CITY 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/city 2020-10-31T13:14:27+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Amid Another Poorly-Run Election, Top New York Officials Point Fingers, Offer Plans, or Say Nothing 2019-10-29T14:00:00+00:00 2019-10-29T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9863-poorly-run-2020-election-top-new-york-officials-point-fingers-reform-plans Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/1-calls-for-grow.jpg" alt="1 calls for grow" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on line to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Hours-long lines for early voting in New York City have become the latest fodder for New York’s highest elected officials to renew calls to overhaul the New York City Board of Elections. The general request comes from some government leaders every election cycle but has never been followed with action by those in power and there is little indication that this time will be different.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, three of the most well-positioned individuals to alter the structure of the board, each said they supported change this week. Noticeably quiet, however, are key players in the ongoing saga: the leaders of the two houses of the State Legislature, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester, both Democrats.</p> <p>The problems frequently cited by voting rights advocates and at times echoed by de Blasio and others stem from the BOE's explicitly bi-partisan make-up and lack of professional standards, where party leaders control appointments, feuling patronage over competence and efficiency. The result is recurring, almost predictable, dysfunction -- like endless lines, mass voter roll purges, or the printing snafu that led to tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents receiving invalid absentee ballots -- that disenfranchises voters.</p> <p>"I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job," Cuomo told reporters Monday. "It's not the first time and I think I would be open to an entire redesign of the New York City Board of Election system."</p> <p>"The New York State Constitution literally says that boards of election have to have representation of leadership from the political parties," de Blasio said at a press briefing Wednesday, echoing remarks he made earlier in the week. "I think that's a broken system."</p> <p>Control over the BOE is decentralized, which helps administrators and elected officials, alike, avoid accountability for poorly-run elections. State law and regulations outline the BOE's general powers and responsibilities, but its commissioners are appointed by the City Council, which defers to slates selected by the Democratic or Republican leaders in each borough. Its funding comes from the New York City budget, which has been used unsuccessfully by the mayor and City Council to attempt to leverage action from the board. The city may pass local laws that impact elections within limits set in Albany.</p> <p>Through the BOE commissioners, it is the political party leaders that control the actual election administration, down to the hiring of low-level staff.</p> <p>Changing the BOE's partisan nature requires a state constitutional amendment, but there has been no momentum in the State Legislature and none have been formally proposed by lawmakers. The Legislature passed a number of celebrated voting reforms when it came fully under Democratic control in 2019, though none of them touched the partisan framework of election administration or its lack of professional standards.</p> <p>Any constitutional amendment would have to pass two consecutive legislative sessions then a statewide voter referendum, which would take years and lots of political capital.</p> <p>With the start of early voting in the 2020 presidential election, many of the key players criticized the Board of Elections and pointed to the others to fix it.</p> <p>"I would be open to whatever the city proposes to just redesign from the ground up the New York City Board of Elections. Period," Cuomo said Sunday.</p> <p>"I think what the governor was referring to earlier was the desire to have the New York City Council pass a home rule request for the state Legislature then to consider," added Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor.</p> <p>De Blasio is publicly calling for state legislation to modestly professionalize board operations and a constitutional amendment to address the larger structural problems. The mayor, Cuomo, and Johnson have all indicated support for greater local control, but only de Blasio has explicitly stated he wants a nonpartisan board. Over years, de Blasio has said the Board of Elections should either be a mayoral agency or a nonpartisan, relatively independent city entity akin to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, though he has done little to make any such changes happen.</p> <p>De Blasio on Wednesday also said state lawmakers should make statutory changes short of an amendment ahead of the 2021 mayoral elections, which will also be some of the first to use the new ranked-choice voting system.</p> <p>"I call upon the Legislature and the Governor to examine a different kind of model, staying within the concepts laid out in the State Constitution, consider a model that still allows for the representation by political parties as is required, but works with a different kind of board and a different kind of staff," he told reporters, citing the Campaign Finance Board as an example. (A spokesperson for the mayor told Gotham Gazette there were no additional details to the request and that the ball was in the Legislature's court.)</p> <p>The mayor signaled support for the State Senate <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov//legislation/bills/2019/S2726" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, which would delineate the responsibilities of both BOE commissioners and their executive management. Advocates say the bill would help hold both accountable without a constitutional amendment -- which also means without changing the partisan control.</p> <p>"The Legislature should immediately pass Senate Bill 2726. That bill would allow for the professionalization of the Board of Elections in its current form," de Blasio said.</p> <p>"Now I don't think the current form makes sense, but...an immediate action that could be taken would be to pass this legislation to professionalize the board as is currently structured, to empower the executive director to run it as a more modern agency," he added.</p> <p>There is no Assembly companion to the legislation and Speaker Carl Heastie's office did not return multiple requests for comment about Krueger's bill, which has just two sponsors in the 63-seat Senate. Krueger's office did not return requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>Caitlin Giouard, a spokesperson for Cuomo, did not say whether the governor supported the bill. “As the Governor has said he would be open to an entire redesign of the NYC BOE and we will review any legislation to reform it that passes the legislature,” she wrote by email on Wednesday.</p> <p>Asked about a possible home rule message, a City Council spokesperson kicked it back to the Legislature. “Speaker Johnson is open to considering a home rule message if the State Legislature determines one is necessary for Senator Krueger's bill, which he supports,” wrote the Council spokesperson in a Wednesday email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“The New York City Board of Elections has a problematic history and it’s time for improvement," Johnson wrote in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "I support Senator Krueger’s BOE reform bill, which takes important steps to fix many of the problems we see at the Board of Elections."</p> <p>"In the meantime, the Council will be closely monitoring the Nov. 3 election while pushing for structural reform to the Board of Elections including giving New York City more local control,” he said.</p> <p>Michael Ryan, the BOE's executive director, is the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8785-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-bad-choices" target="_blank">frequent subject of criticism</a> by Johnson and others at oversight hearings held by the City Council and State Legislature, including after the disastrous 2018 midterm elections when Johnson charged Ryan with harming New York City's democracy. Johnson later called for Ryan's ouster but he and the Council have taken no action to reform the BOE since.</p> <p>State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a first-term Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Senate elections committee who helped move the various voting reforms through the Legislature last year, raised issues with the Board's make-up but would not comment directly on Krueger’s bill nor whether he supports nonpartisan election administration. Neither Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ office nor Assembly Speaker Heastie’s office responded to inquiries about eliminating partisan control.</p> <p>"My concerns with the ability of the BOE, as currently constituted, to effectively administer elections have grown throughout the year. From timely processing of absentee ballot requests during the Primary to the massive printing error in Brooklyn last month, I have significant questions about the Board's capabilities," Myrie wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"Once this election is over, my colleagues and I will certainly consider ways to make elections in New York more efficient and voter-friendly," he said.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/1-calls-for-grow.jpg" alt="1 calls for grow" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on line to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Hours-long lines for early voting in New York City have become the latest fodder for New York’s highest elected officials to renew calls to overhaul the New York City Board of Elections. The general request comes from some government leaders every election cycle but has never been followed with action by those in power and there is little indication that this time will be different.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, three of the most well-positioned individuals to alter the structure of the board, each said they supported change this week. Noticeably quiet, however, are key players in the ongoing saga: the leaders of the two houses of the State Legislature, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester, both Democrats.</p> <p>The problems frequently cited by voting rights advocates and at times echoed by de Blasio and others stem from the BOE's explicitly bi-partisan make-up and lack of professional standards, where party leaders control appointments, feuling patronage over competence and efficiency. The result is recurring, almost predictable, dysfunction -- like endless lines, mass voter roll purges, or the printing snafu that led to tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents receiving invalid absentee ballots -- that disenfranchises voters.</p> <p>"I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job," Cuomo told reporters Monday. "It's not the first time and I think I would be open to an entire redesign of the New York City Board of Election system."</p> <p>"The New York State Constitution literally says that boards of election have to have representation of leadership from the political parties," de Blasio said at a press briefing Wednesday, echoing remarks he made earlier in the week. "I think that's a broken system."</p> <p>Control over the BOE is decentralized, which helps administrators and elected officials, alike, avoid accountability for poorly-run elections. State law and regulations outline the BOE's general powers and responsibilities, but its commissioners are appointed by the City Council, which defers to slates selected by the Democratic or Republican leaders in each borough. Its funding comes from the New York City budget, which has been used unsuccessfully by the mayor and City Council to attempt to leverage action from the board. The city may pass local laws that impact elections within limits set in Albany.</p> <p>Through the BOE commissioners, it is the political party leaders that control the actual election administration, down to the hiring of low-level staff.</p> <p>Changing the BOE's partisan nature requires a state constitutional amendment, but there has been no momentum in the State Legislature and none have been formally proposed by lawmakers. The Legislature passed a number of celebrated voting reforms when it came fully under Democratic control in 2019, though none of them touched the partisan framework of election administration or its lack of professional standards.</p> <p>Any constitutional amendment would have to pass two consecutive legislative sessions then a statewide voter referendum, which would take years and lots of political capital.</p> <p>With the start of early voting in the 2020 presidential election, many of the key players criticized the Board of Elections and pointed to the others to fix it.</p> <p>"I would be open to whatever the city proposes to just redesign from the ground up the New York City Board of Elections. Period," Cuomo said Sunday.</p> <p>"I think what the governor was referring to earlier was the desire to have the New York City Council pass a home rule request for the state Legislature then to consider," added Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor.</p> <p>De Blasio is publicly calling for state legislation to modestly professionalize board operations and a constitutional amendment to address the larger structural problems. The mayor, Cuomo, and Johnson have all indicated support for greater local control, but only de Blasio has explicitly stated he wants a nonpartisan board. Over years, de Blasio has said the Board of Elections should either be a mayoral agency or a nonpartisan, relatively independent city entity akin to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, though he has done little to make any such changes happen.</p> <p>De Blasio on Wednesday also said state lawmakers should make statutory changes short of an amendment ahead of the 2021 mayoral elections, which will also be some of the first to use the new ranked-choice voting system.</p> <p>"I call upon the Legislature and the Governor to examine a different kind of model, staying within the concepts laid out in the State Constitution, consider a model that still allows for the representation by political parties as is required, but works with a different kind of board and a different kind of staff," he told reporters, citing the Campaign Finance Board as an example. (A spokesperson for the mayor told Gotham Gazette there were no additional details to the request and that the ball was in the Legislature's court.)</p> <p>The mayor signaled support for the State Senate <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov//legislation/bills/2019/S2726" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, which would delineate the responsibilities of both BOE commissioners and their executive management. Advocates say the bill would help hold both accountable without a constitutional amendment -- which also means without changing the partisan control.</p> <p>"The Legislature should immediately pass Senate Bill 2726. That bill would allow for the professionalization of the Board of Elections in its current form," de Blasio said.</p> <p>"Now I don't think the current form makes sense, but...an immediate action that could be taken would be to pass this legislation to professionalize the board as is currently structured, to empower the executive director to run it as a more modern agency," he added.</p> <p>There is no Assembly companion to the legislation and Speaker Carl Heastie's office did not return multiple requests for comment about Krueger's bill, which has just two sponsors in the 63-seat Senate. Krueger's office did not return requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>Caitlin Giouard, a spokesperson for Cuomo, did not say whether the governor supported the bill. “As the Governor has said he would be open to an entire redesign of the NYC BOE and we will review any legislation to reform it that passes the legislature,” she wrote by email on Wednesday.</p> <p>Asked about a possible home rule message, a City Council spokesperson kicked it back to the Legislature. “Speaker Johnson is open to considering a home rule message if the State Legislature determines one is necessary for Senator Krueger's bill, which he supports,” wrote the Council spokesperson in a Wednesday email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“The New York City Board of Elections has a problematic history and it’s time for improvement," Johnson wrote in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "I support Senator Krueger’s BOE reform bill, which takes important steps to fix many of the problems we see at the Board of Elections."</p> <p>"In the meantime, the Council will be closely monitoring the Nov. 3 election while pushing for structural reform to the Board of Elections including giving New York City more local control,” he said.</p> <p>Michael Ryan, the BOE's executive director, is the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8785-new-york-s-election-administration-accountability-vacuum-bad-choices" target="_blank">frequent subject of criticism</a> by Johnson and others at oversight hearings held by the City Council and State Legislature, including after the disastrous 2018 midterm elections when Johnson charged Ryan with harming New York City's democracy. Johnson later called for Ryan's ouster but he and the Council have taken no action to reform the BOE since.</p> <p>State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a first-term Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Senate elections committee who helped move the various voting reforms through the Legislature last year, raised issues with the Board's make-up but would not comment directly on Krueger’s bill nor whether he supports nonpartisan election administration. Neither Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ office nor Assembly Speaker Heastie’s office responded to inquiries about eliminating partisan control.</p> <p>"My concerns with the ability of the BOE, as currently constituted, to effectively administer elections have grown throughout the year. From timely processing of absentee ballot requests during the Primary to the massive printing error in Brooklyn last month, I have significant questions about the Board's capabilities," Myrie wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"Once this election is over, my colleagues and I will certainly consider ways to make elections in New York more efficient and voter-friendly," he said.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Holds Hearing on Sexual and Reproductive Right 2020-10-27T13:00:00+00:00 2020-10-27T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9860-city-council-hearing-sexual-reproductive-rights-abortion-scotus Caroline Leddy cleddy@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/cm-hr-chairs.jpg" alt="cm hr chairs" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, right (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Members will hold an oversight hearing Wednesday on “sexual and reproductive rights in New York City” and consider a package of legislation on those subjects, at a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Health and Committee on Women and Gender Equity.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=806450&amp;GUID=F0592933-A5FE-4D72-BA8A-B505620EC6A4&amp;Options=info|&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The bills</a> cover a wide range of issues, including access to contraception, establishing a board on gender equity in hospitals, and providing health care professionals with training on how to identify the signs of female genital mutilation. Most of the bills fall under the World Health Organization's 17 indicators of reproductive health, according to a City Council spokesperson.</p> <p>The hearing comes at a time where reproductive rights in the United States are again at the center of the national political conversation, amid a presidential election, the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong supporter of abortion rights, and the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has expressed opposition to abortion, to replace Ginsburg on the high court, tilting it further toward conservatives and raising concerns among pro-choice Americans that the Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling could be overturned.&nbsp;</p> <p>The National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter issued a statement soon after Justice Barrett was confirmed, signaling that women’s reproductive rights may now be at stake with her on the bench.</p> <p>“We're on the brink of losing our hard fought right to choose. We're going to have to fight like never before to protect our rights and those of the next generation," said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NY.</p> <p>In New York, abortion protections provided by Roe v. Wade were codified into state law last year, while insurance companies were also mandated to cover contraception. But various aspects of reproductive health continue to be debated and discussed.</p> <p>Among those testifying at Wednesday’s hearing, which is expected to largely focus on the bill package but to also look at sexual and reproductive rights more broadly, will be representatives of the New York City Department of Health and of the city’s Commission on Gender Equity, according to City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council Committee on Women and Gender Equity.</p> <p>In an interview, Rosenthal said that the package of bills is a result of meetings with experts to figure out how to best support women’s reproductive health.</p> <p>"The Women's Caucus, and the BLAC -- the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus -- has been meeting jointly on a number of these issues, to hear from advocates, activists, and medical professionals themselves, who are experts in these areas. And that's why you have this broad range for very thoughtful legislation," she said.</p> <p>Rosenthal is the lead sponsor on a bill that would create an advisory board on gender equity in city hospitals. The bill was written after a group of female medical students <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2019/05/12/lawsuit-alleges-age-race-sex-discrimination-at-mount-sinai-med-school/#753ef5af542b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sued</a> Mt. Sinai hospital for gender discrimination last year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rosenthal said that gender-based discrimination in hospitals not only harms the employees, but also affects the patients as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>“If a doctor berates a female medical student who is responsible for a particular patient and then leaves the room, how is that patient supposed to respect that medical student?” she said.