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Brewer, Chin officially file zoning text amendment to clarify Two Bridges rules, end abuse of "minor modification" loophole allowing out-of-scale luxury development

January 18, 2018

NEW YORK – Wednesday afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Margaret S. Chin officially filed paperwork at the Department of City Planning's 120 Broadway intake office to amend the zoning text governing the Two Bridges neighborhood and protect the area from out-of-scale luxury developments made possible by the abuse of a zoning loophole. The application is the first submitted solely by elected officials in roughly 15 years.

“This is the real estate business in New York: there's intense pressure to find and exploit loopholes to build huge ultraluxury buildings," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “That's what's happening in Two Bridges, where massive out-of-scale towers could move forward because of a staff-level determination that they are only a ‘minor modification’ to the neighborhood's plan. Sometimes you need to clarify rules to make sure they're enforced, and that's what we're doing here.”

“Today, I join Manhattan Borough President Brewer to renew our demand that our city provide the Two Bridges community a real opportunity to shape the future of their neighborhood,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “In order to turn the tide against out-of-control overdevelopment across our city, we need to act decisively and close loopholes that would allow for the construction of out-of-scale luxury towers without a robust and transparent public review. This text amendment marks the latest chapter in our fight to strengthen the community's voice in the land use process, and preserve the legacy of affordable housing that Two Bridges residents are fighting to protect."
The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Permit, first issued in 1972, governs two blocks within the former Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area, which was created in 1967. These blocks’ zoning, in effect, was adopted as a single, highly specific special permit. Today, developers are attempting to carve pieces out of this comprehensively-planned area and proceed with out-of-scale luxury developments soaring to heights as high as 950 feet, departing dramatically from the special permit.

While Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, and the area’s other city, state, and federal elected officials argued in a joint letter to the Department of City Planning that these development proposals constituted major departures from the special permit and therefore required a full public review through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), staff at the Department of City Planning decided to treat these as “minor modifications” exempt from ULURP, requiring only a joint environmental impact review. Brewer, Chin, and attorneys from the Urban Justice Center all argued this interpretation was incorrect and created a massive loophole in the zoning rules.

The draft zoning text amendment submitted by Brewer and Chin would require a new special permit for certain developments in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Area, to clarify that large, out-of-scale development proposals are not “minor modifications” to this area’s plan and would require full public review under ULURP.

Brewer and Chin provided the Dept. of City Planning with a proposed draft of their planned zoning amendment on Oct. 12, along with a letter explaining why the Department should waive a number of its pre-application steps, as it often does for applications from government agencies. Since then, the Council enacted Local Law 234, legislation sponsored by Council Member Chin that allows borough presidents and the Land Use Committee of the City Council to exempt their applications from the Department's time-consuming pre-application filing and meeting requirements.

Today's filing was made under the new law, so Brewer and Chin's application will proceed directly to technical review and then will be referred out by the Department of City Planning for the public review process.

Gale A. Brewer is sworn in for a second term as 27th Manhattan Borough President

On Wednesday, December 27 at 1:00 pm, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer hosted a swearing-in for her second term in office at a short ceremony, with family, friends, and community members from across Manhattan. Read her remarks here.

B.P. Brewer, Rep. Espaillat, uptown elected officials and Washington Heights community celebrate agreement to keep Coogan’s open

For Immediate Release: Sunday, January 14, 2018

NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat gathered Sunday afternoon with a broad coalition of uptown Manhattan elected officials, Community Board members, and neighbors to celebrate the agreement between Coogan’s and New York-Presbyterian Hospital that will keep the beloved Washington Heights pub open for years to come.

The locally-owned, 33-year-old pub was slated to close after lease renewal negotiations broke down. The restaurant was faced with an unsustainable rent increase of roughly $40,000 per month, but after a massive community outcry, its landlord, New York-Presbyterian Hospital came back to the negotiating table and the two sides arrived at an agreement.

“The entire community spoke out, and New York-Presbyterian listened,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I want to thank New York-Presbyterian for setting a great example, recognizing that killing a local treasure like Coogan's is bad business, and coming back to the table to do the right thing. I'm pleased that Rep. Espaillat and I could help, but this victory belongs to the entire neighborhood which spoke with one voice.”

“Coogan’s Restaurant has been instrumental in efforts to revitalize our community and they invested in Washington Heights when no one else would,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Coogan's has been a stalwart in the Heights for more than 30 years, and I am proud to have had a small role in the community’s efforts to keep Coogan’s around for 30 years more. I commend New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Coogan’s on the recent handshake agreement reached, and I look forward to the significant contributions the restaurant will continue to have throughout our community for many more years to come.”

