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:

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.

Monday: March in Support of the 99%

The Occupy Wall Street protests have gripped the city and the nation with their message that we must strive for a more fair and equitable society.  This Monday, November 7th, a coalition of unions, elected officials and community groups will hold a march from Washington Heights all the way down to Lower Manhattan to show solidarity with the OWS movement, and to call for the Millionaire’s Tax, and progressive solutions on jobs, education and healthcare. 

Watch Melissa and other Progressive Caucus members talk about OWS.

The march, entitled “End to End for 99%,” will commence at 181st Street & St. Nicholas at 10:30 a.m., and will stop at various points along the way, where rallies and gatherings will be held.  The following is a list of meeting locations and the times when marches are expected to arrive.  Feel free to join the march at any point along the way, but try to get there before the expected arrival time!  For those who use Twitter, please follow @EndToEndFor99, which will be updated throughout the day on Monday with the latest location of the march.

  • 181st Street & St. Nicholas: 10:30 a.m.
  • 125th Street & Broadway: 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.
  • 72nd Street & Broadway: 1:30 p.m.
  • 14th Street & Broadway: 3:30 p.m.
  • Zuccotti Park: 4:30 p.m.

For more information, email november7march@gmail.com, or call 718-844-9849.  See below for a flyer, or click here to download it.  Please help us spread the word about this event!

Autumn Updates from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus

As you may know, Melissa serves as the Co-Chair of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.  Read the latest on what the Caucus has been up to in the Autumn updates below.

The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is excited to report on the work that we’ve been doing and to spread the word about upcoming events. It’s been a busy autumn, and we have a lot of news to share!

Receive this update from a friend? Sign up for our e-mail list.

Want a daily dose of the Progressive Caucus? Follow us on Twitter (
@nycprogressives), like us on Facebook, or visit our website!

Updates on The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

Save the Date: Many Voices, One Goal
The Progressive Caucus will be joining Living Wage NYC and faith, labor and community leaders to call for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act on Monday, November 21 at 6:30pm. Spread the word to your friends and neighbors and join us at Riverside Church!

Date Set for Public Hearing on the Living Wage
The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the revised living wage legislation on November 22 [10am at 49-51 Chambers Street]. The changes to the bill focus in on the main target of the legislation: large-scale retail developments. We’re looking forward to discussing the amended bill and taking the next step toward implementing this landmark legislation.

Supporting Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the attention and imagination of our city and country. Members of the Progressive Caucus have joined the chorus of elected officials, labor leaders and our community allies in amplifying the call to action and invoking the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Read this recent op-ed in support of Occupy Wall Street by Councilmember Jumaane Williams.

Occupy for Education Election Day Rally
In response to overcrowded classrooms and cuts to vital programs, parents and educators are calling on the Governor to renew the millionaire’s tax and save our schools! On Election Day, members of the Progressive Caucus will be joining a rally organized by activist parents at Governor Cuomo’s New York City office (633 3rd Ave).  Come out on Tuesday, November 8th at 3:30pm to show your support!

In favor of a fair share tax, but can’t make it to the rally? E-mail Governor Cuomo today to say that you’re counting on him to do the right thing for New York’s working families!

Center for Working Families 2011 Policy Conference

The Progressive Caucus is a co-convener of this year’s Center for Working Families’ annual policy conference, which brings together advocates, organizers, policy makers and legislators to discuss progressive solutions to New York State’s most pressing problems. This year’s conference will feature a keynote address by Barbara Ehrenreich and discussions and workshops about green jobs, voter owned elections and progressive taxation. RSVP to join us on December 2nd!

City Council Holds Oversight Hearing on NYPD’s Intelligence Operations
The Progressive Caucus joined members of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, the Brennan Center for Justice, community groups, and civil rights advocates on October 6 to raise concerns about the New York Police Department’s infiltration of our local Muslim community and to call for more oversight of the NYPD’s intelligence operations. The Progressive Caucus actively participated in the City Council hearing that followed the joint press conference, and will continue to monitor this issue.

Rebuild the Dream

The Progressive Caucus has joined progressive organizations nation-wide in signing on as a partner to Rebuild the Dream, a hub for the emerging American Dream Movement. Rebuild the Dream recently worked with thousands of Americans to create the Contract for the American Dream, and supports many of the ongoing efforts to fulfill that dream here in New York. We’re excited to be a part of this movement.

Make the Road New York Marches Against Stop and Frisk

On October 13, members of the Progressive Caucus joined Make the Road New York in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for an end to discriminatory policing, particularly stop and frisk. Councilmembers and advocates called for more accountability and transparency from the NYPD and an end to racially biased police practices.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Contact the Progressive Caucus at nyccprogresscaucus@gmail.com

Elected Officials Stand in Support of NYPD’s New Marijuana Policy

Yesterday, Melissa, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, joined by advocates from the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, VOCAL NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance, gathered in front of One Police Plaza to celebrate an internal order issued by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to all precinct commanding officers to stop arresting New Yorkers for small quantities of marijuana if the marijuana was not in plain view.

