Today, May 13, 2022, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine spoke at the 179th CityLaw Breakfast. Borough President Levine spoke on “Manhattan’s Recovery.” Professor Ross Sandler, Director of the Center for New York City Law provided opening remarks. Matt Gewolb, Associate Dean and Vice President for Institutional Strategy and General Counsel at New York Law School, led a closing discussion with Borough President Levine. This Breakfast was sponsored by ConEdison, Greenberg Traurig, and Verizon. This was the thirteenth virtual CityLaw Breakfast as in-person events are not feasible at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borough President Levine started his talk with a discussion about the impact the last two years has had on Manhattan, between the human cost due to the loss of life from COVID-19, the economic impact on industries like tourism, entertainment, the impact on job growth, the growing housing crisis and homelessness, and the rise in hate crimes. Borough President Levine proceeded to discuss how to address many of the issues as a collective response for Manhattan and the City’s overall recovery. He discusses the formation of a pandemic task force, and reminds viewers that there is an ongoing wave of COVID-19. While most New Yorkers are vaccinated, only 38 percent are boosted. He called for a push in outreach to these New Yorkers about the importance of getting boosted and called for the reinstatement of the hotel isolation program, which was canceled back in March. He also emphasized the importance of air quality, and announced that his office was working on legislation to improve air quality standards in buildings.
Borough President Levine discussed the ongoing housing crisis, and that vacant office spaces can provide opportunities for affordable housing. He discussed how overwhelmed housing court right to counsel providers are between the backlog of current housing court cases and increasing waves of new cases post eviction moratorium. Borough President Levine said cases need to be slowed down to give providers time to onboard new attorneys.
As part of the recovery, Borough President Levine discussed the need to address issues with transportation. He called for congestion pricing to pass to bring in revenue and address vehicle traffic.
Other issues Borough President Levine addressed included the lack of public bathrooms in New York City; a combined effort between the Borough Presidents to plant an additional million trees citywide; and stated “I am confident that if we do the hard work people will come back.” He cited rising attendance at restaurants, Broadway shows, hotel bookings and rising costs of housing – while problematic – as signs that people are continuing to recognize New York City as a place to visit and live.
Borough President Levine took several questions from the audience, including about the borough based jails project. He responded that Rikers in its current state was unacceptable, and that there were better and greener uses for the island. He recognized that changes in the City since the plan first passed probably called for a reconsideration of the details regarding the borough based jails project, but emphasized that those discussions were ongoing and that Rikers still needs to be shut down.
To watch the breakfast, click here or watch below: