Local Council Member Looks to Expand Food Truck Permits and Enforcement

By Michael McDowell

Will the Upper West Side be one day filled with vegan taco trucks, momo carts, or Thai on wheels?

It’s possible, if legislation scheduled for a Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing hearing Thursday morning continues to make its way through City Council to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The proposed legislation would, over the next decade, gradually expand the number of permits for street vending and dismantle the black market on which such permits are currently leased. It would also create a centralized, interagency Office of Street Vendor Enforcement, to be operational by September 1, 2019, which would “exclusively enforce vending laws.” It would additionally establish a Street Vendor Advisory Board composed of “vendors, brick and mortar small businesses, representatives from community groups, labor unions, property owners, and city agencies.”

Council Member Mark Levine, who is a sponsor of the bill, called it a “win-win,” in an interview with the Rag.

“Street vending has been a cherished path to economic opportunity in this city for centuries, and it remains an important part of New York’s character and our street life. Street vendors, like everybody else, have to obey the rules, and we’ve never really had consistent enforcement. We’ve also had a problem of a huge illegal market in permits. This legislation would address both issues,” he said.

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Council members urge de Blasio to fund new hate crimes office

By Anna Sanders

Mayor de Blasio initially denied funding an anti-hate crime office this year despite a spike in complaints since the 2016 and City Council members are urging him to finance the effort.

The Council established the Office of Hate Crime Prevention earlier this year, but no money was put toward its creation in de Blasio’s $92.2 billion preliminary budget plan for next fiscal year.

The office is expected to cost about $475,000 the first year and $713,000 annually going forward.

“We need every city agency and resource to confront this crisis,” 22 members, led by Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine, wrote to de Blasio on Wednesday. “The Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes would be the first to unite our city and our government in addressing this crisis head on.”
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Kim Kardashian - Jameela Jamil feud has done more to expose detox tea lies than the FDA

By S. Bryn Austin

Admittedly, I do not have my finger anywhere near the pulse of pop culture. I just figure if there’s anything I really need to know going viral through social media, my grad students will let me know. Maybe not the most reliable way for a scientist to gather data, I know, but it seems to be working. This week, it’s actually taught me an important lesson that I never learned through all my years of public health training: Celebrity takedowns of pseudoscience beat a mountain of data every time.

Case in point: In just a few months of shrewdly crafted social media posts, “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil has opened the eyes of millions around the globe to the corrupt and deceptive detox tea market. Arguably, she’s done this more efficiently and expeditiously than a quarter century of well-intentioned but utterly unglamorous communications from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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New York City to pass water tank reforms

By Frank G. Runyeon

In a striking rebuke of city health officials, the New York City Council plans to pass seven new laws tightening oversight and regulation of thousands of rooftop drinking water tanks, citing evidence of contamination, widespread neglect, and lax oversight by agency officials, city legislators told City & State.

After lawmakers decried the city’s “failure to enforce” its public health laws, pointing to reports by City & State that documented cases of dead animals in New York City Housing Authority wooden water tanks, health officials repeatedly downplayed and dismissed the health risks posed by contamination of the drinking water supplies. Despite the pushback, lawmakers plan to pass the water tank laws by Tuesday.

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New York City buses move faster with new traffic signal technology


By Clayton Guse

New traffic light technology is speeding up bus service across the five boroughs, city and MTA officials say.

The tech, dubbed Transit Signal Priority, or TSP, enables stoplights to flip or stay green when a bus approaches. It’s a key part of Mayor de Blasio’s vow to increase bus speeds by 25% by the end of 2020.

TSP is currently implemented at 594 intersections along 12 bus routes, six of which are high-volume select bus lines. On some routes, the tech trick has been found to increase bus speeds by the 25% that de Blasio is calling for.

Until the mayor announced his commitment to improving bus service in January, transit advocates criticized the administration for not taking TSP seriously enough.

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UWS Fears Congestion Pricing Could Turn Area Into Parking Lot

By Gus Saltonstall

Congestion pricing is about to turn Manhattan north of 60th Street into a massive parking lot as drivers look to ditch their vehicle before they hit the toll, residents worry.

The desire to park before crossing into the charging zone will also vastly increase crowds in subway stations and demand for CitiBikes and cabs, it's feared.

The plan, approved by the State Legislature in its budget this past weekend and expected to go into effect Dec. 31 2020, would likely vastly reduce traffic in Manhattan below 60th Street and it's expected to bring in an estimated $15 billion for MTA subway and bus improvements by charging drivers venturing south as much as $11.

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Residents Just Outside Congestion Zone Worry About Parking

There is plenty of free parking north of the congestion zone enshrined in New York state’s new budget, but finding a spot is another story.

A driver told CBS2, “It's already really difficult and it becomes a part time job looking for parking here.”

She says congestion pricing will only make matters worse when more suburban drivers dump their cars uptown and take mass transit to avoid the congestion fee.

Councilman Mark Levine has long asked that residents be given priority at the curbs.

He said, “It's being done in big cities all over America. It's time for New York to catch up.”

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Residents Outside Proposed Congestion Pricing Zone Fearful Their Already Minimal Parking Will Dry Up

By Andrea Grymes

 Congestion pricing is getting the green light in Albany, but drivers are seeing red over the new deal.

The plan involves charging a toll on drivers entering Midtown, Manhattan below 60th Street. The surcharge will not apply to the West Side Highway and FDR Drive, as long as you are just passing through.

Sources have told CBS2 drivers in cars could pay around $11.50, and truck drivers around $25.

A panel of experts will set the surcharges by the end of 2020.

But residents who live in the zone say the plan will cost them more than just toll fees, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported Monday.

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Court officials urged to improve tenants' Right to Counsel

By Sarina Trangle

Lawmakers who shepherded through City Hall legislation that lays the groundwork for providing low-income tenants facing an eviction with legal representation by 2022 are urging the court system to take several steps to ease the transition.

In a mid-March memo, City Council members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson urged the state's chief judge to ensure courts are physically configured so eligible tenants and lawyers can convene and to do a better job of informing individuals about their right to representation.

"There are challenges particularly in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island on functional, confidential space for attorneys to meet with clients. It's also really important that tenants understand they have this right before they show up for their court hearing," Levine said. "Sometimes landlord attorneys work the line outside of housing court, which can be very long in the morning, even over an hour. … The tenant might, again, out of fear and desperation, sign a very unfavorable document."

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Help UWS Council Members Spend $1M On Neighborhood

By Brendan Krisel

Want the chance to help spend at least $1 million to fund public improvements in your neighborhood? You're in luck, because it's time to vote in this year's New York City Council participatory budgeting cycle.

Voting opens on March 30 and end April 7 for New York City's eighth participatory budgeting cycle, city officials said. Residents of the Upper West Side will vote on whether to fund projects selected as finalists by City Council members Helen Rosenthal or Mark Levine, depending on whether they live within the council's fourth or fifth district.

Projects selected as finalists for participatory budgeting address community needs such as housing and school improvements, park upgrades, public safety and senior services. Most projects don't carry a funding value of $1 million, so multiple projects can win funding. If certain projects prove popular, city council members may chose to allocate even more funds.

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