Council to Vote to Improve Conditions in City’s Pedestrian Plazas.

Council will also vote on reforms to the City’s For-Hire Vehicle and Taxi Industries

City Hall, NY – Today the City Council will vote on legislation authorizing the Department of Transportation to create rules governing pedestrian plazas in New York City. The Council will also vote on a legislative package reforming the City’s for-hire vehicle and taxi industries. Next, the Council will vote on a package of bills improving the operations and policies of the city’s administrative tribunals, and the agencies that enforce related rules. The Council will next vote on the approval of five mayoral appointments to City boards and commissions. Finally, the Council will vote on a resolution calling on the United States Supreme Court to uphold the implementation of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Pedestrian Plazas

Pedestrian plazas are public spaces located within the bed of a street that has been closed to vehicular traffic, creating more open space for community use and enhancing pedestrian safety in the area. However, as there is no legal framework ensuring that the plaza program is permanent and no agency is authorized to regulate conduct within the plazas, the City has limited ability to address issues in plazas, including congestion in the Times Square pedestrian plaza. Introduction 1109-B, sponsored by Council Members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick, makes the City’s plaza program permanent and allows the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create both general rules of conduct for all plazas and reasonable time, place and manner regulations for individual plazas in order to manage the competing uses of finite public space. The bill would also provide DOT with the ability to designate and remove the designation of plazas, with all existing plazas grandfathered in. In addition, an agency or office designated by the Mayor would be required to create rules regarding plaza events.

“New York is known around the world for its bustling, quirky and slightly chaotic atmosphere,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “But the City must take action when the experience turns bad. ‎This bill will address the congestion and activity in the plazas while preserving the diversity that makes New York and its public spaces so special. ‎I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Members Garodnick and Rodriguez and my Council colleagues for taking on this important issue.”

“We need to bring some order out of the chaos in Times Square,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “The costumed characters have become a black eye for New York City, and we need to crack down on the bad actors who ruin the edgy and exciting vibe that makes Times Square unique. This bill is the first step to getting a simple framework that lets everyone enjoy the benefits of the plazas, with the freedom to find the characters if they want to and to avoid them if they don’t.”

“Our pedestrian plazas have come to provide a much needed oasis from the hustle and bustle of city streets,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “For this reason, we must protect these plazas and give them the official designation they deserve. Intro 1109-B will ensure plazas are safe, organized and regulated, making them more welcoming places for our residents and tourists alike to enjoy. I am eager to see this great program from the DOT expand so that more neighborhoods can experience the pleasure of pedestrian plazas.”

Taxi and For-Hire Vehicle Industry Reform

In January—after a working group led by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez conducted a comprehensive review of the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries—the Council announced a legislative and policy package designed to level the playing field while also fostering innovation and protecting consumers. Today, the Council will vote on the first set of bills from this package.

Apps that hail for-hire vehicles and taxis, as well as payment systems used in these vehicles, collect a tremendous amount of information from and about riders, creating the potential for serious violations of privacy and data breaches. Introduction 658-A, sponsored by Council Member Garodnick, would require entities licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to protect passenger information—including a rider’s name and address, credit card information, and any data collected while a passenger is traveling in a TLC-licensed vehicle—and to only use that information for purposes the passenger has authorized.

Introduction 1080-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Garodnick and Rodriguez, would increase price transparency in black car trips by allowing riders to receive an accurate price estimate and requiring that the actual fare charged not be more than 20 percent higher than the estimate. If the price is given as a range, the high-end of the range could not be more than 50 percent higher than the low-end. Apps would be required to inform passengers of their right to an accurate fare estimate when the law takes effect.

“Consumers deserve an accurate estimate of how much their ride will cost before booking a trip,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This legislation will ensure they have the ability to do that. I thank Council Members Garodnick and Rodriguez for their partnership on this legislation.”

