Authors Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion 2021-09-24T05:26:59+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com New York Must Act to Protect Transgender Incarcerated People 2021-09-24T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-24T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10789-new-york-act-protect-transgender-incarcerated-people-jail-rikers Elisa Crespo ecrespo@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/gov-off-relations.jpg" alt="gov off relations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Lights honoring transgender New Yorkers (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When I learned that a <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/personality/2021/09/what-assembly-member-jessica-gonzalez-rojas-saw-rikers/185339/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transgender</a> woman was incarcerated with men on Rikers Island last week, it hit close to home for me. I know from experience what it feels like to be a transgender woman in jail surrounded by men. It's a mix of trauma, fear, and humiliation.</p> <p>There are far too many stories of transgender women being treated horrendously in America’s prison system that go untold. When we talk about mass incarceration in the United States, transgender people have a unique place in the conversation and must be included in the discourse surrounding decarceration.&nbsp;</p> <p>Transgender women in particular are notoriously <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/02/03/963513022/new-york-repeals-walking-while-trans-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">profiled</a> and harrassed, resulting in a disproportionate rate of incarceration in our community. One out of every <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy">five</a> transgender women have been incarcerated at some point in their life. For Black transgender women, 47% have experienced incarceration — that’s nearly half of all Black transgender women in America.</p> <p>While incarcerated, transgender women are <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nine</a> times more likely to face physical and sexual violence. The humanitarian crisis for incarcerated transgender people didn't begin last week when a group of lawmakers toured Rikers Island — it has existed for centuries in the shadows.</p> <p>The topic of transgender people in sex-segregated jails is a conversation people usually shy away from. It has only relatively recently been discussed by policy-makers. In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Prisons released guidance that gave instructions to house transgender people in facilities that comport with their gender identity. But in <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/justice-department-reviewing-policies-transgender-inmates-rcna2067">2018</a>, the policy was effectively reversed by the Trump administration. Currently, transgender people in federal prisons are housed according to their sex assigned at birth. As a result, correction staff regularly place transgender people in solitary confinement as a way to segregate us from the general population.&nbsp;</p> <p>In New York City, we know what solitary confinement means for transgender people. We remember the tragic death of our sister Layleen Polanco, a personal friend and transgender woman who died at the hands of negligent correction officers at Rikers Island.</p> <p>Solitary confinement, which is merely an obfuscating term for torture, will never keep transgender incarcerated people safe. Neither will housing transgender people in sex-segregated facilities that don’t match their gender identity. What we need are trans inclusive policies that consider the safety of each individual.</p> <p>The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), passed by Congress in 2003, was meant to address the high prevalence of sexual assault among transgender inmates. Although it applies to federal, state, and local prisons and jails, many jails refuse to comply with its provisions, and it is narrowly tailored to address instances of abuse from both correctional staff and fellow incarcerated individuals. Crucially, PREA does not include provisions for trans related medical care nor does it mandate that trans people's identities be respected and affirmed while incarcerated.</p> <p>Several states, including New York’s tri-state neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut, have taken matters into their own hands by passing laws that implement trans inclusive jail policies. Unfortunately, New York has yet to pass such a law. Which begs the question: why do we afford transgender people in New York protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity almost everywhere except in our jails?</p> <p>Countless transgender women incarcerated in county jails across New York share stories of being misgendered by staff and refused hormone treatment and grooming supplies that are consistent with their gender identity. Trans people's inability to live as our true selves can severely impact our mental health. Self <a href="https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2004/jul/15/failure-to-treat-transsexual-for-self-mutilation-states-claim/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mutiliation </a>and suicide attempts are not uncommon for incarcerated transgender people who are refused access to gender affirming care.</p> <p>To be very clear, the ultimate goal should be to reduce our prison population. But right now New York needs a uniform policy to address the treatment and placement of incarcerated transgender people. We do ourselves a disservice by having a patchwork of policies that vary across each county.</p> <p>In a perfect world detention facilities would have exclusive transgender housing <a href="https://www.silive.com/news/2017/05/transgender_rikers.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">units</a>. But a major capital investment in new jail facilities is counterintuitive to decarceration and unlikely to happen. Therefore, it should be the norm to place transgender people in facilities that align with their gender identity. For the anti-trans activists who may be against this idea, you should know that there is no evidence to suggest that transgender women are a threat to cisgender women. In fact, it is transgender women who are more at risk than any other demographic in jail. We must also be mindful of the fact that there are transgender women who choose to be in facilites with men. That conversation is valid too, and a trans person's views regarding their personal safety must be prioritized.</p> <p>We can look to Steuben County for inspiration on how to develop trans inclusive policies in our jails. There, transgender inmates are by default housed according to their gender identity as a result of a recent legal <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">settlement</a>. In addition, Steuben County correctional staff must now respect transgender inmates’ prefered prounouns, provide searches by correctional staff whose gender matches the identity of the inmates, and provide transgender people with trans inclusive care, such as hormone replacement therapy and tolietries consistent with their gender identity. This model can easily be applied across the state.</p> <p>Thankfully, the answer has already been spelled out for us in the Gender Identity Respect, Dignity, and Safety Act, <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s6677" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> that would essentially apply the Steuben County model across New York. When lawmakers return to Albany, this bill should be high on their list of priorities to pass. The lives of transgender incarcerated people depend on it.</p> <p>***<br />Elisa Crespo is the Executive Director of the New Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elisacresponyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@elisacresponyc</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/gov-off-relations.jpg" alt="gov off relations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Lights honoring transgender New Yorkers (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When I learned that a <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/personality/2021/09/what-assembly-member-jessica-gonzalez-rojas-saw-rikers/185339/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transgender</a> woman was incarcerated with men on Rikers Island last week, it hit close to home for me. I know from experience what it feels like to be a transgender woman in jail surrounded by men. It's a mix of trauma, fear, and humiliation.</p> <p>There are far too many stories of transgender women being treated horrendously in America’s prison system that go untold. When we talk about mass incarceration in the United States, transgender people have a unique place in the conversation and must be included in the discourse surrounding decarceration.&nbsp;</p> <p>Transgender women in particular are notoriously <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/02/03/963513022/new-york-repeals-walking-while-trans-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener">profiled</a> and harrassed, resulting in a disproportionate rate of incarceration in our community. One out of every <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy">five</a> transgender women have been incarcerated at some point in their life. For Black transgender women, 47% have experienced incarceration — that’s nearly half of all Black transgender women in America.</p> <p>While incarcerated, transgender women are <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nine</a> times more likely to face physical and sexual violence. The humanitarian crisis for incarcerated transgender people didn't begin last week when a group of lawmakers toured Rikers Island — it has existed for centuries in the shadows.</p> <p>The topic of transgender people in sex-segregated jails is a conversation people usually shy away from. It has only relatively recently been discussed by policy-makers. In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Prisons released guidance that gave instructions to house transgender people in facilities that comport with their gender identity. But in <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/justice-department-reviewing-policies-transgender-inmates-rcna2067">2018</a>, the policy was effectively reversed by the Trump administration. Currently, transgender people in federal prisons are housed according to their sex assigned at birth. As a result, correction staff regularly place transgender people in solitary confinement as a way to segregate us from the general population.&nbsp;</p> <p>In New York City, we know what solitary confinement means for transgender people. We remember the tragic death of our sister Layleen Polanco, a personal friend and transgender woman who died at the hands of negligent correction officers at Rikers Island.</p> <p>Solitary confinement, which is merely an obfuscating term for torture, will never keep transgender incarcerated people safe. Neither will housing transgender people in sex-segregated facilities that don’t match their gender identity. What we need are trans inclusive policies that consider the safety of each individual.</p> <p>The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), passed by Congress in 2003, was meant to address the high prevalence of sexual assault among transgender inmates. Although it applies to federal, state, and local prisons and jails, many jails refuse to comply with its provisions, and it is narrowly tailored to address instances of abuse from both correctional staff and fellow incarcerated individuals. Crucially, PREA does not include provisions for trans related medical care nor does it mandate that trans people's identities be respected and affirmed while incarcerated.</p> <p>Several states, including New York’s tri-state neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut, have taken matters into their own hands by passing laws that implement trans inclusive jail policies. Unfortunately, New York has yet to pass such a law. Which begs the question: why do we afford transgender people in New York protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity almost everywhere except in our jails?</p> <p>Countless transgender women incarcerated in county jails across New York share stories of being misgendered by staff and refused hormone treatment and grooming supplies that are consistent with their gender identity. Trans people's inability to live as our true selves can severely impact our mental health. Self <a href="https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2004/jul/15/failure-to-treat-transsexual-for-self-mutilation-states-claim/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mutiliation </a>and suicide attempts are not uncommon for incarcerated transgender people who are refused access to gender affirming care.</p> <p>To be very clear, the ultimate goal should be to reduce our prison population. But right now New York needs a uniform policy to address the treatment and placement of incarcerated transgender people. We do ourselves a disservice by having a patchwork of policies that vary across each county.</p> <p>In a perfect world detention facilities would have exclusive transgender housing <a href="https://www.silive.com/news/2017/05/transgender_rikers.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">units</a>. But a major capital investment in new jail facilities is counterintuitive to decarceration and unlikely to happen. Therefore, it should be the norm to place transgender people in facilities that align with their gender identity. For the anti-trans activists who may be against this idea, you should know that there is no evidence to suggest that transgender women are a threat to cisgender women. In fact, it is transgender women who are more at risk than any other demographic in jail. We must also be mindful of the fact that there are transgender women who choose to be in facilites with men. That conversation is valid too, and a trans person's views regarding their personal safety must be prioritized.</p> <p>We can look to Steuben County for inspiration on how to develop trans inclusive policies in our jails. There, transgender inmates are by default housed according to their gender identity as a result of a recent legal <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/7/21355867/steuben-county-new-york-trans-prison-policy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">settlement</a>. In addition, Steuben County correctional staff must now respect transgender inmates’ prefered prounouns, provide searches by correctional staff whose gender matches the identity of the inmates, and provide transgender people with trans inclusive care, such as hormone replacement therapy and tolietries consistent with their gender identity. This model can easily be applied across the state.</p> <p>Thankfully, the answer has already been spelled out for us in the Gender Identity Respect, Dignity, and Safety Act, <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s6677" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> that would essentially apply the Steuben County model across New York. When lawmakers return to Albany, this bill should be high on their list of priorities to pass. The lives of transgender incarcerated people depend on it.</p> <p>***<br />Elisa Crespo is the Executive Director of the New Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elisacresponyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@elisacresponyc</a>.</p> <p>

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The Ominous Consequences of The Texas Abortion Law 2021-09-23T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-23T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10786-ominous-consequences-texas-abortion-law-new-york Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn rbhermelyn@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/rodneyse-bichotte-nys-assembly-corrected.jpg" alt="rodneyse bichotte nys assembly corrected" width="600" height="442" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte&nbsp;Hermelyn, the author (photo: Rodneyse Bichotte/Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Abortion is a matter of life and death for a woman. Those who are pro-choice like me know that access to safe abortion care can prevent a woman from losing her life, and restrictions can - and are - ending it. And for Black women like me, who know what it’s like to lose a child because of maternal healthcare inequities, this is a nightmare that’s only going to get worse.</p> <p>Women pioneers fought tirelessly to grant us suffrage, reproductive freedom, and other essential rights. But today our rights are being stripped away and we cannot let that happen.</p> <p>Access to safe, quality, and unbiased health care for pregnant Black women has always been challenging -- and now access to a safe abortion, a woman’s civil right, has essentially been eliminated in Texas. With the Lone Star State outlawing abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, in the midst of another spike in covid with the Delta variant, risks to women’s health -- in particular Black women’s health -- have been further exacerbated.</p> <p>Data shows there has already been a longstanding Black maternal healthcare crisis.</p> <p>Last year, more than 700 women in the United States died during childbirth and the maternal death rate among Black women was three times the rates for white and Hispanic women. Maternal mortality is worse in the United States than in any other developed nation in the world. The majority of pregnancy-related deaths are thought to be preventable.</p> <p>I was almost one of the victims of pregnancy-related death.&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost five years ago, a prestigious university-affiliated New York City hospital turned me away after doctors discovered I was three centimeters dilated and experiencing preterm labor. Shortly after I was told to leave, my water broke, and I delivered my son Jonah prematurely at a local community hospital. My baby was one of the more than 20,000 infants that didn’t make it that year, and I almost lost my life too.</p> <p>At all stages of health care, women -- especially Black women -- deserve better care and protection of our rights.</p> <p>Despite Black women making up just 13.4% of the U.S. population, almost one-third of the women affected by the Hyde Amendment -- which prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion care except in the most extreme cases -- are Black. "There has been a growing body of research that is showing that structural racism is playing a role with regard to these disparities," said Dr. Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health.</p> <p>This isn’t just about saving lives. It’s about taking away rights and decision-making power from the people to whom they rightfully belong.</p> <p>It’s unconstitutional and inhumane. But, even though the Supreme Court declined to block the Texas law it did so without ruling on whether it is constitutional, allowing it to be challenged.</p> <p>Access to reproductive health care is everything when it comes to saving the lives of women, overwhelmingly so in the case of Black women.</p> <p>Texas’ law does more than just take choice away from women; it puts a bounty on the heads of every woman and family seeking an abortion in the state, and allows private individuals to enforce the law. If we look at other countries as a guide, or even our own history, the Texas abortion law won’t stop most women from having abortions, even though it strips their legal rights and puts their lives more at risk. It will mainly stop women who can’t afford to access abortion care from getting it safely, leading to the preventable deaths of more women.