Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/376 Tue, 16 Jul 2019 23:00:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Looks at Reducing Recidivism for People with Mental Illness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8608-city-council-examines-how-to-reduce-recidivism-for-people-with-mental-illness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8608-city-council-examines-how-to-reduce-recidivism-for-people-with-mental-illness council comm cj

Elizabeth Ford of Health + Hospitals, left, & Becky Scott of DOC (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


City Council members on Monday held an oversight hearing to examine how New York prevents formerly incarcerated mentally ill persons from returning to jail. The hearing made clear that the de Blasio administration, Health + Hospitals public hospital system, and City Council members all want to reduce the number of mentally ill persons who rely on the jail system for their mental health care and keep those with serious mental illness out of jail altogether.

But, it was evident at the hearing that there is much more emphasis on services for the imprisoned mentally ill than on keeping those with serious mental illness out of jail, whether for the first time or in all-too-common recidivism.

The psychiatric services offered in city jails -- like nurse and doctor staff, therapeutic groups, and medicine -- are robust but someone with a serious mental illness often loses the best care upon leaving jail. This then contributes to high recidivism rates.

The hearing centered several key data points: roughly 43% of those held in city jails are suffering from mental illness (14% have serious mental illness); the recidivism rate in New York City is 20%, but for those with mental illness it’s 47%.

Held by the Council’s Committee on Justice System, Committee on Criminal Justice, and Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, the hearing looked at the different ways the city Department of Correction and Correctional Health Services, a part of New York’s public health care system, New York City Health + Hospitals, provide care for the mentally ill in prison and once they leave. Two pieces of legislation dealing with notifying defense attorneys of their detained clients’ mental health and returning unused commissary money to recently released inmates were also discussed with various stakeholders who testified.

As the overall jail population has declined significantly, the proportion of New Yorkers with mental illness in city jails has risen in recent years: the overall average daily population of city jails decreased from around 11,500 in 2014 to around 8,900 in 2018, and the percentage of people with mental illness increased from 38% to 43%.

The percentage of those with a serious mental illness, defined by Correctional Health Services as anyone with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, has increased from 10.2% to 14.3% in that same time frame.

Council Member Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat and chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice, asserted that the City Council and the different city agencies in attendance all agree that jail is not the place to help seriously mentally ill people. However, jail is often where people with serious mental illness wind up, and jails often offer medical services – city jails have many psychiatric services located in one place (in fact, Rikers Island is the third-biggest provider of psychiatric care in the United States behind jails in Los Angeles and Chicago).

Currently, city jails put inmates diagnosed with mental illness in “mental observation houses” (MOs), where there are advanced levels of service and psychiatric nurses available, or the more intensive option, PACE (Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness) units where there’s 24/7 embedded staff and more therapeutic groups, according to Dr. Elizabeth Ford, who testified for Correctional Health Services.

However, through questioning from Powers, Ford admitted right now there are people who qualify for PACE but due to spacing issues are only in MOs. THE CITY reported in April that the de Blasio administration is well behind on its planned 12 PACE units by 2020 (currently there are six).

Council member questions made clear that there are many mental health services available in prison, but the key organizing question of the hearing was: what happens when an inmate/patient is released? Ford said CHS gives inmates seven days of their medicine so they don’t drop off too preciptiously after leaving jail, a 30-day prescription which can be fulfilled at a pharmacy of their convenience, and many referrals to outpatient treatment programs.

Outpatient treatment is the primary way people with mental illness are treated in New York, most of which are run by New York City Health + Hospitals. Outpatient care requires patients to appear at appointments, as opposed to inpatient care or state institutionalization – mental health care nationwide over the past 60 years has transitioned away from state-run facilities once known as “insane asylums” or “psychiatric hospitals” and towards outpatient care.

When asked how CHS can make sure recently-released inmates follow through on getting care, Ford mentioned they are hiring more social workers and focusing on making sure existing services, like existing mobile care teams, work well rather than accepting “new mandates.”

In terms of keeping mentally ill people out of prison in the first place, Ford brought up the new plan from the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio of helping mentally ill people go to the Health + Hospitals system, instead of prison.

Furthermore, two diversion centers -- in East Harlem and South Bronx -- will offer police officers a place to bring emotionally disturbed people who exhibit signs of mental illness instead of arresting them. They’re not open yet, but are supposed to open later this year.

Ford hopes the community-based aspect of the diversion centers will be especially useful as the centers will be located to existing outpatient care.

Supportive housing is another way to prevent recidivism, according to Ford. Supportive housing offers mental health services to people struggling to find housing. The de Blasio administration plans to build 15,000 supportive housing units over 15 years.

If the roughly 1,200 city jail detainees diagnosed with serious mental illness were to be released tomorrow, the relatively minor supportive housing options and short-term diversion centers combined with New York’s disinclination towards inpatient care throw doubt on how the seriously mentally ill would be treated without jail-based services.

The city has created what they call Community Re-Entry Assistance Network (CRAN) teams, which are six-month transitional teams to help those with serious mental illness re-enter the community after release.

On the two pieces of proposed legislation being considered at the hearing, the lead sponsor of the defense attorney notification bill is Manhattan Council Member Margaret Chin, while Queens Council Member Donavan Richards is the lead sponsor of the commissary bill.

Chin’s bill, Intro. 1590, would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to notify the defense attorney of a person who is in the custody of the Department of Correction and who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

The bill, co-sponsored by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and six other Council members, is not supported by Correctional Health Services in its current language. Although Dr. Ford chose to keep some reservations of Correctional Health Services private, she did mention that the agency has a newly-created court liaison program intended to act as a go-between for defense attorneys and medical officers.

The current process for notifying the defense attorney of a seriously mentally ill person who is accused of a crime is the patient must give consent to Correctional Health Services and CHS gives information relevant to the mental illness diagnosis to the defense attorney.

The bill “attempts to break the cycle of imprisonment,” said Chin, as ideally more cases could take mental illness into account.

