Council will also vote on Increased Reporting of Educational Programming in City Schools

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation creating a new approval process for deed restriction modifications, requiring a comprehensive, public review before the City can relinquish its rights to determine how formerly-owned property is used. Next, the Council will vote on a package of legislation aimed at furthering the City Council’s efforts to implement important reforms in the jail and criminal justice system. The City Council will also vote on establishing reporting requirements for computer science and Career and Technical Education programs in schools. For Land Use, the Council will vote on the acquisition and construction of new public school facilities in East Elmhurst and Gowanus. Finally, the Council will pass a resolution reaffirming New York’s commitment to remaining a Sanctuary City.

Reforming the Modification of Deed Restrictions Process

New York City lost a valuable community asset when a series of missteps by City Hall and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) allowed Rivington House, a nursing home serving persons with HIV/AIDS in the Lower East Side, to be converted to luxury housing as part of a lucrative real estate deal. The following legislation would implement a more stringent review process for deed modifications.

Introduction 1182-A, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin by request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, would set forth detailed standards and procedures DCAS would follow when a property owner requests that deed restriction be modified or removed, including a requirement that three separate entities—DCAS, a specially formed committee of Administration officials, and the Mayor—all independently review a request before a restriction can be lifted. During their review, DCAS would work with the Department of City Planning to conduct a land use analysis and assess a set of factors to determine if granting the request would be in the best interests of the City. The public and elected officials, including Community Boards, would be updated throughout the process and have an opportunity to comment at a public hearing held in their community. Following DCAS approval, the committee would then separately assess the request, along with the preliminary DCAS recommendation and any public feedback received during the review process. Final approval would then come from the Mayor, using DCAS and committee reports as guidance.

“Lower East Side residents were deprived of a vitally needed resource due to a lack of oversight from the administrative actors charged with overseeing the deed restriction removal process,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Creating a new, transparent process for review will ensure that the mistakes made with Rivington House and the Dance Theatre of Harlem are never repeated. Requiring extensive outreach to the public and neighborhood leaders, in addition to final approval from the Mayor, keeps deed modifications fully above board. I thank Council Member Chin, Borough President Brewer and my colleagues for their efforts on this crucial legislation.”

“The people of the Lower East Side, who were cheated out of a prized community asset when Allure Group flipped Rivington House for luxury condos, demanded that their elected officials act to ensure that this never happens again to another community,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “With the passage of this legislation, we have answered their call, as well as that of millions of other New Yorkers worried about the future of their neighborhoods. In this legislation, we have clearly laid out a public process and criteria for the removal of deed restrictions. It also creates a database of properties with deed restrictions so that everyday New Yorkers – not just real estate insiders – will be able to access this information. And perhaps most importantly, this legislation requires the Mayor to personally approve the lifting of deed restrictions. I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and Borough President Brewer for their leadership in the fight for good governance and transparency.”

“Today’s vote means that there will never be a repeat of what happened to Rivington House, and for the first time, the city will be required to keep track of deed-restricted properties responsibly, in a public database,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “I thank Council Member Chin for partnering with me on this bill and Speaker Mark-Viverito for championing it. Insisting on these reforms, and that they have the force of law, was the right thing to do.”

Criminal Justice Reform at Rikers And Beyond – Making the System More Fair

Approximately 7,800 warrants are issued every year for people who were actually in jail at the time the warrant was ordered. This is because the court system has no adequate mechanism for identifying individuals already in custody, which means that through no fault of their own and due solely to bureaucratic inefficiencies, each of these individuals is subject to all the calamitous consequences of an open criminal warrant, including future arrest and jail. Even if the courts are made aware and do not needlessly order warrants, the consequence of not automatically transporting defendants to all their court appearances can have negative effects on the District Attorneys and can also cause defendants to lose jail time credit to which they are entitled, possibly causing defendants to be incarcerated longer than is necessary. The following bill, Introduction 1260-A would address these issues.