Coogan’s opened in 1985, when crime in Washington Heights was dramatically higher and the neighborhood was noted as a center for the city’s drug trade. Over the years the pub became an unofficial neighborhood headquarters, frequented by everyone from area running clubs to hospital employees, activists, power brokers, and rising artistic talents like Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Our tribe is everybody,” Coogan’s ownership partner Peter Walsh told WNYC in an interview, and posters of both President John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández Reyna can be found on the walls.

“I’m thrilled by this news. Coogan’s is more than an iconic establishment for our city — it’s part of the fabric of the neighborhood. As someone who grew up in Washington Heights, this is a heartwarming relief," said City Comptroller Scott Stringer. “This is a victory for all the local residents who spoke out because they cared about their city and their community. And it’s another reminder that we need to stay focused on mitigating our affordability crisis — it’s affecting the character of our neighborhoods and the people within them. That’s why this is such an important win in the fight for a fairer City.”

“I am very pleased that an agreement has been reached to keep Coogan’s open, keeping this Uptown institution in operation for the long term,” said State Senator Marisol Alcantara. “This is an example of how political pressure can be successfully applied to help one’s community. I want to thank Ydanis Rodríguez, Gale Brewer, Adriano Espaillat, Carmen De La Rosa, and New York-Presbyterian hospital, who listened to the opinions of the community.”

“We are glad that Coogan's and New York Presbyterian Hospital reached a lease renewal agreement in an amicable manner. Coogan's, a historically community friendly restaurant has managed to thrive through the bad, the good, and the better times of Washington Heights for over thirty years. They have been and still are a culturally rich and welcoming establishment to all demographics that embody this vibrant community. It is very gratifying to see how the community rapidly came together to voice and show their support for Coogan's to remain open. Their regular operation is far beyond food service; usually hosting community oriented events like comedy clubs, health and sports related activities, birthdays, and social group gatherings,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa. “We look forward to having  Coogan's for years to come.”

“Coogan's is our Cheers in Washington Heights. Dave and Peter know everyone, and everyone knows Dave and Peter,” said Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Coogan's put their stake in the ground when it was not fashionable to invest in this neighborhood, and I wish to see them here for decades to come.”

“As we know all too well, our small businesses uptown are under threat. Far too often we see locally owned stores that we have known for years, be replaced by corporate chains and banks. That is why this victory is a moment not only to celebrate, but to show our strength as a community”, said Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. “Thank you to the entire Northern Manhattan community, Coogan's loyal customers, the Miranda family, and colleagues. Due to your advocacy and support Coogan’s has been saved. They will continue to be a community staple in Washington Heights, where it belongs, to our future generations.”

“I'm thrilled Coogan’s will be staying open, and wish more small businesses could see victories like this one,” said Community Board 12 Chair Shahabuddeen Ally. “Particularly in Upper Manhattan, we are finding many mom-and-pop stores as well as minority-owned stores closing because of exorbitant rent increases.  We must continue to push for commercial rent protection to help save our businesses.”

WATCH: Emergency "Tax-Reform" Teach-In

On Wednesday, December 20, at 6:00 pm, I hosted an emergency teach-in on the impacts of the federal tax "reform" bill under consideration in Congress. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and I delivered introductory remarks. Speakers included Preston Niblack, NYC Deputy Comptroller for Budget, Kathy Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Martha Stark, Professor at NYU-Wagner School of Public Affairs and former NYC Commissioner of Finance, and Mark Willis, Senior Policy Fellow at NYU Furman Center. The panel was moderated by Greg David, Director of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism's Business Reporting Program and Crain's New York Business columnist. The so-called "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" under consideration in Congress would have dramatic effects on all Americans, but could have particularly extreme consequences for New York residents.

A Town Hall for the Downtown Community: The WTC Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

For those who were unable to attend this week’s information session in the Manhattan Borough President’s office, here is a video of the complete 90 minute webcast. Cosponsored with 9/11 Environmental Action, the audience viewed presentations from Rupa Bhattacharyya, Special Master of the Victim Compensation Fund, and Dr. Joan Reibman, Medical Director of the World Trade Center Health Program’s Survivor Program, and both answered audience questions. The evening was moderated by the director of 9/11 Environmental Action, Kimberly Flynn.

Capital funding available; find out how to apply

I want the broadest possible pool of applications for the next fiscal year’s capital funding projects. Capital grants are long-term investments in property or equipment, as opposed to expenses such as salaries, utilities, or consumables.

My office capital grants available to community based non-profits and public schools. But not every school or non-profit is aware of our grant program.

That’s the purpose of information sessions my staff conducts to educate applicants as to the capital process timeline and requirements. Grant applications open in December, 2017 for the FY 2019 budget year beginning in July, 2018—but our grant process begins with these workshops.