The most intense exchanges of the hearing occurred in regard to the other piece of legislation discussed Monday. Intro. 0903, Council Member Richards’ bill, would require the Department of Correction to notify all recently-released former inmates if there is money in their individual jail commissary account as well as return that money within 60 days of release.  

A commissary account, which can be deposited into by an inmate’s family, is essentially a bank account that the inmate can use to purchase snacks or personal products while in jail. Currently, the Department of Correction is holding $3.7 million from as far back as 2012 in unclaimed commissary money for the over 140,000 individuals who have not claimed it.

Richards, indignant, heavily implied DOC wasn’t making any effort to return the money, while DOC testifiers stated multiple times they don’t use the unclaimed money for their own purposes.

According to those who testified for the Department of Correction, the only outreach done by the DOC has been to put posters -- only in English -- in the jails. DOC representatives said the often unpredictable nature of inmates’ release schedules as well as the general difficulty in remaining in contact with released inmates makes returning the money difficult. DOC does not support the bill, citing difficult logistics.

In a fitting summary of the hearing, Council Member Diana Ayala of Harlem and the Bronx said if the Department of Correction cannot find people leaving prison to give them their money back, how can they ensure the mentally ill leaving prison get the mental services they need?

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by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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City Council Looks at Reducing Recidivism for People with Mental Illness Tue, 18 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
As We Close Rikers, Criminal Justice Reformers are Ready for Full Partnership in Albany https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8143-as-we-close-rikers-criminal-justice-reformers-are-ready-for-full-partnership-in-albany https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8143-as-we-close-rikers-criminal-justice-reformers-are-ready-for-full-partnership-in-albany guards rikers

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

Riding high on the crest of a Democratic blue wave powered by grassroots progressives, New York Democrats finally took back the state Senate for the first time in nearly a decade. With this accomplishment comes a responsibility to finally act upon a long list of priorities that have been stymied by the Republican-controlled upper chamber of the Legislature in Albany.  

Chief among these priorities is criminal justice reform, a topic that the New York City Council has been tackling aggressively for some time. Perhaps the Council’s most ambitious effort in this sphere has been to close all jails on Rikers Island. The decrepit jails on this island embody human misery and tragedy and it is our moral imperative to close them forever.

Any realistic effort to close these jails requires reducing the pretrial detention population, as close to 90 percent of those housed on Rikers are merely accused and not convicted of crimes. While the city has managed to take several bold steps in this area, state action will be required to make the dream of closing Rikers a reality. Over the past few years, our efforts at state reform have been hamstrung by an uncooperative state Senate. Throughout the process, our progressive allies in the Assembly majority and Senate minority voiced support for progressive criminal justice reform but were unable to move key bills to fruition.

Their inability to move legislation through the Senate did not stop some state elected officials from crafting bills that would greatly improve our criminal justice system. This legislation now stands a strong chance of passing once the new Democratic majority sits for the 2019 legislative session.

agenda19v2 aFirst and foremost, bail and speedy trial reform must be prioritized. Both efforts would go a long way towards a more equitable criminal justice system writ large, while lowering the detainee population on Rikers Island. While we here on the City Council have done much to make our bail system fairer, only Albany can implement the deep and systemic reform necessary to make our pretrial detention system truly fair and just. There are a number of bills in the Assembly and Senate that either significantly restrict or eliminate cash bail, encourage the use of monitored release in lieu of detention, and help ensure that pretrial detention is reserved for only the most severe cases. Any of this legislation would go a long way towards fixing what is a fundamentally broken and unfair bail system.

Meanwhile, speedy trial reform is arguably even more important in reducing pretrial detention. Given that close to 90 percent of the jail population is pretrial detainees, cutting the speed with which cases are resolved has a direct and massive impact on the jail population: a 25 percent faster system would mean close to a 25 percent reduction in the jail population. Much like our state’s bail laws, our speedy trial laws are outdated and ineffective, lagging far behind the federal system and other states. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied, so resolving criminal prosecutions faster not only reduces our jail population, it also helps our criminal justice system as a whole. While Senate Democrats tried to push for some minor reforms to our broken speedy trial laws in recent years, our new Senate leaders must be aggressive in tackling this issue.

There are also lesser-discussed issues that could be enormously transformative, such as parole reform. Approximately 16 percent of the population of Rikers Island jails is incarcerated for parole violations, and the state controls this issue in its entirety. According to a report issued by Columbia University’s Justice Lab, the state parolee population is the only jail group that saw an increase in its size over the past four years. Thankfully, Albany is aware of the issue, evident in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State speech, in which he touched on the importance of parole reform. When the new state Legislature convenes in January, it can move to shorten parole terms, incentivize good behavior, and require speedier hearings on these issues.

Though its impact on our jail population may not immediately be apparent, discovery reform should also prove critical in helping the city to run a more just criminal justice system and to close Rikers Island jails. Discovery is the process by which the prosecution provides its evidence to the defense. New York State has among the most restrictive discovery laws in the country. While the issue may seem complex, it is actually fairly simple: since well over 95 percent of criminal prosecutions result in a plea or dismissal, the faster the defense is able to assess the strength of the prosecution’s case, the faster a plea or dismissal can be reached. Luckily, there is already legislation in Albany to ameliorate the situation, and our new leaders should embrace these progressive reforms.  

Over the past several years, we here at the City Council worked hard to bring our criminal justice system into the 21st century. However, there has always been a limit to what we can accomplish without willing partners in Albany. In early January, when our fellow Democrats in the state Senate take their seats as the new majority and work with the Democratic majority in the Assembly, the possibilities for progressive criminal justice reform will widen tremendously.

The progressive activists who helped make Democratic victories a reality in November will be watching the new Legislature closely. It is imperative that our state elected officials finally act to create a criminal justice system in New York that reflects our values as a state and a city.

