March 29, 2024

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In the News-New York City

NY’s Budget Saga Continues

New York will begin its Fiscal Year 2025 on April 1st under a temporary spending allowance as a budget deal remains elusive. Legislative leaders sent the rank-and-file legislators home today for the Easter holiday while they negotiate the State’s spending plan with Governor Kathy Hochul.

Governor Hochul delivered a bill to the Legislature to “temporarily extend the budget deadline
until April 4th.” In addition, the Legislature approved the State’s Debt Service budget bill, the first of 10 bills that make up the State budget.

Budget negotiations stalled earlier this week when the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York rejected a “final” proposal from the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) to boost New York’s affordable housing stock. Eight leaders of the trades—including the New York City District Council of Carpenters, IBEW Local 3, UA Plumbers Local 1, and Teamsters Local 282—called upon the Legislature to weigh in to bring fair wages to the table.

“As members of the Building Trades representing tens of thousands of workers, we rejected their offer because it was a rehash of every flawed policy that existed under the previous 421-a program,” they said. “We will not stand for it and just as important: we do not stand alone.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie asserted that a housing deal will not happen without a wage deal. The eight union leaders emphasized they do not want an “average” wage policy.

“To be clear, we cannot – and will not – support the creation of a multibillion-dollar taxpayer funded program that regurgitates the average wage policy – a wage standard that has been proven to be ripe with abuse,” the leaders said. “…All REBNY has offered us is scraps and more of the same policies that created this mess in the first place…”

Bills Passed Both Houses

AM Walker (Senator Cleare)–Permits pregnant women to enroll in health  insurance during a special enrollment period without penalty. 

A7716A–Sponsored by AM Hyndman (Senator Stavisky)—Provides that the State Education mail  licensee registration applications to licensees who have not renewed their licenses 45 days prior to  expiration.  

A8876–Sponsored by AM Pheffer Amato (Senator Jackson)–Permits individuals within twelve  months of meeting the minimum age or educational qualifications for a competitive class civil service  role to take the civil service examination for that position. 

S1003A–Senator Hinchey (AM Rozic)—Requires the Department of Health to maintain on its website  a list of all health care facilities with policy-based exclusions and the policy-based exclusions for each  health care facility. 

S2271–Senator Liu (AM Vinal)–Clarifies requirements for acknowledgments, proofs, oaths and  affirmations outside of the state. 

S8600 Senator Ramos (AM Lunsford)–Extends the effectiveness of certain provisions relating to the  reciprocity of debarments. 

The State Gaming Commission this week released a timeline for awarding the New York City  casino licenses, estimating that the new licenses will not be issued until late 2025. 

 The new timeline takes into consideration City and State approvals that bidders must secure  prior to submitting their proposals. Specifically, the proposals may involve the New York City  Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), City Council zoning approvals, community reviews,  and the State Environmental Quality Review Assessment.  

Commission Executive Director Robert Williams explained that these approvals will take the  process into 2025. He does not expect to start accepting applications until the end of the first quarter of  2025 at the earliest, with licenses issues later in the year.  

“Staff believes the timeline accommodates the existing statutory requirements and allows  sufficient time for local zoning approvals, which will enable the best, most comprehensive plans for  commercial casino development,” Williams said. 

He also noted that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not budget for the license fees  until 2026. 

Meanwhile, State legislators are frustrated with the speed of the process.

“2026 is just embarrassing. You’re New York state, you can’t figure out three gaming licenses in two years?” Senate Racing Committee Chairman Joseph Addabbo said, in published reports. He is  urging Governor Kathy Hochul to speed up the timeline.

In the News-New York City

MTA Board Adopts Central Business District Toll Rates

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board, in its capacity as the board of the  Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, this week approved the Central Business District toll rates by  a vote of 11 to 1. 

Passenger vehicles and small commercial vehicles – sedans, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and small  vans – paying with a valid E-ZPass will be charged $15 during the day and $3.75 at night, when there is  less congestion, to enter the congestion relief zone in Manhattan below 60th Street. They will be charged no more than once a day. 

Trucks and some buses will be charged a toll of $24 or $36 during the day to enter the  congestion relief zone in Manhattan below 60th Street, depending on their size and function, and $6 or  $9 at night. The toll for motorcycles will be $7.50 during the day and $1.75 at night. Yellow taxi, green  cab and black car passengers will pay a $1.25 toll for every trip to, from, within or through the zone;  customers of app-based for-hire vehicles will pay $2.50.  

