Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/opinion 2018-11-15T12:47:10+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com As Albany Fiddles on 421-A, New York City Suffers 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6398-as-albany-fiddles-on-421-a-new-york-city-suffers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/donovan_richards_podium.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="donovan richards podium" /></p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>With officials in Albany about to pack up and head home, there is still some serious unfinished business.</p> <p>Thanks to Albany’s failure to deliver a compromise between real estate and labor interests, it’s clear that we’ll see no movement on one of the most critical tools we have to build affordable housing: 421-A, the tax incentive program.</p> <p>What a lot of us hoped was just a six-month pause in adding to the pipeline of new rental housing is at serious risk of becoming a long-term slump—and it could not come at a worse time for our city. New York City is growing fast, and grappling with the worst affordable housing crisis in generations. Half of all households are paying more rent than they can afford.</p> <p>The old 421-A program that was up for renewal last year was hardly perfect - you’d be hard-pressed to find someone today who would say developers actually need a tax exemption to build and sell luxury condos.</p> <p>But for all its flaws, the program did two very important things—the lack of which we’re feeling with every passing day.</p> <p>One, it made it financially feasible to build rental housing, which is the housing New York actually needs right now.</p> <p>And two, it was one of the only ways to secure affordable housing in some of the most expensive real estate markets in the city, places like Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side, and Downtown Brooklyn. The reforms Mayor de Blasio pushed cut condos from the program, slashed subsidy per apartment, and strengthened affordable housing requirements citywide. But because of Albany’s inaction, we’ve never had the benefit of those improvements.</p> <p>If this political impasse in Albany continues, we’ll see a city that’s less affordable, and more divided. The only kinds of buildings that will go up will be City-sponsored affordable housing and luxury condos—with none of the healthy rental housing in the middle that we need for the city’s growing workforce.</p> <p>From Astoria to Upper Manhattan, construction sites are sitting vacant and projects are on hold. Building permits are down to levels we haven’t seen since the housing market crashed triggering the Great Recession. New rental housing has reached a standstill. And that means there is more and more pressure and demand on the housing we have today. If this keeps up much longer, rents are going to rise even faster than they already have—well outside the reach of working people.</p> <p>Even though the City can continue building subsidy-driven affordable housing, we’ll lose the opportunity to build new affordable housing in exactly the parts of the city where it’s needed the most. 421-A was one of the few tools that could entice builders to construct affordable housing in hot markets, and the stringent affordability requirements the City Council and Mayor de Blasio secured would have only deepened that potential. What we’ll face if Albany doesn’t act is a more segregated, less diverse city. That’s not the New York we want.</p> <p>New Yorkers should get angry. The City is doing everything in its power to protect neighborhoods and build a record amount of affordable housing. The proof is in the numbers: more than 43,000 affordable homes were financed in just two years – delivering enough affordable housing for more than 100,000 New Yorkers. The total is the largest number of new affordable apartments produced in nearly four decades. But, there is more that must be done, and we need Albany lawmakers to act.</p> <p>This isn’t a crisis we can take on with one hand tied behind our backs. It’s time for the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo to work together to fix 421-A, passing the City’s reformed plan before more damage is done.</p> <p>***<br />Council Member Donovan Richards represents District 31 in Queens, which encompasses Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is the chair of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/donovan_richards_podium.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="donovan richards podium" /></p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>With officials in Albany about to pack up and head home, there is still some serious unfinished business.</p> <p>Thanks to Albany’s failure to deliver a compromise between real estate and labor interests, it’s clear that we’ll see no movement on one of the most critical tools we have to build affordable housing: 421-A, the tax incentive program.</p> <p>What a lot of us hoped was just a six-month pause in adding to the pipeline of new rental housing is at serious risk of becoming a long-term slump—and it could not come at a worse time for our city. New York City is growing fast, and grappling with the worst affordable housing crisis in generations. Half of all households are paying more rent than they can afford.</p> <p>The old 421-A program that was up for renewal last year was hardly perfect - you’d be hard-pressed to find someone today who would say developers actually need a tax exemption to build and sell luxury condos.</p> <p>But for all its flaws, the program did two very important things—the lack of which we’re feeling with every passing day.</p> <p>One, it made it financially feasible to build rental housing, which is the housing New York actually needs right now.</p> <p>And two, it was one of the only ways to secure affordable housing in some of the most expensive real estate markets in the city, places like Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side, and Downtown Brooklyn. The reforms Mayor de Blasio pushed cut condos from the program, slashed subsidy per apartment, and strengthened affordable housing requirements citywide. But because of Albany’s inaction, we’ve never had the benefit of those improvements.</p> <p>If this political impasse in Albany continues, we’ll see a city that’s less affordable, and more divided. The only kinds of buildings that will go up will be City-sponsored affordable housing and luxury condos—with none of the healthy rental housing in the middle that we need for the city’s growing workforce.</p> <p>From Astoria to Upper Manhattan, construction sites are sitting vacant and projects are on hold. Building permits are down to levels we haven’t seen since the housing market crashed triggering the Great Recession. New rental housing has reached a standstill. And that means there is more and more pressure and demand on the housing we have today. If this keeps up much longer, rents are going to rise even faster than they already have—well outside the reach of working people.</p> <p>Even though the City can continue building subsidy-driven affordable housing, we’ll lose the opportunity to build new affordable housing in exactly the parts of the city where it’s needed the most. 421-A was one of the few tools that could entice builders to construct affordable housing in hot markets, and the stringent affordability requirements the City Council and Mayor de Blasio secured would have only deepened that potential. What we’ll face if Albany doesn’t act is a more segregated, less diverse city. That’s not the New York we want.</p> <p>New Yorkers should get angry. The City is doing everything in its power to protect neighborhoods and build a record amount of affordable housing. The proof is in the numbers: more than 43,000 affordable homes were financed in just two years – delivering enough affordable housing for more than 100,000 New Yorkers. The total is the largest number of new affordable apartments produced in nearly four decades. But, there is more that must be done, and we need Albany lawmakers to act.</p> <p>This isn’t a crisis we can take on with one hand tied behind our backs. It’s time for the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo to work together to fix 421-A, passing the City’s reformed plan before more damage is done.</p> <p>***<br />Council Member Donovan Richards represents District 31 in Queens, which encompasses Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is the chair of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>

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New York’s Next Climate and Community Protections 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6397-new-york-s-next-climate-and-community-protections Amanda Sherwin <p><img alt="NYRenews3" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/NYRenews3.jpg" height="400" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>A major shift in the climate debate is taking place across New York and a new front in the discussion is emerging. No longer faraway images of drowning polar bears and epic glacial melt, climate change has moved into our own backyards, devastating our local neighborhoods. And no one knows this better than New York’s working families.</p> <p>Extreme weather destroys upstate farmers’ crops and keeps hourly employees from getting to work. Air pollution exacerbates chronic health conditions, triggering asthma attacks and other health problems, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. And when a major storm hits, working families, particularly those from communities of color, are the last to see relief.</p> <p>What once was solely an environmental debate for some has been transformed into an economic and social justice one. The frontlines of the crisis have made this so.</p> <p>It was especially apparent here in New York during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Both storms caused massive flooding, knocked out power and water supplies, and displaced tens of thousands of families. Long-standing issues with toxic mold were revealed and compounded, and rodent infestations surged.</p> <p>These problems were uncovered and exacerbated by storms like Irene and Sandy but they were not new. Policy choices and disinvestment in infrastructure over the last decade have caused working families across New York to live in an ongoing state of neglect, putting them at a disproportionate risk during major weather events.</p> <p>But our future is not written in stone, and it’s time we bring justice and opportunity to the working people who are most impacted by climate change.</p> <p>That’s why a coalition of more than 70 organizations including the most influential community leaders, grassroots activists, unions, and environmental justice advocates have banded together to stem the tide of climate change in New York. They are workers, immigrants, and people of color from both upstate and downstate New York. And they are throwing their support behind the strongest climate protection bill in the country – the NYS Climate &amp; Community Protection Act (<a target="_blank" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A10342&amp;term=2015">A.10342</a>/<a target="_blank" href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/S8005">S.8005</a>).</p> <p>This bill would make Governor Cuomo’s climate and clean energy commitments legally enforceable and set specific benchmarks and reporting requirements to ensure emissions reductions and rapid deployment of clean, renewable energy. And it would ensure the new clean energy economy creates good jobs by applying a prevailing wage to both construction and operations projects that include energy spending. In short, it would clean our air, improve our health, make our communities safer, and create new opportunities with a next-generation green economy.</p> <p>The NYS Climate &amp; Community Protection Act recently passed the state Assembly after a massive convergence of New Yorkers at the state Capitol demanded lawmakers support the bill. It is now being moved through the state Senate by Senator Diane Savino, who championed the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-community-risk-and-resiliency-act">2014 Community Risk and Resiliency Act</a> that was signed into law just after the People's Climate March, along with cosponsors Senators Tony Avella and Brad Hoylman.</p> <p>We have an opportunity right now to set an example for the rest of the country to follow. The time is now for New York to rise to the occasion and make our state the gold standard for clean, renewable energy. That’s why we’re calling on Governor Cuomo and the rest of the state’s lawmakers to see this bill through, so New Yorkers get the climate change protections they need and New York gets the next-generation green economy it deserves.