Council will also vote on updates to the City’s Human Rights Law

City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on legislation increasing transparency and reporting requirements relating to violence in city jails. The Council will also vote on a legislative package that updates and strengthens the city’s Human Rights Law. Finally, the Council will vote on two bills to improve green standards and reduce energy usage in city buildings.

Transparency in City Jails

The Department of Correction (“DOC”) is currently required to report on a number of violence statistics in adolescent jail facilities pursuant to Local Law 29 of 2009. Introduction 763-A, sponsored by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, would expand this law by including inmates of all ages, increasing the number of violence indicators reported, and requiring more frequent reporting. The bill would include reporting on violence indicators in total and disaggregated by the age of the inmate(s) involved in the following categories: 16-17, 18-21, 22 and older.

The bill would expand the violence indicators from Local Law 29 of 2009 in some ways, including that inmate assaults on staff would be disaggregated by the seriousness of the injuries sustained by staff, stabbings and slashings that had been tracked separately from other assaults that caused serious injury would now be reported both together and separately, and incidents in which inmates splash DOC staff would be included.

7 key violence indicators would be required to be reported monthly, including inmate fights, serious injuries as a result of inmate fights, stabbings and slashings, and the use of force by staff on inmates. An additional 16 indicators would be reported quarterly, and another 4 indicators would be reported yearly.

“As we work toward our larger goal of overhauling our city’s jail system, it’s essential to have full transparency about conditions for those who are currently incarcerated,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “No one currently incarcerated in our city’s jails should be treated inhumanely and this legislation will help ensure that no one faces abuse that goes unaddressed.”

“Regular public reporting about violence in the Department of Correction facilities is perhaps the most important step we as a Council can take to shed light on what often occurs in the shadows at Rikers Island. This bill will allow the public to closely and frequently examine these vital statistics, and allow all policymakers including the Council to monitor how the DOC’s reform efforts are progressing. I would like to thank the Speaker for her leadership in reforming our criminal justice system and making it fairer for all. I believe this bill is a step forward in making that a reality,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Human Rights Law

Introduction 805-A, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would amend the city’s Human Rights Law to add lessors, franchisors and franchisees to the list of individuals who, connected to a place or provider of a public accommodation, are prohibited from discriminating. It also would clarify that denying a person the full and equal enjoyment of such accommodation, on equal terms and conditions as other people, because of that person’s protected class violates the law. The bill would remove an outdated reference to “purported” membership in a class as well.

Introduction 814-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would recognize certain court cases that have interpreted the Human Rights Law independently of federal and state law, as required by the Council’s 2005 Local Civil Rights Restoration Act. This bill also would require that exemptions and exceptions from the general provisions of the Human Rights Law be construed narrowly in order to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct.

“New York City’s Human Rights Law contains a remarkable provision. Built right into the law is the requirement that the law be ‘construed liberally for the accomplishment of the uniquely broad and remedial purposes,’ even where state and federal laws don’t go as far,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “By identifying cases where judges correctly understood this requirement, we help ensure that the law is enforced broadly and creates the strongest legal deterrent to discrimination. Strengthening NYC’s pioneering human rights law and the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ ability to enforce it has been a hallmark of the City Council under Speaker Mark-Viverito’s leadership. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of all the bills in this passage.”

Introduction 818-A, sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy, would amend the Human Rights Law to give the New York City Commission on Human Rights the authority to award attorney’s fees, including expert fees, for a prevailing complainant in a matter brought before the Commission. This bill also would make clear that courts may include expert fees in the award of attorney’s fees for a prevailing party. Additionally, to the extent that the hourly market-rate of an attorney is factored into an attorney’s fees award, this bill would direct courts to factor in the hourly market-rate charged by attorneys of similar skill and experience litigating similar cases in New York County, which customarily has the highest attorney rates in New York City.

“As the Chair of the Civil Rights Committee in the New York City Council I have dedicated my efforts to fight against all forms of discrimination. Intro Number 818-A is a great piece of legislation which will deter discriminatory acts as well as offer additional damages to plaintiffs. While we have come a long way we must continue to do more,” said Council Member Darlene Mealy.

Introduction 819, sponsored by Council Member Rosie Mendez, would repeal an outdated provision of the Human Rights Law that addresses how to interpret protections against sexual orientation discrimination, unnecessarily differentiating sexual orientation from other protected groups while also creating redundancies. The subdivision to be repealed provides that the Human Rights Law should not be read to (a) restrict an employer’s right to insist that an employee meet bona fide job qualifications; (b) authorize or require affirmative action because of sexual orientation; (c) limit or override any other exemptions; (d) make lawful any act that violates the New York Penal Law; or (e) “[e]ndorse any particular behavior or way of life.”

Introduction 832-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for landlords and other agents of real estate to refuse to sell, rent or lease, or otherwise deny or withhold an interest in a housing accommodation, because of an individual’s actual or perceived status as a victim of domestic violence, or as a victim of sex offenses or stalking. Such victims already have protections against employment discrimination under the City’s Human Rights Law.

“Domestic violence continues to threaten the safety and lives of too many New Yorkers,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Too often, victims of domestic violence are evicted or prevented from renting apartments simply because they have been abused – this is not only wrong, it’s horrifying. Today, I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we pass intro 832 to make housing discrimination against victims of intimate partner violence illegal.”

Green Building Standards

Introduction 701-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require city-owned capital projects to significantly reduce energy usage.

City-owned capital projects, other than projects involving Factory and High Hazard Occupancies, would have to be designed and constructed so that their Energy Use Intensity (energy use per square foot per year) is either:

• matched to passive house standards,
• 50% less than it would be under ASHRAE 90.1-2013
• 50% less than the median source EUI according to benchmarking data OR
• matched to an alternative target set by the Mayor.

Factory and High Hazard Occupancies would have to be designed and constructed so that
• the energy use of the base building systems is either:
• 50% less than it would be under ASHRAE 90.1-2013 OR
• Reduced by an alternative percentage set by the Mayor OR
– the EUI is 50% less than the median source EUI for such occupancies according to benchmarking data

The bill would also require the Mayor to submit a plan for ensuring that by 2030 all city-owned capital projects are designed and constructed to meet passive house standards.

This legislation would take effect immediately except that it would apply only to capital projects added to the capital plan on or after July 1, 2017.

Introduction 721-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would update and strengthen the City’s green building standards for city capital projects. It would require City capital projects with an estimated construction cost of $2,000,000 or more to meet LEED version 4 Gold with the following exceptions:

• Residential Occupancies would be required to meet Enterprise Green Communities Criteria;

• Factory and High Hazard Occupancies, (which only have to comply with this bill if the estimated construction cost is $10,000,000 or more) would have to meet LEED version 4 certified or comply with Int. 701 requirements for F and H Occupancies;

• Outdoor Assembly Occupancies and Miscellaneous Occupancies would be exempted.

This legislation would take effect immediately except that it would apply only to capital projects added to the capital plan on or after July 1, 2017.

“Once again, this Council is taking pro-active steps and finding ways to ensure that New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by 80 percent by the year 2050,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will help reduce energy usage across our city.”

“As climate change worsens, the amount of new construction in New York City continues to increase. We have an obligation to ensure that new buildings constructed by the city are environmentally friendly,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Intro 721, which I am proud to sponsor, requires city-owned buildings to meet stricter, expanded green building standards.”