Council to Vote on Providing Tenants Facing Eviction with Access to Legal Services and on Requiring Public Reports of Civil Actions Taken Against the Department Of Correction

Council will also vote on Increasing Awareness of SNAP through a Public Campaign and on Providing Means to Tip Drivers of For-Hire Vehicles

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to establish programs providing tenants facing eviction with access to legal services. The Council will also vote to require public reports to be issued regarding civil actions taken against the Department of Correction. In addition, the Council will vote on increasing seniors’ enrollment in and recertification for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through a public campaign and program carried out by the Department of Social Services and the Department for the Aging. Next, the Council will vote on legislation requiring that passengers be provided a means to tip drivers of for-hire vehicles, as well as on legislation to require annual reports on items seized by the NYPD.

The Council will also vote on surveying school and park intersections to gauge the need for a pedestrian countdown display, and on requiring notifications to be issued to relevant council members when changes are made to capital projects. In addition, the Council will vote on installing walkways between public sidewalks and athletic fields altered through capital projects, and on providing notice regarding the installation of multi-block muni-meters. The Council will also vote to extend the enactment date of Introduction 1233-A, originally passed on June 21, 2017. Finally, the Council will vote on one rezoning item in the Bronx, two public siting items to facilitate public primary schools in Community School District 15 of Brooklyn, and the appointment of Thomas Sorrentino to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Providing Tenants Facing Eviction with Legal Services

Unlike in criminal proceedings, tenants facing eviction do not have a guaranteed right to counsel. As recently as 2013, 99 percent of landlords in New York City house court were represented, compared to just one percent of tenants. Similarly, residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings in administrative proceedings that can lead to eviction rarely enjoy the benefits of legal assistance. Access to legal services in these critically important proceedings helps to level the playing field between landlords and tenants while allowing more New Yorkers to remain in their homes. The City’s initial efforts to expand access to legal services following the creation of the Civil Justice Coordinator resulted in the percentage of represented tenants rising to 27 percent, while residential evictions dropped by nearly a quarter.

Introduction 214-B, sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, would require the Civil Justice Coordinator to establish programs to provide all tenants facing eviction with access to legal services within five years. Low-income individuals with eviction cases in housing court would have full legal representation while all others would receive brief legal assistance. By October 2017, the Coordinator would also establish and begin implementing a program to provide legal services to all NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings to terminate their tenancy. Each year, the Coordinator would hold public hearings and issue reports on the progress and effectiveness of the programs, as well as the amount of funding needed to continue its implementation.

“An individual’s socioeconomic status should have no bearing on their access to competent legal representation, especially when it comes to matters being handled in housing court,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “With this legislation, the Council reaffirms its commitment to protecting tenant rights across New York City, and I thank Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson for their relentless dedication in pushing this legislation forward and pursuing justice for New Yorkers across the five boroughs.”

“Too many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers face eviction simply because they don’t have the means to hire an attorney. Today, the passage of this bill marks the beginning of a new era for tenants in New York City,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “New Yorkers have a right to affordable housing and to a fair justice system. No longer will low-income tenants have to fend for themselves in Housing Court. This new law is an historic step forward in the fight against unlawful evictions. I am honored to stand alongside my colleagues as New York becomes the first city in the country to guarantee legal representation for low-income tenants in Housing Court, and I look forward to working with elected officials across the country to draft similar legislation.”

“This is a monumental day for tenants and a historic day for the City of New York,” said Committee on Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson. “After four years of advocating, rallying, and marching, we can finally celebrate the passage of ground breaking legislation that will curb the homelessness epidemic and end the cycle of eviction plaguing New York City. With a right to counsel in place, tenants facing eviction will finally be on an even playing field with the landlords taking them to court. I am proud to have spent four years fighting for this critically important legislation and am so thankful to the many elected officials, advocates, tenant leaders, clergy leaders, and civil legal service providers who joined Council Member Mark Levine and me in bringing equity and justice to our housing court system.”

Requiring Public Reports of Civil Actions Against the Department of Correction

Currently, there is no requirement that City agencies share information pertaining to litigation alleging improper conduct by correction officers.  This limits the potential for comprehensive and coordinated efforts to identify and correct trends of correction officer misconduct to promote safer jails and decreased costs of litigation.

Introduction 1136-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require the Law Department to provide semi-annual public reports on civil actions filed against the Department of Correction (DOC) and the department’s employees, including the amount of any financial payment by the City as part of a settlement or other disposition. The Law Department would be required to share this list with the Comptroller, the Department of Investigation, the Department of Correction, and the Board of Correction.

