Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/helen-rosenthal 2019-07-17T07:06:15+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Council Takes Stock of City's Efforts to Help Victims of Domestic Violence 2019-06-26T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-26T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8634-council-takes-stock-of-city-s-efforts-to-help-victims-of-domestic-violence Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-lady-chirlane-annual-dom-vio.jpg" alt="first lady chirlane annual dom vio" width="600" /></p> <p>Annual Gladys Ricard and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk/Brides' March (2016) (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council held an oversight hearing Monday to discuss an annual report on domestic violence in New York City, including city initiatives to help victims. The hearing featured testimony from Cecile Noel, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV), and advocacy groups.</p> <p>“As more survivors come forward to report abuse we must make sure the city is capturing the demand for services,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Council’s Committee on Women and Gender Equity, at the hearing. Indicators continue to show that reports of domestic violence are on the rise in the city, though it’s unclear if that is more a result of victims reporting the abuse than more incidents actually taking place.</p> <p>ENDGBV was re-launched in 2018 by Mayor Bill de Blasio to develop policies, organize training, and operate the New York City Family Justice Centers, among other responsibilities. With one located in each borough, Family Justice Centers connect survivors of domestic and gender-based violence with organizations that provide case management, economic empowerment, counseling, civil legal, and criminal legal assistance. Many of these services are located within the Family Justice Center, so survivors only need to go to one location.</p> <p>In 2018, 25,222 different clients visited a Family Justice Center, according to ENDGVB statistics, and made a total of over 65,000 visits to the centers.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/2018%20ENDGBV%20Annual%20Report_LL%2038.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new report</a> - the first of its kind mandated by a recent city law - and the Council hearing, come at a time of higher reporting of domestic violence in the city. While the “Me Too Movement” and associated cultural awareness has brought more attention over the last few years to domestic violence and sexual assault, after spiking, NYPD “radio runs” responding to alleged or suspected domestic violence decreased slightly last year.</p> <p>Police officers responded to 241,584 domestic violence calls in 2018, down from 245,577 in 2017, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Police officers received 287,549 domestic violence incident reports in 2017, a number that dropped by about 5,000 in 2018, according to the spokesperson. More domestic violence incident reports were received by the NYPD in 2017 than in any year since 2014.</p> <p>However, the number of felony assault complaints related to domestic violence increased from 7,800 in 2017 to 8,200 in 2018, according to data from the NYPD’s website.</p> <p>A dozen years ago, in 2007, 4.8 percent of all major crimes in the city were related to domestic violence. In 2016, domestic violence constituted 11.6 percent -- a function of both most other major crimes continuing to drop and reporting of domestic violence increasing.</p> <p>Domestic violence was a factor in 17.5 percent of homicides and 20 percent of assaults in the city in 2017, according to ENDGVB’s annual report. The number of homicides related to domestic violence increased from 51 in 2017 to 54 in 2018, according to NYPD statistics. There were just under 300 total murders in the city in each of those years, meaning roughly one in six murders in the city are related to domestic violence.</p> <p>Vulnerable New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, especially low-income New Yorkers and people of color, Council Member Rosenthal pointed out at the hearing.</p> <p>While Family Justice Centers provide integral services to often underserved communities, they are still in need of improvements, said Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. Rosenthal highlighted the significant number of New Yorkers that speak a language other than English, and the challenges posed to them by using a contracted interpretation service to communicate at Family Justice Centers.</p> <p>To communicate with clients who do not speak English, Family Justice Centers employ Voiance, a telephonic interpretation contractor. Rosenthal pressed Noel on the sensitivity of the subject requiring interpretation, suggesting that interpreters should receive training on how to discuss trauma with survivors.</p> <p>“Given the inherently sensitive nature of this work and what we’ve learned about the implications for people who are not trained for survivors, it would be of the interest of the committee and the counsel to find out how that’s working out,” Rosenthal said at the hearing. “Perhaps there should be more preventative training for these workers,” she said.</p> <p>“To every degree possible we make sure the contractor understands both the Family Justice Center and our issues,” Noel said. “We don’t provide direct training to Voiance but if issues come up that present any problem to the contractor those are immediately addressed.”</p> <p>The language barrier has not gotten in the way of the Family Justice Centers doing the work, Noel said. Every one of the unique clients who visited a Family Justice Center in 2018 filled out a client intake form, the first step in receiving services.</p> <p>Rosenthal encouraged the Family Justice Centers to bolster their economic empowerment initiatives. ENDGVB operates a learning lab at the Manhattan Family Justice Center, increasing the capacity of ENDGVB’s existing four-month career training program by 50 percent. Learning labs do not exist at Family Justice Centers in any other borough.</p> <p>“We are aware of no public investments specifically allocated to workforce programming for gender-based violence survivors,” said Sarah Hayes, Deputy Director of Economic Empowerment Program at Sanctuary for Families, a group providing services for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence.</p> <p>While the Family Justice Centers track their visitors and the services they use, they do not track from where the clients are referred.</p> <p>“A tracking mechanism is essential because it will tell us where the bulk of our constituents are coming from and will allow us to better engage with them,” Council Member Diana Ayala said at the hearing.</p> <p>De Blasio has taken several steps to address domestic violence as incident reports have grown, introducing in 2017 the Domestic Violence Task Force, which invested nearly $11 million in programs to enhance legal protections for survivors of domestic violence and improve education on the issue, according to a press release from that year.</p> <p>“This report sends a loud and clear message – we will not tolerate domestic violence, survivors have the City’s full support, and abusers must be held accountable. We will do everything we can to ensure that New York City is safer for everyone, everywhere, at all times,” de Blasio said in a May 2017 press release announcing the results of the task force’s report. As the city saw increased domestic violence reporting, de Blasio and other city officials were pushed to take action.</p> <p>In 2018, de Blasio signed bills to combat workplace sexual harassment, expand the city’s paid leave laws to employees who are survivors of domestic violence, and enacted ENDGBV by executive order, mandating the city to address and coordinate a response to domestic violence.</p> <p>First Lady Chirlane McCray has taken a primary role in the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence, announcing in 2018 Interrupting Violence At Home, a citywide program to address domestic violence through services, training, and intervention for abusive partners who are not involved in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>“Any kind of violence is unacceptable. But as we keep survivors and families safe, we must also do everything we can to intervene directly with their abusive partners,” McCray said in a 2018 press release announcing the initiative. “Hurt people hurt people.”</p> <p>The Council committee also discussed on Monday a resolution to encourage the federal passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. The Violence Against Women Act was first passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994, but must be renewed by Congress. The bill has been renewed in every subsequent administration and was last renewed in 2013.</p> <p>The bill passed in the House of Representatives in April, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Opposition to the bill has focused on a provision, known as the “boyfriend loophole,” that would make it easier for law enforcement to strip perpetrators of domestic violence of their guns.</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/first-lady-chirlane-annual-dom-vio.jpg" alt="first lady chirlane annual dom vio" width="600" /></p> <p>Annual Gladys Ricard and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk/Brides' March (2016) (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council held an oversight hearing Monday to discuss an annual report on domestic violence in New York City, including city initiatives to help victims. The hearing featured testimony from Cecile Noel, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV), and advocacy groups.</p> <p>“As more survivors come forward to report abuse we must make sure the city is capturing the demand for services,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Council’s Committee on Women and Gender Equity, at the hearing. Indicators continue to show that reports of domestic violence are on the rise in the city, though it’s unclear if that is more a result of victims reporting the abuse than more incidents actually taking place.</p> <p>ENDGBV was re-launched in 2018 by Mayor Bill de Blasio to develop policies, organize training, and operate the New York City Family Justice Centers, among other responsibilities. With one located in each borough, Family Justice Centers connect survivors of domestic and gender-based violence with organizations that provide case management, economic empowerment, counseling, civil legal, and criminal legal assistance. Many of these services are located within the Family Justice Center, so survivors only need to go to one location.</p> <p>In 2018, 25,222 different clients visited a Family Justice Center, according to ENDGVB statistics, and made a total of over 65,000 visits to the centers.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/2018%20ENDGBV%20Annual%20Report_LL%2038.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new report</a> - the first of its kind mandated by a recent city law - and the Council hearing, come at a time of higher reporting of domestic violence in the city. While the “Me Too Movement” and associated cultural awareness has brought more attention over the last few years to domestic violence and sexual assault, after spiking, NYPD “radio runs” responding to alleged or suspected domestic violence decreased slightly last year.</p> <p>Police officers responded to 241,584 domestic violence calls in 2018, down from 245,577 in 2017, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Police officers received 287,549 domestic violence incident reports in 2017, a number that dropped by about 5,000 in 2018, according to the spokesperson. More domestic violence incident reports were received by the NYPD in 2017 than in any year since 2014.</p> <p>However, the number of felony assault complaints related to domestic violence increased from 7,800 in 2017 to 8,200 in 2018, according to data from the NYPD’s website.</p> <p>A dozen years ago, in 2007, 4.8 percent of all major crimes in the city were related to domestic violence. In 2016, domestic violence constituted 11.6 percent -- a function of both most other major crimes continuing to drop and reporting of domestic violence increasing.</p> <p>Domestic violence was a factor in 17.5 percent of homicides and 20 percent of assaults in the city in 2017, according to ENDGVB’s annual report. The number of homicides related to domestic violence increased from 51 in 2017 to 54 in 2018, according to NYPD statistics. There were just under 300 total murders in the city in each of those years, meaning roughly one in six murders in the city are related to domestic violence.</p> <p>Vulnerable New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, especially low-income New Yorkers and people of color, Council Member Rosenthal pointed out at the hearing.</p> <p>While Family Justice Centers provide integral services to often underserved communities, they are still in need of improvements, said Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. Rosenthal highlighted the significant number of New Yorkers that speak a language other than English, and the challenges posed to them by using a contracted interpretation service to communicate at Family Justice Centers.</p> <p>To communicate with clients who do not speak English, Family Justice Centers employ Voiance, a telephonic interpretation contractor. Rosenthal pressed Noel on the sensitivity of the subject requiring interpretation, suggesting that interpreters should receive training on how to discuss trauma with survivors.</p> <p>“Given the inherently sensitive nature of this work and what we’ve learned about the implications for people who are not trained for survivors, it would be of the interest of the committee and the counsel to find out how that’s working out,” Rosenthal said at the hearing. “Perhaps there should be more preventative training for these workers,” she said.</p> <p>“To every degree possible we make sure the contractor understands both the Family Justice Center and our issues,” Noel said. “We don’t provide direct training to Voiance but if issues come up that present any problem to the contractor those are immediately addressed.”</p> <p>The language barrier has not gotten in the way of the Family Justice Centers doing the work, Noel said. Every one of the unique clients who visited a Family Justice Center in 2018 filled out a client intake form, the first step in receiving services.</p> <p>Rosenthal encouraged the Family Justice Centers to bolster their economic empowerment initiatives. ENDGVB operates a learning lab at the Manhattan Family Justice Center, increasing the capacity of ENDGVB’s existing four-month career training program by 50 percent. Learning labs do not exist at Family Justice Centers in any other borough.</p> <p>“We are aware of no public investments specifically allocated to workforce programming for gender-based violence survivors,” said Sarah Hayes, Deputy Director of Economic Empowerment Program at Sanctuary for Families, a group providing services for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence.</p> <p>While the Family Justice Centers track their visitors and the services they use, they do not track from where the clients are referred.</p> <p>“A tracking mechanism is essential because it will tell us where the bulk of our constituents are coming from and will allow us to better engage with them,” Council Member Diana Ayala said at the hearing.</p> <p>De Blasio has taken several steps to address domestic violence as incident reports have grown, introducing in 2017 the Domestic Violence Task Force, which invested nearly $11 million in programs to enhance legal protections for survivors of domestic violence and improve education on the issue, according to a press release from that year.</p> <p>“This report sends a loud and clear message – we will not tolerate domestic violence, survivors have the City’s full support, and abusers must be held accountable. We will do everything we can to ensure that New York City is safer for everyone, everywhere, at all times,” de Blasio said in a May 2017 press release announcing the results of the task force’s report. As the city saw increased domestic violence reporting, de Blasio and other city officials were pushed to take action.</p> <p>In 2018, de Blasio signed bills to combat workplace sexual harassment, expand the city’s paid leave laws to employees who are survivors of domestic violence, and enacted ENDGBV by executive order, mandating the city to address and coordinate a response to domestic violence.</p> <p>First Lady Chirlane McCray has taken a primary role in the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence, announcing in 2018 Interrupting Violence At Home, a citywide program to address domestic violence through services, training, and intervention for abusive partners who are not involved in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>“Any kind of violence is unacceptable. But as we keep survivors and families safe, we must also do everything we can to intervene directly with their abusive partners,” McCray said in a 2018 press release announcing the initiative. “Hurt people hurt people.”</p> <p>The Council committee also discussed on Monday a resolution to encourage the federal passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. The Violence Against Women Act was first passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994, but must be renewed by Congress. The bill has been renewed in every subsequent administration and was last renewed in 2013.</p> <p>The bill passed in the House of Representatives in April, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Opposition to the bill has focused on a provision, known as the “boyfriend loophole,” that would make it easier for law enforcement to strip perpetrators of domestic violence of their guns.</p> <p>

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
