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

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


Add your reaction Share

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


Add your reaction Share

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 // [email protected]

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.


Add your reaction Share

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

*RELEASE* March 12, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, 516-946-5253 // [email protected]

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.


Add your reaction Share

Speaker Johnson, Health Chair Levine Call for Answers on City’s CBD Policy

*RELEASE* March, 5th 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, 516-946-5253 // [email protected]

City Hall, NY -- In response to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) recent decision to stop the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) as a food additive in New York City, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Health Chair Mark Levine, and Council Member Robert Holden have written the attached letter to DOHMH.

Said Council Health Chair Levine, “CBD is legal in most states, doesn't get you high, and has even been approved for some medical uses by the FDA. At a time when we are finally moving away from prohibition of marijuana, this is a step backwards, and DOHMH has yet to offer a substantive explanation about why such a drastic step needed to be taken now. My office is in the process of drafting legislation to legalize and regulate the sale of CBD as a food additive, and I look forward to having a full public airing of this issue.”


Add your reaction Share

With Congestion Pricing on Horizon, Manhattan Council Members Renew Call for Residential Parking Permits North of the Central Business District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2019
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // [email protected]

Manhattan, New York -- Today, City Council Members Mark Levine & Helen Rosenthal, co-chairs of the Manhattan Delegation, and Council Members Keith Powers & Diana Ayala, renewed their call for the City Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a residential parking permit (RPP) system in Northern Manhattan, covering all areas north of 60th Street through Inwood, as designed in their legislation introduced last year, Int. 848-2018.

Neighborhoods in the northern half of Manhattan increasingly face the crowding and congestion of suburban commuters leaving their cars on local streets in order to transfer to the subway--a problem that will be severely exacerbated with congestion pricing on the horizon.

The bill, introduced by Council Members Levine, Rosenthal, Powers, and Ayala seeks to address this problem by requiring DOT to designate specific areas and neighborhoods where a residential parking permit (RPP) system would be implemented, and to determine the days and times when permit requirements would be in effect. Under the proposed law, DOT would be able to reserve up to 80% parking spaces on designated residential blocks for people who live in the neighborhood, leaving the remaining spots for non-residents. The legislation also specifies that no RRP zone would be implemented on streets zoned for commercial or retail use. While 85,000 parking spots in commercial areas across the City are metered, 97% of on-street spaces are free, disproportionately benefiting 27% of New Yorkers who use their cars to get to work.

The program is designed to give local residents priority for on-street parking in residential areas and to discourage park-and-ride commuters. New York is one of the only major cities in America that does not have some version of an RPP.

In addition to this legislation, the bill’s sponsors are calling for the following protections to be implemented in the rules-making process, including requirements that DOT:

  • Hold public hearings with community boards before implementing RPP in a neighborhood;
  • Ensure permits are only issued to individuals holding a New York State driver's license and whose primary residence is in NYC;
  • Ensure permits are attached to specific license plate numbers; and
  • Limit the number of permits issued to one per licensed driver.

“As momentum continues to build for the creation of a desperately needed congestion pricing program to fund public transit, now more than ever, the City needs to address the prevailing issue of suburban commuters dumping their cars in our neighborhoods, only to transfer to the subway on their way downtown,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “Whether you live in Washington Heights or the Upper East Side, parking in Manhattan is an incredible challenge. With congestion pricing finally on the precipice of becoming reality, we can’t afford to continue as one of the only big cities in America that doesn’t have a residential permit system--this policy is long overdue and urgently needed.”

“As we prepare for the implementation of congestion pricing, we must ensure that neighborhoods surrounding Manhattan’s central business district do not become parking lots for drivers seeking to avoid a toll. Residential permit parking will help us do that, and is a long overdue step toward a more sensible street policy for New York City. Municipalities across the country have implemented such a system, and I am proud to work with Council Members Levine and Powers on this issue,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“As the city engages in next steps on congestion pricing to ease traffic and fund the deteriorating subway system, this is a timely opportunity to secure residential parking permits for residents,” said Council Member Keith Powers who represents parts of the Upper East Side. “Permits will ensure residents have first priority as parking spots outside the proposed zone become more valuable. Thank you to Council Member Levine for a continued focus around traffic and parking.”

“Undoubtedly, congestion pricing will reduce traffic in Manhattan’s Central Business Districts and bring the city much-needed revenue to improve our transit system. However, the plan is likely to exacerbate the prevalence of suburban commuters parking their cars in Northern Manhattan neighborhoods. In order to mitigate this influx, DOT must implement a residential parking permit system that will prioritize our city’s residents first,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.


Add your reaction Share

City & State Electeds, Activists to Rally for Pied-a-Terre Tax

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Monday, February 25th, 2019 at 3pm
Contact: Jake Sporn -- 917-842-5748 (Levine)
              Avert Cohen -- 818-577-7556 (Hoylman)
              Charles LeDuc -- 518-455-4841 (Glick)

City Hall, NY -- In support of state legislation sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, NYC Council Members Mark Levine and Margaret Chin will be introducing a Resolution to the City Council calling for New York State to create a Pied-a-Terre tax in NYC.

