And the Participatory Budgeting Winners Are…

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.

Read the full article here.

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Panel examines healthcare affordability issues

By Greg McQueen

Healthcare premiums in New York are the third highest in the nation, with the average cost of a family plan placed at more than $21,000.

Industry leaders, immigrant advocates and city lawmakers called for enhanced city and state action to address the crisis of affordability of healthcare during a panel discussion on Mon., Apr. 30th.

Hosted by Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the discussion was inspired by a recent CSS survey that found that 59 percent of New York City residents had a financial burden related to health care within the past year.

The study also revealed that 54 percent of uninsured New Yorkers cited high costs as their reason for their uninsured status, and 46 percent of adults in the city struggled to pay medical bills.

“There are people with insurance who are forgoing care, because they can’t navigate it, or they’re hit with huge bills. People are declaring bankruptcy due to medical bills,” said City Councilmember Mark Levine, Chair of the Health Committee. “We have to solve this problem.”

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Yiddish could be taught in New York schools home page Yiddish could be taught in New York schools

By Jenni Frazer

A New York City Council member has proposed opening a dual-language Yiddish-English programme in a city public school.

Mark Levine, who represents parts of upper Manhattan and is the chair of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus, is working to open the programme in a kindergarten classroom in autumn 2020, according to the Forward.

The secular Yiddish-language programme would be the only one of its kind in the United States.

Levine told the Forward: “I’ve been inspired by young activists who are looking to keep this language alive, and keep its literature and theatre and culture alive by passing it on to the next generation”.

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DOT will implement Amsterdam Avenue safety improvements despite community objections

By Dave Colon and Amy Plitt

New York City’s Department of Transportation announced that it will implement much-needed safety improvements along Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem, following the March hit-and-run death of pedestrian Erica Imbasciani on West 141st Street.

The news comes after a trio of Manhattan elected officials asked the DOT to overrule the veto that Community Board 9 gave to a street safety redesign that’s been pitched for two years.

Council Member Mark Levine (who represents the street in question), Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and state Senator Robert Jackson all signed a letter obtained by Curbed that expressed the trio’s “unequivocal support of the Department of Transportation’s proposed street redesign on Amsterdam Avenue between 110th Street and 155th Street, and request that the Department immediately move forward with implementing this proposal.”

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Uptown Pols Want Amtrak Billboard Torn Down

By Brendan Krisel

A trio of Uptown Manhattan politicians are calling on Amtrak to tear down a recently-installed billboard that has "fundamentally altered the skyline" of the Washington Heights neighborhood.

City Councilman Mark Levine, Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Borough President Gale Brewer sent aletter to Amtrak President and CEO Richard H. Anderson demanding that the transit agency demolish a billboard over the tracks at West 155th Street between Riverside Drive and the West Side Highway.

Politicians and residents have criticized Amtrak since the first signs of the billboard appeared in February, saying that the transit agency performed zero outreach in the community before going forward with construction. Levine, Espaillat and Brewer want an immediate teardown of the structure, according to the letter sent to Anderson.

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Lawmakers unveil bill to strengthen Right to Counsel

By Greg McQueen

Now they’re playing hardball too.

Yarisme Guilamo, a tenant leader with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), and her neighbors have been busy.

In 2017, the city passed its landmark Right to Counsel law, which helps low-income residents thwart eviction by guaranteeing them an attorney in housing court.

Guilamo said the legislation has certainly created a change.

“We went from a building full of people who feared losing their home and living in unhealthy living conditions, to a tenant association filled with motivated leaders ready for battle to demand the conditions we deserve,” remarked Guilamo, who said she and her neighbors began an organized rent strike despite ongoing threats of retaliation from their landlord.

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New City Council Bill Aims To Educate Low-Income Tenants About Right To Counsel Law

By Elizabeth Kim

Two years following the passage of a landmark law which gave low-income tenants facing eviction the right to a free attorney, a new bill has been introduced in the City Council to mandate city funding to tenant organizing groups so they can educate people on their legal rights.

In 2017, New York became the first city in the nation to adopt the right-to-counsel law. But advocates say that most low-income tenants still do not know that they are entitled to a lawyer during eviction cases.

“It’s about making them aware and having them exercise this right,” said Lauren Springer, a tenant organizer in Queens who works with Catholic Migration Services, a nonprofit legal services provider.

The right-to-counsel law is currently being rolled out by zipcode. To date, 345,000 households in the city are covered. Citywide implementation is expected by 2022.

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WESTY Awards: Celebrating the spirit of the UWS

For more than 10 years, the West Side Spirit has recognized the exceptional contributions of Upper West Siders with the WESTY (The West Side Spirit Thanks You) Awards. On Tuesday, April 16th, 12 WESTY's were presented to a dynamic mix of individuals representing the best of the UWS: a U.S. Congressman, a police commander, a minister, two family-owned local businesses, a health-care professional, a city council member, the directors of three local cultural organizations, and the leaders of a business improvement district and a preservation non-profit.

A happy crowd of friends and family gathered at the W83 event space and joined the honorees for a reception and the presentation of the awards, which was emceed by NY1's Kristen Shaughnessy.

The awardees and their guests were also joined by elected officials from the Upper West Side. In addition to City Council Member Mark Levine and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler — who were honored at the event — the West Side Spirit welcomed NY State Senator Brad Hoylman, NY State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, NY State Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell, NY State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

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Privacy concerns mount over tech-based apartment building access

By Sarina Trangle

A building management team in East New York told tenants keys would not be an option once a biometric facial scanning security system is installed, their attorneys said. 

Residents of a Hell's Kitchen loft are in court seeking mechanical keys to the main lobby, their sole path to the elevator. And on the Upper West Side, a tenant said she and her neighbors feared the landlord would transition away from the traditional lock system. 

Residence buildings are considering technology that promises quick, convenient entry for tenants and their guests with biometrics, facial recognition, phone apps and personalized codes, but their traditional counterparts are still required by city rules.

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Advocacy Group Launches New Push Against Flavored E-Cigarettes Targeting Kids

By Natalie Duddridge

Keeping children away from flavored e-cigarettes is the goal of a new campaign launched today at city hall.

Sixth-grader Yael Mintz may look small, but her voice is big, reports CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

She’s adding to the growing chorus calling for a ban on menthol and flavored e-cigarettes.

“I want to keep Juul and other e-cigarettes away from me my friends and other kids our age,” she said. “The flavors are like ‘Oh, hey, it’s for kids it’s like candy for us. I’m not saying that vapes or Juul should be banned entirely, I just think that flavors are what’s really getting kids.”

Gummy bears and cotton candy are just some of the flavors advocates worry entice kids.

Local leaders joined with parents and medical professionals to launch the “Flavors Hook Kids” awareness campaign on the steps of City Hall.

Read the full article here.


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