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Yeampierre is executive director of <a target="_blank" href="http://uprose.org/">UPROSE</a>. On Twitter <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/yeampierre?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">@yeampierre</a>.<br />Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez is president of the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.nysna.org/">New York State Nurses Association</a>. On Twitter <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/nynurses">@NYSNA</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img alt="NYRenews3" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/NYRenews3.jpg" height="400" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>A major shift in the climate debate is taking place across New York and a new front in the discussion is emerging. No longer faraway images of drowning polar bears and epic glacial melt, climate change has moved into our own backyards, devastating our local neighborhoods. And no one knows this better than New York’s working families.</p> <p>Extreme weather destroys upstate farmers’ crops and keeps hourly employees from getting to work. Air pollution exacerbates chronic health conditions, triggering asthma attacks and other health problems, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. And when a major storm hits, working families, particularly those from communities of color, are the last to see relief.</p> <p>What once was solely an environmental debate for some has been transformed into an economic and social justice one. The frontlines of the crisis have made this so.</p> <p>It was especially apparent here in New York during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Both storms caused massive flooding, knocked out power and water supplies, and displaced tens of thousands of families. Long-standing issues with toxic mold were revealed and compounded, and rodent infestations surged.</p> <p>These problems were uncovered and exacerbated by storms like Irene and Sandy but they were not new. Policy choices and disinvestment in infrastructure over the last decade have caused working families across New York to live in an ongoing state of neglect, putting them at a disproportionate risk during major weather events.</p> <p>But our future is not written in stone, and it’s time we bring justice and opportunity to the working people who are most impacted by climate change.</p> <p>That’s why a coalition of more than 70 organizations including the most influential community leaders, grassroots activists, unions, and environmental justice advocates have banded together to stem the tide of climate change in New York. They are workers, immigrants, and people of color from both upstate and downstate New York. And they are throwing their support behind the strongest climate protection bill in the country – the NYS Climate &amp; Community Protection Act (<a target="_blank" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A10342&amp;term=2015">A.10342</a>/<a target="_blank" href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/S8005">S.8005</a>).</p> <p>This bill would make Governor Cuomo’s climate and clean energy commitments legally enforceable and set specific benchmarks and reporting requirements to ensure emissions reductions and rapid deployment of clean, renewable energy. And it would ensure the new clean energy economy creates good jobs by applying a prevailing wage to both construction and operations projects that include energy spending. In short, it would clean our air, improve our health, make our communities safer, and create new opportunities with a next-generation green economy.</p> <p>The NYS Climate &amp; Community Protection Act recently passed the state Assembly after a massive convergence of New Yorkers at the state Capitol demanded lawmakers support the bill. It is now being moved through the state Senate by Senator Diane Savino, who championed the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-community-risk-and-resiliency-act">2014 Community Risk and Resiliency Act</a> that was signed into law just after the People's Climate March, along with cosponsors Senators Tony Avella and Brad Hoylman.</p> <p>We have an opportunity right now to set an example for the rest of the country to follow. The time is now for New York to rise to the occasion and make our state the gold standard for clean, renewable energy. That’s why we’re calling on Governor Cuomo and the rest of the state’s lawmakers to see this bill through, so New Yorkers get the climate change protections they need and New York gets the next-generation green economy it deserves.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Yeampierre is executive director of <a target="_blank" href="http://uprose.org/">UPROSE</a>. On Twitter <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/yeampierre?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">@yeampierre</a>.<br />Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez is president of the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.nysna.org/">New York State Nurses Association</a>. On Twitter <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/nynurses">@NYSNA</a>.</p> <p>

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Time for Restorative Justice in Our Schools 2016-06-09T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6388-time-for-restorative-justice-in-our-schools Amanda Sherwin <p><img alt="Zaire Kiran Agostini" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/imgcropped.jpg" height="456" width="600" /></p> <p>Zaire Kiran Agostini, the author</p> <hr /> <p>Being a black girl in New York schools is hard—the stereotypes and biases we face are painful, and often overlooked. Too often, they lead to suspensions and arrests of young people like me that take us out of school and push us toward the streets, prison, or worse. Now is the time for New York State to take action to address the damage being done by out-of-touch school discipline policies.</p> <p>When teachers or administrators look at girls like me talking with my friends, they look at us like we are always about to cause trouble. If we speak up for ourselves, they say we’re being defiant. Even when we are having fun together, like joking around and dancing, they view our behavior as inappropriate. And then, too often, they discipline us.</p> <p>Youth of color are treated differently than white youth across our state, and data proves that is a reality. Black girls in sixth to eighth grade in New York City, for instance, are eight times more likely than white girls to be suspended two or more times. Being black is the biggest indicator that you will be suspended or arrested in school. Latino students are also more likely to face harsh discipline.</p> <p>The majority of suspensions and criminal summonses are not for violent and dangerous reasons. They are for minor infractions like “defying authority” or “disorderly conduct”—infractions that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights acknowledged can be biased and unfairly impact students of color.</p> <p>In school every day, the first thing that greets us is police officers and a metal detector. It’s demoralizing and, for many of us, can be traumatizing. Once inside the building, students like me face stereotypes that we will never graduate, that we will drop out and have a child, that we are trouble waiting to happen. It feels like the system isn’t built to build us up and support us, but to break us down mentally and emotionally. Research shows the presence of police leads only to an increase in students being arrested for minor incidents. Instead of investing in students, our state is investing in the school-to-prison pipeline. And it’s time for that to change.</p> <p>Assemblymember Catherine Nolan has introduced a school discipline bill that would make a real difference for students like me. Her proposal, which just passed the State Assembly’s Education Committee, will help to sustain healthy and inclusive learning environments by encouraging schools to approach discipline using restorative practices and ensure fair and equitable discipline for all students, especially students of color and students with disabilities. This restorative justice approach—which engages constructively with young people and limits ineffective measures like suspensions and expulsions—has been tried successfully in schools across New York City and is now being expanded with support from the City Council.</p> <p>The State must embrace restorative justice and positive discipline strategies, too. The first step: with momentum coming out of the Education Committee, the New York State Assembly should pass <a target="_blank" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A08396&amp;term=2015&amp;Summary=Y">the Nolan bill</a>, and send a strong message to the state Senate and Governor Cuomo that we must embrace a bright future for young people like me.</p> <p>***<br />Zaire Kiran Agostini is a youth leader with Make The Road New York and the Urban Youth Collaborative. Follow their work on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/UYC_YouthPower" target="_blank">@UYC_YouthPower</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img alt="Zaire Kiran Agostini" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/imgcropped.jpg" height="456" width="600" /></p> <p>Zaire Kiran Agostini, the author</p> <hr /> <p>Being a black girl in New York schools is hard—the stereotypes and biases we face are painful, and often overlooked. Too often, they lead to suspensions and arrests of young people like me that take us out of school and push us toward the streets, prison, or worse. Now is the time for New York State to take action to address the damage being done by out-of-touch school discipline policies.</p> <p>When teachers or administrators look at girls like me talking with my friends, they look at us like we are always about to cause trouble. If we speak up for ourselves, they say we’re being defiant. Even when we are having fun together, like joking around and dancing, they view our behavior as inappropriate. And then, too often, they discipline us.</p> <p>Youth of color are treated differently than white youth across our state, and data proves that is a reality. Black girls in sixth to eighth grade in New York City, for instance, are eight times more likely than white girls to be suspended two or more times. Being black is the biggest indicator that you will be suspended or arrested in school. Latino students are also more likely to face harsh discipline.</p> <p>The majority of suspensions and criminal summonses are not for violent and dangerous reasons. They are for minor infractions like “defying authority” or “disorderly conduct”—infractions that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights acknowledged can be biased and unfairly impact students of color.</p> <p>In school every day, the first thing that greets us is police officers and a metal detector. It’s demoralizing and, for many of us, can be traumatizing. Once inside the building, students like me face stereotypes that we will never graduate, that we will drop out and have a child, that we are trouble waiting to happen. It feels like the system isn’t built to build us up and support us, but to break us down mentally and emotionally. Research shows the presence of police leads only to an increase in students being arrested for minor incidents. Instead of investing in students, our state is investing in the school-to-prison pipeline. And it’s time for that to change.</p> <p>Assemblymember Catherine Nolan has introduced a school discipline bill that would make a real difference for students like me. Her proposal, which just passed the State Assembly’s Education Committee, will help to sustain healthy and inclusive learning environments by encouraging schools to approach discipline using restorative practices and ensure fair and equitable discipline for all students, especially students of color and students with disabilities. This restorative justice approach—which engages constructively with young people and limits ineffective measures like suspensions and expulsions—has been tried successfully in schools across New York City and is now being expanded with support from the City Council.</p> <p>The State must embrace restorative justice and positive discipline strategies, too. The first step: with momentum coming out of the Education Committee, the New York State Assembly should pass <a target="_blank" href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A08396&amp;term=2015&amp;Summary=Y">the Nolan bill</a>, and send a strong message to the state Senate and Governor Cuomo that we must embrace a bright future for young people like me.</p> <p>***<br />Zaire Kiran Agostini is a youth leader with Make The Road New York and the Urban Youth Collaborative. Follow their work on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/UYC_YouthPower" target="_blank">@UYC_YouthPower</a>.</p> <p>

