Back to the future! As you will see below, I attended the 2014 groundbreaking for a new Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement building on 153rd Street which will contain a day care, affordable housing and social service offices. I am pleased to announce that the future is here and the project is complete. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 22.
This important new facility, which I was very pleased to support, is located at 260-266 West 153rd Street and will contain a 10,000-square-foot day care and 51 units of affordable housing, eight of which will be set aside for families who had been homeless.
Back to the Future: in November 2014, Assemblyman Farrell (center) takes part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new HCCI affordable housing building on 153rd Street.
Residences at PS 186 to Open Summer 2016
Also following up on the latest news on affordable housing in the District, I am pleased to announce that the renovation of the former PS 186 is nearing completion and should be complete this summer. The project's managers stated last year that the 79 apartments would be filled by lottery. Please visit PS186living.com for more information.
Assembly Bill Would Extend Mayoral Control for Three Years
Senate Support Sought as Session Comes to an End
In my last report, I detailed Mayor de Blasio's testimony in Albany before a State Senate panel considering an extension of mayoral control of City public schools. Since that date in early May, the Assembly has passed a bill that would extend mayoral control for three years, a length of time for which Governor Cuomo has signaled his support.
As we approach the scheduled end of our Legislative Session on June 16 as well as the expiration of the existing mayoral control law later this month, it is critical for the education of our young learners that the Senate Majority cease its' politically-motivated efforts to hold up this legislation and allow the Mayor to freely and properly manage New York City public schools.
Speaker Heastie: Students Must Have "Every Opportunity to Succeed"
Speaker Carl E. Heastie, in an official statement to the press released after the Assembly passed our mayoral control bill in May, said that "It is our responsibility to give (students) every opportunity to succeed and Mayor de Blasio has shown himself to be a committed and enthusiastic steward of that mission." I agree entirely with the Speaker's assessment.
Mayor de Blasio recently, and correctly, declined the opportunity to speak at a second hearing on mayoral control, announcing that the second hearing was nothing more than a political trap and had Chancellor Fiorina testify in his place. It is increasingly clear that the Senate Majority, whose members mostly represent Upstate communities, care more about hurting the Mayor politically than they do to fulfill their obligation to provide a sound, basic education for all.
Greater Transparency and Accountability in Public Schools
Under Mayor de Blasio's administration, the City's education system has been successful in increasing transparency and accountability while encouraging greater parental involvement in their children's education. The Mayor's tenure to date has seen greater on-time graduation rates, better student performance on State standardized tests, and an overall more stable foundation to the City's large and diverse public education system.
Perhaps most important of all, Mayor de Blasio's administration is helping to end the much-criticized practice of moving less-than-capable teachers out of classrooms and into the "rubber rooms" where teachers sit idle all day while collecting a paycheck for doing no work. The Mayor has, instead, helped guide over 1,000 unsuitable teachers out of classrooms and into other lines of work. For all these reasons and many more, mayoral control must be extended without delay.
In closing, while I'm sure I will see many of you at community block parties, I hope that you all greatly enjoy your summer break, and I look forward to updating you in the fall. In the meantime, please feel free to visit my Web site at assembly.state.ny.us for the latest news from Albany and the goings-on here at home in the District.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
Mayor de Blasio Testifies in Albany, Seeking to Extend Mayoral Control of City Schools
Earlier today, Mayor de Blasio testified in Albany before members of the Legislature in favor of extending mayoral control of city schools. As you may know, last year, despite support from Governor Cuomo and the Assembly in favor of a multi-year extension of mayoral control, the Mayor's control of City schools was extended by just one year, a far shorter extension than had been granted to his predecessor. Under current law, mayoral control expires in June.
Mayor de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina testify in Albany in favor of a seven-year extension of mayoral control of city schools on Wednesday, May 4 2016.
According to the Mayor, great strides have been made since mayoral control was enacted in 2001. At that time, de Blasio testified, the graduation rate was 50.8 % and increased to 66% by the end of Mayor Bloomberg's administration. Under the de Blasio administration, the graduation rate has reached 70.5% with a goal of 80% over the next 10 years. Mayoral control makes these and other big, bold improvements possible, Mayor de Blasio testified.
In earlier years, New York City schools saw a dropout rate of 22% which has since fallen to 9%, the Mayor said, and attendance rates are now 92.2%, the highest in 10 years. Under mayoral control, it was possible to expand universal pre-Kindergarten from 20,000 students to nearly 70,000 in the span of five months; to offer extra academic support at 130 "community schools;" and to improve academic performance at 94 "renewal schools" spread across the five boroughs.
