and Immigrants Option Paper
By Walter Stafford
- Issue 1: Institutions Addressing Discriminatory
- Issue 2: Race and Employment
A. The Private Sector
B. The Public Sector
- Issue 3: The Status of Minority-Owned Business
- Issue 4: Welfare and Poverty
- Issue 5: Police-Community Tensions
C. Police Relations
New York City owes much of its growth and character to
its traditional role as the point of entry and settlement
for immigrants from all over the world. Since its beginning,
New York has been an extremely diverse city: By the time
its population had grown to five hundred, nineteen languages
were spoken within its boundaries. Today New York is the
most diverse city in the world. With its richness comes
vitality, cultural breadth and blending of ideas and beliefs.
What also comes with such diversity are complex problems
and pressing racial and ethnic tensions. The 2000 census
indicates that New York is a highly segregated city, divided
along the lines of race, ethnicity and wealth.
The city is now experiencing the largest wave of immigration
in its history, with immigrants and their children making
up as much as 60 percent of the city's population. Historical
minorities now constitute the majority of the city's population.
Immigration has a direct impact on the economy, in terms
of both neighborhood development, and the relationship
of the populace and the skills needed in the workforce.
Immigrants and their children utilize New York's health
care, electoral and educational systems, and require affordable
housing. How do these newcomers fit into the city's web
of services, programs and institutions? While the federal
government sets overall immigration policy, state and
local policy have considerable impact on immigrants' rights,
access and responsibilities.
Since race, and to a lesser degree immigration, shade
almost all policy decisions, they are subjects that cannot
be ignored. But discussions about race relations and about
the policy consequences of new demographic information
are likely to be sensitive and contentious. . Historical
tensions between groups can impede productive and candid
dialogue. In an effort to forestall volatile and difficult
discussions, contentious issues are frequently set aside.
Despite the difficulties, it is necessary to have frank
and open discussions among all those involved if outstanding
racial and ethnic issues are to be successfully addressed.
Issue 1: Institutions Addressing Discriminatory Practices
New York City has created several agencies to address
discriminatory practices. The New York City Commission
on Human Rights (CCHR) was established in 1955 to enforce
the city's Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination
in employment, housing and public accommodations. In fiscal
year 1999, 975 complaints were filed with the commission.
Slightly more than one-third (34 percent) of the complaints
were based on allegations of racial discrimination. The
remaining complaints alleged discrimination on the grounds
of disability, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation
and creed. Between 1995 and 1999 the number of complaints
against city agencies describing or alleging retaliation
increased from 268 to 495. This number was reportedly
higher than the national average.
In part to deal with charges of racial bias by of the
police, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was
established in 1953. Originally, the Board consisted of
three Deputy Police Commissioners. Over the years, various
attempts were made to include private citizens, but it
was not until 1993, that the conversion was completed.
Today, the Civilian Complaint Review Board is the largest
independent civilian oversight agency in the United States.
The agency most recently established, 11 years ago, was
the Equal Employment Practice Commission (EEPC), which
is an independent agency that monitors employment practices,
programs and policies within city agencies.
The agencies created to address discrimination and racial
conflicts suffer from shrinking budgets and/or staff shortages.
The budget of the New York City Commission on Human Rights
was cut from approximately $10 million in 1993 to approximately
$7 million in 2000. In addition many believe there is
a lack of coordination between these agencies that detracts
from their efficiency.
- Strengthen civil rights enforcement. Increase the
budgets for the City Commission on Human Rights and
Equal Employment Practice Commission.
- Examine the relationship between these agencies
and require a higher level of coordination in investigating
and addressing charges of discrimination.
- Determine why employer retaliation is higher in
New York City government/agencies than in other areas
of the country, heighten the protection for employees
who bring claims of discrimination and establish financial
penalties for city managers who engage in retaliation.
- Create a forum for the discussion of racial issues
in New York City.
Issue 2: Race and Employment
A. The Private Sector
Many strata of employment are segmented along racial
lines. According to a forthcoming study by Walter Stafford
for the Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color,
in 1997 whites occupied 69 percent of the jobs in high
wage industries (those paying $47,000 or more in gross
annual income), although they constituted only 25 percent
of the labor force. Blacks (particularly black women)
were employed primarily in lower-paying jobs in the health
services, business services, banks and social service
agencies. Latinos followed a similar pattern, except a
significant proportion was employed in merchandise stores
and similar businesses. For those individuals in low-wage
positions, the City Council has passed a version of a
"living wage" program to help ensure that city residents
earning $10 or less an hour would receive a reasonable
Occupationally blacks and Latinos are poorly represented
among professionals and managers. In 1999 nearly 60 percent
of all officials and managers were white, including 73
percent of those who held these jobs in low-wage industries.
