Congestion Pricing Town Hall

Congestion pricing has gained support in the state legislature, and could pass this year. Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine are holding a town hall meeting on Tuesday at John Jay College to discuss the details.

Congestion pricing involves charging drivers for entering Manhattan’s central business district, with tolls likely being set up around 60th Street and at other entry points. Some residents have expressed concern that drivers fro the burbs will park their cars in the neighborhood, to avoid the charge, so local officials have discussed possible resident parking permits.

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This new City Council bill could slow evictions of small businesses

A bill that will soon be proposed in the City Council would provide small businesses in New York City with free legal counsel if they are facing eviction.

City Councilman Mark Levine plans to introduce the bill on Wednesday, and it is based on a similar program for residential tenants, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There have been more than 3,900 commercial evictions in New York City over the past two years, and the average number has gone up each month since 2017, data from the city shows.

The bill would apply to independently owned businesses, along with owners whose household income does not exceed 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

The current Right to Counsel program for residential tenants covers legal help for harassment and displacement issues, and it has helped about 33,000 households throughout the 2018 fiscal year.

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State budget director says a pied-à-terre tax could help fund MTA

By Alexandra Alexa

Calls for a pied-à-terre tax have increased since billionaire Ken Griffin closed on a penthouse at 220 Central Park South for over $239 million. The sale shattered the existing record of the most expensive home sold in the US by $100 million but Griffin will only be using the residence as “a place to stay when he’s in town.” City Council Members Mark Levine and Margaret Chin recently announced support for a bill that was first drafted by Sen. Brad Hoylman five years ago, which would place a yearly surcharge of 0.5% to 4% on secondary residences worth more than $5 million. In a statement released on Wednesday, State Budget Director Robert Mujica added his support, stating that a pied-à-terre tax could be combined with other revenue solutions to help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $40 billion in capital needs.

“Congestion pricing is projected to yield $15 billion, the internet sales tax would yield roughly $5 billion, and the tax on cannabis could generate an additional $2 billion for a total of $22 billion for the next MTA capital plan,” he explained.

With the estimated cost of the Fast Forward plan at $40 billion, Mujica suggested that a pied-á-terre tax could help raise additional funds. “If we lose tax revenue generated by cannabis we will either need a 50/50 cash split between the city and state, or the pied-à-terre tax,” Mujica said, suggesting that the new tax could bring as much as $9 billion over the 10-year period of the capital plan.

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Measles Outbreak: 1 Student Got 21 Others Sick

By Tyler Pager

Public officials and health experts had given several warnings: Do not allow a student in school if they had not been vaccinated against measles.

Still, during New York City’s largest measles outbreak in a decade, a school in Brooklyn ignored that advice, resulting in one student infecting at least 21 other people with the virus.

The outbreak, at Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov in Williamsburg, is reigniting concerns that too many people in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are unvaccinated, as well as worries that measles would continue to spread after travelers arrived last fall from parts of Israel and Europe, where the virus was spreading.

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Bus service fails riders in almost every NYC neighborhood: report

By Clayton Guse

Transit advocacy groups released report cards for bus routes across the city Wednesday, and the grades weren’t exactly honor roll material.

Half of all the routes analyzed across the five boroughs received a “D” grade or lower, shining a light on the depressing, delay-ridden commutes that plague the city’s 2 million daily bus riders.

The report also shows breakdowns of bus performance by City Council district— all but five of the 51 across the city received “D” or “F” grades.

“For a long time I’ve felt that the problems on our buses were an ignored second transit crisis in this city,” said City Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), whose district received an F grade and has an average bus speed of 5 miles per hour. “All the attention goes to the obviously serious problem in our subways.”

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NYC buses failing riders with poor service, transit advocates say

By Vincent Barone

This year’s bus report cards are in and the D grades abound.

The Bus Turnaround Coalition advocacy group released its annual grades for the city’s bus routes Wednesday, with 58 routes earning Fs and another 124 routes — half the bus network — receiving Ds.

"In 2018, the average local bus traveled at 6.4 miles per hour. That's even more sluggish than last year's average speed and considerably slower than another New York City transit fixture: the rats running through our subway system, who can sprint faster than 8 miles per hour," said Mary Buchanan, a researcher at TransitCenter, one of the coalition members, during a rally Wednesday on City Hall steps.

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Residents Had Pushed for Safety Measures for Years Before Deadly Crash On Claremont Avenue; ‘An Accident Waiting to Happen’

By Alex Israel

For years before Columbia University Dean Peter Awn was hit by a vehicle at 116th Street and Claremont Avenue in January, residents of the block advocated for changes that could make it safer for pedestrians. But only now, after the crash that injured and eventually killed Awn, is the city putting together a plan to make it safer.

Awn was hit on January 25 and died on February 17. Details about the crash are still hard to come by—police have said they are still investigating. Spokespeople from the NYPD’s 26th Precinct and the Deputy Commissioner Public Information did not respond to requests for additional details, citing the ongoing investigation.

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Half of all NYC bus routes get ‘D’ for speed and reliability

Half of all New York City bus routes received a “D” rating in regards to speed and reliability, according to new data from Bus Turnaround Coalition (BTC).

Bus speeds for the average passenger bus were 6.6 mph in 2018, down .2 points from 2017, according to MTA data analyzed by BTC. Additionally, the organization says “where buses are scheduled to arrive at least every 15 minutes, 1 in 9 buses arrived bunched, creating frustrating, unpredictable gaps in service.”

On the bright side, 30 fewer buses received a failing grade from the year before, which BTC credits to a reductions in bus bunching.

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Lawmakers demand to know why CBD was banned in NYC

By Nolan Hicks

City lawmakers – including Council speaker Corey Johnson – are demanding the Health Department answer questions about its apparently sudden decision last month to ban CBD, a cannabis oil served in drinks.

“We are deeply alarmed by the opaque nature of the process by which the Department came to this seemingly abrupt policy shift,” Johnson and Councilmen Mark Levine and Robert Holden wrote in their letter to Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot.

The letter requests the agency provide a detailed accounting of its decision-making process, an official explanation of its stance on the compound and its possible impacts on public health and explain why the decision was made without public hearings.

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Upper Manhattan Pols Want Parking Permits For Congestion Pricing

By Brendan Krisel

With Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo united in support of congestion pricing for New York City, Upper Manhattan City Council representatives are renewing a call for residential parking permits in their neighborhoods

Four city councilmembers introduced legislation in 2018 that would establish a parking permit system that would give residents living north of 60th street to the tip of Manhattan in Inwood. Legislators fear that drivers hoping to avoid congestion pricing fees in the borough's major business districts will flock to these areas for parking.

"As momentum continues to build for the creation of a desperately needed congestion pricing program to fund public transit, now more than ever, the City needs to address the prevailing issue of suburban commuters dumping their cars in our neighborhoods, only to transfer to the subway on their way downtown," Councilmember Mark Levine said in a statement.

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