Council Member Levine Celebrates Victory for Community Public Health Programs, City Parks in Budget

Article 6 Funding Cut by State Restored; City Park Workers FInally Given Employment Stability

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** FOR: June 14, 2019***

Contact: Win Roosevelt 917-842-5748//

City Hall, NY -- Today, City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine and public health advocates from across the city are celebrating $6 million in funding in the 2020 city budget that will restore “Article 6” programs recently cut out of the New York State Budget. Article 6 funds programs that support immigrant health, city public health outreach, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, child and maternal health, viral hepatitis, and more.

“Article 6 funds are critical to New York City’s ability to wage a wide range of public health battles and it was completely indefensible that Albany only eliminated our city's funds while targeting no other place in the state,” said Council Member Levine. “Restoring this funding will keep intact essential public health programs focused on improving health outcomes for vulnerable New Yorkers. If we had allowed the Albany cuts to stand, it would have been a major setback for health equity in our city.”


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Landlord Housing Reforms Set to be Passed by Council

Council Member Levine also calls on the State Legislature to increase transparency as part of Rent Reform package

CONTACT: Win Roosevelt //

City Hall, New York -- Two bills introduced by Council Member Mark Levine to strengthen protections for renters are set to be passed by the City Council tomorrow, May 8th.

Introduction 1274 will require landlords of rent stabilized units to provide individuals with active tenancies four years of rental history. Armed with rent history, tenants are able to see if they are overcharged for their homes. It will also help prevent landlords from illegally removing units from stabilization while making it easier for the City to enforce existing laws that protect and preserve stabilized units.

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Right to Counsel NYC Coalition & Council Members Introduce New Bill to Empower Tenant Organizing

**Release** April 18, 2019

CONTACT: Jake Sporn, (Levine)
   Alyssa Figueroa, (201) 921-3249, (RTC Coalition)

City Hall – Today, NYC Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa L. Gibson were joined by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition for a press conference announcing new legislation that would require the City of New York to work with trusted tenant organizing groups to engage and educate tenants about their rights. The bill would strengthen the City’s landmark Right to Counsel (RTC) by ensuring that all tenants know about the new RTC law, understand it, and use it as a tool to address housing issues.

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Health Chair Levine Calls to End “Flat Tummy” Tea Sales to Minors

*RELEASE* April 11, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn,

City Hall, NY -- City Council Health Chair Mark Levine has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of products such as ‘detox teas’ and ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops to minors in NYC.

The non-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved products have greatly risen in popularity in recent years, in large part due to aggressive celebrity promotion on social media, headlined by non-other than influencers like the Kardashians. The new legislation seeks to both curb teen access to the potentially dangerous products, and raise awareness about the issue of their marketing tactics and effect on those struggling with eating disorders.

Citing safety concerns, Health Chair Levine’s legislation would make it illegal to sell products whose active ingredients include senna, a laxative; and saffron, an appetite suppressant, to those under 18 in the City of New York.

Said Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. S. Bryn Austin, “Dietary supplements sold for detox or weight loss are snake oil, plain and simple. Weight loss claims for these products are either outright sham or a result of adulteration of the products with potentially dangerous stimulants, laxatives or diuretics.”

“We need to call these products out for what they are: a dangerous scam,” said Council Health Chair Levine. “There’s no legitimate basis for a teenager to buy ‘detox’ teas--which are laxatives masquerading as a wellness health product--or ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops--which are candy-coated appetite suppressants. In the rare case a young person has a legitimate medical need, it should be discussed with their parents, their doctor or a certified nutrition expert. These products are not FDA approved and there are serious questions their effects.”

Detox teas are technically dietary supplements, meaning they aren't subject to pre-market screening by the FDA, however the federal agency has reported over 13 deaths from laxative tea abuse and cautions that those “with certain health conditions should ask a healthcare professional before using these products because they may be at increased risk for harmful side effects” such as dehydration, cardiac arrhythmia, and severe kidney damage. Consuming detox teas can even interfere with birth control according to Skinny-Teatox, a company that sells senna-based teas.

Health Chair Levine also said, “I’m hopeful this legislation will begin to call attention to this issue while also shielding minors from the threat dangers of relying on products like these. We need to step up and send a better message to young people about healthy nutrition, not dangerous shortcuts like ‘flat-tummy’ lollipops.”


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Upper Manhattan Street to be Co-Named for Former Community Activist & State Assembly Member, Marie Runyon

**ADVISORY** April 5, 2019
CONTACT: Jake Sporn //

Morningside Heights, NY – This Sunday, April 7th at 2pm, Council Member Levine will be unveiling “Marie Runyon Way” at the northeast corner of Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive in Upper Manhattan.

