Exclusive: Lincoln Restler’s One Year Interview

By Matthew Fischetti

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After years in working in local reformer politics, as an aide for Mayor DeBlasio and stints at local non-profits, Lincoln Restler was ready to take on City Hall.

The politically adept council member represents the 33rd district which stretches waterfront Brooklyn nabes like Greenpoint down to Brooklyn Heights. In his first year of office, he has introduced over a dozen pieces of legislation – ranging in wide scale reforms like the city giving first preference to non-profit developers when selling land to planting over 3,000 trees in the district.. He has released a climate action roadmap, which combines legislative priorities with organizing strategies to try and make the district the first carbon-neutral in the county.

Our paper decided to catch up with the councilmember to reflect  about the challenges and successes in his first year of office.

“I’m really proud of the work that we’ve been able to do. I love this job, I thought I would love it. But until you’re actually in it, doing it every day didn’t realize just how much I would enjoy it,” Restler said in a recent interview. 

Restler described his legislative philosophy as being driven largely by constituent services complaints. After being inundated with complaints about helicopter noise and placard abuse – he introduced legislation to ban non-essential helicopter use and banning placard abuse.

“The three key prongs of the office are having a really rigorous and robust constituent services operation to solve every problem. You develop proactive organizing plans across our district to address issues at the neighborhood level and then sponsor and pass transformative legislation that addresses the inequities in our city,” said Restler.

While Restler has introduced many pieces of legislation, most of them are still sitting in committee, even while having co-sponsors from a majority of the council. 

“2022 was a year for a whole new city government in New York, not just to the mayor setting up this whole administration, but a new speaker  and 80 percent of the council are freshmen members,” Restler said.”And so it’s taken us a little bit of time to develop our priorities and consensus in this legislative council, under Speaker Adams, but I think we’re really starting to hit a groove and the passing rate packages built in the summer and fall.”

Back in March, Restler was appointed as co-chair of the Progressive Caucus with Shahana Hanif. The caucus, which represent a majority of the council, unveiled their formal agenda, a cadre of 20 bills that had been introduced throughout the year – including legislation relating to banning solitary confinement, abolishing the gang database and establishing a public bank. 

“we’re making steady progress in driving those pieces of legislation forward. You know, as the largest caucus in the council, when we’re organized, we are in a very strong position to see our priorities enacted. The speaker, I think, listens to and cares about what her members want. And when we’re organized as a caucus, we can come forward as a large compelling, you know, influential block of votes to say, these are our priorities,” Restler said.

“The reality is that Eric Adams is committed to austerity, politics and austerity budgeting. City government has been hollowed out as it is, and it is severely hurting our city agency’s ability to generate affordable housing, to connect New Yorkers to public assistance and food stamps,” he added. 

When pushed about voting for the original budget, Restler expressed regret.

“I think there was a lot of misinformation and misleading information. I think there was a lot of deliberately misleading information provided by the administration and in advance of the last budget that hid the severity of the cuts that they were imposing on our neighborhood school,” he said. The councilman emphasized that although he has allocated funding out of his discretionary budget and testified in oversight hearings, that “I should have known better, and I should have pushed harder. And I regret voting in favor of a budget that cut funding from our schools.”

Restler took the opportunity to critique the Mayor’s November Plan – a budget update which included cuts to libraries and other services.

“We were sorely disappointed with the November plan that the mayor released imposing nearly an additional billion dollars in cuts to the universal 3k program cuts across our city agencies. It’s clear where his priorities lie. His commitment to austerity budgets is unacceptable. And we as a council, we must fight back to stop.”

In the following months, Restler said that he was looking forward to introducing more legislation: specifically relating to rooftop solar, battery storage and improving conditions of homeless shelters.

 

Brooklyn State of the Borough returns

By Matthew Fischetti

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The State of the Borough is back in Kings County.

After a decade of not having one, elected officials and members of the public attended Brooklyn Beep Antonio Reynoso’s first State of the Borough last week at the New York College of Technology.

Maternal Health Care

One of the main focuses of Reynoso’s first term as Borough President has centered around improving the maternal health conditions in Brooklyn. A 2021 report from the city found that a third of all New York City pregnancy deaths occur in Kings County.

“One in every three pregnancy-related deaths in New York City are happening here, in our borough.Right here in Brooklyn, Black women are dying at 9.4 times the rate of their White counterparts because of pregnancy-related complications.It’s one of the greatest inequities, greatest injustices that we’re bearing witness to,” Reynoso said in his speech.

