Ennis Playground – What’s your vision?

You might have seen that that last year, my office—together with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams—allocated $1.85 million in public funding to renovate Ennis Playground -- located between 11th & 12th Streets and 2nd & 3rd Avenues in Gowanus. We’re working together with the NYC Parks Department to upgrade the entire park over the next few years, including the children’s play area, basketball courts, and seating area. Read more »

Statement of NYC Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres on the First NYC “School Diversity Accountability Act” Annual Report

New York City Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres, co-sponsors of the “School Diversity Accountability Act” (Local Law 59 of 2015 and City Council Resolution 453 of 2015), issued the following statement after the release of the first annual report by the NYC Department of Education:

Confronting segregation and advancing diversity in NYC’s public schools is an urgent moral, practical, and policy imperative. It will not be achieved quickly, but that cannot be an excuse for inaction.

Our goal in legislating the ‘School Diversity Accountability Act’ was to create an annual report to measure how we are doing, see what steps we are taking, and begin to measure progress — or lack thereof — each year. Read more »

Statement by City Council Member Brad Lander on Allegations of NYPD Crime Statistics Downgrading by Ray Kelly

"Ongoing oversight of NYPD crime statistics reporting is a valuable function for the NYPD Inspector General, regardless of who is mayor or commissioner, and part of why we worked to establish the office -- but Ray Kelly has zero credibility on the topic, since he actively prevented meaningful oversight and harshly attacked accusers of nearly-identical charges multiple times during this tenure.  Read more »

Looking back, looking forward – our 2015 year-in-review

In many ways, the closing months of 2015 have been unsettling ones.

Attacks in Paris and San Bernadino renewed our fear of terrorism, and overall the U.S. saw almost as many mass shootings as days of the year. The backlash (fueled by vitriol from the Republican primary campaign trail) has posed threats to the core values of freedom and tolerance symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. Meanwhile, the abnormally warm weather (December was the most “abnormally warm” month in recorded history) has us rightly worried about climate change. Just this week, the absence of any consequences for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland again exposes the gaping flaws in our justice system. And rising street homelessness has called our attention to the ongoing problems on inequality and poverty in our own city.

But in each case, we’ve stood together and sought to make a difference. Read more »

Gowanus Canal Clean Up Update

Update: On April 15, 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reached in agreement on the location of two sewage and stormwater retention tanks in Gowanus: an eight-million gallon tank will be built on privately-owned property along the Canal, between Butler and Degraw Streets, and a smaller four-million gallon tank will be located on a City-owned property at 2nd Avenue and 5th Streets. You can read the full agreement here.

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Black mayonnaise. Poo-nami.  Rumors of a three-eyed catfish.  

I know this update isn’t well-themed for the holiday season – I’m not aware of any Christmas carols about “combined sewer overflows” – but we wanted to give you an end-of-year update on the work to clean up the Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal has been deeply polluted for more than a century, making it a long-time source of local lore—and cringe-inducing headlines.

However, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the canal as a “Superfund” site in 2010 (after longstanding advocacy by many local leaders), the Federal, State, and City government have all committed significant resources to reversing many decades of environmental degradation and neglect. Projects are underway that will, over the next several years: dredge the toxic sludge at the bottom of the waterway, curtail its use as an open sewer, remediate the land nearby, and minimize neighborhood flooding.

Here’s some of the progress toward a cleaner Gowanus that we’ve seen in the past year: Read more »

#AnnotateNYC (my first trip to genius.com)

Earlier this month, I had the chance to visit the new genius.com HQ (on 3rd Street between Hoyt & Bond, just a few steps from the Gowanus Canal).

genius.com (aka rapgenius.com) allows users to annotate & interpret song lyrics, news stories, and any other form of text on the web.  It was launched in 2009 with a focus on hip-hop lyrics, and expanded in 2014 to cover other forms of media. This year, they moved to Gowanus, so I went by to check it out.

Although I’m not certainly not a hip-hop connoisseur, I love the idea of a community of people annotating, interpreting, and arguing about text. It’s a lot like an online version of the Talmud. Or a University of Chicago seminar. Or a committee mark-up of a piece of legislation.

So I’ve signed up, and tried my hand at my first two annotations. Read more »

Why (as a library-lover) I'm supporting the Brooklyn Heights Library project

I am voting today in strong support for the Brooklyn Heighs Library project (you can read about the project here) and wanted to take the opportunity to explain my vote. While I respect the opinion of those who disagree, to me it is clear that this is a big win for our public libraries – one that will help secure the BPL system for years to come. This is not an apology, or a compromise. It’s a good and important project, and I am genuinely proud to support it.

I love our public libraries. To me, they are essential public spaces – not only for learning to love reading and getting lost in books (so deeply important to me), but also for education, access to technology (fundamental in the 21st century), learning history, appreciating & making culture, community organizing and events and classes, immigrant integration, job-seeking and so much more. They are both magical and urgently practical places.

Read more »

New Family Shelter at 385 McDonald Avenue

Thank you to the many neighbors who attended last week’s meeting (at PS 230) about the new shelter for families at 385 McDonald Avenue. The Kensington community had a respectful conversation on a highly-charged topic.

At the meeting, representatives from NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and CAMBA (the Brooklyn not-for-profit organization that will be running the shelter) presented detailed plans and addressed many of the concerns raised by neighbors. Read more »

New York Times Op-Ed: "What Would It Take to Integrate Our Schools?"

Orignially published in the New York Times, December 15, 2015

By Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres 

Even though we may believe that “separate but equal” public schools are inherently unequal, we haven’t been prepared to do much about it. In recent years, we’ve rarely even talked about it.

But over the past year, as the nation’s attention has turned to issues of racial justice, we’ve at least resumed the conversation. Powerful episodes of public radio’s “This American Life” (“This Problem We All Live With”) called attention to an attempt at integration in St. Louis, featuring the high school Michael Brown attended, and to a much more successful effort in Hartford.

An eye-opening study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, woke us up to the finding that New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country — and more segregated than they were a decade ago. This fall, rezoning proposals in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side raised hard questions about race, class, segregation and gentrification.

Read more »

Protecting Freelancers from Getting Stiffed

New York City is the freelance capital of the world, with over 1.3 million freelancers, so many of them right here in Brooklyn. More and more people are working “by the gig” (as graphic designers, film producers, for-hire drivers, nannies, and much more), rather than for a regular paycheck.

But despite the rapidly growing percentage of workers who are paid this way, our laws have not kept up with our changing economy. As a result, gig economy workers don’t have the protections and benefits of traditional employees.

One consequence: more than 70% of freelancers report having been stiffed out of payments they were owed – by being paid too late, too little, or not at all – to the tune of $6,390 every year, on average. I’ve heard stories from individuals who were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars they were owed.

Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, on time and in full. So on Monday, in partnership with the Freelancer’s Union, I introduced the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”  Read more »

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