Beyond Violence and Hate

Stephen Levin is a New York City Council Member representing the 33rd District. 

Stephen Levin is a New York City Council Member representing the 33rd District. 

Like many Americans across the country, I am appalled to hear news of the recent rise of violence and hate in the wake of the presidential election. In light of these troubling events, it is clear the pursuit of a more perfect union is far from over. However, until this weekend, I didn't believe that such violence could find its way into our neighborhood. On Saturday night, after an election related argument, a male Donald Trump supporter punched a woman at a Boerum Hill restaurant. This violent act, condemnable no matter where it occurred, is particularly troubling considering its sharp contrast with our community values. We do not tolerate violence and we do not tolerate hate.
 
Such a brazen attack so close to home dispels the notion that the more tolerant communities of Brooklyn are somehow immune to the effects of the vitriol fueled violence. As Saturday’s incident demonstrates, we are not. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been more than 300 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” reported nationwide since election day. In just a week, more incidents have been reported than the preceding 6 months altogether. These attacks not only directly harm victims, they also threaten to plunge society under an oppressive shadow of fear and despair.
 
Though many of us have been caught off guard, we cannot lose sight of our communal values. How do we move forward? Share with one another. Volunteer your time and talents to help your fellow neighbor. Engaging with your community at an individual level is important now more than ever. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let us reaffirm our love for one another. Let us come together as a community unashamed, unrelenting, and united.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation for Life-Saving First Responder Training

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

CITY HALL―Today, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill that will increase transparency about life-saving training for first responders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Council Member Levin introduced the legislation in honor of 11-year-old Briana Ojeda, who passed away after suffering an asthma attack near her home in Brooklyn. The police officer who accompanied Briana to the hospital did not perform potentially life-saving CPR because he said he did not feel qualified to do so. In September, Briana would have celebrated her eighteenth birthday.

“In order to save lives, New York’s finest must receive the highest quality training in life-saving CPR and AED skills,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “This is a commonsense measure that would help to improve the chance of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. It will ensure that first responders are well-equipped to react with speed and skill so that they can continue to protect and serve New Yorkers.”

In January, the NYPD instituted a new basic life support curriculum, which includes such training as infant and adult CPR, AED use, overdose treatment, and hemorrhage control.  Introduction 83 will require the New York Police Department to publish an annual report on the number of officers and school safety agents who receive high-quality CPR and AED certification to ensure this critical training is ongoing. Today, two NYPD police officers were honored with a Proclamation from the Council for demonstrating the lifesaving power of CPR when they used the skill to rescue an unconscious baby in the Bronx.

“How would you feel if an officer told a frantic mother that she would have to wait for EMS in order to start saving her child’s life, while her child is dying in front of her,” said Carmen Torres, Briana’s mother. “Briana was an 11-year-old baby girl who happened to run into a police officer who couldn’t do CPR. Losing Briana has been a life sentence of depression, anxiety, and a broken heart. By passing this legislation, hopefully no other family will have to endure this pain that will never go away.”

“On behalf of the American Heart Association, I am thrilled at today’s approval of legislation to improve CPR certification for our city’s law enforcement,” stated Melinda Murray, member of the NYC Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association. “Thank you, Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Stephen Levin for your championship of this important issue.  I lost my only child, my son Dominic, to cardiac arrest when he was just 17 years old. We also look forward to the day the Ojeda family finally secures the passage of Briana’s Law. Our hearts beat in unity for our children who were taken far too soon. We call upon the State Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and help us make sure no more families experience this tragedy. Let’s pass Briana’s Law during this upcoming session.”           

The Council previously adopted Resolution 1181, calling on the state legislature to pass and the Governor to sign Briana’s Law (A. 4364-A/S.6717), a bill that would require that police officers are re-trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation every two years and demonstrate satisfactory completion of such training. Briana’s Law has passed the Assembly for four years, but the Senate has failed to move this bipartisan bill forward.

"It is imperative that police officers are adequately trained in the administration of CPR,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz. “This easy to learn procedure has been proven to save lives in emergency situations and could have helped save the life of Briana Ojeda and others. The fact that the Police Academy had to reassign a CPR instructor after an officer recently testified he didn't feel confident in his CPR abilities proves the point that NYPD CPR training is inadequate."

“Briana's Law is all about saving lives,”said Senator Jack M. Martins, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “Police officers guard our safety and are often the first ones on scene whenever trouble occurs. Ensuring that the basic first aid training they already receive in the police academy is enhanced and periodically reinforced will help give them greater tools to save lives in situations where every second counts.”