“Officials at every level must be held accountable for their actions, and that extends to officers working in facilities overseen by the Department of Correction,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Issuing public reports on civil actions filed against these employees keeps our citizens informed, our process transparent, and our agencies accountable, and I am proud to sponsor this legislation today.”

Increasing Seniors’ Enrollment in and Recertification for SNAP

New York City houses two of the top five Congressional districts in the nation with the highest percentage of seniors facing hunger.  In part, this stems from the fact that not all eligible seniors enroll in or recertify for SNAP.  While SNAP enrollment among seniors has increased in recent years, many seniors still believe they are not eligible for a variety of reasons and others are not aware of the program.  In fact, more than 30 percent of eligible seniors are not receiving the SNAP benefits to which they are entitled.

Introduction 1519-A, sponsored by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, is designed to increase coordination between the Department of Social Services and the Department for the Aging to increase awareness of SNAP through a public campaign targeted at seniors and their caregivers.  The bill also requires the Department of Social Services, in coordination with the Department for the Aging, to establish and implement a SNAP enrollment and recertification program.  The program would ensure that SNAP enrollment and recertification programming is taking place at all senior centers in the City.  The bill further requires the Department of Social Services to provide an annual report to the Council on the department’s public campaign and SNAP enrollment and recertification activity for seniors as well as provide the Council with data on seniors’ enrollment and recertification in SNAP each year.

“Currently couples with a pre-tax monthly income of $1736 receive a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit of $357,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “It is readily apparent how critical this benefit is. Yet, we have too many needy seniors who are not availing themselves of this SNAP benefit. I believe this bill is an important step in expanding the nutritional safety net for seniors in our city.”

Providing Means to Tip Drivers of For-Hire Vehicles

Introduction 1646-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would require for-hire vehicle bases to provide a means to allow passengers to provide drivers with a tip (gratuity) using the same method of payment passengers use to pay for the fare. This bill would also require that if a for-hire vehicle base allows passengers to book and pay for a trip through a website, smartphone application, or any other passenger-facing booking tool, such website, smartphone application, or passenger-facing booking tool must provide passengers with preset tip options that include at least one option that is at least 20% of the fare and must permit passengers to manually enter another tip amount or percentage at their discretion.

“As a former livery driver, I understand the value of earning tips,” said Committee on Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “The extra few dollars from every ride stack up and can be a major help to drivers working to support their families. This is why I am proud we will vote on my legislation to require an option for tipping for app-based car services and more. This is about restoring dignity to the profession and I am glad that industry leaders have already begun adopting this measure. Standardizing it makes driving a cab in our city more than just a gig, it helps reestablish driving as a profession.”

Reporting on Items Seized by the New York City Police Department

When a person is arrested, their money, vehicle or other property is seized, vouchered and classified by the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Introduction 1000-B, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the NYPD to publish an annual report detailing such property seized and retained in the preceding calendar year disaggregated by borough and police precinct.

“The civil forfeiture process has stripped many low-income citizens of their property and belongings without due process and in violation of their constitutional rights,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “This first-of-its-kind transparency bill will shed light on the reasons why the NYPD has seized someone’s property, whether revenue is generated from property seizure, and if an individual has been able to get their property back. The legislation will help ensure that the civil forfeiture process is used legitimately.”

Installing Pedestrian Countdown Displays Near Schools and Parks

Introduction 671-A, sponsored by Council Member Paul Vallone, would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to survey all intersections with traffic control signals that are adjacent to a school or park and do not currently have pedestrian countdown displays for the purpose of determining whether pedestrian countdown displays should be installed at such intersections. This bill would also require the DOT to install pedestrian countdown displays at all intersections that the department determines should have such displays within two years of the completion of the survey.

“I’m proud to stand with our principals, teachers, parents, students and seniors in our combined fight for safety around our schools and parks. This is an issue that must be addressed before another child or senior is injured just crossing a public street, in our community and throughout the city,” said Council Member Paul Vallone. “The well-being of our children should be our number one priority and this bill will provide a major boost for the safety of all students and their families.”

Issuing Notifications of Changes to Capital Projects

Introduction 407-A, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, would require the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to provide notice within 30 days to Council Members who allocated funding to a capital project whenever a change order is implemented that has a value greater than 10% of an original contract value greater than $500,000.

