A big week at City Hall

A big week at City Hall

It’s been an exciting week at City Hall, and I wanted to let you know some of what we’ve been up to.

Community Safety Act
Yesterday, we had a momentous vote to overturn Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act. This legislation, of which I am a lead co-sponsor (along with my friend and colleague, Council Member Jumaane Williams), will create an NYPD Inspector General (just plain good government) and strengthen the City’s ban on discriminatory policing. The stronger ban will be truly enforceable and will cover all New Yorkers, including LGBTQ residents, immigrants, and the homeless.

During the debate, my colleague Julissa Fererras -- eight months pregnant -- pleaded for a New York City where her future son won’t grow up expecting to be profiled, just for who he is. I’m proud that these laws bring us a little closer.

The bill would not have become law without the big and beautiful coalition of civil rights, civil liberties, and community groups (brought together through Communities United for Police Reform) and all of the New Yorkers who joined marches and rallies, called their elected officials, and participated in the citywide debate.

I am also proud of the tenor of the debate in the Council, which revealed a deeply shared passion for New York City’s communities, even across strong lines of difference. With new leadership at City Hall, I believe we can have policing that will improve safety, respect civil rights, and build strong partnerships with all communities.

Plastic Bags
Earlier this week, I joined Councilmember Margaret Chin and environmental and community groups to announce legislation that would help dramatically reduce plastic bag waste.

The legislation is not a tax or ban on plastic bags; it is a comprehensive strategy for reducing the number of plastic bags which New Yorkers use -- 5.2 billion bags annually. Following a citywide education campaign and distribution of reusable bags, the law will require businesses to put a ten cent charge on plastic bags as an incentive to reduce plastic bag use. Peer cities which have enacted this policy have reduced plastic bag use by 60 - 90%.

While this new legislation would place a visible charge on plastic bags, the truth is that plastic bags have never really been free. We pay the price with litter in our streets and trees, on top of the estimated $10 million that New York City pays to transport 100,000 tons of plastic bags to landfills in other states each year. To view an outline of the legislation and frequently asked questions, click here.

I would like to especially thank New York League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Committee for New York City, Natural Resources Defense Council, No Impact Project, and the Green Party of Brooklyn for all of their hard work and support with this legislation. I hope we can count on your support as we move it forward in the City Council.

Still Fighting for a Safer Church Avenue / Ocean Parkway
One year ago, through Participatory Budgeting, residents of this district voted to fund safety improvements at the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Unfortunately, even with the funding allocated, New York State’s Department of Transportation (NYS DOT) has refused to sign off on the plan.

But we are not giving up. We collected petition signatures, brought our cause to the press, making it impossible for NYS DOT to ignore this safety hazard. Check out coverage this week on CBS, Pix11, and Streetsblog.

Real changes may be within our grasp. NYS DOT sent a letter to elected official last week, saying that the agency is studying the intersection to determine what safety measures should be implemented, and that they are still considering the proposal already funded through participatory budgeting.

I’m heartened, but we will keep fighting until you can feel safe crossing that intersection.

Guaranteeing More Affordable Housing for NYC
Last Friday, my office released a policy report reviewing the mixed success of a key Bloomberg affordable housing program (I also spoke about the subject on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC this week). Our report found that the “Inclusionary Zoning” program has generated thousands of affordable units, but much of that progress has been concentrated in only a couple of neighborhoods, while the rest of the city is left behind. Thank you to Michael Freedman-Schnapp and Seth Ullman on my staff, who led the research efforts.

As neighborhoods become more expensive and less diverse, we lose some of what is special about New York and we exacerbate problems of segregation and inequality. That is why I spent much of my career trying to expand affordable housing.

As I said, it’s been a busy week. So much of what has been accomplished is thanks to the tireless work of everyday New Yorkers. For that I would like to thank you. We are moving forward on many issues vital to our neighborhood and community, let’s keep it up.