"The American Red Cross is dedicated to saving more lives from cardiac arrest through raising public awareness and supporting educational programs that train more people in CPR," said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. "Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies, so the more people and first responders properly trained and certified in CPR, the better the chances of saving a life."

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home every year in the United States, with almost 90% resulting in death. However, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, an individual’s chance of survival can be double or even tripled. As such, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is supportive of further training for police officers.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Foster Care Legislative Package

Mayor de Blasio signed package of foster care bills almost a year after a "Foster Youth Shadow Day"

Mayor de Blasio signed package of foster care bills almost a year after a "Foster Youth Shadow Day"

CITY HALL―Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a legislative package that will improve the foster care system for nearly 10,000 children and youth.

The legislation establishes strategic feedback systems, implements evidence-based permanency planning, and expands reporting on health, education, and housing stability outcomes. The seven bills provide the information necessary to strengthen comprehensive services here in New York City and urge systemic reforms at the state level.

  • Create a taskforce to recommend improvements to our foster care system that will include experts such as child advocates and foster youth (Intro 1192);

  • Require ACS to create three consecutive five-year plans that will identify and address systemic barriers to permanent placement for children and youth who have spent an extended amount of time in foster care (Intro 1191);

  • Implement a survey for children and youth in care regarding experiences with foster parents (Intro 1199); and

  • Expand reporting on foster care regarding educational continuity, graduation success, attainment of government-issued identification, and the number of youth who have aged out of care and who enter a homeless shelter or receive financial assistance such as SNAP benefits (Intro 1190; Intro 1205; Intro 1187; Intro 1197).

“Children and youth in the City’s care are some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that each of them has a safe, loving home and access to comprehensive services,” said Council Member Levin, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. “These bills are especially important because many of them are a direct response to the firsthand experiences of youth in care. I look forward to continuing to work with young people, advocates, agencies, and my City Council colleagues to improve how our City protects and provides for our children.”

Last year, the Council hosted a Foster Youth Shadow Day at the Council during which members of the General Welfare and Youth Services Committees were paired with a young person who were in or had recently aged out of care. During the event and in follow-up meetings, youth shared ideas about improving foster care in New York City, informed by their own experiences of the system.

“The very system that is meant to protect our children is failing them,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “This package of bills is an important first step to overhaul our City’s broken system and provide the protections that our children need and deserve. I want to thank Council Members Ferreras-Copeland and Levin for their partnership on this issue. We must continue to focus on our children, protect them from harm, and ensure that we transform our system to one that protects and cares for our most vulnerable children.”

“Our foster care youth are some of the most vulnerable populations in our city and after participating in Foster Youth Shadow Day last year, it became clear that we should be doing a lot more as a city to protect them,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “This package of bills is focused on finding the holes in foster care and improving the lives of foster youth, which will ensure that they are no longer left behind in New York City. I'd like to thank Council Member Levin and all my colleagues for working together to secure a better future for children in the foster care system.”

While the number of children in foster care has decreased significantly in the past year, it stands that children in New York City’s system spend almost twice the amount of time in care than children in the rest of the country – 3.2 years versus 1.7 years. There is still much more to be done so that the nearly 10,000 New York City children and youth in care can receive vital services and return to their families or be adopted by lifetime families. The bills considered today underscore areas where data is needed to improve service delivery, such as education and housing.

“All children, teenagers, and young adults deserve to have access to supportive resources, and it is crucial that New York City’s foster care system is improved so that it adequately addresses the needs of our young people in foster care,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Chairman of the Youth Services Committee.

“Every youth, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or background, deserves an equal opportunity to succeed as scholars and professionals. With nearly 10,000 children and youth under the care of the Administration for Children’s Services, we must ensure that the proper resources are in place to support their continued growth and development within and beyond the foster care system. I am proud that my bill, Intro 1205, will enable us to assess the academic progression of high school-aged youth in foster care,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.  

It is also essential to reduce the number of youth who age out of foster care without permanent family. In 2015, over 650 young people aged out of foster care, starting adulthood without family or ACS support. The majority of young people, including those that did not grow up in the foster care system, are nowhere near ready to be fully financially independent at 21 – and yet that is exactly what we expect of young people who age out of the foster care system.

“I am happy to support these bills, which will provide much needed information about foster care and the young people in the system,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “We must work together so that all youth receive the support they need to be successful, and these bills will provide us with the data necessary to make the necessary reforms. I also thank Public Advocate James and Council Member Levin for their leadership on this legislation.”

“This joint effort to strengthen NYC's foster care system will improve the lives of thousands of young New Yorkers,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “My legislation will help these youth obtain identification by improving Administration for Children's Services reporting practices. I am proud to be part of this work which will ensure that all those in foster care have equal access to city services.”

