Council will also vote on the Removal of Barriers to Investment in the Taxi Industry and on Publishing a Comprehensive Plan for Flood Mitigation in Southeast Queens

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to establish a municipal drug strategy and advisory council aimed at combatting the rising numbers of overdose deaths. The Council will also vote on mandating the inclusion of assistive listening systems in certain city assembly areas, and on removing barriers to investment in the taxi industry. In addition, the Council will vote on requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to publish a comprehensive plan for mitigating flooding in Southeast Queens, and on classifying unlicensed electrical work as immediately hazardous. Finally, the Council will vote on requiring the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on private streets in the city. Urban Development Action Area Program (UDAAP) designation for the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will also receive a vote.

Establishing a Municipal Drug Strategy and Advisory Council

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there was a 66% increase in overdose deaths in New York City from 2010-2015. In 2016, more than 1,000 people died from drug overdoses for the first recorded four-digit death total in city history. The following legislation addresses this crisis by requiring a report on municipal drug strategy, as well as the establishment of a municipal drug strategy advisory council.

Introduction 748-B, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require an agency designated by the Mayor to prepare a report on municipal drug strategy, including short-term and long-term plans and recommendations to coordinate private and public resources to address problems associated with drug use. The bill would also create a municipal drug strategy advisory council whose members would include agency representatives from DOHMH, DOE, H+H, NYPD, ACS, HRA, DOC, DOP, DHS, the speaker of the city council and up to three members appointed by the speaker. The advisory council would additionally include the representatives of any other agencies deemed necessary, and at least eight additional representatives, including one from each of the following: continuum of care providers, those directly affected by drug use, those in recovery from drug use, people formerly incarcerated for drug related offenses, and experts in issues related to illicit and non-medical drug use and policies. This advisory council will make recommendations to the designated agency and may produce an advisory addendum to the New York municipal city drug policy strategy report.

“Overdose deaths have become a nationwide epidemic, and New York City communities have not been exempt from this unfortunate reality,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This is more than a public health concern – it is a personal issue affecting our family members, friends and neighbors in every corner of the city. By establishing a municipal drug strategy and an advisory council, we will be able to make smart decisions about how to effectively counter this devastating threat. I applaud Council Member Johnson for leading the way on this essential initiative.”

“Drug abuse is our gravest public health challenge right now, and we can leave no stone unturned in the fight to save lives and treat addiction,” said Committee on Health Chair Member Corey Johnson. “By establishing a comprehensive, citywide drug strategy, we can address this epidemic at every level and roll back some of the negative effects that previous failed drug policies have had on our communities. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her partnership on this effort, my colleagues in the Council, and Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for displaying tremendous leadership in the fight against addiction.”

Mandating Inclusion of Assistive Listening Systems in City Assembly Areas

Induction hearing loop systems are assistive listening systems for individuals with hearing loss that can help them to participate in public forums and other gatherings without the need for any additional accommodations. Such systems do not require headphones or any special equipment besides the hearing loop itself.

Introduction 882-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require that City capital projects with a baseline cost of $950,000 or more involving the construction or reconstruction projects of one or more assembly areas must include an induction loop assistive listening system in at least one assembly area. Projects are exempt from this requirement if the induction loop assistive listening system will cost more than 5% of the baseline construction costs, if the building is not owned by the city (unless 50% or more of the estimated cost of the project will be paid for by the city) or if the mayor exempts the project.

“With this bill, the City of New York will ensure that more and more spaces every year will be truly accessible to those hard of hearing,” said Committee on Contracts Chair Helen Rosenthal. “Hearing loop technology makes such a radical difference in the ability of so many to participate fully in public life, and I’m proud that as a City we have moved to make it not just a priority but a requirement in our public investments. I want to thank the advocates whose hard work made this possible, educating me and other policymakers on the importance of this issue and helping us reach a path toward getting this landmark legislation passed.”

Removing Barriers to Investment in the Taxi Industry

By many accounts, the yellow taxi industry is facing challenging financial times. Trips and fare revenue are down, many taxis now sit idle, and two major lenders to taxi medallion owners have been seized by State regulators. Industry members and observers cite a variety of factors behind the decline, in particular increased competition for both passengers and drivers from app-based for-hire vehicle services.

The TLC has described the taxi medallion secondary market as essentially frozen and it appears the market value of a medallion is significantly lower than it has been in recent years. The TLC has also loosened many of the restrictions that had traditionally distinguished “individual” medallions (whose owners cannot own any other medallions) from “mini-fleet” medallions (which must be owned in groups of two or more). Most significantly, TLC’s “Owner Must Drive” rules for individual medallions have recently been eliminated.

Introduction 1475-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would effectively eliminate the remaining distinction between individual and mini-fleet medallions, allowing all medallions to be owned by any owner, regardless of whether they own a single medallion or more than one medallion. The bill would also change TLC’s authority to revoke medallions for nonuse from mandatory to permissive, and would repeal a provision requiring a bond to be filed for outstanding tort liabilities for the transfer of a medallion.

Introduction 1474-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would lower the rate of the medallion transfer tax from 5% to 0.5%.

“Today we are taking important steps to ease some of the unnecessary restrictions that face taxi medallion owners, which will make owning a medallion more attractive and hopefully spur much-needed investment in the yellow taxi industry,” said Committee on Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “New York City’s taxi and for-hire vehicle industry consists of a broad and diverse group of sectors that offer New Yorkers a multitude of transportation options and present drivers with more choices than ever before for how to make a living. The yellow taxi is an iconic component of that system and it is important that it remain strong and vibrant for years to come. I would like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her leadership and support and Mayor de Blasio and his Administration, especially TLC Chair Meera Joshi, for their collaboration and partnership.”

Publishing a Comprehensive Southeast Queens Flood Mitigation Plan

There is a long-standing, recurring flooding problem in Southeast (SE) Queens, affecting over 400,000 City residents. In the Fiscal Year 2016 10-year capital plan, Mayor de Blasio committed $1.7 billion to address this problem. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in coordination with other relevant Agencies, will use these funds to complete infrastructure projects designed to mitigate flooding. Projects include construction of large trunk sewers, storm sewers, combined sewers, sanitary sewers, water mains and green infrastructure such as bioswales.

Introduction 1198-A, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would require DEP to issue to the Mayor, Speaker and post publicly online, a plan for mitigating flooding in Queens Community Districts 12 and 13, including a timeline for implementation of such plan, annual performance milestones and a description of funds that will be expended in connection with such plan. Additionally, the bill would require DEP to issue reports on progress in implementing such plan, including any changes in funds committed to such plan, after the end of each fiscal year.

“For decades, residents of Southeast Queens have lived with the fact that a slight rain could end in their home being flooded,” said Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises Chair Donovan Richards. “Thankfully, this administration answered the call and came up with a real solution by committing $1.5 billion to build out a sewer system that never caught up with the population growth in the area. This bill will ensure that the plan is implemented in a timely fashion and the community can be updated on the progress on a regular basis. Having a publicly available plan with a specific timeline for implementation and annual performance milestones allows for more transparency and accountability as these projects move along.”

Classifying Unlicensed Electrical Work as Immediately Hazardous

Introduction 247-A, sponsored by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, would categorize electrical work performed without a required license as an immediately hazardous violation and would impose a minimum penalty of $4,800.

“This bill increases penalties against unlicensed contractors doing electrical work, but also strengthens awareness of how hazardous it is to do this unlicensed work,” said Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley. “Not only is it a criminal act, but it is dangerous and can lead to deadly fires. Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Williams and the Housing and Buildings Committee for prioritizing this legislation and the safety of all New Yorkers.”

Requiring a Department of Transportation Study of Private Streets

New York City has approximately 900 private streets. Private streets offer several benefits to their residents, including resident-only parking. However, private streets do not receive any of the normal services provided by the City, including paving and snow clearing. Instead, residents and homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their streets. The expense of maintaining these streets sometimes creates financial problems for homeowners and leads to the streets falling into disrepair.

Introduction 1071-A, sponsored by Council Member Alan Maisel, would require DOT to conduct a study of private streets in the city, including a review of the factors that may be considered or necessary for the City’s acquisition of private streets.

“I am pleased to sponsor Introduction 1071-A, which will require the Department of Transportation to conduct a study of private streets that are not within New York City’s jurisdiction. Throughout our city there are many private streets that have been built on, that need to be identified, and possibly acquired. For far too long, these private streets have been overlooked and unfortunately so have the problems plaguing them. This study will bring the much needed conversation and action to assist those who have purchased property on a private street,” said Council Member Alan Maisel.

The Council will vote on Urban Development Action Area Program (UDAAP) designation for the following location…

Sunset Park Library at 5108 4th Avenue in Brooklyn

The Council will be voting on two land use applications that will facilitate the redevelopment of the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library into an eight-story mixed-use building. The expanded public library facility would occupy the first and second floors, and cellar, while an additional 49 units of low-income affordable housing would be made available on the upper floors.  The incomes in the affordable housing development will range from 30 AMI – 80 AMI and the project will be 100% affordable.

“Sunset Park’s aging, overcrowded library must be rebuilt and our neighborhood faces an affordable housing crisis,” said District 38 Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “This project is the best use of our precious library site. It doubles the library’s size and creates permanent affordable housing. Two years of community meetings and public hearings have shaped this project. Borough President Adams and Community Board 7 have supported it. I will continue to hold Brooklyn Public Library and the local non-profit builder accountable to the people of Sunset Park for the benefits they’ve promised, including legal guarantees for truly affordable housing, and library use forever.”