The Council will also vote on bills to protect tenants and create a permanent open streets program
City Hall, NY – Since nearly 60% of New Yorkers don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement plan, the Council will vote on a bill to establish a City-facilitated retirement savings program for private sector employees. The bill creates a mandatory auto-enrollment IRA program for employers that do not offer a retirement plan and employ at least five people. Employees would have the option to adjust their contribution levels or opt out of the program at any time. The retirement plan would also be portable, giving these employees the opportunity to continue their contribution or roll over their accounts into other plans. This program will give more New Yorkers the opportunity to plan for a secure and stable retirement. Additionally, the Council will vote on a bill to establish a retirement savings board to facilitate the implementation of the program.
The Council will also vote on three housing related bills, including one that expands the local law guaranteeing legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings and allows them to get help more quickly. Local Law 136, the City’s “Right to Counsel” law, already requires the Office of Civil Justice (OCJ) to provide free legal representation to low-income tenants facing eviction. Currently, services are only available in 25 zip codes throughout New York City, as the law is being phased in. The bill being voted upon today requires the immediate implementation of the program for all tenants facing eviction proceedings in housing court citywide.
The second housing bill, which is designed to improve tenant outreach, requires the OCJ coordinator to collaborate with community groups in engaging and educating tenants of their rights in housing court. This would better ensure that tenants who are eligible for the Universal Access to Legal Services program are made aware of their rights.
After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many New Yorkers indoors, the Council will also vote on a bill to make the previously implemented Open Streets Program permanent. The program would ensure that open streets are managed either by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or by community organizations. It would require that DOT manage or provide resources to at least 20 open streets sites in areas that would be otherwise underserved. DOT would additionally provide resources to other open street sites as available.
The Council will also vote on a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass and the President to sign the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021. Currently, federal law does not grant automatic citizenship to all children brought to the U.S. for adoption, and this legislation would change that by securing U.S. citizenship for those children currently excluded, even if they are now adults or aging into adulthood.
Finally, the Council will vote on several land use items.
CIVIL SERVICE AND LABOR
Creates retirement savings program for private-sector employees
Int. 888-A, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, will establish a mandatory auto-enrollment payroll deduction IRA program for employees of private sector employers which do not offer a retirement plan and employ five or more employees. The default employee contribution rate would be 5%, which employees can adjust up or down, or opt-out of at any time, up to the annual IRA maximum of $6,000 (or $7,000 if age 50 or above). The plan would be portable so when employees switch jobs they can continue to contribute or roll over their accounts into other retirement savings plans. Employers would not contribute on behalf of employees.
Out of roughly 3.5 million private sector workers in New York City, only 41% have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, lower than the national average (53%), and down from 49% a decade ago. 40% of New Yorkers near retirement age have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
The bill would take effect in 90 days, however, the retirement security board, created by Int. No. 901-A, would have up to two years after its enactment to implement the program.
“Even in our beloved but expensive City where the cost of living is high, every New Yorker should be able to save for retirement. This legislation is a huge first step in helping generations of New Yorkers working for small businesses to save and be that much more ready to be self-sufficient when it is time to retire. With this legislation, New York City is leading the way by providing residents something in addition to their social security,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who is an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney. “Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson for prioritizing this and focusing on it so that it could pass into law today. I can’t wait to help millions of New Yorkers to have a more secure future.”
Int. 901-A, sponsored by Council Member Daneek Miller, will establish a retirement savings board to facilitate the implementation the retirement security program created by Int. No. 888-A. The board would consist of three members, who are appointed by the Mayor.
The powers of the board include determining the start date of the program, entering into contracts with financial institutions and administrators, minimizing fees and costs associated with the administration of the program, creating a process for those not employed by a covered employer to participate, and conducting education and outreach to employers and employees. The board would work with the Comptroller—who is responsible for managing trust funds held by the City, such as the pension funds—to select the investment strategies and policies. The board would be required to report annually on its activities and actions.
The bill would take effect in 90 days, however, the board would have up to two years to implement the program.