First City Agency Workplace-Climate Survey Under New Law Raises Questions, Concerns 2019-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2019-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8541-first-city-agency-workplace-climate-survey-under-new-law-raises-questions-concerns Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-francisco-moya.jpg" alt="cm francisco moya" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, amid a national awakening about sexual harassment spurred by the #MeToo movement, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation. Among other things, it required the city to disclose more data about harassment claims and to undertake workplace climate surveys about harassment, discrimination, and other issues in order to create action plans and make improvements.</p> <p>But the first climate survey results were recently delivered to the City Council and do not contain enough information to illuminate how different agencies handle the problem of harassment, said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity. Rosenthal, who helped lead the charge on the Stop Sexual Harassment Act bill package, told Gotham Gazette the initial climate survey results have prompted her to prepare legislation requiring agency-specific climate survey data.</p> <p>The climate survey of city agencies was conducted by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which provided its report to the mayor’s office and the City Council. Gotham Gazette obtained the five-page report through a Freedom of Information Law request.</p> <p>The survey, which was voluntary for respondents and anonymized, looked at how familiar agency employees were with the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity policies and complaint process, whether they experienced or witnessed workplace discrimination, and also how aware supervisors and managers were of EEO processes.</p> <p>Of the respondents, 32.4% were supervisors and managers; 59.5% identified as female; 85.5% said they were heterosexual. (The survey broke down the respondents by age, racial background, gender and sexual identity).</p> <p>Overall, a majority of respondents (the report does not say how many were polled, the law only requires the survey to be offered to all employees) said they were familiar with EEO policies and had received training within the last year, that they had not personally experienced or witnessed discrimination of any type, and that their workplace was safe from EEO violations.</p> <p>“I commend them for taking the first step,” Rosenthal said, “But..I’m disappointed that their takeaway thoughts are pretty light. It’s thin, it’s just thin.”</p> <p>Pointing to the report’s general conclusions, she said, “The majority of respondents know the policies, did not personally experience [discrimination], and they indicate their work is safe. Well how do we even know what standard DCAS is comparing this to?”</p> <p>Data released by the city earlier this year showed that the Department of Education accounted for a majority of sexual harassment complaints -- 186 out of 472 complaints filed in the 2018 fiscal year. What may be true of one agency, DCAS for instance, where there were only eight complaints filed, may not be true of the Department of Education. “So that’s just an out of context assertion that I dont think is valid,” Rosenthal said of the notion that the majority of respondents find their workplaces safe. “I’d like to see a little more rigor there.”</p> <p>The Manhattan Democrat emphasized that the results are too general and occlude the differences between agencies. For instance, while only 9.6% of respondents said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work, 14.2% said they had witnessed instances of sexual harassment.</p> <p>“That could’ve been an interesting finding that they culled out, and say well what does that mean? What does that tell us? Does that mean that people are not reporting? That could be the takeaway. And that’s concerning.” Rosenthal said.</p> <p>Responses about agency procedures and environments were also of concern to Rosenthal. Asked if their workplace was “safe and free of violations of the EEO policy,” 61.5% said they strongly agree or agree; 18.9% said they strongly disagree or disagree; and 19.7% were neutral on the question. “The truth of the matter is, that’s not a slam dunk for them,” Rosenthal said.</p> <p>“I suppose if you had the information by agency, then you would see which agencies need a serious action plan,” she added.</p> <p>Spokespersons for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not provide comment on the results of the survey or whether they would support Rosenthal’s proposal to disaggregate data by agency. A spokesperson for de Blasio said “Sexual harassment has no place in the City of New York. The de Blasio Administration is committed to preventing sexual harassment – and all other forms of discrimination – inside and outside of the workplace. We look forward to reviewing the bill.”</p> <p>About 92.4% of respondents said they were familiar with the city’s EEO policy and 84% said they knew how to file a formal complaint about an EEO violation. But only 57.4% said they knew how EEO complaints were processed after being filed.&nbsp;The report did acknowledge this last statistic, and concluded that more training and communication would be required to make employees more aware of the process after a complaint is submitted. Under the law, DCAS will be required to create an action plan to implement this change by the end of the year, with a report due on actions taken by March 31 of next year. Another survey will also be carried out in July 2020.</p> <p>Besides sexual harassment, the survey also examined discrimination based on age, gender, racial and ethnic background, religious background, disability status, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, military status, partnership status, a category called “Predisposing Genetic Characteristics/Genetic Information,” prior record of arrest or conviction, and for victims of domestic violence.</p> <p>Agencies generally performed well, save for a few major categories: about 16.8% of respondents said they had experienced racial or ethnic discrimination, while 20.8% said they had witnessed it; 11% said they experienced gender discrimination, and 13.2% said they had witnessed it; 10.5% said they experienced age discrimination, and 14.5% said they had witnessed it.</p> <p>Here are a few of the other highlights of the survey: <br />-70.6% strongly agreed or agreed that their “rights are protected to pursue [their] duties in a respectful workplace”; 14.3% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 15.1% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-67.3% strongly agreed or agreed that they felt protected from workplace harassment; 16.2% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 16.6% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-61.1% strongly agreed or agreed that they are treated equally and fairly; 20.6% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 18.3% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-63.7% strongly agreed or agreed that steps are taken to prevent violations of the EEO policy; 13.8% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 22.5% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-59.7% strongly agreed or agreed that violations of EEO policy are taken seriously and investigated; 12.9% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 27.4% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-51.2% strongly agreed or agreed that adequate response is provided to those employees who have experienced and submitted claims of violations of EEO policy; 12% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 36.9% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been corrected to note that the Department of Education had the highest number of harassment complaints filed in 2018, not the Department of Investigation.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-francisco-moya.jpg" alt="cm francisco moya" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, amid a national awakening about sexual harassment spurred by the #MeToo movement, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation. Among other things, it required the city to disclose more data about harassment claims and to undertake workplace climate surveys about harassment, discrimination, and other issues in order to create action plans and make improvements.</p> <p>But the first climate survey results were recently delivered to the City Council and do not contain enough information to illuminate how different agencies handle the problem of harassment, said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity. Rosenthal, who helped lead the charge on the Stop Sexual Harassment Act bill package, told Gotham Gazette the initial climate survey results have prompted her to prepare legislation requiring agency-specific climate survey data.</p> <p>The climate survey of city agencies was conducted by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which provided its report to the mayor’s office and the City Council. Gotham Gazette obtained the five-page report through a Freedom of Information Law request.</p> <p>The survey, which was voluntary for respondents and anonymized, looked at how familiar agency employees were with the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity policies and complaint process, whether they experienced or witnessed workplace discrimination, and also how aware supervisors and managers were of EEO processes.</p> <p>Of the respondents, 32.4% were supervisors and managers; 59.5% identified as female; 85.5% said they were heterosexual. (The survey broke down the respondents by age, racial background, gender and sexual identity).</p> <p>Overall, a majority of respondents (the report does not say how many were polled, the law only requires the survey to be offered to all employees) said they were familiar with EEO policies and had received training within the last year, that they had not personally experienced or witnessed discrimination of any type, and that their workplace was safe from EEO violations.</p> <p>“I commend them for taking the first step,” Rosenthal said, “But..I’m disappointed that their takeaway thoughts are pretty light. It’s thin, it’s just thin.”</p> <p>Pointing to the report’s general conclusions, she said, “The majority of respondents know the policies, did not personally experience [discrimination], and they indicate their work is safe. Well how do we even know what standard DCAS is comparing this to?”</p> <p>Data released by the city earlier this year showed that the Department of Education accounted for a majority of sexual harassment complaints -- 186 out of 472 complaints filed in the 2018 fiscal year. What may be true of one agency, DCAS for instance, where there were only eight complaints filed, may not be true of the Department of Education. “So that’s just an out of context assertion that I dont think is valid,” Rosenthal said of the notion that the majority of respondents find their workplaces safe. “I’d like to see a little more rigor there.”</p> <p>The Manhattan Democrat emphasized that the results are too general and occlude the differences between agencies. For instance, while only 9.6% of respondents said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work, 14.2% said they had witnessed instances of sexual harassment.</p> <p>“That could’ve been an interesting finding that they culled out, and say well what does that mean? What does that tell us? Does that mean that people are not reporting? That could be the takeaway. And that’s concerning.” Rosenthal said.</p> <p>Responses about agency procedures and environments were also of concern to Rosenthal. Asked if their workplace was “safe and free of violations of the EEO policy,” 61.5% said they strongly agree or agree; 18.9% said they strongly disagree or disagree; and 19.7% were neutral on the question. “The truth of the matter is, that’s not a slam dunk for them,” Rosenthal said.</p> <p>“I suppose if you had the information by agency, then you would see which agencies need a serious action plan,” she added.</p> <p>Spokespersons for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not provide comment on the results of the survey or whether they would support Rosenthal’s proposal to disaggregate data by agency. A spokesperson for de Blasio said “Sexual harassment has no place in the City of New York. The de Blasio Administration is committed to preventing sexual harassment – and all other forms of discrimination – inside and outside of the workplace. We look forward to reviewing the bill.”</p> <p>About 92.4% of respondents said they were familiar with the city’s EEO policy and 84% said they knew how to file a formal complaint about an EEO violation. But only 57.4% said they knew how EEO complaints were processed after being filed.&nbsp;The report did acknowledge this last statistic, and concluded that more training and communication would be required to make employees more aware of the process after a complaint is submitted. Under the law, DCAS will be required to create an action plan to implement this change by the end of the year, with a report due on actions taken by March 31 of next year. Another survey will also be carried out in July 2020.</p> <p>Besides sexual harassment, the survey also examined discrimination based on age, gender, racial and ethnic background, religious background, disability status, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, military status, partnership status, a category called “Predisposing Genetic Characteristics/Genetic Information,” prior record of arrest or conviction, and for victims of domestic violence.</p> <p>Agencies generally performed well, save for a few major categories: about 16.8% of respondents said they had experienced racial or ethnic discrimination, while 20.8% said they had witnessed it; 11% said they experienced gender discrimination, and 13.2% said they had witnessed it; 10.5% said they experienced age discrimination, and 14.5% said they had witnessed it.</p> <p>Here are a few of the other highlights of the survey: <br />-70.6% strongly agreed or agreed that their “rights are protected to pursue [their] duties in a respectful workplace”; 14.3% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 15.1% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-67.3% strongly agreed or agreed that they felt protected from workplace harassment; 16.2% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 16.6% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-61.1% strongly agreed or agreed that they are treated equally and fairly; 20.6% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 18.3% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-63.7% strongly agreed or agreed that steps are taken to prevent violations of the EEO policy; 13.8% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 22.5% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-59.7% strongly agreed or agreed that violations of EEO policy are taken seriously and investigated; 12.9% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 27.4% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>-51.2% strongly agreed or agreed that adequate response is provided to those employees who have experienced and submitted claims of violations of EEO policy; 12% said they strongly disagree or disagree; 36.9% were neutral on the question.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been corrected to note that the Department of Education had the highest number of harassment complaints filed in 2018, not the Department of Investigation.</p>
