Council Member Stephen Levin Introduces Resolution in Support of Comprehensive Sexual Health Education for New York City Students

Press Contact:
Elizabeth Adams
917-885-5424
EAdams@council.nyc.gov

NEW YORK CITY— Several Council Members, led by Council Member Stephen Levin, introduced a resolution yesterday calling on the Department of Education to implement Mayor Bill de Blasio's Sexual Health Task Force recommendations. Comprehensive sexual health education that is medically accurate, developmentally appropriate, and culturally responsive provides young people with the tools to make informed and empowered decisions about their health and well-being -- including how to build healthy relationships, understand consent and bodily autonomy, and learn to value and respect people’s identities across gender, sexuality, race, and culture.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) mandates that middle and high schools include comprehensive sexual health education as part of health education required by New York State. However, sexual health education is lacking in many schools across the city and there is little enforcement to hold schools accountable. According to the DOE’s own data, only 57% of graduated middle schoolers received a semester of health in the 2015-2016 school year and only 7.6 percent of all health instructors received professional development related to sexual health education within the last two years. Even among students who’ve received a semester of health, many report receiving few to no lessons on sexual health.

The need to improve our schools’ sexual health education is urgent. Young people in New York City face some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence nationwide, LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied and face depression compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers, and half of all new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States are contracted by young people 15- to 24-years-old.

In 2017, The Council enacted legislation, sponsored by Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, to address these ongoing issues and create a task force to more thoroughly examine the current state of sexual health education in New York City. The Mayor’s Sexual Health Education Task Force released a report in July 2018 with its findings and issued several recommendations for improvements in New York City public schools, kindergarten through 12th grade. The report focused on four areas: improving school culture around sexual wellness and inclusivity, strengthening teacher training and support, improving sexual health education curriculum and content K-12, and significantly improving accountability and reporting.

The Department of Education has already shown its commitment to the values and recommendations of the Task Force through the launch and investment of $24 million dollars in Health Ed Works. The Council applauds the gains made by the administration to support New York City students, and also recognizes there is more work needed to provide all young people with the inclusive and empowering health education they deserve. Resolution 716 calls on the DOE to implement all recommendations in the Task Force’s report and expand sexual health education to all grades in schools citywide. The resolution will be heard at the upcoming December 16th Education Committee hearing.

"Sex ed works. It teaches young people critical lessons in social and emotional learning and skills-building, and provides students with the tools they need to lead healthy and informed lives. I applaud the Department of Education for their investment in Health Ed Works, and encourage the administration to take additional steps, so that all students have access to sexual health education that is inclusive, accurate, and comprehensive." -Council Member Stephen Levin (Chair, Committee on General Welfare)

“The research is clear, showing that culturally sensitive sexuality education can positively impact public health outcomes and the physical and mental wellbeing of students. I join my colleague Council Member Levin and the many students, parents, educators and advocates who recognize the imperative need for our schools to implement the recommendations made by the Sexual Health Education Task Force and ensure that across the board, our students are receiving the comprehensive, equitable sexual health education they deserve.” - Council Member Mark Treyger (Chair, Committee on Education)

“We must empower our students to make informed choices by standardizing sexual health education in our classrooms and ensuring that our curriculum is comprehensive; age-appropriate; compliant with state law; reflective of our student body; and taught by qualified and trained educators,” said Council Majority Leader, Laurie Cumbo.“Sexuality is much more than sexual intercourse. It is about developing a healthy self-image, your identity, gender role, learning how to express yourself and your boundaries, and the Department of Education must do everything it can to ensure our youth are provided with all the tools they need to thrive.”

"The Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City is proud to support Resolution 716, calling on Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education to implement the recommendations of the Sexual Health Task force. Sex education plays a vital role in preventing gender violence, decreasing the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy, improving children's health and body image, and eradicating bullying and harassment--but the education NYC students currently receive is woefully inadequate. New York City students deserve quality sex education from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The Task Force's recommendations outline concrete steps the city must take to ensure students get the education they need and deserve. It is urgent that the Mayor and Department of Education implement these recommendations," said Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, policy co-chair of the Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City.

