City hospitals have treated 12 immigrant children who were taken from parents, including a suicidal child

New_York_Daily_News_logo_(1).png By Jillian Jorgensen

Two city public hospitals have treated 12 young immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border for physical and mental illnesses, Health and Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz said Thursday.

The children were brought to the hospitals — four to Bellevue in Manhattan and eight to North Central Bronx Hospital — after being placed with foster parents by area social service organizations tasked with caring for the children, he said.

“There are undoubtedly many more, since our commitment is to serving people, not interrogating them about the circumstances that bring them to our facilities,” Katz said.

The children they have seen have presented with depression, anxiety, asthma, constipation and other ailments, city officials said. One was suicidal, Katz said, something he said did not surprise him given the circumstances.

“I don’t find that dramatic when I think about my own children, trying to imagine what it would have felt like to them to be separated from me forcibly,” he said.

Dr. Daran Kaufman, director of pediatric emergency services at North Central Bronx, said she and her clinicians have felt “helpless” in treating the children, who have generally arrived without medical records.

“Although we’ve been able to treat their medical diagnoses, they are sad, despondent, and we are unable to treat the emotional scars they are presenting with,” she said. “It’s very difficult for myself and my clinicians to be able to help them with these scars.”

Cayuga Centers in East Harlem is currently serving 239 children separated from their parents at the border due, according to the city, and is one of three providers who have federal contracts to do so in the city. The city was not notified by the federal government the children were being brought here from the border, though the organizations have for years served other immigrant children who cross the border alone.

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Fun Socks, Games and Breast Milk: New Yorkers Donate to Immigrant Kids

WNYC-Logo.png By Zoe Azulay

When the local media began reporting on hundreds of immigrant kids separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border being detained in New York, Hastings-on-Hudson resident Kim Meisner said her Facebook feed went "crazy." “Everyone wanted to help, and saying what can I do?” So Meisner started a Facebook group, a place where the community could put their heads together. Within 24 hours of starting The Rivertowns Migrant Support Group, the page had 580 members.

But the group had one problem: They didn't know how to help.  “In Hastings we have a great community of therapists, and translators, and people who could raise money and do extracurricular activities like art," said Meisner. "I wish we could go inside [the facilities the children were staying in]. That would be the dream, but it's not that easy."

But the Facebook group got some clarification on Thursday morning, when Hastings Mayor Peter Swiderski sent an email blast to residents telling them how they could help — send “welcome packets” to kids heading to Children’s Village, a facility that is currently holding an undisclosed number of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border. “It’s a fairly large number,” said the mayor.

What’s in a welcome packet? The mayor asked the community for “fun socks, journals, toys,” and other things that convey “you are welcome.”

Councilmember Mark Levine is trying something similar. He reached out to two other facilities with federal contracts –  Cayuga Home for Children in New York City and Abbott House in Westchester, and asked what they needed. "They have younger kids [than Children’s village,] so they needed things like diapers and baby clothes.

“Within 24 Hours our offices were filled,” said Levine. Though he couldn’t take everything. “One woman offered frozen breast milk. We actually got a lot of inappropriate donations which we couldn’t take but conveyed how generous our community is." Levine said his office has enough donations for now, and if citizens want to give they should donate to groups which can provide immigrant families with direct services such as legal assistance. 

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Tenants Rally Against Landlord Abuses In Washington Heights

Patch-Logo.png By Brendan Krisel

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, NY — Tenants of a Washington Heights apartment complex rallied in front of their building Tuesday to denounce their landlord for pursuing a construction project they say will leave residents in unsafe conditions.

Residents of 600 W. 161st Street, a 10-story building located on the corner of Broadway, said they suffer continued abuses by their landlord Efstathios Valiotis and the managing agent Alma Realty. The latest abuse is a construction project Valiotis is undertaking that will downsize apartment units in order to bring the building into compliance with the city safety code, residents said.

The project, which will widen corridors to provide passage to a set of exterior fire stairs on the building's second through tenth floors, will result in the reconfiguration of 24 apartments, residents said. Residents instead want the city Department of Buildings to revoke their approval of the plan and force Valiotis to install fire escapes for tenants.

