Council also passed legislation to develop more parks, improve efficiency of parks improvement process, and increase tracking of street cleaning
City Hall, NY – Today, the New York City Council voted on a legislative package to increase language access in the City, helping to ensure more New Yorkers can access services and resources in their primary language. For a City that is the most linguistically diverse, home to 3.1 million immigrants, and welcoming an increased number of people seeking asylum, it is critical that New York City is prepared to provide access to services for non-English speaking individuals. The Language Access Act seeks to strengthen services and enhance language access for residents and small business owners, identify the capacity of community-based organizations to provide of language services, and increase the translation of city documents and materials into more of the most commonly spoken languages.
In addition, the Council voted on two pieces of legislation to expand opportunities and prioritize planning for New Yorkers with disabilities. Finally, the Council voted on legislation to develop more parkland, improve the efficiency of parks improvements, and increase the online tracking of street cleaning operations.
The Language Access Act and legislative package for New Yorkers with disabilities were derived from proposals in Speaker Adrienne Adams State of the City address earlier this year.
“A city as diverse as New York should provide critical opportunities, resources, and services that are accessible to all New Yorkers,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “In my State of the City address, I proposed legislative ideas to make our city more inclusive and accessible. With the passage of these important bills, our city has taken another significant step to assist everyone who calls our great city home and support their success. I thank Council Members Lee, Ung, Krishnan, Won, and Brewer for their leadership, and all of our colleagues for their support.”
Language Access Act
In 2017, the Council adopted Local Law 30, known as the Language Access Law, which requires city agencies to translate commonly distributed documents into 10 designated languages that are most spoken in New York City by individuals with limited English proficiency, among other requirements.
The Council’s language access package, first proposed in Speaker Adams’ State of the City address, seeks to strengthen the services outlined in the Language Access Law.
Most contracts for non-English language translation and interpretation services are sent to large language companies outside of New York that provide general translation services. However, these companies may not provide appropriate translation for many of the various nonstandard dialects spoken by many of the City’s immigrant communities. In a typical year, the City can spend up to roughly $19 million on these services. As a result, many immigrant New Yorkers or those with limited English proficiency turn to their friends and families or community-based organizations (CBOs) or non-profits that are not funded by the city to conduct translation. Introduction 136-B, sponsored by Council Member Julie Won, would require an agency, designated by the Mayor, to conduct a survey of relevant community-based organizations (CBOs) assessing their capacity to provide translation, interpretation and other related language services.
With the arrival of many people seeking asylum who do not primarily speak English, the city must expand upon the Language Access Law and provide critical services to these migrants and their families, including city agencies. Introduction 700-A, also sponsored by Council Member Won, would require city agencies that provide direct or emergency services to translate commonly distributed documents that relate to the enforcement of local laws and rules. These documents would need to be translated into each of the ten designated citywide languages spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency.
“Language Access is a matter of life and death. In our city, we have seen the deaths of families who were not able to understand warnings in English about the deadly flooding from Hurricane Ida. This week we witnessed the second tragic suicide of a recent migrant who could not access mental health services due to a stark lack of non-English mental health and welfare services in our city. As our city continues to welcome thousands of new migrants and refugees with the end of Title 42, it’s critical to provide culturally competent language translations and interpretation services to our new neighbors,” said Council Member Julie Won. “My bills, Intro 136 and Intro 700, will expand language access for vulnerable populations, so that our immigrant neighbors and business owners have access to critical information in their own languages. We have secured $5 million in funding to establish the first language access co-op in the country, as well as a Community Interpreter Bank in partnership with the Language Access Coalition. Thank you to the Speaker, City Council, and African Communities Together, Asian American Federation, MASA, and NYIC for prioritizing language access for our immigrant communities.”
As the City welcomes an overwhelming number of people seeking asylum, New York City is presented with an urgent temporary need for additional translation and interpretation services to accommodate migrants and their families who speak languages other than English. Introduction 697-A, sponsored by Council Member Sandra Ung, would help ensure that city agencies are prepared to serve large populations who are migrating to the City and do not speak one of the designated citywide languages. This legislation would require the Office of the Language Services Coordinator, upon being informed of a conflict, natural disaster, or other event that is likely to cause a significant number of individuals to arrive in the City and seek city services, to identify the primary languages spoken by those individuals and list such languages online. City agencies providing food, shelter, or other urgent assistance to the impacted population would then need to translate relevant documents and make interpretation services available in the languages identified.
