September 22, 2023

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In the News-New York State

Governor Hochul Signs Voting Rights Legislation as Court Challengers Prepare Lawsuit 

Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed a legislative package to strengthen democracy and protect voting rights in New York State, while State Republicans and Conservatives countered with a lawsuit against one of the measures which would establish early voting by mail.  

Chapter 481 of the Laws of 2023 establishes a system for early voting by mail. Sponsored by Senator Michael Gianaris and AM Karines Reyes, the law allows voters to request mail ballots up to ten days prior to the election in which they would like to vote early by mail. Early mail ballots must then be mailed back to the appropriate board of elections no later than election day and must be received by the board no later than seven days after Election Day. 

According to the Times UnionU.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.-21) and Republican officials filed a lawsuit in Albany asserting the early voting law signed by Governor Hochul is a “blatant violation” of the state constitution. The lawsuit cites the constitution’s exceptions that allow for absentee voting: not being in your registered county on Election Day or an illness or disability.  

The lawsuit was filed in compliance with Chapter  476 of the Laws of 2023—also signed and effective on September 20th—which  provides that legal challenges to the constitutionality of a provision of the election law may be filed only in one of the following judicial districts:  New York County, Westchester County, Albany County, or Erie County.   

Specifics of the other bills enacted by Governor Hochul include:

  • Chapter 472 – Allows absentee ballots to be counted if they have been taped and show no signs of tampering.  Sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie and AM Paulin.
  • Chapter 479 – Creates a “Golden Day” on the first day of the early voting period when New Yorkers can register to vote and cast their ballots at their polling place all on the same day. Sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh and AM Robert Carroll.
  • Chapter 480 – Establishes a deadline for changing location of a polling place for an early voting period. Sponsored by Senator Kavanagh and AM Joanne Simon.
  • Chapter 473 – Requires local jails to provide voter registration information to individuals of voting age being released from a local correctional facility.  Sponsored by Senator Jamaal Bailey and AM Eddie Gibbs.
  • Chapter 477 – Requires the New York State Board of Elections to develop and provide a training program for poll workers. Sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie and AM Latrice Walker.
  • Chapter 474 – Schedules the Presidential Primary Election for April 2, 2024.  Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

New York PEF Members Rally to End Workplace Abuse

Members of the state Public Employees Federation (PEF), which represents 50,000 state workers, marched on Albany this week calling for an end to a pervasive culture of workplace bullying and harassment.

Marching from the Albany Hilton to Empire State Plaza, 150 members and leaders of PEF carried signs emblazoned with messages like “No More Fear! Standing Strong Against Workplace Bullying!” and “End Bullying, Embrace Respect: Change Starts at the Top!” Members shared stories of abuses they’ve faced on the job when working for a bully, such as repeated and unreasonable actions intended to intimidate, humiliate, undermine, or degrade them.

“We are sending a message that this behavior is unacceptable,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “We as a union are going to start calling out ineffective managers who engage in this type of behavior. No one should have to go to work and feel unsafe or be harassed. The 50,000 members of PEF are dedicated professionals who provide vital public services for the people of New York.  Unfortunately, ‘professional’ doesn’t apply to everyone employed by the state. Many state workers walk into toxic workplaces created by their managers every day.”

In the upcoming 2024 legislative session, PEF will amplify its push for the legislation (S3065-A/A1202B) to require all state employees to receive training to prevent abusive conduct and bullying in all state agencies in the 2024 legislative session and calls on the state to create uniform standards to define bullying and abusive conduct in the workplace.  The legislation is sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos and AM Latoya Joyner.

“It’s unconscionable that our state government allows this type of behavior to exist,” Spence said. “These bullying managers aren’t heeding Gov. Kathy Hochul’s directive to make New York ‘the most worker-friendly state!’ We need change now. Actions, not words. Enough is enough!”

PEF members work in more than 3,000 different titles in every state agency, including nurses, social workers, doctors, engineers, counselors, parole officers, lawyers, IT specialists, teachers, habilitation specialists, and therapists.

 Chapters of the Laws of 2023

Chapter 367 – Sponsored by AM Dinowitz/Senator Ramos – Prohibits an employer from requesting that an employee or applicant disclose any means for accessing an electronic personal account.

Chapter 373 – Sponsored by AM Bichotte Hemlyn/Senator Hoylman-Sigal – Prohibits the sale of tobacco products at vending stands leasing space and in vending machines in a state building.

Chapter 390 – Sponsored by AM Rozic/Senator Ramos – Ensures that the language access plan published by the Workers’ Compensation Board is consistent with those implemented by other state agencies.

Chapter 417 – Sponsored by AM Otis/Senator Gonzalez – Clarifies that the division of homeland security and emergency services statutory review and analysis of measures to protect the security of critical infrastructure include cyber security.

Chapter 422 – Sponsored by Senator Cleare/AM Rosenthal – Requires schools to provide teachers with written informational material on the use of epinephrine auto-injectors.

