Council Member Levine Statement on 3-K for All Expansion to Harlem, Washington Heights

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** February 2, 2018

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

Hamilton Heights, NY – In response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement today that the City’s investment in the Universal 3-K for All program will increase to $38.3 million by FY20, fostering an expansion to four additional districts in the coming years,City Council Member Mark Levine has released the following statement:

“Since the Universal Pre-K program’s historic creation four years ago, I am incredibly proud to have helped secure over 950 UPK seats in the 7th Council District, making our community’s schools stronger while easing childcare costs for countless families in Upper Manhattan. Building on that progress with free, full-day, high-quality ‘3-K for All’ means even more children have access to a critical year of academic and social development, putting them on a path to success earlier, in addition to saving their families up to $10,000 annually in child care costs.”

“I strongly encourage everyone in our community to call my office for assistance applying to 3-K programs, which begin in Harlem this fall, and I look forward to working with the Department of Education to secure as many UPK and 3-K seats for our Upper Manhattan neighborhoods in the coming years.”

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City Council Member Levine, Members of the Women’s Caucus Join Advocates to Propose Reforms of Sexual Harassment Policies in City Government

The Group also Announced a National Conference to be Held at New York Law School

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** Thursday, December 7, 2017

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

City Hall, NY –  As survivors of sexual harassment continue to come forward across the country from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., NYC Council Member Mark Levine, along with Chair of the Women’s Caucus Helen Rosenthal and  members of the Council’s Women’s Caucus, and women’s advocacy organizations announced today a plan to address the prevailing issue of sexual harassment.

Together, the group outlined a unified commitment to reevaluate and improve sexual harassment policies in the Council and across City government.

As part of a commitment to work with the Women’s Caucus and invest in the resources needed to address the prevailing issue of sexual harassment, Council Member Levine is working towards reforms with the primary goal of protecting City workers from harassment  and increasing transparency, including:

  • Requiring all allegations of sexual harassment within the Council to be reviewed and investigated by the Council Committee on Standards and Ethics instead of by central staff and requiring regular reporting to filers of sexual harassment claims on the status of their complaint;
  • Mandating that City agencies disclose the number and type of sexual harassment cases within their ranks to be reported back to the Council semi-annually;
  • Creating a citywide task force to assess the sexual harassment policies of all City agencies, and recommend improvements that would better protect survivors and make the reporting of harassment easier;

The officials and advocates also announced a new partnership with New York Law School and Assemblymember Charles Lavine to launch a National Conference on Sexual Harassment in the Government Workplace, bringing together government officials, advocates, and academics to discuss existing laws and policies across the nation and propose best practices for government agencies and legislatures.

“Across the country, an epidemic of sexual harassment plagues every corner of every industry from Hollywood to D.C.,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “As a city, we have an obligation to make every level of our government safer and more protective of those who have survived harassment, and as a Council, we must lead by example. To change the culture of how we address sexual harassment, we need to have a thoughtful, robust conversation about it, and I am proud to stand with my colleagues and these advocates in taking this critical first step towards addressing this epidemic.”

“I’m very much looking forward to working with the Women’s Caucus and the rest of our colleagues in the Council to develop best practice recommendations for a comprehensive New York City government sexual harassment policy. Let’s take full advantage of the incredible historical moment in which we find ourselves and create a policy that guarantees a respectful and safe workplace for all City office, agency, and department employees,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“We are witnessing a watershed moment in our country as society comes to terms with the pervasive sexual harassment and inadequate protocols that exist across every sector” said New York Law School Dean and President Anthony Crowell, “New York Law School is proud to partner with New York state and local government officials as well as advocacy organizations and provide a platform to highlight the best ways forward in establishing government workplaces where every employee can feel safe and respected.”

“We can’t be oblivious to the fact that sexual harassment is affecting every sector of our society, including government,” said Council Member Julissa Ferrreras-Copeland. “As elected officials, we have an obligation to push policies that help protect our workforce. They deserve a healthy work environment, with zero tolerance for sexual harassment or any other kind of inappropriate behavior. Today we lead by example. This commitment to reevaluate and improve our sexual harassment policies will guarantee victims the protection and attention they deserve, by making the reporting of harassment easier. I commend Council Member Levine and my fellow council members at the Women’s Caucus for this initiative and their leadership on this matter.”

