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VOL. 23 NO. 1

On The Legal Front

Some Good News in the New Year ■■


o here we are in brand-spanking new 2019, having survived an arduous 2018. Because last year’s ride may cause trepidation about the year ahead, Our Time Press points to a few gains and positives in 2018 and things to be optimistic about in 2019, taking some bitter with the sweet. PAID FAMILY LEAVE INCREASE Thanks to the nation’s strongest family-leave policy, New York State parents can now spend 10 weeks – up from eight weeks in 2018 – away from their jobs to be with their newborn children. This is great news for all parents, and particularly important for single-parent households. Every moment spent bonding with the new addition is precious, so two weeks is clear added-value of the human kind. The law applies to adopted children and fostered children as well. New Yorkers who are caretakers of family members with serious health conditions are also covered under the New York State Paid Family Leave act, as are those dealing with the military deployment of a family member. All who are eligible will receive up to 50% of their salary for the duration of the leave, which will cap at 12 weeks in 2021. MINIMUM WAGE RISES There’s good news on the salary front for minimum-wage workers as well. As of New Year’s Day, New York City residents at that pay-grade who work at a company with more than 10 employees receive a $2-per-hour raise to $15. Minimum wage for workers at smaller companies are seeing their paychecks fatten by $1.50 to reach $13.50 per hour. In other locales, including Long Island and Westchester, minimum wage is rising from $11 to $12 and in other areas of New York State the increase is from $10.40 to $11.10 NONBINARY BIRTH CERTIFICATES The right to a non-binary birth certificate is now law in New York City. Those who identify as neither female nor male are officially allowed to have an “X”

By Maitefa Angaza

serve as their gender-neutral marker, in place of “M” or “F” for male or female. However, it remains to be seen how logistical challenges will be resolved for New York City residents in the issuing or amending of state-regulated documents such as passports, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and ID cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. New York State does not yet offer the nonbinary option. Yeah… NO CIGS AT PHARMACIES Most New Yorkers still call pharmacies “drugstores,” which have sold a deadly and highly addictive drug in plain sight of the law. But at the start of this new year the law has changed. Pharmacies in the five boroughs must cease and desist the selling of all tobacco products, including cigars and loose tobacco. Supermarket pharmacies are included and e-cigarettes were banned by the city last summer. A November, 2018 report by Tobacco Free Kids reported that each year the industry spends $199 million of its marketing budget in New York. This, while, annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in New York are $10.3 billion. The report also claims that smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides COMBINED. The number of adults who die from smoking each year is $28,200, it says, but an estimated 280,000 young people now 18 and under will die premature deaths from smoking or from the effects of secondhand smoke. That’s an awful lot of bad news, but it highlights the good the news that politicians are finally coming to the realization that they must protect people over Big Tobacco. If accountability to the wellbeing of citizens can be an actual reality in this particular case, it can replicate among other elected officials with pressure from the voting public. MARIJUANA ARREST REFORM Speaking of smoking, marijuana reform was made official in September of last year. New York City residents

will no longer be arrested for smoking in public. Both District Attorneys Eric Gonzales (Brooklyn) and Cyrus Vance (Manhattan) have said they’ll no longer prosecute marijuana smokers brought in by police unless they are violent, or in some other manner posing a public threat, of which Vance said, there is usually little evidence. Even after the September law came into effect, police were arresting Black and brown people in droves. Apparently, although cops had stopped arresting the average person smoking in public, if they discovered the person had an arrest record, they’d bring them in. And who is arrested most in NYC? Eighty percent of people arrested for possession in the first four months of 2018 were Black or Hispanic, although studies show that marijuana use is about equal among Blacks and whites. So the refusal by these two DAs to prosecute without just cause is significant. FOAM HAS NO HOME For those concerned about the environment, a ban on foam products went into effect in New York City on January 1st. This means no foam takeout clamshell containers, cups or packing materials. (The ban is commonly said to be on Styrofoam, but as that particular foam product is not used in takeout containers, it actually has wider application.) Businesses have been given a phase-out period and will be fined starting in July. Small businesses can also apply for a waiver them a reprieve until July, 2020. Any perceived inconvenience may soon take a backseat to the benefits in the minds of city residents, as awareness of the dangers of foam products to humans and to the environment increases. The body has no mechanism for excreting foam (not through sweat, urine, mucus, etc.). So when particles too small to be seen by the eye are ingested, (perhaps while eating takeout or drinking a cup of coffee), they remain in the body and become a cancer risk. In addition, because