This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

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Diana Ayala, Margaret Chin, and Stephen Levin are members of the New York City Council, representing parts of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, and members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. Their districts are all slated to be home to new or larger jails as Rikers Island facilities are closed. On Twitter @DianaAyalaNYC & @CM_MargaretChin & @StephenLevin33.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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As We Close Rikers, Criminal Justice Reformers are Ready for Full Partnership in Albany Sun, 16 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Women's Caucus Gets Additional Support to Meet, Expand Agenda https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7575-city-council-women-s-caucus-gets-additional-support-to-meet-expand-agenda https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7575-city-council-women-s-caucus-gets-additional-support-to-meet-expand-agenda Carlina Rivera City Council

Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: Emil Cohen)


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.

The Council’s finance committee voted last week to approve a $17.3 million increase 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.

“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 extracted several promises from each, including funding for a new staff position to serve the caucus.

“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.”

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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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 package of anti-sexual harassment legislation recently introduced at the Council.

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.”

“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.

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.”

“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.”

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.  

[Read: Fulfilling Johnson Promise, City Council Significantly Increases Its Operating Budget]

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - this article has been updated to include a statement from Council Member Margaret Chin. 

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City Council Women's Caucus Gets Additional Support to Meet, Expand Agenda Tue, 27 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Hearing Showcases Frustrations Over Stagnant Aging Department Budget https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6919-hearing-showcases-frustrations-over-stagnant-aging-department-budget https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6919-hearing-showcases-frustrations-over-stagnant-aging-department-budget chin vallone mccarten

Council Members Chin, left, & Vallone (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


The City Council Committee on Aging held a hearing on Monday to examine the allotment for the Department of the Aging (DFTA) in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recently-released executive budget plan.

Council members and DFTA representatives for the de Blasio administration discussed the situation that seniors may be facing given reduced funding numbers in de Blasio’s $84.86 billion budget proposal. The Council, in its response to the mayor’s preliminary budget, had called for $60 million in additional funding for DFTA for Fiscal Year 2018, a request shared by senior advocates such as LiveOn NY. According to the City Council, none of that request was added for DFTA in the mayor's new iteration of the city spending plan.

The mayor’s executive budget, presented to the public on April 26, includes $194.6 million in city funding for DFTA, representing 63% of DFTA’s proposed budget. This is a $21.8 million, or 11%, reduction in funding from the current fiscal year, which, along with proposed cuts in federal funding by the Republican-controlled Congress, has senior advocates and City Council members worried, despite an increase in funding from the state government. Among other things, the proposed agency budget includes $171.8 million for senior centers and meals, a $24 million reduction from the 2017 adopted budget, and $35.9 million for case management services, an increase of $2.9 million.

Donna Corrado, the Commissioner of DFTA, assured Council members that despite the apparent cut in funding for the agency, seniors were not necessarily being thrown under the bus by the de Blasio administration.

“In addition to these funds,” she said, “the mayor has committed tens of millions of dollars to other city agencies that will directly benefit older New Yorkers, such as to set aside 15,000 affordable housing units targeted to households where older people reside, and a recently announced proposal which will require city and state legislative approval to raise the Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption household income eligibility from $37,400 to $58,400, which would benefit an estimated 32,000 households in New York City.”

One of the major issues at hand was the executive budget’s failure to address the issue of seniors being stuck on waiting lists for case management services -- a long-standing problem.

Seniors ineligible for Medicaid services are eligible for counseling, meals, transportation, and other services through city case management, but the services are chronically underfunded, with high numbers of cases per caseworker, who are paid low salaries on top of that, which creates additional problems. The City Council, led by aging committee chair Council Member Margaret Chin, earlier this year declared 2017 “The Year of the Senior,” in part with an eye on the large number of seniors on waitlists -- currently 1,864, although the Commissioner claimed a slightly lower number of 1700 -- for case management services, as well as the 900 seniors sitting on the waitlist for home care services.

Council Member Chaim Deutsch asked Corrado what the criteria is for who goes on the waitlist.

“There’s no criteria necessarily that’s systematic across the board,” she said. “Some agencies don’t keep a waitlist because they try either -- one, they close intake, which is very unfortunate but because it’s a finite service with a finite amount of funding and staff and resources, they do close intake, so they won’t take on any new clients.” She also mentioned the fact that some clients may be referred to other programs.

When finance committee chair Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland pressed Corrado on how much money would be necessary to clear the waitlists, Corrado refused to answer, saying that the cost “fluctuates” every day.

The other major issue addressed by the committee was that of senior centers, which were recognized across the board as inadequate. The budget does not allocate money towards new senior centers, and their funding has decreased by 12% in the proposal.

“To me, senior centers save lives,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz, noting that she has never seen a new senior center in her community in the long time that she’s lived there, despite the existing ones being packed.

The hearing was attended by many members of AARP, distinguished by their trademark red shirts, who are frustrated by the city’s inaction. Council Member Chin shared this sentiment, declaring that she was “angry, but yet determined,” demanding that everyone in the room work collectively to “secure additional funding for the agency before the budget is adopted.”

After a series of executive budget hearings at the Council, negotiations will continue behind closed doors, leading to a budget deal between de Blasio and the Council by the July 1 start of next fiscal year.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Hearing Showcases Frustrations Over Stagnant Aging Department Budget Mon, 08 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Women's Caucus Rallies for Equity Legislation https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6644-city-council-women-s-caucus-rallies-for-equity-legislation https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6644-city-council-women-s-caucus-rallies-for-equity-legislation womens equality rally pic via cumbo

Equality rally at City Hall (photo via Council Member Cumbo)


The Women’s Caucus of the New York City Council announced a legislative package Tuesday aimed at equal rights and opportunities for women. With an “equality rally” outside City Hall before the full Council held a meeting at which some of the bills were introduced, legislators, advocates, and service providers expressed support for the legislation and argued for its necessity in light of Donald Trump’s election as President.