&nbsp;</p> <p>The board would consist of 13 members, including city officials as well as members of the medical community and students.</p> <p>Both emergency and long term-reversible contraception would be made available at Department of Health and Mental Hygiene facilities if a bill sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council’s Committee on Hospitals, is passed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill would provide free or low-cost access to the insertion or removal of long acting-reversible contraception such as an intrauterine device or subdermal contraceptive implants.</p> <p>As chair of one of the committees at hand, Rosenthal will lead the oversight portion of the hearing along with Council Member Mark Levine, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council’s health committee, while other members of the two committees and of the larger Council who decide to participate will also be able to ask questions of those testifying.</p> <p>Also in the package of legislation are two bills on female gential mutilation and cutting, which aim to create an advisory board and educate health-care professionals on how to identify the practices. Female genital mutilation is outlawed in New York State but has gone underground and continues to affect an estimated 60,000-plus women in the New York and New Jersey metro area, according to Council Member Rosenthal, who is the lead sponsor on the education bill.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When a medical professional, a doctor, is presented with someone who is trying to get pregnant or who may already be pregnant and has undergone female genital cutting,” Rosenthal said, “that doctor needs to know what they're looking at. And many doctors don't.”</p> <p>According to the U.S. Department of Health &amp; Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, female genital mutilation and cutting may <a href="https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/female-genital-cutting">complicate</a> a childbirth if not properly identified by a doctor.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill seeking to establish an advisory board for female genital mutilation and cutting, sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, a Brooklyn Democrat, would help educate providers and establish guidelines on the identification and protection of those at risk of the practices.&nbsp;</p> <p>The board would also change the way the city collects data on the practice and would develop outreach campaigns aimed at preventing such practices from occurring.</p> <p>In a follow-up to his original bill, which required that employers provide breastfeeding employees with on-site lactation rooms, which went into effect last year, Council Member Robert Cornegy, a Brooklyn Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would require lactation rooms to be regularly inspected by the city Health Department and also provide training on how to prepare and clean the rooms.</p> <p>Also on the agenda for the hearing is consideration of a bill introduced by Council Member Danny Dromm, a Queens Democrat, that is aimed at preventing medically unnecessary procedures on intersex infants will also be considered on Thursday. If passed, it would create a public outreach campaign to educate New Yorkers about “medically unnecessary treatments and interventions performed on infants born with intersex traits.” The bill would also postpone any procedure until the intersex person can make an informed decision about the procedure, rather than having that decision made at birth by their parents.</p> <p>Along with the bills under consideration, the Council will be considering two non-binding resolutions on abortion, one specifically calling on the federal government to rescind the changes on Title X funding issued last year, which prohibits health care providers who recieve federal funding from performing abortions or providing abortion referrals to patients as a part of family planning.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the resolution, introduced by Council Member Diana Ayala, a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, the federal changes disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities whose members rely on Title X clinics for reproductive and preventative health care services.&nbsp;</p> <p>The second resolution, proposed by Council Member Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat, calls on federal and state legislators to oppose a ban on sex-selective abortions, arguing that they perpetuate a racial stereotype against Asian-American and Pacific-Islander women. A ban on sex-selective abortions, according to the resolution, could potentially lead to further restrictions on access to abortion and “scrutinizes a woman’s reasons for making the decision to terminate a pregnancy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;

***
by Caroline Leddy, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/cm-hr-chairs.jpg" alt="cm hr chairs" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, right (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Members will hold an oversight hearing Wednesday on “sexual and reproductive rights in New York City” and consider a package of legislation on those subjects, at a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Health and Committee on Women and Gender Equity.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=806450&amp;GUID=F0592933-A5FE-4D72-BA8A-B505620EC6A4&amp;Options=info|&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The bills</a> cover a wide range of issues, including access to contraception, establishing a board on gender equity in hospitals, and providing health care professionals with training on how to identify the signs of female genital mutilation. Most of the bills fall under the World Health Organization's 17 indicators of reproductive health, according to a City Council spokesperson.</p> <p>The hearing comes at a time where reproductive rights in the United States are again at the center of the national political conversation, amid a presidential election, the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong supporter of abortion rights, and the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has expressed opposition to abortion, to replace Ginsburg on the high court, tilting it further toward conservatives and raising concerns among pro-choice Americans that the Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling could be overturned.&nbsp;</p> <p>The National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter issued a statement soon after Justice Barrett was confirmed, signaling that women’s reproductive rights may now be at stake with her on the bench.</p> <p>“We're on the brink of losing our hard fought right to choose. We're going to have to fight like never before to protect our rights and those of the next generation," said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NY.</p> <p>In New York, abortion protections provided by Roe v. Wade were codified into state law last year, while insurance companies were also mandated to cover contraception. But various aspects of reproductive health continue to be debated and discussed.</p> <p>Among those testifying at Wednesday’s hearing, which is expected to largely focus on the bill package but to also look at sexual and reproductive rights more broadly, will be representatives of the New York City Department of Health and of the city’s Commission on Gender Equity, according to City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council Committee on Women and Gender Equity.</p> <p>In an interview, Rosenthal said that the package of bills is a result of meetings with experts to figure out how to best support women’s reproductive health.</p> <p>"The Women's Caucus, and the BLAC -- the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus -- has been meeting jointly on a number of these issues, to hear from advocates, activists, and medical professionals themselves, who are experts in these areas. And that's why you have this broad range for very thoughtful legislation," she said.</p> <p>Rosenthal is the lead sponsor on a bill that would create an advisory board on gender equity in city hospitals. The bill was written after a group of female medical students <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2019/05/12/lawsuit-alleges-age-race-sex-discrimination-at-mount-sinai-med-school/#753ef5af542b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sued</a> Mt. Sinai hospital for gender discrimination last year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rosenthal said that gender-based discrimination in hospitals not only harms the employees, but also affects the patients as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>“If a doctor berates a female medical student who is responsible for a particular patient and then leaves the room, how is that patient supposed to respect that medical student?” she said.&nbsp;</p> <p>The board would consist of 13 members, including city officials as well as members of the medical community and students.</p> <p>Both emergency and long term-reversible contraception would be made available at Department of Health and Mental Hygiene facilities if a bill sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council’s Committee on Hospitals, is passed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill would provide free or low-cost access to the insertion or removal of long acting-reversible contraception such as an intrauterine device or subdermal contraceptive implants.</p> <p>As chair of one of the committees at hand, Rosenthal will lead the oversight portion of the hearing along with Council Member Mark Levine, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council’s health committee, while other members of the two committees and of the larger Council who decide to participate will also be able to ask questions of those testifying.</p> <p>Also in the package of legislation are two bills on female gential mutilation and cutting, which aim to create an advisory board and educate health-care professionals on how to identify the practices. Female genital mutilation is outlawed in New York State but has gone underground and continues to affect an estimated 60,000-plus women in the New York and New Jersey metro area, according to Council Member Rosenthal, who is the lead sponsor on the education bill.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When a medical professional, a doctor, is presented with someone who is trying to get pregnant or who may already be pregnant and has undergone female genital cutting,” Rosenthal said, “that doctor needs to know what they're looking at. And many doctors don't.”</p> <p>According to the U.S. Department of Health &amp; Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, female genital mutilation and cutting may <a href="https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/female-genital-cutting">complicate</a> a childbirth if not properly identified by a doctor.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill seeking to establish an advisory board for female genital mutilation and cutting, sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, a Brooklyn Democrat, would help educate providers and establish guidelines on the identification and protection of those at risk of the practices.&nbsp;</p> <p>The board would also change the way the city collects data on the practice and would develop outreach campaigns aimed at preventing such practices from occurring.</p> <p>In a follow-up to his original bill, which required that employers provide breastfeeding employees with on-site lactation rooms, which went into effect last year, Council Member Robert Cornegy, a Brooklyn Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would require lactation rooms to be regularly inspected by the city Health Department and also provide training on how to prepare and clean the rooms.</p> <p>Also on the agenda for the hearing is consideration of a bill introduced by Council Member Danny Dromm, a Queens Democrat, that is aimed at preventing medically unnecessary procedures on intersex infants will also be considered on Thursday. If passed, it would create a public outreach campaign to educate New Yorkers about “medically unnecessary treatments and interventions performed on infants born with intersex traits.” The bill would also postpone any procedure until the intersex person can make an informed decision about the procedure, rather than having that decision made at birth by their parents.</p> <p>Along with the bills under consideration, the Council will be considering two non-binding resolutions on abortion, one specifically calling on the federal government to rescind the changes on Title X funding issued last year, which prohibits health care providers who recieve federal funding from performing abortions or providing abortion referrals to patients as a part of family planning.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the resolution, introduced by Council Member Diana Ayala, a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, the federal changes disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities whose members rely on Title X clinics for reproductive and preventative health care services.&nbsp;</p> <p>The second resolution, proposed by Council Member Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat, calls on federal and state legislators to oppose a ban on sex-selective abortions, arguing that they perpetuate a racial stereotype against Asian-American and Pacific-Islander women. A ban on sex-selective abortions, according to the resolution, could potentially lead to further restrictions on access to abortion and “scrutinizes a woman’s reasons for making the decision to terminate a pregnancy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;

***
by Caroline Leddy, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
As De Blasio Promises WiFi in Shelters to Help Homeless Children Learn, Advocates Question Tardiness and Implementation 2020-10-28T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-28T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9862-de-blasio-promises-wifi-shelters-homeless-children-learn-advocates-question-plan Anna Conkling aconkling@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/back-ch-ric.jpg" alt="back ch ric" width="600" /></p> <p>Remote learning in action (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid widespread criticism about a lack of internet access for students in homeless shelters who need to get online more than ever to complete their school work, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would equip every shelter with WiFi. But advocates are raising questions about execution of that pledge, especially as tens of thousands of students living in shelters need internet access now in order to engage in remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>Despite de Blasio’s promise, issued Monday, to “ensure that every shelter gets WiFi,” no concrete plan for implementation has been offered publicly, though the mayor said Tuesday that he has one that will be shared.</p> <p>“The instruction I have given to the Law Department and to Social Services is to ensure that every shelter gets Wi-Fi,” de Blasio said Monday. “We’ve got to stop this and make sure everyone has what they need. In terms of devices, I want to keep emphasizing, one, any parent, any kid with a problem should call 311 and let us know immediately.”</p> <p>“Children in our shelters desperately need assistance with remote learning and have never received the tools they need to succeed from Mayor Bill de Blasio or the NYC Department of Education,” said Christine Quinn, the former City Council Speaker who is now the president and CEO of Win, New York City’s largest provider of shelter and support services for homeless women and their children, in a statement reacting to de Blasio’s pledge.</p> <p>“We have worked tirelessly to make up the gap, hiring in-house technical support staff to navigate the Department of Education’s (DOE) service and using grant dollars to privately fund iPads, laptops, and hot spots to our students,” said Quinn.</p> <p>Although the de Blasio administration did release its longtime-coming “Internet Master Plan” in January, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9824-new-york-city-digital-divide-de-blasio-internet-access-broadband-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced an acceleration of it in July</a> amid the COVID-19 pandemic, promising to provide universal broadband access to city residents, the plan did not specifically mention homeless shelters, according to the New York City Bar Association, in an August press release.</p> <p>The plan prioritized public housing developments, “which have suffered disproportionately during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the mayor’s July press release said. As well as investing “$157 million in ending digital redlining and providing high-speed internet,” and using “$87 million redirected from the NYPD budget.”</p> <p>The Bar Association cited a recent <a href="https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/news/homeless-need-internet-access-to-find-a-home-the-city-bar-justice-center-documents-lack-of-technology-in-nyc-homeless-shelters/">report</a> from its Justice Center’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless that found that “75 percent of surveyed shelter residents agreed that internet access would help improve their circumstances.” According to the report, “67 percent of homeless shelter residents wanted but had no regular access to the internet, and only 6 percent were able to access the internet through their shelters.”</p> <p>In that August statement, the Bar Association called on the de Blasio administration to “prioritize City residents most impacted by the pandemic and to provide reliable Wi-Fi connections to shelter residents, updated Internet-ready devices,” and “Wireless or Bluetooth printers.”</p> <p>Although advocates and others have demanded de Blasio detail plans to help students in shelters access Wi-Fi since the start of the pandemic, the mayor has not focused on wiring up shelters, instead pointing to the hundreds of thousands of internet-enabled devices that the city has been giving out to students in and out of shelters upon request, though tens of thousands of students are still awaiting those devices as the new school year continues toward November. Then came his shelter promise on Monday, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-homeless-shelters-wifi-daily-news-reporting-student-remote-learning-20201026-qpuq3xcycjfo3eukwom7h3zqtq-story.html">seemingly provoked by a Daily News report</a> about lack of access and devices.</p> <p>In a letter written to de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) by City Comptroller Scott Stringer at the start of the school year, Stringer urged the city to “provide direct support to the over 100,000 children who experience homelessness each year.”</p> <p>In his letter, Stringer called on the City to “designate an interagency Director of Students in Temporary Housing charged with addressing the educational needs of this vulnerable population.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The de Blasio administration launched the Learning Bridges program, which provides a free child care option for some children in 3-K through 8th grade who are in the blended learning model on days they are doing remote learning, with access pending application and a needs hierarchy the city established. However, “if these sites are not located near shelters, many students who most need these spaces may not be able to access them,” Stringer wrote.</p> <p>Meanwhile, “City policy prohibits any child under the age of 18 from remaining in a shelter unit without a parent,” Stringer noted, especially relevant given that Learning Bridges is not available to high school-aged students.</p> <p>“There's such a stigma for teenagers and youth for being homeless. That became a big benefit from having WiFi,” said Ted Houghton, President of Gateway Housing, a non-profit that works with homeless shelters in the city, including through a technical assistance program to help providers bring Wi-Fi to shelters.&nbsp;</p> <p>With a lack of stable internet access in homeless shelters and not every student equipped with an internet-enabled device from the city, some children are unable to log on for their remote classes, leading to questions about school administrators who may report the parents for the virtual truancy.&nbsp;</p> <p>“That is not a situation of neglect,” de Blasio said during his Monday press briefing, when asked about that possibility and pledging to rectify the internet access gap. “If a family is trying to solve a problem, we should be working with them and not giving them the impression that we are judging them negatively,” the mayor added.</p> <p>Gateway Housing, which has worked with BronxWorks, CAMBA, and Help USA to equip shelters with Wi-Fi, saw both “an increase in the number of families going online, and an increase in “the amount of participation in virtual learning,” said Houghton.</p> <p>Another concern, Houghton said, surrounds the monthly cost of Wi-Fi once it is installed in shelters with families.</p> <p>“Each of these buildings is going to have what is essentially a corporate Wi-Fi account and that starts adding up,” said Houghton. “We do not want to see an unfunded mandate to shelter providers, because there is a cost associated with internet service.”</p> <p>“You're talking about small shelters that might cost $10,000 to wire, very large shelters, some of which are spread out among many different buildings, that are going to cost more than $100,000,” Houghton added.</p> <p>Responding to de Blasio’s initial announcement, attorneys representing homeless New Yorkers questioned the mayor’s commitment.</p> <p>"The devil is in the details, and while we welcome this announcement, too much time has passed with too little action for us to accept it at face value,” said Susan Horwitz, Supervising Attorney of the Education Law Project at The Legal Aid Society, in a statement released Tuesday, wherein Legal Aid called on the de Blasio administration to quickly detail how it will get WiFi installed at all city shelters.</p> <p>“City Hall should have addressed this issue several months ago,” she said.