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/stephen-levin 2017-10-18T07:24:48+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Tenant Advocate Bill Met with Resistance 2017-04-20T22:04:05+00:00 2017-04-20T22:04:05+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6884:city-council-tenant-advocate-bill-met-with-resistance Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32212877203_635c2c312c_k.jpg" alt="Councilmember Helen Rosenthal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings on Wednesday heard more than a dozen bills that would enhance tenant protections and combat abuses by landlords. Among those proposals was one that would create a new ombudsman within the Department of Buildings whose responsibility would be to prioritize the welfare of tenants when property owners and builders apply for construction permits.</p> <p>The bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984646&amp;GUID=D8E10F34-2500-481A-B58C-28E3BA5669B1&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1523</a>, was introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal last month and heard for the first time Wednesday. It would create an Office of the Tenant Advocate, charged with approving and monitoring tenant protection and site safety plans submitted to the Department of Buildings for construction work on occupied multiple dwellings.</p> <p>The OTA would receive and redress complaints from tenants and would be required to publish quarterly reports on its work, including data on the number of complaints received, time taken to respond to complaints, and the number of tenant protection and site safety plans reviewed.</p> <p>Rosenthal, a Democrat from the Upper West Side, said the OTA is a crucial tool to fight tenant harassment by landlords, particularly those who may use legally approved construction work to continually hassle and drive out rent-stabilized tenants. “Dealing with building owners who operate unscrupulously can be a Sisyphean task,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview, “and having more eyes on the ball can only help. Having an office or deputy commissioner on equal footing with other deputy commissioners at DOB will allow tenant voices to be heard.”</p> <p>But her bill received push back from the de Blasio administration as well as the real estate industry, both of which argue that the OTA would be redundant. “While we generally support the bills discussed at yesterday’s hearing, we’re concerned that this particular legislation would duplicate work the Department already performs,” said Joseph Soldevere, a DOB spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>Soldevere said the department’s experts thoroughly examine tenant-protection and site-safety plans and, along with other agencies like Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), have a “robust system” for responding to tenant complaints. DOB also partners with HPD and law enforcement agencies, Soldevere added, in a joint city-state Tenant Harassment Task Force which has conducted more than 2,000 inspections since 2016.</p> <p>Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, is a co-sponsor on Rosenthal’s bill. He criticized the DOB’s often-delayed response time to complaints, calling them “totally ineffective” and insisting that the raft of proposals, dubbed the “Stand For Tenant Safety” <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=539361&amp;GUID=5A278FCF-8C83-43AC-86E5-EF3C3998D566&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package</a>, was essential. “It’s important that agencies coordinate their actions in working with tenants,” he said.</p> <p>The Real Estate Board of New York, the trade association that represents more than 16,000 members, including developers, property owners, managers and brokers, filed a <a href="https://www.rebny.com/content/rebny/en/newsroom/testimony/2017_Testimony/Legislative_Memorandum_Tenant_Harassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislative memo</a> with the City Council committee on Wednesday, stating its outright opposition to the OTA bill and generally to the larger package of proposals.</p> <p>“The creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate within DoB might be a worthy endeavor,” the REBNY memo reads, “if the Office is devoted not only to protecting the interests of the tenant during construction, but also to assisting tenants with their responsibilities during such times.” It goes on to argue, similar to the administration’s stance on the bill, that other units within the DOB already cover the office’s proposed duties. They also insist that the bill should drop any references to site safety plans which are “technical documents requiring high-level expertise and developed to safeguard the general public and workers on-site, not specifically tenants.”</p> <p>For Rosenthal, those concerns aren’t unfounded and she said she’s not looking to duplicate efforts already underway. Rather, she wants to streamline existing resources and prioritize the city’s response to tenant concerns. “Simply organize it in a fashion that would be more supportive for people going through construction, where construction is used for harassment,” she said. “What I’m trying to do is level the playing field within the DOB so that a tenant’s voice is heard as well as a building owners.”</p> <p>The broader package of bills addresses a number of issues, with proposals including oversight of contractors that work without a permit; added requirements for information in tenant protection plans; a safe construction bill of rights for tenants; a rebuttable presumption of harassment for certain landlord actions; increased civil penalties for harassment and enhanced definitions of acts that constitute harassment; among others.</p> <p>The package is also keeping in line with the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s increased focus on tenant protections, including the recently agreed upon “Right to Counsel,” which provides free legal representation or advice to tenants facing eviction. The mayor has pointedly cited his anti-eviction and pro-tenant policies as a significant part of his overall agenda to combat the city’s record levels of homelessness and affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group, said the Office of Tenant Advocate would be a step towards addressing systemic issues that tenants face. “DOB still perceives each problem as its own island and that’s not the reality,” she said, emphasizing that the city needs a comprehensive approach that recognizes the larger context of tenant issues. She said HPD has in part embraced this need, after years of advocacy, but DOB lags behind. “Right now there’s no centralized person you can talk to,” she said. “You call 311 and put in complaints but those are not always effective.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32212877203_635c2c312c_k.jpg" alt="Councilmember Helen Rosenthal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings on Wednesday heard more than a dozen bills that would enhance tenant protections and combat abuses by landlords. Among those proposals was one that would create a new ombudsman within the Department of Buildings whose responsibility would be to prioritize the welfare of tenants when property owners and builders apply for construction permits.</p> <p>The bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984646&amp;GUID=D8E10F34-2500-481A-B58C-28E3BA5669B1&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1523</a>, was introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal last month and heard for the first time Wednesday. It would create an Office of the Tenant Advocate, charged with approving and monitoring tenant protection and site safety plans submitted to the Department of Buildings for construction work on occupied multiple dwellings.</p> <p>The OTA would receive and redress complaints from tenants and would be required to publish quarterly reports on its work, including data on the number of complaints received, time taken to respond to complaints, and the number of tenant protection and site safety plans reviewed.</p> <p>Rosenthal, a Democrat from the Upper West Side, said the OTA is a crucial tool to fight tenant harassment by landlords, particularly those who may use legally approved construction work to continually hassle and drive out rent-stabilized tenants. “Dealing with building owners who operate unscrupulously can be a Sisyphean task,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview, “and having more eyes on the ball can only help. Having an office or deputy commissioner on equal footing with other deputy commissioners at DOB will allow tenant voices to be heard.”</p> <p>But her bill received push back from the de Blasio administration as well as the real estate industry, both of which argue that the OTA would be redundant. “While we generally support the bills discussed at yesterday’s hearing, we’re concerned that this particular legislation would duplicate work the Department already performs,” said Joseph Soldevere, a DOB spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>Soldevere said the department’s experts thoroughly examine tenant-protection and site-safety plans and, along with other agencies like Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), have a “robust system” for responding to tenant complaints. DOB also partners with HPD and law enforcement agencies, Soldevere added, in a joint city-state Tenant Harassment Task Force which has conducted more than 2,000 inspections since 2016.</p> <p>Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, is a co-sponsor on Rosenthal’s bill. He criticized the DOB’s often-delayed response time to complaints, calling them “totally ineffective” and insisting that the raft of proposals, dubbed the “Stand For Tenant Safety” <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=539361&amp;GUID=5A278FCF-8C83-43AC-86E5-EF3C3998D566&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package</a>, was essential. “It’s important that agencies coordinate their actions in working with tenants,” he said.</p> <p>The Real Estate Board of New York, the trade association that represents more than 16,000 members, including developers, property owners, managers and brokers, filed a <a href="https://www.rebny.com/content/rebny/en/newsroom/testimony/2017_Testimony/Legislative_Memorandum_Tenant_Harassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislative memo</a> with the City Council committee on Wednesday, stating its outright opposition to the OTA bill and generally to the larger package of proposals.</p> <p>“The creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate within DoB might be a worthy endeavor,” the REBNY memo reads, “if the Office is devoted not only to protecting the interests of the tenant during construction, but also to assisting tenants with their responsibilities during such times.” It goes on to argue, similar to the administration’s stance on the bill, that other units within the DOB already cover the office’s proposed duties. They also insist that the bill should drop any references to site safety plans which are “technical documents requiring high-level expertise and developed to safeguard the general public and workers on-site, not specifically tenants.”</p> <p>For Rosenthal, those concerns aren’t unfounded and she said she’s not looking to duplicate efforts already underway. Rather, she wants to streamline existing resources and prioritize the city’s response to tenant concerns. “Simply organize it in a fashion that would be more supportive for people going through construction, where construction is used for harassment,” she said. “What I’m trying to do is level the playing field within the DOB so that a tenant’s voice is heard as well as a building owners.”</p> <p>The broader package of bills addresses a number of issues, with proposals including oversight of contractors that work without a permit; added requirements for information in tenant protection plans; a safe construction bill of rights for tenants; a rebuttable presumption of harassment for certain landlord actions; increased civil penalties for harassment and enhanced definitions of acts that constitute harassment; among others.</p> <p>The package is also keeping in line with the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s increased focus on tenant protections, including the recently agreed upon “Right to Counsel,” which provides free legal representation or advice to tenants facing eviction. The mayor has pointedly cited his anti-eviction and pro-tenant policies as a significant part of his overall agenda to combat the city’s record levels of homelessness and affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group, said the Office of Tenant Advocate would be a step towards addressing systemic issues that tenants face. “DOB still perceives each problem as its own island and that’s not the reality,” she said, emphasizing that the city needs a comprehensive approach that recognizes the larger context of tenant issues. She said HPD has in part embraced this need, after years of advocacy, but DOB lags behind. “Right now there’s no centralized person you can talk to,” she said. “You call 311 and put in complaints but those are not always effective.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
10 Key Data Points from Social Services Budget Hearing 2017-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6836:10-key-data-points-from-the-social-services-budget-hearing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33170291706_9f3a92280c_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson hearing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council Member Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council General Welfare Committee conducted a budget hearing Monday to evaluate the programs, expenditures, and needs of the Human Resource Administration (HRA) and Department of Homeless Services (DHS). Steven Banks, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services (DSS), which oversees both HRA and DHS, provided testimony for the two agencies before taking questions from concerned Council members.</p> <p>Though HRA provides a wide variety of services -- including job training and emergency food assistance -- the committee’s questioning focused almost exclusively on the city’s homelessness crisis and the lack of progress that has been made by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“Is this something that New Yorkers are going to have to accept as a new norm?” asked Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the committee. “Are we to look ahead to future years and future generations and accept that the reality is that there are going to be 50,000 individuals and families living in our shelter system?”</p> <p>There are currently about 60,000 New Yorkers living in homeless shelters, and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently outlined the goal of reducing the population to about 57,500 over five years. While the mayor has admitted that his administration has not made enough progress reducing homelessness, he argues that the population would be around 70,000 if not for the rent subsidy and anti-eviction measures his team, led by Banks, has implemented.</p> <p>Responding to Levin and committee members, most of whom were late to the hearing, Banks provided a comprehensive rundown of the investments DSS and the de Blasio administration have instituted, such as voucher programs and legal assistance to tenants facing unwarranted eviction.</p> <p>He also discussed the HOME-STAT initiative, which has doubled the number of outreach workers on city streets in order to bring people into shelter. Though the committee acknowledged its support for these measures and conceded that significant investment has been made, they nevertheless stressed their dissatisfaction -- often bordering on outrage -- with the lack of progress, especially considering the concentration of resources targeted at homelessness. Expenditures for HRA and DHS have ballooned under de Blasio, and the mayor is proposing more money for the fiscal year 2018 budget, which is due by July 1.