Gotham Gazette

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To Prepare for Future Crises and Recover from This One, Bring the Supply Chain Back to the United States

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Ventilators arriving in New York from China (photo: governor's office)

It’s been incredibly horrifying to watch scenes unfolding at New York City’s public hospitals as medical staff struggle to keep pace with the coronavirus pandemic. Although doctors and nurses—from Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn to Jacobi in the Bronx—have shown remarkable courage under fire, they are under siege from an invisible enemy that shows no mercy to those in its path.

The situation has been tough for my mother to bear. She’s a home health aide working on the frontlines to protect some of New York’s most vulnerable residents—the developmentally disabled. But she’s also a refugee who fled a civil war in Uganda more than three decades ago and gave birth to my younger sister and me at one of the city’s hardest hit public hospitals, Elmhurst.

As we grapple with our country’s coronavirus reckoning there are elements that are reminiscent of the war-torn Uganda she escaped. The uncertainty of when life will return to some sense of normalcy. The shadow of death that seems to lurk all around us. The mental anguish that has gripped America’s consciousness.

Yet, there is one element of this crisis that is deeply vexing: why were we so unprepared, why didn’t we have enough ventilators or personal protective equipment? When New York and other states turned to the federal government, President Trump’s response was effectively: you’re on your own. Besides the ineptitude of the president, the answers don’t only lie in Washington, but also in corporate boardrooms across America.

Over the past four decades, our country’s manufacturers have been blazing a trail across the world seeking places—mostly emerging economies—to produce their goods for much cheaper than they would in the United States. This intense focus on cheaper cost of goods and maximizing profits is a result of a shift in America’s corporate culture that sought to place the maximization of shareholder value above all other stakeholders—employees, customers, suppliers, communities, etc. As the labor arbitrage took place, corporate profits began to soar and much of the country’s manufacturing capacity began to disappear. It’s a correlation that’s difficult to ignore.

The end results weren’t only cheaper goods and lower costs, but a long list of supply chains that no longer existed in the United States—including personal protective equipment and ventilators, just to name a few. This dynamic has led to an erosion of well-paying middle-class jobs and threatens our national security. In 1940, 60% of New York City’s workforce was employed in manufacturing. Today, that number is 16%. We are now relying mostly on China to supply us with critical equipment to save American lives. 

This pandemic should not only serve as a call to action for policymakers in Washington to enhance the nation's public health infrastructure, but to also demand American corporations shift away from this myopic view of shareholder supremacy. This should begin with repatriating supply chains deemed critical to America’s national security. 

Americans should make the equipment that will save their lives. This includes manufacturing PPE, pharmaceuticals, tests, and medical devices on our shores so that we are prepared for future disease outbreaks and crises that disrupt the world. The government must take the lead to invest in medical manufacturing to bolster our national supply to prevent future shortages on equipment. And as we move out past this crisis, we must look for ways to modernize our manufacturing industry to meet our country’s needs while moving us forward. Specifically, we need to focus on greening manufacturing—retrofitting former manufacturing plants to become more environmentally friendly, producing renewable energy infrastructure, and better training American workers would create jobs and address environmental hazards.  

Our government must do more to hold accountable American corporations that ship jobs overseas. American multinationals that will not repatriate should be taxed at significantly higher rates for shipping jobs outside our country. This revenue is sorely needed as we face this economic crisis. Also, corporations that seek bailout funds related to the pandemic must demonstrate that the majority of their workforce is American; otherwise they should be deemed ineligible. And as we move forward, EPA regulations must be strengthened to ensure manufacturing plants are not environmentally harming the surrounding communities.   

We have a long way toward recovery, but recovery has to start with a reflection on why our country was so woefully unprepared for this crisis. We must ensure that all Americans, and most importantly corporate America, contribute to the rebuilding of our nation.

Adem Bunkeddeko is a candidate for Congress in New York’s 9th District, covering parts of Brooklyn. On Twitter @adembunkeddeko.

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A CLEAR Path Forward on Emergency Preparedness

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Mayor de Blasio holds an emergency management briefing (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

I’m writing this from my living room. My three-month-old daughter is across the room, sleeping in her activity gym. My wife is watching television. This should be another normal day, but all of us, including you reading this, knows it's not. Our daughter has barely seen her grandparents since February. My wife hasn't seen the outside world in almost two months. Aside from a few stressful trips along empty streets to the grocery store, neither have I.

Nothing about this pandemic has been normal — not even our response. The COVID-19 outbreak rekindles the darkness of Hurricane Sandy. No one knew what to do or where to go. By the time the government acted, it was too late. No master plan existed to deal with prolonged school closures, hold an election after a disaster, and mobilize large-scale relief efforts. Tragically that is still true.

There was no plan in place before the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York City. The Greatest City on Earth is letting its people down time and time again because we fail to prepare for the next inevitable disaster. 

