Morning Political Odds & Ends, Nov. 11, 2021

Chalk loudspeaker and inscription odds and ends on black chalkboard
Black chalkboard with drawing of a loudspeaker and inscription odds and ends

City council passes Ayala bill regulating construction industry body shops  

Council Member Diana Ayala (Photo credit:
Council Member Diana Ayala

Council Member Diana Ayala (D-Manhattan/Bronx) yesterday saw the city council pass her legislation to regulate construction industry body shops and other employment agencies that often exploit formerly incarcerated New Yorkers who reenter the city’s workforce and economy after coming home from prison.

According to the law, reentry labor brokers and job placement firms that regularly hire formerly incarcerated New Yorkers must meet specific criteria in order to be licensed and operate in the city. 

Crucially, these entities now will be required to tell workers where they will work, what their pay will be, and what benefits they will receive. Such disclosure and transparency will help improve the standards and quality of reentry employment for Black and brown New Yorkers, especially for laborers who will build the future of New York City as part of COVID recovery.

Construction is one of few industries where New Yorkers can find work after incarceration. New York City’s reentry system relies on employment agencies to place workers from correctional facilities into jobs. In construction, these agencies are known as body shops, because they provide physical labor to contractors who want to build projects as cheaply as possible.

“Construction industry body shops provide developers with a cheap labor pool, made up of black and brown nonunion workers with criminal justice histories. Body shops take advantage of the scarcity of employment opportunities for reentry workers, and effectively force these workers into dangerous, low-wage jobs with no training,” said Ayala.

“I am glad to have played a lead role in getting this bill introduced and passed, and I commend these courageous laborers and reentry workers for telling their stories. The action we’re taking in the City Council to regulate construction body shops will help create the conditions for real reentry in our city’s workforce and economy as part of COVID recovery,” she added.

Eugene Gives Thumbs Up to African Burial Ground Memorial

Councilmember Mathieu Eugene Photo by Phoebe Taylor Vuolo

City Council Member Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn) yesterday, announced his support for the stand-alone creation of a memorial at the site of the former African Burial Ground, located at the corner of Church and Bedford avenues in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Previously, Eugene had wanted the site to have affordable housing, a vocational training center for youth, and a memorial to honor our ancestors.

“The memorial has always been a central component of this project because we have the moral obligation to pay tribute to our ancestors and acknowledge the challenges they faced as they built this country. As a member of the immigrant community, I have spent my lifetime learning about the experiences and struggles of those who paved the way for us, and I understand the need to have their stories preserved for future generations.

“In fact, this project is comprised of three very important elements: truly affordable housing, a job training center, and a memorial to our ancestors, all of which I feel are essential for the community to embrace. From the beginning of this conversation, I have believed it will take all of us working together to determine the best use of this land, and that is the reason why I advised the creation of the community task force, in order for us to achieve a consensus.

“I support the decision of the task force to only build a memorial on the designated land. I believe the community deserves a project that will respect and honor the memory and legacy of our ancestors while fulfilling the needs of the community,” said Eugene.

Eugene has already allocated $4 million to the project in his Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Budget.

Stavisky Honors former Senator Kenneth LaValle

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens), chair of Higher Education Committee, last month reached across the aisle to honor former Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) with a proclamation for his outstanding service.

 The honor came as Stavisky chaired one of four hearings regarding various issues facing college administrators, staff and students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The senator was joined by fellow members of the committee in hearing testimony from university and community college presidents, faculty and staff including union representatives, and student body leaders. 

At the start of the hearing, which took place at Stony Brook University, Stavisky surprised LaValle with the proclamation. 

“Too often, partisan politics divide us in a way that hinders our ability to lead,” said Stavisky. “As Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Senator LaValle did not allow that to happen. Senator LaValle knew that what truly mattered was working to make our State’s higher education system more affordable and accessible, without sacrificing the quality of the education. New York State owes a great deal of gratitude to Senator LaValle for his decades of service and I was proud to present him with this proclamation.”

 LaValle was first appointed chair of the Higher Education Committee in 1979, where he served more than three decades. The Senator was quick to see how advancing technology was reshaping the world economy, and his foresight allowed New York to remain competitive in attracting new industries and preparing students to excel in new, quality jobs within the state. Senator LaValle was a champion for affordable higher education in New York State up until his retirement in 2020.  

Hochul Signs Persaud’s Bill Establishing a Center to Study Firearm-related Violence

Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul
Roxanne J. Persaud
State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Nov. 8 signed Sen. Roxanne Persaud’s (D-Brooklyn) legislation establishing a center for research into firearm-related violence.

The Research Institute is charged with researching all matters related to gun violence and advising the governor, governmental agencies, the regents, and the legislature on matters relating to firearm violence in New York State.

The legislation sets forth the members of the Institute, including relevant state agency commissioners and appointees of the Senate and Assembly, and establishes a scientific committee to be made up of experts in the field of gun violence. The bill also establishes a special revenue fund to provide a mechanism for funding this research, although the bill does not provide actual funding for the Institute.

In addition, the state legislature passed a measure that creates a funding source to assist gun violence research, as well as a separate gun violence research fund.

Queens Lawmakers Secure Traffic Safety Victories for College Point Schools

Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal
State Sen. John Liu
City Council Member Paul Vallone

Queens lawmakers including Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal, State Senator John Liu and Councilman Paul Vallone earlier this week successfully lobbied the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) ro approve their request for All-Way Stop signage adjacent to three College Point schools. 

The signage will be placed along the following intersections 124th Street and 14th Avenue, 126th Street and 23rd Avenue, and 129th Street and 9th Ave, which are adjacent to MS 379, PS 29, and PS 129, respectively.

Following pleas from concerned constituents and parents, the lawmakers penned a joint letter to DOT last November requesting a traffic study regarding the feasibility of installing traffic safety measures near College Point schools. Given the density of the schools, tight thoroughfares and proximity to major traffic corridors, parents, residents and school administrators had long called for safety measures.

“I am happy to learn the Department of Transportation has heeded the pleas from the concerned parents,” said Rosenthal (D-Flushing). “These traffic safety measures will help ensure children arrive and depart safely from their school day while also providing an extra element of driver safety.”

“Keeping children safe is the highest responsibility of the government,” said Liu, “and these stop signs will go a long way towards keeping kids safe as they go to and from their school.”

“Safety for our schools  has been a top priority over the last eight years,” said Vallone. “College Point schools will now have additional traffic calming and controlling devices to help prevent reckless driving in their vicinity and make both families and faculty feel safer as they make their way to class every day”

Per DOT, the All Way Stop signs will be installed within the next two weeks.