The Council will also vote to expand prevailing wage protections

City Hall – The New York City Council on Thursday will vote to pass a package of legislation that will make New York City’s public burial ground, Hart Island, more accessible for people visiting their loved ones. For far too long, what is known to many as “Potter’s Field,” the world’s largest public burial ground, has made visitors feel as though they were visiting a prison, rather than the final resting place of their loved ones.

There is a reason: The land has been maintained by the Department of Correction. The law would transfer the property to the Parks Department and make access for visitors less restrictive so that Hart Island operates more like a resting placing and less like a high-security jail. This revolutionary package of bills also provides more public transportation options for visitors to Hart Island and creates the Office of Burial Assistance to provide help to those who are seeking information about a public burial.

The Council will also vote on legislation to expand the existing prevailing wage law, removing the current exemption for affordable housing projects and not-for-profit developers of residential projects. Under existing law, building service employees must be paid prevailing wage if they work in a building where a private developer receives at least $1 million in financial assistance from the City or a City economic development entity for a City development project.

Additionally, the Council will also vote on a housing package that will provide more transparency to the public housing lottery process and outcomes, including the Mitchell-Lama housing waiting lists one year after the City’s unveiling of Housing Connect 2.0, a new lottery system. The Council will also vote on legislation aimed at increasing transparency and diversity within New York City public schools.

The Council will also vote on several land use items include the East Side Resilency project, which makes much needed infrastructure improvements to reduce flood risk and improve access to the waterfront.

Finally, the Council will vote on several finance items, including the re-adoption of the Fiscal 2020 property tax rates in order to provide relief to Class 1 and Class 2 homeowners.

Hart Island Legislation

Transfers jurisdiction over Hart Island from the Department of Correction to the Department of Parks and Recreation

Introduction No. 906-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would transfer jurisdiction and control over Hart Island, the City’s public burial ground, from the Department of Correction to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Burials would be allowed to continue, pursuant to rules and regulations established by the Department of Social Services and the Parks Department.

Requires the development of a transportation plan for public travel to Hart Island

Introduction No. 909-B, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would require the Department of Transportation or another agency designated by the Mayor, to develop a transportation plan for public travel, including ferry service, to and from Hart Island. This bill requires consideration of multiple departure locations, and factors such as changing conditions and future uses of Hart Island. The agency would have to submit a report on its plan and post the report on its website within one year of the bill’s effective date.

“This is about giving respect and dignity to the people who are buried on the island and the family members who must go through a lengthy and at times complicated process to be able to visit their loved ones who are buried there. I would like to sincerely thank Melinda Hunt from the Hart Island Project who has not stopped advocating and ensuring that families receive the help they need to find their loved ones located on Hart Island. I would like to acknowledge the support and leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as Council Members Mark Levine, Deborah Rose, former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, among many others. The time has come today to open the cemetery to the loved ones and family members. We must turn Hart island into a proper final place of rest,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

Establishes an office to provide support to those in need of burial assistance

Introduction No. 1559-A, sponsored by Council Member Diana Ayala, would require the Department of Social Services to establish an office to assist individuals who have lost a loved one and need information about accessing a public burial, obtaining a burial allowance or learning about any similar program. This office would provide services including explaining the option of public burial and helping individuals apply for a burial allowance.

“Burial costs are financially burdensome for families across our City, which is why I am proud to be passing legislation that creates an Office of Burial Assistance within the Department of Social Services. This office will help those who recently lost a loved one to access information about public burial or obtain a burial allowance. I thank Speaker Johnson and Council Members Levine, Rodriguez and Koo for their partnership on this crucial piece of legislation,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.

Requires a public hearing on public burial and related issues

Introduction No. 1580-A, sponsored by Council Member Deborah L. Rose, would require a public hearing on the public burial process to allow the public the opportunity to discuss the laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures related to public burial. Through this hearing the public would be able to recommend changes to these programs and consider the feasibility of alternative programs. This bill would require the Department of Social Services to submit a report summarizing and responding to comments received at the hearing by 2020.