Photo by William Alatriste.

In 2010, over 54,000 people – mostly black or Latino – were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York State. Over 50,000 of those arrests occurred in New York City, making it the most frequent arrest citywide. On Monday, September 19th, responding to mounting public pressure from elected officials and advocates, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order that clarified existing marijuana possession laws, instructing officers not to arrest people for marijuana in public view when complying with an officer’s demand to “empty their pockets.”

Earlier this year, Melissa questioned Commissioner Kelly at two City Council hearings on the NYPD’s marijuana arrest policy,  highlighting the immense human and fiscal costs of this enforcement strategy.  Melissa endorsed Commissioner Kelly’s operation order and stressed that this is “a huge victory for communities of color in the city of New York.”  But the fight is not yet over. Kelly’s internal order can be made permanent, and apply to all of New York State, by passing A.7620 (Jeffries) and S.5187 (Grisanti, R-Buffalo). This legislation would standardize penalties for marijuana possession offences, protect New Yorkers from illegal searches, save taxpayer dollars, and bring down the disproportionately high number of arrests among black and Latino men for marijuana-related crimes by eliminating the misdemeanor charge.

Melissa has introduced a resolution supporting the state legislation and emphasized that she and other advocates “will continue to closely monitor how stop and frisk policies are carried out in our city and to advocate for the passage of the State legislation.”

Progressive Caucus Calls on Mayor Bloomberg to Accept Offer from Municipal Labor Council

Criticizes Mayor from Blocking Plan to Save Essential Services

The New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus calls on the Bloomberg Administration to accept the constructive and responsible offer from the Municipal Labor Council – to avoid teacher lay-offs and massive class size increases, the closing of fire companies that put communities at risk, the elimination of thousands of day care slots, of neighborhood libraries, and many other essential services.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg is more interested in posturing than in the needs of millions of New Yorkers. He apparently is more concerned with “looking tough on labor” than in the best interests of our city. Mr. Mayor, this is not a competition with Governor Walker, Governor Christie, or Governor Cuomo to wring out the most concessions or look the toughest. This is not a game.

The offer from our city’s public sector labor unions is an extremely generous one. They are willing to contribute more than $260 million that was designated to be used for the health care of their members to the City, in order to keep class sizes low, save fire companies, workers who protect at-risk kids, day care slots, libraries, and cultural institutions. This is not public money, but funds from hard working union members who keep this city going and who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. At the same time, the union proposal would use less than half that amount from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to contribute to union welfare funds, with narrow uses allowed, specifically for health insurance uses. This offer is not only appropriate and reasonable – it is incredibly generous. The Mayor should respect the good faith proposal made by the city’s unions.

Mr. Bloomberg is supposed to be the dollars and cents mayor, but his rejection of the MLC’s offer doesn’t make finacial sense. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently rejected a fair, balanced, and compassionate approach to this year’s budget. Despite the City Time scandal in which his Administration has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, he has rejected reasonable proposals from Speaker Quinn and others to trim out-of-control consultant spending. Despite continued profits on Wall Street, his policies will give millionaires a tax break that will cost the City billions.

Mayor Bloomberg, this is not a time for posturing. Please reverse course, accept the offer from our city’s unions, agree to cuts in contract spending, and help achieve a responsible, balanced, “fair share” budget that does not jeopardize our future.

Progressive Caucus members are: co-chairs Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx); Annabel Palma, from the Bronx; Letitia James and Jumaane D. Williams, from Brooklyn; Margaret Chin, from Manhattan; Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, James Sanders Jr., and Jimmy Van Bramer, from Queens; and Deborah Rose, from Staten Island.

Progressive Caucus: Austerity Budget is Fine for the Rich but Bad for the Rest of Us

Today, Mayor Bloomberg released his Fiscal Year 2012 Executive Budget.  The proposal includes layoffs of over 6,000 teachers and the closure of 20 firehouses, and other massive cuts to municipal and social services.  The Executive Budget will now come before the City Council, which will hold a series of hearings throughout this month, followed by more extensive negotiations with the administration in June.

Next Thursday, May 12th, members from dozens of community groups and unions are coming together to tell the Mayor “No More Cuts – It’s Time for the Big Banks and Millionaires to Pay Their Fair Share!”  Thousands of New Yorkers are scheduled to gather at assembly sites throughout lower Manhattan for teach-ins on the important service areas being cut, after which they will converge on Wall Street.  For more information on May 12th, visit www.OnMay12.org or join the Facebook group.

For now, the Progressive Caucus has released the following statement in response to the Mayor’s budget:

Austerity Budget is Fine for the Rich but Bad for the Rest of Us

Mayor Bloomberg’s austerity budget demands sacrifice from children, parents, seniors, women,  the sick, the at-risk, working families, the unemployed, the underemployed … in short, from everyone except the wealthy.  Year after year, Mayor Bloomberg has balanced the budget on the backs of New York families by cutting vital services. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful (including those on Wall Street who caused the economic crisis) are not only exempted from sharing the sacrifice, but even get special treatment through tax breaks and real estate loopholes.