“Intro 697-A will allow the city to better serve some of New York City’s newest residents, many of whom have been forced to leave their home countries, fleeing dangerous and even deadly situations,” said Council Member Sandra Ung. “My bill would ensure that the city is providing language services beyond the citywide designated languages in neighborhoods where people in protected communities are building new ones. As a beacon for individuals from across the world, the United States welcomes those who would seek asylum or refuge from war, famine, and other tragedies. It is incumbent on us as a city to ensure that those individuals are receiving services in the languages they speak.”
Immigrant New Yorkers are major contributors to the City’s economy, comprising over 30% of the City’s workforce and own roughly one half of the City’s businesses. However, many immigrant small business owners do not speak English as their primary language, making interactions with the City difficult to navigate. Introduction 699-A, sponsored by Council Member Ung, would require the Business Owners Bill of Rights and the Food Service Establishment Code of Conduct (documents produced by the City that inform small business owners of their rights during inspections and other enforcement activities) to be translated into additional languages and include additional information about language access services provided by the City. In addition, the bill would require city agencies that regularly conduct inspections to report annually on the number of bilingual inspectors they employ. Finally, the bill would require the Hearings Division of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings to provide small business owners with translations of written decisions upon request. The legislation would help support the immigrant small business community by ensuring that small business owners and operators receive critical information from the City in their preferred language.
“For small business owners who are focused on their day-to-day operations, staying knowledgeable of and complying with the myriad rules and regulations imposed by the city can be a challenge,” said Council Member Sandra Ung. “But for business owners with limited English proficiency it can be an especially daunting task. Intro 699-A will help our immigrant entrepreneurs better understand their rights and responsibilities by requiring citywide agencies to communicate with them in their preferred language. Immigrant-owned small businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy, and these efforts to expand language access will remove another barrier to their success.”
Most of the time, immigrant small business owners are unable to understand settlement offers since they are always provided in English. Under this legislation, city agencies would provide these small business owners with guidance in plain language so they can better respond and navigate the settlement process. Introduction 382-A, sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer, would provide in-language guidance to small business owners who receive a settlement offer from the City after being charged with a violation of the Administrative Code or the City Rules.The bill would require each settlement offer sent by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) or the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to be accompanied by a multilingual notice that: (1) informs the recipient that they are receiving a settlement offer because they are being charged with a violation of the law; and (2) directs the recipient (via a QR code or similar mechanism) to a portion of the agency’s website with plain language information about the recipient’s options for responding to the settlement offer. Both the notice and the online information would need to be translated into each of the designated citywide languages.
“Half of New York City small business owners are foreign born, and 3.8 million New Yorkers speak a language other than English,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “Important city matters like a violation or the result of an inspection can be very challenging to understand. This bill allows business owners to choose their preferred language for written communications. I started working on this issue in 2002 with John Liu when we passed first law to mandate translation services in New York City.”
Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction
Despite federal, state and city anti-discrimination protection for people with disabilities, working age New Yorkers with disabilities face extremely high rates of unemployment, largely due to accessibility of workplaces and public transit, disability-related stigma in the application process and in job advancement, and lack of resources from employers to address their needs and unique talents. The unemployment rate for New Yorkers with disabilities was 16.8 percent in 2021, nearly double the rate among those without one – these disparities worsen when accounting for race, ethnicity or specific disability.
Introduction 681-A, sponsored by Council Member Linda Lee, would require the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development (MOTWD) and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) to collaborate to create and publicize a workforce development program for persons with disabilities in NYC. The proposed bill would also expand the existing NYC: ATWORK program by requiring SBS, MOTWD, and MOPD to maintain an online resource to connect employers and job seekers, which would include a current list of all vacant positions from participating employers.
Introduction 682-A, also sponsored by Council Member Lee, would require MOPD to work with every city agency to devise five-year accessibility plans from each agency no later than March 15, 2024. These plans will outline the steps an agency will take over the next five years to improve the physical, digital, and programmatic access to its workplace, services, and programs.
“As a former social worker and now Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions, I’ve seen how the pandemic disproportionately affected the nearly 1 million people in New York with disabilities who are disproportionately unemployed/underemployed and impoverished,” said Council Member Linda Lee. “This legislation is about making good on the promise of equal access for all New Yorkers and strengthening our City’s workforce to achieve a full and equitable economic recovery. Crafting and fine-tuning this legislation would have been impossible without the many advocates of New York City’s disability community. I also want to thank the city agencies who assisted us during this process, my colleagues at the Council and Administration for their support, and Speaker Adams for her leadership in declaring this a priority at the beginning of this legislative session and for her commitment to seeing this through.”
