Legislation to allow 2007 candidates to serve FDNY who were unfairly prohibited by unrelated court injunction

May 26, 2011, New York, New York – Today, the City Council will vote on a bill that extends the eligibility age for candidates to apply for the FDNY examination. The purpose of the bill is to provide a measure of justice for those who took the last firefighter examination but who, after the examination had been invalidated by a court, subsequently became ineligible to take the next upcoming examination.

The Council will also vote on a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to authorize the Council to pass a local law to grant examination point credits for New York City resident applicants. Such a local law would help ensure a more diverse candidate pool for the Fire Department.

The Council will also vote on a transparency bill that will require the Mayor’s Office of Operations to report citywide data on services provided to individuals who need temporary emergency housing.

In addition, the Council will amend the Human Rights Commission to include additional anti-harassment programs.

Finally, the Council will vote on two resolutions intended to improve housing conditions and tenant protection for all New Yorkers. One resolution calls on the State Legislature to improve and strengthen the Rent Regulation Laws. The other resolution allows for the Speaker to file an amicus brief in support of families that currently live in distressed, foreclosed multifamily homes.

Extending the FDNY age limit
The age limit to take the civil service examination for firefighter is currently 29. The last such examination was given in 2007 but it was invalidated by a court. As a result those who took the test who are now over the age of 29 may not take the next examination. To correct this, the Council will vote on a local law that would raise the age for eligibility to take the next examination to 35. This local law would provide a one-time exception to the current age restriction and only for those applicants who took the examination in 2007.

“There are men and women who want to give back to the City by working as one of our Bravest,” said Speaker Quinn. “Through no fault of their own they are in jeopardy of losing that opportunity because of the current age requirements and the fact that the exam they took isn’t being used. This bill would right that wrong and allow those candidates who still want to be part of the FDNY to take the next exam. I want to thank Chair Elizabeth Crowley and Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone for their leadership on this issue.”

“To prevent qualified FDNY candidates from serving our City simply because the Court invalidated the test is unfair and a misplacement of punishment.” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (D-30, Queens), Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee. “If we don’t act now and extend the age for this class, these prepared and dedicated individuals will be deprived of the chance to become a New York City firefighter. I want to thank the Speaker and my colleague Peter Vallone for their support on this important issue.”

“These candidates worked hard and scored at the top of the test but now, because of this judge, they will never get a chance at their life’s dream without this legislation,” said Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Chair of the Public Safety Committee and sponsor of the bill.

The Council will also vote on a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to authorize the Council to pass a local law to grant examination point credits for New York City resident applicants. Such a local law would help ensure a more diverse candidate pool for the Fire Department.

“Last year I introduced legislation which would give applicants an additional bonus point for FDNY applicants if they graduated from a New York City high school, and along with the Vulcan Society- the fraternal organization of African American firefighters –believe that such legislation will help to diversify the FDNY,” said Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie. “However, in order to get such legislation passed, the City needs the permission of the State Legislature to enact such a rule. It is my hope that Albany will move with all deliberate speed to allow our City to address one of the most embarrassing statistics regarding its workforce. We live one of the largest city and most diverse cities in the world, yet the racial makeup of our fire department hovers around 10% people of color. In major cities like Los Angeles, the fire department minority makeup is more than 44%. These bonus points will be a useful tool in recruiting people of color to take the firefighter civil service exam and ensure that the FDNY is as ethnically diverse as the city it protects.”

“New York is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in American, and by extension, the entire world, yet the FDNY has never reflected the rich cultural heritage of the city it so bravely protects,” said Council Member James Sanders, Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee. “The Department is 87% White, yet over 60% of New Yorkers are Black, Latino or Asian. How could such an important institution as the FDNY so poorly mirror New York’s cultural identity? New Yorkers are tied to their city, and have a vested interest in protecting its infrastructure and their fellow New Yorkers. Expanding the scope of our hiring to include more in-city applicants just makes sense. It will create a safer, more equitable world for all of us.”

Reporting on temporary emergency housing and associated services
The Council will also vote on a bill that would require the Mayor’s Office of Operations to report citywide data regarding services that the City provides to individuals and families who need temporary emergency housing or assistance finding or maintaining stable housing.

Currently, DHS administers the majority of facilities and services that provide temporary emergency housing and associated services and DHS regularly reports on the utilization of the facilities in its purview. However, DHS does not report on the utilization of facilities and services administered by other city agencies, such as the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Not having regular data concerning the number of people who utilize these types of facilities and services results in significant undercounting of the population that needs these types of assistance in New York City.

This legislation will require all agencies that administer temporary emergency housing or associated services to routinely report on the number of individuals and/or families that utilize such city administered facilities. The legislation further requires the Mayor’s Office of Operations to report information regarding the number of families and singles who seek admission to DHS facilities, as well as how many families were deemed eligible and what percentage of those submitted multiple applications.