The City of New York needs to do better, and I have a plan to make that happen. My first bill introduced to the New York City Council will be the New York Create and Learn Emergency Action Response Act. The NY CLEAR Act would create a five-level, color-coded alert system based on the post-9/11 federal system. New Yorkers should be able to know green means everything is smooth sailing; blue could indicate a closure or restriction due to standard winter storms; and red would mean the city is shut down in its current form. 

The NY CLEAR Act would live up to its name by being concise and easily understood. It would be a universal language so our diverse communities all understand the severity of a situation. No matter which of New York City’s more than 200 languages you speak, you’d know that green means everything is fine — the city is safe. New Yorkers would know it’s safe to enjoy a park, go to work, or get on a subway that’s as unreliable as normal.

Blue would indicate the city is monitoring an evolving situation. This code should be in place when we send more police officers to Penn Station and other crowded areas after a terror attack, as we did the night of the 2015 Paris shooting. It would give New Yorkers a sense that the city is aware of a threat and is working to address it. Internally, blue signals to the Office of Emergency Management it must collect data on the event to adapt the city’s standard response plan. 

Yellow means that threat is now inevitable. Hospital administrators would start implementing plans to increase supplies and staff. Alternate side parking rules would be suspended, while garbage pickups and mass transit service would be modified. Small businesses should take yellow as a warning that their hours might change or close completely. 

Orange would mean the emergency is already happening — such as when the number of positive COVID-19 cases spiked over 1,000. Schools, courts, and all non-essential offices would immediately close. If severe weather has caused us to go orange, evacuation centers are opened. 

Red tells New Yorkers that leaving their home is life-threatening. At this point, each agency’s specific emergency plan would go into place. Pre-identified roads will close to non-emergency vehicle traffic. City government should be ready to deliver food, protective equipment, and other life-saving materials door-to-door. 

Imagine the number of cases we could have prevented, the number of lives saved, if city government had a wholesale plan in place for when a crisis strikes. Instead, our collective anxiety was compounded by the government operating on the fly — obviously without a serious plan for this type of situation and without the people of New York knowing how or being prepared to respond. 

The NY CLEAR Act will make New Yorkers safer. Informational posters will be clearly displayed at every workplace alongside other key documents such as the Department of Labor’s “know your rights” sheet. Every New York City hotel room would provide a mandated pamphlet, so visitors can learn the emergency system quickly.The NY CLEAR Act should also be taught at an age-appropriate level in classrooms so young people will know how to adapt in the event of an emergency. 

It is critical every New Yorker knows how to prepare for an emergency, and how to respond when the time comes. They deserve for New York City to declare an emergency at the right time, and for agencies to be held accountable for their responses. The NY CLEAR Act will mandate a hearing any time the city goes to yellow or higher. When a service is suspended, or when certain plans are put into place, it should require the city to conduct a wholesale look at whether protocols were properly followed and what we can learn to improve our response.

Crises have historically challenged us, well after the actual tragedy. We are judged both by our response in the moment as well as what we did to mitigate future catastrophes. Hurricane Sandy and COVID-19 both cost us too many lives. It’s time we learn our lesson and prepare. The next disaster will come. Whether or not we are ready, that much is clear. 

Nick Roloson is a candidate for the New York City Council in District 22, in Queens. On Twitter @nickroloson.

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It’s Actually the Perfect Time for City Government to Invest in Housing

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Mayor de Blasio makes a housing announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

In the wake of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus shutdown, Mayor de Blasio must find budget savings anywhere he can, while still advancing his mission to make New York “the fairest big city” in America.  

It won’t be easy. But the sudden drop in tax revenue should not stop the mayor from continuing to make one smart investment: creating new affordable housing.

With the pandemic exposing the full extent of the city’s homeless crisis, now is exactly the time to create more affordable and supportive housing, as well as high-quality shelter. Doing so can sharply reduce exorbitant spending on emergency homeless hotels, create good-paying jobs when we need them most, and end the terrible damage homelessness has inflicted on a generation of children.

New York City cannot afford to miss what is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the city’s economy, the mayor found himself stuck in an unwinnable war against homelessness.

Mayor de Blasio created thousands of new, locally-funded rental vouchers for homeless families, helping many return to permanent housing. But the lowest rental housing vacancy rate in decades meant too many of the vouchers went unused, unable to counter the law of supply and demand.

The mayor also launched a record-breaking affordable housing production initiative that likewise helped thousands of homeless people find homes again. But with so many New Yorkers becoming homeless each night, the housing just couldn’t be built fast enough.

The pandemic has changed all this. And while the economic repercussions will be devastating, they also present a promising opportunity for change.

