Vowing to Lift Every Voice, Mark-Viverito Presents Bold Vision to Empower New Yorkers and Strengthen New York City
Speaker Mark-Viverito: “Together we’re going to empower, we’re going to uplift and we’re going to make sure all New Yorkers are heard.”

El Barrio, NY – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today delivered her inaugural State of the City address, a sweeping vision for 2015 that will uplift and strengthen all New Yorkers. Vowing to lift every voice in New York City, Speaker Mark-Viverito presented a bold, ambitious agenda at the Johnson Community Center in East Harlem to make New York City more secure, more just and more inclusive for all.

Mark-Viverito: “We will tackle systemic issues in human rights, workers’ rights and civil legal rights — and we will take on long-standing challenges in housing, criminal justice, small business and education…and we will do it together.”
In the Speaker’s State of the City address, Speaker Mark-Viverito laid out a blueprint for New York City featuring broad ranging ideas, including proposals to:

• Revitalize the Human Rights Commission and Expand the Human Rights Law
• Expand Access to Civil Legal Services
• Support Workers and Family-Friendly Workplaces
• Support Small Businesses and Reduce Regulatory Burdens
• Increase Resources and Empower Tenants at NYCHA
• Reform New York City’s Criminal Justice System
• Reform School Discipline Practices
• Expand Access to Technology and Career and Technical Education Programs
• Collaborate With NASA and New York City Public Schools
• Collaborate with Microsoft to Expand Student Access to Technology:

Revitalize the Human Rights Commission and Expand the Human Rights Law:

Mark-Viverito: “This City Council is going to reinvest in a robust and comprehensive human rights infrastructure that is fit for 2015.”

New York City’s Human Rights Law protects people from discrimination based on their race, color, religion, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, citizenship, and more. It is an extraordinarily important law, a statement of the City’s commitment to equality and fairness at work, in housing and at places of public accommodation. Unfortunately, both the text of the law and the institution that oversees its implementation – the Human Rights Commission – have suffered from neglect since the 1990s. The Commission has lost about 80% of its funding, and cuts in staffing levels have led to significant backlogs in the investigation and resolution of individual complaints of discriminatory practices. The Commission has also interpreted its authority under the law too narrowly and rarely initiates its own investigations or tests for discriminatory practices. Out of frustration, complainants seeking redress may choose State court to bring their claims, or stay silent because they cannot afford counsel.

In order to make the Commission a truly effective body, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced the Council will add $5 million dollars to the Commission’s budget for FY 2016 – enough to double the number of attorneys and human rights specialists enforcing the law. Large budget cuts over the past two decades have, not surprisingly, resulted in decreased enforcement. The Administration’s recent appointment of new Commission leadership is the first step toward changing the tide, but this funding will allow the Commission to fulfill its mandate.

The Council will also make the Commission accountable for prosecuting cases, conducting proactive investigations, and conducting testing programs in areas such as employment and housing discrimination.

The Council will take legislative action to strengthen the Human Rights Law by overhauling its provisions, so that everyone understands the protections it affords. Additionally, the Council will expand substantive protections in the law:

• Caregivers: This bill would protect people from being discriminated against in employment because they are responsible for the care of their children or other dependents.

• Fair Chance Act: Currently, the law allows employers to consider a job applicant’s arrest or criminal record when making employment decisions. This bill would provide job applicants who have criminal or arrest records with a fairer shot at employment by prohibiting prospective employers from inquiring about criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment.

• Credit check: As a result of the Great Recession many New Yorkers lost their jobs or otherwise suffered financial difficulties leading to poor credit. Studies have shown that credit history is a poor indicator of job performance. Nevertheless, employers routinely perform credit checks on job applicants, which may negatively affect employment decisions. This bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee or job applicant based on consumer credit history.

Expand Access to Civil Legal Services:
Mark-Viverito: “Greater access to civil legal services will benefit tens of thousands of
New Yorkers, will change outcomes for the better, and will make New York City a more just place to live.”

