City Hall – The New York City Council on Wednesday will vote on a package of bills to help the for-hire vehicle industry, including legislation that will require a task force to study taxicab medallion values, financial education for drivers, driver assistance centers and the creation of an Office of Inclusion to address issues of racism and discrimination.
In addition, the Council will also vote on a Veterans Day package of legislation that aims to address the unique issues facing New York City veterans, including the creation of resource centers that provide counseling services.
The Council will vote on a bill mandating anti-bullying outreach and a bill creating an office of data analytics.
Finally, the Council will vote on several finance and land use items, including a new animal shelter in the Bronx.
Veterans’ Resources and Services Package
Providing Counseling Services for Veterans
Introduction 391-A, sponsored by Council Member Eric Ulrich, would require the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) to provide benefits counseling services to veterans seeking assistance with federal, state, and city benefits that they may be entitled to based on their military service. The counseling services would dispense information, evaluation, and advice, but would not replace claims services provided by veterans’ service providers. DVS would be required to provide such counseling services through trained staff and in at least one location per borough, including at each veterans resource center.
Creating Veterans Resource Centers
Introduction 394-A, sponsored by Council Member Eric Ulrich, would require DVS to create official veterans resource centers in each borough, no later than June 1, 2019. The resource centers would be responsible for providing veterans with free information about, at a minimum, housing, social services, financial assistance, discharge upgrade resources, and veterans benefits. The centers would also provide benefits, counseling services, and veterans resource guides. Additionally, DVS would be required to provide a minimum of 20 hours of in-field and office service to veterans in each borough per week. This bill would require the commissioner of DVS to establish outreach and educational efforts so that veterans are made aware of these centers.
Creating a Veterans Resource Guide
Introduction 396-A, sponsored by Council Member Eric Ulrich, would require DVS to create a veterans resource guide, to be updated regularly, that will be available on its website and in physical form. The guide would include information such as benefits to veterans and their family members, laws affording special rights and privileges to veterans, protections and remedies given to veterans under the New York City Human Rights Law, available physical and mental health programs and resources, educational and training opportunities, and available sources of low or no-cost legal assistance.
“I am proud to sponsor these bills, which will make it easier for veterans to gain access to crucial resources. While New York City has made great strides in ending veteran homelessness, many veterans are still finding it difficult to make ends meet,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “Although it would be impossible to full repay the debt we owe our brave men and women in uniform, I am thrilled to have the support of the City Council. I’d like to thank City Council Speaker Corey Johnson – and all of my colleagues in government – for joining me in my fight for our nation’s heroes.”
For-Hire Vehicles Package
Creating a Task Force to Study Taxicab Medallion Values
Introduction 304-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would establish a taxi medallion task force. The task force would review the changes in sales prices of medallions, potential future sales prices, and the impact on the City’s budget. Following the review, the task force would recommend relevant changes in laws, rules, regulations, and policies.
“We lost yet another taxi driver due to suicide last week. More than ever, we must stand by the men and women who own and operate medallions and not watch the taxi industry become destroyed. Intro 304, will establish a task force to research and report back with informed recommendations to address the massive ridership inequality between yellow cabs and other for-hire vehicles. We need to proceed thoughtfully on how to best improve our ground transit services in the city and that includes reviewing economic impacts to all,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
Relating to the Risk of Loss with Respect to Digital Payments in the Taxi and For-Hire Vehicle Industries
Introduction 1062-A, sponsored by Council Member Barry Grodenchik, would require drivers for high-volume for-hire services to be paid for trips even when the payment transaction fails, for example because the payment provider does not complete the transaction. In such circumstances, the high-volume for-hire service would have to pay the driver.
“Drivers of app-based for-hire vehicles can be given a client by an app, drive the client to the destination, and not be paid for the ride because of an issue with the client’s credit card. Drivers can lose hours of their day and hundreds of dollars in fares because of fraud over which they have absolutely no control. This legislation would ensure that drivers are paid for fares for clients provided to them by an app,” said Council Member Barry Grodenchik.
Relating to Financial Education for Taxi and For-Hire Vehicle Drivers
Introduction 1068-A, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to engage in financial outreach and education to taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers. For taxi drivers, the outreach and education would relate to the purchase, lease, financing, or refinancing of taxi medallions. For for-hire vehicle drivers, the outreach and education would relate to the purchase, rental, lease, or loan agreements for vehicles to be used as for-hire vehicles.
“The recent tragedies of driver deaths have been a wake-up call for New York. We need to do more to support drivers struggling with payments and help them stay out of debt. Intro. 1068 will provide financial assistance to help drivers better understand leases, contracts, and financing documents, so they can be fully aware of their rights and make informed decisions about their financial future,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I applaud the Speaker and my colleagues for their leadership on this: rightsizing our for-hire vehicle industry requires solutions that match the complexity of the problem, and together, the bills being voted on today will go a long way to improve support for drivers and bring greater equity to the system.”