</p> <p>“There is a plan in place,” de Blasio said Tuesday when asked at his daily press briefing about the criticism from Legal Aid and others. “We'll certainly go over it publicly. The idea here is to go through every shelter where there's kids. Obviously we have shelters that are adults only, that doesn't count, but shelters where there are kids get Wi-Fi in place. Some shelters that's going to be easier than others, depending on the physical reality. I want to make sure the kids have options immediately so they can study wherever they need to. So we'll lay out the plan and what it's going to take, what we're going to do short-term, what it's going to take to get every single shelter done. That's a commitment we make. Our IT department, DoITT, is leading the way, working with our Department of Social Services, and we will make sure every shelter has services. It’s as simple as that.”</p> <p>Asked to provide the administration’s plan, the mayor’s press office did not respond to Gotham Gazette’s inquiry.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9824-new-york-city-digital-divide-de-blasio-internet-access-broadband-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Administration Pledges to Finally Address City's Persistent 'Digital Divide' with Universal Internet Access</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Anna Conkling, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/back-ch-ric.jpg" alt="back ch ric" width="600" /></p> <p>Remote learning in action (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid widespread criticism about a lack of internet access for students in homeless shelters who need to get online more than ever to complete their school work, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would equip every shelter with WiFi. But advocates are raising questions about execution of that pledge, especially as tens of thousands of students living in shelters need internet access now in order to engage in remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>Despite de Blasio’s promise, issued Monday, to “ensure that every shelter gets WiFi,” no concrete plan for implementation has been offered publicly, though the mayor said Tuesday that he has one that will be shared.</p> <p>“The instruction I have given to the Law Department and to Social Services is to ensure that every shelter gets Wi-Fi,” de Blasio said Monday. “We’ve got to stop this and make sure everyone has what they need. In terms of devices, I want to keep emphasizing, one, any parent, any kid with a problem should call 311 and let us know immediately.”</p> <p>“Children in our shelters desperately need assistance with remote learning and have never received the tools they need to succeed from Mayor Bill de Blasio or the NYC Department of Education,” said Christine Quinn, the former City Council Speaker who is now the president and CEO of Win, New York City’s largest provider of shelter and support services for homeless women and their children, in a statement reacting to de Blasio’s pledge.</p> <p>“We have worked tirelessly to make up the gap, hiring in-house technical support staff to navigate the Department of Education’s (DOE) service and using grant dollars to privately fund iPads, laptops, and hot spots to our students,” said Quinn.</p> <p>Although the de Blasio administration did release its longtime-coming “Internet Master Plan” in January, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9824-new-york-city-digital-divide-de-blasio-internet-access-broadband-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced an acceleration of it in July</a> amid the COVID-19 pandemic, promising to provide universal broadband access to city residents, the plan did not specifically mention homeless shelters, according to the New York City Bar Association, in an August press release.</p> <p>The plan prioritized public housing developments, “which have suffered disproportionately during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the mayor’s July press release said. As well as investing “$157 million in ending digital redlining and providing high-speed internet,” and using “$87 million redirected from the NYPD budget.”</p> <p>The Bar Association cited a recent <a href="https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/news/homeless-need-internet-access-to-find-a-home-the-city-bar-justice-center-documents-lack-of-technology-in-nyc-homeless-shelters/">report</a> from its Justice Center’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless that found that “75 percent of surveyed shelter residents agreed that internet access would help improve their circumstances.” According to the report, “67 percent of homeless shelter residents wanted but had no regular access to the internet, and only 6 percent were able to access the internet through their shelters.”</p> <p>In that August statement, the Bar Association called on the de Blasio administration to “prioritize City residents most impacted by the pandemic and to provide reliable Wi-Fi connections to shelter residents, updated Internet-ready devices,” and “Wireless or Bluetooth printers.”</p> <p>Although advocates and others have demanded de Blasio detail plans to help students in shelters access Wi-Fi since the start of the pandemic, the mayor has not focused on wiring up shelters, instead pointing to the hundreds of thousands of internet-enabled devices that the city has been giving out to students in and out of shelters upon request, though tens of thousands of students are still awaiting those devices as the new school year continues toward November. Then came his shelter promise on Monday, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-homeless-shelters-wifi-daily-news-reporting-student-remote-learning-20201026-qpuq3xcycjfo3eukwom7h3zqtq-story.html">seemingly provoked by a Daily News report</a> about lack of access and devices.</p> <p>In a letter written to de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) by City Comptroller Scott Stringer at the start of the school year, Stringer urged the city to “provide direct support to the over 100,000 children who experience homelessness each year.”</p> <p>In his letter, Stringer called on the City to “designate an interagency Director of Students in Temporary Housing charged with addressing the educational needs of this vulnerable population.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The de Blasio administration launched the Learning Bridges program, which provides a free child care option for some children in 3-K through 8th grade who are in the blended learning model on days they are doing remote learning, with access pending application and a needs hierarchy the city established. However, “if these sites are not located near shelters, many students who most need these spaces may not be able to access them,” Stringer wrote.</p> <p>Meanwhile, “City policy prohibits any child under the age of 18 from remaining in a shelter unit without a parent,” Stringer noted, especially relevant given that Learning Bridges is not available to high school-aged students.</p> <p>“There's such a stigma for teenagers and youth for being homeless. That became a big benefit from having WiFi,” said Ted Houghton, President of Gateway Housing, a non-profit that works with homeless shelters in the city, including through a technical assistance program to help providers bring Wi-Fi to shelters.&nbsp;</p> <p>With a lack of stable internet access in homeless shelters and not every student equipped with an internet-enabled device from the city, some children are unable to log on for their remote classes, leading to questions about school administrators who may report the parents for the virtual truancy.&nbsp;</p> <p>“That is not a situation of neglect,” de Blasio said during his Monday press briefing, when asked about that possibility and pledging to rectify the internet access gap. “If a family is trying to solve a problem, we should be working with them and not giving them the impression that we are judging them negatively,” the mayor added.</p> <p>Gateway Housing, which has worked with BronxWorks, CAMBA, and Help USA to equip shelters with Wi-Fi, saw both “an increase in the number of families going online, and an increase in “the amount of participation in virtual learning,” said Houghton.</p> <p>Another concern, Houghton said, surrounds the monthly cost of Wi-Fi once it is installed in shelters with families.</p> <p>“Each of these buildings is going to have what is essentially a corporate Wi-Fi account and that starts adding up,” said Houghton. “We do not want to see an unfunded mandate to shelter providers, because there is a cost associated with internet service.”</p> <p>“You're talking about small shelters that might cost $10,000 to wire, very large shelters, some of which are spread out among many different buildings, that are going to cost more than $100,000,” Houghton added.</p> <p>Responding to de Blasio’s initial announcement, attorneys representing homeless New Yorkers questioned the mayor’s commitment.</p> <p>"The devil is in the details, and while we welcome this announcement, too much time has passed with too little action for us to accept it at face value,” said Susan Horwitz, Supervising Attorney of the Education Law Project at The Legal Aid Society, in a statement released Tuesday, wherein Legal Aid called on the de Blasio administration to quickly detail how it will get WiFi installed at all city shelters.</p> <p>“City Hall should have addressed this issue several months ago,” she said.</p> <p>“There is a plan in place,” de Blasio said Tuesday when asked at his daily press briefing about the criticism from Legal Aid and others. “We'll certainly go over it publicly. The idea here is to go through every shelter where there's kids. Obviously we have shelters that are adults only, that doesn't count, but shelters where there are kids get Wi-Fi in place. Some shelters that's going to be easier than others, depending on the physical reality. I want to make sure the kids have options immediately so they can study wherever they need to. So we'll lay out the plan and what it's going to take, what we're going to do short-term, what it's going to take to get every single shelter done. That's a commitment we make. Our IT department, DoITT, is leading the way, working with our Department of Social Services, and we will make sure every shelter has services. It’s as simple as that.”</p> <p>Asked to provide the administration’s plan, the mayor’s press office did not respond to Gotham Gazette’s inquiry.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9824-new-york-city-digital-divide-de-blasio-internet-access-broadband-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Administration Pledges to Finally Address City's Persistent 'Digital Divide' with Universal Internet Access</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Anna Conkling, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
Plan for Ending Solitary Confinement in City Jails is Imminent, Board of Correction Chair Says 2020-10-23T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-23T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9852-plan-end-solitary-confinement-city-jails-imminent-board-correction-chair-de-blasio-rikers Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/29358752836_a86b6139d4_c.jpg" alt="Rikers Island jails guards solitary" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Guards at Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A working group that Mayor Bill de Blasio created earlier this year to craft a plan for ending the use of solitary confinement in city jails is going to deliver its report to City Hall in the “next several days” and its recommendations could become city policy within six weeks.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Board of Correction Chair Jennifer Jones Austin broke the news in a Wednesday appearance on the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9848-max-murphy-podcast-jennifer-jones-austin-fpwa-police-nypd-prison-reform">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>, hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. “The working group is very close to completion of the plan to end solitary confinement,” said Jones Austin. “And it's my understanding that literally in the next several days, they will be presenting the plan to the City of New York and to the Board of Correction, and then we are going to go into public comment.”</p> <p>De Blasio convened the working group in June, aiming to end the practice of solitary confinement, also known as punitive segregation, in the city’s jails system. The working group included Board of Correction Vice-Chair Stanley Richards, Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann, and Just Leadership USA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins, while Benny Boscio, President of the Corrections Officer Benevolent Association (COBA), was invited to be the fourth member. Richards and Hoskins declined to comment for this article through spokespeople.</p> <p>A spokesperson for COBA did not respond to a request for comment, but Jones Austin said Boscio “brought his concerns to the table” during the working group’s deliberations.</p> <p>“We need to make changes immediately in how people who are incarcerated in our jail system are handled and we need to make sure they are safe,” de Blasio said at the time, while also announcing immediate reforms. The announcement came three days after the mayor had announced disciplinary action against 17 correction officers for the role they played in the death of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who died a year earlier on Rikers Island after suffering an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement.</p> <p>The mayor said people with underlying medical conditions would no longer be placed in solitary confinement. “We have a lot to do to create more safety for people who are incarcerated and for our correction officers and employees alike. But we know there are ways we can do this without punitive segregation,” he said.</p> <p>On the podcast Wednesday, Jones Austin said the report of the working group “will be incorporated into the [Department of Correction] rules, it'll be certified, we’ll bring it to the public for comment, and then we will have a vote on the rule, probably sometime hopefully in the next four to six weeks.”</p> <p>Criminal justice reform advocates have been calling on the mayor to end solitary confinement for years and the coronavirus pandemic has only lent added urgency to their demands. Time and again, they have pointed out, there have been glaring examples of the harmful effects that solitary confinement can have on detainees.</p> <p>Before Polanco, there was the story of Bronx teenager Kalief Browder. Arrested on charges of stealing a backpack, Browder could not post bail and was detained on Rikers for three years, most of which was spent in solitary. He never went to trial and the charges were eventually dismissed. But he suffered immense physical and psychological harm during his detention and, in 2015, he died by suicide.</p> <p>Browder’s case prompted consistent outcry and, over the years, the city responded by slowly phasing out solitary confinement for anyone 21 years old or younger. It also led to the introduction of speedy trial legislation, named “Kalief’s Law,” in the state Legislature – though that specific bill did not pass, the Legislature did approve another law to provide for speedier trials in the state by tightening timelines.</p> <p>When the mayor announced the working group in June, advocates welcomed the news but said it was an unnecessary delay tactic and that the mayor should have ended solitary confinement already in the wake of cases like Polanco’s and Browder’s. They also raised concerns about the inclusion in the group of COBA, which has repeatedly argued in favor of solitary confinement as a measure to ensure the safety of correction officers.</p> <p>In October 2019, the NYC Jails Action Coalition and the #HALTsolitary Campaign released a <a href="http://nycaic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Blueprint-for-Ending-Solitary-Confinement-in-NYC-Oct-2019.pdf">blueprint</a> for ending solitary confinement that would establish minimum standards for out-of-cell time for all jail detainees by eliminating exception for those who are in solitary or in Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH) units, create time limits for a person being housed in an ESH or other alternative unit, and severely restrict the use of restraints, among other measures. The groups have also been pushing at the state level for the passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.</p> <p>“Decades of research show that solitary is ineffective, dangerous, and, too often, deadly,” the #HALTsolitary Campaign said in a statement after the mayor’s announcement in June. “The Mayor has the power to eliminate this torture immediately and the community provided him with a detailed plan for doing so last October.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/29358752836_a86b6139d4_c.jpg" alt="Rikers Island jails guards solitary" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Guards at Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A working group that Mayor Bill de Blasio created earlier this year to craft a plan for ending the use of solitary confinement in city jails is going to deliver its report to City Hall in the “next several days” and its recommendations could become city policy within six weeks.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Board of Correction Chair Jennifer Jones Austin broke the news in a Wednesday appearance on the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9848-max-murphy-podcast-jennifer-jones-austin-fpwa-police-nypd-prison-reform">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>, hosted by Gotham Gazette and City Limits. “The working group is very close to completion of the plan to end solitary confinement,” said Jones Austin. “And it's my understanding that literally in the next several days, they will be presenting the plan to the City of New York and to the Board of Correction, and then we are going to go into public comment.”</p> <p>De Blasio convened the working group in June, aiming to end the practice of solitary confinement, also known as punitive segregation, in the city’s jails system. The working group included Board of Correction Vice-Chair Stanley Richards, Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann, and Just Leadership USA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins, while Benny Boscio, President of the Corrections Officer Benevolent Association (COBA), was invited to be the fourth member. Richards and Hoskins declined to comment for this article through spokespeople.</p> <p>A spokesperson for COBA did not respond to a request for comment, but Jones Austin said Boscio “brought his concerns to the table” during the working group’s deliberations.</p> <p>“We need to make changes immediately in how people who are incarcerated in our jail system are handled and we need to make sure they are safe,” de Blasio said at the time, while also announcing immediate reforms. The announcement came three days after the mayor had announced disciplinary action against 17 correction officers for the role they played in the death of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who died a year earlier on Rikers Island after suffering an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement.</p> <p>The mayor said people with underlying medical conditions would no longer be placed in solitary confinement. “We have a lot to do to create more safety for people who are incarcerated and for our correction officers and employees alike. But we know there are ways we can do this without punitive segregation,” he said.</p> <p>On the podcast Wednesday, Jones Austin said the report of the working group “will be incorporated into the [Department of Correction] rules, it'll be certified, we’ll bring it to the public for comment, and then we will have a vote on the rule, probably sometime hopefully in the next four to six weeks.”</p> <p>Criminal justice reform advocates have been calling on the mayor to end solitary confinement for years and the coronavirus pandemic has only lent added urgency to their demands. Time and again, they have pointed out, there have been glaring examples of the harmful effects that solitary confinement can have on detainees.</p> <p>Before Polanco, there was the story of Bronx teenager Kalief Browder. Arrested on charges of stealing a backpack, Browder could not post bail and was detained on Rikers for three years, most of which was spent in solitary. He never went to trial and the charges were eventually dismissed. But he suffered immense physical and psychological harm during his detention and, in 2015, he died by suicide.</p> <p>Browder’s case prompted consistent outcry and, over the years, the city responded by slowly phasing out solitary confinement for anyone 21 years old or younger. It also led to the introduction of speedy trial legislation, named “Kalief’s Law,” in the state Legislature – though that specific bill did not pass, the Legislature did approve another law to provide for speedier trials in the state by tightening timelines.</p> <p>When the mayor announced the working group in June, advocates welcomed the news but said it was an unnecessary delay tactic and that the mayor should have ended solitary confinement already in the wake of cases like Polanco’s and Browder’s. They also raised concerns about the inclusion in the group of COBA, which has repeatedly argued in favor of solitary confinement as a measure to ensure the safety of correction officers.</p> <p>In October 2019, the NYC Jails Action Coalition and the #HALTsolitary Campaign released a <a href="http://nycaic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Blueprint-for-Ending-Solitary-Confinement-in-NYC-Oct-2019.pdf">blueprint</a> for ending solitary confinement that would establish minimum standards for out-of-cell time for all jail detainees by eliminating exception for those who are in solitary or in Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH) units, create time limits for a person being housed in an ESH or other alternative unit, and severely restrict the use of restraints, among other measures. The groups have also been pushing at the state level for the passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.</p> <p>“Decades of research show that solitary is ineffective, dangerous, and, too often, deadly,” the #HALTsolitary Campaign said in a statement after the mayor’s announcement in June. “The Mayor has the power to eliminate this torture immediately and the community provided him with a detailed plan for doing so last October.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio's First Chief Democracy Officer Quietly Resigned in January and Hasn't Been Replaced 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9845-de-blasio-chief-democracy-officer-quietly-resigned-not-replaced-election-year Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/ear-vot-bot.jpg" alt="ear vot bot" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, New York City’s first Chief Democracy Officer, quietly resigned in January and Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to name a replacement to the position, even amid an especially complicated and consequential election year.