“More than 1 million people are buried at Hart Island. While these New Yorkers are buried in pine boxes in trenches holding up to 162 adults or 1,000 infants, the reality is that each one of these men and women was a child, parent or friend with a name and a life story. The process for visiting Hart Island is equally impersonal, with structured visits scheduled once a month. This is not who we are as New Yorkers, and Int. 1580-A seeks to change that with a taskforce to recommend changes to our current public burial policies. My hope is that it leads to a policy where every New Yorker without means for a private burial is laid to rest in a space that can be visited in private moments of peace, comfort and tranquility,” said Council Member Deborah Rose.

Civil Service & Labor Legislation

Expands the prevailing wage law for building service employees at city development projects

Introduction No. 1321-C, sponsored by Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr., would remove the current exemption in the existing “Prevailing Wage Law” (Local Law 27 of 2012) for affordable housing projects and not-for-profit developers of residential projects. Local Law 27 of 2012 requires building service workers to be paid the prevailing wage in buildings where the developer receives at least $1,000,000 in discretionary financial assistance from the City or a City economic development entity.Accordingly, building service workers in most residential projects receiving financial assistance of more than $1,000,000 for new construction or preservation would be required to be paid the prevailing wage.

This bill exempts smaller residential projects with fewer than 120 units, certain supportive housing projects, deeply affordable preservation projects and NYCHA projects financed through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

“As our city becomes a more expensive place to live, we have to be pushing for laws that close its wealth gap. I introduced Intro 1321 because it is the standard we set during the East New York Neighborhood Plan. Of the 100% affordable housing that is being built, each building is now going to provide prevailing wages to its staff. If we did it in East New York, we can do it citywide. The city is facing a housing crisis that has to be addressed not just by looking at how much affordable housing is available, but by examining what kind of jobs are available as well. There’s no inherent contradiction between saying we know workers should be paid more, and we know we need more affordable and supportive housing,” said Council Member Rafael L. Espinal.

Housing & Buildings Legislation

Requires the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to report on the housing lottery process

Introduction No. 550-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would require the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to report on the housing lottery process, including complaints about housing lotteries, planned improvements to housing lotteries, and housing lottery methodologies.

Requires the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to report on housing lottery outcomes

Introduction No. 564-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, would require the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to report on housing lottery outcomes. HPD would be required to report on applicant race or ethnicity and applicant preference category at the citywide and borough wide levels, and on applicant household size and applicant household income at the citywide, borough and community district levels.

In addition to reporting on applicant demographic information, HPD would also be required to report on the number of applicants who applied for affordable housing units, the number of applicants who were selected for affordable housing units, and the number of applicants who signed leases for affordable housing units.

“I’m proud to have this piece of legislation moving forward today at the Council Stated Meeting. With the passage of Introduction 564-A, we will finally know exactly who qualifies for affordable housing, who doesn’t and why. This bill will help shed light on the demand for affordable housing units in New York City, and create transparency for residents who apply to the affordable housing lottery,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

Clarifies the requirements for site safety training providers and persons required to obtain site safety training

Introduction No. 720-C, sponsored by The Public Advocate (Mr. Williams), would allow not-for-profit organizations with at least three years of construction-related workforce development, construction-related education, or site safety training experience to apply to the Department of Buildings for approval as a site safety training provider. The site safety training must be conducted by a person who is certified to teach OSHA 10- or 30-hour courses. This bill would also provide an updated definition of “competent person” to clarify which competent persons require a site safety training supervisor card. Finally, this bill would amend existing reporting requirements regarding the number of site safety training providers.

“It’s critical that we expand access to lifesaving safety training to all workers- regardless of background or affiliation. We have an obligation to protect the people who build our city, and this legislation will expand on the Construction Site Safety Act I passed in 2017 to ensure that more organizations and people can engage with this crucial training and that we rebuild the eroding culture of safety in this industry,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.