New York City residents routinely grapple with legal problems related to housing, health insurance and medical bills, finances or consumer credit, employment, domestic violence, or government benefits. Many of these problems cannot effectively be resolved without legal assistance, but evidence suggests that more than 1.25 million low-income NYC residents do not have access to the legal services they sorely need.To address this problem, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced the Council will:

Create an Office of Civil Justice (OCJ) through legislation. The functions and responsibilities of the OCJ will include:
• Preparation of an annual survey to determine the level of unmet civil legal service needs among low-income NYC residents. This survey would include an assessment of the type and frequency of civil legal issues encountered by such residents, an evaluation of the efficacy and capacity of existing civil legal services programs, and the identification of any areas or populations that are being underserved.
• Development of a 5-year plan, based on the findings of the annual surveys, to ensure that all low-income NYC residents have access to the civil legal services they need. The OCJ would update this plan every 5 years.
• Making budget recommendations to the Mayor and Council regarding the funding of civil legal services programs.
• Exploring innovative approaches to providing free and low-cost civil legal services programs, including “low bono” programs and mediation and alternative dispute resolution programs.
• Coordination among civil legal services programs to create efficiencies and maximize the total number of low-income NYC residents served, and to address any underserved areas or populations.
• Establishing mechanisms for providing civil legal services during and after emergencies in order to avoid a repeat of the ad hoc approach to providing civil legal services taken in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
• Providing outreach and education on the availability of free and low-cost civil legal service programs.

Increase funding for homelessness prevention legal services for Fiscal Year 2016:
The City’s homeless population has more than doubled since 2000, with over 58,000 New Yorkers (including over 24,000 children) sleeping in homeless shelters.
Many of these New Yorkers are homeless because they were either evicted or because their living situation was destabilized by a past eviction. Speaker Mark-Viverito announced the Council is calling for the City to invest an additional $7.5 million into the Court-Based Homelessness Prevention Project. The Project provides targeted social and legal services to families facing evictions in neighborhoods that have experienced a high-rate of shelter entries. The additional funding will allow the Project to serve 6,000 more families annually.

Support Workers and Family-Friendly Workplaces:
Mark-Viverito: “Promoting equality and fairness in our City also means facing up to one of the most important socioeconomic challenges of our time: income inequality.”

Income inequality is a national problem that requires a national response, but there are significant steps the City can take locally to reduce the gap. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced:

The Council Will Seek Local Control Over the Minimum Wage: Adjusted for the cost of living, the minimum wage in New York City is currently the lowest of any major city in the United States. Overall, sectors with the greatest reliance on low-wage workers relative to their total employment are home health care, leisure & hospitality, retail, and social services – which also happen to be the sectors that have gained the largest share of jobs in the economic recovery. The City’s minimum wage is a local problem that calls for a local solution—not a statewide one, and the discussion about the City’s minimum wage should take place in the City – not Albany.

The Council Will Seek Authority to Enforce the State’s Labor Laws: Unfortunately, wage theft remains a pervasive problem in New York City. The National Employment Law Project estimates that approximately $1 billion in wages are stolen from New York City workers every year. While the state Department of Labor has done significant work enforcing the law, it is simply not large enough to tackle this problem. Enforcing labor laws at the local level will better protect workers and ensure that they are receiving the wages and working under the conditions they deserve.

The Council Will Advocate for Paid Family Leave at the State Level: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees working at firms with fifty or more employees with up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a twelve month period for specified family and medical reasons. However, many employees either are not covered or cannot afford to lose the pay even if they qualify.

New York State provides partial wage replacement through its Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, but only in the event the employee becomes temporarily disabled. If an employee’s child becomes seriously ill, TDI provides no protection. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have successfully created paid family leave programs by increasing the benefit cap of their TDI programs and adding a small payroll tax to fund paid family leave. Providing paid family leave for workers in New York by expanding the current TDI program is an efficient, low-cost approach that will be simple for employers to implement.

The Council Will Pass Legislation Creating an Office of Labor: Currently there is no dedicated City Office designed to enforce worker protection laws and to help businesses comply with City and State labor laws. The new Office of Labor will enforce City laws such as paid sick leave and transit benefits. The Office will also be charged with enforcing future labor laws passed at the local level, as well as State labor laws once the Council is successful in gaining authority to do so. Furthermore, the Office will serve as a resource for workers and businesses, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities, and assisting businesses to comply with the law. The Office will also develop programs for worker education, safety and protection.

Speaker Mark-Viverito also announced that the Council will review policies that support working families, including more predictable and stable work schedules. Additionally, the Council will convene a group of businesses with family friendly policies to discuss and share best practices with the New York City business community.