</p> <p>The mayor created the office of DemocracyNYC to be led by the Chief Democracy Officer in 2018, announcing it in his State of the City speech that February. The office was part of a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/democracy.page">ten-point agenda</a> aimed at improving voter access, promoting youth voter participation, curbing the influence of money in elections, expanding lobbying transparency and making it easier to run for office, among other goals.</p> <p>“If we're going to fight for fairness and we're going to fight for equality, we better fight to save our democracy,” de Blasio said in <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/095-18/official-transcript-mayor-de-blasio-presents-2018-state-the-city">his speech</a>. He pointed to several threats including dark money flooding into elections after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, plummeting voter participation, President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine democratic institutions, and Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election. “We are so far from what the norm should be of an active and inclusive democracy,” he said.</p> <p>In October that year, de Blasio appointed Fonseca-Sabune, a Harvard-educated attorney and civil rights advocate, to lead DemocracyNYC. But after just 14 months on the job,&nbsp; Fonseca-Sabune stepped down from her position earlier this year – according to the City Record, her resignation was effective on January 1. She now runs her own anti-racism and anti-oppression coaching and organizational development service, <a href="https://www.rinifs.com/">according to her website</a>.</p> <p>Fonseca-Sabune did not respond to a request for comment. Her website features a photo of her with de Blasio at an announcement during her tenure as Chief Democracy Officer and says that in that role she “worked to amplify the voice of every New Yorker, including marginalized communities that have historically been disenfranchised. Her work has included developing robust voter-registration drives, expanding civics education across all ages for the 1.1 million children attending New York City schools, and partnering with community-based organizations, elected officials and agencies at all levels of government, and the philanthropic community to get more New Yorkers civically engaged.”</p> <p>But since Fonseca-Sabune’s resignation, the mayor has not appointed a new city Chief Democracy Officer. Laura Wood, DemocracyNYC’s senior advisor and general counsel, has seemingly taken over her duties in that time. Wood appeared alongside the mayor at his news briefing on Tuesday to speak of efforts the city is taking to ensure that voting in this year’s general election, with early voting beginning Saturday, goes smoothly.</p> <p>“As the start of early voting approaches, we want to emphasize that voters don't have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Wood said. “And the DemocracyNYC team is working hard to make sure that New Yorkers know how to vote safely.” Wood was previously senior advisor and special counsel to the State Attorney General and prior to that, chief Counsel to the State Senate’s Democratic Conference.</p> <p>When asked for comment, mayoral spokesperson Bill Neidhardt did not explain the reason that Fonseca-Sabune left the administration or why the mayor has not replaced her. He also did not say whether a search for a replacement was underway. “As we presented at today’s press conference, the Democracy NYC team, led by Laura Wood, is performing the critical task of protecting our democracy and the health of all voters and poll workers,” he said in an email on Tuesday.</p> <p>In a statement on Wednesday, mayoral spokesperson Jose Bayona said, “After Rini’s departure in January, the work at Democracy NYC was kicking into high gear and Laura Wood stepped into the leadership role as the elections expert given the focus our team would be heading this and next year. At this critical time, and with an evolving fiscal crisis, we currently have a strong and committed team to build on the demanding task of protecting our democracy and the health of all voters and poll workers. We thank Rini for her work and wish her the best in her endeavors.”</p> <p>Rachel Bloom, director of policy at Citizens Union, a government reform group, said the empty position should have been filled as soon as possible, particularly as the city heads into possibly the most consequential presidential election in decades, as well as a major citywide municipal election next year when all of city government will be on the ballot. “There are multiple agencies doing a lot of similar work, between the Civic Engagement Commission and the Campaign Finance Board and DemocracyNYC, and I think it is beneficial to have one person who is leading that as the Chief Democracy Officer,” Bloom said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Bloom did note that despite the vacancy, DemocracyNYC work has been getting done. As Wood explained at the Tuesday news conference, the office is rolling out several initiatives including a public service announcement campaign with the relatively new city Civic Engagement Commission, created by 2018 ballot referenda, on how to vote early and by mail, a fact sheet developed with the Department of Health on how to vote safely, and a collaboration with Citi Bike for discounted rides on Election Day.</p> <p>“There's a lot of collaboration happening right now,” Bloom said. “But I think if that position is going to exist, it should be filled and it should be filled now.”</p> <p>One of the chief reasons the mayor created the DemocracyNYC office was to increase voter registration in the city. “Whoever will take this job will end up being responsible for registering 1.5 million New Yorkers in the next four years,” de Blasio said in that State of the City speech. At the time of Fonseca-Sabune’s appointment, there were 5.13 million <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/EnrollmentCounty.html">registered voters</a> in the city; as of February 21 this year, there were 5.32 million.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s goal was always dubious, voter registrations efforts were hobbled this year because of the pandemic, Bloom pointed out, and the state still does not have a truly online system of voter registration (a city-led effort to create online voter registration has also stalled without state approval). “We usually see the largest numbers of new voter registrations in a presidential election year and because of the pandemic, that was completely upended this year,” Bloom said.</p> <p>The city Board of Elections did recently report processing almost 169,000 new registrations between September 1 and the October 9 registration deadline to vote in this year’s election.</p> <p>“If that was one of the primary goals of having a Chief Democracy Officer,” Bloom added, “it seems like a really odd moment in time to not have that role filled. And yes, their work continues to be done, but I don't know why the position hasn’t been filled for months and months and months.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/ear-vot-bot.jpg" alt="ear vot bot" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, New York City’s first Chief Democracy Officer, quietly resigned in January and Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to name a replacement to the position, even amid an especially complicated and consequential election year.</p> <p>The mayor created the office of DemocracyNYC to be led by the Chief Democracy Officer in 2018, announcing it in his State of the City speech that February. The office was part of a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/democracy.page">ten-point agenda</a> aimed at improving voter access, promoting youth voter participation, curbing the influence of money in elections, expanding lobbying transparency and making it easier to run for office, among other goals.</p> <p>“If we're going to fight for fairness and we're going to fight for equality, we better fight to save our democracy,” de Blasio said in <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/095-18/official-transcript-mayor-de-blasio-presents-2018-state-the-city">his speech</a>. He pointed to several threats including dark money flooding into elections after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, plummeting voter participation, President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine democratic institutions, and Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election. “We are so far from what the norm should be of an active and inclusive democracy,” he said.</p> <p>In October that year, de Blasio appointed Fonseca-Sabune, a Harvard-educated attorney and civil rights advocate, to lead DemocracyNYC. But after just 14 months on the job,&nbsp; Fonseca-Sabune stepped down from her position earlier this year – according to the City Record, her resignation was effective on January 1. She now runs her own anti-racism and anti-oppression coaching and organizational development service, <a href="https://www.rinifs.com/">according to her website</a>.</p> <p>Fonseca-Sabune did not respond to a request for comment. Her website features a photo of her with de Blasio at an announcement during her tenure as Chief Democracy Officer and says that in that role she “worked to amplify the voice of every New Yorker, including marginalized communities that have historically been disenfranchised. Her work has included developing robust voter-registration drives, expanding civics education across all ages for the 1.1 million children attending New York City schools, and partnering with community-based organizations, elected officials and agencies at all levels of government, and the philanthropic community to get more New Yorkers civically engaged.”</p> <p>But since Fonseca-Sabune’s resignation, the mayor has not appointed a new city Chief Democracy Officer. Laura Wood, DemocracyNYC’s senior advisor and general counsel, has seemingly taken over her duties in that time. Wood appeared alongside the mayor at his news briefing on Tuesday to speak of efforts the city is taking to ensure that voting in this year’s general election, with early voting beginning Saturday, goes smoothly.</p> <p>“As the start of early voting approaches, we want to emphasize that voters don't have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Wood said. “And the DemocracyNYC team is working hard to make sure that New Yorkers know how to vote safely.” Wood was previously senior advisor and special counsel to the State Attorney General and prior to that, chief Counsel to the State Senate’s Democratic Conference.</p> <p>When asked for comment, mayoral spokesperson Bill Neidhardt did not explain the reason that Fonseca-Sabune left the administration or why the mayor has not replaced her. He also did not say whether a search for a replacement was underway. “As we presented at today’s press conference, the Democracy NYC team, led by Laura Wood, is performing the critical task of protecting our democracy and the health of all voters and poll workers,” he said in an email on Tuesday.</p> <p>In a statement on Wednesday, mayoral spokesperson Jose Bayona said, “After Rini’s departure in January, the work at Democracy NYC was kicking into high gear and Laura Wood stepped into the leadership role as the elections expert given the focus our team would be heading this and next year. At this critical time, and with an evolving fiscal crisis, we currently have a strong and committed team to build on the demanding task of protecting our democracy and the health of all voters and poll workers. We thank Rini for her work and wish her the best in her endeavors.”</p> <p>Rachel Bloom, director of policy at Citizens Union, a government reform group, said the empty position should have been filled as soon as possible, particularly as the city heads into possibly the most consequential presidential election in decades, as well as a major citywide municipal election next year when all of city government will be on the ballot. “There are multiple agencies doing a lot of similar work, between the Civic Engagement Commission and the Campaign Finance Board and DemocracyNYC, and I think it is beneficial to have one person who is leading that as the Chief Democracy Officer,” Bloom said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Bloom did note that despite the vacancy, DemocracyNYC work has been getting done. As Wood explained at the Tuesday news conference, the office is rolling out several initiatives including a public service announcement campaign with the relatively new city Civic Engagement Commission, created by 2018 ballot referenda, on how to vote early and by mail, a fact sheet developed with the Department of Health on how to vote safely, and a collaboration with Citi Bike for discounted rides on Election Day.</p> <p>“There's a lot of collaboration happening right now,” Bloom said. “But I think if that position is going to exist, it should be filled and it should be filled now.”</p> <p>One of the chief reasons the mayor created the DemocracyNYC office was to increase voter registration in the city. “Whoever will take this job will end up being responsible for registering 1.5 million New Yorkers in the next four years,” de Blasio said in that State of the City speech. At the time of Fonseca-Sabune’s appointment, there were 5.13 million <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/EnrollmentCounty.html">registered voters</a> in the city; as of February 21 this year, there were 5.32 million.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s goal was always dubious, voter registrations efforts were hobbled this year because of the pandemic, Bloom pointed out, and the state still does not have a truly online system of voter registration (a city-led effort to create online voter registration has also stalled without state approval). “We usually see the largest numbers of new voter registrations in a presidential election year and because of the pandemic, that was completely upended this year,” Bloom said.</p> <p>The city Board of Elections did recently report processing almost 169,000 new registrations between September 1 and the October 9 registration deadline to vote in this year’s election.</p> <p>“If that was one of the primary goals of having a Chief Democracy Officer,” Bloom added, “it seems like a really odd moment in time to not have that role filled. And yes, their work continues to be done, but I don't know why the position hasn’t been filled for months and months and months.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Jennifer Jones Austin on Police and Prison Reform 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9848-max-murphy-podcast-jennifer-jones-austin-fpwa-police-nypd-prison-reform Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/fpwa-tw-coa.jpg" alt="fpwa tw coa" width="600" height="512" /></p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin at NYPD headquarters (photo: @FPWA)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 21, 2020 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Jennifer Jones Austin on Police and Prison Reform<br /></strong></p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin, longtime CEO of FPWA, joined the show to discuss FPWA's anti-poverty work and her roles on an NYPD reform commission and as chair of the New York City Board of Correction.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/915828094&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-256-jennifer-jones-austin-on-police-and-prison-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 256 Jennifer Jones Austin On Police And Prison Reform">Episode 256 Jennifer Jones Austin On Police And Prison Reform</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/fpwa-tw-coa.jpg" alt="fpwa tw coa" width="600" height="512" /></p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin at NYPD headquarters (photo: @FPWA)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 21, 2020 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Jennifer Jones Austin on Police and Prison Reform<br /></strong></p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin, longtime CEO of FPWA, joined the show to discuss FPWA's anti-poverty work and her roles on an NYPD reform commission and as chair of the New York City Board of Correction.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/915828094&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-256-jennifer-jones-austin-on-police-and-prison-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 256 Jennifer Jones Austin On Police And Prison Reform">Episode 256 Jennifer Jones Austin On Police And Prison Reform</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Carlos Menchaca Announces Candidacy for Mayor 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9849-carlos-menchaca-announces-candidacy-2021-mayor-new-york-city Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/cm-sab-ca.jpg" alt="cm sab ca" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlos Menchaca (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Carlos Menchaca, a City Council member from Brooklyn, is running for mayor, making his announcement official on Thursday morning and entering the growing Democratic primary field. Known for his focus on immigrant communities, the term-limited Menchaca enters the 2021 race while representing neighborhoods including Sunset Park and Red Hook after unseating an incumbent in the 2013 election and holding his seat against several challengers in 2017.</p> <p>He’s become a steadfast critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio, arguing the mayor has not lived up to his progressive promises and even introducing a resolution to the Council calling for a no-confidence vote in de Blasio, whom Menchaca supported in the past but came to see as a massive disappointment. Menchaca believes he is filling the left-most lane in the still-developing primary race, which will be decided in June of next year and is likely to determine the next mayor of New York City given Democrats’ immense voter enrollment advantage.</p> <p>He is promising “a new day for New York City,” as he put it in an interview with Gotham Gazette just ahead of his launch, where the mayoral administration is truly engaged with and reflective of communities that have for too long been marginalized.</p> <p>“I’ve been a constant and consistent voice of the people,” Menchaca said, “and when I think about who’s actually going to win this race on behalf of the people and create a people’s movement, a people’s mayor, a people’s government — that’s me, and that’s my work, and my relationship with community.”</p> <p>He pointed to policing, climate change, transit, and housing and development as key issues in need of “vision, leadership, compassion, and the progressive policies to effectuate that change” in the face of enormous challenges, both from the COVID-19 crisis but also long-standing crises, such as structures of “white supremacy in our own government.”</p> <p>Menchaca declined to offer any specific plans or proposals, saying he will be engaging with New Yorkers and letting those conversations drive his platform. He did promise an upcoming focus on reviving the city’s arts and nightlife sectors, which he said are essential to the life of the city and other parts of the economy and must be saved. He also said he’s working to move legislation expanding opportunities for street vendors.</p> <p>In recent months Menchaca has voted against the city budget deal reached between de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson because he argued it did not go far enough in cutting funding from the police department and he torpedoed a proposed rezoning of the Industry City property in his district that would have expanded the campus’ retail and commercial footprint.</p> <p>Menchaca negotiated with the Industry City developers for some time before telling them they should pull their application. He said he was listening to community opposition amid fears of accelerated gentrification and displacement, a lack of sufficient local benefits that he wanted the de Blasio administration to help provide, and preferences for a community-driven plan focused on green jobs. The developers said he was passing on thousands of local jobs and increased commerce requiring no public subsidies.</p> <p>In the Council, Menchaca, who is of Mexican descent and grew up in Texas, has chaired the Committee on Immigration for all of his nearly two terms, where he has helped pass the city’s municipal identification law, secure funding for legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, and limit city cooperation with federal immigration enforcement entities. He worked with neighboring Council Member Brad Lander to redesign local zones and admissions policies to desegregate area schools. This year, he co-chaired the Council’s 2020 Census task force. He’s also been known as a transit advocate, particularly focused on better biking infrastructure.</p> <p>“I’m a bicyclist,” Menchaca said in the interview. “I commute on my bike, I don’t have a driver’s license.”</p> <p>“The conversations around land use” must be reenvisioned, he argued, including street safety and reform of the city’s land use review process (ULURP), with a shift away from the “rezonings that have been pushed from the previous two mayors [Bloomberg and de Blasio], 20 years of rezonings that have never left communities engaged or empowered or part of the design of how their neighborhood was going to grow, and all that needs to change.”</p> <p>Industry City “went down to the power of the community and it sent an important message,” Menchaca said, adding that critics of him and others who’ve taken an oppositional stance toward big developers “don’t get it” and should see the shifting winds of New York political power, which is moving to communities.</p> <p>Menchaca was the first elected official to endorse Cynthia Nixon in her 2018 primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he pointed to progressive victories over Democratic incumbents in the 2018 and 2020 state legislative election cycles, saying, “that’s only going to continue, that’s only going to grow, and that’s the energy that is fueling me and my campaign, and that’s the energy I’m going to reflect back to the city as I build out this campaign and really start engaging people.”</p> <p>The people who stayed in the city throughout the pandemic are those he will be listening to, he said, including “the immigrant workers, the essential workers,” who “are going to be the ones...to instruct government on how to build the next chapter of the city.”</p> <p>Calling for public investment in green jobs and public housing, he said of the perspective he’s reflecting, “it’s not no new development, it’s community-based...communities are not against development, we are actually in support of growth, but we want to do it our way.”