Marie Runyon, born on March 20, 1915, was known for challenging Columbia University’s expansion plans in Harlem and Morningside Heights. Columbia’s College of Pharmaceutical Sciences was hoping to demolish the Columbia-owned apartment buildings as part of the university’s master plan to accommodate more students and replace antiquated facilities. She spearheaded her own protests, as well as rent strikes and legal action against the evictions and won most of her suits under rent control protections. In 1996, Columbia announced that it would no longer seek to evict the people still living in her building and in 2002, Columbia announced that a renovated building was being renamed Marie Runyon Court.

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Council to Pass First-in-the-Nation Bill Providing Relief to Sexual Abuse Survivors by Amending Birth Certificates

**RELEASE** March 28th, 2019
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 //

City Hall, NY -- Today, the NY City Council is expected to pass legislation—initially opposed by the Administration—sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine that would require the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Office of Vital Records to redact from birth certificates the name of physicians whose license has been surrendered, or revoked by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), which licenses and disciplines physicians.

Council Member Levine was moved to sponsor this legislation after hearing survivor/advocate Marissa Hoechstetter’s story, as she unsuccessfully sought to have the name of the OB/GYN who sexually assaulted her while she was pregnant removed from her twin daughters’ birth certificates but was denied. Without a clear precedent for how to eliminate a physician’s name from the record, the Council Member’s office attempted to intercede on Ms. Hoechstetter’s behalf, but was told she would need an order from the State Supreme Court to have the doctor’s name stricken from her children’s birth certificates.

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Council Members Call for Stronger Enforcement and Stiffer Fines on Floating TV Billboards

**RELEASE** Monday, March 25th 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, 516-946-5253 // (Levine)
              Jonathan Yedin, 917-589-7855 // (Brannan)

City Hall, NY -- Today, NYC Council Members Mark Levine of Manhattan andJustin Brannan of Brooklyn announced they would be introducing legislation to dramatically increase the fine on advertising companies violating City law by operating barges equipped with large LED illuminated billboards. The bright LED screens on the barges--first seen in October of 2018 around New York Harbor and the two rivers leading into it--are 20 feet tall and 60 feet long, causing a nuisance to the surrounding communities and a dangerous distraction to drivers on the City’s highways.

Earlier this year, the New York City Law Department made clear in a letter to Ballyhoo Media, Inc., the company responsible for operating the barges, that the corporation is in violation of several provisions of the NYC Administrative Code and other laws. Specifically, the City’s Zoning Resolution states that, "no moving or stationary advertising sign shall be displayed on a vessel plying waterways adjacent to Commercial Districts and within view from an arterial highway," including the FDR, the BQE, and Henry Hudson Parkway.

Currently, the penalty for violating the City’s Zoning Resolution is up to $25,000 per daily violation. However, the maximum fine pales in comparison to the profits earned by these companies as the “pricing of a 30-second spot in a 2-minute loop on the boats is $55,000 in NYC,” according to Pivot Media Ventures, a Ballyhoo Inc. affiliate.

Council Members Levine and Brannan are seeking to quadruple the maximum fine to $100,000 per daily violation, in addition to calling on the NYPD to step up enforcement of the barges. The legislation will be introduced on Thursday, March 28th, and is co-sponsored by Council Members Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin, Helen Rosenthal, Stephen Levin and Keith Powers. 

“Nobody wants to be walking along New York Harbor or the Rockaways only to be visually assaulted by a 1,200 square foot TV screen running commercials on loop,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “These barges are more than just an obnoxious eyesore, they’re a danger to drivers on the City’s arterial highways. Ballyhoo is in clear violation of City Law. Worse, they’ve even bragged to other markets about ‘running unimpeded in New York.’ We need the NYPD to step up their enforcement of existing laws and we need to increase the fines to the point that it's no longer economical for Ballyhoo to keep flouting the law. I’m proud to work with my incredible colleague from Bay Ridge, Councilman Justin Brannan to protect the sanctity of public waters.”

“At a time when every square inch of our world feels like it’s covered in advertisements, visual pollution is a real thing and our waterways should be off completely limits,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “The New York harbor is not Times Square. A massive floating LED barge is not the same as the old crop duster flying over Jones Beach telling you to try the fried grouper special at the local seafood shack. These LED barges are not only ugly, obnoxious and illegal but they are dangerous to already often distracted drivers. Councilman Levine and I both agree that substantially upping the daily fines will make it financially crippling for these companies to break the law with these waterway advertisements.”

Said Council Member Keith Powers, “New York City’s waterways are not meant to double as advertising space. These billboard barges are operating against the law, and there must be clear consequences and better enforcement so they get that message. I thank Council Members Levine and Brannan for their efforts.”

“Waterfront Alliance commends Council Members Levine and Brannan for placing stronger regulations on the ad barge in order to better manage and preserve our waterways. While we celebrate the increased mixed use of our harbor, the visual pollution of the ad barge is an irritant for waterfront park-goers and a safety hazard for maritime users of our waterways,” Roland Lewis, President and CEO, Waterfront Alliance.


