Week In Review, Jan. 21

State Senator Brad Hoylman called on telecommunications giant Time Warner Cable on Monday to improve access for blind and visually impaired customers by voluntarily instituting basic product standards, including television guides and documents written in Braille, font size options for on-screen menus, as well as “talking menus” and “talking guides.” In a letter to Chairman and CEO Robert Marcus, Hoylman noted that while “Comcast has already set an example with its simple to use and accessible technology,” Time Warner has yet to implement similar programs for its share of New York’s 400,000 visually impaired residents.
Hoylman learned of the issue from a constituent while visiting VISIONS, a nonprofit that offers rehabilitation and social services to the visually impaired, in his senate district with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The City Council voted unanimously in support of legislation to change the way that the city communicates with New Yorkers who qualify for the city’s Rent Freeze Program on Tuesday.
The legislation, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, requires the Department of Finance to include a notice regarding legal and preferential rents on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.
Specifically, the notice must include the rent amount on which the benefit calculation was based, an explanation of why that amount was used in the calculation, an explanation that the tenant may continue to pay a preferential rent even once enrolled in the program, A statement that the tenant can obtain a rent registration history and file a complaint with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and a telephone number and email address for that agency. In addition, by 2018, the legislation would require the Department of Finance to include both the preferential and legal regulated rents of applicants to the NYC Rent Freeze Program in its database and include the preferential rent amount in the notice described above.

On Monday, January 25, the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) will conduct its annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), a HUD-mandated citywide community volunteer effort to count each chronically homeless person living in public spaces across the five boroughs during the coldest time of the year. The HOPE Count is an opportunity to get involved in New York City’s effort to reduce chronic street homelessness. Register online to volunteer.

The Manhattan Borough President’s office is now accepting applications for Community Board membership. All eligible New Yorkers living, working or studying in the borough of Manhattan are encouraged to consider applying. Manhattan’s 12 community boards are local organizations each composed of 50 volunteer members serving staggered two-year terms. Community boards are tasked with being the independent and representative voices of their communities-the most grass-roots form of local government. Applications and resumes must be submitted before 5 p.m. on Friday, January 29. Applications are available online.

Last Tuesday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a campaign to identify and locate dead zones, particularly in New York City and on Long Island. Schumer said there are many areas throughout New York City and Long Island that experience poor quality when it comes to cell phone network speed, network reliability, data performance, call performance and text performance and is asking New Yorkers to report to his office the specific locations of dead zones in their area and which wireless carrier they use.
New Yorkers who wish to participate in this crowdsourcing effort can submit their local cell phone dead zones via the Senator’s website.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron submitted public comments to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in support of proposed rule 2506-AC40, which would prohibit emergency homeless shelters that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and provide transgender persons with services and accommodations consistent with their gender identity. In their comments, Hoylman and Squadron call on HUD “to formally adopt the proposed regulations.” The Senators, co-sponsors of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, note that “nearly one-third of all transgender people who try to access homeless shelters in their lifetime are turned away on the basis of their gender identity,” forcing them “into shelters where they face violence, or onto the streets, where they face increased risks of incarceration, contracting HIV, and suicide.”
“Transgender people are more than twice as likely as others to have a history of homelessness,” Hoylman said. “It is unacceptable for shelters – which are tasked with caring for our most vulnerable citizens – to engage in the type of discriminatory and bigoted behavior that further endangers the lives of transgender New Yorkers. As we enter another winter season it is imperative that HUD promptly adopt rules to ensure that no one in need of a warm bed or secure environment is turned away solely because of who they are.”

The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that meteorologists are predicting up to 18 inches of snow in the major winter storm that is supposed to hit the East Coast this weekend. Forecasters warned, however, that since the storm is still a few days away, it is too early to definitively predict its path.

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