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Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation Supporting Pedestrian Plazas that Create Open Spaces and Improve Quality of Life

April 21, 2016

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Signs package of legislation improving for-hire vehicle service

Also signs legislation improving collection of fines and giving contractors, subcontractors the opportunity to file diversity reports

NEW YORK–– Mayor de Blasio today signed 11 pieces of legislation. A bill among those signed formalizes the authority of the Department of Transportation to designate and create rules for pedestrian plazas in an effort to preserve the safety and vibrancy of these spaces. The Mayor also signed legislation improving for-hire vehicle service, increasing the efficiency of collecting fines owed to the City, and presenting an opportunity for City contractors and subcontractors to file diversity reports. 

“Our pedestrian plazas are popular among tourists and New Yorkers alike. They attract business for the surrounding establishments and create a safe space where people don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Intro. 1109-B will ensure that our pedestrian plazas remain vibrant, safe spaces for all New Yorkers by formalizing the DOT’s authority to designate and regulate these spaces. I would like to thank Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Johnson, Garodnick and Rodriguez for pushing this bill forward.”

“Whether it's increasing the efficiency of City agencies, modernizing our for-hire vehicle industry, or improving public spaces, the Council is proud to make New York a better place for all of our residents to live," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I thank all of my colleagues in the Council and the de Blasio Administration for their continued cooperation in addressing issues that impact New Yorkers in a positive way across all five boroughs."

“Thanks to the Mayor and the Council, this legislation helps us fulfill the DOT’s goals for Times Square as well as for the burgeoning number of public plazas in neighborhoods across our City,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “In Times Square, we will maintain a lively, safe and enjoyable public space for everyone while ensuring that performers and others can express themselves or pursue their livelihoods, all while keeping a heavily congested part of our City moving.”

The first bill, Intro. 1109-B, formalizes the authority of the Department of Transportation to designate and promulgate rules for pedestrian plazas, with all existing pedestrian plazas grandfathered in. Pedestrian plazas are high-quality public spaces in underutilized roadways throughout the City, particularly in neighborhoods that lack other open space. Designating pedestrian plazas increases public safety and the quality of life in their surrounding neighborhoods. Intro. 1109-B formally authorizes the DOT to promulgate general rules of conduct applicable to all plazas as well as special rules regarding individual pedestrian plazas and their adjacent sidewalks when necessary.

“As the Mayor’s designee to implement the rules of event permitting, we are excited this legislation ensures our Pedestrian Plazas remain an integral part of our communities. We look forward to working with our Plaza Partners, Community Boards and the community at large,” said Michael Paul Carey, Executive Director of Citywide Event Coordination and Management.

"Pedestrian plazas are a tremendous asset to our city, but we needed a process to make rules for them. Thanks to the work of my colleagues in the Council, the mayor and especially the Times Square Alliance, today we have that process and we can keep Times Square fun without making it frightening," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“Times Square is one of the great symbols of our city," said Council Member Corey Johnson. “Its pedestrian plaza and all of our plazas enhance our quality of life by providing a place for gathering, entertainment and enjoyment of our urban spaces. But the City must take action when individuals cross the line and swindle, harass and take advantage of pedestrians in the plazas. This bill will address the congestion and activity in the plazas while preserving the diversity that make New York and its public spaces so special.‎ I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for signing this legislation into law and Council Members Garodnick and Rodriguez for taking on this important issue."

"We need to bring some order out of the chaos in Times Square," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "This is a simple framework that gives the DOT additional tools to streamline pedestrian traffic and make the plazas safer for tourists and New Yorkers alike." 

“Through this legislation, we will protect public space that has become widely popular throughout our city. Our treasured plazas are oases in a sea of frenetic activity that governs city streets. By granting the Department of Transportation the ability to regulate these areas, we ensure that they will continue to proliferate with the oversight necessary to make them sustainable parts of our great city. I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and my colleagues at the Council for their support,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

"This balanced and thoughtful law will make Times Square a better place for the more than 150,000 New Yorkers from all five boroughs who work in Times Square and the tourists who generate billions in economic activity, as well as the many honest and earnest people trying to earn a living on the plazas. We want to thank the Mayor, the Speaker, DOT Commissioner Trottenberg, the staff at DOT, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, and especially our Council Members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick, as well as Borough President Gale Brewer for their months of hard work to preserve the character of Times Square while improving the experience of it. Now the rulemaking process begins, and we pledge to work with all parties to make a better Times Square and ensure that it remains an economic and job-creation engine for all of New York City," said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance.

