NYC Council Passes Resolutions to Help Students Facing Exorbitant Student Loan Debt

We’ve all heard about the student debt crisis in our country. The New York City Council passed two resolutions on Monday related to our ballooning student debt. Melissa sponsored one of the two resolutions, in support of the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would reduce the interest rate of federal subsidized Stafford student loans for one year from the current 3.4% to 0.75%.

Want to show your support for reducing student debt? Click here to sign a petition by Senator Elizabeth Warren, in support of her bill, which would allow students to pay the same rate that banks pay to borrow money from the government for one year.

If Congress does not act before this coming Monday, the interest rates of all federal student loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8%, a move that would have devastating impacts across the country. The federal legislation supported by these Council esolutions can allow students to refinance their student loans as well as lower interest rates to those offered to U.S. banks by the Department of the Treasury.

Currently, over 38 million people have student loan debt obligations, amounting to close to $1 trillion. Over the last 10 years, student loan debt has quadrupled from $240 billion in 2003. With the planned increase in federal Stafford loans, more defaults are expected as currently, students are not able to refinance their loans.

“Our two resolutions send a clear message from New York City that we demand action in Congress on measures that will lower student loan debt. We must continue to invest in our young people without asking them to assume such a high level of debt in return, especially in today’s economy. The planned doubling of interest rates will only discourage prospective college students from seeking to better themselves through higher education. That is why I am supporting Senator Warren’s proposal to lower interest rates to the same level that banks pay for at least one year, as well as Senator Gillibrand’s legislation for a long-term fix. We cannot continue to be held hostage by forces in our country that want to do nothing else but impede our President’s agenda while turning a blind eye to our most vulnerable. Senators Gillibrand and Warren are both showing incredible leadership on this issue and I thank them as well as Higher Education Chair Rodriguez for ushering these resolutions to passage in the City Council.”

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Intro 410: The Immigrants Voting Rights Bill

The New York City Council is holding a hearing today about Intro 410: The Immigrants Voting Rights Bill, which would allow 1.3 million voting-age, tax-paying New Yorkers to vote in NYC municipal elections. Melissa is a strong supporter of Intro 410, along with 34 other council members. This is a very exciting time in our city and will directly affect around 27,000 individuals in District 8 alone! You can watch the hearing live at 1 PM on the City Council’s website, or stop by the Council Chambers at City Hall to show your support.

Read more about Intro 410: El Diaro NY and ivotenyc.org

Council To Pass Melissa’s Street Vendor & Secure Communities/ICE Bills Tomorrow

We are happy to announce that two bills sponsored by Melissa will be passed by Council tomorrow.

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STREET VENDOR BILLS (INTRO 16)

Intro 16 will require the reporting of data related to vendor licenses and permits, as well as the outcomes of vendor adjudications. This bill is integral to the future of the reforming vendor policy in NYC because of the information collected. In addition to Intro 16, Council Member Steve Levin’s bill, Intro 434, which Melissa has supported, will also be passed tomorrow. Intro 434 will cap the maximum fine at $500 and reform the unfair escalation of fines. These bills are a critical first step towards efforts to provide greater support to our vendor community who has played an essential part of the fabric of NYC life for generations. Today, punitive fines leveraged against vendors can easily add up into the thousands, making it nearly impossible for vendors to make a living.

“Our city needs to support and not criminalize our hardworking street vendors,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am proud that the Council is taking a stand to lower the punitive fines that make it difficult for vendors to earn a living and I thank the Street vendor project for their incredible advocacy. Under the bill I am sponsoring, the Council will receive annual reports on vending licenses and fines. My hope is that this data will help inform future policy changes to our city’s vending system. I thank Speaker Quinn, Council Member Levin and Chair Koslowitz for their leadership and support.”

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SECURE COMMUNITIES/ICE BILL (INTRO 989)

We’ve previously discussed our objection to Secure Communities in this blog. Melissa’s Intro 989 amends current law to ensure that immigrants that pose no danger cannot be detained by the Department of Correction. Intro 982, sponsored by Speaker Quinn and co-sponsored by Melissa, focuses on being detained by the NYPD. Whether we like it or not, we are still in the secure communities program. But with this legislation, we will not use our personnel or resources to hold immigrants that pose no danger to our city.

“Today, the Council reaffirms its commitment to protecting our immigrant communities,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We will not allow our city’s resources to be used to facilitate the unjust deportations of hardworking New Yorkers that pose no threat to public safety. These pieces of legislation place limits on our city’s collaboration with the Secure Communities enforcement program, as we await Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I thank Speaker Quinn and Chair Dromm for their leadership on bringing this legislation forward, as well as the Bloomberg administration for their support. I also thank Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for being a critical driving force in passing these important bills.”

