Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new initiative to provide additional outreach services for homeless New Yorkers and introduced new Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, at the 14th Street Y. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Mayor Bill de Blasio was at the 14th Street Y last Thursday, November 14 to introduce new Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, and announce the launch of a new program to combat homelessness in the city called Outreach NYC, which has since been criticized by other local elected officials and advocates.
The administration said on Thursday that the initiative will mobilize thousands of staff members from various city agencies who will be accessible for outreach assistance via 311. The city is encouraging New Yorkers to alert 311 when they see unsheltered individuals with the aim of helping those homeless New Yorkers transition off the streets and subways into more permanent, stable settings.
“We believe that this kind of outreach effort is the key,” de Blasio said at the announcement on Thursday. “We believe that constantly engaging folks is the answer. And I want everyone understand, I’m not talking about a few times and not talking about a few dozen times. Sometimes we were talking about hundreds of times before it works. But it is worth it because every time, and we heard from the outreach workers today, the sense of victory they felt when someone did come in and they were talking about literally in the last days getting someone in off the streets, who had been on the streets for years and years. What a profound victory that is.”
The de Blasio administration announced last Wednesday that the city will now be able to freeze rents at the preferential level for tenants eligible for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE).
“For far too long, thousands of low-income older adults and people with disabilities with preferential were unable to benefit from NYC’s Rent Freeze Programs,” said State Senator Liz Kruger, who is also the prime sponsor of preferential rent legislation. “I am extremely happy that New York State’s new rent laws finally eliminated the preferential rent loophole, making it possible for tenants with preferential rents to benefit from SCRIE and DRIE.”
The legal rent of a rent-stabilized apartment is based on the unique history of the unit and is the maximum legal rent for each apartment. Preferential rent is rent that a landlord charged to a rent-regulated tenant that is lower than the legal rent.
SCRIE and DRIE, known collectively as the NYC Rent Freeze Program, is administered by the Department of Finance and helps eligible seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities stay in affordable housing by freezing their rent. The programs are available to eligible tenants living in rent-regulated apartments. To qualify for SCRIE, residents must be at least 62 years old, the head of household on the lease, have a combined household income of $50,000 or less and spend more than one-third of their monthly household income on rent. DRIE is available to tenants who are at least 18 years old, are named on the lease, have a combined household income of $50,000 or less and must be awarded one of the following: Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability pension or disability compensation; disability-related Medicaid if the applicant has received either SSI or SSDI in the past; or the United States Postal Service (USPS) disability pension or disability compensation.
Last week I saw Mayor Bill de Blasio on a local newscast giving an interview from the Iowa State Fair. He looked very relaxed in his shirtsleeves with no tie or jacket. I think he had just eaten a corndog, a local favorite. He seemed a million miles away from the daily cares of his actual job as chief executive of New York City. To be precise, he was about eleven hundred miles away from home.
Hizzoner was enjoying himself free from the problems of the disgraceful public housing conditions, the mass transit infrastructure woes, another police suicide, the worry about a terrorist attack in Chelsea with the discovery of what appeared at first to be improvised explosive devices. You know, some of the stuff that requires a Mayor to be on the job 24/7. But Bill de Blasio assures us that he is in communication with his staff every hour. That sort of makes him New York’s first Skype Mayor.
To be sure, everyone deserves a vacation and respite from their job. But Bill de Blasio has been spending chunks of time out of the city on a regular basis for the better part of 2019. His venue of choice has been Iowa because that is the first state which will be holding a Presidential nominee contest in just five months.
With all the changes made last month by the State Legislature in tenant protections and rent regulations, the nine-member New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) appointed by the mayor remains intact. That is the entity which sets rent increases for leases expiring in any given year.
For hundreds of thousands of tenants facing lease renewals between October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, the RGB has set the increases at 1.5% for a one-year lease renewal and 2.5% for a two-year lease renewal.
The question for tenants is, which one is best? It’s all about short-term and long-term dollars and cents. But it is not that simple.
To some extent clairvoyance is required, but that function does not appear on any calculator. What do I mean?
One thing is a certainty: you will save money in the first year if you opt for a one year renewal. But what about the following year? Well, if the guidelines remain the same next year, then a tenant will be spending more money in the second year if they opt for consecutive one-year renewals as opposed to a two-year lease renewal at 2.5%.
So it’s official: Bill de Blasio is running… away from New York City. He is seeking the nomination for president in a crowded field of nearly two dozen Democrats. His chances of success range from nearly impossible to absurd.
That would be ok if he were doing this on his own time. But he is virtually abdicating his responsibilities as mayor. That is the part that is really arrogant and offensive.
