Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2556 Mon, 16 Sep 2019 10:54:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Preparing Our City’s Youth for the World of Work Through CareerReady NYC https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8700-preparing-our-city-s-youth-for-the-world-of-work-through-careerready-nyc https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8700-preparing-our-city-s-youth-for-the-world-of-work-through-careerready-nyc may first richard buery deputy

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


In recent years, New York City has racked up a series of impressive gains within the systems that prepare our youth for work and careers. The question is whether this progress will be enough for the city’s youth to navigate a rapidly changing labor market and achieve steady work and economic security. 

While the economic expansion of recent years has swept many young adults into the workforce, most of these new workers are not on pathways to upward mobility. Part of that is the nature of the jobs, almost all of which are part-time, low-paying, or both. But another factor is work readiness -- employers do not feel students are generally well-prepared for the world of work. One recent survey found that while 96 percent of college academic officers felt their institutions effectively prepare students for the workforce, only 11 percent of business leaders agreed. 

With education and skills requirements for high-paying positions continuing to rise, and automation potentially pushing low-skilled workers even further toward the economic margins, there’s a real chance things could get significantly worse. In fact, recent research estimates that one in every three jobs in New York City could become mostly or totally automated, with lower- and middle-income jobs at greatest risk. The workers in those jobs are overwhelmingly women and people of color.  

To address these challenges and help New York City’s youth prepare for steady work and economic security,  Mayor de Blasio has launched CareerReady NYC. This initiative prioritizes and connects the raw ingredients of career success: academic attainment, work experience, time management, critical thinking, communications, and teamwork. By linking up the subsystems of public education, youth employment, and postsecondary education, we can improve the odds for young people who might not have the strong family or community support networks to make meaning from unconnected academic and work experiences. 

Developed over a two-year period by leaders from city government, the public school system, CUNY, employers, philanthropy, and community-based organizations, CareerReady NYC reflects two core truths. First, “school” and “work” are vital and complementary inputs to growing up, and should be supported as such. Second, when it comes to the success of our youth, everyone has skin in the game, and everyone needs to pitch in on their behalf. 

The good news: there’s a lot of success to build upon. High school graduation and college readiness rates are the highest yet recorded. CUNY has rededicated itself to student success, with substantial investments in programs such as ASAP (Accelerated Success in Associate Programs) that are helping students to complete degrees. The Summer Youth Employment Program, a mainstay of life in the five boroughs since 1963, is putting more than twice as many young New Yorkers to work in 2019 as it did just six years ago. Finally, New York City is blessed with the strongest and most generous philanthropic partners of any city in America.

With all that in mind, the city is making a pledge through CareerReady NYC to begin to manage these programs to reflect the reality that they serve the same young people, and work toward providing more and better career guidance in school and work experiences outside of it. Our hope is that the Department of Education and CUNY will continue to embrace the goal of career readiness for their students, prioritizing career awareness, career exploration, and work-based learning.

We’re calling upon employers to participate by hosting student site visits, serving as guest speakers, providing financial support, taking interns, and ultimately hiring well-prepared graduates.

Finally, we’re asking private funders and service providers to sustain their support of youth development through resources, sharing best practices, and feeding back insights from the field to continuously improve programs and policy. 

Over the years, far-sighted civic leaders in and out of government have taken concerted action to stabilize New York City’s finances, dramatically improve public safety, expand infrastructure to support a growing population, and address the ramifications of climate change. 

The young people of New York deserve a similarly visionary approach to how we help them prepare for success in the world of work. This investment will pay off in both economic and moral terms: a broader-based and more sustainable prosperity, and a community in which we live up to our professed values of equal opportunity for all. 

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Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson is responsible for spearheading a diverse collection of priority initiatives for New York City.

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

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Preparing Our City’s Youth for the World of Work Through CareerReady NYC Thu, 25 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
City Task Force to Help ‘Most Vulnerable Young New Yorkers’ is Well Behind Schedule https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8674-city-task-force-to-help-most-vulnerable-young-new-yorkers-is-well-behind-schedule https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8674-city-task-force-to-help-most-vulnerable-young-new-yorkers-is-well-behind-schedule 3 cm eugene mathieu attor

Council Member Mathieu Eugene (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


A task force created in 2017 by City Council legislation aimed at providing better services and more opportunities for out-of-work, out-of-school youth and young adults has been delayed from the start, having met only a few times since its creation and now more than a year overdue in presenting its first report as mandated by law.

The City Council, with help from nonprofit advocacy group and service-provider JobsFirstNYC and other outside partners, passed a bill that would create the Mayor’s Disconnected Youth Task Force -- a 25-member committee composed of designees from city agencies, appointees by the mayor and Council speaker, representatives from community-based organizations that provide services to young adults, intermediaries, representatives from the business community, and young people ages 16 to 24 who have been out of work and out of school.