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Washington Heights Community to Rally Against Amtrak’s Mistreatment of Northern Manhattan

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 5pm
Contact: Erik Cuello, 212-928-6814

Washington Heights, NY -- A coalition of community members and elected officials will host a rally to protest Amtrak’s treatment of Northern Manhattan following the installation of a billboard on Amtrak property on West 155th Street and Riverside Drive in late February, and the spraying of pesticides which devastated a local community garden last fall.

At no point was an environmental or public review held with community input regarding the installation of the billboard, which has fundamentally altered the skyline of the neighborhood overnight.

Where: West 155th Street and Riverside Drive
When: Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 5pm
Who: City Council Member Mark Levine, Community Activists


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UWS Council Members, Transit Experts to Host Congestion Pricing Town Hall

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 at 6pm
Contact: Jake Sporn 516-946-5253 //

Upper West Side, NY -- As a potential congestion pricing plan continues to develop in the state budget process, Upper West Side Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine are hosting a Town Hall with a panel of transit and environmental experts to hear from community members about their concerns regarding the transit system and thoughts on congestion pricing.

Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Nick Sifuentes will be giving a presentation on what congestion pricing is, how it would work in NYC, and how it could improve the MTA’s NYC Transit system. Also present will be Julie Tighe of New York League of Conservation Voters and Manhattan Borough NYC DOT Commissioner Ed Pincar.

Where: John Jay College, 524 West 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues
When: Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 at 6pm
Who: City Council Members Mark Levine & Helen Rosenthal; Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Julie Tighe, Executive Director of the NY League of Conservation Voters; Ed Pincar, Manhattan DOT Commissioner.


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Council Members Call for City-Funded Lawyers to Protect Small Businesses from Eviction

*RELEASE* March 12, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, 516-946-5253 //

City Hall, NY -- Today, Council Members Mark Levine, Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Helen Rosenthal and Diana Ayala announced they would be introducing legislation this week to protect small businesses in New York City by guaranteeing them an attorney in eviction proceedings.

Over the past several years the number of commercial evictions in NYC has steadily risen, according to data from the City Marshal’s office. Between 2017 and 2018 alone commercial evictions climbed from 1,720 to 1,841. Though the first two months of 2019, there have already been 349 commercial evictions.

The staggering commercial eviction rates are fueling the city’s retail vacancy crisis. According to a 2018 survey by real-estate firm Douglas Elliman, approximately 20% of all retail space in Manhattan was vacant or about to become vacant, well above the 5% vacancy rate economists say is healthy.

This has also driven the number of retail workers in Manhattan to plummet for three straight years by more than 10,000, losing more jobs since 2014, during a period of strong and steady economic growth, than during the Great Recession.

The new legislation is modeled after a Council Member Levine’s tenants Right to Counsel legislation that guarantees legal aid to residential tenants facing eviction. Since 2013 as the number of tenants with legal representation has more than doubled, the number of evictions in NYC has fallen by 37%.

“Our neighborhoods are hemorrhaging mom and pop stores at an increasingly alarming rate,” said Council Member Mark Levine, lead sponsor of the new bill. “These stores are the fabric and soul of our communities. With the rate of small business evictions rising for the third year in a row, we need to address this issue before the storefront vacancy crisis gets any worse. We’ve seen what happens when we give residential tenants an attorney in an eviction proceeding--they win. It’s time to extend that right to struggling small business owners. No merchant should have to face a legal battle with their landlord without the benefit of an attorney.”

“For years our neighborhoods have continued to struggle with staggering small business eviction rates as rents climb ever higher. But this bill will ensure that owners have a fighting chance in these proceedings with representation guaranteed by the City of New York. If we are going to end the crisis of vacant storefronts, we need to give our friends in the small business community the tools they need to survive, and I encourage my fellow Council Members to support this important legislation,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.

Said Council Member Keith Powers, “Right to Counsel is a landmark law that demonstrates New York City’s commitment to supporting tenants – a commitment that we should extend to our small businesses. With this new legislation, small businesses that are under threat throughout the city will have the resources to fight eviction. I commend Council Member Levine for his continued work to provide legal aid for those in need.”

“Small businesses helped to build New York City, and they continue to play a critical role in providing goods and services, and employment. On the Upper West Side, we have seen a number of small businesses close, and our community has really felt this loss. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of Council Member Levine’s legislation guaranteeing commercial tenants an attorney in eviction proceedings. At the very least it offers commercial tenants a fighting chance to continue their lease arrangements, and for businesses to stay in their local communities,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

"I am proud to join my colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation that will guarantee legal representation for small businesses facing eviction. Small businesses contribute to our city's vibrancy, diversity, and economic growth — and they must be equipped with the resources necessary to fight the shady tactics that are driving commercial evictions," said Council Member Diana Ayala.


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