New Office highlighted in Speaker Mark-Viverito’s State of the City Address, is part of Council platform to make New York City a more just place for all New Yorkers

City Hall – Today the Council will vote on legislation creating a city Office of Civil Justice. The Council will also vote on legislation requiring transparency in relation to health services in city jails. Additionally, the Council will vote on a package of bills aimed at making New York City’s truck routes safe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Finally, the Council will vote on legislation requiring increased transparency from the Department of Education regarding student demographic data.

Office of Civil Justice

Each year, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who cannot afford legal counsel are forced to take on their legal battles by themselves. Without access to an attorney, these individuals and families are at a disadvantage when fighting to avoid eviction, deal with debt collectors, or receive government benefits they are entitled to. Seniors, domestic violence survivors and people with disabilities often face civil legal difficulties without legal counsel.

Introduction 736-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Mark Levine, requires the creation of an Office of Civil Justice, headed by a Civil Justice Coordinator. This office will advise the Mayor on implementing and coordinating the provision of civil legal services among agencies, as well as review budget requests and make recommendations. The Civil Justice Coordinator will be responsible for assessing the ability and capacity of civil legal provider programs, pro-bono programs, and law school programs, in order to determine how many low-income New York City residents are actually being served and how many have unmet needs for civil legal services. Additionally, the Coordinator will evaluate and recommend mechanisms for providing free and low-cost civil legal services during and after emergencies. Finally, the Coordinator will be required to identify areas and populations of the City that have the most unmet needs.

This bill will go into effect immediately

“All across our city, there are New Yorkers struggling with the court system who find themselves in desperate need of legal counsel they simply can’t afford,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “These individuals are left to fend for themselves as they face uphill legal battles to protect their homes, their families, and their financial security. That’s why we’re going to create an office dedicated to working to ensure that all low-income New Yorkers have access to legal representation.”

“For decades, defendants in criminal courts have had a right to an attorney, regardless of whether they could afford to pay. However, in civil courts, where people face life altering judgments, ranging from eviction, to deportation, to child custody verdicts, low-income New Yorkers are left to fend for themselves when they lack the resources for an attorney. This has created a profoundly uneven playing field for tenants, immigrants and New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet that falls short of any reasonable standard of justice. By passing this legislation, the City Council is leveling the playing field in civil court proceedings. We have long had a criminal justice coordinator and this bill will create a similar office for civil court actions that maps out a five year strategy to meet the legal needs of low-income tenants in housing court,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

City Jail Health Services Transparency

Introduction 440-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would ensure that performance data from healthcare providers in New York City jails is reported to the city and made available to the public. Specifically, it would require quarterly reporting from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DOHMH”) that includes any physical or mental health performance indicators reported to them by any healthcare provider in jails.

This bill would require that the Council and Mayor receive the same reports that healthcare providers currently provide to DOHMH, and that they are posted online. Corizon, the current healthcare provider at the Rikers Island jail complex, currently provides quarterly reports on 40 performance indicators to DOHMH. This legislation would require the same reporting from any future provider of healthcare services in New York City jails that reports to DOHMH. These reports would include the performance indicators, the methodology used to calculate them, and any actions taken or planned to be taken by DOHMH in response. Even if no performance indicators were reported to DOHMH by a healthcare provider at City jails, DOHMH would still be required to issue a quarterly report covering five areas of inmate health—intake, follow-up care, patient safety, preventable hospitalizations, and preventable errors in medical care.

This bill would go into effect immediately, with the first report due by July 15, 2015

“The people coming into the City’s jails are overwhelmingly poor and sick, and desperately in need of quality health services,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “My colleagues and I are extremely concerned that the contractor providing health services in many of our City’s jails has failed to provide comprehensive and safe services to people under its care. In fact, inadequate health care may have been a factor in at least 15 deaths over the past five years. The first step in addressing these problems is getting a better picture of the adequacy of the services being provided. This legislation would improve transparency by identifying the metrics by which we should evaluate this system. We must ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of incarcerated status, receive the healthcare they deserve.”

Traffic Safety Bills

The Council will vote on three bills that will promote safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists by requiring life-saving vehicle modifications known as side guards on more than 10,000 large trucks, improving efforts to keep trucks from needlessly using residential streets, and studying how we can improve safety along truck routes in New York City.

Introduction 198-A, sponsored by Council Members Corey Johnson, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, would require all large vehicles in the City fleet—including Department of Sanitation collection trucks—and City-licensed trade waste hauling vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds to be equipped with side guards. Side guards are devices fit to the side of a truck that help prevent pedestrians and cyclists from falling into the exposed space between a vehicle’s axles. Use of side guards has been shown to reduce fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

“Though 2014 marked a watershed moment for our city in reducing the amount of pedestrian fatalities, it also showed a 15% increase in the number of cyclists falling victim to our roadways. By requiring side guards on all city vehicles and private sanitation vehicles, the same type of vehicle which claimed the life of Hoyt Jacobs the first cyclist to die in 2015, we are taking the necessary steps to reverse these trends and achieve Vision Zero,” said Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez. “With this legislation New York City becomes a national leader installing side guards not only on the largest city fleet in the nation but also in private sanitation vehicles which claim the lives of too many. I am proud of the work my colleagues Council member Johnson and Council member Ferreras and I have done and look forward to the enactment and implementation of this legislation.”

