Council will also vote to ensure admission into city shelters for domestic violence survivors

City Hall – Today the City Council will vote to approve Astoria Cove’s housing development in Queens. The Council will also vote on legislation requiring the Department of Homeless Services to ensure eligibility in city shelters for applicants leaving Human Resource Administration domestic violence shelters. Additionally, the Council will vote on legislation relating to accessible pedestrian street signals. Finally, the Council will vote on two pieces of legislation to improve and encourage voter registration and participation.

Astoria Cove

Today the City Council will vote on an amended proposal to the Astoria Cove land use approval in Queens. Under the leadership of Council Member Costa Constantinides and Council Land Use Chair David Greenfield, the City Council has pushed for additional affordable housing and other changes to the proposal to benefit New Yorkers. Together the changes mean that 27 percent of the residential floor area of the building will be affordable at varying income levels.

Additionally, a $5 million capital contribution has been secured for the construction of a ferry dock and funding has also been secured to invest in Whitey Ford field, the adjacent NYCHA Astoria Houses senior center, and the Astoria branch of the public library.

The proposed project would involve the construction of five mixed-use buildings on the 8.7-acre development site, containing approximately 1,723 apartments. The project would also provide a site for a 60,567 square-foot public elementary school that would be located on the reopened section of 26th Avenue at 9th Street and accommodate approximately 456 children in pre-kindergarten to 5th grade. The project would also provide new publicly accessible open space along the waterfront and a centrally-located pedestrian walkway to be called “8th Street Mews.”

“This is a strong victory not only for the residents of Astoria Cove and the great borough of Queens—but for an entire city that is committed to responsible, community oriented development,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I want to thank Council Member Constantinides, Greenfield, and Weprin, as well as all the residents and stakeholders who made their voices heard.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “Residential development in the 21st Century must be innovative, contextual, and inclusive of its community. I am proud to have reached this goal by passing this historic agreement at Astoria Cove. For the first time in City history, the developer will be required, by law, to provide permanently affordable housing that is within the reach of Astorians. In one of the largest agreements on affordable housing in city history, a record 27% of the development will be permanently reserved for low- and middle-income households. The development will also use a fully unionized workforce, bringing good jobs in an area that needs them. This agreement shows what we can achieve when the private and public sectors work together. This agreement provides real benefits to the neighborhood and will help further link our booming communities along the East River. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, and all my colleagues in the City Council including Council Members Greenfield and Weprin, for their dedication. I am deeply honored to have had partners in these negotiations to build a better connected, and more affordable, City of New York.”

“The Astoria Cove deal is historic. The New York City Council got Alma realty to commit to building 35% more affordable units over the 20% threshold the City Planning Commission asked for, with deeper levels of affordability to boot. This project will provide thousands of good jobs, 468 units of affordable housing plus many improvements to the local community ranging from better parks to renovations for senior centers and libraries. I thank Councilman Costa Constantinides for never wavering in his advocacy for his community and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership on affordable housing,” said Councilman David Greenfield, Chair, Committee on Land Use.

“The project will transform the waterfront in Astoria, providing much needed improvements to the neighborhood,” said Council Member Mark S. Weprin.

Admission into Homeless Shelters for Domestic Violence Survivors

The Human Resources Administration (HRA) operates the system of shelter for survivors of domestic violence. Pursuant to New York State law, the maximum stay at these shelters is 180 days. Domestic violence survivors who still require temporary shelter after 180 days must enter the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system. Currently, these families must go to the DHS intake facility for an eligibility assessment prior to being admitted to a DHS shelter. Even if deemed eligible, this requires children to miss school. According to DHS, approximately 50-75 families time out of HRA domestic violence shelter and enter the DHS shelter system each month.

Introduction 361-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require DHS to automatically deem domestic violence survivors eligible for shelter in the DHS system if (1) applicants are no longer eligible for HRA domestic violence shelter because they have reached the maximum length of stay, (2) HRA has provided DHS with notice of applicants upcoming exit, which the bill would also require HRA to provide, and (3) applicants report to DHS on the same day they exited the HRA domestic violence shelter. The bill would require that these applicants be permitted to enter the DHS shelter system without undergoing an eligibility determination from DHS.

The legislation would take effect immediately.

“More than a quarter of all families living in homeless shelters in New York City cite abuse as the cause for their stay,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “There is no doubt that these survivors of domestic violence are often times among the most vulnerable members of the shelter population. However, they also come up against more barriers than others, largely due to the time limitations on stays in domestic violence shelters due to New York State regulation. These survivors should not be forced to undergo these extra steps. This is why I am proud to be passing this legislation which deems families who have already been living in domestic violence shelters automatically eligible for DHS shelters without having to undergo the unnecessary and repetitive pain of the PATH process.”

