Council to Vote on Reforming the Department of Correction Bail Process and on Enhancing Health Oversight in the Shelter System

Council will also vote on Planning for the Behavioral Health Needs of Vulnerable LGBTQ Populations and on Establishing a Workforce Development Program for Disconnected Youth

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on reforms to the process of posting bail through the Department of Correction. The Council will also vote on enhancing health oversight in the shelter system, and on planning for the behavioral health needs of vulnerable LGBTQ populations. In addition, the Council will vote on establishing a workforce development program for disconnected youth. Next, the Council will vote on legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of uniformed service, as well as on legislation to codify the agreement between the Council and the Administration in the Fiscal 2018 Adopted Budget to extend the Alternative Exemption for Veterans to include school taxes.  The Council will also vote on ensuring that privately owned public spaces (POPS) remain public, and on outlawing the use of wild and exotic animals for circus purposes. In addition, the Council will vote on requiring the distribution of information regarding gifted and talented programs in public schools. Finally, the Council will vote on clarifying commercial building air conditioner regulations to include restaurant window exemptions, and on the rezoning of Broad Channel and Hamilton Beach to combat the anticipated effects of sea level rise.

Reforming the Bail Posting Process

Initially announced at the 2016 State of the City address, this legislative package aims to reform the process of posting bail through the Department of Correction (DOC).

Those who wish to post bail for those persons in the custody of the DOC face numerous obstacles in doing so. First, there are certain “blackout periods” in which the DOC will not accept bail, sometimes up to 24 hours after an individual’s initial admission to DOC custody. Second, those who attempt to post bail in court immediately after bail is set may not be able to do so, as courthouses will not currently accept bail after an individual has been transferred to Rikers Island. These individuals may need to travel hours to the nearest location in which the DOC accepts bail. Third, even after bail is posted, current DOC directives require only that individuals be released within 8 hours, and DOC’s antiquated fax-based systems have led to situations in which individuals remain in custody for more than 24 hours after their bail is posted, according to advocates.

Introduction 1531-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would address these issues by requiring the DOC to “immediately and continuously accept bail,” release incarcerated individuals for whom bail is posted within 5 hours initially in most circumstances and within 3 hours by October of 2018, and accept bail for individuals in DOC custody in courthouses, in locations within .5 miles of a courthouse, or online.

“Denying timely release to a person who has posted bail does nothing to make our neighborhoods safer,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “What happens instead is the needless upending of families and individual lives, as those in custody miss out on work, school, and time with their children, along with the enormous cost to the city for additional time in processing and housing. Making bail should not be a matter of proper timing within an antiquated system, and I am proud to be sponsoring a package of legislation aimed at cutting red tape, removing inefficiencies and stopping a churn of detainees – primarily young men of color – from the perils of incarceration. I thank my fellow sponsors and colleagues for their commitment to seeing this process reformed.”

The majority of individuals who post bail do so within a few days, but most of these individuals are unable to post bail from court, and instead post bail after being sent to Rikers Island and going through the costly intake process. Part of the reason this occurs is that once a judge sets bail, there is a very limited amount of time to post the bail before the individual is sent to Rikers – sometimes  less than an hour. Often, the length of time a person has to post bail is determined by when the next bus to Rikers is leaving the courthouse.

Introduction 1541-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, would permit the DOC to delay the transfer of the incarcerated from courthouse facilities to Rikers Island in order to facilitate posting bail. This delay cannot be used for those incarcerated who either are not likely to post bail immediately, do not desire to have their intake delayed, or who require the services provided at intake immediately. The bill also requires regular reporting on the use of these delays.

“Fixing our broken bail system benefits everyone,” said Committee on Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson. “Thanks to this legislative package, nonviolent offenders with low and moderate bails will have a greater opportunity to post bond before spending a night in a city jail. These bills not only improve fairness in our justice system, but improve the safety of our jails as well by keeping populations lower. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and am proud to be a part of these much needed reforms.”

Those incarcerated often are not aware of the full array of options for posting bail, and may not even be aware of exactly what amount and type of bail have been set on their case. Furthermore, individuals who have the financial means to post bail for themselves are not typically afforded that opportunity in court, and may receive the first opportunity to do so while in DOC custody.