Support Small Businesses and Reduce Regulatory Burdens:
Mark-Viverito: “For workers to do better, for our city to do better, we must support all of our city’s businesses.”

There are over 220,000 small businesses in New York City employing more than 1.5 million New Yorkers. These businesses face a complex regulatory environment. Speaker Mark-Viverito today reaffirmed her commitment to doing even more to help these businesses thrive, which will benefit all New Yorkers—from the entrepreneurs who started them, to the workers they employ, to the neighborhoods they serve.

The Council will pass legislation to improve the City’s responsiveness and outreach to the small business community:

• Enhance inspector trainings: Customer service trainings for agency inspectors will be enhanced by incorporating feedback received directly from the businesses and by better coordination among agencies. This will ensure that trainings include a review of the important issues identified by small business owners.
• Improve language translation services: Legislation will ensure that agency inspectors are properly trained to provide appropriate translation services in the field.
• Reduce unnecessary violations: Agencies will undertake an analysis of violations they issue that are dismissed to identify patterns and reduce the issuance of unnecessary violations.
Focus on educating businesses: Business Education Days, which inform businesses about complying with regulations, will be expanded in all five boroughs.•
• Small Business Advocate: Business owners will be able to direct their inquiries, comments, and concerns to a newly-created Small Business Advocate position.
The Council will also continue to work with the Administration to improve the regulatory environment for small businesses by:

• Helping new businesses get off the ground: The New York City Business Acceleration program has a proven track record of shortening the time needed to open a food service establishment. Expanding this program will lower barriers to entry for other types of businesses.
• Reducing fines: Minor infractions that do not concern public health or safety may warrant a warning or cure period for a first violation. For certain violations, the focus should be on education.
• Improving the tribunal process: The tribunal process should be made more consumer-friendly by expanding opportunities to contest violations by mail or telephone. If you’re a business owner, you should not need to take a day off from work to contest what you believe is an unfair violation.

Increase Resources for Capital Improvements at NYCHA and Empowering Tenants:
Mark-Viverito: “Within this complex, we are here to present our vision for the City. But we are also here to let NYCHA residents know that we hear you – los escuchamos.
We will not abandon you- and we are going to lift up your voices – so that others can hear them too.”