Chapter 434 – Sponsored by Senator Ramos/AM Bores – Specifies that an invention developed entirely on an employee’s own time, without using an employer’s property or trade secrets, belongs to the employee.

Chapter 457 – Sponsored by Senator Gianaris/AM Mamhani – Allows the Museum of the Moving Image to apply for an on-premise liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority.

Chapter 468 – Sponsored by Senator Bailey/AM Peoples-Stokes – Makes a technical change related to the resentencing of former marihuana offenses not subject to automatic vacatur, effective retroactively to March 31, 2021, the effective date of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

In the News-New York City      

Mayor Adams’ City of Yes for Housing Opportunity Proposal

Mayor Eric Adams continued to develop his City of Yes vision this week, with the release of the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity, a reform program targeting the City’s Zoning laws.

The plan includes measures to eliminate mandates that parking spaces be constructed with new homes, create additional affordable and supportive housing, eliminate bans on apartments across the city, and enable conversions of empty office buildings into homes for New Yorkers.

Mayor Adams asserted that the plan could add 100,000 homes to expected housing production over the next 15 years, create nearly 260,000 temporary jobs and an additional 6,300 permanent jobs, and provide $58.2 billion in economic impact to the city over the next 30 years.

It is the third of three citywide zoning changes that will be presented to all five borough presidents, all 59 community boards, and the New York City Council as part of Mayor Adams’ vision for New York City as an inclusive, equitable City of Yes.   Specifics of the plan include:

Ending Parking Mandates for New Housing

Eliminate requirements that new homes come with new parking spots.  According to the Mayor, decades-old regulations require certain fixed numbers of parking spaces to be built alongside new homes, adding an estimated $67,500 per underground parking space in construction costs. 

Universal Affordability Preference

Extend the Universal Affordability Preference policy to all types of affordable housing.  The proposal builds on the Affordable Independent Residence for Seniors (AIRS) program which allows affordable senior housing to be about 20 percent larger than other types of housing.

Shared Living 

Adjust current rules that mandate larger unit sizes, allow more smaller-sized apartments to reduce the need for single adults to live with roommates, and re-legalize homes with shared kitchen or bathroom facilities.

Town Center “Main Streets” Zoning

Allow between two and four stories of residential development over ground-floor commercial space to encourage mixed-use communities and foster affordable types of housing.

Transit-Oriented Development

Allow apartment buildings between three and five stories on large lots near transit stops in places where they will blend with the existing neighborhood.

Accessory Dwelling Units

Legalize an additional dwelling unit of up to 800 square feet on one- and two-family properties across the five boroughs.

Converting Empty Offices into Housing

Update the year of construction to 1990 for flexible conversion regulations, extend geographic eligibility to anywhere in the city that zoning permits housing, and allow conversion to more types of homes, including supportive housing.

Maximizing Campuses

Ease approvals for new buildings on campuses that reflect the context of the surrounding buildings — allowing properties ranging from multi-building housing developments to religious institutions to create new housing and support the revitalization of their communities.

In addition to these changes, the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity plan includes proposals to:   allow greater flexibility for homeowners to add extra space or bring existing properties into compliance with zoning to facilitate renovations; end the “Sliver Law” (which restricts the height of narrow buildings in predominantly residential neighborhoods); and allow landmarked sites to more easily sell transferable development rights.

Next week, DCP will release a draft scope of work for the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity and early documentation in the environmental review process, as well as host a virtual public information session.


 Hochul Administration Orders State Agencies to Freeze Spending

The Hochul Administration ordered state agencies to hold the line on spending for the coming fiscal year amid ballooning budget deficits.   Newly appointed Budget Director Blake Washington issued the annual “call letter” to agency Commissioners indicating that their 2024-2025 budgets “should not exceed the total FY 2024 Enacted Budget agency funding levels, excluding one-time investments.”

The letter notes the fiscal challenges facing the state, including “softening economic activity, a reduction in state tax receipts, and a humanitarian crisis.”

“As a consequence, our revenue forecasts have been revised downward, resulting in multi-year budget gaps,” Washington wrote. The budget gap for the coming fiscal year that starts April 1 jumped in state projections l from $5.1 billion to $9.1 billion. 

The Budget Director said that Governor Kathy Hochul is committed to not raising taxes or relying on one-shot budget moves to close the gaps. He also ordered agencies to look to tighten their belts through “effectiveness and efficiency,” as well as eliminating any “unnecessary duplication or overlaps.”

Agency budget requests are due by October 11th

Biden Administration to Allow Work Permits for Venezuelan Immigrants that Arrived in US Prior to July 31st

The Biden administration said late Wednesday that it would allow approximately 472,000 of the Venezuelans who arrived in the United States before July 31st to live and work legally in the country for 18 months.  

Venezuelans are the largest group of the more than 110,000 migrants who have arrived in New York City since spring 2022. 

In a joint statement, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the top Democrats in the Senate and House, said that the Homeland Security Department had estimated that roughly half the migrants currently living in New York are Venezuelans who would be affected by the decision. They called it a “welcome step forward.” 