"We are proud to offer our full support of Council Member Levin’s resolution calling on the NYC Department of Education to adopt all of the policy recommendations set forth by the Mayor’s Sexual Health Education Taskforce.  The need to provide the 1.1 million students in New York City public schools with medical accurate, developmentally appropriate, culturally sensitive comprehensive sexuality education in all grade levels is long overdue. Comprehensive sexuality education is the most effective way to ensure that young people have all the information they need to make informed and self-determined decisions about their bodies and their lives. Now more than ever, we need to equip young people with the tools and skills to understand consent, boundaries, healthy relationships and communications, gender based violence, gender identity, expression, sexuality and so much more. In a moment when the realities of sexual harassment, child sexual abuse and gender based violence have been thrust into our consciousness, the onus is on the New York City Department of Education to implement comprehensive sex education as one way to prevent violence and create safer learning environments," said Joanne Smith Founder & CEO of Girls for Gender Equity (GGE)

“It’s essential that we equip youth with comprehensive, compassionate sexuality education so they can make the best decisions for themselves,” said Laura McQuade, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City. “Last year, NYC’s Sexual Health Education Task Force released recommendations to prioritize sexuality education and inclusivity in all schools, expand sexuality education to elementary schools, and improve accountability. PPNYC stands by these recommendations and has long advocated for age-appropriate K-12 sexuality education. We applaud Council Member Levin for continuing to fight for implementation of these recommendations and urge lawmakers to prioritize sexuality education.”

“Comprehensive sexuality education is crucial to equip young people with the tools and information they need to make the best decisions for their lives and health. When the Mayor’s Sexual Health Education Taskforce published its findings last year, we at NIRH were heartened that it recommended so many tangible steps towards truly comprehensive K-12 sexuality education for all students in New York. NIRH  stands with the Council members behind this resolution, calling on the Department of Education to adopt the Taskforce’s recommendations.” — Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health

"Comprehensive sex ed is critical to reducing gender-based harassment and violence, improving educational outcomes and ensuring healthier communities,” said Katharine Bodde, Senior Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The NYCLU applauds the New York City Council for recognizing that every young person in our public school system deserves to learn the skills and knowledge they need for a healthy future and healthy relationships."

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Council Member Stephen Levin Introduces Legislation To Allow For Legal Defense Trusts

Press Contact:
Elizabeth Adams
917-885-5424
EAdams@council.nyc.gov

Council Member Stephen Levin Introduces Legislation to Allow for Legal Defense Trusts

The bill would allow for the creation of a distinct legal defense trust for public officials.

NEW YORK— Council Members Stephen Levin (33rd District, Brooklyn) and Andrew Cohen (11th District, Bronx) introduced legislation today to allow for public officials to create standalone legal defense trusts (LDTs) to raise funds for legal services. Intro. 1325 is common sense legislation that would allow for a responsible and distinct system to be created so public officials can accept donations and pay legal fees related to governmental, administrative, criminal or civil investigations having to do with a political campaign, issue advocacy, or the holding of a civil office or political party position.

Legal defense trusts have been used by federal, state, and local jurisdictions to allow officials to establish accounts to pay for legal defense fees in a regulated and transparent manner. New York City’s Conflict of Interest Board ruled in 2017 that donations to legal defense funds qualify as “gifts” under the conflict of interest law and as such must be capped at $50 per donor. This ruling opened the door to a common sense solution for covering legal fees in a regulated and clear manner. Today, the Council is advancing meaningful public policy that would establish a transparent system that is accountable and distinct from the campaign finance system.

“Every public official would hope to never have to set one of these up, but if they were to, it’s important that they have the tools for a fair defense, and that it is done in a way that is regulated, accountable, and not tangled up in campaign finance,”said Council Member Stephen Levin. “In effect, the legal defense trust would serve as a regulated ‘lockbox’ that allows public officials to cover potential needed fees, prevents campaign funds from being improperly used, and honors the public’s trust in the responsible use of their tax dollars.”

"We have a presumption of innocence." said Council Member Andrew Cohen. "Being able to present a quality defense is fundamental to our system of justice. Under the existing law you can be found free from any wrong doing and still end up bankrupt- and that is not justice." 

