Council Member Levine Introduces Rent Transparency Bill to Protect Tenants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 28, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, New York -- Today, Council Member Mark Levine introduced legislation, Intro 1274, that would require landlords of rent stabilized units to provide tenants with four years of rental history as recorded by the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal.

The legislation aims to increase transparency for tenants while ensuring they are not being overcharged for their homes. It would also help prevent landlords from illegally removing units from stabilization, and could make it easier for the City to enforce existing laws that protect and preserve stabilized units. 

“In the last year alone, my office has worked countless constituents who needed help getting their rent history from the State. It’s a complicated, time consuming process that tenants shouldn’t be burdened with,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “Requiring landlords to disclose a unit’s rent history would break down a significant barrier, making it easier to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable if a tenant’s rent goes up dramatically overnight. More than that, giving tenants insight in to a unit’s rent history means making it easier to predict how much their rent will increase in the future, helping them become more financially secure in the long run.”

The legislation is part a package of bills being introduced today in the Council to protect tenants.

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Council to Pass Levine Bill Studying Taxi Medallion Debt Solutions

**RELEASE** November 28, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY – Today the New York City Council is expected to pass legislation, Intro 1069, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, requiring the TLC to study the prevailing issue of medallion owners with excessive debt.

The legislation is aimed at helping City policymakers and industry stakeholders better understand the depths of this crisis in addition to analyzing potential ways to ease the financial hardship facing thousands of hardworking, overwhelmingly immigrant drivers.

“Independent owner-drivers who played by the rules set by the City are now enduring extraordinary financial hardships through absolutely no fault of their own,” said Council Member Levine. “After having bought an asset because they had a guarantee from the City about its underlying value, our city has failed these small business owners. Both the financial and human toll brought on by this crisis cannot be overstated. As I’ve stated before, it is the app-based taxi corporations should be the ones to shoulder the financial burden of providing financial relief to the independent medallion owner-drivers who are suffering. The study called for in this legislation will provide valuable insight in to how we can help these drivers.”

Earlier this year the TLC agreed to Council Member Levine’s proposal to waive the required annual medallion renewal and inspection fees, which force payments two years in advance and cost up to $1,650 per medallion. His office is currently working on legislation that would codify the fee waiver into City law.

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Following Release of FBI Hate Crimes Data, CM Levine Calls for Dedicated Office for Hate Crime Prevention

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

November 13, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- In response to the alarming rise in hate crimes in New York City, Council Members Mark Levine and Donovan Richards are introducing legislation that would create a City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.

Over the past several years, hate crimes have been on the rise in America’s largest cities. This is especially true in New York, where hate crimes are up over 40% since 2011, with a noticeable spike having occurred in 2016 during the last presidential election.

Per a report released earlier this year from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism; California State University, San Bernardino, “Hate crimes in [New York City] rose 12.4 percent in 2016; much more than the 4.6 percent national rise, propelled by a massive spike in the weeks following the presidential election.”

“The epidemic of hate crimes sweeping across the country is a national crisis,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “As we’ve seen in recent weeks, this is a battle being fought on our New York City streets every day. When hate crimes and threats occur, they are not just an attack on innocent victims, but on the values we share as New Yorkers. We have an obligation to guarantee the safety and security of every community that calls New York home. We must do everything we can to help protect the diverse communities that define our city. An Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes--the first of its kind in the nation--would coordinate the efforts of City agencies to promote awareness and prevention, ensure proper investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and monitor the impact of these heinous acts on our neighborhoods.”

“In the pursuit of stopping the spread of hate across our nation, New York City must become more proactive in our approach to hate crimes,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “The City should be organizing all city agencies and community leaders to create a holistic plan to address this troubling rise in hate, ignorance and fear. The creation of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes will be the driving force in that conversation by ensuring that our city progresses away from the reactive approach to violent hate crimes and continues to strengthen the diverse groups in our communities that make our City so strong.”

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Health Chair Levine Statement on Upper Manhattan Legionnaires’ Cluster

**RELEASE** November 9, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY – Council Member Mark Levine has issued the following statement:

"From the moment we learned of a second legionnaires cluster at the same location in upper Manhattan, I began asking pressing questions: are there defects in cooling tower equipment which make them vulnerable to repeat contamination? How long does intense monitoring last after a tower is found to be contaminated once?

Five weeks--and one oversight hearing--after Lower Washington Heights was hit with a second deadly cluster, we still don’t have adequate answers to these questions. DOHMH needs to move immediately to put in place better protocols to prevent this kind of repeat contamination."

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Council Member Levine Statement on Waived Licensing Fees for Struggling Taxi Drivers

**RELEASE** October 29, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

 

City Hall, NY – Ahead of the October 31st Taxi Licensing Fee payment deadline, City Council Member Mark Levine has issued the following statement:

“Independent owner-drivers who played by the rules set by the City are now enduring extraordinary financial hardships through absolutely no fault of their own. After having bought an asset because they had a guarantee from the City about its underlying value, our city has failed these small business owners.Both the financial and human toll brought on by this crisis cannot be overstated.