Council Member Mark Viverito and Advocates Announce Legislation to Protect Immigrants3--Credit to William Alatriste New York City Council

Learn About NEW Local Legislation To Further Protect Arrested Immigrants, Next Thursday

Please join Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, The East Harlem Immigrant Service Network and Make the Road New York in learning about new local legislation that will further protect arrested immigrants on Thursday, February 21st, 9:15 AM at the Hunter School of Social Work.

The proposed City Council legislation will:

  • Further limit unfair deportations;
  • Build on existing local law and is meant to promote public safety and community engagement; and
  • Relieve damaging effects of the federal government’s Secure Communities initiative.

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WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, The East Harlem Immigrant Service Network, and Make the Road New York
WHAT: NEW Local Legislation To Further Protect Arrested Immigrants Informational Session
WHEN: Thursday, February 21, 2013. 9:15 (prompt) to 11:30 AM
WHERE: Hunter School of Social Work at East 119th Street and 3rd Avenue. Second floor classroom.
For more info and/or to RSVP, please contact Joe Pressley in the Office of Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito at 212-828-9800 or via email at jpressley@council.nyc.gov.  

Council Member Mark Viverito and Advocates Announce Legislation to Protect Immigrants3--Credit to William Alatriste New York City Council

Melissa Announces New Legislation To Protect Unjust Deportation of Immigrant New Yorkers

Today, Melissa joined her colleagues in announcing a new legislative action that will reduce the unjust deportations of immigrant families due to the federal Secure Communities program. Building on legislation sponsored by Melissa which became law last year, the two new pieces of legislation that will be introduced this month will limit the city’s ability to hand over immigrants who pose no threat to public safety for deportation proceedings. Melissa is the lead sponsor of one of the two new bills, which should receive a hearing within the first quarter of 2013. The other bill is sponsored by Speaker Christine Quinn.

Because of the current Secure Communities program in NYC, once an immigrant encounters the criminal justice system, they are at automatic risk of deportation. Under the current system, regardless of immigration status, age, criminal record or the accused crime, immigrants can be detained and deported – constantly living in fear. With this proposed legislation, the city would only be able to honor a detainer request from the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) if the person poses a threat to our city or has serious criminal charges pending. It would specifically ensure that immigrant youth and individuals that only have old or very minor convictions, or convictions directly related to their immigration status like driving without a license, are not funneled into the deportation system.

Melissa commented:

“New York City continues to be at the forefront of protecting our immigrant communities from unjust deportations. I am proud that this Council is again ushering through legislation that expands our city’s ability to have discretion in its collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. This legislation comes in response to the forced roll out of Secure Communities in our state, which threatens to funnel immigrant New Yorkers directly from central booking to deportation centers. We must extend to our police precincts the same protections we put in place in our city’s jails to prevent the unfair deportation of immigrant New Yorkers. We also want to strengthen the current law to ensure that immigrant youth and immigrants with old or minor convictions are clearly protected from deportation. I thank Speaker Christine Quinn and Immigration Chair Danny Dromm for their leadership, as well as Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for their continued advocacy.”

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This legislation will surely serve as a model for other municipalities throughout the U.S. as we await for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We will keep you all updated on this piece of legislation.

Melissa Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Renewed Push for Marijuana Arrest Reform

Yesterday, Melissa issued the following statement in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strong support of legislation that would end small-quantity marijuana arrests, calling for its passage and the passage of a minimum wage increase before considering pay hikes for legislators.

“I commend New York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators.

“I strongly support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their pockets during stops. Enforcement of this policy costs the city an estimated $75 million each year.

“The new law would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Since there are currently over 50,000 annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth. Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of this legislation, which I sponsored, and Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have voiced their support of these reforms. The Commissioner even issued a directive to officers intended to slow down the number of marijuana arrests. Still, it is essential to codify this policy change at the State level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this issue so seriously.

“I am also very pleased that Governor Cuomo is renewing the push to raise the state’s minimum wage, a vitally important measure which will help working families remain in New York City and the state during times of increasing poverty and income disparity.”

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Let’s Implement the Community Safety Act!

Melissa, along with the Progressive Caucus and many members of the City Council, believe that there is a need for more police accountability in New York City. Progressive Caucus Member Jumaane Williams, with the support of the Progressive Caucus, is sponsoring four bills that collectively make up the Community Safety Act.

The Community Safety Act includes the following:

  • Int 0799-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to requiring law enforcement officers to provide notice and obtain proof of consent to search individuals.
  • Int 0800-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibiting bias-based profiling by law enforcement officers.
  • Int 0801-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to requiring law enforcement officers to identify themselves to the public.
  • Int 0881-2012: A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to establishing an office of the inspector general for the New York city police department.


