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Apr 8

All women deserve access to all forms of contraception

By Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Women’s Issue Committee Chair Council Member Julissa Ferraras and Health Committee Chair Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo

Friday’s momentous decision by a federal judge to overturn the age restrictions on sale of Plan B (the morning after pill) is long overdue and a landmark for reproductive rights. In 2009, the FDA concluded that the medication was safe for all ages and should be available over the counter to all — that common sense decision was over ruled by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. We opposed restrictions on access then, and applaud removing them now. Women of all ages deserve access to all forms of pregnancy prevention, and countless studies show that women of all ages use them.

Emergency contraception (sold as Plan B and often called the morning after pill) is something that can be used in a variety of circumstances: when another method of birth control fails, when unprotected sex occurs, after a sexual assault. In 2003, the Council passed a package of legislation requiring that medical facilities carry EC, that hospitals provide it to victims of rape or sexual assault, and that pharmacies must disclose the availability of EC. Since then we’ve been consistently calling for EC to be available, over the counter for women under 18. It’s unrealistic to think that women under 18 aren’t having sex and don’t need access to EC. Requiring them to get a prescription only deters them from using it when needed, and creates more unintended pregnancy.

We must let go of the fallacy that availability of EC, or contraception, or abortion will make sex ‘consequence free’ for our young people. Providing education and medical options prevents teen pregnancies, it doesn’t create them. That is not opinion — it is scientific fact. Those facts are what should be guiding our policies — not politics, religion or fear.

On Friday, Judge Korman called Secretary Sebelius’ decision “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” Sebelius’ actions, he said, were “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” We couldn’t agree more. We applaud this decision and the tenacious work of the Center for Reproductive Rights in bringing it to justice.

Mar 7

Standing up for NYC Families in danger of losing money on school deposits

Today I called on our city’s private and Catholic schools to make tuition deposits refundable for families waiting to hear about admission to public school.  

The NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) change of notification date for high school acceptances had consequences for schools in the public, parochial and independent school sectors, but Hurricane Sandy was a unique situation that challenged the City in ways that we have never faced before. In light of the storm, we need our principals to make registration deposits refundable.

Refund policies should be fair to both schools and families. Families should have a limited period of time after public high school admissions decisions are announced in which they can request a refund. They should also have to show proof of public high school admission when they make their request. In return, schools should make the misalignment of notification and registration dates resulting from Hurricane Sandy as easy as possible for families.

Mar 7

Giving Vets a Chance!

Thanks to new legislation announced by the City Council today, veterans will be able to use the trade experience they earned in the military to qualify for plumbing, electrical and other trade licenses.

 

Right now, the City allows veterans of recent conflicts to apply their service toward certain licenses or certificates issued by the New York City Fire Department. 

Legislation introduced by Council Members Sara Gonzalez and Ruben Wills will allow veterans to use relevant military experience toward trade licenses, eliminating the need for veterans to unnecessarily repeat experience requirements in order to earn a license and continue their military trade.  It also seeks to expand current law to allow veterans of recent and future conflicts to apply time served during a conflict toward license requirements if their trade career was interrupted by entering the military.

In addition to this proposed policy change, we also introduced legislation sponsored by Council Member Eugene requiring the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA) to help veterans connect military skills to various City jobs and ensure that these jobs are included in the federal Veterans Job Bank.

If you’ve had the experience of working as an electrician in a war zone, you’re more than qualified to be an electrician in New York City.  The same goes for many trades that our men and women in uniform learn while serving our country.  This legislation will help to ensure that our veterans have every opportunity to use the skills that they’ve developed in order to establish meaningful civilian careers.

We’ll be a holding a public hearing on these bills this Monday, March 11th at 1 pm in the 14th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.  

We know it’s short notice but we wanted to invite you to attend and provide feedback on the bills.  

If you can’t make it to the City Council that day, you can always email your remarks to us instead at speakerquinn@council.nyc.gov, and we’ll be sure to include them in our preparations for Monday’s hearing.

Feb 1

Farewell Mr. Mayor

All of New York City is in mourning today as we say goodbye to a great  mayor, a great man, and a great friend.

