News

Emergency Protection for Ithaca Renters and Small Landlords

Largely written by the Ithaca Tenants Union and modified by me, the mayor, and Alderperson Smith to ease its passage, I sponsored this legislation to request that New York State give us the power to cancel rents and prevent evictions and financial ruin.

Status: Passed June 3, 2020


WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has demonstrated its desire and commitment to be a leader in housing justice and social equity by recently passing resolutions creating:

  • An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 146 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code entitled “Building Code Enforcement”, §146-9 entitled “Identification and Notification”
  • An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 258 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code entitled “Rental Housing”, to add Article III entitled “Displaced Tenants”

and

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has a significant tenant population; and

WHEREAS all residents of the City of Ithaca have the right to a stable, safe and affordable place to live; and

WHEREAS the rate of rent burden, defined as paying 30% or more of household income for rent, was already above 70% in Ithaca before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 2018 Census data; and

WHEREAS the COVID-19 pandemic has now caused thousands of Ithaca residents to lose their jobs, rendering many incapable of paying rent; and

WHEREAS, on March 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo of New York State issued Executive Order Number 202, declaring a Statewide disaster emergency for the entire State of New York; and

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca deems itself morally obligated to protect its most disadvantaged residents from bearing the brunt of the economic risk from the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS increased eviction rates in the City of Ithaca will undermine the realization of the Ithaca Green New Deal’s goal of achieving “a carbon neutral city by 2030,” by inciting rent burdened individuals to seek housing in cheaper areas further from the City, increasing urban sprawl and our dependence on single-use cars for commuting to work and commercial or recreational areas in the City; and

WHEREAS Governor Cuomo’s May 7, 2020 Executive Order Number 202.28 partially bars evictions through August 20, 2020, but does not prevent evictions over “just-cause” non-economic infractions, nor does it prevent the filing of any eviction proceedings or lawsuits after August 20, 2020, over alleged lease infractions that occurred during a COVID-19 eviction moratorium; and

WHEREAS the COVID-19 moratoriums established in the Governor’s Executive Orders 202 and 202.28 do not protect residential or small business tenants from the non-renewal of leases, or rent hikes during and following a moratorium; and

WHEREAS the State of New York has not yet acted to pass NY State Senate Bill S8125A, which would “act to suspend rent payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants and to suspend certain mortgage payments for ninety days in response to the outbreak of coronavirus”; and

WHEREAS the State of New York has not yet acted to pass NY State Senate Bill S2892B, “The Good Cause Eviction Bill,” which would, according §213, prohibit “landlords from taking any action to evict, fail to renew a lease, or otherwise seek to remove a tenant from housing accommodation except for good cause”; and

WHEREAS undocumented persons, the unemployed, and other vulnerable populations do not have access to the stimulus and unemployment benefits provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; and

WHEREAS City of Ithaca Code §48-1 and §48-8 authorizes through the proceedings for Emergency Preparedness procedures for “rendering assistance to citizens within the City of Ithaca in the event of a disaster or emergency which exceeds the dimensions of any individual City Department’s current mandate for response,” such as in the case of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize  the Mayor to forgive via executive order three months of all residential and small-business rent payments and additional fees which are due through June 2020, and, for leases started on or after April 1st 2020, to forgive all rent payments and additional fees due through June 2020
, as determined by the payment schedule outlined in the original lease; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize  the Mayor to prohibit the eviction of residential and small-business tenants by executive order through June 2020; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the City of Ithaca calls upon renters who remain financially stable during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain timely payment of rent; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize the Mayor to obligate landlords to offer  renters lease extensions at the current rate of rent during the duration of the declaration of emergency; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the City of Ithaca shall deliver the below letter to the Governor of New York State and the State Department of Health, to notify them of the City’s intentions to act;