The legislation creates strict requirements around the creation of an LDT. No campaign funds or public funds would go into the trust, and there would be no co-mingling of assets. This ensures finance limits are respected, campaign funds are allocated only to campaigns, and LDT funds cannot be used as a loophole to circumvent campaign contribution limits. Each trust would also be set up and overseen by an independent trustee for maximum accountability.

The bill imposes strict limits on who can donate, how much, and where. The following would be prohibited under the legislation:

  • Lobbyists, anyone doing business with the city, corporations and LLCs would not be allowed to donate to an LDT. All donations would have to be reported to the conflicts of interest board and posted online.

  • Contributions are limited to $5,000 per donor.

  • The trust is managed by a trustee(s) who is responsible for overseeing each LDT and who cannot be an elected official or beneficiary themselves.

  • Penalties are specified in the legislation for any rule violations.

Common Cause New York has also expressed their support of the proposed legislation, and drafted a 2017 policy proposal that informed much of the legislation: “Council Member Levin's bill introduces a workable solution to this problem for New York's public officials,” said Executive Director, Susan Lerner. “We look forward to working with the Council member on this bill.”
 
In order to allow for a responsible, transparent and distinct system, public officials should have the means to set up a legal defense fund in the event of an investigation. This legislation provides a clear framework to set up a separate account with strict regulations on usage and clear and detailed record keeping of donations.
 

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Statement Regarding Recent Anti-Semitic and Hate-Based Attacks in Brooklyn

On Thursday night, the Union Temple synagogue was desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti reading “Kill All Jews” along with other threatening messages. Days before, Brooklyn Heights residents awoke to swastikas and anti African-American racial slurs drawn on buildings. Early this morning, multiple incidents of arson were committed near shuls in the largely Hasidic section of South Williamsburg. All of these hateful acts come days after 11 Jews were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. How we as a community and society react to these attacks will shape our future.

We cannot and will not be silent. We must condemn these attacks to the greatest extent possible. In the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  That is why we as a community, as friends, must come together to deny hate a safe refuge anywhere and everywhere.

One might wish to live in a world where simply ignoring hate leads to its eventual end. In such a world, we could hope to weaken hate by shaking our heads at swastikas painted crudely on houses of worship. We could dismiss hateful speech as ramblings of marginalized individuals. We could mourn, silently, for those who lost their lives in senseless violence. But we do not live in such a world. Complicit silence, at best, and outright bigotry at worst, at the highest levels of our government has stoked the fire of animosity and division. We must continue to fight back and refuse to be silent.

In the coming days, we will be coming together with community and faith leaders to publicly reject this violence and hate. In times where our most fundamental values are threatened, when our basic humanity is denied, when hateful rhetoric attempts to turn us against each other, that is when we must come together.

Council Member and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, District 35

Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., District 36

Council Member Brad Lander, District 39

Council Member Stephen Levin, District 33

CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS STEPHEN LEVIN AND RAFAEL ESPINAL INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS M.A.R.C.H. NIGHTLIFE RAIDS

Council Members, Nightlife Venue & Business Owners, and Community Advocates Come Together To Improve Accountability and Transparency of Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots (MARCH)

NEW YORK, NY—Today, New York City Council Members, led by Stephen Levin and Rafael Espinal, nightlife advocates and small business owners joined in City Hall Park to introduce legislation to bring oversight and accountability to the Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots (M.A.R.C.H.) operation. 

Nightlife advocates and local businesses have shared serious concerns about operations conducted by the New York City’s M.A.R.C.H. Task Force. Coordinated by the NYPD, the interagency Task Force is comprised of representatives from the the Fire Department, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, State Liquor Authority, Department of Environmental Protection, and Department of Buildings. The Task Force conducts enforcement operations in response to a business’ community complaints. However, business owners receive minimal information on how and why operations are conducted and report that the Task Force regularly conducts late night raids to harass venues and sometimes shutdown establishments. 

“As a business owner who has focused primarily on initiatives which add to the vibrancy, education and advancement of our neighborhood; the MARCH on Friends and Lovers was not only extremely intimidating but it undermined all of the efforts we've put into community building. We respect that everyone needs to do their job but these organizations can regulate with respect, transparency and without intimidation. It's clear that fines have take the place of constructive conversations,” said Diana Mora, owner of Friends and Lovers.