No matter what we do, New York City is likely losing residents now and into the immediate future. With the drop in demand, thousands of overleveraged properties will become available for purchase and conversion to affordable housing. With far fewer tourists visiting the city for the foreseeable future, newly superfluous hotels will be available for pennies on the dollar. Otherwise healthy apartment buildings will need formerly homeless tenants with rent vouchers those tenants can finally use.

With these new conditions suddenly in place, the mayor finally has the chance to lay the foundation for his successor to end widespread homelessness in New York City.

To do so, the city should first maintain – or even increase – capital investment in affordable housing production this year. The city borrows to fund this housing investment, so it has an outsized economic effect: the money creates housing (and jobs) today, but the bonds are paid back over decades. Fortunately, at this time interest rates are low, and the share of the city’s budget going toward borrowing costs is far below the 15% fiscal experts recommend as a cap. In short, we can afford to do this.

The administration has instead proposed slashing the capital housing budget by 40% — roughly half-a-billion dollars annually — this year and next. These cuts will delay the creation of thousands of new affordable housing units right when we need them most, and just as the cost of acquisition and development is falling.

Cutting half-a-billion dollars from the capital budget sounds like a lot of savings. But because the money for long-term investments like affordable housing is borrowed, the cut will only reduce the city’s cost of paying the money back — less than $50 million a year in savings. But in reality,  we won’t save a thing. If these cuts go through, the next mayor will end up spending even more sheltering New Yorkers who remained homeless because the housing was never built.

Of course it’s not enough just to restore the cuts to affordable housing. Despite its newly straitened circumstances, the city should stick to the mayor’s original vision and keep providing rental vouchers to homeless households. It must redirect capital dollars to acquire newly available distressed properties. And it should build housing for the people who need it most: homeless, senior, and very poor New Yorkers, because housing vulnerable people has been proven, over and over again, to reduce public spending on health care, shelter, and other expensive emergency interventions.

Our city’s terrible homeless crisis demands a renewed commitment to creating more housing. Fortunately, few economic activities generate more benefits: such an effort will bring precisely the kinds of increased jobs and consumer spending we need right now to restore the city’s economy. It is the most effective and cost-efficient option available to the mayor to spur the city’s comeback. At the same time, no investment will do more to cement the mayor’s legacy of correcting long-standing systemic inequities that have plagued the city for decades.

Ted Houghton is the President of Gateway Housing, the former Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal and former Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. On Twitter @Gateway_Housing.

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Coronavirus, Climate Change and Coming Together Amid Catastrophe

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The current crisis reminds us of the past and warns us about the future (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

Everyone on Long Island remembers how it felt during Hurricane Sandy. We were paralyzed, waiting for the storm to pass, fearing for our families, homes, and basic needs. When the skies finally cleared, and we saw the scale of the destruction, it was clear that no individual one of us was strong enough, connected enough, or resourced enough to recover alone. We needed each other, we needed our community, we needed to come together. 

Now, we’re facing another disaster, this one a global pandemic that has already sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands, and left one in five Americans unemployed. We need to remember those lessons learned after Sandy. We must understand that we’re in this together. 

The people who were struggling the most to get by before the pandemic started are the ones suffering the most now. Hourly and gig economy workers, the elderly, incarcerated and homeless people, and low-income communities of color are experiencing the most death and economic devastation.

They will also be the ones left behind after the next climate disaster. Long Island is one of the most segregated regions in the country, so it’s no surprise that COVID-19 cases and climate vulnerability are both staggeringly high in communities of color. 

Part of this is because of climate and environmental injustice. A new study from Harvard University has found that exposure to air pollution heightens a person’s risk of dying from COVID-19. Here on Long Island, years of housing and environmental policy have ensured that black communities are stuck next to the worst polluting infrastructure sites. It’s no surprise that years of breathing in car and truck emissions can weaken a person’s lungs and make them more susceptible to COVID-19. 

We can learn our lesson from Sandy and provide relief now by preparing for the future. Recovery funding and programs should be directed towards the most impacted communities, and should help reduce environmental pollution and thus COVID-19 and other vulnerabilities. As soon as it’s safe to do so, we can put people back to work by building renewable-energy and climate-resilient infrastructure, and target hiring and economic development for communities  experiencing the most job and wage loss right now. 

And, we can work to avoid the worst climate disasters. Many upcoming climate events are already “locked in,” but we can still come together to avoid the worst of the worst. New York now has one of the strongest climate laws in the country, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The CLCPA is one of the few laws that calls for emission reductions in line with scientific recommendations to avoid the worst climate outcomes. We can hold our government accountable to the law -- for example, by ensuring it continues to work on the emissions reduction plan during the PAUSE order -- to lessen the risk of worst-case scenario climate disasters in the future. 