“To Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health:
We, the City of Ithaca, write to formally request the State Department of Health’s review of our City’s attached resolution to forgive the rent obligations of our residents, as well as the approval of our Mayor’s ability to invoke the resolution’s provisions immediately, per Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.5. 
We cannot overstate the distress felt by our residents over the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ithaca is especially vulnerable to these effects: our economy relies nearly entirely on now-suspended higher education and Finger Lakes summer tourism, which are built on the backs of our robust service industry — where we have more restaurants per capita than any other city in the New York State. With consumers now in lockdown or largely outside the region for the foreseeable future, many of these businesses are now temporarily or permanently closed. Our working class is experiencing its highest rate of unemployment in nearly 100 years.
On April 1, 2020, the City of Ithaca’s Common Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting that rent and mortgage relief be instituted by the State government. Now, months later, with no such legislation having passed despite multiple bills being drafted, it is our position that State and Federal measures have been insufficient to protect tenants. Over two-thirds of Ithaca’s tenants were rent burdened before a single COVID-19 case appeared in New York. Now, countless more face excruciating uncertainty surrounding their ability to remain housed and financially stable once the unconditional eviction moratorium expires in just two weeks.
We understand it’s complicated — but respectfully, and especially considering our federal administration, the fallout of this economic crisis cannot wait patiently for deliberations over stimulus package options. Neither can our most vulnerable residents: many do not have access to unemployment benefits, and those who do have struggled to receive them.
In light of these acute pains and the absence of comprehensive State or Federal action, we declare our intent to use our own legislation to protect renters. We again request, with increased urgency, that the State of New York not only relieve rent in the rest of its municipalities, but that it also use its State powers to ease the distinct burdens of homeowners and small landlords, including mortgage payments — something no city can do on its own. 
The State does have the power to stop our emergency relief measure — but it also holds the sole power to complete it, by extending relief to homeowners and small landlords experiencing their own pressing and growing burdens.
In an era defined by necessary shelter-in-place orders, we implore the State of New York to prioritize the necessity, and defend the sanctuary, of the home.
Sincerely,The City of Ithaca”

The Cornell Daily Sun: ‘When Cornell Leaves, Our Business Goes Away’: Ithaca Businesses Brace for Impact of C.U.’s Move to Online Classes

The Cornell Daily Sun: ‘When Cornell Leaves, Our Business Goes Away’: Ithaca Businesses Brace for Impact of C.U.’s Move to Online Classes

Ducson Nguyen (D-2nd Ward), echoed the mayor’s calls for state and federal intervention on Twitter.

“The whole county will hurt, but I’ll be giving Collegetown businesses more love than usual for a while,” Nguyen wrote.

Ithaca Times: The 2019 Tompkins County Write-in Candidate Bonanza

Ithaca Times: The 2019 Tompkins County Write-in Candidate Bonanza

As for other citywide races, local firebrand Joe Scaglione garnered one vote in the city’s Second Ward, though the seat was soundly kept by Alderperson Ducson Nguyen. Also receiving votes were “Yr Mom,” “Anyone Else,” the beloved clay cartoon Gumby and “All the Cats,” a rather nightmarish thought.

Ithaca Times: Can they keep dogs off the Commons?

Ithaca Times: Can they keep dogs off the Commons?

Ducson Nguyen, an alderperson for the Second Ward, of which the Commons is a part of, is in support of lifting the ban, even though he has said he’s more of a cat person.

“People bring dogs anyway and as far as I know, it’s rarely an issue,” Nguyen said. “Police officers have come before Council to tell us how much they dislike enforcing the ban. Who wants to tell a visiting family or a Commons resident they can’t pass through the heart of downtown with a dog? That said, while the ban is in effect, it should be enforced. That includes local business dogs popular on Instagram.”

Ithaca Times: Common Council votes to downzone West State Street

Ithaca Times: Common Council votes to downzone West State Street

Alderperson Ducson Nguyen, who stood firmly against the resolution, spoke on how the new zoning could prove to be detrimental to the future prosperity of Ithaca’s downtown core.

“Progressive cities all over the country are going up while we’re going down,” Nguyen said. “Downzoning by one story doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s a regressive move out of touch with our needs for housing and sustainability. It associates height with neighborhood character rather than the people who live and work there. This downzoning doesn’t prevent the demolition of the buildings my colleagues are worried about, which only historic designation would protect, and ignores that W. MLK St. is a part of the urban core.”

Nguyen was disappointed in how the vote turned out, as was Smith. Smith echoed Nguyen’s comments as he remarked that the vote discouraged growth in the city’s downtown center.

