By Carol Tannenhauser
The New York City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday to help prevent birds from flying into buildings, a phenomenon that’s estimated to kill 90,000 to 230,000 birds migrating through New York City every year.
Primarily sponsored by outgoing Upper West Side City Councilmember, Helen Rosenthal, the “Lights Out for Birds Bill” will address one of the major causes of the collisions, which birder and WSR contributor Alex Israel called “light pollution.”
“Building glass is one of two major hurdles for approximately one hundred species of birds that traverse the Atlantic Flyway headed north in the spring and south in the fall,” Israel explained. “Reflective glass confuses birds—especially when situated near parks—as they mistake what they see in the reflection (e.g. trees and sky) for the real thing and fly towards it. Clear glass can be an issue too; with appealing foliage behind it, the birds may head towards it in search of shelter or food. The other hurdle is light pollution, which draws birds in during their nighttime migration and disorients them, making them even more prone to collisions.”
The new law requires all City-owned and leased buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lights from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. during peak avian migratory periods. It will have the added benefit of reducing the City’s energy consumption, Rosenthal’s spokesperson pointed out.
The bill was one of six sponsored by Rosenthal and passed by the City Council in a late-term flurry of legislative activity. Term-limited out, Rosenthal will be replaced by Gale Brewer in January 2022. During her tenure, Rosenthal has sponsored several bills aimed at improving the lives of individuals with vulnerabilities and disabilities and women. Here is a summary of the latest bills to pass the council, provided by Rosenthal’s office:
Salary Ranges for All Job Postings – Int. 1208-2018-B
On average women make 86 cents for every dollar white men make, black and brown women make 50-65% of what white men are paid. This bill requires that all job postings include the minimum and maximum salary offered. Pay transparency brings us one step closer to pay equity.
Street Harassment Advisory Board – Int 2424-2021-B
Women, minorities, the LGBTQI+ community, and people with disabilities are most often on the receiving end of street harassment. This bill requires the City to establish a street harassment prevention advisory board, with a broad membership, to study harassment (including an annual survey), provide public education, and identify more effective, community-based responses.
Open Captions in Movie Theaters – Int 2020-2020-A
Roughly one in five New Yorkers suffers from deafness, ranging from moderate to total. Such a significant segment of the population deserves to fully enjoy movies with ease. This bill requires open captioned (sub-titled) film screenings in NYC movie theaters — with up to four open captioned screenings per film every week.
Building Light Restrictions to Protect Birds – Int 0274-2018-A
During peak migratory bird season, NYC buildings with outdoor lights are death magnets for between 90,000-230,000 birds who collide with glass each year. This bill requires all City owned buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lights from 11pm-6am, during peak avian migratory periods.
Victim-centric Training for NYPD (DV, Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking) – Int 2439-2021-A
This bill recognizes the severe trauma of survivors of domestic or sexual violence and human trafficking. All police officers who interact with the public will be required to receive comprehensive victim-centered, trauma-informed questioning training. The bill also requires that the City investigate the causes of domestic violence fatalities and make every effort to identify and implement policy changes and fund programs to reduce the stubbornly high number of fatalities.
Video Voter Guides – 2438-2021-A
NYC Campaign Finance Board research makes clear that neighborhoods with limited English proficiency and a high number of residents with disabilities often have lower voter participation compared to other neighborhoods across New York City. This bill opens the door for higher voter participation by requiring that printed voter guides include the top ten spoken languages in NYC and braille/large print. It also requires that candidates participate in video voter guides, which will include close captioning and ASL. Candidates who chose not to participate in the videos will not receive the final five percent of campaign matching funds.
This actually makes me feel a little better…..I just assumed HR just did nothing….turns out she just worked on mostly superfluous issues….before comments start, I’m not hating on migrating birds or pay equality or the deaf….I just would have loved to hear her speak to quality of life issues and crime that many of us have raised concerns on over the past two years. IMO she’s been awful, perhaps others disagree, but Brewer will be better by default when she steps in. I just can’t see how she could be worse.