“The foster care system is entrusted with the safety and care of some of our most vulnerable children. It’s important that we, as a City, properly protect and care for them. This package of bills will strengthen the foster care system by providing much needed oversight,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik.

Advocates and agencies stood with Council Members to offer praise for the legislative package:

“Today the New York City Council has overwhelmingly passed a package of bills aimed at improving the wellbeing of New York City’s children and youth in foster care.  CCC applauds the leadership of Council member Levin and the General Welfare Committee in this effort and we look forward to continuing to partner with the Council and the Administration to improve outcomes for the families who come into contact with the child welfare system,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director, Policy and Advocacy, Citizens’ Committee for Children.

“It is appreciated when the public takes an interest in the finer points of child welfare and we are grateful for the Council’s interest, especially the attention to nuance being paid by Council Member Levin,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), which represents nearly all New York State nonprofit organizations that provide foster care, adoption, and family preservation services. “The information the Council will receive from the required reports should provide a broader picture of the city’s youth and families than is captured in a headline or soundbite.  We hope the reports will illustrate some of the successes gained from ongoing system improvement, and also shine a light on the obstacles ACS and the child welfare agencies face in building strong families in New York City.”

With the legislative package, the Council also passed Resolution 1073, calling on the New York State legislature to improve a housing subsidy used by former foster youth in order to reduce their risk of homelessness as they age out of care. Sponsor Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, Jr. said, “This is a package of common-sense legislation that aims to ensure we are supporting our most important asset – our young people.

Statement Regarding 141 Willoughby

Good morning Chair Richards, members of the subcommittee, and to my constituents in attendance. Today, we are here to determine next steps on the 141 Willoughby application. I have discussed this project in depth with Downtown Brooklyn residents and community stakeholders, and appreciate that over 400 people contacted our office to share their opinions about this project. 

I would also like to thank Community Board 2, Borough President Eric Adams, and the City Planning Commission for their work on this matter. I would like to extend my gratitude to Speaker Mark-Viverito, the Council land use division: Raju Mann, Dylan Casey, and Brian Paul—as well as my staff: Legislative Director Julie Bero, Constituent Liaison Glomani Bravo-Lopez, Chief of Staff Jonathan Boucher, and Communications Director Ed Paulino—all of whom have spent many hours on this application. Additionally, I appreciate the ongoing discussions I have had with the Economic Development Corporation and with the team at Savana, including Ed Wallace and Jay Segal. They have all engaged thoughtfully on how to address community needs and concerns. 

Taking into consideration all of the issues and concerns raised by the community, we will modify the application to decrease the allowable density from 18 to 15 FAR, comprised of 9 FAR residential and 6 FAR commercial. 

This modification accomplishes multiple policy goals: decreasing the impact of new residential units on existing infrastructure, adding new affordable units through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, and increasing the amount of much-needed office space in Downtown Brooklyn. I welcome similar proposals for mixed-use developments that will continue to build the neighborhood as a technological and business hub, aligning the downtown with the needs of the 21st century.

Council Member Stephen Levin's Opening Remarks - Child Abuse and the Various City Touchpoints

stephenlevincouncil.jpg

Good Morning. I am Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare. Today we are joined by representatives from ACS, DHS, NYPD, DOE, OCDV, the Children’s Cabinet, union representatives, advocates, providers, and parents to hold the hearing: “Child Abuse and the Various City Touchpoints.” I want to thank our Speaker for joining us for this important hearing.

As Speaker Mark-Viverito outlined, Zymere’s life was tragically cut too short, and today we are here to discuss how City agencies are working together to provide families with assistance, and how to prevent future tragedies. 

As we do a deep dive today into City agency policies and reforms, interagency coordination, and recommendations for moving forward, we must not lose sight of the fact that a family lost their child. 

Today is Halloween, and millions of children across the city will be trick-or-treating with their families, but Zymere will not. As Zymere’s story eventually fades from the headlines and we move on to other issues, his family must continue to endure a tragic loss. Zymere is remembered by those who knew him as an articulate, playful, and loving child who “had a smile that would captivate anyone’s heart.” 

The other thing we cannot lose sight of during this discussion and through the implementation of new policy reforms, is that the majority of families involved with the child welfare system are caught up due to allegations of neglect. While some children are abused by their parents or guardians – and those children may need to be removed from their families and placed in appropriate and safe foster care placements – most families are involved with ACS because they face issues generally tied to poverty. For example, we know that being unable to secure adequate housing for your family can lead to a multitude of other challenges and approximately 25% of the families living in DHS family shelters have an open case with ACS. 