Council Member Rosenthal Pursues Legislation to Create City Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention 2019-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2019-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8540-council-member-rosenthal-legislation-to-create-office-of-sexual-harassment-prevention Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-h-rosenthal-during-p.jpg" alt="cm h rosenthal during p" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal, center (photo: William Alatriste\New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, plans to introduce legislation to create an Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention within the mayor’s office, she told Gotham Gazette on Monday night.</p> <p>Rosenthal, who recently spearheaded passage of sweeping anti-harassment legislation, made a request to draft Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention bill following <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent Gotham Gazette report</a> about a 1993 executive order signed by former Mayor David Dinkins that would’ve created such an office, but was never put into effect.</p> <p>“I think it’s an exciting idea,” Rosenthal said. “Let’s see where it would fit in to start and then what is its mission, what it would have authority over. There are a lot of important questions that have to be answered.” Those answers would come in both the bill-drafting and legislative hearing and negotiation phases.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention? It Almost Happened 25 Years Ago</a>]</p> <p>In 1993, Dinkins signed an executive order to create the Citywide Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention on a pilot basis for two years. The order was a response to a sexual harassment scandal that led to the resignation of a top Dinkins aide, and followed a larger push by then-Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman to reform anti-sexual harassment policies at city agencies.</p> <p>But the order was signed two weeks before Dinkins’ term ended, giving him insufficient time to implement it. His successor, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, did not put it into effect and the order lapsed.</p> <p>Last year, amid the #MeToo movement, New York City officials woke to the issue of sexual harassment, and the City Council passed a slew of new bills aimed at improving how city agencies and the private sector deal with workplace harassment. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bills into law.</p> <p>De Blasio’s administration then released data on instances of sexual harassment at agencies, and admitted to flaws in the standards for reporting and assessing harassment. The latest data released by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services showed that 472 complaints of sexual harassment were filed in the 2018 fiscal year, and 243 of those were resolved (569 complaints were resolved overall in that period).</p> <p>Rosenthal has asked the Council’s bill drafting unit to begin creating the legislative framework for a mayoral office that would be dedicated to handling those complaints. Currently, sexual harassment falls under the purview of several agencies and commissions -- the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Gender Equity, the Equal Employment Practices Commission. But the CHR and the EEPC existed when Dinkins signed his executive order as well, and sexual harassment has far from ceased to be an issue despite their existence, which is why Rosenthal said a new agency or office would not be duplicative.</p> <p>Rosenthal’s committee is set to hold a hearing to assess how, or whether, the administration has indeed stepped up enforcement against sexual harassment. (A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, but has since been deferred. It’s unclear when it will be rescheduled.)</p> <p>“I would guess the administration would say they’re [enforcing] it now and then in our hearing we’re gonna see whether or not they can demonstrate that,” Rosenthal said.&nbsp;</p> <p>To emphasize the need for a standalone office, she pointed to the Department of Education. Of the 472 sexual harassment complaints filed in the 2018 fiscal year, 186 complaints were at the DOE (which can in part be explained by the fact that the DOE has the largest number of city employees of any agency or department).</p> <p>But, Rosenthal noted, DOE still has only one federal Title IX coordinator whose task it is to monitor complaints of discrimination based on sex, compared with a Title IX office of 20 people in Chicago, a much smaller city with a school system barely one-third the size of New York City’s. “If we had an office that was only looking at sexual harassment, and had we had that for the past 25 years, we’d be in a different spot,” she said.</p> <p>There’s a long road ahead for any legislation, Rosenthal conceded, but she’s hoping she can introduce it before her committee holds its next hearing. Besides the usual delays in drafting most legislation, there’s likely to be thorny issues in the possibility of creating an entirely new office with a mission that overlaps with other agencies. But Rosenthal says her effort is not merely symbolic. “I wouldn’t want it to be,” she said. “If all it’s going to be is a symbolic gesture, then that’s not meaningful.”</p> <p>Asked about Rosenthal's pursuit of the legislation, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Marcy Miranda, said by email:&nbsp;“Sexual harassment has no place in the City of New York. The de Blasio Administration is committed to preventing sexual harassment – and all other forms of discrimination – inside and outside of the workplace. We look forward to reviewing the bill.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not provide comment for this article.</p> <p>[READ:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention? It Almost Happened 25 Years Ago</a>]</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cm-h-rosenthal-during-p.jpg" alt="cm h rosenthal during p" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal, center (photo: William Alatriste\New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, plans to introduce legislation to create an Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention within the mayor’s office, she told Gotham Gazette on Monday night.</p> <p>Rosenthal, who recently spearheaded passage of sweeping anti-harassment legislation, made a request to draft Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention bill following <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent Gotham Gazette report</a> about a 1993 executive order signed by former Mayor David Dinkins that would’ve created such an office, but was never put into effect.</p> <p>“I think it’s an exciting idea,” Rosenthal said. “Let’s see where it would fit in to start and then what is its mission, what it would have authority over. There are a lot of important questions that have to be answered.” Those answers would come in both the bill-drafting and legislative hearing and negotiation phases.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention? It Almost Happened 25 Years Ago</a>]</p> <p>In 1993, Dinkins signed an executive order to create the Citywide Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention on a pilot basis for two years. The order was a response to a sexual harassment scandal that led to the resignation of a top Dinkins aide, and followed a larger push by then-Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman to reform anti-sexual harassment policies at city agencies.</p> <p>But the order was signed two weeks before Dinkins’ term ended, giving him insufficient time to implement it. His successor, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, did not put it into effect and the order lapsed.</p> <p>Last year, amid the #MeToo movement, New York City officials woke to the issue of sexual harassment, and the City Council passed a slew of new bills aimed at improving how city agencies and the private sector deal with workplace harassment. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bills into law.</p> <p>De Blasio’s administration then released data on instances of sexual harassment at agencies, and admitted to flaws in the standards for reporting and assessing harassment. The latest data released by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services showed that 472 complaints of sexual harassment were filed in the 2018 fiscal year, and 243 of those were resolved (569 complaints were resolved overall in that period).</p> <p>Rosenthal has asked the Council’s bill drafting unit to begin creating the legislative framework for a mayoral office that would be dedicated to handling those complaints. Currently, sexual harassment falls under the purview of several agencies and commissions -- the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Gender Equity, the Equal Employment Practices Commission. But the CHR and the EEPC existed when Dinkins signed his executive order as well, and sexual harassment has far from ceased to be an issue despite their existence, which is why Rosenthal said a new agency or office would not be duplicative.</p> <p>Rosenthal’s committee is set to hold a hearing to assess how, or whether, the administration has indeed stepped up enforcement against sexual harassment. (A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, but has since been deferred. It’s unclear when it will be rescheduled.)</p> <p>“I would guess the administration would say they’re [enforcing] it now and then in our hearing we’re gonna see whether or not they can demonstrate that,” Rosenthal said.&nbsp;</p> <p>To emphasize the need for a standalone office, she pointed to the Department of Education. Of the 472 sexual harassment complaints filed in the 2018 fiscal year, 186 complaints were at the DOE (which can in part be explained by the fact that the DOE has the largest number of city employees of any agency or department).</p> <p>But, Rosenthal noted, DOE still has only one federal Title IX coordinator whose task it is to monitor complaints of discrimination based on sex, compared with a Title IX office of 20 people in Chicago, a much smaller city with a school system barely one-third the size of New York City’s. “If we had an office that was only looking at sexual harassment, and had we had that for the past 25 years, we’d be in a different spot,” she said.</p> <p>There’s a long road ahead for any legislation, Rosenthal conceded, but she’s hoping she can introduce it before her committee holds its next hearing. Besides the usual delays in drafting most legislation, there’s likely to be thorny issues in the possibility of creating an entirely new office with a mission that overlaps with other agencies. But Rosenthal says her effort is not merely symbolic. “I wouldn’t want it to be,” she said. “If all it’s going to be is a symbolic gesture, then that’s not meaningful.”</p> <p>Asked about Rosenthal's pursuit of the legislation, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Marcy Miranda, said by email:&nbsp;“Sexual harassment has no place in the City of New York. The de Blasio Administration is committed to preventing sexual harassment – and all other forms of discrimination – inside and outside of the workplace. We look forward to reviewing the bill.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not provide comment for this article.</p> <p>[READ:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention? It Almost Happened 25 Years Ago</a>]</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
A Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention? It Almost Happened 25 Years Ago 2019-05-08T04:00:00+00:00 2019-05-08T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8508-a-citywide-office-for-sexual-harassment-prevention-it-almost-happened-25-years-ago Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayor-chirlane-david.jpg" alt="mayor chirlane david" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Former Mayor David Dinkins, left, with Chirlane McCray (photo: Edwin J. Torres/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In October 1992, amid sexual harassment scandals that rocked his administration, former Mayor David Dinkins created a task force to examine the issue of sexual harassment in city government. The task force, chaired by late Congressional Rep. Bella Abzug, who led the larger Commission on the Status of Women, submitted its report to the mayor the next year in November, recommending that the city create a Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention.</p> <p>The following month, in December 1993 and just two weeks before his mayoralty ended, Dinkins heeded the recommendation and signed <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/records/pdf/executive_orders/1993EO060.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an executive order</a> to establish that citywide office as a pilot for two years.</p> <p>The office was to advise and counsel city employees on sexual harassment issues, as well as mediate when allegations were made. It would be mandated to investigate formal complaints of harassment and discrimination, and recommend disciplinary measures. It was to monitor how city agencies dealt with harassment, evaluate the effectiveness of harassment trainings for employees, and be required to submit quarterly reports on its work to the mayor. And it was to maintain a central repository of formal and informal sexual harassment complaints.</p> <p>But as administrations switched, Dinkins’ eleventh-hour executive order was lost to the pages of the municipal archives -- the Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention was never established. The Rudolph Giuliani administration does not seem to have paid any attention to the executive order, which lapsed after its two-year lifespan without being specifically rescinded.</p> <p>Twenty-five years later, the #MeToo movement’s focus on addressing sexual harassment triggered a cultural paradigm shift across the country and beyond. The New York City Council took stock and passed the <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=601967&amp;GUID=460C8F21-8342-4C19-93F2-255F13F251F9&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act</a>, a package of 11 new laws to prevent sexual harassment in the public and private sector, through a push led by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity.</p> <p>New York State also passed similar legislation last year to address sexual harassment, and more recently held its first public hearing on workplace harassment in nearly three decades, with additional change to the law being pushed by advocates and victims this year and another hearing scheduled for May 24.</p> <p>A spokesperson for former Mayor Dinkins, who currently teaches at Columbia University, said there was insufficient time to implement the order before his term ended.</p> <p>“I’ve never heard of it and I’ve been around in almost every administration since,” said Dr. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, who served as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s director of the Department of Personnel, under whom the citywide sexual harassment prevention office would have been established under the order. “In retrospect, it would’ve been a wonderful thing. It’s a horrible thing for any human being to go through those kinds of things.”</p> <p>When Giuliani came to power, Barrios-Paoli said the administration’s immediate focus was civil service reform and drastically cutting down the city’s workforce. “I don’t recall [the sexual harassment office] ever coming up with me,” she said, lamenting the lost time on addressing the issue. In city leadership, she said, “There was so little awareness of that those days. The consciousness was just not there.”</p> <p>“I don’t think there was a woman that was exempt. We didn’t think there was any recourse,” she said of harassment in the workplace. “What happens in the change of administration is a lot of things fall by the wayside unless they have a champion.”</p> <p>The creation of Dinkins’ task force led by Abzug owed largely to the efforts of former Congressional Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who was City Comptroller during Dinkins’ term and attempted to examine sexual harassment policies in city agencies only to find a dearth of information.</p> <p>Only two agencies responded to Holtzman’s requests for information, the Department of Transportation and the Fire Department, and they woefully misunderstood and mishandled the issue of sexual harassment, Holtzman said in a phone interview. “Both responses showed that neither agency understood what the legal requirements were, how to enforce the law and...the people who were victimized by sexual harassment were revictimized by reporting and the people who were perpetrators were allowed to get away with, at worst, a slap on the wrist,” she said.</p> <p>The glaring lack of a standard across agencies should have invited “a major citywide response,” she said, and Dinkins’ executive order came much too late. “I’m not surprised about Mr. Giuliani’s indifference to sexual harassment. We can see that from his present employment. But I am surprised that both Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor de Blasio have turned a deaf ear to it as well. It’s not a good sign,” Holtzman added, with reference to Giuliani’s work for President Trump, who has a history of misogyny and was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.</p> <p>“It just shows how important the MeToo movement is and it shows that nobody’s exempt, including the City of New York,” Holtzman continued, “and even though it wants to tell the country how liberal and progressive it is, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to sexual harassment, they’ve got a lot to account for.”</p> <p>That accounting is meant to happen under the package of bills the Council passed, which include requirements for reporting on sexual harassment within city government, mandated anti-harassment trainings at city agencies and private employers, and required climate surveys and action plans from city agencies, besides strengthening existing anti-harassment protections.</p> <p>Merrick Rossein, professor at CUNY School of Law, served on Dinkins’ sexual harassment task force and was also a commissioner on the Equal Employment Practices Commission under both Dinkins and Giuliani. “I do not recall if the Office was functioning by the time Giuliani took office in January 1994. He was hostile to all [Equal Employment Opportunity] enforcement,” Rossein said in an email. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“The City was an early leader in addressing sexual harassment, including mandating training,” he added, noting that he conducted interactive sexual harassment trainings for Dinkins, his deputy mayors and the corporation counsel to show that the city was taking the issue seriously.</p> <p>“The City should have followed through by establishing the recommended Citywide office. There have been too many cases of sexual harassment from that period until the #MeToo movement and the recent City Council legislation. Too many victims were harmed and tax payers were on the hook for the millions of dollars in settlements, court awards, and lost productivity caused by the disruption of failing to prevent or stop the harassment effectively. The recent legislation is helpful but still insufficient.”</p> <p>As Rossein noted, the citywide office would have tackled many of the issues that became apparent in city government once the #MeToo movement pushed the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to look inward at their own approach to a systemic problem.</p> <p>After the passage of the Stop Sexual Harassment Act last year, the mayor <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/nyregion/sex-harassment-complaints-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released</a> what data was available on the number of harassment complaints across city government, showing glaring discrepancies in how different agencies approached the issue. The mayor himself <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/219-18/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-johnson-125-million-investment-ensure-all" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conceded</a> that “what’s abundantly clear is there was not a single standard for ‘mayoral’ and ‘non-mayoral’ agencies.” Though de Blasio also <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/04/25/mayor-de-blasio-says-education-department-has-culture-of-frivolous-harassment-complaints/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">downplayed</a> complaints that had come through the Department of Education, remarks he later walked back, and has more recently <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/nyregion/de-blasio-sexual-harassment-kevin-obrien.