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. The law encompasses any employer that has five or more employees, and for those with less than five, requires them to provide unpaid sick leave opportunities. Employees can use the sick time for themselves or to take care of a sick family member. This law also expanded the definition of “family member” to include siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.
  • In preparation for employees beginning to use their hours on July 30th, Mayor de Blasio took to the streets in Brooklyn passing out flyers and information packages. The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs website has also created a page for paid sick leave information and frequently asked questions for employees and employers. Upon the signing of the law, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said: “This is a good day for thousands of working New Yorkers who have never had paid sick days before – no parent will have to choose between caring for a child and putting food on the table.” To view the law, please click here.

Immigration

  • New York City government officials, immigration advocates, and lawyers, are preparing for a shift in immigration court proceedings that are aimed at expediting the deportation process for unaccompanied minors from Central America. Recently, there have been an overwhelming number of unaccompanied children arriving in New York from Central America, and the pressure to cope with this influx of new arrivals has mounted.
  • The Obama administration hopes that expediting the deportation process will ultimately dissuade migrants from illegally crossing the border. These new procedures could also help to alleviate the overburdened immigration courts, because instead of taking years to resolve, the cases will only take months.
  • The new procedures would require unaccompanied minors from Central America to appear before judges within 21 days of being placed in deportation proceedings. The Executive Office for Immigration Review aims for all parents with children to have an initial hearing within 28 days.
  • Meanwhile, immigration advocates are searching for volunteer attorneys who will help navigate these children through the deportation process. The special juvenile dockets in New York City are some of the largest in the country, and without legal assistance, many of these children will be turned away, and forced to return to their home countries where they will face horrendous conditions. Now that the process will be expedited, it will be even harder to provide assistance.
  • NYLS Professor Lenni Benson wonders where the resources will come from to help so many children. In response to what immigration advocates are calling “rocket dockets,” she reflected on the difficulties to come, stating, “I don’t know that without more resources or coordination I can do more than I’m doing. And I know the other organizations are at capacity.” Her concerns resonate with other immigration advocates who have been expressing similar sentiments. Only time will tell how the changes in immigration court proceedings will affect the lives of so many children from Central America. To learn more about this, click here. (New York Times)

Housing

  • After the plans for a luxury high-rise building were approved with a separate entrance for low-income residents, Mayor Bill De Blasio vowed to end “poor doors” in New York City.   Luxury buildings that have been approved under a 2009 zoning code inclusionary zoning amendment have had separate entrances, elevators, electrical systems, and play rooms for children. They have also restricted low-income residents from gaining access to the pool and gym.
  • This practice has been made possible by an ambiguity in the 2009 Inclusionary Housing Program, which grants large developers subsidies if they include affordable housing units in their plans— either on or off site.  By separating so much of the buildings’ essential components, developers virtually constructed more than just a poor door, since it is two separate buildings.  Not much can be changed about the project at 40 Riverside, since the building plans have already been approved and construction is underway.  However,  City Hall Spokesman, Wiley Norvell, stated  that this practice does not “reflect our values and priorities. We want to make sure future affordable housing projects treat all families equitably.”  Others stated that this is modern day segregation.
  • Mayor De Blasio has publicly expressed his dismay at this zoning provision and vowed to change it.  The provision was initiated under the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by the City Council in 2009. However, while the building project for 40 Riverside was already underway, the separate entrances were approved under the current administration. To read more about this, click here and here. (Newsweek and Salon)