</p> <p>In his $84.67 billion preliminary budget proposal, 18 cents of every dollar goes to social services, the second largest portion behind education. The mayor has allocated $7.5 billion for the Department of Social Services and $772 million for the Department of Homeless Services, though both numbers are likely lower than the adopted budget will show at the end of June.&nbsp;</p> <p>At Monday's hearing, Council Members Barry Grodenchik, Corey Johnson, and Brad Lander were particularly critical of the administration’s efforts.</p> <p>“It seems to me that this city has committed an immense amount of resources and...it doesn’t seem like we’re getting value for our dollars,” Grodenchik told Banks, questioning both the effectiveness and scope of the administration’s plan to stop using 360 cluster apartment and commercial hotel locations and open 90 new homeless shelters throughout the city. “It seems to me that the goal is not as ambitious as it needs to be.”</p> <p>Banks defended “a concrete and realistic goal.”</p> <p>Lander expressed frustration that is shared by de Blasio, his predecessor on the Council, and other stakeholders. “On the one hand I appreciate being realistic, on the other I appreciate that this is an absolute crisis and we need to do more,” Lander said, before proceeding to recommend that Banks and his team focus on “getting families into affordable, permanent public housing.”</p> <p>The notion of placing more homeless families into public housing, through NYCHA, is something that some elected officials and advocates have long-called for, but that Banks and de Blasio have said is not the right approach. The mayor has cited the already-long NYCHA wait-lists.</p> <p>“It’s disturbing to walk down the streets everyday and to see homeless people on nearly every block...even after all these efforts at homelessness prevention, it still feels like we are not being successful,” added Council Member Johnson, who represents Chelsea and Greenwich Village.</p> <p>Banks’ testimony touched on other important DSS initiatives, in addition to homelessness, and provided updated data points on a variety of key topics:</p> <p>--The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps feed 1.7 million New Yorkers, including more than 650,000 children, added 8,371 participants in the last year. Asked about the future of SNAP in New York City, given the uncertain prospects for federal funding under the Trump administration, Banks said that he and the mayor would be working with Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to retain SNAP funding for New York City recipients.</p> <p>--According to Banks’ testimony, HRA provided rental assistance to 58,100 households in 2016 at a cost of $214 million. Asked about the widespread problem of landlords refusing to honor rental assistance programs and vouchers, Banks provided a phone number that residents can now call if they experience such refusal. Banks said HRA is determined to identify non-compliant landlords and compile a database of these individuals.</p> <p>--Banks’ testimony also explained that HRA has eliminated the Work Experience Programs (WEP) in favor of Job Training Program slots at NYPD, Parks Department, Department of Sanitation, and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). The programs will serve up to 210 cash assistance participants annually.</p> <p>--The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) accepted 3,444 new clients from August 2016 through January 2017, which is 1,410 more than the same period from the previous year. This was result of an HIV expansion program that allowed “all financially-eligible New York City residents with HIV to seek and obtain HASA services.” Applicants previously had to have developed AIDS or be “symptomatic” to be eligible. Council Member Johnson, who chairs the health committee, spoke about the success of HASA as a key achievement.</p> <p>--Banks’ testimony also announced a DHS plan to add 10,000 affordable apartments specifically for seniors, veterans, and New Yorkers earning less than $40,000 per household. DHS also has plans to institute an Elder Rental Assistance program, to be funded through the mayor’s “mansion tax,” to help more than 25,000 seniors with monthly rental assistance of up to $1,300. The mansion tax is unlikely to be approved in Albany, though.</p> <p>--In 2016, DHS placed 3,153 homeless veterans in permanent housing.</p> <p>--30% of families with children in a DHS shelter have a history of domestic violence. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget included $217 million for DHS security purposes.</p> <p>--Banks also referenced the 24% drop in evictions citywide since the institution of free legal assistance programs for many New Yorkers facing eviction. More than 40,000 residents avoided eviction in 2015 and 2016. The mayor and the City Council recently agreed to expand such assistance further.</p> <p>--Banks provided figures to demonstrate why the city has struggled to contain its homelessness problem. Between 2000 and 2014, Banks testified, median rent has increased 19%, while household income decreased by 6.3% over the same period.</p> <p>--360,000 New Yorkers now spend more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities. Another 140,000 spend more than 30%.</p> <p>--All in all, homelessness has increased by 115% over the past two decades. In 1994, 23,868 New Yorkers were homeless, by 2014, when Mayor de Blasio took office, that number was 51,470. It is now around 60,000.</p> <p>Banks' testimony was followed by the General Welfare Committee's examination of the Administration for Children's Services.</p> <p>

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by Luke Foley, Gotham Gazette

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33170291706_9f3a92280c_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson hearing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council Member Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council General Welfare Committee conducted a budget hearing Monday to evaluate the programs, expenditures, and needs of the Human Resource Administration (HRA) and Department of Homeless Services (DHS). Steven Banks, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services (DSS), which oversees both HRA and DHS, provided testimony for the two agencies before taking questions from concerned Council members.</p> <p>Though HRA provides a wide variety of services -- including job training and emergency food assistance -- the committee’s questioning focused almost exclusively on the city’s homelessness crisis and the lack of progress that has been made by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“Is this something that New Yorkers are going to have to accept as a new norm?” asked Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the committee. “Are we to look ahead to future years and future generations and accept that the reality is that there are going to be 50,000 individuals and families living in our shelter system?”</p> <p>There are currently about 60,000 New Yorkers living in homeless shelters, and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently outlined the goal of reducing the population to about 57,500 over five years. While the mayor has admitted that his administration has not made enough progress reducing homelessness, he argues that the population would be around 70,000 if not for the rent subsidy and anti-eviction measures his team, led by Banks, has implemented.</p> <p>Responding to Levin and committee members, most of whom were late to the hearing, Banks provided a comprehensive rundown of the investments DSS and the de Blasio administration have instituted, such as voucher programs and legal assistance to tenants facing unwarranted eviction.</p> <p>He also discussed the HOME-STAT initiative, which has doubled the number of outreach workers on city streets in order to bring people into shelter. Though the committee acknowledged its support for these measures and conceded that significant investment has been made, they nevertheless stressed their dissatisfaction -- often bordering on outrage -- with the lack of progress, especially considering the concentration of resources targeted at homelessness. Expenditures for HRA and DHS have ballooned under de Blasio, and the mayor is proposing more money for the fiscal year 2018 budget, which is due by July 1.</p> <p>In his $84.67 billion preliminary budget proposal, 18 cents of every dollar goes to social services, the second largest portion behind education. The mayor has allocated $7.5 billion for the Department of Social Services and $772 million for the Department of Homeless Services, though both numbers are likely lower than the adopted budget will show at the end of June.&nbsp;</p> <p>At Monday's hearing, Council Members Barry Grodenchik, Corey Johnson, and Brad Lander were particularly critical of the administration’s efforts.</p> <p>“It seems to me that this city has committed an immense amount of resources and...it doesn’t seem like we’re getting value for our dollars,” Grodenchik told Banks, questioning both the effectiveness and scope of the administration’s plan to stop using 360 cluster apartment and commercial hotel locations and open 90 new homeless shelters throughout the city. “It seems to me that the goal is not as ambitious as it needs to be.”</p> <p>Banks defended “a concrete and realistic goal.”</p> <p>Lander expressed frustration that is shared by de Blasio, his predecessor on the Council, and other stakeholders. “On the one hand I appreciate being realistic, on the other I appreciate that this is an absolute crisis and we need to do more,” Lander said, before proceeding to recommend that Banks and his team focus on “getting families into affordable, permanent public housing.”</p> <p>The notion of placing more homeless families into public housing, through NYCHA, is something that some elected officials and advocates have long-called for, but that Banks and de Blasio have said is not the right approach. The mayor has cited the already-long NYCHA wait-lists.</p> <p>“It’s disturbing to walk down the streets everyday and to see homeless people on nearly every block...even after all these efforts at homelessness prevention, it still feels like we are not being successful,” added Council Member Johnson, who represents Chelsea and Greenwich Village.</p> <p>Banks’ testimony touched on other important DSS initiatives, in addition to homelessness, and provided updated data points on a variety of key topics:</p> <p>--The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps feed 1.7 million New Yorkers, including more than 650,000 children, added 8,371 participants in the last year. Asked about the future of SNAP in New York City, given the uncertain prospects for federal funding under the Trump administration, Banks said that he and the mayor would be working with Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to retain SNAP funding for New York City recipients.</p> <p>--According to Banks’ testimony, HRA provided rental assistance to 58,100 households in 2016 at a cost of $214 million. Asked about the widespread problem of landlords refusing to honor rental assistance programs and vouchers, Banks provided a phone number that residents can now call if they experience such refusal. Banks said HRA is determined to identify non-compliant landlords and compile a database of these individuals.</p> <p>--Banks’ testimony also explained that HRA has eliminated the Work Experience Programs (WEP) in favor of Job Training Program slots at NYPD, Parks Department, Department of Sanitation, and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). The programs will serve up to 210 cash assistance participants annually.</p> <p>--The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) accepted 3,444 new clients from August 2016 through January 2017, which is 1,410 more than the same period from the previous year. This was result of an HIV expansion program that allowed “all financially-eligible New York City residents with HIV to seek and obtain HASA services.” Applicants previously had to have developed AIDS or be “symptomatic” to be eligible. Council Member Johnson, who chairs the health committee, spoke about the success of HASA as a key achievement.</p> <p>--Banks’ testimony also announced a DHS plan to add 10,000 affordable apartments specifically for seniors, veterans, and New Yorkers earning less than $40,000 per household. DHS also has plans to institute an Elder Rental Assistance program, to be funded through the mayor’s “mansion tax,” to help more than 25,000 seniors with monthly rental assistance of up to $1,300. The mansion tax is unlikely to be approved in Albany, though.</p> <p>--In 2016, DHS placed 3,153 homeless veterans in permanent housing.</p> <p>--30% of families with children in a DHS shelter have a history of domestic violence. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget included $217 million for DHS security purposes.</p> <p>--Banks also referenced the 24% drop in evictions citywide since the institution of free legal assistance programs for many New Yorkers facing eviction. More than 40,000 residents avoided eviction in 2015 and 2016. The mayor and the City Council recently agreed to expand such assistance further.</p> <p>--Banks provided figures to demonstrate why the city has struggled to contain its homelessness problem. Between 2000 and 2014, Banks testified, median rent has increased 19%, while household income decreased by 6.3% over the same period.</p> <p>--360,000 New Yorkers now spend more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities. Another 140,000 spend more than 30%.</p> <p>--All in all, homelessness has increased by 115% over the past two decades. In 1994, 23,868 New Yorkers were homeless, by 2014, when Mayor de Blasio took office, that number was 51,470. It is now around 60,000.</p> <p>Banks' testimony was followed by the General Welfare Committee's examination of the Administration for Children's Services.</p> <p>

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by Luke Foley, Gotham Gazette

</p>