Committee on Parks and Recreation
Concerns regarding the implementation of capital projects by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the overall efficiency of the process, has been a point of consternation with many elected officials, community members and park advocates expressing frustration regarding delays, cost overruns and lack of communication between the Parks Department and funders of capital projects.
Introduction 174-A, sponsored by Council Member Shekar Krishnan, would require the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to expand its web based capital projects tracker to include more detailed information regarding its capital projects, including the total number of projects in its portfolio, the reasons for any delays, the dates projects were fully funded, projected and actual cost overruns, individual sources of funding and the length of time it took to complete each project.
Introduction. 842-A, sponsored by Council Member Krishnan, would require the Department of Parks and Recreation to prepare a strategy, in coordination with other city agencies as appropriate, to reduce the duration of capital projects by at least 25 percent. The strategy would review, at a minimum, early completion incentives; standardization of processes, timelines, and forms; coordination with utility companies; and possible changes to regulatory barriers. The strategy would have to be submitted to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council by no later than December 1, 2023.
Dead end streets in residential areas are sometimes simply an inaccessible asphalt or concrete space, unusable to its neighbors. Similarly, highway exits and entrances may sometimes feature thin slivers of concreted-land, not otherwise put to beneficial use. A micro park, bioswale, or vegetation planting can not only improve the aesthetics of these places, but also put them to productive use in providing stormwater drainage and local cooling. Introduction 680-A, sponsored by Council Member Krishnan, would require an agency or office designated by the mayor, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and any other appropriate agency, to review sites, owned by the city of New York in residential zones in each borough, on streets with dead ends and vacant land in close proximity to such streets, and land that abuts highway entrances, underpasses and exits, that are suitable for the planting of trees or other vegetation, or for establishing bioswales, small parks or other green spaces.
“As the pandemic pushed us indoors, it also revealed the life-saving, restorative value of public open spaces,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “If we are to meet the challenges of public health, public safety, & climate change in New York City, our parks will be critical. The bills being voted on in today’s Stated Meeting of the City Council will empower us to build more public spaces — parks and playgrounds, athletic fields and recreation centers — faster than ever before.”
Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management
The Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) snow plows are equipped with GPS technology that allows the public to track the progress of DSNY snow removal on City streets. This technology helps inform the public of when streets are cleared of snow or ice. However, DSNY’s street sweepers are not required to have such technology or provide real-time data of when streets have been cleaned. Equipping street sweepers with GPS would allow New Yorkers to better track the progress of street sweeping operations in their neighborhoods.
Introduction 630-A, sponsored by Council Member Sandy Nurse, would require DSNY to equip street sweepers with GPS technology and ensure that such technology is functioning during street cleaning operations. It would also require DSNY to publish and maintain a page on its website that allows the public to track and confirm the completion of street cleanings, using data from the GPS devices installed on street sweepers. Furthermore, it would also require DSNY to submit biannual reports for two years on street cleanings to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council and post the reports on the DSNY website.
This local law would take effect immediately.
“Today, I’m proud that the NYC Council passed my first bill,” said Council Member Sandy Nurse. “SweepNYC. Intro 630 brings transparency to DSNY street sweeping operations by requiring GPS trackers on DSNY street sweeper vehicles and allowing the public to track and confirm the completion of street cleanings. The same way New Yorkers track DSNY snow plowing operations with PlowNYC, they will also be able to track street cleaning operations with SweepNYC. As Chair of the Sanitation Committee, our team launched the #GetSanitationDone budget campaign in March to fight against cuts to vital sanitation services. I’m thrilled to end the year by spearheading this new law that directly solves a quality of life problem many New Yorkers experience. We cannot accept litter on our streets as the new normal. I’m proud of our team and the Sanitation Committee for creating more accountability and equitable street cleaning operations citywide.”
The Council also passed the following Finance items:
- Pre-considered resolution: Sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan, which amends a previous exemption for one building in Hell’s Kitchen.
- Transparency Resolution: Approving new designations and changes of certain organizations receiving funding in the Expense Budget.
The Council also passed the following Rules items:
- Isabel Castilla, as a member of the New York City Public Design Commission
- James Van Bramer, as a member of the New York City Public Design Commission