Public schools can apply for these grants, and we’re running two events for schools and for nonprofits both downtown and uptown:

Budget Session A (Schools)
December 6, 2017, 4:00 – 5:30 pm
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South

Budget Session B (Nonprofits)
December 7, 2017, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South

Budget Session C (Schools)
December 12, 2017, 4:00 – 5:30 pm
163 W. 125th Street-Art Gallery, 2nd Floor

Budget Session D (Nonprofits)
December 13, 2017, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
163 W. 125th Street-Art Gallery, 2nd Floor

A different kind of holiday donation drive: diapers!

Low-income working parents—especially homeless parents—face a problem when using child care: the services often require supplying their child’s own disposable diapers. Without diapers, they can’t use child care and they can’t go to work. That’s why my office, together with Food Bank for New York City and the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York are hosting our second annual NYC holiday “Diaper Drive” to collect diapers for low-income New Yorkers. Here’s how you can help:

• Bring new, sealed boxes of diapers—sizes 3, 4, 5 or 6, but especially 4 & 5—to one of my two offices: 1 Centre St. (19th Fl. South) or 431 W. 125th St. (storefront).

• If you’re an Amazon customer, order from the Food Bank’s Amazon Wishlist for delivery straight to their warehouse at http://amzn.to/2mq2P1V

Womens' Suffrage Events in New York

Through July 22, 2018: Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York, Women in Politics
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St., 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
The exhibition examines how women navigated New York politics in the 1920s through 1940s, often working behind the scenes for causes like health, labor, and good government; the central role of New York in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and its redefining of women’s roles in politics and government; and continued campaigns for women’s political power and grassroots mobilizations that demand equal gender rights today.

Monday, November 6: Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, NYC Parks, and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund hosts Official Launch of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument
The Mall in Central Park, between 67th and 68th Street, 11:30 AM
On the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in New York State, the jury for the Woman Suffrage Movement Monument will be announced and the design competition will begin. Organized in Parkership with New York Life and the Central Park Conservancy.

Monday, November 6: Women's Suffrage Turns 100! Part 2: Reshaping Politics
$5 - Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, 6:30 – 8 PM
In 2017 women make up less than 20% of Congress, even though they constitute over 50% of the American population. As more women take seats in elected offices, are priorities shifting? Are conversations evolving? BHS Director of Public History Julie Golia leads this discussion with Christine Quinn, the first female Speaker of the NYC Council and former mayoral candidate, and A'Shanti F. Gholar, Political Director for Emerge America, the only organization dedicated to recruiting, training, and empowering Democratic women to run for public office.

Monday: November 6: 100 Years! Stay Tuned … A Centennial Anniversary Celebration of Women’s Suffrage in New York State
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St, 6:30 – 8 PM
WomensActivism.nyc at the NYC Department of Records and Information Services, Borough of Manhattan Community College Women’s Resource Center and BMCC Tribeca PAC honor the women who won the right to vote in NYS in 1917 and people fighting for justice today.
More info.

Tuesday, November 7: When Modern Men Became Feminists
NYU Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor, 6 – 7:30 PM
A panel discussion of the development of men’s engagement with women’s rights from the early 20th century on, with New York Times columnist Gail Collins and biographers Christoph Irmscher and NYU Journalism Professor Brooke Kroeger.

Wednesday, November 8: Women's Suffrage Turns 100! Part 3: The "Nasty Woman" Stigma
$5 - Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, 6:30 – 8 PM
Women in positions of power just can’t seem to win. If they’re not labeled too bossy, they’re labeled too meek. Cast as the dangerous intruder during suffrage, the vilification of political women and their signature issues continues today. In this spirited discussion, panelists Joan Malin, former President of Planned Parenthood of New York City, Inc.; Allison K. Lange, historian of women and gender; and Jamia Wilson, Feminist Press, Executive Director and Publisher, dig into a history of the mischaracterization of women. Moderated by BHS Director of Public History Julie Golia.

Friday, November 10: How New York's Women Got the Vote, And the Difference it Made
CUNY Graduate Center, Skylight Room, 365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street, 6:30 – 8 PM
One hundred years ago — nearly to the day — New York granted women the right to vote. Two years later, after decades of struggle, it became national law. Why did earlier campaigns fail? What role did NYC play in realizing this old dream? And what happened after? Lauren Santangelo (History PhD, 2014), author of a forthcoming book on the movement in Gotham, discusses how activists built a successful coalition between 1870 and 1917. Susan Goodier, author with Karen Pastorella of the new book, Women Will Vote, highlights the involvement of neglected groups, such as black women, in gaining the vote, and the importance of New York to securing national legislation. Brooke Kroeger talks about the men who helped make suffrage possible, drawing on her new work The Suffragents. The conversation concludes with a preview of the award-winning filmmaker Dawn Scibilia’s documentary in progress, on the decades between feminism’s first and second “wave,” in which New York again played a special role.

Monday, November 13: The Power of Women in Politics: Celebrating 100 Years of Suffrage
Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 West 68th Street, 7 – 8:30 pm
Join our Domestic Civil Liberties Task Force as we partner with Lilith Magazine to commemorate 100 years of women's suffrage in New York and hear from accomplished women in politics.