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Serving the Last Generation of Holocaust Survivors in New York 2016-05-26T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6355-serving-the-last-generation-of-holocaust-survivors Aaron Holmes <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/levine_klein_holocaust_survivor_city_council_.jpg" alt="levine klein holocaust survivor city council " height="438" width="600" /></p> <p>Mrs. Klein, a Holocaust survivor, with Council Member Levine (William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>“If our stories do not survive when we are gone, then six million Jews were murdered in vain.” That sobering call to action from Mrs. Klein, one of the 4,700 Holocaust survivors served by Selfhelp Community Services each year, rings especially true as we marked Yom HaShoah, the annual commemoration of Jewish survival through last century’s great tragedy.</p> <p>At this time of the year, we are once again reminded to share the stories of the past to prevent atrocities of this kind from happening again. The time to share the memories and lives of the remaining survivors is fleeting. This is the last generation of Holocaust survivors – a sad fact that is painfully real.</p> <p>To pass these stories to the next generation, Selfhelp recently concluded seven performances of <a href="http://www.selfhelp.net/community-services/nazi-victim-services-program" target="_blank">Witness Theater</a>, a program that Selfhelp brought to New York, with the support of UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Communal Fund, and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Now in its fourth year, the program utilizes drama therapy as a vehicle through which high school students work with local Holocaust survivors to re-enact critical moments from the survivors’ lives, creating a moving and educational performance to share with fellow students, parents and the community.</p> <p>As I watched the survivors on stage, it was hard not to notice how time is taking its toll. A small twitch in their hand, their walkers and canes, and the assistance they need from the students to move across the stage, all remind us how much support they need. And as this last generation grows older, their needs become more intense, more costly.</p> <p>New York is home to more than half of the approximately 110,000 Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., with the majority residing in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. Of the 55,000 survivors living in New York City, about half live at or below the poverty line. Many of them lack the means for even the most basic necessities, including proper housing and health care, and they live on fixed incomes that do not accommodate escalating food prices, water and utility bills, the cost of medications, and other vital supports. Niceties such as a show, a new dress, a visit to the museum are unimaginable when rent must first be paid.</p> <p>The circumstances under which many Holocaust survivors live, along with the nature of the challenges they confront as they age, require special attention. Normal aging is complicated by unique problems not generally experienced by elderly persons. They have brittle bones and serious dental problems caused by malnutrition and stress experienced during their youth and early childhood. Traumas of dislocation, as well as the loss of loved ones and communities, can cause sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, or an inability to trust. Some survivors may keep food nearby at all times. Others may bathe or permit sponge baths, but will not take a shower.</p> <p>To address the needs of this population, the New York City Council created the Holocaust Survivor Initiative last year, with the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Rafael Espinal, David Greenfield, and Mark Levine. This $1.5 million allocation supported 11 non-profits around the city to provide case assistance, socialization programs, and entitlements and benefits enrollment to the 55,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City.</p> <p>These city funds helped Selfhelp to serve almost 300 low-income survivors with case assistance. Our social workers helped clients enroll in a range of benefits and entitlements, such as Medicare and Medicaid, rental and nutritional assistance, and Meals-on-Wheels. In just one fiscal year, we conducted a total of 343 home visits and provided almost 1900 hours of case management. The funding allowed our staff to help clients access and save close to $1.5 million. When more than half of the city’s survivors live at or below the poverty line, the money they save goes straight towards food, medication, and rent.</p> <p>Two years ago, Selfhelp testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on the needs of Holocaust survivors. At that hearing, Senator Bill Nelson, the chair of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, noted, “I am proud that the United States has a legacy of caring for the needs of aging Holocaust survivors. But, we must recognize that the demand for care is still there – and only becoming more challenging.”</p> <p>I am so grateful that our leaders on the city, state, and federal levels of government have raised the needs of this population and started to allocate funding. However, as Senator Nelson noted, the demand for care is increasing, and an increased investment is needed.</p> <p>Our elected officials often remark that a budget is a statement of priorities. With about 30,000 survivors living at or near the poverty line, struggling to get by, one of our city’s top priorities should be caring for our survivors and providing assistance so they can age with dignity, independence, and the support they need.</p> <p>***<br />Stuart C. Kaplan is CEO of <a href="http://www.selfhelp.net/" target="_blank">Selfhelp Community Services</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/selfhelpny" target="_blank">@selfhelpny</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/levine_klein_holocaust_survivor_city_council_.jpg" alt="levine klein holocaust survivor city council " height="438" width="600" /></p> <p>Mrs. Klein, a Holocaust survivor, with Council Member Levine (William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>“If our stories do not survive when we are gone, then six million Jews were murdered in vain.” That sobering call to action from Mrs. Klein, one of the 4,700 Holocaust survivors served by Selfhelp Community Services each year, rings especially true as we marked Yom HaShoah, the annual commemoration of Jewish survival through last century’s great tragedy.</p> <p>At this time of the year, we are once again reminded to share the stories of the past to prevent atrocities of this kind from happening again. The time to share the memories and lives of the remaining survivors is fleeting. This is the last generation of Holocaust survivors – a sad fact that is painfully real.</p> <p>To pass these stories to the next generation, Selfhelp recently concluded seven performances of <a href="http://www.selfhelp.net/community-services/nazi-victim-services-program" target="_blank">Witness Theater</a>, a program that Selfhelp brought to New York, with the support of UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Communal Fund, and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Now in its fourth year, the program utilizes drama therapy as a vehicle through which high school students work with local Holocaust survivors to re-enact critical moments from the survivors’ lives, creating a moving and educational performance to share with fellow students, parents and the community.</p> <p>As I watched the survivors on stage, it was hard not to notice how time is taking its toll. A small twitch in their hand, their walkers and canes, and the assistance they need from the students to move across the stage, all remind us how much support they need. And as this last generation grows older, their needs become more intense, more costly.</p> <p>New York is home to more than half of the approximately 110,000 Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., with the majority residing in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. Of the 55,000 survivors living in New York City, about half live at or below the poverty line. Many of them lack the means for even the most basic necessities, including proper housing and health care, and they live on fixed incomes that do not accommodate escalating food prices, water and utility bills, the cost of medications, and other vital supports. Niceties such as a show, a new dress, a visit to the museum are unimaginable when rent must first be paid.</p> <p>The circumstances under which many Holocaust survivors live, along with the nature of the challenges they confront as they age, require special attention. Normal aging is complicated by unique problems not generally experienced by elderly persons. They have brittle bones and serious dental problems caused by malnutrition and stress experienced during their youth and early childhood. Traumas of dislocation, as well as the loss of loved ones and communities, can cause sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, or an inability to trust. Some survivors may keep food nearby at all times. Others may bathe or permit sponge baths, but will not take a shower.</p> <p>To address the needs of this population, the New York City Council created the Holocaust Survivor Initiative last year, with the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Rafael Espinal, David Greenfield, and Mark Levine. This $1.5 million allocation supported 11 non-profits around the city to provide case assistance, socialization programs, and entitlements and benefits enrollment to the 55,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City.</p> <p>These city funds helped Selfhelp to serve almost 300 low-income survivors with case assistance. Our social workers helped clients enroll in a range of benefits and entitlements, such as Medicare and Medicaid, rental and nutritional assistance, and Meals-on-Wheels. In just one fiscal year, we conducted a total of 343 home visits and provided almost 1900 hours of case management. The funding allowed our staff to help clients access and save close to $1.5 million. When more than half of the city’s survivors live at or below the poverty line, the money they save goes straight towards food, medication, and rent.</p> <p>Two years ago, Selfhelp testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on the needs of Holocaust survivors. At that hearing, Senator Bill Nelson, the chair of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, noted, “I am proud that the United States has a legacy of caring for the needs of aging Holocaust survivors. But, we must recognize that the demand for care is still there – and only becoming more challenging.”</p> <p>I am so grateful that our leaders on the city, state, and federal levels of government have raised the needs of this population and started to allocate funding. However, as Senator Nelson noted, the demand for care is increasing, and an increased investment is needed.</p> <p>Our elected officials often remark that a budget is a statement of priorities. With about 30,000 survivors living at or near the poverty line, struggling to get by, one of our city’s top priorities should be caring for our survivors and providing assistance so they can age with dignity, independence, and the support they need.</p> <p>***<br />Stuart C. Kaplan is CEO of <a href="http://www.selfhelp.net/" target="_blank">Selfhelp Community Services</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/selfhelpny" target="_blank">@selfhelpny</a>.</p> <p>

