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There’s a Big Fight Brewing in the City Council Over Trash Carting Reforms

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Tomorrow, the City Council will vote on a bill to distribute garbage truck traffic more fairly across different neighborhoods. That legislation, which has languished for nearly a decade, is expected to pass. A more contentious battle over the private trash carting industry will follow later this summer, when the city releases its plan to institute “zone-based” commercial waste collection.

The bill on the agenda tomorrow, Intro 157, is the newest version of legislation to cap the amount of waste delivered to transfer stations in the South Bronx, north Brooklyn, and southeast Queens. About 75 percent of the city’s trash is processed in those three neighborhoods, burdening low-income communities of color with a disproportionate share of garbage truck traffic. The bill stipulates that no single community board district can process more than 10 percent of the city’s trash.

Enacting Intro 157 will ensure that every neighborhood has “skin in the game” when it comes to the city’s waste production, said NYC Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista.

A previous version of the bill died in committee last December after Council Member I. Daneek Miller, who represents southeast Queens, withdrew his support. Carting businesses in his district opposed the measure. Now, with the support of Council Speaker Corey Johnson, advocates believe they have the 26 votes to pass it.

Intro 157 builds on the Bloomberg administration’s 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan, which called for new waterfront transfer stations to shift long-haul trash cargo from trucks on city streets to boats and trains. At the time, the City Council was expected to pass legislation reducing the amount of trash coming to transfer stations in the three target areas, but so far it hasn’t.

“The rebuilding of the city’s marine transfer systems was just a piece. The other piece was waste equity,” Bautista said. “The marine transfer stations were never going to be able to deal with the severity of commercial waste capacity of these three communities.”

Under speakers Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council failed to pass the legislation. “We tried to get this done under three different speakers, and this is the first speaker to actually step up to say, ‘I politically want to see this happen,’” Bautista said. “That’s a huge change.”

While the bill has been modified many times since it was originally floated in 2010, Bautista said the only change since December was the elimination of a carve-out to exempt Sanitation Salvage, whose owners, the Squitieri family, are power players in the Bronx Democratic Party.

An investigation by Kiera Feldman at ProPublica exposed Sanitation Salvage and the Squitieris for shortchanging worker protections, implicating the company in the death of Mouctar Diallo, 21. A Sanitation Salvage driver ran over and killed Diallo in April, with police originally identifying him as a “homeless person” to the press. In fact, Diallo was working as a “third man” on a Sanitation Salvage route alongside Sean Spence, the driver who struck him.

The Squitieris and Sanitation Salvage also figure prominently in the lobbying campaign to stop the city from overhauling the private carting industry.

In 2016, the Department of Sanitation recommended shifting the private carting industry to a “zone-based” collection system, where companies would compete for franchises to collect commercial trash within designated areas. Under the current system, private carters make deals with one business at a time, leading to long, inefficient routes.

This set-up exhausts workers and encourages private carting crews to cut corners. The result is a disaster for public safety. Since 2010, drivers for private carters have killed 33 people in New York. City sanitation workers, on the other hand, have not been involved in a fatal crash since 2014.

The city has spent two years preparing for zone-based commercial waste collection, and is expected to release its draft plan in a month. The closer the moment of reckoning gets, the more intense the opposition from private carting businesses like Sanitation Salvage, as well as the real estate lobby.

Advocates wanted each of the 20 zones in the new system to be contracted out to a single company. However, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told Politico last week that three to five carters will be assigned to each zone.

More carters operating in each zone means more truck traffic and pollution. “They’re trying to weaken the plan, that’s for sure,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, a coalition of labor and neighborhood organizations. “If we want to have a complete transformation of the industry, we have to have a deep reform of the system.”

Source: https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/07/17/theres-a-big-fight-brewing-in-the-city-council-over-trash-carting-reforms/

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The Number Of Homeless Children Has Hit A Record High In NYC Schools

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A record 114,659 homeless or temporarily housed children attended New York City public schools during the 2017-2018 school year ― making up roughly 10 percent of the city’s public school students, according to newly released data.