Fair Share: Design Flaws, Flashpoints & Possible Updates 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6633:fair-share-design-flaws-flashpoints-possible-updates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> Nearly Six Years After Landmark Street Harassment Hearing, No Measurable Progress 2016-08-07T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-07T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6468:nearly-six-years-after-landmark-street-harassment-hearing-no-measureable-progress Ben Max <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/street_harassment_mural1.jpg" alt="street harassment mural1" width="600" height="306" /></p> <p>Anti-street harassment mural in Bed-Stuy, <a href="http://www.groundswellmural.org/project/respect-strongest-compliment" target="_blank">led by Groundswell</a></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment is a pervasive and public form of sexual harassment that<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> most</a>&nbsp;women face at some point in their lives. Overwhelmingly, it is experienced for the first time <a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/most-women-are-catcalled-before-they-turn-17.html" target="_blank">before</a>&nbsp;the age of 17, can force those who experience such harassment to<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20070726_hiddeninplainsight.pdf" target="_blank"> alter</a>&nbsp;their behavior to<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> avoid</a>&nbsp;being harassed, and comes with serious&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/corrected-dataILR_Report_TARGET_1B_10232012-1.pdf" target="_blank">psychological consequences</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;The majority of women have been catcalled while walking the streets of NYC,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.groundswellmural.org/project/respect-strongest-compliment" target="_blank">said Eona John</a>, a youth artist who contributed to a Groundswell mural calling attention to the issue. &ldquo;Women are harassed to the point of fear being imprinted in their skin."</p> <p dir="ltr">Many courses of action to reduce street harassment and to help victims of harassment exist, yet in New York City, options like enforcing existing<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SSH-KYR-NewYork.pdf" target="_blank"> laws</a>&nbsp;against verbal harassment or providing educational programming in schools are largely underutilized, advocates say.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2010, New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, then chair of the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Women&rsquo;s Issues, held the first-ever<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=777946&amp;GUID=B95DA30B-FC49-4A32-9981-10D8420AD4FD&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank"> hearing</a> on street harassment, prompted by a visit to a high school in her Queens district during which she learned that a group of female students were being sexually harassed verbally on a daily basis by local mechanics on their way to and from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment, which can include catcalling, unwanted sexual comments, and gestures, &ldquo;limits the rights and freedoms of women and girls to enjoy a simple walk around. It conditions their every move and forces them to adopt a veil of caution as they walk in public,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland said at the time. &ldquo;The environment that allows for this type of behavior has roots in the same attitudes that say it&rsquo;s OK to treat women&hellip;as nothing more than sexual objects. It has roots in the same belief system that allows for women to be battered, abused, and even sometimes raped.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">That &ldquo;belief system&rdquo; in which women are perceived as &ldquo;nothing more than sexual objects&rdquo; that men are entitled to allows the sexual harassment of women in public spaces to be seen as an acceptable occurrence, even a &ldquo;compliment.&rdquo; Should a woman ignore or reject this &ldquo;compliment,&rdquo; the situation can quickly escalate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Escalated harassment can become even more discomforting, damaging, and dangerous. Some incidents result in violence. For example, in May, a man spit on a woman who ignored his advances at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall subway stop in Manhattan. She laughed, and he responded by <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/05/woman-slashed-after-ignoring-man-who-hit-on-her.html" target="_blank">slashing</a>&nbsp;her arm and running away, sending her to the hospital. Around this time last year, a New York City man hit at least four Asian women in the face with a heavy object over the course of a week after they rejected his advances while on the streets of Manhattan,sending them all&nbsp;<a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/06/nyc-man-attacked-asian-women-for-rejecting-him.html" target="_blank">to the hospital</a>. In October 2014, a woman in Queens was<a href="http://abc7ny.com/news/video-released-of-suspect-in-queens-throat-slashing/341633/" target="_blank"> slashed</a>&nbsp;in the throat after she rebuffed a man who had followed her into her apartment building.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the 2010 City Council hearing, leaders from organizations like Stop Street Harassment, Hollaback, the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, among others, all recommended that the city take action to reduce street harassment. Recommendations included conducting a citywide survey to gather data on the effects and the scope of street harassment in New York City and investing in educational efforts like public awareness campaigns, curricula designed to teach students about street harassment (as well as consent, respect, gender issues, and healthy relationships), and<a href="http://qz.com/677307/the-bystander-effect-keeps-catcalling-alive-so-lets-train-ourselves-to-take-action/" target="_blank"> bystander intervention training</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Your suggestions are definitely going to be followed up on,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland said at the end of the hearing, in a familiar City Council refrain. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to identify which agency to do [PSAs and/or surveys] through, the Department of Health or the Department of Education, or maybe both.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Five-and-a-half years later, no citywide survey has been conducted, and only the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has run PSAs, doing so on subways, reminding riders that sexual harassment on the train is a crime and encouraging victims to report unwanted sexual conduct to an MTA officer or to the police. The MTA is a state-run agency.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city Department of Education has not been involved in any targeted anti-street harassment educational efforts, according to a spokesperson (the DOE has other, more general anti-bullying programs in place), and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not respond to multiple inquiries regarding the agency&rsquo;s involvement or lack thereof in anti-street harassment efforts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead of funding a study, Council members funded<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/resources/iphone-and-droid-apps/" target="_blank"> an app</a>&nbsp;developed by Hollaback that allows victims of street harassment to make a record of their experience and report the location of the incident, adding it to a map. The app can also be used to report the incident to the City Council, if users wish to do so. Emily May, executive director of Hollaback, told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;we then took those stories, stripped of contact info, and did a <a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/fact-sheet-the-experience-of-being-targets-of-street-harassment-in-nyc/" target="_blank">content analysis</a> in partnership with Cornell.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Hollaback used the stories that were submitted for a qualitative study, which examined victims&rsquo; emotional reactions to street harassment and the effect a bystander's presence had on the experience, and found that street harassment is an "under-researched, but likely prevalent experience for many New Yorkers."</p> <p dir="ltr">As Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement sent to Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;there is much more that needs to be done to improve the attitude around women&rsquo;s bodies and our behavior in public spaces.&rdquo; Gotham Gazette spoke with advocates from all four previously mentioned organizations, some of whom were present themselves at the 2010 street harassment hearing, and two other organizations - SAFER NYC and Safe Horizon - all of whom said education is the key to &ldquo;improv[ing] the attitude around women&rsquo;s bodies&rdquo; in a way that would change the culture that allows public sexual harassment to persist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hollaback has developed a curriculum, in part thanks to funding from the city, which it has distributed to schools. However, there is no mandate to provide students with education to better equip those who are or may become victims of street harassment, or to deter those who may harass. Some schools have contacted Hollaback requesting workshops in response to the curriculum, Debjani Roy, deputy director of Hollaback, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Workshops are not something Hollaback is &ldquo;funded to do,&rdquo; Roy said, and it would be ideal if the city were to &ldquo;continue that stream of funding that allows for the whole picture, not just the curriculum - we need the curriculum and workshops and ongoing conversations.&rdquo; Preventative education must be at the forefront of efforts to curb street harassment, experts like Roy say.</p> <p dir="ltr">California, meanwhile, became the first state in the nation to<a href="http://www.ischoolguide.com/articles/28325/20151006/california-state-sexual-consent-lessons-mandatory-high.htm" target="_blank"> mandate lessons</a>&nbsp;on sexual violence prevention and affirmative consent in high schools last October.</p> <p dir="ltr">Several City Council members appeared in a<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRXmTuq0JbY" target="_blank"> video made by Hollaback</a> in May to speak out against street harassment. Hearing stories of street harassment, Council Member Brad Lander said, makes him feel &ldquo;horrified that there&rsquo;s a set of folks that don&rsquo;t have the freedom to walk around the streets of the city without getting harassed.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve got to do together is stand up to it and work to get people to not just be bystanders, but to stand up and say we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment, everybody&rsquo;s got to have the right to walk around our city in their own skin,&rdquo; Lander added. Lander declined to comment for this story when asked for specifics on what he and the Council are doing to &ldquo;stand up and say we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment.&rdquo; Lander has consistently allocated discretionary funds to Hollaback during his time in office.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Council member in Washington, D.C., Brianne Nadeau, has introduced&nbsp;<a href="http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/35416/B21-0657-Introduction.pdf" target="_blank">legislation</a> to establish a task force to end street harassment. The D.C. City Council held a hearing on street harassment in May, and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is funding a<a href="http://dcist.com/2016/03/new_grant_established_for_anti-stre.php" target="_blank"> $40,000 grant</a> for a public art installation to help deter street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the 2010 hearing in New York City, a high school student from Ferreras-Copeland&rsquo;s district, Natalia Aristizabal, testified. She had first brought the issue to the Council member during a visit to Aristizabal&rsquo;s high school. There was a street with several mechanic shops on the way to school, which 13- to 18-year-old students walked. &ldquo;It seems like when girls go into the school and outside of the school, it&rsquo;s a fun time for [the men working there],&rdquo; Aristizabal said at the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every time that I pass by,&rdquo; Aristizabal continued, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve gotten a comment.&rdquo; She began searching for solutions to stop the harassment, and at the hearing, one of Aristizabal&rsquo;s suggestions was to create a mural in the area - to put art saying that harassment is unacceptable in a place where the harassment is happening in an effort to deter it.</p> <p dir="ltr">No mural was put up in the area where underage girls faced sexual harassment every day, multiple times a day, from older men on their way to and from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">A public art organization, Groundswell, has taken it upon itself, though, to install murals to deter harassment around the city, including one titled &ldquo;<a href="http://www.bkmag.com/2015/08/18/catcallers-turn-into-zombies-in-this-anti-street-harassment-mural/%20/" target="_blank">Respect is the Strongest Compliment</a>&rdquo; in Bedford-Stuyvesant that Eona John helped create.</p> <p dir="ltr">Putting art in places where public sexual harassment is prevalent is one solution, though it is only one part of what experts say is needed to &ldquo;bring about an end to street harassment,&rdquo; in the words of Julia Nethero, founder of SAFER NYC. &ldquo;We can end street harassment through education, through raising awareness, through media campaigns, and things like that. It requires a cultural shift. I think education is really the answer, and starting in school would be the best way to do it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Educating young people about street harassment, its effects, and how to prevent it is the number one policy recommendation from all experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette for this story. Getting a &ldquo;mandatory curriculum around street harassment&rdquo; in all schools &ldquo;is number one,&rdquo; said Roy. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where girls and LGBT folks experience it first, between the ages of 13 and 14. Curriculum that&rsquo;s engaging, that&rsquo;s interesting - mandating that I think would be a key piece of it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One of the things that would be most beneficial for our entire city is if we implemented more education around this in our schools,&rdquo; said Tracy Hobson, executive director of the Center for Anti-Violence Education. &ldquo;Girls are dealing with this all the time, on their way to school, in the school.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette for this story were all open to doing more to prevent and reduce street harassment. &ldquo;I would love to see there be some anti-street harassment curriculum in our schools, maybe incorporated into &lsquo;Respect for All,&rsquo; which is already in our schools,&rdquo; said Council Member Steve Levin, who is chair of the General Welfare Committee and, like Lander, has consistently allocated discretionary funding to Hollaback during his time in office.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that that&rsquo;s a fabulous idea because we need to make sure that our young people are learning these issues early and understanding what&rsquo;s wrong with this type of behavior, what the consequences of it are, and get a good understanding of why it&rsquo;s not to be tolerated,&rdquo; Levin added.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;To me, we have to tackle it through education, through outreach, through programs and services,&rdquo; said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, &ldquo;because we have to show young people something different than what we see.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Levin also appeared in Hollaback&rsquo;s video speaking out against street harassment, and told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll be reconnecting with my colleagues to see if we could get the ball rolling again on this&hellip;I would be very interested in participating in another hearing,&rdquo; Levin added. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s still a lot more to be done, honestly.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Levin, Gibson expressed an interest in furthering the work of Council members to do more to prevent and reduce street harassment. &ldquo;I think it would be great for us to have a discussion on an outreach campaign, on a PSA, that&rsquo;s something that I&rsquo;m happy to consider and work with my colleagues on,&rdquo; Gibson said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates like Holly Kearl, founder of Stop Street Harassment and author of two books on street harassment, would also like the see city and state governments have more of a hand in producing surveys, as most of the existing data on the prevalence and effects of street harassment has been gathered by organizations that work to end street harassment in partnership with universities or research institutes.</p> <p dir="ltr">What that data reveals is alarming, but unsurprising to advocates like Hobson, who works with victims of all forms of sexual violence and has seen the impact street harassment has on women and girls firsthand.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We had one woman in our [self defense] program who was harassed on her way to school, and somebody grabbed her - grabbed her butt,&rdquo; Hobson told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;She was so traumatized and upset by it that she actually ended up changing schools. She moved to Brooklyn with her grandmother so she could go to a different school, and she came into our program,&rdquo; Hobson added, referring to the Center for Anti-Violence Education&rsquo;s<a href="http://caeny.org/programs/adults/self-defense/" target="_blank"> self-defense program</a>. &ldquo;She uprooted her entire life.