Fifty-five percent of all white males and 43 percent of
all white females worked as managers and professionals.
By contrast, less than 20 percent of black and Latino
males and of Latino women were represented on this professional
level. Black women were above 20 percent due to the high
number of professionals in the health and social services
industries. Asians have introduced new patterns in the
private sector. Occupationally their distribution resembles
whites; however, the proportion of Asians employed as
professionals is the highest of any group.
- Require employers who receive tax abatements, zoning
variances or public subsidies to hire a specific number
of low-income city residents and ensure that they
are paid a "living wage"
- Facilitate and encourage private sector employers
to provide opportunities for individuals to acquire
additional job skills needed in the job market
- The City should abstain from pursuing any explicit
strategy - allow market forces to operate.
B. The Public Sector.
Many experts see the racial composition of the public
sector as a barometer. New York City government continues
to reflect historical patterns in which racial and ethnic
groups created a niche to promote their mobility. Like
the private sector, blacks and Latinos are largely segregated
in a small range of agencies where their salaries are
generally lower than whites. Although blacks represented
33 percent of the Mayoral agency workforce in 1997, they
were primarily located in social services agencies, the
corrections department, and to a lesser degree the police
department - 62 percent of all black employees worked
in these particular agencies. Blacks suffered the largest
decline in employment between 1992 and 1997; in fact,
blacks and white women were the only groups to lose jobs
in the mayoral agency workforce during this period.
Latinos hold a relatively small percentage of mayoral
agency jobs. Latinos held 14 percent of these jobs in
1997, a modest increase over the previous five-year period.
Asians also represent a small share of these jobs. However,
(aside from a small group of Native Americans) they experienced
the largest percentage gains.
Occupationally, whites composed half of the workforce
in mayoral city agencies and held 80 percent of the official
and managerial positions. White employees made up 73 percent
of the pool earning $43,000.00 or in more gross annual
income, and 85 percent of the pool earning $70,000.00
or more. Similar patterns concerning salary and occupation
were identified in non-Mayoral agencies.
- Periodically review the hiring and mobility patterns
(including the impact of downsizing) by racial and
ethnic groups and gender within mayoral and non-mayoral
- Strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination rules.
Issue 3: The Status of Minority-Owned Businesses
In 1990 New York City developed a set-aside program (MWBE).
In 1993 they allocated $ 272 million, or 18 of the total
contracts. The MWBE program was allowed to "sunset" in
1998, and the city has not instituted a formal plan to
support minority owned businesses since that time. Many
of these firms are small in size and limited in terms
of capital, and may have been unable to compete with larger
ones for city contracts.
In addition, New York is an expensive and cumbersome
city in which to do business. Small businesses must pay
or be the conduit of various taxes (including a 8.25 percent
sales tax and a 6 percent commercial rent tax, the only
one in the country) and contend with a complex regulatory
structure. A typical grocer, for example, needs four to
eight licenses, each of which requires contact with a
different agency. Construction costs are high.
- Revive or develop new set-aside or other affirmative
programs so that minority owned businesses would receive
a larger percentage of city contracts.
- Provide technical assistance to minority owned business
owners. This could be accomplished through fiscal
incentives for larger businesses.
- Conduct a study to identify the problems and needs
of minority owned businesses (some funds have been
committed by the City Council for such a study).
- Alleviate some of the costs and difficulties facing
the small business community and minority business
owners. One way to accomplish this would be by reducing
the city's business tax and regulatory structure.
- Abstain from pursuing any explicit strategy - allow
market forces to operate.
Issue 4: Welfare and Poverty
The faces of poverty in New York City are primarily black
and Latino. In 1997 the poverty rates for were twice as
high for blacks as for whites (27 percent compared to
13 percent), and for Latinos they were three times as
high as for whites (38 percent). The data on children
are even more revealing. In 1995, 60 percent of all Latino
children and 51 percent of all black children lived in
poverty, compared to 12 percent of their white counterparts.
Female-headed households suffer the brunt of poverty.