Although the Mayor is right to place blame on Albany for the budget deficit, the fact is that he lobbied against the extension of the Millionaire’s Tax – which will cost the city billions – while we and busloads of our constituents asked for this fair share solution.

There are still many ways the City can achieve a FY 2012 budget that better serves New Yorkers.  We can extend the millionaire’s tax and eliminate tax loopholes for hedge-fund managers, which amount to an estimated $570 million. We can cut subsidies, tax credits, and special deals with big banks that cost New Yorkers around $250 million.  We can put a break on rapidly growing spending on expensive and out-of-control consultants.  If necessary, we can dip into the City’s “rainy day fund” (while still leaving plenty for the future).

We were glad to see restoration of capital funding for the marine transfer stations that make possible a “fair share” approach to solid waste.  And restoring $40 million of the $91 million cut to childcare will be a good first step if the Mayor works with the Council to achieve a full restoration.

It’s time to have real conversations about eliminating loopholes and increasing revenue, instead of coddling the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. We must consider new revenue options or we will continue to have this problem.

Some painful cuts will be indeed necessary, but not the brutal cuts the Mayor is proposing to schools, child care, libraries, firehouses, neighborhoods, and working families.

Next Thursday, May 12th, we will join thousands of new Yorkers to call on Mayor Bloomberg to support fair taxation, end Wall Street tax breaks, and put an end to harmful practices that cost New York City money and hurt our economy.  In the coming weeks, we will be asking New Yorkers to weigh in on what they would like to see in the City’s budget, as the Council prepares to negotiate with him before the budget deadline on June 30th.

Council Members Viverito & Dromm Respond to Mayor Bloomberg’s Participation in Immigration Summit Held by President Obama

Photo by CBS Local.

Today, Mayor Bloomberg participated in a summit on comprehensive immigration reform held by President Obama.  Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Danny Dromm (Chair of the Council’s Immigration Committee) released the following statement:

“Today, Mayor Bloomberg joined President Obama and a group of leaders from around the country at a summit to discuss the need to fix our broken immigration system. We thank the Mayor for continuously taking a bold stance on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform at a national level and his efforts to help bring common sense to the debate. However, there is still a great deal to be done here in New York City to protect our immigrant communities from our nation’s dysfunctional deportation system.

“Each year, thousands of New Yorkers are funneled into detention and removal proceedings due to the entanglement of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the City’s Department of Corrections (DOC) at Rikers Island. While the Mayor’s Office claims that the City collaborates with ICE in the interest of public safety, half of the immigrants who are transferred by DOC into ICE custody have no prior criminal records, and many are never even found guilty of the charges for which they have been arrested.

“It is difficult to reconcile Mayor Bloomberg’s national platform that our immigration system must be reformed when New York City is a willing participant and partner with the federal government in that same broken system. We call on the Mayor to reconsider his administration’s current position and to join us in crafting a sensible and balanced policy that will stop DOC from facilitating the deportation of those New Yorkers who pose no threat to public safety.”

Join Us This Sunday for a Unity Rally in Support of a Progressive State Budget and the Strengthening of Rent Stabilization Laws

The New York City Council

Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus

jointly with the

Progressive Caucus

Invites you to


Sunday, March 27th at 1pm

City Hall Steps

JOIN US To Call For A State Budget That:

*** STRENTHENS the Rent Laws & REPEALS Vacancy Destabilization

*** RESTORES the Continuation of the Millionaires Tax

*** SAVES our children from devastating education cuts


Coordinated with Alliance for Quality Education, New York Communities for Change, the Real Rent Reform Campaign, Right to the City, VOCAL New York and the Coalition for Educational Justice

For more information, contact:

  • Mary Tek, Real Rent Reform Campaign, 212-608-4320 x 616 or mtek@tandn.org
  • Jonathan Wstin, New York Communities for Change, 917-637-9501 or jwestin@nycommunities.org
  • Francine Streich, Alliance for Quality Education, 917-439-9602 or francine.laurie@gmail.com

Council Holds Rally and Hearing on Walmart’s Plans to Come to NYC

Last week, the City Council held a rally and hearing on Walmart’s plans to move to New York City.  Melissa opposes the opening of Walmart stores in New York City because of the company’s history of labor rights abuses, their refusal to allow workers to unionize and their impact on local small businesses.

At the rally prior to the Walmart hearing (Photo by William Alatriste).

At the hearing, academics, small business owners and other community leaders testified regarding Walmart’s record in other cities, which has not ultimately resulted in more jobs for low-income neighborhoods, since while it has created new jobs, it also has led to the loss of jobs at surrounding small businesses.

Walmart refused to attend the public hearing, because it said it was being unfairly targeted.  The New York Times published a story on the hearing, and Walmart’s absence, here.