For us to better understand the depths of this crisis and ways to address it, I have introduced legislation, Int. 1069, which will require the TLC to study ways to ease the financial hardship of these hardworking, overwhelmingly immigrant drivers.

As I have stated before, the app-based taxi corporations should be the ones to shoulder the financial burden of providing financial relief to the independent medallion owner-drivers who are suffering.  

While the legislative process moves forward—and as the Council continues to look for lasting solutions to help New York’s taxi community—I’m thrilled the TLC has answered my call to waive the required annual medallion renewal and inspection fees, which force payments two years in advance and cost up to $1,650 per medallion. For many, that is the difference between paying the rent and putting food on the table.”

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Council Member Levine Introduces Legislation to Address Impact of Supertalls on Parkland

**DRAFT RELEASE** October 16, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY – As a new generation of super-tall skyscrapers emerges throughout the city, Council Member Mark Levine is introducing legislation that would require the creation of an inter-agency task force to study the effect of shadows cast by tall buildings over City parkland.

The loss of sunlight is detrimental to City parks. This is especially true in Manhattan, where the narrow street grid means many blocks only have direct sunlight for a few hours per day. Depending on the season, buildings over 1000 feet cast shadows that can extend as far as twenty blocks.

From a tower built in 2015 on the southern edge of Madison Square Park that casts a shadow over most of the park’s six acres, to small parks in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side surrounded by lots with unused development, there are parks across the City in danger of being overshadowed. Even Most strikingly, new developments on “Billionaires Row” are putting Central Park at risk.

In the past few years alone, no fewer than seven towers have been completed or began construction on Manhattan’s 57th Street corridor, six of which measure over 1,000 feet in height.  One, the so-called Nordstrom Tower, will top out at a staggering 1,775 feet--just a few inches shorter than 1 World Trade Center. At least five other mega-towers are in some stage of planning or financing, which, if realized, would bring the total number in the 57th Street vicinity to twelve.

“Parks and greenspaces are essential pieces of our City’s infrastructure and parks need sunlight to thrive,” said Council Member Mark Levine, former chair of the Council’s Parks Committee.

“We want to tackle this problem before the next boom on super-tall towers attacks Central Park. They cast shadows that can be a mile or longer in the park. If it was just one, you would wait for it to pass, but there are potentially seven more and that’s going to affect the ecosystem of Central Park alone.

“Currently, there is no process in the zoning resolution to assess, let alone mitigate, the impact of buildings on parks and open space,” said  Layla Law-Gisiko, Chair of the Central Park Sunshine Task Force in Manhattan Community Board Five. “As a result, we have seen numerous parks throughout the city plunged into shadows with no ability to protect the public's access to sunlight.  We need to urgently equip ourselves with better zoning tools.  A task force will help identify the best mitigating solutions to protect our parks from shadow encroachment.”

Models of the shadows they will cast show that vast stretches of the park will be covered in shade during much of the day and through much of the year. These new shadows will be so long that they will reach as far as the Great Lawn and 72nd Street on the East Side, affecting the Heckscher Playground, the Central Park Zoo, and many of the park’s ball fields.

Said Council Member Levine, “Other cities--including Boston, Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco--have already enacted zoning ordinances that afford a measure of protection for green space. One common measure is to apply a ‘shadow budget’ to development around parks, to shape development in ways that minimize shadow impact. With the number of out-of-proportion developments increasing throughout the city, it’s well past time New York takes action to protect our parks.”

New York City enacted ground-breaking zoning rules in 1916 and 1961 in no small part as a reaction to the loss of sunlight caused by the rapidly increasing height and bulk of buildings in those eras. But in recent years a combination of transferable development rights, zoning lot mergers, and new building technologies have enabled super-tall structures that would have been inconceivable a half century ago--effectively rendering previous zoning laws impotent.  

While shadow assessments are required as part of the City’s environmental quality review process for projects that need discretionary approvals or permits from a City agency, or have received City funding, no such assessments are required for the type of as-of-right development now occurring around 57th Street.

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Council Member Levine Renews Call for West Harlem Ferry

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** October 15, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov  

City Hall, NY – As the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) finalizes its 2018 NYC Ferry feasibility study, Council Member Mark Levine wrote a letter calling for the establishment of ferry service at the West 125th Street Piers and across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

“A ferry network with stops on the west side of Manhattan and uptown would help reduce crowding on the increasingly over-packed 1 and A trains, stimulate economic activity, and remove countless fume-spewing vehicles from our streets” said Council Member Mark Levine. “As residential and commercial growth continues up and down the west side, and with key infrastructure already in place at West 125th Street, investing in ferry service now is a sensible step to address the need for an additional transportation hub. As New York City embarks on a new phase of ferry expansion through the five boroughs, Northern Manhattan shouldn’t be ignored again.”