B.P. Brewer, Council Member Corey Johnson, and National Supermarket Association rally to end supermarket rent tax, save Manhattan supermarkets

For Immediate Release - November 13, 2017


NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member Corey Johnson, and members of the National Supermarket Association rallied today to end the unfair, regressive Commercial Rent Tax (CRT) burdening supermarkets in much of Manhattan. Brewer and Johnson sponsor Intro 1472, City Council legislation that would offer supermarkets a full exemption from the CRT.

“I've been to too many rallies and heard too many alarmed pleas from neighborhoods to keep local supermarkets open,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Every neighborhood needs a supermarket and access to affordable food, but even the most successful supermarkets operate with slim profit margins. Ending this tax can and will make a big difference for these essential businesses.”

“Affordable supermarkets are lifelines for our communities,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “As the cost of living continues to rise, these stores help ensure that our city can continue to accommodate the seniors and working class families that built our city into what it is today. The proposal that Borough President Gale Brewer and I have put forward would give our neighborhood supermarkets a fighting chance for survival. It’s good for business, it’s good for our communities, and I’m proud to have joined with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to tackle this issue head-on.”

“We want to thank Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Corey Johnson for taking a meaningful look at the business climate for grocery stores in Manhattan. It’s no secret that the industry is in crisis, with neighborhood grocery stores closing their doors regularly and leaving communities devoid of healthy food options. The elimination of the Commercial Rent Tax is a commonsense solution that would save local grocery stores tens of thousands of dollars -- savings that will be reinvested in store upgrades, jobs and the community -- and free store owners from what is essentially a double tax on sky-high rent in Manhattan,” said Rudy Fuertes, President of the National Supermarket Association.

“The Food Industry Alliance supports this important legislation. The bill will provide much needed relief to Manhattan’s grocery stores, who are struggling to keep up with soaring rents,” said Jay Peltz, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State. “If this bill is not enacted, Manhattan grocery stores will continue to close.”

The Commercial Rent Tax applies to most commercial tenants in Manhattan south of 96th Street and north of Murray Street paying $250,000 or more in rent per year. A survey conducted by the Borough President’s office in 2016 found 132 supermarkets in the Commercial Rent Tax zone.

Businesses in this zone that pay $300,000 or more in rent annually are charged an effective marginal rate of 3.9 percent of their rent in extra taxes, while businesses that pay between $250,000 and $300,000 receive an increased exemption and pay a lower effective rate.
Because the tax only applies in Manhattan between 96th Street and Murray Street, it puts an unfair, regressive burden on businesses in some of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, where there is immense upward pressure on commercial storefront rents. Because even a small supermarket requires a large footprint relative to other retail and commercial storefront tenants, and because even successful supermarkets operate with slim profit margins, this tax hits supermarkets especially hard.

Independent supermarket owner Paul Fernandez’s Met Foods-branded store in NoLita was one such market. Its roughly $90,000 per month in rent ($1.08 million per year) resulted in more than $30,000 of Commercial Rent Tax liability. Negotiations for the market’s lease renewal broke down in part because the market could not afford to make upgrades and changes requested by the landlord to appear more ‘high-end’ while remaining affordable. Mr. Fernandez, who operates multiple supermarkets in other neighborhoods, argued in testimony before the City Council that a full Commercial Rent Tax exemption could have kept this market open.

Exempting supermarkets from the Commercial Rent Tax was one of a number of initiatives to save supermarkets that Borough President Brewer proposed in a report published earlier this year.

B.P. Brewer celebrates retirement of longtime West Side small business owners after decades of service

I was delighted to join almost 100 Upper West Siders on Saturday, Oct. 28 as we gathered to honor Paul Singh and Anne Cottavoz (blue vest and white sweater), the couple who own Columbus Natural Foods on the occasion of their retirement.

I presented them with a Proclamation that recounted their history and declared October 28 “Paul Singh and Anne Cottavoz Day.”

Over the decades, their store has become a community institution as a source for both fine prepared food and vitamins and supplements—and as a source for neighborhood gossip. When her store’s survival was threatened years ago by a new landlord, Cottavoz successfully gathered thousands of signatures on a petition to the landlord, who relented. That led to Cottavoz starting a West Side “shop local” movement, represented by a poster in the store’s window. Singh and Cottavoz have sold the store to friends, and are planning “to stop working seven days a week!”

Free workshop for Inwood small businesses: (Re)Zoning 101

Learn more about Inwood’s rezoning process now, before the City’s ULURP clock starts ticking!

The city’s Department of City Planning could certify a “Rezoning Proposal Application” for the Inwood area as soon as the end of next month. That certification will start the clock on the official “Uniform Land Use Review Procedure,” which has strict legal deadlines for consideration by the local Community Board, Borough President, Planning Commission, and City Council.