I oppose downzoning West MLK Street

On the July 3, 2019 Common Council agenda, there’s an item (10.7) that came out of the Planning and Economic Development Committee to downzone the 300, 400, and 500 blocks of West MLK/State Street by reducing the maximum height from 6 stories to 5 stories and limiting the first 15 feet of a building to 3 stories.

The affected blocks

I can support sections 1 and 2: minimum floor heights and adjusting maximum heights to account for it. I think the concept of a stepback that provides access to additional light and a feeling of greater intimacy to a building is reasonable too. It’s the rest I’m concerned about:

  • The zoning has been in place for 6 years and we’ve seen no new development on W MLK and only one proposal
  • I don’t support downzoning in general, and certainly not in the central core of the city (more on that later)
  • The 3-story height limit at the street (the stepback) is more restrictive than the Commons
  • Downzoning from 6 stories to 5 stories leaves projects in a financial gap that makes many of them infeasible or forces them to be luxury units to recoup the cost (crossing a combination of code and construction technique thresholds when you go past 3 stories adds a ton of cost). This may be a de facto downzone to 3 stories which I oppose even more vehemently.
  • Downzoning does not address the design issue of Visum’s single sprawling building that touches 3 street fronts (and referencing the previous point, may make that affordable housing project infeasible altogether)
  • PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) should be exceptional and not a substitute for appropriate zoning
Illustration of proposed amendment to Section 325-8D that would lower the maximum height and require a 15′ stepback with 32′ maximum height

Given those misgivings, I will move a few changes to 10.7C on Wednesday:

  • Remove section 3 (i.e., do not downzone the blocks on the map from CBD-60 to CBD-50)
  • Change 32’ maximum height at the stepback to 42’ (i.e., four stories)
  • Set a maximum facade length at the street of 60 feet
  • Set a maximum building footprint of 7200 square feet (roughly the mid-block lot depth on those blocks of 120’ multiplied by 60’ maximum width)

Those last two points are more form-based approaches to zoning inspired a bit by the Collegetown Area Form Districts. The specific numbers would obviously need to be vetted and can be adjusted. The maximum footprint would force Visum’s project to be 3 separate buildings. 

I’m an adamant anti-sprawler, and allowing density in the CBD is the bare minimum to achieve that. The W MLK corridor is perfect for it. Keep in the mind the entire CIITAP density district is by my calculation only 0.29 square miles or 5.4% of all the land in the city’s boundaries. Add the tenth of a square mile that the Collegetown Area Form Districts cover and we’re still only at 7.2% of the city’s land. Change in this city is very tightly contained (which I don’t necessarily agree with, but hey, baby steps). 

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to concerns about losing some of the charming buildings in that corridor. What’s charming about them, though? Like the older buildings on the Commons they have relatively narrow facades (the Cigar Factory might be the widest at around 65’), human-scale 4 or fewer story heights at the street, basic rectangular shapes, and moderate footprints. I think the form-based part of my suggestion can address that.

Without my proposed changes or something substantively similar to them, I will be voting against downzoning this vital and active artery in the city’s urban core. We need more housing and building up is more sustainable than building out. I also want to shatter assumptions many people have that a 3-story building is inherently more attractive than a 6+ story building. I just don’t agree and beyond aesthetics I think it’s a harmful stereotype when our housing needs are so great.

Zoning is an arcane but vitally important issue that I’ll be expanding upon with strong and not always popular opinions in the coming months.

Condemning Violence and Hate Speech

In response to mass shootings against mosques in a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, I worked with Mahmud Burton, president of the Al-Huda Islamic Center to write a resolution condemning hate, particularly towards the Muslim community.