The new figures released on Monday by the organization Advocates For Children of New York shows 66 percent more homeless students within the school district ― the nation’s largest in terms of enrollment ― since the 2010-2011 school year.

In New York state, there were 4,624 more homeless students than in the previous school year. In New York City, there were 3,097 more. In the borough of the Bronx, one district had 10,804 students living in temporary homes.
Students’ temporary homes included homeless and domestic abuse shelters, hotels, unsheltered areas like cars or parks, and the homes of other family members or friends ― a situation called “doubling up.”

“The number of students who are homeless in New York City would fill Yankee Stadium twice,” Kim Sweet, AFC’s executive director, said in a statement.

“While the City works to address the overwhelming problem of homelessness, it must take bold action to ensure that students who are homeless get an excellent education and do not get stuck in a cycle of poverty,” Sweet said.

According to a homelessness report compiled by the city, reasons behind the annual increase in homeless students include poverty, a loss of affordable housing and domestic violence ― longstanding issues the city has actively worked to fix for years, according to city officials.

“Our comprehensive plan to address the citywide challenge of homelessness is built around sheltering homeless New Yorkers closer to support networks, including schools, to preserve stability during challenging times,” Isaac McGinn, director of communications for the city’s Department of Homeless Services, told HuffPost in an email on Monday.

The city says the overall number of families with children staying in Department of Homeless Service shelters has decreased by 2,596 families since 2014. The city’s School Proximity Project, launched in July, has also transferred nearly 200 families to traditional shelters that are within five miles of their youngest school-aged child’s school. Since early 2016, it has also provided yellow bus service to all students in kindergarten through sixth grade who live in DHS shelters.

“We’ve made progress driving down the number of families in shelter, which has given us the flexibility to begin implementing this borough-based approach by offering hundreds of families who faced long commutes to school the opportunity to move closer to their youngest child’s classroom,” McGinn said.

A report compiled by the city comptroller’s office in March, reported on by the New York Times, found that the average homeless student misses more than a month’s worth of classes. It also found that the city’s education department failed to contact a parent to report the absence, as required, approximately 92 percent of the time.

The city has increased the number of social workers from 43 to 70 at elementary schools with the highest rates of students in temporary housing, Richard A. Carranza, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, told HuffPost in a statement on Monday. It is also investing $16 million annually.

“We will continue to expand and deepen our investments, and we will have more policy updates to share in the coming months,” he said.

New York City’s student enrollment dwarfs that of all other school districts in the country, including runners-up Los Angeles and Chicago.

According to The New York Times, which first reported on AFC’s data on Monday, about 5 percent of students in Chicago’s public schools were homeless last year and a little more than 3 percent of Los Angeles’ students were homeless in 2016.

The Times noted that though New York City has allocated millions to assist its homeless population, it hasn’t received much philanthropic funding, despite being a top city for philanthropy.

The Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation is reportedly the only organization that has donated more than $1 million to support the city’s homeless students in recent years.

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/homeless-nyc-students-record-high_us_5bc49865e4b01a01d68cd0e1

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New York went an entire weekend without a shooting or homicide for the first time in 25 years

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New York City had its first weekend without a shooting or a homicide in 25 years, the New York Police Department announced Monday.

“We went Friday, Saturday, Sunday without any shootings and homicides,” NYPD Chief James O’Neill told reporters. “That’s the first time in decades, and that’s something not just the NYPD, but all New Yorkers can be proud of.”

The last Friday-Saturday-Sunday time period during which no shootings occurred across all five of New York City’s Burroughs happened in 1993.

In 2017, New York City saw fewer than 300 killings for the entire year, the New York Post reported at the end of December, marking the fewest of those crimes in nearly 70 years.
There were 292 murders in the New York City in 2017, down from the 334 murders that occurred in 2016.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the department for that in January: “No one believed it was possible to get under 300 murders,” he said, referring to the 2017 numbers. “The NYPD reached the goal that no one thought possible.”