The land use staff from the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer wants to help your business get ahead of the curve. Attend this information session and learn how the proposed rezoning could affect your business—get your questions answered and find out how you can make your opinions heard!

Join us Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 4 – 6 pm at the Isabella Geriatric Center Library, 525 Audubon Ave.

Brewer, Chin file rare zoning text amendment to protect Two Bridges from out-of-scale luxury development

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NEW YORK – Late last week, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Margaret S. Chin filed with the Department of City Planning to formally request a zoning text amendment to protect the Two Bridges neighborhood from new, out-of-scale luxury development. The application is the first submitted solely by elected officials in nearly 15 years.

“Council Member Chin and I have been down this road before: when we see loopholes in the law that hurt our communities, we act to close them,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I have great respect for the professionals at the Department of City Planning, but when you look at the Two Bridges community and the way these massive towers would loom over it, you can’t help but understand that ‘minor modification’ has lost its meaning and we need clearer rules.”

“After helping build up this community, Two Bridges residents deserve the right to take back control and shape the future of their neighborhood,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “Since we first heard about these proposed mega-developments, Borough President Brewer and I have made our demands clear: we need a real, transparent public review process. This year, we are delivering on the promise we made to the Two Bridges community by using every tool at our disposal to make their voices heard. These out-of-scale buildings threaten to displace hardworking residents, bring forth irreversible environmental hazards, and accelerate gentrification, which would endanger the very fabric of the Two Bridges community. This text amendment, alongside my latest bill, will work to push for ULURP without unnecessary delays.” 
The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Permit, first issued in 1972, governs two blocks within the former Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area, which was created in 1967. These blocks’ zoning, in effect, was adopted as a single, highly specific special permit. Today, developers are attempting to carve pieces out of this comprehensively-planned area and proceed with out-of-scale luxury developments soaring to heights as high as 950 feet, departing dramatically from the special permit.

While Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, and the area’s other city, state, and federal elected officials argued in a joint letter to the Department of City Planning that these development proposals constituted major departures from the special permit and therefore required a full public review through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), staff at the Department of City Planning decided to treat these as “minor modifications” exempt from ULURP, requiring only a joint environmental impact review. Brewer, Chin, and attorneys from the Urban Justice Center all argued this interpretation was incorrect.

The draft zoning text amendment submitted by Brewer and Chin would require a new special permit for certain developments in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Area, to clarify that large, out-of-scale development proposals are not “minor modifications” to this area’s plan and would require public review.

Brewer and Chin filed a draft zoning text amendment and supporting materials with DCP on Thursday, Oct. 12. These were filed along with a cover letter explaining why a number of the pre-application steps DCP can require applicants to go through should be waived, so the application can receive timely consideration before the Two Bridges community is irreversibly changed by these out-of-scale developments. DCP has waived these requirements for government agencies’ applications in the past.

Chin also sponsors Int. 1685, legislation supported by Borough President Brewer, which would allow elected officials who submit land use applications to exempt these applications from DCP’s time-consuming pre-application filing and meeting requirements.

Brewer Announces Community Board Leadership Development training series

The Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer is pleased to announce our Fall 2017 Leadership Training series. This series will cover topics important to Community Board members and appointees. Trainings are open to the public, however registration priority will be given to Manhattan Community Board members and other Borough President appointees. Please register online to attend.

Click here for more information on the trainings, dates and locations.

Open House NY: Manhattan Municipal Building

As part of Open House New York, which takes place Saturday, October 14, 2017, you will once again be able to sign up for a viewing of New York City at the top of the McKim Mead & White-designed Municipal Building which houses our office. The cupola offers extraordinary views of lower Manhattan and the East River (with a slice of the Hudson River, too!). Visit www.ohny.org tomorrow, Thursday Oct. 5 at 11 am to register. Spaces are extraordinarily limited, and assigned by 15-minute time slots-be sure to log on right at of 11 am.

DACA renewals must be received by USCIS by this Thursday, October 5.

Renewal applications of current DACA beneficiaries whose benefits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must be received by THIS Thursday, October 5.

The official DHS website for information is located here.

If you need help, please investigate the following resources and legal services NOW:

ActionNYC provides free, safe immigration legal help in your language. Call 1-800-354-0365 between 9AM-6PM, Monday-Friday. You can also call 311 and say "ActionNYC."

The NYC Council has compiled a list of resources for DACA renewals as well as financial assistance for renewal fees.

The multi-lingual New York State New Americans Hotline provides free and confidential immigration information and referrals to trusted help. Information for immigrant New Yorkers include referrals to free English language classes, immigration legal services and more. Call the Hotline toll-free at 1-800-566-7636 open Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review has compiled a list of free or low-cost legal
service providers
operating in each state.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offers tips on avoiding victimization by “notarios” unlicensed to practice law.