According to the bill, the creation of the Task Force was necessary to “examine the obstacles to education and employment for disconnected youth and to make recommendations regarding measures to improve outcomes for disconnected youth,” a group prone to falling through the cracks and into the criminal justice system.

The Task Force is led by the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives under de Blasio, a position first filled by Richard Buery, and now his successor, Phillip Thompson, who convened the first meeting. Members include Marjorie Parker, the President and CEO of JobsFirstNYC; Stanley Richards, the Executive Vice President of the Fortune Society, an advocacy group and service-provider that works with people who have been in the criminal justice system; representatives from several city agencies including the Departments of Education, Health, Homelessness, Children’s Services, Youth and Community Development, and others.

The legislation, sponsored by Brooklyn City Council Member Mathieu Eugene, then the chair of the Council’s Youth Services Committee, outlined specific deadlines for the Task Force. It required the appointment of all 25 members within 30 days of the law’s April 2017 enactment and an initial report due by March 1, 2018, followed by subsequent biennial reports until the submission of the Task Force’s final report on March 1, 2022.

The Task Force didn’t meet for the first time until February 1 of this year, well over a year after it was supposed to and despite the fact that the law required it to meet four times before submitting its first report, which was due nearly a year prior to the first actual meeting.

As of Wednesday, the Mayor’s Disconnected Youth Task Force is yet to produce its first report, with the calendar closer to the deadline for the second report than the first.

Since the first meeting in February, where two workgroups were named, there have been five Task Force meetings and over a dozen workgroup meetings, according to a spokesperson for JobsFirstNYC. It is unclear when a first report from the Task Force may be out.

It appears that some of the Task Force’s delay may be due to the change in leadership from Buery, who left the administration in early 2018, to Thompson, the deputy mayor who now chairs it and led its first meeting last year.

Both the office of Council Member Eugene and the de Blasio administration failed to respond to several attempts by Gotham Gazette to ascertain the status of the Task Force and its first report.

After the first meeting last February, Deputy Mayor Thompson said in a statement, “This task force is seeking to help the most vulnerable young New Yorkers — those who do not finish school, those who are not in the workforce or those who are involved with the criminal justice system.”

He continued: “As somebody who was myself in foster care for part of my youth, I truly understand the challenges and the need to create pathways and support. The de Blasio administration is implementing a comprehensive strategy that involves working more closely with industries and companies to create relationships and partnerships that help move at-risk people into long-term careers. Some of these strategies are already producing results to reduce rates of youth disconnection citywide but we need to do so much more. I look forward to working with members of the task force to develop a better coordinated strategy among programs servicing youth citywide.”

Over the past nine years and coinciding with an extended economic expansion after the Great Recession, New York City has seen a consistent decline in the number of out-of-school, out-of-work youth. From 2010 to 2019, this population has dropped from 187,588 to 118,000, according to data from the Community Service Society.

The creation of the Task Force is an attempt to increase efforts to assist members of this population to find work or pursue further education, and to improve coordination among city agencies and between city government and outside partners. The main goal of the Task Force is to reframe the way that New York City provides services to OSOW youth by identifying and implementing solutions to the barriers that disconnected youth face.

JobsFirstNYC has been a driving force behind the creation of the task force and attempts to get its work to move ahead at a pace more in line with the legislation creating it. JobsFirst is a nonprofit intermediary organization that focuses attention and resources on what it calls a crisis of disengaged and disconnected young adults in New York City. It was founded in 2006 with an initial investment from the New York City Workforce Funders Group -- an entity that seeks to identify and develop initiatives at a citywide level and make the city’s workforce systems more responsive to the needs of workers and employers.

At the Task Force’s first meeting in February 2018, 20 of 25 members were named and the two workgroups were established: one focused on prevention and one on re-engagement. These workgroups were created to assess current systems, make observations and identify specific ways to make services and programs for youth and young adults more connected and collaborative. 

“We were asking ourselves a couple of framing questions: ‘What is it that we need to understand about the issue of disconnected youth?’, so we made a lot of requests to try to first understand the way the system is operating,” said Richards of The Fortune Society and the Task Force, in an interview, when asked about the work done by the workgroups thus far.

“We had experts from across the spectrum of government officials, service providers, educators, really talk from their viewpoint about how the system operates and then we asked ourselves, ‘Where are the gaps, where are the inconsistencies, what gets in the way of a highly functional system?’,” Richards said.

Due in 2022, the Task Force’s final report must include an “assessment of the obstacles that prevent disconnected youth from pursuing educational opportunities or entering the workforce, including but not limited to, issues related to housing, childcare, health care and substance abuse, criminal justice, transportation, wages, and language and cultural barriers.”

The report must also provide an analysis of how to address said obstacles and recommendations for how to better adjust the city’s current efforts to helping OSOW youth by working on ways to strengthen the partnerships between public and private providers that serve disconnected youth.

The Task Force is responsible for providing recommendations for how to improve data collection for disconnected youth programs and make the data publicly available, as well as how to better inform the public of the availability of services for disconnected youth.

