Legislation aims to improve the City’s emergency preparedness and response by requiring the Office of Emergency Management to develop plans in several major areas
New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote on a package of legislation – the result of 12 post-Hurricane Sandy oversight hearings – to improve the City’s emergency preparedness and response by requiring the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to develop plans in several major areas, including: food and water access; emergency shelter preparations; outreach to vulnerable populations; tracking individuals in special medical needs shelters; traffic and fuel management; and small business and non-profit organization recovery.
The Council will also vote on a package of legislation that seeks to strengthen the City’s recycling laws and a bill to amend New York City’s Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption.
Additionally, the Council will vote on a plan to transfer two-thirds of an acre of parkland at the National Tennis Center, and to approve a special permit that would allow Madison Square Garden to operate for a period of 10 years. This action is an important step towards the redevelopment of a Penn Station suitable for the 21st Century.
Comprehensive Sandy Response Legislation
“Sandy was an unprecedented storm – unlike any we’ve ever seen – but we only get to say that once,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “It is imperative that we’re better prepared for future storms in order to keep New Yorkers safe and to protect our infrastructure. This legislation addresses key issues that are vital to protecting New Yorkers in all five boroughs so that the City is as prepared as possible for the next Hurricane Sandy.”
Food and Water Access (Int. No. 1069-A)
After Sandy, many people were left without access to food and water, and testimony at Council hearings indicated that efforts to distribute food and water were uncoordinated and inefficient.
The Food and Water Access Plan bill mandates the OEM Commissioner to develop a plan in consultation with community-based organizations to ensure that the public has sufficient access to food and water during emergencies. The plan will require that the public, private and non-profit sectors’ roles in supplying food and water are clearly defined during emergencies, that the City coordinate the efforts of these sectors, that personnel responsible for implementation are identified and that the public is aware of how to access these supplies.
Minority Leader James Oddo said, “The Council is acting today on many pieces of legislation to ensure that we are better prepared if another storm hits. The truth is that government alone will never be able to provide the level of helped need in the wake of a crisis of this level. In the hours immediately following Sandy it was local organizations and churches, such as Crossroads Church in my district and others, that were out in the affected communities providing food and water to those in desperate need. Hopefully, Intro. 1069 will ensure that government does a better job and is better prepared to step in and better meet the needs of New Yorkers.”
Sheltering (Int. No. 1070-A)
The City provided emergency shelter to thousands of people after Sandy, in some cases for more than two weeks. Many advocates and members of the public testified at Council hearings that a number of shelters lacked adequate supplies, that it was unclear who was responsible for managing some of the shelters and that the facilities were not equipped to house people long-term.
Council legislation will require OEM to anticipate the operation of emergency shelters for short, medium or long-term stays, and to develop a plan in consultation with community-based organizations to ensure that the facilities used during emergencies are adequate for habitability for long-term stays and are sufficiently stocked with proper food and supplies. The plan will also include a description of key staff at the shelters and how they will be clearly identified. The bill also calls for a mechanism to track the number of people who enter and exit each day and identification of shelters that are accessible to people with disabilities.
“As we know all too well, New York City is not immune to natural disaster. This package of bills provides a solid framework for responding to emergencies and preventing the devastation that we saw last November,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. “The Sheltering Bill, which I am a proud sponsor of, will ensure that the City’s emergency shelters are better prepared to meet the needs of all who are displaced by a storm. I want to thank Speaker Quinn for bringing the Council together on this issue.”
Tracking of Persons in Special Medical Needs Shelters (Int. No. 1053-A)
During and after Sandy, the City operated several special medical needs shelters designed to serve those who need extra care during an emergency. However, the Council heard reports that the medical needs of this vulnerable population were not properly tracked and that family members had difficulty reaching evacuees in special medical needs shelters.
This bill would require OEM to develop a plan for tracking the location and medical needs of those entering and exiting special medical needs shelters and develop a process whereby those at such shelters can be connected to family members and guardians. The plan would include a means for distributing bracelets or another type of wearable device with information about the shelter resident, such as emergency contacts and medications.
“In response to the devastation that struck New York during Hurricane Sandy, my colleagues and I at the City Council have worked tirelessly to compile a legislative package that ensures our city will be better prepared for future natural disasters,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “I am proud to sponsor legislation that will strengthen special medical needs shelters, which are particularly vital during storms like Sandy. By requiring the OEM to develop a plan that tracks the medical needs of individuals entering such shelters, we will be ensuring that all those who need help during an emergency will receive it. I thank all of those who worked with me on this bill and I am happy to include it in the Council’s comprehensive legislative package in response to Hurricane Sandy.”