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#Research" target="_self">See a collection of research on street harassment here</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Providing educational programming in schools; larger public awareness campaigns; and bystander intervention training, which encourages people who witness harassment to find ways to safely intervene (and which organizations like Safe Horizon offer), are three of the top policy solutions available to reduce street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other recommendations from experts include sensitivity training to better equip police officers to respond to reports of harassment and community safety audits, which involve community members auditing a location to see how the safety of that area can be improved (by adding more lights or clear visible paths, for example).</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One thing that we&rsquo;re working on right now is having all police officers go through mandatory sensitivity training when it comes to harassment,&rdquo; Roy of Hollaback says, &ldquo;because then when people report they&rsquo;ll know what to do instead of just dismissing it or brushing people off, which happens a little too often. It&rsquo;s not all about the report itself, it&rsquo;s about the experience when reporting, the options made available to people when they experience harassment.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">A few bills have been introduced in the City Council that Council Member Laurie Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women&rsquo;s Issues, believes could help address street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cumbo has introduced one<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-868-2015/" target="_blank"> bill</a> to create an emergency mobile text system that would allow the public to send texts to 911, including videos and photographs, which could be used to capture more evidence of harassers. Another<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-869-2015/" target="_blank"> bill</a> introduced by Cumbo would require the NYPD to add sex offenses to its crime status reports, including the total number of crime complaints and listing the types of sex offenses out separately. And in March, Cumbo introduced a<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1106-2016/" target="_blank"> bill</a> to require sexual assault awareness and prevention trainings for drivers of vehicles licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cumbo believes the sexual assault reporting bill could help to reduce street harassment by making it more clear exactly what sort of sex offenses are occurring, and where they are happening. &ldquo;If we can understand where this harassment is happening, where there are areas and spaces where women feel unsafe, then we can make sure that resources are deployed there so that women will feel safer going into those areas,&rdquo; Cumbo said. &ldquo;Because if you&rsquo;re in an unsafe environment, if you&rsquo;re being catcalled, if you&rsquo;re being spoken to in a lewd manner, if the harassment is constantly happening, it can also be a gateway for other forms of sexual assault to be prevalent.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While there isn&rsquo;t much hard data to support this claim (in part because the city has not funded such a study and in part because the way that sex crimes are reported doesn&rsquo;t often make it clear how the crime may have progressed or escalated), advocates like Hobson and Amy Edelstein, director of Staten Island community programs for Safe Horizon, have heard their fair share of anecdotal evidence to support the notion that a society that allows the sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces to persist without consequences contributes to a culture in which sexual violence against women and girls is accepted.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all on a continuum,&rdquo; Hobson said of street harassment and physical forms of sexual violence. &ldquo;I think that one sort of creates a way of thinking that allows another. If you&rsquo;re able to objectify someone on the street and not really think of them as human beings, that translates into you can also maybe touch them in a way and it doesn&rsquo;t matter whether they want it or not.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I work with a lot of people who have experienced sexual violence,&rdquo; Edelstein told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;and the people that if affects absolutely have the same reactions as a lot of our trauma survivors.&rdquo; There have been &ldquo;situations that have started out as street harassment or unwanted comments or groping,&rdquo; Edelstein added, &ldquo;that have absolutely escalated into a full blown sexual assault. We find that street harassment is certainly incredibly pervasive and happens to many many men and women. It shouldn&rsquo;t be minimized.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The emotional impacts of street harassment alone should raise concern for city lawmakers. &ldquo;In a qualitative analysis of self-submitted stories to ihollaback.org, we found that emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, shame, and helplessness were incredibly common,&rdquo; said Beth Livingston, assistant professor at Cornell University&rsquo;s ILR School, in a 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> interview</a> with Stop Street Harassment founder Holly Kearl. &ldquo;These sorts of emotions - particularly when experienced day after day - can become paralyzing...It is incredibly likely that, as with many other negative emotional experiences, the impact can accumulate over time, leading to behavioral and health outcomes that we all should be concerned about.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment can be especially harmful for those who have already experienced escalated forms of gendered violence, like domestic violence or sexual assault, says Edelstein. &ldquo;I personally know survivors who I have worked with have said that the man who sexually harassed them on the subway or made unwanted comments to them on the street kind of re-traumatized them and made them continue to feel victimized again, continued to perpetuate their lack of trust in the world, the lack of their sense of safety that they have,&rdquo; said Edelstein.</p> <p dir="ltr">With<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence" target="_blank"> one out of every six</a> American women surviving an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (according to the National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), helping to make sure that women in New York City do not continue to suffer from a lack &ldquo;of their sense of safety&rdquo; ought to be a priority for lawmakers, who advocates say can and should do more to minimize street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There are already laws in existence against harassment that would include pretty much all forms of street harassment,&rdquo; explains Nethero. Yet they are largely unenforced. &ldquo;<a href="http://www.stopvaw.org/law_policy_street_harassment" target="_blank">New York penal law</a> actually already has a clause about harassment that covers any kind of physical harassment or threat of physical harassment, following in a public space, and then they have a really broad phrase, like engaging in any course of conduct that places others in reasonable fear and also serves no legitimate purpose, that&rsquo;s considered harassment.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that the existing laws are probably being underutilized for the more serious crimes [like groping and flashing],&rdquo; says Kearl. &ldquo;So helping to publicize those, let people know what their rights are.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">All advocates and lawmakers interviewed for this article expressed a preference for prevention over punishment when it comes to deterring street harassment, citing concerns over the potential uneven application of fines or jail time for harassing. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think that sticking all these harassers in jail is the answer either,&rdquo; Kearl said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m more in favor of education. If a street harasser had to go to an education class or something, though, that would be fine, I wouldn&rsquo;t mind that!&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Many of the organizations mentioned here provide programs aimed at reducing street harassment, like bystander intervention training (SAFER NYC and Safe Horizon), anti-harassment curriculum (Hollaback), self-defense training (Center for Anti-Violence Education). These organizations do work centered on changing the culture that permits street harassment to persist, legitimizing the problem, and giving victims the tools to deal with harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Legitimizing the problem is the first step,&rdquo; says Alexis Grenell, Democratic political consultant and City &amp; State columnist (Grenell is also a board member of Hollaback). &ldquo;Then educating people - I would like to see there be an education curriculum, frankly, and Hollaback has developed one. I&rsquo;d like to see that mainstreamed, teaching respect for women, but also teaching bystanders the skills to create a safer and more supportive public space.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In early May, construction workers at the Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards) complex in Prospect Heights were harassing passersby so frequently that they became required to wear different color-coded hard hats in order to make complaints easier to file (<a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/colored-helmets-used-to-combat-street-harassment.html" target="_blank">New York Magazine reports</a> that four different companies were stationed at the site, and a sign posted at the entrance explained which color helmet belonged to which company).</p> <p dir="ltr">While making it easier for women to report their harassers is a step in the right direction, an even better response, organizations like Stop Street Harassment<a href="https://www.facebook.com/StopStreetHarassment/posts/10154254581167268?comment_id=10154254638412268&amp;comment_tracking={&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;R&quot;}" target="_blank"> suggest</a>, would be to target those who are committing the harassment themselves: to tell the construction workers not to harass, and that there will be consequences for doing so.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Cumbo echoed this sentiment while speaking about the city&rsquo;s lack of PSAs against street harassment. Vision Zero, the city&rsquo;s campaign against traffic fatalities, include PSAs that tell drivers they could <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftYqENMUbM0" target="_blank">end up dead</a> or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u60qeLULLZk" target="_blank">in jail</a> if they choose to drive drunk. &ldquo;All these imaginary characters pop up and say things like, &lsquo;if you hit someone, you&rsquo;re going to see me,&rsquo; and &lsquo;I&rsquo;m going to be your lawyer and cost this amount of money,&rsquo;&rdquo; Cumbo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think the same thing should happen with sexual assault and sexual harassment,&rdquo; Cumbo continued, adding that to her, the &ldquo;messaging&rdquo; around rape is all wrong. The way Cumbo sees it, there are two ways of talking about sexual assault and street harassment that dominate the messaging: if it&rsquo;s happening to you, here is where you can go for help; or here is how not to get sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But I&rsquo;ve never seen a campaign that says, &lsquo;do not sexually assault, do not sexually harass, and if you make that decision, here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s going to happen to you, we have zero tolerance for this behavior in our city,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked if she would be open to making a campaign like that happen, Cumbo said yes, but cautioned that male lawmakers should also be involved in the process.</p> <p dir="ltr">SAFER NYC actually has already created such a campaign, but lacks the funding to implement it. &ldquo;Our first project idea was to have subway ads that were targeting men - &lsquo;would you say that to your daughter,&rsquo; that kind of thing,&rdquo; Nethero said. &ldquo;So we made these ads and we still are hoping to run them. We haven&rsquo;t gotten enough funds to do that.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At the end of the day, advocates want to see more support from the city&rsquo;s lawmakers, both in terms of funding and policy solutions, to help address the city&rsquo;s street harassment problem. We want &ldquo;legislators and policymakers to pay attention to the issue,&rdquo; Roy said, and &ldquo;put more money forth into education and workshops and trainings and hosting collaborative events with policymakers.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that an opportunity to bring back a public education campaign and start the conversations again are essential,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland told NY1&rsquo;s Errol Louis in a November 2015<a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2015/11/24/ny1-online--queens-council-member-talks-new-alliance-for-flushing-meadows-corona-park.html" target="_blank"> interview</a>. &ldquo;We still see groping on our trains, we still see young girls complaining about harassment. It would be great to see if we have an opportunity&rdquo; to return to that conversation.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s unclear what&rsquo;s stopping city lawmakers like Ferreras-Copeland, Cumbo, Gibson, Levin, Lander and others from creating such opportunity or, in Lander&rsquo;s words, &ldquo;stand[ing] up and say[ing] we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment, everybody&rsquo;s got to have the right to walk around our city in their own skin.&rdquo;</p> <p>***<br />by Meg O'Connor, <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>. More:</p> <p><a id="Research">RESEARCH</a><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"> shows that:</span></p> <ul> <li>A majority of women experience street harassment at some point in their lives: 65 percent of women reported experiencing at least one type of street harassment in their lifetimes, according to a national 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf"> study</a> of about 1,000 men and 1,000 women over 18 conducted by the research institute GfK and commissioned by Stop Street Harassment. <ul> <li dir="ltr">An overwhelming majority of women begin to experience street harassment before they turn 17: 84 percent of women are harassed on the street before they turn 17, according to an international<a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/most-women-are-catcalled-before-they-turn-17.html"> study</a> on street harassment conducted by Hollaback in partnership with Cornell University which surveyed over 16,000 women from 21 countries.</li> </ul> </li> <li dir="ltr">Many women alter their behavior in order to avoid street harassment: 85.6 percent of women said that they have chosen to take a different route home or to their destination because of street harassment, according to a<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/cornell-international-survey-on-street-harassment/#us"> survey</a> of 4,872 women under forty in the United States conducted by Beth Livingston, assistant professor at Cornell Industrial Labor Relations School, in conjunction with Hollaback.