Reflecting on Sandy in light of the current moment, it’s clear that we did not learn enough about how to come together to keep people safe. People today are dying alone in overcrowded hospitals and nursing homes because our state and federal governments did not take the necessary action to protect people from catastrophe. We cannot let this happen again — not in our lifetimes, and not for our children, either. 

As we recover from this pandemic, we must link the recovery with the solutions to the climate crisis. We should be investing in a system that places people before profits and addresses the root causes with bold effective action. We are in this together -- as we have seen, the cost of doing nothing is everything.

Lisa Tyson is Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, which works for racial justice, building community wealth, and realizing a just transition to a renewable energy future. On Twitter @LisaTysonLIPC.

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As Construction Sites Reopen, Access to Safety Training Must Too

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Construction workers will be among the first back to work (photo: governor's office)

In the blink of an eye, COVID-19 brought most of New York City’s construction industry to a halt, leaving thousands of hardworking individuals jobless and struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately, Governor Cuomo recently announced a phased plan to reopen the construction industry, which will create an increased demand for workers.

But we can’t forget that as a requirement for employment in New York City’s industry, many construction workers and job applicants will need to complete additional safety training requirements.

Local Law 196, which required construction workers to have 30 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training by December 2019, also requires workers to get an additional 10 hours of training – a total of 40 hours – by this September. That’s just a few months away – and thousands of current or prospective workers still need to meet the deadline.

Prior to the first deadline, Building Skills New York partnered with a wide array of local non-profits and other institutions, such as Hostos Community College and Public Housing Communities, to host OSHA-30 training sessions that helped provide free training to more than 300 workers. And of course, we were far from the only ones stepping up. That kind of work all across the city had a real impact on ensuring that more men and women entering the industry had the training and credentials needed to secure good jobs. 

But now, with social-distancing mandates in place for the foreseeable future, it is not currently possible to receive OSHA training in a traditional classroom setting. That’s why it is critical for public and private sector partners to take two steps on this issue over the coming weeks. 

First, more funding should be made available to connect current and prospective construction workers with virtual OSHA training opportunities. Workforce development groups like Building Skills are already doing this by shifting our digital operations and using remote technology capabilities to hold online OSHA sessions. Amid current virus concerns, this virtual training model is a no-brainer – it protects workers’ health while also giving individuals full access to construction employment opportunities. 

Second, public officials should consider taking careful, data-driven steps to planning out a process for reopening in-person site safety training facilities. While OSHA sessions can be held online, other courses – such as the Department of Buildings’ series of 4-hour, 16-hour, and 32-hour scaffold trainings and the Fire Department’s F-60, G-60, S-92, S-93, and S-94 – must be completed in person. Just as state leaders have developed reopening plans for construction and other industries based on guidance from health experts, the same approach could be applied to spaces that previously housed safety training sessions. 

Regardless of how we get there, it is incredibly important that nonprofits and other organizations are able to fund any necessary training sessions over the coming weeks and months. As we look to rebuild New York City’s economy, we must take into account individuals who live in underserved communities with an existing history of unemployment and underemployment. Current and prospective workers from across the five boroughs deserve the chance to access the city’s construction sector as new jobs become available. 

Despite the city’s current site shutdowns, the construction industry will soon continue to provide real career opportunities for New Yorkers of all backgrounds. And just as public officials have taken a logical, systematic approach to reopening worksites, they must also look to make safety training more accessible to the men and women who will help build the future of our city in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. New funding for virtual courses is a great way to help us do that.

Building Skills looks forward to effectively confronting this new challenge alongside our incredible network of industry and non-profit partners – and we know that these efforts will help ensure that challenge is addressed for workers who need our support.

David Meade is Executive Director of Building Skills New York. On Twitter @BuildSkillsNY.

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Underappreciated and Underserved, Immigrant New Yorkers Need the City to Step Up

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Council Member Carlos Menchaca, the author (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

As in past crises, immigrant New Yorkers are suffering acutely under COVID-19: this time with a cruel twist. While thousands of immigrants work on the frontlines, caring for the sick, cleaning the subways, and keeping us all fed in quarantine, so many are unable to pay rent, keep their businesses afloat, or stay home because of their exclusion from federal relief programs.

That hypocrisy alone should warrant intervention by New York state government, yet it hasn’t. Governor Cuomo has either blamed the federal government for not giving enough aid, or incorrectly claimed, as he did this week, that “the federal government has a number of programs to address” the plight of immigrants already.

The state’s lack of urgency reflects values and priorities as much as fiscal reality. But our city cannot afford to wait for the state to help more than 3 million of our own New Yorkers. We must have the courage to pass a budget that addresses their desperation, primarily because the city’s full recovery depends on it.

In New York City, more than half of immigrants are essential workers, immigrants own half the city’s businesses and contributed $232 billion last year to our GDP. That includes 360,000 undocumented immigrant workers and 48,000 undocumented business owners. A city budget -- due by July 1 -- that excludes immigrants from relief would be astonishingly hypocritical on this basis alone. 

