Sen. Andrew Gounardes Visits Buffalo as part of Statewide Civil Service Tour
Senator Andrew Gounardes (D- Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park), Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, joined Senator Tim Kennedy (D-NY) in Buffalo last week on Tuesday as part of his Statewide Civil Service Tour. The two Senators met with labor leaders across a wide variety of professions, from firefighters to social services, went to a Fire Engine 32, Ladder 5 and visited the Niagara Frontier
Transportation Authority (NFTA) Cold Spring Bus Depot. At all three stops, the Senators met with civil servants and learned from them firsthand about the opportunities and challenges they face.
“Buffalo is a vibrant city and has a huge number of devoted civil servants who help the city and the state run. From transportation workers who operate Buffalo’s bus and Metro Rail to courageous first responders, it was incredible to meet with Buffalo’s civil servants and hear from them firsthand,” said Gounardes.
“Through his Statewide Civil Service Tour, it’s clear Senator Gounardes is committed to visiting with public servants to hear about the issues they’re facing on the front lines,” said Kennedy. “We were pleased to welcome him to Western New York to collectively identify solutions and effectively address those concerns.”
Sen. Persaud’s Bill to Improve Accountability at the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program Signed into Law
Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D-Canarsie, East New York, Brownsville, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, Bergen Beach, Marine Park, Flatlands, Ocean Hill, Starrett City) sponsored a bill that was signed in to law last week. Bill S6200/A4898 intends to collect more data from the Mitchell-Lama Housing program and requires a mandated annual report sent to the State Comptroller and the Attorney General for further oversight. Limited-profit housing companies (LPCs) are eligible to voluntarily dissolve and
withdraw from the Mitchell-Lama program upon prepayment of the mortgage after 20 years from initial occupancy, or after 35 years from initial occupancy, in the case of developments aided by loans issued before May 1, 1959. This process is often referred to as dissolution or “buying out” of the program.
“Finding an affordable place to live in New York is difficult as is,” said Persaud. “And every year, it seems like more Mitchell-Lama housing units are being bought out and listed at market-rate prices. This new legislation will help the state keep track of these buy-outs, in hopes that the data can be used to improve the Mitchell-Lama program and help preserve the affordable housing stock across the City.”
Buy-outs can have a tremendous negative impact on tenants and the community because the units usually return to the market at much higher prices; therefore, examining such data could help the state improve the Michell-Lama Housing Program.
Bill Increasing Public Service Eligibility for Military Service Members Approved by the Governor
Assemblyman Félix W. Ortiz (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) sponsored legislation to increase the eligibility of military duty
personal for public service positions (A.8348) that has been approved by the Governor. Several public service jobs have specific age requirements for examinations, positions, and promotions. Members of the armed forces who have been absent on military duty may exceed the age requirements upon their return to civilian life. This legislation will increase by one year the number of years that can be deducted when computing the age for these applicants.
“Our veterans deserve recognition and support for their years of military service. This legislation will provide for one additional year that can be deducted when computing the age for these applicants,” said Ortiz.
NYC Changing Official City Map to Make Rikers Island a Public Space by 2026
As part of its ongoing commitment to close the jail facilities at Rikers Island, the City began the land use process to officially prohibit the incarceration of individuals thereafter Dec. 31, 2026, when the borough-based jail system is expected to be in operation. The land use application filed Sunday by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction and the Speaker of the City Council is the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) to change Riker’s designation on the official city map to a public place.
“I am proud to see the land use action to permanently close Rikers Island moving forward. As a Council Member representing one of the proposed borough facilities, I was steadfast in the importance of having a binding guarantee of the Island’s closure. The land use process is our city government’s tool to do so and I applaud the Administration and Council Speaker for today’s certification; establishing the land as a public place after 2026 and never again allowing the isolated detention of our neighbors.” said Council Member Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill).
The application is solely focused on changing the mapping of Rikers to end its use as a jail. The proposed mapping action does not lead to any new development or construction on its own. Any future plans will require a new planning and public review process, including a separate approval for and environmental review process as necessary.
