By Brian M. Rosenthal
The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.
The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.
The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”
The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.Read more
City Councilmember Mark Levine has announced the 2019 winners of participatory budgeting in his district, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and Washington Heights.
The projects to receive funding are:
- $250,000 for air conditioning upgrades and new water fountains at P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon School
- $250,000 for new computers at the Community Health Academy of the Heights
- $250,000 for gymnasium upgrades at P.S. 153 Adam Clayton Powell School
- $200,000 for bus countdown clocks
Voting for participatory budgeting took place between March 30 and April 7.
Projects selected as finalists are typically efforts designed to improve schools, housing and parks.
For more information, go to www.marklevine.nyc/pb.
By Sabrina Mallot
Last fall, the City Council introduced a package of 18 bills aimed at preventing tenants from being displaced due to aggressive tactics from landlords like exploitative buyout agreements or nuisance construction. On Wednesday, May 8, all but one passed.
They still require the mayor’s signature, but he has indicated his support for them.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Jane Meyer said, “From free access to legal services in housing court to the new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, this administration has been fighting for tenants from day one. These bills will help bolster our efforts to protect all New Yorkers.”Read more
By Eddie Small
The hallways of Bronx Housing Court are crowded and chaotic on a typical weekday morning.
Lawyers and tenants scurry across the white tile floors and lounge on the worn-down benches of the Grand Concourse building, where occasionally the sound of one person shouting out a name will rise above the chatter.
The elevated discussion is usually from an attorney trying to find a tenant facing eviction who they want to assist. Even though New York City passed its Right to Counsel law two years ago guaranteeing that those tenants have the right to legal representation, lawyers still don’t have a better way of contacting the people they’ve been enlisted to help.Read more
By Elizabeth Kim
A collaboration between a group of housing rights advocates has produced the most comprehensive database yet to measure evictions across New York City and identify many of the landlords responsible for them.
Three advocacy groups — Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, , and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project — on Monday launched a website, www.worstevictorsnyc.org, that incorporates newly analyzed and vetted public data as well as knowledge from tenant organizers. Users can zoom in to get a block-by-block picture of where city marshals are carrying out evictions and also, in many cases, learn who the associated landlords are. Users can also elect to map evictions by landlord.
This is by no means the first interactive eviction map: , one of the groups behind the new map, launched a mapping tool in 2017 that drew on eviction lawsuit filings. Less than 10 percent of eviction filings result in actual evictions, often because tenants choose to move out before city marshals show up.
By Samar Khurshid
The New York City Council and budget officials from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration engaged in a familiar push-and-pull on Monday, at the first hearing on the $92.5 billion executive budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year that begins July 1.
The Council, disappointed that many of its priorities were not included in the latest spending plan presented by the mayor, pushed for more funding and pointed to hundreds of millions in revenue available to the city, but officials from the Office of Management and Budget urged restraint as they emphasized the dangers of a slowing economy and insisted the Council’s revenue estimate was far rosier than their own.
De Blasio presented his executive budget last month with $300 million more in proposed spending than his preliminary plan released in February. The $92.5 billion proposal would mark yet another record high in city spending, up nearly $3.4 billion from the current fiscal year and about $20 billion from the budget that de Blasio inherited from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
By Brendan Krisel
Following a recent rash of shooting on a West Harlem block, the area's local city council representative is allocating funds for NYPD security cameras.
City Councilman Mark Levine is allocating $80,000 in capital funding to the NYPD's 30th Precinct to install security cameras on West 134th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, the councilman announced this week. Three shootings occurred on the mainly-residential block in early March with two occurring within hours on the same day, police said.
"In response to the alarming crime statistics on West 134th Street, including multiple shootings this year already, I'm proud to be allocating this money to help the NYPD keep that street safe," Levine said in a statement.
By Ben Yakas
In February, the Department of Health announced that it had begun ordering all restaurants and bars in the city to stop selling CBD-infused products, citing an FDA ruling from December saying that it is "unlawful to add CBD to food or drink." The embargo was postponed until this summer, and City Council member (and Health Committee chair) Mark Levine tells Gothamist he is working on legislation to prevent the ban from going through. But it is unclear whether it will be ready by the June 30th deadline, and local businesse owners are still wondering whether their CBD products fall under the new rules, and how they can adapt to the changing CBD landscape.
It's not like things are much clearer for CBD users as well. CBD, a.k.a. cannabidiol, is one of more than 80 naturally occurring active compounds found in cannabis plants. But it lacks the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC, the compound which gives weed its extra oomph. Since it doesn't get you high, the applications for CBD are seemingly limitless.
Two years ago you probably wouldn't have found many people who had even heard of CBD; now, it's an ubiquitous product available in corner bodegas. Even now, you'd still be hard-pressed to find anyone who could explain what CBD does exactly.
By Jonathan Lamantia
The choice of hospital where a woman gives birth could cause the price to almost double, according to data provided to Crain's by HCCI. In the New York–Newark–Jersey City region, a provider on the low end of the spectrum received $9,415, and a more expensive hospital got $18,595 in 2016. Those prices reflect costs at the 10th percentile and the 90th percentile, meaning the first is more expensive than 10% of all claims, and the higher number is more expensive than 90% of all claims. The median price was $13,830.
The same was true for a vaginal delivery, with prices ranging from $6,910 at the 10th percentile and $14,177 at the 90th percentile, with a $9,875 median price in 2016.
Two local council members have announced the projects that won financing through participatory budgeting, a community-driven process to allocate $1 million in taxpayer money for each council district.
For Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents much of the Upper West Side south of 96th Street, the winning projects included school improvements, waste management and tree planting.
- Technology Upgrade for 4 U.W.S. Schools (2,852 votes) Purchase of needed technology — computers, smart boards, and other equipment — for P.S. 199, P.S. 84, M.S. 245/The Computer School, and P.S. 87. Cost: $400,000 (each school will receive $100,000)
- Bathroom Upgrades at 2 U.W.S. Elementary Schools (2,530 votes) Upgrades to four bathrooms in P.S. 452 and P.S. 199 that are in serious disrepair and no longer fully usable by students. Cost: $400,000
- New Waste Management System for NYCHA Buildings (2,266 votes) Purchase of compactors and rat proof garbage bins for NYCHA buildings in the northern part of District 6. Cost: $150,000
- Neighborhood Tree Planting and Tree Guards (2,072 votes) Planting of new trees and installation of tree guards in eligible areas throughout District 6. Cost: $110,000
Council Member Mark Levine, who represents parts of the UWS, Morningside Heights and Washington Heights, also listed the winners in his district.