</li> <li dir="ltr">As a result of street harassment, 47 percent of women surveyed report constantly assessing their surroundings, according to a national 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf"> study</a> of about 1,000 men and 1,000 women over 18 conducted by the research institute GfK and commissioned by Stop Street Harassment.</li> <li dir="ltr">Street harassment isn&rsquo;t a one time thing, but a repeated occurrence that often becomes a constant and expected part of women&rsquo;s lives: 86 percent of women and 79 percent of men who reported being harassed in the GfK study said they had been harassed more than once. Women were more likely than men to say it happened sometimes, often, or daily.</li> <li dir="ltr">Harassment on the street occurs on a continuum, with 41 percent of all women in the GfK study reporting that they had experienced physically aggressive forms of harassment in public places, including sexual touching (23 percent), following (20 percent), flashing (14 percent), and being forced to do something sexual (9 percent).</li> <li dir="ltr">Street harassment instills fear in victims, who are concerned the situation will escalate: According to GfK, two-thirds of the harassed women (68 percent) and half of the harassed men (49 percent) said they were very or somewhat concerned that the incident would escalate into something worse.</li> <li dir="ltr">Even after people are harassed, few report it to the authorities: 63 percent of 1,790 New York City subway riders<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20070726_hiddeninplainsight.pdf"> surveyed</a> by the Manhattan Borough President's office in 2007 said they had been sexually harassed on the subway. Only 4 percent of those people contacted the NYPD or the MTA to inform either authority of the incident.</li> <li dir="ltr">Recently, however, the MTA has redoubled efforts encouraging victims of subway sex crimes to come forward. As a result, there&rsquo;s been a nearly<a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/transit/2016/06/20/subway-sex-crime-stats-soar-as-more-victims-come-forward--nypd-transit-chief-says.html"> 57 percent</a> increase in reported sex crimes in the subway this year. The MTA launched a<a href="http://web.mta.info/sexual_misconduct/"> website</a> in 2014 which allows victims to report offenses online, and the NYPD has shifted tactics in recent times, placing more officers on the trains and catching more perpetrators in the act.</li> <li dir="ltr">Men also experience street harassment, to a lesser extent, though more men who identify as LGBT are victims of harassment: 25 percent of men surveyed by GfK experienced street harassment, with more men who identified as LGBT experiencing harassment than men who identified as heterosexual.</li> <li>Street harassment doesn&rsquo;t just affect women. Members of the LGBT community, especially transgender individuals, also experience a significant amount of street harassment.</li> </ul> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/street_harassment_mural1.jpg" alt="street harassment mural1" width="600" height="306" /></p> <p>Anti-street harassment mural in Bed-Stuy, <a href="http://www.groundswellmural.org/project/respect-strongest-compliment" target="_blank">led by Groundswell</a></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment is a pervasive and public form of sexual harassment that<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> most</a>&nbsp;women face at some point in their lives. Overwhelmingly, it is experienced for the first time <a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/most-women-are-catcalled-before-they-turn-17.html" target="_blank">before</a>&nbsp;the age of 17, can force those who experience such harassment to<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20070726_hiddeninplainsight.pdf" target="_blank"> alter</a>&nbsp;their behavior to<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> avoid</a>&nbsp;being harassed, and comes with serious&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/corrected-dataILR_Report_TARGET_1B_10232012-1.pdf" target="_blank">psychological consequences</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;The majority of women have been catcalled while walking the streets of NYC,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.groundswellmural.org/project/respect-strongest-compliment" target="_blank">said Eona John</a>, a youth artist who contributed to a Groundswell mural calling attention to the issue. &ldquo;Women are harassed to the point of fear being imprinted in their skin."</p> <p dir="ltr">Many courses of action to reduce street harassment and to help victims of harassment exist, yet in New York City, options like enforcing existing<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SSH-KYR-NewYork.pdf" target="_blank"> laws</a>&nbsp;against verbal harassment or providing educational programming in schools are largely underutilized, advocates say.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2010, New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, then chair of the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Women&rsquo;s Issues, held the first-ever<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=777946&amp;GUID=B95DA30B-FC49-4A32-9981-10D8420AD4FD&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank"> hearing</a> on street harassment, prompted by a visit to a high school in her Queens district during which she learned that a group of female students were being sexually harassed verbally on a daily basis by local mechanics on their way to and from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment, which can include catcalling, unwanted sexual comments, and gestures, &ldquo;limits the rights and freedoms of women and girls to enjoy a simple walk around. It conditions their every move and forces them to adopt a veil of caution as they walk in public,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland said at the time. &ldquo;The environment that allows for this type of behavior has roots in the same attitudes that say it&rsquo;s OK to treat women&hellip;as nothing more than sexual objects. It has roots in the same belief system that allows for women to be battered, abused, and even sometimes raped.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">That &ldquo;belief system&rdquo; in which women are perceived as &ldquo;nothing more than sexual objects&rdquo; that men are entitled to allows the sexual harassment of women in public spaces to be seen as an acceptable occurrence, even a &ldquo;compliment.&rdquo; Should a woman ignore or reject this &ldquo;compliment,&rdquo; the situation can quickly escalate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Escalated harassment can become even more discomforting, damaging, and dangerous. Some incidents result in violence. For example, in May, a man spit on a woman who ignored his advances at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall subway stop in Manhattan. She laughed, and he responded by <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/05/woman-slashed-after-ignoring-man-who-hit-on-her.html" target="_blank">slashing</a>&nbsp;her arm and running away, sending her to the hospital. Around this time last year, a New York City man hit at least four Asian women in the face with a heavy object over the course of a week after they rejected his advances while on the streets of Manhattan,sending them all&nbsp;<a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/06/nyc-man-attacked-asian-women-for-rejecting-him.html" target="_blank">to the hospital</a>. In October 2014, a woman in Queens was<a href="http://abc7ny.com/news/video-released-of-suspect-in-queens-throat-slashing/341633/" target="_blank"> slashed</a>&nbsp;in the throat after she rebuffed a man who had followed her into her apartment building.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the 2010 City Council hearing, leaders from organizations like Stop Street Harassment, Hollaback, the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, among others, all recommended that the city take action to reduce street harassment. Recommendations included conducting a citywide survey to gather data on the effects and the scope of street harassment in New York City and investing in educational efforts like public awareness campaigns, curricula designed to teach students about street harassment (as well as consent, respect, gender issues, and healthy relationships), and<a href="http://qz.com/677307/the-bystander-effect-keeps-catcalling-alive-so-lets-train-ourselves-to-take-action/" target="_blank"> bystander intervention training</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Your suggestions are definitely going to be followed up on,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland said at the end of the hearing, in a familiar City Council refrain. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to identify which agency to do [PSAs and/or surveys] through, the Department of Health or the Department of Education, or maybe both.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Five-and-a-half years later, no citywide survey has been conducted, and only the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has run PSAs, doing so on subways, reminding riders that sexual harassment on the train is a crime and encouraging victims to report unwanted sexual conduct to an MTA officer or to the police. The MTA is a state-run agency.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city Department of Education has not been involved in any targeted anti-street harassment educational efforts, according to a spokesperson (the DOE has other, more general anti-bullying programs in place), and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not respond to multiple inquiries regarding the agency&rsquo;s involvement or lack thereof in anti-street harassment efforts.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead of funding a study, Council members funded<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/resources/iphone-and-droid-apps/" target="_blank"> an app</a>&nbsp;developed by Hollaback that allows victims of street harassment to make a record of their experience and report the location of the incident, adding it to a map. The app can also be used to report the incident to the City Council, if users wish to do so. Emily May, executive director of Hollaback, told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;we then took those stories, stripped of contact info, and did a <a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/fact-sheet-the-experience-of-being-targets-of-street-harassment-in-nyc/" target="_blank">content analysis</a> in partnership with Cornell.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Hollaback used the stories that were submitted for a qualitative study, which examined victims&rsquo; emotional reactions to street harassment and the effect a bystander's presence had on the experience, and found that street harassment is an "under-researched, but likely prevalent experience for many New Yorkers."</p> <p dir="ltr">As Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement sent to Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;there is much more that needs to be done to improve the attitude around women&rsquo;s bodies and our behavior in public spaces.&rdquo; Gotham Gazette spoke with advocates from all four previously mentioned organizations, some of whom were present themselves at the 2010 street harassment hearing, and two other organizations - SAFER NYC and Safe Horizon - all of whom said education is the key to &ldquo;improv[ing] the attitude around women&rsquo;s bodies&rdquo; in a way that would change the culture that allows public sexual harassment to persist.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hollaback has developed a curriculum, in part thanks to funding from the city, which it has distributed to schools. However, there is no mandate to provide students with education to better equip those who are or may become victims of street harassment, or to deter those who may harass. Some schools have contacted Hollaback requesting workshops in response to the curriculum, Debjani Roy, deputy director of Hollaback, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Workshops are not something Hollaback is &ldquo;funded to do,&rdquo; Roy said, and it would be ideal if the city were to &ldquo;continue that stream of funding that allows for the whole picture, not just the curriculum - we need the curriculum and workshops and ongoing conversations.&rdquo; Preventative education must be at the forefront of efforts to curb street harassment, experts like Roy say.</p> <p dir="ltr">California, meanwhile, became the first state in the nation to<a href="http://www.ischoolguide.com/articles/28325/20151006/california-state-sexual-consent-lessons-mandatory-high.htm" target="_blank"> mandate lessons</a>&nbsp;on sexual violence prevention and affirmative consent in high schools last October.</p> <p dir="ltr">Several City Council members appeared in a<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRXmTuq0JbY" target="_blank"> video made by Hollaback</a> in May to speak out against street harassment. Hearing stories of street harassment, Council Member Brad Lander said, makes him feel &ldquo;horrified that there&rsquo;s a set of folks that don&rsquo;t have the freedom to walk around the streets of the city without getting harassed.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve got to do together is stand up to it and work to get people to not just be bystanders, but to stand up and say we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment, everybody&rsquo;s got to have the right to walk around our city in their own skin,&rdquo; Lander added. Lander declined to comment for this story when asked for specifics on what he and the Council are doing to &ldquo;stand up and say we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment.&rdquo; Lander has consistently allocated discretionary funds to Hollaback during his time in office.</p> <p dir="ltr">A Council member in Washington, D.C., Brianne Nadeau, has introduced&nbsp;<a href="http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/35416/B21-0657-Introduction.pdf" target="_blank">legislation</a> to establish a task force to end street harassment. The D.C. City Council held a hearing on street harassment in May, and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is funding a<a href="http://dcist.com/2016/03/new_grant_established_for_anti-stre.php" target="_blank"> $40,000 grant</a> for a public art installation to help deter street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the 2010 hearing in New York City, a high school student from Ferreras-Copeland&rsquo;s district, Natalia Aristizabal, testified. She had first brought the issue to the Council member during a visit to Aristizabal&rsquo;s high school. There was a street with several mechanic shops on the way to school, which 13- to 18-year-old students walked. &ldquo;It seems like when girls go into the school and outside of the school, it&rsquo;s a fun time for [the men working there],&rdquo; Aristizabal said at the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every time that I pass by,&rdquo; Aristizabal continued, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve gotten a comment.&rdquo; She began searching for solutions to stop the harassment, and at the hearing, one of Aristizabal&rsquo;s suggestions was to create a mural in the area - to put art saying that harassment is unacceptable in a place where the harassment is happening in an effort to deter it.</p> <p dir="ltr">No mural was put up in the area where underage girls faced sexual harassment every day, multiple times a day, from older men on their way to and from school.</p> <p dir="ltr">A public art organization, Groundswell, has taken it upon itself, though, to install murals to deter harassment around the city, including one titled &ldquo;<a href="http://www.bkmag.com/2015/08/18/catcallers-turn-into-zombies-in-this-anti-street-harassment-mural/%20/" target="_blank">Respect is the Strongest Compliment</a>&rdquo; in Bedford-Stuyvesant that Eona John helped create.