Council Marks Five Year Anniversary of Blackout with Energy Conservation Legislation

City Hall, August 14, 2008 – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the members of the City Council will vote on legislation that will change the current requirements needed to be named the Department of buildings Commissioner.

The Council will also vote on the following:

• Two pieces of construction safety legislation that would require a site-safety manager when work involves pouring concrete and the requirement that all project workers complete a site-specific safety orientation prior to work;
• Legislation that will prohibit commercial establishments from leaving their doors ajar while air conditioners or central cooling systems are on
• A resolution that will detail changes made to the FY09 adopted budget;

In addition, the council will also introduce the following:

• A resolution calling on Arbitron, Inc. to delay the launch of its new radio data collection method until the FCC has concluded an investigation of potential racial and ethnic biases in its methodology;
• Legislation requiring that every ten years the Department of City Planning creates a comprehensive waterfront plan.

Continuing the reform and modernization that the Council has actively pursued for the Department of Buildings, The City Council will vote on legislation that will require either the Commissioner or First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Buildings be a licensed Architect or Engineer.

This change to the current law will allow for greater flexibility in choosing the person that will run the Department of Buildings, while still maintaining the technical expertise of a licensed architect or engineer at a high level within the department.

“We must cast the widest net possible when searching for the person that will lead our Department of Buildings,” said Council Speaker Christine C Quinn. “It is critical that as the City works to modernize the Department of Buildings – and in the wake of an unprecedented building boom – we have the ability to choose between men and women that bring with them different knowledge and skills. This will allow us to address the increasing safety and enforcement concerns we have faced this past year while continuing the development within our five boroughs.”

The Council will also vote on two pieces of construction safety legislation:

• Concrete Site-Safety Manager – This piece of legislation will require that a concrete site-safety manager be designated and present on major building work sites when the work involves the minimum of pouring 2,000 cubic yards of concrete. The Concrete safety manager would be responsible for the safety of operations related to the concrete work, and must have at least five years experience in concrete operations. Additionally, the Department of Buildings will be required to establish certification requirements for concrete site safety managers, which will include the satisfactory completion of a 30-hour course in construction safety approved by the DOB.
• Site-Safety Training Program – This legislation requires that the construction site-safety plan must contain a statement that prior to performing any work, all workers must have completed, within the previous five calendar years, a ten-hour OSHA course in construction safety and health. Additionally, the plans must contain a statement that all workers on the site will received a site-specific safety orientation program.

“The string of tragedies that have occurred at city construction sites over the past year are devastating and unacceptable,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “While construction and development are essential to our City, the safety of our construction workers and all New Yorkers is our top priority. Today’s legislation will allow for greater oversight and safety standards at our construction and development sites throughout the City.”

“This year, we have seen far too many New Yorkers placed in harm’s way and far too much loss of life because of accidents on construction sites,” said Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Erik Martin-Dilan. “While our work and commitment to construction safety will always continue, today’s legislation is yet another important step in ensuring that those working on our construction sites are armed with and held to the highest of safety standards.”

In an effort to conserve energy, reduce peak power demands during hot weather periods and limit environmental pollution, the Council will vote on legislation that will prohibit commercial establishments from leaving their doors open while air conditioners or central cooling systems are on.

This law will apply to all commercial buildings and all retails stores. Small stores that occupy less than four thousand square feet of retail or wholesale space are excluded, unless the small store is a chain store – defined as five or more stores located within New York that engage in the same general field of business. The legislation will be enforced by the Environmental Control Board and any store that violates the law will receive a written warning for the first violation, and a civil penalty of $200 for the second and $400 for the third and subsequent violations within an eighteen month period.

“On the anniversary of the blackout that crippled our City, we are voting on important environmental legislation that will reduce energy consumption throughout the five boroughs, said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “As we continue through this final month of summer, it is important that we pass legislation and encourage all New Yorkers to conserve energy and help to prevent blackouts that can be devastating to both the people and businesses within our city.”