“We came to this country and chose to go into business to create a better life for our family and the people in our community. Many business owners would agree that the lack of awareness surrounding certain good business practices, could come at a cost. Sometimes, you end up in trouble or hit with big fines for things you had no idea existed! We are happy to comply with all laws and prefer to practice good business. However, it’s very discouraging when your mistakes —especially the ones you’re not even made aware of— are criminalized. It’s certainly a dream killer. If a complaint is made against us, or we make a mistake, we have no problem collaborating with the appropriate agencies to cure any issues. When inspection matches occur, not only does it hurt us, but it also causes residents and patrons to mistrust enforcement officers. That’s the very energy that we do not want created because we rely on agencies such as the NYPD to protect us, not cause a divide,” said Nola Rodney, owner of the Hills Restaurant and Bar. 

Today’s legislation proposed by Council Member Stephen Levin and Rafael Espinal Jr. will bring much-needed transparency to this process and support for local businesses. Without accountability, venue owners report the Task Force issues dozens of unrelated fines for the purpose of disrupting operations and harming venue owners. 

“Shutting down an establishment for even one night can cost venue owners significant losses in revenue and put their business at risk,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I am proud to sponsor this much-needed legislation to shine a light on the MARCH Task Force’s enforcement practices and bring greater accountability to the process. Reports from businesses and community leaders about fear-inducing raids are concerning and today’s legislation will help city officials assess a more responsible path forward that balances community needs and respect for New York City’s beloved nightlife culture.”

“When I spearheaded the fight last year to repeal the Cabaret Law and establish the Office of Nightlife, my main goal was to bring nightlife out of the bureaucratic shadows. While we’ve already made significant strides, many venues still have concerns about the arbitrary enforcement practices of the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots (MARCH), which have hurt their business and in some cases even led to closures. This bill will help us hold MARCH accountable and allow us to seek workable solutions that are sensitive to the needs of all stakeholders,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.

"We advocate for safety and preservation of grassroots cultural spaces. The best way to achieve this is through building relationships of trust with all stakeholders. Venues and artists most times have great relationships with their local officers at the precinct level, but when the MARCH task force appears--with what is effectively a scary raid--it wreaks havoc on valuable and vulnerable community spaces. Enforcement must be fair, proportional and transparent. We need talks not raids," said Olympia Kazi, NYC Artist Coalition.

“In an era defined by Trump, where no city, person or institution feels untouched by corruption and mismanagement, it is the responsibility of the city of New York to show its citizenry what democracy can and does looks like; for too long MARCH has been a Stasi-like tool used to intimidate small business owners without recourse, often fining them out of existence and, losing jobs, investments and dreams while creating empty storefronts in the fallout... there is currently no way to contact or to find MARCH, elected officials believe it no longer exists, meanwhile it operates in the shadows of our democracy,” saidRachel Nelson, The Secret Project Robot.

“Our small local businesses are the heart of NYC. These establishments bring communities together in celebration and should not be subjected to late night raids that could seriously affect their businesses causing workers, patrons, and entire neighborhoods livelihoods to be affected. We must work to ensure these establishments remain places that people are comfortable, safe, and enjoying the atmosphere provided,” said Marti Gould Cummings, Co-Producer of “Shade: Queens of NYC” and President of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

WHAT: Press Conference to introduce oversight legislation on the NYPD’s interagency M.A.R.C.H. Task Force.

Nightlife advocates and local businesses have shared serious concerns about the Task Force’s nighttime raids, which scare businesses and can shut down bars and venues. Data will help City officials demystify M.A.R.C.H. operations and implement a transparent and equitable enforcement system for violations that does not put small businesses at risk of unnecessary closure.

Uber, Lyft, and moving forward responsibly

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Today the NYC Council voted on a package of bills to bring much needed regulation the ride-hailing for-hire vehicle industry. This historic legislation makes New York City the first major U.S. city to set a limit on ride-sharing vehicles.

As the sponsor of Intro. 144-B, I have met with constituents, drivers, and riders, and heard from advocates across the industry — and I am proud of the progress we are making for our city. Because of the continued lack of regulation, the number of licensed vehicles in NYC has almost doubled in the last few years, from 74,000 in 2014 to over 130,000 today. The market is oversaturated and drivers are struggling to make ends meet.