</p> <p>Asked about Comptroller Scott Stringer, seen as a frontrunner in the mayoral race, saying some similar things about community-based planning, Menchaca siad, “I have the receipts. That’s it. I’m the one that has actually voted on stuff and has put my name on the line for things that have been hard. I was in the CIty Council, I said no. I said no to a budget. I didn’t just talk about ‘the hardships of this budget,’ I voted no, and I paid a price for that. I also said no on a development project; there are people running right now who have supported things like Hudson Yards.”</p> <p>Along with that reference to Stringer’s support for the Hudson Yards development when Stringer was Manhattan Borough President, Menchaca also said the comptroller uses “progressive speak” but hasn’t gone “all the way” in action.</p> <p>“I’m the only progressive, tested elected official in this race,” Menchaca argued in a comparison to Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is more moderate. “There’s a lane that has yet to be entered, a lane that everyone is feeling has yet to be occupied.”</p> <p>Offered the early indications that former social services nonprofit executive Dianne Morales appears to be running a campaign in or near the left lane, Menchaca said his work and record as an elected official separates him. He promised a campaign “attuned to the movement on the ground” and reflective of “what people have been asking from our leaders. That’s what they asked for in 2013 when they elected de Blasio, and that’s not what they got. That’s what people want. And the city is becoming even more left.”</p> <p>Along with Stringer, Adams, Morales, and Menchaca, other candidates in the Democratic primary field include former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former city veterans affairs commissioner Loree Sutton, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, former Wall Street executive Raymond McGuire, military veteran Zach Iscol, and Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former counsel to de Blasio.</p> <p>Menchaca is seeking to become the city’s first Latino mayor and first openly gay mayor.</p> <p>He said he is already competing for endorsements from elected officials, labor unions, and others, and that while he won’t be announcing any formal support at launch, he expects it to come, and even for some who have already endorsed another candidate to “cross-endorse,” which there is more room for amid the new ranked-choice voting system set to start in 2021 for party primary and special elections for city government positions.</p> <p>Asked about his biggest allies over the years, Menchaca listed the New York City Coalition on Adult Literacy, immigrant communities, Make the Road New York, transportation advocates, the Mexican-American community, day laborers, and the LGBTQ community.</p> <p>While he has won praise over the years for his work on behalf of those groups and constituencies, Menchaca has also ruffled feathers. Several Democratic City Council members privately call him very difficult to work with; he <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-carlos-menchaca-fires-staff-christmas-20181226-story.html">fired several staff members</a> right before Christmas in 2018; and he was <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-carlos-menchaca-revenge-new-york-immigration-coalition-budget-20200709-tbaxa26n7nbvfk7dc3awgf4wo4-story.html">recently accused</a> by leaders of the New York Immigration Coalition of cutting government funding to programming for immigrant communities due to a political dispute.</p> <p>Early on in his tenure in the Council and de Blasio’s as mayor, with the two sides of City Hall still enjoying a honeymoon period of close comradery, Menchaca pushed back on the administration as it sought to move plans for redeveloping the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in his district. He caught a lot of flack and was quickly dislodged as a co-chair of the Brooklyn delegation in the City Council.</p> <p>Reminded of that, Menchaca laughed. “Oh yeah, my colleagues were teaching me a lesson,”&nbsp; he said. “And now everybody’s on board, everybody’s like ‘oh, de Blasio’s terrible’ - and that was me in 2014!”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/cm-sab-ca.jpg" alt="cm sab ca" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlos Menchaca (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Carlos Menchaca, a City Council member from Brooklyn, is running for mayor, making his announcement official on Thursday morning and entering the growing Democratic primary field. Known for his focus on immigrant communities, the term-limited Menchaca enters the 2021 race while representing neighborhoods including Sunset Park and Red Hook after unseating an incumbent in the 2013 election and holding his seat against several challengers in 2017.</p> <p>He’s become a steadfast critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio, arguing the mayor has not lived up to his progressive promises and even introducing a resolution to the Council calling for a no-confidence vote in de Blasio, whom Menchaca supported in the past but came to see as a massive disappointment. Menchaca believes he is filling the left-most lane in the still-developing primary race, which will be decided in June of next year and is likely to determine the next mayor of New York City given Democrats’ immense voter enrollment advantage.</p> <p>He is promising “a new day for New York City,” as he put it in an interview with Gotham Gazette just ahead of his launch, where the mayoral administration is truly engaged with and reflective of communities that have for too long been marginalized.</p> <p>“I’ve been a constant and consistent voice of the people,” Menchaca said, “and when I think about who’s actually going to win this race on behalf of the people and create a people’s movement, a people’s mayor, a people’s government — that’s me, and that’s my work, and my relationship with community.”</p> <p>He pointed to policing, climate change, transit, and housing and development as key issues in need of “vision, leadership, compassion, and the progressive policies to effectuate that change” in the face of enormous challenges, both from the COVID-19 crisis but also long-standing crises, such as structures of “white supremacy in our own government.”</p> <p>Menchaca declined to offer any specific plans or proposals, saying he will be engaging with New Yorkers and letting those conversations drive his platform. He did promise an upcoming focus on reviving the city’s arts and nightlife sectors, which he said are essential to the life of the city and other parts of the economy and must be saved. He also said he’s working to move legislation expanding opportunities for street vendors.</p> <p>In recent months Menchaca has voted against the city budget deal reached between de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson because he argued it did not go far enough in cutting funding from the police department and he torpedoed a proposed rezoning of the Industry City property in his district that would have expanded the campus’ retail and commercial footprint.</p> <p>Menchaca negotiated with the Industry City developers for some time before telling them they should pull their application. He said he was listening to community opposition amid fears of accelerated gentrification and displacement, a lack of sufficient local benefits that he wanted the de Blasio administration to help provide, and preferences for a community-driven plan focused on green jobs. The developers said he was passing on thousands of local jobs and increased commerce requiring no public subsidies.</p> <p>In the Council, Menchaca, who is of Mexican descent and grew up in Texas, has chaired the Committee on Immigration for all of his nearly two terms, where he has helped pass the city’s municipal identification law, secure funding for legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, and limit city cooperation with federal immigration enforcement entities. He worked with neighboring Council Member Brad Lander to redesign local zones and admissions policies to desegregate area schools. This year, he co-chaired the Council’s 2020 Census task force. He’s also been known as a transit advocate, particularly focused on better biking infrastructure.</p> <p>“I’m a bicyclist,” Menchaca said in the interview. “I commute on my bike, I don’t have a driver’s license.”</p> <p>“The conversations around land use” must be reenvisioned, he argued, including street safety and reform of the city’s land use review process (ULURP), with a shift away from the “rezonings that have been pushed from the previous two mayors [Bloomberg and de Blasio], 20 years of rezonings that have never left communities engaged or empowered or part of the design of how their neighborhood was going to grow, and all that needs to change.”</p> <p>Industry City “went down to the power of the community and it sent an important message,” Menchaca said, adding that critics of him and others who’ve taken an oppositional stance toward big developers “don’t get it” and should see the shifting winds of New York political power, which is moving to communities.</p> <p>Menchaca was the first elected official to endorse Cynthia Nixon in her 2018 primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he pointed to progressive victories over Democratic incumbents in the 2018 and 2020 state legislative election cycles, saying, “that’s only going to continue, that’s only going to grow, and that’s the energy that is fueling me and my campaign, and that’s the energy I’m going to reflect back to the city as I build out this campaign and really start engaging people.”</p> <p>The people who stayed in the city throughout the pandemic are those he will be listening to, he said, including “the immigrant workers, the essential workers,” who “are going to be the ones...to instruct government on how to build the next chapter of the city.”</p> <p>Calling for public investment in green jobs and public housing, he said of the perspective he’s reflecting, “it’s not no new development, it’s community-based...communities are not against development, we are actually in support of growth, but we want to do it our way.”</p> <p>Asked about Comptroller Scott Stringer, seen as a frontrunner in the mayoral race, saying some similar things about community-based planning, Menchaca siad, “I have the receipts. That’s it. I’m the one that has actually voted on stuff and has put my name on the line for things that have been hard. I was in the CIty Council, I said no. I said no to a budget. I didn’t just talk about ‘the hardships of this budget,’ I voted no, and I paid a price for that. I also said no on a development project; there are people running right now who have supported things like Hudson Yards.”</p> <p>Along with that reference to Stringer’s support for the Hudson Yards development when Stringer was Manhattan Borough President, Menchaca also said the comptroller uses “progressive speak” but hasn’t gone “all the way” in action.</p> <p>“I’m the only progressive, tested elected official in this race,” Menchaca argued in a comparison to Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is more moderate. “There’s a lane that has yet to be entered, a lane that everyone is feeling has yet to be occupied.”</p> <p>Offered the early indications that former social services nonprofit executive Dianne Morales appears to be running a campaign in or near the left lane, Menchaca said his work and record as an elected official separates him. He promised a campaign “attuned to the movement on the ground” and reflective of “what people have been asking from our leaders. That’s what they asked for in 2013 when they elected de Blasio, and that’s not what they got. That’s what people want. And the city is becoming even more left.”</p> <p>Along with Stringer, Adams, Morales, and Menchaca, other candidates in the Democratic primary field include former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former city veterans affairs commissioner Loree Sutton, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, former Wall Street executive Raymond McGuire, military veteran Zach Iscol, and Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former counsel to de Blasio.</p> <p>Menchaca is seeking to become the city’s first Latino mayor and first openly gay mayor.</p> <p>He said he is already competing for endorsements from elected officials, labor unions, and others, and that while he won’t be announcing any formal support at launch, he expects it to come, and even for some who have already endorsed another candidate to “cross-endorse,” which there is more room for amid the new ranked-choice voting system set to start in 2021 for party primary and special elections for city government positions.</p> <p>Asked about his biggest allies over the years, Menchaca listed the New York City Coalition on Adult Literacy, immigrant communities, Make the Road New York, transportation advocates, the Mexican-American community, day laborers, and the LGBTQ community.</p> <p>While he has won praise over the years for his work on behalf of those groups and constituencies, Menchaca has also ruffled feathers. Several Democratic City Council members privately call him very difficult to work with; he <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-carlos-menchaca-fires-staff-christmas-20181226-story.html">fired several staff members</a> right before Christmas in 2018; and he was <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-carlos-menchaca-revenge-new-york-immigration-coalition-budget-20200709-tbaxa26n7nbvfk7dc3awgf4wo4-story.html">recently accused</a> by leaders of the New York Immigration Coalition of cutting government funding to programming for immigrant communities due to a political dispute.</p> <p>Early on in his tenure in the Council and de Blasio’s as mayor, with the two sides of City Hall still enjoying a honeymoon period of close comradery, Menchaca pushed back on the administration as it sought to move plans for redeveloping the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in his district. He caught a lot of flack and was quickly dislodged as a co-chair of the Brooklyn delegation in the City Council.</p> <p>Reminded of that, Menchaca laughed. “Oh yeah, my colleagues were teaching me a lesson,”&nbsp; he said. “And now everybody’s on board, everybody’s like ‘oh, de Blasio’s terrible’ - and that was me in 2014!”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York City Overcomes Obstacles to Outperform 2020 Census Projections 2020-10-21T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9844-new-york-city-overcomes-obstacles-outperform-2020-census-rate Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/44758703900_0dab543ee9_c.jpg" alt="NYC 2020 Census" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>A pre-pandemic NYC Census event (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Census officials celebrated a robust self-response rate in the Census on Tuesday, despite unprecedented hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts by the Trump administration to discourage participation. The city’s self-response reached an unofficial 61.8% when the constitutionally mandated decennial population count concluded last week on October 15.</p> <p>The self-response rate for New York City residents was nearly the same as 2010 but came amid a slew of complicating factors that made the count the most challenging it has been in decades. The city also had a far smaller gap between its household completion rate and the national average.</p> <p>New York City already has its fair share of hard-to-count populations – such as Native Americans, seniors, undocumented immigrants, African Americans, children under the age of five, people experiencing homelessness – who tend to voluntarily respond to the Census at lower rates. At the same time, the Trump administration unsuccessfully sought to place a citizenship question on the Census, which contributed to a heightened sense of anxiety among immigrant communities that are already wary of interactions with the government. The U.S. Census Bureau had been underfunded and understaffed as well, which meant there were fewer enumerators to knock on the doors of households that did not respond to initial prompts.</p> <p>Then came the pandemic, forcing city, state, and federal officials to suspend in-person operations. The Census Bureau, in response, announced that it would extend the self-response period to October 31, but that timeline kept shifting and being litigated in court as the Trump administration sought, and eventually succeeded, to cut it shorter. New York City officials adapted quickly throughout, having planned and put into motion a $40 million Census outreach program, the highest funding ever from the city, which included $19 million in direct funding for 157 community-based organizations based on allocations made by de Blasio and the City Council.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state government had promised a $70 million Census effort that never materialized.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the city’s self-response rate was nearly four points higher than the Census Bureau’s projections of 58% made in 2019. In Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens, the response rate was higher than in 2010, increasing by 1.8, 1.3, and 1.9 percentage points, respectively, according to the <a href="https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/?latlng=40.69782%2C-73.84598&amp;z=10&amp;query=cities%3A%3A3651000&amp;promotedfeaturetype=cities&amp;arp=arpRaceEthnicity&amp;baselayerstate=5&amp;rtrYear=sR2020latest&amp;infotab=info-rtrselfresponse&amp;filterQuery=false&amp;searchbox=searchcity&amp;searchval=New%20York%2C%20New%20York">CUNY Census mapping project</a>.</p> <p>“What a vote of confidence in this city,” the mayor said at his daily news briefing on Tuesday. “And also, what an amazing action by New Yorkers – with every effort to undermine and discourage them, they still came through. All of you came through. That's an amazing number, given what we were up against. We saw some really great results.”</p> <p>De Blasio heaped praise on NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin, whom he appointed to the role after she had led two different agencies in his administration, and her team.</p> <p>Though the city’s response fell behind the national self-response rate of 67% and the statewide rate of 64.2%, it nonetheless surpassed many other major cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit, among others.</p> <p>It was no easy feat for the city. The city Census office and community partners held more than 1,000 events, according to a press release. There were 34 media campaigns in 27 languages. Volunteers and Census workers made more than 4 million phone calls and sent more than 7 million texts. Nearly a million New Yorkers clicked on the city’s digital ads and more than 470,000 city households that are home to 1.23 million residents were either counted or got assistance in filling out the Census questionnaire.</p> <p>“It's so important, because for every household over two people that is counted, that brings New York City $7,000 per year, or $70,000 over 10 years, not to mention, of course, the importance of the political representation,” said Menin, at the news conference on Tuesday, referring to seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which are based off of state population tallies done in the Census, as well as local districts within the State Legislature and other entities.</p> <p>The Census determines levels of federal funding that the city and state receive on many fronts, and the population count also undergirds the process of drawing electoral districts at the city, state, and federal levels. As it stands, New York State could lose one seat in the House of Representatives because of outmigration over the last decade. A severe undercount in the Census could mean the loss of two seats.</p> <p>“By any measure, what the city and the partner organizations did was really impressive,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, and a nationally-renowned Census count expert. “And to be able to sustain the effort and to have the patience and flexibility to pivot from in-person outreach to virtual phone-banking and the like, and to still have a response rate 60% or above is really good.”</p> <p>Jeff Behler, director for the U.S. Census Bureau's New York Regional Office, praised city officials for their success. “I've never seen the level of effort – and this is my third Census – that I've seen with the partners throughout New York City,” he said in a phone interview, pointing out that thousands of planned events had to be scrapped when the pandemic hit. “I'm amazed at 61.8%, given the fact that...due to COVID the ability to bring people together was eliminated.”</p> <p>Though the count is over, the Census process is far from done. There is still pending legislation in Congress that would extend the time that the Census Bureau has to deliver Census data to the White House, which has set a December 31 deadline for that to happen. The Trump administration is also attempting to exclude undocumented immigrants from that data before it delviers it to Congress for the apportionment of electoral districts, a decision that has been challenged and will be heard in the Supreme Court next month.</p> <p>City officials and advocates are closely monitoring those developments, fearful that if the administration succeeds, it could skew the data, particularly in jurisdictions like New York City with large populations of undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>"For more than a year, there has been a statewide New York Census operation, which understood that it was up against an administration that would do everything it could to keep immigrant New Yorkers from being counted, and acted accordingly," Meeta Anand, the Census 2020 Senior Fellow for the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement. “Thanks to the litigation to date, our partners used every minute, hour, and day of almost two extra weeks to ensure that every New Yorker—regardless of legal status, age, or country of origin—were counted. Now, we must build on that momentum and finish the last few days of the 2020 Census New York strong!”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/44758703900_0dab543ee9_c.jpg" alt="NYC 2020 Census" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>A pre-pandemic NYC Census event (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Census officials celebrated a robust self-response rate in the Census on Tuesday, despite unprecedented hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts by the Trump administration to discourage participation. The city’s self-response reached an unofficial 61.8% when the constitutionally mandated decennial population count concluded last week on October 15.</p> <p>The self-response rate for New York City residents was nearly the same as 2010 but came amid a slew of complicating factors that made the count the most challenging it has been in decades. The city also had a far smaller gap between its household completion rate and the national average.