“I am delighted to stand with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues to announce the passage of these important bills,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “Through this legislation, we aim to bring more parity to the taxi and for-hire industries, leveling the playing field for our hardworking drivers, while ensuring the established rules are enforced. We will also provide stronger assurances to riders that their sensitive personal information is secure and that they can rely upon strict price transparency to avoid sticker shock. This legislation is good for drivers, for the industry, but most of all for the riding public and I am proud to sponsor them.

Black cars are subject to a mandatory retirement schedule, depending on the model year of the vehicle, forcing drivers to buy newer vehicles even though their current vehicle can pass inspection. Introduction 1092-A, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, would allow black cars to remain in service so long as the vehicle passes all required inspections.

“It simply doesn’t make sense for black cars to be forced off the road when they can pass inspection,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. “This legislation ensures that safe, reliable cars can continue transporting New Yorkers around our city.”

Licenses to drive taxis and for-hire vehicles have different requirements, even though these drivers serve many of the same riders. Introduction 1095-A, by Council Member Rodriguez, would create a universal license that allows for the operation of a taxi or for-hire vehicle and would eliminate the requirement that an applicant pass a written English language exam, a significant barrier to entry to driving a taxi.

In general, for-hire vehicles are prohibited from picking up passengers on the street unless the ride was prearranged. Rides accepted through illegal street hails infringe on the rights of yellow and green taxis and leave riders without many of the consumer protections offered through regulated service. Introduction 1096-A, by Council Member Rodriguez, would increase penalties for illegal street hails that occur at the City’s airports, in Manhattan south of East 96th Street and West 110th Street, and any areas designated by the TLC to $2,000 for a first offense, $4,000 for a second offense within 24 months, and $10,000 for a third offense within 120 months.

Surveying the Racial, Ethnic & Gender Diversity of City Contractor Leadership

Introduction 704-A, sponsored by Council Member Crowley, would, among other things, require City agencies to request information regarding race, ethnicity and gender information from the executive boards of companies that contract with the City.

Specifically, Introduction 704-A would require the following:

• A voluntary survey created by the Department of Small Business Services (“SBS”) to be distributed to proposed city contractors and subcontractors beginning January 15, 2017, soliciting information regarding the racial, ethnic and gender composition of the directors, officers and other executive-level staff of such firms, and such firms’ plans for increasing diversity in leadership.

• A single report due July 1, 2018 from the Mayor or an agency designated by the Mayor analyzing the racial, ethnic and gender diversity among directors, officers and executive-level staff members of city contractors, such contractors’ plans for improving racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the executive positions, and such contractors’ efforts to achieve those plans.

“Diversity matters in the corporate world, and also impacts the bottom line. Studies have proven that diversity improves financial performance and productivity, contributing to greater economic growth. This legislation promotes diversity on boards and amongst senior-level staff, which benefits employers and makes a stronger, better New York City. Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my co-prime sponsor Council Member Darlene Mealy for their commitment to making this City a place where everyone can succeed,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

Environmental Control Board

The Council will vote on four pieces of legislation giving city agencies greater ability to enforce penalties for violations imposed by the Environmental Control Board (ECB). These four bills deal with issues that have previously made it difficult for city agencies and the Department of Finance (DOF) to collect outstanding debt from ECB violations.

Introduction 810-A, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would require city agencies that issue licenses, permits and registrations and that issue notices of violation returnable to ECB to promulgate rules to create a process for determining whether to deny applications for licenses, permits, or registrations, or to suspend, revoke, or terminate licenses, permits, or registrations of anyone who has outstanding debt incurred from ECB violations. Under the bill, the agencies’ rules must include certain factors to consider when making this determination, including:
• whether the person in question has other debt owed to the city;
• the amount of outstanding ECB debt owed;
• whether the underlying violation is one of multiple violations and the nature of the underlying violation; and
• whether the unpaid penalties were imposed because of a finding of default or whether a request has been made to vacate the default.

