Council to Vote on Legislation to Prevent the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law and to Prohibit Salary History Inquiries on Prospective Employees

Council will also vote on Developing a Comprehensive Environmental Justice Plan and on Establishing a Task Force on Obstacles for Disconnected Youth

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to prevent the unauthorized practice of immigration law. The Council will also vote to prohibit prospective employers from requiring salary histories from prospective employees. In addition, the Council will vote on developing a comprehensive environmental justice plan, and on establishing a task force on obstacles for disconnected youth. Finally, the Council will vote on commissioning a feasibility study for the use of online application portals for applications submitted to City agencies, and on creating a system to notify the public of city tree maintenance activities. A resolution to call upon President Donald Trump to fully fund multiple public arts organizations will receive a vote, as well as landmark status for the Harlem YMCA and the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights.

Preventing the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law

Representing 37% of the population, New York City is home to the largest number of immigrants in the nation. The ever-increasing complexities of immigration law and policy have created a substantial backlog in the immigration review offices relied upon by this growing bloc, and led to tremendous demand for assistance with immigration-related issues. These shortages in available and affordable legal resources have led many immigrants to seek assistance outside of professional services. In this charged political environment, it remains a priority for the City Council to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers are protected from unscrupulous actors.

Introduction 746-A, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would amend the Administrative Code to impose stricter guidelines for providers of immigration assistance services and further protect individuals against immigration services fraud and the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Providers would be required to include specific language in their contracts related to the provider’s duties and limitations, as well as the customer’s rights, including providing a Consumer Bill of Rights to be produced by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Additionally, providers would have to post required signage in English and in the languages in which they provide or offer to provide services. Providers would be prohibited from offering and providing services that should only be provided by an attorney, and from making statements that could lead a person to believe that the provider is an attorney or authorized to give legal advice or assistance. This bill would also require DCA to provide periodic reports to the Council with information regarding the number, type, source and result of complaints against providers, as well as the Department’s efforts to affirmatively investigate providers. DCA would also be required to provide outreach and education to communities about common scams used by providers and how to report them, as well as DCA services.

“The current political climate has made it clear that our vulnerable immigrant communities must be protected,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Unfortunately, those same fears have been capitalized upon by dishonest actors in search of a profit at any cost. We can no longer stand idly by as unscrupulous providers misrepresent themselves and their authority to provide immigration legal services, putting immigrants and their families at even higher risk of deportation. Imposing stricter standards for providers, when coupled with strong enforcement by the Department of Consumer Affairs, ensures that customers do not fall victim to fraud and the unauthorized practice of immigration law. I applaud Council Member Daniel Dromm for his commitment to seeing these essential safeguards implemented.”

“Immigrants beware!” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Now more than ever it is important to protect our immigrant communities and my legislation does just that.  It clarifies prohibited conduct for service providers and strengthens posting requirements, which now must direct individuals to the Office of New Americans’ hotline for complaints and legal help.  Furthermore, it doubles penalties for those who would still take advantage of immigrants, with fines ranging from $500 – $10,000.  Finally, it creates a Consumer Bill of Rights protecting immigrants from fraud. I thank the New York Immigration Coalition and my colleagues who have worked closely with me on this bill which, when made law, will have a transformative impact on our city.”

Prohibiting Salary History Inquiries on Prospective Employees

Introduction 1253-A, sponsored by the Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, would prohibit employers from making salary history inquiries or relying on salary history to determine a prospective applicant’s salary, helping to break the cycle of gender pay inequity by reducing the likelihood that a person will be prejudiced by prior salary levels. Instead, employers would be encouraged to set salaries based on factors such as resources and market rates.

“Just one underpaid position can set an individual on a course of underpayment lasting their entire professional life,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The City Council voluntarily instituted a ban on salary history inquiries, and that ban was recently extended to all city agencies – but the gender pay gap is perhaps most prevalent in the private sector. I am proud to see the end of national pay inequity begin right here in New York City. I thank the Public Advocate, Letitia James, and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley for their leadership on this exceptional measure. The initiative of this legislative body will soon make ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ a reality for working New Yorkers throughout the city.”