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City Should Call an Eviction Moratorium 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6354-new-york-city-should-call-an-eviction-moratorium Aaron Holmes <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14769319811_04f439bf02_o.jpg" alt="housing" height="398" width="600" /></p> <p>photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eblake/14769319811/in/photolist-ov7Ce2-7xLAJT-7xQr6J-otmVTQ-8LbhRF-7xQrxW-ng5MpF-7xQqwU-7xLBcP-odV6wp-8Lbin8-7FnSry-61mdcx-61qnWm-5YxWkS-5YxZNJ-61qisy-617SDm-5YtJAc-5YtHiz-cjPPgE-a8m9Ez-5YtLz8-2aAreK-617Pxq-61puS4-647qxz-5Yy17Y-66cjzW-5ZQ8mw-5YtHTZ-8fNNTk-5ZKU1n-5ZF5iE-5YtHL6-613CmH-5Yy229-8Q2MRm-7xLB4F-5YpHua-8yahHf-wDMQrT-5XjwNP-dUF7Ah-8n7DaW-nYVh2x-8n7CJ5-czyewN-nEEiSZ-8LbhWV/" target="_blank">Edward Blake via Flickr</a></p> <hr /> <p>One fear that is prevalent in every borough of New York City is the threat of eviction. Gentrification and the ever increasing housing affordability gap makes staying in an apartment harder and harder each year for thousands of tenants. Evictions are handed down in Housing Court, where the odds do not favor low-income tenants.</p> <p>As of 2015, an estimated <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-new-york-city-activists-mobilize-right-counsel-eviction/" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of these tenants go through Housing Court without legal representation. In attempts to combat this, the New York City government has provided millions in funding to legal advocacy organizations to defend tenants in Housing Court and prevent evictions. As a result, New York saw an encouraging <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html?_r=2" target="_blank">18% decrease</a> in the number of evictions in 2015 due to the increase in assistance of legal services. While this additional funding is making strides in helping combat high eviction rates, these efforts are not doing enough.</p> <p>In order to provide real assistance and protection to its low-income residents and tenants as well as reduce racial discrimination, New York City should call for an indefinite temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In September of 2015, I began work as a legal intern at the Safety Net Project at Urban Justice Center. For nine months straight, I spent hours at Bronx Housing Court with hundreds of tenants, conducting intakes for potential clients for the attorneys to represent in Housing Court. During this time, I realized that one way to address the housing and eviction crisis in New York City could be a temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In a city plagued with homelessness, a poverty crisis, and drastic <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/gentrification-doesn-poor-report-shows-article-1.2393396" target="_blank">rates of gentrification</a>, by instituting an eviction moratorium city government would not only be assisting its low-income residents, but also relieving its overburdened court system and the organizations trying to help tenants.</p> <p>A moratorium on evictions, while it sounds extreme and improbable, would actually be quite feasible and beneficial.</p> <p>Landlords, while not being able to evict tenants, would still be able to collect money settlements. This could take place in Small-Claims, Civil, or even the Supreme Court. During this indeterminate period, New York would be able to reevaluate its current housing crisis and come up with better multi-faceted solutions while thousands would not be threatened with homelessness.</p> <p>The city, not burdened with the cost of both evictions and rising shelter expenses, could shift its focus and funding to other programs such as new or increased housing subsidies. Because of the inadequate number of affordable apartments, new and additional subsidies would allow access to a wider population of New Yorkers, thus diminishing the homeless population. This would result in <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-paying-keep-people-homes-can-save-cities-money/" target="_blank">annual savings at shelters</a> throughout the city as well.</p> <p>Housing Court and evictions demonstrate not only injustice against low-income tenants, but also racial discrimination. If you walk into Housing Court in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island, you see clearly that the majority of tenants are people of color. Approximately seven of every ten clients I spoke to at Housing Court were African-American women. This opens up an even wider conversation about discrimination based on race and gender where <a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/study_eviction_rates_for_black_women_on_par_with_incarcerations_for_black.html" target="_blank">black men are locked up and black women are locked out</a>. An eviction moratorium would potentially limit these racially discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Various types of moratoriums have actually taken place all across the country and yielded positive results.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/home/3063885-155/salt-lake-city-council-ready-to" target="_blank">Salt Lake City</a>, a one-year impact fee moratorium was imposed to help reassess the dysfunctional collection fee system. Recently, <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/04/06/oakland-approves-90-day-moratorium-on-rent-hikes-evictions/" target="_blank">Oakland, California</a> approved a 90-day freeze on rent hikes and an eviction moratorium to help the city deal with its ever-growing housing crisis. <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/22/cook-lake-counties-put-evictions-on-hold-until-jan-5/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> instituted an official annual moratorium on evictions from December 18 through January 5 to give tenants a holiday reprieve. This moratorium is also in effect when temperatures reach 15 degrees or colder or when severe weather conditions would make it dangerous to evict tenants. Moratoriums like these give cities time - opportunity to assess, reevaluate, and change any facet of policy that negatively affects tenants, recognizing that housing is a basic right and essential to pursuing other aspects of life. New York should be able to institute something similar.</p> <p>Currently, the only existing eviction moratorium in place is the annual and <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Tenants-Get-Holiday-Eviction-Reprieve.html" target="_blank">informal practice conducted by marshals</a>, who typically cease all evictions during the Christmas holiday into the new year. However, while this practice is neither sanctioned nor uniformly widespread, it does not address the larger issue of the vast number of low-income New Yorkers who are displaced from their housing each year. Another eviction moratorium, an official one, took place in 2012 after <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2012/nycha-extends-eviction-moratorium.page" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy</a>. While no formal statistics could be found to show the benefits of these moratoriums, both led to more tenants in housing and reduced costs to the city for expenses like shelters.</p> <p>In the fast-paced City of New York, tenants have seen rapid gentrification, judges pushing for settlements instead of fair decisions, and landlords seeking quick evictions. A moratorium on evictions would effectively slow down this process, keep people in their homes, provide more subsidies to put more people into new homes who currently do not qualify, and save the city money.</p> <p>Lastly, New York stands as a beacon of change on many issues. Evictions are a national epidemic. A New York eviction moratorium would act as an example for the rest of the country, thus leading to fewer homeless Americans across the country. It should not take the Christmas spirit or a devastating hurricane to call the city to act in defense of its most vulnerable residents. A housing disaster is already taking place.</p> <p>***<br />Tyler Tagliaferro is a double major in Political Science and American Studies at Fordham University.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14769319811_04f439bf02_o.jpg" alt="housing" height="398" width="600" /></p> <p>photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eblake/14769319811/in/photolist-ov7Ce2-7xLAJT-7xQr6J-otmVTQ-8LbhRF-7xQrxW-ng5MpF-7xQqwU-7xLBcP-odV6wp-8Lbin8-7FnSry-61mdcx-61qnWm-5YxWkS-5YxZNJ-61qisy-617SDm-5YtJAc-5YtHiz-cjPPgE-a8m9Ez-5YtLz8-2aAreK-617Pxq-61puS4-647qxz-5Yy17Y-66cjzW-5ZQ8mw-5YtHTZ-8fNNTk-5ZKU1n-5ZF5iE-5YtHL6-613CmH-5Yy229-8Q2MRm-7xLB4F-5YpHua-8yahHf-wDMQrT-5XjwNP-dUF7Ah-8n7DaW-nYVh2x-8n7CJ5-czyewN-nEEiSZ-8LbhWV/" target="_blank">Edward Blake via Flickr</a></p> <hr /> <p>One fear that is prevalent in every borough of New York City is the threat of eviction. Gentrification and the ever increasing housing affordability gap makes staying in an apartment harder and harder each year for thousands of tenants. Evictions are handed down in Housing Court, where the odds do not favor low-income tenants.</p> <p>As of 2015, an estimated <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-new-york-city-activists-mobilize-right-counsel-eviction/" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of these tenants go through Housing Court without legal representation. In attempts to combat this, the New York City government has provided millions in funding to legal advocacy organizations to defend tenants in Housing Court and prevent evictions. As a result, New York saw an encouraging <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html?_r=2" target="_blank">18% decrease</a> in the number of evictions in 2015 due to the increase in assistance of legal services. While this additional funding is making strides in helping combat high eviction rates, these efforts are not doing enough.</p> <p>In order to provide real assistance and protection to its low-income residents and tenants as well as reduce racial discrimination, New York City should call for an indefinite temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In September of 2015, I began work as a legal intern at the Safety Net Project at Urban Justice Center. For nine months straight, I spent hours at Bronx Housing Court with hundreds of tenants, conducting intakes for potential clients for the attorneys to represent in Housing Court. During this time, I realized that one way to address the housing and eviction crisis in New York City could be a temporary moratorium on evictions.</p> <p>In a city plagued with homelessness, a poverty crisis, and drastic <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/gentrification-doesn-poor-report-shows-article-1.2393396" target="_blank">rates of gentrification</a>, by instituting an eviction moratorium city government would not only be assisting its low-income residents, but also relieving its overburdened court system and the organizations trying to help tenants.</p> <p>A moratorium on evictions, while it sounds extreme and improbable, would actually be quite feasible and beneficial.</p> <p>Landlords, while not being able to evict tenants, would still be able to collect money settlements. This could take place in Small-Claims, Civil, or even the Supreme Court. During this indeterminate period, New York would be able to reevaluate its current housing crisis and come up with better multi-faceted solutions while thousands would not be threatened with homelessness.</p> <p>The city, not burdened with the cost of both evictions and rising shelter expenses, could shift its focus and funding to other programs such as new or increased housing subsidies. Because of the inadequate number of affordable apartments, new and additional subsidies would allow access to a wider population of New Yorkers, thus diminishing the homeless population. This would result in <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/todays-read-paying-keep-people-homes-can-save-cities-money/" target="_blank">annual savings at shelters</a> throughout the city as well.</p> <p>Housing Court and evictions demonstrate not only injustice against low-income tenants, but also racial discrimination. If you walk into Housing Court in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island, you see clearly that the majority of tenants are people of color. Approximately seven of every ten clients I spoke to at Housing Court were African-American women. This opens up an even wider conversation about discrimination based on race and gender where <a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/study_eviction_rates_for_black_women_on_par_with_incarcerations_for_black.html" target="_blank">black men are locked up and black women are locked out</a>. An eviction moratorium would potentially limit these racially discriminatory practices.</p> <p>Various types of moratoriums have actually taken place all across the country and yielded positive results.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/home/3063885-155/salt-lake-city-council-ready-to" target="_blank">Salt Lake City</a>, a one-year impact fee moratorium was imposed to help reassess the dysfunctional collection fee system. Recently, <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/04/06/oakland-approves-90-day-moratorium-on-rent-hikes-evictions/" target="_blank">Oakland, California</a> approved a 90-day freeze on rent hikes and an eviction moratorium to help the city deal with its ever-growing housing crisis. <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/22/cook-lake-counties-put-evictions-on-hold-until-jan-5/" target="_blank">Chicago</a> instituted an official annual moratorium on evictions from December 18 through January 5 to give tenants a holiday reprieve. This moratorium is also in effect when temperatures reach 15 degrees or colder or when severe weather conditions would make it dangerous to evict tenants. Moratoriums like these give cities time - opportunity to assess, reevaluate, and change any facet of policy that negatively affects tenants, recognizing that housing is a basic right and essential to pursuing other aspects of life. New York should be able to institute something similar.