Today, we will discuss how City agencies are working together, or failing to work together, to address child abuse and neglect. Families involved in the child welfare system are frequently engaged with several agencies – such as the Department of Education, the Police Department, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Human Resources Administration.

When preparing for this hearing, advocates and providers who work with families consistently told us about the difficulties their clients face when trying to navigate a myriad of systems with complicated rules and requirements. Families may receive conflicting mandates, and must travel to seemingly endless appointments to keep their families together. While some are able to connect with skilled legal services organization that can help navigate these processes, not everyone has access to that help. One major question we want to address today is how the City plans to help reduce those burdens so that more families can succeed.

I look forward to hearing from ACS and the other agencies here today about implementing the recommendations announced earlier this month, and from providers, advocates, and parents about their thoughts and experiences in relation to those recommendations. After today’s hearing, we aim to maintain an open dialogue to ensure that the policy changes are not simply a response to one tragedy, but address systemic challenges in an ongoing manner.

NYC Council Poised to Pass Foster Care Package

CITY HALL―Today, the New York City Council is expected to pass a legislative package that will improve the foster care system for nearly 10,000 children and youth.

The legislation would establish strategic feedback systems, implement evidence-based permanency planning, and expand reporting on health, education, and housing stability outcomes. The seven bills and resolution provide the information necessary to strengthen comprehensive services here in New York City and urge systemic reforms at the state level.

  • Create a taskforce to recommend improvements to our foster care system that will include experts such as child advocates and foster youth (Intro 1192);

  • Require ACS to create three consecutive five-year plans that will identify and address systemic barriers to permanent placement for children and youth who have spent an extended amount of time in foster care (Intro 1191);

  • Implement a survey for children and youth in care regarding experiences with foster parents (Intro 1199);

  • Expand reporting on foster care regarding educational continuity, graduation success, attainment of government-issued identification, and the number of youth who have aged out of care and who enter a homeless shelter or receive financial assistance such as SNAP benefits (Intro 1190; Intro 1205; Intro 1187; Intro 1197); and

  • Call on the New York State legislature to improve a housing subsidy used by former foster youth in order to reduce their risk of homelessness as they age out of care (Res 1073).

“Children and youth in the City’s care are some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that each of them has a safe, loving home and access to comprehensive services,” said Council Member Levin, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. “These bills are especially important because many of them are a direct response to the firsthand experiences of youth in care. I look forward to continuing to work with young people, advocates, agencies, and my City Council colleagues to improve how our City protects and provides for our children.”

Last year, the Council hosted a Foster Youth Shadow Day at the Council during which members of the General Welfare and Youth Services Committees were paired with a young person who were in or had recently aged out of care. During the event and in follow-up meetings, youth shared ideas about improving foster care in New York City, informed by their own experiences of the system.

“The very system that is meant to protect our children is failing them,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “This package of bills is an important first step to overhaul our City’s broken system and provide the protections that our children need and deserve. I want to thank Council Members Ferreras-Copeland and Levin for their partnership on this issue. We must continue to focus on our children, protect them from harm, and ensure that we transform our system to one that protects and cares for our most vulnerable children.”

“Our foster care youth are some of the most vulnerable populations in our city and after participating in Foster Youth Shadow Day last year, it became clear that we should be doing a lot more as a city to protect them,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “This package of bills is focused on finding the holes in foster care and improving the lives of foster youth, which will ensure that they are no longer left behind in New York City. I'd like to thank Council Member Levin and all my colleagues for working together to secure a better future for children in the foster care system.”

While the number of children in foster care has decreased significantly in the past year, it stands that children in New York City’s system spend almost twice the amount of time in care than children in the rest of the country – 3.2 years versus 1.7 years. There is still much more to be done so that the nearly 10,000 New York City children and youth in care can receive vital services and return to their families or be adopted by lifetime families. The bills considered today underscore areas where data is needed to improve service delivery, such as education and housing.

“All children, teenagers, and young adults deserve to have access to supportive resources, and it is crucial that New York City’s foster care system is improved so that it adequately addresses the needs of our young people in foster care,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Chairman of the Youth Services Committee.

“This is a package of common-sense legislation that aims to ensure we are supporting our most important asset – our young people,” said Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, Jr.

“Every youth, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or background, deserves an equal opportunity to succeed as scholars and professionals. With nearly 10,000 children and youth under the care of the Administration for Children’s Services, we must ensure that the proper resources are in place to support their continued growth and development within and beyond the foster care system. I am proud that my bill, Intro 1205, will enable us to assess the academic progression of high school-aged youth in foster care,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.  

