NY Lawmakers on the Move, Aug. 2, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Brannan’s Adaptive Reuse Task Force takes shape

Justin Brannan
City Council Member Justin Brannan

City Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) announced yesterday that the New York City Office Adaptive Reuse Task Force has convened and started their work in earnest in studying . the questions of whether and how the city can make future use of vacant, obsolete office space. 

The task force is required to do so under a bill Brannan sponsored and passed in 2021 bill requiring the city to look at other possibilities for housing. 

Amid ongoing homelessness and affordability crisis, the task force will prioritize assessing whether large office buildings can be safely and cost effectively converted into affordable housing. The Task Force will also look at the feasibility of converting vacant office space into schools, labs, and more.

The Task Force includes experts from across related fields in housing, construction, labor, policy, and advocacy; with appointees made by the Mayor, the Council, and the Public Advocate. 

“Could we actually convert vacant office space into affordable housing in New York City? Let’s stop talking about it and let’s figure it out,” said Brannan. “This work is starting in a unique moment. COVID has only exacerbated our city’s affordable housing crisis and thereby an increase in New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. We have historic housing court backlogs, rising rents, and increased medical risks for those without shelter all happening at the same time. In the very same moment – also due to the pandemic – we have whole industries pivoting away from in-person work, leaving large swaths of office space sitting empty and unlikely to be back in use any time soon. If we can find a good way to convert these buildings into affordable housing, we could equip ourselves to making significant progress in these multiple crises at the same time.”

Won launches free home Wifi for NYCHA residents

City Council Member Julie Won

City Council Member Julie Won (D-Queens) on Saturday hosted a registration for NYCHA residents to sign up for free home Wifi through the Federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) at Woodside Houses Friends & Family Day.

About 300 residents attended the event as well as elected officials including Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, to celebrate the launch.

The ACP provides a subsidy for high-speed internet to many qualifying New Yorkers. Subscribers will be able to get free internet through this program or apply the subsidy savings to their existing bill. Under ACP, individuals — including those who have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or any member of the household, those enrolled in public housing, Medicaid, SNAP, National School Lunch, veterans pensions — are eligible for this service.

About 1.5 million New Yorkers currently lack at-home internet access because they simply cannot afford it. Closing the digital divide is essential to ensuring a just economic recovery. Nearly all government services — including vaccination scheduling and unemployment benefits — are accessible exclusively online. Public schools are engaging in remote learning, which necessitates a high-speed internet connection. Job applications as well as many office jobs have made the leap to being fully remote. 

“I began my journey into government with the mission to get all of our NYCHA neighbors free WiFi. COVID-19 proved that WiFi should be a public utility. As a new mom, no mother should be forced to choose between food on their table and access to hybrid learning for their child,” said Won on Saturday.

“Today, we kicked off the NYCHA registrations for the ACP to provide free home WiFi for all of our Woodside Houses neighbors. I want to thank our nonprofit partners at educationSuperHighway, Sunnyside Community Services, Riis Settlement Houses, and Community Capacity Development for helping us make Wifi ACP registration available to our constituents all year long. We look forward to registering Queensbridge Houses and Ravenswood Houses residents for free WiFi in the upcoming weeks,” Won added.

Malliotakis, McMahon Request Help from US Attorneys to Stop Auto Thefts

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn) and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon yesterday requested that the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, and the District of New Jersey establish a task force to assist to NYPD with the sharp rise in transnational grand theft auto crimes in New York City.

“Over the past year, there has been a drastic increase in stolen vehicles by transnational organized criminals,” Malliotakis and McMahon wrote. “This dangerous trend has resulted in vehicles being loaded onto ships at the Port of New York/Newark and sent abroad for resale, mostly to West Africa and the Dominican Republic, making them almost impossible to recover. Given that this criminal operation crosses state lines, we urge you to create a task force to investigate and prosecute the individuals and organizations involved.”

New York City has seen a 44 percent increase in auto grand larceny thefts over 2021, with 7,361 vehicles stolen citywide, and Staten Island seeing the largest percentage increase of all the boroughs. 

According to U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBP), as of April 115 stolen vehicles were recovered within New York City ports with approximately 74 stolen vehicles destined for various West African countries and 40 stolen vehicles headed for the Dominican Republic. These numbers are on pace to far exceed the 174 vehicles that were recovered in all of FY 2021.

The officials added: “It must be noted that the men and women of the NYPD are working tirelessly to prevent these thefts through robust community engagement and education, and to identify and apprehend those who are perpetrating these crimes. But the sheer amount of man hours it takes to investigate and solve even the most routine grand larceny auto crime is massive. We respectfully request your assistance in addressing this situation by mobilizing a task force to work in coordination with CBP, HSI, NYPD, and other federal agencies and local law enforcement involved to ensure that this trend does not continue and these transnational organized criminals will be brought to justice.”

Sanders Jr. Energy and Banking Bills signed into law 

State Senator James Sanders Jr.

Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens) recently had two of his bills signed into law by the Governor, one was regarding energy, and the other concerning banks.

Bill S4479-A authorizes the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to prepare a report on the establishment of a New York renewable energy laboratory.

“New York State is committed to expanding and advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce out of state dependency on fossil fuels, promote public health and create new jobs,” Sanders said. “This bill will report on the feasibility of establishing a renewable energy laboratory to help achieve the ambitious goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

Bill S9152 extends the effectiveness of certain provisions relating to participation in the Banking Development District Program. 

“This program, which was created in 1997, enables municipalities to offer certain incentives in order to encourage the establishment of bank branches in underserved areas,” Sanders said. “Under the program, a municipality and a banking institution may jointly apply to designate a “Banking Development District.”

By establishing a branch in such a district, the bank would be eligible at local and state option to receive municipal and state deposits at reduced rates, and to receive a partial exemption on municipal property taxes. About 40 Bank Development Districts have been established, with several of these being created by savings banks. The creation of local bank offices should help provide needed banking services and easier access to capital, thereby fostering economic activity and development in these areas.

 

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