“This is a common sense piece of legislation that will make it easier to provide shelter for domestic violence victims,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “ Thanks to this bill, we are putting into law the steps the Administration recently took to grant a presumption of eligibility for applicants to the shelter system who are exiting domestic violence shelters. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill with Council Member Johnson and want to thank him and Speaker Mark-Viverito for their leadership on this issue.”

Accessible Pedestrian Street Signals

An accessible pedestrian signal (APS) is a device that communicates information about pedestrian timing in nonvisual format such as audible tones, verbal messages, and vibrating surfaces. APS generally provide information to pedestrians about the existence and location of the pushbutton, the beginning of the “WALK” interval, the direction of the crosswalk, and location of the destination curb. These signals are invaluable to those with visual impairments as well as those in wheelchairs who may not be able to see traffic signals.

In 2012, the Council enacted a local law requiring the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish an APS program and annually install accessible pedestrian signals at each corner of 25 identified intersections. The program has substantially increased accessibility in areas where APS are installed and advocates for the visually impaired and disabled have called for its expansion.

Introduction 216-B, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would increase the minimum number of intersections at which DOT must annually install an APS to 75.

The bill would take effect on January 1, 2016.

“This bill is a huge win for the 380,000 New Yorkers with visual impairments and for Vision Zero. Accessible Pedestrian Signals will not only give these individuals the confidence to cross the street safely, they will also save lives. Now DOT will be able to install APS devices in the intersections that need them most three times as quickly,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “There are so many individuals who played a huge role in advocating for increasing the number of installations, but I would especially like to recognize the PASS Coalition for their years of advocacy, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for originating this legislation.”

“Thank you to Chair Rodriguez and the Transportation Committee members for passing Intro 216, a bill I introduced with City Council Member Levine, which expands the City’s Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) program, helping more blind and limited-vision New Yorkers cross our streets safely, and that’s a good thing,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “Under the current law that I sponsored while in the Council, the Department of Transportation is required to install 25 APS signals at intersection each year. Intro 216 will expedite the pace at which these important safety features are implemented by increasing this annual requirement to 75 signals, and that’s a good thing. I look forward to the bill’s passage by the full Council and continuing to work with the wonderful coalition of advocates within the accessibility community who ensure that Vision Zero is inclusive of all New Yorkers. ”

Voter Laws

Introduction 356-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would institute reporting requirements relating to the “agency-based voter registration program,” which requires nineteen agencies to distribute voter registration forms with their applications for services. The original law creating this program, passed in 2000, has never been fully implemented. To remedy this, the Administration issued a directive to the nineteen covered agencies earlier this year. The directive notified agencies of their responsibilities, and added requirements that they report data on compliance to the Mayor’s office.

This bill would codify these reporting requirements and ensure that the Council receives this data. It would require each of the covered agencies to semi-annually report the number of registration forms distributed, the number completed in an agency office, and the number transmitted by an agency employee to the Board of Elections in the previous six-month period. These reports would go to the Mayor’s Office of Operations, which would consolidate them into a single report that it would be required to send to the Speaker by February 15 and August 15 of each year.

The bill would go into effect immediately, with the first report due to the Speaker by August 15, 2015 for the period covering the period from January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015.

“Voter participation in New York is at an all-time low and more must be done to make voter registration more accessible,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. “Government has a responsibility to maximize the potential of voter turnout, which is why I’m proud the Council has passed this important pro-voter bill. Intro 356, which I sponsored, will improve pro-voter law compliance from city agencies by requiring them to produce and deliver a semi-annual report including the number of voter registration forms distributed, completed and transmitted to the NYC Board of Elections from each agency. I would like to thank the Speaker and Chair of the Committee on Governmental Affairs for pushing this important bill. It is my hope that by 2016, voter turnout has improved not just in New York City but across the country.”

Introduction 493-A, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would expand and enhance the city’s “agency-based voter registration program,” which requires nineteen agencies to distribute voter registration forms with their applications for services. The intent of this program is to replicate the success of “motor voter” laws around the country that allow individuals to register to vote at DMVs, but it focuses on other agencies due to the comparatively low percentage of New Yorkers with a drivers’ license.

This bill would expand the agency-based voter registration program to seven agencies that are not currently covered by the law: the Business Integrity Commission, the Department for the Aging, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Fire Department, and the Human Resources Administration.
This bill would go into effect in sixty days, except the provision adding the seven agencies to the existing nineteen agencies participating in the program would go into effect in one year.

“Every time a New Yorker interacts with government, they should be empowered to participate in their democracy,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “Voting is the bedrock of our community: It is how we as New Yorkers demand our rights and make our voices heard. The Expanded Agency-Based Voter Registration Law will take us one step closer to the goal of every eligible New Yorker being registered to vote.”