As the nation’s largest and most diverse city, New York often shows leadership on national issues, especially those affecting vulnerable people and institutions under attack. This year, the Council took bold steps to combat unfair policies and to ensure that all New Yorkers know their city is unwavering in protecting and defending them.
Building Alliances and Better Practices
In April 2017, the Council partnered with the National League of Cities, a national advocacy organization that represents the interests of more than 1,600 cities, to convene municipal legislative leaders from the largest cities across the country to foster legislative collaboration. The meeting provided a forum for leaders to build relationships, exchange best practices, and share ideas on how best to address challenges unique to the nation’s most populous urban centers.
Supporting Cultural and Library Funding from Attack
As president-elect, Donald Trump announced that he planned to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years, and just before assuming office, it was reported that he would first target public cultural institutions. He then proposed privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). A report by the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives and an independent research arm for the conservative movement, also recommended the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The Council passed a resolution calling on President Trump to fully fund CPB, IMLS, NEA, and NEH, and not eliminate or diminish any of these agencies in any form. The resolution recognizes the contribution that federal funding makes in expanding access and equity to arts and culture among New Yorkers, in addition to the invaluable programming and resources made available by libraries.
The Council did not stop at a resolution. In this year’s budget, it secured a landmark $110 million investment to rebuild and remodel the City’s libraries, and made modifications to the Percent for Art law.
The original Percent for Art law, passed in 1982, requires that one percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects be spent on artwork for city facilities. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) currently oversees a panel of individuals who participate in the selection process for upcoming artist commissions. The Council passed a package of legislation that:
- codifies the panel selection process into law and updated funding stipulations to be consistent with the current rate of inflation;
- increases outreach efforts to inform the public about the opportunity to submit works of art for consideration; and
- requires DCLA to publish information about all works of art in the Percent for Art program, as well as aggregated demographic information about the artists whose works of art are in the program, on its website.
Protecting the Data of New Yorkers
In the past year, there has been increased speculation about the use of municipal data for unintended federal enforcement purposes, especially information submitted by individuals for immigration purposes. The Council has stood in opposition to the misuse of this data and passed legislation to protect sensitive and identifying information. This legislation creates a “Chief Privacy Officer,” whose duties include evaluating city data collection and disclosure policies, and providing recommendations to the Mayor, the City Council, and individual city agencies about confidential information policies, as well as shifting legal frameworks around government data.
The legislation also requires that city agencies protect identifying information by limiting its collection and release, except where required by law. In addition, each agency will review its data holdings and collection policies so that, going forward, the City collects only what is necessary to efficiently provide quality services.
Guarding the Right to Safely Access Services
During 2017, a number of arrests and detainments took place while individuals were attempting to access services. The Council addressed possible safety and privacy concerns that may deter New Yorkers from seeking city services by restricting access to more private areas of city property or locations where city services are provided. Specifically, non-local government personnel who enforce civil or criminal laws will not be permitted to access non-public areas of city property, except in limited situations, such as when there is a court order or under exigent circumstances.