Outreach and Recovery Plan to Assist Vulnerable and Homebound Individuals (Int. No. 1065-A)
After Sandy, a coordinated door-to-door outreach campaign to assist the homebound and vulnerable was not launched for more than a week. In addition, many of these individuals expressed concern that there were not clear instructions on how to safely prepare and evacuate in the days leading up to the storm.
Under this legislation, OEM must develop an outreach and recovery procedure to assist vulnerable and homebound residents before, during and after emergencies. The plan would include a description of how OEM will coordinate with relevant agencies, community-based organizations and service providers in order to provide information, supplies and transportation to vulnerable and homebound individuals. The plan would include a description of how to utilize existing lists of homebound and vulnerable individuals maintained by such organizations and agencies, and a process to inform vulnerable and homebound individuals about how they may be included on these lists. The bill also requires OEM to create a door-to-door task force to develop a strategy for locating vulnerable and homebound people in need of assistance and to consult with community groups in developing the outreach plan.
“After Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers felt that instructions were unclear as to how to safely prepare and evacuate in the days leading up to, and following, the storm,” said Council Member Oliver Koppell. “This was particularly true of members of the disability community. I am pleased that this legislation requires OEM to develop a plan that, while benefiting all New Yorkers in the event of future storms, will be particularly useful in protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”
“As the Councilwoman representing Red Hook, an area severely impacted by Sandy, in the days immediately following Sandy, I spent a lot of time and effort locating and assisting people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations throughout my District. I realized that many of them had inadequate support systems and/or could not evacuate to shelters because most shelters were not equipped to handle their special needs. Had this legislation been in place at the time, I am certain that a far more efficient and effective operation would have benefited a larger number of people in a shorter period of time. I urge my colleagues to consider and pass this legislation swiftly so we, as a city, can more quickly prepare ourselves to better serve the people who most need our help in times of severe weather or other calamities,” said Council Member Sara M. González.
Traffic Management (Int. No. 1076-A)
Following Sandy, there were numerous transportation problems, including flooded streets and subways, traffic gridlock and a lack of working street lights and traffic signals.
To keep the City’s transportation network functioning to the greatest extent possible in the event of an emergency, this bill will require the City, to develop a plan that would include the installation of back-up power capability to ensure that roadways are usable and to develop alternative transportation options – including bus and ferry service – in the event of serious impact to the City’s transportation network.
“I thank Speaker Quinn for her leadership on this comprehensive package of disaster preparedness legislation developed in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, and I also want to thank all of the committee chairs who conducted very thorough hearings on these issues. With hindsight being 20/20, we continue to find more areas of our city that we must prepare in the event of not just another Superstorm, but any emergency,” said Council Member Deborah Rose. “There have been many lessons learned. We have learned that there is a demonstrated need for a comprehensive emergency plan, coordinated efforts amongst principals and agencies, as well as advance planning through strategic and improved communication. The bill which I am a proud sponsor of, for example, Int. 1076-A, mandates a comprehensive, coordinated, traffic management plan be created to implement should another disaster occur in our City. Some of the biggest problems Staten Islanders and other residents of this City faced immediately following Superstorm Sandy and other recent disasters were loss of power, unavailability of fuel, inadequate and ill-prepared shelters, traffic and transportation disarray, and a distressing inability to provide basic necessities to affected areas. We all hope that a disaster such as this will never occur again; but this legislation will ensure that this city will be prepared to respond, should disaster occur.”
Fuel Management (Int. No. 1077-A)
This bill calls for the City to develop or update a plan to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, fuel access to critical systems in the event of an emergency that compromises, or may compromise, the fuel supply in New York City. Following Sandy, there were severe fuel shortages in the City, leading to fuel rationing.
This bill would establish procedures and criteria for determining when there is a fuel shortage and when rationing is necessary, and that those involved in rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts will have priority in obtaining fuel.
“If Superstorm Sandy taught us anything, it is that we need to be better prepared for future disasters, particularly when we experience both widespread damage to our transportation infrastructure and fuel shortages. If we can’t control the weather, it is absolutely imperative that we learn from our prior shortcomings and plan for future states of emergency. The bills I have proposed call on the Office of Emergency Management to devise fuel and traffic management plans, both of which will improve the city’s proactive contingency plan to minimize the impact of future storms,” said Council Member James Vacca.
Small Business Recovery Bill (Int. No. 1072-A)
According to testimony provided at Council hearings, the City confronted significant challenges in determining the extent of the damage to small businesses. In addition, many small business owners were unaware of disaster recovery and technical assistance resources provided by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and certain non-profits.