“I applaud the Council’s commitment to ensuring that women and men  feel safe from sexual predators at work. Sexual harassment is at its heart an abuse of power.  Her Justice works with women living in poverty, many of whom have been victims of intimate partner violence, so we see firsthand the harm to self, safety, and security that results from that abuse,” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director, Her Justice.

“The right time to re-look our own policies on sexual harassment isn’t in the wake of the next high-profile scandal, it’s right now,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “My colleagues are absolutely right to pursue reforms designed to protect victims and encourage reporting and accountability, both within the Council and our city’s executive offices and agencies. I’m glad Council Members Levine and Rosenthal are starting this long-overdue conversation.”

“The subject of sexual harassment is at long last receiving the attention it has deserved for far too long. My partnership with New York Law School and Council Member Levine in launching a National Conference on Sexual Harassment in the government workplace will be constructive and will assist us in protecting one of the most compelling  of human rights,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine.

“Every person whether they work in government or private industry should be able to do their jobs without fear of being sexually harassed,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. "We now know that sexual harassment in the workplace is so prevalent that we need to take active measures to stop it before it begins which is why I am joining Council Member Levine, Council Member Helen Rosenthal and the Women’s Caucus to bring attention to this important issue. Thank you to Council Member Levine for your commitment to doing something transparently and expediently to strengthen the city’s sexual harassment policies and for your leadership on this matter.”

“Far too many victims of workplace harassment and sexual assault get victimized again when they tell their story. Finally now they are seeing they are not alone. Showing their strength in telling their story helps to stop the cycle of harassment and sexual assault," said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

“For women to fully participate at all levels of government, both civically and professionally, it is imperative that we create an environment where there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the City Council and in city agencies. Greater transparency and more concerted official responses are necessary for the public to begin to know the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in government and be confident that it is being proactively addressed,” said Betsy Gotbaum, incoming Executive Director, Citizens Union.

“As recent events have made plain, sexual harassment is a serious problem in every type of workplace,” said Cathy Bowman, LGBTQ & HIV Advocacy Director at Legal Services NYC. “We commend Council Member Levine, along with Chair of the Women’s Caucus Helen Rosenthal and the members of the Council’s Women’s Caucus, for taking steps to protect employees throughout city government. In addition to reaching hundreds of thousands of workers in agencies throughout the city, the City Council’s decision to secure the city’s own employees sends  a message that sexual harassment cannot be tolerated in any organization, public or private.”

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Councilman Mark Levine, Transit Advocates to Announce New Legislation Addressing the City’s Beleaguered Bus System

**FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY**

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

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

New York, NY - NYC Council Member Mark Levine will be joined by several of his colleagues and members of the Bus Turnaround Coalition on the Steps of City Hall to further call attention to New York City’s other transit crisis -- the bus system.

Council Member Levine will also be announcing the introduction of new legislation to address the issue.

WHEN: Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: City Hall Steps

WHO: Council Member Mark Levine, Members of the Bus Turnaround Coalition

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Assemblyman Crespo, Council Member Levine and the UJA-Federation of NY Supply 200 Power Generators for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** September 25th, 2017

Contact: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // Jake.NYCouncil7@gmail.com

New York, NY - Following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last week, Council Member Mark Levine, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of SOMOS el Futuro, and Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York announced today they would be sending 200 mobile power generators for distribution to community-based service organizations and urgently needed medicines, including tetanus vaccines and insulin.

The initial shipment of relief items was purchased by UJA to aid the hurricane ravaged islands of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other parts of the caribbean. UJA-Federation utilized its network of both relief organizations and Jewish communities in the affected areas to identify and arrange for procurement and shipment of these critically needed supplies.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Bronx Democratic Committee and SOMOS el Futuro said, “The island of Puerto Rico is in dire need of help and I'm proud to stand side-by-side with my colleagues in government, the nonprofit community, and everyday New Yorkers who support us to help answer that call. I thank UJA for partnering with us to help provide much needed supplies in this time of need and look forward to a continued partnership as we embark in this long-term relief effort to help Puerto Rico and all those impacted by the recent wave of devastating hurricanes."

Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus said, "The ties between the Jewish and Puerto Rican communities in New York have been deep for generations, and so the devastation on the island hits New Yorkers as if it were a member of our own family suffering. The destruction in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria has left the island without power and in desperate need of medical supplies and generators. I'm incredibly proud of the way Jewish New Yorkers are stepping up to do their part during this crisis, and I am deeply grateful to UJA for their partnership and commitment to aiding Puerto Rico as they seek to rebuild in the coming months."

Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York said, "UJA and the New York Jewish Community are grateful to New York's elected officials for their efforts to help the communities ravaged by the recent hurricanes. We anticipate this will be the first round of support to the area in PR, and are in touch with local partners and working to secure other necessities in the coming days. And while the enormous relief effort is challenged by communication issues and ground conditions, we are carefully and diligently working with local partners to ensure aid is safely and quickly delivered. We thank all the New Yorkers who support UJA and enable us to mobilize immediately when disaster strikes. Most importantly, our hearts and prayers remain with all those directly affected and with their families and loved ones here in New York."

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Council Member Levine, Transit Advocates Call on City to Double the Pace of Bus Technology Upgrades

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** Thursday, September 7, 2017
Contact: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

New York, NY - Today, City Council Member Mark Levine was joined by several members from the Bus Turnaround Coalition, at a bus stop in Upper Manhattan to speak about New York City’s other transit crisis -- the bus system. There, Council Member Levine announced he would be working to significantly speed up the pace of implementation of Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology on the City’s most beleaguered bus routes.

Currently, city buses spend an average of 21 percent of their time stuck at red lights on congested routes. However, on the five lines on which the City implemented Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology - the M15, B44, S79, Bx41, and B46 - there has been an average reduction of 18 percent on travel times. A sixth line, the Bx6, was announced by Mayor de Blasio earlier this week. TSP allows buses to communicate with traffic signals, giving them the ability to hold green lights or shorten red lights, speeding up travel times and reducing bus bunching.

Standing on the Southeast corner of Broadway and 145th Street at a crowded Bx19 stop, Council Member Levine highlighted three bus routes central to his Upper Manhattan district which are among the most delayed in the City, including  the Bx19 which is currently rated the second most delayed bus route in the City by the Riders Alliance, making it a strong potential candidate for TSP upgrades.

  • The Bx19 has a daily ridership of 31,531, this route is the Bronx’s slowest during the morning peak with an average speed of 4.9 mph. During off peak hours however, the line averages 7.8 mph, meaning with the an upgrade, those morning commuters could get where they’re going much faster.

  • The M4 has an average speed of 5.1 mph, and has seen a 20.1% decrease in ridership since 2010, while the M5 has an average speed of 5.8 mph and saw a 23.3% decrease over the same period.

Compared to a citywide average of 7.4 mph, these lines are clear examples of how poor performance has turned riders away from an increasingly slow and unreliable bus system. Compared to other major U.S. Cities, New York ranks behind Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Chicago, all of which have average bus speeds of 9 mph or higher.

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“New Yorkers have a right to a reliable transit system, but millions who rely on buses are suffering because of slower speeds and longer travel times,” said Councilman Mark Levine. “Unlike the subway system, major pieces of bus infrastructure are controlled by the City. That’s why I am working on legislation that would dramatically accelerate the pace of installation of advanced signal control across the five boroughs. Our proposed fixes for the bus system are faster, easier, and cheaper than solutions currently being weighed for our subways. Anything less risks the “Summer of Hell” becoming a year-round reality for New York’s commuters.”

"The fastest and most inexpensive way we can improve transit service in New York City is through enhancements to our bus system," said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. "I'm glad to join any efforts to ramp up the speed of making these improvements. I thank Council Member Mark Levine for his leadership on this issue as we work together to increase the number of SBS routes to better serve New Yorkers."

"Better, more reliable bus transportation gives 2.5 million daily riders new opportunities for good jobs, affordable homes, and the chance to truly be a part of New York. That's why we support City Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez's bill calling on the Department of Transportation to increase the implementation of Transit Signal Priority to 10 bus routes for the next four years. Riders should have access to bus service they can rely on, and this bill is taking us one step forward to better bus service for all New Yorkers," said Stephanie Veras, organizer with the Riders Alliance.

"Select Bus is an undeniable success. But the program hasn't been enough to change the bus system as a whole, and ridership continues to decline steeply. To turn that around, we need much more widespread deployment of Select Bus' successful elements, like transit signal priority," said Tabitha Decker, NYC program director for TransitCenter.  