In order to tackle the issue, Reynoso has allocated the entirety of his 2023 funding, which totals $45 million, to funding maternal healthcare improvements across the borough’s three public hospitals. Reynoso also instituted a maternal task force back in April made up of eight black women OBGYNs, mental health workers, doulas and other experts to inform policy. 

The Borough President’s office has also spent $250,000 on a public health messaging campaign this year to connect at-risk residents with a resource guide influenced by the task force’s recommendations. Most recently,  Reynoso was able to help provide 500 free baby boxes that contained baby materials as well as post-partum resources after giving a $100k grant to  

Comprehensive Planning 

One of the other major accomplishments Reynoso highlighted in his speech was the launching of the borough’s comprehensive planning effort. Reynoso criticized the status quo of New York not having one, unlike many major metro areas.

“Yet, despite being the most populous city in the country, New York City is noticeably lacking a plan like this–and instead of planning, we have a piecemeal zoning approval process that we all know isn’t getting the job done,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso emphasized that his comprehensive planning will center around public health and housing outcomes.

“The key to comprehensive planning is to have a clear objective, and our focus is set squarely on the intersection of housing and public health. Because of decades of racist city planning and a long legacy of segregation, our communities of color are clustered in the areas with the poorest housing conditions, the least access to resources, and the worst health outcomes,” Reynoso said.

In his speech, Reynoso also emphasized that building wouldn’t be limited to nabes that have seen development in recent years – like Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg or East New York – but would also focus on areas that have not had rezonings in decades.

“It’s no coincidence that 90 percent of childhood lead poisoning cases involve children of color,or that our neighbors in eastern Brooklyn are dying sooner, with the highest rates of premature mortality in the entire borough,” he added.

Looking forward

Reynoso outlined four major policies for the upcoming year, including: providing permanent houses for nonprofits, increasing Black-owned business in Brownsville, Community Board Reform, and a “solar saving plan”.

In terms of providing permanent homes for nonprofits, Reynoso said the move was so that the organizations could eliminate wasted time on finding facilities or negotiating with landlords, and focus more on providing their services.

“Because listen, the people of Brooklyn can’t keep building a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities when their money is all caught up in just surviving. And that applies just as much to our nonprofits as it does to our low-income tenants,” he said.

Reynoso said in his speech that he would be working with the Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation to help spurn new business. Of the first groups selected in the program, a smaller group will be selected to receive free space on underused commercial corridors in Brownsville.

“Black unemployment in New York City stands at 9.7 percent compared to 5.5 percent of their White counterparts. At the neighborhood level, Brownsville alone has an exceptionally high black unemployment rate of 11.2 percent,” Reynoso said in his speech.

Reynoso’s solar plan focuses on providing a “large-scale” central solar plant to help lower-income New Yorkers who cannot take advantage of roof solarization. A 2019 report from the Mayor’s office found that 32 percent of Brooklyn families in 2017 were “utility burdened,” spending more than 6 percent of their income on utilities – prior to recent rate increases. 

The last major policy Reynoso said he looks to work on this year is related to community board reform. Reynoso stated that he wants to reform the unclear responsibilities divided between mayoral agencies and the borough president’s office. The new guidance from the Beep’s office would  Reynoso also emphasized that his office wants to provide greater diversity, in all aspects of the word.

“I’m not just talking race and ethnicity. I’m talking about interests, education, or ability status. Do you drive a car or take public transportation? Do you own a home or are you a renter? Are you a single parent? Are you a NYCHA resident?Nearly one-quarter of Brooklyn is 18 years old or younger, but most applicants and appointees to community boards last year were ages 45-64. So, we’re also talking about age,” he said.

Reynoso also noted that he is specifically looking to place two members between 16 and 18 years old on each of the borough’s 18 community boards. Applications for the community board are open until February 14.

 

 

End of year legislation signed by Governor

By Alicia Venter

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As the year came to a close, Governor Kathy Hochul had a busy two weeks. She became the first woman to be sworn into a full term as governor of New York on Jan. 1, and in the month prior, she signed numerous pending state legislation into law. 

Notably, she signed a bill that prohibits discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status and immigration status is illegal in New York.

This law will expand the protections from the NYS Division of Human Rights, which currently investigates cases in which individuals have been potentially discriminated against due to their immigration status.