Tenants of 600 W. 161st St. were joined by Congressman Adriano Espaillat, City Councilman Mark Levine and State Senate hopeful Robert Jackson during their rally Tuesday. Espaillat pledged that his office would take up the cause of the tenants.

"This is my neighborhood where I grew up, and so I want to make sure that the tenants remain here, that they pay a legal rent, that they're not abuse, that they're not evicted and that they're not subjected to the predatory tactics that Alma Realty has subjected these tenants and a bunch of other tenants around the city of New York," Espaillat said Tuesday.

The holding company that owns the building, GVS Properties LLC, said in a statement that the construction project is more than halfway complete and is actually a benefit to building residents. The company said its plan is the "safest, quickest method" to bring the building in accordance with the city fire code and won't result in tenants being displaced.

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Vecinos de Washington Heights apoyan los ‘estacionamientos sólo para residentes’

ElDiario_(1).png Por Jose Martinez

Uno de los grandes dolores de cabeza que tienen los residentes de Washington Heights, en Manhattan, es lograr encontrar un sitio para estacionar sus vehículos. La pesadilla para muchos puede tomar horas, hasta el punto en el que han decidido llamarse entre sí para asegurar el cupo de un vecino que vaya saliendo.

“Aquí no se encuentra dónde estacionar”, dijo Luis Rodríguez, un dominicano que tiene 45 años viviendo en esta zona del Alto Manhattan, mientras caminaba por la calle 169. “Cuando saco mi vehículo me toca dejarlo botado por allá lejos hasta que mis vecinos me digan que hay un espacio disponible”.

Así como Luis, muchos residentes se quejan y aseguran que la problemática radica en el alto número de vehículos con placas de otros estados que se estacionan en las calles de su barrio.

“Toda la gente que viene de Nueva Jersey y de Pensilvania a trabajar llenan los estacionamientos y no se encuentra dónde poner el vehículo”, apuntó Luis. “Encuentras placas de todas partes y los ve uno tomando el tren para downtown”.

Y para buscar una solución a esta situación, varios concejales presentaron el martes un plan que crearía espacios de estacionamiento “exclusivo para residentes del área”, propuesta que aunque para algunos vecinos parece ser la solución perfecta, ha sido vista con escepticismo por la Alcaldía.

“Ese sistema nos ayudaría mucho porque la gente que viene de otras partes debería estacionar en un sitio privado, no por aquí frente a nuestras casas”, comentó Mario Quesada, residente de Washington Heights, mientras hacía una rápida parada prohibida frente a un hidrante. “A veces uno se estaciona donde pueda y toca pedirle a alguien que le eche un ojo al carro mientras uno sube a buscar algo a la casa de rapidez”.

La propuesta, presentada por el concejal Ydanis Rodríguez, presidente del Comité de Transporte del Concejo Municipal, pretende reservar hasta el 80% de espacios de estacionamiento en algunos barrios para residentes que recibirían unos permisos, y declarar esos lugares fuera de los límites de conductores de otros estados y de los turistas. El concejal de Manhattan Mark Levine y Francisco Moya, de Queens, han patrocinado legislaciones similares par acrear permisos residenciales de estacionamiento en sus distritos.

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City Council considers giving residents parking permits

Spectrum_News_NY1.png By Jose Martinez

The search for parking in Upper Manhattan comes at a cost: With space at a premium, the hunt can become a time-consuming drag.

"Horrible, horrible. If you don't get home by 2:30, 3 o'clock, you won't get parking," one resident said in his car.

Residents are especially upset that they often have to compete with out-of-state drivers who would rather park on the street to avoid the hefty fees at parking garages.

"You see vehicles with Jersey plates — often luxury cars, Mercedes, BMW — circling around our neighborhoods, coming off the George Washington Bridge, waiting for open parking and crowding out local residents, adding to our congestion," Manhattan City Councilman Mark Levine said.

WHAT IS THE PARKING PERMIT PROPOSAL?

On Tuesday, the City Council held a hearing on several parking proposals, including creating a parking permit program that would reserve most spaces on residential streets to drivers who actually live in the city or specific neighborhoods.

Similar permit programs have existed for decades in Boston, San Francisco and other cities.

"First of all, it is common sense," Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said. "We believe that in the city of New York, we should dedicate 80 percent of the street parking spots to people who live in certain communities."

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Cigarettes are now officially at least $13 a pack

Bklyner_Logo.png By Liena Zagare

On June 1, the minimum price of cigarettes in New York City increased from $10.50 to $13 per pack, the highest in the nation. Depending on how heavy your habit, that adds up really fast.  “For someone who smokes cigarettes regularly, cigarettes can cost as much as two months’ worth of groceries,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

“For over a decade, NYC has led the nation in policies to improve public health by reducing the number of New Yorkers who smoke,” said Council Health Chair Mark Levine. It is quite remarkable what has been accomplished since 2002 when 21.5% of residents smoked – the number last year was 13.1% – but the city wants it down to 12% by 2020 and are offering help for anyone willing to quit.

“There are still more than 850,000 New York adults who smoke. In addition, about 15,000 New York City youth smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes are the only consumer products that – when used as intended – kill up to half of long-term users”, NYC Department of Health said in a statement today, as it announced the latest initiative to combat smoking:

  • Free nicotine patches and lozenges are available today through Wednesday, June 27 by applying online at nysmokefree.com or calling 1-866-NY-QUITS. Eligible enrollees will receive a NYC Quits Kit which includes a coaching guide in four languages, and a four-week supply of patches and/or lozenges depending on the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
  • Check out the NYC HelpMeQuit mobile app. Developed with input from smokers trying to quit, it includes tips to stop cravings; social support from other people using HelpMeQuit and Facebook friends; connection to existing smoking cessation resources (such as the Quitline and a map of nearby clinics); and in-app games to distract from smoking. You can track your progress through money saved by not purchasing cigarettes; cigarettes not smoked; badges earned for reaching milestones; and time – down to the hour – since they quit smoking.
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City lawmakers grill police on parking problems

New_York_Daily_News_logo_(3).png By Dan Rivoli

Only 89 cars with illegal parking placards were towed in the past year despite widespread abuse, city officials said Tuesday.

The number of offending cars was so low that one city councilman, Ydanis Rodriguez, urged New Yorkers to snap photos of vehicles parking with illegal placards and share them on social media.

“Every day we see someone using an illegal placard,” Rodriguez, chair of the council’s transportation committee, said at a hearing on the subject.

About 52,000 summonses for the offense were issued in the year since Mayor de Blasio announced a crackdown on people abusing parking privileges. The NYPD had issued 29,000 tickets for the year before the start of the crackdown.

But that did not explain why so few cars with bogus placards were hitched onto the backs of tow trucks and carted away.

NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Pilecki of the Traffic Enforcement District defended the department’s record on placard abuse, even as lawmakers criticized the rampant illegal parking around the city, particularly by law enforcement officers.

The NYPD has 116 officers dedicated to ticketing for placard abusers, he said.

“All our agents are encouraged to take enforcement against vehicles that are abusing their permits,” Pilecki said.

The hearing covered 14 pieces of legislation that aim to ease the burden of finding parking in New York, from bills creating residential parking programs around the city and, in certain neighborhoods,suspension of alternate-side parking during road work or film production, and parking for press vehicles.

Councilman Mark Levine, a sponsor of a bill for a northern Manhattan residential parking program, said the city is afflicted with the “crisis of congestion.”

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Johnson Makes Series of City Council Changes, But Sidelines Formal Rules Reforms

Gotham_Gazette.pngBy Samar Khurshid

In December, several City Council members jostling to become the powerful next speaker of the 51-member legislative body signed on to a broad platform of reforms to the Council’s rules and procedures, which can have a significant impact on city law-making and funding for communities. Both returning and newly-elected Council members, 33 of them in total, backed the proposals, which would make legislative drafting procedures more transparent, bolster staffing for prominent divisions such as land use, and tweak the Council’s internal culture in significant ways, among other more minor adjustments.

But a deadline set in that platform for convening a public hearing on the proposals came and went as new Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was among the signatories, has chosen instead to implement administrative changes in lieu of more formal reforms through the Council’s Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. Several Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette largely praised those measures but others expressed concern that important promises have been left unfulfilled.

In a process somewhat similar to four years prior when Council members proposed changes ahead of the election of a new speaker, the document signed by the Council members in December of last year laid out broad areas where the Council could improve its functions, including in bill drafting, the role and operations of the 40-plus issue committees, the body’s oversight and investigations capacity, its budget negotiation process, its land use powers, and the quality of working life for members and their staff.

“A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018,” states the letter, signed by both Speaker Johnson and Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whom he appointed as chair of the rules committee. “The reforms should then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later than June 2018.”

By this time in 2014, then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito had ushered in transformative rules changes that made the body more democratic, diluting some of the traditional powers of the speaker and empowering individual members. The changes were spearheaded along with Council Member Brad Lander, who she appointed to chair the rules committee and was instrumental in drafting the reforms.

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Councilman proposes expanding right to lawyers in housing court

New_York_Daily_News_logo_(2).png By Jillian Jorgensen

The City Council members behind landmark legislation to provide tenants facing eviction with lawyers are looking to expand the right to counsel in housing cases — less than a year after the initial law passed.

Councilman Mark Levine and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson plan to introduce bills that would expand the program — in large part by raising the income threshold needed to qualify. The current standard, 200% of the federal poverty level, amounts to $50,200 annually for a family of four. But for a single person, making the $15-an-hour minimum wage would push them over the limit and make them ineligible for legal representation under the program.

“It’s a response to changing economics of the city, where the cost of housing and the cost of living continues to rise, and we are totally out of whack with the federal poverty level,” Levine said. “We need to capture the people who are in need, and that does include people who are above the 200% threshold.”

Levine and Gibson will propose increasing that threshold to 400% of the federal poverty level.

“It’s not lost on us that San Francisco Tuesday night passed a bill modeled on our program, except without an income cap,” Levine said. “We don’t want to be a step behind San Francisco.”

The current law, signed last August, uses city funds to provide attorneys for lower income people facing eviction in housing court. Unlike in criminal court, where an attorney is provided if a defendant cannot afford one, people are not guaranteed an attorney in eviction proceedings.

Levine said he’ll also look to fund outreach by community groups to let people know about their right to a lawyer in housing — so they can get one before the day they’re called to appear. Since the law has been passed, Levine said, some landlords have been seeking out tenants on security lines, knowing they’ll be pointed to an attorney once they’re inside.

“They’re making aggressive offers to tenants before they speak to their attorney, and telling them that offer might not be on the table once they bring their own lawyer into the discussion,” Levine said. “That’s a very scary situation for a tenant to be in.”

The proposal would also expand the right to other venues where New Yorkers face eviction — including Housing Preservation and Development administrative hearings for Mitchell-Lama residents, certain ejectment cases in Supreme Court, and cases involving Housing Development Fund Corporation residences.

Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “We will review the proposed bills, but we agree that New Yorkers should not lose their homes because they cannot afford a lawyer and stopping wrongful evictions from happening makes both ethical and economic sense.”

Read the full story here.

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In Curb Company

Manhattan_Times_News.png By Gregg McQueen

Curb it.

The city has partnered with carsharing companies on a program Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes will encourage New Yorkers to give up their personal vehicles.

Through a two-year pilot program with Zipcar and Enterprise, which launched on June 4, the city will dedicate 230 on-street parking spaces in 14 neighborhoods for carshare vehicles.

In addition, 55 dedicated parking spots at 17 Department of Transportation (DOT) lots will be reserved for carsharing, as well as 24 spaces at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes lacking nearby public transportation options.

Both Zipcar and Enterprise will provide discounts to NYCHA residents citywide, while IDNYC cardholders are eligible for a complimentary, one-year Zipcar membership.

De Blasio said the NYC Carshare program could influence city residents to ditch their cars, if they can more easily access vehicles when they need them.

“There are a lot of people who have their car in a parking space all week long and only use it really on the weekend. That’s not an optimal situation,” de Blasio said at a May 31 press conference. “So what we want to do is make it easier for people who only need a car a small amount of the time to have a great new option.”

De Blasio, who cited statistics indicating that for every shared car available, a city can take up to 20 cars off the road, bluntly assessed the need to reduce the number of cars on the city’s streets.

“If we don’t reduce the number of cars, we’re all screwed,” he stated. “Let’s be clear about it. We’ve got to find a way to address this reality.”

De Blasio said that if all went well, he envisioned “hundreds of thousands” of New Yorkers eventually using carshare services.

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