</p> <p>New York City already has its fair share of hard-to-count populations – such as Native Americans, seniors, undocumented immigrants, African Americans, children under the age of five, people experiencing homelessness – who tend to voluntarily respond to the Census at lower rates. At the same time, the Trump administration unsuccessfully sought to place a citizenship question on the Census, which contributed to a heightened sense of anxiety among immigrant communities that are already wary of interactions with the government. The U.S. Census Bureau had been underfunded and understaffed as well, which meant there were fewer enumerators to knock on the doors of households that did not respond to initial prompts.</p> <p>Then came the pandemic, forcing city, state, and federal officials to suspend in-person operations. The Census Bureau, in response, announced that it would extend the self-response period to October 31, but that timeline kept shifting and being litigated in court as the Trump administration sought, and eventually succeeded, to cut it shorter. New York City officials adapted quickly throughout, having planned and put into motion a $40 million Census outreach program, the highest funding ever from the city, which included $19 million in direct funding for 157 community-based organizations based on allocations made by de Blasio and the City Council.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state government had promised a $70 million Census effort that never materialized.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the city’s self-response rate was nearly four points higher than the Census Bureau’s projections of 58% made in 2019. In Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens, the response rate was higher than in 2010, increasing by 1.8, 1.3, and 1.9 percentage points, respectively, according to the <a href="https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/?latlng=40.69782%2C-73.84598&amp;z=10&amp;query=cities%3A%3A3651000&amp;promotedfeaturetype=cities&amp;arp=arpRaceEthnicity&amp;baselayerstate=5&amp;rtrYear=sR2020latest&amp;infotab=info-rtrselfresponse&amp;filterQuery=false&amp;searchbox=searchcity&amp;searchval=New%20York%2C%20New%20York">CUNY Census mapping project</a>.</p> <p>“What a vote of confidence in this city,” the mayor said at his daily news briefing on Tuesday. “And also, what an amazing action by New Yorkers – with every effort to undermine and discourage them, they still came through. All of you came through. That's an amazing number, given what we were up against. We saw some really great results.”</p> <p>De Blasio heaped praise on NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin, whom he appointed to the role after she had led two different agencies in his administration, and her team.</p> <p>Though the city’s response fell behind the national self-response rate of 67% and the statewide rate of 64.2%, it nonetheless surpassed many other major cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit, among others.</p> <p>It was no easy feat for the city. The city Census office and community partners held more than 1,000 events, according to a press release. There were 34 media campaigns in 27 languages. Volunteers and Census workers made more than 4 million phone calls and sent more than 7 million texts. Nearly a million New Yorkers clicked on the city’s digital ads and more than 470,000 city households that are home to 1.23 million residents were either counted or got assistance in filling out the Census questionnaire.</p> <p>“It's so important, because for every household over two people that is counted, that brings New York City $7,000 per year, or $70,000 over 10 years, not to mention, of course, the importance of the political representation,” said Menin, at the news conference on Tuesday, referring to seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which are based off of state population tallies done in the Census, as well as local districts within the State Legislature and other entities.</p> <p>The Census determines levels of federal funding that the city and state receive on many fronts, and the population count also undergirds the process of drawing electoral districts at the city, state, and federal levels. As it stands, New York State could lose one seat in the House of Representatives because of outmigration over the last decade. A severe undercount in the Census could mean the loss of two seats.</p> <p>“By any measure, what the city and the partner organizations did was really impressive,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, and a nationally-renowned Census count expert. “And to be able to sustain the effort and to have the patience and flexibility to pivot from in-person outreach to virtual phone-banking and the like, and to still have a response rate 60% or above is really good.”</p> <p>Jeff Behler, director for the U.S. Census Bureau's New York Regional Office, praised city officials for their success. “I've never seen the level of effort – and this is my third Census – that I've seen with the partners throughout New York City,” he said in a phone interview, pointing out that thousands of planned events had to be scrapped when the pandemic hit. “I'm amazed at 61.8%, given the fact that...due to COVID the ability to bring people together was eliminated.”</p> <p>Though the count is over, the Census process is far from done. There is still pending legislation in Congress that would extend the time that the Census Bureau has to deliver Census data to the White House, which has set a December 31 deadline for that to happen. The Trump administration is also attempting to exclude undocumented immigrants from that data before it delviers it to Congress for the apportionment of electoral districts, a decision that has been challenged and will be heard in the Supreme Court next month.</p> <p>City officials and advocates are closely monitoring those developments, fearful that if the administration succeeds, it could skew the data, particularly in jurisdictions like New York City with large populations of undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>"For more than a year, there has been a statewide New York Census operation, which understood that it was up against an administration that would do everything it could to keep immigrant New Yorkers from being counted, and acted accordingly," Meeta Anand, the Census 2020 Senior Fellow for the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement. “Thanks to the litigation to date, our partners used every minute, hour, and day of almost two extra weeks to ensure that every New Yorker—regardless of legal status, age, or country of origin—were counted. Now, we must build on that momentum and finish the last few days of the 2020 Census New York strong!”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York City Covid Spending Tops $4 Billion, Virtually All Covered by Federal Funds 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9835-new-york-city-four-billion-dollars-covid-spending-federal-funds Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/4-city-has-billions.jpg" alt="4 city has billions" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio inspects school cleaning (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has cost more than $4 billion in direct New York City expenses through mid-October, almost all of which the city expects to pay for with federal dollars.</p> <p>Of the total spending, $4.08 billion has been registered in contracts, according to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/new-york-by-the-numbers-weekly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-21-october-19-2020/">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Almost two-thirds of that funding, $2.44 billion, went towards food-related contracts (over $1 billion), personal protective equipment ($742 million), and hotels ($651 million).&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to PPE, a large amount of spending went directly toward covid-related medical expenses, like staff, supplies, and testing. The city's medical staff contracts alone amount to $505 million and testing centers have so far cost another $100 million. A total of $390 million has been spent on medical, surgical, and lab supplies, including $141 million on ventilators alone.</p> <p>As the city worked to contain the virus' spread while moving much of public life online, costs for decontamination, telecommunication, and emergency mortuary and burial services rose.</p> <p>Dozens of city agencies have earmarked covid-related expenses, with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which handles a great deal of city contracting, receiving the most -- close to $1 billion, according to the Independent Budget Office. The next biggest agency spenders on direct covid response matters were the departments of sanitation, emergency management, and homeless services.</p> <p>Stringer's office estimates $4.6 billion in total has been committed or spent on covid relief and response by the city. The city's June financial plan outlines close to $4.3 billion in federal funding for covid expenses across Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, according to Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio (the Mayor's Office could not verify the Comptroller's figures without the reporting criteria). The current fiscal year, FY 2021, runs through June 30 of next year.</p> <p>“New York City is doing the work to drive down COVID-19, despite losing billions of dollars in tax revenue due to the crisis," Feyer wrote in an email. "We need the federal government to step up and pass a stimulus that includes aid to localities, or we face very painful choices.”</p> <p>While it continues to call for federal funding to fill its budget gap and for additional aid for struggling New Yorkers, businesses, and other entities, the city plans to have 75% of the direct covid expenses, which are constantly growing, reimbursed through FEMA, pursuant to an emergency declaration. Most of the remaining 25% will be covered by federal funding from the CARES Act, the major relief package passed by Congress and signed by the president, with the city paying for the rest.</p> <p>The FEMA reimbursement and much of CARES Act funding both offer wide latitude for spending, according to an expert at the city's Independent Budget Office. The Mayor's Office told Gotham Gazette no covid-related spending was being used to close budget gaps, though.</p> <p>"The pandemic created new spending demands and will continue to do so," wrote Jonas Shaende, Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, in an email.</p> <p>"COVID-related expenses began with funding for personal safety equipment and other needs for first responders, and now we are seeing other expenses, including housing the homeless and food assistance,” Shaende wrote. “The disruption to our economy and social upheaval has yet to end, and the need for revenue to meet these new challenges is on-going.”</p> <p>A total of $3.54 billion has been spent, including contractual and non-contractual spending, which includes personnel costs like overtime, and other funding like subsidies to Health + Hospitals, the city's public hospital system, which is also overseeing its test and trace corp, as well as grants and loans from the city’s Department of Small Business Services.</p> <p>The city expects 75% of its direct covid spending to be reimbursed by FEMA under an ongoing emergency declaration, signed in March, that covers the period from January 20 on. Feyer said no submissions to FEMA have been denied.&nbsp;</p> <p>The city received $5.34 billion in CARES Act funding, of which an estimated $1.45 billion was part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, a type of block grant for general purpose covid relief, according to a <a href="https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/how-much-CARE-for-nyc-an-estimate-of-federal-coronavirus-emergency-relief-act-funding-to-the-city-budget-may-2020.html">May 2020 report</a> from the city’s Independent Budget Office. Feyer said FEMA and the Coronavirus Relief Fund make up the bulk of the city's coronavirus funding sources but other CARES Act grants and city dollars also contribute to the total.</p> <p>MWBE Covid Contracting<br />Minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) made up roughly a quarter of city contracts for the direct covid spending, but accounted for only 10% of the total spending -- or $454 million, according to data provided by the Mayor's Office in response to a Gotham Gazette inquiry.</p> <p>Less than half of that, just $206 million to date, according to a spokesperson for Stringer, citing figures from NYC Checkbook, has actually been paid to MWBEs, who have struggled under economic contraction and state restrictions due to the pandemic.</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/minority-and-women-owned-businesses-at-risk-impact-of-covid-19-on-new-york-city-firms/">survey of 500 MWBEs</a> conducted by Stringer's office in July, two-thirds of respondents said they were "ready and able to contract with the City on COVID-19 response efforts" but that only 62 businesses competed for such opportunities "due to onerous restrictions and non-responsiveness from the City," the report states. Ten out of the 500 MWBEs surveyed in July received a covid-related contract.</p> <p>A vast majority of respondents said they would not be able to maintain operating expenses for more than six months. Payroll and rent were cited as the biggest challenges.</p> <p>“MWBEs are the lifeblood of our commercial corridors - driving economic growth and employment opportunities across New York City. But MWBEs continue to face barriers to accessing COVID-related contracts and critical government funding, and our survey found that 85 percent reported they cannot survive the next six months," Stringer wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette Monday.</p> <p>Many MWBEs could not operate during the state of emergency and almost none (only 5%) received private sector aid, the survey found. At the time, about a quarter did not apply for government relief, either because of restrictive requirements attached to funding or they did not want to incur debt. Others didn't know relief was available or funding sources ran out before they applied.</p> <p>"We can't leave engines of local wealth creation behind if we're serious about bringing the city out of our current economic crisis. It's time for real relief for MWBEs and real action from City Hall to dismantle systemic barriers to economic opportunity,” he said.</p> <p>The Mayor's Office says it went beyond what the law required by setting MWBE goals for emergency contracts and has worked with agencies to proactively identify MWBEs in competitive sectors.</p> <p>“During the height of the pandemic, our first priority was getting hospitals what they needed," wrote Julia Arredondo, a City Hall spokesperson, in an email Monday. "We expedited the procurement process and worked with vendors who could deliver in mass quickly. Building up M/WBEs has been central to this administration, and we have made strides to remove systemic barriers to participation, increase discretionary amount for M/WBEs, and address disparities in access to capital.”</p> <p>The administration has also allowed for goods, services, and construction valued under $500,000 to be procured from MWBEs outside a formal competitive process, Arredondo said. The city has more than tripled its MWBE contracting -- from 8% to 28% of contract dollars -- and awarded a total of $17.1 billion since FY2015, she wrote in the email.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/4-city-has-billions.jpg" alt="4 city has billions" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio inspects school cleaning (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has cost more than $4 billion in direct New York City expenses through mid-October, almost all of which the city expects to pay for with federal dollars.</p> <p>Of the total spending, $4.08 billion has been registered in contracts, according to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/new-york-by-the-numbers-weekly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-21-october-19-2020/">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Almost two-thirds of that funding, $2.44 billion, went towards food-related contracts (over $1 billion), personal protective equipment ($742 million), and hotels ($651 million).&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to PPE, a large amount of spending went directly toward covid-related medical expenses, like staff, supplies, and testing. The city's medical staff contracts alone amount to $505 million and testing centers have so far cost another $100 million. A total of $390 million has been spent on medical, surgical, and lab supplies, including $141 million on ventilators alone.</p> <p>As the city worked to contain the virus' spread while moving much of public life online, costs for decontamination, telecommunication, and emergency mortuary and burial services rose.</p> <p>Dozens of city agencies have earmarked covid-related expenses, with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which handles a great deal of city contracting, receiving the most -- close to $1 billion, according to the Independent Budget Office. The next biggest agency spenders on direct covid response matters were the departments of sanitation, emergency management, and homeless services.</p> <p>Stringer's office estimates $4.6 billion in total has been committed or spent on covid relief and response by the city. The city's June financial plan outlines close to $4.3 billion in federal funding for covid expenses across Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, according to Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio (the Mayor's Office could not verify the Comptroller's figures without the reporting criteria). The current fiscal year, FY 2021, runs through June 30 of next year.</p> <p>“New York City is doing the work to drive down COVID-19, despite losing billions of dollars in tax revenue due to the crisis," Feyer wrote in an email. "We need the federal government to step up and pass a stimulus that includes aid to localities, or we face very painful choices.”</p> <p>While it continues to call for federal funding to fill its budget gap and for additional aid for struggling New Yorkers, businesses, and other entities, the city plans to have 75% of the direct covid expenses, which are constantly growing, reimbursed through FEMA, pursuant to an emergency declaration. Most of the remaining 25% will be covered by federal funding from the CARES Act, the major relief package passed by Congress and signed by the president, with the city paying for the rest.</p> <p>The FEMA reimbursement and much of CARES Act funding both offer wide latitude for spending, according to an expert at the city's Independent Budget Office. The Mayor's Office told Gotham Gazette no covid-related spending was being used to close budget gaps, though.</p> <p>"The pandemic created new spending demands and will continue to do so," wrote Jonas Shaende, Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, in an email.</p> <p>"COVID-related expenses began with funding for personal safety equipment and other needs for first responders, and now we are seeing other expenses, including housing the homeless and food assistance,” Shaende wrote. “The disruption to our economy and social upheaval has yet to end, and the need for revenue to meet these new challenges is on-going.”</p> <p>A total of $3.54 billion has been spent, including contractual and non-contractual spending, which includes personnel costs like overtime, and other funding like subsidies to Health + Hospitals, the city's public hospital system, which is also overseeing its test and trace corp, as well as grants and loans from the city’s Department of Small Business Services.</p> <p>The city expects 75% of its direct covid spending to be reimbursed by FEMA under an ongoing emergency declaration, signed in March, that covers the period from January 20 on. Feyer said no submissions to FEMA have been denied.&nbsp;</p> <p>The city received $5.34 billion in CARES Act funding, of which an estimated $1.45 billion was part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, a type of block grant for general purpose covid relief, according to a <a href="https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/how-much-CARE-for-nyc-an-estimate-of-federal-coronavirus-emergency-relief-act-funding-to-the-city-budget-may-2020.html">May 2020 report</a> from the city’s Independent Budget Office. Feyer said FEMA and the Coronavirus Relief Fund make up the bulk of the city's coronavirus funding sources but other CARES Act grants and city dollars also contribute to the total.</p> <p>MWBE Covid Contracting<br />Minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) made up roughly a quarter of city contracts for the direct covid spending, but accounted for only 10% of the total spending -- or $454 million, according to data provided by the Mayor's Office in response to a Gotham Gazette inquiry.</p> <p>Less than half of that, just $206 million to date, according to a spokesperson for Stringer, citing figures from NYC Checkbook, has actually been paid to MWBEs, who have struggled under economic contraction and state restrictions due to the pandemic.</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/minority-and-women-owned-businesses-at-risk-impact-of-covid-19-on-new-york-city-firms/">survey of 500 MWBEs</a> conducted by Stringer's office in July, two-thirds of respondents said they were "ready and able to contract with the City on COVID-19 response efforts" but that only 62 businesses competed for such opportunities "due to onerous restrictions and non-responsiveness from the City," the report states. Ten out of the 500 MWBEs surveyed in July received a covid-related contract.</p> <p>A vast majority of respondents said they would not be able to maintain operating expenses for more than six months. Payroll and rent were cited as the biggest challenges.</p> <p>“MWBEs are the lifeblood of our commercial corridors - driving economic growth and employment opportunities across New York City. But MWBEs continue to face barriers to accessing COVID-related contracts and critical government funding, and our survey found that 85 percent reported they cannot survive the next six months," Stringer wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette Monday.</p> <p>Many MWBEs could not operate during the state of emergency and almost none (only 5%) received private sector aid, the survey found. At the time, about a quarter did not apply for government relief, either because of restrictive requirements attached to funding or they did not want to incur debt. Others didn't know relief was available or funding sources ran out before they applied.</p> <p>"We can't leave engines of local wealth creation behind if we're serious about bringing the city out of our current economic crisis. It's time for real relief for MWBEs and real action from City Hall to dismantle systemic barriers to economic opportunity,” he said.</p> <p>The Mayor's Office says it went beyond what the law required by setting MWBE goals for emergency contracts and has worked with agencies to proactively identify MWBEs in competitive sectors.</p> <p>“During the height of the pandemic, our first priority was getting hospitals what they needed," wrote Julia Arredondo, a City Hall spokesperson, in an email Monday. "We expedited the procurement process and worked with vendors who could deliver in mass quickly. Building up M/WBEs has been central to this administration, and we have made strides to remove systemic barriers to participation, increase discretionary amount for M/WBEs, and address disparities in access to capital.”</p> <p>The administration has also allowed for goods, services, and construction valued under $500,000 to be procured from MWBEs outside a formal competitive process, Arredondo said. The city has more than tripled its MWBE contracting -- from 8% to 28% of contract dollars -- and awarded a total of $17.1 billion since FY2015, she wrote in the email.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