It is also essential to reduce the number of youth who age out of foster care without permanent family. In 2015, over 650 young people aged out of foster care, starting adulthood without family or ACS support. The majority of young people, including those that did not grow up in the foster care system, are nowhere near ready to be fully financially independent at 21 – and yet that is exactly what we expect of young people who age out of the foster care system.

“I am happy to support these bills, which will provide much needed information about foster care and the young people in the system,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “We must work together so that all youth receive the support they need to be successful, and these bills will provide us with the data necessary to make the necessary reforms. I also thank Public Advocate James and Council Member Levin for their leadership on this legislation.”

“This joint effort to strengthen NYC's foster care system will improve the lives of thousands of young New Yorkers,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “My legislation will help these youth obtain identification by improving Administration for Children's Services reporting practices. I am proud to be part of this work which will ensure that all those in foster care have equal access to city services.”

“The foster care system is entrusted with the safety and care of some of our most vulnerable children. It’s important that we, as a City, properly protect and care for them. This package of bills will strengthen the foster care system by providing much needed oversight,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik.

Advocates and agencies stood with Council Members to offer praise for the legislative package:

“Today the New York City Council has overwhelmingly passed a package of bills aimed at improving the wellbeing of New York City’s children and youth in foster care.  CCC applauds the leadership of Council member Levin and the General Welfare Committee in this effort and we look forward to continuing to partner with the Council and the Administration to improve outcomes for the families who come into contact with the child welfare system,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director, Policy and Advocacy, Citizens’ Committee for Children.

“It is appreciated when the public takes an interest in the finer points of child welfare and we are grateful for the Council’s interest, especially the attention to nuance being paid by Council Member Levin,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), which represents nearly all New York State nonprofit organizations that provide foster care, adoption, and family preservation services. “The information the Council will receive from the required reports should provide a broader picture of the city’s youth and families than is captured in a headline or soundbite.  We hope the reports will illustrate some of the successes gained from ongoing system improvement, and also shine a light on the obstacles ACS and the child welfare agencies face in building strong families in New York City.”

 

First Responder CPR-AED Training Will Save Lives

CITY HALL―Today, the New York City Council is expected to pass legislation that will increase transparency about life-saving training for first responders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Council Member Levin introduced the legislation in honor of 11-year-old Briana Ojeda, who passed away after suffering an asthma attack near her home in Brooklyn. The police officer who accompanied Briana to the hospital did not perform potentially life-saving CPR because he said he did not feel qualified to do so.

“In order to save lives, New York’s finest must receive the highest quality training in life-saving CPR and AED skills,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “These are commonsense measures that would help to improve the chance of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. They ensure that first responders are well-equipped to respond with speed and skill so that they can continue to protect and serve New Yorkers.”

In January, the NYPD instituted a new basic life support curriculum, which includes such training as infant and adult CPR, AED use, overdose treatment, and hemorrhage control.  Introduction 83 will require the New York Police Department to publish an annual report on the number of officers and school safety agents who receive high-quality CPR and AED certification to ensure this critical training is ongoing. Recently, NYPD police officers in the Bronx demonstrated the lifesaving power of CPR when they used the skill to rescue an unconscious baby.

“How would you feel if an officer told a frantic mother that she would have to wait for EMS in order to start saving her child’s life, while her child is dying in front of her,” said Carmen Torres, Briana’s mother. “Briana was an 11-year-old baby girl who happened to run into a police officer who couldn’t do CPR. Losing Briana has been a life sentence of depression, anxiety, and a broken heart. By passing this legislation it would make sure that no other family would have to endure this pain that will never go away.”

 The Council is also expected to adopt Resolution 1181, calling on the state legislature to pass and the Governor to sign Briana’s Law (A. 4364-A/S.6717), a bill that would require that police officers are re-trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation every two years and demonstrate satisfactory completion of such training. Briana’s Law has passed the Assembly for four years, but the Senate has failed to move this bipartisan bill forward.

 "It is imperative that police officers are adequately trained in the administration of CPR,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz. “This easy to learn procedure has been proven to save lives in emergency situations and could have helped save the life of Briana Ojeda and others. The fact that the Police Academy had to reassign a CPR instructor after an officer recently testified he didn't feel confident in his CPR abilities proves the point that NYPD CPR training is inadequate."

“Briana's Law is all about saving lives,”said Senator Jack M. Martins, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “Police officers guard our safety and are often the first ones on scene whenever trouble occurs. Ensuring that the basic first aid training they already receive in the police academy is enhanced and periodically reinforced will help give them greater tools to save lives in situations where every second counts.”