</p> <p>This is part of a national attack on women.</p> <p>The Republican-dominated Supreme Court of the United States has opted not to intervene, effectively reversing Roe v. Wade in Texas and opening it to reversal elsewhere. But this is ‘settled law,’ as Justice Brett Kavanaugh claimed at his 2018 nomination hearing, before flip-flopping earlier this month. And, the risk of other conservative states using the legal loophole Texas is exploiting is real. Make no mistake: this is an attempt to reverse Roe and nothing short of an attack on women and our rights.</p> <p>But, the Texas abortion law isn’t the first threat to abortion access. Since Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case known as June Medical, which illustrated that reliance on courts and precedent alone is not enough, legislative interventions are also needed to protect our rights.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in stark contrast, Mexico’s Supreme Court -- in a heavily Roman Catholic country -- has ruled that criminal penalties for abortion are unconstitutional.</p> <p>With the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation, how can there be legislators in the United States out there claiming to be “pro life” as they exacerbate this crisis?</p> <p>As the new Chair of the Task Force on Women’s Issues in the New York State Assembly and a Black woman who has faced pregnancy-related death, I am committed to reversing this cycle of morbidity for all women. I’m focused on ensuring that Black pregnant women aren’t dying at an alarming rate well above the national average and that all women have the right and access to abortion care.</p> <p>In the New York Legislature, I passed a bill requiring hospitals to treat women in preterm labor. I’ve introduced several bills to expand testing for conditions like the one I had, barbarically termed an “incompetent cervix,” which are known to lead to preterm labor.</p> <p>Several of my colleagues have also taken steps to address the significant racial disparity of Black women dying at a higher rate. New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson announced more than $400,000 in Council funding to combat high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Bronx.</p> <p>Democrats across the country need to follow suit.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If our nation had equitable health care and defended women’s rights on par with that of other developed nations, we could prevent the loss of life without controversy. We could let women and their doctors make choices that are best for them, and we could save lives.</p> <p>We need to fight to preserve the lives of women who are facing increasingly worse odds in labor and the delivery room. Governor Kathy Hochul, in response to Texas’ backwards law, announced that New York will implement a public information campaign to affirm abortion rights, curb the spread of misinformation, and make abortion care more accessible via telehealth.</p> <p>And as the first woman to lead the Brooklyn Democratic Party, I’m calling on Democrats from across the nation to hold Republicans accountable for stripping away our rights and causing the senseless deaths of women and their children.</p> <p>***<br />Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is the New York State Assemblymember for the 42nd District in Brooklyn and the first woman to chair the Brooklyn Democratic Party. She is Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues and Task Force on Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses. She sponsored the Jonah Bichotte Cowan law and now sponsors two bills -- A8048 and A7741 -- related to prenatal testing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AMBichotte" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AMBichotte</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/rodneyse-bichotte-nys-assembly-corrected.jpg" alt="rodneyse bichotte nys assembly corrected" width="600" height="442" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte&nbsp;Hermelyn, the author (photo: Rodneyse Bichotte/Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Abortion is a matter of life and death for a woman. Those who are pro-choice like me know that access to safe abortion care can prevent a woman from losing her life, and restrictions can - and are - ending it. And for Black women like me, who know what it’s like to lose a child because of maternal healthcare inequities, this is a nightmare that’s only going to get worse.</p> <p>Women pioneers fought tirelessly to grant us suffrage, reproductive freedom, and other essential rights. But today our rights are being stripped away and we cannot let that happen.</p> <p>Access to safe, quality, and unbiased health care for pregnant Black women has always been challenging -- and now access to a safe abortion, a woman’s civil right, has essentially been eliminated in Texas. With the Lone Star State outlawing abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, in the midst of another spike in covid with the Delta variant, risks to women’s health -- in particular Black women’s health -- have been further exacerbated.</p> <p>Data shows there has already been a longstanding Black maternal healthcare crisis.</p> <p>Last year, more than 700 women in the United States died during childbirth and the maternal death rate among Black women was three times the rates for white and Hispanic women. Maternal mortality is worse in the United States than in any other developed nation in the world. The majority of pregnancy-related deaths are thought to be preventable.</p> <p>I was almost one of the victims of pregnancy-related death.&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost five years ago, a prestigious university-affiliated New York City hospital turned me away after doctors discovered I was three centimeters dilated and experiencing preterm labor. Shortly after I was told to leave, my water broke, and I delivered my son Jonah prematurely at a local community hospital. My baby was one of the more than 20,000 infants that didn’t make it that year, and I almost lost my life too.</p> <p>At all stages of health care, women -- especially Black women -- deserve better care and protection of our rights.</p> <p>Despite Black women making up just 13.4% of the U.S. population, almost one-third of the women affected by the Hyde Amendment -- which prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion care except in the most extreme cases -- are Black. "There has been a growing body of research that is showing that structural racism is playing a role with regard to these disparities," said Dr. Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health.</p> <p>This isn’t just about saving lives. It’s about taking away rights and decision-making power from the people to whom they rightfully belong.</p> <p>It’s unconstitutional and inhumane. But, even though the Supreme Court declined to block the Texas law it did so without ruling on whether it is constitutional, allowing it to be challenged.</p> <p>Access to reproductive health care is everything when it comes to saving the lives of women, overwhelmingly so in the case of Black women.</p> <p>Texas’ law does more than just take choice away from women; it puts a bounty on the heads of every woman and family seeking an abortion in the state, and allows private individuals to enforce the law. If we look at other countries as a guide, or even our own history, the Texas abortion law won’t stop most women from having abortions, even though it strips their legal rights and puts their lives more at risk. It will mainly stop women who can’t afford to access abortion care from getting it safely, leading to the preventable deaths of more women.</p> <p>This is part of a national attack on women.</p> <p>The Republican-dominated Supreme Court of the United States has opted not to intervene, effectively reversing Roe v. Wade in Texas and opening it to reversal elsewhere. But this is ‘settled law,’ as Justice Brett Kavanaugh claimed at his 2018 nomination hearing, before flip-flopping earlier this month. And, the risk of other conservative states using the legal loophole Texas is exploiting is real. Make no mistake: this is an attempt to reverse Roe and nothing short of an attack on women and our rights.</p> <p>But, the Texas abortion law isn’t the first threat to abortion access. Since Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case known as June Medical, which illustrated that reliance on courts and precedent alone is not enough, legislative interventions are also needed to protect our rights.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in stark contrast, Mexico’s Supreme Court -- in a heavily Roman Catholic country -- has ruled that criminal penalties for abortion are unconstitutional.</p> <p>With the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation, how can there be legislators in the United States out there claiming to be “pro life” as they exacerbate this crisis?</p> <p>As the new Chair of the Task Force on Women’s Issues in the New York State Assembly and a Black woman who has faced pregnancy-related death, I am committed to reversing this cycle of morbidity for all women. I’m focused on ensuring that Black pregnant women aren’t dying at an alarming rate well above the national average and that all women have the right and access to abortion care.</p> <p>In the New York Legislature, I passed a bill requiring hospitals to treat women in preterm labor. I’ve introduced several bills to expand testing for conditions like the one I had, barbarically termed an “incompetent cervix,” which are known to lead to preterm labor.</p> <p>Several of my colleagues have also taken steps to address the significant racial disparity of Black women dying at a higher rate. New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson announced more than $400,000 in Council funding to combat high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Bronx.</p> <p>Democrats across the country need to follow suit.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If our nation had equitable health care and defended women’s rights on par with that of other developed nations, we could prevent the loss of life without controversy. We could let women and their doctors make choices that are best for them, and we could save lives.</p> <p>We need to fight to preserve the lives of women who are facing increasingly worse odds in labor and the delivery room. Governor Kathy Hochul, in response to Texas’ backwards law, announced that New York will implement a public information campaign to affirm abortion rights, curb the spread of misinformation, and make abortion care more accessible via telehealth.</p> <p>And as the first woman to lead the Brooklyn Democratic Party, I’m calling on Democrats from across the nation to hold Republicans accountable for stripping away our rights and causing the senseless deaths of women and their children.</p> <p>***<br />Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is the New York State Assemblymember for the 42nd District in Brooklyn and the first woman to chair the Brooklyn Democratic Party. She is Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues and Task Force on Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses. She sponsored the Jonah Bichotte Cowan law and now sponsors two bills -- A8048 and A7741 -- related to prenatal testing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AMBichotte" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AMBichotte</a>.</p> <p>

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Baby Bonds Are Great, But We Shouldn’t Make Kids Wait 2021-09-23T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-23T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10788-baby-bonds-great-dont-make-kids-wait-universal-income Erika Tannor etannor@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/sch-ch-porter.jpg" alt="sch ch porter" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Kids back at school (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Coinciding with the start of the school year, New York City parents got some good news last week when Mayor de Blasio launched the city’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-21/mayor-de-blasio-chancellor-porter-celebrate-launch-universal-nyc-baby-bonds#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first universal baby bonds program</a>. Starting this year, every public-school kindergartener will receive access to a college savings account seeded with $100 from the city.</p> <p>This is great. Making college more accessible and affordable, especially to low-income students, must be a major policy goal and will certainly help overcome the widening wealth gap.&nbsp;</p> <p>But money now is better than money later and more can be done to help kids throughout their childhood, years before they enter college campuses.&nbsp;</p> <p>No doubt, the benefits of baby bonds are clear. Children with even a small savings account are three times more likely to enroll in college and <a href="https://nyckidsrise.org/save-for-college-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more than four times</a> more likely to graduate. And with average student loan debt soaring to <a href="https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/see-how-student-loan-borrowing-has-risen-in-10-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$30,000 per graduate</a>, leveling the playing field by helping kids pay for college will give students opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had. More than this, expanding college access will reap plenty of residual effects on health, safety, and economic stability for communities in the long run.&nbsp;</p> <p>All these benefits are great, but why make kids wait until they turn 18 to reap them? Instead of delaying gratification, we should be giving families direct cash assistance now so that they avoid a life of poverty and are even more prepared to enter college when the time comes to take the money out of their college accounts. After all, students from low-income families are 10 times more likely to <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90606164/how-this-queens-community-built-1000-college-savings-accounts-for-all-its-kids" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drop out of college</a> than students from high-income families. Helping families out of poverty now will pay dividends in ensuring kids are able to enter and stay in higher education.&nbsp;</p> <p>No matter your thoughts on our campaign, as an advisor on Andrew Yang’s run for mayor, there was one policy we undoubtedly got right: cash relief for poor families. Under our plan of providing up to $2,000 annually to the city’s 500,000 poorest residents regardless of immigration status, the city would have <a href="https://www.ubicenter.org/yang-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reduced deep poverty by 60%</a> according to an independent study.</p> <p>Time and again direct cash assistance programs have proven to be a game changer in uplifting people out of poverty. And cash stimulus checks from the federal government during the pandemic were shown to have<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/02/us/politics/stimulus-checks-economic-hardship.html?referringSource=articleShare"> significantly improved</a> Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and to have reduced anxiety and depression. Research has shown that cash transfers also have stimulative effects with recipients spending <a href="https://www.ucdavis.edu/curiosity-gap/did-1200-stimulus-payment-boost-economy">44.5% of the federal check amount</a> back into the local economy within just 10 days.</p> <p>Direct cash assistance isn’t new. Social Security checks lift <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/social-security-lifts-more-americans-above-poverty-than-any-other-program#:~:text=Social%20Security%20Lifts%2015%20Million%20Elderly%20Americans%20Out%20of%20Poverty&amp;text=from%20Social%20Security.-,Without%20Social%20Security%20benefits,%2037.8%20percent%20of%20elderly%20Americans%20would,benefits,%20only%209.7%20percent%20do" target="_blank" rel="noopener">15 million elderly Americans</a> out of poverty every year and form one of the most effective anti-poverty programs the United States has ever devised. Due in part to the pandemic and the popularization of the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), policymakers are coming to understand that simply giving poor families the cash they need to provide for themselves and make sound financial decisions is more productive than the old ways of complex -- and costly -- food stamps and housing voucher programs, which often kept people poor and perpetuated problematic ideals of who is “deserving.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The truth is New Yorkers should be entitled to a suite of modern policies targeted at uplifting them. That is why it is encouraging to see Democratic mayoral nominee <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-eric-adams-mayoral-race-tax-credit-plan-20210301-uijpy5hbbrbkhhbif6ww4f4go4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Eric Adams’ plan</a> to expand the city’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, which would cover nearly 900,000 New Yorkers with household incomes up to $50,000 a year. EITC on the federal level <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/eitc-and-child-tax-credit-promote-work-reduce-poverty-and-support-childrens" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been shown</a> to improve children’s educational and financial outcomes as adults. Under an Adams mayoralty, these direct cash credits to families will go a long way in helping families and children over the course of their lifetimes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether it’s UBI, EITC, or some other acronym, the goal should be the same: getting cash into families' pockets today so that they can equip themselves with the tools to succeed. And while college savings accounts are fantastic, our policymakers should make sure kids are getting everything they need to help them now, not just when it comes time to go for college.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />Erika Tannor is a political consultant at Tusk Strategies. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/erikatannor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@erikatannor</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/sch-ch-porter.jpg" alt="sch ch porter" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Kids back at school (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Coinciding with the start of the school year, New York City parents got some good news last week when Mayor de Blasio launched the city’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-21/mayor-de-blasio-chancellor-porter-celebrate-launch-universal-nyc-baby-bonds#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first universal baby bonds program</a>. Starting this year, every public-school kindergartener will receive access to a college savings account seeded with $100 from the city.</p> <p>This is great. Making college more accessible and affordable, especially to low-income students, must be a major policy goal and will certainly help overcome the widening wealth gap.&nbsp;</p> <p>But money now is better than money later and more can be done to help kids throughout their childhood, years before they enter college campuses.