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A Sanctuary City for Data Privacy? | CivicHall

The New York City government is looking into ways to enforce stricter data privacy laws in the mold of the recently-scrapped FCC rules governing how internet service providers collect, store, and sell user information. The move sets New York City up to become a sanctuary for citizens looking for a little more privacy online. To start, the city has announced a new privacy policy for the free, public wi-fi kiosks that dot the city, one that clearly states that browsing history will not be stored or sold.

In a Technology Committee hearing on data privacy this Monday afternoon, Council Member James Vacca and other city officials positioned themselves and their work in opposition to the federal government with regard to consumer privacy online. In his opening statement, Vacca described both internet access and privacy as fundamental human rights.

“Lately, digital privacy rights—and countless other rights—have been under attack by the federal government,” Vacca said. “Our City has the opportunity to stand as an example for other cities around the country that are looking to adopt the latest technology, while maintaining residents’ privacy.”

Vacca’s comments were echoed by representatives of the de Blasio administration.

Source: A Sanctuary City for Data Privacy? by

“Before concluding, I’d once again like to reinforce that we share the Council’s concerns about recent actions on the federal level,” said Anne Roest, New York City’s Chief Informatino Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), at the end of her prepared remarks. “As you know, Congress recently passed, and the President signed, legislation that unravels essential protections of Americans’ online privacy. Unfortunately, with the leadership in place in the White House, Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), these kinds of mandates will only become more commonplace. We will continue to monitor these efforts and comment as necessary in collaboration with the CTO’s office, but we also welcome your feedback and suggestions on these crucial matters.”

This is not the first time Roest and her colleagues have positioned themselves in opposition to the Trump administration on this issue. Earlier this month, Roest issued a statement along with Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño on the repeal of federal internet privacy protections, calling the legislation “unconscionable.”

“We are prepared to fight these atrocious invasions of privacy wherever and whenever we can,” reads the statement. “We will continue to implement strict privacy policies for public wi-fi directly provided by the City, such as LinkNYC.”

“This law serves no one except the multi-national corporations that lobbied for it,” they conclude. “It’s clear that the President and congressional Republicans may be willing to put everyday Americans’ personal information up for sale. New York City is not.”

In their statement, Roest and Gamiño announced their intention to create an Internet Health and Human Rights working group.

In the hearing Monday, Roest pointed to the new privacy policy for LinkNYC, the free wi-fi kiosks popping up all over the city, as an example of one of the strongest possible privacy policies for a public wi-fi service.

The vendor that supplies the city with LinkNYC kiosks, CityBridge, updated the LinkNYC privacy policy in March after consumer and privacy advocates drew the public’s attention to gaping holes in the original policy more than a year ago. Roest said that the new policy was written in cooperation with the City and according to their demands.

In addition to enforcing stricter privacy policies for city services like LinkNYC, Gamiño also said that city officials are looking into how they can step in and regulate ISPs.

“We worked with the Council to the Mayor to initiate a comprehensive legal review of the city’s authority to protect New Yorkers’ privacy when connected to the internet,” Gamiño said. “Specifically this review includes an evaluation of the authority the city may have over the privacy policies of internet service providers, how and to what extent the city is exercising this authority currently, and whether the city can expand the exercise of its available authority to achieve at minimum the privacy protections for internet service consumers that Congress and the President have recently repealed.”

New York City is not alone in the effort to step in and fill the gap in privacy protections left by the repeal of the FCC rules. A number of states are rushing to draw up privacy bills to protect their residents, James Willcox reported for Consumer Reports. In New York State, Democratic Senator Timothy Kelly has introduced a bill to prohibit ISPs from selling users’ browsing history or other identifying information to third party companies, and a second bill would require ISPs to keep user data confidential without written consent.

The post A Sanctuary City for Data Privacy? appeared first on Civic Hall.