“Being underpaid once should not condemn one to a lifetime of inequity,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Today, the New York City Council passed my bill that will ban employers from asking about previous salary information, a practice that is known to perpetuate a cycle of wage discrimination. We will never close the wage gap unless we continue to enact proactive policies that promote economic justice and equity.”

“While we have made progress, substantial inequality still exists between women and men in the work place – most notably, a sizable wage gap,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “A way out of this injustice is to enact laws that prevent an employer from basing a perspective employee’s pay based on her previous pay history. Employers must base the rate of pay on the worth of the work. That is why I am proud to sponsor Introduction 1253-A that will prohibit employers from asking about an applicants’ salary history. Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James and the City Council’s Women’s Caucus for their leadership. Together, we can break the cycle of gender pay inequity.”

Developing a Comprehensive Environmental Justice Plan

Introduction 886-A, sponsored by Council Member Inez Barron, would require the Mayor to establish an Interagency Working Group (IWG) consisting of representatives from City agencies relevant to environmental justice. The IWG would be chaired by a special coordinator who would be appointed by the Mayor. The bill requires the IWG to develop a comprehensive Environmental Justice Plan (EJ Plan) that provides guidance on incorporating environmental justice concerns into City decision-making, identifies possible Citywide initiatives for promoting environmental justice and provides specific recommendations for City agencies to bring their operations, programs and projects in line with environmental justice concerns. The IWG would have to update the EJ Plan every five years. The bill would also establish an EJ Advisory Board (AB) consisting of Mayoral and Speaker appointees, all of whom must have environmental justice qualifications. The AB would make recommendations to the IWG concerning ways to promote environmental justice, hold public hearings to fact-find and closely consult the IWG during development of the EJ Plan.

“Environmental justice means the fair treatment and involvement of all persons, regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementations and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, policies and activities and with respect to the equitable distribution of environmental benefits,” said Council Member Inez Barron. “This law affirms that no group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state or local programs and policies; or receive an inequitably low share of environmental benefits. This legislation is a model that will be replicated around the nation.  I am pleased to see New York City be in the vanguard of the movement to ensure that as we continue to become aware of ways to protect our environment and correct the harm we have done in the past, that all communities will be treated equitably.”

Introduction 359-A, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, would require the Environmental Justice (EJ) Interagency Working Group (IWG), as put forth by Introduction 886-A, to conduct a comprehensive EJ Study identifying the locations and boundaries of environmental justice areas within the City, describing environmental concerns affecting these areas and identifying data, studies, programs and other resources that are available and that may be used to advance environmental justice goals. The bill would require the IWG to issue recommendations for legislation, policy, budget initiatives and other measures to address environmental concerns affecting communities. The bill would also require the IWG to make publicly available online an interactive map showing the boundaries of environmental justice areas within the City and the locations of sites, facilities and infrastructure which may raise environmental concerns. Finally, the bill would require the Administration to create an Environmental Justice Portal on the City’s website, providing easy access to environmental justice resources including relevant maps, data, studies and information about Agency programs.

“As the recent executive order on climate shows, the Trump Administration will choose fossil fuels over our public health and safety,” said Committee on Environmental Protection Chair Costa Constantinides. “It’s up to cities to make combating climate change and reducing pollution a top priority.  By voting on Introduction 359-A and Introduction 886-A, the most comprehensive environmental justice legislative package of any city in the nation, we show that New York is leading the way. For far too long, low-income communities and communities of color have had to bear the disproportionate burdens of power plants, highways, factories, and other sources of hazardous pollution.  Because of this pollution, these neighborhoods have worse air quality and higher rates of asthma and hospitalizations. This legislation will study the environmental and health impact of our policies on low-income communities and ensure that all neighborhoods have equal access to environmental protection.  I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her support and my colleague Council Member Barron for her partnership.”

Establishing a Task Force on Disconnected Youth

Introduction 708-A, sponsored by Council Member Mathieu Eugene, would create a disconnected youth task force to examine the challenges that prevent disconnected youth from enrolling in school or being employed. The task force would be composed of 25 members, including representatives from city agencies, and the Mayor’s office. The Mayor and the Speaker would each appoint several appointees, including representatives from the business community. The task force would provide the Mayor and the Speaker with a report that analyzes the obstacles these youth confront and recommendations on how to confront those challenges. The task force would also examine the education and work skills employers are looking for and identify high growth industries that will generate living wage jobs for these youth. Additionally, the report would include a review of the current policies and programs that affect disconnected youth.

