Weekly Round-Up September 8th, 2014

Five-Borough, Ten-year plan to Create More Affordable Housing:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio recently released a Five-Borough, Ten-year plan, which aims at creating or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Now, affordable housing units could become a mandatory part of any new real estate development project that requires a zoning change or City Planning Commission approval. This new mandate would require a change in the zoning laws of New York City.
  • In a statement made on Friday, September 5 at a breakfast at the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School, Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission, said that developers will not be able to “build one unit unless [they] build [their] share of affordable housing.” He added, “There will be a minimum that the developer has to do without subsidy.”
  • The requirements would apply to new development projects requiring zoning changes, and apartment building projects of 6 or more stories requiring City Planning Commission approval.
  • The Mayor’s mission is to provide economic stability to families of varying incomes and to ensure that everyone has a “safe” and “decent” home. He would also like to preserve affordable housing in all communities, and help families to hold onto rent-regulated apartments, and allow seniors to continue living in neighborhoods where the rents are becoming too costly for them to afford.
  • To read more about the mission, goals, and implementation of the new plan, click here and here. (New York Times).  To see a video of the breakfast, click here.  
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Weekly Round-Up September 2nd, 2014

Pilot Program to Equip NYPD Officers with Body Cameras:

  • In recent months, the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have mounted pressure on officials to consider measures that would cultivate a more positive dynamic between police officers and civilians.  One proposal has been to require police officers to wear body cameras.  This would help to provide evidence of what was going on before, during, and after any kind of interaction between police and members of the community.
  • City Public Advocate Letitia James proposed a pilot program aimed at this cause.   She proposed that officers in high-crime precincts should be equipped with a body camera.  The cameras would be about the size of a pager and they would cost between $400 and $900 each. Equipping each officer on patrol with a camera would cost around $32 million. Currently, the city spends roughly $152 million a year on settlements related to police misconduct.  In places like New Orleans and Missouri, where the body cameras are used by police, there has been a decline in civil law suits brought against police for issues regarding misconduct.
  • Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that a pilot program would begin with about 50 officers.  The pilot program will cost approximately $5 million.
  • District Judge Shira Schiendlin had ordered the NYPD to start a similar program in 2012.  Her idea was to equip officers in the boroughs with the highest incidents of stop-and-frisk rates with a camera.
  • The current measure announced by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will serve 2 purposes.  
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Weekly Round-Up: August 25th, 2014

Public Health/Contraception & Health Insurance – New Federal Rules:

  • The Affordable Care Act provision requiring health insurance coverage for contraception has been the source of ongoing controversy. Some religious nonprofits, including Catholic schools and hospitals, objected to this practice, arguing that it went against their beliefs.
  • As a way to circumvent this issue, while still granting women access to contraception, the Obama Administration required nonprofits that objected to contraception to notify the insurer who would then be responsible for the cost of the contraception coverage and for administering it. Religious nonprofits objected to this because they argued that the very act of reaching out to the insurer about providing contraception to their employees went against their religious beliefs. In essence, religious organizations saw it as a “permission slip” for women to gain access to birth control and ultimately, to use it.
  • In response to the religious nonprofits concerns and in an effort to avoid litigation, the Obama Administration announced a new way for women who work for religious nonprofits to have access to contraception while providing an accommodation for religious employers. Under new interim final regulations, nonprofit religious organizations can notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objections to providing some or all contraception services under their health plan, and the Department of Labor will step in and arrange for a third party insurer to make contraception available to women free of charge.  Religious organizations are questioning whether this is still a violation of their beliefs.
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Weekly Round-Up: August 18th, 2014

The Rise of Financial Elder Abuse:

  • A recent study by Weill Cornell Medical College and published on July 30, 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that “1 in 20 adults will be affected by financial abuse after they turn 60.”  Elder abuse in the form of financial exploitation can manifest in a number of ways including, but not limited to: stolen cash, credit card fraud, or by forcing the elder to relinquish control of his/her accounts to another. As the elderly population continues to grow, this problem is expected to grow.
  • In 2011, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued an advisory to financial institutions calling for their cooperation and due diligence in battling elder abuse. The advisory also contains a series of red flags to help identify potential financial exploitation. Many financial institutions have implemented special teams to investigate such claims and to monitor any red flags.


Technology and Domestic Violence: 

  • LED cameras are being used in a pilot program in Indianapolis to help strengthen domestic violence cases. This program comes after Marion County officials reported an increase of 500 domestic violence calls between 2010-2012.  The cameras are able to detect the formation of bruises and strangulation marks before the naked eye can see them. In addition, these cameras can detect bodily fluids, which will allow law enforcement to collect evidence quicker in sexual assaults. The cameras will provide the physical evidence necessary to help ensure convictions in domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
  • The LED camera, the Illumacam-2, was purchased as part of the Baker One Project, a collaboration between the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and domestic violence groups.
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Weekly Round-Up: August 11th, 2014


Vision Zero and Safer Streets:

  • Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan is aimed at eliminating the number of traffic deaths in New York City. According to the Vision Zero website, “being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors.” The plan looks to combine stricter enforcement of traffic laws along with efficient and safer road engineering to protect the public from traffic fatalities. This type of plan to end traffic fatalities began in Sweden with the Vision Zero Initiative. The Initiative has reported that the number of pedestrian deaths has decreased by 50%, including the number of children killed in traffic accidents.
  • On August 9, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed a law authorizing New York City to reduce the city speed limit  from 30 mph to 25 mph. This would affect city streets that are not already marked with a speed limit and will go into effect in ninety days. Mayor de Blasio cited this law as a necessary step in making the streets safer for families and eliminating traffic deaths in New York City. To view the rest of the law, please click here.

Paid Sick Leave:

  • On March 20, 2014, Mayor de Blasio signed the law requiring many employers to provide up to 5 days (40 hours) of accrued paid sick leave; his first law as Mayor. The law took effect on April 1, 2014 allowing employees to begin accruing sick time that would be available for use as of July 30, 2014.
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