It would also be cruel. According to a survey recently conducted by Make the Road New York, nine out of ten immigrant households have at least one earner who has lost a job or income since the pandemic began. Of unemployed respondents, 88% are out of work because of COVID-19. With nine in ten immigrants also renters, more than half were unable to pay rent in April, and nearly every respondent worries they cannot pay in May.

Compounding this economic insecurity is lack of access to government assistance, as undocumented immigrants were largely excluded from federal relief – such as paid sick leave and unemployment benefits – even though they pay billions, annually, in taxes. Of those surveyed, only 15 percent reported receiving any support from the government at all.

Above all, the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda has proved to be a death sentence for our communities: pre-pandemic expansion of the public charge rule and escalation of immigration enforcement have caused many immigrants to shirk medical care, which puts everyone at risk. All the while, ICE continues to arrest and detain immigrants in COVID-19 infested facilities and the U.S. Department of Justice forces immigration courts to remain open for detained dockets, putting both immigration agents and public defenders at risk.

There is much New York City can do through the budget to help immigrant New Yorkers. Our current situation has exposed the critical gaps our budget fills: funding public defenders for the deportation defense of unaccompanied minors and detained adults; English proficiency classes for New Yorkers to navigate city life and government at all levels; and healthcare programs that are immigrant-led through trusted community partners, to name a few. We must fully renew funding for all immigration legal services and adult literacy programs; allocate funding for culturally sensitive health and mental health-care, and interpretation services like a worker cooperative language bank.

We can also pass existing legislation that would reform our commercial rent market; legalize e-bikes for delivery workers now that state authorization exists; and reform and expand our street vendor licensing system. These bills already enjoy overwhelming City Council support and their passage would send a clear message to immigrant New Yorkers that the city has their backs.

None of these things would come easy, and I appreciate, as a member of the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team, the competing priorities with which we are faced. But immigrants are not a special interest. If we do not secure the well-being of over 3 million New Yorkers, there is no recovery.

It is time for all levels of government to step up and recognize what over 120 grassroots-led mutual aid groups already know: that full recovery depends on the well-being of our immigrant communities. That praise for essential workers is hollow if we exclude most of their ranks from relief. And worse of all, we make a mockery of our collective effort if we leave so many behind.

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca represents parts of Brooklyn and chairs the Council’s immigration committee. On Twitter @CMenchaca.

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What New York City Voters Need to Know About the June Primary Elections

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What voters need to know to vote in June (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

The images of Wisconsin voters standing in line last month starkly illustrated how COVID-19 has triggered a health emergency for our democracy. Here in New York, elections have been postponed or canceled in response to the pandemic. We are taking the first steps towards voting in a new way, via mail-in absentee ballots. With all of these rapid changes, it is no wonder voters are confused about what steps they can take to cast a vote safely and help maintain the health of our democratic system.

In response to these unprecedented circumstances, the Mayor’s DemocracyNYC Initiative and the NYC Votes/Campaign Finance Board have convened a consortium of community-based organizations, good government groups, and advocates to get the word out about voting safely to the hardest-hit communities. Our goal is to make sure voters in these underrepresented communities have the information they need to make use of absentee voting as a safe and effective alternative.

Here is the critical guidance New Yorkers need to safely exercise their right to vote -- and to keep our democracy healthy -- on June 23.

First, all eligible voters may cast a ballot by mail. To do so, city voters must request an absentee ballot by June 16. The Board of Elections will mail voters an absentee ballot application this month with a postage-paid return envelope. But there is no reason to wait. We encourage as many voters as possible to request an application online. Requests can be made online at a new website created by the city’s Board of Elections: The application is now available in Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, and Korean.

Absentee ballots will not be mailed out to all voters; only voters who request an absentee ballot will receive one. Thanks to an executive order from Governor Cuomo, anyone who wants to vote absentee due to the coronavirus pandemic should indicate “temporary illness” as the reason for requesting a ballot.

Voting by mail is a safe and effective way to exercise the right to vote during this public health crisis. Governor Cuomo’s executive order allowing all voters to cast a mail-in ballot means New Yorkers will not face the awful choice between voting and protecting their own health that voters in Wisconsin were forced to make.

As New York contemplates re-opening, in-person voting will be available for the voters who need it. The best way to vote in-person is during the early voting period, June 13-21, when fewer people will be at the poll sites. For the health and safety of everyone, especially poll workers, those who can should vote by mail-in ballot.

The second critical point is that primary elections are happening, whether the Democratic presidential primary is held or not (that matter is currently being decided by the courts). Important primary races for Congress, State Legislature, and municipal offices will be decided on June 23. The vast majority of neighborhoods across the city will have at least one primary contest on that absentee ballot.