Qualifying authorized emergency vehicles and qualifying vehicles carrying people with  disabilities will be exempt, as will school buses contracted with the NYC Department of Education,  buses providing scheduled commuter services open to the public, commuter vans licensed with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, and specialized government vehicles. 

As previously proposed, a 50% discount will be available for low-income vehicle owners and a  tax credit is available for low-income residents of the Central Business District. 

Customers will be able to use their E-ZPass tags to pay the Congestion Relief Zone toll. Those  without an E-ZPass tag will receive a bill by mail to the registered owner of the vehicle. Without an E ZPass, tolls will generally be 50% higher than the listed rate. 

According to the MTA, in the first 60 days of the program, drivers will only be charged the  applicable Congestion Relief Zone toll. No additional fees, charges, or fines, such as late fees, will be  applied.

Mayor Adams Signs Legislation Extending City’s Rent Stabilization Laws & Honoring Late Public Servant Paul Vallone 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week signed two pieces of legislation – one to extend the New York City Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 and another honoring late public servant Paul A.  Vallone by naming the Animal Care Centers (ACC) of NYC facility in Queens the “Paul A. Vallone  Queens Animal Care Center.” 

In response to the City Department of Housing and Preservation Development’s (HPD) Housing  Vacancy Survey, Intro. 0653-A, extends the city’s rent stabilization law to April 1, 2027. 

Intro. 0001-B honors public servant Paul Vallone – who passed away on January 28, 2024, and  served as deputy commissioner for external affairs at the New York City Department of Veterans  Services (DVS) and previously represented District 19 in Queens in the New York City Council – by  naming an ACC location in Queens after him. As a councilmember, Vallone was a champion for animal  welfare and advocated for improving the conditions for animals in New York City.


New York State Senate Confirms Appointments to the Public Service Commission

New York State Senate yesterday confirmed Uchenna Bright and Denise Sheehan to serve as  commissioners of the New York State Public Service Commission. They were nominated earlier this  year by Governor Kathy Hochul to replace Commissioners John Howard and Diane Burman. 

Bright previously worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council for seven years in various  roles and has been with a business group supporting environmental policies, Environmental  Entrepreneurs, since 2020. She’s the eastern advocate for the group with a focus on New York and  Pennsylvania. 

Sheehan previously served for 10 years at the New York State Department of Environmental  Conservation (NYS DEC) in senior management positions, including two years as Commissioner, where she led efforts to establish the nation’s first cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, known as the  Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. In addition, she serves as a Senior Advisor to the New York  Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST). 

Comptroller DiNapoli: Percentage of New Yorkers With Mental Illness Rose as Available Psychiatric Beds Declined

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli this week released a report that detailed the rise of  behavioral health needs among New Yorkers. 

Specifically, according to federal data, the mental health needs of New Yorkers have greatly  increased, with 21.1% of adults struggling with mental Illness and 5.1% with a severe mental illness in  2021-2022. Between 2013 and 2022, there was a 23% increase in the number of individuals served by  the state’s public mental health system, with nearly 900,000 residents utilizing the services.  

According to a report by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the rising need for mental  health services coincided with a loss of 990 beds, a 10.5% drop in capacity, in inpatient psychiatric  facilities statewide between April 2014 and December 2023. 

Incidences of any mental illness (AMI) were especially high among 18 to 25-year-olds at 30%.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), AMI encompasses all recognized mental  illnesses and is defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that can vary in impact, ranging  from no impairment to mild, moderate and even severe impairment. The definition does not include  developmental and substance use disorders. 

The estimated occurrence of serious mental illness (SMI) among New York adults aged 18 and  older was nearly 5.1% in 2021-2022, or about 783,000 individuals. SMI is defined by NIMH as a  mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. For individuals between 18 and 25 years of  age the rate was 8.6%.  

New York’s rates were below the national average of 23.1% of adults with AMI and 6% with  SMI. 

Free Admission to State Parks, Lands, Campgrounds, and Historic Sites for New York State Veterans and Gold Star Families 

Beginning on Monday, April 1st, New York State veterans and Gold Star Families will have free  access to New York State parks, campgrounds, day use areas, historic sites, and recreation areas through  the expansion of the Lifetime Liberty Pass Program. 

Under the legislation signed by Governor Hochul, the Lifetime Liberty Pass Program will now  be extended to include all Veterans and certain Gold Star Family members who are residents of New  York State. A disability rating is no longer required.  