Status: Passed April 3, 2019


Resolution Condemning Violence and Hate Speech

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca’s Diversity Statement declares that “we will strive to learn about diversity; educate city employees, members of boards and committees and other volunteers; and promote acceptance of the differences of others within our workforce and our community”; and

WHEREAS white supremacists in the United States continue to promote bigotry and hatred, targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including but not limited African Americans, Latinx people, Indigenous people, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, LGBTQA persons, and immigrants; and

WHEREAS in 2017 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 37 percent increase in hate crimes against Jews or Jewish institutions and found that attacks against Jews or Jewish institutions made up 58.1 percent of all religious-based hate crimes; and

WHEREAS on October 27, 2018, the perpetrator of the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the United States killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue building in Pittsburgh; and

WHEREAS the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims or Muslim institutions in the United States increased by over 99 percent between 2014 and 2016; and

WHEREAS in 2017, mosques were bombed in Bloomington, Minnesota and burned in Austin, Texas, Victoria, Texas, Bellevue, Washington, and Thonotosassa, Florida, and mass attacks on Muslim communities were planned against communities in Jacksonville, Florida in 2017, Garden City, Kansas in 2016, and Islamberg, New York in 2015 and 2019; and

WHEREAS on March 15, 2019 a white supremacist murdered 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in the deadliest mass shooting that country has ever seen; and

WHEREAS watchdog groups have observed a sharp rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes following the New Zealand massacre, including those that reference the attack; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED that Common Council will continue to advocate for strong gun safety laws in New York State and the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED that the Common Council condemns acts and statements that are anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, and of any form of bigotry; and be it further

RESOLVED that Common Council commits to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; and be it further

RESOLVED that the City of Ithaca calls upon its state and national leaders to set an example of rationality, compassion, and nonviolence through their words and actions.

Ithaca Times: Best Common Councilor 2018

https://www.ithaca.com/special_sections/best_of_ithaca/best-of-ithaca-people/article_6a3fa180-c27d-11e8-b9a3-83c0ed104cfe.html

Ducson Nguyen, now in his third year of representing the Second Ward, came to Ithaca from New Jersey after his wife got a job at Tompkins Cortland Community College. He said he first became interested in Common Council candidacy as a result of the housing shortage and wanting to push for transportation reform, and is now working on abandoned shopping-cart legislation, as well as trying to make the budget more easily accessible and understandable to normal citizens.

“I greatly appreciate it,” Nguyen said. “But my colleagues do just as much as I do and even in my third year I feel like I’m constantly finding out how little I know. But mostly it makes me think, ‘I love you too, Ithaca.’”

Shopping Carts

In response to concerns from residents regarding abandoned shopping carts throughout the city (mostly downtown), I took draft legislation written by former Alderperson Eddie Rooker and working with City Forester Jeanne Grace (whose department somehow ends up dealing with abandoned shopping carts), revised it to address longstanding frustrations she’s had with shopping cart management.

Highlights of the code changes include:

  • Shopping carts must identify the owner of the shopping cart 
  • Owners who provide more than 25 shopping carts to customers must display on their carts a phone number for initiating retrieval of the cart
  • Owners with more than 25 shopping carts must have a containment program (e.g.: wheel locks, deposit, security guard) and retrieval service for shopping carts
  • Owners with more than 25 shopping carts must display warnings on the premises about unauthorized shopping cart removal and a phone number for shopping cart retrieval
  • The City’s Department of Public Works may seize shopping carts and return them to the shopping cart owner at a fine of $50 per cart per day after the owner has been notified

Status: Under study by Community Life Commission


An ordinance repealing and replacing the text of Chapter 268, “Shopping Carts.”

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has a legitimate government interest in preventing the proliferation of abandoned shopping carts within its boundaries;

WHEREAS Chapter 268 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code, “Shopping Carts,” establishes regulations, standards, and fines intended to act as a reasonable deterrent to the problem of abandoned shopping carts;

WHEREAS Common Council and city staff have identified changes to Chapter 268 that are believed to better promote the goals of this Chapter in a more efficient and effective manner; and now therefore

BE IT ORDAINED AND ENACTED by the Common Council of the City of Ithaca as follow:

Section 1. Findings of Fact.

The Common Council finds that:

  1. Abandoned shopping carts create potential hazard to health and safety of the public, and interfere with pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and the accumulation of abandoned carts on public and private property create conditions that reduce property values, promote blight and deterioration, and result in a public nuisance.
  2. Owners of shopping carts should develop programs that contain their shopping carts on their respective business premises and be held responsible for failing to do so.
  3. It is, therefore, desirous to replace the text of Chapter 268 with updated regulations that will require such programs and enable adequate enforcement, thereby better combating the nuisance and blight created by abandoned shopping carts.