“October is a significant month for me,” said Melinda Murray, member of the NYC Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association.  “It’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.  It also marks the angel day anniversary of the day I lost my only child, my son Dominic, to cardiac arrest. I can think of no better time than now to help improve CPR response in our city. We are also looking forward to the day the Ojeda family finally secures the passage of Briana’s Law. Our hearts beat in unity for our children who were taken far too soon.”

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home every year in the United States, with almost 90% resulting in death. However, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, an individual’s chance of survival can be double or even tripled. As such, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is supportive of further training for police officers.

"The American Red Cross is dedicated to saving more lives from cardiac arrest through raising public awareness and supporting educational programs that train more people in CPR," said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. "Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies, so the more people and first responders properly trained and certified in CPR, the better the chances of saving a life."

The Ojeda Family will attend the Stated Meeting as the Council passes the bill and resolution in Briana’s memory.

Advocates and Bipartisan Elected Officials Call for High-Quality CPR Training for NYPD

council member stephen levin

To ensure that all police officers receive high-quality and ongoing training in life-saving skills, Council Member Stephen Levin introduced Introduction 83, which would require the police department to submit reports concerning employee certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) use to the Council.

Council Member Levin has also introduced Resolution 1181 calling on the state legislature to pass and the Governor to sign Briana’s Law (A. 4364-A/S.6717), a bill that would require that police officers are re-trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation every two years and demonstrate satisfactory completion of such training. Briana’s Law has passed the Assembly for four years, but the Senate has failed to move this bipartisan bill forward.

Council Member Levin introduced the measures following the tragic death of his constituent, 11-year-old Briana Ojeda. On August 27, 2010, Briana suffered an asthma attack while playing in Carroll Park in Brooklyn. Briana’s mother, Carmen Torres, rushed her to the hospital and was intercepted by a police officer who accompanied them to the emergency room.

However, the police officer did not immediately perform potentially life-saving CPR because he did not feel qualified to do so. In the police academy, he had only learned about CPR from a textbook and had never practiced administering CPR. As the officer later remarked, “I didn't feel safe putting my hands on someone without actually knowing what I'm doing.”

council member stephen levin

“How would you feel if an officer told a frantic mother that she would have to wait for EMS in order to start saving her child’s life, while her child is dying in front of her,” said Carmen Torres, Briana’s mother. “This can happen to anyone. This is why I support this legislation. On August 27 of 2010 I lost the greatest love of my life. Briana Amaryllis Ojeda is her name. Briana was an 11-year-old baby girl who happened to run into a police officer who couldn’t do CPR. Losing Briana has been a life sentence of depression, anxiety, and a broken heart. By passing this legislation it would make sure that no other family would have to endure this pain that will never go away.”

“In order to save lives, New York’s finest must receive the highest quality training in life-saving CPR and AED skills,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “These are no-brainer measures that would help to improve the chance of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. The Ojeda family has fought tirelessly to ensure that other families will not experience a similar tragedy and I hope that my colleagues will join me in pushing for these life-saving measures.”

council member stephen levin

"It is imperative that police officers are adequately trained in the administration of CPR,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz. “This easy to learn procedure has been proven to save lives in emergency situations and could have helped save the life of Briana Ojeda and others. The fact that the Police Academy had to reassign a CPR instructor after an officer recently testified he didn't feel confident in his CPR abilities proves the point that NYPD CPR training is inadequate."

“Briana's Law is all about saving lives,”said Senator Jack M. Martins, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “Police officers guard our safety and are often the first ones on scene whenever trouble occurs. Ensuring that the basic first aid training they already receive in the police academy is enhanced and periodically reinforced will help give them greater tools to save lives in situations where every second counts.”

council member stephen levin

“When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby,” stated Melinda Murray, member of the American Heart Association Advocacy Committee.  “My son Dominic lost his life far too soon because no one around him knew to start CPR right away. This life-saving skill, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. The American Heart Association strongly supports Briana’s Law and all efforts to improve the training standards for all law enforcement as it should be required that these first responders be prepared to initiate the first steps in the Chain of Survival.”
 

"The American Red Cross is dedicated to saving more lives from cardiac arrest through raising public awareness and supporting educational programs that train more people in CPR," said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. "Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies, so the more people and first responders properly trained and certified in CPR, the better the chances of saving a life."

Since 2010, the Ojeda family has advocated tirelessly to pass this bill. It is time that the state legislature and Governor take steps to ensure that no other family will have to suffer a similar tragedy. In order to save lives, it is crucial that first-responders are qualified to perform CPR and that they are regularly re-trained. More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home every year in the United States, with almost 90% resulting in death. However, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, an individual’s chance of survival can be double or even tripled.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is also supportive of further training for police officers.