“Wal-Mart is definitely not welcome in New York City,” Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said. “It is a union-busting, tax-evading, wage-suppressing, job-destroying, civil rights-abusing, food stamp-denying, multinational corporation that has no place in New York City.”  Wal-Mart Critics Rip Retailer During Hearing, WNYC.

While Walmart is reportedly looking at a particular site in East New York, in Brooklyn, East Harlem has also been cited as a potential location for a Walmart store.

Melissa asks a question at the hearing (Photo by William Alatriste).

We were live-tweeting throughout the hearing.  You can take a look at our tweets for moment-by-moment updates by visiting www.twitter.com/mmviverito.

You can also sign a petition to keep Walmart out of NYC, by clicking here.  Stay tuned to the blog for additional updates.

Progressive Caucus Responds to Gov. Cuomo’s Budget: Watch that Axe! There are Some Cuts New Yorkers Can’t Afford


Contact: Laura Banish, Progressive Caucus Coordinator, nyccprogresscaucus@gmail.com

Governor Cuomo’s budget chops at some trees without realizing that he’s damaging a forest. Income inequality is greater in New York than any other state in the country, and New Yorkers can’t afford the costs of the Governor and Legislature cutting education, health care, transit, human services and the other quality-of-life services we value and need. We need a judicious balance between New York’s short-term and long-term economic needs or we will have a far more serious problems than the budget itself.

The Progressive Caucus supports a budget that:

  • Requires shared sacrifices in difficult times. The Progressive Caucus and most New Yorkers support extending the existing income tax surcharge on those who can afford it, which is set to expire at the end of the year. The Progressive Caucus also proposes a tax surcharge on household income over $250,000, to reclaim the “Bush era tax cuts” for the wealthiest 2%. The Caucus plan would generate approximately $8.1 billion statewide, and use this revenue to restore vital services now proposed for deep cuts, address severe deficits facing New York City and New York State, and stimulate the New York economy.
  • Helps working families. We ask for budget solutions that create and secure job opportunities and benefits for New Yorkers, not eliminate them. We oppose MTA fare hikes and increases to other essential public services, which are tantamount to raising taxes on working families.
  • Invests in our future. We oppose the Governor’s Property Tax Cap of 2% a year because it will bleed the poorer districts where schools are already losing teachers and resources, further widening the education gap between New York’s rich and poor. We also support keeping our public university system affordable; CUNY, a once tuition-free institution, has faced multi-million dollar cuts and tuition could increase as much as 7% this calendar year.

The proposed chops to the budget don’t cut a clear path through the financial crisis. They leave us with more problems ahead. We are asking Governor Cuomo not to lose sight of the forest as he takes his axe to our trees.

Progressive Caucus Responds to Mayor’s 2011 State of the City Address

Caucus calls for living-wage jobs, more contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses, and a fair tax structure

Watch a video of the statement, read by Council Members Debi Rose, Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito below:

NEW YORK, NY – The tragic shooting in Arizona earlier this month has caused us all to reflect on the plague of gun violence in our society, and the need for greater civility in our political discourse. We laud the Mayor for his longstanding leadership and tireless efforts to get illegal guns off of our streets, and to reduce gun violence.

But we are disappointed that Mayor Bloomberg spoke about the need to “face reality” in his State of the City Speech today (Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011) without outlining a real plan of action to address the economic realities facing most New Yorkers at a time when our city remains in a severe economic crisis.

Residents of outer boroughs may appreciate the chance to hail a livery cab … but too many can’t even afford the ride. Especially when a recent report shows that income inequality is greater in New York than in any other large American city.  The top 1% of New York households, just 90,000 people, earn the same amount in one day as the 900,000 New Yorkers in deep poverty earn in a whole year.

Most New York City workers and their families have experienced very little real income or wage growth over the past two decades and high unemployment continues to plague our city. Unemployment remains at an official rate of 9%, but nearly double that when you factor in discouraged people who have dropped out of the labor force, and the rate is much higher among African-Americans, Latinos and residents of low-income neighborhoods.

The Mayor spoke to the need to attract tourists, college graduates and white-collar entrepreneurs, but we heard nothing about how we can create living-wage jobs for New Yorkers who are struggling to make a living here. The jobs that are being created in our city tend to pay low wages, often without benefits or even the ability to take a day off when you’re sick. And homelessness remains near its all-time high. 37,363 people slept in City shelters last Thursday night, of which more than 16,000 were children.

On jobs – our city’s most pressing issue – the Mayor’s speech, like his recent performance, was disappointing.

  • The Bloomberg administration has not launched a single new major jobs initiative for low-income New Yorkers. Community service jobs and wage subsidy programs are scheduled for further cuts.
  • Despite giving his recent “jobs speech” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard – where innovation is thriving in new industrial niches – the mayor has dramatically reduced his policy commitment to the manufacturing sector, and presided over a steep decline in blue-collar jobs.
  • City contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) is embarrassingly below goals set in 2005. While the Mayor acknowledged a need to improve in this area, a recent report showed that only 1 out of 15 major City agencies met even half of the M/WBE goals.
  • The Mayor has opposed and stalled consideration of living-wage job creation requirements, even when the City is providing millions in subsidies to for-profit corporations and real estate developers.