City Leaders Met Yesterday in NYC to Strategize the Resistance

Just as Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Department of Justice would cut funding from sanctuary cities who did not comply with federal orders on Monday, a group of lawmakers and leaders from these cities met in New York to discuss how to fight back against the Trump regime’s threats of deportations. And while Sessions was addressing reporters at the White House city leaders from across the country huddled in lower Manhattan were one step ahead of him — planning the resistance.

Article: City Leaders Met Yesterday in NYC to Strategize the Resistance | NextCity BY BILL BRADLEY | MARCH 29, 2017

“This administration is chaos and illogical in many ways, they’ve also demonstrated that they’re highly irresponsible,” New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who hosted the conference with Local Progress, told reporters yesterday. “They would try to implement something and they figure it out later. They could attempt to take funds away, they’ll go to court. I take everything seriously. We’ve got to organize and make sure that we’re ready for whatever measure is presented.”

Lawmakers from over 30 cities flocked to New York to share their nightmares and successes in the early weeks and months of the Trump administration, swapping best practices and talking policy fixes to ensure the safety of their respective city’s undocumented population. And nowhere have Trump’s policies had a more immediate impact than Austin, Texas.

After newly-elected Travis County Sheriff Patricia Hernandez announced she would cooperate less with ICE than her predecessor — only holding detainees if ICE had a proper warrant or if the person had been charged with a violent crime — Governor Mike Abbott slashed $1.5 million in state funding to domestic violence victims, veterans’ courts and drug courts. Austin locals felt an uptick in ICE raids was a direct result of Hernandez’s stance and a magistrate judge agreed. A bill that will strip state funds from sanctuary cities has already cleared the state senate. And now a crowdfunding campaign is underway to help the courts Abbott cut off state dollars too.

Gregorio Casar is at the forefront of Austin’s resistance. A lifelong Texan, Casar was born in Houston to immigrants from Mexico. In 2014, at 25 he was the youngest member ever elected to Austin’s City Council. A former community organizer at the Workers Defense Project, Casar — who represents the most immigrant-heavy district in Austin — has been intimately involved in his city’s fight against Governor Abbott and President Trump. Thin, with a full beard, Casar has the slight build of a runner — he was a star track athlete in high school — and his time in public office hasn’t extinguished the fire and fervor of his past life as a young community organizer.

“Unlike almost every other community across the country where everybody is worried about losing money we actually have already suffered a loss of funds,” Casar, dressed in slim-cut jeans and cowboy boots, told Next City. “In other states, leaders are worried about what happens if Trump tries to illegally turn the police force into a deportation force. In Texas, we already have a bill that’s passed through one of our two chambers that would do that.”

So the question posed between city leaders at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where the conference was held, was: What’s next? Trump and Sessions are coming for our cities, what can we do to fight back? Popular Democracy assembled a toolkit for sanctuary cities, which they released last week. The fight, which Trump’s failed travel ban has shown, starts in the streets.

“It’s important for council members to be vocal and utilize the bully pulpit. We’re not just policymakers we’re also community leaders,” Casar said, emphasizing the need for local lawmakers to join their constituents in solidarity. “The places where the most public and most heinous ICE arrests occurred [in Austin], instead of the streets being empty, instead of people hiding in their homes, we had over a week’s worth of protests.”

The early days of the Trump administration have shown how protest can be effective, but now city leaders, like Mark-Viverito, are looking for ways to ensure the safety of the undocumented in public places. The courts have proven particularly difficult, where ICE agents will get the court docket from clerks to see when undocumented people will be in court — whether it’s for a probation hearing, to have charges dropped, or to testify in a case. Mark-Viverito is exploring various ways to keep ICE out of public buildings.

“We told the Chief Judge here we were saying that it’s disruptive. You have people not coming to their court dates. You have maybe witnesses of crimes that will hesitate to come in. There’s already a disruption happening. We’re looking at it and especially in buildings that are city owned,” Mark-Viverito said. “What can we do to limit ICE having a presence there?”

During a session yesterday, panelists — including Alina Das, associate professor of clinical law and co-director, Immigrant Rights Clinic, NYU School of Law, and Peter Markowitz, associate clinical professor of law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law — discussed some mechanisms sanctuary cities can use to fight back.