State Senator John Liu and State Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz came together with activists on Dec. 29 in front of Flushing Library to applaud the signing of this bill (S6586A/A6328A).

​​“We appreciate Governor Hochul for signing this legislation in recognition that our state is made greater by the vast contributions of talented and aspiring people from everywhere in the world who adopt New York as their new home,” Liu said in a statement. “Unfortunately, even as they pursue the American Dream, they are stymied by obsolete federal laws and byzantine bureaucracies that prolong their path to citizenship and subject them to bias and discrimination. This bill will help provide equal opportunity in employment, housing, and other needs that all New Yorkers should have access to.”

The first state program in the nation allowing individuals to be reimbursed for the costs of kidney and liver donations came from the governor’s office this week. 

The legislation (S.1594/A.146A) amends the public health, tax and social services laws to enact the “New York State Living Donor Support Act,” which will establish a program to cover the extra costs that come with organ donation for New York residents who donate to a fellow New Yorker. The law comes in an effort to eliminate financial barriers to organ donation and, as a result, reduce wait times for organ transplants and address the organ shortage in New York. 

As of publication, there are over 8,000 people on transplant wait lists, most of whom are awaiting a kidney, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

A legislative package (S.3897/A.8936-A) supporting pedestrians, bikers and transit riders included increased funding for “Complete Street” projects. 

A Complete Street is a roadway designed for all roadway users — not just drivers.

This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit riders as well as motorists. It also makes an effort to focus on children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

With this legislation, the state’s contribution to the non-federally funded portion of the project increases to 87.5 percent. 

New legislation (S.3959-B/A.7822-C) will require the non-voting transit dependent representative be moved into a voting position on transportation authorities’ boards. In short, this new legislation will provide a vote — and a voice — to riders who permanently rely on transit services including bikeshares, buses and paratransit.

To protect existing labor laws on behalf of workers, Hochul signed legislation (S.5994C/A.1338C) that establishes a registration system for contractors and subcontractors engaged in public work and covered private projects. This law will require contractors and subcontractors to provide a series of disclosures about their businesses every two years with the Department of Labor. 

The department will determine whether a contractor or subcontractor is fit to registers based on previous labor law and workers compensation law violations, including prevailing wage requirements. This law will create a publicly available database.

Furthermore, notable previously signed laws that are set to go into effect in 2023 include the establishment of a task force and annual report to examine social media and violent extremism. 

The Electric Vehicle Rights Act, which prevents a homeowners association from adopting or enforcing any rules or regulations that would effectively prohibit, or impose unreasonable limitations on the installation or use of an electric vehicle charging station, is set to go into effect on Jan. 21.

In this year, student-athletes will be able to receive endorsement compensation, and New York schools will be prohibited from taking away the scholarships or eligibility of any athlete making money from such endorsements.  

New Brooklyn oncology center

By Brooklyn Star Staff

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A new oncology center has opened up in Flatbush Brooklyn.

The nearly 39,000 square foot facility, located at 2236 Nostrand Avenue,  opened its door to patients on January 2, 2023. The new facility will be operated in conjunction with the New York Cancer and Blood Specialists and Memorial Medical Care, a practice of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center physicians, according to a release. 

“Our innovative collaboration will give area residents the best of both worlds — world-class cancer care overseen by some of the best cancer centers in the country, all available closer tohome in a comfortable setting,” Jeff Vacirca CEO of New York Cancer and Blood Specialists, said in a statement. “We are excited to open our doors in this community which has such great culture and diversity, as well as opportunities to make a positive impact.”

Patients who have more complex cancer care, including surgery, will have access to Memorial Sloan Ketterings various outpatient programs across New York City. In King County, there is a Memorial Sloan Kettering Brooklyn Infusion Center located at 557 Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. There are over a dozen different locations throughout New York City that potential patients could utilize.

 

Brooklyn pols’ voting rights reform bill signed

By Matthew Fischetti

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Voters will have more time to register to vote next year, thanks to Governor Hochul signing new legislation sponsored by Brooklyn electeds. 

The new legislation, which takes effect on January 1, shortens the registration deadline from 25 days before an election to 10 days. While the state constitution stipulates that voters have 10 days to vote before elections, election law made the timeline longer by requiring voters to either be submitted 25 days before the election in person. If you wanted to mail in your registration, the previous law mandated that it be postmarked 25 days in advance and received by the board of elections within 20 days of the election. 

The new legislation was sponsored by Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope) and State Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Greenpoint). (Kavanaugh will not represent Greenpoint in the upcoming term due to redistricting.)