People often post here on WSR about crime in NYC and what they want elected officials such as Helen Rosenthal to do about it. My theory though is that they have very little understanding of the U.S. Constitution or NYS Constitution or which laws are the province of the New York State Lelgislature and where the power of the New York City council begins or ends. I would really love to hear exactly what you think Helen Rosenthal or Gail Brewer are supposed to do, or the outgoing Mayor or the incoming Mayor.
So your saying local elected officials in City Council have no say in quality of life issues? And the Mayor has no say in crime or QOL issues? Who exactly does?
These people are elected by their constituents to address these exact issues. Mayors in big cities are all making a push to address recent crime surges, whether its re-hiring police or re-visiting some recently passed laws. Our incoming mayor was elected because he promised to focus on the recent spike in crime, so by your rationale, we should let them know there is nothing they can do, and not to waste their time?
Local politicians have can have a huge impact on the increase or reduction of crime in our neighborhoods. So far they have been doing a great job at the increasing part.
Advocate – incessantly – for harsher sentences for violent offenders and steep step-ups in sentences for repeat offenders. I.e., Actually take the criminals who commit the vast majority of impactful crimes off the streets, for long periods of time.
Endorse prosecutors and DAs and judges who support this, not the laissez-faire morons who think criminals on the streets is better for the public because they couldn’t fix the mess at Rikers.
None of this runs counter to the Constitution. It’s all a matter of local legislation and political will.
If you’re going to criticize at least read what you’re criticizing. It’s not pay equity for the deaf (although that would be good). It’s pay equity for all, including women who are systematically paid less than men. As for the deaf, that bill is to provide a certain number of open-captioned screenings of movies a day. No one has to go to them. There are plenty of other screenings offered. This bill allows not only the deaf and hard of hearing to go to the movies but also many other groups, including people for whom English is a second language.
If the City Council was really concerned, the Council would have focused on limiting loud music in restaurants and stores.
So many restaurants and stores play music at dangerous levels – major health impact on workers and customers.
Addressing this important issue would have been a substantive action.
“If you’re going to criticize at least read what you’re criticizing.” Seems like you didn’t read it properly before criticizing: Frank said pay equality OR the deaf, not “for the deaf”
Oh. Never mind!
That’s Emily Latulla.
“What’s this I heard about violins on television?”
I like the street harassment advisory board idea. My suggestion is that repeatedly harassing people be made a crime, and that someone who repeatedly commits that crime faces some form of meaningful punishment. I think there are a lot of WSR posters who could add a lot of value to that board and give it some teeth.
At times I feel like we are more concerned with the well-being of migrating birds than the people who live in the city, follow the rules, pay their taxes, and don’t bother anyone.
Perhaps the anti-harassment board will also help protect pedestrians from bicyclists who curse at pedestrians who remind bicyclists that it is not ok to go through red lights, go the wrong way, hit pedestrians etc?
— “At times I feel like we are more concerned with the well-being of migrating birds than the people who live in the city, follow the rules, pay their taxes, and don’t bother anyone.”
Which is why the people who follow the rules, pay their taxes, and don’t bother anyone don’t want to live in the city any more. But at least the migrating birds will be safe.
Leon, it’s not going to happen. Focus on street “harassment” – at the very same time they’re focusing less and less on street “crime” – less enforcement, immediate pre-trial release even for violent offenses, pathetic sentences, etc.?
Now we’re supposed to believe that a group of white knights will magically appear in the streets to reign in catcalling and mocking/name-calling, etc. It’s completely incongruous and clearly just a simulation of activity. But worry not – they’ll set up an Advisory Board with our tax dollars to “study ” it.
Thanks for reporting on these bills. Each one is a step toward a safer, kinder and inclusive community. Good luck in your next endeavor, Helen.
Thank you Helen Rosenthal especially for open captions and bird safety — but also for everything you do. We’ll miss you!
The “salary ranges” requirement won’t fight any pay inequities in practice and is yet another weight for struggling businesses to bear to no actual good end. Red tape. No actual benefit. But we feel good.
Much of this sounds like it matters to people (and is thus easy to respond to with some laudatory comments about warmth and compassion) but in practice is fluff that at best will waste money. I do like the lights mandate, which is overdue. And I have hopes for the street harassment initiative, but suspect it won’t accomplish anything but ultimately fund a non-profit that in return will back candidates like Helen and hire friends, to no practical end, all while getting itself an exemption from the salary ranges requirements for its directors.
