from their mistakes.

“Removing a child from a classroom or a school should be a last resort, not a first option.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Primary Sponsor

Co-Sponsors: xxxx

3.5 million
U.S. public school students were suspended at least once in 2011‑12

Of the 3.5 million students who were suspended in 2011‑12,
1.55 million
were suspended at least twice

Since the average suspension is at least 3.5 days, U.S. public school children could lose nearly 18 million days of instruction in just one school year because of exclusionary discipline 16

“High School is a place where young people should learn and grow from their experiences. Too often, it’s a place where we feel like we are being pushed out through harsh punitive methods. With leadership from the City Council, that is changing and we are going in the right direction.”

–Jahnay Tucker
Student, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and Urban Youth Collaborative

Supporting Organizations
  • Department of Education
  • Urban Youth Collaborative
  • New York Civil Liberties Union


  1. National Employment Law Project
  2. Community Service Society
  3. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor
  4. NYS Office of the Aging
  5. A Better Balance
  6. A Better Balance
  7. New York Times
  8. The Task Force to Expand Access to civil legal Services In New York State, November 2013
  9. The Task Force to Expand Access to civil legal Services In New York State, November 2013
  10. 2014 report prepared for the United States Department of Labor
  11. National Employment Law Project, Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City (2010)
  12. Testimony of Amy Tai, Senior Staff Attorney, Urban Justice Center, Apr. 20, 2015 (Joint hearing of Committees on Civil Service and Labor and Women’s Issues)
  13. U.S. Department of Labor, The Social and Economic Effects of Wage Violations: Estimates for California and New York 3 (December 2014)
  14. Testimony of Department of Consumer Affairs regarding the number of FY15 violations
  15. Federal STEM 5-Year Strategic Plan
  16. The Civil Rights Project