&nbsp;</p> <p>No doubt, the benefits of baby bonds are clear. Children with even a small savings account are three times more likely to enroll in college and <a href="https://nyckidsrise.org/save-for-college-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more than four times</a> more likely to graduate. And with average student loan debt soaring to <a href="https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/see-how-student-loan-borrowing-has-risen-in-10-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$30,000 per graduate</a>, leveling the playing field by helping kids pay for college will give students opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had. More than this, expanding college access will reap plenty of residual effects on health, safety, and economic stability for communities in the long run.&nbsp;</p> <p>All these benefits are great, but why make kids wait until they turn 18 to reap them? Instead of delaying gratification, we should be giving families direct cash assistance now so that they avoid a life of poverty and are even more prepared to enter college when the time comes to take the money out of their college accounts. After all, students from low-income families are 10 times more likely to <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90606164/how-this-queens-community-built-1000-college-savings-accounts-for-all-its-kids" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drop out of college</a> than students from high-income families. Helping families out of poverty now will pay dividends in ensuring kids are able to enter and stay in higher education.&nbsp;</p> <p>No matter your thoughts on our campaign, as an advisor on Andrew Yang’s run for mayor, there was one policy we undoubtedly got right: cash relief for poor families. Under our plan of providing up to $2,000 annually to the city’s 500,000 poorest residents regardless of immigration status, the city would have <a href="https://www.ubicenter.org/yang-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reduced deep poverty by 60%</a> according to an independent study.</p> <p>Time and again direct cash assistance programs have proven to be a game changer in uplifting people out of poverty. And cash stimulus checks from the federal government during the pandemic were shown to have<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/02/us/politics/stimulus-checks-economic-hardship.html?referringSource=articleShare"> significantly improved</a> Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and to have reduced anxiety and depression. Research has shown that cash transfers also have stimulative effects with recipients spending <a href="https://www.ucdavis.edu/curiosity-gap/did-1200-stimulus-payment-boost-economy">44.5% of the federal check amount</a> back into the local economy within just 10 days.</p> <p>Direct cash assistance isn’t new. Social Security checks lift <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/social-security-lifts-more-americans-above-poverty-than-any-other-program#:~:text=Social%20Security%20Lifts%2015%20Million%20Elderly%20Americans%20Out%20of%20Poverty&amp;text=from%20Social%20Security.-,Without%20Social%20Security%20benefits,%2037.8%20percent%20of%20elderly%20Americans%20would,benefits,%20only%209.7%20percent%20do" target="_blank" rel="noopener">15 million elderly Americans</a> out of poverty every year and form one of the most effective anti-poverty programs the United States has ever devised. Due in part to the pandemic and the popularization of the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), policymakers are coming to understand that simply giving poor families the cash they need to provide for themselves and make sound financial decisions is more productive than the old ways of complex -- and costly -- food stamps and housing voucher programs, which often kept people poor and perpetuated problematic ideals of who is “deserving.” &nbsp;</p> <p>The truth is New Yorkers should be entitled to a suite of modern policies targeted at uplifting them. That is why it is encouraging to see Democratic mayoral nominee <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-eric-adams-mayoral-race-tax-credit-plan-20210301-uijpy5hbbrbkhhbif6ww4f4go4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Eric Adams’ plan</a> to expand the city’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, which would cover nearly 900,000 New Yorkers with household incomes up to $50,000 a year. EITC on the federal level <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/eitc-and-child-tax-credit-promote-work-reduce-poverty-and-support-childrens" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been shown</a> to improve children’s educational and financial outcomes as adults. Under an Adams mayoralty, these direct cash credits to families will go a long way in helping families and children over the course of their lifetimes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether it’s UBI, EITC, or some other acronym, the goal should be the same: getting cash into families' pockets today so that they can equip themselves with the tools to succeed. And while college savings accounts are fantastic, our policymakers should make sure kids are getting everything they need to help them now, not just when it comes time to go for college.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />Erika Tannor is a political consultant at Tusk Strategies. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/erikatannor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@erikatannor</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
As the Future of Roe Hangs in the Balance, New York City and Albany Must Act to Protect Abortion Access for All 2021-09-22T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-22T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10783-roe-v-wade-scotus-new-york-city-hall-and-albany-protect-abortion-access Astrid Aune, Elizabeth Adams & Jessica Madris mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/rights-stands-rep.jpg" alt="rights stands rep" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Hochul leads a press conference on abortion rights (photo: Don Pollard/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In response to the recent <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/10/texas-abortion-law-ban-enforcement/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ban in Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/mississippi-abortion-law/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">upcoming Supreme Court case</a>, Governor Kathy Hochul declared New York <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/new-york-lawmakers-step-fight-reproductive-rights" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a safe harbor</a> for abortion care at a rally on September 13. Hochul noted, rightly, that the state has an obligation to fully implement the 2019 <a href="https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S240" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reproductive Health Act</a> (RHA). To that end, she directed state agencies to launch <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-agenda-affirm-abortion-rights-new-york-stands-senator-gillibrand" target="_blank" rel="noopener">public information campaigns</a> directed at patients and providers about their rights and responsibilities under the RHA.</p> <p>Senator Kirsten Gillibrand followed by voicing her support for the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s1645/BILLS-116s1645is.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Health Protection Act</a>, which would codify a right to abortion care into federal law, just as the RHA does in New York State.</p> <p>These pronouncements of solidarity with people in Texas and other legally restrictive states are welcome first steps. As the right to safe, legal abortion nationwide hangs in the balance, however, reactive measures are no longer enough—if New York is to become a safe harbor for abortion, officials at every level of government must champion bold, proactive policies that pre-empt attacks from the powerful anti-abortion movement.</p> <p>First, they must make abortion, and all forms of sexual and reproductive health care, accessible to all New Yorkers.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1994, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defined <a href="https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reproductive justice</a> as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”</p> <p>For decades, the fight for reproductive justice in City Hall and Albany has been relegated to a small handful of electeds and constituent activists. Access to abortion care isn’t simply a “women’s issue,” but City Hall and Albany continue to treat it as one. Marginalized New Yorkers, particularly the Black birthing people at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement whose communities are disproportionately affected by our collective inaction, know that abortion access is a social, economic, gender, and racial issue.</p> <p>In New York City alone, there are at least <a href="https://theoutline.com/post/4882/crisis-pregnancy-centers-new-york-pro-truth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 “crisis pregnancy centers,”</a> which are fake health clinics that use lies and unauthorized medical practices to dissuade vulnerable birthing people from getting abortions. Anti-abortion extremists in Queens are now allowed, thanks to the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, to <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/us/anti-abortion-protesters-new-york-win-court-ruling-2021-05-28/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">terrorize New Yorkers</a> who try to access or provide reproductive health care in clinics.</p> <p>While our city became the first in the nation to provide <a href="https://www.nirhealth.org/fund-abortion-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">direct funding for abortion</a>, the $250,000 that the City Council has set aside the last two budget cycles for the <a href="https://www.nyaaf.org/about/#HowWeWork" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Abortion Access Fund</a> isn’t nearly enough to cover the up-to-$3,000 cost of abortion care for low-income and uninsured New Yorkers, let alone out-of-state birthing people.&nbsp;</p> <p>These are some of the many hurdles New Yorkers face in accessing abortion care, and abortion care is only one piece of the larger problem. Systemic racism in health care for pregnant and birthing New Yorkers, inadequate postpartum care and early childcare, stigmatizing, outdated sex-ed, the proliferation of gender-based and sexual violence—we could go on—are just some of the others. In the spirit of reproductive justice, we cannot talk about shoring up abortion access in New York without also talking about the persisting inequities in all facets of sexual and reproductive health care.</p> <p>Now that we face an impending national crisis, one that many marginalized communities have already been facing for years, New Yorkers are looking for ways to join the fight. Using our collective experience, knowledge, and skill sets, we’ve put together a non-comprehensive <a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1st4nlH9bMNiiZzaqTS-_smq7hx0rmnCvJUIynPthppE/edit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">action guide</a> that outlines steps New York elected and government officials can take, at every level and in almost all offices, to truly make New York a safe harbor for abortion care.</p> <p>The guide also includes graphics and call transcripts that everyday New Yorkers can use in their activism.</p> <p>Finally, it’s past time for New Yorkers to elect more reproductive justice advocates to office.</p> <p>The anti-abortion movement has spent millions to help elect extremists who champion their cause in state legislatures and city governments across the country. Yes, greater gender representation, as seen in our first woman Governor, and New York City’s <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10648-advocates-electeds-candidates-celebrate-historic-majority-women-city-council" target="_blank">first women-majority City Council</a> come January, could result in more substantive gender representation in New York politics as well. But simply electing more women to power doesn’t necessarily ensure those political leaders will focus on reproductive justice. As it stands, champions of reproductive justice are still largely on the outskirts of political power.</p> <p>The country faces the biggest threat to Roe v. Wade in decades. It’s incumbent on New York to set the example for other progressive cities and states that could face an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care. We must elect candidates to office who are committed to making that possible. If we succeed, we can show purple and red cities and states, particularly those on the verge of securing Democratic wins in their legislative or executive offices, that reproductive justice advocates can run and win.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />Astrid Aune is a community organizer and 1L at CUNY School of Law. Elizabeth Adams is a Legislative Director at the New York City Council, formerly served as the Director of Government Relations at Planned Parenthood of NYC and was a candidate for City Council in Brooklyn’s 33rd District. Jessica Madris is a freelance reporter and writer covering gender policy, particularly at the local level, with an MPA in Urban Social Policy and Gender and Public Policy and experience in city government and politics, and a postpartum doula in Brooklyn.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/rights-stands-rep.jpg" alt="rights stands rep" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Hochul leads a press conference on abortion rights (photo: Don Pollard/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In response to the recent <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/10/texas-abortion-law-ban-enforcement/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ban in Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/mississippi-abortion-law/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">upcoming Supreme Court case</a>, Governor Kathy Hochul declared New York <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/new-york-lawmakers-step-fight-reproductive-rights" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a safe harbor</a> for abortion care at a rally on September 13. Hochul noted, rightly, that the state has an obligation to fully implement the 2019 <a href="https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S240" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reproductive Health Act</a> (RHA). To that end, she directed state agencies to launch <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-agenda-affirm-abortion-rights-new-york-stands-senator-gillibrand" target="_blank" rel="noopener">public information campaigns</a> directed at patients and providers about their rights and responsibilities under the RHA.</p> <p>Senator Kirsten Gillibrand followed by voicing her support for the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s1645/BILLS-116s1645is.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Health Protection Act</a>, which would codify a right to abortion care into federal law, just as the RHA does in New York State.</p> <p>These pronouncements of solidarity with people in Texas and other legally restrictive states are welcome first steps. As the right to safe, legal abortion nationwide hangs in the balance, however, reactive measures are no longer enough—if New York is to become a safe harbor for abortion, officials at every level of government must champion bold, proactive policies that pre-empt attacks from the powerful anti-abortion movement.</p> <p>First, they must make abortion, and all forms of sexual and reproductive health care, accessible to all New Yorkers.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1994, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defined <a href="https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reproductive justice</a> as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”</p> <p>For decades, the fight for reproductive justice in City Hall and Albany has been relegated to a small handful of electeds and constituent activists. Access to abortion care isn’t simply a “women’s issue,” but City Hall and Albany continue to treat it as one. Marginalized New Yorkers, particularly the Black birthing people at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement whose communities are disproportionately affected by our collective inaction, know that abortion access is a social, economic, gender, and racial issue.</p> <p>In New York City alone, there are at least <a href="https://theoutline.com/post/4882/crisis-pregnancy-centers-new-york-pro-truth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">11 “crisis pregnancy centers,”</a> which are fake health clinics that use lies and unauthorized medical practices to dissuade vulnerable birthing people from getting abortions. Anti-abortion extremists in Queens are now allowed, thanks to the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, to <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/us/anti-abortion-protesters-new-york-win-court-ruling-2021-05-28/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">terrorize New Yorkers</a> who try to access or provide reproductive health care in clinics.</p> <p>While our city became the first in the nation to provide <a href="https://www.nirhealth.org/fund-abortion-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">direct funding for abortion</a>, the $250,000 that the City Council has set aside the last two budget cycles for the <a href="https://www.nyaaf.org/about/#HowWeWork" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Abortion Access Fund</a> isn’t nearly enough to cover the up-to-$3,000 cost of abortion care for low-income and uninsured New Yorkers, let alone out-of-state birthing people.&nbsp;</p> <p>These are some of the many hurdles New Yorkers face in accessing abortion care, and abortion care is only one piece of the larger problem. Systemic racism in health care for pregnant and birthing New Yorkers, inadequate postpartum care and early childcare, stigmatizing, outdated sex-ed, the proliferation of gender-based and sexual violence—we could go on—are just some of the others. In the spirit of reproductive justice, we cannot talk about shoring up abortion access in New York without also talking about the persisting inequities in all facets of sexual and reproductive health care.</p> <p>Now that we face an impending national crisis, one that many marginalized communities have already been facing for years, New Yorkers are looking for ways to join the fight. Using our collective experience, knowledge, and skill sets, we’ve put together a non-comprehensive <a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1st4nlH9bMNiiZzaqTS-_smq7hx0rmnCvJUIynPthppE/edit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">action guide</a> that outlines steps New York elected and government officials can take, at every level and in almost all offices, to truly make New York a safe harbor for abortion care.</p> <p>The guide also includes graphics and call transcripts that everyday New Yorkers can use in their activism.</p> <p>Finally, it’s past time for New Yorkers to elect more reproductive justice advocates to office.</p> <p>The anti-abortion movement has spent millions to help elect extremists who champion their cause in state legislatures and city governments across the country. Yes, greater gender representation, as seen in our first woman Governor, and New York City’s <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10648-advocates-electeds-candidates-celebrate-historic-majority-women-city-council" target="_blank">first women-majority City Council</a> come January, could result in more substantive gender representation in New York politics as well. But simply electing more women to power doesn’t necessarily ensure those political leaders will focus on reproductive justice. As it stands, champions of reproductive justice are still largely on the outskirts of political power.</p> <p>The country faces the biggest threat to Roe v. Wade in decades. It’s incumbent on New York to set the example for other progressive cities and states that could face an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care. We must elect candidates to office who are committed to making that possible. If we succeed, we can show purple and red cities and states, particularly those on the verge of securing Democratic wins in their legislative or executive offices, that reproductive justice advocates can run and win.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />Astrid Aune is a community organizer and 1L at CUNY School of Law. Elizabeth Adams is a Legislative Director at the New York City Council, formerly served as the Director of Government Relations at Planned Parenthood of NYC and was a candidate for City Council in Brooklyn’s 33rd District. Jessica Madris is a freelance reporter and writer covering gender policy, particularly at the local level, with an MPA in Urban Social Policy and Gender and Public Policy and experience in city government and politics, and a postpartum doula in Brooklyn.</p> <p>