The co-chairs of the Women’s Caucus, Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal, spearheaded this first-of-its-kind legislative effort by the caucus. The 11 bills and resolutions range widely, while some have already been passed into law and others are completely new. The entire package should be enacted at the city level in conjunction with other state and federal policies, those who rallied said. The concern, though, is that the federal government will not be advancing gender equity under President Trump. Council Member Cumbo, who represents District 35 in central Brooklyn, said she’s worried about Trump’s treatment of women and his misogynistic language

The legislative package seeks to address issues like the needs of unpaid caregivers, access to feminine hygiene products, services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the gender pay gap, and more.

“We have seen all across this nation the challenges that women face when attempting to become leaders,” Cumbo said. “All across this country we have seen the level of disrespect. We have seen women who want to have families, who want to have babies, and a president-elect saying that pregnancy in the workplace is a problem.”

While Council Member Rosenthal praised the City Council and the de Blasio administration for their efforts to help women achieve equal opportunities through legislation and by creating the Committee on Gender Equity, she said advocacy groups and public officials should still push for progress.

“With the challenges that we now face, it is critical that we redouble our efforts towards the promise of equality and we refocus our outreach and organization as a caucus to ensure there’s a success in that effort,” said Rosenthal, who represents District 6 on the Upper West Side. “This legislative package will make a difference in the lives of not just women, but all of New York.” 

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents District 1 in Lower Manhattan, said this presidential election served as a reminder of the long fight ahead for equal rights under a Trump presidency: “When a President-elect with a record of belittling, harassing and abusing women is about to take office, we have the responsibility to act now — to demand equal rights in our city and across the nation.”

Last July, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to eliminate sales tax on feminine hygiene products in New York. One of the bills in the package, sponsored by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, would provide feminine hygiene products at no cost for students on Department of Education premises. Ferreras-Copeland has been at the forefront of other city legislation to improve access to feminine hygiene products at city schools, shelters, and jails.

Additional components of the legislative package include a new resolution, sponsored by Rosenthal, pushing the state to give domestic violence survivors greater ability to break leases with landlords; legislation, sponsored by Chin and already passed into law, that helps address needs of unpaid caregivers; and a resolution, sponsored by Council Member Annabel Palma that calls for passage of a state law to prohibit employers from asking salary history. (Public Advocate Letitia James, a former Council member, has such legislation at the city level.)

According to a report released by James, women in New York City earn annually approximately $5.8 billion less in wages than men. Women of color face the greatest wage gap, with Hispanic, black, and Asian women experiencing a gap of 55, 54 and 37 percent, respectively, relative to white men. New York City ranks higher for racial disparities in salary than most cities in the country, according to James’ report.

Council Member Rosenthal said she was especially impressed by the show of support on Tuesday from so many advocacy and nonprofit groups. “In the city, nonprofits are hungry to do what they can to support anyone who might suffer consequences of a Trump administration....based on outcomes of his misogynistic view of the world,” Rosenthal said in an interview.

The Women’s Caucus, which includes 14 members in the 51-seat Council, said the package serves not only women of New York, but all of its residents by providing improved transparency into city programs, support for families, and efforts to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence against all genders.

“As a national model, we must maintain our upward momentum to end gender and racial inequality through public policy that celebrates our diversity,” Council Member Cumbo said at the rally, pointing to other city and state efforts like the municipal identification card program and a higher minimum wage.

The Women’s Caucus includes the Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is one of several women term-limited out of the Council at the end of 2017. Mark-Viverito, Rosenthal, James, Ferreras-Copeland, and other city elected officials have been involved with efforts to encourage more women to run for elected office.

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by Devin Gannon and Milka Nissinen
@GothamGazette

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City Council Women's Caucus Rallies for Equity Legislation Wed, 30 Nov 2016 05:00:00 +0000
Correcting the Record on the Misguided Plan to Develop Elizabeth Street Garden https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6571-correcting-the-record-on-the-misguided-plan-to-develop-elizabeth-street-garden https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6571-correcting-the-record-on-the-misguided-plan-to-develop-elizabeth-street-garden eliz st garden protest

photo: Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden


In response to City Council Member Margaret Chin’s op-ed column in Gotham Gazette published Oct. 6; from Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden President Jeannine Kiely and D. Kristin Shea:

Council Member Margaret Chin is our only elected official who supports developing Elizabeth Street Garden. She seems dead set on “winning” development of the Garden at all costs, even if it means giving up the opportunity to build five times more senior affordable housing at another nearby location within our community. In her attempts to sway public opinion, Council Member Chin has repeatedly released misleading information.

Allow us to correct the record:

FACT: NOT A PUBLIC PROCESS
Chin says she is “proud of the public process” and the “substantial amount of public review.” But her decision to build on Elizabeth Street Garden was a backroom deal at City Hall, without proper public review or discussion.  

FACT: COMMUNITY IGNORED, DESPITE TREMENDOUS SUPPORT
Since learning about this secret deal in 2013, Manhattan Community Board 2 has held four public hearings, and overwhelming sentiment has been for saving the Garden, including support from every local elected official other than Chin and 16 parks and community organizations.

The Garden brings joy to thousands, including many seniors who live nearby. That’s why Mayor de Blasio, the city’s housing agency (HPD), and Chin received 5,000 letters in support of the Garden — far more than the “hundreds of letters” cited by HPD — and only one in support of the housing proposal from an organization that receives thousands of dollars each year through Chin.

FACT: BETTER AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALTERNATIVES EXIST
Chin claims that “identifying sites for affordable housing...can be a monumental challenge.” CB 2 took up that challenge and identified several alternative sites, including a vacant lot on Hudson and Clarkson streets where five times more senior housing can be built. Because this site was previously committed for parkland, it will not be available if Elizabeth Street Garden is destroyed.

In addition, a proposed project at 550 Washington St., currently being rezoned, will have 476 affordable units, including 178 for seniors.

We agree with Council Member Chin and the mayor that parking lots are “ripe for affordable housing development” and, therefore, encourage consideration of the garage on 2 Howard St. located in the heart of Little Italy, but outside the height-restrictive Special Little Italy District.