The bills approved by the Council today accomplish three goals:

First, they address the need to make pay more equitable for all drivers by pressing the pause button on the number of licensed for-hire vehicles (FHVs) on the road. By setting a one year cap on new vehicles, we will maintain our current level and prevent greater saturation of the market. The data is clear: Because of the industry’s growth, for-hire vehicles are empty approximately 40% of the time, forcing drivers to drive around for longer and earn less income.

Second, this legislation helps us accomplish our public policy goals around transportation accessibility and congestion. Over 2,000 vehicles are added to the road every month, while the rate of traffic in Manhattan slowed by more than 17% in 2016 alone. This is simply not sustainable. The bill does, however, include an exemption for accessible vehicles, incentivizing companies to speed up their commitment to making vehicle transportation more accessible to disabled riders across New York City. According to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), only 0.5% of for-hire vehicles are wheelchair accessible — we have a long way to go.

Lastly, Intro. 144 starts us on a path to a responsible and sustainable long-term solution for both drivers and riders alike. During the one year pause, the TLC will work with the Department of Transportation to study vehicle utilization rates, access to services in different geographic areas of the city, driver income, and traffic congestion, so that we can enact an adaptive forward-thinking regulatory system that balances the need for rider access with our goals of maintaining a living wage and fair transit system.

We are long overdue for regulation of the for-hire vehicle industry; today’s vote allows us to examine how best to ensure equitable pay for all drivers, tackle ever-worsening congestion, and keep up with the changing landscape so that riders throughout the city have access to transportation options. This is about fairness.

Thank you for your calls, emails, and questions — I look forward to continuing to work with each of you to ensure the implementation of these bills is thoughtful and transparent and best serves the interests of District 33.

Families Belong Together

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Becoming a father changed my life -- there is nothing I wouldn't do for my daughter. This past Father’s Day, reports found that nearly 2,000 children had been taken from their parents at the U.S. border in just six weeks. Video footage has been incredibly painful to watch. Words fail to explain what is being done in the name of "securing our borders."

If ever there is a time for action, it is now.

I stand firmly in opposition to the federal administration's inhumane actions toward refugees and families. Despite the administration's recent Executive Order, thousands of children remain separated from their families -- hundreds of whom have just arrived in New York City. Make no mistake, the President's policy change would continue to force families into inhumane detention facilities, the latest attack in an ongoing assault against immigrants and refugees.

Our office will fight to resist these policies and support all immigrant communities. Families belong together, not in detention. While the Trump administration has announced no plans for how they will reunite separated children in New York City, we will do what we can locally.


If you're looking to get more involved, below is a list of actions you can take. 

What you can do:

In moments like this, we need to come together and stand up for our values. New York is a city of immigrants, we will support each other. 

Sincerely,
Stephen Levin

 

Statement Regarding the Tragic Death of Raymond Porfil

I am heartbroken and deeply disturbed to read the accounts in recent days of the horrible death of 5-month old Raymond Porfil at the hands of his mother, who was reportedly using K2 for an extended period of time. While we do not yet know the entire picture, each detail that emerges raises more serious questions about how and why little Raymond and his sister Ray Jasmine remained in the care of their mother when two older children had been removed from the home and when ACS’s involvement in Raymond’s case had risen to the relatively high level of Manager. 

Many questions remain to be answered. While nothing will bring Raymond back, we at the City Council with insist on full accountability and transparency from ACS on how the system so absolutely failed Raymond and what ACS and the entire child welfare system is doing to fix the gaps in case practice that the murder of little Raymond so painfully exposes.
 

Statement from New York City Council Members Stephen Levin, Brad Lander, and Justin Brannan

We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian lives on the Gaza/Israel border this week. As those who support Israel’s right to exist in safe and secure borders, who support the right to Palestinian self-determination in a Palestinian state, and yearn for peace between the two, we feel compelled to speak out.

Cycles of violence in the Middle East go back generations, with competing claims of dispossession, aspirations for statehood, and failures to recognize the other side’s legitimate claims. It is the responsibility of leaders to break those cycles. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the opposite. 