Together, Introduction 83 and Resolution 1181 are essential to ensure that police officers are trained to respond appropriately in a cardiac emergency so that they can continue to protect and serve New Yorkers and honor Briana’s memory.

Council Member Stephen Levin Makes Statement on Anti-BDS legislation, Resolution 1058-A

Photo: William Altriste

Photo: William Altriste

Over the past several months we at the City Council have been contemplating and discussing a resolution sponsored by my colleague Andrew Cohen condemning the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel. The BDS movement has recently gained support in many circles, including on many college campuses around the US and here in New York City.  

As someone who identifies as Jewish, believes in the State of Israel as a national home for the Jewish people, who believes in a two state solution with a secure Israel and an independent Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, respects our American tradition of protest and right to free speech, who believes in the rights of all humans to live in peace, security and self-determination, and who believes that peace in Israel/Palestine is achievable in our time, I was and am very conflicted about the City Council taking on perhaps the most intractable issue in the world.
 
During the past few months, I have often recalled the time, 21 years ago, when I was 14 years old, learning of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on a Sunday morning. I didn’t know then why it was so important, and so tragic, but in time I came to realize what Rabin’s assassination, at the hands of a radical anti-peace Jew, has come to represent: it was a victory of hate over love, perpetual discord over peace. In the intervening years, we have seen, too many times to count, bloodshed avenging bloodshed, over and over, in a seemingly never ending cycle. We have seen moderate voices on both sides sidelined, mocked. To be unabashedly pro-peace, pro-two state in 2016 is to be seen as naïve or worse. I proudly stand today and say that I am pro-peace, pro-two state, Israel and Palestine, and that I oppose any and all efforts that undermine that goal.
 
That means that I unequivocally condemn the virulent anti-Jewish positions, incitement and actions of Hamas and all acts of terror and violence aimed at Israeli citizens. Israeli citizens have the right to live in security in a sovereign nation now recognized by the United Nations and the world community for almost 70 years. I also oppose some basic tenets of the Global BDS Movement. While I respect individuals’ rights to engage in boycotts that are focused on occupied territory beyond the Green Line while recognizing Israel’s right to exist and supporting a two-state solution, the BDS movement’s own platform does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and many in the BDS movement, including some who testified at the recent Council hearing, do not support a two state solution. As a matter of bedrock principle, Israel’s right to exist as a nation and a state must be explicitly recognized, and any equivocation or ambiguity is in fact tantamount to denial. For that reason, I am signing on as a co-sponsor of the Council resolution and I thank Councilmember Cohen for making amendments to the resolution at the request of me and Councilmember Brad Lander.  
 
But it also means that I oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the military occupation of land beyond the Green Line. My reason is two-fold: first, Palestinians living in the occupied territories are, and have been for the past 49 years, living without their full inalienable rights of liberty and equality, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Second, if Israel were to annex the West Bank and afford all the equal rights of representation to all Palestinians in West Bank and Israel proper, Israel would eventually cease to be a Jewish state. So, it is clearly in the long term interest of Israel itself to work for a two-state solution as  soon as possible for it to survive as both a Jewish and democratic state.
 
There are times that I, and many who believe that peace is possible, may grow despondent. The prospects for peace are dimmer now than they were 20 years ago. At those times we should remind ourselves of Yitzhak Rabin and the many others, Israelis and Palestinians, who had the courage to risk their lives, and give their lives, to stand up — sometimes to their own countrymen — and fight against hate and perpetual discord and fight for love and peace. As we approach a full century of conflict between Jews and Arabs — Israelis and Palestinians — over the national aspirations of both peoples, we need some of their courage.

City Council Enacts First Ban in the Nation on Oil and Natural Gas Waste Products

CITY HALL—Today, New York City became the nation’s first municipality to ban the use or discharge of natural gas and oil waste products, including from hydraulic fracturing. 

Intro 446-A protects New York City communities from toxic pollutants and safeguards our water. The waste associated with hydraulic fracturing (“hydro-fracking”) and other natural gas and oil extraction processes frequently contains naturally-occurring radioactive elements such as radium, carcinogens such as benzene, and other chemical additives. Without adequate protections in place, these pollutants could leach into our local ecosystem and drinking water.

Lead Sponsor, Council Member Stephen Levin said, “The New York City Council breaks new ground today by passing what we believe to be the first comprehensive municipal ban on the discharge or use of waste products associated with all methods of oil and gas extraction. This crucial bill will protect New York City communities from toxic pollutants and ensure cleaner water for generations to come—and I hope that other legislative bodies will follow suit. I have been honored to work with Chairman Constantinides and a team of dedicated advocates to build momentum around this bill and I thank them for their steadfast commitment to protecting our environment.”

