Queens Lawmakers on the Move Dec. 11, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Dromm Introduces Bill to Ban Solitary Confinement

City Council Member Daniel Dromm/via Facebook

Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) introduced Intro 2173, legislation to end the use of solitary confinement in all NYC jails, on Thursday.

“History will not be kind to us if we turn back from the clarion call: Solitary confinement must end now,” said Dromm. “I am here to tell the families of those who did not survive: your suffering has not been in vain. I am here to tell the survivors that we have heard your anguished cries.  We would not be here if it were not for you who have endured the unendurable, survived the unsurvivable, and come out on the other side to tell us what should already be apparent: that solitary is torture. It has no place in our city, no place in our state, and no place in our country.”

Dromm’s bill represents the culmination of over 10 years of advocacy. A longtime leader in the criminal justice reform movement, Dromm has worked closely with criminal justice experts, alternatives to incarceration activists, social service providers, medical professionals and his colleagues in government on this effort that will bring unprecedented reform to the justice system.

Once Intro 2173 is made law, nearly all people detained in NYC jails will be guaranteed 14 hours of time out of their cells. Correction officers will be permitted to isolate individuals for the sole purpose of de-escalating violent conflicts, and only for a maximum of four hours. The Department of Correction (DOC) will be required to document all instances of de-escalation. These records will be made available to lawmakers and to the general public.

Intro 2173 will also shed light on and curtail the city’s use of restrictive housing. The DOC will be required to hold mandatory placement hearings whenever an detained individual is placed into such housing. The legislation also mandates free legal counsel for these individuals and strict limitations on how long they can spend away from the general population.

This landmark bill is ultimately about creating humane conditions for all people inside NYC jails, including corrections officers and other city employees.

“Solitary confinement is not just a violation of the basic human rights of the individual subjected to it. It is a horrific practice whose negative impact reverberates throughout our entire society. Correction officers and their supervisors are forced to dehumanize the incarcerated and desensitize themselves in the process, all the while making work conditions more dangerous. Surely there are violent individuals held in our jails–but the use of solitary only makes individuals more violent. This is not good criminal justice policy.  NYC must seize this opportunity to make things right and to lead,” Dromm said.

The New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice will hold a virtual public hearing on Intro 2173 on Friday, December 11 at 10:30 a.m. Members of the public can view the hearing online.

The purpose of the hearing is to solicit comments from all the affected communities on how the legislation might be improved.

To read the text of the legislation, visit the council website.

Richards Holds Land Use Hearing

City Council Member Donovan Richards

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards will hold a regular Public Hearing on Land Use next week.

The public hearing will be streamed live at www.queensbp.org. The agenda includes:

  1.  An application submitted by the New York City School Construction Authority for an amendment to the City Map involving: a) the elimination of the northerly 15 feet of 44th Avenue between Junction Boulevard and National Street, and b.) the adjustment of grades and block dimensions necessitated thereby. Location is in Corona in Queens Community Board District 4.

Items 2 and 3 are related

  2.  An application submitted by Phipps Houses for an amendment of the Zoning Map changing from an M1-1 District to an R6A District property bounded by the southerly boundary line of the Long Island Railroad Right-of-Way (Main Line), the northerly centerline prolongation of 52nd Street, Barnett Avenue, and the northerly prolongation of the westerly street line of 50th Street. Property is in Sunnyside in Queens Community Board District 2.

  3.  An application submitted by Phipps Houses for a zoning text amendment to designate the Project Area as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area. Project Area is in Sunnyside in Queens Community Board District 2.

Items 4, 5 and 6 are related

  1.  An application submitted by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development for the designation of an Urban Development Action Area and approval of an Urban Development Action Area Project to facilitate the development of a new mixed-use development with approximately 1,650 dwelling units, non-residential space, open space and parking, along with a 35-acre nature preserve, within the Arverne Urban Renewal Area in Queens Community Board District 14. The proposed project would be bounded by Rockaway Freeway to the north, Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk to the south, Beach 32nd Street to the east, Beach 56th Place to the west.