Section 2. Amendment of Chapter 268, “Shopping Carts.”

The text of Chapter 268, entitled “Shopping Carts,” of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code is hereby repealed in its entirety and replaced with the following:

§ 268-1 Definitions.

For purposes of this Chapter only, and unless the context clearly requires a different meaning, the words, terms and phrases set forth in this Section are defined as follows:

A. “Business premises” means the interior of a shopping cart owner’s commercial establishment, adjacent walkways, any loading area, and the parking area, as defined herein.

B.  “Shopping cart identification sign” means a sign or engraved surface which is permanently affixed to a shopping cart containing all of the information specified in Section 268-2 of this Chapter.

C.  “Shopping cart removal warning” means a placard, sign or painted text which meets the requirements of Section 268-4 of this Chapter.

D.  “Shopping cart owner” means the owner or operator of a commercial establishment which provides shopping carts for use by its customers for the purpose of transporting goods of any kind.

E.  “Shopping cart containment program” means one or more of the following measures:

1.   Disabling devices on all shopping carts which prevent them from being removed from the business premises by locking the wheels or otherwise preventing the movement of the shopping carts.

2.   An on-site security guard to deter customers who attempt to remove shopping carts from the business premises.

3.   Obtaining a security deposit from customers for the on-site use of shopping carts. 

5.   Any other measure approved by the Superintendent of Public Works as a means to contain shopping carts on premises. A shopping cart owner may appeal a measure disapproved by the Superintendent of Public Works to the Board of Public Works for a final determination.

G. “Shopping cart retrieval service” means contracting with a third-party or establishing an internal mechanism that will both actively locate shopping carts within a one-mile radius of the cart owner’s business premises and respond to complaints from the public in a manner which results in the retrieval of shopping carts within twenty-four (24) hours after receiving complaints.

F. “Parking area” means a parking lot or other property provided by a commercial establishment for use by a customer for parking an automobile or other vehicle. In a multi-store complex or shopping center, “parking area” includes the entire parking area used by or controlled by the complex or center.

H.  “Shopping cart” means a basket which is mounted on wheels or a similar device provided by the operator of a commercial establishment for the use of customers for the purpose of transporting goods of any kind. A shopping cart sold by a commercial establishment to a retail customer for that customer’s personal use is not a shopping cart for the purposes of this Chapter.

I.    “Abandoned” means not in the physical possession of a shopping cart owner or a customer of a shopping cart owner with written permission from the shopping cart owner as specified in Section 268-6 of this Chapter. 

§ 268-2 Shopping cart identification signs for shopping carts.

A.  Every person who owns or makes available to the public in connection with the conduct of business and trade any shopping cart shall mark it or cause the same to be marked and identified conspicuously with the name of the shopping cart owner.  Every shopping cart owner with more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts shall also mark or cause the cart to be conspicuously marked to provide a name and local or toll-free telephone number of a party that is responsible for retrieval of the shopping cart. 

B.  It shall be the responsibility of each shopping cart owner to comply with Subsection (A) of this Section, and to continuously maintain, or cause to be maintained, the shopping cart identification sign so that all of the required information is accurate and clearly legible.

§ 268-3 Shopping cart containment program.

A. Every owner who provides more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts to their customers shall operate and maintain a shopping cart containment program as defined in Section 268-1 of this Chapter and shall provide a shopping cart retrieval service for any shopping carts found abandoned off of business premises.

B. Each shopping cart owner must provide the Superintendent of Public Works with the contact information for its shopping cart retrieval service.

C.  Each shopping cart owner must contain all shopping carts on the business premises at all times.

D.  Any instance in which a shopping cart owned or provided by a shopping cart owner is found abandoned off of the business premises shall be considered a violation of Subsection (C) of this Section by the shopping cart owner.

1.   Following the discovery or report of an abandoned shopping cart the Superintendent of Public Works, or his agent shall contact the shopping cart owner’s shopping cart retrieval service to provide notice of the violation and the location of the abandoned shopping cart.