NYCHA’s aging housing stock requires far more capital investment than has been available from Federal, State, and City subsidies. From 2001 to 2013, federal funding for NYCHA declined 36 percent, and State funding has virtually halted. The result is a capital budget gap that exceeds $18 billion, severely limiting the agency’s ability to make necessary repairs and upgrades. Without resources, NYCHA cannot maintain housing stock in a state of good repair, or improve service levels and residents’ quality of life.
New York City plans to commit approximately $225 million in capital funding in FY 2015 to improve conditions at NYCHA. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito, whose district has the most public housing anywhere in the City, announced that she and Council Members with public housing in their districts, will send a letter to Governor and legislative leaders in Albany, calling on the State to match this commitment with some of the over $5 billion it received from the recent bank settlements.
In order to address critical system improvements, the Council will also allocate $25 million in new capital funding in the FY 2016 budget targeted at the NYCHA development in each borough with the most open work orders. These funds will be spent on improvements like brickwork, roofing, elevator replacements, heating and plumbing upgrades, and kitchen and bathroom renovations. By targeting funding to buildings with the most open work orders, the Council can tackle the underlying conditions that cause the problems – like leaks or mold – in the first place.
Participatory Budgeting Expanding to NYCHA:
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process where community residents directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. New York City’s PB process is the largest in the nation.
Working with NYCHA and local tenant leaders, Speaker Mark-Viverito, who was one of the first members to take part in participatory budgeting, announced that the Council will appropriate new funding in the FY 2016 budget to expand the PB process to public housing. While other jurisdictions have various mechanisms for input into their public housing budget, this would be the first PB process in the U.S. that allows any resident of an affected public housing development to vote directly on how to appropriate public money in their developments.
Reform New York City’s Criminal Justice System:
Mark-Viverito: “We need to take a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform that ensures a fairer system, improves police community relations and addresses the fact that far too many of our young people – mostly low-income black and Latino males – are locked up at Rikers.”
The consequences of being arrested, convicted or spending time in jail can be serious and long term. A criminal record, even for low-level offenses, often amounts to an almost insurmountable barrier to full participation in society, including with respect to finding a job or renting an apartment. Those serving time in jail can’t go to work or care for their children.
In “Lifting Every Voice,” Speaker Mark-Viverito proposed changes to put the justice back in New York City’s criminal justice system. Currently, the criminal justice system is filled with individuals, mostly young men of color, charged with low-level, non-violent offenses, including turnstile jumping. Fully 85% of the cases that come through New York City’s system are for misdemeanors or non-criminal offenses, and judges set bail in approximately 20% of misdemeanor cases. Because only 12% of defendants in these cases can post bail immediately, the remaining 88% end up spending some time at Rikers Island or another correctional facility while awaiting trial. The average length of stay in jail for someone awaiting trial on minor offenses is about 15 days.
Given the consequences of jail time and an arrest or criminal record, it is vital that the City enforce low level, non-violent offenses in a way that maintains order but minimizes the harshest impacts associated with involvement in the criminal justice system.
Speaker Mark-Viverito announced the Council will work with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) and the NYPD to expand the use of summonses for certain minor, non-violent offenses, instead of imposing a criminal charge that carries with it the possibility of a criminal record and jail time. In summons court or civil enforcement courts, those who commit low level offenses will still be held accountable, but will not face the drastic consequences of jail or obtaining a criminal record for those offenses. For other non-violent low-level offenses, the Council will work with MOCJ and the NYPD to have these processed as desk appearance tickets, so that while the defendant will still be formally arrested and charged with a crime, s/he will be released and allowed to come to court on their own.
The Council will also examine reducing misdemeanor offenses included in the City law to civil offenses—further reducing the unfair consequences of criminalizing minor offenses.
Additionally, many defendants charged with minor, non-violent offenses end up being locked up in pre-trial detention solely because they cannot afford bail. In fact, even where bail is $500 or less, only 15% can afford to pay it immediately. In addition to the harsh impact of doing time in jail, housing an inmate costs the City around $100,000 per year, and too often these defendants, mostly young men of color, serve more time in pre-trial detention than they would have for their actual sentence.
Speaker Mark-Viverito today announced the Council will work to create a $1.4 million dollar citywide bail fund to assist low risk, non-violent offenders make small bail amounts. This type of fund, authorized by State law with important limitations, has proven effective in pilot programs, with a court appearance rate in the 90th percentile.
Reform School Discipline Practices:
Mark-Viverito: “Removing a child from a classroom or school should be a last resort… not a first option.”
School discipline has been a contentious issue for years, with advocates citing high suspension rates among students of color and students with disabilities. According to a report released in 2013 by the New York Civil Liberties Union, suspensions nearly doubled between 2001 and 2011, and black, low-income students and students with special needs are disproportionately suspended and arrested in New York City public schools.
To address this, Speaker Mark-Viverito announced Council will advocate for the reform of school disciplinary practices, including:
• Utilizing guidance interventions as a first step, prior to classroom removal or issuing any suspensions.
• Allocating funding to expand restorative justice programs at schools that demonstrate the most need.
• Reforming how the B21 infraction related to insubordination is applied.
• Creating a model based on schools with best practices.
• Providing training and support for teachers in conflict resolution and de-escalation.
• Enhancing training for School Safety Agents, focused on working in a school environment, youth development, and improving collaboration with school leadership.
• Reforming the policy on the use of restraints, including for elementary school children.
• Convening a School Justice Task Force, consisting of key agencies, advocates, parents and school personnel, to address school safety and discipline issues.
• Amending the Student Safety Act to get better data related to school disciplinary practices.
Expand Access to Technology and Career and Technical Education Programs:
Mark-Viverito: We will increase access to higher paying career paths, improve the odds that students stay in school and graduate, assist local businesses and boost the City’s economy by providing more skilled workers for fast-growing fields.
In order for New York City to remain on the cutting edge in a changing world, New York City needs the programs, training and tools to prepare students for 21st century jobs that meet the growing needs of City employers. Speaker Mark-Viverito today presented a series of proposals to expand access to technology and career and technical education programs.
Students attending elementary and middle schools, particularly those in low-income communities, need additional opportunities to benefit from the integration of technology into their education. The most effective way to expose young children to the value of technology is not by focusing on the technology itself, but more importantly by incorporating technology into teaching practices. Incorporating technology effectively into instructional practices and creating engaging projects for students requires effective professional development for teachers that goes beyond the typical one day workshop model. The Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University, is currently piloting such a model, which includes both a series of hands-on workshops and structured school visits.
The Council will collaborate with the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College and the Department of Education to create an initial program for 10 schools, 5 elementary and 5 middle schools, serving low-income students, to incorporate technology in the classroom. For each school, the Center’s professional development work plan will include: 1) Needs Assessment; 2) Design and Implementation of Workshops (5 two-hour workshops for participating faculty); and 3) Classroom Visitations (4 structured visitations per school to plan relevant standards-based projects).
To make certain that technology becomes permanently embedded into school culture and curriculum, the Council proposes that the DOE have dedicated technology educators assist teachers with the integration of technology into curriculum over the long-term, and identify industry partners willing to provide technical assistance and resources to participating schools.
The Council will also partner with DOE and the Partnership for New York City to create high-demand CTE programs in existing high schools, including struggling schools, and to link those students with hands-on work experiences in our City’s businesses, both large and small.
CTE programs are increasingly being recognized as a way to re-engage high school students with hands-on real-world skills and help prepare them for both college and careers. Despite the focus on increasing the number of designated CTE high schools, much less attention has been paid to adding CTE programs in existing schools. Further, many of the struggling high schools serving concentrations of high-needs students do not currently have CTE programs which, in addition to offering CTE-endorsed diplomas and industry certifications and credentials, have been shown to increase student engagement, improve attendance and reduce dropouts. Creating additional high-quality and high-demand CTE programs in existing high schools will produce the following benefits:
• Increase access for students to skilled, higher-paying career paths, as well as improving the odds that they will stay in school and graduate.