It is also expected to make recommendations to the city on how it should allocate its $500 million workforce budget in a way that is more efficient and beneficial to OSOW youth.

The legislation outlined that four of the Task Force members had to be appointed by the Mayor, four by the City Council Speaker, and that three members would be youth leaders between the ages of 16 and 24. The additional members had to include other specific government officials or their designees such as the Commissioner of Youth and Community Development and the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Center for Youth Employment.

JobsFirstNYC, which conducts research on disconnected youth and ways to help them, is represented on the Task Force and on the prevention and re-engagement workgroups. The organization examines the variety of city services and systems and evaluates how they can be modified to better serve young people, while articulating barriers that prevent young people from gaining full-time employment or pursuing post-secondary education. 

The organization -- and likely the Task Force -- aims to encourage employer engagement in improving workforce development and building more structural partnerships so that training and post-secondary opportunities are directly connected to in-demand employment. The Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project (YASEP) is a program conceived by JobsFirst that aims to identify whether different sector strategies can help link OSOW young adults with employers by creating customized pathways to employment.

According to research conducted by JobsFirstNYC in collaboration with Dr. James Parott, formerly of the Fiscal Policy Institute, and Lazar Treschan of the Community Service Society, some of the barriers that dictate a young person’s ability to enter the New York City economy include race, geography, education, poverty, and the 2008 recession.

The research, published in 2013 as Barriers to Entry: The Increasing Challenges Faced by Young Adults In the New York City Labor Market, found that OSOW youth are highly concentrated, with 18 of 55 New York City neighborhoods home to over half of the OSOW young adults in the city. These neighborhoods include East Harlem, Ocean Hill, East New York, and Parkchester. 

Additionally, race is a dominant characteristic in the OSOW population the research found: of the 48,000 out-of-school, out-of-work young people without a high school diploma, over 83% were black and Latino.

The research helps impact programs such as the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON), launched in 2008, that aims to provide young adults in the South Bronx with intensive tutoring and academic support so that they can enroll in and complete college. Another program through JobsFirstNYC is the Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN), a program that aims to lower the barriers to access high-quality jobs in high-demand industries for Lower East Side residents. 

The Invest in Skills NY campaign, where JobsFirstNYC is a co-chair organization, is an advocacy partnership among key stakeholders -- employers and others doing workforce development -- trying to ensure that state government makes a skilled workforce a priority with programming across New York.

As the Mayor’s Disconnected Youth Task Force first met in February, JobsFirst and Invest in Skills NY released a “policy brief” to help guide the Task Force’s work. Developing a Single-System Strategy for New York City’s Out of School, Out of Work Adults outlines recommendations to the Task Force, including the broad goal of creating, as the brief’s name suggests, a “single-system strategy,” so that programs support young adults across a cooperative continuum. This system “intervenes before a young person becomes an OSOW, engages and connects OSOW young adults to opportunities and supports the career development of young adults who are marginally connected to the labor market or pursuing post-secondary education.”

“Until now, this issue has lacked real leadership,” said Kevin Stump, Vice President of Policy, Communications and In-School Practice at JobsFirstNYC, in an interview, “which is why we remain optimistic that Mayor de Blasio’s Disconnected Youth Task Force will develop a fully-funded single-strategy system that is data-informed and meets the unique needs of this population and the communities in which they live.”

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by Jewel Antoine, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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City Task Force to Help ‘Most Vulnerable Young New Yorkers’ is Well Behind Schedule Wed, 17 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
On Census Preparations, State Lags While City, Advocacy Organizations & Business Community Move Ahead https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8127-on-2020-census-preparations-state-lags-while-city-business-community-advocates https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8127-on-2020-census-preparations-state-lags-while-city-business-community-advocates nyc map via city planning

(image via New York City's City Planning Department)


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

“It might seem early, but given the challenges that are facing the decennial census in 2020, it’s not early enough,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center. Advocates, government officials, and members of the business community all agree with that sentiment, that early preparation is essential if New York is to ensure a full accounting of its population in the 2020 Census, wherein the stakes are immense.

The census, the federal government’s constitutionally required every-ten-year count of residents of the United States, forms the basis for each individual state’s electoral representation, both locally and at the federal level, determines levels of federal funding states receive each year, and underpins dozens of human-facing programs carried out by state and local governments. Officials and advocates in New York City have already begun to marshall resources as they prepare for the nearly two-year effort that lays ahead, but the state has yet to pick up its feet despite a looming deadline.

Many view 2020 as a particularly challenging year for the Herculean effort of carrying out the census. Besides the usual logistical challenges of reaching hard-to-count communities, 2020 is set to see lower-than-expected funding from the federal government, a shift towards digital methodology, and the inclusion of a citizenship question, though it is the subject of ongoing litigation spearheaded by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. All that comes amid a heightened atmosphere of anxiety among minority and immigrant communities who fear the repercussions of being counted by a federal administration overtly hostile to their interests while already being most likely to be undercounted.