DOT’s plan currently calls for TSP to be implemented on another 10 lines by the end of 2020. Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez are working on legislation that would require the City to upgrade at least 10 bus routes per year over the next four years.

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Photos Courtesy of NYC Council, William Alatriste. 
 

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NYC to Become First Jurisdiction in U.S. that will Guarantee Free Legal Representation for Low-Income Tenants in Housing Court

The Landmark Legislation, known as the Right to Counsel, Offers a Blueprint for Cities Across the Country

 **FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** Thursday, July 20, 2017
Contact: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

New York, NY The New York City Council today voted to pass Intro 214-B, a landmark bill sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, that requires the Office of Civil Justice to establish a program for legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court within five years, in addition to establishing a pilot program to provide legal services to all NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings this fall.

New York City is the first jurisdiction in the country to require legal representation in housing court, sparking similar measures to be introduced in other cities, including Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

The legislation, first introduced by Council Member Levine in 2014, calls for the City to provide New Yorkers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line – or $49,200 annually for a family of four – free legal representation when facing eviction or foreclosure. The program is expected to help than 400,000 New Yorkers each year, according to a report by commissioned by the New York City Bar Association. Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated his intention to sign the bill.

In 2015, nearly 22,000 New Yorkers were evicted from their homes. Only about 20 percent of those facing eviction are represented by an attorney, compared to nearly 100 percent of landlords. Studies show that having legal representation during housing court proceedings reduces the chances of eviction by 77%, and in some cases landlords simply drop their cases after learning the tenant has an attorney.

Prior to the passage of the bill, Council Member Levine fought to increase funding for anti-eviction legal services, from $6 million in FY14 to over $60 million in FY17, resulting in a corresponding 24% drop in evictions in the last three years.

For tenants such as Ms. LeVera S. of West Harlem, whose landlord moved to evict her after she fell behind on her rent, a lawyer paid for by the City was the only thing keeping her from being forced from her home. “Having a free housing attorney was vital in saving my home when my landlord brought holdover actions to evict us, claiming we had no rights,” said Ms. LeVera S. “Our attorney’s representation and assistance in subsequent harassment cases has been vital to me in keeping my home. I’m incredibly grateful to the City for passing this bill so that no New York tenant has to face eviction in housing court without representation.”

The City’s Independent Budget Office reports that eviction is the single most common reason that families in New York City end up in shelters, and over the past decade, the share of families citing eviction as the cause for their homelessness has increased dramatically. Evictions are also leading to a loss of affordable housing, as over half of the units vacated are rent stabilized, and many of those apartments then go market rate.

The full cost of implementing the Right to Counsel is estimated to be $155 million, but the City is estimated to  save up to $320 million by reducing shelter costs, preserving regulated, affordable apartments lost to evictions and other costs associated with homelessness.

“Too many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers face eviction simply because they don’t have the means to hire an attorney. Today, the passage of this bill marks the beginning of a new era for tenants in New York City,” said City Council Member Mark Levine, lead sponsor of Intro 214. “New Yorkers have a right to affordable housing and to a fair justice system. No longer will low-income New Yorkers have to fend for themselves in Housing Court. This new law is an historic step forward in the fight against unlawful evictions. I am honored to stand alongside my colleagues as New York becomes the first city in the country to guarantee legal representation for low-income tenants in Housing Court, and I look forward to working with elected officials across the country to draft similar legislation.”

“This is a monumental day for tenants and a historic day for the City of New York.  After four years of advocating, rallying, and marching, we can finally celebrate the passage of ground breaking legislation that will curb the homelessness epidemic and end the cycle of eviction plaguing New York City. With a right to counsel in place, tenants facing eviction will finally be on an even playing field with the landlords taking them to court. I am proud to have spent four years fighting for this critically important legislation and am so thankful to the many elected officials, advocates, tenant leaders, clergy leaders, and civil legal service providers who joined Council Member Mark Levine and me in bringing equity and justice to our housing court system,” said City Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

“An individual’s socioeconomic status should have no bearing on their access to competent legal representation, especially when it comes to matters being handled in housing court,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “With this legislation, the Council reaffirms its commitment to protecting tenant rights across New York City, and I thank Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson for their relentless dedication in pushing this legislation forward and pursuing justice for New Yorkers across the five boroughs.”