Blame term limitations at least in part.
You see, de Blasio is a politician with no path to future office but nothing to lose thumbing his nose at his current constituents. He can’t run for mayor again and when his current term ends in 2021, there is no other viable office for him to seek.
Last week, the City Council passed a slew of bills aimed at tenant protection, and while not yet law, the mayor has indicated he’ll support them.
This is a tremendous relief. We believe these bills would go a long way in protecting tenants from landlords who flout the law, from making aggressive buyout offers to using construction as a form of harassment to blatantly lying on applications.
Additionally, the fact that so many housing bills were introduced shows how badly this intervention was needed in the first place. A perfect example is Council Member Keith Powers’ bill to crack down on landlords who lie in construction documents about whether or not their buildings have rent regulated tenants. This legislation was inspired by behavior by the Kushner Companies, who failed to disclose the presence of such tenants in 17 buildings a total of 42 times when filing applications to the Department of Buildings.
Another helpful bill will improve communication between city agencies with oversight of housing, making it easier to catch these inaccuracies.
The City Council Housing and Buildings Committee holds a vote on anti-displacement bills the day before they were passed by the full Council on Wednesday, May 8. (Photo courtesy of City Council)
By Sabina Mollot
Last fall, the City Council introduced a package of 18 bills aimed at preventing tenants from being displaced due to aggressive tactics from landlords like exploitative buyout agreements or nuisance construction. On Wednesday, May 8, all but one passed. They still require the mayor’s signature, but he has indicated his support for them.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Jane Meyer said, “From free access to legal services in housing court to the new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, this administration has been fighting for tenants from day one. These bills will help bolster our efforts to protect all New Yorkers.”
Here is a rundown of what each of the City Council bills will do:
Property owners will be required to share certain information about the terms of a buyout agreement a tenant is entering into with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) within 90 days. The bill’s sponsor is Mark Levine.
Yes, there are some political donors who truly believe in a particular candidate come hell or high water or ones who are close friends or relatives. Some candidates run for higher office thinking like those who play the lottery. Even though the probability of success is near zero, as the Power Ball slogan exclaims, “Hey, you never know” or “You can’t win it if you are not in it.” The chances of winning the jackpot and the odds of a nondescript candidate winning the presidency is about the same.
In the case of Donald Trump, he at least had a celebrity following from his business ventures, tabloid exposure, and his television show “The Apprentice.” None of those experiences qualified him to be president, but it did give him universal name recognition and political momentum as a candidate.
But back to Bill de Blasio and other office seekers who are not counted amongst the rich and the famous.
Two American mayors both with one ambition, to defeat President Trump and become the 46th president of the United States. That is where the similarity ends and the disparity begins.
If elected, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would become the tallest president in history.
If elected, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg would become the shortest since Harry Truman. Mayor Buttigieg presides over a city of around 100,000 residents. Mayor de Blasio’s city has 80 times that number of residents. Buttigieg is something of a longshot, but de Blasio has no shot whatsoever.
It’s an interesting contrast.
Why has Buttigieg gained momentum and national attention in his presidential quest while de Blasio has about as much traction as a pair of bald tires going down a slippery steep hill to nowhere? Try as he has almost nobody is interested in what de Blasio has to say outside of the five boroughs. Buttigieg on the other hand has more interview requests than he knows what to do with.
The government kicks in $10.73 for each ride on the city’s ferry system. (Pictured) A ferry along the Lower East Side route pulls into the Stuyvesant Cove stop. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A report from government watchdog group the Citizens Budget Commission found that subsidies for the city’s ferry system are 10 times what the government pays for subway trips.
The New York Post reported last Thursday that according to the report, the city kicks in $10.73 for each individual ferry trip, compared to the $1.05 subsidy for each subway trip, despite the fact that the fare for both modes of transportation is the same at $2.75. And although the Staten Island ferry is free for riders, the subsidy per trip is almost half that of NYC Ferry’s at $5.46 because the operating costs for the service are lower.
Although the mayor’s office said that ridership for NYC Ferry service is expected to grow to nine million by 2023, its ridership of 4.1 million rides in 2018 is much lower than daily use of the subway. The report found that the subway, on which there were 2.7 billion trips in 2017, serves more people in a single day than the ferry serves all year.
CBC’s report notes that the subsidies are high because the operating costs are high due to the long routes and seasonal ridership, but also because revenue is low since the fare is pegged to the subway and bus fare. NYC Ferry recently announced an expansion that the report said will require even further subsidies, costing as much as $24.75 per ride for the Coney Island route.
T&V has recently featured articles on residents complaining about cyclists’ behavior and the NYPD’s 13th Precinct enforcement activities towards cyclists. None of these articles point out that the real danger to pedestrians and cyclists are automobiles.