  2.  An application submitted by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development for an amendment to the Zoning Map: a.) changing from a C4-4 District to an M1-4/R6 District property bounded by a line 120 feet westerly of Beach 35th Street, a line perpendicular to the westerly street line of Beach 35th Street distant 370 feet northerly (as measured along the street line) from the point of intersection of the northerly street line of Ocean Front Road and the westerly street line of Beach 35th Street, Beach 35th Street, and Ocean Front Road, and b.) establishing a Special Mixed Use District (MX-21) bounded by a line 120 feet westerly of Beach 5th Street, a line perpendicular to the westerly street line of Beach 35th Street distant 370 feet northerly (as measured along the street line) from the point of intersection of the northerly street line of Ocean Front Road and the westerly street line of Beach 35th Street, Beach 35th Street, and Ocean Front Road. Location is in Arverne in Queens Community Board District 14.

  3.  An application submitted by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development for an amendment to the Zoning Resolution to add MX-21 to the list of Special Mixed Use Districts mapped throughout the City.

Those who wish to testify may register for speaking time by visiting the borough president’s website and submitting their contact information. Each registrant will receive a confirmation e-mail with instructions on how to participate in the live public hearing. Speaking time can also be arranged by calling (718) 286-3000 between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. prior to the date of the hearing.

Written testimony is welcome from those unable to testify live. All written testimony must be received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, December 17 and may be submitted by e-mail to planning@queensbp.org or by conventional mail sent to the Office of the Queens Borough President at 120-55 Queens Boulevard – Room 226, Kew Gardens, NY 11424.

The hearing will take place on Thursday December 17 at 10:30 a.m. A public live stream will be available on the borough president’s website.

Vallone Co-Chairs Hearing on Workforce Development Post COVID

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Councilmember Paul A. Vallone (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, Whitestone) co-chaired a hearing of the Committees on Economic Development and Small Business on Wednesday to assess the city’s workforce development infrastructure and what initiatives are in the pipeline for the post-COVID world.

Present was leadership from within the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, the Economic Development Corporation and Commissioner Jonnel Dorris of the Department of Small Business Services.

“Today’s hearing offered a critical look into job development progress prior to the COVID-19 crisis, how these initiatives have adapted to challenging circumstances and what plans lie ahead for the city’s various workforce development programs and small business support,” said Vallone. “It is essential that these programs reach the five boroughs equitably and, likewise, that New York City businesses are connected directly to local talent.”

After previously having its longest economic expansion on record, New York City endured one of the worst rates of job losses of 82 other U.S. metropolitan areas due to COVID-19 when comparing July 2020 to July 2019. From October 2019 to October 2020, private sector jobs fell to 3,545,600 from 4,099,500, a loss of 553,900 jobs, which were shed primarily from the leisure and hospitality sector.

New York City saw an unemployment rate that was significantly higher than the statewide rate, a disparity seen and felt throughout the five boroughs. In Queens, unemployment saw its height in June with a 21.6% rate, compared to the 3% rate seen in February, but the borough has seen a promising decline to 13% in October.

Vallone pressed NYCEDC and SBS to ensure equity-based workforce development throughout the five boroughs in the coming months. He also urged the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Office of Workforce Development to market and promote working nyc.gov, which serves as a new workforce hub for city employment resources and training programs. 

“Getting New Yorkers back to work will be a multi-agency effort that must be priority number one as we move into 2021 and a post-COVID world,” said Vallone. “We on the committee look forward to hearing the progress of these initiatives in the new year.

Gianaris Announces Gas Service Restoration at Astoria Houses 

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) announced that cooking gas service at Astoria Houses’ 1-04 Astoria Boulevard building was finally restored this morning. 

This comes after a nearly 3 month outage that impacted residents, including during the Thanksgiving holiday. The agency had only provided those residents with a hot plate and no timeline for repairs.

“While I am pleased these residents now have service restored, this whole episode represents an unacceptable failure from NYCHA. Rent-paying tenants deserve better,” said Gianaris.

In response to this outage, Gianaris introduced the NYCHA Utility Accountability Act would reduce a tenant’s rent obligation in an amount prorated per day of utility outage by the greater of 10% of the tenant’s actual rent or $75 per month. Affected utilities include gas, heat, water, and electric service. In addition to providing relief for impacted tenants, this legislation would provide a financial incentive to fix service more quickly.

Astoria Houses residents are not alone in being without gas service. According to NYCHA’s own service portal, outages exist at properties across New York City dating back to November 2019. Residents in 1-04 Astoria Boulevard were provided with hot plates for cooking by the beleaguered housing agency, which are an insufficient replacement for gas stoves.