In mid-December, when all eyes are turned to the incoming mayoral administration, the new City Council and the increasingly contentious race for the next council speaker, it can be easy to forget that the current council still has a job to do before the new year. On Wednesday, the council held its final stated meeting of the year and of the 2018-2021 session – the last of Speaker Corey Johnson’s tenure and that of a few dozen outgoing members.“We strove every day to address the historic circumstances facing our city,” Johnson said on Wednesday, noting that the council passed “a record-breaking 719 bills over the last four years.” Among those, Johnson counted the Climate Mobilization Act, ending qualified immunity and mandating the creation of a “Streets Master Plan” as some highlights.
Not to be overshadowed by the incoming council, Johnson and his colleagues saved a couple major measures for passage at the last stated meeting of the year. These are a few of the notable bills and resolutions that got in just under the wire.
The council delivered a hard-fought victory to not just affordable housing advocates but Mayor Bill de Blasio, approving the controversial rezoning of the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods of Manhattan. This is the second upzoning project approved by the council in recent weeks, along with the Gowanus rezoning. While the city’s approach to affordable housing creation has historically been to build new units in low-income neighborhoods, both of these projects direct new affordable units to wealthier and predominantly white communities. “This rezoning will now move us toward a more equitable future where all neighborhoods participate in our ongoing fight against the housing crisis in this city,” Council Member Carlina Rivera said during the stated meeting. She and Council Member Margaret Chin, who represent the rezoning area, both supported it.
The SoHo/NoHo rezoning will allow for new retail and residential developments in the 56 blocks covered under the plan – the city estimated that it would create around 3,000 new units, including 900 affordable units under de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing program.
In a step that is expected to help New York City meet lofty goals for emissions reductions set by the city and state, the council voted on Wednesday to ban gas hookups in new buildings. The so-called “gas ban” will favor electric-powered stoves and water boilers over gas and oil sources. “We are in a climate crisis and must take all necessary steps to fight climate change and protect our city,” Johnson said of the bill sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel.
The legislation, which has 29 co-sponsors, has been estimated by one study to prevent 2.1 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2040. The bill also requires the city to study the effect the measure will have on the electrical grid.
A bill sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and passed by the body takes aim at gender and racial pay gaps by mandating that employers in the city post minimum and maximum salary levels in job postings. Crain’s New York Business reported that according to the nonprofit PowHer, women in New York earn 84 cents on the dollar compared to men – 66 cents for Black women and 55 cents for Hispanic women. That gap persists in the municipal workforce too. The City Council released a report this summer finding that the median salary for men was $21,600 higher than the median salary for women, while the median salary for a white employee was $27,800 higher than for a Black employee and $22,200 higher than for a Hispanic/Latino employee.
Rosenthal’s connection to the bill is a personal one.“I learned my salary was $5,000 less than my white male counterpart in my first city government job,” she tweeted on Wednesday, celebrating the passage of her bill.
Resolution on good cause eviction
New York City is getting in on promoting good cause eviction across the state. The City Council approved a resolution on Wednesday calling on the state legislature to pass a bill from state Sen. Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter that would prohibit the eviction of tenants or nonrenewal of residential leases without “good cause.” What constitutes “good cause” can vary, but in recent laws passed in smallerNew York cities it has included actions such as nonpayment of rent – as long as rent increases are not “unconscionable” – or using the unit for illegal purposes.
The resolution from the City Council is nonbinding and doesn’t amount to much more than a call for action. Still, it’s part of a larger statewide march to embrace good cause eviction laws – a cause that has seen support grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the life-and-death stakes of eviction became more evident.