City Hall, NY – Today, the Council voted on legislation to ensure transparency and equal access at New York City’s 311 Customer Service Center, operated by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT). From long wait times to lack of language access, New Yorkers commonly face problems while attempting to get assistance. The Council’s legislation seeks to improve 311 by increasing transparency on wait times, efficiently identifying languages spoken by callers, and ensuring that the 311 Customer Service Center is proactively informed and equipped to address the need for new and updated service request/complaint types.
“New York City is well known for our diversity, including the hundreds of languages spoken throughout our neighborhoods,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “It is critical that all New Yorkers can easily access 311 services in their preferred language to receive the assistance and resources they need. The Council’s legislation is an important step to address longstanding issues with 311 and improve transparency on wait times for service requests. I thank Chair Gutierrez and Council Member Ung for their leadership and prioritizing the needs of all New Yorkers.”
Introduction 206-A, sponsored by Council Member Sandra Ung, seeks to increase transparency regarding the wait times experienced by individuals who request an interpreter during their calls to the 311 Customer Service Center. It would require the Commissioner of DOITT to compile and make publicly available a monthly dataset including the wait times (in number of seconds) experienced by individuals who request an interpreter during their calls to the 311 Customer Service Center.
Introduction 296-A, also sponsored by Council Member Ung, would require the development and updating of a protocol for identifying the languages spoken by callers to 311 in order to better facilitate requests for interpretation services. The bill would also require this protocol, and any subsequent updates to the protocol, to be posted to the 311 Customer Service Center website within 7 days after implementation and updating, respectively. The 311 Customer Service Center would additionally be required to report on the implementation of and updates to the protocol.
“Roughly 25 percent of New Yorkers are considered to have limited English proficiency, and they deserve the same access to government services and information as their English-speaking neighbors,” said Council Member Sandra Ung. “Unfortunately, when they call 311 they encounter obstacles and delays accessing the information and resources they need. These two bills will create protocols to ease their connection to an interpreter, while releasing data on wait times will provide a level of transparency that will help us understand their experiences when calling 311. I want to thank Speaker Adams for her leadership and bringing these bills to the City Council floor for a vote.”
Introduction 240-A, sponsored by Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, would require, that within 30 days of the effective date of a local law that an agency head determines would allow someone to request a new service from the agency, the agency head notify 311 of the possible need to add or update a service request category on the 311 platforms. This bill would also require reporting on such additions and updates, and would require 311 to create a publicly available dataset including information on submission of correspondence from the public requesting the addition to, or updating of, 311 service request categories.
“Submitting a 311 request is, first and foremost, a tool to address issues that New Yorkers see in their communities – but in many ways, it is also the performance of a civic duty,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “New Yorkers are contributing to and creating a huge dataset that our City can use to make our services, responses, and funding allocations more proactive, productive, and equitable. New Yorkers know firsthand the issues that the City needs to address, and this legislation, Intro 240, enables us to elevate new issues, ensures that new service requests can be implemented, and creates transparency around agencies’ responsiveness to issues.”
In addition, the Council will vote on the following legislation addressing storefront vacancies and supporting small businesses in the post-pandemic era. The below legislation would alleviate obstacles small businesses face when engaging with City agencies by creating a business online portal and making more timely updates to a registry of current vacant storefronts.
Introduction 116-A, sponsored by Council Member Julie Menin, would require the Department of Small Business Services to create an online portal that includes all permit and license applications, as well as related applicable information, needed to open and operate a small business of any kind in New York City. The portal, which would be required to be available in English as well as ten languages commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, would also allow business owners to track the status of their permit and license application(s), and allow (or include a link that allows) business owners to settle or pay outstanding balances on notices of violation. It would also require a survey of small businesses every three years to determine how the online portal is working effectively and what improvements could be made.
“As a former small business owner, I understand how frustrating it is to traverse through the alphabet soup of city agencies to maintain and open a small business,” said Council Member Julie Menin. Centralizing the process of obtaining vital information to operate your business will make a world of difference. Small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have the time to take days off to figure out the logistics of being in compliance, nor should they have to. We lost so many small businesses during the pandemic and a one-stop shop small business portal provides the necessary support that our small businesses need to survive and thrive,”
Introduction 383-A, sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer, would clarify the dates by which a commercial landlord must notify the City if a space has become vacant before the next submission date. The City would then keep a more up-to-date registry of storefront vacancies that would be made available to the public. This bill serves as a continuation of legislation the Council passed at the request of then-Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, which created a citywide commercial premises registry.
“High rates of commercial vacancy and a blight of empty storefronts negatively impact quality of life and stifle economic growth. As Borough President I sponsored legislation with Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Helen Rosenthal to establish the first in the nation publicly accessible database to track retail vacancies. The database went live in 2021, and work needs to be done to increase its usefulness as a tool to address continued commercial vacancy,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer (D-06). “Introduction 383 will require reporting on vital information to assess the proliferation of commercial vacancies– including whether ground floor commercial properties are currently vacant, owner or commercial tenant occupied, and the expiration date of the last lease. This will provide more data to observe patterns and trends to make better decisions.”
231-06 Northern Boulevard Commercial Overlay – A zoning map amendment to establish a C2-2 commercial overlay on an existing R1-2 zoning district to facilitate the enlargement of the Mizumi restaurant on Northern Boulevard and allow local retail and services on neighboring properties. The council is modifying the application to reduce the size of the area of the proposed overlay, by changing its eastern boundary from 234th street to 233rd street, in Council Member Vickie Paladino’s district.
2017 Grand Concourse – The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will facilitate a new 9-story residential building containing approximately 33 affordable housing units; 8 of which will be provided to formerly homeless seniors through the AIRS program, in Council Member’s Pierina Ana Sanchez district.
Halletts North Rezoning – Astoria Owners LLC seeks a zoning map amendment from M1-1 to R7-3/ C2-4 and related zoning text amendments, waterfront authorizations, and a city map amendment to facilitate a new mixed-use development on the waterfront of the Halletts Point peninsula in northwest Queens. It will include a projected 1,340 housing units, 335 permanently affordable units under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), 525 parking spaces, 525 bicycle spaces, 1,800 square feet of commercial use, 21,500 square feet of community facility space and approximately one acre of open space, including a waterfront esplanade. The Council is modifying the application to map the MIH Option to include the deep affordability and amend the site plan to restore the pedestrian walkway to its regulated width of 10 feet, in Council Member Tiffany Cabán’s district.
Resolution 306A: Will set October 12, 2022, as the date for a public hearing on legislation to authorize increases in the annual expenditures for 5 Business Improvement Districts:
- The Fifth Avenue BID
- The 125th Street BID
- The Columbus/Amsterdam BID
- The DUMBO BID
- And the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID
Transparency Resolution: Approving new designations and changes of certain organizations receiving funding in the Expense Budget.