 Ed Koch dedicated his life to the five boroughs. He loved this city  fiercely and it loved him back.  He saved us from the brink of  bankruptcy, raised our spirits, and restored our city’s reputation in the world.  He rebuilt our crumbling infrastructure, adding more than 150,000 units of affordable housing.  And after leaving office he continued to make New York a better place, inspiring us through his writing, his activism, and his commitment to change.

But he was more than just the sum total of his accomplishments.  Mayor Koch was larger than life.  He stood taller than the bridge that bears his name. His sense of humor and tenacious spirit personified this town. Ed Koch was New York.

I can remember seeing him on TV when I was a little girl and thinking to myself, “If I could ever meet him it would be a dream come true.”

Years later when I was working at the Anti-Violence Project, I was in the midst of a very public battle with City Hall.  Mayor Koch called me out of the blue.  I had never spoken to him in my life.  He told me, “You’re doing the right thing.  Don’t back down, and call me if I can do anything.”

Mayor Koch was never one to back down from a fight, and never above reaching out to a stranger to offer his help.  Throughout my years in government, some of my proudest and fondest moments have been working and fighting by his side.

 He once said, “I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone. This is my home.” Ed Koch will never leave New York City.  He will exist forever in our hearts, and in the millions of lives he touched.

 On behalf of a grateful city, I want to extend my deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and all those who loved him.

The Boy Scouts Need to End Their Discriminatory Policies Once in For All

I’m pleased that the Boy Scouts have finally decided to meet to consider lifting their wrong-headed ban of LGBT Americans from their organization. The Boy Scouts touts themselves as a group that promotes compassion and respect, but until they open their membership to all people, its mission is hollow. I urge the Boy Scouts of America to show real leadership and end their discriminatory policies once and for all.


 

Building stronger schools for NYC

I spoke at the New School earlier this morning on “Stronger Schools for NYC”. The truth is, if we want to keep NYC a place of opportunity for middle class families, and if we want to make it a place where people can realize the American Dream, moving their family into the middle class, we need a public education system that prepares every student for the jobs of the 21st century.

To make this happen, I outlined a four-point strategy earlier today that will pave the way for a new century of opportunity. Number one – Best Practices, Better Schools. We identify the best parts of our system - the schools and teachers and principals that are making the biggest difference for our kids. And we use their best practices to lift everybody up and make the whole system stronger.

Number two – Learning 24/7. We make learning something that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means empowering parents to continue teaching at home, and better engaging families in all parts of the system. And it means extending learning time for our highest need students, and using creative scheduling to make the best use out of all the hours in our school day.

Number three - Community Schools. We make everything kids need available through one strategic, coordinated effort - from after school programs to health care to nutritious meals.

Number four – Innovate to Educate. We adopt a 21st century curriculum that focuses on the whole child, and recognizes that individual students have individual needs and talents. That means creating the most intensive literacy support program in the country. It also means reducing the amount of time we spend on test prep, so we can focus on skills that prepare students for 21st century careers.

Education has been a top priority for me and you can read my whole speech here.

Planning for the NYC yellow bus strike

The NYC Schools bus drivers union just announced they will strike starting Wednesday. Here are the steps the City is taking to ensure that a strike presents the least possible hardship to students and their families.  

From their website, the plan includes:

  • Students who currently receive yellow school bus service can get a temporary MetroCard valid as long as the strike continues. They will be available at schools’ general offices. Parents of children in grades K-2 can request an additional MetroCard to escort their child to school. 
  • Parents of children in grades K-6 who get yellow bus service and for whom public transportation to school is not an option can get reimbursed for transportation costs. If they decide to drive their children to school, they’ll be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile. If they use a taxi or car service, they’ll be reimbursed after completing a form available in their schools.
  • Students who arrive at school late because of disruptions will be excused for up to two hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively affected.
  • Afterschool programs will remain open, but no school busing will be provided.

Get vaccinated this flu season!

Everyone in New York seems to be getting the flu these days, and I wanted to share a health bulletin from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) with you, linked here

But remember: Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the flu and prevent community-wide transmission, so it’s important that you and your family go get a flu shot if you haven’t done so already.  This year’s virus has arrived early – and it has health officials across the country bracing themselves for what could be the worst flu season in years.