Motor vehicle crashes killed 200 people in NYC in 2018 including 114 pedestrians and 10 cyclists and left 60,000 injured. Between July 2012 and January 2019, 887 pedestrians were killed by automobiles. Generally, when the DOT installs protected bike lanes or other infrastructure to make cycling safer and easier, pedestrian safety also increases.
All too frequently whenever there is a serious crash involving a cyclist being hit a motor vehicle, they initiate ticketing activity against cyclists often at intersections and bike lanes in which little dangerous behavior is exhibited by cyclists rather drivers who block and drive in bike lanes, drivers who cut off cyclists at intersections or drivers that block the box causing cyclists to go out into traffic.
Bellevue South Park (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community organizers and the Parks Department got closer to an agreement about renovations planned for Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay after a Community Board 6 Parks committee meeting last Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled because park advocates were unsatisfied with designs the city had presented to the committee last month.
Manhattan Borough Commissioner Chief of Staff Steven Simon, who expressed frustration at the last meeting when met with resistance about the plans, at first balked at the idea of coming back to the committee next month, saying that it was unusual for Parks to even come back to the community board a second time, but ultimately agreed that the architects could make additional adjustments to the design and return to the committee in March.
Kips Bay residents Aaron Humphrey, Karen Lee, Pauline Yablonski and Courtney Bird offered suggestions to the plans that the Parks Department presented to the committee in January, which includes an ADA-compliant dog run and updated play equipment that will also be moved away from the adult exercise equipment.
Several weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would be spending time away from City Hall with an ambitious national travel schedule promoting progressive policies which he believes would be good for the country and New York City. He then said that he has “not ruled out” a run for President in 2020. And then in answer to a reporter’s question about his pledge to serve all four years of his second term as mayor, de Blasio’s reply was that “Times have changed since 2017”.
The Democratic Party will have no shortage of candidates vying for the nomination to run against President Trump. There will be more than a dozen and most of those candidates will hold progressive views similar to de Blasio’s. That is the nature of the Democratic Party these days. The route to the nomination travels through the more progressive and liberal ideology espoused by persons such as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris to name just a few. And although the nation’s electorate as a whole is more centrist, the first order of business for any Democratic aspirant is getting the nomination.
But back to Mayor de Blasio. He was re-elected in 2017. With term limits he cannot run for mayor again. His height (six feet, six inches) is a metaphor for his outsized political ambition and his self-esteem. But being mayor of the city that never sleeps, the largest in the nation, is not like any other job in politics. It is a 24/7 responsibility. It is about managing the affairs of this sprawling metropolis and the almost daily crises that arise. It goes with the territory.
The renovation plan was discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting last Wednesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A plan to renovate Bellevue South Park that city officials presented to the Community Board 6 Parks committee last Wednesday left neighborhood residents feeling like they hadn’t been listened to.
“I don’t see much of what we talked about in the focus groups,” said Aaron Humphrey, a resident of Straus Houses and a longtime advocate for the park. “We have quality of life and safety issues. In the southeastern part of the park, we have a lot of homeless who sit on the benches there and smoke marijuana. The trees block all of it. We wanted the gate removed to make it more community friendly, and we wanted to maximize the space.”
Community organizers have been pushing the city to make changes to Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay to create an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible dog run and separate the adult exercise equipment from the children’s play equipment, primarily to discourage residents from the nearby shelters from congregating near where children play. But residents also said that the amount of tree cover in some areas of the park encourages shady behavior and had been hoping that the design would take more of this into account, possibly by opening up the park and removing some of the fences.
“I recall a conversation that one of the goals was to keep it more open so that the transient population wouldn’t stay there,” Kips Bay resident Karen Keavey said. “I know we have limited funds but I don’t see any changes to how the park is now. What we’ve been talking about is the entire ethos and vibe of the park so it’s more user-friendly and safe.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio answers questions from audience members at a town hall co-hosted by Council Member Keith Powers at Hunter College. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The L train shutdown and the lack of local affordable housing were among the main concerns of East Side residents who packed a town hall hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Keith Powers last Wednesday evening. The mayor, along with numerous representatives from city agencies as well as Powers and other local elected officials, answered questions from more than 300 advocates and community residents during the event at Hunter College.
Stuyvesant Town resident and former ST/PCV Tenants Association president Al Doyle got in the first question of the night, asking the mayor if he would actively support a return to rent stabilization of all apartments that had been deregulated due to vacancy decontrol.
The mayor admitted that he couldn’t necessarily commit to that, at least at this point, despite wanting to.