In each census, the federal government has to work hand-in-hand with local counterparts to reach hard-to-count communities, those where at least a quarter or more of households do not fill out the initial census questionnaire sent out by the Census Bureau. In New York State, 75.8 percent of households responded to the 2010 census, according to estimates by the CUNY Graduate Center, which worked with civil rights organizations across the country to create maps of census tracts to identify hard-to-count communities. The rest must then be counted in person by the thousands of enumerators hired by the Census Bureau, a labor- and time-intensive process that includes a lot of door-knocking and also requires additional resources and funding.

Advocates and experts warn that the Trump administration’s underfunding of the Census Bureau and attempt to include a question about citizenship may lead to a grossly inaccurate count, the effects of which will be felt for the better part of the decade before the next census in 2030 and could hit New York, especially New York City, particularly hard. An undercount can cement the problems faced by the most vulnerable members of society -- seniors, children, the homeless, for instance -- and exacerbate them by creating a false dataset based on which government crafts policy and budgets.

City officials already recognize these challenges that lay ahead. Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phil Thompson is leading the de Blasio administration’s broad census outreach efforts, coordinating with partners in state government, community-based organizations, and the private sector, which is particularly involved in the current census cycle. Thompson pointed to two main outreach targets: immigrant communities and black communities.

“In immigrant communities, it’s always a challenge to get a good count in New York City because it is so diverse,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “There are so many immigrant communities, which people may not even hear about sometimes. [The questionnaire is] not in their language. They’re new. They get skipped.”

The Census Bureau currently only translates its questionnaire into about 20 languages, he said, and New York City residents speak more than 100. The city has already allocated about $4.3 million to its census efforts in the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2019, which will be used to conduct outreach through ethnic media, Thompson said.

census hard to count map via cuny grad centerBut the bigger fear among the large undocumented immigrant population that resides in the city is that census answers may be passed on to immigration enforcement authorities, even though that is prohibited under the law. “Now, the law prohibits passing information on from the census to any other agency and individual data is not allowed to be passed on, but folks are scared anyway,” Thompson said.

[pictured: New York City census hard-to-count map, via CUNY Graduate Center Mapping Service]

Black communities, the other main target of the city’s efforts, have had historically low rates of filling out the census, Thompson noted. “That goes for people who live in public housing or in low-income housing. Many people may have an extra person living in the house and they’re afraid that the census comes and does a count of who’s in the household, they may get in trouble...And then some mysteries. We don’t know why middle-income and upper-middle income black people in Southeast Queens don’t fill out the census, but historically they’ve had low rates as well.”

2020 will also mark a major shift in how the census is carried out, with a greater reliance on digital technology. As opposed to the past method of sending out the questionnaire by mail, the Census Bureau will send out a digital code by mail, encouraging people to fill out the questionnaire on the Census Bureau’s website.

When people do not respond, they will be sent a full paper questionnaire to mail back. People can still request a paper questionnaire, particularly if they lack easy access to the internet. “And that’s a challenge because not everybody utilizes iPads and computers,” Thompson said. “Not everyone’s on the internet. So in communities with low broadband access, they are more likely not to fill out the census.”

In response, the city plans to set up help desks at public libraries and schools to facilitate access, with several public-facing city agencies such as the Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services also involved in the effort. The de Blasio administration is encouraging the private sector to provide financial assistance to community organizations and will also put more funding into hiring immigration lawyers at immigrant affairs offices. The city will also hire 13 district office directors to match the 13 offices being set up by the Census Bureau across the five boroughs, and is helping recruit for the 20,000 or so enumerators that the Bureau will hire to conduct door-knocking and outreach in hard-to-count communities in the city. According to the Bureau’s estimates, they will need roughly 44,442 enumerators for the entire New York region. There are also jobs under the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program focused on democracy and the census, training young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to organize in their communities.

“We’re also telling people if you don’t like what’s going on in terms of a lot of this anti-immigrant rhetoric and so forth, the best thing to do is to not go and hide in the shadows but stand up and be counted,” Thompson said, touching upon the challenge involved in convincing people already wary of the Trump administration to trust that administration’s census process.

Community advocates, in particular, are aware of the pressing need to ensure an accurate count. Liz OuYang, coordinator of New York Counts 2020, a statewide coalition of community organizations, said the upcoming census would be a “heavy lift” compared to 2010. “More than ever, community-based organizations are going to be needed as trusted organizations that people can go to in light of the political climate,” she said. These groups are particularly vital in reaching undocumented immigrants who are fearful or skeptical of the federal government.  

Ahead of the 2010 census, community organizations in New York City received only about $2 million in total from private sources, OuYang said, leading to an undercount. This time around, the coalition is pushing the city and state to fund phone-banking and door-knocking operations. They are urging legislators to agree to that demand and plan to rally in Albany, the state capital, in March, ahead of the passage of the state budget.