Introduction 1260-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require the DOC to determine when a defendant in their custody has other open criminal court cases, notify the Office of Court Administration (OCA) when a defendant with open court dates is in their custody, and to produce these defendants to all such appearances. These requirements are contingent upon the OCA providing the DOC with relevant information regarding open court dates.

In criminal cases in which bail is set, typically those with the financial means to post bail will use bail bondsmen for bail in higher amounts and cash bail for bail in lower amounts, sometimes as little as $250 or $500. The friends and families who post bail in these lower amounts often have limited financial means, and even these small amounts of bail are meant to encourage criminal defendants to appear for all their court dates. However, the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) collects up to a 3 percent fee this bail even if the defendant appears for all their court dates, as long as the defendant is convicted of any offense, including non-criminal offenses. The following bill, Introduction 1261-A would amend this practice and alleviate the unnecessary burden on those with limited financial means.

Introduction 1261-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would allow the DOF to waive collection of the 3 percent fee taken from returned cash bails.

The DOC began housing pretrial detainees in Department-issued uniforms in 2015, whereas as previously they were housed in their personal clothing. While the DOC’s stated practice is to produce inmates to both grand jury and trial appearances in their personal clothing, in reality inmates are often produced for grand jury appearances in DOC uniforms. All criminal defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence, even those who cannot afford bail, and permitting a defendant to testify before the grand jury in a correctional uniform not only undermines this bedrock constitutional principle but is also economically discriminatory. The subtle prejudices that jurors may draw from seeing such clothing are insidious, and this City cannot and will not have any tolerance for this practice. Furthermore, inmates ordered released from court appearances are released to the public in DOC uniforms, regardless of the weather, subjecting to both ridicule from the community and to genuine physical danger from the elements. The following bill, Introduction 1262-A would rectify these practices.

Introduction 1262-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require all defendants to be produced for trial appearances in either their personal clothing or DOC-provided civilian clothing, unless there is no such appropriate clothing available or unless a court ordered otherwise. The bill would also require the DOC to provide weather-appropriate civilian clothing to defendants released from court appearances.

“While this Council continues to pursue a number of sweeping criminal justice reforms, we are also implementing gradual reforms that, when combined, create meaningful change that greatly furthers our commitment to seeing a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “These three bills create common-sense reforms that will help ensure fundamental fairness and economic equality in our criminal justice system, and the humane treatment for all New Yorkers regardless of their financial means.”

Reporting on Educational Programming at City Schools

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) launched the “Computer Science for All” (CS4All) initiative – a 10-year, $80 million public/private partnership aimed at ensuring that every student has the computational, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills needed to excel in a technology-based job market. The following legislation would implement reporting requirements to aid in measuring the success of CS4All.

Introduction 1193-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine and Carlos Menchaca, would require the DOE to annually report on information regarding computer science programs offered to students in grades K-12. This report would require reporting in several areas, including the number of computer science programs offered in each school, type of programs offered, number and percentage of students enrolled in the programs, and number of designated full-time and part-time certified STEM instructors at each school. The bill would further require that student-level data be disaggregated by demographic information, special education status, community school district, grade level, eligibility for the free and reduced price lunch program, and English language learner status.

“Computer science jobs are some of the fastest growing and highest paying across the country. In fact, New York City’s tech sector amounts to over 300,000 jobs, far too few of which are being filled by native New Yorkers,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “Mayor de Blasio’s ten year plan to increase CS programs in New York is a big step forward towards bringing our schools into the 21st Century, and this legislation will give us the tools to report on that progress. By increasing the number of teachers and computer science programs in our schools, we will be preparing a diverse generation of young New Yorkers for careers in technology while giving them the skills they need to thrive in the global marketplace.”

“In my Brooklyn district, Red Hook and Sunset Park parents have long demanded more computer science education,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “In our chronically overcrowded schools, students need every advantage we can provide. The Mayor has committed to ensuring that all of the city’s public schools will offer computer science education within 10 years. Progress reporting will allow us to monitor progress toward this important goal. It also allows us to ensure that students are benefitting from this effort in the places where the need is greatest.”

