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Mayor Michael Bloomberg: March 2011 Archives

March 2011 Archives

New York City parking scam

Image by Lee Gillen via Flickr

When New Yorkers talk to me about improving the quality-of-life in our city, one topic that always comes up is parking tickets. Let’s face it, that little orange rectangle on your windshield can put a major crimp in your day – and a major dent in your wallet.

A bustling city like ours needs traffic laws to keep the streets safe, and to keep the businesses on our commercial corridors thriving. Many of those businesses depend on the turnover of metered spots to keep the customers coming throughout the day. 

While we can’t stop issuing tickets when people break the law, we can reduce the headaches that come with paying and disputing them. And last week, we launched an enhanced online hearing program that will do that by allowing New Yorkers to contest certain types of tickets without ever leaving the comforts of their homes or offices. 

We’ve long offered a web payment option for parking tickets on the city’s website, nyc.gov. But now, Web users will have the ability to complete the entire hearing and payment process online. You can request a web hearing and upload your evidence in a matter of minutes, and then receive a ruling by e-mail in just a few weeks, instead of a few months.
Online hearings are now also available for tickets involving other health and safety matters, including off-leash dogs, dirty or obstructed sidewalks, and improper recycling. The city’s Environmental Control Board, which has jurisdiction over these types of violations, has added a one-click hearing function to their webpage, also available on nyc.gov. That means residents and small business owners who wants to dispute these kinds of tickets will no longer have to take time out of the workday to appear before a judge. Instead, they can contest the tickets online whenever it’s convenient for them – whether that’s noon on a Sunday, or midnight on a Thursday.

By offering a completely paperless way to dispute and process parking and other violations, we are helping our customers save time and money. And we are helping city employees to work more efficiently. For example, we’ll now require fewer clerical personnel to process paperwork. We’ll also increase the productivity of our administrative law judges, who will be able to make use of the down time between live hearings to review digital cases. 

Expanding and improving online hearings is just one of a series of steps we intend to take to make the city’s tribunals more user-friendly. And it’s also just the latest example of how we’re using technology to improve the delivery of services. Just like the QR – or Quick Response – codes we’re adding to all of our building permits, and the new “Leak Notification” program we rolled out earlier this month, these web hearings will make it easier for you to access critical information and services on your terms – and on your schedule.
Governor's Island from air

New York is one of the world’s great waterfront cities. In fact, our web of bays, rivers, and inlets gives us more shoreline than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon combined. For centuries, this “blue network” was the bloodstream of our city’s economic life. As waterfront industry and commerce declined, New Yorkers turned their backs on this incredible resource. But in recent years, we’ve begun reconnecting to our 520 miles of shoreline. And last week, our administration released a blueprint for a sweeping transformation of the waterfront and waterways that are, in effect, our “sixth borough.”

Our new comprehensive waterfront plan outlines major long-range goals and also a three-year action agenda for starting to realize them. One of our priorities is to build on the progress we’ve already made on Governors Island, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and our other new shoreline parks. So over the next three years, we’ll invest $360 million to develop and expand waterfront parks and create 14 new greenways and esplanades throughout the city. We’ll also create new recreational access points and ferry service allowing New Yorkers to get on the water. In fact, later this spring we’ll launch new commuter ferry service connecting Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan and Governors Island.

Upgrades to Brooklyn and Staten Island industrial marine terminals will also keep our waterfront a place where thousands of hard-working New Yorkers make good livings. Over the next three years, such projects will create 13,000 new construction jobs and 3,400 permanent waterfront jobs. At the same time, we’ll protect nearby residential areas from the noise and fumes that some industrial activity can create. We’ll invest in the infrastructure that will encourage new development along the waterfront, and also work to make regulations governing waterfront uses easier for property owners to understand and navigate.

Today, thanks to years of investment and hard work, the waters around our city are cleaner than they’ve been in more than a century. Further upgrades to our wastewater treatment plants, investments in runoff-conserving green infrastructure, and environmental projects that include restoration of our wetlands will continue to improve the ecology and natural habitats of our waterways and shorelines.  We’ll reduce pollution and shrink our carbon footprint along the waterfront, and also work to protect our waterfront infrastructure from severe weather events — all major goals of our PlaNYC sustainability agenda. 

City agencies, waterfront experts, and elected officials collaborated to produce our plan and action agenda. Thousands of New Yorkers also contributed their ideas, both on-line and in person, at meetings and workshops. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn deserves special recognition — she championed the legislation that set this process in motion, and she’ll be our partner in implementing the waterfront action agenda. You can read our waterfront plan online, at the city’s Web site, nyc.gov. It’s a great way to see for yourself how we’re enhancing the waterfront near where you live — and how we’re making sure that our once-forgotten waterfront is never forgotten again.

NYC - Bank of New York Building

Many of you know that in an earlier life, I was a small business owner. So I strongly appreciate the value and potential of small businesses in our city: how they can push our economy forward with new ideas, services, and products; how they provide 50 percent of the jobs in our private sector; and how they’re the social and economic glue that binds together our neighborhoods. 

Our vibrant small business community is also a major reason why New York has weathered the recession better than the rest of the country — and we believe that our small businesses can continue to lead our recovery. In recent days, we’ve taken steps to help more of them get off the ground, grow, and create jobs by focusing on two critical elements of our local economy: Immigrant entrepreneurs; and minority- and women-owned business enterprises, or MWBEs.

Our administration has actively encouraged city agencies to step up the business they do with qualified minority- and women-owned companies — and those efforts have paid off. Since 2006, more than 26,000 city contracts valued at nearly $1.9 billion have been awarded to businesses taking part in the City’s MWBE program. And now, through a partnership with 11 of our best corporate citizens — institutions like American Express and IBM — we’ll open up even more contracting opportunities — this time in our city’s lucrative private sector. Becoming a supplier to a large corporation is a huge step forward for any small business. It not only provides income; even more important are the credibility, stability, and contacts that come with the experience.

We are also ramping up our support for immigrant entrepreneurs, who’ve long been a tremendous source of innovation in New York. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start companies — although a greater proportion also struggle to keep their businesses open for longer than a year. That’s why we’ve created a new competition that challenges community-based organizations to come up with programs that can help immigrant businesses across the city grow to scale. At the same time, we will begin offering some of our free business courses in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian — which will allow us to connect to hundreds of new businesses in our immigrant communities.

Now, people often ask how we can afford to launch these kinds of programs while we are simultaneously working to close big budget gaps. One reason is because we are always looking to form partnerships with the private sector — and that happens to be a central element of both initiatives that I’ve discussed today. But we are also always looking for savings by making government leaner, smarter, and more efficient. In fact, last week we opened a state-of-the-art data center that will allow us to centralize the information technology services of more than 40 agencies, saving roughly $100 million over the next five years. This is part of a series of cost-cutting strategies we are implementing to increase innovation and better serve our customers. And if we can continue doing all those things, we will leave New Yorkers a city that’s even stronger than the one we have today.
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