Meanwhile, Mayor Adams and a senior New York homeland security official each said that the number living in shelters was probably smaller, between 10,000 and 20,000.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, said that he made the decision because conditions in Venezuela “prevent their safe return” but stressed that immigrants who had entered the country since August were not protected and would be “removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”

Governor Hochul Signs Bill on Access to Geothermal Heating, Cooling Systems

Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation aimed to make it easier to access geothermal heating and cooling systems in order to help reach the goals of the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Chapter 483 of the Laws of 2023 aims to reduce costs for the installation of geothermal wells, helping New York meet the state’s building decarbonization requirements. It changes how certain wells drilled deeper than 500 feet below the Earth’s surface are regulated. Currently, they are regulated under the same provisions that cover oil and gas mines and drilling. The bill was sponsored by AM Deborah Glick and Senator Pete Harkham.

Governor Hochul also announced the installation of 30,000 heat pumps for New York City public housing residents and joined the US Climate Alliance to announce a commitment to quadruple heat pump installations by 2030.

Hochul Administration Announces Adoption of First-in-the-Nation ‘Buy Clean Concrete’ Mandate for State Agencies

Governor Kathy Hochul this week announced the adoption of mandatory rules establishing emissions limits on concrete used in state-funded public building and transportation projects.

Starting January 1, 2025, Environmental Product Declaration (“EPD”) must be submitted for all concrete mixes used in qualifying state construction projects and must demonstrate that they achieve an environmental impact below the limits set by New York State.

The Buy Clean Concrete guidelines apply to state agency contracts exceeding $1 million that involve the use of more than 50 cubic yards of concrete, or Department of Transportation contracts exceeding $3 million that include at least 200 cubic yards of concrete. The guidelines include exceptions for emergency projects and those requiring high-strength or quick-cure concrete and do not apply to state authorities.

NYC and Israel Commit to Strengthening Economic Ties 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Nir Barkat this week announced a joint commitment to strengthening economic ties and fostering innovation between the City of New York and the State of Israel.

“New York City and Israel share an unbreakable bond. We are both leading the world in innovation, we are both home to diverse communities and safe harbors for the oppressed, and New York City is proud to have to the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel,” said Mayor Adams.

The leaders issued a Declaration of Intent to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding by the end of 2023 that will establish a joint public-private partnership mechanism (a joint New York City-Israel Economic Council) to facilitate and enhance economic cooperation. 

Mayor Adams Announces Next Phase Of War On Rats: All Businesses Must Place Trash in Containers

Advancing the Administration’s efforts to Get Stuff Clean, reclaim public space, and improve quality of life for all New Yorkers, the City Department of Sanitation this week proposed a new rule under which all commercial trash — approximately 20 million pounds per day — must be in a secure, lidded container beginning March 1, 2024.

When the proposed rule takes effect, 100 percent of businesses in the city will be required to containerize their trash.

According to the Mayor, under the proposed rule, businesses will have substantial flexibility on the type and location of containers they utilize, provided they have a lid and secure sides that keep rats out. Containers may be stored either inside or within three feet of the property line. e training to reduce abusive workplace behavior, and says she looks forward to picking it back up with PEF and Sen. Jackson next session.

“Something’s wrong, and we need to straighten it out — and that’s what this is about,” Jackson said.

Coming Up

New York State

Tuesday, September 26th

Social Adult Day Care Programs 

New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Aging

Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, 10 a.m.


Wednesday, September 27th

Commission Meeting

New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government

COELIG NYC Office, 25 Beaver Street, New York, 10:30 a.m.

The Child Welfare System and the Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse or Maltreatment in NYS

Joint – Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families & Subcommittee on Foster Care

Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, 11 a.m.

New York City


Tuesday, September 26th

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Council Chambers – City Hall, 9 a.m.

Oversight – Hard Infrastructure. 

Subcommittee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Administering DCLA’s Cultural Development Fund.

Joint – Committee on Land Use & Housing and Buildings, Council Chambers – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Affordable Housing Development Pipeline.

Committee on Small Business, 250 Broadway – Committee Room, 14th Floor, 11 a.m.

Committee on Civil Service and Labor, Council Chambers – City Hall, 1 p.m.

Oversight – Future of Municipal Work.


Wednesday, September 27th

Joint – Committee on Public Safety & Technology, Council Chambers – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – NYPD’s Implementation of the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) ACT.

Committee on General Welfare, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Public Benefits Processing Delays at HRA.

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

Oversight – Protecting New Yorkers from Heat and Air Quality Emergencies.

Committee on Environmental Protection Resiliency and Waterfronts, Council Chambers, 1 p.m.

Oversight – DEP’s Management of Noise Complaints.


Thursday, September 28th

City Council, Council Chambers – City Hall, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, September 29th

Committee on Criminal Justice, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Department of Correction and Department of Probation’s Programming and Reentry Services.

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