Requires annual reporting by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development on certain information regarding Mitchell-Lama housing development waiting lists

Introduction No. 716-A, sponsored by The Public Advocate (Mr. Williams), would require HPD to annually report certain information regarding the waiting lists of Mitchell-Lama housing developments, including the number of applicants on such waiting lists, the number who were “skipped,” and the number of complaints received about Mitchell-Lama waiting lists.

“The housing lottery is a lifeline for many New Yorkers in search of the ever-decreasing and elusive affordable home, and the Mitchell-Lama program in particular has served as a vital component of New York City’s affordable housing stock. But uncertainty and outright corruption regarding the process to access this housing is deeply damaging, and this bill is part of correcting that damage and instilling confidence in the system people obtain affordable housing in a city that desperately needs much more of it. This may be a lottery, but that doesn’t have to mean ‘you never know.’,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.

Education Legislation – Diversity Package

Establishes a School Diversity Advocacy Group (SDAG)

Introduction No. 1550-A, sponsored by The Public Advocate (Mr. Williams), would codify the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) into law. The SDAG was established in 2017 by the Mayor and New York City Department of Education (DOE) as part of their Diversity in New York City Public Schools plan and designed to make formal policy recommendations to the Mayor and Chancellor relating to increasing diversity in schools.

The advisory group membership will now include Speaker appointments, a Public Advocate appointment in addition to mayoral appointments. The advisory group would be tasked with examining all factors as they relate to school diversity and would be required on an annual basis to provide a public report to the Mayor and the Speaker on its findings, annual review of departmental integration efforts and, at the advisory group’s discretion, recommendations to the department. The annual report will also require the department to report on prior recommendations adopted by the department and share information on implementation efforts going forward.

“I’m a public school baby, and I’m proud of that fact and the education I got.  But despite that pride and because of that history, I know that our deeply segregated school system, and our students within it, are in desperate need of reform. The School Diversity Advisory Group is critical because it involves taking the input of these people experiencing our education system up close in order to change it. My bill today expands the reach of that group across years, administrations, and boroughs,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.

Creates district diversity working groups

Introduction No. 1552-B, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera and Speaker Corey Johnson, would mandate the establishment of district diversity working groups in each community school district. These working groups would work to facilitate the creation and publishing of public-input integration plans in every school district. The working groups would be made up of Department of Education (DOE) staff, students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and community advocates, as well as a community-based organization (CBO) if the working group chooses to do so. Issues that would be addressed include, but are not limited to: admission policies, transfer trends, language access and transportation. Those community school districts that have already gone through this process and have a plan, like District 15, and those that are currently working with the DOE to develop such a plan would be exempt from this bill, but would still be required to report their plan to the Council.

This bill would take effect immediately and be deemed repealed upon issuance of all reports by all districts.

“Clearly our city’s school system is failing to provide equitable education for all New Yorkers, and I’m proud to be part of a Council that is taking action to address education outcomes that often have more to do with where you’re born instead of your passion for learning. My bill we are voting on today. Intro 1552, will build off of the successful work that parents in my District and elsewhere have already done by mandating the establishment or continuation of district diversity working groups in each community school district. Every neighborhood has its own unique challenges that must be addressed, and these working groups are the solution for an inclusive, public-input processes for developing recommendations tailored to the students that attend the schools in those communities,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“New York City prides itself on its diversity, but sadly our schools are segregated. Equity takes work. It doesn’t happen by magic.  This bill empowers the community to develop integration plans that address the unique needs of their school district,” said Speaker Corey Johnson

Expands reporting on demographic data in New York City public schools

Introduction No. 1547-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to report currently collected student demographic data on a grade level to provide more granular data. DOE is already required to report on the diversity of students in public schools and its efforts to encourage diversity within schools from grades kindergarten through twelve. They are currently required by law to report collected student demographic data for each community school district, each school within a district, and each program within a school. 

The bill also requires DOE to report on a side-by-side comparison of the racial and ethnic demographics of each school or special program with the racial and ethnic demographics of the larger attendance zone and community school district. This will make the existing reporting requirement more robust and allow the Council, advocates and others to drill down deeper into the segregation that exists in our schools and the Department’s efforts to remedy that.