While there have been reports of some shortages, the flu vaccine is still available at many clinics and pharmacies around the City. To find a location near you, please call 311 and ask for the City’s Health Department.  You can also use the “Flu Clinic Site Locator” on the City’s website.

Getting vaccinated is especially important for people in the following categories:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Children younger than 5 years, especially those under 2;
  • People 50 and older, especially those 65 and older;
  • People with certain chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, sickle cell anemia, weakened immune system (such as from HIV or cancer treatment), and any nerve or muscle disorder that can cause breathing problems; 
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities;
  • People who care for infants less than 6 months old; and 
  • Health care workers. 

Be well!

Volunteer for Sandy

Although we know this was an extremely difficult holiday season for many people hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, we hope everyone’s New Year got off to the best possible start.

The NYC Council will be continuing with our Hurricane Sandy relief efforts this Saturday, January 12th.

Buses will be departing at 10 a.m. from 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan and will be going to one of the affected neighborhoods.  We appreciate your past help and hope you can join us! 

Please RSVP to SandyRelief@council.nyc.gov with your name, email and cell number, and we’ll get back to you with additional details.

If you don’t want to take a bus from 250 Broadway, you can catch the B61 bus to Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn instead. Volunteers are needed in Red Hook to do help with debris removal and other clean-up activities.  Click here for the full B61 bus schedule, and here for additional information about volunteering in Red Hook.

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to yet, please take a moment to sign the NYC Council’s online petition urging Congress to pass a complete Hurricane Sandy relief package for our region without further delay.  To sign, click here. 

Although President Obama recently signed into law $9.7 billion to help cover flood insurance claims for the many home and business owners flooded out by Sandy, Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives are continuing to play politics with people’s lives and divide our country by failing to act on a larger, more comprehensive Sandy aid package for our region.

It’s been over 70 days since Hurricane Sandy pummeled our area.  We shouldn’t have to wait this long for Congress to act on something so urgent to so many people.  Thousands of residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are still suffering without heat, hot water, or electricity.

More than 5,000 New Yorkers have signed our petition so far, showing how united we are in our call for action.  But we’re not stopping in our efforts to help spread the word and make more voices heard.  Help us reach our goal of 6,000 signatures and ensure that Congress passes the remaining $51 billion in Hurricane Sandy aid without further delay.  Sign our online petition here.

And please encourage your friends, family and neighbors to sign our petition as well.  We can’t let Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives turn their backs on our region again.


Jan 8

Yellow Bus Service Strike

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As you may know, there is a possibility of a yellow school bus driver strike in New York City. While we are hopeful that New York City students are unaffected, if the strike occurs, it is essential that all students currently using yellow bus service have alternative transportation to and from school. 

Below is information that we have received from the DOE about what to do in the event of a bus driver strike.  Please contact your local school, 311 or the Office of Pupil Transportation at (718) 392-8855 for more information. 

MetroCards

  • All students who currently receive yellow bus service may receive a MetroCard. These MetroCards are being made available at your local school and should be requested through each school’s general office. 
  • Parents of pre-school and school-age children with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) requiring transportation from their home directly to their school as well as parents of general education children in grades K-2 may also request a MetroCard for the parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to school. 

Transportation Reimbursement

  • The DOE is offering reimbursement for actual transportation costs (subject to DOE guidelines) for students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus service from home or a school bus stop and live in areas where public transportation is not readily available.
  • Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed are a rate of 55 cents per mile. 
  • Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that includes a receipt for provided services. 
  • Requests for reimbursements should be made weekly on forms that will be made available on the DOE website and in each school’s general office. 

Home School

  • In the unfortunate event that students cannot get to school, the DOE will be posting materials online for every grade and core subject so that students can continue their learning at home during the strike.

Again, for additional information about what to do in the event of a bus driver strike, please call your school, 311 or the Office of Pupil Transportation at (718) 392-8855. 

And if you have any other questions or concerns regarding your child’s education, please don’t hesitate to contact Nick Rolf in Speaker Quinn’s office.  He can be reached by telephone at (212) 442-5765 or by email at nrolf@council.nyc.gov.