The New York City Council on Thursday will vote on bills to legalize the use of electric bikes and scooters throughout the City. The legislation will remove restrictions on three classes of electric bicycles with top speeds under 25 miles per hour and electric scooters with top speeds under 20 miles per hour. E-bikes and e-scooters were legalized statewide when the state budget was passed on April 1. The Council is now acting to remove the local law that prohibits them and adds measures designed to ensure that delivery cyclists are not subject to unequal crackdowns and summonses of their bikes by the New York City Police Department.
The Council will also be voting to ensure there is transparency in the City’s spending related to COVID-19. The City has already spent approximately $2.8 billion in pandemic-related expenses with additional spending anticipated. The proposed legislation would require the creation of an online, public database that would track expenditures of federal, state and local funds for addressing COVID-19.
The Council will be voting on an annual set of resolutions to set interest rates for the late payment of property taxes, as a well as a discount rate for the early prepayment of property taxes. This includes the lowest historical rates for quarterly taxpayers, which account for over 90 percent of the City’s homeowner properties. In addition, the Council will be voting on two pieces of legislation and their companion resolutions to adopt special lowered rates for COVID-impacted property owners.
The Council will be voting on legislation that will establish a task force focused on reopening city agencies post-COVID-19, making sure there are proper policies and protocols in place for a safe restart of the City. This bill would also require each city agency to develop a reopening plan and submit that plan to the task force for review.
The Council will also vote on legislation to reimagine outdoor space and create an outdoor dining program throughout the City. The Council introduced this legislation in May to help struggling restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring the city allow them to create outdoor seating when possible. This proposed law spurred the Administration to create the current outdoor dining program, which went into effect on June 22.
This law codifies this program and allows restaurants to temporarily use outdoor spaces directly in front of their business. Currently, over 4,000 businesses have utilized the self-certifying process through the City of New York.
The Council will also vote on legislation to require short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb, to provide data about hosts who may be violating short-term rental laws to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.
Finally, the Council will be voting on additional finance related items.
Eliminates prohibition on electric bicycles
Proposed Introduction No. 1264-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would eliminate local prohibitions on the use of three classes of electric bicycles with top speeds under 25 miles per hour. This bill would also clarify that devices that remain prohibited by local law may only be impounded if operated in a manner that endangers the safety of the operator or the safety or property of another and reduce the penalty for operating a prohibited device from $500 to $250.
Eliminates prohibition on electric scooters
Proposed Introduction No. 1250-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would eliminate local restrictions on the operation of certain electric scooters with top speeds under 20 miles per hour. This bill would also clarify that devices that remain prohibited by local law may only be impounded if operated in a manner that endangers the safety of the operator or the safety or property of another and reduce the penalty for operating a prohibited device from $500 to $250.
Requires the creation of a year-long pilot program for shared electric scooters
Proposed Introduction No. 1266-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a year-long pilot program for the operation of shared electric scooters in New York City. This bill would require that neighborhoods underserved by public transit, lacking options for last mile connections to transit stations, or underserved by existing dock-based bike share programs be given priority in determining the geographic boundaries of the pilot program.
DOT approval would be required in order to offer shared electric scooter rentals, and unauthorized shared electric scooters may be impounded. The bill would also require that the DOT report to the Council on the progress of the program and issue recommendations to the Council regarding the creation of a permanent shared electric scooter program.
The pilot also requires participating e-scooter companies to make sure their vehicles don’t obstruct sidewalks or ramps. This will benefit all New Yorkers walking our narrow sidewalks – and especially people with disabilities or restricted mobility. Shared e-scooter operators will also be required to offer e-scooters that are accessible for use by people with disabilities.
This legislation specifically requires that the scooter companies work with DOT, other city agencies (MOPD) and members of the disability community to provide accessible scooter options. The accessible scooter models have three wheels, and some have seats.
“Today we’re passing legislation that makes great strides toward achieving transit equity, social justice, accessibility and environmental protection. By legalizing e-scooters and e-bikes, while mandating adherence to state and local safety laws, we are meeting the needs of people in transit deserts, people not served by bikeshare programs, people who need e-bikes and scooters for work and reducing the number of cars on our streets. The e-scooter pilot will allow us to develop the best practices for scooter-share programs in underserved communities with options for people with disabilities. Over the past year and a half, we’ve heard the concerns of diverse constituencies, including the delivery workers who have kept people fed during the coronavirus pandemic. All these voices helped us craft effective legislation that addresses unmet transit needs and makes New York a better place to live and work,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
Creates an online, public database to track expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic
Proposed Introduction No. 1952-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, would require the City of New York to create an online, public database that would track expenditures of federal, state and local funds for addressing COVID-19. The database would be required to be posted 90 days after the enactment of the local law and would include information on COVID-related expenditures regarding agency expense and capital funding, procurement contracts, and grants and loans.