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Council Member Mark Levine Statement on Renewal of Mayoral Control

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2017
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- “When I started my career as a high school teacher in the South Bronx, I saw firsthand how the old system left teachers demoralized and families frustrated. New Yorkers deserve great schools and a fair education system. Mayoral control empowers New York City to make real changes to strengthen our classrooms, and prioritize students over politics.

I applaud the state for extending mayoral control so we can get back to focusing on educating New York’s school children. This is a big win for students, parents, and teachers across the City.”

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Council Member Levine Statement on A Train Derailment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 27, 2017
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

Harlem, NY -- “New Yorkers already know the City’s subway system has become unreliable, but today’s A train derailment was a frightening demonstration that in extreme cases it can even be a threat to public safety. The MTA needs to recognize the severity of the problem so we can start a new conversation about what solutions are necessary before another accident like this occurs -- not after.

These issues must be met with immediate and dramatic action. New Yorkers have the right to a safe, reliable transit system so they can get to work, take their kids to school, and live their daily lives.

My thoughts are with the injured passengers and the families of those affected by today’s A train derailment. I am deeply grateful no lives were lost and applaud the NYPD and FDNY for their rapid response and safe evacuation of the passengers.”

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New York City Co-Names Upper West Side Block for Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 13, 2017 
CONTACT:  (Levine) Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

Upper West Side, NY – Along with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, today City Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal memorialized the life of Jewish-American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, with a street co-naming the south west corner of West 84th Street and Central Park West as “Elie Wiesel Way.” The lifetime champion of human rights and Jewish causes and his wife raised their only son in Manhattan’s Upper West Side from the 1960s through the 1980s, residing at 239 Central Park West for over 15 years.

Wiesel was born on September 30th, 1928 and at the age of 15 was placed in a confinement ghetto by Nazi occupiers along with his parents and three siblings. Only three months after being forced into the ghetto, he and his family were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he lost his mother and younger sister. Wiesel and his father were later deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp where his father perished only four months prior to the camp’s liberation.

After surviving the war, Wiesel authored over 60 books, including his acclaimed memoir Night, based on his experiences as a victim of Nazi Germany’s brutality towards Jews. Wiesel also became an outspoken activist on humanitarian issues related to violence, racism, and oppression. His leadership on these issues earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 when he asserted a sentiment still frighteningly relevant to this day, “silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

“Elie Wiesel was a moral giant whose lessons continue to reverberate today.  He preached tolerance of religious minorities, and knew first-hand the experience of being a refugee, and the vulnerability of living in this country without citizenship,” said Council Member Levine. “Mr. Wiesel’s ties to New York city were deep.  His family made their home on the Upper West Side for many years, raising their children there and attending a local synagogue.  I am excited that we will marking this local connection with a street co-naming in his honor, so that generations to come will remember the man who made ‘never again’ among the most important words uttered in the past century.”

“Throughout his life, Elie Wiesel demonstrated a remarkable commitment to and belief in humanity. Despite experiencing the depths of human evil first hand, Mr. Wiesel devoted his life to speaking and acting out on behalf of those most threatened and vulnerable among us. His prolific writing and strident humanitarianism boldly fought back against discrimination and oppression. To this day, Mr. Wiesel’s commitment to humanity shows us how we can best meet our contemporary challenges—not with hate or fear, but with love and decency. I am humbled to join Council Member Levine in memorializing Mr. Wiesel’s life with this street co-naming by his long-time home on the Upper West Side,” said Council Member Rosenthal. 

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Statement from City Council Member Mark Levine on NYC's FY 2018 Budget

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** June 2nd, 2017
Contact: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY-- “This budget proves that our City is answering the challenges of the Trump era by delivering real wins for New Yorkers. For the fourth year in a row, thanks to the extraordinarily effective leadership of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, we’ve passed a budget that makes New York a more fair, more equitable City for all.”

“We were able to increase funding for everything from more support for our seniors, to better equipment for our firefighters, to school lunches and after school programs for our children. And as Chair of the Committee on Parks, I’m particularly relieved the Council was able to save 150 critical parks maintenance workers after yet another year of the budget dance.”

“With the assault on New York City being waged by a reckless and hostile administration in Washington, New Yorkers should be relieved and proud their City has put together a budget that protects our values while investing in our future.”

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