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NYC Council passes bill on art, dollar vans, flowers

The New York City Council Wednesday passed more than a dozen bills related to public art, rules for so-called dollar vans and the sale of flowers for the Asian Lunar New Year.

The council passed a package of legislation aimed at the city’s public art projects, including a law requiring the city to track and publish demographic information like artists’ race, gender and age, with the aim of diversifying government-funded artwork. That bill passed 46-0.

The chamber also greenlighted another package of bills related to “commuter vans” — known as dollar vans, which transport people along routes underserved by the city’s buses and subways.

For instance, a bill sponsored by Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) loosens regulations for the vehicles. It passed 45-0, with Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) abstaining.

And, at the request of Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) for the Asian Lunar New Year, the council carved out a one-week exception to the requirement that vendors must obtain a license to sell flowers, along with other plans for the holiday. Chin lamented that, in the past, some vendors have been ticketed or arrested for selling the items without a license. The bill passed 44-2.

The bills await the approval of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Before the councilwide meeting, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rico native, said she’s grateful that President Barack Obama earlier this week commuted the prison sentence of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Rivera, 74, has served 35 years of a 70-year prison sentence for his role in a group linked to more than 100 bombings, in the 1970s and 1980s, of New York and other cities, and a later prison-break attempt.

“It was a disproportionate length of time that he has served, again, purely for his political beliefs,” Mark-Viverito said of Rivera’s goal of Puerto Rican independence.

Mark-Viverito has long lobbied for Rivera’s release.

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