2.   Each twenty-four (24) hour period that the shopping cart remains off the business premises following notice to the shopping cart owner shall be considered a separate violation of Subsection (C) of this Section.

3.   Fines shall be assessed at fifty dollars ($50) for each violation of Subsection (C) of this Section, with the first violation occurring on the discovery of an abandoned shopping cart and additional violations occurring each day the shopping cart remains off the business premises after notice of such abandoned shopping cart has been provided to the shopping cart owner.

E.  No shopping cart containment program shall be required where the owner offers the rental or sale of utility shopping carts that can be temporarily or permanently used for the transport of goods, but only so long as all shopping carts on the business premises are offered only on rental or sales terms, and not without charge.

§ 268-4 Shopping cart removal warnings.

Every owner who provides more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts shall prominently and conspicuously post and maintain shopping cart removal warnings at all entrances and exits to the shopping cart owner’s premises, including parking areas. Such warnings shall meet all of the following minimum specifications:

A.  Contain a statement to the effect that unauthorized removal of a shopping cart from the business premises, or possession of a shopping cart in a location other than on the business premises, is a violation of State and City law.

B.  List a local or toll-free telephone number for shopping cart retrieval.

C.  Be affixed to an interior wall of the building or otherwise permanently and prominently displayed within two (2) feet of all customer entrances and exits.

§ 268-5 Employee training–shopping cart removal prevention.

Each cart owner shall conduct ongoing employee training to educate new and existing employees about procedures to prevent cart removal, including the operation of the shopping cart containment system.

§ 268-6 Shopping cart removal from business premises–written permission required.

No person shall be deemed to be authorized to remove a shopping cart unless he or she possesses written authorization from the shopping cart owner. This section shall not apply the possession of a shopping cart removed from the business premises at the direction of the shopping cart owner for the purposes of repair or maintenance.

§ 268-7 Removal and possession unlawful.

It shall be unlawful for any person or his/her agent or employee to take, remove or possess any shopping cart beyond the premises of the identified owner of the shopping cart without the written permission of the identified owner.

§ 268-8 Removal and disposal of abandoned shopping carts.

A.  Removal.  The Superintendent of Public Works is hereby authorized to seize and remove or cause to be removed any abandoned shopping cart within the city from any public place without notice and from any private premises with the consent of the owner of the premises and shall take or cause the same to be returned to the shopping cart owner with notice of fine pursuant to Subsection 268-3(D) of this Chapter. The Superintendent of Public Works is authorized to call upon other city agencies or departments to assist in enforcement of this section.

B.  Disposal of unclaimed property.  When an abandoned shopping cart not containing identification of ownership as required herein is removed under Subsection (A) of this Section, the Superintendent of Public Works may dispose of the shopping cart as they see fit.  All proceeds from the disposal of abandoned shopping carts shall be deposited to the general fund of the city.

§ 268-9 Remedy not exclusive.

Nothing herein is intended to limit the city from pursuing any other remedy available at law or in equity against any person or entity maintaining, committing, or causing a public or private nuisance or any other violation of the City Code or of State or Federal law.

Section 3. Notice to affected businesses.

The City shall make reasonable efforts to notify affected businesses by mail of the aforementioned changes to Chapter 268 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code, provided, however, that non-receipt of said notice shall not constitute a defense to any violation of this Chapter.

Section 4. Severability Clause.  

Severability is intended throughout and within the provisions of this ordinance. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or portion of this ordinance is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, then that decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

Section 5. Effective Date.

This ordinance shall take effect January 1, 2019 in accordance with law upon publication of notices as provided in the Ithaca City Charter.

An ordinance repealing and replacing the text of Chapter 268, “Shopping Carts.”

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has a legitimate government interest in preventing the proliferation of abandoned shopping carts within its boundaries;

WHEREAS Chapter 268 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code, “Shopping Carts,” establishes regulations, standards, and fines intended to act as a reasonable deterrent to the problem of abandoned shopping carts;

WHEREAS Common Council and city staff have identified changes to Chapter 268 that are believed to better promote the goals of this Chapter in a more efficient and effective manner; and now therefore

BE IT ORDAINED AND ENACTED by the Common Council of the City of Ithaca as follow:

Section 1. Findings of Fact.