</p> <p>Currently, the only existing eviction moratorium in place is the annual and <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Tenants-Get-Holiday-Eviction-Reprieve.html" target="_blank">informal practice conducted by marshals</a>, who typically cease all evictions during the Christmas holiday into the new year. However, while this practice is neither sanctioned nor uniformly widespread, it does not address the larger issue of the vast number of low-income New Yorkers who are displaced from their housing each year. Another eviction moratorium, an official one, took place in 2012 after <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2012/nycha-extends-eviction-moratorium.page" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy</a>. While no formal statistics could be found to show the benefits of these moratoriums, both led to more tenants in housing and reduced costs to the city for expenses like shelters.</p> <p>In the fast-paced City of New York, tenants have seen rapid gentrification, judges pushing for settlements instead of fair decisions, and landlords seeking quick evictions. A moratorium on evictions would effectively slow down this process, keep people in their homes, provide more subsidies to put more people into new homes who currently do not qualify, and save the city money.</p> <p>Lastly, New York stands as a beacon of change on many issues. Evictions are a national epidemic. A New York eviction moratorium would act as an example for the rest of the country, thus leading to fewer homeless Americans across the country. It should not take the Christmas spirit or a devastating hurricane to call the city to act in defense of its most vulnerable residents. A housing disaster is already taking place.</p> <p>***<br />Tyler Tagliaferro is a double major in Political Science and American Studies at Fordham University.</p> <p>

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A Budget for the City of Immigrants 2016-05-24T15:21:53+00:00 2016-05-24T15:21:53+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6353-a-budget-for-the-city-of-immigrants Aaron Holmes <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/adult-lit-classes-12.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="adult lit classes 12" /></p> <p>Students of an adult literacy class (photo: Make the Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken major strides forward in its engagement with immigrant communities. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Council as a whole, our city has adopted and invested in new initiatives to welcome and protect immigrants and embrace their tremendous economic, cultural, and political contributions.</p> <p>Now, with the 2017 budget process in final negotiations, our leaders have a key opportunity to further address the barriers to opportunity and equity that immigrant communities continue to face. That’s why today, five leading immigrant organizations are releasing a new report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4279" target="_blank">A Budget for the City of Immigrants</a>,” which identifies key policy areas in which immigrant communities need further investment.</p> <p>Despite path-breaking initiatives like IDNYC (the municipal identification card program), ActionNYC (one of the nation’s first large-scale municipal navigation and outreach programs to connect people to free immigration legal screenings), and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (the nation’s first program to guarantee counsel to low-income immigrants facing deportation), immigrants still face enormous challenges in accessing public services, getting the support to succeed in the workforce, and being informed of their rights.</p> <p>The new report highlights key priorities across various issue areas, ranging from adult education to youth programs to health care access, but a few priorities bear particular mention.</p> <p>First, our City must expand its investment in adult literacy to a baselined $16 million per year.</p> <p>Adult newcomers who have come here to work and support their families often struggle with limited English proficiency (LEP). Despite enormous demand for adult literacy classes, supply has lagged—less than three percent of those in need can access community-based adult education programs. A recent Make the Road New York and Center for Popular Democracy report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4259" target="_blank">Teaching Toward Equity</a>: The Importance of English Classes to Reducing Economic Inequality in New York,” highlights how meeting the language needs of LEP New Yorkers would both further immigrant integration and generate billions of dollars in new earnings. New York City can lead again by making sure that adult immigrants can learn English and develop the tools they need to thrive.</p> <p>Second, our city must direct $13.5 million for immigration legal services for complex cases.</p> <p>Currently, New York City provides few resources for complex immigration legal cases where an individual is facing imminent deportation yet cannot be served under most existing funding streams. This leaves thousands of immigrants on waiting lists. A survey by the New York Immigration Coalition of the city's legal services providers noted that 60% of immigrants seeking their services had complex cases that need intensive representation. Further resources must focus on these complex immigration cases—especially for families who are on the verge of being torn apart without adequate legal representation.</p> <p>Third, our city must expand its investment in Access Health NYC to $5 million.</p> <p>This new City Council initiative has shown tremendous promise by working with community organizations like the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families to educate immigrants about health care options and enroll them for coverage, wherever possible. Health care access is another area where our city has shown leadership, and it should expand its commitment in this budget year.</p> <p>Fourth, our city must move forward with the investment of $868 million in capital funding for the construction of new classrooms and schools to combat overcrowding and pursue additional means to meet the more than 100,000 school seats needed citywide.</p> <p>The 2017 budget must include strong investment to address this widespread problem, while our leaders explore further action in future years to fix it once and for all.</p> <p>Finally, New York City must take further steps to strengthen the landscape of grassroots, immigrant-led nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our communities yet often struggle, as the Asian American Federation and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies have noted, to operate on a level playing field with larger organizations.</p> <p>By increasing the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $5 million and amending municipal contracting policies to open new opportunities for these smaller organizations, the city can go a long way to strengthening immigrant communities as well.</p> <p>The priorities outlined in A Budget for the City of Immigrants, of which these are just a few, show concrete opportunities to consolidate the progress our city has made with respect to immigrant communities and ensure that we continue to move forward. With immigrant communities at the heart of our global city, we must use this budget cycle to continue to lead the way in welcoming and protecting immigrants.</p> <p>What is good for immigrant communities is good for New York City, the city of immigrants.</p> <p>***<br /><em>Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/maketheroadny" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> &amp; <a href="http://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</em></p> <p>

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<p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/adult-lit-classes-12.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="adult lit classes 12" /></p> <p>Students of an adult literacy class (photo: Make the Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken major strides forward in its engagement with immigrant communities. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Council as a whole, our city has adopted and invested in new initiatives to welcome and protect immigrants and embrace their tremendous economic, cultural, and political contributions.</p> <p>Now, with the 2017 budget process in final negotiations, our leaders have a key opportunity to further address the barriers to opportunity and equity that immigrant communities continue to face. That’s why today, five leading immigrant organizations are releasing a new report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4279" target="_blank">A Budget for the City of Immigrants</a>,” which identifies key policy areas in which immigrant communities need further investment.</p> <p>Despite path-breaking initiatives like IDNYC (the municipal identification card program), ActionNYC (one of the nation’s first large-scale municipal navigation and outreach programs to connect people to free immigration legal screenings), and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (the nation’s first program to guarantee counsel to low-income immigrants facing deportation), immigrants still face enormous challenges in accessing public services, getting the support to succeed in the workforce, and being informed of their rights.</p> <p>The new report highlights key priorities across various issue areas, ranging from adult education to youth programs to health care access, but a few priorities bear particular mention.</p> <p>First, our City must expand its investment in adult literacy to a baselined $16 million per year.</p> <p>Adult newcomers who have come here to work and support their families often struggle with limited English proficiency (LEP). Despite enormous demand for adult literacy classes, supply has lagged—less than three percent of those in need can access community-based adult education programs. A recent Make the Road New York and Center for Popular Democracy report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4259" target="_blank">Teaching Toward Equity</a>: The Importance of English Classes to Reducing Economic Inequality in New York,” highlights how meeting the language needs of LEP New Yorkers would both further immigrant integration and generate billions of dollars in new earnings. New York City can lead again by making sure that adult immigrants can learn English and develop the tools they need to thrive.</p> <p>Second, our city must direct $13.5 million for immigration legal services for complex cases.</p> <p>Currently, New York City provides few resources for complex immigration legal cases where an individual is facing imminent deportation yet cannot be served under most existing funding streams. This leaves thousands of immigrants on waiting lists. A survey by the New York Immigration Coalition of the city's legal services providers noted that 60% of immigrants seeking their services had complex cases that need intensive representation. Further resources must focus on these complex immigration cases—especially for families who are on the verge of being torn apart without adequate legal representation.</p> <p>Third, our city must expand its investment in Access Health NYC to $5 million.</p> <p>This new City Council initiative has shown tremendous promise by working with community organizations like the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families to educate immigrants about health care options and enroll them for coverage, wherever possible. Health care access is another area where our city has shown leadership, and it should expand its commitment in this budget year.</p> <p>Fourth, our city must move forward with the investment of $868 million in capital funding for the construction of new classrooms and schools to combat overcrowding and pursue additional means to meet the more than 100,000 school seats needed citywide.</p> <p>The 2017 budget must include strong investment to address this widespread problem, while our leaders explore further action in future years to fix it once and for all.</p> <p>Finally, New York City must take further steps to strengthen the landscape of grassroots, immigrant-led nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our communities yet often struggle, as the Asian American Federation and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies have noted, to operate on a level playing field with larger organizations.</p> <p>By increasing the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $5 million and amending municipal contracting policies to open new opportunities for these smaller organizations, the city can go a long way to strengthening immigrant communities as well.</p> <p>The priorities outlined in A Budget for the City of Immigrants, of which these are just a few, show concrete opportunities to consolidate the progress our city has made with respect to immigrant communities and ensure that we continue to move forward. With immigrant communities at the heart of our global city, we must use this budget cycle to continue to lead the way in welcoming and protecting immigrants.</p> <p>What is good for immigrant communities is good for New York City, the city of immigrants.</p> <p>***<br /><em>Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/maketheroadny" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> &amp; <a href="http://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</em></p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