These challenging economic times do require fiscal discipline, and the City Council – under the leadership of Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chair Domenic Recchia – has worked with the Mayor to make difficult decisions and choose painful spending cuts. But we need a fair approach that keeps our city strong and asks for shared sacrifice, rather than balancing the budget primarily on the backs of the poor and the middle class.

Mayor Bloomberg said no today to any new taxes – but our current tax structure is unfair and regressive. That’s why the Progressive Caucus has proposed a temporary income tax surcharge on household incomes over $250,000 – to recapture the windfall that Congressional Republicans won for the wealthiest 2% of households. Mayor Bloomberg has been the chief defender of these very households – he’s opposed regulatory reform of Wall Street despite the fact that it was Wall Street speculation that cost us millions of jobs in the first place.

The Mayor today asked nothing of Wall Street or the wealthiest New Yorkers, and for sacrifice only from public school teachers, police officers, librarians, and the working- and middle-class New Yorkers they serve.

While the Mayor has often said that the rich pay more than their share, the opposite is true. The wealthiest 1% of New Yorkers earned 45% of the city’s total income, but they only paid 34% of city taxes. Our plan would make our tax structure more fair, raise $8 billion dollars to address State and City deficits, help us save core services like education and public safety, and allow us to create the jobs we so desperately need.

In response to the Administration’s failures to address the recent blizzard, the City Council held hearings, led by Speaker Quinn and the Progressive Caucus’ own Letitia James and Jumaane Williams. At those hearings, the Bloomberg Administration acknowledged its mistakes, announced significant policy changes, and pledged to do better in the future.

We need the same kind of commitment to do better to create well-paying jobs and advance economic security for struggling low-income, working, and middle-class families in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. We also need policy changes to ensure affordable housing for our residents and policies that make sure our children get the kind of education they need and deserve.

The Progressive Caucus calls for a real plan of action to move New York City out of this economic crisis and appeals to Mayor Bloomberg to work with us in our shared vision of a better New York City.

Major Mid-Year Budget Cuts Avoided in Deal Negotiated by the City Council

The City Council has negotiated a deal with the Bloomberg administration to avoid mid-year budget cuts to core services, from case management for seniors to shelter beds for homeless youth, as well as to defer increases in recreation center fees and parking meter rates.  This deal only applies to the current fiscal year, which ends in June.


Melissa questions the FDNY Commissioner at a Council budget hearing (Photo by William Alatriste).


By proposing alternative cuts, such as a reduction in the Department of Education’s private contracting budget, the Council was able to:

  • Defer proposed nighttime fire company closures
  • Restore funding for nearly 200 ACS staff positions in the areas of child welfare and child protective services
  • Fully restore case management services for seniors
  • Fully restore runaway and homeless youth programs and preserve the number of available slots in other afterschool programs
  • Defer parking meters increases above 86th Street and outside of Manhattan
  • Defer the doubling of recreation center membership fees

The City still faces a $2.4 billion deficit for the next Fiscal Year and the  Bloomberg administration is already proposing over a billion dollars in cuts for Fiscal Year 2012 (which begins in July).  Melissa strongly maintains her position that the only way to fully address these recurring budget deficits is to ask the wealthiest New Yorkers to put in their fair share through progressive taxation.

Progressive Caucus Calls for New York Surcharge on Bush-era Tax Breaks for the Wealthy to Restore Services, Address Deficits, Revitalize Economy

Temporary surcharge on income over $250,000 would generate $8 billion, to be shared by New York State and City

New York, NY – On the heels of the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus today issued a plan for an income tax surcharge on households earning over $250,000.  The surcharge would be set at the same amount as the additional income tax break the wealthiest households will receive under the tax cut plan.  The Caucus plan would generate $8.1 billion, and use this revenue to restore vital services now proposed for deep cuts, stimulate the New York economy, and address severe deficits facing New York City and State.

The extension of the Bush-era tax breaks for the top 2% of American households comes as New York City and State (like other cities and state around the country) are facing dire cuts and gaping deficits.  Mayor Bloomberg is proposing to lay off 4,000 teachers, reduce the NYPD and FDNY through attrition, cut home-care services for seniors and child care for families.  Yet despite these proposed cuts, as well as new fees for FDNY emergency service, a large deficit would remain.  And the budget gap New York State is facing is even bigger.  The Progressive Caucus proposal would narrow these gaps, prevent harmful cuts, and help revitalize New York’s economy.

Income concentration is growing in New York, but the top 1% of households do not pay their fair share.  According to a recent report from the Fiscal Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1% increased their share of income from 19.6% in 1990 to a staggering 44% in 2007.  Yet they only pay 34% of the City’s income, property, and sales taxes.