“The New York City BID Association applauds Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark Viverito, Council Members Garodnick, Johnson and Rodriguez, and the many others who have demonstrated the leadership necessary to make today's bill signing a reality. This legislation is a win for the dozens of diverse public plazas across New York City. BIDs have been the City's plaza partners since the program’s inception, dedicating their ideas and resources to ensuring that these open spaces function as true neighborhood spaces. Today the plaza program is a wonderful example of a thriving public-private partnership. Working together we've improved and enlivened the streetscape in various ways, and we look forward to continued collaboration to ensure the ongoing health and longevity of the program,” said Michael Lambert and Ellen Baer, co-Chairs of the NYC BID Association.

"Times Square and all of our pedestrian plazas are part of the vibrant fabric of our city's landscapes," said ABNY Chairman Bill Rudin. "With this legislation, the Mayor and the City Council have made a tremendous commitment to the future of these plazas, and we thank them for their leadership and vision on this issue."

“This bill is a great step forward for dozens of community-based organizations managing pedestrian plazas on behalf of their communities. The Council has officially recognized plazas as the important public amenities these communities know them to be. We are grateful to Mayor de Blasio for leading a thoughtful process and for finding a resolution that will improve conditions at Times Square and strengthen the Plaza Program as a whole,” said Laura Hansen, Managing Director of Neighborhood Plaza Partnership at The Hort.

“We at the Hyatt Times Square are highly encouraged by the passing of Intro. 1109 and believe the community is very fortunate to now have the DOT’s support in applying rules of conduct that will most certainly elevate the quality of life and the quality of experiences for our colleagues and visitors alike,” said Philip Stamm, General Manager, Hyatt Times Square.

"Times Square is not just the crossroads of the world; it’s the crossroads of two industries that drive our local economy – tourism and entertainment. On behalf of the more than 50,000 Actor’s Equity members, thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Council Members Johnson and Garodnick for passing this common-sense legislation that will manage activity in one of the most exciting and vibrant places in New York City,” said Thomas Carpenter, Actor’s Equity Association.

“We have strongly advocated for plaza regulations that ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for our many theatregoers and the families who frequently visit Times Square. We are thankful for Council Member Dan Garodnick and Council Member Corey Johnson’s support, as well as the work of Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Transportation in crafting this sound piece of legislation. We look forward to continued collaboration with the City to maintain our status as the world’s premier cultural attraction,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League.

The second bill, Intro. 704-A, gives City contractors and subcontractors the opportunity to report on the compensation of their boards with respect to diversity and gender. This bill promotes voluntary diversity efforts and transparency as this data allows for better understanding of the diversity and gender makeup of the leadership of companies that contract and subcontract with the City. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

“The Department of Small Business Services is committed to ensuring City procurement reflects the diversity of New York City businesses,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “This bill helps to provide us with further insight into the employment practices, pay equity and leadership diversity efforts among City contractors.”

The third bill, Intro. 658-A, requires information security and use of personal information policies for base stations – black car bases and luxury limousine bases. Specifically, Intro. 658-A, requires entities licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to protect passenger information – including names, addresses, credit card information and any GPS data collected. Those who misuse personal information would be subject to a penalty of $1,000 per violation. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Daniel Garodnick.

The fourth bill, Intro. 1080-A, requires black car and luxury limousine services – including dispatch apps – to provide accurate fare estimates to passengers upon request. Passengers could not be charged a fare that is more than 20 percent higher than the estimate. If the price is given as a range, the high-end of the range could not be more than 50 percent higher than the low-end. Services would be required to inform passengers of their right to an accurate fare estimate when the law takes effect. Those in violation of the law would be subject to a penalty of $250 to $500. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“Our goal is to ensure that our consumer protections are keeping pace with new technology,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “New Yorkers should be able to take advantage of these apps with full knowledge of the final cost – whether that’s the price of a ride or the security of their personal information.”