To vote in most primary elections, voters must be enrolled in the party holding the primary under rules set by the parties. The state’s look-up tool ( is the best way to check whether your voter registration and party affiliation status makes you eligible to vote in a primary.

While the path is clear to vote safely by mail in June, we are concerned that New Yorkers will not have that option in November. Governor Cuomo’s order making the risk of contracting coronavirus a valid excuse for voting absentee will expire after the primary election. These changes should be considered for future elections to allow safe and secure voting in November.

Voters should not have to choose between health and enjoying the privileges of citizenship. In time of crisis, it is critical New Yorkers participate in choosing who will lead our city in the coming months and years of rebuilding. We urge all eligible voters to request a mail-in ballot and be a part of making those critical choices on June 23.

The undersigned civic leaders are launching a nonpartisan outreach campaign this week to guide New York voters through the 2020 elections. New Yorkers can request an absentee ballot for the June primaries online at To request a ballot by phone, or for help with voting questions, call the Board of Elections hotline 866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-868-3692).




Wayne Ho

President & CEO

Chinese-American Planning Council (CEC)

Betsy Gotbaum

Executive Director

Citizens Union

Prof. Ester Fuchs


Columbia University, WhosOntheBallot

Edward Cuesta

Executive Director

Dominicanos USA

Eliana Santos


Dominicanos USA

Laura Ladd Bierman 

Executive Director

League of Women Voters of NYS

Karen Cummings

Community & Govt Affairs Liaison


Laura Wood

Senior Advisor & General Counsel

Mayor's DemocracyNYC Initiative

Bitta Mostofi


Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

John Park

Executive Director

MinKwon Center for Community Action

Amy Loprest

Executive Director

NYC Campaign Finance Board

Dr. Sarah Sayeed

Chair & Executive Director

NYC Civic Engagement Commission

Megan Ahearn

Program Director


David Estrada

Executive Director

Sunset Park Business Improvement District

Jarret Berg



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Let’s Thank All Caregivers, Not Just the Most Visible

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Thanking all caregivers is essential amid the pandemic (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Long-term care is the fastest growing sector within the health-care industry in New York City, and with 1.2 million New Yorkers now over the age of 65, it will only continue to grow in size and importance over the next 10 years.

Nevertheless, this vital health-care workforce remains largely invisible as most paid long-term care services are provided by direct care workers to homebound individuals. Sadly, when it comes to long-term care, out of sight often means out of mind.

It’s time for our direct care workers — including home health aides, personal care attendants, direct support professionals, and certified nursing assistants — to get the respect and support they deserve. As the lowest-paid workers in the health-care system, typically earning just $21,000 a year, they perform strenuous, isolated work, often without benefits or opportunities for advancement.

Predominantly people of color and immigrants, they too have been rising to the challenge as they continue to care for hundreds of thousands of older people and people with disabilities in their homes and in nursing facilities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

These efforts have clearly helped to reduce the surge in hospitals. Yet, unlike doctors and nurses, who have deservedly received public recognition for their sacrifices, direct care workers have largely been left out of the conversation.

Despite these systemic challenges, there have been some signs of progress amid the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City has designated direct care workers as essential workers, is helping to supply them with personal protective equipment, has opened testing centers for these workers, and has made them eligible for hotel rooms should they need to self-isolate. Recently, the city partnered with One Medical to offer COVID-19 testing and telehealth services, and will prioritize 1199SEIU members and essential workers, many of whom work in long-term care.

Before COVID-19 challenged our systems, city government partnered with the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) to convene direct care providers, trade associations, and Local 1199SEIU (which represents approximately 103,000 direct care workers) to better understand and elevate the value of direct care workers in long-term care.

The strategies we developed to address training and recruitment, career pathways, better integration of direct care workers in health-care systems, improved Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates, and expanded rights and resources for the direct care workforce are more important than ever before. There is a lot of work left for us to do and it will not be easy. But in the interim, let’s start with the number one issue identified by both workers and providers: Respect.

As COVID-19 forces the nation to rethink and reform its approach to health care, direct care workers must be included as a critical part of a reimagined health-care system. For now, let us celebrate New York City’s direct care workers, and thank them for their service.

J. Phillip Thompson is New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS, is President of The New York Academy of Medicine. On Twitter @NYCMayorsOffice, @DrJudySalerno, & @NYAMNYC.

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A Bad Deal at the Municipal Credit Union

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Council Member Dromm, the author (photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)

As we confront the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, millions of residents face serious financial insecurity, and are worried about how they are going to pay their bills. They are worried about themselves and their loved ones getting sick or not being able to work due to the social distancing regulations in place.

For workers at Municipal Credit Union, the largest credit union in New York, the crisis has only made recent negotiations between management and the union representing them worse. 