An Imperfect Victory for New York Workers 2016-04-04T22:00:33+00:00 2016-04-04T22:00:33+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6264-an-imperfect-victory-for-new-york-workers Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15_rally.jpeg" alt="15 rally" height="361" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/nyregion/gap-between-manhattans-rich-and-poor-is-greatest-in-us-census-finds.html" target="_blank">made 88 times</a> as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/the-high-burden-of-low-wages-how-renting-affordably-in-nyc-is-impossible-on-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">could not afford</a> median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">found</a> that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">reached</a> $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/housing/affordable_housing_ny_2014.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/nychange" target="_blank">@nychange</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15_rally.jpeg" alt="15 rally" height="361" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p>Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/nyregion/gap-between-manhattans-rich-and-poor-is-greatest-in-us-census-finds.html" target="_blank">made 88 times</a> as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage <a href="http://streeteasy.com/blog/the-high-burden-of-low-wages-how-renting-affordably-in-nyc-is-impossible-on-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">could not afford</a> median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">found</a> that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-new-york-state-minimum-wage-to-15/" target="_blank">reached</a> $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/housing/affordable_housing_ny_2014.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.</p> <p dir="ltr">Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/popdemoc" target="_blank">@popdemoc</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/nychange" target="_blank">@nychange</a>.</p> Give Police Tools to Reduce Arrest and Improve Community Health 2015-12-09T19:42:34+00:00 2015-12-09T19:42:34+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6026-give-police-tools-to-reduce-arrest-and-improve-community-health Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/NYPD_training_hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="NYPD training hall" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo via @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>How do we respond to people in our society who might appear threatening, but who most urgently need medical help? Shortcomings in our community health and social services systems mean that many people who live in poverty, use drugs, and live with mental illness end up in our justice system.</p> <p dir="ltr">In too many cases, a police officer’s response to someone experiencing a psychotic break or self-medicating with drugs involves an arrest, which can lead these medically-vulnerable people into a cycle of arrest and incarceration. Many of the issues that both public health and law enforcement agencies address in the communities they serve are rooted in health inequities, violence, trauma, racism, and poverty—problems that are often exacerbated by a stay in jail.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of course, police officers should not be responsible for identifying social and medical needs in their communities, but they <a href="http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/public-health-and-policing.pdf" target="_blank">often</a> serve as de facto street-corner psychiatrists and social workers for the people they encounter.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is because they are called to respond to low level infractions that stem from people’s behavioral health needs. For instance, of all drug-related arrests in 2013, 83 percent were for possession of a controlled substance. Nearly 10 percent of all police interactions involve people with a mental health disorder—an interaction that too often leads to injuries and fatalities. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than 70 percent of people with mental health disorders in the justice system also have a substance use disorder. Currently, police lack alternatives to arrest for responding to these problems—officers report that they are more likely to arrest somebody displaying signs of a behavioral health disorder if they believe jail is the only option to provide basic medical services for that individual.</p> <p dir="ltr">As gatekeepers between the community and the criminal justice system, police need to have the tools to appropriately respond to people who need treatment or services that do not require arrest, especially considering the long-term, steep collateral costs of justice involvement on individuals, communities, and taxpayers that <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf" target="_blank">include</a> housing instability, underemployment, and reduced economic mobility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Harm reduction and health promotion, two bedrock principles of the modern public health field, can serve as guiding approaches for police looking to minimize the negative impacts that too many low-level arrests have had on our communities—especially those of color. Though these burdens arise from the failures of current community health, justice, and social services, police officers can and should be an asset to public health work.</p> <p dir="ltr">In contrast to abstinence-based interventions, <a href="https://www.unodc.org/ddt-training/treatment/VOLUME%20D/Topic%204/1.VolD_Topic4_Harm_Reduction.pdf" target="_blank">harm reduction</a> is a set of practical strategies that aim to minimize the negative impacts of drug use and other high-risk behaviors, even when people are not ready or able to give up these behaviors. And <a href="http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/en/" target="_blank">health promotion</a> is designed to help people increase control over, and improve, their health.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jurisdictions around the world have demonstrated that police who are able to incorporate a public health approach can not only reduce arrests of these medically-vulnerable groups, but also improve the health of communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Harm reduction-based interventions that deliver vital services to people engaged in drug use or sex work, such as <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/12/sex-condoms-nyc.html" target="_blank">condom distribution</a> programs, overdose prevention training, or <a href="http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/providers/reports/docs/sep_report.pdf" target="_blank">syringe exchange sites</a>, can reduce the spread of infectious disease and prevent overdose deaths. And programs that incorporate health promotion principles, like <a href="http://www.citinternational.org/" target="_blank">Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs)</a>—which consist of specially trained teams of officers who answer emergency calls where mental illness might be an issue—can leverage police training to equip officers to implement a safer response to people in psychiatric crises.</p> <p dir="ltr">To ensure that vulnerable people are not driven underground and away from the services that benefit them and improve the health of communities, police should work with existing syringe exchange programs and local harm reduction advocates when possible to build trust and develop collaborative policies. Several harm reduction programs in New York City—like those of <a href="http://www.boomhealth.org/" target="_blank">BOOM!Health</a>, VOCAL-New York, and <a href="http://www.cornerproject.org/" target="_blank">Washington Heights CORNER Project</a>—have successfully worked with law enforcement agencies to develop policies and practices that don’t target people who utilize their services and that actively improve the safety of these clients as well as that of their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Law enforcement agencies have also had success by reaching out to advocacy groups to increase their officers’ knowledge about harm reduction. The Harm Reduction Coalition has worked with police around New York State in a <a href="http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/general/opioid_overdose_prevention/" target="_blank">collaboration</a> that resulted in the NYPD adopting their training manual. In the first year of this partnership, more than 5,000 officers were trained in using Naloxone, a life-saving antidote that prevents death when administered to somebody overdosing on opiates.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many jurisdictions have also created collaborative diversion programs, where police departments partner with local health departments and behavioral health service providers to develop pre-arrest and pre-booking diversion programs. <a href="https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Bexar-County-Smart-Justice-Handout.pdf" target="_blank">San Antonio’s Smart Justice</a> programs provide CITs and two different kinds of drop-off centers—a short term crisis center and a longer term psychiatric center—where police can bring people instead of arresting them. It’s promising to see that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf" target="_blank">task force</a> on behavioral health and criminal justice is adopting some of these strategies—the NYPD is increasing training for CITs and creating a drop-off center.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, long-term impacts won’t be fully realized without an alignment of not only practices, but also metrics and incentives. Any review of police officers’ performance should include the number of their referrals to locally available community health and social services, metrics that reflect community perception and satisfaction with police encounters, and the number of lives saved through overdose prevention.</p> <p dir="ltr">Arrests averted, rather than arrests made, should be a core guiding principle for police.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, health agencies, interventions, and professionals need to consider arrest and incarceration metrics of success for their programs in addition to more straightforward health outcomes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Accessing public health services for people with substance use and mental health disorders should not require an interaction with law enforcement or a jail stay. Until alternatives are provided, police can draw on harm reduction and health promotion principles to most effectively ensure public safety for everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Chelsea Davis is a Research Analyst in the Substance Use and Mental Health Program at the Vera Institute of Justice, and is co-author of its recent report, <a href="http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/public-health-and-policing.pdf" target="_blank">First Do No Harm: Advancing Public Health in Policing Practices</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/NYPD_training_hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="NYPD training hall" /></p> <p dir="ltr">(photo via @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>How do we respond to people in our society who might appear threatening, but who most urgently need medical help? Shortcomings in our community health and social services systems mean that many people who live in poverty, use drugs, and live with mental illness end up in our justice system.