“Our ‘Retirement for All’ legislative package, consisting of Introduction 0901, sponsored by myself, and Introduction 0888 sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, will finally give private-sector workers a reliable, City-sponsored opportunity to save for retirement. This joint package of legislation will create individual retirement accounts for private-sector workers at businesses of more than five employees who are not offered retirement savings plans and a board to oversee the investment of funds to the IRAs and conduct education and outreach to eligible workers. As Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee, I am proud to have sponsored such legislation and thank Speaker Johnson and my colleagues for their support. This legislation will allow more than half of working New Yorkers to lay a foundation for their future, and will particularly benefit communities of color that have seen their average household wealth plummet for over three decades,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “This legislation is long overdue and despite efforts of the past Administration which sued states to suppress this opportunity, a vote today will affirm the Council’s commitment to the City’s private sector workforce and ensure workers have a better quality of life upon their retirement.”
HOUSING AND BUILDINGS
Tenant privacy data
The legislation additionally restricts owners from collecting data about a tenants’ usage of utilities and internet services, except that such data may be shared with a third party for purposes of improving the building’s energy efficiency. This bill would establish a private right of action for the unlawful sale of data collected through a smart access system covered by the bill. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development would be required to inform tenants and owners of multiple dwellings about the provisions of this law.
A growing number of New York City landlords have been replacing keys with electronic or keyless entry systems, including but not limited to key fobs, biometric identifiers, or electronic technologies (collectively, “smart access systems”). These keyless systems enable access to residential buildings and certain common areas within those buildings using key fobs, biometric identifiers, or other technology in lieu of conventional mechanical keys. The increasing prevalence of these systems in multiple dwellings across the City has raised concerns about the privacy and protection of tenants’ and their guests’ data.
Proposed Int. No. 1760-A would take effect 60 days after it becomes law, except that no owner of a multiple dwelling with an existing smart access system would be liable for a violation of any provision of this law until January 1, 2023, in order to give owners time to upgrade or update the existing system to bring it into compliance with this legislation.
Legal services for tenants facing eviction
Int. 2050-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, will amend Local Law 136 by requiring the immediate implementation of the program for tenants facing eviction proceedings in housing court citywide, and would thereby include tenants in all zip codes. The bill would take effect immediately.
In 2017, the City Council passed Local Law 136, known as the Universal Access to Legal Services (UA) or “Right to Counsel” law, which tasks the Office of Civil Justice (OCJ) with providing free legal representation to tenants earning no more than 200% percent of the federal poverty level and who are facing either eviction in Housing Court or tenancy termination from New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Local Law 136 also requires OCJ to provide free limited legal assistance to tenants who earn more than 200% of the federal poverty level. The law mandated that OCJ implement these programs before Fiscal Year 2022. To meet the law’s mandate of providing legal counsel to low-income tenants, OCJ gradually expanded the program throughout the City, adding coverage to individuals in select zip codes. Currently, residents of 25 zip codes are eligible. In light of COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, an eviction moratorium was placed across New York. According to a report by the National Council of State Housing Agencies, anywhere from 800,000 to 1.2 million New Yorkers have fallen behind on monthly rent obligations, making access to legal counsel important once the eviction moratorium lapses.
“We are facing the very real potential of the worst avalanche of evictions in the city’s history,” said Council Member Levine. “Expanding Right to Counsel to all zip codes immediately is critical to protecting vulnerable New Yorkers still dealing with the devastating aftermath of the pandemic. We are telling all tenants today loud and clear – you will not have to face the terrible prospect of losing your home on your own. We know that representation works – and we know that in the majority of cases having a lawyer means better outcomes for tenants. The stakes l couldn’t be higher – we need to make sure that New Yorkers facing eviction are staying in their homes, off the streets, and out of the shelter system and we need to give more people access to this program NOW.”
Outreach campaign about housing court rights
Int. 1529-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, will require the Office of Civil Justice coordinator to collaborate with community groups in engaging and educating tenants of their rights in housing court, and then report on their efforts.
Advocates and legal service providers have said that tenant outreach is an area that needs substantial improvement. According to advocates, many tenants who are eligible for the Universal Access to Legal Services program are unaware of their right to legal counsel and therefore never make it to Housing Court, where legal counsel is provided.
The bill would take effect 180 days after it becomes law.