Introduction 1561-A, sponsored by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, would require the DOC to provide all incarcerated individuals a written summary of their bail and the options for paying bail, including the option to post bail for themselves. The DOC would also be required to give individuals access to their personal property for the purpose of posting bail for themselves, or for any other purpose that would help in posting bail. Finally, the DOC would be required to provide individuals with “bail facilitators” who will meet with them within 48 hours of their admission to assist in posting bail.

“Through Introduction 1561-A, the DOC will provide clear details on the many ways detainees in New York City can post bail,” said Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley. “Many times, offenders are kept behind bars because they don’t know the options available to them, further clogging up our jails. This bill is intended to clear the lines of communication within the city’s criminal justice system.”

Some individuals arrested by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) are brought to criminal court within 24 hours to be arraigned before a judge. It is important for these individuals to have contact information for their friends and families for a variety of reasons: State law requires judges to consider whether individuals have friends or family present on their behalf at arraignment, those arraigned without contact information are ineligible for supervised release programs, and contacting individuals’ friends and families quickly facilitates the posting of bail.

Presently, the NYPD does not consistently permit arrestees to access their mobile phones or other sources of contact information.

Introduction 1576-A, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, would permit such access, unless the property is “arrest evidence” or is relevant criminal evidence.

“Allowing people to access their family and friends’ phone numbers following an arrest will make our bail system more efficient and keep people off Rikers Island. With today’s technology, people do not remember their family and friends’ phone numbers exactly. It is about time the City recognizes this reality when it comes to bail,” said Committee on Courts and Legal Services Chair Rory Lancman.

A report commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) indicates that inaccurate and incomplete information regarding the process of posting bail is common throughout the criminal justice system.

Introduction 1581-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would require MOCJ to make reasonable efforts to work with the court system to ensure that complete and accurate information regarding posting bail is posted in courthouses, or communicated directly through the use of “bail kiosks” that are currently operational in the Bronx criminal courts.

“I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for taking on the important issue of bail reform,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.  “Especially as we look to create a real plan for closing Rikers, we have to address the fact that too many people stay in jail when they shouldn’t, whether it’s due to a lack of information, lack of access to assistance, or inefficiencies within the system. This package proactively addresses all of those issues.  Intro 1581 will ensure that detained individuals and their families have access to basic information they need to understand the bail process.”

Enhancing Health Oversight in the Shelter System

Introduction 929-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to provide to the City Council and to post on its website an annual report regarding medical health services provided to individuals and families in the shelter system. The report would include the number of shelters with on-site services, a description of the health services available at intake facilities and the availability of health services to the unsheltered population. The bill would also require DHS to include in the report the most common medical health issues among adults and children in the shelter system, and the number of individuals discharged from a hospital to a shelter and a nursing home to a shelter.

“There is a startling lack of data regarding the health needs of our city’s homeless population and the services they receive,” said Committee on Health Chair Corey Johnson. “If we’re going to do right by this population and address homelessness, we need a better understanding of the services currently available and where there may be gaps. I thank General Welfare Chair Steve Levin for his leadership, my colleagues who lent their support to this legislation, and the advocates who work tirelessly on behalf of our most vulnerable populations.”

Introduction 932-A, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, would require the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to provide to the City Council and to post on its website an annual report regarding mental health services provided to individuals and families in the shelter system. The report would include the number of shelters with on-site services and a description of the available services, a description of the mental health services available at intake facilities and the availability of mental health services to the unsheltered population, including the number of individuals who are removed pursuant to the State Mental Hygiene Law. The bill would also require DHS to include in the report the most commonly occurring mental health issues among adults and children in the shelter system.

“Along with the right to a home, all New Yorkers deserve access to the most basic services including mental health,” said Committee on General Welfare Chair Stephen Levin. “It is important that we understand what mental health services are provided and the extent of mental health issues, especially for those living in shelters. Knowing is half the battle. With the passage of Introduction 932-A, we’ll be able to mount proactive and comprehensive campaigns to ensure health for the body, mind, and spirit of our entire community.”

Planning for the Behavioral Health Needs of Vulnerable LGBTQ Populations

Introduction 1225-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would mandate that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in consultation with the office of the mayor and other agencies, create and submit to the Mayor and City Council a plan to serve the behavioral health needs of LGBTQ persons, including young people under 24 and elders over 65.