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Council Member Levine to Host Transportation Town Hall Featuring NYC DOT Commissioner, Transit Advocates

**FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY**

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: October, 15th, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Contact: Jake Sporn 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

Harlem, NY -- Council Member Mark Levine will be joined by NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and transportation advocates from Rider’s Alliance, TransitCenter, and Transportation Alternatives for a Town Hall meeting at the Manhattan School of Music.

Topics to be discussed include the City’s new program reserving street parking for car sharing services, the failing bus system, Council Member Levine’s renewed push to bring ferry service to West 125th Street in Harlem, the proposed Amsterdam Avenue redesign, and more. After a discussion led by Council Member Levine, community members will be invited to ask questions of the panel.

This event is open press, however due to space concerns, please RSVP to Jake Sporn by 4pm.

Where: Manhattan School of Music, 132 Claremont Avenue

When: Monday, October, 15th, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Who: City Council Member Mark Levine, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Advocates from Rider’s Alliance, TransitCenter, and Transportation Alternatives.

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Right to Counsel Leaders Introduce New Legislation to Expand Landmark Tenants’ Rights Law

For Immediate Release: September 12, 2018

Contact: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- Following the historic passage of New York City’s landmark “Right to Counsel” legislation, the law’s lead sponsors City Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, together with the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTCNYC), are introducing new legislation to strengthen and expand the nation’s first universal eviction legal defense law.

The Council passed Levine and Gibson’s bill, Intro 214, in July of 2017, making New York the first jurisdiction in the country to guarantee legal representation in housing court for tenants. The new law mandated the NYC Office of Civil Justice provide New Yorkers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line – or $50,200 annually for a family of four – with free legal representation when facing an eviction.

Since implementing, the Right to Counsel law has already had a dramatic impact in protecting tenants from eviction, including:

  • A 24 percent decrease in the number of evictions since 2014;
  • An increase in the number of non-profit legal aid attorneys working with tenants city-wide from 200 to 500, yielding a rise in the number of tenants with legal representation from just 10 to over 27 percent; and,
  • According to Housing Court Answers, zip codes covered by the first year roll out of Right to Counsel showed unprecedented progress. In the Bronx, the borough with the highest evictions, there was a 15% drop in the two zip codes where tenants have a right to an attorney. In Brooklyn, the two covered zips showed a decrease of 18% in evictions over the last two years. In Jamaica, Queens, the covered areas showed a 13% decline in 2017 compared to 2016.

Lastly, reflecting a paradigm shift in the tenant-landlord relationship, the number of eviction cases filed in NYC’s housing courts has already started to drop--down almost 10 percent since 2014--proving that even just having an attorney reduces the number of frivolous cases landlords bring to housing court.

“The passage of our right to counsel law last year was an historic step towards justice in NYC’s housing courts, where for generations the vast majority of tenants faced the threat of eviction without the benefit of legal representation,” said Council Member Levine. “The stakes for implementation couldn’t be higher-- which is why we need to expand and strengthen this law to keep New Yorkers in their homes, off the streets, and out of the shelter system.”

“After just one year, Right to Counsel is proving to be an unprecedented success,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “This groundbreaking legislation has kept people in their homes, and out of homeless shelters and housing courts.”

Despite the new law’s extraordinary success, a combination of evolving landlord tactics, implementation issues in the courthouses, and lack of public awareness of the law continue to make it difficult for tenants to receive the legal representation they are now entitled to. To address these issues, Council Members Levine and Gibson, in partnership with RTCNYC Coalition leaders, are advancing new legislation that includes:

Increasing the income threshold to 400% of the federal poverty line

While the majority of tenants in housing court are eligible for the right to counsel under the current 200 percent threshold, a single New Yorker earning a $15 an hour minimum wage is not.

Said Council Member Levine, “The federal poverty level is totally out of whack with the reality in New York City. With the skyrocketing cost of living here, more and more people above 200% of the federal line are in fact facing enormous economic struggles. We need to expand the Right to Counsel law to reflect that.”  

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Council Health Chair Levine to Hold Hearing on Speaker Johnson Bill to Make Birth Certificates More Inclusive to All Gender Identities

**ADVISORY**

WHEN: Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 at 10 a.m.

WHERE: City Hall Main Chamber

Contact: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY - Tomorrow, New York City Council Member Mark Levine will chair a Health Committee hearing regarding a bill proposed by Council Speaker Corey Johnson requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to amend birth certificates issued in NYC to include a third category to reflect a non-binary gender identity.

Under the proposed law, NYC birth certificates will include male, female and a new, third category of “X” to reflect a non-binary gender identity. The legislation, Int 954, also amends the law so that transgender New Yorkers will no longer need a letter from a physician or an affidavit by a licensed health care provider to change their gender marker. Instead, people born in New York City will be able to submit their own affidavit, which attests that the gender marker change is for the purpose of affirming their gender identity

If you can’t attend the hearing in person, a live stream will be available online here.

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