Freelancer protection bill vetoed by Governor

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Governor Hochul vetoed legislation concerning freelancer work last week.

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, sponsored by Brooklyn State Senator Andrew Gounardes, would have created a right to a written contract from a hiring party for contracts over $250, creating a process for the Department of Labor to investigate complaints and the ability for the Attorney General to investigate patterns of non-payment, among other changes.

“Much of the language in this new section 191-d in the Labor Law is drawn from existing language in Article 6 that provides wage theft protections for traditional employees, creating parity between the two different types of laborers,” according to the bill’s memo. 

Citywide legislation on the issue was passed in 2017. Complaints are handled through the New York City Department of Consumer and Workplace Protections. More than $1.3 has been recovered in penalties or restitution from 2018 and 2019 complaints alone, according to the bill.

The bill argues that the enforcement mechanism at a citywide level isn’t strong enough as the New York City Department of Consumer and Workplace Protections, as they cannot compel hirers to pay, leaving freelance workers to take their cases to small claims court.

A 2019 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, UpWork and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment found that over a third of New York City residents are freelance workers.

“It’s unfortunate that this holiday season will leave freelancers out in the cold, but that only strengthens my resolve to go back to Albany nex year and keep fighting to protect these workers,” Senator Gounardes said in a statement.

According to a report from the Independent Economy Council, 59% of freelance workers are owed $50,000 or more for their work.

“With 39% of the entire U.S. workforce freelancing this year and a total of $1.35 trillion in annual earnings to the U.S. economy from freelance contributions, we are saddened by the Governor’s calculation that there is not enough room in our budget to adequately protect the growing independent workforce in the state,” Executive Director of the Freelancers Union Rafael Espinal said in a statement. “We thank the legislature for passing this significant legislation and we will be no doubt back in January to make sure we get this done next session.”

“The National Writers Union and the tens of thousands of freelance writers, authors and media workers in NYS are extremely disappointed in the Governor’s veto. Freelance Isn’t Free simply requires a written contract and payment within 30 days of invoicing, which should be the bare minimum in worker protection,” Larry Goldbetter, President of the National Writers Union, said in a statement. “To veto a package of bills over a lack of funding for the Department of Labor at the last minute is disturbing, particularly when Freelance Isn’t Free, like the other bills in the package, passed both houses in a legislative session that ended over six months ago. This is especially concerning given that Governor Hochul was elected in November with the support of unions and workers.”

State Senator Andrew Gounardes sponsored the recent freelncer protection bill which was vetoed by the Governor.  (Credit: NY Senate Media Services)

Brooklyn pols’ voting rights reform bill signed

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Voters will have more time to register to vote next year, thanks to Governor Hochul signing new legislation sponsored by Brooklyn electeds. 

Assemblymember Robert Carroll sponsored the voting reform legislation.
(Credit: Twitter). 

The new legislation, which takes effect on January 1, shortens the registration deadline from 25 days before an election to 10 days. While the state constitution stipulates that voters have 10 days to vote before elections, election law made the timeline longer by requiring voters to either be submitted 25 days before the election in person. If you wanted to mail in your registration, the previous law mandated that it be postmarked 25 days in advance and received by the board of elections within 20 days of the election. 

The new legislation was sponsored by Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope) and State Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Greenpoint). (Kavanaugh will not represent Greenpoint in the upcoming term due to redistricting.)

“In recent years, we’ve taken many significant steps to change our laws and make elections more voter friendly. We know that many New Yorkers, with busy lives and many competing priorities, may choose to engage with the election process within the final weeks before an election. With the registration deadline set nearly a month before elections, new voters are routinely excluded from participating,” Kavanaugh (D-Greenpoint) said in a statement. 

The legislation builds on top of voting rights reform that has occurred in the past year. Earlier this month, Governor Hochul signed the “wrong church” legislation, also sponsored by Assemblymember Robert Carroll, which requires the counting of affidavit ballots if a voter showed up to the wrong polling location. 

Back in July, the Governor signed the John Lewis Voting Act of New York. The legislation made many changes to voting law including: requiring language assistance with areas that have enough population of minority language groups, establishing civil liability for voter intimidation and requiring preclearance of changes to voting by the Civil Rights Bureau under the attorney general’s office.