</p> <p dir="ltr">Putting art in places where public sexual harassment is prevalent is one solution, though it is only one part of what experts say is needed to &ldquo;bring about an end to street harassment,&rdquo; in the words of Julia Nethero, founder of SAFER NYC. &ldquo;We can end street harassment through education, through raising awareness, through media campaigns, and things like that. It requires a cultural shift. I think education is really the answer, and starting in school would be the best way to do it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Educating young people about street harassment, its effects, and how to prevent it is the number one policy recommendation from all experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette for this story. Getting a &ldquo;mandatory curriculum around street harassment&rdquo; in all schools &ldquo;is number one,&rdquo; said Roy. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where girls and LGBT folks experience it first, between the ages of 13 and 14. Curriculum that&rsquo;s engaging, that&rsquo;s interesting - mandating that I think would be a key piece of it.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One of the things that would be most beneficial for our entire city is if we implemented more education around this in our schools,&rdquo; said Tracy Hobson, executive director of the Center for Anti-Violence Education. &ldquo;Girls are dealing with this all the time, on their way to school, in the school.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette for this story were all open to doing more to prevent and reduce street harassment. &ldquo;I would love to see there be some anti-street harassment curriculum in our schools, maybe incorporated into &lsquo;Respect for All,&rsquo; which is already in our schools,&rdquo; said Council Member Steve Levin, who is chair of the General Welfare Committee and, like Lander, has consistently allocated discretionary funding to Hollaback during his time in office.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that that&rsquo;s a fabulous idea because we need to make sure that our young people are learning these issues early and understanding what&rsquo;s wrong with this type of behavior, what the consequences of it are, and get a good understanding of why it&rsquo;s not to be tolerated,&rdquo; Levin added.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;To me, we have to tackle it through education, through outreach, through programs and services,&rdquo; said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, &ldquo;because we have to show young people something different than what we see.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Levin also appeared in Hollaback&rsquo;s video speaking out against street harassment, and told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll be reconnecting with my colleagues to see if we could get the ball rolling again on this&hellip;I would be very interested in participating in another hearing,&rdquo; Levin added. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s still a lot more to be done, honestly.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Like Levin, Gibson expressed an interest in furthering the work of Council members to do more to prevent and reduce street harassment. &ldquo;I think it would be great for us to have a discussion on an outreach campaign, on a PSA, that&rsquo;s something that I&rsquo;m happy to consider and work with my colleagues on,&rdquo; Gibson said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates like Holly Kearl, founder of Stop Street Harassment and author of two books on street harassment, would also like the see city and state governments have more of a hand in producing surveys, as most of the existing data on the prevalence and effects of street harassment has been gathered by organizations that work to end street harassment in partnership with universities or research institutes.</p> <p dir="ltr">What that data reveals is alarming, but unsurprising to advocates like Hobson, who works with victims of all forms of sexual violence and has seen the impact street harassment has on women and girls firsthand.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We had one woman in our [self defense] program who was harassed on her way to school, and somebody grabbed her - grabbed her butt,&rdquo; Hobson told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;She was so traumatized and upset by it that she actually ended up changing schools. She moved to Brooklyn with her grandmother so she could go to a different school, and she came into our program,&rdquo; Hobson added, referring to the Center for Anti-Violence Education&rsquo;s<a href="http://caeny.org/programs/adults/self-defense/" target="_blank"> self-defense program</a>. &ldquo;She uprooted her entire life.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#Research" target="_self">See a collection of research on street harassment here</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">Providing educational programming in schools; larger public awareness campaigns; and bystander intervention training, which encourages people who witness harassment to find ways to safely intervene (and which organizations like Safe Horizon offer), are three of the top policy solutions available to reduce street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other recommendations from experts include sensitivity training to better equip police officers to respond to reports of harassment and community safety audits, which involve community members auditing a location to see how the safety of that area can be improved (by adding more lights or clear visible paths, for example).</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One thing that we&rsquo;re working on right now is having all police officers go through mandatory sensitivity training when it comes to harassment,&rdquo; Roy of Hollaback says, &ldquo;because then when people report they&rsquo;ll know what to do instead of just dismissing it or brushing people off, which happens a little too often. It&rsquo;s not all about the report itself, it&rsquo;s about the experience when reporting, the options made available to people when they experience harassment.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">A few bills have been introduced in the City Council that Council Member Laurie Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women&rsquo;s Issues, believes could help address street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cumbo has introduced one<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-868-2015/" target="_blank"> bill</a> to create an emergency mobile text system that would allow the public to send texts to 911, including videos and photographs, which could be used to capture more evidence of harassers. Another<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-869-2015/" target="_blank"> bill</a> introduced by Cumbo would require the NYPD to add sex offenses to its crime status reports, including the total number of crime complaints and listing the types of sex offenses out separately. And in March, Cumbo introduced a<a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1106-2016/" target="_blank"> bill</a> to require sexual assault awareness and prevention trainings for drivers of vehicles licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cumbo believes the sexual assault reporting bill could help to reduce street harassment by making it more clear exactly what sort of sex offenses are occurring, and where they are happening. &ldquo;If we can understand where this harassment is happening, where there are areas and spaces where women feel unsafe, then we can make sure that resources are deployed there so that women will feel safer going into those areas,&rdquo; Cumbo said. &ldquo;Because if you&rsquo;re in an unsafe environment, if you&rsquo;re being catcalled, if you&rsquo;re being spoken to in a lewd manner, if the harassment is constantly happening, it can also be a gateway for other forms of sexual assault to be prevalent.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While there isn&rsquo;t much hard data to support this claim (in part because the city has not funded such a study and in part because the way that sex crimes are reported doesn&rsquo;t often make it clear how the crime may have progressed or escalated), advocates like Hobson and Amy Edelstein, director of Staten Island community programs for Safe Horizon, have heard their fair share of anecdotal evidence to support the notion that a society that allows the sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces to persist without consequences contributes to a culture in which sexual violence against women and girls is accepted.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all on a continuum,&rdquo; Hobson said of street harassment and physical forms of sexual violence. &ldquo;I think that one sort of creates a way of thinking that allows another. If you&rsquo;re able to objectify someone on the street and not really think of them as human beings, that translates into you can also maybe touch them in a way and it doesn&rsquo;t matter whether they want it or not.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I work with a lot of people who have experienced sexual violence,&rdquo; Edelstein told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;and the people that if affects absolutely have the same reactions as a lot of our trauma survivors.&rdquo; There have been &ldquo;situations that have started out as street harassment or unwanted comments or groping,&rdquo; Edelstein added, &ldquo;that have absolutely escalated into a full blown sexual assault. We find that street harassment is certainly incredibly pervasive and happens to many many men and women. It shouldn&rsquo;t be minimized.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The emotional impacts of street harassment alone should raise concern for city lawmakers. &ldquo;In a qualitative analysis of self-submitted stories to ihollaback.org, we found that emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, shame, and helplessness were incredibly common,&rdquo; said Beth Livingston, assistant professor at Cornell University&rsquo;s ILR School, in a 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf" target="_blank"> interview</a> with Stop Street Harassment founder Holly Kearl. &ldquo;These sorts of emotions - particularly when experienced day after day - can become paralyzing...It is incredibly likely that, as with many other negative emotional experiences, the impact can accumulate over time, leading to behavioral and health outcomes that we all should be concerned about.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Street harassment can be especially harmful for those who have already experienced escalated forms of gendered violence, like domestic violence or sexual assault, says Edelstein. &ldquo;I personally know survivors who I have worked with have said that the man who sexually harassed them on the subway or made unwanted comments to them on the street kind of re-traumatized them and made them continue to feel victimized again, continued to perpetuate their lack of trust in the world, the lack of their sense of safety that they have,&rdquo; said Edelstein.</p> <p dir="ltr">With<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence" target="_blank"> one out of every six</a> American women surviving an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (according to the National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), helping to make sure that women in New York City do not continue to suffer from a lack &ldquo;of their sense of safety&rdquo; ought to be a priority for lawmakers, who advocates say can and should do more to minimize street harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There are already laws in existence against harassment that would include pretty much all forms of street harassment,&rdquo; explains Nethero. Yet they are largely unenforced. &ldquo;<a href="http://www.stopvaw.org/law_policy_street_harassment" target="_blank">New York penal law</a> actually already has a clause about harassment that covers any kind of physical harassment or threat of physical harassment, following in a public space, and then they have a really broad phrase, like engaging in any course of conduct that places others in reasonable fear and also serves no legitimate purpose, that&rsquo;s considered harassment.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that the existing laws are probably being underutilized for the more serious crimes [like groping and flashing],&rdquo; says Kearl. &ldquo;So helping to publicize those, let people know what their rights are.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">All advocates and lawmakers interviewed for this article expressed a preference for prevention over punishment when it comes to deterring street harassment, citing concerns over the potential uneven application of fines or jail time for harassing. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think that sticking all these harassers in jail is the answer either,&rdquo; Kearl said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m more in favor of education. If a street harasser had to go to an education class or something, though, that would be fine, I wouldn&rsquo;t mind that!&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Many of the organizations mentioned here provide programs aimed at reducing street harassment, like bystander intervention training (SAFER NYC and Safe Horizon), anti-harassment curriculum (Hollaback), self-defense training (Center for Anti-Violence Education). These organizations do work centered on changing the culture that permits street harassment to persist, legitimizing the problem, and giving victims the tools to deal with harassment.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Legitimizing the problem is the first step,&rdquo; says Alexis Grenell, Democratic political consultant and City &amp; State columnist (Grenell is also a board member of Hollaback). &ldquo;Then educating people - I would like to see there be an education curriculum, frankly, and Hollaback has developed one. I&rsquo;d like to see that mainstreamed, teaching respect for women, but also teaching bystanders the skills to create a safer and more supportive public space.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In early May, construction workers at the Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards) complex in Prospect Heights were harassing passersby so frequently that they became required to wear different color-coded hard hats in order to make complaints easier to file (<a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/colored-helmets-used-to-combat-street-harassment.html" target="_blank">New York Magazine reports</a> that four different companies were stationed at the site, and a sign posted at the entrance explained which color helmet belonged to which company).</p> <p dir="ltr">While making it easier for women to report their harassers is a step in the right direction, an even better response, organizations like Stop Street Harassment<a href="https://www.facebook.com/StopStreetHarassment/posts/10154254581167268?comment_id=10154254638412268&amp;comment_tracking={&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;R&quot;}" target="_blank"> suggest</a>, would be to target those who are committing the harassment themselves: to tell the construction workers not to harass, and that there will be consequences for doing so.