Fresh Food for Seniors receiving a dedicated delivery van!

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, September 28, 2017

Today, Borough President Brewer and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery announced the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to fund a van and part-time driver to support the Fresh Food for Seniors program, which makes bags of fresh, locally-sourced produce available to seniors in multiple Manhattan neighborhoods for just $8. A dedicated van for produce deliveries to pickup locations will make the program more sustainable and lay the groundwork for further expansion.

Read more on the announcement...

Learn more about Fresh Food for Seniors...

Brewer, Vacca bringing “Open Data Law 2.0” to Council hearing tomorrow

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NEW YORK – Tomorrow, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and New York City Council Member James Vacca will bring Intro 1707, a bill upgrading the City’s first-in-the-nation Open Data Law, to the City Council for a public hearing. Council Member Vacca, who chairs the Technology Committee, will lead the hearing and sponsors the legislation in partnership with Borough President Brewer, who authored the city’s original Open Data Law.
“On the surface, it’s hard to think of two things that look and feel more different than legislation and technology, but both laws and software need to be tested, refined, and rebuilt with new features over time,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This bill will help us build on what the Open Data Law has already made possible, by making compliance easier for City agencies and improving technical standards for the data we publish. I look forward to hearing what the administration and advocates have to say about Open Data 2.0, and I thank Chairman Vacca for his partnership on this bill and our city’s open data policy as a whole.”
“The original Open Data Law that Manhattan Borough President Brewer helped enact was a landmark piece of legislation,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Technology. “Over the past 5 years, our City has remained at the forefront of the global open data movement, and this new legislation will ensure the City’s open data offerings continue to improve well into the future. I look forward to working with the administration, advocates, and the Manhattan Borough President on moving this bill forward.”
With the passage of the original Open Data Law in 2012, New York City became the first municipality in the nation to require government agencies make their non-confidential data sets publicly available online, in machine-readable formats. So far more than 1,500 data sets have been published, containing more than 750 million rows of data. This data has given birth to a wealth of new possibilities for academic research, businesses, and app development, as well as a new and growing “civic hacking” community in New York.
The Brewer-Vacca bill before the Council’s Technology Committee tomorrow would make the following changes:

• Improving technical standards for open data sets by: 
 - Establishing a two-year schedule for the review of the Open Data Technical Standards Manual.
 - Mandating that the review produce a public report, which will include any changes to the Technical Standards Manual.
• Requiring the development of a process to allow public comment on changes to the Technical Standards Manual.
• Extending the Open Data Law, setting a 2021 deadline for agency compliance.
• Adjusting periodic compliance reporting dates to dovetail with the natural compliance cycle that has emerged since agencies began finding, preparing, and publishing data sets after the passage of the original Open Data Law.
• Codifying the requirement that each agency have an Open Data Coordinator responsible for ensuring compliance with the law.
• Requiring collection, analysis, and public reporting of analytics on the use of the Open Data Portal.
Representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Reinvent Albany, and BetaNYC are expected to testify at tomorrow’s hearing on the bill. The hearing will also serve as an opportunity for the Council to conduct oversight on the de Blasio Administration’s Annual Open Data Plan.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer served as the founding chair of the City Council Committee on Technology during her time on the New York City Council. She is the author of New York City’s Open Data Law and a noted advocate for the use of technology in government, government transparency, and New York’s growing civic technology sector.
Council Member James Vacca represents the East Bronx and has served as the Chair of the City Council Committee on Technology since 2014. He has been a passionate advocate for government transparency and accountability, and sponsored two amendments to strengthen the City’s Open Data laws. 

Brewer greets students and parents on first day of school

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer greeted students and parents at P.S. 189 in northern Washington Heights on Thursday, Sept. 7, the first day of the new school year.

Greeting students and parents, Brewer and her staff handed out help guides in both English and Spanish with contact information for school administrators, parent coordinators, and other key officials, to help parents remain engaged with their kids' education and communicate directly with school leaders. While Brewer greeted families at P.S. 189, staff and volunteers from her office fanned out to more than 40 other schools across Manhattan to hand out help guides as well.

Pictures are available here.

Brewer, garment stakeholders say Garment District zoning “phase-in” essential

For Immediate Release: Friday, August 18, 2017

Garment District Steering Committee Report: Web | PDF
NEW YORK – Today, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer released the Garment District Steering Committee’s final report and recommendations ( Web | PDF), and called upon the de Blasio administration to commit to what she highlighted as the group’s single most important recommendation: that any repeal of Garment District zoning protections be tied to the actual preservation of long-term garment manufacturing space in or near the garment center.
Brewer was joined at a press conference announcing the report’s release by Steering Committee members and garment industry stakeholders including designers, manufacturing business owners, garment manufacturing workers, labor leaders, theatrical wardrobe workers, and others.
Formed at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and composed of herself, Council Member Corey Johnson, the area’s other elected officials, and Garment District stakeholders, the Steering Committee met for three months, hearing from experts and poring over research to determine what changes and additions were needed to support the Industry’s presence in mid-Manhattan and ensure a core of garment manufacturing continues to thrive in the Garment District.