Styrofoam Banned ➔➔ Continued from page 2 Department of Consumer Affairs will continue to conduct outreach and education in multiple languages to businesses throughout all five boroughs. During the six-month warning period, businesses that still use foam products may receive a “warning card” reminding them of the ban and directing them to DSNY outreach resources. “This long-overdue ban will put an end to Styrofoam littering our streets and clogging our waterways,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “Now we must build on this progress by cutting out other wasteful, outdated products like single-use plastic bags and plastic straws.” New Yorkers throw away 60 million pounds of foam products each year. To help educate businesses about the new law, the Department of Sanitation has already contacted over 129,000 retailers and food service establishments. DSNY is also coordinating with elected officials, community boards, business improvement districts, business organizations and other stakeholders to ensure New Yorkers


OUR TIME PRESS January 3-9, 2019

understand how to comply with this law. The Department’s Commercial Outreach team provides free in-person trainings and online webinars to businesses and will be conducting site visits around the city during the six-month warning period. Businesses can request to host a training or sign-up for a scheduled one by visiting Nonprofits and small businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue per year may apply for hardship exemptions from the Department of Small Business Services if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products not composed of EPS would create undue financial hardship. Waivers granted will be valid for a one-year period beginning July 1, 2019 and on a rolling basis. "Small businesses are the backbone of our city's economy - and DCA is committed to helping them thrive," said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. "We are proud to partner with our fellow city agencies and play a role in ensuring zero waste to landfills by 2030 while also making sure businesses are not only aware of but are operating. Under the de Blasio Administration, New

➔➔ Continued on page 7 York City has become a global leader on climate change and sustainability. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio committed to reducing New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. In 2017, the administration doubled down on its commitment to sustainability by delivering the first-ever city plan to align with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to the global 1.5° Celsius target. To protect New Yorkers, the city is also moving forward with a $20 billion resiliency program designed to ensure that our neighborhoods, economy and public services will be ready to withstand and emerge stronger from the impacts of climate change. The city is also holding polluters to account by suing the five largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies who have contributed the most to climate change and is standing up for future generations and New York City pension holders by being, under the leadership of then-Public Advocate Letitia James, the first major city in the nation to commit to divesting pension funds from fossil fuels. Building on this commitment, Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and city pension trustees recently announced a goal of doubling New York City’s pension fund investments in climate solutions to $4 billion by 2021. In 2018, the city also

View From Here ■■

By David Mark Greaves

2019, a year with two main items on the agenda: saving the country and saving the planet. The hope for the country is that with the Democrats now controlling one of the branches of government, the system of checks and balances that were laid down in the Constitution and that we learned about in middle school will kick in and get some straitjacket ties around our emotionally-challenged president. Commenting on Trump’s fitness for office, Senator-elect and former Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney said the president "has not risen to the mantle of the office," and in his character, he brings the office down. Controlling this guy will not be easy. He is vicious and nasty and will fight for personal survival, with Constitution, country and world be damned. Many times we’ve thought he could not go any lower or surely there were some norms, like no political speeches to the troops, that even he would abide by. But we thought wrong each time. Now we’re going to see that the events of the past year were only a series of teasers for the upcoming political circus, where every sideshow would be the center ring, were that space not commanded by the cage match of Special Counsel Robert Mueller vs. President Trump. Saving a country is a really big deal, so a lot of fireworks are to be expected. Based on the lineup of Trump investigators in Congress and the NYS Attorney General, I am certain we will not be disappointed in that respect. Where there is major disappointment is in the area of saving the planet. This unique blue orb in the known universe is in danger of being clouded over by climate change and transformed from a haven for life in the otherwise cold blackness of space, to a place of misery and death on a planetary scale. President Trump’s Administration is determined to keep financial interests as the cornerstone of his environmental policy, opening federal land to drilling and rolling back environmental regulations depending on how much it will cost people he knows or wants to impress. As always, Trump comes first. And then there’s the garbage. Plastic pollution of the ocean food chain from bacteria to humans continues unabated and will only increase by tens of millions of tons a year. This is a fact that we must make a part of our lives as we try to minimize our usage of plastic bags, straws, and other single-use plastic items. launched “Bring It,” a sustainability campaign focused on empowering young New Yorkers to reduce waste and create a cleaner, fairer city. Who is Covered: • For-profit or not-for-profit: food service establishments, mobile food commissaries and stores that sell or use foam items; and • Manufacturers and distributors of polystyrene foam packaging that are located or operate within any of the five boroughs of New York City. What is Covered: • Single-service foam items including cups, bowls, plates, takeout containers and trays. • Foam loose-filled packaging, commonly known as “packing peanuts.” What is Not Covered: • Foam containers used for prepackaged food that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the food service establishment, mobile food commissary or store. • Foam containers used to store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood or poultry sold from a butcher case or similar appliance. • Foam blocks used as protective packaging in shipping. For more information, visit: foamban.

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OUR TIME PRESS | January 3-9, 2019  

OUR TIME PRESS | January 3-9, 2019  

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