By NYC Council Members Mark Levine & Elizabeth Crowley
Thanks to a recent agreement between the City Council and Mayor de Blasio, New York City is on a path to make history with the closure of the Rikers Island jail complex. This momentous step would end the Department of Corrections’ nearly century-long hold on the Island, freeing it up for a variety of imaginative uses once more modern and humane jails are built elsewhere.
But, likely unbeknownst to many New Yorkers, Rikers is not the only island controlled by the Department of Correction. In the Long Island Sound off the coast of the Bronx lies Hart Island, a mile-long strip of land which is also under the department’s auspices.Read more
By Council Member Mark Levine
The numbers are startling: 42 million visitors per year in Central Park -- double the number of visitors to Disney World. Over 7 million people visit the High Line annually and 5 million visit Bryant Park. On a peak summer weekend 127,000 visit Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Park use in New York City is surging. And with the population in the five boroughs continuing to grow and tourism booming, this trend will surely continue.
But the story is not the same everywhere in our city. The marquee parks that are increasingly overwhelmed with visitors fortunately have the benefit of millions of dollars in private contributions to help them manage the onslaught. These funds enable them to provide the extra staffing needed to keep their parks looking beautiful despite the record levels of trampling.
Read the full piece here.
By Council Member Mark Levine
It seems every day in New York City brings fresh news of a beloved neighborhood business shutting its doors — too often replaced by a generic chain.
Happily, the ultimate mom-and-pop businesses, street vendors, are still adding life and character to neighborhoods across the city. But the system for regulating this vital sector is decades out of date, and vendors and communities alike are paying the price.
It’s time to bring street vending into the 21st century.
Read the full piece here.
Are you trying to find out when the dead tree branch dangerously dangling over your roof will be removed, or whether the cratered sidewalk in front of your home is ever going to be fixed?
Sorry, you're out of luck. The City doesn't share that information with the public. In some cases, it doesn't even know itself.
New York City's 650,000-plus street trees need to be pruned to thrive, and to ensure that precariously hanging branches do not injure people or damage property. The Parks Department Forestry Service sets a goal of pruning every street tree once every seven years, with urgent pruning completed immediately. But Parks doesn't always have the resources to meet this goal.Read more
WITH over 58,000 people in our shelter system every night, and thousands more sleeping on the streets, concern about homelessness in New York City has reached a fever pitch. We must attack this challenge on every front: through construction of more housing with on-site services, expanded federal support for homeless families and improvements in city-run shelters.
But the best solution to homelessness is preventing it before it even occurs.
More than two-thirds of the people in our shelters are families with vulnerable children, and the most common cause of their homelessness isn’t drug dependency or mental illness. It’s eviction. If we can slow the pace of evictions, we will make a major dent in the homelessness crisis.Read more
Help city kids speak Mandarin, Arabic and more: Foreign language education is shamefully bad in this global city
By Council Members Mark Levine and Daniel Dromm
Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that within 10 years all New York City public school students will take computer science classes is welcome news. But Java, Python and C++ are not the only languages critical for 21st century success. Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic and French are vital, too.
STEM TRAINING GETS $6M BOOST AS SUPPORTERS FUND FUTURE
Learning human languages other than English is not only a major career asset, it opens the door to cross-cultural understanding, boosts self-esteem and expands horizons in so many ways.
Sadly, in the nation’s most diverse and global city, home to the United Nations, the benefits that come with learning a foreign language are being acquired by far too few public school students.
By Council Member Mark Levine, published in the Manhattan Times.
Medical marijuana will finally be available in New York. But where will it accessible?
It is welcome news that five licenses were awarded to organizations that will be able to manufacture and distribute this treatment throughout New York State. It’s also encouraging that two of the dispensaries will be placed right here in Manhattan.Read more
New York is embarking on a building boom, and upzoning neighborhoods around the boroughs, with the laudable goal of making the city more affordable. But will it be more livable?
The answer depends, in part, on whether we plan for green space and open space to match all the new construction. With residential towers set to rise in at least 15 neighborhoods in line for new zoning, and the pace of building picking up city-wide, it's critical that we account for the infrastructure of public life. This means investing in new parks, playgrounds, street trees, and "green" features like bioswales as our city expands.Read more
Mayor Bill de Blasio captured New Yorkers' imaginations last month with his proposal to create a citywide ferry network. But look at a map of the routes and one thing jumps out: The entire West Side of Manhattan is blank.
Yes, existing ferry lines connect to Brookfield Place and Pier 79 at West 39th Street. But points farther north along the Hudson River are unserved and would remain so under the mayor's plan.
By Council Members Mark Levine, Corey Johnson and Helen Rosenthal
At its best, New York City is a place where people from all walks of life live together and interact with each other. But a new residential tower rising on Manhattan's west side tears at that tradition: the building will have separate entrances for low-income and luxury residents, ensuring that the two groups won't ever mix in the hallways, on the elevators, or in the building's gym.
Incredibly, this so-called "poor door" development is being subsidized by our tax dollars. How could this be?Read more