“In recent years, we’ve taken many significant steps to change our laws and make elections more voter friendly. We know that many New Yorkers, with busy lives and many competing priorities, may choose to engage with the election process within the final weeks before an election. With the registration deadline set nearly a month before elections, new voters are routinely excluded from participating,” Kavanaugh (D-Greenpoint) said in a statement. 

The legislation builds on top of voting rights reform that has occurred in the past year. Earlier this month, Governor Hochul signed the “wrong church” legislation, also sponsored by Assemblymember Robert Carroll, which requires the counting of affidavit ballots if a voter showed up to the wrong polling location. 

Back in July, the Governor signed the John Lewis Voting Act of New York. The legislation made many changes to voting law including: requiring language assistance with areas that have enough population of minority language groups, establishing civil liability for voter intimidation and requiring preclearance of changes to voting by the Civil Rights Bureau under the attorney general’s office.

“New York State must ensure that New Yorkers don’t face unnecessary obstacles in exercising their right to vote and this legislation, which reduces the voter registration deadline from 25 to the constitutional minimum of 10 days before an election, is a good step,” Carroll said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and voting rights and election reform advocates in making New York State a true model when it comes to fair, transparent, and well administered elections.”

Freelancer protection bill vetoed by Governor

By Matthew Fischetti

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Governor Hochul vetoed legislation concerning freelancer work last week.

The Freelance isn’t Free Act, sponsored by Brooklyn State Senator Andrew Gounardes, would have created a right to a written contract from a hiring party for contracts over $250, creating a process for the Department of Labor to investigate complaints and the ability for the Attorney General to investigate patterns of non-payment, among other changes.

“Much of the language in this new section 191-d in the Labor Law is drawn from existing language in Article 6 that provides wage theft protections for traditional employees, creating parity between the two different types of laborers,” according to the bill’s memo. 

Citywide legislation on the issue was passed in 2017. Complaints are handled through the New York City Department of Consumer and Workplace Protections. More than $1.3 has been recovered in penalties or restitution from 2018 and 2019 complaints alone, according to the bill.

The bill argues that the enforcement mechanism at a citywide level isn’t strong enough as the New York City Department of Consumer and Workplace Protections, as they cannot compel hirers to pay, leaving freelance workers to take their cases to small claims court.

A 2019 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, UpWork and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment found that over a third of New York City residents are freelance workers.

“It’s unfortunate that this holiday season will leave freelancers out in the cold, but that only strengthens my resolve to go back to Albany next year and keep fighting to protect these workers,” Senator Gounardes said in a statement.

According to a report from the Independent Economy Council, 59% of freelance workers are owed $50,000 or more for their work.

“With 39% of the entire U.S. workforce freelancing this year and a total of $1.35 trillion in annual earnings to the U.S. economy from freelance contributions, we are saddened by the Governor’s calculation that there is not enough room in our budget to adequately protect the growing independent workforce in the state,” Executive Director of the Freelancers Union Rafael Espinal said in a statement. “We thank the legislature for passing this significant legislation and we will be no doubt back in January to make sure we get this done next session.”

“The National Writers Union and the tens of thousands of freelance writers, authors and media workers in NYS are extremely disappointed in the Governor’s veto. Freelance Isn’t Free simply requires a written contract and payment within 30 days of invoicing, which should be the bare minimum in worker protection,” Larry Goldbetter, President of the National Writers Union, said in a statement. “To veto a package of bills over a lack of funding for the Department of Labor at the last minute is disturbing, particularly when Freelance Isn’t Free, like the other bills in the package, passed both houses in a legislative session that ended over six months ago. This is especially concerning given that Governor Hochul was elected in November with the support of unions and workers.”

In Our Opinion: Suspending Kyrie is right move

The Brooklyn Nets have suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games after he failed to apologize after sharing an anti-semitic documentary on Twitter – it’s the least they could do.

“Hebroes to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” is a three-hour “documentary” that espouses the philosophy of extremist Black Israelites: promulgating beliefs that Jewish people stole the true identity of being the descendants of Black Israelites, that there is a global Jewish conspiracy theory to defraud black people and that the Holocaust was falsified in order to conceal their own power, per the Anti-Defamation League. 

The anti-vax, flat-earth-believing point guard is not new to controversy, but his bullheadedness to double down on hateful conspiracy theories – while repping Brooklyn of all places – is a new low. 

