My Priorities for 2015 Op-Ed

| 03 Feb 2015 | 11:17

I hear from so many of you about issues you face, and while we try hard to work within the system, sometimes you need to change it.

Regardless of where you stand on the debate on the value of standardized tests, parents deserve to know that standardized tests are not, in fact, required. That’s why I plan to introduce a resolution calling on the DOE to amend the Parent’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to include information about opting out of high-stakes testing and to distribute this document at the beginning of every school year to every family in every grade.

Voting is a precious right, and young people in NYC are simply not turning out to the polls. According to the NYC Campaign Finance Board, voters between the ages of 18 and 30 have the lowest voter turnout rate and are least likely to be registered to vote. I want to get young people excited about voting; I think our schools should devote a day to civic education and encouraging 17- and 18-year-olds to register to vote. In March about a dozen council members will launch a pilot program of Student Voter Registration Day where we’ll do just that at a school in each of our districts. (Mine will be at the Brandeis complex.)

Residents with disabilities face many challenges, and as a city we can do a better job at making their lives easier. I’m asking the council to consider legislation that would require all events that receive city funding to publicize their accessibility—including information about wheelchair accessibility, sign language interpretation or real-time translation, assistive listening systems, and a contact for obtaining additional information about accessibility. In addition, I want to require hearing loops in spaces of public assembly so people with hearing loss can fully participate in public gatherings, whether they be in a library or at Lincoln Center.

Residents of all ages have come into my office to express concern about unsafe bicyclists—most often delivery cyclists are the biggest offenders. The delivery cyclists are currently required to wear safety vests, but there are no regulations as to the size and color of the lettering on those vests; they are often written in small black print. I plan to introduce a bill that will regulate the lettering on delivery vests, so it is reflective and at least 2 inches tall – large enough to read if you see a cyclist riding unsafely and want to report him.

Tenant harassment is rampant on the Upper West Side, and we are working on a series of bills to strengthen rights and information for tenants, including a law that would allow tenants who have won disputes in housing court against their landlord to get compensation for being in court.

Our city and our nation have promised to dramatically reduce the production of greenhouse gases. As fossil fuels lose value, the City pension funds that invest in fossil fuels are at risk. It’s time we take a closer look at the financial impact of divesting from fossil fuels and investing instead in green infrastructure and clean technology. These technologies are a safe bet on our future, environmentally and financially.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more news about these bills. As I work to draft legislation, I’d love to hear your ideas – just submit them on my website,

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side on the New York City Council.