Under the proposal offered today by the Progressive Caucus:

  • Households earning under $250,000 (or individuals under $200,000) will receive the full tax relief under the federal package. A married couple with two kids earning $50,000 will continue to receive about $2,000 in tax relief.
  • Households earning over $250,000 would still receive tax relief on the first $250,000.  A surcharge would be placed on income over $250,000, per President Obama’s original proposal. A married couple with no kids, earning $500,000 per year, would still receive $7,000 in tax relief, but would no longer receive the extra $3,000 provided by the federal extension.
  • This income tax surcharge will be repealed when Congress and the President repeal the tax breaks for the wealthiest households.

The proposal would generate approximately $8.1 billion. The Caucus also proposed a revenue sharing formula, to share the new revenue between New York State, New York City, and other municipalities.

With this plan, New York City would prevent 4,000 teacher layoffs, maintain police and fire services at current levels, keep libraries and child care centers open, and substantially reduce its deficit.

The plan would need to be adopted by the New York State Legislature, as the City of New York does not have the power to raise income taxes.  The Caucus called on Governor-elect Cuomo, state legislators, and Mayor Bloomberg to support the proposal. Continue reading

Progressive Caucus Applauds Study by Center for American Progress on the Benefits of Higher Wage Standards

*** For Immediate Release ***

Contact: Rachel Goodman (Lander) 646-319-8665, rgoodman@council.nyc.gov
Joseph Taranto (Mark-Viverito) 917-535-5531, jtaranto@council.nyc.gov

Progressive Caucus Applauds Study by Center for American Progress on the Benefits of Higher Wage Standards

Caucus Members Call for Passage of Legislation to Ensure that Taxpayer-Funded Subsidies in NYC Create Good Jobs

New York, NY – Members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus hailed today’s release by the Center for American Progress of “Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities: How Higher Wage Standards Affect Economic Development and Employment.” The Progressive Caucus welcomed the study’s findings, and called for passage of two key pieces of legislation to insure that taxpayer-funded subsidies in New York City are used to create good jobs. The study is available at http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2010/11/living_wage.html

Too often, taxpayer-funded subsidies and incentives – issued in the name of job creation and economic development – are used by developers and corporations to create low-quality jobs that pay poverty wages and provide no benefits. To combat this problem, cities across the country have adopted wage standards to make sure that when businesses receive subsidies, they are required to pay their workers family-supporting wages.

The new study released today by the Center for American Progress (CAP) finds that wage standards do not have a negative effect on job creation.  Cities that have applied these standards saw the benefits of family-supporting jobs, and still maintained the same levels of employment growth as a comparable group of cities without wage standards. This study proves that, despite arguments from the opposition to the contrary, it is not necessary to compromise job growth for job quality.

The Progressive Caucus called for passage of two bills before the New York City Council that would apply wage standards of the type studied in the CAP report:

  • Intro 18 (sponsored by Progressive Caucus co-chair Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito) would require owners of buildings receiving financial assistance from the City to pay a prevailing wage to their building-service workers.
  • Intro 251 (sponsored by Progressive Caucus member Council Member Annabel Palma and Council Member G. Oliver Koppell) would require companies receiving economic development benefits to pay a living wage to all workers in the project.

“With nearly a third of all New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, New York must do more to help create good, family-sustaining jobs,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.  “If developers want large hand-outs from the City, they should commit to doing right by the New Yorkers who are helping finance these lucrative projects.  In passing the Good Jobs Bill and the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, we as a City will be putting our foot down to end the practice of subsidizing poverty-wage jobs.  I stand with my colleagues in calling for the passage of these two critical measures.”

“The Center for American Progress report clearly illustrates the great potential of the Prevailing Wage and Living Wage bills,” said Council Member Annabel Palma.  “The report debunks the theory that these bills would hurt our city’s competitiveness and confirms that, if enacted, both Prevailing Wage and Living Wage would provide thousands of New Yorkers access to the well-paying jobs they need and deserve.”

“Public subsidies should create quality jobs not poverty wage jobs,” said Caucus co-chair Council Member Brad Lander. “This is really a pretty simple idea, and I am pleased that the Center for American Progress study shows that this common sense policy doesn’t cost cities jobs.”

“Economic development that receives public funds must be responsible and create good jobs for its workforce,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Our city should never subsidize poverty level jobs. These two pieces of legislation are the right thing to do.”

The Low Road vs. the High Road

The Caucus also highlighted “low road” and “high road” economic development projects in New York City.  High road projects create good jobs, with health benefits, to help grow the city’s economy and create widely shared prosperity.  Low road projects create jobs with poverty-level wages, enabling developers to make money on a project without sharing the benefits with their workers.

  • Low Road:  The redevelopment of Albee Square Mall into “CityPoint” has received City subsidies for the development of a shopping mall in Downtown Brooklyn, the city’s third largest business district. Under the current agreement there are no labor standards, opening the door for low-wage retail jobs with few employment protections.
  • High Road:  The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center received City subsidies to rehab a loft building in East Williamsburg that will house over 100 well-paying manufacturing and industrial jobs.