“James Baldwin taught us that ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ After many years of willfully ignoring the reality of our segregated schools, we are finally starting to face it. Having the data helps. In District 15, an honest look at segregated enrollment patterns helped us move forward as a community with the most ambitious middle-school integration effort in NYC, and the results so far are great. This legislation will expand the reporting of school demographics to include data by class year and comparisons to the school zone as a whole. The expanded School Diversity Accountability Act will help us track the progress we are making to bring more equity to our schools and build classrooms that foster diverse learning communities,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

Requires reporting on the demographics of school staff in New York City public schools

Introduction No. 1554-B, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, would mandate the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to report on the demographics of school staff, including leadership, teaching staff and other professional and paraprofessional staff. The required reporting would include gender, race or ethnicity, length of employment at the school of employment and years of experience in that position.

“Introduction 1554-B will require the NYC Department of Education to report on the demographics of all school staff in all city schools. We need culturally responsive curricula, and our school system should reflect the rich diversity of our student populations. Thank you Speaker Corey Johnson for your leadership in advancing this important bill,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

Health Legislation

Requires an animal shelter to retrieve animals as expeditiously as possible from premises after given directive

Introduction No. 1496-A, sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan, would require an animal shelter, directed by a sheriff or city marshal executing a warrant of eviction or any order or judgment granting legal possession, to retrieve a companion animal from such premises as expeditiously as possible after receiving such direction. The legislation also provides a cause of action to any person claiming to be denied possession of their companion animal by a landlord still in possession of such companion animal, and grants them the following possible relief against the landlord: compensatory and punitive damages; injunctive and declaratory relief; an order of seizure; and attorney’s fees and costs.

Requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to report on the occurrence of type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related health problems and to develop a plan to reduce diabetes-related health problems

Introduction No. 1361-B, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to report twice a year on the rate of diabetes-related health problems in New York City, including the number of lower-extremity amputations, diabetes-related depression rates, the number of new and cumulative cases of treated diabetes-related end stage renal disease and the rate per 1,000 adults with diabetes, data on A1C test results, including adults with diabetes with A1Cs of 9 or more from the New York city A1C registry, and the number of adults with diabetes and the proportion of such number to the general population. A1C tests help doctors ascertain how well patients are managing their diabetes.

The bill would also require DOHMH to compile a comprehensive report by 2021 and submit recommendations and a plan to reduce the occurrence of diabetes-related health problems and to implement the department’s recommendations.

“The simple fact is that we are stalled in the fight against obesity and diabetes, and we have failed to overcome significant racial inequities in the incidence of these conditions. To tackle this public health crisis New York City needs to act more aggressively to ensure that every New Yorker has access to fresh, healthy, affordable food.  We need to do more to promote exercise. We need to strengthen health education in our schools.  And we need to continue our fight to ensure everyone in this city has access to primary medical care, to expand prevention and early detection of the disease.  Our legislation will offer critical new tools in this fight, by establishing clear public reporting on the city’s progress in confronting this challenge and will require DOHMH to devise a strategic plan on how to move forward,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

Requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide information regarding city services available for proper disposal of deceased animals

Introduction No. 1598-A, sponsored by Council Member Robert Holden, would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide information regarding city services available for the proper disposal of deceased animals on the city’s website

Criminal Justice System Legislation

Requires reporting by the Office of Nightlife on multi-agency response to community hotspots operations and reporting by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice on inspections that are overseen by the Office of Special Enforcement

Introduction No. 1156-A, sponsored by Council Member Stephen T. Levin, would require the Office of Nightlife to report on the frequency and effects of Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots (MARCH) operations across the city. MARCH operations are defined as a raid of an establishment without prior notice and usually during peak weekend hours by uniformed NYPD officers, along with personnel from other city agencies.NYPD would be required to provide written notifications to establishment owners at least 30 days before their inclusion in a potential MARCH operation, which must outline the conditions that need to remedied. In addition, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) would be required to report on the activities of the Office of Special Enforcement, another conductor of MARCH operations.