This bill requires OEM, in consultation with SBS, to create a recovery plan for small businesses and non-profit organizations after consulting with such businesses and organizations across the City to identify resources that different types of businesses may need. The bill requires that the plan include a post-disaster survey of small businesses and non-profits to determine the extent of damage and the need for assistance. Businesses and non-profits must be provided with alerts related to disaster preparedness and recovery resources before, during and after a disaster, as well as loan and grant application assistance and business counseling to help facilitate recovery.
“Hurricane Sandy was a disaster of unprecedented proportions. It affected hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and, to this day, families are still without homes, and small businesses – from Coney Island to the Rockaways – have yet to reopen. It is incumbent upon us to learn from this super storm, to identify what we did right and what we did wrong, and to take these lessons and apply them to the future,” said Council Member Diana Reyna. “Intro 1072-A does just that. I look forward to reviewing the preliminary plans that the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Small Business Services will create. I have full faith that these agencies will create a thorough set of strategies to support the small business community in future emergencies.”
Community Recovery Bill (Int. No. 1054-A)
Following the storm, many community members, advocates and Council Members reported that OEM was not on the ground in the hardest impacted areas. This resulted in a disjointed recovery process where the critical needs of those most severely affected were not met in a timely fashion.
To address this issue, the Community Recovery Bill requires the Commissioner of OEM to develop or update a community recovery plan that specifies the steps that OEM and its partners would take in preparation for, during and immediately after emergency events take place. Specifically, the plan must include the establishment of community recovery directors and deputies to be present in impacted areas and act as main points of contact for providing general services, fulfilling critical needs and communicating vital information in these communities. Equally important, the community recovery plan must include ways for OEM to create a more unified and rapid recovery assistance operation, including how to leverage organizations, service providers, and volunteers and how to best utilize federal and state resources expeditiously.
Council Member Leroy Comrie said, “Sandy taught us many invaluable lessons in terms of what we need to do in order to better serve residents in times of natural disasters. This legislative package will ensure the city has a mitigation plan that can be immediately implemented so New Yorkers can receive the help they will need when the next natural disaster strikes. My legislation will make sure the Office of Emergency Management will focus on those communities we know will need the most help. By requiring OEM to create a central hub in every borough, we will be able to understand what each community needs and be able to send the proper resources to them in an efficient and timely matter. I would like to thank the chairs of all the committees who held hearings that helped to build this package, and all my colleagues for supporting this legislation.”
OEM Reporting Bill (Int. No. 1075-A)
OEM is responsible for coordinating the City’s response to emergencies, including coastal storms and other severe weather and natural disaster events. To meet those responsibilities, OEM has developed many plans, including a Coastal Storm Plan, which enables the City to prepare for emergencies, educate the public about preparedness, coordinate response and disseminate emergency information.
In an effort to enable the Council to be fully informed of all the work done by OEM and to allow the Council to be a proactive part of the City’s emergency response planning process, This bill requires OEM to provide the Council with copies of all the plans it has developed in relation to responding to coastal storms and other severe weather and natural disaster events. In addition, this legislation requires OEM to regularly assess these plans, either right after the plan has been activated, or at least once every two years, and make appropriate changes as a result of that assessment. Afterwards, OEM must provide the Council with any updates made to the plans. With this constant and thorough information, the Council will be able to meaningfully work with OEM prior to, during, and after emergency events to ensure that all New Yorkers are safe from harm.
Sandy Property Tax Rebate
In November, the Council, Mayor Bloomberg and Finance Commissioner David M. Frankel announced new property tax relief initiatives to assist New Yorkers whose homes were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. To provide immediate relief, the Finance Department, with the authorization of the City Council, issued an interest-free extension on property tax bills for damaged residential properties.
The Council and the Administration also together proposed legislation in Albany providing a rebate on FY 2013 real property taxes on the improved portion of real property damaged beyond repair or in need of extensive structural repairs for the portion of the fiscal year the property was damaged, which was two-thirds of the year. Working with the State Legislature, the bill passed, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it. Checks will be mailed in August with homeowners receiving a median rebate of $629, and commercial properties, $3,426.
“We made a commitment to those hardest hit by Sandy that we would work with our partners in the state legislature to provide them relief. Today’s legislation provides a property tax rebate for those whose property was severely damaged by the storm. I thank State Senator Lanza and Assemblyman Cusick for passing legislation permitting the city to provide such property tax relief and Mayor Bloomberg for supporting the legislation,” said Minority Leader Oddo.
