City Leader Rally Against Illegal Hotels Before City Council Oversight Hearing

IMG_0086

On January 20, a diverse coalition of elected officials, housing advocates, and tenants rallied against illegal short-term apartment rentals.

Illegal hotels pose a grave threat our city’s already limited stock of affordable housing, encourage landlord harassment, and create building-wide security, safety, and nuisance issues that disrupt the quality of life for tenants and illegal renters alike.

The rally preceded an an eight hour oversight hearing chaired by Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. The Council received testimony from representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), tenants, tenant advocates, representatives of home-sharing websites including Airbnb, elected officials and others on how illegal hotels operate and effect New Yorkers. Full Release

WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY: 

“Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms exacerbate the problem of illegal rentals on the Upper West Side and throughout the City. Over the past five years, Airbnb rentals grew from 900 to 21,000, and according to the NYS Attorney General, 72% of these units are illegal. Until short-term rental platforms accept responsibility for their users who profit from illegal rentals, we have to equip the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement to shut them down, one by one,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“With rents rapidly rising but wages remaining stagnant, sharing a spare bedroom can help you earn a little extra money to make ends meet. In reality, the explosive growth of the short-term rental market has created a “sublet economy” that’s seriously hurting tenants and bleeding units from our already scarce affordable housing stock. The testimony we heard today puts a human face on the destructive impacts of illegal hotels. It is abundantly clear that we must provide the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement with the tools and resources it needs to hold these illegal hotel operators accountable,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

“With a housing vacancy rate of only 3.12%, steadily increasing rents, and widespread income stagnation, it goes without saying that New York City is in a housing crisis, fueled by home-sharing websites like Airbnb that account for more than 14,000 illegal rentals in the five boroughs. As Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, it is my hope we work to combat illegal hotels by expanding our Administrations resources, strategies, and further penalizing bad acting landlords,” said Council Member Williams.

“Illegal hotels are not just a problem in Manhattan – with the demand for tourism in the outer boroughs, they are becoming an issue there as well. I am primarily concerned with property managers and owners who warehouse apartments and rent them out illegally, taking those units completely off the market for renters who need housing. The businesses that host these listings should not be benefitting from this illegal behavior. We need to find legislative and enforcement solutions that allow for legal sublets while cracking down on illegal hotels and getting much-needed housing back on the rental market,” said Caucus Co-Chair Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“Right now hundreds of residents in Washington Heights, Harlem and Crown Heights are being pressured by their landlords to vacate in order to make room for these profitable illegal hotels. The residents of our communities are already being pushed out, we don’t need private companies coming in, operating illegally and further pressuring our communities to leave. We must protect those most vulnerable to these pressures, seniors and working class New Yorkers, and crackdown on these illegal activities that have such destructive ripple effects in our communities,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

“We must not allow working class New Yorkers to be entirely squeezed out of our neighborhoods – but that is exactly what may happen if we do not confront our City’s affordability crisis. Just as important as building new affordable housing is preserving the units we already have. Unfortunately, illegal hotels are endangering our affordable housing stock. I am proud to be part of the Share Better coalition, as neighborhood activists, community and housing groups, elected officials, business and labor come together to stop illegal hotels from proliferating in our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

“The safety and affordability of our city must be protected. We need to ensure that AirBnB is not putting profit over people by allowing unsafe or illegal practices that threaten New Yorkers and the affordability of our neighborhoods. Thanks to the proactive leadership of Chair Jumaane Williams and others, the New York City Council can ask the hard questions about what the sharing economy really means for residents,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

IN THE NEWS

NY Times: Hearing Pits Tenants Who Denounce Airbnb Agst Those Who Profit From It

Capital NY: Airbnb comes under fire during 8-hour City Council hearing

Wall Street Journal: Airbnb Faces Scrutiny From New York City Officials

NY Observer: Council Slams Airbnb for Having No Idea How Many Listings Are Illegal

Buzzfeed: NYC Council Members Take Airbnb To Task At Oversight Hearing

Law 360: NYC Lawmakers Grill Airbnb, Task Force Over Law Breakers

Christian Science Monitor: Airbnb could pose threat to New York City’s affordable housing 

NY Business Journal: Airbnb is brimming with illegal listings, opponents claim

AM New York: Council weighs in on Airbnb’s impact on city’s housing crisis

Associated Press: Airbnb Critics Argue Program Makes Housing More Expensive for People Who Live in New York City; Proponents Say It Helps Pay Bills