Wage standard legislation would ensure that NYC subsidies are only used for high road projects, with good jobs for working families.  The CAP study shows this to be the more responsible route, so that communities can encourage investment in good jobs without a negative effect on job growth.

“Creating jobs doesn’t have to mean a race to the bottom—job quality and job quantity can go hand in hand,” said Council Member Letitia James.

Statement of the Progressive Caucus on the Paid Sick Time Act

The members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus are disappointed with Speaker Quinn’s decision not to move forward with the Paid Sick Time Act at this time.

This issue is a priority for New Yorkers and a priority for the Progressive Caucus.  There are too many New Yorkers who will continue to be forced to choose between risking their job, or risking their health and the health of their children. We continue to believe that paid sick leave is good for working families, the economy and public health.

This is not only a workers’ rights issue, it is also a critical public health issue, as employees will continue to go to work sick and send their children to school sick.

We care greatly about supporting economic recovery, and about small businesses which are the foundation of our economy. However, studies of the implementation of Paid Sick Time in San Francisco showed no impacts on job growth.  Well-regarded, academic estimates show that the costs of the bill are considerably lower than the estimates with questionable methodology that were touted recently by the business community, and that there would be almost no net impact on small businesses. However, in spite of this evidence, members of the business community have irresponsibly distorted and overstated the fiscal realities associated with this legislation.

We continue to believe that now is the time to move forward with paid sick days.  As we have said consistently, we are open to a range of amendments that would address the vast majority of concerns raised by the business community.

The Progressive Caucus will continue to push for the passage of the Paid Sick Time Act and are hopeful that the many other sponsors of the bill will join us in doing so.  We hope to see the Council move forward with this issue in the very near future.

Progressive Caucus Releases Statements on Mayor’s Support of Bush Tax Cuts & Tuesday’s State Budget Agreement

The Progressive Caucus of the NYC Council released two joint statements this evening, one regarding Mayor Bloomberg’s support of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and the other responding to Tuesday’s New York State budget agreement.  Both statements can be viewed below:


New York, NY – “We are deeply disappointed with Mayor Bloomberg’s recent comments in support of extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  We find this position irresponsible and urge the Mayor to reconsider his position and join with President Obama and the Progressive Caucus in calling on Congress to let these unfair and unnecessary tax cuts expire this year.

Mayor Bloomberg’s arguments for the tax cuts represent both an ideologically driven view of how the economy works, and a deeply unfair perspective on who should bear the responsibility for supporting the services all Americans rely on.

Mayor Bloomberg claims that extending these tax cuts would be an excellent way to help revive the economy. However, the Congressional Budget Office has reported that, measured by the resulting growth in GDP, extending the Bush tax cuts is actually the least effective way to boost economic growth. Instead, they recommend tools like extending unemployment benefits, expanding temporary aid to states and localities, and providing job-creating tax credits that put money in the hands of middle and low income Americans who are more likely to spend it. Far from hampering economic growth, higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans have also been correlated with the fastest period of growth in a generation: the 1990s. Continue reading

City Announces Plan to Address Section 8 Voucher Crisis

Last week, the City announced a plan to address the Section 8 voucher crisis, protecting 6,500 families from losing their vouchers.  A solution to this crisis has been one of the principal agenda items of the Progressive Caucus, and the subject of several hearings and rallies at City Hall.

The $32 million plan announced last Thursday will solve NYCHA’s budget shortfall that had put 4,000 families at risk of losing their vouchers and also reinstate subsidies for the roughly 2,500 families  whose vouchers had been revoked last December.  The plan utilizes federal dollars, including budget reserves from the Section 8 program administered by NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD), and funding from the City Council. Continue reading

Learn More About This Year’s City Budget and Its Impact on Our District

Yesterday, the City Council adopted the budget for Fiscal Year 2011. Our office has prepared a report for our constituents on this year’s budget, particularly regarding the resources Melissa has secured for District 8 and the restorations and initiatives she helped fight for during this process. We hope you will take a moment to read the report.

We have also launched a new section of the blog that will house budget-related information.  It can be accessed by clicking the ‘Budget’ tab at the top of the page.

If you cannot see the report below, click here to download it in PDF format.

New Op-Ed on Revenue Options Published Today on Gotham Gazette Website

Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander published an op-ed today on the Gotham Gazette news website, which again lays out the argument for new sources of revenue to address the city’s budget deficit.

Here is an excerpt from the op-ed:

Even as working New Yorkers are bracing themselves for these cuts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have refused to consider taking a more balanced approach by enacting new revenue-generating options that would reduce cuts by asking Wall Street and the wealthiest city residents to put in their fair share. The current economic crisis has only made already longstanding inequities in our city much worse. In taking revenue options completely off the table, the administration is failing to demonstrate the leadership that the majority of New Yorkers needs in order to bring more fairness to the current budget and to secure a stable future for all residents of our city.