“This legislation will ensure that the City addresses the mental health needs of LGBT youth and elders – two vulnerable populations that suffer from high levels of depression, bullying and other mental health issues,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “With a plan in place to address these issues, we can begin to tackle the stigma around mental health problems.”

Establishing a Workforce Development Program for Disconnected Youth

Introduction 709-A, sponsored by Council Member Mathieu Eugene, would establish a disconnected youth workforce development program in the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) for youth aged 18 to 24. The program would be designed to provide services that include, but are not limited to, education, job training, financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills training, and follow-up services for at least 12 months.

“I am deeply committed to working with city agencies to provide more resources for our disadvantaged young men and women,” said Committee on Youth Services Chair Mathieu Eugene. “Introduction 709-A calls for the creation of a disconnected youth work force development program in the Department of Small Business Services that will better prepare young adults ages 18-24 for success. We want to encourage our young men and women who have struggled to make a transition into the work force to obtain job training, financial literacy, and entrepreneurial skills. This bill aims to give these individuals new opportunities that will promote a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. In the great city of New York, there is no reason why our talented youth should not be able to secure better futures for themselves and their families. I believe that Introduction 709-A is an integral part of improving how we work with disconnected youth, and I would like to thank my colleagues for their support of this legislation.”

Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Uniformed Service

While there are Federal and State laws to protect current and former service members from discrimination, it can sometimes be difficult for them to find the time or resources to adequately pursue these claims. Moreover, existing Federal laws do not protect veterans from housing discrimination. In cases where the U.S. Department of Housing & Development (HUD) has found discrimination against uniformed service members and taken action, the discrimination was based on disability, not veteran status. Federal and State laws designed to lessen the economic and legal burden of serving, which allow service members to break their leases in the case of deployment, for example, may even have the unintended consequence of encouraging discrimination based on uniformed service in selecting tenants.

Introduction 1259-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would prohibit discriminating on the basis of uniformed service, and provide a local recourse for veterans who have been victims of discrimination.

“As a society, we continually hold our veterans up as valuable protectors of the country, yet we repeatedly leave them vulnerable and undefended after they fulfill their end of the bargain,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams. “I am proud to sponsor Introduction 1259-A, which gives veterans and active military members direct protections under City law against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. While their commitment solicits respect from us, it also at times makes them some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It is our duty as Americans and legislators to protect them, provide them with support, and make sure the promises being made to them are kept.”

Extending the Alternative Exemption for Veterans to School Taxation

The Alternative Exemption for Veterans (Exemption) is a real property tax exemption available to veterans for their primary residences. It provides for a reduction in assessed value to veterans who served during a time of war, with additional reductions available to veterans who served in combat zones and disabled veterans. Currently, in New York City, the Exemption is not applicable to the portion of real property taxes paid for school taxation.

Introduction 1304-B, sponsored by Council Member Steven Matteo, would extend the Exemption to include those taxes.

Introduction 1649, sponsored by Council Member Steven Matteo, would establish the maximum exemptions allowable under the Exemption for wartime veterans, combat veterans, and veterans with service-connected disabilities.

These two bills represent the Council’s successful negotiation with the Administration to expand the Exemption as part of the Fiscal 2018 Adopted Budget. Together, they will provide significant savings on their property tax bills to all qualifying veterans.

“Those New Yorkers who served and sacrificed for our country not only deserve our gratitude, but also our help,” said Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “By passing this Alternative Property Tax Exemption, the City Council is paying tribute to our veterans with much more than just lip service. This exemption will have a real impact on the lives of tens of thousands of veterans and their families, helping them save hundreds more on their property taxes so they remain a vital part of our communities. I am proud to have shepherded this important legislation through the City Council, and extremely thankful for the strong support from the Speaker and all of my colleagues.”

Ensuring That Privately Owned Public Spaces Remain Public

Introduction 1219-A, sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield, would require owners of POPS to post signage indicating that the space is open to the public, the name of the person charged by the owner with maintaining it, the required hours of operation and amenities, and that complaints can be registered with 311.  It would also require an agency designated by the Mayor to inspect all covered POPS on a regular basis beginning in July 2019.  The bill would require the Department of City Planning to catalog all POPS in the City established in exchange for a floor area bonus under the Zoning Resolution at any time, or in connection with a City land use approval granted on or after January 1, 2001.  The bill would require DCP to report to the Council and make available on a publicly available website information about POPS, including their locations, the required amenities, and operating requirements, and to report annually on enforcement actions taken against non-compliant building owners.

