Beyond November: The City Bar and a New Mayor – Carey R. Dunne

Carey Dunne

Carey R. Dunne

President’s Column, April 2014


Beyond November: The City Bar and a New Mayor

Last June, I wrote about the New York City Bar Association’s extensive policy recommendations for New York City’s mayoral candidates leading up to the election in November. Based on the collaborative effort of over two dozen City Bar committees, we issued a 95-page report from the perspectives of lawyers who work daily on issues vital to the City’s welfare.  In that June column, I stated my aspirations for this report: “We hope it will inform the public dialogue as the campaign continues between now and November.”

Now that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of our report’s release, I would like to update you on our continuing efforts. We have worked well beyond November in order to ensure that the new administration has our recommendations in hand as it forms the agenda and begins setting policies for the City. In the weeks and months since the election, our Legislative Affairs Department, with the help of our New York City Affairs Committee, has worked to identify the members of Mayor de Blasio’s transition team and administration, facilitate introductions and start to build relationships between our committees and the administration, and convey our recommendations to the right people. In other words, we are working hard to make sure that the City Bar’s voice is heard as the new City government takes shape.

To that end, our “Policy Recommendations for New York City’s Next Mayor” report has been sent to every citywide elected official, the City Council Speaker and all members of the Council, appointed Deputy Mayors, and many of the newly appointed commissioners and directors of City agencies. In recognition of the sheer number of advocacy documents these individuals receive upon taking office, we have worked hard to relay our recommendations in as targeted and tailored a manner as possible. Our goal is to ensure that the newly elected and appointed officials know that we have a point of view on a wide variety of issues pertaining to City governance, on topics ranging from access to justice, public safety and civil liberties to social welfare, consumer protection, emergency preparedness, election law and animal law issues.

In addition, several committees have issued supplemental transition memos to the Mayor, either reinforcing previously stated positions or offering new recommendations for consideration. To date we’ve issued transition memos from our committees on AIDS; Animal Law; Civil Rights; Domestic Violence; Education and the Law; Land Use, Planning and Zoning; and Sex and Law.  Some of the new topics addressed in those memos include the use of public school buildings for religious worship services (the subject of a recent Second Circuit decision regarding which the City Bar submitted an amicus brief), suggestions for improving Community Benefit Agreements in land use projects, and the providing of affordable housing protection and increased rental assistance levels for people living with HIV/AIDS. More reports are expected in the coming weeks.

Committees are also reaching out to newly appointed agency officials to request meetings. In February, we hosted a breakfast featuring Public Advocate Letitia James, providing a forum for members to hear directly from the Public Advocate about her policy agenda and ask questions. We intend to host similar events with other administration officials as well. In other instances, committees have invited officials to attend joint committee meetings and, in doing so, they are facilitating the type of informal, relevant and informative dialogue that our members find so useful. 

Our efforts to effect policy changes at the City level are ongoing and something we will continue to build on over the year. We have created a webpage dedicated to our New York City policy recommendations, which we will be updating as new reports are issued. Our committees continue to work diligently to identify, articulate and address the pressing issues facing the City, and we look forward to working with the new administration in the coming years.