FACT: CHIN’S PROMISE THAT RESIDENTS CAN “AGE IN PLACE” IS MISLEADING
All residents of CB 2 receive preference for 50 percent of any senior housing built in the district, which extends from 14th Street to Canal Street and the Hudson River to Bowery. Remaining units would be available to anyone in the five boroughs. Preference is via lottery and applies only to the first round of rentals. Therefore, if 60 units were built on the Garden, as few as 30 residents currently living in all of CB 2 would live there, and possibly none from Little Italy.

FACT: 5,000 SF OF “PUBLICLY-ACCESSIBLE OPEN SPACE” IS A RUSE
The City is asking for proposals to create “lawns, trees, walks and planting and seating areas with a variety of sun and shade conditions, and also to provide for continuation of current educational and recreational programs and events,” all in an area the size of a basketball court, surrounded by seven-story buildings. When asked about building on Elizabeth Street Garden, former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said, “It’s a very small site. You’d be shortchanging either one. I think the site is barely large enough for housing. You might be able to have a little sitting area.”

Ultimately, privately-owned public spaces often end up “inaccessible or devoid” of “amenities that attract public use,” or may be converted into retail space in the future, as Chin supported on Water Street.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is right when he said “Every New Yorker deserves access to clean, safe green spaces, no matter what neighborhood they live in.” Had Chin acted upon her declaration that “Communities must be consulted about changes coming to their neighborhoods,” Elizabeth Street Garden already would be a public park.

Instead of allowing politics to determine policy, we encourage Council Member Chin and the de Blasio administration to work with CB 2 and our elected officials to build more affordable housing and to preserve the precious little public green, open space we have left, for our seniors, our children and all the residents of our community.

***
by Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden President Jeannine Kiely and D. Kristin Shea. On Twitter @elizabethstgrdn. (Both Kiely and Shea are members of Community Board 2 but are not writing on behalf of CB 2.)

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Correcting the Record on the Misguided Plan to Develop Elizabeth Street Garden Thu, 13 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Protecting Our Open Public Space Must Be A Top Priority https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6562-protecting-our-open-public-space-must-be-a-top-priority https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6562-protecting-our-open-public-space-must-be-a-top-priority elizabeth street garden protest

From Thursday’s protest (photo: @ElizabethStGrdn)


In response to City Council Member Margaret Chin’s op-ed column in Gotham Gazette published Oct. 6, from New York City Community Garden Coalition Executive Director Aziz Dehkan:

The threat to Elizabeth Street Garden violates Mayor de Blasio’s mandate to promote livability for New Yorkers. Supporters of the garden rallied early on Thursday at the pre-submission conference for the Request for Proposals to demand the preservation of this treasured resource, the last open green space in Soho.

The RFP requires 30 years of affordable housing, perhaps a single generation, in a city where the senior population is outpacing all other demographic groups. In three decades, the senior apartments could exit affordability, but a new building would remain atop a community garden sacrificed for fleeting gain.

Council Member Margaret Chin, alone among the local representatives, opposes the community garden under a misguided sense of what “livability” entails. Liveable communities require affordable housing, services, and access to open spaces, most urgently in densifying communities. Her “tough decision” to advocate for housing in place of the Elizabeth Street Garden capitulates to pervasive development pressure.

Public review of the site gave voice to steady opposition of residents, business owners, the community board, and elected officials. The process yielded a resounding “no” to destroying the garden and urged the administration to consider an alternative site within the community district, one that would allow many more units while preserving the community garden.

Council Member Chin acknowledges the impact of the construction boom on the quality of life, but in identifying sites for affordable housing, constant construction has deafened her to constituent calls. Additional park space is needed district-wide, yet she supported the destruction of LaGuardia Corner Gardens, a casualty of NYU’s massive expansion plan in the South Village. She again fails to show consideration for Elizabeth Street Garden.

The coalition of advocates for Elizabeth Street Garden demand the land be dedicated as parkland. Today Elizabeth Street Garden enlivens Soho with year-round programs and sculpture. The City, in a weak effort to assuage the community, asks developers to reserve barely a quarter of the existing garden site for future open space. Operation of the diminished space will be a challenge to integrate into the community and serve the actual needs of visitors.

Privately owned public spaces throughout Manhattan have attracted criticism for using unwelcoming designs and restricting, or effectively eliminating, public use. Our City made this same deal for open space within developments without ensuring accountability decades ago. We should know better than to accept a plan that will wrest land from its public stewards.

The New York City Community Garden Coalition seeks the development of policies for creating community gardens and against their removal. Politicians too commonly position open space against housing, driving a wedge that need not exist. The two are essential aspects of healthy neighborhoods that side-by-side serve long-term needs of a community. Promoting a falsehood that affordable housing and open space are incompatible is disingenuous to the complicated negotiation around the City’s distribution of public land. The Mayor can do better to promote livability by preserving Elizabeth Street Garden in a park-starved neighborhood and redirecting efforts to the larger alternative site.

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Aziz Dehkan is Executive Director of the New York City Community Garden Coalition.

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Protecting Our Open Public Space Must Be A Top Priority Thu, 06 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
New Affordable Housing in Every Neighborhood, Including Mine https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6558-new-affordable-housing-in-every-neighborhood-including-mine https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6558-new-affordable-housing-in-every-neighborhood-including-mine  margaret chin committee

Council Member Chin, the author (photo: Charles Eshelman)


No one said it would be easy.

When voters overwhelmingly elected Mayor de Blasio almost three years ago, New Yorkers chose an elected official who pledged to tackle the tough issues plaguing us — including a promise to create 80,000 units of new affordable housing for a city in desperate need.

Almost three years later, Mayor de Blasio — in partnership with many of my City Council colleagues — is making steady progress towards that goal. In March, after a substantial amount of public review, I joined an overwhelming majority of Council members to approve a sweeping change in zoning law that promises to accelerate the creation of affordable housing where none would otherwise be built.