The Common Council finds that:

  1. Abandoned shopping carts create potential hazard to health and safety of the public, and interfere with pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and the accumulation of abandoned carts on public and private property create conditions that reduce property values, promote blight and deterioration, and result in a public nuisance.
  2. Owners of shopping carts should develop programs that contain their shopping carts on their respective business premises and be held responsible for failing to do so.
  3. It is, therefore, desirous to replace the text of Chapter 268 with updated regulations that will require such programs and enable adequate enforcement, thereby better combating the nuisance and blight created by abandoned shopping carts.

Section 2. Amendment of Chapter 268, “Shopping Carts.”

The text of Chapter 268, entitled “Shopping Carts,” of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code is hereby repealed in its entirety and replaced with the following:

§ 268-1 Definitions.

For purposes of this Chapter only, and unless the context clearly requires a different meaning, the words, terms and phrases set forth in this Section are defined as follows:

A. “Business premises” means the interior of a shopping cart owner’s commercial establishment, adjacent walkways, any loading area, and the parking area, as defined herein.

B.  “Shopping cart identification sign” means a sign or engraved surface which is permanently affixed to a shopping cart containing all of the information specified in Section 268-2 of this Chapter.

C.  “Shopping cart removal warning” means a placard, sign or painted text which meets the requirements of Section 268-4 of this Chapter.

D.  “Shopping cart owner” means the owner or operator of a commercial establishment which provides shopping carts for use by its customers for the purpose of transporting goods of any kind.

E.  “Shopping cart containment program” means one or more of the following measures:

1.   Disabling devices on all shopping carts which prevent them from being removed from the business premises by locking the wheels or otherwise preventing the movement of the shopping carts.

2.   An on-site security guard to deter customers who attempt to remove shopping carts from the business premises.

3.   Obtaining a security deposit from customers for the on-site use of shopping carts. 

5.   Any other measure approved by the Superintendent of Public Works as a means to contain shopping carts on premises. A shopping cart owner may appeal a measure disapproved by the Superintendent of Public Works to the Board of Public Works for a final determination.

G. “Shopping cart retrieval service” means contracting with a third-party or establishing an internal mechanism that will both actively locate shopping carts within a one-mile radius of the cart owner’s business premises and respond to complaints from the public in a manner which results in the retrieval of shopping carts within twenty-four (24) hours after receiving complaints.

F. “Parking area” means a parking lot or other property provided by a commercial establishment for use by a customer for parking an automobile or other vehicle. In a multi-store complex or shopping center, “parking area” includes the entire parking area used by or controlled by the complex or center.

H.  “Shopping cart” means a basket which is mounted on wheels or a similar device provided by the operator of a commercial establishment for the use of customers for the purpose of transporting goods of any kind. A shopping cart sold by a commercial establishment to a retail customer for that customer’s personal use is not a shopping cart for the purposes of this Chapter.

I.    “Abandoned” means not in the physical possession of a shopping cart owner or a customer of a shopping cart owner with written permission from the shopping cart owner as specified in Section 268-6 of this Chapter. 

§ 268-2 Shopping cart identification signs for shopping carts.

A.  Every person who owns or makes available to the public in connection with the conduct of business and trade any shopping cart shall mark it or cause the same to be marked and identified conspicuously with the name of the shopping cart owner.  Every shopping cart owner with more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts shall also mark or cause the cart to be conspicuously marked to provide a name and local or toll-free telephone number of a party that is responsible for retrieval of the shopping cart. 

B.  It shall be the responsibility of each shopping cart owner to comply with Subsection (A) of this Section, and to continuously maintain, or cause to be maintained, the shopping cart identification sign so that all of the required information is accurate and clearly legible.

§ 268-3 Shopping cart containment program.

A. Every owner who provides more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts to their customers shall operate and maintain a shopping cart containment program as defined in Section 268-1 of this Chapter and shall provide a shopping cart retrieval service for any shopping carts found abandoned off of business premises.

B. Each shopping cart owner must provide the Superintendent of Public Works with the contact information for its shopping cart retrieval service.