The coalition is also aiding local Complete Count Committees, including by creating a census training webinar for the committee recently launched by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Brooklyn Community Foundation. “Because of the undercount in 2010 and because of the macro-political climate that we’re in, and the census being allowed to be completed online, you’re going to need a lot of help from community-based organizations,” OuYang said.

The federal government appropriated about $2.8 billion for the Census for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended September 30. But the Census Bureau has requested only about $3.8 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which most experts and stakeholders believe is inadequate. Across the country there are expected to be 200,000 fewer enumerators, who conduct the on-the-ground follow up, because of the lower funding. What’s more, unlike past census efforts, the federal government appears unlikely to approve a waiver that would allow the Commerce Department to hire non-citizens to act as census enumerators in order to reach hard-to-reach communities. Such a waiver was approved by the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

“We don’t know if Trump will do a waiver and if not that’s a problem,” said Deputy Mayor Thompson. “So we’ll have to lean in as a city to get the right people because the most trusted messengers in communities that are fearful are people from the communities.”

In an email, Census Bureau spokesperson Kristina Barrett said the agency was working within the restrictions of the annual appropriations act. “There is not a ban, and we are still pursuing all legal flexibilities provided by Congress to hire the workforce we will need to conduct an accurate 2020 Census,” she wrote. She said the Bureau is allowed to temporarily employ translators under certain exceptions and can hire permanent legal residents applying for U.S. citizenship, people admitted as refugees or granted asylum who have filed a declaration of intent to become a permanent resident and then a citizen when eligible.

To make up for the expected shortfall in enumerators, particularly in undocumented communities, the New York Counts coalition is pushing the state government to ensure adequate funding for counting efforts. A study from the Fiscal Policy Institute, commissioned by the coalition, estimated that need at about $40 million, roughly $2 for each of New York’s 19 million residents. But so far, the state has made no commitment while the city’s $4.3 million is something, but far from adequate. (The city is expected to add more funding in the next fiscal year which begins July 1, 2019.)  

“Without funding, community-based organizations are not, that’s the bottom line, are not gonna be able to do full outreach,” OuYang said. “And it takes community-based organizations, trusted organizations in the community to really mobilize people and be the bridge here.”

In the current fiscal year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature approved the creation of a New York State Complete Count Commission, which is meant to study past undercounts and issue a comprehensive action plan for 2020 by January 10, 2019. But with just over a month till its report is due, that commission has yet to be formed, raising concerns that the state is dragging its feet. “I think that the governor needs to prioritize this, this is huge,” OuYang said.

A spokesperson for Cuomo said in an email that the commission is in the final stages of being assembled but did not provide any personnel details or proposed budget numbers. “A complete and accurate count is critical for New York to receive proper representation in Washington and our full allocation of federal funding, and the State is committed to being a full partner in a robust outreach effort so that every New Yorker is counted,” the spokesperson said.

The state has, however, been using data analytics to ensure that the Census Bureau’s Master Address File, which will dictate where the initial census questionnaires are sent in March 2020, is complete. According to the governor’s office, addresses in the MAF were compared to state databases and agency records and hundreds of thousands of corrections and additions were submitted to the Census Bureau for review this past summer. There have also been 40 meetings across the state to encourage the creation of complete count committees.

It’s likely that the governor will provide more clarity about the overall census effort in January at his State of the State speech, where he will lay out his broader agenda for the year. His executive budget proposal with funding numbers will follow soon after.

Thompson, the deputy mayor, said he was optimistic about the state coming through and that operations will likely ramp up with the start of the new year. In the meantime, New York City government and members of the business community are picking up the slack.

“So far New York State hasn’t put up a [funding] number and we were actually helping other towns and cities in New York organize their census operations because the state commission on the census hasn’t met yet,” Thompson said. “We’ve had nice conversations and I’m looking forward to working with the state around this, but right now we’re, I think it’s safe to say, ahead of the state.”

He noted that the New York Banker’s Association had offered to make its locations available to get the word out about the census. “I’m most excited about the responses we’re getting from every sector of the city to come together,” Thompson said. “The business community is very forthcoming.”

The Association for a Better New York, a prominent business coalition in the city, announced on December 3 that it had hired Melva Miller, who was previously deputy borough president of Queens, to lead its census efforts, the broad contours of which had been announced previously. “This is an all hands on deck effort,” Miller said in a phone interview.  

ABNY has been marshalling resources for nearly a year to assist New York’s efforts. It has been conducting focus groups in hard-to-count communities, gathering data and information on the obstacles people may face. It also launched a poll last week in those communities “to get an understanding of the census and what that means for them.”

The organization will also pull together a larger messaging campaign, also targeted at particular communities, to urge people to fill out the census on their own, “because unless you can really spell out what the implications of an undercount means to folks, people aren’t excited about it,” Miller said. “No one wants to fill out a form...How can you make it sexy? How can you make it exciting so that people know that this is really critical to the health and the quality of life for all of us, especially New Yorkers?”