</p> <p dir="ltr">In too many cases, a police officer’s response to someone experiencing a psychotic break or self-medicating with drugs involves an arrest, which can lead these medically-vulnerable people into a cycle of arrest and incarceration. Many of the issues that both public health and law enforcement agencies address in the communities they serve are rooted in health inequities, violence, trauma, racism, and poverty—problems that are often exacerbated by a stay in jail.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of course, police officers should not be responsible for identifying social and medical needs in their communities, but they <a href="http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/public-health-and-policing.pdf" target="_blank">often</a> serve as de facto street-corner psychiatrists and social workers for the people they encounter.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is because they are called to respond to low level infractions that stem from people’s behavioral health needs. For instance, of all drug-related arrests in 2013, 83 percent were for possession of a controlled substance. Nearly 10 percent of all police interactions involve people with a mental health disorder—an interaction that too often leads to injuries and fatalities. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than 70 percent of people with mental health disorders in the justice system also have a substance use disorder. Currently, police lack alternatives to arrest for responding to these problems—officers report that they are more likely to arrest somebody displaying signs of a behavioral health disorder if they believe jail is the only option to provide basic medical services for that individual.</p> <p dir="ltr">As gatekeepers between the community and the criminal justice system, police need to have the tools to appropriately respond to people who need treatment or services that do not require arrest, especially considering the long-term, steep collateral costs of justice involvement on individuals, communities, and taxpayers that <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf" target="_blank">include</a> housing instability, underemployment, and reduced economic mobility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Harm reduction and health promotion, two bedrock principles of the modern public health field, can serve as guiding approaches for police looking to minimize the negative impacts that too many low-level arrests have had on our communities—especially those of color. Though these burdens arise from the failures of current community health, justice, and social services, police officers can and should be an asset to public health work.</p> <p dir="ltr">In contrast to abstinence-based interventions, <a href="https://www.unodc.org/ddt-training/treatment/VOLUME%20D/Topic%204/1.VolD_Topic4_Harm_Reduction.pdf" target="_blank">harm reduction</a> is a set of practical strategies that aim to minimize the negative impacts of drug use and other high-risk behaviors, even when people are not ready or able to give up these behaviors. And <a href="http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/en/" target="_blank">health promotion</a> is designed to help people increase control over, and improve, their health.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jurisdictions around the world have demonstrated that police who are able to incorporate a public health approach can not only reduce arrests of these medically-vulnerable groups, but also improve the health of communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Harm reduction-based interventions that deliver vital services to people engaged in drug use or sex work, such as <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/12/sex-condoms-nyc.html" target="_blank">condom distribution</a> programs, overdose prevention training, or <a href="http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/providers/reports/docs/sep_report.pdf" target="_blank">syringe exchange sites</a>, can reduce the spread of infectious disease and prevent overdose deaths. And programs that incorporate health promotion principles, like <a href="http://www.citinternational.org/" target="_blank">Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs)</a>—which consist of specially trained teams of officers who answer emergency calls where mental illness might be an issue—can leverage police training to equip officers to implement a safer response to people in psychiatric crises.</p> <p dir="ltr">To ensure that vulnerable people are not driven underground and away from the services that benefit them and improve the health of communities, police should work with existing syringe exchange programs and local harm reduction advocates when possible to build trust and develop collaborative policies. Several harm reduction programs in New York City—like those of <a href="http://www.boomhealth.org/" target="_blank">BOOM!Health</a>, VOCAL-New York, and <a href="http://www.cornerproject.org/" target="_blank">Washington Heights CORNER Project</a>—have successfully worked with law enforcement agencies to develop policies and practices that don’t target people who utilize their services and that actively improve the safety of these clients as well as that of their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Law enforcement agencies have also had success by reaching out to advocacy groups to increase their officers’ knowledge about harm reduction. The Harm Reduction Coalition has worked with police around New York State in a <a href="http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/general/opioid_overdose_prevention/" target="_blank">collaboration</a> that resulted in the NYPD adopting their training manual. In the first year of this partnership, more than 5,000 officers were trained in using Naloxone, a life-saving antidote that prevents death when administered to somebody overdosing on opiates.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many jurisdictions have also created collaborative diversion programs, where police departments partner with local health departments and behavioral health service providers to develop pre-arrest and pre-booking diversion programs. <a href="https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Bexar-County-Smart-Justice-Handout.pdf" target="_blank">San Antonio’s Smart Justice</a> programs provide CITs and two different kinds of drop-off centers—a short term crisis center and a longer term psychiatric center—where police can bring people instead of arresting them. It’s promising to see that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf" target="_blank">task force</a> on behavioral health and criminal justice is adopting some of these strategies—the NYPD is increasing training for CITs and creating a drop-off center.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, long-term impacts won’t be fully realized without an alignment of not only practices, but also metrics and incentives. Any review of police officers’ performance should include the number of their referrals to locally available community health and social services, metrics that reflect community perception and satisfaction with police encounters, and the number of lives saved through overdose prevention.</p> <p dir="ltr">Arrests averted, rather than arrests made, should be a core guiding principle for police.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, health agencies, interventions, and professionals need to consider arrest and incarceration metrics of success for their programs in addition to more straightforward health outcomes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Accessing public health services for people with substance use and mental health disorders should not require an interaction with law enforcement or a jail stay. Until alternatives are provided, police can draw on harm reduction and health promotion principles to most effectively ensure public safety for everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Chelsea Davis is a Research Analyst in the Substance Use and Mental Health Program at the Vera Institute of Justice, and is co-author of its recent report, <a href="http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/public-health-and-policing.pdf" target="_blank">First Do No Harm: Advancing Public Health in Policing Practices</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p> Public Money Is For Public Schools 2015-12-11T03:03:05+00:00 2015-12-11T03:03:05+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6030-public-money-is-for-public-schools Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/greenfied_rally.jpg" width="600" height="451" alt="greefield rally" /></p> <p>Council Member David Greenfield, colleagues, &amp; others <a href="https://twitter.com/GarySchlesinger/status/669658399995482112" target="_blank">rally</a> for Intro 65</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this week the City Council, with the blessing of the mayor, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/nyregion/mayor-de-blasio-draws-criticism-for-plan-to-pay-for-security-in-private-schools.html?_r=0" target="_blank">passed Intro 65</a>, a bill that will give $19.8 million of public money to Yeshivas, Catholic, and private schools to pay for security guards. In defending the legislation and public money for private school security as an appropriate use of city funds, Council Member David Greenfield explained that the city is "flush with cash."</p> <p>His statement about the city being flush with cash is insulting; especially when you look at the district he represents. Mr. Greenfield's district includes part of Borough Park, where the poverty rate is about 32 percent, the same as East New York. Does he think that his constituents feel "flush with cash"?</p> <p>The City Council, including Mr. Greenfield, are ignoring the realities of the communities they serve and the City as a whole when they pour cash into private institutions and ignore the dire needs of public schools that depend on public funds. Schools throughout the city go without vital resources every day. Yet over and over again, they are told to do more and more with less.</p> <p>What could nearly $20 million from the City Council do for our public schools? It could be used to add instructional time and expand the school day for dozens of schools struggling to raise student achievement. It could be used to provide social and emotional support services for students and families through community schools, of which there is only one in Greenfield's district, or to provide college counselors in high school, helping to ensure that students apply to and are accepted to schools that best fit them.</p> <p>Those funds could also be used to spread research-based models of parent engagement throughout the city, to grow the skills and capacity of families to assist in the academic improvement of their children. The funds could be used for translation services for schools like IS 96 in Mr. Greenfield's district, where families speak dozens of languages and struggle to engage in their children's education.</p> <p>How many students sit in front of outdated computers or go without a library in their schools? If the city is "flush with cash," why are students across New York sitting in schools that are under-resourced and understaffed? The $20 million in public money that will now go to private schools would have been much better spent on schools that are open to all children: public schools.</p> <p>***<br />Ayishah Irvin is <a href="https://twitter.com/CEJNYC" target="_blank">Coalition for Educational Justice</a> parent leader from Community School District 5.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/greenfied_rally.jpg" width="600" height="451" alt="greefield rally" /></p> <p>Council Member David Greenfield, colleagues, &amp; others <a href="https://twitter.com/GarySchlesinger/status/669658399995482112" target="_blank">rally</a> for Intro 65</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this week the City Council, with the blessing of the mayor, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/nyregion/mayor-de-blasio-draws-criticism-for-plan-to-pay-for-security-in-private-schools.html?_r=0" target="_blank">passed Intro 65</a>, a bill that will give $19.8 million of public money to Yeshivas, Catholic, and private schools to pay for security guards. In defending the legislation and public money for private school security as an appropriate use of city funds, Council Member David Greenfield explained that the city is "flush with cash."