Council to Vote on Legislation to Overhaul Safety Standards for Gas Piping Infrastructure and to Establish a Permanent Monitor for the Department of Correction

Council will also vote to Establish a Task Force to Study the Feasibility of Returning to a Tuition-Free Model for the City University of New York System

City Hall – Today the New York City Council will vote on establishing a task force to review the feasibility of returning to a tuition-free model for the City University of New York (CUNY) system. The Council will also vote on a package of legislation aimed at overhauling safety standards for gas piping infrastructure. Additionally, the Council will vote to approve the creation of a permanent entity to exercise oversight of the Department of Correction. Finally, the Council will vote on installing electric vehicle charging stations throughout the five boroughs. On land use, the Council will vote to approve the rezoning at 141 Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn and the rezoning at Concourse Village West in the South Bronx.

Enhanced Safety Standards for Gas Piping Systems

In recent years, New York City has experienced several instances of faulty or tampered gas piping infrastructure creating hazardous conditions, including in the recent East Harlem and East Village explosions. These incidents have damaged or destroyed buildings, and left tenants and residents injured or even killed. Seeing a need for enhanced safety enforcements on this issue, the City Council has worked for two years to develop the following package of legislation:

Introduction 1079-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require final inspection of permitted work on gas piping systems to be performed by the Department of Buildings.

“Gas explosions have become too commonplace throughout the city,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “My own district in East Harlem was impacted by a devastating explosion in 2014, which displaced more than 100 families and resulted in dozens of injuries and the tragic loss of eight lives. Subsequent explosions have gutted residences in the East Village and even affected our public schools, as in the case of John F. Kennedy High School in 2015. When it comes to an issue as critical as gas infrastructure in New York City, we must maintain the strictest safety standards, and this package of legislation is an essential step toward ensuring safety in a process where even slight mishandling can mean dangerous consequences. I am proud of the work that the City Council has done on this package of legislation, and thank Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Donovan Richards, and the Committee on Housing and Buildings and its Chair, Council Member Jumaane Williams, for their diligent work on addressing this issue.”

Introduction 738-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would bar individuals from performing work on gas piping systems after January 1, 2020, unless such individuals are licensed master plumbers, hold a gas qualification, or hold a limited gas qualification and perform work under the personal and immediate supervision of a gas qualification holder.

“Over the last few years we have seen the horrific consequences of allowing illegal gas work in our city. Intro 738 creates a comprehensive standard for doing this sensitive and potentially deadly work,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “It’s a matter of safety to make sure we have the most highly qualified people on the job. As a city we have a responsibility to protect the health and lives of tenants being put at risk by unscrupulous actors who cut corners. We must do more as a city to be proactive, ramp up inspections and ensure all tenants are safe in their homes, and this bill is a major step forward towards achieving that goal.”

Introduction 1094-A, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would require an agency or office designated by the Mayor to identify a set of factors which indicate the presence of gas-related violations that pose risks to health, safety or property. The bill would also require such designated agencies to submit a report to the Council on using these factors to target areas for improvement in enforcement.

“We saw several explosions over the last few years related to gas from Harlem to the East Village, so my bill looks to identify risk factors that could lead to another fatal incident and have the city take more action in this particular area,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “We want to have a more proactive approach before we have to lose more people to these catastrophes. There are risk factors that the city, working with the gas companies, can identify. We want to catch the bad actors, the people cutting corners to save a few dollars. If we can identify a cracked pipe or illegal hookup early, maybe we can prevent a tragedy. I’d like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, and all of my colleagues in the Council who sponsored this package of bills.”

Introduction 1088-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would require the exposed portion of building gas piping systems, other than those in 1- and 2-family homes, to be inspected every five years for evidence of pipe deterioration, atmospheric corrosion, illegal connections and non-code compliant installations. The inspection would also be required to include a test of public spaces, hallways, corridors and mechanical and boiler rooms with a portable combustible gas detector.

“In the wake of several gas related tragedies throughout New York City in recent years, it is apt timing that we reform our laws in relation to gas piping systems,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We must make every effort to ensure all New Yorkers are safe in their homes, businesses, and on our streets. Today I am proud to pass Introduction 1088-A, one in a pack of bills, which takes serious steps to safeguard our buildings. By enacting this piece of legislation, we will ensure that gas piping systems throughout the city are functioning properly, not corroded or damaged, and performing at an optimal safety level. I would like to applaud Chair Jumaane Williams on his leadership and my colleagues, particularly Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, on putting forth a comprehensive set of bills that will go a long way to ensuring lasting safety in our city.”