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced intense scrutiny</a> over his administration’s handling of harassment by his former acting chief of staff.</p> <p>"Mayor Dinkins was a visionary leader who understood the importance of taking a stand against sexual harassment decades before the Me Too movement, and his executive order was a prime example. The spirit of this order lives on under the de Blasio Administration," said mayoral spokesperson Marcy Miranda in a statement. "Last year, the Mayor signed the Stop Sexual Harassment Act to address and prevent sexual harassment, and we continue looking at ways the City can improve its processes to reduce sexual harassment and all forms of EEO discrimination at work."</p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, led the way on the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act and was shocked to learn that the city could have acted aggressively so long ago through Dinkins’ order. “What we’ve learned from the MeToo movement is that with focused attention on sexual harassment and experiences of sexual harassment, we are in the midst of changing the cultural tide that allows sexual harassment to continue,” she said. “I can only imagine how much farther along we would be if the...Giuliani administration would have implemented this executive order.”</p> <p>Dinkins created his task force soon after his own office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/27/nyregion/dinkins-appointee-withdraws-over-allegation-of-harrassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">came under scrutiny</a> for appointing a new deputy mayor who faced allegations of sexual harassment. Dinkins later defended the deputy mayor who would then resign from his post.</p> <p>Now, the City Council is preparing to hold another hearing on sexual harassment policies next month, where it will examine the implementation of the laws passed last year. Rosenthal said she is waiting to hear if the mayoral administration is “resisting or embracing” the new policies. The Council is currently dealing with sexual harassment allegations against two of its members, and held a mandatory training on Wednesday at City Hall, which was, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-ruben-diaz-sr-city-council-sexual-harassment-training-20190508-e2gff2mtyva7lbdko4oogrqapu-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>, marred by outbursts from another member, Ruben Diaz Sr., who later told the Daily News that sometimes "sexual harassment is a compliment."</p> <p>Asked if a citywide office would be worth creating, she said the Council would likely receive pushback from the administration. The Equal Employment Practices Commission and the city Commission on Human Rights both currently handle enforcement of laws against sexual harassment, and it’s possible a new agency would be duplicative, Rosenthal noted. But, she said, “I think we have to learn more from our reporting bills to see whether or not the administration is following through on our set of bills that we passed.”</p> <p>Holtzman praised Rosenthal’s legislation and the overall package the Council approved, but she nonetheless believes the city needs a dedicated office to tackle sexual harassment. “It’s one thing to have reports and it’s another thing to have a commission that has its responsibility rooting out this problem,” she said. “Unless they can show it’s not a problem, why not?”</p> <p>She continued, “You need to have a proper administrative structure. I remember when I was trying to deal with the problem of Nazi war criminals in America, the government had done nothing about them for more than 25 years and they were finding sanctuary in the United States. I did create an administrative structure in the Department of Justice, which had that as its mission. You have to give an agency a mission and monitor that agency to make sure it carries out that mission, and instead the message was to all city agencies, it’s not a serious problem.”</p> <p>At the April 25, 2018 news conference when Mayor de Blasio, who worked in City Hall under Dinkins, addressed reporters’ questions about sexual harassment complaints, he noted that the #MeToo movement was leading to a sea change in city government. “So one thing that has come out of this very important movement, this emerged from a social movement in this country that demanded clearer answers from every segment of this society, is we’re aligning all standards on sexual harassment across all agencies,” he said. “And I think that’s going to make a big difference.”</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7767-max-murphy-podcast-the-long-fight-for-new-city-sexual-harassment-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws, with Liz Holtzman and Helen Rosenthal</a>]</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayor-chirlane-david.jpg" alt="mayor chirlane david" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Former Mayor David Dinkins, left, with Chirlane McCray (photo: Edwin J. Torres/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In October 1992, amid sexual harassment scandals that rocked his administration, former Mayor David Dinkins created a task force to examine the issue of sexual harassment in city government. The task force, chaired by late Congressional Rep. Bella Abzug, who led the larger Commission on the Status of Women, submitted its report to the mayor the next year in November, recommending that the city create a Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention.</p> <p>The following month, in December 1993 and just two weeks before his mayoralty ended, Dinkins heeded the recommendation and signed <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/records/pdf/executive_orders/1993EO060.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an executive order</a> to establish that citywide office as a pilot for two years.</p> <p>The office was to advise and counsel city employees on sexual harassment issues, as well as mediate when allegations were made. It would be mandated to investigate formal complaints of harassment and discrimination, and recommend disciplinary measures. It was to monitor how city agencies dealt with harassment, evaluate the effectiveness of harassment trainings for employees, and be required to submit quarterly reports on its work to the mayor. And it was to maintain a central repository of formal and informal sexual harassment complaints.</p> <p>But as administrations switched, Dinkins’ eleventh-hour executive order was lost to the pages of the municipal archives -- the Citywide Office for Sexual Harassment Prevention was never established. The Rudolph Giuliani administration does not seem to have paid any attention to the executive order, which lapsed after its two-year lifespan without being specifically rescinded.</p> <p>Twenty-five years later, the #MeToo movement’s focus on addressing sexual harassment triggered a cultural paradigm shift across the country and beyond. The New York City Council took stock and passed the <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=601967&amp;GUID=460C8F21-8342-4C19-93F2-255F13F251F9&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act</a>, a package of 11 new laws to prevent sexual harassment in the public and private sector, through a push led by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity.</p> <p>New York State also passed similar legislation last year to address sexual harassment, and more recently held its first public hearing on workplace harassment in nearly three decades, with additional change to the law being pushed by advocates and victims this year and another hearing scheduled for May 24.</p> <p>A spokesperson for former Mayor Dinkins, who currently teaches at Columbia University, said there was insufficient time to implement the order before his term ended.</p> <p>“I’ve never heard of it and I’ve been around in almost every administration since,” said Dr. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, who served as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s director of the Department of Personnel, under whom the citywide sexual harassment prevention office would have been established under the order. “In retrospect, it would’ve been a wonderful thing. It’s a horrible thing for any human being to go through those kinds of things.”</p> <p>When Giuliani came to power, Barrios-Paoli said the administration’s immediate focus was civil service reform and drastically cutting down the city’s workforce. “I don’t recall [the sexual harassment office] ever coming up with me,” she said, lamenting the lost time on addressing the issue. In city leadership, she said, “There was so little awareness of that those days. The consciousness was just not there.”</p> <p>“I don’t think there was a woman that was exempt. We didn’t think there was any recourse,” she said of harassment in the workplace. “What happens in the change of administration is a lot of things fall by the wayside unless they have a champion.”</p> <p>The creation of Dinkins’ task force led by Abzug owed largely to the efforts of former Congressional Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who was City Comptroller during Dinkins’ term and attempted to examine sexual harassment policies in city agencies only to find a dearth of information.</p> <p>Only two agencies responded to Holtzman’s requests for information, the Department of Transportation and the Fire Department, and they woefully misunderstood and mishandled the issue of sexual harassment, Holtzman said in a phone interview. “Both responses showed that neither agency understood what the legal requirements were, how to enforce the law and...the people who were victimized by sexual harassment were revictimized by reporting and the people who were perpetrators were allowed to get away with, at worst, a slap on the wrist,” she said.</p> <p>The glaring lack of a standard across agencies should have invited “a major citywide response,” she said, and Dinkins’ executive order came much too late. “I’m not surprised about Mr. Giuliani’s indifference to sexual harassment. We can see that from his present employment. But I am surprised that both Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor de Blasio have turned a deaf ear to it as well. It’s not a good sign,” Holtzman added, with reference to Giuliani’s work for President Trump, who has a history of misogyny and was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.</p> <p>“It just shows how important the MeToo movement is and it shows that nobody’s exempt, including the City of New York,” Holtzman continued, “and even though it wants to tell the country how liberal and progressive it is, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to sexual harassment, they’ve got a lot to account for.”</p> <p>That accounting is meant to happen under the package of bills the Council passed, which include requirements for reporting on sexual harassment within city government, mandated anti-harassment trainings at city agencies and private employers, and required climate surveys and action plans from city agencies, besides strengthening existing anti-harassment protections.</p> <p>Merrick Rossein, professor at CUNY School of Law, served on Dinkins’ sexual harassment task force and was also a commissioner on the Equal Employment Practices Commission under both Dinkins and Giuliani. “I do not recall if the Office was functioning by the time Giuliani took office in January 1994. He was hostile to all [Equal Employment Opportunity] enforcement,” Rossein said in an email. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“The City was an early leader in addressing sexual harassment, including mandating training,” he added, noting that he conducted interactive sexual harassment trainings for Dinkins, his deputy mayors and the corporation counsel to show that the city was taking the issue seriously.</p> <p>“The City should have followed through by establishing the recommended Citywide office. There have been too many cases of sexual harassment from that period until the #MeToo movement and the recent City Council legislation. Too many victims were harmed and tax payers were on the hook for the millions of dollars in settlements, court awards, and lost productivity caused by the disruption of failing to prevent or stop the harassment effectively. The recent legislation is helpful but still insufficient.”</p> <p>As Rossein noted, the citywide office would have tackled many of the issues that became apparent in city government once the #MeToo movement pushed the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to look inward at their own approach to a systemic problem.</p> <p>After the passage of the Stop Sexual Harassment Act last year, the mayor <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/nyregion/sex-harassment-complaints-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released</a> what data was available on the number of harassment complaints across city government, showing glaring discrepancies in how different agencies approached the issue. The mayor himself <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/219-18/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-johnson-125-million-investment-ensure-all" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conceded</a> that “what’s abundantly clear is there was not a single standard for ‘mayoral’ and ‘non-mayoral’ agencies.” Though de Blasio also <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/04/25/mayor-de-blasio-says-education-department-has-culture-of-frivolous-harassment-complaints/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">downplayed</a> complaints that had come through the Department of Education, remarks he later walked back, and has more recently <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/nyregion/de-blasio-sexual-harassment-kevin-obrien.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">faced intense scrutiny</a> over his administration’s handling of harassment by his former acting chief of staff.</p> <p>"Mayor Dinkins was a visionary leader who understood the importance of taking a stand against sexual harassment decades before the Me Too movement, and his executive order was a prime example. The spirit of this order lives on under the de Blasio Administration," said mayoral spokesperson Marcy Miranda in a statement. "Last year, the Mayor signed the Stop Sexual Harassment Act to address and prevent sexual harassment, and we continue looking at ways the City can improve its processes to reduce sexual harassment and all forms of EEO discrimination at work."</p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, led the way on the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act and was shocked to learn that the city could have acted aggressively so long ago through Dinkins’ order. “What we’ve learned from the MeToo movement is that with focused attention on sexual harassment and experiences of sexual harassment, we are in the midst of changing the cultural tide that allows sexual harassment to continue,” she said. “I can only imagine how much farther along we would be if the...Giuliani administration would have implemented this executive order.”</p> <p>Dinkins created his task force soon after his own office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/27/nyregion/dinkins-appointee-withdraws-over-allegation-of-harrassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">came under scrutiny</a> for appointing a new deputy mayor who faced allegations of sexual harassment. Dinkins later defended the deputy mayor who would then resign from his post.</p> <p>Now, the City Council is preparing to hold another hearing on sexual harassment policies next month, where it will examine the implementation of the laws passed last year. Rosenthal said she is waiting to hear if the mayoral administration is “resisting or embracing” the new policies. The Council is currently dealing with sexual harassment allegations against two of its members, and held a mandatory training on Wednesday at City Hall, which was, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-ruben-diaz-sr-city-council-sexual-harassment-training-20190508-e2gff2mtyva7lbdko4oogrqapu-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Daily News</a>, marred by outbursts from another member, Ruben Diaz Sr., who later told the Daily News that sometimes "sexual harassment is a compliment."</p> <p>Asked if a citywide office would be worth creating, she said the Council would likely receive pushback from the administration. The Equal Employment Practices Commission and the city Commission on Human Rights both currently handle enforcement of laws against sexual harassment, and it’s possible a new agency would be duplicative, Rosenthal noted. But, she said, “I think we have to learn more from our reporting bills to see whether or not the administration is following through on our set of bills that we passed.”</p> <p>Holtzman praised Rosenthal’s legislation and the overall package the Council approved, but she nonetheless believes the city needs a dedicated office to tackle sexual harassment. “It’s one thing to have reports and it’s another thing to have a commission that has its responsibility rooting out this problem,” she said. “Unless they can show it’s not a problem, why not?”</p> <p>She continued, “You need to have a proper administrative structure. I remember when I was trying to deal with the problem of Nazi war criminals in America, the government had done nothing about them for more than 25 years and they were finding sanctuary in the United States. I did create an administrative structure in the Department of Justice, which had that as its mission. You have to give an agency a mission and monitor that agency to make sure it carries out that mission, and instead the message was to all city agencies, it’s not a serious problem.”</p> <p>At the April 25, 2018 news conference when Mayor de Blasio, who worked in City Hall under Dinkins, addressed reporters’ questions about sexual harassment complaints, he noted that the #MeToo movement was leading to a sea change in city government. “So one thing that has come out of this very important movement, this emerged from a social movement in this country that demanded clearer answers from every segment of this society, is we’re aligning all standards on sexual harassment across all agencies,” he said. “And I think that’s going to make a big difference.”</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7767-max-murphy-podcast-the-long-fight-for-new-city-sexual-harassment-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws, with Liz Holtzman and Helen Rosenthal</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p>