Although the State of New York banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing in 2015, the briny byproduct is vastly under-regulated at the state level and has been used to remove ice and control dust on roadways, but used in this way, or disposed of in wastewater treatment facilities or landfills, the pollutants could run off onto adjoining land and contaminate our rivers, streams, and aquifers. 

Intro 446-A, introduced by Council Member Stephen Levin, directly addresses these public health and safety concerns as it will:
 
Prohibit the discharge of any oil or natural gas waste to any surface water bodies located within the City or to any wastewater treatment plant located within the City.

Ban the application of any oil or natural gas waste upon any road, real property or landfill located within the City.

Require all City bids or contracts for the construction or maintenance of a City road to include a provision stating that no materials containing or manufactured from oil or natural gas waste shall be utilized in providing the service. 
   
"Intro. 446 will ensure that fracking and oil extraction waste byproducts will not be used or disposed in our city,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee. “This type of hazardous substance does not belong in our landfills. This legislation helps us keep our environment clean and maintain our public health. I thank Council Member Levin for his leadership on this important issue."

"We are obligated to do whatever we can to protect our environment," said co-sponsor Council Member Daniel Dromm. "Our children deserve access to clean drinking water.  When passed, this legislation will establish protections that will safeguard our city's water supply for many generations.  I am proud to work alongside Council Member Levin on this important issue and thank him for his leadership."

"Despite New York State's strong stance against fracking, its harmful byproducts can still end up in the city,” said Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick. “We need to close this loophole-- and that's why Intro 446-A is so critical. It will keep these dangerous materials from entering our environment and protect public health across the five boroughs."

As the 2015 NY State Law did not ban wastewater use and disposal, 15 New York counties have taken similar steps to ban byproduct disposal. The threat is real: New York state continues to allow more than 12,000 low-volume fracking wells and road-spreading of briny wastewater is permitted in at least 15 New York counties. 

“This legislation is a milestone in the fight to protect our water and public health from the dangers of fracking waste,” said Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Sean Dixon. “In the absence of a statewide ban, several New York’s municipalities have stepped up, prohibiting these toxic oil and natural gas wastes in their wastewater treatment plants, water bodies and landfills, and have banned its use to de-ice roads. Now, we applaud the New York City Council for extending these same protections to its 8.5 million residents and their roads, parks, waterways, and environment”

“Even though high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is banned in New York State, New Yorkers are not protected from the harmful effects of toxic and radioactive fracking waste. Since there are no federal and state laws regulating the disposal of fracking waste, we commend the New York City Council for the passage of Int 446-A and wish to thank Council Member Levin, Chairman Constantinides, and all the council members who sponsored this bill for protecting the people of New York City from being exposed to toxic waste that could contaminate our air and water," said Ling Tsou, Co-Founder of United for Action.
 
“The League of Women Voters of the City of New York praises and thanks the City Council for writing and passing the comprehensive waste bill, Int 446-A,” said Mary Anne Sullivan of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York. “This bill protects the health of New Yorkers from possible exposure to radioactive elements causing cancer, and from endocrine disrupting chemicals among other unhealthy chemicals and metals. We thank Council Member Levin for leading this effort with Council Member Constantinides.”

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) has taken similar action to protect our waterways, creating a new rule to prevent disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing at public sewage plants. Such facilities are not typically outfitted to extract high concentrations of the solids and pollutants found in oil and natural gas waste.The EPA cited that untreated, wastewater could negatively affect drinking water, aquatic life, and irrigation. 

“Our statewide fracking ban, enacted in 2014, was a watershed moment for health and public safety in New York. But in terms of protecting residents from the numerous hazards associated with fossil fuel extraction, it wasn’t the end of the story. Councilman Levin knew this, and we’re grateful for his tireless work to ban all oil and gas drilling waste from our city,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. “With this law, New Yorkers can feel safer knowing they will forever be protected from the serious harms that toxic, radioactive oil and gas drilling waste pose to communities big and small."

“As a science based environmental health nonprofit, we highly commend Council Member Levin and the City Council for introducing and enacting legislation to protect the health and safety and precious water resources of NYC residents,” said Ellen Weininger, Director of Educational Outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education. “In the absence of state and federal regulations, the largest city in the nation has now stepped in with strong precautionary measures to ensure the protection of millions of its residents from dangerous toxic exposure, sending a strong message that it is imperative to protect the public from pollutants.”

Intro 446-A now awaits a signature by Mayor Bill de Blasio and will take effect 90 days after it becomes law.