NY1: Airbnb in the Hot Seat at City Council Hearing

USA Today: Airbnb blamed for rising housing costs in NYC

ABC: Lawmakers look at how Airbnb affects NYC housing, economy

CBS: City Council Looks At How Airbnb Affects Housing, Economy

NBC: Fate of Airbnb in NYC

Mashable: NYC can’t agree to disagree on the future of Airbnb

The Real Deal: Airbnb tells City Council that crackdown would hurt average New Yorkers

Epoch Times: Airbnb Defends Against City Hall’s Illegal Renting Accusations

Curbed NY: City Council Tries to Get to the Bottom of Airbnb Controversy

Vocative: More New Yorkers Are Getting Fed Up With Airbnb

WCBC: City Council Looks At How Airbnb Affects Housing, Economy 

1010 Wins: Airbnb Supporters, Opponents Hold Dueling Rallies

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Progressive Caucus Members respond to Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking

ClimateMarch

Members of Progressive Caucus praise Governor Andrew Cuomo’s  ban on  hydraulic fracturing in New York State on December 17th, 2014. This  decision was supported by environmentalist, including the 200+ member New Yorkers Against Fracking Coalition who for years have claimed that  fracking, or the process of   using sand, chemicals and water to extract oil and natural gas from reservoirs beneath the surface, negatively impacts neighboring  ecosystems and natural resources The ban was determined  after the New York State Department of Health’s conducted a study to analyze and quantify  effects of hydraulic fracturing. Ultimately, research proved that the  benefits of tapping into the natural gas deposits do not outweigh the uncertainties and risks to public and environmental health.

Governor Cuomo stated: “The New York State Department of Environmental  Conservation has found that potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant.”

Mayor Bill de Blasion responded: “I became convinced a few years ago that this is something we have to entirely rethink, and I think that what the governor has done is the right move for New York State.”

WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY:

“As Chair to New York City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, I am thrilled Governor Cuomo announced New York State will ban fracking. Today’s announcement is a major win for the future of New York. After years of uncertainty, environmental advocates and everyday New Yorkers alike can now be assured that our water, natural resources and—most importantly—our health will not be compromised by the rash speculation of the fracking industry. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and his administration for making this important and timely decision.” said Caucus Co- Chair, Council Member Donovan Richards

“Our City, surrounding environment and New York City drinking water must be protected from the dangerous effects of fracking. Fracking has been shown to be toxic and damaging—but we still have not banned it in New York State. New York City stands in solidarity with small towns who have banned hydrofracking upstate in protecting our residents and surrounding lands from the immense dangers and unknowns of hydrofracking,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Caucus Vice Chair for Policy.

“While it is highly unlikely that anyone would ‘frack’ within NYC, it’s important to make this gesture of solidarity— fracking should not be an acceptable practice in NYS: upstate or downstate,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Caucus Vice Chair for Budget, “If the state-wide moratorium were to be revoked, fellow New Yorkers in cities, towns, and villages throughout our state would be thrust onto the front lines and forced to curb this devastating impact on the environment through local ordinances. Let this bill signal solidarity with those localities taking action to protect our land, our food, our water, our health and our future.”

“I strongly commend Governor Cuomo’s Administration for making the right call to not frack in New York state. The negative health consequences of fracking are well known and the Administration’s decision against it is sound science and sound policy. The Governor and his team sent a bold statement today that we must ensure the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“Bravo to Gov. Cuomo on his decision to BAN fracking in NY State. Fracking is dangerous and environmentally unsound!” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo for his decision today to ban fracking in NY and protect our health and environment!” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban hydrofracking in NY is a vindication of years of hard work by @weact4ej and the entire @NYAgainstFRACK coalition…Two landmark, courageous decisions today: Obama normalizes relations with Cuba & Cuomo bans hydrofracking in NY” said Council Member Mark Levine

“I applaud the Governor’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State. Too many communities’ water supplies have been ruined. Too many people have had their health negatively affected. As the first shale state to ban hydraulic fracturing our state is setting the tone for our nation. I am incredibly proud that our governor has stood up to special interests and made the right decision for our state’s future” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriquez

In reference to Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking, “Thank you Governor Cuomo” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

IN THE NEWS

NY Observer: City Democrats Celebrate New York’s Fracking Ban

NY Times: Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State

The Washington Post: Cuomo administration rules against fracking

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Progressive Caucus Members denounce PBA’s divisive tactics

15517361309_d0908bb9e8_o

Council Members in the City Council Progressive Caucus contest the recent efforts by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association to illustrate an adversarial relationship between the Administration, Legislature and the essential, public servicemen in the NYPD. The false dichotomy illustrated by these sensational, publicity efforts is a danger to the collaboration and cohesion necessary at this critical moment. The PBA’s organized efforts to exclude elected officials, who have advocated on behalf of police officers, are detrimental to community unity and a failure of their leadership.

 WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY: 

“It is deeply troubling that The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association issued a petition against Mayor De Blasio and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito based on a perceived lack of support for officers from the administration, “ said Council Member Donovan Richards, Co-Chair of Progressive Caucus. “The police must partner with legislators to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated with respect in accordance to the law. If we fail to stand united on issues such as police accountability, it will become increasingly difficult to achieve the needed reforms in the system that justice demands.”

“In this trying time, the NYPD should be working even more closely with the administration to seek reforms that will improve its relationship with communities. The PBA’s efforts to undermine this are counterproductive, offensive, and do nothing to improve the NYPD’s relationship with New Yorkers,” said Caucus Co-Chair, Council Member Antonio Reynoso.  

“The incendiary rhetoric of the PBA is inappropriate and completely not conducive to the goals our city is trying to reach. It only makes it harder for Mayor De Blasio, Commissioner Bratton, and Speaker Mark-Viverito to move our city forward and achieve true police reform. I expect more from a respected organization like the PBA, our police officers deserve better than these bombasts,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

“I’m a strong supporter of our local officers and I have a deep appreciation for the members of the NYPD who sacrifice their safety for ours on a daily basis,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “ I know from personal experience working with the precincts in my district that the NYPD can keep our community safe while respecting the civil rights of all New Yorkers. I commend the leadership of Mayor Bill De Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who have stood up for police officers and shown strong support for the NYPD on many occasions. The incendiary rhetoric coming from the Policemen’s Benevolent Association is only serving to divide and polarize the city at a time when what we need most is to heal.”

“This Administration and Council have clearly displayed a value for working people and, in particular, public employees, many of whom provide critical services to the residents of New York City,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. “Any implication to the contrary would be disingenuous, at best.”

“I’m proud to have a strong relationship with the NYPD precinct leadership in my district, and I truly value the work NYPD officers do every day in our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I also know that Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito hold the same deep respect for NYPD officers, as they have shown throughout their careers in public service. We all want to bring real, positive change to community/police interactions throughout the city—and we’re going to do it by working together with community leaders and our partners in the NYPD. The recent negative tactics and rhetoric used by the Policemen’s Benevolent Association simply do nothing to help get us closer to a brighter future.”

“The rhetoric from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has gone too far,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The NYPD makes our City a better, more peaceful place. But this recent rhetorical shift from the PBA, demanding that Mayor de Blasio & Speaker Mark-Viverito be preemptively disinvited to the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty is over the top and unnecessary. We all want a safe and peaceful City. A return to civil discourse is necessary to advance our City to a better & safer place.”

“At this difficult moment in police-community relations, we must stand together so all people in all neighborhoods are treated with the same dignity and respect,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“What a day it will be when the PBA and other police unions decide to sit down as productive partners for police reform, instead of disseminating disrespectful and dangerous rhetoric that halts any progress being made. I call on the PBA to end their disgraceful tactics and come to the table like productive adults,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.

“Now is the time to unite in our common pursuit of a safer and more just city, not to allow ourselves to be divided. We can and must move forward together, as New Yorkers, to tackle the challenges before us,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

“At a time when we should be joining together to enact meaningful policing reforms, these types of stunts are in poor taste and extremely counterproductive. I’m confident these inflammatory sentiments are not held by a majority of the brave men and women on the force, and I hope the PBA will be more careful with its rhetoric in the future,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

“New York police officers are hard-working public servants. They keep us safe at great potential peril to their own well-being. Their courage warrants the presence of our highest elected officials – the Mayor and the Speaker – if one has given the ultimate sacrifice for the people of NYC,” said City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “They deserve leadership who will keep certain sacred traditions outside of political maneuvering. I am confident that cooler heads will prevail and members of the police force will respect that the office of Mayor and Speaker and honor the people’s elected officials. “

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Progressive Council Members Williams and Johnson Co-lead Fair Chance Legislation

IMG_5436

Yesterday, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader, and Chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, was joined by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Members Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Daniel Dromm, Andy King and advocacy groups, during a press conference prior to a Council hearing on the New York City Fair Chance Act. Council Member Williams is the co-lead sponsor of the Into. 318, which will ‘Ban the Box’ from employment applications, ensuring that all New Yorkers, even those with a criminal record, have an equal opportunity to compete for a job.