2021 Comptroller Race Now Features Two City Council Members 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8228-2021-comptroller-race-now-features-two-city-council-members Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/lander-rosenthal.jpg" alt="lander rosenthal" width="600" height="193" /></p> <p>(photos: Emil Cohen &amp; John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, has declared his intention to run for city Comptroller in the 2021 election, joining Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, as the only declared candidates in the race.</p> <p>The 2021 municipal election will lead to a sea change in city government, with all three citywide positions on the ballot along with the five borough president posts and all 51 City Council seats, about three dozen of which will be “open” due to term limits. Among the citywide posts, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer will be closing out their second terms and unable to run for another term.</p> <p>Lander and Rosenthal are among the Council members who are serving their final terms, many of whom will be seeking higher office through the 2021 elections. Several Council members facing term limits are currently running in the special election for Public Advocate, which will be held February 26 of this year. The winner of that race will have to run for the office again this fall and, if victorious, will serve the remainder of now-Attorney General Letitia James’ term. That candidate could potentially serve two full terms in that office from 2022 till the end of 2029.</p> <p>Befitting a race for comptroller -- the city’s chief fiscal officer tasked with auditing city agencies and monitoring city finances, among other responsibilities -- both Lander and Rosenthal are among the wonkier members of city government, with clear devotion to crafting policy, examining budgets, and evaluating contracts. They also both represent especially politically-engaged areas of the city that are often home to high voter turnout -- for Lander, it’s parts of brownstone Brooklyn; for Rosenthal, the Upper West Side.</p> <p>Lander currently serves as the Council’s deputy leader for policy. He has master’s degrees in social anthropology and city planning, and was elected as one of a younger crop of progressive candidates in 2009 after leading a neighborhood group focused on affordable housing and social services. He was co-chair of the Council’s progressive caucus, which he helped create, and previously chaired the Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges in the last Council session, 2014-2017.</p> <p>His district, previously represented by Mayor Bill de Blasio, covers Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington.</p> <p>“I love serving this city, I love it,” Lander said outside City Hall on Thursday, when asked about the fact that he had recently filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board to run for comptroller and his pursuit of the position. “I get up everyday thinking I get to work with my neighbors, with other New Yorkers to try to solve problems that make the city better and I love doing that and I would be really honored to keep serving the city.”</p> <p>While he was reluctant to talk much about the next election, citing the nearly three years until the votes will be cast, Lander did say he believes his experience in the Council qualifies him for the position. “I think I have built a good track record here in the Council of working together with New Yorkers who are facing problems, helping come up with solutions and getting them implemented,” he said, citing his work on legislation ranging from freelancer protections, workplace scheduling for fast food workers to wages for for-hire vehicle drivers and anti-tenant harassment measures, among others. “Those are all examples of working with different kinds of New Yorkers facing different kinds of problems, many of them caused as a result of the ways our economy is shifting and changing, and coming up with policy solutions that we can implement here in New York that make people’s lives better.”</p> <p>Rosenthal, who chaired her Upper West Side community board and worked in the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget for seven years between 1988 and 1995 before running for the City Council in 2013, filed her paperwork for comptroller <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/helen-rosenthal-files-new-york-city-comptroller-run.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a>. This term she chairs the Council’s Committee on Women, having previously headed up the contracts committee through which she conducted several probing oversight hearings, particularly with regard to contracting at the mammoth Department of Education and problems with how the city contracts with human services nonprofits.</p> <p>“I’m really excited to be running for comptroller,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview. “I think that the city’s $90 billion budget needs to be kept a close eye on, and I think it’s critical that the money goes to the people who need and deserve it. And it’s been my experience on the City Council that that doesn’t always happen.”</p> <p>Rosenthal cited her work leading the Council’s contracts committee, particularly the role she played in breaking up an over-inflated contract awarded by the Department of Education in 2015 -- after she raised the issue, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/gonzalez-nyc-backs-huge-school-contract-saves-163m-article-1.2474357" target="_blank" rel="noopener">it was reduced</a> from $1.1 billion to $472 million. “When I raised a red flag, people listened...Can you imagine having a comptroller who’s qualified to do these types of audits going after our $90 billion budget and making sure it’s fiscally responsible?”</p> <p>She also said the next comptroller must be independent of the mayoral administration, a quality she said she showed in the school desegregation battle in her district when she stood with elected parent representatives pushing a rezoning plan to desegregate schools.</p> <p>Rosenthal did not address Lander’s candidacy, though she said she expected several people to run for the seat.</p> <p>Asked about his potential opponents and the issues he may run on, Lander was reluctant to respond, saying he was focused on a slew of bills he wants passed. “It’s a long time from 2021 and there’ll be time to talk about that race in a way that’s more like it’s a present election which it’s not yet,” he said. “So I’m not gonna start talking about other people running or my policy platform…There will be a time to talk about policy issues in the 2021 race but it is not in January in 2019.”</p> <p>Lander has just under $137,000 in his campaign account, and has opted in to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program that was recently approved by the City Council and will provide an 8-to-1 match for the first $250 of every contribution.&nbsp;Rosenthal has nearly $20,000 in campaign funds and is already abiding by the new rules of the public matching funds program. She said she has returned donations that are above the new limits.</p> <p>Other potential candidates rumored to be mulling a run for comptroller include State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez of Manhattan. Both are Democrats. No matter who runs, the 2021 race is unlikely to match the spectacle of the 2013 Democratic primary between the eventual winner, Stringer, who was Manhattan Borough President at the time, and former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was attempting a political comeback after having resigned from office over a prostitution scandal. Stringer won 52-48 percent. Now in his second term, Stringer is all-but-certain to run for mayor in the coming election.</p> <p>The comptroller’s office, with more than 800 employees, is a big step up from the City Council or state Legislature, where members have roughly ten staffers working under them. As the city’s top fiscal officer, the comptroller’s duties include auditing the work of city agencies, overseeing management of the city’s $160 billion-plus pension system, analyzing city spending and revenues, and reviewing and approving city contracts.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article stated earlier that Council Member Rosenthal had begun returning donations above the new CFB limits. It has been updated to clarify that she has already returned all such donations.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/lander-rosenthal.jpg" alt="lander rosenthal" width="600" height="193" /></p> <p>(photos: Emil Cohen &amp; John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, has declared his intention to run for city Comptroller in the 2021 election, joining Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, as the only declared candidates in the race.</p> <p>The 2021 municipal election will lead to a sea change in city government, with all three citywide positions on the ballot along with the five borough president posts and all 51 City Council seats, about three dozen of which will be “open” due to term limits. Among the citywide posts, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer will be closing out their second terms and unable to run for another term.</p> <p>Lander and Rosenthal are among the Council members who are serving their final terms, many of whom will be seeking higher office through the 2021 elections. Several Council members facing term limits are currently running in the special election for Public Advocate, which will be held February 26 of this year. The winner of that race will have to run for the office again this fall and, if victorious, will serve the remainder of now-Attorney General Letitia James’ term. That candidate could potentially serve two full terms in that office from 2022 till the end of 2029.</p> <p>Befitting a race for comptroller -- the city’s chief fiscal officer tasked with auditing city agencies and monitoring city finances, among other responsibilities -- both Lander and Rosenthal are among the wonkier members of city government, with clear devotion to crafting policy, examining budgets, and evaluating contracts. They also both represent especially politically-engaged areas of the city that are often home to high voter turnout -- for Lander, it’s parts of brownstone Brooklyn; for Rosenthal, the Upper West Side.</p> <p>Lander currently serves as the Council’s deputy leader for policy. He has master’s degrees in social anthropology and city planning, and was elected as one of a younger crop of progressive candidates in 2009 after leading a neighborhood group focused on affordable housing and social services. He was co-chair of the Council’s progressive caucus, which he helped create, and previously chaired the Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges in the last Council session, 2014-2017.</p> <p>His district, previously represented by Mayor Bill de Blasio, covers Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington.</p> <p>“I love serving this city, I love it,” Lander said outside City Hall on Thursday, when asked about the fact that he had recently filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board to run for comptroller and his pursuit of the position. “I get up everyday thinking I get to work with my neighbors, with other New Yorkers to try to solve problems that make the city better and I love doing that and I would be really honored to keep serving the city.”</p> <p>While he was reluctant to talk much about the next election, citing the nearly three years until the votes will be cast, Lander did say he believes his experience in the Council qualifies him for the position. “I think I have built a good track record here in the Council of working together with New Yorkers who are facing problems, helping come up with solutions and getting them implemented,” he said, citing his work on legislation ranging from freelancer protections, workplace scheduling for fast food workers to wages for for-hire vehicle drivers and anti-tenant harassment measures, among others. “Those are all examples of working with different kinds of New Yorkers facing different kinds of problems, many of them caused as a result of the ways our economy is shifting and changing, and coming up with policy solutions that we can implement here in New York that make people’s lives better.”</p> <p>Rosenthal, who chaired her Upper West Side community board and worked in the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget for seven years between 1988 and 1995 before running for the City Council in 2013, filed her paperwork for comptroller <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/helen-rosenthal-files-new-york-city-comptroller-run.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a>. This term she chairs the Council’s Committee on Women, having previously headed up the contracts committee through which she conducted several probing oversight hearings, particularly with regard to contracting at the mammoth Department of Education and problems with how the city contracts with human services nonprofits.</p> <p>“I’m really excited to be running for comptroller,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview. “I think that the city’s $90 billion budget needs to be kept a close eye on, and I think it’s critical that the money goes to the people who need and deserve it. And it’s been my experience on the City Council that that doesn’t always happen.”</p> <p>Rosenthal cited her work leading the Council’s contracts committee, particularly the role she played in breaking up an over-inflated contract awarded by the Department of Education in 2015 -- after she raised the issue, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/gonzalez-nyc-backs-huge-school-contract-saves-163m-article-1.2474357" target="_blank" rel="noopener">it was reduced</a> from $1.1 billion to $472 million. “When I raised a red flag, people listened...Can you imagine having a comptroller who’s qualified to do these types of audits going after our $90 billion budget and making sure it’s fiscally responsible?”</p> <p>She also said the next comptroller must be independent of the mayoral administration, a quality she said she showed in the school desegregation battle in her district when she stood with elected parent representatives pushing a rezoning plan to desegregate schools.</p> <p>Rosenthal did not address Lander’s candidacy, though she said she expected several people to run for the seat.</p> <p>Asked about his potential opponents and the issues he may run on, Lander was reluctant to respond, saying he was focused on a slew of bills he wants passed. “It’s a long time from 2021 and there’ll be time to talk about that race in a way that’s more like it’s a present election which it’s not yet,” he said. “So I’m not gonna start talking about other people running or my policy platform…There will be a time to talk about policy issues in the 2021 race but it is not in January in 2019.”</p> <p>Lander has just under $137,000 in his campaign account, and has opted in to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program that was recently approved by the City Council and will provide an 8-to-1 match for the first $250 of every contribution.&nbsp;Rosenthal has nearly $20,000 in campaign funds and is already abiding by the new rules of the public matching funds program. She said she has returned donations that are above the new limits.</p> <p>Other potential candidates rumored to be mulling a run for comptroller include State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez of Manhattan. Both are Democrats. No matter who runs, the 2021 race is unlikely to match the spectacle of the 2013 Democratic primary between the eventual winner, Stringer, who was Manhattan Borough President at the time, and former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was attempting a political comeback after having resigned from office over a prostitution scandal. Stringer won 52-48 percent. Now in his second term, Stringer is all-but-certain to run for mayor in the coming election.</p> <p>The comptroller’s office, with more than 800 employees, is a big step up from the City Council or state Legislature, where members have roughly ten staffers working under them. As the city’s top fiscal officer, the comptroller’s duties include auditing the work of city agencies, overseeing management of the city’s $160 billion-plus pension system, analyzing city spending and revenues, and reviewing and approving city contracts.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article stated earlier that Council Member Rosenthal had begun returning donations above the new CFB limits. It has been updated to clarify that she has already returned all such donations.&nbsp;</p>
Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8026-prominent-elected-officials-oppose-de-blasio-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7767-max-murphy-podcast-the-long-fight-for-new-city-sexual-harassment-laws Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 25, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws, with <strong>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal and&nbsp;</strong>former Comptroller, Brooklyn District Attorney and Congressional Rep. Liz Holtzman<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/rosenthal-holtzman-pod-277.jpg" alt="rosenthal holtzman pod 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>When Liz Holtzman was city Comptroller -- the first and only woman to hold that office -- she sought to determine city agency policies around sexual harassment and was met with resistance. Twenty-five years later amid the #MeToo movement, Holtzman wrote a Daily News op-ed in February of this year that recounted her experience and discussed the need to make public city policies and data on harassment complaints. That op-ed helped spur City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Council's Committee on Women, to jumpstart an effort that led to an 11-bill package of legislation, now law, to prevent and punish sexual harassment, both in city government and the private sector.</p> <p>Holtzman and Rosenthal joined the podcast to discuss their efforts, the details of the new laws, what comes next, and much more about fighting harassment, assault, and gender discrimination -- including Holtzman's work as the first woman elected to become one of the city's district attorneys.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a> with <a href="https://and%20twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HelenRosenthal</a> and Liz Holtzman. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/463244265&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="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></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/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 25, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws, with <strong>City Council Member Helen Rosenthal and&nbsp;</strong>former Comptroller, Brooklyn District Attorney and Congressional Rep. Liz Holtzman<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/rosenthal-holtzman-pod-277.jpg" alt="rosenthal holtzman pod 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>When Liz Holtzman was city Comptroller -- the first and only woman to hold that office -- she sought to determine city agency policies around sexual harassment and was met with resistance. Twenty-five years later amid the #MeToo movement, Holtzman wrote a Daily News op-ed in February of this year that recounted her experience and discussed the need to make public city policies and data on harassment complaints. That op-ed helped spur City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Council's Committee on Women, to jumpstart an effort that led to an 11-bill package of legislation, now law, to prevent and punish sexual harassment, both in city government and the private sector.</p> <p>Holtzman and Rosenthal joined the podcast to discuss their efforts, the details of the new laws, what comes next, and much more about fighting harassment, assault, and gender discrimination -- including Holtzman's work as the first woman elected to become one of the city's district attorneys.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a> with <a href="https://and%20twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HelenRosenthal</a> and Liz Holtzman. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/463244265&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="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
NYPD Pushes Back Against Calls to Reform Special Victims Division 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7602-nypd-pushes-back-against-calls-to-reform-special-victims-division Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nypd_council_hearing_rape.jpg" alt="nypd council hearing rape" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD reps at Monday's hearing (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At a tense oversight hearing examining the NYPD's response to sex crimes on Monday, the NYPD opposed all four bills introduced by the City Council in response to a Department of Investigation report released two weeks earlier.</p> <p>The bills seek to require evidence-based models to determine staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, more training for sex crimes detectives, and a digital, searchable case management system for the SVD.</p> <p>On March 27, following a year-long investigation, the DOI released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2018/Mar/SVDReport_32718.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> stating that the NYPD's Special Victims Division has been chronically understaffed for years, with only 67 detectives available to investigate roughly 5,600 sex crimes per year (ranging from rape to groping).</p> <p>As a result, “a full exhaustive work effort [for every sex crime investigation] has not been possible," wrote Michael Osgood, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Division, in one of the many internal correspondences Osgood sent to NYPD higher-ups asking for more investigators and included in the DOI report.</p> <p>Osgood did not testify at the hearing.</p> <p>Advocates, sexual assault survivors, a former Special Victims sergeant, and other members of the NYPD testified before the City Council regarding the NYPD's handling of sex crimes. While survivors, advocates, and the former Special Victims sergeant say the NYPD needs to act to improve the experience of victims who report their assaults, the NYPD claims no need for improvement.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Council Members Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, and Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women.</p> <p>Officially, the NYPD has 90 days to respond to the DOI's findings, which NYPD officials repeated several times at the hearing when asked specific questions.</p> <p>But in an informal response issued on&nbsp;<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2018/03/nypd-response-office-inspector-generals-report-special-victims-division/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its website</a>, the NYPD rebutted the DOI's findings, calling its report "an investigation in name only" and stating there are 85 detectives available to investigate adult sex crimes, not 67.</p> <p>"The number of detectives assigned to actively investigate adult sex crimes is 67 (not 85) and the NYPD did not dispute that number last Friday when we discussed the report with NYPD officials," the DOI said in a statement issued in response.</p> <p>By Monday morning, the NYPD had added another 20 detectives to the Special Victims Division, 15 from patrol, five from detectives squads. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that brought the total number of detectives assigned to investigate adult sex crimes to 100 (but did not account for the 100 being less than the 20 he said they added and the 85 the NYPD previously asserted).</p> <p>Boyce’s testimony indicates the city now has 100 detectives to investigate 5,600 sex crimes annually.</p> <p>For comparison, homicide investigations are similar in length and complexity to sexual assault investigations, and the city's homicide squads had 101 detectives to investigate 282 homicides in 2017, according to the DOI report.</p> <p>The DOI made 12 recommendations, including that the NYPD hire 73 additional detectives "to meet the minimum investigative capacity required by an evidence-backed and nationally-accepted staffing analysis model" known as the Prummel model.</p> <p>The DOI also said the NYPD should increase training for adult sex crimes detectives, invest in a new case management system, and renovate or relocate the facilities of all the special victims units that handle adult sex crimes.</p> <p>"Investigators are not properly trained, facilities are not suitable, and wait times are extensive. It is no wonder that victims don’t report more often," said Council Member Richards at Monday’s hearing. "And it seems that NYPD leadership is just fine with victims of sex crimes being ignored."</p> <p>Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing Susan Herman, and Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky testified before the Council. Chief of Detectives Boyce, who is on the verge of retirement from the NYPD, was also seated at the table and fielded questions. Though Council members said they wanted to hear from Chief Osgood as head of the Special Victims Division, the four NYPD officials seated at the table took virtually all of the questions, along with some terse interjections from Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne.</p> <p>By and large, NYPD officials asserted that the department takes rape seriously, that both staffing and training are adequate, and that their electronic case management system is sufficient.</p> <p>Chernyavsky said that the bills requiring additional training would "dilute the police commissioner’s authority by dictating a particular method and duration of training."</p> <p>In response to Council Member Debi Rose's bill requiring the NYPD to use evidence-based models to determine appropriate staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, Chernyavsky said, "The requirements of this bill, however, erode and encroach upon the most basic responsibilities of the police commissioner to manage this agency and its personnel."</p> <p>However, Chernyavsky's response ignores the fact that the head of the Special Victims Division requested additional staffing from multiple commissioners over the course of years. The DOI report includes dozens of pages of internal NYPD communications wherein Osgood repeatedly requests additional investigators to be added to the division.</p> <p>As the DOI report notes, the caseload of the city's adult sex crimes detectives has increased by 65.3 percent since 2009, when there were 72 detectives.</p> <p>"I cannot understand how anyone can argue with these recommendations," said retired Special Victims Sergeant Michael Bock, who worked with the division for years. "None will be detrimental to investigations. What are we afraid of?"</p> <p>Bock appeared before the Council after the NYPD representatives, none of whom stayed to hear his testimony. The department left behind two people to monitor the rest of the hearing.</p> <p>Despite assurances from the NYPD that the SVD is adequately staffed, that training is sufficient, and that the division's electronic case management system is adequate, the testimonies of many sexual assault victims and advocates indicate otherwise.</p> <p>As one woman, Desdemona Meck, testified, "Two months after moving to New York City, two men attempted to rape me in the Bronx." A few hours after the assault, she received a rape kit and reported the rape to the precinct.</p> <p>"The detective told me I have to learn to be smarter in New York City, that I should toughen up, and in the future not be so nice to strangers. She went on to ask me if I was positive I hadn't somehow made it seem as though the sex was something I had wanted."</p> <p>Meck said the detective's reaction made her feel "shameful." Meck went on to identify both of the assailants through mugshots. The detective deterred Meck from bringing the case to trial. "She seemed confident in her belief that spending more time on the case would be a waste."</p> <p>Advocates who testified at the hearing like Mary Haviland, Jane Manning, Christopher Bromson, and Angela Fernandez have worked very closely with both the NYPD and sexual assault victims for years. Some attend private meetings with NYPD officials, have attended trainings for Special Victims detectives and have likewise had those detectives attend their advocate trainings.</p> <p>Haviland, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, is currently involved in an audit of closed sex crimes cases. Bromson, the executive director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Manning, head of Women's Justice NOW, have assisted many sexual assault victims who have come to their organizations for help, often after reporting their rape to the NYPD goes awry.</p> <p>"The fact that Chief Boyce could sit without a smile on his face and say that the SVD could follow up with victims is just not the reality," Haviland said. "They are not able to follow up with victims who come in. They are not able to give explanations for dropped cases or the results of rape kits."</p> <p>"This issue of inadequate staff and inadequate training is something that advocates have been bringing up to the NYPD for years, we've been pleading for those things for years," said Manning.</p> <p>Fernandez represents a different group of advocates who were largely not present at the hearing -- ones who work in hospitals running programs for sexual assault survivors. As the DOI report notes, sexual assault victims often have to wait hours to see a detective after reporting their assault and getting a rape kit done in a hospital. Detectives are supposed to come to the victim in the hospital, but that doesn't always happen.</p> <p>"One service provider described how a client spent the entire night at a hospital waiting for an SVD detective to arrive," DOI investigators wrote in their report. "When no detective showed up, the victim, thoroughly discouraged, decided against reporting the crime to the police and went home."</p> <p>Over the weekend, the NYPD rolled out a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing reporting of sex crimes.</p> <p>Yet without more detectives assigned to investigate reported sex crimes, some victims who report their assaults will continue to suffer in the ways advocates and victims described at the hearing.</p> <p>Both Council Members Rosenthal and Rose expressed concern over the NYPD's mixed messages -- at the same time they have put out a public awareness campaign to get more people to report their sexual assault, they have also been reluctant to add more staff to the division responsible for investigating those sexual assaults.</p> <p>"With the increase in reporting, will there be enough personnel to handle these cases?" Rose asked. "It is imperative that they have enough staff to investigate these cases, to avoid the re-victimization of the people who step forward."</p> <p>The NYPD's refusal to allocate adequate resources to the Special Victims Division has far-reaching consequences for victims of sexual assault and discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward to report what happened to them. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill did say recently that when he names a replacement for the retiring Boyce as chief of detectives, that person will do a full review of the SVD.</p> <p>While the NYPD currently maintains that they have an adequate number of investigators staffing the SVD, Bock, the recently retired Special Victims sergeant, says otherwise.</p> <p>"I really believe the DOI report nailed it. The NYPD's denial is upsetting," Bock said. "For a long time, the running joke in the [Special Victims] office was, 'Can I have another cinder block as I'm swimming in the pool?'...Having 20 open cases on your screen doesn't feel good."</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nypd_council_hearing_rape.jpg" alt="nypd council hearing rape" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>NYPD reps at Monday's hearing (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>At a tense oversight hearing examining the NYPD's response to sex crimes on Monday, the NYPD opposed all four bills introduced by the City Council in response to a Department of Investigation report released two weeks earlier.</p> <p>The bills seek to require evidence-based models to determine staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, more training for sex crimes detectives, and a digital, searchable case management system for the SVD.</p> <p>On March 27, following a year-long investigation, the DOI released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2018/Mar/SVDReport_32718.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> stating that the NYPD's Special Victims Division has been chronically understaffed for years, with only 67 detectives available to investigate roughly 5,600 sex crimes per year (ranging from rape to groping).</p> <p>As a result, “a full exhaustive work effort [for every sex crime investigation] has not been possible," wrote Michael Osgood, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Division, in one of the many internal correspondences Osgood sent to NYPD higher-ups asking for more investigators and included in the DOI report.</p> <p>Osgood did not testify at the hearing.</p> <p>Advocates, sexual assault survivors, a former Special Victims sergeant, and other members of the NYPD testified before the City Council regarding the NYPD's handling of sex crimes. While survivors, advocates, and the former Special Victims sergeant say the NYPD needs to act to improve the experience of victims who report their assaults, the NYPD claims no need for improvement.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Council Members Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, and Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women.</p> <p>Officially, the NYPD has 90 days to respond to the DOI's findings, which NYPD officials repeated several times at the hearing when asked specific questions.</p> <p>But in an informal response issued on&nbsp;<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2018/03/nypd-response-office-inspector-generals-report-special-victims-division/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its website</a>, the NYPD rebutted the DOI's findings, calling its report "an investigation in name only" and stating there are 85 detectives available to investigate adult sex crimes, not 67.</p> <p>"The number of detectives assigned to actively investigate adult sex crimes is 67 (not 85) and the NYPD did not dispute that number last Friday when we discussed the report with NYPD officials," the DOI said in a statement issued in response.</p> <p>By Monday morning, the NYPD had added another 20 detectives to the Special Victims Division, 15 from patrol, five from detectives squads. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that brought the total number of detectives assigned to investigate adult sex crimes to 100 (but did not account for the 100 being less than the 20 he said they added and the 85 the NYPD previously asserted).