“When my colleagues and I fund capital projects in our communities, we hope to see them completed in a timely and efficient manner,” said Council Member James Vacca. “Unfortunately, there are frequently massive cost overruns in Parks projects and it feels like we are allocating funds into a bottomless pit. We need accountability when it comes to the public’s money and my bill increases transparency by requiring the Department of Parks to proactively notify Council Members when there are changes to projects we have funded. By being made aware of these change orders, we can effectively exercise our oversight role and make the entire capital process run more effectively. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine for their support on this legislation.”

Installing Walkways Between Public Sidewalks and Capital Athletic Field Projects

Introduction 1411-A, sponsored by Council Member Joseph Borelli, would require that whenever a capital project is completed on an athletic field under Parks Department jurisdiction, the agency implementing the project would also have to install a walkway and a public sidewalk, linking them together, if neither had existed before.

“It is unacceptable that someone should have to walk with their child in the street to access their local park in the greatest city in the world,” said Council Member Joseph Borelli. “Tackling the lack of sidewalks at public parks has been a priority of mine throughout my years in government; I have heard the concerns of parents and youth alike about the lack of sidewalks along major parks and this bill will ensure that sidewalks are a priority for the city at all future parks. We would never have gotten this far without the support of Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine and the cooperation of Speaker Mark-Viverito, for which I am very thankful.”

Noticing Installation of Multi-Block Muni-Meters

Introduction 1234-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, would require the DOT to provide notice to affected council members and community boards of the installation of new muni-meters covering at least four contiguous blockfaces prior to such installation. The bill would also allow affected council members and community boards to submit recommendations and/or comments to DOT about the notice, and would require DOT to review recommendations and/or comments prior to the installation.

“I’m a strong believer in community boards and have always found that they are our eyes and ears in helping to solve the issues that most effect our neighborhoods every day,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “Introduction 1234-A empowers them further when it comes to muni-meters, and in my mind will help to positively impact how they are installed on our streets.”

Extending the Enactment Date of Introduction 1233-A

Introduction 1668, sponsored by Council Member Rosie Mendez, would extend the enactment date of Int. No. 1233-A, which passed the Council on June 21, from 180 days after it becomes law to October 1, 2018. It is intended to give additional compliance time for affected entities.

“Last month the Council voted and passed Introduction 1233, a bill that would ban the use and display of exotic animals in travelling circuses,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “This bill will go a long way in protecting and maintaining the well-being of animals and the safety of human beings who are entertained in or attend circuses throughout New York City. When we passed Introduction 1233 on June 21st, we realized that the effective date of the legislation, 180 days from the Mayor signing the bill into law, was not ample time for circuses that tour in NYC to transition into an exotic animal free circus. Today, we will amend Introduction 1233-A by passing an extension of time, until October 1st, 2018, for circuses touring in NYC to transition out of using exotic animals in their acts.  This is a sensible amendment that allows circuses to comply with the law since we want to ban the use of exotic animals in circuses, but not ban circuses.”

The City Council will vote on rezoning for the following location…

Whitlock and 165th Street in the Bronx

This rezoning will facilitate the development of two 14-story buildings featuring 472 affordable residential units, 14,937 SF of commercial space, and 9,520 SF of community facility space, along with a publically accessible garden area and a private exterior garden and recreation space.

“We worked diligently to shape 1125 Whitlock into a development that will be built for our community in the South Bronx,” said District 17 Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “With deep affordability, I’m pleased that the 470 units here will add to the more than 3,500 units I have helped approve or secure for our district.”

The City Council will vote on public siting for the following locations…

4545 8th Avenue in Brooklyn

This public siting would allow for a 332-seat public primary school facility featuring a 7,500 SF rooftop play area and serving Community School District 15.

4302 4th Avenue in Brooklyn

This public siting would allow for a 332-seat public primary school facility featuring a 3,550 SF rooftop play area and serving Community School District 15.

“Sunset Park has decided how to preserve our history and help relieve the area’s chronic school crowding emergency,” said District 38 Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Recovery of the old 68th precinct building for a 300 seat primary school has been specially engineered to preserve the landmarked brick exterior. For over 30 years the structure has suffered abandonment and decay in private hands. Now it will return to permanent public ownership and service. I congratulate local schools and preservation advocates, School District 15 and Community Board 7, along with local residents who have collaborated so carefully on this topic with me at many public hearings over the last year. Actions that affect landmarked building always require extreme care. The School Construction Authority listened to our community and has taken extraordinary steps to deliver thoughtful historic preservation that recognizes this project’s unique circumstances.”

The City Council will vote on the following appointment…

  • Thomas Sorrentino to the Taxi and Limousine Commission

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