Introduction 812-A, also sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, will help with identifying those in violation of city laws, rules or regulations. This bill will require agencies to include the borough, block, and lot number, building identification number or device identification number, on any notices of violation where the violation is alleged to have occurred on or in a building or lot. Additionally, the bill will also clarify that ECB may not dismiss such a notice of violation on the ground that it does not include the unique identifier.

“Quality of life is about to get better because city agencies will finally be considering prior offenses when issuing or renewing approvals businesses need,” said Council Member Ben Kallos Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “For far too long, quality of life violations have gone uncollected, to the tune of $1.6 billion, with bad actors continuing bad behavior to the detriment of their communities, which we hope to change.”

Introduction 806-B, sponsored by Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, will authorize DOF to institute a temporary, 90-day amnesty program in Fiscal 2017 to resolve outstanding judgments issued by the ECB. Those who are subject to ECB default judgments will be able to resolve those judgments by paying the base penalty and having the default penalty and accrued interest waived. Those who are subject to ECB judgments after a finding that they were in violation will be able to resolve those judgments by paying 75 percent of the imposed penalty and having the accrued interest waived. After the conclusion of the program, for any default judgment that was eligible to be resolved as part of the amnesty program but was not, DOF will not be permitted to resolve such judgment by accepting payment of anything less than half of the default penalty and accrued interest. The legislation will also require DOF to conduct an outreach campaign to publicize the amnesty program in order to maximize participation.

Introduction 807-A, also sponsored by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, will require agencies that issue notices of violation generically to the “owner of” a business, organization, or premises to make reasonable efforts, within 30 days, to learn the names of said owners, and include that information on a corrected notice of violation. The bill would also clarify that, notwithstanding that requirement, ECB should construe a generic “owner of” notice of violation as if the notice included the name of the owner. The bill also clarifies that a respondent who is issued a generic “owner of” notice of violation would maintain the right to request a new hearing on the ground that the notice was not properly served. Additionally, the bill would require that if generic “owner of” notices are referred to DOF without the name of the owner, DOF would be required to make reasonable efforts, within 90 days, to learn the owner’s name and mail a copy of the notice and decision to the owner.

“Thanks to the collaboration between the Council and the Department of Finance, we now have ongoing reporting and increased enforcement of outstanding Environmental Control Board judgments, which will go a long way in helping us recuperate the $1.6 billion the City is owed. The goal of this amnesty program is not only to ensure even faster resolution of ECB debt, but to give property owners and small businesses an opportunity to pay before tougher enforcement is implemented. I thank Council Member Ben Kallos and my colleagues for their support in passing this bill. The Council’s Finance Committee will continue to track the Department of Finance’s effort and find new avenues for collecting what is owed,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

These bills will strengthen operations by making violations more enforceable and holding violators more accountable, and will help the City in its efforts to collect outstanding debt based on ECB violations.

Appointment Approvals

The Council will vote on approval of the following appointments:

• Ramon Peguero, designation by the Council to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (Queens)
• Marbre Stahly-Butts, designation by the Council to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (Brooklyn)
• Michael Regan, re-appointment by the Council to the Board of Correction
• Michelle de la Uz, re-appointment by the Public Advocate with the advice and consent of the Council to the City Planning Commission

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The Council will vote on Resolution 928-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, calling on the United States Supreme Court to issue a decision in United States v. Texas that overturns the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Texas v. United States, and upholds the implementation of President Obama’s expansion to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of a new program: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

The initial DACA program, announced in 2012, allows undocumented youth who were under 31 on June 15, 2012; have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday; and are currently in school or obtained their high school diploma or GED in the U.S., to qualify for a two year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

It is estimated that up to 220,000 New Yorkers could be eligible for these programs. Therefore, this resolution calls upon the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the implementation of the expanded DACA program and the new DAPA program.

“With smart immigration policy from the White House, New York City can remain a celebrated home for immigrants,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. For that reason, we’re calling upon the Supreme Court to allow President Obama’s plans to move forward as intended. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who qualify for this program deserve a chance at the American dream, just as all New Yorkers do.”