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have received an increase in funding and attention in recent years. New York City has been a leader in efforts to expand CTE, adding 33 CTE-dedicated high schools between 2003 and 2015. However, comprehensive data on the progress of City CTE programs are not currently available. The following legislation would implement reporting guidelines to aid in measuring the success of CTE.

Introduction 1099-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, would require the DOE to annually report on CTE programs in the City. This report would require reporting in several areas, including the number and types of CTE schools and programs available to students, the number of full-time and part-time certified CTE instructors at each high school, the number and percentage of students who listed a CTE-designated high school as their first and second choice in the high school application process, the 4- and 6-year graduation rates for CTE-designated high schools, and the number of staff in each CTE school or program who received professional development from the DOE related to CTE. The bill would further require that student-level data be disaggregated by demographic information, special education status, community school district, eligibility for the free and reduced price lunch program, and English language learner status.

“Although a growing number of students are pursuing four-year degrees, it is our responsibility in government to ensure that we support the educational goals of those students who may not see four-year postsecondary education in their immediate future, particularly as costs for four-year options continue to rise,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “As a former high school educator, I have seen firsthand how dedicated CTE high schools, programs and certified CTE instructors provide vital flexibility for high school students. My bill would require the Department of Education to report data regarding the availability and status of these beneficial programs, providing welcome transparency for parents of public school students, as well as labor organizations and employers. This data will serve as a starting point for further advocacy to better connect students with real world career skills and opportunities. We must advance and protect postsecondary options for all of our high school students.”

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

110-10 Astoria Boulevard:

The City Council will vote to approve site selection, acquisition and construction by the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) of a new public middle school in the East Elmhurst area of Queens. The proposed project is intended to provide long-term capacity to relieve overcrowding at the middle school level in Community School District 24, and for District 75 special education students. The facility would provide 550 seats for grades 6-8, and 96 seats for a District 75 special education program.

“For my community which has faced overcrowding in school for decades, the construction of this new middle school is an enormous victory,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “Every student deserves a beautiful and safe space to learn; and I am proud to have worked steadfastly with parents, teachers and the School Construction Authority to canvass my district and find adequate sites for schools. I would like to thank Council Member Greenfield and the Land Use Committee for approving this construction so quickly. The families in my district cannot wait to take their children to a school close to home where their teachers can focus their energies appropriately.”

168 8th Street:

The City Council will vote to approve the acquisition by SCA of a new 180-seat pre-kindergarten facility located in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposed facility would contain ten classrooms, as well as administrative spaces, an exercise room, kitchen facilities and a playground area.

“This new, 180-seat Pre-K center on 9th Street will be a real ‘win/win’ for families in Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, and throughout District 15. It will both offer a convenient, high-quality option for four-year-olds, and help to reduce overcrowding in our neighborhood schools,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Thanks to the NYC School Construction Authority for their creative approach, turning a vacant lot that wasn’t large enough for a full elementary school into a Pre-K center. Along with a 436-seat addition to PS 32, this new school helps to advance the goals of the ‘Bridging Gowanus’ community planning process by building the infrastructure we need to sustain our growing communities.”

The City Council will pass a resolution affirming NYC as a Sanctuary City…

Resolution 1321 sponsored by the Speaker (Melissa Mark-Viverito) and Council Member Brand Lander and Council Member Carlos Menchaca, affirms that despite president-elect Donald Trump’s senseless threats, NYC will remain a Sanctuary City for immigrant residents. New York City has been at the forefront of providing vital services to the immigrant community, despite the lack of immigration reform on a national level. Anti-immigrant rhetoric from the president elect has many in the city’s immigrant communities fearful.  This resolution reaffirms that our policies and laws we’ve implemented in this city, will continue and we will continue to support and provide sanctuary for our immigrant community.

“Despite the president-elect’s harsh anti-immigrant proposals, New York will defend the protections that we have already put in place, and expand them where appropriate, to protect the rights of immigrant New Yorkers,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The president-elect cannot shake our resolve. We are New Yorkers and we will stand united against injustice and in support of the rule of law.”