The recommendations came after 90 days of regular meetings and ahead of this coming Monday’s anticipated Department of City Planning (DCP) referral of a proposed text change to the area’s zoning, which, if passed at the end of the review process, would lift a longstanding provision that requires property owners to preserve manufacturing space in the area.
A large majority of Steering Committee members were convinced that the lifting of the restriction without a mechanism to ensure the continued existence of long-term, affordable space for garment manufacturing will put the entire New York garment industry at risk. However, the de Blasio administration has not yet committed to accept the group’s key recommendation: a phase-in provision tying the repeal of the Garment District’s current zoning protections to the preservation of a set amount of space for garment manufacturing in the area through purchase or long-term leases.

“Virtually every garment industry-connected Steering Committee member understands that we can’t scrap our last defense against commercial conversions until we’ve preserved a reasonable minimum amount of space to keep this industry successful,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.
“Whether the administration’s garment industry plans succeed or fail is up to them: what we’ve produced is the recipe for success, and the most important ingredient is the phase-in requirement,” Brewer continued. “I’m trying to get us to a deal that will work for the garment industry, because the highly skilled Manhattan garment manufacturers and workers are essential to the success of the whole fashion ecosystem in New York.”
Among the Steering Committee members and other industry stakeholders who attended and spoke at today’s press conference on the importance of a phase-in provision for Garment District zoning changes were:
• U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler
• State Senator Brad Hoylman
• State Senator Marisol Alcantara
• Yeohlee Teng, designer and founder of YEOHLEE, Inc.
• Nicole Miller, designer and entrepreneur
• Anna Sui, designer and entrepreneur
• Representatives of Nanette Lepore
• Representatives and members of SEIU-Workers United
• Representatives and members of the Theatrical Wardrobe Union (Local 764 IATSE)
• Joe Ferrara, president of the Garment Center Suppliers’ Association
• Susan Chin, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space
• Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

The zoning text amendment review process requires the proposal be reviewed by the area’s Community Boards, the Borough President’s office, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council. The City Council may vote to approve, disapprove, or modify proposed text amendments.
“With the release of the Steering Committee report, the elected officials who represent the Garment Center believe that while the current zoning needs to be revised to better reflect the realities of the garment industry and the district today, it must be done in a phased approach and only after sufficient long-term garment manufacturing is preserved in Manhattan,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “That is why we are calling upon the City Administration to not remove any of the zoning protections until a sufficient core amount of space is permanently preserved in the Garment Center in Manhattan. This industry is fragile; they want and need to stay in Manhattan. Its entire ecosystem is reliant on manufacturers and designers’ close proximity to each other, and any change to the zoning without sufficient protections will destroy this industry and New York City’s status as the fashion capital of the world.”
“New York City is the fashion capitol of the world,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “That isn’t hyperbole. It’s a fact, backed up with evidence from numerous reports I have commissioned as senior House Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee. Our city generates billions of dollars in revenue each year from the fashion industry, and part of that success is due to the consolidation of companies in the Garment District. For this industry to continue to thrive, we cannot simply scrap what is there and expect the industry to continue on as usual. That is why I stand strong with my colleagues on the Garment District Steering Committee in calling on City Hall to protect garment manufacturing in Manhattan and fully support the recommendations we have put forward today.”
"Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has assembled a diverse group of community stakeholders and industry experts to weigh in on the future of the Garment Center, an important component of NYC's fashion industry and an historic base of manufacturing jobs,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “I'm extremely grateful to Borough President Brewer and my colleagues on the Steering Committee for their hard work and join them in calling on the City to support our recommendations."
“The New York City Garment Center is a manufacturing hub for garment makers and producers citywide. This historic area must be preserved and protected from rising rents and market forces which would lead to displaced workers and shuttered companies,” said State Senator Marisol Alcantara. “I urge City Hall to re-evaluate its decision to remove zoning restrictions in the Garment Center until adequate square footage has been preserved to ensure a manufacturing hub remains and the Garment District can continue into the 21st century and beyond.”
“Manhattan Community Board 4 thanks Borough President Brewer and her staff for fulfilling her promise of a true community planning process. Community Board 4 agrees with Borough President Brewer and supports the recommendations of the Garment Center Steering Committee,” said Manhattan Community Board 4 Chair Delores Rubin. “The key issue identified by the industry was a phased lifting of the garment industry preservation restrictions. This phased lifting must be coupled with financial tax incentives tied to a land use program to ensure industry stability. This action is needed to protect a unique industrial ecosystem which creates both major economic activity and thousands of jobs for the City of New York. We urge the administration to review the recommendations of the report and return to the community and the industry with a thorough and comprehensive plan."
“The Mayor has the opportunity to dramatically strengthen the City’s fashion industry by helping the industry to take ownership of the space it needs, allowing the remaining space to be used for new business growth” said Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center For Community Development. “This is no time for business as usual. The Mayor needs to commit to helping finance industry ownership before the zoning is changed and companies and jobs are displaced.”
“Garment manufacturing represents over 20 percent of NYC’s manufacturing jobs, with the Garment District as its heart. This historical center of fashion-related businesses in a tight-knit district forms a symbiotic network that developed over 100 years. Combining design, technology and handcraft, this unique ecosystem supports the city’s cutting edge fashion industry in all five boroughs,” said Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space. “The Steering Committee’s suite of recommendations are a total package, not a mix-and-match menu. The key recommendation to ‘create a mechanism in the zoning text to phase out the Preservation Requirements in sub areas P1 and P2...’ will determine if NYC remains a global fashion capital. If zoning protections are removed too soon, before a target amount of square footage is preserved, we stand to lose this significant manufacturing sector.”
“The strength of New York City's fashion industry relies on the vitality of its core in the midtown Garment District,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the Municipal Art Society. “We call on the Mayor to continue to protect mid-Manhattan's Garment District until other safeguards are in place.”
"Any agreement on rezoning the Garment District, must ensure that hardworking garment workers have the tools and space they need to continue to create the designs and trends that have helped earn New York City the distinction of being the fashion capital of the world," said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. "As this process continues, there must be appropriate level of transparency to be certain that New York City's garment industry is able to grow and thrive."