</p> <p>Boyce’s testimony indicates the city now has 100 detectives to investigate 5,600 sex crimes annually.</p> <p>For comparison, homicide investigations are similar in length and complexity to sexual assault investigations, and the city's homicide squads had 101 detectives to investigate 282 homicides in 2017, according to the DOI report.</p> <p>The DOI made 12 recommendations, including that the NYPD hire 73 additional detectives "to meet the minimum investigative capacity required by an evidence-backed and nationally-accepted staffing analysis model" known as the Prummel model.</p> <p>The DOI also said the NYPD should increase training for adult sex crimes detectives, invest in a new case management system, and renovate or relocate the facilities of all the special victims units that handle adult sex crimes.</p> <p>"Investigators are not properly trained, facilities are not suitable, and wait times are extensive. It is no wonder that victims don’t report more often," said Council Member Richards at Monday’s hearing. "And it seems that NYPD leadership is just fine with victims of sex crimes being ignored."</p> <p>Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing Susan Herman, and Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky testified before the Council. Chief of Detectives Boyce, who is on the verge of retirement from the NYPD, was also seated at the table and fielded questions. Though Council members said they wanted to hear from Chief Osgood as head of the Special Victims Division, the four NYPD officials seated at the table took virtually all of the questions, along with some terse interjections from Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne.</p> <p>By and large, NYPD officials asserted that the department takes rape seriously, that both staffing and training are adequate, and that their electronic case management system is sufficient.</p> <p>Chernyavsky said that the bills requiring additional training would "dilute the police commissioner’s authority by dictating a particular method and duration of training."</p> <p>In response to Council Member Debi Rose's bill requiring the NYPD to use evidence-based models to determine appropriate staffing levels for the Special Victims Division, Chernyavsky said, "The requirements of this bill, however, erode and encroach upon the most basic responsibilities of the police commissioner to manage this agency and its personnel."</p> <p>However, Chernyavsky's response ignores the fact that the head of the Special Victims Division requested additional staffing from multiple commissioners over the course of years. The DOI report includes dozens of pages of internal NYPD communications wherein Osgood repeatedly requests additional investigators to be added to the division.</p> <p>As the DOI report notes, the caseload of the city's adult sex crimes detectives has increased by 65.3 percent since 2009, when there were 72 detectives.</p> <p>"I cannot understand how anyone can argue with these recommendations," said retired Special Victims Sergeant Michael Bock, who worked with the division for years. "None will be detrimental to investigations. What are we afraid of?"</p> <p>Bock appeared before the Council after the NYPD representatives, none of whom stayed to hear his testimony. The department left behind two people to monitor the rest of the hearing.</p> <p>Despite assurances from the NYPD that the SVD is adequately staffed, that training is sufficient, and that the division's electronic case management system is adequate, the testimonies of many sexual assault victims and advocates indicate otherwise.</p> <p>As one woman, Desdemona Meck, testified, "Two months after moving to New York City, two men attempted to rape me in the Bronx." A few hours after the assault, she received a rape kit and reported the rape to the precinct.</p> <p>"The detective told me I have to learn to be smarter in New York City, that I should toughen up, and in the future not be so nice to strangers. She went on to ask me if I was positive I hadn't somehow made it seem as though the sex was something I had wanted."</p> <p>Meck said the detective's reaction made her feel "shameful." Meck went on to identify both of the assailants through mugshots. The detective deterred Meck from bringing the case to trial. "She seemed confident in her belief that spending more time on the case would be a waste."</p> <p>Advocates who testified at the hearing like Mary Haviland, Jane Manning, Christopher Bromson, and Angela Fernandez have worked very closely with both the NYPD and sexual assault victims for years. Some attend private meetings with NYPD officials, have attended trainings for Special Victims detectives and have likewise had those detectives attend their advocate trainings.</p> <p>Haviland, executive director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, is currently involved in an audit of closed sex crimes cases. Bromson, the executive director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Manning, head of Women's Justice NOW, have assisted many sexual assault victims who have come to their organizations for help, often after reporting their rape to the NYPD goes awry.</p> <p>"The fact that Chief Boyce could sit without a smile on his face and say that the SVD could follow up with victims is just not the reality," Haviland said. "They are not able to follow up with victims who come in. They are not able to give explanations for dropped cases or the results of rape kits."</p> <p>"This issue of inadequate staff and inadequate training is something that advocates have been bringing up to the NYPD for years, we've been pleading for those things for years," said Manning.</p> <p>Fernandez represents a different group of advocates who were largely not present at the hearing -- ones who work in hospitals running programs for sexual assault survivors. As the DOI report notes, sexual assault victims often have to wait hours to see a detective after reporting their assault and getting a rape kit done in a hospital. Detectives are supposed to come to the victim in the hospital, but that doesn't always happen.</p> <p>"One service provider described how a client spent the entire night at a hospital waiting for an SVD detective to arrive," DOI investigators wrote in their report. "When no detective showed up, the victim, thoroughly discouraged, decided against reporting the crime to the police and went home."</p> <p>Over the weekend, the NYPD rolled out a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing reporting of sex crimes.</p> <p>Yet without more detectives assigned to investigate reported sex crimes, some victims who report their assaults will continue to suffer in the ways advocates and victims described at the hearing.</p> <p>Both Council Members Rosenthal and Rose expressed concern over the NYPD's mixed messages -- at the same time they have put out a public awareness campaign to get more people to report their sexual assault, they have also been reluctant to add more staff to the division responsible for investigating those sexual assaults.</p> <p>"With the increase in reporting, will there be enough personnel to handle these cases?" Rose asked. "It is imperative that they have enough staff to investigate these cases, to avoid the re-victimization of the people who step forward."</p> <p>The NYPD's refusal to allocate adequate resources to the Special Victims Division has far-reaching consequences for victims of sexual assault and discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward to report what happened to them. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill did say recently that when he names a replacement for the retiring Boyce as chief of detectives, that person will do a full review of the SVD.</p> <p>While the NYPD currently maintains that they have an adequate number of investigators staffing the SVD, Bock, the recently retired Special Victims sergeant, says otherwise.</p> <p>"I really believe the DOI report nailed it. The NYPD's denial is upsetting," Bock said. "For a long time, the running joke in the [Special Victims] office was, 'Can I have another cinder block as I'm swimming in the pool?'...Having 20 open cases on your screen doesn't feel good."</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Women's Caucus Gets Additional Support to Meet, Expand Agenda 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7575-city-council-women-s-caucus-gets-additional-support-to-meet-expand-agenda Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/40248549094_99037ae59b_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: Emil Cohen)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, comprised of the 11 women in the 51-member legislative body, will soon have additional support for its legislative and programmatic agenda with new funding for a full-time paid staff person added to the Council’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The Council’s finance committee voted last week to approve <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank">a $17.3 million increase</a> in the Council’s own budget, which it can insert into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s yet-to-be-released executive budget, due in the next few months. That budget uptick includes additional funding, provided through Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office, for the Women’s Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to each hire a full-time staffer. The Progressive Caucus, now 21 members, has so far pooled resources to pay for a full-time staffer while the Women’s Caucus has had to depend on individual Council members’ staff. The only caucus that has had a full-time staff person paid for by the Council has been the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>“We secured a commitment from [Johnson] so it is a campaign promise fulfilled,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is co-chair of the Women’s Caucus along with Council Member Margaret Chin, referring to pledges made by Johnson before he was elected speaker. The caucus, then under the leadership of Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, met and interviewed all eight candidates who were running to lead the Council, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank">extracted several promises</a> from each, including funding for a new staff position to serve the caucus.</p> <p>“As he was running for speaker, he told the Women’s Caucus that this is something he would do, recognizing our number, of course, that we comprise over 50 percent of the population,” said Rivera, whose Manhattan district borders Johnson’s and Chin’s. “So what we’re hoping to do with a full-time person is really to push forward our agenda, which is comprehensive.”</p> <p>As Rivera alluded, the Council comprises an abysmally low number of women members -- the 11 is down from 18 in 2009. There is an effort -- 21 in '21 -- underway being spearheaded by former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others to see a wave of women elected to the Council through the next city elections, in 2021. None of the eight main speaker candidates for this term were women (though Council Member Inez Barron did cast a protest vote for herself the day the Council voted for speaker, and that too because of the lack of people of color in leadership positions in the city.) Since before the last election cycle, there have been increasing calls for improving women’s representation across city government and to add women’s voices to important policy decisions.</p> <p>“Every issue is a women’s issue,” Rivera emphasized, “but specifically, we really want to focus on a couple of things. We want to address the issues of underrepresentation of women in elected office, of course, but not just in elected office, corporate boards, local and state commissions.</p> <p>“We want to be sure that we have the data to just really identify where these gaps are and to make sure that we are giving women opportunity at every level of government but also in the private sector,” she said, indicating some of the work that the caucus’ new staff member may be tasked with.</p> <p>The new funding is slated for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, giving the Women’s Caucus just over three months to go through the hiring process. The position is expected to be posted publicly and every member of the caucus will have a voice in choosing the new staffer.</p> <p>Rivera laid out a long list of policy priorities for the caucus that is likely to keep it busy in this four-year legislative session. Among them: pay equity, ending sexual harassment in the workplace, equal access to quality education, health care for incarcerated women, adult literacy. The Women’s Caucus will host a series of workshops on salary negotiations, Rivera said, and also push strongly on <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7527-city-council-anti-harassment-bills-don-t-apply-to-the-city-council" target="_blank">a package of anti-sexual harassment legislation recently introduced at the Council</a>.</p> <p>Rivera said she’s focused on “making sure that women have full access and they feel like whether its in education, the workplace, or just civic life, the opportunity is there.”</p> <p>“In the past the Women’s Caucus has put forward some amazing initiatives and pieces of legislation, whether its paid family leave, whether its access to feminine hygiene products in our public spaces -- that is something that we want to continue to build on,” she said.</p> <p>The new staffer will also liaise with the Council’s other caucuses, certain members of which overlap, and with partners in state and federal government and advocates on the ground. “What I’m hoping to do is be a little bit more collaborative than historically within the caucuses so there’ll definitely be cross collaboration since we now have a full-time staffer for each of these caucuses,” Rivera said. “And I think they’ll benefit from working together and of course will increase our capacity.”</p> <p>“I’m excited,” Rivera added. “I think that a woman having a seat at the table changes the dynamic and trajectory of important policy discussions. And I think if we had more women as representatives, we’d be better off as a city and as a nation. So I’m looking forward to it.”</p> <p>Council Member Chin, in a statement to Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, thanked the speaker for following through on his promise to the Women's Caucus. "This year, we’re fighting to expand our agenda, build local relationships, and increase our visibility to ensure that the causes of women and girls never take a backseat. This will be a game-changer in moving that agenda forward," Chin said. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget">Fulfilling Johnson Promise, City Council Significantly Increases Its Operating Budget</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include a statement from Council Member Margaret Chin.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/40248549094_99037ae59b_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: Emil Cohen)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, comprised of the 11 women in the 51-member legislative body, will soon have additional support for its legislative and programmatic agenda with new funding for a full-time paid staff person added to the Council’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The Council’s finance committee voted last week to approve <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank">a $17.3 million increase</a> in the Council’s own budget, which it can insert into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s yet-to-be-released executive budget, due in the next few months. That budget uptick includes additional funding, provided through Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office, for the Women’s Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to each hire a full-time staffer. The Progressive Caucus, now 21 members, has so far pooled resources to pay for a full-time staffer while the Women’s Caucus has had to depend on individual Council members’ staff. The only caucus that has had a full-time staff person paid for by the Council has been the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>“We secured a commitment from [Johnson] so it is a campaign promise fulfilled,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is co-chair of the Women’s Caucus along with Council Member Margaret Chin, referring to pledges made by Johnson before he was elected speaker. The caucus, then under the leadership of Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, met and interviewed all eight candidates who were running to lead the Council, and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank">extracted several promises</a> from each, including funding for a new staff position to serve the caucus.</p> <p>“As he was running for speaker, he told the Women’s Caucus that this is something he would do, recognizing our number, of course, that we comprise over 50 percent of the population,” said Rivera, whose Manhattan district borders Johnson’s and Chin’s. “So what we’re hoping to do with a full-time person is really to push forward our agenda, which is comprehensive.”</p> <p>As Rivera alluded, the Council comprises an abysmally low number of women members -- the 11 is down from 18 in 2009. There is an effort -- 21 in '21 -- underway being spearheaded by former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others to see a wave of women elected to the Council through the next city elections, in 2021. None of the eight main speaker candidates for this term were women (though Council Member Inez Barron did cast a protest vote for herself the day the Council voted for speaker, and that too because of the lack of people of color in leadership positions in the city.) Since before the last election cycle, there have been increasing calls for improving women’s representation across city government and to add women’s voices to important policy decisions.