On Oct. 30 Iriving doubled down in a press conference, saying “There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over top of the adultery of, you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?”

The deflection was beyond childish and neglected to take any responsibility. Saying “there’s things posted every day” negates his power and influence as one of the world’s best-known players and shows his inability to take the issue seriously.

On Nov. 2, The Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie and the Anti-Defamation League released a joint statement, announcing that both Kyrie and the Nets will each be donating $500,000 to “eradicating hate and intolerance in our communities.” 

When there was an actual cost to his actions, Kyrie took some ownership.

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Kyrie Irving said in the statement. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

It reads nothing more than damage control, and Kyrie should have to demonstrate true evolution on the issue before getting back on the court.

Meyers Leonard, an NBA player for the Miami Heat at the tim,e who lacks the star power Kyrie has, was suspended indefinitely for using a jewish slur in a livestream.

In Brooklyn, the home to many Jewish people, shouldn’t the punishment be at least equal to Leonard’s? 

People should be able to grow, and careers shouldn’t be wiped away from a single comment, but amidst the rise in anti-semitic hate crimes, the Nets need to tread carefully and actually demonstrate that Kyrie has legitimately evolved – not just a slap on the wrist and a donation.

North Brooklyn electeds rally for Prop 1

By Matthew Fischetti

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North Brooklyn pols have two things in common: they want you to vote for the Environmental Bond Act and want you to vote for Kathy Hochul.

At a Friday November 4th rally, North Brooklyn electeds and advocates like the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance and Newtown Creek Alliance, stumped for the ballot measure and Governor Hochul at Bushwick Inlet Park.

If passed, Proposition 1 on voters’ ballots would unlock $4.2 billion in spending, by taking on debt, for at least $1.1 billion for flood risk and restoration, up to $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation, up to $650 million for land conservation and at least $650 million for water quality improvement. 

“This is a great investment for families to be able to enjoy our waterfront, to come to these areas, clean up brownfields throughout the state, and develop and construct and build beautiful parks like this one, we deserve better,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

Brownfields are former industrial areas potentially damaged by industrial pollution. The state has been studying ways to remediate the potential damage in North Brooklyn since at least 2017, in order to give them new life and possible devlopment in the future. 

“We are the first generation to really truly feel the effects of climate change,” Governor Hochul said at the rally, emphasizing the importance of the bond measure. “We’re also the last generation to do anything about it before it’s too late.”

Brooklyn Beep Antonio Reynoso highlighted the long-term fights North Brooklyn politicians have had to go to bat for: like the decade-plus years of advocacy for Bushwick Inlet Park in an area with one of the highest asthma rates in the city. 

“It’s an unfortunate reality, that we grow up needing to fight for the environment, that you need to fight for North Brooklyn. But it is who we are. It’s what defines us,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso emphasized that the measure would help North Brooklyn by gaining more greenspace without having to spend as much time fighting and advocating for it.

“So prop one means so much to us, because we don’t want to have to fight for these things for environmental justice and equity in North Brooklyn,” he continued. “Why do we have to come out every single time to fight for these things? Voting prop one takes a little bit of a burden away from our advocacy, and allows us to focus on other things like enjoying the parks that we fought for.”

“In the Assembly I have been so grateful to have an ally like the Governor in office, she is really standing firm on climate,” Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher said. “And I’m really looking forward at what needs to happen to move us away from fossil fuels and towards a resilient New York State.”

Schools won’t lost money due to enrollment declines: officials

By Matthew Fischetti

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City officials announced this week that education budgets are not going to be facing further cuts, despite mid-year enrollment declines.

In a joint statement on Monday Nov. 7, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks announced that the budget would be offset by the use of COVID-19 stimulus funds.

“The decision to hold school budgets harmless is about prioritizing the needs of the nearly 1 million children served by New York City public schools every day,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “We know that our entire school community was and still remains deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But under our administration, we are committed to ensuring that every school has the resources needed to provide the highest quality education for students to thrive.”

Mid-year adjustments are part of the city’s Fair Student Formula Funding process, which gives more money to schools with increased enrollment rates and institutes cuts to schools with decreased enrollment rates. New York City public schools have lost over 130,000 students over the last five years according to a June 2022 report from the Department of Education.

While stimulus funds will be used to cover the budget shortfalls for this upcoming year, the administration said in a statement that schools should plan to the typical mid-year adjustment period if enrollments decline or increase. Schools that were projected to receive an increase in funding this year will still gain them.