The legislation fits into a national trend of expanding access to employment as a way to lower recidivism and ensure employers consider all qualified applicants and not overlook the candidate who might become their best employee. To date, 13 states and nearly 90 cities and counties have adopted fair-chance ordinances, including Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Buffalo, and Rochester. Full Release

WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY: 

“I am proud to work with such a vibrant group of advocates and elected officials to get the New York City Fair Chance Act passed,” said Council Member Williams. “Once enacted into law, this bill will ensure that all New Yorkers, including those with convictions for previous mistakes, will have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs they are qualified for. Though the legislation does not require employers to hire any particular applicant, it delays the background check, thus supplementing preexisting law that says employers cannot deny a job because of a record unless there is a direct relationship to the job. Not only does employment strengthen communities and lower recidivism, but employers will have access to a broader range of qualified candidates to consider.”

“I want to express my gratitude to Chair Mealy for hearing Intro 318, which will give all qualified applicants a fair chance to compete for jobs by deferring questions about criminal history. More than five million New Yorkers with records will benefit from the chance to demonstrate their qualifications, and employers will be presented with a broader range of candidates from which to choose. Many employers report that it is people with criminal records who often work harder, are more willing to stay at a job for a longer period of time, and develop into valuable leaders,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

“Too many New Yorkers, particularly young men of color, are denied the opportunity to be employed due to their criminal history. We have a responsibility to expand access to jobs for all New Yorkers, especially because employment reduces recidivism and strengthens our communities,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“New Yorkers believe in the power of a second chance. Having started a prisoner re-entry program when I ran the Fifth Avenue Committee, I’ve long witnessed the barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face when trying to get back on their feet, said Council Member Brad Lander. “The Fair Chance Act will remove a key barrier, make sure we stop punishing those who have already served their time, and offer the chance at a fresh start to New Yorkers who need it most.”

IN  THE NEWS

NY Observer: Pols push bill banning businesses from inquiring about convictions

NY Post: New bill would stop criminal record disclosure on job applications 

Capital NY: Administration backs ban on criminal-background job questions

NY Daily News:  City Council debates ‘ban the box’ legislation

The National Law Review: New York City Council Debates Expansive “Ban the Box” Bill

Law and the Workplace: NYC Council Debates Expansive “Ban the Box” Bill

 

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Progressive Caucus Members respond to the grand jury decision in the case of Eric Garner

Garner

Photo by William Alatriste

NEW YORK, NY – Members of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council are extremely disheartened by the outcome in the case of Eric Garner. The grand jury decision to not indict the officer responsible for his death is a sad and disappointing one. Members feel that a major injustice has been committed and that the challenges regarding police and community relations is one in dire need of solutions. Council Members agree that the result in the case of Eric Garner’s death is another racial injustice stemming from systemic problems including institutionalized discrimination, hostile relations with public safety agents and failed police accountability.

WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly stated, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’,” said Co-Chair to Progressive Caucus, Council Member Donovan Richards. “Little did Dr. King know that the threat of injustice against men of color remains a pervasive threat fifty-one years after he penned those words. It is with a heavy heart and sincere disappointment that I acknowledge once more that our judicial system has failed to administer justice on behalf of those most vulnerable. It is imperative now for the communities of color and our allies to collectively voice our concerns on excessive policing and work diligently to enact systemic change.”

“This verdict is a disgrace. It sends a message to New Yorkers that the NYPD is above the law. It is yet another example of the failure of our justice system to serve everyone equally,” said Co-Chair Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“I could not have been more shocked, angered and saddened than to hear today’s news. We held out hope, and hope was denied. I offer my heartfelt sympathy to Eric Garner’s family and the grief that this news must be bringing to them. Our criminal legal system will not hold responsible those involved in the death of a man, but we continue to demand justice,” said Council Member Debi Rose, representing Staten Island. “We call on the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, loudly, clearly and peacefully, to pursue justice where justice was denied. We will get to the other side, peacefully.”