“Much has been made of the rising homeless population in New York City, yet even these troubling numbers do not reflect the whole extent of the problem. Currently, the Department of Homeless Service’s daily census figures do not include people who spend the night in a number of different types of shelters, including Safe Haven, stabilization beds, HPD shelters, and faith-based shelters,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare. “Undercounting is unacceptable as it paints a misleading and inaccurate picture of the homeless population in New York City and prevents the City from providing responsive and comprehensive services for these populations. Intro 444-A will close this loophole by requiring DHS to provide an accurate count as we seek to address the issue of homelessness across the City.”

Building anti-discrimination programs
The Council will also vote to amend the Commission on Human Rights’ education and outreach requirements. Under the current law, the Commission is required to develop courses of instruction for presentation to city employees and for presentation in public and private schools, public libraries, museums and other suitable places on techniques for achieving harmonious intergroup relations within the city and engage in other anti-discrimination activities. This bill would amend the Administrative Code to require the Commission to develop such programs on types of bias related harassment and repeated hostile behavior including conduct or verbal threats, taunting, intimidation, abuse, and cyberbullying.

“The old expression that ‘sticks and stone will break my bones but words will never hurt me’ was never true, especially in the internet age,” said Lewis Fidler, Chair of the Youth Services Committee. “We need to do a better job of teaching young people that hurtful words that they use in the spur of the moment or the click of a mouse can harm somebody for life.”

“The incidents of bullying have reached critical mass,” said Debi Rose, Chair of the Civil Rights Committee. “Young people are now able to taunt their peers over the internet, using social media as a way to belittle others, which, in some cases, have driven those taunted to take their own lives. This behavior is totally unacceptable. Amending the current Human Rights law’s education and outreach requirements to address additional bias-related harassment, which will now include cyberbullying, is needed, now more than ever.”

Improving housing conditions and protecting tenants
Last, the Council will vote on two resolutions intended to improve the living conditions of New Yorkers throughout the City.

The first resolution calls on the State Legislature to renew and strengthen the laws regulating rents and the eviction of tenants. Currently, there are more than 1 million apartments covered by rent regulation – that’s half of the City’s rental units. The current state laws that protect New York’s tenants and neighborhoods and helps prevent unreasonable rent increases or evictions are up for renewal. This resolution calls on the Legislature to not only renew those laws but to strengthen them.

“In the case of rent regulation and eviction protection, we are running out of time. Rent stabilization is a prerequisite in New York City,” said Council Member Margaret Chin, co-sponsor of the legislation. “Mayor Bloomberg says that the wealthy will leave if they have to pay their fair share — but if rent laws are not renewed, working and middle class families will be forced out. If rent laws and eviction protection are not strengthened, we will lose the diversity that makes this city what it is. This is not just a fight for this budget season, but a fight for the future of New York City. The City Council must put pressure on the State Legislature to renew and strength rent laws now.”

Secondly, the Council will vote on a resolution that will authorize the Speaker to submit amicus briefs on two related cases concerning distressed multifamily properties in foreclosure.

Currently, several properties in Brooklyn, currently in foreclosure, have numerous housing violations and the building owners have not made the necessary, legally required repairs to make them safe and habitable. The tenants are asking the court to order the receiver appointed by the Court in the foreclosure proceeding to cure outstanding housing violations and to compel the banks that hold the mortgages on the properties to advance necessary funds for these repairs. This resolution would authorize the Speaker to submit an amicus briefs in these cases.

“For too long now, these tenants in Brooklyn – and across the City – have lived in distressed, multifamily buildings that are in utter disrepair,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “We have rallied and stood by them, demanding that building owners and the banks that own these building bring these building back to its lawful, standard conditions. This resolution allows us to tell the courts, on public record, how disgraceful these owners are, and that action must be taken against them.”

“Lenders have placed thousands of low and moderate income renters at risk — first, by burdening apartment buildings with too much debt, and then by failing to step up and take responsibility for building conditions,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “I’m very pleased that the City Council is supporting the tenants at 294 5th Avenue, South Brooklyn Legal Services, and the Fifth Avenue Committee in this important step toward holding banks responsible for their actions and ensuring that tenants are living in decent, safe and sanitary housing.”

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues in support of the residents of 262-272 45th Street, located within my District. The conditions under which these families have been living are absolutely unacceptable,” said Council Member Sara M. González. “It is the responsibility of the mortgage foreclosure receiver and plaintiff bank to work as expeditiously as possible to cure these violations and ensure that tenants live in as healthy and safe an environment as possible.”

“These are real people facing real problems and it is right that the Council should lend its support and assistance. But these cases are also symbolic of a citywide problem: residential investment properties that are in foreclosure and also in bad repair,” said Council Member Robert Jackson. “The Council’s involvement calls attention to the need to make immediate repairs for the safety and well-being of the tenants who live there now.”