Join us at one of the upcoming hearings:

Resolution in Support of the Restore the American Dream Act

This week, Melissa introduced a resolution in support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act.

This legislation in the U.S. Congress, introduced by Reps. Ellison, Grijalva and others, would put Americans back to work, creating more jobs and improving the overall health of the American economy. The proposal would create an emergency jobs program to repair public schools and hire childcare workers, teachers, first responders and staff our national parks. Estimates suggest this could create as many as 2.3 million jobs in 2012, while also reducing the deficit. The bill would increase taxes for millionaires and billionaires, repeal tax loopholes for oil companies, and reduce spending by the Department of Defense.

To read more about the Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act, click here.

Taking a Stand for Police Accountability

Yesterday, I joined my Progressive Caucus colleagues Jumaane Williams, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez and others in standing up to keep NYPD accountable to New Yorkers. NYPD increasingly relies on stop-and-frisk tactics with a significant impact on communities of color. In 2002, the NYPD made approximately 97,000 stops. By 2010, the number of stops had increased to more than 601,000. Black and Latino New Yorkers face the brunt of this practice and consistently represent more than 80 percent of people stopped despite representing just over 50 percent of the city’s population. Moreover, stop-and-frisk practices have not increased public safety, as year-after-year nearly 90 percent of individuals stopped are neither arrested nor issued a summons. Bias-based profiling by the police alienates communities from law enforcement, violates New Yorkers’ rights and freedoms, and is a danger to public safety.

The bills we introduce will reform police practices to keep NYPD accountable by:

1. Prohibiting bias-based profiling by law enforcement officers that relies, to any degree, on actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration or citizenship status, language, disability (including HIV status), housing status, occupation, or socioeconomic status.

2. Requiring law enforcement officers to identify themselves and the reason for questioning, and present a business card at the end of the encounter which will identify the name, rank, and command of the officer, and a phone number for the Civilian Complaint Review Board that the subject of the law enforcement activity may use to submit comments or complaints about the encounter

3. Requiring law enforcement officers to provide notice and obtain written or recorded proof of consent to search individuals. Many New Yorkers are unaware of their constitutional right to privacy when interacting with law enforcement officers.

We want to hear from you.

Have you been the victim of unaccountable police officers whose activity would not have been allowed under this law? Share your story.

New Year. More Progress.

Dear Friend:

I hope your holidays were both restful and full of cheer. As I looked back at our community’s many accomplishments in 2011, I couldn’t help but reflect on how hard we worked and how much it paid off.  In the coming year, I look forward to continuing to expand even further on the progress we are making in District 8.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for our community?  Please leave them in the comments section below!

Last year, we engaged directly with local residents to help shape the future of our community.  The El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, which was convened by my office, released its official platform, a plan to bring peace to our streets that was created in conjunction with our community’s youth.  Soon after the release of our platform, NYCHA finally opened the Johnson Center after over 10 years of community struggle.  Our community was also one of four in the city to take a major step towards democracy in 2011 as my office began implementing a Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in Council District 8. Through PB, community residents will decide how to allocate $1 million in discretionary funds towards capital projects of their choosing.

For our older residents, my office continued to make progress on developing El Barrio/East Harlem’s Age Improvement District, by working with the City to launch Senior Pool Hours at Jefferson Pool and to unveil several new benches on our sidewalks, which will provide a resting place for older adults as they walk outside.

And let’s not forget the citywide and national efforts to which we have contributed.  Like so many of you, I have became more motivated than ever to pursue economic and social justice in our community and our city. I marched alongside thousands of Occupy Wall Street protestors and was arrested for civil disobedience as a way of making a statement on the unconscionable level of economic inequality in our society. I was also proud to sponsor and see passed into law a bill that will help protect undocumented New York City residents from detention and deportation, which will help keep more families united.

Our accomplishments in 2011 have set the bar for a great 2012. We’re starting off on the right foot by celebrating Chinese New Year with our Chinese neighbors this month (more details to come). From there, the work continues. After another round of public meetings in February, we will hold the official Public Vote for the Participatory Budgeting process in late March.  And of course my office and the organizations that make up the Youth Violence Task Force will continue to lead the fight for safer streets, as we seek funding to implement the recommendations from our platform. In the coming months, I will also be fighting against City budget cuts and to bring more resources to our neighborhoods.

And as always, I will continue to be active on local issues of importance across our district.  Exciting and challenging times are ahead.

Please don’t forget to take a moment to share your New Year’s Resolutions for our community by leaving a comment below!

All the very best,
Melissa