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Cumbo echoed this sentiment while speaking about the city&rsquo;s lack of PSAs against street harassment. Vision Zero, the city&rsquo;s campaign against traffic fatalities, include PSAs that tell drivers they could <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftYqENMUbM0" target="_blank">end up dead</a> or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u60qeLULLZk" target="_blank">in jail</a> if they choose to drive drunk. &ldquo;All these imaginary characters pop up and say things like, &lsquo;if you hit someone, you&rsquo;re going to see me,&rsquo; and &lsquo;I&rsquo;m going to be your lawyer and cost this amount of money,&rsquo;&rdquo; Cumbo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think the same thing should happen with sexual assault and sexual harassment,&rdquo; Cumbo continued, adding that to her, the &ldquo;messaging&rdquo; around rape is all wrong. The way Cumbo sees it, there are two ways of talking about sexual assault and street harassment that dominate the messaging: if it&rsquo;s happening to you, here is where you can go for help; or here is how not to get sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But I&rsquo;ve never seen a campaign that says, &lsquo;do not sexually assault, do not sexually harass, and if you make that decision, here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s going to happen to you, we have zero tolerance for this behavior in our city,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked if she would be open to making a campaign like that happen, Cumbo said yes, but cautioned that male lawmakers should also be involved in the process.</p> <p dir="ltr">SAFER NYC actually has already created such a campaign, but lacks the funding to implement it. &ldquo;Our first project idea was to have subway ads that were targeting men - &lsquo;would you say that to your daughter,&rsquo; that kind of thing,&rdquo; Nethero said. &ldquo;So we made these ads and we still are hoping to run them. We haven&rsquo;t gotten enough funds to do that.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At the end of the day, advocates want to see more support from the city&rsquo;s lawmakers, both in terms of funding and policy solutions, to help address the city&rsquo;s street harassment problem. We want &ldquo;legislators and policymakers to pay attention to the issue,&rdquo; Roy said, and &ldquo;put more money forth into education and workshops and trainings and hosting collaborative events with policymakers.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that an opportunity to bring back a public education campaign and start the conversations again are essential,&rdquo; Ferreras-Copeland told NY1&rsquo;s Errol Louis in a November 2015<a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2015/11/24/ny1-online--queens-council-member-talks-new-alliance-for-flushing-meadows-corona-park.html" target="_blank"> interview</a>. &ldquo;We still see groping on our trains, we still see young girls complaining about harassment. It would be great to see if we have an opportunity&rdquo; to return to that conversation.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s unclear what&rsquo;s stopping city lawmakers like Ferreras-Copeland, Cumbo, Gibson, Levin, Lander and others from creating such opportunity or, in Lander&rsquo;s words, &ldquo;stand[ing] up and say[ing] we&rsquo;re not going to tolerate street harassment, everybody&rsquo;s got to have the right to walk around our city in their own skin.&rdquo;</p> <p>***<br />by Meg O'Connor, <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>. More:</p> <p><a id="Research">RESEARCH</a><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;"> shows that:</span></p> <ul> <li>A majority of women experience street harassment at some point in their lives: 65 percent of women reported experiencing at least one type of street harassment in their lifetimes, according to a national 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf"> study</a> of about 1,000 men and 1,000 women over 18 conducted by the research institute GfK and commissioned by Stop Street Harassment. <ul> <li dir="ltr">An overwhelming majority of women begin to experience street harassment before they turn 17: 84 percent of women are harassed on the street before they turn 17, according to an international<a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/most-women-are-catcalled-before-they-turn-17.html"> study</a> on street harassment conducted by Hollaback in partnership with Cornell University which surveyed over 16,000 women from 21 countries.</li> </ul> </li> <li dir="ltr">Many women alter their behavior in order to avoid street harassment: 85.6 percent of women said that they have chosen to take a different route home or to their destination because of street harassment, according to a<a href="http://www.ihollaback.org/cornell-international-survey-on-street-harassment/#us"> survey</a> of 4,872 women under forty in the United States conducted by Beth Livingston, assistant professor at Cornell Industrial Labor Relations School, in conjunction with Hollaback.</li> <li dir="ltr">As a result of street harassment, 47 percent of women surveyed report constantly assessing their surroundings, according to a national 2014<a href="http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2014-National-SSH-Street-Harassment-Report.pdf"> study</a> of about 1,000 men and 1,000 women over 18 conducted by the research institute GfK and commissioned by Stop Street Harassment.</li> <li dir="ltr">Street harassment isn&rsquo;t a one time thing, but a repeated occurrence that often becomes a constant and expected part of women&rsquo;s lives: 86 percent of women and 79 percent of men who reported being harassed in the GfK study said they had been harassed more than once. Women were more likely than men to say it happened sometimes, often, or daily.</li> <li dir="ltr">Harassment on the street occurs on a continuum, with 41 percent of all women in the GfK study reporting that they had experienced physically aggressive forms of harassment in public places, including sexual touching (23 percent), following (20 percent), flashing (14 percent), and being forced to do something sexual (9 percent).</li> <li dir="ltr">Street harassment instills fear in victims, who are concerned the situation will escalate: According to GfK, two-thirds of the harassed women (68 percent) and half of the harassed men (49 percent) said they were very or somewhat concerned that the incident would escalate into something worse.</li> <li dir="ltr">Even after people are harassed, few report it to the authorities: 63 percent of 1,790 New York City subway riders<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20070726_hiddeninplainsight.pdf"> surveyed</a> by the Manhattan Borough President's office in 2007 said they had been sexually harassed on the subway. Only 4 percent of those people contacted the NYPD or the MTA to inform either authority of the incident.</li> <li dir="ltr">Recently, however, the MTA has redoubled efforts encouraging victims of subway sex crimes to come forward. As a result, there&rsquo;s been a nearly<a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/transit/2016/06/20/subway-sex-crime-stats-soar-as-more-victims-come-forward--nypd-transit-chief-says.html"> 57 percent</a> increase in reported sex crimes in the subway this year. The MTA launched a<a href="http://web.mta.info/sexual_misconduct/"> website</a> in 2014 which allows victims to report offenses online, and the NYPD has shifted tactics in recent times, placing more officers on the trains and catching more perpetrators in the act.</li> <li dir="ltr">Men also experience street harassment, to a lesser extent, though more men who identify as LGBT are victims of harassment: 25 percent of men surveyed by GfK experienced street harassment, with more men who identified as LGBT experiencing harassment than men who identified as heterosexual.</li> <li>Street harassment doesn&rsquo;t just affect women. Members of the LGBT community, especially transgender individuals, also experience a significant amount of street harassment.</li> </ul> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Report Propels Debate Over City's Welfare Reforms 2016-03-17T02:39:26+00:00 2016-03-17T02:39:26+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6227:report-propels-debate-over-citys-welfare-reforms Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/banks_levin.jpg" alt="banks levin" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>CM Levin, left, &amp; HRA Commissioner Banks (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>A new report on the city's reengineered public assistance system concluded, among other findings, that it's too soon to tell whether the wide-ranging reforms put in place by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks are working. The updated analysis from the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) not only leaves unanswered whether the Banks/de Blasio reforms are working, but how exactly to judge a system now geared towards long-term change rather than short-term reward.</p> <p>Earlier this month, IBO, a nonpartisan city-funded agency, released <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/changing-course-on-public-assistance-march-2016.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> on how the de Blasio administration changes to the welfare system, making it less punitive and refocused on education and employment for welfare recipients, rather than stressing work experience programs. Conservative critics of the changes, including Banks' predecessors from previous administrations, say that the city is becoming too lax and encouraging people to rely on government assistance. The administration says it is both taking a more humane approach and playing the long game, with greater payoffs down the road when people move off of assistance and don't need to return to it.</p> <p>The IBO looked at the effects these reforms have had on welfare caseloads and the city budget. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">Caseloads have increased</a>, in particular one-time grants, which also mean increased budget outlays projected for the coming year. One-time grants are cash assistance benefits to those who apply due to the most temporary hardship.</p> <p>The report notes that over the course of December 2015, there were a total of 597,347 unduplicated welfare recipients, a slight increase from 591,544 in May 2014. It attributed this increase to one-time grant recipients, one group among welfare classes, which went up by 34,339, translating into $133 million over the course of a year ($60 million of which is city funds).</p> <p>"The idea was that people would get better jobs and stay out there," said Paul Lopatto, the IBO analyst who authored the report, on the reforms. "The prediction that HRA is making now is that after a while, the caseload will decline, and that the increase is only temporary," Lopatto said. "It's not a surprise," he added. "It's a question of how long and how high it gets."</p> <p>Alex Armlovich, a policy analyst at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said the IBO report echoes what he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">has already said</a> about the new welfare system, that the increase in the cash assistance caseload is "policy driven, not driven by weakness in the local economy or by disenfranchisement of low-skilled workers. It does not look promising on its face but we still have to see how it plays out," he said.</p> <p>Armlovich emphasized that one of the potential concerns about the system's new direction was "rubber stamping" in the education and training programs and that there was no way to tell if there was substantive improvement. "That's the fear," he said, insisting that HRA should put out tracking metrics for particular outcomes. He cited GED enrollment and completion as an easy figure to track and analyze.</p> <p>"If you're directly and quantitatively accountable, that assuages any fear about the nature of the program," he said. "I don't think it's time to panic. It's just something we need to keep an eye on."</p> <p>The need for metrics is one that City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, which has oversight of HRA, agrees with. "We need strong metrics, strong data and strong measures in place to ensure that policy in New York City is working," he said of the welfare system reforms.</p> <p>Levin was less concerned about the increase in caseloads or the resulting budget burden, although he said it was especially necessary to keep an eye on the latter. The increase in welfare recipients, he said, was to be expected after years of previous administrations artificially suppressing the rolls.</p> <p>"The previous administrations spent a lot of money trying to knock people off the rolls," he said of the Bloomberg and Giuliani years, noting that HRA's new, more conciliatory approach is correcting these past policies. "If the numbers have gone up, we would expect that."</p> <p>At a preliminary budget hearing on Tuesday, the general welfare committee heard testimony from Commissioner Banks on HRA's progress on these reforms. Council members asked few critical questions, if any, on the specifics. Levin chalked this up to the fact that HRA's plan was still being implemented and that the committee had little time as they were focused on a litany of other pressing issues. General welfare also has oversight of HRA's other programs, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Administration for Children's Services.</p> <p>When asked about the IBO report, an HRA official cited similar reasoning. In a statement emailed to Gotham Gazette, HRA press secretary Lourdes Centeno said, "As part of our employment plan that is being phased in over two years, HRA is in the process of reforming its employment services through new RFPs and other program enhancements and continues to expand services that put recipients on a career pathway to long-term employment and self-sufficiency, which will replace the past policies that often resulted in only short-term employment and return to the caseload."</p> <p>Centeno added that the fluctuation in caseloads was in part because of increasing one-time assistance to prevent evictions and utility shutoffs, and noted that the unduplicated recurring caseload was largely flat for eight years. "We are monitoring our budget to ensure that we are using our resources effectively to help as many New Yorkers in need as we can," she added.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">In Departure From Predecessors, De Blasio Administration Overhauls Welfare System</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/banks_levin.jpg" alt="banks levin" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>CM Levin, left, &amp; HRA Commissioner Banks (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>A new report on the city's reengineered public assistance system concluded, among other findings, that it's too soon to tell whether the wide-ranging reforms put in place by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks are working. The updated analysis from the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) not only leaves unanswered whether the Banks/de Blasio reforms are working, but how exactly to judge a system now geared towards long-term change rather than short-term reward.</p> <p>Earlier this month, IBO, a nonpartisan city-funded agency, released <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/changing-course-on-public-assistance-march-2016.pdf" target="_blank">a report</a> on how the de Blasio administration changes to the welfare system, making it less punitive and refocused on education and employment for welfare recipients, rather than stressing work experience programs. Conservative critics of the changes, including Banks' predecessors from previous administrations, say that the city is becoming too lax and encouraging people to rely on government assistance. The administration says it is both taking a more humane approach and playing the long game, with greater payoffs down the road when people move off of assistance and don't need to return to it.</p> <p>The IBO looked at the effects these reforms have had on welfare caseloads and the city budget. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">Caseloads have increased</a>, in particular one-time grants, which also mean increased budget outlays projected for the coming year. One-time grants are cash assistance benefits to those who apply due to the most temporary hardship.</p> <p>The report notes that over the course of December 2015, there were a total of 597,347 unduplicated welfare recipients, a slight increase from 591,544 in May 2014. It attributed this increase to one-time grant recipients, one group among welfare classes, which went up by 34,339, translating into $133 million over the course of a year ($60 million of which is city funds).