With an even bleaker outlook for next year, the city simply cannot wait any longer to ask the wealthiest for their fair share. This coming year, thousands of low and moderate-income families could find themselves hit by budget cuts on multiple levels and across generations — in just one low-income area in Brooklyn, two child-care centers, a senior center, a health clinic and a public pool are all on the chopping block. Meanwhile, the safety and quality of life of our communities as a whole could be compromised by the closure of fire companies, the reduction of public health services and decreased maintenance in our parks.  Read the rest of the piece on the Gotham Gazette website.

Watch Four of Melissa’s Progressive Caucus Colleagues on NY1’s ‘Inside City Hall’

Council Members Danny Dromm, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose and Jumaane Williams appeared on last night’s ‘Inside City Hall’ on NY1 to discuss the formation of the Progressive Caucus and the need for the consideration of new revenue options in our City.

The video can be opened by clicking on the image below:

Progressive Caucus Releases Budget Survey Results as Thousands Rally Against Cuts Outside City Hall

An aerial photo of the huge crowd outside City Hall Park (Courtesy of the United Federation of Teachers)

This afternoon, the Council’s Progressive Caucus released the results of its budget survey just before thousands gathered at the “Save Our City” Rally outside City Hall to demand that the Mayor find alternative solutions to budget cuts.

Melissa and other members of the Progressive Caucus joined advocates and social service providers on the steps of City Hall today to announce the results and again renew the call for the consideration of new revenue options.

Among the nearly 2,000 New Yorkers that responded, 89% supported protecting vital services by asking those who can afford to pay to put in their fair share.  The survey indicated that New Yorkers support a number of new, progressive revenue options, including closing a tax loophole for hedge fund and private equity managers and fair share reforms to our tax structure.

More detailed results can be viewed in the report below.  A press release on the survey results can be found here.

We would like to thank all of those who took part in the survey!

Below are the official results.  If you are unable to view this document, click here to download it in PDF.

Have Thoughts on the City’s Budget? Please Complete the Progressive Caucus Budget Survey

Photo by William Alatriste.

We all know that this is a tough time financially for our city and our state. This year’s budget is likely to be one of the leanest in recent memory, with many services and institutions on the line for potential cuts. At the same time, it is our responsibility to explore options for increasing revenue to maintain essential services and a strong city.

The City Council plays a role in negotiating the City’s final budget, and before we take on that task, my colleagues in the Council’s Progressive Caucus and I would like to hear what you have to say. Follow this link http://www.surveymonkey.com/nycbudget08 to make your voice heard on the choices the city should make in these tough economic times.

Your input can be a valuable part of this process – and we want you to weigh in on the options we have for making cuts and raising revenue. I hope you will join up with interested New Yorkers from around the city to fill out this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/nycbudget08.  And once you are done, please forward the link to your friends.

Thanks for your participation, and look out for a report back on what we learn from this survey in a few weeks.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito

Introductions at Yesterday’s Stated Meeting

Yesterday, Melissa introduced several pieces of legislation at the City Council’s Stated Meeting:

Int 122: Establishing a pilot commercial waste audit program, which will help different businesses in our City to establish industry standards and best practices for waste management, recycling and the use of environmentally-friendly materials.

Int 123: Requiring a review process, including consideration for safety, health and environmental concerns, for any new surface materials to be used on playgrounds and fields in our City.

Res 119Resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to create a tax incentive program for green businesses.

Res 120: Resolution calling upon the State to pass legislation that would provide tax incentives for food-service businesses that use environmentally-friendly alternatives to disposable food ware made from styrofoam and other non-recyclable or non-biodegradable materials.

You can access a running list of bills and resolutions introduced this term by clicking the Legislation tab at the top of the page.

Melissa speaking at Paid Sick Days conference.

Paid sick days legislation was also re-introduced yesterday by Council Member Gale Brewer.  Prior to the Stated Meeting, Council Members and advocates gathered outside City Hall to call for the legislation’s passage this term.

This bill, now re-introduced as Int 97, would require that employers provide their workers with earned paid sick time.  Currently, over a million employees lack this protection and often have to make the choice between going to work sick and losing a day’s pay.

The paid sick days bill has been identified as one of the priorities of the new Progressive Caucus of the City Council, which is co-chaired by Melissa.

12 NYC Council Members Announce the Formation of a New Progressive Caucus

Yesterday, Melissa and 11 of her colleagues announced the formation of the New York City Council’s new Progressive Caucus. Melissa will serve as Co-Chair of the Caucus, along with Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn.

The Progressive Caucus was created to be an entity that will push for a more just and equal city that offers genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers. The Caucus plans to tackle a number of issues including pushing for the passage of paid sick leave legislation, addressing the Section 8 voucher crisis and the creation of quality, living wage jobs.

Click here to see an article on the Caucus from yesterday’s New York Times.

Melissa and Brad Lander also published an op-ed piece on The Nation’s website yesterday explaining the rationale behind the formation of the Caucus. The article was cross-posted on Huffington Post.