For Next Steps in City's 'Green New Deal' and Covid Recovery, Coalition Offers Plan for 100,000 Climate Jobs 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9842-next-steps-nyc-green-new-deal-coalition-100000-climate-jobs Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/green-hunter-point.jpg" alt="green hunter point" width="600" /></p> <p>An NYC Green New Deal announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography)</p> <hr /> <p>Though the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread devastation for New York, it has hurt some communities more than others. New Yorkers of color have been more likely to die from the virus and, despite making up a larger share of so-called essential workers, have been more likely to lose their jobs because of the outbreak’s economic recession.</p> <p>With the city still in the process of a somewhat halting “reopening” and attempting to rebuild its struggling economy, a coalition of environmental justice advocates, labor unions, faith leaders, and elected officials is calling for an economic recovery plan that they estimate would create more than 100,000 jobs in three years, prioritizing communities of color with environmentally sound investments that can also meet the city’s goals of fighting climate change.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The $16.2 billion plan, the “Climate And Community Stimulus Platform,” will be released in a virtual news conference on Tuesday afternoon by the Climate Works for All coalition, which is made up of more than 50 organizations. The coalition is coordinated by The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN). The coalition will be joined by City Council Members Costa Constantinides, Antonio Reynoso, Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, Justin Brannan, Mark Levine, and Carlos Menchaca, along with several leaders from prominent labor unions and environmental advocacy groups. Comptroller Scott Stringer, a leading 2021 mayoral candidate, has also expressed support for the plan, according to ALIGN.&nbsp;</p> <p>The detailed plan proposes a broad strategy of economic development focused on the environment, climate resiliency, and green jobs through investments in renewable energy, housing infrastructure, green public transportation systems, manufacturing, resiliency infrastructure, public waste management and workforce training. It would build upon previously passed city laws and programs, some of which ALIGN previously fought for.</p> <p>It envisions, for example, spending $7 billion on energy-efficient retrofits at public housing developments and affordable housing buildings, creating more than 42,210 jobs in the process, according to the group’s estimates. Investing $3 billion in climate resilience projects and developing green infrastructure on public land could create another 28,485 jobs, it says, pointing to projects like Northwest Resiliency Park in Hoboken, New Jersey and the Bluebelt Program in Staten Island. The plan also expresses support for the Renewable Rikers proposal, which would replace the Rikers Island jail complex, which is slated for closure, with multi-use renewable infrastructure including energy, waste treatment and agriculture projects.</p> <p>The jobs it would create would cover about 15% of the city’s currently unemployed workforce, the report estimates, and it would be funded through a combination of state, local and federal funds. As of September, the city’s unemployment rate was 13.9%, down from 16.2% in August but six points higher than the national unemployment rate, according to the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>“We hear elected officials and candidates talking a lot about addressing income inequality and climate change,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, in a phone interview. “And what we're trying to do with this particular report is just to show that when state legislators and city legislators, particularly, are investing in the right things, we actually can get to that goal.”</p> <p>Silva-Farrell said the plan would build on and complement policies already put into effect by the city and state. In April 2019, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio approved the Climate Mobilization Act, what they called a New York City Green New Deal program, which included emissions caps on large buildings, mandated the installation of green roofs on city buildings, and created incentives for renewable energy projects, among other measures.</p> <p>At the state level, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was also passed last year, and sets the state on a path to a net-zero-carbon economy by 2050, mandating that 70% of energy needs are fulfilled by renewable sources by 2030 and that the entire electric sector is carbon-emissions free by 2040.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“We do see that there is an opening, an opportunity right now for our economy to shift to a green economy that will actually be a just transition,” Silva-Farrell said, noting that in communities of color, decades of environmental racism have led to worse public health outcomes for residents, exacerbating their vulnerability to the coronavirus and contributing to greater unemployment. According to a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times analysis</a> from June, Black and Latino New Yorkers were twice as likely as white New Yorkers to die of COVID-19. About 75% of all frontline workers in the pandemic are people of color, according to <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/new-york-citys-frontline-workers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data</a> from Comptroller Stringer’s office.&nbsp;</p> <p>The coalition’s plan depends largely on major capital investments in infrastructure projects, which are widely seen as one of the most effective drivers of economic growth from a recession. But Mayor de Blasio has made significant cuts in the city’s capital plan to reduce city spending amid a massive budget deficit caused by the pandemic’s hit on tax revenue, though some question whether those cuts are prudent given their impact on the city’s annual expense budget is minimal.</p> <p>The Climate And Community Stimulus Platform would create thousands of union jobs with strong labor and wage protections, it says. Silva-Farrell and the coalition hope that as candidates run for mayor and City Council in the 2021 city election cycle, the plan will help propel the debate about the city’s recovery. “The pandemic is exacerbating the inequalities in our city,” she said. “And if anyone is looking to be elected to be mayor, they must look to address those concerns and think about a jobs plan that addresses those issues, particularly when it comes to climate change and job creation and inequality.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“When we talk about renewing our economy, we're actually looking at this report as a source for us to uproot not only income inequality within our city,” she added, “but also a shift in the way our economy works. Prioritizing our environment, prioritizing our communities, particularly Black and brown communities.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/green-hunter-point.jpg" alt="green hunter point" width="600" /></p> <p>An NYC Green New Deal announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography)</p> <hr /> <p>Though the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread devastation for New York, it has hurt some communities more than others. New Yorkers of color have been more likely to die from the virus and, despite making up a larger share of so-called essential workers, have been more likely to lose their jobs because of the outbreak’s economic recession.</p> <p>With the city still in the process of a somewhat halting “reopening” and attempting to rebuild its struggling economy, a coalition of environmental justice advocates, labor unions, faith leaders, and elected officials is calling for an economic recovery plan that they estimate would create more than 100,000 jobs in three years, prioritizing communities of color with environmentally sound investments that can also meet the city’s goals of fighting climate change.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The $16.2 billion plan, the “Climate And Community Stimulus Platform,” will be released in a virtual news conference on Tuesday afternoon by the Climate Works for All coalition, which is made up of more than 50 organizations. The coalition is coordinated by The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN). The coalition will be joined by City Council Members Costa Constantinides, Antonio Reynoso, Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, Justin Brannan, Mark Levine, and Carlos Menchaca, along with several leaders from prominent labor unions and environmental advocacy groups. Comptroller Scott Stringer, a leading 2021 mayoral candidate, has also expressed support for the plan, according to ALIGN.&nbsp;</p> <p>The detailed plan proposes a broad strategy of economic development focused on the environment, climate resiliency, and green jobs through investments in renewable energy, housing infrastructure, green public transportation systems, manufacturing, resiliency infrastructure, public waste management and workforce training. It would build upon previously passed city laws and programs, some of which ALIGN previously fought for.</p> <p>It envisions, for example, spending $7 billion on energy-efficient retrofits at public housing developments and affordable housing buildings, creating more than 42,210 jobs in the process, according to the group’s estimates. Investing $3 billion in climate resilience projects and developing green infrastructure on public land could create another 28,485 jobs, it says, pointing to projects like Northwest Resiliency Park in Hoboken, New Jersey and the Bluebelt Program in Staten Island. The plan also expresses support for the Renewable Rikers proposal, which would replace the Rikers Island jail complex, which is slated for closure, with multi-use renewable infrastructure including energy, waste treatment and agriculture projects.</p> <p>The jobs it would create would cover about 15% of the city’s currently unemployed workforce, the report estimates, and it would be funded through a combination of state, local and federal funds. As of September, the city’s unemployment rate was 13.9%, down from 16.2% in August but six points higher than the national unemployment rate, according to the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>“We hear elected officials and candidates talking a lot about addressing income inequality and climate change,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, in a phone interview. “And what we're trying to do with this particular report is just to show that when state legislators and city legislators, particularly, are investing in the right things, we actually can get to that goal.”</p> <p>Silva-Farrell said the plan would build on and complement policies already put into effect by the city and state. In April 2019, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio approved the Climate Mobilization Act, what they called a New York City Green New Deal program, which included emissions caps on large buildings, mandated the installation of green roofs on city buildings, and created incentives for renewable energy projects, among other measures.</p> <p>At the state level, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was also passed last year, and sets the state on a path to a net-zero-carbon economy by 2050, mandating that 70% of energy needs are fulfilled by renewable sources by 2030 and that the entire electric sector is carbon-emissions free by 2040.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“We do see that there is an opening, an opportunity right now for our economy to shift to a green economy that will actually be a just transition,” Silva-Farrell said, noting that in communities of color, decades of environmental racism have led to worse public health outcomes for residents, exacerbating their vulnerability to the coronavirus and contributing to greater unemployment. According to a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times analysis</a> from June, Black and Latino New Yorkers were twice as likely as white New Yorkers to die of COVID-19. About 75% of all frontline workers in the pandemic are people of color, according to <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/new-york-citys-frontline-workers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data</a> from Comptroller Stringer’s office.&nbsp;</p> <p>The coalition’s plan depends largely on major capital investments in infrastructure projects, which are widely seen as one of the most effective drivers of economic growth from a recession. But Mayor de Blasio has made significant cuts in the city’s capital plan to reduce city spending amid a massive budget deficit caused by the pandemic’s hit on tax revenue, though some question whether those cuts are prudent given their impact on the city’s annual expense budget is minimal.</p> <p>The Climate And Community Stimulus Platform would create thousands of union jobs with strong labor and wage protections, it says. Silva-Farrell and the coalition hope that as candidates run for mayor and City Council in the 2021 city election cycle, the plan will help propel the debate about the city’s recovery. “The pandemic is exacerbating the inequalities in our city,” she said. “And if anyone is looking to be elected to be mayor, they must look to address those concerns and think about a jobs plan that addresses those issues, particularly when it comes to climate change and job creation and inequality.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“When we talk about renewing our economy, we're actually looking at this report as a source for us to uproot not only income inequality within our city,” she added, “but also a shift in the way our economy works. Prioritizing our environment, prioritizing our communities, particularly Black and brown communities.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
In Dire Condition, Nonprofit Human Services Sector Launches Recovery Effort 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9841-future-human-services-sector-coronavirus-recovery-new-york Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/newly-opened-house.jpg" alt="newly opened house" width="600" /></p> <p>Human services providers struggle due to covid (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Nonprofits that provide human services have played an additionally vital role during the coronavirus pandemic in feeding, sheltering, and caring for New Yorkers. But the sector, which was already facing dire financial straits in recent years, has been devastated as fundraising has ground to a halt, city funding has been cut, and state contract payments have been put on hold. The Human Services Council, an organization that represents more than 170 providers in the state, is convening a new task force on Tuesday as it hopes to examine the consequences of the pandemic and how the human service sector can rebuild as the economy recovers.</p> <p>As the pandemic led to billions in lost tax revenue for the city and state, budget officials began to cut spending but the need for services provided by contracted nonprofits only increased. Organizations that sheltered homeless people or delivered meals to the elderly, for instance, adapted to the pandemic even as they too began to lose revenue and struggled to pay their bills. The Human Services Council estimates that as many as 1,800 nonprofits across the state could close down in the wake of this crisis, leading to almost 14,000 layoffs. Many have already shuttered their doors.</p> <p>The Human Services Council’s task force will take a closer look at those effects as it seeks to play a role in the city’s decision-making on budgets, programs, and needed services through the recovery. HSC leadership also wants to ensure that the sector -- its organizations, workers, and clients -- is front and center as New York City’s 2021 election cycle unfolds, particularly the race for mayor.</p> <p>“Human services have been and will continue to be absolutely essential to New York’s recovery&nbsp; from this crisis,” said Michelle Jackson, HSC’s executive director, in a statement. “The sector has stepped up for New Yorkers in a time of crisis, and we will be there to help turn things around. We look forward to putting forward a very clear agenda for our partners in City Hall and Albany so we can work together to craft a smart and effective strategy to stem the tide of this virus and keep New York strong.”</p> <p>The task force will be co-chaired by Jamie Rubin, CEO of Meridiam North America, and Fred Shack, CEO of Urban Pathways. Over the next months, the task force will collect data and survey the nonprofit sector, issuing preliminary recommendations in January. It’s final recommendations will be released in March, before hosting a forum for New York City mayoral candidates on the central issues in April.</p> <p>“We are ready to chart a new path for a sector that has been at the center of New York's COVID-19 response and will be essential to the city and state’s recovery,” Rubin said in a statement. “New York can only move forward with a robust human services sector working closely with their government partners to ensure that New Yorkers have the services they need in this new normal, and our goal is to provide the roadmap to get there."</p> <p>Shack, in a statement, said, “Turning the corner on COVID-19 must be our city and state’s first priority, and it will require a responsive and collaborative government willing to work with those of us who know firsthand what this virus has done and how we can overcome it, and this task force is ready to take on those major issues.”</p> <p>Even prior to the pandemic, many nonprofits worked on the edge of insolvency as contracts for human services were routinely underfunded by about 20%, according to <a href="https://humanservicescouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Initiatives/HSCCommission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf">an HSC report</a>. In New York City, where human service providers contracted by the city employ about 200,000 workers, an analysis by Comptroller Scott Stringer last year found that nearly 90% of contracts to providers in the 2018 fiscal year were sent to his office for certification after the start date. Those delays in certification, owing to the city’s complex procurement process, lead to delayed payments while nonprofits continue to provide their services. A <a href="http://seachangecap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NYC-Contract-Delays-Vol.-2-1.pdf">study</a> by Seachange Capital Partners, a nonprofit merchant bank, found that contract registration delays cost nonprofits $744 million in the 2018 fiscal year.</p> <p>In November 2019, the City Council examined <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4209299&amp;GUID=8BFC6065-1190-427D-B28B-5D99A476EA9A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">legislation</a> sponsored by Council Member Farah Louis that would create an Office of Not-For-Profit Services to help nonprofits navigate the city’s red tape. The legislation has not seen any movement since then.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8933-city-council-considers-new-office-to-aid-non-profits">City Council Considers New Office to Aid Non-Profits</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/newly-opened-house.jpg" alt="newly opened house" width="600" /></p> <p>Human services providers struggle due to covid (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Nonprofits that provide human services have played an additionally vital role during the coronavirus pandemic in feeding, sheltering, and caring for New Yorkers. But the sector, which was already facing dire financial straits in recent years, has been devastated as fundraising has ground to a halt, city funding has been cut, and state contract payments have been put on hold. The Human Services Council, an organization that represents more than 170 providers in the state, is convening a new task force on Tuesday as it hopes to examine the consequences of the pandemic and how the human service sector can rebuild as the economy recovers.</p> <p>As the pandemic led to billions in lost tax revenue for the city and state, budget officials began to cut spending but the need for services provided by contracted nonprofits only increased. Organizations that sheltered homeless people or delivered meals to the elderly, for instance, adapted to the pandemic even as they too began to lose revenue and struggled to pay their bills. The Human Services Council estimates that as many as 1,800 nonprofits across the state could close down in the wake of this crisis, leading to almost 14,000 layoffs. Many have already shuttered their doors.</p> <p>The Human Services Council’s task force will take a closer look at those effects as it seeks to play a role in the city’s decision-making on budgets, programs, and needed services through the recovery. HSC leadership also wants to ensure that the sector -- its organizations, workers, and clients -- is front and center as New York City’s 2021 election cycle unfolds, particularly the race for mayor.</p> <p>“Human services have been and will continue to be absolutely essential to New York’s recovery&nbsp; from this crisis,” said Michelle Jackson, HSC’s executive director, in a statement. “The sector has stepped up for New Yorkers in a time of crisis, and we will be there to help turn things around. We look forward to putting forward a very clear agenda for our partners in City Hall and Albany so we can work together to craft a smart and effective strategy to stem the tide of this virus and keep New York strong.”