***
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Preventing Student Suicide in New York State 2021-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10780-preventing-student-suicide-new-york-state Danny O’Donnell dodonnell@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/ed-murrow-joins.jpg" alt="ed murrow joins" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>High school students (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>This month, as our children return for another pandemic school year, there has never been a more important time to have an honest conversation about mental health.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a member of the New York Assembly Committee on Education, I have heard from countless parents and young people about how the pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing psychological strains of depression and anxiety. These come on top of the pressures youth have faced for years, from navigating identity issues to combating bullying.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, kids, families, and schools don’t always have the training or resources to cope with these challenges or pinpoint when they become dangerously unmanageable. It is long past time to equip our schools with the tools they need to provide appropriate mental health resources, support at-risk populations and, most critically, prevent suicide.</p> <p>Students today are significantly more likely to report poor mental health compared to previous generations. Between 2007 and 2016, pediatric emergency room visits for mental health concerns rose 60%. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and LGBTQ youth are especially at-risk. Of the nearly 40% of transgender Americans who report attempting suicide, 92% have done so before the age of 25.&nbsp;</p> <p>Preventing youth suicide isn't just an intellectual issue for me. I tried to take my life as a young person. Looking back, I recognize that I was facing profound stress related to identity and isolation. Thankfully, I made it through that dark period and have gone on to lead a meaningful, successful life.</p> <p>For me, having a support system was key to my mental health recovery. Kids can express vulnerability when surrounded by people they trust. That’s why I have introduced the Student Suicide Prevent Act (A7762), which will give schools the support they need to reach students of all experiences and backgrounds. It provides a framework for teacher training, mental health resources, and policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The legislation draws on national models while creating space for schools to tailor information to align with local needs.</p> <p>Right now, 19 states require suicide prevention training for school personnel, and 13 states specify that this training take place annually. New York is one of 15 states that encourages, but doesn’t mandate, such programming. Our lack of leadership has important consequences: a third of our schools do not have suicide prevention policies in place, and only 2% of existing policies specifically address LGBTQ youth.</p> <p>Teachers are often resources for kids who feel isolated. They spend hours every day with their students and develop deep relationships by offering advice and helping them build self-esteem. As a result, they are often the first, and the ones best able, to see when our kids need extra help.&nbsp;</p> <p>Their insight is especially important because not everyone who is suffering withdraws or disengages from school activities -- what we commonly associate with signs of struggling. I was the president of my high school class, but I still needed help.</p> <p>Talking about these issues, from both a policy and personal standpoint, is hard. I’ve never publicly shared my story before. But I know that open and honest communication is a necessary step to break the cycle and better help our youth. With the right policies in place, we can give youth the support they need to navigate challenging times, recognize their own strength, and see a better future ahead.</p> <p>***<br />Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell represents parts of Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Danny_ODonnell_" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Danny_ODonnell_</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/ed-murrow-joins.jpg" alt="ed murrow joins" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>High school students (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>This month, as our children return for another pandemic school year, there has never been a more important time to have an honest conversation about mental health.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a member of the New York Assembly Committee on Education, I have heard from countless parents and young people about how the pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing psychological strains of depression and anxiety. These come on top of the pressures youth have faced for years, from navigating identity issues to combating bullying.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, kids, families, and schools don’t always have the training or resources to cope with these challenges or pinpoint when they become dangerously unmanageable. It is long past time to equip our schools with the tools they need to provide appropriate mental health resources, support at-risk populations and, most critically, prevent suicide.</p> <p>Students today are significantly more likely to report poor mental health compared to previous generations. Between 2007 and 2016, pediatric emergency room visits for mental health concerns rose 60%. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and LGBTQ youth are especially at-risk. Of the nearly 40% of transgender Americans who report attempting suicide, 92% have done so before the age of 25.&nbsp;</p> <p>Preventing youth suicide isn't just an intellectual issue for me. I tried to take my life as a young person. Looking back, I recognize that I was facing profound stress related to identity and isolation. Thankfully, I made it through that dark period and have gone on to lead a meaningful, successful life.</p> <p>For me, having a support system was key to my mental health recovery. Kids can express vulnerability when surrounded by people they trust. That’s why I have introduced the Student Suicide Prevent Act (A7762), which will give schools the support they need to reach students of all experiences and backgrounds. It provides a framework for teacher training, mental health resources, and policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The legislation draws on national models while creating space for schools to tailor information to align with local needs.</p> <p>Right now, 19 states require suicide prevention training for school personnel, and 13 states specify that this training take place annually. New York is one of 15 states that encourages, but doesn’t mandate, such programming. Our lack of leadership has important consequences: a third of our schools do not have suicide prevention policies in place, and only 2% of existing policies specifically address LGBTQ youth.</p> <p>Teachers are often resources for kids who feel isolated. They spend hours every day with their students and develop deep relationships by offering advice and helping them build self-esteem. As a result, they are often the first, and the ones best able, to see when our kids need extra help.&nbsp;</p> <p>Their insight is especially important because not everyone who is suffering withdraws or disengages from school activities -- what we commonly associate with signs of struggling. I was the president of my high school class, but I still needed help.</p> <p>Talking about these issues, from both a policy and personal standpoint, is hard. I’ve never publicly shared my story before. But I know that open and honest communication is a necessary step to break the cycle and better help our youth. With the right policies in place, we can give youth the support they need to navigate challenging times, recognize their own strength, and see a better future ahead.</p> <p>***<br />Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell represents parts of Manhattan. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Danny_ODonnell_" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Danny_ODonnell_</a>.</p> <p>

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Rethinking New York's Role in City Diplomacy 2021-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10781-role-new-york-city-diplomacy-united-nations-general-assembly Emerita Torres etorres@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15372179626_c23b26d779_c.jpg" alt="Mayor UN" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>The Mayor at the UN (photo: Rob Bennett/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>This week, New York City is welcoming the return of foreign dignitaries, NGOs, and representatives from all over the world for an in-person United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week. It’s the world’s premier global affairs engagement. A combination of ministerials, side events, and of course the General Debate, this year’s high-level week will focus heavily on accelerating COVID-19 recovery efforts and aggressively addressing climate change and its ravaging impact.</p> <p>Notably, world leaders will also come together to address the past year’s racial reckoning in the United States and around the world at a timely meeting, "<a href="https://www.un.org/en/durban-20-anniversary">Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent</a>," recognizing the twentieth anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, and the subsequent signing of the <a href="https://www.un.org/WCAR/durban.pdf">Durban Declaration</a>, which calls on countries to take concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.</p> <p>Having supported and led planning efforts for several UNGA high-level weeks as a U.S. diplomat at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, high-level week has always been one of the most exciting, adrenaline-filled weeks of the year, and it is what makes being part of the diplomatic corps in New York so special.</p> <p>This is a unique opportunity for countries large and small to have their say and shape the outcomes of collective action on the most important challenges we face as global citizens. It is also a crucial opportunity to advance the health, safety, and prosperity of New Yorkers, as hosts, to this significant diplomatic event.</p> <p>New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and International Affairs Commissioner Penny Abeywardena have already set an important tone for the event by <a href="https://twitter.com/globalnyc/status/1438269815685361676/photo/1">requiring vaccination</a> for all those who wish to enter the United Nations halls and providing the resources to make it happen, a necessary and critical step to ensuring this year’s high-level week does not become a super-spreader event.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the focus this week will be on the parade of presidents and prime ministers in New York City to advance their national and international agendas, we should not forget that New Yorkers have a stake in the success of these diplomatic engagements. There are incredible opportunities to deepen New York’s footprint on the world stage and to influence international policy that benefits New York and New Yorkers. In fact, it is high time to elevate the critical role of cities and states in our diplomacy and foreign affairs.</p> <p>New York City, as host of the United Nations and epicenter of world finance and investment, is uniquely situated to become a leader in city diplomacy in this ever-evolving global arena. As New York engages in pandemic recovery efforts in 2021 and beyond, it will be crucial for the next mayoral administration, City Council, and state leadership to consider expanding engagement in international affairs as a means to support local success and take advantage of the many opportunities for New York to reclaim its leadership on the world stage.</p> <p>There are several areas where current and incoming leadership for New York City — the Mayor, Comptroller, City Council, Governor, Attorney General, State Legislature, and others — can meaningfully expand New York’s global footprint in meaningful ways, while also including local communities and centering equity as a primary part of the effort.</p> <p><strong>1. Climate Change</strong><br />Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams <a href="https://twitter.com/ericadamsfornyc/status/1439254572908826625">announced last week a trip to the Netherlands</a> to explore the Dutch experience addressing climate change. This is subnational diplomacy at its best, bringing local leaders and expertise together in one room to share experiences and come up with viable solutions.</p> <p>New York City has a unique lens and experience to present: mitigating climate change while fighting for climate justice, as it has become clear that the communities hardest hit by climate change have been the most marginalized. The devastating impact of Hurricane Ida on New Yorkers was a serious wake-up call to the acceleration of climate change; New York can advance its expertise and response by engaging globally.</p> <p><strong>2. Public Safety and Security</strong><br />Cities can play a critical role in addressing hate and terrorism. The rise in violent white supremacy and anti-government hate, including that which the world witnessed in our nation’s capital on January 6,&nbsp;is a local as much as it is an international phenomenon. Moreover, it is exactly the kind of issue that can be addressed via a city diplomacy approach, working with local police, community leaders, and subnational and international actors to share common approaches and lessons. The <a href="https://strongcitiesnetwork.org/en/">Strong Cities Network</a> can be a useful arena by which to approach.</p> <p><strong>3. Public Health</strong><br />Look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the need for local responses to global health crises and the role that individuals, countries, cities, and states can play in averting global health challenges. From mask wearing to reopening schools to business practices, subnational diplomacy can improve perspectives and practices on public health.&nbsp;</p> <p>Long gone are the days of conventional diplomacy that only existed between the foreign ministries of nations. This is because global issues are local issues, and thus, our diplomacy needs to be more people-centered and influenced by events happening on the ground.&nbsp;From equitable vaccine distribution during a once-in-a-generation pandemic to forging bonds with cities around the world in arrangements like <a href="https://www.c40.org/">C40 Cities</a>, to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, counties, city and state legislators, mayors and governors now sit at the nexus of global and local policy.</p> <p>There is no better example to point to than the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the impact of city diplomacy on everyday lives. Under the Trump Administration’s isolationist policies and its failure to command a federal response, it was up to city and state leaders to step up to the plate, engaging in ways we hadn’t before, including with international actors. I was one of them.</p> <p>As State Committeewoman for the 85th District in the Bronx, I developed a mutual aid group alongside neighbors in the East Bronx and partnered with my local community and elected officials to obtain and distribute PPE, including distributing supplies that were received from abroad. And I was so proud to see our mayor and commissioner for international affairs <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1060582">accept the donation of 250,000 masks from the United Nations</a> to support New York City health workers during the height of the pandemic in March 2020. These efforts had real impact on New Yorkers’ lives — in some cases it meant life or death.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />Leadership in addressing climate change, local development, domestic terrorism, public safety, and food insecurity are as local as they are global and require the expertise of people on the ground, as well as the expert diplomats who convene and help create national and international policies on these issues. Imagine the collective experience, awareness raising, and impact that New York City could have when these forces are combined?</p> <p>Specifically, city and state legislators, mayors, governors, and other local officials can level up their contributions to the global dialogue and play meaningful roles in building partnerships, sharing experiences, and making tangible progress on global issues; and Congress and the State Department can help bring this to fruition by establishing a city and state office for subnational diplomacy, and providing the necessary resources and support for cities to take on global engagement more intentionally.</p> <p>Passing <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-117hr4526ih/pdf/BILLS-117hr4526ih.pdf">”The City and State Diplomacy Act</a>” introduced by U.S. Congressional Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Joe Wilson (D-SC) would create the Office of Subnational Diplomacy. The new office, within the State Department, would be the connective tissue between the State Department and mayors, governors, and local officials across the country to more effectively address issues of global concern by facilitating local expertise.</p> <p>City diplomacy is the X-factor for effective 21st century global engagement today. This is because, at its core, subnational diplomatic actors are closest to the challenges and have the local insights and experiences to help solve them.&nbsp;The fact of the matter is this: city diplomacy is happening – local leaders are engaging with their international counterparts in new and innovative ways. The question is how much the State Department and New York will be intentional in their pursuit to best apply those engagements to promote our values and policy priorities. And New York has a unique opportunity to be at the center of this evolving city diplomacy landscape and be a part of this defining moment in our history. Let’s not squander it.