Introduction 1098-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would require gas corporations with gas plants located in the City to provide an annual report to the City on gas infrastructure. This report would include, but not be limited to, the location, age, material and condition of each gas corporation’s pipes.

“As communities impacted by devastating gas explosions over the past few years recover, it’s important that we learn from what occurred to prevent it from happening again,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “With Intro 1098-A and the additional bills in this package, the Council is taking an important step and making serious changes to how we manage our gas infrastructure as a city. Any and all deficiencies should be proactively addressed  because the cost of inaction is the loss of life. I’m glad we’re moving this package forward and I thank the speaker and my colleagues for their leadership.”

Introduction 1101, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would require the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings to establish a temporary fuel gas violation resolution program to allow owners of buildings with fuel gas piping systems or appliances which violate any provision of the New York City Construction Codes to come into compliance with such codes without civil or criminal penalties.

Introduction 1102, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would classify violations relating to supplying or installing gas without a permit, operating an altered or newly-installed gas piping system without first notifying the utility company, and operating an altered or newly-installed gas piping system without first completing a compliance inspection as “immediately hazardous.”

“In a relatively short time we’ve seen a number of gas explosions take place in the City; many of them due to failures to report and handle gas leaks properly. To ensure the well-being of New Yorkers and first responders, it’s vital we adopt legislation that will implement and enforce a system of safety procedures followed by all building owners and plumbers,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Introduction 1090-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, would require owners to instruct their tenants of procedures that should be followed in the event that a gas leak is suspected. Tenants would be instructed to call 911 followed by their gas service provider prior to informing owners or superintendents when a gas leak is suspected.

“Every New Yorker needs to know how to report a gas leak,’ said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “As we work to update New York City’s infrastructure, it is imperative that we work with partners at all levels of government and within the community to prevent future gas-related explosions. I am proud to sponsor legislation that requires landlords to clearly communicate the procedure for reporting gas leaks to their tenants, both by clearly posting directions to call 911 and the relevant gas service provider in the lobby and including those instructions in every lease. This bill is part of a package of legislation that aggressively takes steps to protect New Yorkers against gas explosions and I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings Jumaane Williams for leading the Council on this important issue and for their efforts to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

Introduction 1093-A, sponsored by Rosie Mendez, would require gas service operators and building owners to notify the Department of Buildings within twenty-four hours when gas service is shut off or not restored.

“Introduction 1093-A would require gas service operators and building owners to notify the Department of Buildings (DOB) within 24 hours when gas service to a building is shut-off or not restored based on safety concerns. Our city has had several gas explosions in recent years, in particular the East Harlem in 2014 and East Village Explosions in 2015 that caused several casualties, unspeakable damage, and shook New Yorkers to our core. Introduction 1093-A, coupled with the other bills in this legislative package, will make NYC safer and ensure that the agencies are receiving information in real time that will go a long way to prevent future disasters,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez.

Introduction 1100-A, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, would require the Department of Buildings to develop or adopt a standard for natural gas detectors after an industry standard has been developed.  This legislation also requires the installation of natural gas detectors that comply with such standards in all multiple dwelling buildings.

“Natural gas alarms will make our multifamily dwellings much safer,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Committee on Technology. “I’m proud to sponsor a bill that will provide potentially lifesaving early warnings of a dangerous gas leak. We have seen horrible tragedies throughout our City due to natural gas explosions. By requiring natural gas alarms, we will treat natural gas leaks with the same care and concern we have for carbon monoxide and fires. I thank the Speaker for her consideration of this bill and the legislative package as a whole.”

Department of Investigation Monitor for the Department of Correction

City jails have suffered significant and longstanding problems related to violence, the use of force by staff on the incarcerated, and the violation of the rights of the incarcerated. Following the Council’s establishment of an Inspector General for the New York City Police Department in 2013, this bill would codify a similar entity within the Department of Investigation to monitor the Department of Correction (DOC). This legislation was initially proposed by the Speaker in the 2016 State of the City.

Introduction 1228-B, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would establish a permanent entity to monitor, review and report on the DOC on an ongoing basis. The entity would focus its attention on issues related to improving conditions in city jails, protecting the safety of departmental employees and protecting the rights of inmates.

“Creating dignified and humane city jails that leave keep both DOC staff and the incarcerated safe is paramount to our commitment to maintaining a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “By appointing a permanent entity to oversee conditions in DOC facilities, this bill will continue our work implementing systemic reforms across city jails. I thank the DOC, Department of Investigation, and the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services for their advocacy on this important issue.”

Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

As the cost of electric vehicles continues to drop, their popularity among drivers is growing. However, as few City residents have private garages, building out charging infrastructure is key to encouraging electric vehicle use.

Introduction 1124-A, sponsored by Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ydanis Rodriguez, would require the City to install at least twenty electric vehicle charging stations in publicly accessible locations by March 2018. Stations would be established in all five boroughs, and the City would work with stakeholders, including electric vehicle manufacturers and Con Edison, to review the success of the program and the possibility of installing on-street charging stations.

“Cities must now lead the way on protecting our environment.  New York has already been a worldwide role model in sustainability and we must continue to keep combating climate change a top priority,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “Introduction 1124-A will help us reach our commitment of reducing carbon emissions by encouraging sustainable habits.  A pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations will encourage more New Yorkers to use electric cars and reduce their own consumption of fossil fuels.  This bill ensures that 25 charging stations are publicly accessible throughout our five boroughs and will provide recommendations for a more permanent on-street program.  I thank my Council colleagues and Speaker Mark-Viverito for their support on this legislation.  I look forward to working on more innovative policies like this in our efforts to lead on environmental policy.”

“New Yorkers always love options when it comes to moving around our city,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. “With the passage of this bill, we’re making that option an eco-friendly one and incentivizing cleaner cars in New York. Emissions from vehicles account for nearly a quarter of our city’s emissions, a number we can scale down tremendously with electric vehicle use. I’m hopeful this pilot program will prove a success and highlight the need for even more charging stations in the city and beyond. With electric vehicles becoming more affordable, we have a change to take a huge step forward in modernizing our city’s personal and official vehicles. I want to thank the Speaker and my colleague Costa Constantinides for their leadership in helping to get this bill passed.”

Admission Affordability Task Force for the City University of New York (CUNY)

The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest urban public university in the United States, providing accessible high quality education across the five boroughs. For a period before the financial crisis of the 1970s, CUNY operated as a tuition-free institution, offering open admission to graduates of New York City public high schools.

Introduction 1138-A, sponsored by Council Member Inez Barron, would establish a temporary task force to examine ways to increase admission, affordability and graduation rates at CUNY, including the feasibility of offering a tuition-free educational model. The task force would be composed of 13 members, including the Public Advocate or their designee, and the Speaker of the City Council or their designee. The remaining committee members would be appointed by the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council, and the task force would be required to issue a report to the City Council and the Mayor by October 15, 2017.

“Our current CUNY students find themselves struggling to balance tuition, student fees, textbook costs, rent, food, transportation and child care costs, as well as often times having work schedules,” said Council Member Inez Barron, Chair of the Committee on Higher Education. “We, as elected officials have an obligation to assist with helping college students achieve a college degree, as we know that it is access to higher education that leads to improved academic, social and economic conditions, both for the individual and for the society at-large. It is my hope that this task force will conduct the necessary research and identify possible funding streams to lift the burden of students from having to pay for tuition.”

The City Council will vote on the following land use items…

141 Willoughby Street Rezoning

This vote will establish a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Area and amend the Special Downtown Brooklyn District to create a new zoning district with increased commercial and community facility uses.

Features of the proposed building:

  • 44 stories
  • 310,000 square feet
    • 124,000 square feet of commercial space
  • 203 apartments
    • 61 apartments designated as low- to moderate-income housing

“This project sparked dynamic discussions in my district,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Over 400 people contacted our office to share their opinions about potential new precedent for density in Downtown Brooklyn and a lack of adequate infrastructure, such as elementary school seats, to support a large number of new units. I applaud and encourage this type of robust community engagement.  In response, the project now accomplishes multiple policy goals: it decreases the impact of new residential units on existing infrastructure, includes new affordable units through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, and adds much-needed office space in Downtown Brooklyn. I welcome ongoing conversations about developing the neighborhood as a technological and business hub, aligning the downtown with the needs of the 21st century.”

Concourse Village West Rezoning

This vote will establish a zoning map amendment and zoning text amendment to facilitate the construction of three buildings to be known as the Concourse Village West apartments, featuring approximately 213 residential units. Of the total units, 140 would be for low-income tenants (60% AMI or below) and 73 units will be for middle-income earners (80-100% AMI).

“The approval of additional affordable housing developments in my district today demonstrate the Council’s commitment to supporting quality, affordable housing for our families,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “Particularly, for my district in the Bronx, I worked to ensure nearly 600 units are affordable for a mix of working and middle class families, which will greatly benefit residents in the South Bronx.”

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