The benefits include: 

  • Free vehicle entry to State Parks and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)- operated campgrounds and day use areas, as well as state boat launch sites, historic sites,  arboretums, and park preserves. 
  • Free greens fees at State Park-operated golf courses. 
  • Free swimming pool entrance at pools operated by State Parks. 
  • Discounted campsite and cabin rentals at State Parks- and DEC-operated campgrounds. The  discount will be applied at the time of campground check-in. 

New York State Gold Star Parents, Spouses or Children should apply for the free Lifetime Liberty  Pass to ensure entry at all park locations. The application process for the Lifetime Liberty Pass will open on April 1, 2024. 

NYC Releases Requirements, Opens Permit Applications for  Autonomous Vehicle Testing 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Transportation (DOT)  Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez today released safety requirements for autonomous vehicle (AV) testing  in New York City, as well as announced the opening of applications for a new permit program.  

Consistent with state law, a trained safety driver will still be required to sit behind the wheel and  be ready to take control of an AV-enabled vehicle at all times. As part of the approval process, applicants  must: 

  • Submit information on their previous testing experience and technological capabilities, a  detailed testing plan for New York City, and a safety plan. 
  • Obtain approval from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles before starting an  on-street testing program.  
  • Provide details on how their test operators are selected and trained, and attest that they will  follow recent best practices from the Society of Automotive Engineers.  
  • Certify that the vehicles will follow all traffic laws and curb regulations and include safety  assurance protocols for how the operator will compensate for any AV system limitation or  failure and proactively intervene to avoid potential crashes. 
  • Certify that they are adhering to industry best practices related to cybersecurity. 
  • Provide a detailed overview of the level of automation and safety performance of their AV  technology, including previous testing and crash histories of their AV technology.  
  • Provide a list of all current or past permits to test their technology in any local, state, or  foreign government agency. 

The State statute which allows the State Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)  to authorize demonstrations and tests of autonomous vehicle technology expires on Monday, April 1st. The Executive Budget included a provision to extend the authorization to 2026, as did the Assembly Budget  Resolution. The Senate proposed extending the authorization to 2029. 

Mayor Adams Launches Effort to Connect More New Yorkers to  Jobs and Training 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week announced “Jobs NYC,” a citywide effort to  deliver workforce development services directly to communities that are experiencing high  unemployment.  

The effort will focus on three initiatives: 1) revamping the administration’s “hiring halls” in an  effort to bring public and private job opportunities and career services to economically-disadvantaged  communities on a monthly basis in each borough, 2) launching a new talent portal to connect New Yorkers to job and training opportunities, and 3) continuing to reform the city’s Minimum  Qualification Requirements to make certain entry-level jobs within city government are more accessible. 

In June 2023, Mayor Adams removed the bachelor’s degree requirement for certain city jobs. 

Mayor Adams, NYPD Commissioner Caban to Pilot new Technology, Announce Additional Clinicians to be Deployed in Subways

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Police Department (NYPD)  Commissioner Edward A. Caban today announced efforts to make the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s  (MTA) subway system safer by investing in new technology to detect firearms, as well as invest in more clinicians that will help those suffering from severe mental illness in the nation’s largest subway system. 

According to the Mayor, the city is exploring, and will soon begin piloting, technologies  designed to detect weapons carried by travelers into the transit system. In accordance with the Public  Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, the NYPD also published online its Impact and Use  Policy for electromagnetic weapons detection systems, starting a mandatory 90-day waiting period  before new technology can be tested and used in New York City.  

Additionally, Mayor Adams announced that the city will begin hiring clinicians to support the  expansion of the Subway Co-Response Outreach Teams (SCOUT). This pilot program was launched in  partnership with the state and the MTA to connect people with untreated severe mental illness in the  subways to mental health treatment and care.

Coming Up

New York State 

Tuesday, April 2nd 

New York State Senate Session, 3 p.m. 

New York State Assembly Session, 2 p.m. (Wednesday and Thursday are TBA) 

Wednesday, April 3rd 

New York State Senate Session, 3 p.m. 

Thursday, April 4th  

New York State Senate Session, 11 a.m. 


New York City 

Tuesday, April 2nd 

 Committee on Veterans, Council Chambers – City Hall, 10 a.m. 

Wednesday, April 3rd  

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Council Chambers – City Hall, 1 p.m. Committee on Economic Development, Council Chambers – City Hall, 1 p.m. 

Thursday, April 4th 

Committee on Aging, Committee Room – City Hall, 1 p.m. 

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