“Genuine, open, inclusive public space is one of the scarcest and most precious resources in a crowded city like ours,” said Committee on Land Use Chair David Greenfield. “Even our great parks are no match for the demands we place on them. Thankfully, for decades now, city officials have been making new public space by leveraging private development. In exchange for zoning bonuses and other rights, the city created about 500 privately owned public spaces, adding up to over 80 acres in recent decades. Intro 1219 brings accountability to the process, ensuring that the public gets what we pay for when we permit developers to build more private space in exchange for creating public space. I am pleased to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues on the Committee on Land Use for joining me today to help hold the owners of privately owned public spaces accountable for the promises they make to our city.”

Outlawing the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals for Circus Purposes

Travelling circuses subject performing animals to extensive travel, which limits their movement and restrict natural behaviors. Circuses also typically require animals to perform unnatural tricks, which can involve coercive training.

Introduction 1233-A, sponsored by Council Member Rosie Mendez, would prohibit the use of certain wild and exotic animals in circuses. Among the included animals in this prohibition are elephants, big cats, giraffes, apes, and bears.

“It has been a little over 11 years that I first introduced legislation that would ban the display of wild or exotic animals,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “We had our first hearing on October 20th, 2016 and since then Council Member Corey Johnson and I worked with NYC Council attorneys to address issues raised in the hearing. Intro 1233 is and always has been about the safety and security of animals, as well as and human beings. This legislation will ensure that animals are in their natural state, not confined in small boxcars and/or treated in other inhumane ways. Equally important, human beings will be safe from animals that may act ferociously.”

Requiring the Distribution of Gifted and Talented Program Information

Introduction 1347-A, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to distribute information regarding the DOE gifted and talented program, exam, and application process to the parents of any student enrolled in pre-kindergarten in a DOE school or in a school that the DOE contracts with to provide pre-kindergarten by November 1st of each year.

“Introduction 1347 marks a significant step forward in providing young New Yorkers equal access to educational opportunities that will play a vital role in shaping their futures,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy. “For too long, gifted and talented programs were unavailable in school districts serving primarily minority communities. Worse, information regarding how parents in these communities could opt-in to an advanced level of education for their children was incredibly hard to obtain. After Introduction 1347 becomes law, the parents of children enrolled in the City’s universal pre-K program will be provided with information regarding the DOE gifted and talented program, exam, and application process so that all of New York’s children have access to advanced-level education.”

Expanding an Exemption from the Commercial Building Air Conditioner Law

In 2008, the City passed a law prohibiting commercial buildings from running their air conditioners while propping open their doors, but included an exemption  for restaurant doors. In 2015, the City amended that law to expand the prohibition to include open windows, but failed to provide a clear exemption for certain restaurant windows.  As a result, when it came to enforcing this law it became unclear whether “French doors” in restaurants would be considered doors, and thus allowed to be propped open, or windows, and thus prohibited from being open while the air conditioning was running.

Introduction 1503-B, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, would expand the exemption in the existing law to make it clear that certain restaurant windows, including “French doors”, are not prohibited from being propped open while the air conditioning is running. This is a common sense simplification of the law that will add clarity for restaurant owners and for enforcement agents.

“Introduction 1503-B places restaurants with French doors on equal footing as restaurants with sidewalk cafes when it comes to our air-conditioning law,” said Committee on Environmental Protection Chair Costa Constantinides. “This common-sense amendment ensures that these types of eating establishments are treated the same and not penalized for running the same type of business.  The bill will bring benefits to small business owners and customers while keeping the front door shut appropriately across the rest of the city.  I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and my

Council colleagues for their support of this legislation.”

The City Council will also vote on rezoning for the following locations…

Broad Channel

Zoning map and zoning text amendments to ensure that land use regulations do not encourage growth in an area vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise.

Hamilton Beach

Zoning map and zoning text amendments to more closely reflect Hamilton Beach’s established character and lot configuration, and help achieve the goal of limiting new residential development in an area projected to experience daily tidal inundation due to sea level rise by the 2050s.

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