Gonzalez Creates Campus Sexual Assault Response Initiative
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez yesterday announced his office’s creation of a Campus Sexual Assault Response Initiative that will work proactively with college students and administrators to raise awareness of sexual assaults on campus, protect and support student survivors and foster cooperation among schools and law enforcement.
“Every student who enjoys our borough’s rich educational resources should learn and grow free from the threat of campus sexual assault and dating violence. We are the first District Attorney’s Office in New York City to dedicate specific resources to these crimes in the campus setting. Brooklyn joins this important national conversation, not only with our unequivocal commitment to every person affected by this conduct, but also with concrete action,” said Gonzalez.
As part of the initiative, the DA’s Office and the campuses will partner with campus officials to improve and institutionalize a coordinated response to campus sexual assaults, enhancing reporting and investigation while ensuring an appropriate, comprehensive response. Representatives of the Office, in partnership with community organizations, will speak directly to new students arriving on campus during orientation and back-to-school activities. The Office will also offer training programs for campus staff.
The initiative’s task force will work to connect every campus survivor to the comprehensive services of the Office’s Victim Services Unit, even in cases which do not result in criminal prosecution. Early access to complete services will enhance the investigative process while minimizing any additional trauma from involvement with the criminal justice system and ensuring that victims are fully and accurately informed as early as possible.
Finally, the Office will designate a staff member as a single point of contact for campus officials and law enforcement seeking guidance on issues related to campus sexual assault. Our community prosecution model has proved that dedicated contacts with law enforcement and community officials improve access and consistency while building lasting partnerships that improve case outcomes.
The Office launched the initiative last week, hosting representatives of 14 institutions of higher education to provide an overview of its vision and resources.
Lander Reminds Parents That Students Can Opt Out Of State Testing
City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington) yesterday reminded constituents with kids in schools that students will begin taking the New York State standardized tests next week, but students are not required to take them.
The English Language Arts (ELA) test will take place on March 28-30 and the Math exam will be administered on May 2-4.
“New York State requires that schools offer these tests. However, students are not required to take them. It is your decision as a parent whether your child will take the NYS tests or opt out. Students who do not take the tests are not subject to any penalty or disciplinary action, and an appropriate learning alternative will be offered to students whose parents opt them out of the tests,” wrote Lander in his newsletter.
If you decide that your child will not take these tests, you must let your child’s principal know in writing of your choice. More information on how to opt out is available here.
There is a robust debate around “high-stakes” tests as a vehicle for assessment, of students, teachers, schools, and school-systems. Strong advocacy has led to progress to reduce some of the negative consequences these exams have had on students and teachers:
New York State law no longer permits middle and high schools to use state tests as the primary criteria in admissions decisions.
New York State has also suspended the link between the tests and teacher evaluation (although this has not been made permanent).
The NYC Department of Education reduced the use of State tests for grade promotion decisions in favor of an approach using multiple measures and professional judgment.
NYC DOE eliminated the single, mostly test-based letter grade that schools used to receive, and replaced it with a much more balanced and comprehensive school quality rubric. Reports on your child’s school can be found here.
Treyger’s Advocacy Leads to Expansion of City’s HomeFirst Downpayment Assistance Program
City Council Member Mark Treyger’s (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend) advocacy recently led to more first-time homebuyers being able to qualify for downpayment assistance from the City after an infusion of new funding.
The expansion of the HomeFirst Downpayment Assistance Program will also raise the maximum forgivable loan for eligible applicants from $15,000 to $25,000. The growth of the program is the direct result of advocacy by Treyger and the Coalition for Affordable Homes.
Under the previous parameters of the program, moderate-income families were ineligible to receive assistance.Now first-time homebuyers with incomes between 80% and 120% area median income (AMI) will be eligible to receive assistance from the HomeFirst program. Previously, the program was only available to New Yorkers with a maximum income of 80% AMI.
“I am thrilled to see that the HomeFirst program is expanding in a way that will open opportunities for many more New Yorkers to realize their own version of the American Dream,” said Treyger. “When we help working families become homeowners, we are helping them create equity while creating pathways to the middle class and generating opportunities for social mobility.”
