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Planned Parenthood of NYC Joins Call to Remove Racist Statue


dr j marion sims statue 2

J. Marion Sims statue (photo via Wally Gobetz)


When images of white supremacists taking the streets in Charlottesville first surfaced, thousands of New Yorkers participated in rallies to condemn the hateful actions and rhetoric of white supremacist groups. The protests were powerful affirmations of our city’s stance against racism and hatred.

But even though New York City is seen as a progressive place, we must not let this reputation blindside us. The history of racism isn’t particular to Charlottesville – New York must recognize white supremacy in our own backyard and we must take steps to upend it.

For years, activist groups around New York City have been doing just that by calling for the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who repeatedly performed surgical experiments on enslaved black women in the 19th century without their consent and without anesthesia. According to Sims, “black women don’t feel pain.”

Recently, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) held a powerful protest in Central Park calling for the statue to be removed. Planned Parenthood of New York City joined City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials and partners at a rally calling for the removal of this statue. East Harlem Preservation has also been calling for this statue to be removed for a decade.  

PPNYC strongly condemns the statue of Dr. Sims because it sanctions racism, hate, and abuse of black women. We stand with the many groups calling for its immediate removal.

This call to action goes beyond merely removing a statue or symbol. We need to recognize and call out white supremacy as a fundamental and systemic problem that fuels racial and economic inequality and reproductive oppression.

America has a long history of controlling and threatening the safety and body control of people of color. White supremacy affects the people who come to Planned Parenthood for care and their ability to determine their own destiny. We cannot lose sight of that as we continue to fight to expand and improve reproductive health care for all.

Black women are still three-and-a-half times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in The United States. Laws that block access to abortion and contraception disproportionately impact low-income communities, including immigrants. Women of color, who are more likely to rely on Medicaid to receive health care, risk losing access to life-saving services like cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and more, because of Congress’ shameless attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

At PPNYC, we know that a statue that represents violence and hatred and a lack of medical care has no place in our city. We also know that our work will continue beyond the statue’s removal. PPNYC is more committed than ever to delivering compassionate care, and to building a city where no one has to live in fear of exclusion, harassment, or violence.

At PPNYC, we welcome people of all races, backgrounds, ages, incomes, and immigration statuses to our doors for high-quality health care. We will never turn away anyone seeking health care – no matter what.

Not just because our patients’ lives are at stake, but because that is our mission – to ensure that all New Yorkers can access the care they need to lead safe and empowering lives.

Planned Parenthood of New York City stands with BYP 100, East Harlem Preservation, and other groups and activists speaking out against racism and white supremacy. As the injustice of racism persists, none of us can be silent. For the sake of our city and our country, all of us must take a stand.

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Christina Chang is Vice President of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email [email protected]

'Placeholder' Must Temporarily Take Squadron's Seat


squadron speedy trial

Former State Senator Daniel Squadrion (@DanielSquadron)


The unexpected resignation of New York State Senator Daniel Squadron threatens to diminish the fundamental democratic right of the people to choose our representatives. What is needed now is a temporary “placeholder” who pledges to protect that threatened right by only serving out the rest of the current term and allowing a regular, open election to take place next year.

By way of background, Sen. Squadron was first elected nearly a decade ago and represented the 26th state Senate district, which includes the Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan. He resigned in mid-August to undertake an initiative with Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs to help Democrats win seats in state legislatures nationwide. While Sen. Squadron left elected office to pursue an admirable goal, the timing of his decision has led to the immediate problem of subverting democracy in our city.

That’s because the window to hold a special primary election already passed by the time he stepped down. As a result, party bosses in Brooklyn and Manhattan now have the power to hand-select the Democratic nominee for a special general election, someone who would inevitably win in November in the heavily Democratic district. With the power of incumbency, the designee would likely win reelection over and over again, beginning with 2018’s regularly scheduled state legislative elections.

The Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York County (Manhattan) Democratic committees must explicitly reject this undemocratic result. Instead, members of both county committees should rally behind a consensus “placeholder” candidate who pledges not to run for reelection in 2018.

The placeholder candidate option would allow the constituents of the 26th Senate district to have a full, robust discussion during next year’s primary race about the values and capabilities of those hoping to fill the seat. Informed choice is the key to meaningful elections.  