The panelists rattled off a handful of what they consider pillars in the fight against ICE deportation, which are also part of The Center for Popular Democracy’s toolkit. Chief among them how to handle detainer discretion policies. Detainers are essentially requests from ICE to local agencies — courts, police departments, jails — about a specified undocumented immigrant. The main two are ICE hold requests (a request that ICE hold an individual in custody on ICE’s behalf) and ICE requests for notification (when ICE asks for the time and place of an individual’s release from local custody so ICE can swoop them up). City officials need to ensure their local agencies are on the same page — something Mark-Viverito is working on with the New York courts — with a top-down policy. The law, despite what Attorney General Sessions says, is on their side.

“Legally, cooperation with an ICE detainer request is entirely optional. This includes both notification of release and requests to hold someone in custody,” Popular Democracy’s toolkit reads. “Hold requests, in particular, represent serious constitutional problems.”

Popular Democracy suggests four keys to developing a better detainer discretion policy. Your local ordinance “should start with an overall prohibition against expending local

resources on the enforcement of immigration law.” The ordinance should not exclude people with criminal convictions (experts liken this to classifying good immigrants and bad immigrants). Cities must require ICE to secure a warrant that is issued by a judge. And, finally, there should be transparency and the ordinance should require disclosure on the city’s “level of compliance with ICE hold requests.”

Lawyers, lawmakers and immigration experts feel that ultimately the law will back them up and Sessions can’t simply pull their funding. In the meantime, local lawmakers will continue doing what they can to make sure that the immigrants in their communities have the same rights as those who were born here.

“The appropriate response is not to tell our communities they’re safe right now under the Trump administration,” Casar said. “But rather that if we don’t stand up and fight in this moment we can’t win our safety and rights in the long term.”

Article: City Leaders Met Yesterday in NYC to Strategize the Resistance | NextCity BY BILL BRADLEY | MARCH 29, 2017

Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

Kathleen Webster lived on Forsyth Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s, when her neighbors started organizing around Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Everything around it was boarded up and closed.

Source: Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

“This community got on bicycles, did a whistle campaign. They organized themselves to take the park back from pimps and drug dealers,” she says.

The police, and eventually the parks department, were more than happy to work closely with the community, Webster remembers. “At the time, they were happy actually to have anybody take it on, because nobody else wanted to be here,” she says. “As one person told me, a parks employee threw the keys at him for a back gate, and said ‘do you want to take care of this?’”

Take care of it they did, Webster and her neighbors. They focused their initial energies on one section of the narrow but long park and transformed it into the BRC Senior Center, which is now surrounded by the Elizabeth Hubbard Memorial Garden (named for one of the original volunteers). The site became the anchor to gradually wrest the park back to healthy, productive community use. Webster, who still lives in the neighborhood, became president of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition, which continues to organize around the park.

But times have changed. The Lower East Side is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Manhattan. Public assets, including parks, park buildings, former schools, library buildings whether they’re in use or not, community gardens and city-owned vacant lots are suddenly in the crosshairs of developers who once wouldn’t touch the neighborhood. Now the volunteers who worked to make the area safe are left wondering: How can they get the attention of public officials when people with deep pockets are drawing up plans and proposing shiny designs for repurposing public assets that seem otherwise underutilized?

“If you think of development as a race, with a starting line and a finish line, in too many communities, government starts at or slightly ahead of the starting line, the developer’s usually way down the road, and the communities aren’t even at the starting line,” says Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, the state chapter of the national civic engagement and government accountability organization.

Common Cause New York has been collaborating with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center and 596 Acres on the NYCommons initiative to build a modern set of organizing tools to help grassroots groups compete with private real estate developers when it comes to determining the future of publicly owned assets across the city. One of those tools is a new online map and database of all the public assets that, while hard to define, essentially provide some type of potential real estate development opportunity — something a city agency could potentially sell or lease to someone else.