Creating an Office of Inclusion within the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission
Introduction 1079-A, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would create an Office of Inclusion within the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The Office would compile and report statistics relating to driver demographics and discrimination against passengers, examine and address issues relating to racism and discrimination in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries, conduct relevant trainings, increase public awareness regarding service refusals, and provide mechanisms for relevant passenger complaints.
“The creation of the TLC’s Office of Inclusion is a step in the right direction to begin making amends for decades of denied rides and bias,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get to work or school and get home to our families and friends. No matter what your race, gender, disability or borough is, everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect no matter who they are or where they are going. I’d like to thank Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio and TLC Commissioner Joshi for working with my office to create a renewed focus on eliminating ride refusals across New York City.”
Providing Driver Assistance Centers
Introduction 1081-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), in consultation with other agencies, to provide assistance to drivers, including mental health counseling, financial counseling, and referrals to outside organizations for additional assistance.
“This bill is for all the cab drivers in New York who have been suffering in silence, working extremely hard to provide for themselves and their families with little to no help. The intention of my bill, Intro 1081, is to offer a glimmer of hope to the thousands of taxi drivers in New York City through resources and services that can aid them in their financial and mental health needs. One life lost to utter despair and hopelessness is one too many and today’s passage is our City’s way of taking action and doing something positive about it. I appreciate the support of the Speaker and my colleagues and thank them for helping to pass this bill today,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr.
Relating to Deductions from Certain For-Hire Driver Earnings
Introduction 1096-A, sponsored by Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr., would require high-volume for-hire services, as part of their new licensing requirement, to affirm that they will not administer any automatic deductions for vehicle payments from driver pay unless the deduction is optional and chosen by the driver
Youth Services Bill
Conducting Educational Outreach and Materials on Bullying Prevention, Awareness and Resources
Introduction 376-B, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to conduct outreach informing as many youth as practicable about the availability of bullying awareness and prevention resources, including those that provide counseling, mental health resources, mobile texting or internet chat functionality and referrals. Outreach would include disseminating resource materials through existing DYCD programs and posting information on DYCD’s website and on any other agency websites as determined by the mayor. The bill would also require the Department of Education (DOE) to distribute to students information regarding any existing online portal operated by DOE through which students or their parents may report bullying, harassment, intimidation or discrimination. DYCD would also provide information regarding DOE’s portal to youth participating in its programs.
“This legislation will expand educational training and resources students to report incidents of bullying, and will provide teachers with the tools they need to address bullying in their schools. Every student should feel safe in their school, and this legislation will build on the work that is being done to ensure students are protected and secure,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres
Introduction 1137-A, sponsored by Council Member Adrienne Adams, would codify into the Charter the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA). The office uses analytics tools to prioritize risk more strategically, deliver services more efficiently, enforce laws more effectively and increase transparency.
“I look forward to the passage of Intro 1137. The objective information received from the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics is a valuable tool for the NYC Council and helps us to be more robust in our work. While MODA was created by executive order 306 under Mayor Bloomberg, we must ensure that this office survives successive mayoral administrations,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams.
The City Council will also vote on the following land use items:
2050 Bartow Avenue
The Council will vote on the application submitted by New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) for approval of a site selection to facilitate the development of a full-service animal shelter and veterinary medical clinic with accompanying office space. This project is located in Council Member Andy King’s district.
The Council will vote on the application submitted by New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for: (1) a site acquisition by the City, (2) an Urban Development Action Area designation, project approval, and disposition approval, and (3) approval of an Article XI tax exemption. These actions will facilitate the development of a 4-story, 8 unit affordable housing project in Council Member Rafael Salamanca’s district.
St. Michael’s Cemetery Park Elimination and Cemetery Land Acquistion
The Council will vote on applications submitted by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to demap a portion of St. Michael’s Parkland and a zoning map change to apply a zoning district designation to the demapped property. St. Michael’s Cemetery is the applicant for the Council’s approval, pursuant to the New York State Not for Profit Corporation Law, to acquire the land for cemetery purposes. These actions would facilitate the expansion of the existing cemetery, in Council Member Costa Constantinides’ district.
2nd Amendment to the Coney Island Amusement Park Special Process Agreement
Application by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, to amend an Agreement signed in 2009 establishing a process for development of the Coney Island amusement area, to add additional properties located adjacent to the Boardwalk, which are either demapped street ends, or acquired by the City through eminent domain and will eventually be mapped as parkland. The project is located in Council Member Mark Treger’s district.
Hebrew Home for the Aged
The Council will vote on the application for a special permit to allow the development of a Long-Term Care Facility in an R1-1 zoning district to facilitate the development of a new Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that will consist of three new building wings with 388 independent senior living units. The project is located in Council Member Andrew Cohen’s district.