Miller noted that the implications of an undercount go beyond federal funding -- New York receives about $80 billion each year -- and a potential loss of representation in Congress.

Gotham Gazette: “There’s voting rights and redistricting implications, there’s public and private research on social and economic issues, and something that folks don’t talk about that probably resonates with the private sector is that having reliable and good data dictates how businesses do business,” she said. “So as companies are doing their needs assessments and assessments of areas in which they might want to relocate or expand, they rely on data that talks about the population. Who lives there, what’s their education level. And then in terms of workforce. People love coming and operating in New York because of our talented and diverse workforce. And quite frankly, we’ve benefitted from programs that assist and support that workforce. And all of that is at stake when you undercount a population like New York.”

Besides the decennial count, the Census Bureau also does the annual American Community Survey, which delves deeper into subsets of census data and then extrapolates that information to make assumptions about the larger population. “It really has a ripple effect,” said Romalewski of the CUNY Graduate Center, one of the area’s top census experts. “If the count is not done well in 2020, that will have an ongoing impact throughout the decade.”

He did note that there was at least one upside to all the challenges posed by the Trump administration, echoing what has been something of a theme on a variety of political and policy matters. “The silver lining in all of this is that there’s a concerted, coordinated effort early on to make sure people understand the importance of the census and that they participate fully,” he said.

The biggest “what if” factor in the entire census process is the legal battle over the inclusion of the citizenship question. The Justice Department is facing off in federal courts across the country against a broad array of plaintiffs including dozens of states and cities, including New York, immigrant advocacy groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both sides issued closing arguments in late November in a trial in federal court in Manhattan -- other trials are on the horizon in other states -- and a judge is expected to issue a decision within weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court also agreed last month to hear arguments over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross can be deposed over how the decision to include the citizenship question was made.

“The thing I worry about the most is the fear tactics succeeding,” said Deputy Mayor Thompson. But he was undeterred even by the prospect that the highest court in the land could rule against the cities and states seeking to protect undocumented immigrants by ensuring they are counted. He likened it to the country’s history of racial segregation and slavery, which were held up for decades by courts and a Congress that maintained both were legal.

“So just having a Supreme Court go against you doesn’t mean you give up,” he said. “What changed segregation was actually when churches, ordinary Americans said enough is enough. And we have to have that attitude now. We’ll fight back...We have a history of fighting for our democracy. It wasn’t given to anybody, we got it through struggle and we might have to struggle again.”

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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On Census Preparations, State Lags While City, Advocacy Organizations & Business Community Move Ahead Sun, 09 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
New Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson Outlines His Portfolio, Which Includes Everything https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7736-new-deputy-mayor-phil-thompson-outlines-his-portfolio-which-includes-everything https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7736-new-deputy-mayor-phil-thompson-outlines-his-portfolio-which-includes-everything mayor first lady strat policy

Thompson, with the Mayor and First Lady (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Bill de Blasio and Phil Thompson go back decades, working together in the administration of Mayor David Dinkins, but they spent many years apart before rejoining the same team earlier this year, when de Blasio announced the appointment of Thompson as the new Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives.

Replacing Richard Buery in the role, Thompson begins his tenure in the de Blasio administration for the start of the Democratic mayor’s second and final term, and after nearly two decades teaching at MIT, writing books and essays, and working on a wide variety of projects as a consultant. He returns to city government with recent experience around the world, including in Brooklyn and South America, where he has helped coordinate community and economic development programming, environmental sustainability efforts, and other projects.

“When the mayor offered me this job I was teaching a course in the Amazon and I was working with community groups in a city that had been devastated by an avalanche of boulders. following an unprecedented weather event,” Thompson told Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission during a recent appearance on the “What’s the [Data] Point?” podcast.

“The mayor called me and said, ‘Have you ever thought about coming back into government?’ and I said, ‘Hell no…I’m in the Amazon, I’m not thinking about New York!’” Thompson said, laughingly, before turning serious about the “divisiveness and narrow-mindedness” that he thinks is permeating the country under President Donald Trump.

“To be honest with you, I really am worried about this country,” he said. “The opportunity to serve and make a difference…Everybody who can do something ought to do what they can do…I never really thought of myself as a patriot, per say, but I really feel that’s what it is. I need to do something for the country.”

And much of what Thompson believes he can do is to contribute to significant advances for New York City, providing models for elsewhere, and help advance a new era of urbanism and Democratic politics. During the podcast discussion, Thompson made clear he is someone who thinks about large trends and how to harness or respond to them, and that he wants the de Blasio administration to pursue new, big ideas to advance social, economic, and environmental justice before the mayor is forced from office due to term limits. He said workforce development would be a major focus for him, and explained how it ties in with racial and environmental factors.