Identifying sites for affordable housing in a city as crowded as ours can be a monumental challenge. Communities must be consulted about changes coming to their neighborhoods. It is they, after all, who bear the brunt of nearly constant construction and other serious quality of life issues affecting a city in the midst of an unprecedented building boom.

But in almost every case, the question before us must not be if, but how affordable housing is to be created.

We are not living in ordinary times. People who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades, whether it be in Battery Park City or Little Italy in my Council district or elsewhere, are facing the reality of losing their homes.

Some have already received a letter from their landlord informing them of a double-digit rent increase. Others, including too many of our seniors, are desperately searching for any space available in a city that seemingly has none.

It is true that our city needs more open space for residents of all ages. But this crisis demands that we make tough decisions to accommodate the pressing needs of all New Yorkers.

That is why I am proud of the public process that led to the inclusion of at least 5,000 square feet of publicly-accessible space at a new affordable senior housing project on Elizabeth and Mott streets in Little Italy in my Council District.

When it is built, this permanent open space will be the result of the advocacy of a group of passionate neighbors fighting for more places for New Yorkers to play, relax, and enjoy the natural world around us. These neighbors, along with the local Community Board, have spoken in a clear voice, and I hear them.

I also hear the pleas of our seniors for housing that is safe, age-friendly, and above all, affordable. Their voices matter, and must be taken into consideration.

The decision to pursue this 100 percent affordable housing project has not been an easy one. But in my heart, I know that this is the correct decision. Because for me, leadership isn’t about always doing what is popular, but what is right.

By pursuing this project in the heart of Little Italy — a place steeped in history that welcomed my newly-arrived immigrant family a half-century ago — I am fulfilling my promise to those who elected me to preserve what makes this tiny slice of our city great, and to ensure that the people who made it great can afford to stay there.

***
Margaret S. Chin is the City Council member representing Lower Manhattan. On Twitter @CM_MargaretChin.

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New Affordable Housing in Every Neighborhood, Including Mine Tue, 04 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Funding Issues, Waitlists Plague City’s Services for Seniors https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6550-funding-issues-waitlists-plague-city-s-services-for-seniors https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6550-funding-issues-waitlists-plague-city-s-services-for-seniors seniors city hall

Seniors at City Hall (photo: @nonprofittalk)


A June City Council report on the budget for the city Department for the Aging (DFTA) detailed that there are approximately 1,400 seniors on waiting lists for case management services. The average age of these seniors is “85+,” with an average income of “$12,000-$20,000,” according to LiveOn, a senior advocacy organization. The City Council report examined the adopted budget for the new fiscal year, which began July 1, and makes clear that DFTA is not being funded with a sense of urgency to quickly reduce waitlists and serve the city’s oldest, often neediest residents.

The Department for the Aging uses federal, state, and city funds to provide advocacy, education, and services that range from hot meals at senior centers to transportation and legal aid. DFTA provides case management services for those not covered by Medicaid; those waitlisted are without access to trained employees of city-contracted nonprofits that evaluate seniors’ needs and coordinate appropriate care.

Seniors are one of the city’s fastest growing demographics: in a July press release announcing an “‘Aging in Place’ guide to help older New Yorkers,” Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado reported that there were 1.4 million adults over the age of 60 living in New York City, with an expected 2 million by 2040. Ninety-six percent of this group chooses to stay in their apartments over relocation as they age and need more attention. "So many seniors are held captive in their homes because of a lack of accessibility," Corrado said. Often, this accessibility takes the form of physical frailty, disability, chronic illness and disease.

DFTA reaches homebound seniors through case management services. Part of the state-funded Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly, case management provides seniors ineligible for Medicaid, with counseling, advocacy, referrals, and information. The service is made possible through referrals to local senior centers and community-based social service and healthcare agencies.

Case management is also an entry point to homecare services, which include medical assessments and referrals and information to ensure appropriate care. Seniors are unable to receive homecare services without access to a case manager. In its May report, the City Council reported a homecare waitlist of 500-550.

The case management problem stems in part from high turnover among case managers, fueled by low salaries. The same LiveOn report claims an average annual turnover rate of 32%, with seven nonprofit agencies reporting over 40%, and each with 100 to 300-plus waitlisted seniors, as of February.

While, this year, the City Council called for $12 million to raise case manager salaries to $55,000 and supervisor salaries to $65,000, $4.8 million was allocated in the fiscal year 2017 budget and $7.3 million in 2018 to raise salaries to $50,000 and $60,000, respectively. Currently, each case manager is responsible for up to 65 clients at a time. Although this number may seem high, as of a few years ago it was in the neighborhood of 90, according to experts.

The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has also declined to provide funding to address other causes of the waitlist, independent of salary woes. The June City Council report showed that $1.8 million was baselined to strengthen existing services, short of the $3 million allocated in fiscal year 2016. The $3 million would have, at a very minimum, allowed DFTA to maintain its then-level of service. Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at LiveOn, told Gotham Gazette that the city’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told LiveOn that the $1.2 million difference has been added since. Sackman could not confirm this information and an inquiry from Gotham Gazette to a budget spokesperson in the mayor’s press office was not returned by publication.

"We still have a way to go to restore aging funding to pre-recessionary levels," City Council Member Margaret Chin, chair of the Council's Committee On Aging, said in the Council report.

Chin refers to the heavy budget cuts that took place under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure. Taking action to address the fallout of the Great Recession, Bloomberg oversaw a $30 million reduction in the DFTA budget, according to a 2010 WNYC report. DFTA was left with a $264 million budget, far short of the current $330 million adopted agency budget for the new fiscal year, and a sliver of the city's $82 billion in expenses.

"Seniors should not be on any waiting list,” Chin said in an interview. “Our senior population is growing tremendously, so as the numbers grow, the needs grow also…by 2030, one in five is going to be a senior, so we have to make sure the budget reflects that."