Responsibility for the tragedy belongs to both Hamas and the Netanyahu government. While the Great Return March began as a non-violent protest by Gazans expressing their legitimate anguish with desperate living conditions, it was largely co-opted by Hamas, a terrorist organization that cynically diverts precious resources from desperately-needed improvements in civil society to terror operations, refuses Israel’s right to exist, and uses its own people as human shields. In fact, Hamas itself now claims that the majority of those killed this week were members of Hamas.

However, this does not absolve Israel of responsibility. Israel has a responsibility to ensure that whenever the IDF engages with Palestinian protests, all efforts are taken to avoid civilian casualties. Israeli authorities knew for many weeks that yesterday’s protests would come, that protesters would attempt to breach the border fence, that the timing would coincide with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, and that the world would be watching. The question remains why they did not prepare a plan to avoid civilian deaths or carry out such a plan more effectively.

Israel has a right to defend itself and its borders. We recognize the challenge Israelis face in combating militants who hide amongst civilian protestors, and that many of those killed yesterday were militants. However, Israel also has a responsibility to avoid civilian casualties. The fact is that many unarmed civilians, some children, have been killed and hundreds, if not thousands, have been injured in recent weeks by live fire and tear gas, and that is unjustifiable.

The failure of leadership here is staggering. Trump and Netanyahu staged the moving of the American embassy as a triumphalist provocation. Abbas still engages in rank anti-Semitism. And Hamas continues to exploit its own people and seek Israel’s demise. 

Still, we deeply believe that the future in Israel and Palestine belongs to those seeking peace, those who understand the basic humanity of their neighbor, those who are willing to do the arduous work of alleviating the desperate conditions in Gaza and strengthening regional security and coexistence. We in America and the international community owe those peacemakers our support.

Statement of Council Member Stephen Levin on the Reports of Violence and Abuse by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

I read with revulsion the thoroughly written New Yorker article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow detailing a disturbing pattern of physical, sexual and emotional violence by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against multiple women. The acts, as bravely reported by four women including Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam on the record, appear to constitute potential criminality and I believe that it is essential that a special independent counsel investigate the matter fully without any appearance of conflict.  

These acts are particularly disappointing coming from New York’s highest law enforcement officer. Beyond disappointing, they are damaging to a justice system that requires the public’s trust and faith. In fact, they constitute a betrayal. For survivors of abuse, pursuing justice is an incredibly taxing and potentially re-traumatizing endeavor. Already, so many survivors remain silent under threats of violence and retribution. We must reaffirm, not undermine, the public’s confidence.

No matter your title, wealth, or connections, we are equal under the eyes of the law. While that is the ideal, we have as a society fallen embarrassingly short of making this true for everyone, especially those outside the traditional circles of power. While our laws say one thing about equality, the day-to-day experience of women has been something different altogether.

It is incumbent upon all of us to change this. What used to be whispers are growing into a resounding indictment of abuse everywhere, no matter how powerful the perpetrator. This is the new reality we must all take part in crafting. We must call out abuse and violence, especially from individuals who publicly wave the banner of progress and equality. It is easy to call out behaviour on the other side of political and ideological lines. It is much more difficult, but just as important, that we call out abusive behavior when it is perpetrated by those we hold in esteem. Let’s remember we are fighting for a future bigger than any one person.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse, please contact your borough’s Family Justice Center.

L Train Riders Protest Lack of Communication with DOT and MTA, Demand Action

As the L Train closure draws closer, still no concrete plan or regular communication from MTA or DOT

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Hundreds of thousands of riders and hundreds of businesses throughout Northern Brooklyn will be dramatically affected by the L Train Shutdown, announced to start in April 2019. While the closure of this community lifeline is only 17 months away, there are more questions than answers. The community demands a report of the current plans for transportation remediation, a serious discussion around help for local businesses, and information about any street use changes proposed by the Department of Transportation. In addition, there must be a commitment by the responsible agencies and their contractors to meet with a community advisory board on a monthly basis starting in January 2018.

“You can’t have a good relationship without communication,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “If we are going to get through this together, we need to begin frequent and meaningful dialogue. This can only work if the MTA and DOT collaborate and form a solid partnership with each other and with the community. The riders and local businesses have made their concerns clear. In the absence of a plan, everyone is rightfully worried about how they’re going to get through this. We’re ready and we’re listening.”