The funds will result in a $200 million increase in school budgets and the adjustment process will begin later this month and continue through midwinter, according to a release from the New York City Department of Education.

Comptroller Brad Lander released a statement on Monday, commending the decision by the administration after criticizing the decision by hizzoner and the city council to approve cuts back in June. The city council has since passed a resolution back in June, calling on the administration to restore the cuts by using federal funds.

“Holding schools harmless for enrollment declines so that they can provide the instruction and support our students need after these hard pandemic years is exactly the purpose of COVID relief funds,” Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement. “I’m glad that the administration and the Chancellor have finally come to the same conclusion.”

Advocates and parents groups across the city decried the decision back in June, which the Comptroller’s office has estimated to total $469 million.

“While this commitment to hold school budgets harmless from mid-year cuts for enrollment declines is a step in the right direction, it does nothing to repair the damage and restore the funding that was cut from public schools in the city’s budget last summer,”  Matt Gonzales of New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools (RJPS) said in a statement.

Progressive Caucus debuts policy platform

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected] 

The New York City Council Progressive Caucus unveiled their formal policy platform, dubbed the “Progressive Agenda” last Thursday: focusing on issues related to criminal justice reform, zero waste, providing affordable housing and economic reform.

On the steps of City Hall, members of the 35 member caucus (which represents a majority of the 51 person body) stood with advocates to support their agenda which is comprised of bills already introduced this year.

“We are the largest Progressive Caucus in New York City History. 34 members deep. You know what’s special about the number 34? Veto proof,” said Lincoln Rester, co-chair of the caucus (City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is a technical member of the caucus, due to her position as speaker.)

The caucus was originally formed in 2009 with only 12 members but now represents a majority of the council. It ranges in ideological identity from members of the Democratic Socialists of America to more traditional Working Families Party style liberals – which Restler referred to as “big tent” progressive caucus in a previous interview with the Brooklyn Downtown Star.

At the top of the agenda is banning solitary confinement,which was introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. The issue has been a wedge between members of the council and the Mayor who has defended the program since before he was even sworn in.

The next two items of priority in the agenda are two sets of bills introduced by former vice chair of the caucus and current Majority Leader Keith Powers. 

The first bill would prohibit would prevent housing discrimination on the basis of a criminal record while a second group of bills would help lay the ground work for establishing a public bank – an issue progressives have fought for years, arguing it would better allow them to better invest money in accordance to issues like racial justice and finance projects that the commercial sector may not engage in.  In order for the city to set up a public bank, the state would need to pass legislation giving municipalities the authority. 

The next major plank of the agenda are a suite of six bills dealing with police transparency. The bill package would require reporting of use of force incidents by police using motor vehicles (introduced by Councilwoman Crystal Hudson); preventing the police from using the strategic response unit, which is used for civil unrest and counterterrorism for non violent protests (introduced by Councilman Chi Ossé); requiring the police to submit reports on complaints of police conduct (introduced by Councilwoman Cabán); requiring the NYPD to report on instances in which an individual denied an officer consent to a search; requiring cops to report on police-civilian investigative encounters (introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Alexa Avilés); and abolishing the gang database (introduced by councilwomen Carlina Rivera and Althea Stevens.)

The next set of five bills aims to achieve the Zero Waste initiative, which aims to prevent waste going to landfills by 2030. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio spearheaded the initiative but fell dramatically short of his goal as POLITICO reported. The legislation includes establishing a citywide residential curbside organics program, mandating that the 2030 goals are achieved and enforced, as well as requiring the Department of Sanitation to establish at least one community recycling center in each community district. The pieces of legislation are sponsored by co-chair of the caucus Shahana Hanif, Sanitation Committe Chair Sandy Nurse and Majority Leader Keith Powers. 

Another three bills in the agenda look to to create permanently affordable housing. The first of three are the Community Opportunity Purchase Act, introduced by Rivera, which would give qualified entities the opportunity to submit the first offer on residential buildings ; the second is the “Public Land for Public Good”, introduced by Restler, which would give non-profits and community land trusts first priority when the city seels land for affordable housing; the third bill, introduced by City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, would establish a land bank tasked with acquiring land with property on it to develop and rehabilitate affordable housing.

The last piece of the agenda, sponsored by co-chair Hanif, would expand New York City’s paid sick leave law to gig workers depending on whether they meet criteria such as working over 80 hours a calendar year among others. 

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