Opening Remarks at the Parks Committee's FY 2018 Executive Budget Hearing

Council Member Mark D. Levine, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation

Opening Statement at the Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget Hearing -- May 18, 2017

Good afternoon, and welcome to the Parks and Recreation Committee’s Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation. My name is Mark Levine and I am the Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

In keeping with the budget process mandated by the City Charter that will ultimately lead to the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, today we will hear testimony from the Department of Parks and Recreation on its Expense and Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year 2018.

During our Preliminary Budget hearing in March, we called for a robust parks budget to meet the needs of the city’s growing population at a time with park use is surging.  We specifically called for:

  • 80 PEP officers to address the recent uptick in parks crime;

  • 50 new Urban Park Rangers;  

  • 10 new outreach coordinators for Partnership for Parks; and

  • Funding to permanently expand the City’s beach and pool season by a week beyond Labor Day.

Unfortunately, none of these needs were addressed in the executive budget.

Most egregiously of all, the executive budget fails to baseline $9.7 million for critical park maintenance workers, which would lead to a loss of 50 gardeners and 100 CPWs who would be laid off as of June 30th--depriving our parks of sorely needed staffing, and depriving 150 hard-working New Yorkers of their livelihood.  These workers are critical to the success of the Community Parks Initiative--a key administration priority--so the fact that again this year it falls on the Council to save these positions is proof that the budget dance has indeed returned.  

In total, the executive budget proposes a reduction in headcount of 183 positions.  There was some confusion on this point at our last hearing so I want to be clear: the budget as adopted last year included 7,646 full-time equivalent positions for the Parks Department.  The budget now being proposed by the administration would reduce this to 7,463 positions.  We need to understand what impact these cuts will have on our parks system.

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De Blasio opposes bill limiting construction noise near schools, siding with building project backed by one his donors

New_York_Daily_News_logo.pngBy Greg B. Smith

Mayor de Blasio is moving to gut a bill that would quiet down construction noise next to schools — a bill drafted in response to a building project supported by one of his big donors.

The bill is being pushed by parents at Public School 163 on the Upper West Side who are fighting a 20-story nursing home set to be built right next to their kids’ school.

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'Setup for Failure': Tenants and Officials Blast City's Rent-to-Own Program

dnainfo-logo.pngBy Dartunorro Clark

NEW YORK CITY — City officials offered a mea culpa regarding a longtime rent-to-own program that has been labeled a failure by tenants — admitting that the program became “unsustainable” after its launch nearly 40 years ago.

Officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development were put in the hot seat Thursday at a marathon City Council oversight hearing to answer questions related to the beleaguered city housing program that is currently under investigation.

Officials from HPD offered some concessions and promised reforms related to the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program, which was meant to be a pathway for renters in city-owned buildings to purchase their units for just $250.

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Nearly 900 affordable housing program apartments sit vacant

NY_Post.pngBy Michael Gartland

The city has left nearly 900 apartments vacant in one of its affordable-housing programs — a situation that Mayor de Blasio said on Thursday leaves him “perplexed.”

Of the 2,322 apartments in the Tenant Interim Lease program, 38 percent — or 884 — are unoccupied, according to a report by Public Advocate Letitia James.

Some tenants sent packing for renovations are still waiting to get back a decade or more later.

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Council Introduces Legislation to Protect Tenants From Harassment

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 //

City Hall, NY -- To address the prevailing issue of tenant harassment in New York, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, along with Council Members Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torres, Helen Rosenthal and Jumaane Williams have introduced a package of legislation that will make it easier for tenants to win and pursue harassment cases against abusive landlords.

Under current law, tenants in housing court are obligated to prove that an owner deliberately harassed them with the intent of causing said tenant to leave their dwelling. In addition to expanding the definition of what constitutes harassment, the proposed package would strengthen current protections by creating a rebuttable presumption for tenant harassment claims, meaning tenants would no longer be required to prove an owner’s intent in court.

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City Council’s Budget Response Steps Up to Invest in Parks

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 //

City Hall, NY -- Following the release of the City Council’s Response to Mayor de Blasio’s FY18 Preliminary Budget, Council Member Mark Levine praised the response for laying out a roadmap to bold, smart investment in the City’s parks system.

“This document is an unmistakably strong statement by the New York City Council that we believe the City needs to up its investment in parks,” said Council Member Levine, Chair of the Parks Committee. “At a time of record parks use - over 100 million last year alone - we are unequivocally demonstrating that the Council sees the parks system as an essential part of the New York’s infrastructure. This budget response recognizes that a thriving parks system isn’t just a luxury in a dense city of 8.5 million people, it’s essential to livability.”

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How Donald Trump Could Weed Out Your Community Garden

WNYC.pngBy Janet Babin

The Trump administration could decide how green New York City's future is.

More than 500 community gardens in the five boroughs rely on a program called GreenThumb. It was started in the 1970s after a financial crisis left many public gardens abandoned and bereft of funding.

GreenThumb gets 43 percent of its funding from federal Community Development Block Grants, the very funds the Trump administration wants to zero out in its latest budget.

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NYC rent freeze for one-year leases upheld by New York State judge

AMNY.pngBy Sheila Anne Feeney

Tenants were relieved and landlords frustrated at a New York State Supreme Court decision announced Tuesday that appeared to vindicate the rent freeze for one-year leases instituted by the Rent Guidelines Board in 2015 and repeated again last year.

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Council Member Levine Praises NYS Supreme Court Ruling Vindicating Rent Freeze

: March 28, 2017
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 //

City Hall, NY -- Following the decision made by the New York State Supreme Court today regarding the Rent Stabilization Association’s lawsuit against the Rent Guidelines Board, New York City Council Member Mark Levine released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a monumental victory in our continued pursuit of justice for 2.5 million rent regulated tenants in New York City. For years now, tenants in our city have faced record levels of displacement, an epidemic of evictions, and rents that go nowhere but up. But in that landscape of pain, the Rent Guidelines Board’s rent freeze was the one glimmer of good news, and this court ruling confirms what we all already knew - that tenants in this city deserve every break they can get. However, as the Board meets this Thursday, our work is not done yet. With a third of tenants paying more than half of their income towards rent, we need to fight for a rent rollback to give tenants a measure of relief from the damage done by decades of unjustified past increases.”

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Tom Cat Bakery Tells Employees To Prove They're Not Undocumented Or They're Fired

Village_Voice.pngBy Nick Pinto

Last Wednesday, employees at Tom Cat Bakery, the industrial-scale provider of high-end breads and baked goods to restaurants and hotels throughout the region, received a letter from the company's payroll administrator: "Tom Cat bakery has been audited by the Department of Homeland Security," the letter stated. "After an ongoing audit, it was brought to our attention that documents you provided at the time of hiring in form I-9 does not currently authorize you to work in the United States." Employees had 10 days to prove that they have the proper documentation to legally work in the country. The letter didn't specify what would happen if they were unable to, but the implication was that they would be fired.

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