“I actually want to drill down...into workforce and where the economy is going and then aligning our business development, which his under me -- small business development, MWBEs, and workforce programs -- with where things are going and where I think things are going,” Thompson said. “I think we’re on the verge of three major changes in the city, but also in the country, that are going to be the most dramatic changes in the history of this country.”

The first, Thompson says, is climate change. He believes retrofitting city buildings, including schools and NYCHA complexes, to make the facilities more energy efficient should be a priority for the city, which already has a plan, announced by de Blasio in 2014, to retrofit approximately 3,000 buildings before 2025. De Blasio has also announced a proposal to see private building owners forced to retrofit. Thompson wants to see these efforts integrated with jobs programs for New Yorkers, especially in underserved communities.

“We know that the biggest danger in New York is probably heat in Manhattan...and we know there are going to be rising oceans,” he said. “My own view is: if your problem is heat, you don’t build walls to keep the ocean out, you figure out a way to bring the water in. Does that mean Manhattan becomes Venice? Maybe.”

The second major challenge facing the city and beyond, Thompson believes, is the digital revolution, namely the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automated jobs, and he wants government to invest money to pursue innovation. “There are two types of jobs for the future: One, where you tell robots and computers what they’re going to do, and the second, where robots and computers tell you what you’re going to do...so how do we make sure our kids are telling computers and robots what to do?” he said.

“In my opinion the government should be developing infrastructure around AI,” he said. “We’re going to have smart cars soon, which are going to be guided by traffic managers who exist in a cloud, which are going to be AI traffic managers. That infrastructure ought to be designed and owned by government because if it’s owned by a private company they’re going to own everything.”

The third issue facing society as a whole, Thompson says, is an growing bloc of voters who will change the way politics and government happen across America. “Eighty percent of American cities are majority of color now, and if you look at young white people in cities, 80 percent of them voted for [President Barack] Obama twice. If you put those two facts together, that was the coalition that elected Bill de Blasio -- people of color, young white folks, and progressives. That coalition can be replicated across the country and I think that’s the coalition that will turn the tide in this country. It’s very promising and it’s never happened before.”

“[It will] turn the tide on American politics and governance, period,” Thompson said, as the hosts interjected a note about the Electoral College.

A large potion of Thompson’s vision involves educating young people so they will have the tools to thrive in this vastly changed world. He hopes to align education and training programs with summer camps and innovation areas to “actually develop and train young people for what’s coming, and not for what’s going to disappear in five years.” He argued for project-based experiential learning, particularly in economic growth areas. And he agrees that changes in education should extend all the way through schooling.

“For example, there’s an immense investment now in DNA research -- future prescription drugs are going to be for your particular DNA -- and it requires skill in what’s called computational biology,” he said. “That’s the future, so working backwards...we’re trying to say, ‘how will we integrate the summer youth job experience with computational biology exposures?’”

When asked, Thompson used his own personal story of opportunity to express support for de Blasio’s recently announced plan to integrate the city’s elite specialized high schools, by moving away from a single test determining entry.

For the 18 years prior to joining the de Blasio administration, Thompson has worked as an Associate Professor of Political Science and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He’s on loan to the city for two years from MIT, a leave that can be extended another two years if the sides agree, according to a City Hall spokesperson.

Thompson has spent time in New Orleans, Peru, and Haiti on post-disaster planning, he said, and he’s worked in Columbia on post-conflict building, and, for the last four years, he’s been working on a community health initiative called Vital Brooklyn -- a $1.4 billion plan designed by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration to revitalize Central Brooklyn that includes a $700 million investment in healthcare, the area that Thompson has helped inform.

In the early 1990s Dinkins era, Thompson oversaw housing coordination and became the Deputy General Manager for Operations and Development at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

In returning to city government he said he has an “understanding” of what de Blasio is trying to achieve in New York City, and that the mayor’s “been the same” for as long as they’ve known each other. “We all started out together like, ‘how do we actually make change for people who are suffering?’ That's really what it’s about,” Thompson said of how he and de Blasio see the work of government.

It’s unclear if Thompson will be roped into helping NYCHA recover from scandal and implement the terms of a consent decree with federal prosecutors announced on Monday (several days after Thompson appeared on the podcast). It is clear that he is approaching his job as one that stretches across virtually all city agencies, overlapping at times with other deputy mayors, and that allows him leeway to think in systems and at large scale.

Having only been in his new job a couple of months, Thompson was mostly able to speak broadly to his portfolio, which includes certain policies and programs launched under Buery, like the expansion of pre-kindergarten to all three-year-olds, but also new areas, like the administration’s democracy agenda to increase civic participation. He is tasked by de Blasio will coordinating the city’s effort to ensure an accurate Census count in 2020. Part of that work, he said, will be convincing traditionally undercounted populations, such as immigrant communities and African-American communities, to participate in full.

Thompson outlined several concrete ideas he is interested in pursuing, such as for creating jobs in the city to address not only unemployment, but also to improve health outcomes and strengthen communities in areas such as Brooklyn and the Bronx.