</p> <p>"The idea was that people would get better jobs and stay out there," said Paul Lopatto, the IBO analyst who authored the report, on the reforms. "The prediction that HRA is making now is that after a while, the caseload will decline, and that the increase is only temporary," Lopatto said. "It's not a surprise," he added. "It's a question of how long and how high it gets."</p> <p>Alex Armlovich, a policy analyst at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said the IBO report echoes what he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">has already said</a> about the new welfare system, that the increase in the cash assistance caseload is "policy driven, not driven by weakness in the local economy or by disenfranchisement of low-skilled workers. It does not look promising on its face but we still have to see how it plays out," he said.</p> <p>Armlovich emphasized that one of the potential concerns about the system's new direction was "rubber stamping" in the education and training programs and that there was no way to tell if there was substantive improvement. "That's the fear," he said, insisting that HRA should put out tracking metrics for particular outcomes. He cited GED enrollment and completion as an easy figure to track and analyze.</p> <p>"If you're directly and quantitatively accountable, that assuages any fear about the nature of the program," he said. "I don't think it's time to panic. It's just something we need to keep an eye on."</p> <p>The need for metrics is one that City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, which has oversight of HRA, agrees with. "We need strong metrics, strong data and strong measures in place to ensure that policy in New York City is working," he said of the welfare system reforms.</p> <p>Levin was less concerned about the increase in caseloads or the resulting budget burden, although he said it was especially necessary to keep an eye on the latter. The increase in welfare recipients, he said, was to be expected after years of previous administrations artificially suppressing the rolls.</p> <p>"The previous administrations spent a lot of money trying to knock people off the rolls," he said of the Bloomberg and Giuliani years, noting that HRA's new, more conciliatory approach is correcting these past policies. "If the numbers have gone up, we would expect that."</p> <p>At a preliminary budget hearing on Tuesday, the general welfare committee heard testimony from Commissioner Banks on HRA's progress on these reforms. Council members asked few critical questions, if any, on the specifics. Levin chalked this up to the fact that HRA's plan was still being implemented and that the committee had little time as they were focused on a litany of other pressing issues. General welfare also has oversight of HRA's other programs, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Administration for Children's Services.</p> <p>When asked about the IBO report, an HRA official cited similar reasoning. In a statement emailed to Gotham Gazette, HRA press secretary Lourdes Centeno said, "As part of our employment plan that is being phased in over two years, HRA is in the process of reforming its employment services through new RFPs and other program enhancements and continues to expand services that put recipients on a career pathway to long-term employment and self-sufficiency, which will replace the past policies that often resulted in only short-term employment and return to the caseload."</p> <p>Centeno added that the fluctuation in caseloads was in part because of increasing one-time assistance to prevent evictions and utility shutoffs, and noted that the unduplicated recurring caseload was largely flat for eight years. "We are monitoring our budget to ensure that we are using our resources effectively to help as many New Yorkers in need as we can," she added.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6177-in-departure-from-predecessors-de-blasio-administration-overhauls-city-welfare-system" target="_blank">In Departure From Predecessors, De Blasio Administration Overhauls Welfare System</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council to Assess Hunger Problem, City Efforts to Reduce It 2016-01-11T22:22:40+00:00 2016-01-11T22:22:40+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6082:council-to-assess-hunger-problem-city-efforts-to-reduce-it Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23672836540_08ee92fcdb_z.jpg" alt="de blasio food thanksgiving" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio serving food (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on hunger in New York City on Wednesday morning at City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Stephen Levin, the chair of the general welfare committee, told Gotham Gazette he and his colleagues want to get a broad assessment of hunger in the city, as well as specifics related to de Blasio administration efforts to mitigate the problem, which is the result, in large part, of high poverty rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=454306&amp;GUID=110B57EF-5AFA-4693-9ABA-12028D17BC78&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the hearing</a>, Levin added, the committee would review increasing and decreasing barriers to the federally funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (otherwise known as SNAP or “food stamps”), SNAP enrollment, the status of food pantries, state hunger programs, and other components.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to hear what initiatives this administration is taking,” Levin said. “We’re eager to hear what recommendations they’re able to put forward and hear...what they’re working on.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Commissioner Steven Banks, Mayor de Blasio’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/254-15/mayor-de-blasio-human-resources-administration-commissioner-steven-banks-foodhelp-nyc" target="_blank">increased</a> SNAP access, eased work requirements for agency clients, and enacted several other reforms. De Blasio also expanded the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch" target="_blank">“breakfast after the bell”</a> program for all public elementary schools, which advocates praised while recommending universal free school lunch.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, hunger remains a harsh reality for many New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_11.pdf" target="_blank">last November</a>, HRA was providing nutritional assistance to 1,686,941 New Yorkers, 45,406 fewer than a year before. In addition to the food stamps, one in five New Yorkers are assisted by the Food Bank of New York City, the major hunger relief organization that receives funding from the city, which <a href="http://www.foodbanknyc.org/files//dmfile/HungerCliffNYC2015ResearchBrief.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> in a recent survey of its agencies “that they had run out of food, or particular types of food, needed to make adequate meals or pantry bags” last September.</p> <p dir="ltr">Continuing a decline that <a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=889" target="_blank">began</a> under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, SNAP participation in the city has gone down under de Blasio. According to New York City Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg, a main cause of the decline is federal divestment of half a billion dollars in New York City SNAP funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The amount of the benefits decreased and the caseloads decreased,” said Berg, who estimates that about 500,000 New Yorkers are eligible for nutritional assistance but don't receive it. “And so, there’s no question that lower benefit levels do also reduce participation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lisa Levy, Coalition Against Hunger’s director of policy, advocacy and organizing, will testify at Wednesday’s hearing on behalf of the organization, Berg said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because SNAP is federally funded, the City Council is limited in actions it can take on nutritional assistance policy. “We have been investing more resources in food pantries through the Food Bank of New York City,” Council Member Ritchie Torres, a member of the general welfare committee, told Gotham Gazette. “But as with many issues, we are hamstrung by a Congress in Washington that is disinvesting, ever more deeply, in the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though New York City’s employment has <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nyc-unemployment-rate-drops-lowest-2008-recession-article-1.2323987" target="_blank">recovered</a> from the recession, Berg insists that this has not translated to reduced hunger. “The lines of pantries and kitchens are still as long as ever,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://nyccah.org/files/Final%20NYCCAH%20Report%202015%20small_0.pdf" target="_blank">research</a> from Coalition Against Hunger, many food insecure New Yorkers do indeed work. The group found that between 2012-2014, 48 percent of food insecure New Yorkers between the ages of 15 and 65 worked. While significant minimum wage raises being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others would likely reduce that number if enacted, there could be an unintended consequence of the wage hike for New Yorkers receiving nutritional assistance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Berg, while praising the wage hikes, does worry that, “In some cases, particularly with single people, the amount of SNAP benefits they lose could exceed the value of the wage increase,” said Berg, who has advocated for raising the income level needed to receive food stamps to expand eligibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Levin indicated that he would look into the wage hike issue. “It’s hard to kind of predict, and I think you’d have to kind of drill down on the individual case and really that individual and that family’s situation,” he said. “But certainly, it’s something that we should be asking about.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been updated.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23672836540_08ee92fcdb_z.jpg" alt="de blasio food thanksgiving" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio serving food (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on hunger in New York City on Wednesday morning at City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Stephen Levin, the chair of the general welfare committee, told Gotham Gazette he and his colleagues want to get a broad assessment of hunger in the city, as well as specifics related to de Blasio administration efforts to mitigate the problem, which is the result, in large part, of high poverty rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=454306&amp;GUID=110B57EF-5AFA-4693-9ABA-12028D17BC78&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the hearing</a>, Levin added, the committee would review increasing and decreasing barriers to the federally funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (otherwise known as SNAP or “food stamps”), SNAP enrollment, the status of food pantries, state hunger programs, and other components.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We want to hear what initiatives this administration is taking,” Levin said. “We’re eager to hear what recommendations they’re able to put forward and hear...what they’re working on.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Commissioner Steven Banks, Mayor de Blasio’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/254-15/mayor-de-blasio-human-resources-administration-commissioner-steven-banks-foodhelp-nyc" target="_blank">increased</a> SNAP access, eased work requirements for agency clients, and enacted several other reforms. De Blasio also expanded the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch" target="_blank">“breakfast after the bell”</a> program for all public elementary schools, which advocates praised while recommending universal free school lunch.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, hunger remains a harsh reality for many New Yorkers.</p> <p dir="ltr">As of <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/hra_facts/hrafacts_2015/hra_facts_2015_11.pdf" target="_blank">last November</a>, HRA was providing nutritional assistance to 1,686,941 New Yorkers, 45,406 fewer than a year before. In addition to the food stamps, one in five New Yorkers are assisted by the Food Bank of New York City, the major hunger relief organization that receives funding from the city, which <a href="http://www.foodbanknyc.org/files//dmfile/HungerCliffNYC2015ResearchBrief.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> in a recent survey of its agencies “that they had run out of food, or particular types of food, needed to make adequate meals or pantry bags” last September.</p> <p dir="ltr">Continuing a decline that <a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=889" target="_blank">began</a> under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, SNAP participation in the city has gone down under de Blasio. According to New York City Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg, a main cause of the decline is federal divestment of half a billion dollars in New York City SNAP funds.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The amount of the benefits decreased and the caseloads decreased,” said Berg, who estimates that about 500,000 New Yorkers are eligible for nutritional assistance but don't receive it. “And so, there’s no question that lower benefit levels do also reduce participation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lisa Levy, Coalition Against Hunger’s director of policy, advocacy and organizing, will testify at Wednesday’s hearing on behalf of the organization, Berg said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because SNAP is federally funded, the City Council is limited in actions it can take on nutritional assistance policy. “We have been investing more resources in food pantries through the Food Bank of New York City,” Council Member Ritchie Torres, a member of the general welfare committee, told Gotham Gazette. “But as with many issues, we are hamstrung by a Congress in Washington that is disinvesting, ever more deeply, in the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though New York City’s employment has <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nyc-unemployment-rate-drops-lowest-2008-recession-article-1.2323987" target="_blank">recovered</a> from the recession, Berg insists that this has not translated to reduced hunger. “The lines of pantries and kitchens are still as long as ever,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://nyccah.org/files/Final%20NYCCAH%20Report%202015%20small_0.pdf" target="_blank">research</a> from Coalition Against Hunger, many food insecure New Yorkers do indeed work. The group found that between 2012-2014, 48 percent of food insecure New Yorkers between the ages of 15 and 65 worked. While significant minimum wage raises being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others would likely reduce that number if enacted, there could be an unintended consequence of the wage hike for New Yorkers receiving nutritional assistance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Berg, while praising the wage hikes, does worry that, “In some cases, particularly with single people, the amount of SNAP benefits they lose could exceed the value of the wage increase,” said Berg, who has advocated for raising the income level needed to receive food stamps to expand eligibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Levin indicated that he would look into the wage hike issue. “It’s hard to kind of predict, and I think you’d have to kind of drill down on the individual case and really that individual and that family’s situation,” he said. “But certainly, it’s something that we should be asking about.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been updated.</p>