C.  Each shopping cart owner must contain all shopping carts on the business premises at all times.

D.  Any instance in which a shopping cart owned or provided by a shopping cart owner is found abandoned off of the business premises shall be considered a violation of Subsection (C) of this Section by the shopping cart owner.

1.   Following the discovery or report of an abandoned shopping cart the Superintendent of Public Works, or his agent shall contact the shopping cart owner’s shopping cart retrieval service to provide notice of the violation and the location of the abandoned shopping cart.

2.   Each twenty-four (24) hour period that the shopping cart remains off the business premises following notice to the shopping cart owner shall be considered a separate violation of Subsection (C) of this Section.

3.   Fines shall be assessed at fifty dollars ($50) for each violation of Subsection (C) of this Section, with the first violation occurring on the discovery of an abandoned shopping cart and additional violations occurring each day the shopping cart remains off the business premises after notice of such abandoned shopping cart has been provided to the shopping cart owner.

E.  No shopping cart containment program shall be required where the owner offers the rental or sale of utility shopping carts that can be temporarily or permanently used for the transport of goods, but only so long as all shopping carts on the business premises are offered only on rental or sales terms, and not without charge.

§ 268-4 Shopping cart removal warnings.

Every owner who provides more than twenty-five (25) shopping carts shall prominently and conspicuously post and maintain shopping cart removal warnings at all entrances and exits to the shopping cart owner’s premises, including parking areas. Such warnings shall meet all of the following minimum specifications:

A.  Contain a statement to the effect that unauthorized removal of a shopping cart from the business premises, or possession of a shopping cart in a location other than on the business premises, is a violation of State and City law.

B.  List a local or toll-free telephone number for shopping cart retrieval.

C.  Be affixed to an interior wall of the building or otherwise permanently and prominently displayed within two (2) feet of all customer entrances and exits.

§ 268-5 Employee training–shopping cart removal prevention.

Each cart owner shall conduct ongoing employee training to educate new and existing employees about procedures to prevent cart removal, including the operation of the shopping cart containment system.

§ 268-6 Shopping cart removal from business premises–written permission required.

No person shall be deemed to be authorized to remove a shopping cart unless he or she possesses written authorization from the shopping cart owner. This section shall not apply the possession of a shopping cart removed from the business premises at the direction of the shopping cart owner for the purposes of repair or maintenance.

§ 268-7 Removal and possession unlawful.

It shall be unlawful for any person or his/her agent or employee to take, remove or possess any shopping cart beyond the premises of the identified owner of the shopping cart without the written permission of the identified owner.

§ 268-8 Removal and disposal of abandoned shopping carts.

A.  Removal.  The Superintendent of Public Works is hereby authorized to seize and remove or cause to be removed any abandoned shopping cart within the city from any public place without notice and from any private premises with the consent of the owner of the premises and shall take or cause the same to be returned to the shopping cart owner with notice of fine pursuant to Subsection 268-3(D) of this Chapter. The Superintendent of Public Works is authorized to call upon other city agencies or departments to assist in enforcement of this section.

B.  Disposal of unclaimed property.  When an abandoned shopping cart not containing identification of ownership as required herein is removed under Subsection (A) of this Section, the Superintendent of Public Works may dispose of the shopping cart as they see fit.  All proceeds from the disposal of abandoned shopping carts shall be deposited to the general fund of the city.

§ 268-9 Remedy not exclusive.

Nothing herein is intended to limit the city from pursuing any other remedy available at law or in equity against any person or entity maintaining, committing, or causing a public or private nuisance or any other violation of the City Code or of State or Federal law.

Section 3. Notice to affected businesses.

The City shall make reasonable efforts to notify affected businesses by mail of the aforementioned changes to Chapter 268 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code, provided, however, that non-receipt of said notice shall not constitute a defense to any violation of this Chapter.

Section 4. Severability Clause.  

Severability is intended throughout and within the provisions of this ordinance. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or portion of this ordinance is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, then that decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

Section 5. Effective Date.

This ordinance shall take effect January 1, 2019 in accordance with law upon publication of notices as provided in the Ithaca City Charter.