• Improve performance of struggling high schools by increasing attendance and graduation rates, as well as by attracting more students with a broader range of academic achievement levels.

• Assist local businesses and boost the City’s economy by providing more skilled workers for fast-growing fields.
The over 100,000 CTE students in our public school system will benefit from work-based learning experiences, such as internships, and mentorships. The Partnership for New York City will work with the Council and the DOE on a campaign to identify industry partners to create these opportunities for City students.

Collaborate With NASA and New York City Public Schools:
Mark-Viverito: “Picture having real-time conversations with astronauts living on a space station, or working with NASA scientists to support international climate change research – these are the possibilities for our young people.”

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related skills are important to learn in today’s economy, often leading to well-paying jobs. In order to provide a workforce that can participate and flourish in these fields, we must train educators and ensure that STEM is made part of the curriculum in our schools.
Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council will partner with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Department of Education (DOE) to bring hands-on science education to New York City public school students through:
• Incorporating the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program in 10 middle schools and 10 high schools in New York City. This worldwide, hands-on primary and secondary school-based science and education program promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists through collaboration on inquiry-based investigations. It involves working in close partnership with NASA, and others to study and research the dynamics of Earth’s environment.

• Training teachers through the GLOBE Teacher certification program so they can acquire certification as GLOBE Master Teachers. This certification process enables teachers to collaborate and create a scientific research community with other teachers within their school or district, as well as around the world. Once certified by GLOBE, teachers can access the tools to implement the hands on laboratory GLOBE protocols and learning activities in a classroom setting, work with their students to make data observations, collaborate with scientists and report these observations to the GLOBE website. Students, teachers and schools will become part of an ongoing interdisciplinary global research community contributing to international climate research.

• Coordinating with NASA and GISS to utilize their customizable digital learning network (DLN) and multi-media supports to implement nontraditional methods of studying science.

• Hosting real-time conversations with crew members aboard the International Space Station.

• Connecting students to internships, fellowships, job opportunities and scholarships through GISS. Summer enrichment programs include research seminars and summits, as well as visits to various research laboratories.

