By Matthew Taub
Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Increased funding for arts education for schoolchildren. A waiver for homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. The securing of an important union contract. And the 2,000th restaurant opening with the help of the Department of Small Business Services.
In the run up to the 4th of July weekend, the Mayor is on a roll.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña appeared at the Bronx Museum of the Arts to announce how the City will spend $23 million in additional arts funding for New York City schools. The City will hire 120 new arts teachers at middle and high schools that are underserved, improve arts facilities across the City, and foster exciting partnerships with some of the City’s renowned cultural institutions. The new investment will reach thousands of students with new classes and activities in music, dance, visual arts and theater.
The same day, he signed legislation allowing the Department of Buildings (DOB) to waive building fees for New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy who are rebuilding or repairing their homes through the Build It Back program, further streamlining recovery and expediting the pre-construction process. Previously, Build It Back contractors would have to pay DOB fees on behalf of homeowners and then be reimbursed by the City using federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) relief funds. Now, those fees will be waived—eliminating steps that slowed the pre-construction process and freeing up federal relief dollars that can be used to fund additional DOB staff.
“This is a necessary common sense measure to let Sandy victims know that their government has their back and will cut through fees and red tape as much as possible to help fast track their recovery,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chairman of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency. “With many Sandy victims still waiting for the relief and help they deserve, I am pleased to see real reforms to the City’s recovery plan taking effect.”
Then yesterday, the Mayor reached a tentative contract agreement with DC37, the City’s largest public employee union. This tentative agreement with DC37’s over 100,000 impacted employees marks a landmark first contract with the group of unions that settled in the 2008-2010 round of collective bargaining but has been without new contracts since 2010. Further, the pattern of the agreement is consistent with the City’s now-ratified contract with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)—confirming and establishing that pattern as the basis for the other 120,000 city employees who also settled in the 2008-2010 round of collective bargaining.
Under the tentative agreement announced today, DC37 employees would receive raises of 10 percent over the first seven years (which, compounded, total 10.41 percent) and 0.52 percent over the four-month contract extension.
“A 10.41 percent raise over the duration of the contract, plus thousands of dollars payable to in ratification bonus and back pay, is a fair deal for our members in a tough economic climate,” said District Council 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “We bargained hard, as did the administration, to reach this agreement, and we commend the Mayor for treating us with respect throughout the process. We are delighted to see a Mayor who wants to address the problems of all New Yorkers. We think this agreement is a beginning for a new administration that is attempting to right the wrongs of the previous one.”
The MLC and the City have agreed to secure $3.4 billion in health care savings through Fiscal Year 2018, and $1.3 billion in recurring savings every year thereafter. The City and the municipal unions will work to secure cost-cutting measures, aimed at bending the curve of rising health care costs for the first time. These savings are guaranteed and enforceable by arbitration.
The gross cost of the tentative DC37 settlement is $1.75 billion; after the guaranteed health care savings, the net cost will be $955 million. With this agreement, approximately 60 percent of the city’s workforce has now reached contract agreements or tentative contract agreements.
Finally, in Bedford-Stuyvesant yesterday, the Mayor celebrated the grand opening of the 2,000th food establishment with assistance of a “business accelerator” from the Department of Small Business Services. “Emeline’s,” a family-owned diner, worked with the Department of Small Business Services to open approximately 80 days faster than they would have without the City services, creating eight new jobs, and a new, sit-down dining option in the neighborhood on Lewis Avenue.
NYC Business Acceleration provides businesses with one-on-one counseling and access to direct information to guide them through government licensing, permitting and licensing.
“Emeline was born in Weeksville, Brooklyn in 1899, and Uncle Charles’ dream of honoring his mother, establishing a family business, and a family legacy in Brooklyn, has now become a reality,” said Linda DeJesus, Co-Owner of Emeline’s.
The NYC Business Acceleration program has helped 2,000 businesses to date, creating a total of 31,400 employment opportunities in the process. Those businesses that have taken advantage of the program have opened an average of 33 percent faster, or 75 days earlier than businesses that did not use the service. The administration today is also announcing the expansion of NYC Business Acceleration services to retail and industrial businesses, making the program available to more than 60,000 additional businesses across the city, as well as new daycares participating in the Mayor’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program.
The mayor wraps-up his events before the holiday at City Hall, hosting the weigh-in ceremony for the Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.