“The L train shutdown is going to have major implications for the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “The community is asking for transparent communication from the MTA about their mitigation plans, and they need to provide it.  This issue is too important to keep residents in the dark,” 

“Subways are the circulatory system of our City – and a major artery between Brooklyn and Manhattan is going to be cut off in just 17 months. But there are still big questions that haven’t been answered,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “Residents, business owners, and commuters need to have a seat at the table -- and the agencies involved must commit to meeting with stakeholders. I look forward to working with the MTA, the DOT, my colleagues in government, and all of the advocates who have made this a priority to find a solution that works for everyone.”

“The MTA and DOT promised us a plan for transporting commuters when the L Train shuts down – and we want to make sure they’re remembering that residents, workers and customers have to be able to get to Greenpoint/Williamsburg, not avoid it,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Further, we want to be able to influence the plan as it is being made, rather than after it has been finalized. It’s time for the MTA and DOT to show us what they’re considering.”

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said, “The community, both residents and business owners, need specific details from the MTA and DOT as to what their mass transit options will be when the L train shutdown begins in April, 2019.  We started out with a good deal of transparency and communication at the beginning of the process, but now as crunch-time approaches we’re seeing less of that when we should be seeing more.”

“The L train shutdown will negatively impact all north Brooklyn businesses in all sectors; service, hospitality and industrial and manufacturing,” said Leah Archibald, Executive Director of Evergreen. “It is imperative that the city and state exhaust all options to provide support for these businesses, and the thousands of NYC residents that they employ.”

"The Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID) is now at the center of the DOT and MTA’s draft L Train Shutdown mitigation plans,” said Homer Hill, Executive Director Grand Street Business Improvement District. “Reconfigurations of Grand Street’s traffic patterns and usage will have a tremendous effect on the over 150 small businesses located in our district. It  time for the DOT and MTA to release their plans and begin briefing our community on how the L Train Shutdown will impact our small business community."

“April 2019 will be here sooner than we think and our many area businesses who will be affected by the L Train shutdown need to prepare in order to thrive during the 15 months that will follow,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Hoan. “We encourage an ongoing dialogue between the community, the MTA, DOT, and other relevant agencies that will focus on substantial planning and transportation options for these drivers of New York’s economy.”

“There are many businesses in North Brooklyn, both large and small, that need to be told the specifics of the city's plan...and they need to be told right now,” said Paul Samulski, President, North Brooklyn Chamber. “They know what's coming is going to be bad, real bad, but with more information to work with and adequate time for public input and dialog on the plan, they just might be able to creatively think of ways to lessen the severity of the damage.” 

"When the 15-month service disruption commences in April 2019, 66 months will have passed since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City,” said Alan Minor, Chair of the Board of Directors of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG). “In other words, the MTA, DOT, NYCEDC, and other government agencies will have had ample time to coordinate on a plan that both mitigates the impact of the partial closure of the Canarsie Line and bolsters transportation infrastructure so that New Yorkers have greater mobility before, during and after the service disruption. That means ADA accessibility shouldn't be limited to just two stations -- 1 Av and Bedford Av. (The Lorimer St L-Metropolitan Av G station complex is a prime candidate.) It also means reopening closed subway station entrances and street staircases along the most impacted lines to enhance mobility in and out of stations. It also means expanding Citi Bike east of Bushwick Avenue and improving cycling infrastructure in general. And lastly, but certainly not least, it means improving bus service. If no long-term transportation improvements are achieved beyond what MTA and DOT have outlined, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance mobility -- particularly in North Brooklyn -- will have been squandered."

The planned closure of the L train is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. What the MTA and DOT do in the next few months will shape the community for years to come. This is also a chance to change the usual top-down paradigm. By committing to regular meetings with the community, residents will not only be better informed, but they will also be able to weigh in. At a time with public faith in their transportation agencies at an all time low, now is the time to rebuild trust. This certainly won’t be the last time major, disruptive change will affect New Yorkers. For the sake of everyone who relies on the L train, and future impacted communities, it’s time to set a high standard.