Chin was critical of the lack of salary parity between case managers and comparable government positions. "If other agencies are paying a higher salary for the same type of job, it's very hard for the agency that has these case managers to compete, so there's a lot of turnover, and we don't want that to happen," Chin said. "We have to make sure there are enough case managers.”

Sackman of LiveOn lamented that "There is no plan.” “The fastest-growing segment of the city's population, and there is no plan," she said. Sackman offered a potential explanation: "I think some of it is because you can't get any more invisible than being a homebound 85-year-old person."

"There's not enough money,” Sackman concluded after discussing the problems facing the city’s older population and the city government response. No one from DFTA was made available for comment for this story.

One key issue, Sackman noted, is that case management services are for seniors above the Medicaid level. "So, no one's running to the bank," she said. "If you're eligible for Medicaid, it's an entitlement, and you get a pretty broad array of services…if you're not eligible you're really out in the cold a lot."

The same is true for homecare services. "If you are on Medicaid, you can get 10 hours a day of homecare, and while it's more difficult, you could still get 24 hours care. On the EISEP (Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly), it's not an entitlement, you might get one to 12 hours a week," said Sackman. "Remember, to get homecare you've got to be assessed by a case manager. They are the gatekeepers. So if you're sitting on a waiting list, you can't get home services. It's a vicious cycle."

Both and Sackman and Chin were quick to highlight that the waitlist issue also impacts family members and loved ones already acting as unpaid adult caregivers. "They are struggling day-to-day, figuring out how to juggle work and other responsibilities in life while taking care of their elderly parents," Sackman said. "They just don't have a system in place to help them."

Chin offered an example of what this looks like: "Imagine someone in their sixties taking care of someone in their eighties and nineties."

Sandy Myers, director of government and external relations at Selfhelp community services, a city contracted nonprofit, knows case management waitlists firsthand. Selfhelp’s two DFTA funded case management programs have a combined 170 waitlisted seniors.

"All seniors are needy, regardless of their needs," Myers said in an interview. She emphasized the relevance of senior issues. "We want to have good people in the field who will be caring for all of us when we age."

Selfhelp was founded in 1936 to serve those fleeing Nazi persecution. After World War II, the organization began serving survivors as well, providing them with job training, resettlement, and case management, among other services. As the refugees and survivors continued to age, Selfhelp evolved into a senior-focused organization to help vulnerable populations "age with independence and dignity."

Today, Selfhelp serves 20,000 seniors at 27 across four boroughs and Nassau County. This includes five senior centers and four Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS). A number of sites are located in Queens, many of which serve the Chinese community, as well as Korean, Latino, and other immigrant populations. Selfhelp emphasizes hiring culturally sensitive staff, including employees fluent in Russian for the 25% of clients who are WWII survivors. These professionals are well-versed in relevant topics of interest, like Soviet Union reparations, for one.

Myers views the case management dilemma through a humanitarian lens. "For some of our clients, their interaction with the case manager is really one of their only interactions, if not the only interaction,” she said. "When you have people who are constantly leaving, the quality of service suffers, as well as the client-worker relationship…there is obviously a lag between the time that someone leaves and when we are able to bring in someone new to train them." Myers noted that this turnover time is often two to four months, or more.

Above all, Myers classified case managers as an invaluable safety net. She told a story of a 102-year-old client who one day didn't answer the door for her meal delivery. The service provider contacted Selfhelp, who proceeded to call her house, to no avail. Selfhelp alerted case management staff, who went to her apartment, opened up her door with another key, and found the woman lying on the floor, unable to move. "It's probably not an exaggeration to say that we saved her life," Myers remarked.

Mayor de Blasio often talks about budgets as indicators of values and about the need for government to treat its most vulnerable citizens well. It is especially difficult to advocate for senior services funding and reform, Sackman said, because "it's not the sexiest issue." Told she was the second person to use those exact words, Sackman laughed and said, "Well, it's true. Except, if you're in my world, it's very sexy."

***
by Benjamin Jurney for Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Funding Issues, Waitlists Plague City’s Services for Seniors Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Hearing Shows Lack of Communication on Young Men’s Initiative https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6546-hearing-shows-lack-of-communication-on-young-men-s-initiative https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6546-hearing-shows-lack-of-communication-on-young-men-s-initiative Eugene bdb

Council Member Eugene (photo: CMMathieuEugene)


There was confusion and some angst at the City Council on Wednesday. At an oversight hearing held by the Council’s Youth Services Committee, several Council members said they were unaware of the programming of the city’s Young Men’s Initiative, which was the focus of the hearing.

Council Member Mathieu Eugene chairs the committee and led the hearing. Only one other committee member, Council Member Margaret Chin, was present when Cyrus Garrett, executive director of YMI, gave his opening remarks. Garrett, who has led YMI since being appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in late 2014, briefed those in attendance on the history of YMI, which began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and focuses on opportunities for young men of color; its work under the current mayor; and its most recent partnerships and programs.

As the morning progressed with a question-and-answer session between Council members and Garrett, all of the members of the Council committee, with the exception of Council Member Darlene Mealy, made an appearance, and most asked questions of Garrett.

Garrett outlined changes and progress at YMI since he took over at the start of 2015. “To deepen our impact,” he said, “YMI has sharpened its focus and over the last two years, has invested in the support and creation of data-informed strategies aimed at addressing inequities in education, justice, employment and health.” Many of these strategies were the focus of the hearing, which also served as an occasionally heated forum wherein Council members pushed Garrett about YMI’s lack of communication with them and the rest of the city.

After Garrett’s appointment, YMI acquired a new Executive Steering Committee, aligned programs with select goals set by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which was in part modeled after YMI, and released a "Disparity Report" in collaboration with the Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence, all under the banner of “YMI 2.0.”

The unifying feature of YMI 2.0 is a framework that goes beyond YMI’s original 16-24 age demographic, while still focusing on males of color. Aligned with My Brother’s Keeper, YMI has made it a priority to engage with younger New Yorkers. YMI 2.0 envisions all youth of color reading at grade level by 2nd grade; citywide completion of high-school, post-secondary education, or training; and safe from violent crime.

