A web designer, a model, and a freelance court reporter walk into City Hall…

It should be the set-up line for a joke. But instead, it was to tell their stories of wage theft. The web designer, the model, and the freelance court reporter had all been cheated out of thousands of dollars for work they had done.

At a New York City Council hearing last Monday, more than 100 graphic designers, consultants, writers, and other representatives of NYC’s 1.3 million independent workers turned out in droves to testify. Read more »

Super Tuesday, PBNYC style: Take action for democracy tonight!

The Super Tuesday results are coming in … from Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and even American Samoa.

But you can take “Super Tuesday” action for democracy, right now, right here in Brooklyn!

That’s because we’re quickly coming up on our 5th Year of Participatory Budgeting (PBNYC), the process by which New Yorkers vote to fund specific community projects (submitted by their neighbors) designed to improve their neighborhood public spaces. There’s nothing quite like this truly participatory democracy, in its purest and most community-focused form to make us forget about all the primary season negativity, and get excited to vote again. Read more »

New York City Considering Landmark Protections For Freelancers Who Suffer From Wage Theft

Originally published on February 29, in the International Business Times:

By Cole Stangler

If employees get stiffed on a payment from the boss, they have a clear path for recouping lost pay: Workers can file a complaint with state or federal labor authorities. Then the government can go to court to win back pay, swallowing the legal fees.

Freelancers, on the other hand, have no such protections. Now a first-of-its-kind bill in New York City aims to plug that gap — and on Monday it saw its first hearing.

“All workers deserve to get paid on time and in full for the work they do,” said the legislation’s leading sponsor, Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn. “Traditional W2 employees at least have some protections from wage theft, but freelancers and independent workers don’t. [We asked] what can New York City do to provide them? And here we are.”

Lander introduced his bill last December after hearing from freelancer advocates like the New York City-based Freelancers Union. The group is not a traditional labor union — it does not charge any dues to members and it does not bargain with companies — but serves as a broad network and advocacy organization for freelancers. Last December, it released a study documenting the extent of wage theft for this slice of the workforce, from espresso-swilling writers and graphic designers to accountants and adjunct professors. Read more »

Bill Protecting NYC Freelancers from Deadbeat Companies Moves Forward With Majority Support

At City Council Consumer Affairs Hearing, Writers, Domestic Workers, Web Developers, & More Advocate for “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, First-of-its-Kind Legislation to end Non Payment Epidemic

1.3 Million Freelancers in NYC; Stiffed an Average $5,968/year

NEW YORK – Graphic artists, writers, domestic workers, and other representatives of NYC’s 1.3 million freelancers testified before the City Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs today and rallied outside City Hall to demand passage of the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act.

The proposed legislation, the first-of-its-kind in the country, provides basic protections for independent workers from deadbeat companies who refuse to pay, or force freelancers to wait months for their checks.

First introduced by Council Member Brad Lander and a broad coalition of business and labor organizations led by the Freelancers Union, the bill has gained support from a majority of the Council, with 27 of 51 members currently signed on. Read more »

NY Post Hatchet-Job on Council Member Margaret Chin is a Distortion of Truth & an Attack on Free Speech

Dear New York Post Editor,

The New York Post’s hatchet-job attack on Council Member Margaret Chin’s budget allocation to Citizens Committee for NYC ("Councilwoman funneled $10k in taxpayer cash to lobbyist," Feb. 22, 2016) is a ridiculous distortion of the truth and an obnoxious assault on the free speech of a valued not-for-profit organization. 

Here are the facts: Read more »

Remembering Fran Justa, a champion for our neighborhood & every neighborhood

We lost another great champion of affordable housing and community development this week, a pioneering neighborhood leader, amazing Carroll Street neighbor and friend, and loving wife and mother. Fran Justa died on Sunday, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Fran was one of the founders of the Fifth Avenue Committee, helping organize her neighbors to fight abandonment and displacement, and to create one of NYC’s great community development groups. She documented that history in her PhD dissertation, to help make sure we learned the lessons and remembered the people who made it happen.
Read more »

City Council Ramps Up Efforts To Preserve Existing Housing For Low-Income New Yorkers

Committee on Housing and Buildings Holds Hearing on Four Bills to Strengthen NYC's Housing Preservation Tool-Kit

NEW YORK, NY- Today at City Hall, the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings heard testimony on a package of  four bills designed to strengthen the city's tool-kit for preserving the existing housing where most low- and moderate-income New Yorkers live.

The preservation-focused hearing comes in the midst of negotiations with the de Blasio Administration on the Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) proposals.  Council Members, advocacy organizations, City officials, and New Yorkers from across the city highlighted the need to strengthen the City's preservation efforts, even as discussion about developing new affordable housing through MIH and ZQA continues. Read more »

Brooklyn Electeds to DOT: Put Safety First at Atlantic and Flatbush

Originally Published on Streetsblog

About a dozen people braved the cold Saturday morning to call for pedestrian safety improvements at Brooklyn’s Times Plaza and along the whole Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Times Plaza is the triangular public space at the convergence of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues. At a public meeting last month, local residents were disappointed that the redesign proposed by Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, which is contractually obligated to fund the project, failed to address pedestrian safety concerns. Read more »

It’s (Past) Time for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing in NYC

Back in 2003 — well before I was elected to the City Council, before I directed the Pratt Center, when I led the Fifth Avenue Committee — the Bloomberg Administration proposed to upzone Fourth Avenue in Park Slope. We had a simple idea: mandate that developers include some affordable units for low- and moderate-income families (you can read our policy report here; it was derided as socialism at the time, but we called for much less than the de Blasio Administration is now proposing).

We lost that fight. Fourth Avenue was upzoned, and many hundreds of market-rate units now line the avenue — but not one single affordable unit. It was a tremendous lost opportunity for a more inclusive Park Slope. Our efforts did help to win the “voluntary inclusionary zoning” program that produced some low-income housing in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, and on Manhattan’s West Side. But as a 2013 study by my office showed, many developers did not “volunteer” — so only 13% of the units in voluntary IZ areas were affordable (and only 6% in voluntary IZ areas outside of those two neighborhoods).

That wasn’t actually the first fight for mandatory inclusionary housing in NYC. Read more »

Community Meeting on Proposed Development at 5th Avenue Key Food

You may have seen the news that a developer is planning a new residential development on the site of the Key Food supermarket on 5th Avenue (at Baltic Street) in Park Slope.  Like many of you, I am very concerned about the potential loss of yet another of the area’s large, more-affordable grocery stores. Together with local advocates, we’re doing everything we can to keep a neighborhood supermarket at this location. Read more »

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