“When you look at what leads to coronary heart disease, of which there’s a lot of in these places, it’s stress mainly due to poverty and unemployment. [There’s] stress due to lack of stable housing, and then there’s bad food habits - it’s expensive to get healthy food,” he said on the podcast.

It’s a sentiment similar to that in a 2016 paper, in which Thompson and his co-authors argued racial discrimination felt by children of color at schools, and in legal and health systems, can trigger a physiological stress response that leads to additional health problems in these demographics. By addressing the source of this stress by reducing discrimination, increasing employment, and reducing poverty, Thompson thinks the overworked health system will be somewhat relieved, too.

“Addressing something like our exorbitant expenses in healthcare ultimately means keeping people out of hospitals but that means really addressing unemployment,” Thompson said.

A starting point, he said, could be using some of the city’s massive procurement budget to build local furniture to service hospitals and schools. “One of the things we’re really interested in is maybe a furniture factory to make furniture for hospitals, and the hospitals are really interested in that,” he said. “They buy a lot of furniture, as do our schools. Why not make it locally? Why not have a company that’s locally owned or worker owned, or a co-op?”

Thompson’s seen success in this first-hand, and believes it can be replicated across New York City. He was involved in a 2013 paper that analyzed the merits of a 2005 case study, in which University Hospitals (UH) in Cleveland, Ohio, constructed five major medical facilities, as well as expand a number of existing facilities, with the goal of boosting community wealth in the process.

Working with the mayor’s office, as well as local building trade unions, UH vowed that 80 percent of contracts would go to businesses that were regionally owned in Northeast Ohio, with five percent of contracts going to female-owned businesses and 15 percent to minority-owned businesses. Beyond 2010, all purchases from UH over $20,000 now require at least one bid from a local, minority-owned firm -- UH spends at least $800 million to contractors each year.

Thompson and his co-authors called the Cleveland case study “pathbreaking” in the 2013 paper, and touted it as a “powerful model for how a place-based institution can...better the long-term welfare of the community in which it is located.”

Another example, Thompson said on the podcast, of different departments coming together to deliver comprehensive change to the city is the Healthy Buildings Project in the Bronx. The project saw 50 buildings retrofitted with the goal of removing mold, roaches, and rodents to reduce repeat asthma cases. At the same time, the apartments were retrofitted to increase energy efficiency and the savings this caused -- in reducing energy bills, and in selling power back to the grid -- helped pay for the asthma retrofit.

“That takes bringing together a bunch of different city departments and state and funding streams and figuring out the financing, which is all complicated. But that’s the kind of thing we need to do in order to really address the health disparity crisis,” Thompson said, adding the “silo approach” so often seen in government is “not very strategic and not very smart.”

“It’s definitely a challenge, it’s always been a challenge,” Thompson said of bureaucracy and government silos, especially in a government the size of New York City’s. “That’s a lot of what I’ve been doing in my prior life, before coming here, is trying to break through those silos.”

“I wrote a book about the Dinkins experience and about black mayors and the point of the book was really to explain the problematic of trying to use City Hall to change policies on behalf of low-income people when they're all sorts of entrenched interests that basically push in the other direction,” he added.

Going forward, Thompson is eager to see the de Blasio administration take on the big issues like climate change, technology, and education in a way far different from the “narrow-mindedness” of the Trump administration. Asked if part of his job is to help de Blasio become less risk averse and get more creative, Thompson said has been bold in pursuing universal pre-kindergarten, which he called “4-K,” and the broad mental health program being led by First Lady Chirlane McCray.

“I don’t think the mayor is risk averse. I don’t think the mayor had any idea 4K would work when he first started it - I think that was just a bold thing and ThriveNYC was a bold thing,” Thompson said. “I also don’t think the government’s role is risk averse...I came from 18 years at MIT, I got to tell you, computers and the internet came from 20 years of consistent funding from government, which took the risk out of it. You could screw up a thousand times, which they did, but the government said ‘it’s real strategic for us to develop these systems,’ No venture capitalist would have put the money in over a 20-year period not knowing what was going to happen.”

“The government's role is exactly to socialize risk,” Thompson continued. “The government's role is to say, ‘this is something, as a city or as a country, we have to do so we’re going to invest.’”

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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New Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson Outlines His Portfolio, Which Includes Everything Wed, 13 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 2020, with Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7716-whats-the-data-point-2020-with-deputy-mayor-phil-thompson https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7716-whats-the-data-point-2020-with-deputy-mayor-phil-thompson whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 43 -- 2020, with Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

phil thompson pod

Phil Thompson is the new Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives under Mayor Bill de Blasio. Joining the administration in March, Thompson has a portfolio that includes managing the city's approach to the upcoming U.S. Census and much more. He joined the podcast to talk about his new role, his path back to City Hall (he and de Blasio both worked for Mayor David Dinkins), and some of the policy areas where he's looking to bring his expertise to bear.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [Data] Point? 2020, with Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson Thu, 07 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000