For 2018, the number of murders in the nation’s largest city is on the rise, The Wall Street Journal reported in June.

New York City saw 147 murders between January 1 and June 30, 2018, an 8% increase from the number of murders during the same time period last year, The Journal wrote, citing data compiled by the city.

Source: https://www.thisisinsider.com/new-york-first-weekend-without-a-shooting-in-25-years-2018-10

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Is New York City ready for the e-scooter revolution?

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The micromobility revolution that has permeated cities across the U.S. has yet to arrive in New York City, but—having conquered the West Coast through a combination of rule-breaking and eventual cooperation—electric scooter companies are now looking to make their mark in the five boroughs.

As The Verge has pointed out, there’s money to be made there; Bird, one of the leading scooter companies, has reportedly been valued at $2 billion in recent months. And New York City, with its more than 8 million residents—more than half of whom regularly use public transportation—could be a “tremendous scooter city,” according to Gil Kazimirov, the general manager of Lime, the micromobility start-up.

But before that money can pour in, there’s a skeptical populace to win over, some of whom see e-scooters on the same plane as Thanos. There are also laws that must be changed and streets that need to be made safer for the more rugged version of the push-assist scooters that Bird wants to bring to New York.

Those first two necessities are what Bird, the company most prominently trying to enter New York’s market, seem to be focusing on at the moment. The start-up, which is based in Santa Monica, has been courting politicians on both sides of the aisle, though neither Eric Ulrich (a Republican who’s pushed for unfettered competition among bike share companies) nor Robert Cornegy (a Democrat who participated in Bird’s recent Bed-Stuy demo) would comment about their feelings on e-scooters. Bird even snagged one of the city’s most prominent street safety advocates, making clear that it’s approaching New York City expansion in a responsible fashion not usually embraced by “break shit, apologize later” disruptonauts.

Bird has also tried to win over skeptics with demonstrations of how its service works—there was one in Bed-Stuy in September, and one earlier this month that was meant to show how e-scooters could be a key component of the looming L train shutdown. Bird donated scooters for a mass ride from the Myrtle-Wyckoff station to the Grand Street stop, which will be a departure point for a series of Brooklyn-to-Manhattan SBS routes. The demo offered not just a look at how the scooters work but also a proof of concept of how they could help get people around if trains are packed to the brim.

The group ride seemed to win over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who liked his scooter enough to throw it in his SUV and show up with it at another press conference that morning in Brooklyn Heights. Before the Bird ride started, Adams told the assembled crowd in the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop’s pedestrian plaza—itself a symbol of reclaiming the streets from cars—that “too many car riders are making decisions for millions of New Yorkers who are not in vehicles. Selfishly, they think that they have to drive alone.” While Adams doesn’t have the power to vote for the impending bill to legalize e-scooters, he did at least give rhetorical support to their legalization.

That effort is being spearheaded in part by City Council member Rafael Espinal, who announced his support for scooters in a Daily News op-ed earlier this year, and is currently working with Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez to introduce a bill legalizing them. Espinal’s interest in the scooter issue is driven not only by their potential usefulness during the L train shutdown, but also as a way to include his district (he represents parts of Bushwick, Brownsville, and Cypress Hills) in a transportation system that Citi Bike has yet to meaningfully reach.

“What I’d like to see is an expansion of modes of transportation—not only in Manhattan, but in the outer-outer-boroughs,” Espinal tells Curbed. “We have Citi Bike, but it hasn’t made its way out to East New York and other neighborhoods on the outskirts of the outer boroughs. We have to make sure this transportation is available to everyone.”

But while scooter companies can stage events and work with elected officials, the issue of safety—and aggressively redesigning the city’s streets—is what will no doubt determine how widely adopted scooters become in New York. While their top speed of 15 miles per hour make them inherently riskier than bikes, a Washington Post article about the rise in scooter-related emergency room visits notes that the number of bike lanes in Washington, D.C. was one of the reasons the city didn’t see the same rate of increases in injuries as other American cities.

