Council Will Also Vote to Expedite Restarting of Stalled Construction Sites, Legislation Will Increase Safety with More Stringent Site Monitoring Requirements
City Hall – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the City Council will vote to expand on the Food and Drug Administration’s action to ban the sale of flavored cigarettes by banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York City.
The Council will also vote to adopt legislation that will:
· Allow developers to quickly restart stalled construction sites by agreeing to increased safety standards while construction is suspended; and
· Provide oversight of the practices at out-of-state educational facilities attended by New York City special needs children.
Speaker Christine C. Quinn and the Council also presented West Village Hero Elvis de Leon, a doorman at 99 Jane Street, with a proclamation for saving a woman in his building from being abducted by an intruder. On September 16th, Mr. de Leon was on duty when an intruder burst through the doors of the residence in attempt to abduct a female resident of the building. Mr. de Leon tackled the intruder to the ground and held him at the residence until authorities showed up to arrest the intruder.
“Anytime someone puts their life on the line to help another New Yorker, we need to recognize that person and thank them,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “I am proud to have Mr. de Leon looking over the residents of 99 Jane Street and I feel confident and safe that he will continue doing great work.”
FLAVORED TOBACCO BAN
Expanding on the federal government’s action to ban the sale of flavored cigarettes, the New York City Council will vote to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York. Prohibited flavors include chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice flavors. This legislation does not apply to tobacco, menthol, mint or wintergreen flavors.
“No matter how you mask it, smoking tobacco, flavored or not, has irrevocable health effects. Companies are profiting by gambling on the lives of children and young adults, and it’s simply unconscionable,” said Speaker Quinn. “Our legislation will protect New Yorkers from harmful products disguised with attractive wrapping or sweet flavors and prevent the beginning of an addictive and useless habit. I want to thank Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera for working on this bill and my colleagues for their support.”
“We’ve seen the detrimental side effects of what smoking can do to a person and dressing it up with fun flavors doesn’t make a habit like smoking any less dangerous,” said Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera. “It is no secret that for years, tobacco companies have been targeting our young people with this kind of product. This legislation is a major step forward in protecting kids and deterring them from starting a lethal habit. I want to thank the Speaker, my colleagues, advocates, our young adults for their support and for bringing this to our attention. Without them this legislation wouldn’t have been possible.”
While overall tobacco use among students is down since 1999, there is a smaller reduction in cigar use than cigarette use and the use of smokeless tobacco has actually increased. Among public high school students in NYC who smoke, the percentage who smoke cigars and cigarillos only, has nearly tripled since 2001. A single cigar can contain as much tobacco as five cigarettes and some small cigars are practically indistinguishable from cigarettes, but cost significantly less. Flavored products are often targeted to children through the use of multi-color images, packaging and youth-oriented messaging.
Enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, those in violation of this law will be subject to fines up to $2,000 or suspension of one’s tobacco license for multiple violations. Today’s vote on the ban on flavored tobacco products continues New York City’s national leadership role in combating smoking. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in New York City.
STALLED SITE LEGISLATION
Announced on Monday at the site of a stalled building development in Williamsburg, the Council will vote to allow developers to quickly restart stalled construction work by agreeing to increased safety standards while construction is suspended. The legislation will create a new program through the Department of Buildings in which participating builders will be required to notify the Buildings Department when work has stalled and to develop and submit a detailed safety monitoring and inspection plan to ensure the site is secure.
Developers participating in the new program would be allowed to renew building permits at stalled sites for up to four years, as long as the program’s safety requirements are met, providing a significant incentive to participate in the program and increase safety at stalled sites. Permits at stalled sites often expire, forcing developers to start the permitting process from the beginning after new financing is secured, which delays restarting construction and depresses economic activity.
“Today the Council is taking action to address unwanted quality of life effects that accompany stalled construction projects scattered in neighborhoods throughout our City,” said Speaker Quinn. “If these sites are not properly maintained, they can become safety hazards to residents and even havens of criminal activity. Our legislation will require enhanced site maintenance while construction is halted and allow projects to avoid delays when economic conditions improve.”
“No one is served by half-built structures and unsecured construction sites,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “This law will make these sites safer, improve the neighborhoods around them for local residents, and ensure that opportunities for economic development are not lost while we weather this storm.”
Under the legislation, the safety monitoring plan required for developers to participate in the program must include: proposed measures for preventing access by unauthorized persons and monitoring such measures; schedules for inspecting equipment on the job site; details for implementation of fire and building safety measures required to protect New Yorkers and first responders; and any other provisions the Department deems necessary to ensure safety at the stalled site.
Currently, construction permits expire and become invalid if the work authorized by the permit has not begun within 12 months of permit issuance or if work is suspended or abandoned for a period of 12 months. Further, if work is suspended for a period exceeding two years, a developer may not be able to achieve any reinstatement of the permit. By agreeing to the increased safety standards, developers can avoid the delays and negative consequences of permit expiration. Participating developers can have permits renewed for two two-year cycles.
Inspectors from the Department of Buildings have identified 541 construction sites across the five boroughs that are inactive. The Buildings Department regularly inspects the stalled sites and developers are required to immediately address any safety issues that arise from the lack of activity, such as deteriorated fences, damaged safety netting or loose construction debris. Developers who fail to maintain safe conditions on their job site are subject to violations carrying penalties as high as $25,000.
OUT-OF-STATE SPECIAL EDUCATION MONITORING BILL
To better monitor out-of-state special education facilities attended by New York City schoolchildren, the Council will vote to require the Department of Education to report on the conditions of out-of-state educational and rehabilitative facilities.
According to the New York City Department of Education, 294 special needs students were placed at out-of-state educational and rehabilitative facilities for the 2009-10 academic year. This legislation will require that the Department of Education provide the New York City Council with a bi-annual report detailing:
· The name and location of each out-of-state facility at which New York City children are placed, as well as the number of New York City children placed there;
· A description of the general population served by the facility;
· Types of services and therapies provided;
· The total amount spent annually by the Department to provide services to children at each out-of-state facility;
· The number of children discharged from each facility annually and information on facilities to which they are moved;
· Information on any enforcement action taken against a facility and the outcome of any investigations into alleged abuse and neglect of children placed at that facility.
“This local version of Billy’s Law brings oversight mandated at the State level even closer to home,” Councilman Gentile said. “Right now, New York City spends millions to send children to out-of-state facilities and then turns a blind eye to how they are treated and educated. 396-A will empower the Council and the public to protect our most vulnerable children from harm, granting us insight and oversight of facilities beyond our City and State borders. Thank you to Speaker Christine Quinn for recognizing that even while New York City children are out of sight, their safety should never be out of our minds.”
This legislation complements a statewide law, called Billy’s Law, which Councilman Gentile introduced as a State Senator in 2001 and which was signed into law in 2005. Billy’s Law is named after Billy Albanese, a Bay Ridge resident. In 1984, Billy suffered a traumatic brain injury; his father, Vito Albanese, sent Billy to a New Hampshire rehabilitation center in 1992 when it became clear no in-state facility could provide the special accommodations and job training he required.
At the New Hampshire center, Billy was physically abused by staffers and was threatened with further punishment if he mentioned the incidents to others. Vito Albanese never learned of his son’s abuse until 1997, when Billy was finally discharged.