The fifth bill, Intro. 1092-A, amends the administrative code of the City of New York in relation to the retirement of black cars. Under this bill, black cars would not be subject to retirement so long as the vehicle passes all required inspections. Prior to this bill, the Taxi and Limousine Commission rules required that black cars be retired no later than the expiration of the owner’s for-hire license or after the vehicle turns six-model-years-old. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor Council Member Rory Lancman.

"It simply doesn't make sense for black cars to be forced off the road when they can pass inspection," said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. "This legislation ensures that safe, reliable cars can continue transporting New Yorkers around our city."

The sixth bill, Intro. 1095-A, creates a universal license for taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers. The Taxi and Limousine Commission has already begun allowing taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers to obtain a combined license, allowing them to drive a taxi or black car. This bill finalizes that effort and eliminates separate licenses. Intro. 1095-A, also requires that any procedures established by the commission to determine an applicant’s ability to speak and understand English must not include a written examination. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor Ydanis Rodríguez.

The seventh bill, Intro. 1096-A, increases penalties for illegal street hails that occur at the City’s airports, in Manhattan south of East 96th Street and West 110th Street, and any areas designated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to $2,000 for a first offense, $4,000 for a second offense within 24 months and $10,000 for a third offense within 120 months. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor Ydanis Rodríguez.

“I am proud that this comprehensive package of bills to help consumers, drivers and the many others that make up the taxi and for hire industries will become law today,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Through these bills, we will clarify and streamline operations, support drivers, protect consumers and establish a stricter framework against illegal activity. I am proud to sponsor this bill, and I thank Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito for supporting this bill.”

The eight bill, Intro. 806-B, establishes a temporary amnesty program that allows individuals and businesses to come forward and pay their debts owed to the City. These debts are due to penalties imposed by the Environmental Control Board without paying default penalties or interest. The Department of Finance will engage in an aggressive outreach and marketing campaign so people know that there is an amnesty program. Individuals and businesses with judgments containing default penalties can have 100 percent of those penalties as well as interest abated. Those who attended hearings and do not have default penalties only have to pay 75 percent of the base fine. For three years after the proposed amnesty, everyone will have to pay interest and at least half the default penalties on top of the base fine. The total number of violations eligible for the amnesty is close to 700,000. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

The ninth bill, Intro. 807-A, requires agencies issuing notices of violation to generic “owners of” a business, organization or premise to make reasonable efforts to learn the owner’s name. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

"The goal of this amnesty program is not only to ensure faster resolution of ECB debt, but to give property owners and small businesses an opportunity to resolve their debt and prevent tougher enforcement," said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Chair of the Finance Committee. "I thank Council Member Ben Kallos and my colleagues for their support in passing this bill. The Council's Finance Committee will continue to track the Department of Finance's effort and find new avenues for collecting the $1.58 billion it is owed.”

The tenth bill, Intro. 812-A, requires City agencies, where the alleged violation occurred in or on a building or lot, to include the borough, block and lot number, building identification number, or device identification number, as applicable. Intros. 807-A and 812-A codify existing practices and makes it easier to collect unpaid fines by providing a name or the borough, block and lot number whenever possible. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Ben Kallos.

The eleventh bill, Intro. 810-A, requires City agencies that issue notices of violation returnable to the Environmental Control Board or a tribunal of OATH and that issue licenses, permits or registrations to promulgate rules to implement their authority to deny, suspend, terminate or revoke licenses, permits and registrations. Agencies that already have rules or policies in place allowing them to exercise this authority will be exempted from the requirements of Intro. 810-A. This authority will act as a deterrent to not paying their fines. Not every agency will want to use this in every case; this is especially true for our public safety and infrastructure agencies for whom it is essential and a matter of public safety that all work is done correctly. In addition, agencies will determine when it may or may not be most appropriate for them to use this authority. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Ben Kallos.

“Quality of life is about to improve because not only will these reforms improve the City’s collection efforts, they will more importantly change the behaviors that harm quality of life and jeopardize public health and safety,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “For far too long, quality of life violations have gone uncollected, with bad actors continuing bad behavior to the detriment of our communities. That is about to change.”

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