Recycling Legislation (Int. No. 889-A/ Int. No. 893-A)
The theft of residential and commercial recyclables from public and private property presents a substantial risk to the sustainability of New York City’s residential recycling system. This bill would prohibit businesses from accepting improperly removed material, give the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) the authority to provide additional collection services for large residential buildings seeking supplemental recycling collection and allow New Yorkers to submit sworn statements if they witness the theft of recyclables.
A second bill would forbid the collection or acceptance of recyclable beverage containers in bulk, and prohibit the transfer of recyclable containers between two vehicles on city streets if one or more of the vehicles has a commercial license plate.
Council Member Leticia James said: “These bills provide additional protection to pedestrians and drivers navigating City streets, as well as help sustain our City’s residential recycling program— which has modernized significantly under this administration and with the Council’s leadership. I thank Commissioner John Doherty and the Department of Sanitation for working with the Sanitation Committee to pass this important legislative package.”
“With the passage of this bill, our streets will no longer be crowded with the litter and traffic generated by the mass collection of recyclable bottles.” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “These new provisions will offer our residents a better and cleaner environment for moving around the city.”
Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption (Int. No. 1064)
Currently, veteran homeowners lose out on property tax breaks when they move within the five boroughs because of the way the City processes benefits which can lead to waits of up to 16 months for exemptions to kick in.
The Council’s legislation would reform the Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption to require the City to credit veteran homeowners for tax breaks lost when moving to a new residence. There are 63,000 veterans with a homeowners exemption who could benefit from this bill when they move within the City.
National Tennis Center
The Council will vote to approve the lease of two-thirds of an acre of Flushing Meadow Park. The United Stated Tennis Association (USTA) will return to the City approximately 1.5 acres of parkland which is presently under their leasehold. The proposal will rebuild the Louis Armstrong Stadium and relocate the Grandstand Stadium.
The plan would also improve visitor amenities, upgrade the Arthur Ashe Stadium, add parking and increase the center’s capacity by 10,000 guests daily. The economic impact will include $750 million in revenue annually and close to 6,000 seasonal jobs – 85% of which are filled by New York City residents. The project will also generate 800 construction jobs.
Madison Square Garden
The Council will vote to approve a special permit that will allow Madison Square Garden to operate for a period of 10 years to allow time to create and implement a plan for the future of the site and the area as a whole.
Last month, Speaker Quinn called for the creation of a Commission for a 21st Century Penn Station with a mandate to find a new Manhattan home for a state-of-the-art Madison Square Garden. The goal is to create a station that more appropriately suits the needs of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who pass through the station every day and to accommodate its expected growth in the future.
“New Yorkers deserve a 21st century transportation hub worthy of the greatest city in the world,” said Speaker Quinn. “The approval of this permit offers us a great opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world class transportation destination and allow time to relocate Madison Square Garden to a new and improved home.”
Council Member Comrie said, “This ten year lease for Madison Square Garden ensures that they can continue their renovations, allowing it to remain a sports and entertainment mecca, while also giving all levels of government the time to work on a solution that will improve Penn Station. This agreement also protects the city’s economic interests in the long term, by making sure we continue to be one of the premier sports and transportation destinations in the world.”
Governors Island Special District
The Council will vote to establish a Governors Island Special District. This action will help to further establish the island as a dynamic public destination in the harbor. The District will be able to add culture or health establishments to the list of permitted uses on the island and create a path for thoughtful uses that are accessible to the public. New or renovated construction within the Special District should be LEED-rated and Energy Star certified and include open space in order to maintain the island’s park-like atmosphere. This action will help encourage the development and growth of Governor’s Island in keeping with its distinctive and historical characteristics that has made it a favorite place that both New Yorkers and tourists enjoy.
“Today’s vote was a vote for the revitalization and long-term financial stability of Governors Island. I thank the Trust, Speaker Quinn, Community Board 1, Build Up NYC, Mayor Bloomberg, and all those who came to testify on this application for their advocacy and commitment to making these goals a reality,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.
Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) Resolution
This Resolution calls on Congress to pass legislation that would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIA) of 2007.
After the September 11th attacks, Congress created a program known as TRIA which required property and casualty insurers conducting business in the United States to offer Terrorism Insurance to all commercial policy holders and provided for federally backed reinsurance coverage to insurers following a terrorist attack. This program has been extended twice and is set to expire at the end of 2014.
If the program expires without Congress taking action, it could hamper the ability of businesses to obtain affordable terrorism insurance – effecting businesses, workers and consumers across the country and especially in New York City.
“The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act is common sense legislation that protects the economy,” said Council Member Recchia. “As representatives of New York City, my colleagues and I are obligated to call upon Washington to extend TRIA and ensure that our business-friendly environment continues to be protected.”