“Like so many others across our city, I’m beyond outraged to learn that the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner has not been indicted,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson? It’s shameful to allow NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo a free pass rather than force him to stand trial for his actions. It’s a miscarriage of justice for the family of Eric Garner. It’s a disheartening blow to every New Yorker of color who knows that, for them, true equality has sadly not yet come. Today I stand in solidarity with the family of Eric Garner. And alongside them, I call on all New Yorkers outraged by this decision to express their feelings peacefully. We must remember that violence is not the answer to today’s shameful decision. Instead, we must continue to demonstrate and raise our voices in the name of justice, equality and fairness. It’s what our city deserves.”

“I guess I should not be stunned. But I am stunned and angry. With video of a prohibited chokehold, and the coroner ruling it a homicide, this is simply not justice. We must stand united together — peacefully but with honest anger — to demand steps toward justice,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

“I am absolutely disappointed, appalled, and ashamed by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Once again, it has been demonstrated that the threshold for indictment when it comes to black lives at the hands of police has been elevated to an unattainable standard,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “It appears in this case, as in the most recent case of Michael Brown, that the process has failed us. And for that reason, I assure you that the process is not over and I will continue to stand with those who remain to fight for the justice that is deserved by the mother, father, wife, and children of Eric Garner. Once again, I am forced to quote W.E.B. DuBois: ‘A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect’. For this reason we, as legislators, will continue to take a serious look at policing policy and measures of accountability, as indicated by a series of recent City Council bills.”

“I am deeply disappointed and saddened by today’s grand jury decision, and I stand in solidarity with the family and friends of Eric Garner. Today’s decision sends a clear message to communities of color across our city that the police are above the law. I hope this occasion compels an open an honest dialogue about what can be done to curb police misconduct, to end the culture of impunity that pervades the NYPD, and to restore trust between law enforcement and communities of color,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“As shocking and inexplicable as the Ferguson grand jury decision was, Staten Island’s is even worse because there was actually video. We are never going to be able to rebuild trust between police and communities unless we can hold accountable those few police officers that abuse their authority and use excessive force. Today’s announcement is a painful setback toward reaching that goal. We must enact tougher laws that give grand juries the tools to indict,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

“It is a difficult holiday season for any American who holds steadfast to the principles of our nation’s founding–to ‘establish justice and insure domestic tranquility.’ In two devastating decisions back to back, first in Ferguson and now in the Eric Garner case, the victims’ families, our cities, and our nation in mourning deserved the opportunity to find the facts surrounding these tragic deaths. Martin Luther King said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Now that injustice hits so close to home, we in the New York City Council stand with our fellow New Yorkers and our brothers and sisters in Ferguson as two cities facing similar pain, injustice and loss,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

“The non-indictment decision on the Eric Garner case is tragic miscarriage of justice, particularly in the face of strikingly similar events across the country. In the spirit of Eric Garner, and all of the young men of color who share his heartbreaking fate, we must charge forward demanding justice at every stop, for every person,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.  Harsh and disproportionate policing in our communities cannot continue to derail justice, and reproduce broken relations. It defies logic that in a case with an incredible amount of evidence—including shocking video footage of Eric Garner’s death—the legal threshold for an indictment was not met. My heart continues to be with the family and loved ones of Eric Garner.”

“There is something to be said about the ethics of our justice system when a man dies at the hands of a police officer and there isn’t, at the bare minimum, a fair trial; it is disappointing and unacceptable. For Eric Garner and all the men of color I represent, Commissioner Bratton must work hard to make amends and improve the training of the NYPD,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras.

“My thoughts are with the family of Eric Garner following today’s grand jury decision,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “For all of us seeking justice for Eric and his family, today’s decision is deeply disappointing, to say the least. There is much work to be done until our society is truly equal for all men and women.”

“It is so deeply disturbing: four police officers subdued Eric Garner—an unarmed civilian—and one applies a chokehold which leads to his death. And the grand jury does not feel these facts – preserved on a video we’ve all seen – call for a jury trial. A trial is not a conviction. A trial can provide a more public and thorough discussion of what happened and why. A trial is something Eric Garner, his family, and New Yorkers deserve,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.  “It is a loss to people of all backgrounds and in all neighborhoods that Eric Garner’s death will not be investigated as part of the American jury trial system.”