</p> <p>The task force will be co-chaired by Jamie Rubin, CEO of Meridiam North America, and Fred Shack, CEO of Urban Pathways. Over the next months, the task force will collect data and survey the nonprofit sector, issuing preliminary recommendations in January. It’s final recommendations will be released in March, before hosting a forum for New York City mayoral candidates on the central issues in April.</p> <p>“We are ready to chart a new path for a sector that has been at the center of New York's COVID-19 response and will be essential to the city and state’s recovery,” Rubin said in a statement. “New York can only move forward with a robust human services sector working closely with their government partners to ensure that New Yorkers have the services they need in this new normal, and our goal is to provide the roadmap to get there."</p> <p>Shack, in a statement, said, “Turning the corner on COVID-19 must be our city and state’s first priority, and it will require a responsive and collaborative government willing to work with those of us who know firsthand what this virus has done and how we can overcome it, and this task force is ready to take on those major issues.”</p> <p>Even prior to the pandemic, many nonprofits worked on the edge of insolvency as contracts for human services were routinely underfunded by about 20%, according to <a href="https://humanservicescouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Initiatives/HSCCommission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf">an HSC report</a>. In New York City, where human service providers contracted by the city employ about 200,000 workers, an analysis by Comptroller Scott Stringer last year found that nearly 90% of contracts to providers in the 2018 fiscal year were sent to his office for certification after the start date. Those delays in certification, owing to the city’s complex procurement process, lead to delayed payments while nonprofits continue to provide their services. A <a href="http://seachangecap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NYC-Contract-Delays-Vol.-2-1.pdf">study</a> by Seachange Capital Partners, a nonprofit merchant bank, found that contract registration delays cost nonprofits $744 million in the 2018 fiscal year.</p> <p>In November 2019, the City Council examined <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4209299&amp;GUID=8BFC6065-1190-427D-B28B-5D99A476EA9A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">legislation</a> sponsored by Council Member Farah Louis that would create an Office of Not-For-Profit Services to help nonprofits navigate the city’s red tape. The legislation has not seen any movement since then.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8933-city-council-considers-new-office-to-aid-non-profits">City Council Considers New Office to Aid Non-Profits</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What's The [Data] Point? 8,200 - The Gowanus Rezoning, with City Council Member Brad Lander 2020-10-15T14:00:00+00:00 2020-10-15T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9828-whats-the-data-point-8200-gowanus-rezoning-city-council-member-brad-lander Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/brla-sl-pod.jpg" alt="brla sl pod" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 97:</strong><strong>&nbsp;8,200 - the Gowanus Rezoning with City Council Member Brad Lander [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander joined the show to discuss the Gowanus rezoning proposal that is entering final stages of negotiation and the prospects of passage in 2021 -- 8,200 is the number of new housing units that could be created by the proposed rezoning of Gowanus, Brooklyn.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/911214001&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="What's The [DATA] Point?">What's The [DATA] Point?</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast/episode-97-8200-with-councilmember-brad-lander" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 97: 8,200, with Councilmember Brad Lander">Episode 97: 8,200, with Councilmember Brad Lander</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/brla-sl-pod.jpg" alt="brla sl pod" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 97:</strong><strong>&nbsp;8,200 - the Gowanus Rezoning with City Council Member Brad Lander [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander joined the show to discuss the Gowanus rezoning proposal that is entering final stages of negotiation and the prospects of passage in 2021 -- 8,200 is the number of new housing units that could be created by the proposed rezoning of Gowanus, Brooklyn.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/911214001&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="What's The [DATA] Point?">What's The [DATA] Point?</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast/episode-97-8200-with-councilmember-brad-lander" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 97: 8,200, with Councilmember Brad Lander">Episode 97: 8,200, with Councilmember Brad Lander</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Brian Benjamin Launches Campaign for New York City Comptroller 2020-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 2020-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9829-brian-benjamin-launches-campaign-for-new-york-city-comptroller Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/benjamin_kick_off_comptroller.jpg" alt="benjamin kick off comptroller" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Brian Benjamin at his campaign launch</p> <hr /> <p>State Senator Brian Benjamin launched his campaign for New York City Comptroller on Thursday, officially entering the Democratic primary for the citywide position of the city’s chief fiscal officer.</p> <p>Stressing his finance background and work in the state Legislature on a variety of issues including police reform, Benjamin held a campaign event in his home neighborhood of Harlem, surrounded by supporters including several other elected officials endorsing him.</p> <p>Benjamin, who is first on the ballot this fall for another two-year term in the state Senate representing parts of the Upper West Side and Harlem, is the first candidate to formally launch his campaign for city comptroller, a race that will culminate in November 2021 but is likely to be decided by the Democratic primary in June given the party’s immense voter registration advantage.</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn has been campaigning and fundraising for many months, while Queens Assemblymember David Weprin and Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker have both said they are planning to run for city comptroller. All three are Democrats like Benjamin. No other candidates have emerged at this point (City Council Member Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan had been in the running but decided against mounting a full campaign).</p> <p>Benjamin and Lander are far outpacing Weprin and Parker in terms of money raised, endorsements, and campaign infrastructure. The primary will be among the first city elections to feature ranked-choice voting, otherwise known as instant-runoff voting, whereby voters are able to choose up to five candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate receives 50% of the vote on first tally, the last-place candidate is eliminated and his or her votes redistributed based on those voters’ second choices. The process continues until one candidate hits 50%.</p> <p>Right off the bat Benjamin made his background in finance a focal point, something he’s likely to continue to stress in an effort to differentiate himself from Lander, who has a long resume in city planning, community development, and policy-making. Benjamin repeatedly stressed his readiness to go deep inside the numbers when it comes to city finances.</p> <p>“I will be ready on day one to zealously protect the retirements of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and to use the position of Comptroller to advance progressive ideals of justice and equity for all,” Benjamin said in a statement accompanying his announcement, which highlighted his “qualifications” for comptroller including “an advanced degree in business from Harvard, experience working as an investor on Wall Street, and authoring critical financial legislation such as forcing New York’s pension fund to divest from private prisons.”</p> <p>The job of the city comptroller is to help manage the public pension funds; analyze the city budget; audit and otherwise review the work of city agencies to root out waste and mismanagement; vet city contracts; and generally provide oversight of the mayoral administration and other governmental and nongovernmental entities that impact the well-being of New Yorkers. Those who have held the position, such as term-limited current Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat now running for mayor in next year’s election, have also churned out policy proposals on a wide variety of issues not directly related to the position’s central responsibilities as a fiscal watchdog.</p> <p>The next city comptroller, set to take office at the start of 2022 along with a new mayor and many other new city officials, will be tasked with monitoring city finances at what is likely to still be a very challenging time due to the coronavirus recession. City tax revenues have plummeted due to the economic shutdown used to stem the spread of COVID-19, and several industries have been decimated, particularly tourism and entertainment, with sweeping job losses across hospitality and service sectors. The campaign for comptroller will include necessary discussion about how to balance the city budget by closing expected gaps and long-term strategies for managing city finances and government, finding savings throughout city government, and more.</p> <p>According to Benjamin’s campaign, he has a master’s in business from Harvard, worked as an investment advisor at Morgan Stanley, then spent time at a Manhattan company helping finance and build affordable housing. He led the local community board and was elected to the state Senate in 2017. In the Legislature, he was part of all-Democratic control of state government that took hold in 2019 and passed sweeping liberal priorities into law, including gun control, voting reform, environmental and tenant protections, women’s reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and more. This year, Benjamin sponsored a bill that became state law that outlawed the use of chokeholds by police officers.</p> <p>At his launch event, Benjamin told his personal story of family, community, and opportunity, especially through the city labor unions that his parents were part of, and stressed the need for all New Yorkers to have support in order to succeed. He also noted, because of those family ties to city labor unions and the pensions that come with such jobs, his personal understanding of the importance of public pensions and the role of the comptroller in safe-guarding them.</p> <p>Eyeing success in the comptroller’s race, Benjamin starts with a base of support in his district and nearby parts of upper Manhattan, and a strong early fundraising push. He has close ties to the political establishment and is known to be well-respected by his colleagues. In order to compete with and possibly defeat Lander, who got off to an earlier start in this race, Benjamin will have to continue to develop a citywide campaign and a counterweight to Lander's support throughout New York's progressive movement, where the third-term Council member has been active for many years. Indicative of their politics, Benjamin endorsed Kalama Harris in the Democratic presidential primary while Lander backed Elizabeth Warren.</p> <p>In the comptroller race, Lander has had early support from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a longtime ally, though they have not announced a formal endorsement. State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar have formally endorsed Lander, who held a birthday fundraiser earlier this year with a long list of "special guests and supporters" including other elected officials and activists -- formal endorsements are likely to follow once he officially launches his campaign. Lander, who is white, will be counting on winning a large percentage of white progressive voters, starting in his home district of Park Slope and surrounding neighborhoods, and trying to secure support throughout communities of color, while Benjamin, who is Black, will be looking to cement a base in the city's predominantly Black communities, beginning in Harlem, and win support from other constituencies. Benjamin launched his campaign with the backing of a number of Black elected officials and leaders. How Weprin, who is white, and Parker, who is Black, and perhaps other candidates, potentially impact the race and attempt to develop momentum is to be seen.</p> <p>Endorsing Benjamin at the time of his Thursday launch were Manhattan Democratic Party head Keith Wright; State Senator Robert Jackson; Assemblymembers Al Taylor, Inez Dickens, and Michael Blake; City Council Members Diana Ayala and Bill Perkins; Reverend Michael Walrond; activist Kirsten Foy; Greg Floyd of Teamsters Local 237; and Hazel Dukes of the NAACP; among others. <br />“I’m grateful for the outpouring of support we have already received from across the city,” Benjamin said in a statement about the endorsements. “We are running this campaign to bring true progressive values and financial acumen to the Comptroller’s office.”</p> <p>According to Benjamin's campaign, he's raised&nbsp;$500,000 for his comptroller campaign to date, with another $1.2 million in expected matching funds through the city's public financing system.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated to remove mention of&nbsp;state Senators Jessica Ramos and Zellnor Myrie and Cynthia Nixon as having endorsed Lander - they were listed under special guests and supporters at his birthday event, but have not formally endorsed in the race. It's also been clarified to note that Williams has not formally endorsed Lander in the race.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/benjamin_kick_off_comptroller.jpg" alt="benjamin kick off comptroller" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Brian Benjamin at his campaign launch</p> <hr /> <p>State Senator Brian Benjamin launched his campaign for New York City Comptroller on Thursday, officially entering the Democratic primary for the citywide position of the city’s chief fiscal officer.</p> <p>Stressing his finance background and work in the state Legislature on a variety of issues including police reform, Benjamin held a campaign event in his home neighborhood of Harlem, surrounded by supporters including several other elected officials endorsing him.</p> <p>Benjamin, who is first on the ballot this fall for another two-year term in the state Senate representing parts of the Upper West Side and Harlem, is the first candidate to formally launch his campaign for city comptroller, a race that will culminate in November 2021 but is likely to be decided by the Democratic primary in June given the party’s immense voter registration advantage.</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn has been campaigning and fundraising for many months, while Queens Assemblymember David Weprin and Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker have both said they are planning to run for city comptroller. All three are Democrats like Benjamin. No other candidates have emerged at this point (City Council Member Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan had been in the running but decided against mounting a full campaign).</p> <p>Benjamin and Lander are far outpacing Weprin and Parker in terms of money raised, endorsements, and campaign infrastructure. The primary will be among the first city elections to feature ranked-choice voting, otherwise known as instant-runoff voting, whereby voters are able to choose up to five candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate receives 50% of the vote on first tally, the last-place candidate is eliminated and his or her votes redistributed based on those voters’ second choices. The process continues until one candidate hits 50%.</p> <p>Right off the bat Benjamin made his background in finance a focal point, something he’s likely to continue to stress in an effort to differentiate himself from Lander, who has a long resume in city planning, community development, and policy-making. Benjamin repeatedly stressed his readiness to go deep inside the numbers when it comes to city finances.</p> <p>“I will be ready on day one to zealously protect the retirements of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and to use the position of Comptroller to advance progressive ideals of justice and equity for all,” Benjamin said in a statement accompanying his announcement, which highlighted his “qualifications” for comptroller including “an advanced degree in business from Harvard, experience working as an investor on Wall Street, and authoring critical financial legislation such as forcing New York’s pension fund to divest from private prisons.”</p> <p>The job of the city comptroller is to help manage the public pension funds; analyze the city budget; audit and otherwise review the work of city agencies to root out waste and mismanagement; vet city contracts; and generally provide oversight of the mayoral administration and other governmental and nongovernmental entities that impact the well-being of New Yorkers. Those who have held the position, such as term-limited current Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat now running for mayor in next year’s election, have also churned out policy proposals on a wide variety of issues not directly related to the position’s central responsibilities as a fiscal watchdog.</p> <p>The next city comptroller, set to take office at the start of 2022 along with a new mayor and many other new city officials, will be tasked with monitoring city finances at what is likely to still be a very challenging time due to the coronavirus recession. City tax revenues have plummeted due to the economic shutdown used to stem the spread of COVID-19, and several industries have been decimated, particularly tourism and entertainment, with sweeping job losses across hospitality and service sectors. The campaign for comptroller will include necessary discussion about how to balance the city budget by closing expected gaps and long-term strategies for managing city finances and government, finding savings throughout city government, and more.</p> <p>According to Benjamin’s campaign, he has a master’s in business from Harvard, worked as an investment advisor at Morgan Stanley, then spent time at a Manhattan company helping finance and build affordable housing. He led the local community board and was elected to the state Senate in 2017. In the Legislature, he was part of all-Democratic control of state government that took hold in 2019 and passed sweeping liberal priorities into law, including gun control, voting reform, environmental and tenant protections, women’s reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and more. This year, Benjamin sponsored a bill that became state law that outlawed the use of chokeholds by police officers.</p> <p>At his launch event, Benjamin told his personal story of family, community, and opportunity, especially through the city labor unions that his parents were part of, and stressed the need for all New Yorkers to have support in order to succeed. He also noted, because of those family ties to city labor unions and the pensions that come with such jobs, his personal understanding of the importance of public pensions and the role of the comptroller in safe-guarding them.</p> <p>Eyeing success in the comptroller’s race, Benjamin starts with a base of support in his district and nearby parts of upper Manhattan, and a strong early fundraising push. He has close ties to the political establishment and is known to be well-respected by his colleagues. In order to compete with and possibly defeat Lander, who got off to an earlier start in this race, Benjamin will have to continue to develop a citywide campaign and a counterweight to Lander's support throughout New York's progressive movement, where the third-term Council member has been active for many years. Indicative of their politics, Benjamin endorsed Kalama Harris in the Democratic presidential primary while Lander backed Elizabeth Warren.</p> <p>In the comptroller race, Lander has had early support from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a longtime ally, though they have not announced a formal endorsement. State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar have formally endorsed Lander, who held a birthday fundraiser earlier this year with a long list of "special guests and supporters" including other elected officials and activists -- formal endorsements are likely to follow once he officially launches his campaign. Lander, who is white, will be counting on winning a large percentage of white progressive voters, starting in his home district of Park Slope and surrounding neighborhoods, and trying to secure support throughout communities of color, while Benjamin, who is Black, will be looking to cement a base in the city's predominantly Black communities, beginning in Harlem, and win support from other constituencies. Benjamin launched his campaign with the backing of a number of Black elected officials and leaders. How Weprin, who is white, and Parker, who is Black, and perhaps other candidates, potentially impact the race and attempt to develop momentum is to be seen.</p> <p>Endorsing Benjamin at the time of his Thursday launch were Manhattan Democratic Party head Keith Wright; State Senator Robert Jackson; Assemblymembers Al Taylor, Inez Dickens, and Michael Blake; City Council Members Diana Ayala and Bill Perkins; Reverend Michael Walrond; activist Kirsten Foy; Greg Floyd of Teamsters Local 237; and Hazel Dukes of the NAACP; among others. <br />“I’m grateful for the outpouring of support we have already received from across the city,” Benjamin said in a statement about the endorsements. “We are running this campaign to bring true progressive values and financial acumen to the Comptroller’s office.”</p> <p>According to Benjamin's campaign, he's raised&nbsp;$500,000 for his comptroller campaign to date, with another $1.2 million in expected matching funds through the city's public financing system.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated to remove mention of&nbsp;state Senators Jessica Ramos and Zellnor Myrie and Cynthia Nixon as having endorsed Lander - they were listed under special guests and supporters at his birthday event, but have not formally endorsed in the race. It's also been clarified to note that Williams has not formally endorsed Lander in the race.</p>