</p> <p>“Every issue is a women’s issue,” Rivera emphasized, “but specifically, we really want to focus on a couple of things. We want to address the issues of underrepresentation of women in elected office, of course, but not just in elected office, corporate boards, local and state commissions.</p> <p>“We want to be sure that we have the data to just really identify where these gaps are and to make sure that we are giving women opportunity at every level of government but also in the private sector,” she said, indicating some of the work that the caucus’ new staff member may be tasked with.</p> <p>The new funding is slated for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, giving the Women’s Caucus just over three months to go through the hiring process. The position is expected to be posted publicly and every member of the caucus will have a voice in choosing the new staffer.</p> <p>Rivera laid out a long list of policy priorities for the caucus that is likely to keep it busy in this four-year legislative session. Among them: pay equity, ending sexual harassment in the workplace, equal access to quality education, health care for incarcerated women, adult literacy. The Women’s Caucus will host a series of workshops on salary negotiations, Rivera said, and also push strongly on <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7527-city-council-anti-harassment-bills-don-t-apply-to-the-city-council" target="_blank">a package of anti-sexual harassment legislation recently introduced at the Council</a>.</p> <p>Rivera said she’s focused on “making sure that women have full access and they feel like whether its in education, the workplace, or just civic life, the opportunity is there.”</p> <p>“In the past the Women’s Caucus has put forward some amazing initiatives and pieces of legislation, whether its paid family leave, whether its access to feminine hygiene products in our public spaces -- that is something that we want to continue to build on,” she said.</p> <p>The new staffer will also liaise with the Council’s other caucuses, certain members of which overlap, and with partners in state and federal government and advocates on the ground. “What I’m hoping to do is be a little bit more collaborative than historically within the caucuses so there’ll definitely be cross collaboration since we now have a full-time staffer for each of these caucuses,” Rivera said. “And I think they’ll benefit from working together and of course will increase our capacity.”</p> <p>“I’m excited,” Rivera added. “I think that a woman having a seat at the table changes the dynamic and trajectory of important policy discussions. And I think if we had more women as representatives, we’d be better off as a city and as a nation. So I’m looking forward to it.”</p> <p>Council Member Chin, in a statement to Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, thanked the speaker for following through on his promise to the Women's Caucus. "This year, we’re fighting to expand our agenda, build local relationships, and increase our visibility to ensure that the causes of women and girls never take a backseat. This will be a game-changer in moving that agenda forward," Chin said. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget">Fulfilling Johnson Promise, City Council Significantly Increases Its Operating Budget</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include a statement from Council Member Margaret Chin.&nbsp;</p>
City Council Anti-Harassment Bills Don’t Apply to the City Council 2018-03-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-08T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7527-city-council-anti-harassment-bills-don-t-apply-to-the-city-council Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/28340833019_9bbc3dc1b9_z.jpg" alt="Johnson City Council staff" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson and others (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, the City Council <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7508-council-examines-city-sexual-harassment-policies-considers-new-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed</a> a legislative package aimed at confronting sexual harassment in private and government work environments. It includes 11 bills, four of which would apply to city agencies should they become law. Council members sponsoring the bills, including Speaker Corey Johnson, touted the legislation as evidence of the Council taking significant action toward preventing and punishing the type of harassment that has become the focus of a national movement. But the bills do not apply to the City Council itself.</p> <p>“All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace – and this starts with sending a strong message to employers that there is no place for sexualharassment in New York City,” Johnson said in a press release. “With more and more sexual harassment cases being brought to light, it has never been more important for the government to play a role in the movement to end sexual harassment and assault.”</p> <p>There was also some confusion among the bill-sponsoring Council members and in the speaker's office as to whether the bills applied to other non-mayoral government entities such as the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. After this article was originally published, a Council spokesperson clarified that "The legislation as it is written will cover non-mayoral government entities, including the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. The Council will be covered through a rule that will be drafted to ensure compliance."</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, along with Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, and Adrienne Adams, are the primary sponsors of the bills that add requirements to city agencies’ anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures. Johnson’s bill would mandate twice-annual sexual harassment training; Adams’ bill would instruct the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and Commission on Human Rights to partner in determining risk factors “associated with sexual harassment” in city agencies; Levine’s would mandate that city agencies collect and then report sexual harassment cases; and Rosenthal’s would direct the Commission on Human Rights to administer surveys that test “general awareness and knowledge of workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When originally asked about the omission of the Council and other non-mayoral entities in the legislation, a City Council spokesperson said that the Council is in the beginning stages of the legislative process, the bills may change, and that the Council will adhere to the laws they pass. There was no discussion of the Council’s own policies at the hourslong hearing on the bills held February 28 at City Hall.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Women, told Gotham Gazette that the process is in its early stages, insisted the Council would comply with the practices in the new laws, and said that many of the provisions in the bevy of bills are already the Council’s policy, such as the provisions included in Johnson’s bill. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Adrienne Adams also said the Council was early in its process and “intended to comply” with the legislation.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Mark Levine did not respond to requests for comment. Last year, Levine announced plans to introduce legislation that would designate Council staff complaints as the purview of the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which currently only has oversight of elected Council members. The proposal has yet to make it into bill form.</p> <p>For the several hundred employees of the City Council, the body’s own harassment policies and procedures are not public and Gotham Gazette is still awaiting the results of a Freedom of Information Law request for information regarding how harassment complaints are handled and how the Council’s equal employment committee (EEC) functions.</p> <p>When it comes to handling complaints at the Council, sources indicate that there is a process for making and evaluating complaints through the EEC. Elected Council members themselves, are subject to the Committee on Standards and Ethics, made up of Council members, which evaluates complaints and can adjudicate punishment, as it recently did with Council Member Andy King, who was assigned additional training after a complaint of undue attention to a staff member was substantiated.</p> <p>The bills will likely be changed before they are voted through committee and then the full Council, but to what extent remains unclear.</p> <p>It was also unclear whether the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, and Borough Presidents were aware of their inclusion in the legislation. When asked about their exclusion, working from apparently incorrect initial responses from the Council, those offices sent the following replies.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller Scott Stringer declined to comment regarding the Council leaving itself out of the legislation, but provided Gotham Gazette with the office’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said,&nbsp;"We have a standing EEO policy and trainings are conducted annually in coordination with DCAS. Even though the agency is not required to do so, Brooklyn Borough Hall implements the same anti-sexual harassment training that is applied in mayoral agencies. I will continue to apply the highest City standard for combating sexual harassment in the workplace, and I appreciate the City Council taking up this important issue.”</p> <p>A&nbsp;spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. told Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;"Our office has a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that reflects the policies published by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services on the issue."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said they had to review the legislation before commenting and that the office has existing policies in place for sexual harassment.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declined to comment on the legislation.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Staten Island Borough President James Oddo also declined to comment on the legislation, but told Gotham Gazette the Borough President’s office follows the procedures used by city agencies and has both a male and female Citywide Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, told Gotham Gazette that the omission of the City Council is part of a “pervasive disease of legislators.” “They like to prescribe vaccinations for everybody else but themselves,” she continued. “I have no idea what the motive is.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this story has been updated in several places based on new information provided by the City Council after the story was originally published.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/28340833019_9bbc3dc1b9_z.jpg" alt="Johnson City Council staff" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson and others (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, the City Council <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7508-council-examines-city-sexual-harassment-policies-considers-new-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed</a> a legislative package aimed at confronting sexual harassment in private and government work environments. It includes 11 bills, four of which would apply to city agencies should they become law. Council members sponsoring the bills, including Speaker Corey Johnson, touted the legislation as evidence of the Council taking significant action toward preventing and punishing the type of harassment that has become the focus of a national movement. But the bills do not apply to the City Council itself.</p> <p>“All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace – and this starts with sending a strong message to employers that there is no place for sexualharassment in New York City,” Johnson said in a press release. “With more and more sexual harassment cases being brought to light, it has never been more important for the government to play a role in the movement to end sexual harassment and assault.”</p> <p>There was also some confusion among the bill-sponsoring Council members and in the speaker's office as to whether the bills applied to other non-mayoral government entities such as the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. After this article was originally published, a Council spokesperson clarified that "The legislation as it is written will cover non-mayoral government entities, including the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. The Council will be covered through a rule that will be drafted to ensure compliance."</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, along with Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, and Adrienne Adams, are the primary sponsors of the bills that add requirements to city agencies’ anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures. Johnson’s bill would mandate twice-annual sexual harassment training; Adams’ bill would instruct the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and Commission on Human Rights to partner in determining risk factors “associated with sexual harassment” in city agencies; Levine’s would mandate that city agencies collect and then report sexual harassment cases; and Rosenthal’s would direct the Commission on Human Rights to administer surveys that test “general awareness and knowledge of workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When originally asked about the omission of the Council and other non-mayoral entities in the legislation, a City Council spokesperson said that the Council is in the beginning stages of the legislative process, the bills may change, and that the Council will adhere to the laws they pass. There was no discussion of the Council’s own policies at the hourslong hearing on the bills held February 28 at City Hall.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Women, told Gotham Gazette that the process is in its early stages, insisted the Council would comply with the practices in the new laws, and said that many of the provisions in the bevy of bills are already the Council’s policy, such as the provisions included in Johnson’s bill. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Adrienne Adams also said the Council was early in its process and “intended to comply” with the legislation.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Mark Levine did not respond to requests for comment. Last year, Levine announced plans to introduce legislation that would designate Council staff complaints as the purview of the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which currently only has oversight of elected Council members. The proposal has yet to make it into bill form.</p> <p>For the several hundred employees of the City Council, the body’s own harassment policies and procedures are not public and Gotham Gazette is still awaiting the results of a Freedom of Information Law request for information regarding how harassment complaints are handled and how the Council’s equal employment committee (EEC) functions.</p> <p>When it comes to handling complaints at the Council, sources indicate that there is a process for making and evaluating complaints through the EEC. Elected Council members themselves, are subject to the Committee on Standards and Ethics, made up of Council members, which evaluates complaints and can adjudicate punishment, as it recently did with Council Member Andy King, who was assigned additional training after a complaint of undue attention to a staff member was substantiated.</p> <p>The bills will likely be changed before they are voted through committee and then the full Council, but to what extent remains unclear.</p> <p>It was also unclear whether the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, and Borough Presidents were aware of their inclusion in the legislation. When asked about their exclusion, working from apparently incorrect initial responses from the Council, those offices sent the following replies.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller Scott Stringer declined to comment regarding the Council leaving itself out of the legislation, but provided Gotham Gazette with the office’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said,&nbsp;"We have a standing EEO policy and trainings are conducted annually in coordination with DCAS. Even though the agency is not required to do so, Brooklyn Borough Hall implements the same anti-sexual harassment training that is applied in mayoral agencies. I will continue to apply the highest City standard for combating sexual harassment in the workplace, and I appreciate the City Council taking up this important issue.”</p> <p>A&nbsp;spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. told Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;"Our office has a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that reflects the policies published by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services on the issue."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said they had to review the legislation before commenting and that the office has existing policies in place for sexual harassment.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declined to comment on the legislation.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Staten Island Borough President James Oddo also declined to comment on the legislation, but told Gotham Gazette the Borough President’s office follows the procedures used by city agencies and has both a male and female Citywide Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, told Gotham Gazette that the omission of the City Council is part of a “pervasive disease of legislators.” “They like to prescribe vaccinations for everybody else but themselves,” she continued. “I have no idea what the motive is.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this story has been updated in several places based on new information provided by the City Council after the story was originally published.</p>