Teachers and Parents Working Together for Better Outcomes, Mayor Testifies
Under mayoral control, the City has been able to bring about transformative changes such as teachers voting to suspend union rules and do things in a different way that is more beneficial for students, the Mayor testified. This could not happen, and in such a brief period of time, without mayoral control, Mayor de Blasio testified.
During his administration, new elements have been added to the existing model of mayoral control in order to maximize parental involvement and engagement in their children's education, the Mayor testified. There are now four scheduled parent-teacher conferences each year, up from two annually in previous years, and the rate of parental engagement has increased 38% in the last year alone. In some schools, 100% of parents attend parent-teacher conferences, he said.
Mayoral Control Ushering Underperforming Teachers out of City Schools
According to Mayor de Blasio, during the period beginning January 1, 2014 and ending in late March of 2016, City government administrators help guide over 1,000 unsuitable teachers out of the system while supporting effective teachers, Mayor de Blasio said.
Closing his remarks, which lasted for about one hour, Mayor de Blasio requested a seven-year extension of mayoral control, which he called consistent with Albany's original authorization of the mayoral control system. Turning to the subject of accountability, the Mayor said that if voters do not approve of his performance, they have the option of replacing him on Election Day and effectively hiring someone else to replace him and to run the City's public schools.
State Budget Prioritizes Homelessness Prevention
Yesterday, May 3, the Legislature returned to Albany to resume our 2016 Legislative Session following our annual post-budget break, during which legislators return to their districts to talk about the budget, priorities for our remaining Session days, and the needs and concerns of their constituents. It is clear that addressing homelessness in New York City must remain a priority.
A Down Payment on $20 Billion Housing Program
During the process of negotiating the budget both houses of the Legislature agreed to adopt Governor Cuomo's plans for a five-year, $20 billion statewide program of constructing and preserving affordable housing, reaching consensus on the fine details of that plan was not possible in the time we had. To this end, discussion is ongoing between Albany and New York City on precisely how the New York City portion of these funds should best be spent, and details of the plan should be forthcoming in the near future.
In the meantime, I am happy to announce that State funding for my Neighborhood Preservation Companies affordable housing program has been increased to $13.4 million in the budget for Fiscal Year 2016-2017. For those who may be unfamiliar with this important program, decades ago I introduced legislation in Albany establishing the system of cooperatively owned apartment buildings in New York City, which was copied nationwide.
2016-2017 Budget Includes New Funding and Programs to Ease Homelessness
As the cost of living in Manhattan and New York City as a whole has continued to skyrocket, we have seen a disturbing increase in homelessness. While it is tragic enough when any person becomes homeless, such as in the many cases when a member of the armed services returns to an uncertain future in civilian life with little support or a person suffering mental illness without adequate treatment, in many cases we are seeing entire families lose their housing and end up either on the streets, in shelters, or in other insecure housing situations. I think we can all agree that something must be done about this problem, and it must be done now.
Prevention May Be Key to Reducing the Problem of Homelessness
It is my belief that the key to reducing homelessness in New York City is stopping evictions from happening before individuals and families are evicted from their homes. Along with my Assembly colleague Keith Wright, who chairs our Housing Committee, the Assembly Majority Conference fought to get new money and programs into the budget for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017 to address these needs.
Budget Creates and Funds Programs to Reduce Homelessness
Along with Governor Cuomo and our colleagues in the Assembly Majority Conference, we got funding into the budget for programs like Solutions to End Homelessness, which offers special resources to those who are at risk of losing housing. Funding was also appropriated to strengthen supportive housing programs which get individuals and families off the streets and out of shelters at a lower cost than most shelter placements.
Gov. Cuomo Pledges 6,000 New Units of Affordable Housing
Governor Cuomo has also proposed the construction of at least 6,000 units of affordable housing over the coming five years, and the Assembly's Majority Conference strongly supports new affordable housing. In Albany, I will fight to ensure that our communities receive their fair share of that important new commitment.
Because of the complexity of the ongoing problem of homelessness, and the constantly shifting needs of those who are on the front lines and addressing this problem day-to-day, details of these programs and how they will be implemented are being worked out between the Governor's office and the Legislature.
Many of the problems at hand are problems we have dealt with before, so strategies to deal with these problems exist, but we are taking a careful and measured approach to addressing the problem of homelessness to be sure we are spending public funds wisely and responsibly in a way that will have a positive impact on the problem.
I will continue to report to you as details of these important programs become final.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203