In different ways, under Garrett YMI has been both broadened and narrowed. While the goals of YMI 2.0 now target a much wider age group, the neighborhoods and populations it prioritizes have become more specific. The Executive Steering Committee supported YMI 2.0 as it transitioned from a city-wide initiative under Bloomberg to a neighborhood-specific initiative under de Blasio. It now targets the South Bronx, South Jamaica, Brownsville, East New York, East Harlem, and the North Shore of Staten Island.

Before his opening remarks ended and the questions began, Garrett was sure to outline a few programs YMI 2.0 is currently “testing.” Readmore Corps, a tutoring service for children in kindergarten through second grade, is one of them. In fiscal year 2016, Garrett said, “YMI’s support in 30 schools resulted in an additional 387 first and second graders receiving literacy support. We are well underway to serve 707 students in FY17, and with anticipated private funding, could potentially be in an additional 45 schools by the end of this school year.”

Garrett also spoke about a partnership with NYC Service and the Center for Youth Employment on a college and career mentoring strategy for high schoolers, and the Fatherhood Academy, a program that promotes responsible parenting and economic stability for unemployed and underemployed young fathers.

Council Member Eugene asked for more quantitative data on YMI, information which was supplied by the other YMI representative at the hearing, Carson Hicks, the deputy executive director at the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which does data analysis for YMI and other city programs. According to Hicks, 80,000 young people were served by YMI 2.0 in 2016, which is an increase from when the program started, though she didn’t say by how much.

Hicks also informed Council members that the current budget allocation for YMI is $30 million, including an increase in the amount of city funds devoted to the initiative from under Bloomberg, but a decrease in total funding from its early years. (In 2011 Bloomberg and George Soros donated $30 million each to the inaugural YMI programs over the course of three years.)

Eugene was also curious about how YMI advertises its programming, to which Garrett said that YMI programming largely is promoted through YMI itself, partner community-based organizations, and through word of mouth. Garrett listed organizations like Make the Road, the YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Goodwill, and the University Settlement Society of New York, and clarified that the YMI has 300 to 400 CBO partners in the city, located in every borough.  

“A French philosopher, I think Rousseau” Eugene mused at one point, “spoke about the importance of family when raising children.” Eugene asked Garrett if YMI 2.0 was positioning itself as an intergenerational resource that could help parents reinforce the work that YMI does with its own programming. He said his own Brooklyn district has parents who would benefit from this kind of two-pronged programming, and also said that he would have gladly partnered with YMI, if the city had tried.

This was a common theme throughout the hearing. In fact, all Council members who spoke either chided Garrett for YMI’s lack of communication with their offices, or expressed surprise that they hadn’t heard more extensively about YMI and its work. “We have 51 Council members,“ Eugene said. “And you’ve only partnered with six of them? You could have allies with all 51 members.” (None of the six partner Council members are on the Youth Services Committee, which has seven members including Eugene, the chair.)

When Council Member Chin spoke, she expressed shock that this was the first time her committee was getting a report about the initiative. She said the Council “should have been a partner.”

Council Member Laurie Cumbo asked about how YMI approaches the problem of neighborhood gang violence. She said that before the annual Labor Day parade, J’ouvert, in her Crown Heights district, over 20 different gangs were identified, and asked if YMI had any anti-gun initiatives. Garrett replied that YMI looks at gangs as a part of the community, though he did give an anecdote about “Chuckie,” a member of the Crips gang who brought members of the gang to ARCHES, a group-mentoring YMI program designed to help men on probation get out of the criminal justice system. He recalled that the sessions were therapeutic.

Cumbo suggested that some of her own initiatives, like Art as a Catalyst For Change, were also good models, and that YMI might want to think about introducing more arts programming.

Council Member Andy King, seizing on an excerpt from the City Council briefing paper that was distributed before the hearing, also asked Garrett about what YMI was doing to help relationships between young men of color and the NYPD. King pointed out that “you never have to tell white boys how to act around the police. But you do have to teach black boys.” While the briefing paper, which is prepared by the committee staff, pointed out that “stop and frisk has been greatly reduced, from 700,000 stops in 2011 to 47,000 stops in 2015,” it also said that “the legacy of distrust continues to endure and many stakeholders have called for a continued engagement between the community and the NYPD.”

Garrett said that as a former advisor in the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement is an area he is particularly attuned to. He said YMI is working with the NYPD on speaking with frontline officers, to see if there are systems officers can follow for crime and arrest deterrence. The NYPD is in the middle of implementing a new neighborhood policing model is that focused on building community relationships.

Another theme throughout the hearing was how YMI measures successes and phases out programs that appear to be ineffective.

Garrett gave the example of the Justice Corps, a job-coaching program for young men involved in the criminal justice system. The program was launched in 2008 and was re-tooled for expansion this year, after evaluation from the current YMI. However, an education program for former inmates, the Justice Scholars, is being phased out because it was found that people’s levels of education varied too widely to have a consistent positive impact.

Many of Garrett’s talking points from the hearing are laid out in more detail through the YMI section of the Mayor’s Management Report for Fiscal Year 2016, which was released earlier this week.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Council Member Eugene asked Garrett to estimate the success of YMI 2.0. “Would you say you’re at 90%? 70%? 50%?” Eugene asked. After a second of hesitation, Garrett said that he’d estimate YMI was 55% of the way to success. Earlier in the hearing, Garrett conceded that YMI is in a place that it wanted to be three years ago, but after discontinuing unsuccessful programming, he thought that YMI is heading in a better direction. The hearing closed with Garrett agreeing to send all Council members updates on the progress of YMI, and pledges from all there that there would be more collaboration between YMI and the City Council going forward.

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by Elena Burger, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated to remove question about the estimate from Hicks, which was verified by the mayor's office.

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Hearing Shows Lack of Communication on Young Men’s Initiative Fri, 23 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000