</p> <p>***<br />Emerita Torres is a former U.S. Diplomat (2009-2019), State Committeewoman for the 85th district in the Bronx, and Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/EmeritaTorresNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EmeritaTorresNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15372179626_c23b26d779_c.jpg" alt="Mayor UN" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>The Mayor at the UN (photo: Rob Bennett/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>This week, New York City is welcoming the return of foreign dignitaries, NGOs, and representatives from all over the world for an in-person United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week. It’s the world’s premier global affairs engagement. A combination of ministerials, side events, and of course the General Debate, this year’s high-level week will focus heavily on accelerating COVID-19 recovery efforts and aggressively addressing climate change and its ravaging impact.</p> <p>Notably, world leaders will also come together to address the past year’s racial reckoning in the United States and around the world at a timely meeting, "<a href="https://www.un.org/en/durban-20-anniversary">Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent</a>," recognizing the twentieth anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, and the subsequent signing of the <a href="https://www.un.org/WCAR/durban.pdf">Durban Declaration</a>, which calls on countries to take concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.</p> <p>Having supported and led planning efforts for several UNGA high-level weeks as a U.S. diplomat at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, high-level week has always been one of the most exciting, adrenaline-filled weeks of the year, and it is what makes being part of the diplomatic corps in New York so special.</p> <p>This is a unique opportunity for countries large and small to have their say and shape the outcomes of collective action on the most important challenges we face as global citizens. It is also a crucial opportunity to advance the health, safety, and prosperity of New Yorkers, as hosts, to this significant diplomatic event.</p> <p>New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and International Affairs Commissioner Penny Abeywardena have already set an important tone for the event by <a href="https://twitter.com/globalnyc/status/1438269815685361676/photo/1">requiring vaccination</a> for all those who wish to enter the United Nations halls and providing the resources to make it happen, a necessary and critical step to ensuring this year’s high-level week does not become a super-spreader event.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the focus this week will be on the parade of presidents and prime ministers in New York City to advance their national and international agendas, we should not forget that New Yorkers have a stake in the success of these diplomatic engagements. There are incredible opportunities to deepen New York’s footprint on the world stage and to influence international policy that benefits New York and New Yorkers. In fact, it is high time to elevate the critical role of cities and states in our diplomacy and foreign affairs.</p> <p>New York City, as host of the United Nations and epicenter of world finance and investment, is uniquely situated to become a leader in city diplomacy in this ever-evolving global arena. As New York engages in pandemic recovery efforts in 2021 and beyond, it will be crucial for the next mayoral administration, City Council, and state leadership to consider expanding engagement in international affairs as a means to support local success and take advantage of the many opportunities for New York to reclaim its leadership on the world stage.</p> <p>There are several areas where current and incoming leadership for New York City — the Mayor, Comptroller, City Council, Governor, Attorney General, State Legislature, and others — can meaningfully expand New York’s global footprint in meaningful ways, while also including local communities and centering equity as a primary part of the effort.</p> <p><strong>1. Climate Change</strong><br />Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams <a href="https://twitter.com/ericadamsfornyc/status/1439254572908826625">announced last week a trip to the Netherlands</a> to explore the Dutch experience addressing climate change. This is subnational diplomacy at its best, bringing local leaders and expertise together in one room to share experiences and come up with viable solutions.</p> <p>New York City has a unique lens and experience to present: mitigating climate change while fighting for climate justice, as it has become clear that the communities hardest hit by climate change have been the most marginalized. The devastating impact of Hurricane Ida on New Yorkers was a serious wake-up call to the acceleration of climate change; New York can advance its expertise and response by engaging globally.</p> <p><strong>2. Public Safety and Security</strong><br />Cities can play a critical role in addressing hate and terrorism. The rise in violent white supremacy and anti-government hate, including that which the world witnessed in our nation’s capital on January 6,&nbsp;is a local as much as it is an international phenomenon. Moreover, it is exactly the kind of issue that can be addressed via a city diplomacy approach, working with local police, community leaders, and subnational and international actors to share common approaches and lessons. The <a href="https://strongcitiesnetwork.org/en/">Strong Cities Network</a> can be a useful arena by which to approach.</p> <p><strong>3. Public Health</strong><br />Look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the need for local responses to global health crises and the role that individuals, countries, cities, and states can play in averting global health challenges. From mask wearing to reopening schools to business practices, subnational diplomacy can improve perspectives and practices on public health.&nbsp;</p> <p>Long gone are the days of conventional diplomacy that only existed between the foreign ministries of nations. This is because global issues are local issues, and thus, our diplomacy needs to be more people-centered and influenced by events happening on the ground.&nbsp;From equitable vaccine distribution during a once-in-a-generation pandemic to forging bonds with cities around the world in arrangements like <a href="https://www.c40.org/">C40 Cities</a>, to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, counties, city and state legislators, mayors and governors now sit at the nexus of global and local policy.</p> <p>There is no better example to point to than the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the impact of city diplomacy on everyday lives. Under the Trump Administration’s isolationist policies and its failure to command a federal response, it was up to city and state leaders to step up to the plate, engaging in ways we hadn’t before, including with international actors. I was one of them.</p> <p>As State Committeewoman for the 85th District in the Bronx, I developed a mutual aid group alongside neighbors in the East Bronx and partnered with my local community and elected officials to obtain and distribute PPE, including distributing supplies that were received from abroad. And I was so proud to see our mayor and commissioner for international affairs <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1060582">accept the donation of 250,000 masks from the United Nations</a> to support New York City health workers during the height of the pandemic in March 2020. These efforts had real impact on New Yorkers’ lives — in some cases it meant life or death.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />Leadership in addressing climate change, local development, domestic terrorism, public safety, and food insecurity are as local as they are global and require the expertise of people on the ground, as well as the expert diplomats who convene and help create national and international policies on these issues. Imagine the collective experience, awareness raising, and impact that New York City could have when these forces are combined?</p> <p>Specifically, city and state legislators, mayors, governors, and other local officials can level up their contributions to the global dialogue and play meaningful roles in building partnerships, sharing experiences, and making tangible progress on global issues; and Congress and the State Department can help bring this to fruition by establishing a city and state office for subnational diplomacy, and providing the necessary resources and support for cities to take on global engagement more intentionally.</p> <p>Passing <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-117hr4526ih/pdf/BILLS-117hr4526ih.pdf">”The City and State Diplomacy Act</a>” introduced by U.S. Congressional Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Joe Wilson (D-SC) would create the Office of Subnational Diplomacy. The new office, within the State Department, would be the connective tissue between the State Department and mayors, governors, and local officials across the country to more effectively address issues of global concern by facilitating local expertise.</p> <p>City diplomacy is the X-factor for effective 21st century global engagement today. This is because, at its core, subnational diplomatic actors are closest to the challenges and have the local insights and experiences to help solve them.&nbsp;The fact of the matter is this: city diplomacy is happening – local leaders are engaging with their international counterparts in new and innovative ways. The question is how much the State Department and New York will be intentional in their pursuit to best apply those engagements to promote our values and policy priorities. And New York has a unique opportunity to be at the center of this evolving city diplomacy landscape and be a part of this defining moment in our history. Let’s not squander it.</p> <p>***<br />Emerita Torres is a former U.S. Diplomat (2009-2019), State Committeewoman for the 85th district in the Bronx, and Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/EmeritaTorresNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EmeritaTorresNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Ending New York's Love Affair with Life Sentences 2021-09-20T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10768-end-new-york-love-affair-life-sentences-prison Anthony Dixon aantdixon@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/fishkill-prison.jpg" alt="fishkill prison" width="600" height="323" /></p> <p>Fishkill (photo: ©2021 Google Maps)</p> <hr /> <p>After being in maximum security prisons for approximately 30 years, one day I found myself in a van headed toward a medium security prison called Fishkill Correctional Facility.&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking back then, I remember seeing “Greenhaven,'' the maximum-security prison I was leaving behind and its imposing thirty-foot high fortress walls with guards patrolling the towers. Greenhaven has one of the largest populations of convicted people serving various kinds of sentences. More than half of the approximately 1,500 people there are serving life sentences.</p> <p>In the upstate rural communities, “Lifers,” as they are called, are seen as golden calves for the local economies.</p> <p>It’s part of why one out of every three people in New York state prisons has a life sentence, giving the state the third largest percentage of lifers across the country. Lifers tend to maintain a lock-step comradery as part of the larger prison landscape. Many carry the unpleasant reality, bred of common awareness, that the others “doing time” will inevitably be released and that their ability to reach that same moment may never be forthcoming.</p> <p>This contextualization may help you understand the intrinsic familial bond that most Lifers seem to share. It may also help to explain why tears suddenly began to flow, and an overwhelming sense of sadness overcame me, after I turned around and saw Greenhaven’s 30-foot wall. It unexpectedly dawned on me that I was leaving behind family, individuals with whom I had shared harsh and at times precious memories over the course of many years.</p> <p>This may also help to explain why then-Governor Andrew Cuomo's act of granting clemency to Paul Clark and five other Lifers whom I left behind at Greenhaven affected me so dearly. I took a long exhale as I learned the news. Paul's release, for one, made me recall the fateful day I looked back at the Greenhaven walls. That grim reminder made me aware that there were many more “Pauls” that I had left behind, who have worked to help others and have experienced an inner transformation that is worthy of a chance to be reunited with their family.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his final week in office, with no political capital to lose, Governor Cuomo finally decided to grant executive clemency to six individuals convicted of violent crimes. These individuals had been incarcerated between 30 to 50 years, and were just languishing in harsh prison conditions. Well established data concluded that these men belonged to a vast pool of individuals who have the lowest recidivism rate. The travesty of this gift, however, was that there was not a single woman, countless of whom have undergone the very same transformations, included amongst those granted clemency.&nbsp;</p> <p>Executive clemencies were never intended to be the only path to freedom for people who have changed or the sole mechanism in place&nbsp; that recognizes a bad act is not determinative of the trajectory of a human life. Nor is it apt to address the plight that concerns one group in particular that has significantly increased as the older overall prison population has declined: an elderly prison population with life sentences. There are two pieces of legislation before New York state lawmakers that would bring a lot more justice, hope, and humany to New York.</p> <p>The first being the Elder Parole (S.15A/A.3475A) bill. This Act would vest the Parole Board with the authority to recall elderly people 55 or older who have served 15 or more years in prison for a parole interview, on a case-by-case basis. The second bill, the Fair and Timely Act (S.1415A/A.4231A), would focus the Parole Board’s attention on who a person is today, and not solely the worst thing they ever did.</p> <p>After half a century of cultural punishment that produced excessive sentences, deficiencies in medical parole and executive clemencies, and the shrinkage in Parole Board releases, it’s time for New York lawmakers to pass these two bills immediately.</p> <p>***<br />Anthony Dixon is Director of Community Engagement at the Parole Preparation Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/paroleprepny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ParolePrepNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/fishkill-prison.jpg" alt="fishkill prison" width="600" height="323" /></p> <p>Fishkill (photo: ©2021 Google Maps)</p> <hr /> <p>After being in maximum security prisons for approximately 30 years, one day I found myself in a van headed toward a medium security prison called Fishkill Correctional Facility.&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking back then, I remember seeing “Greenhaven,'' the maximum-security prison I was leaving behind and its imposing thirty-foot high fortress walls with guards patrolling the towers. Greenhaven has one of the largest populations of convicted people serving various kinds of sentences. More than half of the approximately 1,500 people there are serving life sentences.</p> <p>In the upstate rural communities, “Lifers,” as they are called, are seen as golden calves for the local economies.</p> <p>It’s part of why one out of every three people in New York state prisons has a life sentence, giving the state the third largest percentage of lifers across the country. Lifers tend to maintain a lock-step comradery as part of the larger prison landscape. Many carry the unpleasant reality, bred of common awareness, that the others “doing time” will inevitably be released and that their ability to reach that same moment may never be forthcoming.</p> <p>This contextualization may help you understand the intrinsic familial bond that most Lifers seem to share. It may also help to explain why tears suddenly began to flow, and an overwhelming sense of sadness overcame me, after I turned around and saw Greenhaven’s 30-foot wall. It unexpectedly dawned on me that I was leaving behind family, individuals with whom I had shared harsh and at times precious memories over the course of many years.</p> <p>This may also help to explain why then-Governor Andrew Cuomo's act of granting clemency to Paul Clark and five other Lifers whom I left behind at Greenhaven affected me so dearly. I took a long exhale as I learned the news. Paul's release, for one, made me recall the fateful day I looked back at the Greenhaven walls. That grim reminder made me aware that there were many more “Pauls” that I had left behind, who have worked to help others and have experienced an inner transformation that is worthy of a chance to be reunited with their family.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his final week in office, with no political capital to lose, Governor Cuomo finally decided to grant executive clemency to six individuals convicted of violent crimes. These individuals had been incarcerated between 30 to 50 years, and were just languishing in harsh prison conditions. Well established data concluded that these men belonged to a vast pool of individuals who have the lowest recidivism rate. The travesty of this gift, however, was that there was not a single woman, countless of whom have undergone the very same transformations, included amongst those granted clemency.&nbsp;</p> <p>Executive clemencies were never intended to be the only path to freedom for people who have changed or the sole mechanism in place&nbsp; that recognizes a bad act is not determinative of the trajectory of a human life. Nor is it apt to address the plight that concerns one group in particular that has significantly increased as the older overall prison population has declined: an elderly prison population with life sentences. There are two pieces of legislation before New York state lawmakers that would bring a lot more justice, hope, and humany to New York.</p> <p>The first being the Elder Parole (S.15A/A.3475A) bill. This Act would vest the Parole Board with the authority to recall elderly people 55 or older who have served 15 or more years in prison for a parole interview, on a case-by-case basis. The second bill, the Fair and Timely Act (S.1415A/A.4231A), would focus the Parole Board’s attention on who a person is today, and not solely the worst thing they ever did.</p> <p>After half a century of cultural punishment that produced excessive sentences, deficiencies in medical parole and executive clemencies, and the shrinkage in Parole Board releases, it’s time for New York lawmakers to pass these two bills immediately.</p> <p>***<br />Anthony Dixon is Director of Community Engagement at the Parole Preparation Project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/paroleprepny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ParolePrepNY</a>.</p> <p>