Collaborate with Microsoft to Expand Student Access to Technology:
Mark-Viverito: “Thanks to this nearly half billion dollar benefit, we will close the software gap and put our students on the pathway to success in the 21st century.”
Speaker Mark-Viverito today announced acollaboration with Microsoft to provide free access to their software for students and their families and teachers.
Students will be able to download the Microsoft software at no cost on up to 5 personal computers or Macs and 5 tablets, smart phones or other devices. Microsoft products and features that are part of the offer include:
• Office 365 ProPlus on Windows: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Lync, Access, InfoPath and Publisher installed on Windows
• Office for Mac Professional 2011: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Lync
• Office for iPad, iPhone, Android: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote
• Cloud service available wherever you go
• Office on-demand
Some of this software has education-specific content and features that teachers can tailor for their classroom needs. To protect student privacy, the software will be downloaded from a web portal hosted by DOE to ensure that neither Microsoft nor any third party has access to student data.
As part of this program, Microsoft will train DOE staff to provide professional development for teachers on Office 365. Microsoft is actively working with the DOE to provide a catalog of professional development for teachers covering a wide range of topics including:
Teaching with Technology – This curriculum helps educators develop a deeper understanding of how technology can enhance the teaching and learning experience.
21st Century Learning Design – 21CLD uses a research-based methodology to help educators enhance current lessons, and create new ones that elicit 21st century skills in students.
Collaboration, and Communication with Office 365 – For this training, educators will learn how Lync provides a platform for meeting virtually: for parent conferences, for team or student meetings, or to just touch base with struggling students.
The Ultimate Collaboration Tool – An Introduction to OneNote – Educators will develop the basic skills needed to use OneNote as a productivity tool for both themselves and their students.
In addition to the software and professional development for teachers, Microsoft also offers a Microsoft IT Academy for high schools, which is a Career Technology Education (CTE) program in Information Technology and Computer Science, leading to industry-recognized certifications. In particular, Microsoft offers students a certification program in its Microsoft Office 365 software, which will provide employment opportunities for students. For example, knowledge of Excel, one of the Microsoft Office 365 software programs, is a skill in high demand, especially for many entry-level positions on Wall Street.
This nearly half billion dollar benefit will help New York City students compete in the global workforce.
The proposals in Speaker Mark-Viverito’s speech will help empower and uplift all New Yorkers. Council Members today cheered Mark-Viverito’s proposals:
“I’m incredibly excited to join Speaker Mark-Viverito in advancing our bill to create and fund a first of its kind Office for Civil Justice,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “This office would both improve the efficacy of current investments in legal services and set the path for a full right to counsel for all low-income New Yorkers. Under the leadership of Speaker Mark-Viverito, we are also investing an additional $7.5 million in the Court-Based Homelessness Prevention Project, which targets legal and social services into areas that have high rates of homelessness. Together, these initiatives will play a key role in protecting affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and ensuring dignity for families.”
“These criminal justice reforms will ensure a fairer, more equitable city for all New Yorkers while continuing to bring down crime and building up strong relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson. “I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for making these important issues a focal point in the City Council’s upcoming agenda and I look forward to working together with all our partners to make these policies a swift reality.”
“It’s exciting to be Chair of the Committee on Small Business at this time when the Council’s Speaker has such a deep understanding of small business concerns,” said Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy. “From assisting vendors, to reducing fines and fees, improving outreach to immigrant businesses and advancing land use policies that support the industrial and manufacturing sector, Speaker Mark Viverito has shown herself to be a true friend to small businesses throughout the City and I am proud to be her partner in continuing to advance these goals.”
“Improving educational outcomes starts with providing adequate, constitutionally guaranteed funding,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “I am very pleased to hear Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito place great emphasis on securing over $2.2 billion in funding owed to the NYC Department of Education by New York State. I believe her programs to enhance CTE education, to bring NASA to our classrooms and to partner with Microsoft so our students can have access to software for their computers, tablets and cell phones is very forward thinking and will enhance student learning and interest. Kids will benefit from these investments for a long time to come!”

Leading civil legal services providers, educators, business leaders and advocates for criminal justice reform praised Mark-Viverito’s ambitious agenda to empower New Yorkers and strengthen New York City.

Human Rights:

“Speaker Mark-Viverito has outlined an ambitious agenda that recognizes the contribution that all New Yorkers make to our city, and takes important steps to protect and promote the basic civil rights and liberties of people too often forgotten,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Her expansion of the Human Rights Commission should revitalize an agency neglected for decades, providing an important source of redress for New Yorkers who have been subject to discrimination, including in our schools. Her commitment to ‘Ban the Box’ sends an important message that New York City is a place where anyone can get a second chance and that there is no room for employment discrimination against those who have been incarcerated. And her expansion of basic workplace protections to caregivers should protect several generations of New Yorkers at once. We look forward to working with the speaker, the mayor and the City Council to improve justice and equality for all New Yorkers.”