“This is a major step for New York City, and shows our deep commitment to closing Rikers Island. We are moving away from the failed policies of mass incarceration and showing the world that Riker’s days are numbered,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan).
The filing of the ULURP today is the latest step made possible by the City’s successful years-long effort to substantially reduce its levels of incarceration. Today New York City is the safest large city in America and has the lowest incarceration rate of any large city in the nation. The number of people in the city’s jails today is fewer than 7,000, the lowest rate since the late 1970s. The city remains on-course for a population of no more than 3,300 by 2026.
“By guaranteeing that Rikers will never again be used for incarceration, we’re charting a new course forward for the Island and the people of New York City. We’re making good on our promise to close Rikers once and for all. Though mass incarceration may not have started here, we’ll do all we can to make sure it ends here,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
CM Mathieu Eugene Offers Free Community Forum with The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings
Council Member Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens) in partnership with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) will host a press conference to announce a free educational event, “How To Respond To Summonses from NYC Enforcement Agencies.”
OATH is the independent administrative law court where nearly all City enforcement agencies file their summonses for hearings. The agencies that file summonses at OATH for hearings include the Departments of Sanitation, Buildings, Health, Parks, Environmental Protection, Consumer Affairs, FDNY and NYPD, among many others. OATH, however, does not conduct parking ticket hearings or hearings on alleged red light or speed camera violations. Last year, OATH received approximately 877,000 summonses from the City’s various enforcement agencies. During that time, 44% of summonses that were fought at OATH hearings were dismissed by OATH Hearing Officers.
“I want to thank the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings for partnering with me on this very important informational session,” said Eugene. “Hardworking New Yorkers should not be unfairly burdened by the city when receiving a summons, especially in situations when there is a language barrier. Many times, residents do not fully understand the extent of the violation, and must take time off from work or caring for their families to address these issues. It is important for the City of New York to provide resources where residents have access to information on the hearing process, and to better educate our constituents on the steps to take if they receive a summons.”
At the forum, representatives from OATH will discuss what to do when a summons is received from a City agency, OATH’s translation services, and OATH’s remote hearing options, which provide a more convenient method of fighting a summons since recipients of summonses do not have to go to hearings in person. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session between forum attendees and OATH representatives.
The free forum will be held from 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Councilmember Eugene’s District Office, 900 Rogers Ave in East Flatbush.
Cuomo Signs Legislation to Help Connect Veterans who Experienced Military Sexual Trauma with Info and Resources
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation (S.5006-A/A.2459-A) Monday to help connect veterans who experienced sexual trauma while on active duty or during military training with vital information and resources. The new law requires the Division of Veterans’ Services to maintain a Military Sexual Trauma Portal on its website where veterans can go to find information about where to seek treatment and counseling for military sexual trauma.
“Far too many veterans have experienced sexual trauma in the military, which can lead to life-long consequences and years of recovery,” Cuomo said. “It is our duty to support our veterans once they get home, and this new law will help survivors of military sexual trauma find the resources they need to seek help and counseling and move onto the next chapter of their lives.”
Military Sexual Trauma is defined by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as psychological trauma which resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature or sexual harassment which occurred while the veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.
Senator Kevin S. Parker (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Midwood, Ditmas Park, Kensington, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace) said, “Our veterans risk their lives every day to protect our nation, and we must do everything we can to help ensure they have the proper care and support they need when they get home. Military Sexual Trauma affects so many of our brave veterans, and this new law will make it easy for them to access the services they need to get help. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and for being a champion for our service members.”
The Department of Veteran Affairs states that in a screening for military personnel seeking VA healthcare 1 in 5 women responded “yes” when screened for Military Sexual Trauma. Additionally, according to Pentagon statistics, nearly 1 in 3 women in the military is at risk for sexual assault, twice as many as in the general population. This new law will make it easier for the women and men in the military who suffer from these traumatic experiences to have the information and resources they need to find help and treatment.