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For Students to Recover and Thrive, New York Should Ensure Free School Meals Statewide 2021-09-20T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10779-students-new-york-free-school-meals-statewide Liz Accles & Julia McCarthy mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/school-food-serv.jpg" alt="school food serv" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>School food (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As students have returned to the classrooms, back-to-school jitters are likely to be at an all-time high. Anxiety about everything from vaccination status to social status may be keeping kids and parents up at night, but covering the cost of school meals should not be a cause for concern.</p> <p>This school year, the Biden administration has temporarily made all school meals free of charge, a change that advocates are pushing to make permanent. Federal legislation would enable public schools to provide every student with the tools they need to learn: not just teachers and textbooks, but also salads and sandwiches. Learning on an empty stomach is hard, but universal free meals could help fix that problem, making it easier for students to learn and thrive.</p> <p>Permanently providing free school breakfast and lunch for all is fundamental to the promise of educational opportunity across the United States. Students from food-insecure families are less likely to succeed in school, but research shows that free meals improve <a href="https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305743" target="_blank" rel="noopener">academic performance and mental</a> wellbeing. Universal meals can also improve health. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064655/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Students who eat school meals every day have better diets</a> than students who do not—they consume more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains, which in turn reduces their risk of diet-related diseases. Health care costs can drop, as can the costs schools pay per meal, because when stigma around school lunch decreases, participation increases.</p> <p>Recognizing the benefits of universal meals, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/07/20/1018267303/california-free-lunch-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener">California</a> and <a href="https://www.pressherald.com/2021/07/11/maine-among-first-states-to-make-school-meals-free-for-all-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Maine</a> recently passed legislation that makes school meals free for all students. If the federal government doesn’t make the current free school meal policy a permanent one, New York legislators should consider passing a policy like California’s or Maine’s.</p> <p>In a state with such high living costs, many families struggle to cover the cost of school meals and <a href="https://nyshealthfoundation.org/resource/one-year-later-food-scarcity-in-new-york-state-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">food insecurity rates remain sky high</a>. In practice, sympathetic school food staff often serve hungry kids food regardless of their ability to pay, which results in many families acquiring meal debt.</p> <p>In August, state legislators took a step to address this issue, passing legislation that shields families from litigation for unpaid school meal fees. This new law keeps the matter of school lunches out of the courtroom, but it still permits schools to chase down parents for payment. It is time for a solution that in one fell swoop eliminates all these problems—school meals free for all students. That is the only way to spare students the shame of meal debt and schools the time spent pursuing the debt in the first place.</p> <p>We’ve seen the very real benefits of accessible school meals in New York City, where we <a href="https://nyshealthfoundation.org/resource/bringing-free-lunch-to-all-of-new-york-citys-school-children/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">secured free breakfast and lunch for all public school students</a>, regardless of income. This local policy change ensured that all students—including those who are homeless, in foster care, or have recently immigrated—do not fall through the cracks. Test scores in both <a href="https://surface.syr.edu/cpr/235/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">English and math have risen</a> and stigma has decreased. Research released in June shows that all students, regardless of income, <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai21-430.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported a reduction in bullying and fighting</a> and an overall better environment after New York City schools started serving meals free of charge.</p> <p>All students across New York State deserve the benefits that universal school meals provide. With large school districts like New York City, Rochester, Yonkers, and Albany already providing universal meals, the state is well on its way to making free meals available to all.</p> <p>The longer-term economic crisis stemming from COVID-19 will likely leave millions teetering on the brink of food insecurity for years to come. As students head back to school, lawmakers should think ahead. There should be no shame in needing food to fuel learning. The real shame would be missing the opportunity that covid has provided: to rethink school meals and make it easier for schools to serve students the meals they need to thrive.</p> <p>***<br />Liz Accles is Executive Director of Community Food Advocates and successfully led a coalition to secure universal free meals for all 1.1 million New York City public school students. Julia McCarthy is Senior Program Officer at New York State Health Foundation, where she is on the Healthy Food, Healthy Lives team, and is former Deputy Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education &amp; Policy.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/school-food-serv.jpg" alt="school food serv" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>School food (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As students have returned to the classrooms, back-to-school jitters are likely to be at an all-time high. Anxiety about everything from vaccination status to social status may be keeping kids and parents up at night, but covering the cost of school meals should not be a cause for concern.</p> <p>This school year, the Biden administration has temporarily made all school meals free of charge, a change that advocates are pushing to make permanent. Federal legislation would enable public schools to provide every student with the tools they need to learn: not just teachers and textbooks, but also salads and sandwiches. Learning on an empty stomach is hard, but universal free meals could help fix that problem, making it easier for students to learn and thrive.</p> <p>Permanently providing free school breakfast and lunch for all is fundamental to the promise of educational opportunity across the United States. Students from food-insecure families are less likely to succeed in school, but research shows that free meals improve <a href="https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305743" target="_blank" rel="noopener">academic performance and mental</a> wellbeing. Universal meals can also improve health. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064655/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Students who eat school meals every day have better diets</a> than students who do not—they consume more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains, which in turn reduces their risk of diet-related diseases. Health care costs can drop, as can the costs schools pay per meal, because when stigma around school lunch decreases, participation increases.</p> <p>Recognizing the benefits of universal meals, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2021/07/20/1018267303/california-free-lunch-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener">California</a> and <a href="https://www.pressherald.com/2021/07/11/maine-among-first-states-to-make-school-meals-free-for-all-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Maine</a> recently passed legislation that makes school meals free for all students. If the federal government doesn’t make the current free school meal policy a permanent one, New York legislators should consider passing a policy like California’s or Maine’s.</p> <p>In a state with such high living costs, many families struggle to cover the cost of school meals and <a href="https://nyshealthfoundation.org/resource/one-year-later-food-scarcity-in-new-york-state-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">food insecurity rates remain sky high</a>. In practice, sympathetic school food staff often serve hungry kids food regardless of their ability to pay, which results in many families acquiring meal debt.</p> <p>In August, state legislators took a step to address this issue, passing legislation that shields families from litigation for unpaid school meal fees. This new law keeps the matter of school lunches out of the courtroom, but it still permits schools to chase down parents for payment. It is time for a solution that in one fell swoop eliminates all these problems—school meals free for all students. That is the only way to spare students the shame of meal debt and schools the time spent pursuing the debt in the first place.</p> <p>We’ve seen the very real benefits of accessible school meals in New York City, where we <a href="https://nyshealthfoundation.org/resource/bringing-free-lunch-to-all-of-new-york-citys-school-children/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">secured free breakfast and lunch for all public school students</a>, regardless of income. This local policy change ensured that all students—including those who are homeless, in foster care, or have recently immigrated—do not fall through the cracks. Test scores in both <a href="https://surface.syr.edu/cpr/235/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">English and math have risen</a> and stigma has decreased. Research released in June shows that all students, regardless of income, <a href="https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai21-430.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported a reduction in bullying and fighting</a> and an overall better environment after New York City schools started serving meals free of charge.</p> <p>All students across New York State deserve the benefits that universal school meals provide. With large school districts like New York City, Rochester, Yonkers, and Albany already providing universal meals, the state is well on its way to making free meals available to all.</p> <p>The longer-term economic crisis stemming from COVID-19 will likely leave millions teetering on the brink of food insecurity for years to come. As students head back to school, lawmakers should think ahead. There should be no shame in needing food to fuel learning. The real shame would be missing the opportunity that covid has provided: to rethink school meals and make it easier for schools to serve students the meals they need to thrive.</p> <p>***<br />Liz Accles is Executive Director of Community Food Advocates and successfully led a coalition to secure universal free meals for all 1.1 million New York City public school students. Julia McCarthy is Senior Program Officer at New York State Health Foundation, where she is on the Healthy Food, Healthy Lives team, and is former Deputy Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education &amp; Policy.</p> <p>

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Eight Ideas to Drive New York’s Economic Recovery Now 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10770-ideas-drive-new-york-city-economic-recovery Jonathan Bowles & Winston Fisher mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/dep-vic-hpd.jpg" alt="dep vic hpd" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ribbon-cutting and more ahead (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It'd be foolish to bet against New York City, but a full and robust comeback from the COVID-19 crisis is not guaranteed without bold action. It’s increasingly clear that the city’s recovery isn’t like any other. Companies are delaying return to work plans, the 10.2% unemployment rate is among the highest of any major city in the country, and the rates of joblessness among New Yorkers of color and young adults are particularly alarming.&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, no other city is coping with as many structural economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. The rise of remote work and the slow recovery of tourism to the ongoing disruption in retail and the severe blow dealt to the arts disproportionately threaten essential parts of New York’s economy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putting New York on course for a lasting and equitable recovery will not only require bold action, but also solutions that are new, innovative, and creative. Fortunately, the massive turnover in city government taking place in less than four months—as well as new leadership in Albany—presents an incredible opportunity to take critical steps toward recovery. We’ve already seen many primary election winners proposing big new ideas for building a stronger and fairer city.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Center for an Urban Future recently published a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10675-anti-poverty-equity-agenda-next-nyc-mayor" target="_blank">blueprint for an equitable recovery</a> that features concrete policy ideas from a diverse mix of 175 engaged New Yorkers. Some of the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10675-anti-poverty-equity-agenda-next-nyc-mayor" target="_blank">nearly 250 ideas</a> we received would help create jobs right now or support the New Yorkers hardest hit by the pandemic, while others would lay the foundation for a stronger and more inclusive economy over the long run.&nbsp;</p> <p>While each idea is worthy of consideration, we think the following eight warrant swift action from current and soon-to-be elected city leaders.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>1. Pair tech-savvy CUNY students with small businesses that need help adopting technology (S. David Wu, President, Baruch College)<br /></strong>Many small businesses are still hanging on by a thread and need urgent help modernizing their operations with e-commerce, digital marketing, and better financial planning. The city can help make them more competitive in the long-run by creating a matching service that pairs businesses with talented, digitally-savvy CUNY students who are rooted in the communities facing the greatest ongoing needs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2. Make NYC a global capital of public health (Seth Pinsky, CEO, 92nd Street Y)<br /></strong>As a result of the pandemic, millions of dollars in new public and private investment are poised to flow into the public health sector, resulting in thousands of new, well-paying jobs. This means investing in hospitals and the healthcare system and finally making good on the promise of New York becoming a leading hub in commercial bioscience. And unlike many other parts of the city’s economy, most of these jobs can’t easily be done remotely.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3. Spur the return to offices by supporting public programming that reinvigorates business districts (Larisa Ortiz, Managing Director, Streetsense)</strong><br />To lure office workers back, the city should support new public amenities and programming in these districts—including new options that aren’t found in most residential neighborhoods. For example, New York should take a page from Vancouver, which has turned alleys into brightly painted spaces with basketball courts and foosball tables, and Montreal, which created interactive, musical swing sets.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Spur economic development in underserved communities by making long-overdue public realm improvements (Purnima Kapur, Chief of University Planning and Design, Harvard University)<br /></strong>Economic development officials can spark economic investment, small business growth, and job creation in low-income communities across the five boroughs by making public realm investments like upgrading sidewalks, creating new pocket parks, and improving lighting. Streetscape improvements like these often serve as catalysts for economic development, but too many of the city’s hard-hit neighborhoods have historically been left out of these local place-making projects.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>5. Break the logjam around housing development in NYC with a grand bargain around housing and jobs (Rafael Cestero, President, Community Preservation Corp)</strong><br />The pandemic has only amplified the need for more affordable housing. It’s time to forge a grand bargain by creating a citywide structure that eliminates the power of individual groups or local representatives to scuttle projects because of micro-issues, reallocates housing vouchers to create deeply affordable housing at a mass scale in the communities that need it most, and mandates local hiring on all major projects involving city land or capital.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>6. Provide new income supports for NYC’s fast-growing (but low-wage) direct care workforce (Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, PHI)</strong><br />The industry already employs more than 320,000 New Yorkers, and the aging city population makes it near certain that the number of jobs will grow significantly in the decade ahead. But the sector also pays among the lowest wages of any industry. The city should establish a Home Care Jobs Innovation Fund, providing workers with transportation funds, scholarship programs, and retention bonuses, while also making new investments in career training for direct care workers to improve their job quality and economic prospects.</p> <p><strong>7. Create an NYC Climate Corps (Tonya Gayle, Executive Director, Green City Force)<br /></strong>Teens and young adults across the city have been far more likely to lose work during the pandemic than other New Yorkers. The city can help thousands of these young adults get on track by leveraging federal infrastructure funds to create an NYC Climate Corps, which would also crucially help the city prepare for the impacts of climate change.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>8. Invest in quality childcare for New Yorkers in workforce training programs (Plinio Ayala, President and CEO, Per Scholas)<br /></strong>With 400,000 New Yorkers unemployed and many industries facing a slow road to recovery, the city should help out-of-work New Yorkers acquire new skills so they can transition into industries that are growing. But this will require addressing a barrier that has long prevented many low-income New Yorkers from enrolling in workforce training programs: a lack of affordable childcare.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next mayor and new leaders across city government will need a lot of good ideas in the year ahead to ensure that the city’s nascent recovery takes hold and accelerates. To build a stronger and more equitable economy over the long run, city leaders should tap into the ingenuity and experience of our fellow New Yorkers who understand how to best support the city’s diverse communities and economy.</p> <p>***<br />Jonathan Bowles is the Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future. Winston Fisher is a Partner at&nbsp;Fisher Brothers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/jbowlesnyc">@jbowlesnyc</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/nycfuture">@nycfuture</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/Winston_Fisher1">@Winston_Fisher1</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/dep-vic-hpd.jpg" alt="dep vic hpd" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ribbon-cutting and more ahead (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>It'd be foolish to bet against New York City, but a full and robust comeback from the COVID-19 crisis is not guaranteed without bold action. It’s increasingly clear that the city’s recovery isn’t like any other. Companies are delaying return to work plans, the 10.2% unemployment rate is among the highest of any major city in the country, and the rates of joblessness among New Yorkers of color and young adults are particularly alarming.