Making Open Streets program permanent
Int. 1933-A, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera and Speaker Corey Johnson, will require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate an annual open streets program to provide additional street space to pedestrians and other non- vehicular street users.
Under this program, open streets could be managed by DOT or by community organizations. The bill would create a process by which community organizations could apply to operate an open street and outline factors DOT must consider or selection, require that DOT manage or provide resources to at least 20 open streets sites in areas that would be otherwise underserved by the program, and require that DOT provide resources to other open streets as available.
DOT would also annually evaluate open streets to determine whether to apply permanent design changes, from traffic calming measures to conversion to a shared street or pedestrian plaza. Finally, the bill would provide for notice to council members and community boards, and require DOT to report on recommendations for modifications to the program.
Originally designed as an emergency measure at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the open streets program has provided communities with access to new public space for walking, biking and other outdoor activities. Many community organizations – especially those in neighborhoods with limited existing access to parks or other open space – have called for the program to be made permanent.
This bill would take effect 120 days after it becomes law.
“From Avenue B in my District, to 34th Avenue in Queens and Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, it’s clear that Open Streets aren’t just a solution to social distancing challenges posed by the pandemic – they are a successful model for pedestrian prioritization that have helped save local businesses, inspire entrepreneurs and performing artists, and connect us to our neighbors in a way that few City programs have before. It’s time we expand this program equitably and make it permanent. That’s why I’m proud that the legislation we are passing today not only requires DOT to use equity metrics and supply staff and resources for at least 20 Open Streets, but that it also provides more opportunities for Open Streets operators to implement new features on their streets and pursue permanent infrastructure changes as well. This is the kind of quick-build mentality we should be bringing to transportation and infrastructure projects across our City as we recover from the pandemic and build back a New York City that is green, resilient, and accessible to all,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.
Supports legislation to grant citizenship to internationally adopted children
Resolution 1229, sponsored by Council Member Peter Koo, calls on the United States Congress to pass and the President to sign legislation that would extend citizenship, without exception, to all internationally adopted children, upon entry into the United States. The most recent legislation that related to this was the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021(H.R. 1593 / S. 967).
Current laws do not grant automatic citizenship to all children brought to the United States for the purposes of adoption. Rather, it is currently the responsibility of adopted parents to ensure that adoptions are finalized within the U.S. and citizenship separately sought for those adopted children who entered the U.S. under visa categories ineligible for automatic citizenship.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 attempted to address the existing gap by granting automatic citizenship to certain categories of internationally adopted children, however it excluded: (1) adopted children who were 18 years of age, or older, at the time of the Act’s passage; (2) children adopted after the Act’s passage, whose adoptions were not finalized in the countries of their birth and thus did not enter the U.S. on specific visas; and (3) children who entered the U.S. on non-immigrant or humanitarian visas. Unfortunately, failure to finalize adoption and naturalization filings can result in the depriving the adopted child of citizenship. Often, the cost alone of filing for citizenship can be prohibitive to adoptive parents.
Council Member Peter Koo stated, “Too many adoptees are forced to live in the shadows because of a loophole that should have been closed long ago. These are adoptees who were legally adopted by American citizens but have been denied the rights and security of citizenship. They are our family members, our friends, and our neighbors, and it is far past time that we treat them with the basic human dignity that they deserve. It is time to welcome them home as Americans.”
69 Adams Street, New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), seek approval for disposition of 98,446 zoning square feet of development rights for commercial use from two City-owned lots under the Manhattan Bridge overpass to facilitate the construction of a 25-story “as-of-right” mixed-use building, in Council Member Stephen Levin’s district.
135-137 Bedford Avenue, Dawn Kiernan and NRL URF LLC, seeks a zoning map amendment to map a C1-4 zoning district over existing R6A and R6B districts on the eastern side of Bedford Avenue between North 9th and North 10th Streets. The commercial overlay will facilitate the construction of a new 5-story building with a commercial ground floor and residential units above, in Council Member Stephen Levin’s district.
The New Penn Development I & II, are HPD UDAAP applications in Council Member Inez Barron’s district, that will facilitate the construction of ten new buildings, including approximately 71 affordable units eight of which will be dedicated to the Affordable Independent Residences for seniors program.