Where: City Hall Steps
When: Monday, February 25th, 2019 at 3pm
Who: City Council Member Levine, Senator Hoylman, Assemblymember Glick, Council Member Chin, Council Member Powers, housing activists


Add your reaction Share

CM Levine Intros Bill to Curb Single-Use Coffee Cups by Creating ‘Right to Reuse’

**RELEASE** Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // [email protected]

City Hall, NY – Today, Council Member Mark Levine introduced legislation aimed at dramatically curbing the amount of single-use plastic and paper products used in New York City by requiring food service establishments to let New Yorkers use their own reusable containers.

Council Member Levine’s bill seeks to build on other proposals in New York--including banning single-use foam containers and Council Member Espinal’s bill to end plastic straw use--by taking aim at plastic cups and plastic-lined paper cups, most commonly used for coffee.

In addition to the 38 billion plastic cups used in the U.S. each year, Americans use 50 billion paper cups, a large majority of which are not recyclable because of the plastic that lines them. The plastic from these cups contributes to the 8 million tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year, substantially damaging the environment.

The proposal hopes to encourage more people to rely on reusable travel mug, bottles, thermos’ and the like at their local coffee shop. Under the proposed law, food service establishments--from Starbucks to 7-Eleven to local coffee shops--would be required to post a sign notifying consumers of their right to use their own container.

“A New Yorker with a five-day-a-week coffee habit throws away at least 260 single-use cups a year,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “This waste pollutes our oceans, chokes our landfills and releases untold amounts of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Still, many coffee shops have policies that don’t allow environmentally conscious consumers to get their own reusable containers filled up. We need to change this culture by creating a ‘Right to Reuse’ in New York. This bill is a simple, cost-saving solution, that will empower New Yorkers to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters said, "To meet New York City's zero waste goal, we need to move away from disposable plastic and paper. Single-use plastics often end up clogging our waste stream or polluting our waterways. Guaranteeing that all New Yorkers can use their own reusable containers reduces waste and builds sustainable habits. We are proud to support this legislation and commend Council Member Levine on his leadership."  

“Single-use plastic and paper products wreak havoc on our environment, increasing carbon emissions while destroying marine life. We urgently need to phase out these environmentally harmful and unnecessary products, and the first step is making sure that people have the option of bringing reusable containers to their favorite coffee shop or restaurant. I am proud to join Council Member Mark Levine in supporting this legislation, and thank him for his strong partnership on protecting our environment,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.  



Add your reaction Share

NYC Council Health Chair Levine to Hold Hearing on Bill to Amend Birth Certificates for Abuse Survivors

**ADVISORY for February 7, 2019**
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // [email protected]

City Hall, NY – On February 7th at 1pm, New York City Council Member Mark Levine will chair a Health Committee Hearing on his legislation to 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 suspended, surrendered or revoked by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).

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.

Who: Council Health Chair Mark Levine, Survivor/Advocate Marissa Hoechstetter
Where: New York City Hall Committee Room
When: Thursday, February 7th, 2019 at 1 pm

If you are unable to attend the hearing, the City Council will be live streaming it here.


Add your reaction Share

Health Chair Levine: City Should Ban Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes

For Release: January 18, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // [email protected]

City Hall, NY -- Today, City Council Health Chair Mark Levine announced he would be introducing legislation to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes at the City Council Stated Meeting on Wednesday, January 24th.

As the number of high school students using e-cigarettes nationwide has skyrocketed to nearly 30% in the past year, both the FDA and Governor Cuomo’s administration have taken actions to curb teen use. Council Member Levine’s proposal seeks to build on those policies by banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes just as the City did with flavored tobacco products in 2009.

A report by the New York State Health Department showed vaping among high school students has skyrocketed 160 percent in four years–from 10.4 percent in 2014 to 27.4 percent in 2018, mostly driven by flavor sales.

Additionally, a report by issued by National Institute of Health warns, “teen years are critical for brain development, which continues into young adulthood. Young people who use nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects.”

“Vaping has reached epidemic levels among teens, with life-long implications for young people who become addicted to nicotine,” said Council Member Levine. “One of the tools the industry has used to draw in teenagers is candy flavors like chocolate mint, blueberry, or cherry crush. These flavored smoking products disproportionally attract younger consumers, which is why New York City long-ago banned flavored tobacco. It’s time we did the same for e-cigarettes.”

Said Council Member Andrew Cohen, “The rise in the use of e-cigs amounts to a health crisis for young people. These products are harmful and can cause long term damage to the developing brains of teens. Research shows that flavored e-cigs particularly entice young people, who use these products without considering the long term risks involved.”


Add your reaction Share

Sign up for our mailing list!

Report a Problem Participatory Budgeting Events