“It’s appropriate that the council consider and pass this legislation on the fifth anniversary of the blackout that paralyzed many new Yorkers in their homes and businesses,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “Reducing flagrant abuses of the shared power grid is a simple yet effective way for New York City to reduce its energy consumption, particularly during the summer months when high levels of energy usage can lead to brown outs or even blackouts.”

As a result of ongoing efforts to make the City budget process more transparent possible, the Council will vote on a resolution that will detail changes made to the FY09 adopted budget. The transparency resolution will reflect:

– $32 million in funding to 158 organizations that will carry out the work of 17 citywide initiatives and agencies;
– Any changes to Council Members’ local, youth and aging discretionary allocations.

All groups included in the transparency resolution have been approved through the Mayor’s Office of Contracts and DYCD pre-qualification process or through the Council internal vetting process. Additionally, the list of all organizations receiving $10,000 or less was sent to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Charities to confirm that they had an up-to-date registration, where required.

“It has been a commitment of mine since I took office to make budget transparency and accountability in the New York City Council a priority,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “With this resolution today, we continue that process of making public the designation of funding for the organizations that will work on 17 important citywide initiatives, as well as the information on changes to Council Members’ discretionary allocations. When we can increase the public’s confidence in the allocation of taxpayer dollars, we increase their confidence in City government.”

“”Today’s vote is a continued effort and a sign of this council’s commitment to making the budget process more transparent than in years past,” said Council Member David Weprin, Chair of the Finance Committee. “There will be no question about where taxpayer money goes. Through this process, every group allocated money will be approved by the entire council in an open manner.”

With the goal of increasing the accuracy and reliability of any new “listenership” rating system, the City Council will introduce a resolution that calls on the FCC to conduct an investigation of potential racial and ethnic biases in Arbitron Inc.’s new radio data collection method.

In September, Arbitron Inc. will be replacing its old diary system with Portable People Meters (PPMs), which are electronic devices worn by participants that detect and record radio signals and transmit the data to Arbitron. PPMs have been criticized for disproportionately benefiting Oldies and Top 40 radio stations at the expense of Black and Latino stations, putting the livelihood of New York City’s urban and ethnic radio stations in jeopardy if they experience a significant decrease in ratings.

“Local and minority-owned radio has been a crucial tool in keeping communities informed and active,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “We must take every precaution before implementing a rating system that could shut these stations down forever. We are calling on Arbitron to delay its implementation of this system in order for the FCC to finish their investigation into the potential bias in the methodology.”

“New York City’s diverse communities have much to lose from Arbitron’s conversion to the Portable People Meter (PPM) system from the radio listening diary method,” said Council Member Larry B. Seabrook. This conversion will especially destabilize the financial health and existence of African American and Latino radio stations by reducing their advertising dollars, due to the inaccurate measuring of our radio listenership. New York City Council Speaker Quinn has urged Arbitron’s president, Steve Morris, to reconsider these draconian actions. We have heard the call of the minority broadcasters, and now, it is time for the Federal Communications Commission to act and preserve ownership and broadcast diversity.”

“Minority owned radio stations provide diverse communities the opportunity to receive information germane to their particular needs,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “Arbitron’s flawed PPM rating methodology threatens the survival of minority owned radio stations and has already had a negative impact in other states. We must do everything possible to prevent another minority owned station from being taken off the air.”

In an effort to ensure a regular and orderly review of New York City’s waterfront, the Council is introducing legislation that will require the Department of City Planning to file a waterfront plan every ten years.

This plan will include an assessment of waterfront resources, a statement of the planning policy of the commission and proposals for implementing the planning policy of the commission.

“With the introduction of this legislation today, we will ensure that New York City never turns its back on the waterfronts,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “A comprehensive plan provided to the City every ten years will allow us to best assess the different ways our waterfronts can be used for leisure, employment, and industry.”

“New York City’s waterfronts are one of our greatest resources, providing recreation, transportation, and open space,” said Council Member Michael Nelson, Chair of the Waterfronts Committee. “This legislation will make sure we always have a comprehensive, up to-date-plan that reflects the changing needs of our waterfronts.”