Over 500,000 city workers depend on MCU for their banking needs, including mortgages, car loans, and checking and savings accounts. Nearly 400 union MCU workers are working hard to ensure that New Yorkers have access to their finances at this crucial and challenging time, but they are also facing the risk of exposure. They need to be assured protection and treatment should they get sick. Many MCU employees have reported that they are not being supplied with enough masks, forcing them to reuse the ones they do get and putting them at higher risk of contraction. 

While all of this goes on, I understand from the workers that MCU management is now attempting to take away sick days, increase health-care premiums, and raise deductibles. These decisions will cost MCU families thousands of dollars more each year to ensure they have access to health care. It is another attempt in a long line of recent actions by MCU management to weaken employee rights. Recent layoffs without union agreement have also meant that there is even less staff to handle the important work that must be done at this moment. 

Last year when the New York State Department of Financial Services took possession of MCU following massive embezzlement by the CEO, things were supposed to turn around. However, they have only gotten worse for hardworking employees. Following the Department's appointment of the National Credit Union Association as conservator and its appointment of the Consultant Management Team to help operate the credit union through conservatorship, Jackson Lewis, a law firm known for their union-busting tactics, was hired. 

Over the last few months, the union has repeatedly requested the ability to bargain over multiple days, and so far there has been refusal to bargain more than one day a week. There have also been questions about Jackson Lewis’ authority to bargain, and when union representatives asked about this authority, the attorney’s response was that the union should file an unfair labor practice charge. These kinds of tactics are hurting workers everyday, making it more difficult for them to provide the essential services needed.

While MCU employees make sure that New Yorkers can walk into a branch and take out money to pay their bills, high-priced attorneys are making thousands of dollars with the goal of permanently damaging workers’ rights. It is just not right.

We face extraordinarily difficult times, and the hardworking OPEIU members who make up MCU should not have to worry about sick time during this COVID-19 pandemic, or their health-care and jobs. It is time for the NCUA, CMT, and MCU management to do the right thing and put an end to these attempts to slash sick time and increase health-care premiums at a time when these essential workers are needed more than ever.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm represents parts of Queens and is the Council’s finance chair. On Twitter @Dromm25.

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From the Front Lines: A Respiratory Therapist’s Plea for the Next COVID-19 Package

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A frontline health-care worker on what's needed next from DC (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

It has been a challenging, frightening time for everyone, but especially for those of us working in health care. Amid all the suffering and anxiety brought about by COVID-19, health-care workers on the frontlines have continued to show up and display strength, faith, and courage in taking care of the most vulnerable.

During these difficult times, I have never seen such dedication displayed by my co-workers in health-care facilities across New York City and throughout the state. At times overwhelmed, emotional, and exhausted as the surge of the virus engulfed us, I’ve never regretted the career path I have chosen.

In 1997, I migrated from Trinidad to New York City and pursued a career in health care as a Respiratory Therapist. During my 18 years as a therapist, I have intubated and managed countless patients on a ventilator at my hospital in Brooklyn. But all of my education and experience has been tested by the challenge of this pandemic.

On a daily basis my co-workers and I experience a massive influx of critically ill patients, each exhibiting new and unexplained symptoms. Brooklyn has had more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19 alone. Additionally, we are all managing the daunting task of caring for our own families and co-workers who are threatened by COVID-19. 

The people at my hospital and medical professionals around the state – many of whom, like me, are proud members of 1199SEIU – are committed to delivering the same high standard of quality health care, regardless of this outbreak. But to do that, we need every piece of our health-care delivery system doing its part: health-care workers, health-care facilities, health insurers, our community, and state and federal government.

The heartfelt thanks and gratitude we have received from our communities – including the nightly rounds of applause – have been overwhelming and are greatly appreciated. But these words cannot save lives. To provide the needed care at this critical and challenging moment, my frontline colleagues and I need help. In particular, we need the federal government to provide the financial assistance that my co-workers, our patients, and our state need to deliver quality health care.

As they continue to discuss the next stimulus package, Congress and President Trump need to do the following:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Whether they’re working in a hospital, clinic, nursing home or delivering home care, all frontline workers must have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep themselves – and their patients – safe. It’s frustrating for me and my colleagues that Congress could ever think this is up for debate. We can’t deliver great care if we can’t protect ourselves from the diseases we’re fighting each day.

Crisis Pay: Frontline healthcare workers who are risking their lives every day they go to work should receive some sort of premium pay that recognizes their courage and the sacrifices they make day in and day out.

And as offices and schools alike are closed, many parents are juggling working from home while caring for their children. This is no doubt a challenging task. But for parents like me and many of those I work with, working from home is not an option, and the unexpected costs of finding daycare for our children have added a financial burden to the physical and emotional burdens we’re undergoing.