“The baseline thing we need to do is figure out what the set of things is that we’re trying to include in this conversation,” says attorney Paula Segal, founder of 596 Acres, which supports grassroots organizing around vacant publicly owned lots in NYC. “The truth is, we’re in a city, most of our infrastructure and our assets are shared — the subways, the roads, the sidewalks, the water, something like 30, 40 percent of all housing in the city is some form of cooperatively owned. The list goes on and on to the point where privately owned property can start to seem like the real outlier.”

Residents like Webster and her neighbors have long been organizing around many of these assets. About three or four years ago, Lerner says, Common Cause and the other NYCommons partners started to see a pattern in the organizing against a proposed soccer stadium taking away public park space in Queens, around the Midtown Library in Manhattan, and around the future of the main Brooklyn Public Library Branch and other public assets.

“It seemed as if each one of these particular issues was being attacked as if it was a free-standing issue, and the people working on it were thinking of it as ‘this is a parks issue, this is a libraries issue,’” Lerner says. “We started thinking about the fact that all of these separate challenges had similar underlying policy issues that have to do with how does government think about commonly owned, shared assets.”

Residents were spending huge amounts of time and energy, often to no avail for some of these larger proposals and projects involving public assets.

Meanwhile, when it came to vacant lots, over nearly the same two-year period, grassroots groups in four of the five boroughs successfully organized around 36 former publicly owned vacant lots, which were officially declared permanent public parks at the end of 2015. 596 Acres supported 17 of those grassroots groups.

“We were able to get new parks created by getting people involved very early on before anybody talked about flipping anything in vacant, publicly owned real estate assets in their own neighborhoods, transforming them into community resources that maybe weren’t recognized as permanent when they were created, but they became permanent,” says Segal.

596 Acres has developed a number of tools and found or created resources specifically around city-owned vacant land, including its own online map and database, Living Lots NYC, that provides a useful platform for organizers to connect and maintain records of organizing activity around each lot. NYCommons hopes to create an expanded tool set to serve grassroots organizing around the broader universe of public assets in NYC.

They started by asking. NYCommons went to 10 neighborhoods over the spring and summer where they knew people were organizing. Lerner says they found “a tremendous amount of energy in all five boroughs” for sharing best practices and connecting with others doing similar work.

NYCommons picked three neighborhoods for pilots, and provided them documentation, workshop facilitation and other resources to begin developing a tool kit. Many resources already existed, thanks to groups like the Center for Urban Pedagogy or New Yorkers for Parks. The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition was one of the pilot sites.

“Movement happens in funny ways, but the NYCommons materials were very helpful as a draft basis from which to go,” says Webster.

The coalition’s current focus is a former recreation center, currently used as a systemwide parks storage facility, smack dab in the middle of a well-used area of the park. “We’ve been having a conversation about this building since 1994,” says Webster.

The group had already successfully lobbied local Council Member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to earmark $1 million for renovations to the building, but the parks department has yet to propose a new purpose for the building. Webster credits NYCommons for helping get through this most recent round of community visioning for the site. Chin testified at a recent hearing that she supported one of the coalition’s ideas to turn the facility into a daytime drop-in center for the homeless.

Efforts by Webster and the other pilot sites around the city will continue to shape the final NYCommons tool kit and the online platform. Many sites already have data from recent years’ organizing efforts that need to be uploaded. The organizing track records themselves provide vital talking points for future hearings and op-eds and community meetings.

“There’s a real hunger for this in neighborhoods of all different backgrounds,” says Lerner. “Hopefully NYCommons can provide an entrée into a fairly sophisticated, experienced, citywide network of groups who are all thinking along the same lines, putting pressure on government to be responsive, with a similar vocabulary and set of expectations about public assets serving the public.”

Oscar is a Next City 2015-2016 equitable cities fellow. A New York City-based journalist with a background in global development and social enterprise, he has written about impact investing, microfinance, fair trade, entrepreneurship and more for publications such as Fast Company and He has a B.A. in Economics from Villanova University.

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