“I believe it is our moral obligation to provide additional resources to our city’s disconnected youth,” said Committee on Youth Services Chair Mathieu Eugene. “We have the means to help these men and women secure better futures for themselves and their families, and it is time that we put our ideas into action. By creating this taskforce, we are making a significant investment in the community and encouraging our young adults to make positive contributions to society.”

Reviewing the Feasibility of Establishing Online Applications for City Agency Filings

Introduction 564-A, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, would require a city agency to review the feasibility of establishing online applications for all permits, licenses, and registrations issued by city agencies and to create a plan and timeline for allowing such online applications. This law would also require an evaluation of the feasibility of creating a single web portal to access these online applications.

“Anyone who has tried to open a restaurant, health club, or other small business knows the difficulty of navigating the City’s permitting process,” said Committee on Technology Chair James Vacca. “Currently there are dozens, if not hundreds, of permit applications strewn across the websites of different agencies, making it difficult to find the permit you need. This bill will examine the possibility of creating a central permitting portal, where all the applications can be housed in one virtual location. A permitting portal cuts through the morass of city bureaucracy and makes government more efficient.  I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her consideration of this bill.”

Notifying the Public of City Tree Maintenance Activities

Introduction 1112-A, sponsored by Council Member Steven Matteo, would require the Parks Department to post on its website information relating to the times, dates, locations and work statuses of various tree maintenance activities including, tree pruning, tree stump removal, tree planting, tree damage repairs and sidewalk damage repair resulting from City-owned trees.

“This legislation will bring more accountability and predictability to a tree and sidewalk repair program that frankly has been opaque and seemingly arbitrary,” said  The public has a right to know where and when these repairs are taking place, and that the City is properly managing our resources to reduce the risk of personal injury and property damage from falling branches, loose stumps or broken sidewalks,” said Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “I want to thank Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine for his partnership and passionate advocacy on this issue, the Speaker for her support and the Parks Department for working with us to finalize this important legislation.”

The City Council will vote on the following resolution…

Resolution 1393-A calling upon President Donald Trump to fully fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowments for the Humanities, and not to eliminate or diminish these agencies in any form.

“President Trump’s unprecedented and vicious assault on the arts and the humanities with the proposed elimination of the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB would be devastating for the heart and soul of our country,” said Majority Leader and Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations Chair Jimmy Van Bramer. “As the Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries in the New York City Council, I will continue to fight these cuts that would cripple cultural organizations and libraries in big cities like New York, the cultural capital of the world, and in small towns all across our country. We in New York City know that the arts, culture, humanities and libraries make America truly great. On Monday at our Rally to Save the Arts, hundreds stood united on the steps of City Hall to tell President Trump loud and clear that we will not tolerate his blatant disregard for the importance of the arts in our city and country. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her support of our resolution and for being such a devoted partner in this fight for arts, culture, and libraries!”

The City Council will vote on landmark status for the following facilities…

United Palace Theater at 4140 Broadway

Constructed in 1930 and originally known as Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, the United Palace Theater was one of five deluxe “Wonder Theatres” in the New York City Area. In 1969, the United Church purchased the facility for use as a community center, religious institution, and live music venue. The building has retained most of its original architecture, borrowing from several styles across continents and eras.

“I am proud that northern Manhattan will finally gain another New York City landmark,” said District 10 Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “I am also glad we were able to work through the concerns of the owner of the building with the City. The United Palace is a beautiful building eminently worthy of preservation and I want to thank the Eikerenkoetter family for keeping the building in the amazing shape it is in today. This moment serves as a great opportunity for more families across our city to experience the joy of the many cultural performances and movies housed by this theatre and I encourage everyone to check out the Palace.”

Harlem YMCA at 180 West 135th Street

The Harlem YMCA has been a staple of the neighborhood since 1932, gaining special importance as a center of intellectual and social life for the African-American community. The building is notable for its strong associations with many prominent literary, artistic, political, and athletic figures, including James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Jackie Robinson.

###