“LSNYC is thrilled to learn that the Speaker has proposed a dramatic increase in funding for the City’s Human Rights Commission,” said Amy S. Taylor of the Equal Rights Initiative at Legal Services NYC. “It is high time that New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the country with one of the strongest civil rights laws, increase funding to the agency tasked with enforcing these laws for low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford private attorneys. This new funding will double the Commission’s enforcement staffing to better serve New Yorkers facing discrimination and will also send an important message to all communities that New York City takes discrimination seriously and is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers live free of discrimination.”

Civil Legal Services:
“The Speaker’s State of the City speech demonstrates her exemplary commitment to meaningful access to justice for low-income New Yorkers,” said Andrew Scherer, Policy Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School. “Her proposals – including establishing a Civil Justice Coordinator’s office, requiring an annual survey of civil legal services needs, coordinating civil legal services efforts, and developing a long-term plan for universal representation in civil legal matters — are crucial steps toward “justice for all.” People who face eviction from their homes should have a right to counsel regardless of their income; and the Speaker’s call for expanding homelessness prevention legal services funding, coupled with her other access to justice proposals, brings us much closer to realizing that right.”

“We applaud the vision of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to more comprehensively address and support access to justice issues in New York City,” said Adriene Holder, The Legal Aid Society, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice. “Specifically, we appreciate her understanding that civil legal services initiatives need a “home” or in other words, a committed City agency partner to access the needs and levels of support needed to make a difference in the lives of low-income New Yorkers. In addition, the Speaker’s proposed housing initiatives will have a significant impact in preventing homelessness and promoting community stability and opportunity. The Speaker understands that we must concentrate our efforts on the specific areas of legal services with the greatest societal need and where we can have the highest impact in addressing inequality in New York City.”

Supporting Working Families:
“A Better Balance applauds Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council for outlining a bold agenda that will promote fairness and opportunity for working families,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President, A Better Balance. “This agenda, including a bill to outlaw discrimination against family caregivers and a push to make paid family leave a reality across the State, will help to strengthen New York by making sure that no worker has to choose between her job and her family.”

“Today Speaker Mark-Viverito announced a comprehensive platform to combat inequality and exploitation in the City of New York,” said Andrew Friedman, Co-Executive Director, Center for Popular Democracy. “ Raising the minimum wage, cracking down on the epidemic of wage theft, combatting unstable and inhumane scheduling, and creating a City Office of Labor will all go a long way towards ensuring that the working men and women who keep New York City strong and vibrant are finally able to live and work with dignity.

Small Business:
“The Hospitality Industry is very pleased with Speaker Mark-Viverito’s important recognition of small businesses and with the package of proposals announced today to both reduce fines and to create a small business advocate,” said Rob Bookman, Counsel to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

“Congratulations to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on her inaugural State of the City address,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “The Brooklyn Chamber fully supports any efforts to aid small businesses, which the Speaker has clearly made one of her priorities for the coming year. I commend Speaker Mark-Viverito for recognizing the importance of helping businesses comply with the law, and for assigning this vital responsibility to the newly created Office of Labor. I want to thank the Speaker for her efforts, and I look forward to continuing to work with her to make Brooklyn, and all of New York City, the best place in the world to run a business.”

Participatory Budgeting / NYCHA Capital Funds:
“Our research has found that Participatory Budgeting in New York City expands civic engagement for those that are traditionally disenfranchised and provides new opportunities for people to advocate for concrete improvements in their communities. By expanding PB into the New York City Housing Authority, the City Council is taking an important step in ensuring that more New Yorkers can be directly involved in making important decisions about their homes and communities,” said Alexa Kasdan, Director of Research and Policy, Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center.

“Since Community Voices Heard released our Democracy (In)Action report back in 2010, we have been calling on NYCHA to establish a participatory budgeting process,” said Gloria Wilson, Community Voices Heard Board Member, Public Housing Resident. “Allowing public housing residents to have collective decision-making power over resources for their communities will increase engagement and foster community-building. We’re thrilled that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is now ready to focus some of the Council’s energy on making PB in NYCHA a reality. Public housing residents will finally have their say! We look forward to partnering on this exciting pilot and to expanding it over time in terms of both resources allocated and the number of developments engaged.”