“I am deeply disturbed that there will be no indictment in the Eric Garner case,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Police officers must be held accountable when using lethal force. A father of six children is dead and justice has been denied to a family. My thoughts and prayers go to the Garner family at this difficult time.”

“As a person who cares about justice my heart aches today. I am profoundly saddened by the news coming out of Staten Island. Eric Garner died after being stopped for selling loose cigarettes. Neither the activity he was engaged in nor his response to the police officers who apprehended him warranted the force that was applied – force that ultimately resulted in his death.
As I have said before I know good people of all races are offended by injustice. Our criminal justice system must be one that every person believes in. We have a major problem in our City and country when people of color, black men in particular, believe that the justice system consistently fails them. I have great respect for police officers and the very difficult work they are charged with, but today’s announcement does not represent equal justice for all under the law.
When we witness a wrong we should raise our collective voices until we make it right. As a Council Member I remain as committed as ever to working with my colleagues to build better police-community relations and advancing laws that improve justice for all,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

IN THE NEWS

Captital NY: Councilmembers shaken by Garner decisionCouncil stages ‘die-in’ to protest Garner decision

International Business Times: Eric Garner Grand Jury Update: No Indictment For NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo In Chokehold Death

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: NYC pols react to Eric Garner decision

JP Updates: NYC Elected Officials Comment On Eric Garner Chokehold Verdict 

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Progressive Caucus Members’ Statement for Committee on Zoning and Franchising Hearing Regarding Cablevision

15391437876_a6184f4438_o (2)

Photo by William Alatriste

At 2pm today, the New York City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will held a hearing entitled, “Oversight – Cablevision Franchise Agreement and Collective Bargaining”. As the City Council is central to approving franchises, the committee will serve to evaluate the qualifications of the Cablevision Systems Corporation to participate in contracts with the City of New York. The City currently requires that its franchisees must recognize the right of “employees to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing”.

Yet reports have persisted regarding bad labor practices at various Cablevision locations, including a well-documented incident earlier this year where a Brooklyn-based employee and active member of CWA 1180 named Jerome Thompson was fired for voicing his displeasure regarding management’s treatment of employees.

Over the last twenty months the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued complaints against Cablevision on multiple issues, Mr. Thompson’s case included, all relating to anti-union activities. Other instances include holding an illegal union decertification vote, bad faith bargaining through unnecessary delays, and seeking to undermine unionization votes.

In advance of today’s subcommittee hearing, the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council issued the following statement:

Collective bargaining has been an essential instrument in promoting the advancement of the American worker. Yet repeatedly, it appears that Cablevision refuses to come to the table and bargain with the duly elected representatives of the workforce they employ.

In particular, CWA 1180 has repeatedly attempted to engage the corporation in negotiations regarding their Brooklyn-based tech workers over the past three years. Yet, Cablevision management has sought only to delay talks in an attempt to frustrate workers. Most recently, the corporation even held an illegal vote of those within the Brooklyn shop in an attempt to decertify their union representation.

While Cablevision has afforded 14% compensation increases to other tech workers under its employment, it has excluded the Brooklyn workers from this enhancement. The corporation instead seeks to trade disciplinary rights for monetary compensation with the unionized workers, failing to understand that freedom of speech and due process are already constitutionally protected. The notion that one could trade these rights for compensation and benefits is completely invalid.

Given their history, it appears as if the strategy Cablevision is attempting to pursue is one to disturb, disrupt, and disassemble the power of collective bargaining. If so, then action must be taken to ensure that our City does not illegally engage in contracts with this employer. Here in New York City we value workers and those who refuse to bargain with them do not deserve our business.

While today’s hearing will be a step towards determining the worthiness of Cablevision to participate in our franchising process, a breach of federal labor laws will ultimately require action from the NLRB. With that in mind, we look forward to learning more from the upcoming judgments on the Board’s complaints against Cablevision.

The Progressive Caucus includes four sitting members of the nine-member Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, including Co-chairs Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards and Council Members Jumaane Williams and Ritchie Torres.