An ideal placeholder would be an elder statesperson with experience in public service, preferably some in Albany. Armed with that wisdom, he or she could make the most of a truncated term.

Some may argue that finding a politician willing only to serve for such a short period of time would prove too challenging. They may even ask how we can be assured that the placeholder would keep his or her word and not run again in 2018.

First, as a practical matter, a placeholder who broke his or her word and ran for reelection in 2018 would be taking a huge gamble in so cavalierly lying to constituents. But more importantly, the placeholder alternative is the only solution that would restore true democratic choice to the people. It’s simply the best shot we have.

It was heartening to see Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio express support for the notion of a placeholder senator.

Responsible government begins at home. We, the citizens of New York City and New York State, must demand a government accountable to the people. That means, at a minimum, insisting on a thorough and complete election process for choosing our representatives.

What we need now are leaders willing to make sure that process takes place.

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Steve Wagner is a Brooklyn-based activist and personal injury trial lawyer. He is a member of Independent Neighborhood Democrats and a steering committee member of Indivisible Nation BK. He blogs at brooklynresists.nyc.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email [email protected]

Children Lose in Faulty Charter School Accounting


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A charter school rally (photo: @SuccessAcademy)


Questions: How do you turn a 25 percent graduation rate into a misleading claim of 100 percent success? When does a school’s 30 percent proficiency rate on an 8th grade reading test translate into the assertion that nearly half of the students passed?

Answer: when charter schools do their own accounting, and authorizers allow them to paper over the fact that huge percentages of the children who start in charter schools get driven or eased out.

Charters claim that they serve the same children as city public schools, but the truth is that they enroll and keep half the percentage of English Language Learners, dramatically fewer special education students, including those needing the highest level of intervention, and far fewer children who are homeless or in temporary housing.

district versus charter schools

Not content with starting out with more favorable demographics, many charters then rely on student attrition, boosted by draconian discipline strategies, to keep their academic numbers up. In New York City, charters enroll 8% of the students but account for 45% of the suspensions.  

Suspensions and pressure on students who struggle academically help charter schools force or ease out students with learning difficulties. And unlike regular public schools, charters often leave empty seats vacant.

As one charter organization -- Democracy Builders -- noted, when schools refuse to "backfill" or replace students who leave, the result is charters hyping their results (“artificially inflating perceived performance” in Democracy Builder’s words).

Here’s how it works.

At Success Academy Harlem 1, 73 students began first grade in 2007. By now this class has dwindled to 18 students as they reached the 11th grade. Assuming all 18 stay this year and graduate, Success Academy will no doubt claim a graduation rate of 100 percent. But in fact there are only 18 “survivors” of the original 73; even if all 18 graduate, the school should only take credit for a grad rate of 25 percent of the original cohort.

Success enrollment

The same logic can be applied to test score claims. Teaching Firms of America Professional Prep Charter School in Brooklyn claims that nearly half -- 47 percent -- of its sixth graders were proficient on the most recent state reading test. But that sixth grade class had only 36 students, far short of the 57 students who were in that class in third grade.

So counting the vanished children, only 30 percent of the original cohort actually scored proficient on the 2017 reading test, a rate well below the 40 percent passing rate average for all public schools.

None of these facts will stop charter propagandists from repeating misleading claims about their schools’ “success.” But charter authorizers, especially the SUNY Charter Schools Committee, need to be considering these issues as charters come up for re-authorization.

The committee has recently taken a tougher line against some charters, criticizing the chair of the board of Success Academy, Dan Loeb, for his indefensible statements comparing the actions of State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and teachers unions with the KKK.

But the committee's recent proposal -- to permit some charter schools to drastically reduce the amount of preparation teachers must undergo in order to be certified – is an ill-considered favor for a sector that has proven itself not only incapable of honest accounting, but also unable to retain a qualified workforce.

If charter schools are to perform their original mission -- to act as laboratories of innovation -- it is up to authorizers to ensure that charter schools take seriously their obligation to educate all kinds of children, and to give New York parents a realistic view of both their successes and their failures.

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Michael Mulgrew is the President of the United Federation of Teachers. On Twitter @UFT.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email [email protected]

Note: this opinion column has been corrected to reflect that one organization cited is Democracy Builders, not Democracy Prep as originally stated.



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