“As we continue efforts to safely and slowly reopen the city, it is essential for us to ensure investments are being made to support senior citizens, immigrant communities, communities of color and other vulnerable populations that were hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget. “It is our fundamental duty to hold government accountable if funds are not being spent effectively and equitably across all five boroughs. New Yorkers are demanding transparency and Intro. 1952 will do just that. I want to thank Prime Co-Sponsor Mark Treyger for his partnership on this bill , the Legislative Division and Speaker Corey Johnson for moving this important piece of legislation forward.”
Authorizes lower interest rates COVID-19 impacted property owners who cannot pay their property taxes on time
Five Preconsidered Resolutions would set interest rates for the late payment of property taxes and the discount rate for the early prepayment of property taxes. These resolutions include the lowest historical late payment interest rates for quarterly payers, who include over 90% of the City’s homeowners. For Fiscal 2021, those rates would be 3.25% in the first quarter of the year and 5% the rest of the year, down from 7% in Fiscal 2020. Other resolutions would break new ground to enact targeted lowered interest rates for COVID-impacted property owners pursuant to the following two pieces of legislation:
Proposed Introduction No. 1964-A & companion resolution, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, would authorize the Council to pass a resolution setting a 7.5% interest rate for certain COVID-19 impacted small rent-regulated rental and commercial properties with assessed values over $250,000 that are unable to pay their July 1, 2020 tax bills on time. The lowered interest rate would be applicable through October 15, 2020.
“Our legacy mom and pop property owners in Chinatown and the Lower East Side serving majority rent-stabilized households have been languishing for relief well before this pandemic, and for too long, their calls for help have been ignored. With the shutdown forcing commercial tenants to close their doors practically overnight, they will have even fewer means to make the July 1 property tax deadline. Intro 1964-A aims to give them some breathing room while New York City gets back on our feet. This marks a first, but important, step in our efforts to address the needs of these small property owners and the working-class families they serve, and I look forward to continuing to identify more opportunities for real relief. I thank Speaker Johnson and Finance Chair Dromm for their unwavering leadership to expand recovery to more New Yorkers,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.
Proposed Introduction No. 1974-A, sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, would authorize the Council to pass a resolution setting a 0% interest rate for certain COVID-19 impacted homeowners who unable to pay their July 1, 2020 tax bills on time. Eligible properties are those with an assessed value of $250,000 or less that are used by owners as a primary residence and where such owners have incomes below $150,000 or who have already entered into a hardship installment agreement plan with the Department of Finance. The lowered interest rates would be applicable through September 30, 2020.
“The economic impact that COVID-19 has had on the City and our residents can be felt and seen everywhere,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “While we enter the final days before the budget must be adopted, what must be central in these negotiations is the need to ease the financial burden on New Yorkers by investing in vital social supports. This bill balances the need for the City to collect property tax payments to pay for those social supports while extending economic relief to those who need it most. I thank the Speaker for seeing the need to urgently pass this bill and my colleagues for supporting it today.”
Requires the City to develop policies and protocols for the safe reopening and operation of City agencies
Proposed Introduction No. 1950-A, sponsored by Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, would require the Mayor to establish a task force for the purpose of recommending policies and protocols to facilitate the safe reopening and operation of city agencies in response to COVID-19. This bill would also require each city agency to develop a reopening plan and submit that plan to the task force for review. Agencies would be required to publish their final reopening plans online. In addition, the task force would be required to report to the Mayor and Council on how agencies have complied with their obligation to develop and submit reopening plans.
“As New York City continues to flatten the curve and slowly get back to normal, city employees need to have clear guidelines on how to safely return back to work and operate,” said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. “The restart task force will ensure that all city agencies have safe plans in place. I would like to thank Speaker Johnson and the Administration for their continued efforts in keeping the health and safety of city employees a top priority.”
Creates an outdoor dining program
Proposed Introduction No. 1957-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would create an outdoor dining program that would allow restaurants and bars that serve food to temporarily use outdoor spaces like sidewalks, curbs, and streets. These businesses would be allowed to self-certify that they are using sidewalk and curb space directly in front of their business. Under the program, which would be led by the Department of Transportation, the City could terminate or suspend an establishment’s use of a temporary outdoor dining area based on non-compliance with program requirements, complaints, or health or safety needs.
HOUSING & BUILDINGS
Short-term rental platforms reporting requirements
Introduction No. 1976, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, would amend Local Law 146 of 2018, which required online short-term rental platforms that provide booking services for a fee, such as Airbnb, to provide information about those transactions to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. The amendments tailor the reporting requirements to listings for short-term rentals of an entire dwelling unit or housing accommodation and those for three or more persons at the same time.
“After nearly two years of legal battles, I’m excited that today the Council is passing Intro 1976, which will make amendments to my short-term rentals reporting law that the Council passed and the Mayor signed in 2018. These amendments will finally allow the law – the strongest of its kind in the nation – to go into effect, providing the City with the information necessary to fairly and effectively crack down on the countless illegal hotel operators that have kept thousands of apartments off of the market and out of the hands of families desperate for affordable homes,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.
Article XI Property Tax Exemption for 3415 Knox Place in Council Member Cohen’s district in the Bronx – This property will receive a full, 40-year property tax exemption to preserve 25 units of affordable housing.