“New York State must ensure that New Yorkers don’t face unnecessary obstacles in exercising their right to vote and this legislation, which reduces the voter registration deadline from 25 to the constitutional minimum of 10 days before an election, is a good step,” Carroll said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and voting rights and election reform advocates in making New York State a true model when it comes to fair, transparent, and well administered elections.”

Greenpoint State Senator Brian Kavanagh sponsored the voting reform bill in the Senate which was signed by 
Gov. Hochul. (Credit: NY Senate Media Services)

Greenpoint ferry service returns

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

After 18 months of delays and setbacks, the Greenpoint Ferry officially restored service to residents on Monday.

The ferry initially closed in May 2021 due to problems with the piles, and the reopening date has been pushed back a few times due to complications with the work.

The ferry was reopened after the Small Business Services department closed out work permits, according to the private developer Lendlease, which owns the pier. The New York City Economic Development Corporation holds the contract with San Francisco-based vendor Hornblower.

In an interview with the Greenpoint Star, Councilman Lincoln Restler reiterated his support for public ownership of the pier, stating that “public transportation should be a fully public asset where we utilize public land and to ensure that we can reliably move around reliably and safely move around.”

While the councilman acknowledged that the engineering issues were complex, he said that the closure happened longer than he would have liked it to.

“For many Greenpoint residents who were nearly a mile from the subway station, this closure caused extreme inconvenience. And we just simply cannot afford for future closures to happen again, at this location.”

The pier will have a temporary gangway while shoreline improvements are made in the meantime. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing NYC Ferry service back to Greenpoint and it was great welcoming riders back this week. We appreciate the patience of Greenpointers, and all NYC Ferry riders, as we worked with Lendlease to safely restore the landing,” Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the Economic Development Council Jeff Holmes said in a statement.

“We’re excited to announce that the Greenpoint landing will reopen on Monday, November 14,” NYC Ferry said in a statement. “We appreciate your patience and look forward to serving our Greenpoint riders once again on the East River route.”

Credit: Dan Nguyen

Brooklyn DA: “Suspect charged in the death of Matthew Jensen”

The Brooklyn District Attorney named a suspect believed to be responsible for fatally striking beloved P.S. 110 school teacher Matthew Jensen. 

The incident took place along McGuinness Boulevard last May, when Jensen was struck by the driver of a Rolls Royce whilst walking home from his 58th birthday party. 

According to the DA’s office, 30-year-old Tariq Witherspoon from Bushwick was arraigned on charges. The allegations include crimnally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, second-degree reckless endagerment, reckless driving, and excessive speed.  

“Matthew Jensen was a beloved teacher at P.S.110 who is sorely missed by his students, co-workers, friends and family,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will now seek to bring this defendant to justice for his alleged actions, which left a community heartbroken.” 

Following a rally over Jensen’s death, former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that the city would spend $39 million to redesign McGuinness Boulevard into a safer thoroughfare. 

“One driver may have committed this act, but it is our city that is ultimately responsible. The way to ensure that this tragedy is never again repeated is through a comprehensive redesign of McGuinness Boulevard. Eliminating travel lanes on McGuinness eliminates the possibility of dangerous speeding by design,” members of the Make McGuinness Safe Coalition, an advocacy group that has been advocating for safety changes in the redesign, said in a statement.

Matthew Jensen on the bulletin board of P.S. 110 (Photo Courtesy of Jensen Family)

Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, who has been an advocate for making changes to McGuinness Boulevard for years, suggested that policy is the correct way to get justice for Jensen rather than incarceration. 

“Since 2013, there have been 1,450 reported crashes, injuring 40 cyclists and 59 pedestrians. Some of them will never fully recover. The only way to permanently reduce and eliminate these needless tragedies is to redesign our roadways to be safer for everyone,” Assemblywoman Gallagher said.

Councilman Lincoln Restler, a friend of Matthew Jensen’s, echoed similar sentiments. 

“Accountability matters. I’m hoping for healing and restorative justice for Matthew’s cousin John, the rest of his family and friends, and all of our neighbors mourning this painful loss,” Restler said. “Our office is committed to moving the Make McGuinness Safe project forward as swiftly as possible to protect our community.”

Witherspoon is currently being held on bail of $75,000 bond or $15,000 cash and is due to return to court on April 27, 2022.

The intersection of McGuinness Boulevard and Bayard Street where Matthew Jensen was killed by a hit-and-run driver in May 2021