&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, no other city is coping with as many structural economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. The rise of remote work and the slow recovery of tourism to the ongoing disruption in retail and the severe blow dealt to the arts disproportionately threaten essential parts of New York’s economy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putting New York on course for a lasting and equitable recovery will not only require bold action, but also solutions that are new, innovative, and creative. Fortunately, the massive turnover in city government taking place in less than four months—as well as new leadership in Albany—presents an incredible opportunity to take critical steps toward recovery. We’ve already seen many primary election winners proposing big new ideas for building a stronger and fairer city.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Center for an Urban Future recently published a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10675-anti-poverty-equity-agenda-next-nyc-mayor" target="_blank">blueprint for an equitable recovery</a> that features concrete policy ideas from a diverse mix of 175 engaged New Yorkers. Some of the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10675-anti-poverty-equity-agenda-next-nyc-mayor" target="_blank">nearly 250 ideas</a> we received would help create jobs right now or support the New Yorkers hardest hit by the pandemic, while others would lay the foundation for a stronger and more inclusive economy over the long run.&nbsp;</p> <p>While each idea is worthy of consideration, we think the following eight warrant swift action from current and soon-to-be elected city leaders.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>1. Pair tech-savvy CUNY students with small businesses that need help adopting technology (S. David Wu, President, Baruch College)<br /></strong>Many small businesses are still hanging on by a thread and need urgent help modernizing their operations with e-commerce, digital marketing, and better financial planning. The city can help make them more competitive in the long-run by creating a matching service that pairs businesses with talented, digitally-savvy CUNY students who are rooted in the communities facing the greatest ongoing needs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2. Make NYC a global capital of public health (Seth Pinsky, CEO, 92nd Street Y)<br /></strong>As a result of the pandemic, millions of dollars in new public and private investment are poised to flow into the public health sector, resulting in thousands of new, well-paying jobs. This means investing in hospitals and the healthcare system and finally making good on the promise of New York becoming a leading hub in commercial bioscience. And unlike many other parts of the city’s economy, most of these jobs can’t easily be done remotely.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3. Spur the return to offices by supporting public programming that reinvigorates business districts (Larisa Ortiz, Managing Director, Streetsense)</strong><br />To lure office workers back, the city should support new public amenities and programming in these districts—including new options that aren’t found in most residential neighborhoods. For example, New York should take a page from Vancouver, which has turned alleys into brightly painted spaces with basketball courts and foosball tables, and Montreal, which created interactive, musical swing sets.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Spur economic development in underserved communities by making long-overdue public realm improvements (Purnima Kapur, Chief of University Planning and Design, Harvard University)<br /></strong>Economic development officials can spark economic investment, small business growth, and job creation in low-income communities across the five boroughs by making public realm investments like upgrading sidewalks, creating new pocket parks, and improving lighting. Streetscape improvements like these often serve as catalysts for economic development, but too many of the city’s hard-hit neighborhoods have historically been left out of these local place-making projects.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>5. Break the logjam around housing development in NYC with a grand bargain around housing and jobs (Rafael Cestero, President, Community Preservation Corp)</strong><br />The pandemic has only amplified the need for more affordable housing. It’s time to forge a grand bargain by creating a citywide structure that eliminates the power of individual groups or local representatives to scuttle projects because of micro-issues, reallocates housing vouchers to create deeply affordable housing at a mass scale in the communities that need it most, and mandates local hiring on all major projects involving city land or capital.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>6. Provide new income supports for NYC’s fast-growing (but low-wage) direct care workforce (Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, PHI)</strong><br />The industry already employs more than 320,000 New Yorkers, and the aging city population makes it near certain that the number of jobs will grow significantly in the decade ahead. But the sector also pays among the lowest wages of any industry. The city should establish a Home Care Jobs Innovation Fund, providing workers with transportation funds, scholarship programs, and retention bonuses, while also making new investments in career training for direct care workers to improve their job quality and economic prospects.</p> <p><strong>7. Create an NYC Climate Corps (Tonya Gayle, Executive Director, Green City Force)<br /></strong>Teens and young adults across the city have been far more likely to lose work during the pandemic than other New Yorkers. The city can help thousands of these young adults get on track by leveraging federal infrastructure funds to create an NYC Climate Corps, which would also crucially help the city prepare for the impacts of climate change.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>8. Invest in quality childcare for New Yorkers in workforce training programs (Plinio Ayala, President and CEO, Per Scholas)<br /></strong>With 400,000 New Yorkers unemployed and many industries facing a slow road to recovery, the city should help out-of-work New Yorkers acquire new skills so they can transition into industries that are growing. But this will require addressing a barrier that has long prevented many low-income New Yorkers from enrolling in workforce training programs: a lack of affordable childcare.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next mayor and new leaders across city government will need a lot of good ideas in the year ahead to ensure that the city’s nascent recovery takes hold and accelerates. To build a stronger and more equitable economy over the long run, city leaders should tap into the ingenuity and experience of our fellow New Yorkers who understand how to best support the city’s diverse communities and economy.</p> <p>***<br />Jonathan Bowles is the Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future. Winston Fisher is a Partner at&nbsp;Fisher Brothers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/jbowlesnyc">@jbowlesnyc</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/nycfuture">@nycfuture</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/Winston_Fisher1">@Winston_Fisher1</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
Letter to the Editor: More Lawsuits Won’t Help Workers or New York 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10775-letter-editor-lawsuits-wont-help-workers-new-york Tom Stebbins tsebbins@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/announces-start-construct.jpg" alt="announces start construct" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>New York workers (photo: Governor Cuomo's office)</p> <hr /> <p>To The Editor:</p> <p>It is no surprise that the trial lawyers’ chief lobbyist and a labor advocate who curiously finds time to push the plaintiff bar’s agenda view litigation as the best way to promote worker safety (“<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/10751-labor-day-celebrate-workers-ensuring-safety" target="_blank">This Labor Day, Celebrate Workers by Ensuring Their Safety</a>,” by Halina Radchenko &amp; Charlene Obernauer).</p> <p>It’s not.</p> <p>Over the past century, increased regulations and advancements in workplace safety have saved lives and livelihoods across industries in the United States. Unfortunately, New York’s civil justice system has not caught up. Instead of ensuring that enforcement is left in the hands of accountable public agencies, the Empire State’s regulatory environment often seeks to enforce worker protections through lawsuits, saddling businesses with massive legal costs and enriching trial attorneys without truly increasing safety for workers.</p> <p>The NY HERO Act, passed earlier this year, is one such example of a misguided attempt to litigate worker safety. In addition to workplace regulations, the law creates a private right of action for exposure to infectious diseases. This means that employers can be sued for alleged COVID-19 exposure after the fact. This hindsight litigation will not make any workers safer, but could instead lead to lawyers shaking down businesses for payouts.</p> <p>Worker safety should not be about trial lawyer profits. We need regulators, who serve the public interest, to regulate. Deputizing trial lawyers looking to boost their bottom lines will lead to profit-seeking litigation, rather than improving worker safety.</p> <p>Radchenko and Obernauer also tout New York’s unique Scaffold Law as an example of the state’s support for workers. This outdated statute has long-plagued construction projects in the state by imposing absolute liability on property owners and contractors for height-related worksite injuries, driving up costs for liability insurance and discouraging investment in infrastructure and development. Despite drastic improvements in safety measures on construction sites, this century-old law continues to punish employers, even if a plaintiff is 99% at fault. Most alarmingly, the law has been shown to do nothing to keep workers safe – a <a href="https://trid.trb.org/view/1337991" target="_blank" rel="noopener">study peer reviewed by the Transportation Research Board</a> found that the Scaffold Law may actually increase construction accidents.</p> <p>For plaintiffs attorneys, civil litigation is an extractive industry. The abundance of advertisements for personal injury attorneys in media, on billboards, and at bus stops across the state, particularly in low-income communities, is further evidence that the plaintiffs’ bar uses New York’s civil litigation system to grow rich off the backs of the economically disadvantaged. And with the latest digital ad technology <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/25/613127311/digital-ambulance-chasers-law-firms-send-ads-to-patients-phones-inside-ers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">their advertisements are targeted</a> at construction sites, intersections, and healthcare facilities. A study published in the <a href="https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1101&amp;context=vlr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vanderbilt Law Review found</a> that “places with many claims per capita...tend to be places with low per capita income.” The same study also finds that attorneys’ fees almost always amount to the maximum allowed by law.</p> <p>Another bill, awaiting the Governor’s veto or signature, would force companies from other states or countries that do business in New York to accept the general jurisdiction of the state’s courts. This would not, as Radchenko and Obernauer suggest, “strengthen the civil justice system” – on the contrary, if signed into law this bill would promote venue shopping and abusive litigation by enticing out of state attorneys to take advantage of New York’s plaintiff-friendly legal environment. The bill also likely runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent; in 2014, Justice Ginsburg delivered the majority opinion in Daimler v. Bauman, which ruled that general jurisdiction can only be applied in an entity’s home country or state.&nbsp;</p> <p>Honoring and protecting our essential workers is critical, but in doing so we must be careful not to recklessly promote excessive litigation. Lawsuits have a place in our legal system, but using them to retroactively sue for COVID-19 exposure is at best misguided, and at worst a giveaway to the plaintiffs’ bar, overburdening our courts and harming the businesses that drive our economy.</p> <p>Sincerely,<br />Tom Stebbins<br />Executive Director at the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York<br />On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/LawsuitReformNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LawsuitReformNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/announces-start-construct.jpg" alt="announces start construct" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>New York workers (photo: Governor Cuomo's office)</p> <hr /> <p>To The Editor:</p> <p>It is no surprise that the trial lawyers’ chief lobbyist and a labor advocate who curiously finds time to push the plaintiff bar’s agenda view litigation as the best way to promote worker safety (“<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/10751-labor-day-celebrate-workers-ensuring-safety" target="_blank">This Labor Day, Celebrate Workers by Ensuring Their Safety</a>,” by Halina Radchenko &amp; Charlene Obernauer).</p> <p>It’s not.</p> <p>Over the past century, increased regulations and advancements in workplace safety have saved lives and livelihoods across industries in the United States. Unfortunately, New York’s civil justice system has not caught up. Instead of ensuring that enforcement is left in the hands of accountable public agencies, the Empire State’s regulatory environment often seeks to enforce worker protections through lawsuits, saddling businesses with massive legal costs and enriching trial attorneys without truly increasing safety for workers.</p> <p>The NY HERO Act, passed earlier this year, is one such example of a misguided attempt to litigate worker safety. In addition to workplace regulations, the law creates a private right of action for exposure to infectious diseases. This means that employers can be sued for alleged COVID-19 exposure after the fact. This hindsight litigation will not make any workers safer, but could instead lead to lawyers shaking down businesses for payouts.</p> <p>Worker safety should not be about trial lawyer profits. We need regulators, who serve the public interest, to regulate. Deputizing trial lawyers looking to boost their bottom lines will lead to profit-seeking litigation, rather than improving worker safety.</p> <p>Radchenko and Obernauer also tout New York’s unique Scaffold Law as an example of the state’s support for workers. This outdated statute has long-plagued construction projects in the state by imposing absolute liability on property owners and contractors for height-related worksite injuries, driving up costs for liability insurance and discouraging investment in infrastructure and development. Despite drastic improvements in safety measures on construction sites, this century-old law continues to punish employers, even if a plaintiff is 99% at fault. Most alarmingly, the law has been shown to do nothing to keep workers safe – a <a href="https://trid.trb.org/view/1337991" target="_blank" rel="noopener">study peer reviewed by the Transportation Research Board</a> found that the Scaffold Law may actually increase construction accidents.</p> <p>For plaintiffs attorneys, civil litigation is an extractive industry. The abundance of advertisements for personal injury attorneys in media, on billboards, and at bus stops across the state, particularly in low-income communities, is further evidence that the plaintiffs’ bar uses New York’s civil litigation system to grow rich off the backs of the economically disadvantaged. And with the latest digital ad technology <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/25/613127311/digital-ambulance-chasers-law-firms-send-ads-to-patients-phones-inside-ers" target="_blank" rel="noopener">their advertisements are targeted</a> at construction sites, intersections, and healthcare facilities. A study published in the <a href="https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1101&amp;context=vlr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vanderbilt Law Review found</a> that “places with many claims per capita...tend to be places with low per capita income.” The same study also finds that attorneys’ fees almost always amount to the maximum allowed by law.</p> <p>Another bill, awaiting the Governor’s veto or signature, would force companies from other states or countries that do business in New York to accept the general jurisdiction of the state’s courts. This would not, as Radchenko and Obernauer suggest, “strengthen the civil justice system” – on the contrary, if signed into law this bill would promote venue shopping and abusive litigation by enticing out of state attorneys to take advantage of New York’s plaintiff-friendly legal environment. The bill also likely runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent; in 2014, Justice Ginsburg delivered the majority opinion in Daimler v. Bauman, which ruled that general jurisdiction can only be applied in an entity’s home country or state.&nbsp;</p> <p>Honoring and protecting our essential workers is critical, but in doing so we must be careful not to recklessly promote excessive litigation. Lawsuits have a place in our legal system, but using them to retroactively sue for COVID-19 exposure is at best misguided, and at worst a giveaway to the plaintiffs’ bar, overburdening our courts and harming the businesses that drive our economy.</p> <p>Sincerely,<br />Tom Stebbins<br />Executive Director at the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York<br />On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/LawsuitReformNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LawsuitReformNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Ending the Crisis on Rikers Island 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10778-ending-crisis-rikers-island-jails Andrew Gounardes agounardes@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/ang-comm-tour.jpg" alt="ang comm tour" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding right before our very eyes on Rikers Island. The conditions that incarcerated individuals and staff are subjected to at the city’s jail complex — conditions that have been reported and documented by news accounts and the personal observations of many of my colleagues in government — are on par with, perhaps even worse than, what we expect to read about in countries without a commitment to human rights.</p> <p>As my colleague Assembly Member Emily Gallagher recently witnessed, “there's garbage everywhere, rotting food with maggots, cockroaches, worms in the showers, human feces and piss. Most of the toilets are broken so men are given plastic bags to relieve themselves in…Because of the lack of security, everyone's scared they're going to be injured or killed. Most people have fashioned some kind of homemade weapon to defend themselves.”</p> <p>So far this year, ten incarcerated individuals have been killed, including four by suicide.