The Steering Committee calls for leaving the manufacturing preservation rule in place until a threshold level of square footage in the district is made available. To accomplish this, the Steering Committee recommends that the City and EDC should:

• Create a mechanism in the zoning text to phase out the Preservation Requirements in sub areas P1 and P2 of the Special Garment Center District. This requires amending the zoning text to tie the lifting of the Preservation Requirements to an amount of square footage reserved for garment production in the historic location of the Garment Center in Manhattan. Under this framework, the Chair of the City Planning Commission would certify that the target amount of space has been achieved for permanent lifting of the restriction.

• Create a custom IDA program. Make creative use of IDA [through EDC] to create a tailored Garment Center program that provides tax relief to property owners in exchange for increased real estate stability for production tenants.

• Advance a framework for a Garment Center building purchase. The city partners (EDC, MBPO, and Councilmember) agree to make best efforts to facilitate and support, the purchase of a property with a combination of public and private funds that would maintain dedicated space for garment manufacturers in mid-Manhattan. Potential owners could include: nonprofit manager, manufacturing cooperative, or condo association.

• Support the role of a non-profit partner. In trying to achieve long-term affordable space for manufacturing through incentives and building purchase, the City should work to engage with and provide funding assistance to a non-profit partner to facilitate implementation and/or ongoing operations. The non-profit could act as an intermediary and assist with compliance or could even own/manage some of the space.

• Institute hotel restrictions in the Garment Center. Create a special permit or other restrictions applicable in the Special Garment Center District to limit hotel use by development, enlargement or conversion.

 Other recommendations of the Steering Committee involve workforce development, support for garment-related businesses, and preservation of the unique and historic identity of the Garment Center. These recommendations include:

• Support and develop new & existing talent pipelines. Develop long-term training programs that supply the industry with skilled workers through employer-driven training and apprenticeships.

• Support business planning and marketing among garment manufacturers. Leverage existing programs offered through SBS and tailor where necessary to offer business planning assistance that will position garment manufacturers to proactively enhance their efficiency and competitiveness.

• Develop communications platform to elevate garment manufacturers. Develop a communications platform and strategy, coordinated by the City, industry leaders and program partners, to promote production activities from garments to costumes as well as associated retail opportunities in the Garment Center to audiences within New York City, the country and across the world.

• Enhance neighborhood circulation and streetscape. Improve circulation and movement within the Garment Center to enable garment manufacturers to more easily transport goods and bolster their ability to conduct business, and to better accommodate diverse users of the neighborhood, including pedestrians and bike riders, with connections to nearby transit hubs and adjoining neighborhoods.

• Strengthen the visibility of garment businesses. Enable garment manufacturers and related businesses to interact and find each other through improved signage for businesses, wayfinding, online directories, and/or a mobile application that would serve as a current and historical directory for the district.

• Preserve Garment Center’s unique identity. Strategies to retain a sense of place and historic context could include: individual landmark designation of select significant structures in the district, the exploration of a permanent museum with storefront visibility, and warehouse space for machinery, costumes, designs, and materials that includes an archive component to serve as a resource for students, designers, film and video and print editorial.

The full report of the Garment Steering Committee is available in PDF form here and on a webpage here.

PDF form here and on a webpage here.

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