“The Community Service Society applauds Council Speaker Mark-Viverito for making a $25 million commitment to NYCHA capital improvements,” said Victor Bach, Senior Housing Policy Analyst at Community Services Society. “To put that commitment in scale, that’s as much as Governor Cuomo’s budget, with $5.5 billion in bank settlement funds, committed to NYCHA restoration. Viva City Council!”

“This is big step forward for democracy in New York City,” said Josh Lerner, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. “Residents from some of the city’s most marginalized communities will now have direct power over housing authority funds, for the first time in the US. The City Council’s participatory budgeting process is already an international model for civic engagement, and this takes it to the next level.”

Criminal Justice Reform:

“Finding ways of diverting those charged with the lowest level offenses from the criminal justice system is a priority for my Office, and I applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for making this a priority for the City Council. Additionally, access to quality legal counsel is a vital part of our criminal and civil justice systems. I look forward to working with the Speaker and the Council on initiatives that promote fairness across our city,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

“Speaker Mark-Viverito has outlined an ambitious agenda that recognizes the contribution that all New Yorkers make to our city, and takes important steps to protect and promote the basic civil rights and liberties of people too often forgotten,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. ” “The criminal justice reform package she outlined should result in fewer New Yorkers arrested for minor offenses, saving communities of color from a needless but potentially ruinous push into the criminal justice system.”
“We commend the Speaker’s plan to address the disproportionate effect that low level arrests cause this City’s communities of color, especially young Black and Latino men,” said Seymour James, Attorney-In-Chief of the Legal Aid Society. “As the primary defender in New York City representing 220,000 indigent New Yorkers facing criminal charges, we see the life altering, devastating consequences that arrests for such things as remaining in a park after dark or riding a bicycle on the sidewalk have on a person’s education, housing and employment. As recent data has demonstrated, this City can change this discriminatory practice and still insure public safety. Further, we are very happy to hear that the Speaker has a plan to set up a citywide bail fund for indigent New Yorkers. There is no greater unfairness than to have someone detained in jail during the pendency of their case simply because they are poor and cannot afford bail.”
“The Speaker’s criminal justice proposals acknowledge the high cost—both social and financial—of arresting and incarcerating New Yorkers for a range of non-violent, low-level offenses, and offer an alternative path that enhances public safety and greatly reduces negative impacts of system involvement on families and communities,” said Nicholas Turner, president director of the Vera Institute of Justice. “These common sense approaches to reform are a critical step toward a safer, healthier, and more equitable New York, and I applaud the Speaker for her continued leadership and vision on justice issues.”


“Her commitment to reforming school discipline so that the kids who need help the most are sent to a guidance counselor or social worker instead of the police precinct should ensure more of our children stay in the classroom where they belong,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito’s plan to strengthen career and technical education programs marks the beginning of a new strategic partnership between the Council, the Department of Education and the business community,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO, of the Partnership for New York City. “Microsoft’s IT Academy is just one example of how employers can ensure that our students have the skills necessary to qualify for jobs in a rapidly changing economy.”

“We are committed to helping New York City teachers and students harness the power of technology to support instruction, collaboration and learning across multiple devices (PC, Mac, tablet and phone). This program will also enable all New York City students to have access to the best productivity tools and help equip them with the skills they’ll need for college and for the demands of work in the future,” said Margo Day, Vice President, U.S. Education, Microsoft Corporation. “We look forward to the full implementation of the program this year and the growing partnership with the New York City Council and the New York City Department of Education.”

“New York City’s schools are well positioned to lead the way in the innovative use of technology in the classroom,” stated Ellen Meier, Director of the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University. “The Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University is excited about this opportunity to work with teachers in New York City to harness the power of technology to advance learning experiences for all students. We thank the Speaker for her leadership in this area.”

“The GLOBE Program and its resources connects students to the whole world,” said Peter Schmidt, Associate Director of the Consolidated Edison, Queens College, GLOBE NY Metro Program. “Our students here are encouraged to make observations and collect data from their local environment and add it to a data base shared by students in 114 countries. There are multiple ways students can collaborate with their peers around the world about research that engages them; these students don’t just study about science but actually do science. The ongoing support and networking connections this professional development program creates will benefit students for years and I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council for their dedicated efforts to make this program a reality.”

Read the full text of Speaker Mark-Viverito’s speech at http://www.council.nyc.gov