RIVERBANK STATE PARK
When the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation created their budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, a proposal was made to close forty-one state parks and reduce services at twenty-three more. Riverbank State Park was among those slated for a reduction of hours and programmatic funding, but we took steps to mitigate this reduction. Apart from submitting budgetary requests to the leadership of the State legislature asking for the restoration of this funding to the State budget, both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate have passed annual budget resolutions which exclude park closures and service reductions. Unfortunately, the Governor rejected our resolutions, which is why we saw the service reductions occurring at Riverbank and 54 other State Parks throughout New York.“As we all know, the construction of Riverbank State Park was an appeasement to the Harlem community, at the cost of a sewage treatment plant in a neighborhood already beset with environmental health concerns. It has become a tremendous asset to the people of Harlem, both as a health resource and as a community destination, an asset I helped bring to the community in my freshman legislative year
After a long battle with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, Assemblyman Keith Wright announced that the Assembly, Senate, Governor and the Mayor had reached agreement on the language of a bill (A.8353) to prevent New York City from charging employed but homeless individuals rent to stay in New York City homeless shelters. The previous provision, which allowed municipalities such as New York City to garnish up to 50% of shelter resident’s wages, led to a furious outcry from legislators and advocates once it was slated to be implemented by New York City in early 2009. The proposed legislation will require that working individuals staying in temporary housing must set aside available income which will later be used to help them secure permanent housing.
This bill will amend the Social Services Law of New York State by first requiring New York City to run a trial program and report to the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and Division of the Budget on the success and viability of a larger implementation of the savings program. After implementation, the City will require all working residents of NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) to deposit a portion of their income into a savings plan approved by OTDA. These savings plans shall be pooled, individually tracked and maintained in either a savings or money market account with interest rates set by the banking institution. Upon the individual’s discharge from the shelter, the accrued savings will be payable to the individual for transition to permanent housing.
“The goal is to help homeless families move out of homelessness, and the savings plan will do just that. It’s a rare agreement that everyone can get behind. I am pleased that Assembly Member Keith Wright and I, along with Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Deputy Secretary Kristin Proud, Commissioner Seth Diamond, Coalition for the Homeless, the Legal Aid Society, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio have worked together to create this plan,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron.
After urging from Assemblyman Wright and advocates, a few safeguards were inserted into the legislation, aimed at further protection of this vulnerable population. At no point will failure to comply with this savings requirement be used to exclude individuals from utilizing the shelter system. This will safeguard the rights outlined in State Constitution, Article 17, Section 1, which State that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may time to time determine.” Additionally, to prevent the savings from being a hindrance to individuals who rely upon other funding and assistance, it will be considered as exempt income for a full year after their discharge from temporary housing.
“Being from Harlem, I know that the problem of homelessness in New York City is one that needs to be addressed with compassion rather than contradiction and this legislation is a step in the right direction. Now people who rely on temporary housing will not be forced to pay rent and extend their reliance upon the safety net, but put away meaningful savings bringing them closer to financial independence. For too long we have penalized the most vulnerable in our State and this bill will help change that equation,&rdquot; said Assemblyman Wright, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Social Services.
After the New York State Assembly passed Assemblyman Wright’s version of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2009, the New York State Senate was unable to do the same as that house dealt with infighting and a damaging leadership transfer. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was among many valuable pieces of legislation lost in the shuffle. However, due to hard work by the Senate sponsor of the bill, Senator Diane Savino, The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights recently had its day in the sun and was passed by the State Senate on June 1st, 2010.
The initiative, which was originally drafted and sponsored by Assemblyman Wright in 2004, brings much needed protections to what may be the most vulnerable workforce in New York State. Approximately 200,000 domestic employees work in New York, taking care of children and the infirmed, working to make the later years of the elderly more pleasurable, maintaining households and serving as surrogates to many a busy family. This legislation would extend to them rights guaranteed to every other employee in New York State, save farm workers.
In the Assembly version, the bill removes exemptions from the minimum wage law, which now means that all domestic workers will be paid at least the State minimum wage, with the associated overtime. The bill also calls for a day of rest each week, something never before given to hard working domestic employees. Additionally, this bill offers basic labor protections, such as disability insurance to part-time workers, protection under the anti-discrimination law, protection under the labor law for wage and hour abuses and very importantly, allows domestic workers to collectively bargain.
The Senate version includes the same provisions, but also calls for paid vacation and sick days. “While my original bill included additional rights for domestic workers and even a provision for a ‘living wage’, I faced the difficult task of actually getting the bill passed in the State Assembly after five years of it dying in committee. As the grandson of domestic workers, I know firsthand the difficult and sometimes abusive working conditions of this employment, and I stand by this legislation to give these hard working men and women the same protections offered to the majority of other workforces across the State. I look forward to the reconciliation process with the State Senate and the ultimate signing of this legislation by the Governor,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright.
In 2009, Governor Paterson indicated that he would sign the bill if it was delivered to his desk.
These mentor firms will provide business training to small businesses and instruct them on how to compete for and perform a public work contract. After this initiation period, the mentor firm will assist the protégé firm in attaining public contracts and help them execute any awarded contracts. This bill will also waive many requirements set out by the MTA in their awarding and judging of bids on contracts for these small businesses. Currently, there is a conspicuous absence of small construction firms from many MTA project and this bill hopes to remedy that disparity.
“For too long small business, particularly minority-owned small businesses, have been unable to compete for lucrative MTA contracts. With this program we hope to change that history and give small construction firms the same ability to compete as their larger and well-connected counterparts. By linking small businesses with big businesses, we close a gaping hole in our public works contraction process and bring State and City dollars closer to the businesses which need them, especially in this time of fiscal unease. If successful, I hope to see this program replicated within many authorities and government run corporations throughout New York State,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright.
This bill has already passed the State Senate and will soon be forwarded to the Governor for his signature.
DISTRICT OFFICE: Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street, Suite 911 • New York, NY 10027 • 212-866-5809