The Department of Transportation requires trucks to operate on designated routes unless they’re making a pick-up or delivery; however, each year thousands of trucks are cited for illegally deviating from these routes, causing safety and traffic concerns in residential areas.

Introduction 315-A, sponsored by Council Member Paul Vallone, would require the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on truck route compliance. The study would include locations where large numbers of truck drivers regularly operate off designated truck routes and may also include problematic locations identified by Council Members and Community Boards. Based on the study, the Department of Transportation would institute measures to increase compliance, such as converting two-way streets to one-way streets, posting signs regarding the permissible use of certain routes by trucks, and education outreach to the trucking industry.

The Department of Transportation would post the study, including the locations of such measures, on its website and submit a copy to the Council no later than January 1, 2017.

“How many times have we heard that residential streets are supposed to be residential? Unfortunately, as the DOT attempts to beautify neighborhoods by avoiding negative signage, we end up instead with trucks and tractor trailers plowing down our residential streets, polluting our communities with fumes and noise and endangering residents,” said Council Member Paul A. Vallone. “I am proud to have introduced this legislation that will tackle this issue by combining the DOT’s own compliance study with input from our community boards and civic leaders to increase truck route compliance and ensure that the NYPD is able to enforce restrictions on truck traffic. I applaud my fellow Council Members in the Committee on Transportation for unanimously voting my bill through and I look forward to working with the rest of the Council to pass this bill into law.”

An additional bill, Introduction 641-A, sponsored by Council Members Margaret Chin and Ydanis Rodriguez would require the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along truck routes. The study would include a review of how tolling policies impact truck route usage, an analysis of serious crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists on truck routes, and information on policies and strategies to increase safety on truck routes, as well as recommendations for further improving safety along truck routes.

The Department of Transportation would post the study online and submit copies to the Mayor and Council by June 30, 2016.

“This truck route study will provide a powerful new tool in our city’s Vision Zero effort,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “With a comprehensive review of how our network of truck routes and tolling policies affect street safety, the Department of Transportation will be in a better position to develop short- and long-term strategies to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe along truck routes. These new strategies will help lead the way toward smart fixes and broad reforms to prevent injuries and save lives.”

“In an age dedicated to keeping our roadways, arterial and side streets, safe we must ensure compliance with our designated truck routes. This means arming ourselves with the information necessary to understand how to alleviate congestions on our streets and better protect our children. These studies will do just that and allow our city to address these issues as targeted as possible.” said Transportation Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez

Transparency for Student Diversity Data in City Schools

Introduction 511-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to submit to the City Council and post on its website an annual report regarding student demographics and the DOE’s efforts to encourage diversity within schools. The bill would require reporting on the following demographic data in all schools and all districts for students in kindergarten through eighth grade who:
• Receive special education services
• Are English language learners
• Receive free or reduced price lunch
• Reside in temporary housing
• Are attending a school outside of the community schools.

This information would be further disaggregated by grade, race/ethnicity, gender and primary home language (for students who are English language learners).

“New York City’s remarkable diversity is one of our greatest strengths, but we are failing woefully to bring that diversity into our schools,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Sixty years after the Supreme Court ruled that ‘separate but equal is inherently unequal,’ it is shameful to have a school system that is among the most segregated in the country. There are strategies out there, being advanced by parents, educators, and advocates, to take us in the right direction. With the detailed data and strategic reporting that this bill will provide, NYC will have a meaningful framework to promote inclusion and advance diversity in our public schools and districts — and to evaluate whether or not we are moving in the right direction. Thanks to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Chair Dromm, Council Member Torres, Council Member Barron, and my colleagues for supporting this bill today, and to the NYC Department of Education for working with us. When these efforts succeed, all students benefit – we end up with more inclusive schools, a wider range of experience and perspective, and a diverse environment more like the world we live in and the democracy we want.”

Vanderbilt Corridor Re-Zoning & One Vanderbilt Avenue

The Council will vote on modifying zoning regulations along the western side of Vanderbilt Avenue between East 42nd and East 47th streets and to approve the construction of a 67-story commercial building in Midtown East. The agreement reached by the Council secures a $220 million investment from SL Green to make needed public transit and public space improvements in and around Ground Central Station, including new subway entrances, platform changes, new public areas and access points to Grand Central Terminal and East Side Access as well as the 4/5/6/7 and Shuttle.