</p> <p>His statement about the city being flush with cash is insulting; especially when you look at the district he represents. Mr. Greenfield's district includes part of Borough Park, where the poverty rate is about 32 percent, the same as East New York. Does he think that his constituents feel "flush with cash"?</p> <p>The City Council, including Mr. Greenfield, are ignoring the realities of the communities they serve and the City as a whole when they pour cash into private institutions and ignore the dire needs of public schools that depend on public funds. Schools throughout the city go without vital resources every day. Yet over and over again, they are told to do more and more with less.</p> <p>What could nearly $20 million from the City Council do for our public schools? It could be used to add instructional time and expand the school day for dozens of schools struggling to raise student achievement. It could be used to provide social and emotional support services for students and families through community schools, of which there is only one in Greenfield's district, or to provide college counselors in high school, helping to ensure that students apply to and are accepted to schools that best fit them.</p> <p>Those funds could also be used to spread research-based models of parent engagement throughout the city, to grow the skills and capacity of families to assist in the academic improvement of their children. The funds could be used for translation services for schools like IS 96 in Mr. Greenfield's district, where families speak dozens of languages and struggle to engage in their children's education.</p> <p>How many students sit in front of outdated computers or go without a library in their schools? If the city is "flush with cash," why are students across New York sitting in schools that are under-resourced and understaffed? The $20 million in public money that will now go to private schools would have been much better spent on schools that are open to all children: public schools.</p> <p>***<br />Ayishah Irvin is <a href="https://twitter.com/CEJNYC" target="_blank">Coalition for Educational Justice</a> parent leader from Community School District 5.</p> In Zoning Amendment, One Size Does Not Fit All 2015-12-09T22:47:27+00:00 2015-12-09T22:47:27+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6028-in-zoning-amendment-one-size-does-not-fit-all Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/richards_de_blasio_presser.jpg" alt="richards de blasio presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>As the de Blasio administration pushes forward its Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plans coupled together, the City Council plans to take the time to look at these two proposals separately. As chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, my committee has significant responsibility in this process. One thing is clear: a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.</p> <p>Community Boards across the city have voiced their concerns about these two plans and we must let them know that we are listening. There are a variety of valid concerns.</p> <p>As the proposals make their way to the City Council in early 2016, the administration needs to factor in community feedback and make appropriate changes to ensure that the voices of residents are not ignored. We must make sure we are not weakening existing zoning laws or the very process that allows residents to fight to protect the character of their neighborhoods.</p> <p>After speaking with my colleagues, and as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has said, the Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan will not pass muster in the City Council without changes.</p> <p>One glaring issue of concern to me that should be removed is the as-of-right policy. We should not be eliminating the need for special permits to build nursing homes and healthcare facilities - doing so would push the city in the wrong direction. The construction of these buildings should have more oversight, not less, and the reason for the current process is to prevent the oversaturation of particular areas that are doing more than their fair share.</p> <p>Currently, the permit process goes through the Department of City Planning. Developers should have to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Oversight is essential and communities need to be involved in any planning process that will affect their neighborhood.</p> <p>While we share the goal of providing housing faster, we must not sacrifice the oversight process in doing so.</p> <p>As-of-right would also give landowners the ability to remove already existing parking spaces without any due process, which is simply unacceptable to seniors who may come home to find out they are losing the parking spot they rely on.</p> <p>The goal of reducing parking mandates in areas that the administration has deemed transit hubs is a serious concern, especially in my home borough of Queens, where transit options are limited. Many Queens residents are reliant on their cars and the ability to find parking.</p> <p>These zones where people have somewhat better access to public transit and there is a focus on decreasing parking need a closer look - it is imperative that city agencies explain how they are going to invest in the infrastructure to account for denser populations. With the city's recent $2.5 billion investment in the MTA capital budget, plans to improve access in these areas need to be included. Simply living near mass transportation does not mean that the infrastructure is at the level it should be to make it a viable option.</p> <p>We also need assurances that the allowance of a height increase on ground floors will be used for commercial purposes and developers will not be able to turn it into residential space. I would also like to see strategies from the city Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Small Business Services that will ensure the commercial space is used to stimulate economic development in our communities.</p> <p>While these plans would have an effect on all New Yorkers, Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) will also have a major impact on seniors in neighborhoods across the city, whether in nursing homes or senior housing developments. The administration must show us that senior housing will contain quality apartments that are not unreasonably small. Seniors are the fabric of our communities and built the groundwork for everything we have today, so we should ensure that we are not limiting their ability to be active.</p> <p>Due to the complexities of both MIH and ZQA, I am calling for two separate hearings since these plans each deserve their own time in front of the City Council before any final proposal is brought to chambers.</p> <p>I commend the Department of City Planning for all its work to develop with these proposals and for traveling to communities across the city, and I give Mayor de Blasio and his administration credit for making the affordable housing crisis a priority. But, it is imperative that the final plan for zoning text amendments is the best it can be for all communities. In a city as large and diverse as New York, one size does not fit all.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6027-next-steps-for-the-mayors-controversial-zoning-proposals" target="_blank">Next Steps for The Mayor's Zoning Proposals</a>]</p> <p>***<br />City Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, represents District 31 in Queens, which includes Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/richards_de_blasio_presser.jpg" alt="richards de blasio presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>As the de Blasio administration pushes forward its Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plans coupled together, the City Council plans to take the time to look at these two proposals separately. As chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, my committee has significant responsibility in this process. One thing is clear: a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.</p> <p>Community Boards across the city have voiced their concerns about these two plans and we must let them know that we are listening. There are a variety of valid concerns.</p> <p>As the proposals make their way to the City Council in early 2016, the administration needs to factor in community feedback and make appropriate changes to ensure that the voices of residents are not ignored. We must make sure we are not weakening existing zoning laws or the very process that allows residents to fight to protect the character of their neighborhoods.</p> <p>After speaking with my colleagues, and as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has said, the Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan will not pass muster in the City Council without changes.</p> <p>One glaring issue of concern to me that should be removed is the as-of-right policy. We should not be eliminating the need for special permits to build nursing homes and healthcare facilities - doing so would push the city in the wrong direction. The construction of these buildings should have more oversight, not less, and the reason for the current process is to prevent the oversaturation of particular areas that are doing more than their fair share.</p> <p>Currently, the permit process goes through the Department of City Planning. Developers should have to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Oversight is essential and communities need to be involved in any planning process that will affect their neighborhood.</p> <p>While we share the goal of providing housing faster, we must not sacrifice the oversight process in doing so.</p> <p>As-of-right would also give landowners the ability to remove already existing parking spaces without any due process, which is simply unacceptable to seniors who may come home to find out they are losing the parking spot they rely on.</p> <p>The goal of reducing parking mandates in areas that the administration has deemed transit hubs is a serious concern, especially in my home borough of Queens, where transit options are limited. Many Queens residents are reliant on their cars and the ability to find parking.</p> <p>These zones where people have somewhat better access to public transit and there is a focus on decreasing parking need a closer look - it is imperative that city agencies explain how they are going to invest in the infrastructure to account for denser populations. With the city's recent $2.5 billion investment in the MTA capital budget, plans to improve access in these areas need to be included. Simply living near mass transportation does not mean that the infrastructure is at the level it should be to make it a viable option.</p> <p>We also need assurances that the allowance of a height increase on ground floors will be used for commercial purposes and developers will not be able to turn it into residential space. I would also like to see strategies from the city Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Small Business Services that will ensure the commercial space is used to stimulate economic development in our communities.</p> <p>While these plans would have an effect on all New Yorkers, Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) will also have a major impact on seniors in neighborhoods across the city, whether in nursing homes or senior housing developments. The administration must show us that senior housing will contain quality apartments that are not unreasonably small. Seniors are the fabric of our communities and built the groundwork for everything we have today, so we should ensure that we are not limiting their ability to be active.</p> <p>Due to the complexities of both MIH and ZQA, I am calling for two separate hearings since these plans each deserve their own time in front of the City Council before any final proposal is brought to chambers.</p> <p>I commend the Department of City Planning for all its work to develop with these proposals and for traveling to communities across the city, and I give Mayor de Blasio and his administration credit for making the affordable housing crisis a priority. But, it is imperative that the final plan for zoning text amendments is the best it can be for all communities. In a city as large and diverse as New York, one size does not fit all.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6027-next-steps-for-the-mayors-controversial-zoning-proposals" target="_blank">Next Steps for The Mayor's Zoning Proposals</a>]</p> <p>***<br />City Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, represents District 31 in Queens, which includes Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p>