In a February 2016 City Limits op-ed, Treyger, Center for NYC Neighborhoods Executive Director Christie Peale, and Habitat for Humanity New York City CEO Karen Haycox argued that without expanding HomeFirst assistance, middle-income families would continue to be priced out of the housing market, especially when competing against wealthy investors.
Adams Hails Success Of Organic Recycling Initiative
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams yesterday announced that more than 125 pounds have been collected through Brooklyn Borough Hall’s volunteer organic recycling program for composting at the nearby Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket.
His office launched the effort last October, with the guidance and support of the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) that he convenes monthly, to showcase the powerful potential of composting, including its positive benefits for the borough’s environment and its burgeoning urban agriculture sector.
Adams hailed the milestone as one small but significant step in growing the practice of composting across the borough, as well as another example of the ‘green’ agenda that he has promoted at the ‘People’s House’ to serve an example for all Brooklynites.
“I’m proud of my team for committing to this green practice that is saving our City green while helping to create a greener future for our borough,” said Adams. “Part of my healthy diet now involves safely and sustainably disposing the raw materials that come from foods such as fruit peelings and vegetable scraps. I hope this practice can be replicated across Brooklyn’s homes and workplaces as we work to encourage better dietary choices and greater environmental sustainability. It’s all part of my mission to healing individuals and communities across every neighborhood and cultural background.”
Brooklyn Borough Hall’s composting method has included gathering and freezing organic goods such as fruit and vegetable scraps; non-greasy food scraps including pasta and rice; tea bags; egg and nut shells; pits; cut and dried flowers; houseplants, and potted soil.
The effort is in sync with Adams’ wider commitment to healthy eating across Brooklyn, and his own personal battle with Type 2 diabetes, which he successfully controlled through emphasizing a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables, much of which is compostable.
The Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-around on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays behind Borogh Hall, 209 Joralemon Street in Downtown Brooklyn.
Williams Participates In Discussion Regarding Police Accountability
City Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) today will participate with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in a panel discussion on police accountability hosted by the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The police accountability panel is part of a series of panel discussions during a two-day public briefing on policies and practices of the New York City Police Department that took place yesterday and is continuing today.
The Panel Discussion on Police Accountability is slated for between 12:15- 1 p.m., today, March 21 at the CUNY School of Law Auditorium, 2 Court Square in Long Island City, Queens. See full agenda here: http://bit.ly/2mU58bF.
Richardson Reminds Constituents Of Free Housing Assistance
Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens) is reminding and encouraging all community members to take advantage of free housing assistance through her office’s partnership with the Crown Heights Tenants Union (CHTU) and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB).
“It is imperative that families who are looking to start a tenants association, struggling with rent, facing landlord issues, or in need of repairs like heat or hot water to take advantage of the opportunity to assist individuals with issues first hand. Also, if you are in housing court, inundated with legal documents or lease materials that require demystification, representatives will be on site to help guide you through this process. Take advantage of the opportunity to obtain answers from Tenant Organizers in regards to tenant inquiries, and receive resources and direction to address various issues,” said Richardson in her newsletter.
The assistance is avaliable from 2-5 p.m., Friday, March 24. by ppointment. Tenant Leaders and Organizers will help families and individuals improve their housing conditions by knowing their rights and accessing resources to assist them through the housing process. In order to schedule an appointment with a housing counselor, call Richardson’s office at 718-771-3105.
Southside United HDFC-Los Sures, MOIA, Host Immigration Forum
The Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs (MOIA) together with Southside United HDFC-Los Sures, www.southsideunitedhdfc.org, today will hold an immigration forum to provide immigrants with information on their rights, and resources.
“We believe it is important to drive discussion and allay the fears within the immigrant community,” said Southside United HDFC- Los Sures Executive Director Ramon Peguero, Esq.
The two new executive orders recently signed by the Trump Administration have caused fear and confusion in the immigrant community.
“This event is extremely important because our community will have the chance to get information from immigration legal experts,” said Los Sures Community Organizer Raul Flores.
The forum is slated for 6 p.m., today, March 21 at the First Spanish Presbyterian Church, 161 South 3rd Street (corner of South 3rd and Driggs) in Williamsburg. For more information contact Stephanie Pinilla at [email protected].