&nbsp;</p> <p>Exacerbating this crisis is the toll the pandemic has taken on the personnel who work at Rikers Island. To date, more than 2,200 corrections officers have been affected by the coronavirus, resulting in a massive staffing shortage that has continued to spiral, forcing officers to work double, triple, and in some cases, even quadruple shifts without any relief. Many officers resort to sleeping in their cars between shifts, not wanting to drive home for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. Absenteeism is also on the rise, with an estimated 2,000 officers calling in sick on a daily basis. In some cases, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-board-of-correction-suicides-20210901-yfj4tzgonzebnecwtitdwinc3e-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prison units have even gone 24 hours without guards</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to the consequences for the workers, the majority of whom are people of color, these conditions inhibit our officers’ ability to conduct important services, such as protecting incarcerated individuals from assault and taking them to their court appearances. As the crisis continues to worsen, officers are less and less able to fully perform their jobs safely. The family of deceased inmate Robert Jackson believes that his death was caused, in part, by the fact that a guard in his 20th consecutive hour of work stepped away from his post. This was an utter tragedy that could have been prevented.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the reality currently playing out inside Rikers. Incarcerated individuals and personnel fear for their lives and have been left to fend for themselves by the Mayor and Department of Correction. As one officer I spoke with told me, "Inmate, officer, at this point we’re all on the same side. We all just want to get the hell out of here. People don’t see us so we don’t exist.”</p> <p>Just this week Mayor de Blasio announced a widely panned five-part plan to address the staffing crisis plaguing the jail facility, but did so without even talking to the union and staff who work there currently about what they need to do their job safely and humanely. Notably, the mayor did not commit to ending triple and quadruple shifts for officers, and instead, the heart of the plan is to punish public workers who call out sick. Placing the blame solely on officers, who did not start this fire, is a poor excuse for a solution.</p> <p>This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for New York City. We need a comprehensive solution that will take into account the full scope of the atrocities that are happening to workers and incarcerated individuals on Rikers.</p> <p>There needs to be a substantive dialogue between the Department of Correction and the correction officers union to address ongoing safety and staffing concerns. In addition to that substantive dialogue, there are two key pieces of legislation that could help abate this crisis.</p> <p>The “Less is More” bill helps facilitate the release of people currently incarcerated on Rikers merely for technical, and not criminal, parole violations by putting them in front of a judge to determine whether they should continue to be in jail, thereby lessening the burden on the rest of the overburdened system. It currently awaits Governor Hochul’s signature.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, Senator Jessica Ramos has proposed legislation, S6688, that would cap the number of consecutive hours any city employee can work at 17. Frankly, even that number may be too high, but it’s better than 25. I urge all of my colleagues who care about what is happening at Rikers, and care about all workers, to co-sponsor this important bill.</p> <p>The truth is this: if these workplace conditions existed in any other workplace, and for any other workers, we’d all be out in the streets protesting in outrage. If it’s not OK to work sweatshop hours as an Amazon warehouse employee, why is it OK to work multiple 25-plus-hour days in a week if you are a public servant of color with a uniform and a badge?</p> <p>It’s time for us to solve this crisis. It’s to engage with everyone with the common purpose to save the lives of everyone on Rikers Island. It’s time for the City of New York to make a clear and unequivocal statement that these public servants and incarcerated individuals should not be subjected to work or live in inhumane and brutal conditions.</p> <p>***<br />State Senator Andrew Gounardes represents parts of Brooklyn and chairs the Senate’s civil service and pension committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Sen_Gounardes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Sen_Gounardes</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/ang-comm-tour.jpg" alt="ang comm tour" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding right before our very eyes on Rikers Island. The conditions that incarcerated individuals and staff are subjected to at the city’s jail complex — conditions that have been reported and documented by news accounts and the personal observations of many of my colleagues in government — are on par with, perhaps even worse than, what we expect to read about in countries without a commitment to human rights.</p> <p>As my colleague Assembly Member Emily Gallagher recently witnessed, “there's garbage everywhere, rotting food with maggots, cockroaches, worms in the showers, human feces and piss. Most of the toilets are broken so men are given plastic bags to relieve themselves in…Because of the lack of security, everyone's scared they're going to be injured or killed. Most people have fashioned some kind of homemade weapon to defend themselves.”</p> <p>So far this year, ten incarcerated individuals have been killed, including four by suicide.&nbsp;</p> <p>Exacerbating this crisis is the toll the pandemic has taken on the personnel who work at Rikers Island. To date, more than 2,200 corrections officers have been affected by the coronavirus, resulting in a massive staffing shortage that has continued to spiral, forcing officers to work double, triple, and in some cases, even quadruple shifts without any relief. Many officers resort to sleeping in their cars between shifts, not wanting to drive home for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. Absenteeism is also on the rise, with an estimated 2,000 officers calling in sick on a daily basis. In some cases, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-board-of-correction-suicides-20210901-yfj4tzgonzebnecwtitdwinc3e-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prison units have even gone 24 hours without guards</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to the consequences for the workers, the majority of whom are people of color, these conditions inhibit our officers’ ability to conduct important services, such as protecting incarcerated individuals from assault and taking them to their court appearances. As the crisis continues to worsen, officers are less and less able to fully perform their jobs safely. The family of deceased inmate Robert Jackson believes that his death was caused, in part, by the fact that a guard in his 20th consecutive hour of work stepped away from his post. This was an utter tragedy that could have been prevented.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the reality currently playing out inside Rikers. Incarcerated individuals and personnel fear for their lives and have been left to fend for themselves by the Mayor and Department of Correction. As one officer I spoke with told me, "Inmate, officer, at this point we’re all on the same side. We all just want to get the hell out of here. People don’t see us so we don’t exist.”</p> <p>Just this week Mayor de Blasio announced a widely panned five-part plan to address the staffing crisis plaguing the jail facility, but did so without even talking to the union and staff who work there currently about what they need to do their job safely and humanely. Notably, the mayor did not commit to ending triple and quadruple shifts for officers, and instead, the heart of the plan is to punish public workers who call out sick. Placing the blame solely on officers, who did not start this fire, is a poor excuse for a solution.</p> <p>This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for New York City. We need a comprehensive solution that will take into account the full scope of the atrocities that are happening to workers and incarcerated individuals on Rikers.</p> <p>There needs to be a substantive dialogue between the Department of Correction and the correction officers union to address ongoing safety and staffing concerns. In addition to that substantive dialogue, there are two key pieces of legislation that could help abate this crisis.</p> <p>The “Less is More” bill helps facilitate the release of people currently incarcerated on Rikers merely for technical, and not criminal, parole violations by putting them in front of a judge to determine whether they should continue to be in jail, thereby lessening the burden on the rest of the overburdened system. It currently awaits Governor Hochul’s signature.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, Senator Jessica Ramos has proposed legislation, S6688, that would cap the number of consecutive hours any city employee can work at 17. Frankly, even that number may be too high, but it’s better than 25. I urge all of my colleagues who care about what is happening at Rikers, and care about all workers, to co-sponsor this important bill.</p> <p>The truth is this: if these workplace conditions existed in any other workplace, and for any other workers, we’d all be out in the streets protesting in outrage. If it’s not OK to work sweatshop hours as an Amazon warehouse employee, why is it OK to work multiple 25-plus-hour days in a week if you are a public servant of color with a uniform and a badge?</p> <p>It’s time for us to solve this crisis. It’s to engage with everyone with the common purpose to save the lives of everyone on Rikers Island. It’s time for the City of New York to make a clear and unequivocal statement that these public servants and incarcerated individuals should not be subjected to work or live in inhumane and brutal conditions.</p> <p>***<br />State Senator Andrew Gounardes represents parts of Brooklyn and chairs the Senate’s civil service and pension committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Sen_Gounardes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Sen_Gounardes</a>.</p> <p>

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Universal Access to Music Education for All New York City Students Should Be a Top Priority 2021-09-16T04:00:00+00:00 2021-09-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/authors/130-opinion/10772-universal-access-music-education-new-york-city-students Arpan Somani asomani@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/leg0club-city.jpg" alt="leg0club city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Music for all (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>While Dr. Miguel Cardona, the US Secretary for Education says “<a href="https://nafme.org/dr-miguel-cardona-we-are-underestimating-the-power-of-music-and-the-arts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">music is a way for students to find themselves and learn critical thinking skills</a>,” over<a href="https://etmonline.org/the-sound-of-silence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 50%</a> of New York City schools have no full-time music teacher. Cardona thinks—and I agree—that music education is integral to a well-rounded education and “<a href="https://nafme.org/dr-miguel-cardona-we-are-underestimating-the-power-of-music-and-the-arts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one of the best ways</a>” we can nurture students’ natural talents and interests.&nbsp;</p> <p>My entire education was centered around being in the school’s band. The fondness with which I look back on my time in school brought me to the conclusion that every New York City student should have access to high quality music education. It’s why I began serving on the Development Board of<a href="https://etmonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Education Through Music</a> (ETM), a nonprofit that provides music education to tens of thousands of New York City students. It is our belief that by limiting access to music to the wealthiest districts and families, students in poorer schools and districts miss out on life-changing opportunities.&nbsp;</p> <p>Schools offering music have better academic outcomes.<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00103/full#h7" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Studies</a> show that students with music and arts education fare better academically than students who do not have access to it. In New York City, schools in low-income areas are often forced to cut their arts and music budgets. Thus these students, who are often Black and Latino, miss out on an aspect of education afforded to their wealthier, white counterparts.</p> <p>Music is a wonderful way to build connections among students by supporting their social and emotional development. I was in the jazz band at my public school. We performed at school functions, and were an integral part of the school’s culture. Those of us in band were able to engage with the whole school community. I made all my closest friends through music, and even started a ska band with my jazz band friends.&nbsp;</p> <p>Building community like this can be harder in under-resourced schools with fewer field trips and extracurriculars, heightening the need for music. At Education Through Music, our teachers have found community building even more important in light of the pandemic. Playing together has helped students express their emotions. Taking the time to engage with music has given them the space to reset from the pressures of virtual learning. Beyond playing music, the classes teach students how to support one another, and listen to each other’s concerns outside of academics.</p> <p>New York City’s economy depends on the arts and cultural sectors. Before the pandemic, the creative sector accounted for<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 13%</a> of the city’s total economic output. Overall,<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> one out of every eight dollars</a> of economic activity in the city—<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$110 billion</a> in 2017—could be traced directly or indirectly to the sector. We need to remember what goes into creating the next generation of artists and workers in the music industry, and give all students the skills they need to succeed.</p> <p>By withholding access to music education from students in low-income areas we are holding these students back. Music opens the door to stronger community ties, better academic achievement, and the skills needed to thrive in one of the economy’s largest sectors. Music education should be thought of as an issue of equity, and approached with the same rigor and urgency as other educational initiatives in New York. Our children deserve better.</p> <p>***<br />Arpan Somani is the co-chair of the development board of Education Through Music, a NYC nonprofit providing trained music educators to public schools who do not otherwise have them. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/etmonline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ETMonline</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/september/leg0club-city.jpg" alt="leg0club city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Music for all (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>While Dr. Miguel Cardona, the US Secretary for Education says “<a href="https://nafme.org/dr-miguel-cardona-we-are-underestimating-the-power-of-music-and-the-arts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">music is a way for students to find themselves and learn critical thinking skills</a>,” over<a href="https://etmonline.org/the-sound-of-silence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 50%</a> of New York City schools have no full-time music teacher. Cardona thinks—and I agree—that music education is integral to a well-rounded education and “<a href="https://nafme.org/dr-miguel-cardona-we-are-underestimating-the-power-of-music-and-the-arts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one of the best ways</a>” we can nurture students’ natural talents and interests.&nbsp;</p> <p>My entire education was centered around being in the school’s band. The fondness with which I look back on my time in school brought me to the conclusion that every New York City student should have access to high quality music education. It’s why I began serving on the Development Board of<a href="https://etmonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Education Through Music</a> (ETM), a nonprofit that provides music education to tens of thousands of New York City students. It is our belief that by limiting access to music to the wealthiest districts and families, students in poorer schools and districts miss out on life-changing opportunities.&nbsp;</p> <p>Schools offering music have better academic outcomes.<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00103/full#h7" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Studies</a> show that students with music and arts education fare better academically than students who do not have access to it. In New York City, schools in low-income areas are often forced to cut their arts and music budgets. Thus these students, who are often Black and Latino, miss out on an aspect of education afforded to their wealthier, white counterparts.</p> <p>Music is a wonderful way to build connections among students by supporting their social and emotional development. I was in the jazz band at my public school. We performed at school functions, and were an integral part of the school’s culture. Those of us in band were able to engage with the whole school community. I made all my closest friends through music, and even started a ska band with my jazz band friends.&nbsp;</p> <p>Building community like this can be harder in under-resourced schools with fewer field trips and extracurriculars, heightening the need for music. At Education Through Music, our teachers have found community building even more important in light of the pandemic. Playing together has helped students express their emotions. Taking the time to engage with music has given them the space to reset from the pressures of virtual learning. Beyond playing music, the classes teach students how to support one another, and listen to each other’s concerns outside of academics.</p> <p>New York City’s economy depends on the arts and cultural sectors. Before the pandemic, the creative sector accounted for<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 13%</a> of the city’s total economic output. Overall,<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> one out of every eight dollars</a> of economic activity in the city—<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-creative-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$110 billion</a> in 2017—could be traced directly or indirectly to the sector. We need to remember what goes into creating the next generation of artists and workers in the music industry, and give all students the skills they need to succeed.</p> <p>By withholding access to music education from students in low-income areas we are holding these students back. Music opens the door to stronger community ties, better academic achievement, and the skills needed to thrive in one of the economy’s largest sectors. Music education should be thought of as an issue of equity, and approached with the same rigor and urgency as other educational initiatives in New York. Our children deserve better.</p> <p>***<br />Arpan Somani is the co-chair of the development board of Education Through Music, a NYC nonprofit providing trained music educators to public schools who do not otherwise have them. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/etmonline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ETMonline</a>.</p> <p>

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