Also, the Council will vote on the following finance items:

Extends the current tax rate of the additional tax on the occupancy of hotel rooms

Introduction No. 1780, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would extend the current rate of the additional tax on the occupancy of hotel rooms at 5.878 percent through November 30, 2023. Beginning on December 1, 2023, the rate would change to five percent.

Readopts the property tax rates for Fiscal 2020 to provide tax relief for Class 1 and Class 2 homeowners

Each year, the Council is required to calculate tax rates for all four classes of property using a set formula from the New York State Property Tax Laws. The City’s only discretion is to determine how much property tax revenues it wants to raise, known as the property tax levy. The process involves determining class shares, which is the share of the levy that comes from each class. However, there is a five percent cap on how fast the share from any one class can increase from year to year. If the Council wants to change the five percent cap in any given year, the State must pass a law giving the Council the authority to do so. For Fiscal 2020, the Council elected to ask the State to lower the class share cap to zero percent. Without lowering the cap, the tax rate for Class 1 owners would have risen by 6.3 percent. With the new cap in place, Class 1 rates will rise by only 1.2 percent, saving typical homeowners about $321 per year, and Class 2 rates will be the lowest they have been since Fiscal 2009. On October 25, 2019, the Governor signed legislation so authorizing. Because of the legislation, the Council is required to amend the tax fixing resolutions, passed at Fiscal 2020 budget adoption in June 2019, to reflect the new zero percent cap. The below table demonstrates how the reduced class share cap will affect the tax rates of all four classes for Fiscal 2020 as compared to Fiscal 2019 and the five percent cap:

Finally, the Council will vote on the following land use items:

East Side Costal Resiliency (ESCR)

This application for a zoning text amendment and acquisition of property will facilitate the ESCR project and address coastal flooding vulnerability along the East River waterfront in Council Member Rivera, Council Member Chin, and Council Member Powers’ districts. The ESCR project will implement a flood protection system that will reduce flood risk, improve access to the waterfront, and enhance the waterfront parkland.

“After more than a year of negotiations, I’m proud to be voting for an East Side Coastal Resiliency Project that includes commitments for nearly every issue our community requested, from phased, safe, and timely ESCR construction, to parks and NYCHA improvements, to re-examining interim flood protections and studying bikeways and the future of the FDR. We have to act fast to protect the East Side. And while this process has been difficult, the ESCR plan before us today will not just ensure needed protection from climate change, but also provide a historic investment that will help our communities reverse decades of environmental injustice.” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

Hunters Point South Parcels F & G

Parcels F & G are two empty Parcels in the Hunter’s Point South Project Area, in Council Member Van Bramer’s district, that will be redeveloped into two mixed-use buildings. This project will create over 1000 new housing units, 847 of which will be affordable, and include community facility space, retail space, and 100 parking spots.

44-01 Northern Boulevard Rezoning

This zoning map amendment will change an existing M1-1 district into a R7X and a R6B district, as well as establish a C2-4 commercial overlay on Northern Boulevard in Council Member Van Bramer s district. This rezoning would facilitate the construction of a new mixed-use building with over 300 units of new housing, 100 of which would be permanently affordable, along with 36,005 square feet of ground floor retail space. This application will also be modified to include MIH (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) Option 1.

Peninsula Hospital Site Redevelopment

This zoning map change would eliminate an existing R5 District and C1-2 District, change an R5 District to a C4-4 District, and change a C8-1 District to a C4-3A District. In addition, it includes an application for a Large-Scale General Development (LSGD) special permit to modify bulk regulations in the previously mentioned zoning districts. These changes would facilitate the development of over 2 million square feet; creating over 2000 affordable housing units along with new community facilities in Council Member Richards’s district. This application will be modified to include only MIH  Option 1 and reduce the maximum building heights.

Third Ave

HPD is seeking a technical correction for an Urban Development Action Area Project (UDAAP) in Council Member Torres district.