The Council has continued to update laws and introduce protections that will produce a fairer, healthier and safer environment for over 8 million New Yorkers. This year, the Council passed legislation on numerous quality of life challenges—including those involving nightlife, tobacco smoke, car-sharing, and nuisance abatement.
Repealing Cabaret Licensing
The original Cabaret Law, which prohibits dancing in businesses without a proper license, dates back to 1926. Critics of the law have noted that its original implementation targeted interracial socializing in the City’s jazz clubs. Advocates of the law’s repeal have also argued that it is antiquated, erratically enforced, and an impediment to the health and growth of the City’s nightlife economy. Over the last several decades, many of the law’s provisions have been struck down in court. Despite the court decisions, most of the unconstitutional provisions remained in the text of the law, causing uneven enforcement and confusion. The courts were not prepared to strike down the Cabaret Law in its entirety due to concerns for public safety and in recognition that a legitimate purpose of the City’s licensing requirements include these concerns.
This year, the Council passed legislation to repeal cabaret licensing, but retains security provisions such as licensed security guards and cameras. The Council also established a nightlife advisory board to study persistent issues in the nightlife industry and an office of nightlife to act as a liaison between the nightlife industry, city agencies, and the community.
Passing Tougher Health Standards
This year, the Council voted to toughen a number of city laws on the sale and use of tobacco products. Together, this package of legislation is projected to save tens of thousands of lives by cutting down the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 by 2020. These bills will:
- raise the minimum price of cigarettes and other tobacco products;
- establish a 10 percent tax on non-cigarette tobacco products, with the proceeds funding public housing;
- cap the number of tobacco and e-cigarette dealers in New York City, with the number gradually being reduced through attrition;
- prohibit smoking and the use of e-cigarettes in common areas of all apartment buildings; and
- require residential buildings to establish smoking policies and distribute them to tenants.
In 2017, the Council also voted to prohibit new hookah lounges and bars from opening, while grandfathering in existing establishments that meet tough new health and safety standards. The bills passed as part of this package raised the minimum age for the purchase of non-tobacco smoking products, such as non-tobacco shisha, and smoking paraphernalia, from 18 to 21.
Increased Automobile Data for Consumer Safety
In 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled nearly 64 million vehicles – a new record that more than doubled the previous one set in 2004. The following year, the record for recalls was broken again. This year, the Council passed legislation requiring secondhand automobile dealers to disclose recall information to consumers when selling automobiles, parts or equipment that are the subject of a recall by the NHTSA.
Reforming Unfair Nuisance Enforcement
The Nuisance Abatement Law was originally designed to address obscenity and prostitution in Times Square. However, in recent years, it has been unevenly enforced and disproportionately affected communities of color. To remedy this, the Council passed a package of legislation that amended the laws to:
- limit the ability of the police to shutter homes and business without giving tenants the opportunity to be heard in court;
- speed up and tighten up these legal processes; and
- eliminate some of the most draconian penalties.
Introducing a Car-Share Pilot Program
As short-term car rental services grow, carsharing is becoming more prevalent in New York City. Existing evidence suggests that carsharing reduces both the number of vehicles on the road and total vehicle miles travelled – a difference that has the potential to ease congestion, reduce pollution and improve parking availability. This year, the Council passed legislation directing the Department of Transportation to conduct a two-year carsharing pilot program during which a limited number of parking spaces, both on the street and in municipal parking facilities, would be reserved for carshare vehicles.