Medicaid Funding: Medicaid covers a third of New Yorkers, including millions of children and seniors. As the pandemic continues and unemployment skyrockets, more and more New Yorkers need that coverage. Our Medicaid program is already stretched to the limit and is about to break unless the federal government does its part and provides more funding for this critical program. If our hospitals don’t survive, our patients don’t. Medicaid funding is essential for us to continue doing the work we’re doing to battle this crisis.

In recent days, we have begun to see the light at the end of this tunnel. But our work is far from done.

The next COVID-19 relief package is being negotiated on Capitol Hill right now and must address the lack of resources across New York. If we get the support we need and deserve from Congress and the Trump administration, together we will win this health-care battle. We, as frontline health-care workers, are committed to do our job. Congress and the President have to do theirs.

Allison Trubett has worked as a respiratory therapist in Brooklyn for 18 years. She is a member of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

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Carbon Free Is How We Build Back From COVID-19

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Is the post-coronavirus future renewable? (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

There have been many hard-learned lessons from COVID-19, but by far the most tragic – paid for with the lives of tens of thousands of people – is that when it comes to dealing with a public health crisis, preparation and proactive planning is the only approach that can keep our worst nightmares from becoming a reality. While New York is still far from reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, many inside and outside of government have rightly begun to envision what a restart to our economy should look like. 

It is in this conversation that we have a unique opportunity to get the restart right by appropriately investing in a cleaner, greener, and more energy-resilient economy that will have the dual benefit of driving much-needed job and economic growth statewide while also helping fortify our defense against the next impending crisis for which there can be no vaccine – that of climate change and its impacts. By ensuring that governments like New York State make our long-term climate change goals a priority as part of the economy-wide restart, we can meet our immediate economic and public health concerns, as well as better position our renewable and clean energy industry to reach our broader climate change goals.

While the public health concerns and dangers of coronavirus are very serious and science should be the determining guide for any economic recovery plans, we shouldn’t lose sight of the climate crisis and how these goals are inextricably linked. New York residents are clearly being harmed by a changing climate caused by carbon emissions, with unequal impacts on the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. By starting anew with a clean energy economy, we can expect to greatly reduce the risk of the increasingly serious effects of climate change.

The evidence of New York’s changing climate are readily apparent across every region of the state: a 74% increase in extreme precipitation since the 1950s; an increase in extreme storms like superstorm Sandy, which cost $40 billion in reconstruction and tourism losses; extreme drought in the Finger Lakes; flooding along Lake Ontario’s shoreline; and overwintering pests destroying our forests and crops. Sea level rise is also impairing coastal communities and infrastructure such as airports and sewage treatment plants. Flooding disrupts communities, agriculture, and water quality. New York State’s temperature has increased 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit since 1897. Action is clearly warranted. 

Unfortunately, the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to protect the environment; a recent New York Times analysis found that of more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under the Trump Administration during the last three years, 16 concerned air pollution and emissions.

Without sufficient action at the national level to enact any kind of impact solution to climate change, like a national carbon fee and dividend, it’s up to each state to implement clean energy policies. Governor Cuomo has thoughtfully proposed a gradual approach to reopening the economy, with lower risk activities beginning before others and the private sector doing its part by adjusting to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus. That same logic – with New York seeking to implement its own plan irrespective of federal inaction – can and should be applied to investing in carbon-free policies that can help restart our “clean” economy in a safe manner while also advancing climate crisis goals.

New York has always been a national leader in fighting the climate crisis. Last summer, the state enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a historic climate law that calls for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent of the state’s electricity supply to be emissions-free by 2040. 

In an effort to reach those goals, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) has proposed a carbon-pricing plan. Nearly all leading economists agree that carbon pricing -- which puts a price on carbon emissions to disincentivize such pollution and fund clean energy projects -- is the most efficient single step we can take to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it costs the government virtually nothing, hits nearly every sector of the economy, and protects consumers from rising energy costs.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby New York (CCLNY), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization and member of the Carbon Free New York coalition, fully endorses the NYISO carbon pricing plan. If enacted, the plan will reduce carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 22 percent and generate up to $691 million in annual economic benefits by 2025. 

According to a report by the Alliance for Clean Energy, the NYISO plan will not only accelerate the pace at which the state moves towards its goals for 2030 and 2040 laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, but it will also demonstrate to the world New York’s ability to integrate aggressive environmental goals with a competitive market structure. And it will amplify the renewable energy industry, reducing pollution in a densely populated area, while positively impacting public health outcomes – goals that have become even more important to our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. 

For a safer and healthier New York, we must be carbon free. 

Lynn Meyer is New York State Co-coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCLNY), an international nonpartisan volunteer organization that advocates for federal carbon fee and dividend legislation and a member of the CarbonFreeNY coalition.

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