Among Latino female-headed households with children under
18, 71 percent lived in poverty, as did 58 percent of
families with a black, female head of household and children
under 18. Only 21 percent of white families with a female
head of household were defined as living in poverty.
During the 1990's, federal law concerning welfare changed
dramatically. The most significant change under the 1996
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act was the elimination of the Aid to Families with Dependent
Children (ADFC) program, and the creation of the Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The new
law set a five-year limit on the right to receive welfare,
and required recipients to make a transition to employment.
Over 90 percent of the recipients are Latinas and black
women. Between 1996 and 2001 the city reduced its TANF
rolls by half (from 854,794 to 435,981), and in December
of 2001, 43,910 TANF recipients (nearly 10 percent of
the total) will reach their five-year limit.
Studies show that leaving welfare, even for full-time
employment, does not necessarily mean leaving poverty.
In addition, data about the TANF program are sparse and
difficult to obtain. Therefore, it is difficult to predict
what will happen to former welfare recipients when they
reach the end of their benefits.
During the recent years of economic prosperity in New
York City, the unemployment rates of blacks and Latinos
actually increased, particularly for Latinas and black
women. In 1996 the unemployment rate for Latinas reached
17 percent and black women reached a rate of 15 percent
one year later. Both rates were the highest ever recorded
for these groups of women.
- Determine what the alternatives and implications
are for individuals no longer receiving TANF benefits
to inform policy making; examine strategies being
implemented in other jurisdictions (eg; Minnesota
and Illinois allow recipients to keep a portion of
TANF until their income reaches a livable wage).
- Identify any obstacles to achieving employment,
including discrimination, and assess solutions.
- Identify how the city is currently using TANF funds,
and what job development strategies/services and training
programs are being offered to recipients.
- Enact a stronger "living wage" program
- Expand and develop training programs that teach
hard skills (eg: computer skills, classroom training)
and soft skills (such as understanding the mainstream
work culture and its expectations, initiative and
discipline). One way to accomplish this is through
Issue 5: Police-Community Tensions
A. Arrests: The latest data on arrests show that
blacks and Latinos form the largest share of groups arrested
for misdemeanors and felonies. Blacks were 51 percent
of those arrested for misdemeanors and Latinos 31 percent.
The felony percentages were similar. Fifty-one percent
of the felony arrests were blacks and 34 percent Latino.
The shares are mirrored in the arrests of males and females
of the different groups. Nearly half of all the arrests
were in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
B. Incarceration: There are nearly 70,000 inmates
in New York State prisons, most of them from New York
City. The latest data show that slightly more than half
(51 percent) of the inmates are black and 30 percent are
C. Police Relations: Police Commissioner Bernard
Kerik wrote recently in the Daily News (April 9, 2001)
that the department was more restrained and more professional
than at any time in its history. Kerik cited the decline
in murders and the decline in complaints against the police
officers. Surveys of black and Latino communities, by
the New York Urban League and the Hispanic Federation,
however, reveal a continuing fear of the police. A sizeable
percentage of the respondents in the New York Urban League
survey also indicated that they had been stopped and frisked
or arrested without warrant. The problem facing the city
is the lingering memory of recent events, most notable
the shooting of Amadou Diallo and the torture of Abner
Louima. Although the actual number of citizens killed
by the police had dropped from an annual average of thirty
in the first part of the decade to eleven by 1999, there
was still considerable revulsion towards the acts, particularly
among blacks and Latinos ( See: Lardner and Reppetto,
NYPD: A City and its Police, 2000). The apprehensions
of blacks are mirrored in a report by Amnesty International,
which found in the late 1990s that the most serious complaints
of abuse against the police tended to be concentrated
in minority communities. More than two-thirds of the victims
in the cases they examined were black or Latino and most
of the officers were white. Moreover, most of the people
who lodged complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review
Board were black or Latino. The latest Civilian Complaint
Review Board report, according to the Daily News (April
11, 2001), notes that the police were more likely to pull
a gun on blacks during stop-and-frisks than any group.
And they were more likely to use physical force to stop
blacks and Latinos than whites or Asians.
- Measure and reward strong police-community relations.
- Require all officers to walk the beat regularly.
- Expect officers and precinct commanders to know local
leaders and merchants.
- Require precinct commanders attend community board
meetings and other community events.
Walter Stafford is professor of public administration
and planning Aa the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of
Public Service at New York University, and a member of
the Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color.