How much of this is her priority given the current state the neighborhood is in is beyond me.
Where is the “red tape” in posting salary ranges in job descriptions? No red traps.
People are dismissing pay equity as a trivial issue. It is not.
I for one am glad that deaf birds are no longer flying into buildings because they’re underpaid.
While being harassed…
Awesome post – well done!
A few may miss her, but not me. Will never forget how she threw her constituents under the bus during the summer of Covid by making us out to be racists when we didn’t want our neighborhood surrounded by ex-cons, drug addicts and the mentally ill. She and her pals got their way, but at our expense. Good riddance I say, but Gale Brewer is no prize either!
Well said. Her actions made a hellish summer even more unbearable for the residents of the UWS.
May Ms. Rosenthal leave public service forever.
Yes, I remember her quick turnaround on that issue as well, once she realized she was out of step with her virtue-signalling peers.
I’m glad that the UWS has had such caring City Council Representatives like Helen and Gale. These women think about and understand the needs of the majority of their constituents in the neighborhood. Thank you for working for your Upper West Side.
If Gale Brewer is replacing Helen Rosenthal, I don’t see how this will be a step in a better direction to help our community. Brewer will most likely continue with the same failed policies that have made the UWS the disaster that it has become. Will she get more funds to help our over worked and under staffed police department? Will she welcome more homeless drug addicts and sex offenders into our neighborhood. Will she bring more businesses and jobs to the UWS? These are all questions that I hope my neighbors will start to ask themselves.
Good riddance to one Rosenthal (hopefully Linda is the next one to go). They consistently ignore their constituents. And it’s very “brave” of HR to pretend to care abt harassment while so many women and the elderly have been harassed in her own backyard in the past years by aggressive panhandlers while she didn’t care at all. She’s looking for a cushy job at some city-sponsored nonprofit, that’s all. Goodbye Helen!
While you are at it, please pass some legislation that reduces the sound of the ambulance and police and fire truck sirens. They are way too loud.
Regarding 11PM to 6AM turning off of lights to protect birds, don’t these same lights protect humans?
Probably turns on what “non-essential outdoor lights” means.
I am very grateful to Helen Rosenthal for her repeated help for New York City’s wildlife. Dimming or reducing nocturnal illumination during peak migration periods will cut down the terrible number of birds who die from window collisions in NYC – 100,000 to 230,000. These two laws will of course maintain security lighting where needed. Reducing energy consumption is the right step to make for nature and the human race as we face global warming.
The Lights Out for Birds legislation that passed as noted only applies to City-owned and leased buildings. Int.-265 which would have applied this legislation to privately owned buildings did not advance to a vote. It was blocked by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
It is my understanding that many NYC movie theaters have offered closed cpationing for years – for those with hearing disabilities?
Is that accurate?
With all due respect, IMO subtitles are completely unpleasant and distracting.
Recently went to a movie that unbeknownst to us in advance, had sub-titles.
Between the folks looking at their phones, talking and the subtitles, a real bummer experience.
Understand that it is not easy being an elected official and there is always a lot criticism – unfortunately have always found Helen Rosenthal to be uninterested in constituent concerns.
It is incredibly demoralizing.
Every aspect of West Side life has deteriorated during her tenure – more garbage and rats, luxury overdevelopment and super-gentrification, no NYCHA support, loss of local stores, loss of food markets, worse bus service, bicyclists who endanger pedestrians and more…
The quality of life decline that we have all experienced over the past several years as our UWS neighborhood has steadily declined happened under Helen’s leadership. I am not saying that she is solely responsible, but it is undeniable that it happened on her watch and that she arguably was seldom part of the solution. I am not sure if Gale Brewer will bring about any of the positive change that is much needed, but it seems pretty certain that change wasn’t going to happen by any action of Helen’s, so let’s hope for the best now.
The UWS will never get better political representation until a NEW Democratic club of centrist/moderate Democrats is organized to defeat the West Side Democrats, of which all our political representatives are members. Then WSD is in no way a sensible “liberal” club but is now run and supports the candidacies by and of the radical, leftwing, Marxist socialists (a goodly number of whom are just plain communist fellow travelers). I would happily join such a NEW Democratic club.