As well as:

Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair, Civil Service and Labor Committee

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Caucus Vice-chair for Budget

Council Member Ben Kallos, Caucus Vice-chair for Policy

Council Member Margaret Chin, Caucus Treasurer

Council Member Corey Johnson, District 3

Council Member Mark Levine, District 7

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, District 10

Council Member Stephen Levin, District 33

Council Member Brad Lander, District 39

Council Member Debi Rose, District 49

Council Member Carlos Menchaca, District 38

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, District 26 

IN THE NEWS

NY Observer: Progressive Caucus batters Cablevision lawyer in insult-filled hearing

NY Post: Cablevision battle spills into City Hall 

NY Daily News: Cablevision, Council Members clash at heated hearing 

Capital NY: Council Members, Cablevision reps clash during hearing 

Fierce Cable: NY City Council meets Tuesday about possible Cablevision franchise violations

Posted in News | Leave a comment

NYC Council Members Announce Legislation to Improve Communication between Police & Residents

IMG_1187

The Right to Know Act, new commonsense legislation introduced in the City Council, will improve communication between police officers and residents, and defuse conflict before it escalates. It is designed to rebuild trust between communities of color and the NYPD.

New York, NY— New Yorkers often have no idea why they are being questioned, stopped or searched, and don’t feel empowered to ask the identity of police officers interacting with them.

The Right to Know Act, legislation introduced by Council Members Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso, would help solve that problem. It has strong support from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), community groups, local residents, and advocates.

The Right to Know Act will do two key things that are beneficial for civilians and officers: 1) require NYPD officers to identify themselves and explain their reason for subjecting a civilian to law enforcement activity and 2) require explanation of New Yorkers’ constitutional right to refuse a search when no legal basis exists for it except their consent. When such searches are conducted, there must be objective proof of the individual’s voluntary and informed consent. Full Release

WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY: 

“Although some recent progress has been made toward improving community-police relations, the experience on the ground for many young people of color has not changed. Even recent statistics show that young people of color are targeted for stops at much higher rates than the rest of the population. Today, we are introducing legislation to help ensure that all New Yorkers are aware of their right to consent to or refuse a search, in the absence of legal justification for the search. Most New Yorkers are not aware that they have this constitutional right. The Right to Know Act will also require officers to identify themselves in law enforcement encounters, which is a simple way to improve police-community relations.” said Caucus Co-Chair, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a lead co-sponsor of the bill.

“While Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement about curbing marijuana arrests is a step in the right direction, none of the policies set forth so far have dealt with the on-the-ground interactions between police and people, particularly the young men of color who are targeted at the highest rates. The Right to Know Act will go a long way toward improving these interactions. This legislation requires the police to obtain voluntary and informed consent in order to conduct searches, ensuring that all people are aware of their rights,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, a lead co-sponsor of the bill.

“All New Yorkers deserve better policing and safer streets. Everyone deserves to feel that their public safety and civil rights are protected. That was the mission of the Community Safety Act which I co-sponsored and that passed in 2013, and is the mission of the Right to Know Act, led by Council Members Torres and Reynoso. These bills do not change the framework cops need to engage in good policing, and does not change the existing legal requirements of probable cause for a search and reasonable suspicion for a stop. These bills are simply meant to continue the Council’s discussion about how the NYPD can engage in better and equitable police practices in all communities across the city. We all deserve that,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.

“The ‘Right to Know Act’ embodies the NYPD motto of courtesy, professionalism, respect. The small acts — police officers identifying themselves, explaining the reason for a stop, and making sure individuals know their rights before a search — have the potential to significantly reduce abuses and bring major improvements to community-police relations. As part of the coalition that came together to pass the first Community Safety Act, I applaud this step forward toward respecting the rights and enhancing the safety of all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

IN THE NEWS

Capital NY:  Progressives push police reform bill opposed by de BlasioPolicing bills test de Blasio, and Council progressives

CBS NY: Bill requiring cops to get consent for some searches riles up NYPDNYC Council Bills Take Aim At Police Chokeholds, Stop-And-Frisk

New York Observer: Progressives Push ‘Consent’ as Antidote to Racial Bias in Drug StopsCity Councilman Rails Against Police Unions Spreading ‘Mass Hysteria’

New York Post: NYPD not asked about bill require permission to search

WABC TV NY; New York City Lawmakers Introduce NYPD Transparency Bill 

Epoch Times: NYC Council Introduces Bills on Chokeholds, Police Stopping and Questioning

Latin Post: New York City Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Improve Resident-Police Relations, Police Commission Calls it an Intrusion

Posted in News | Leave a comment