Bird itself has put a huge emphasis on bike lanes, telling Curbed that “protected, well-maintained bike lanes are part of our vision for a safe future for all road users—be they on foot, bikes, or scooters.” The company has also pledged $1 per scooter per day in each city it operates in to help cities pay for more protected bike lanes, but at least in New York, opposition to bike lanes has had less to do with price and more to do with parking spots. And on that front, radical thinking seems to be in short supply.

Cornegy, whose district mostly encompasses Bed-Stuy, told Streetsblog that he would “stand up for more protected bike lanes” when he was at Bird’s Bed-Stuy event, but he was also a high-profile opponent of the Classon Avenue bike lane, which was installed in response to a cyclist’s death in 2016.

The city’s addition of bike infrastructure has not stopped opposition from community boards; new bike lanes and other improvements are still at the mercy of the right combination of political pressure. Even Adams—who’s called for something as ambitious as a Flatbush Avenue bike lane next to Prospect Park—was ambivalent about the relationship between community boards and the need to quickly shift space away from cars.

“We should never count out the voices of people,” Adams said after the Brooklyn Heights press conference. “[Community boards’] advisory status helps as we carve out bike lanes, because bike lanes are personalized to those communities. It doesn’t mean a community board should be able to have veto power if it’s unreasonable. Allow community boards to have their space to voice their concerns; but at the same time, don’t allow anybody in government to get in the way and stop progress.”

Espinal says that when it comes to New York’s existing network, “the city can be doing more to make sure that bike lanes are acceptable and not being blocked,” though said he’d rather see the results of a scooter pilot program before committing to any type of radical street redesigns.

But Curbed’s urbanism editor Alissa Walker, who’s written previously about how micromobility give cities a huge opportunity to move away from being so car-centric, said that instead of reacting once scooters are being used, street design “needs to be a part of the conversation at the same time.” Without being comfortable on the streets, people either won’t ride scooters, Walker says, or wind up taking to the sidewalks—which simply wouldn’t work in New York City.

One idea the city can embrace is instituting the Vision Zero Design Standard, a series of pedestrian, cycling, and mass transit improvements that are implemented whenever a road needs to be fixed. “It traditionally takes longer to build protected bike lanes than it does to, say, empty a truckload of scooters onto the street,” says Transportation Alternatives’ Joseph Cutrufo. “The best way to accommodate more people on bikes and scooters is to make safer street redesigns part of regular repaving projects. This way, every time a street is repaved, we have the opportunity to make our streets more accommodating for New Yorkers on two wheels, and, more to the point, to save lives.” While Cutrofo says the idea has been endorsed by a majority of members on the City Council, it hasn’t been instituted in any street repavings yet.

As a scooter agnostic/skeptic, Bird’s demonstration earlier this month certainly worked on me: The mass of riders didn’t seem to have any huge problems with Bushwick’s streets that are barely habitable to bikes in some stretches, especially the heavily-trucked and pockmarked stretch of Knickerbocker and Morgan Avenues north of Flushing Avenue. If you squinted, you could see a vision of the future where people used the scooters in peace, although they had some good fortune in clear bike lanes and a dearth of double-parked cars on side streets.

And while some might worry about scooter companies “imposing their will” on the city, the fact remains that car companies have already imposed their will on New York in a way that e-scooters could never possibly match. Besides, if you’re out on the street, you can already see the scooters are there. The same afternoon as the Bird demonstration, I saw a scooter rider salmoning on Ann Street, just blocks from City Hall. Later, I came across an e-scooter rider named Mike while I was walking down Flatbush Avenue.

“It’s convenient, you can slip between cars,” Mike said when asked what he liked about his push-assist scooter that he bought online. He also sees larger benefits for the city if it embraces the scooter revolution. “I feel like you can definitely help the environment, and even start new businesses. Cars suck, and you could open a bunch of mom and pop shops to service the scooters and sell scooters, and just help with the transportation system.”

Source: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/10/15/17969900/new-york-electric-scooters-bird-legislation-street-design

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