Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Immigrant Drivers Win A Victory

Should people who are not in this country legally have the legal right to drive an automobile? Is a driver’s license anything more than a way to assure public safety on public roads? Should it be used officially for identification?

These are issues being debated across the nation and in Congress. In New York, a crackdown by the Department of Motor Vehicles reportedly resulted in the suspension of thousands of immigrants’ driver's licenses. Immigrant advocacy groups organized press conferences and protests -– and a lawsuit.

Now, a Manhattan judge has ruled in that lawsuit that New York residents cannot be denied driver’s licenses based on their immigration status.

Acting Justice Karen Smith of New York State Supreme Court has barred the Department of Motor Vehicles from revoking the licenses of people who lack valid Social Security numbers, and prohibited the DMV from considering immigration status when evaluating applications for driving permits, licenses or renewals, as well as for non-driver photo ID's. Justice Smith has stricken the department’s requirement of proof that a license applicant is lawfully in the United States.

Until 2002, the Department of Motor Vehicles accepted foreign birth certificates and passports among the documents it could use to verify a would-be driver’s identity, age and fitness to operate a motor vehicle. But seven months after September 11th, the department began requiring proof that applicants were authorized to be in this country. Foreign documents were no longer acceptable.

In Cubas v. Martinez, Justice Smith found that the DMV had exceeded its authority in promulgating rules that were never passed by the legislature. The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Department of Motor Vehicles was seeking a way to prevent illegal or undocumented immigrants from obtaining licenses and that the motive was the prevention of terrorism, a role that exceeds the powers of the DMV.

"The DMV cannot be an enforcer for security," wrote Justice Smith. "It simply lacks expertise and, more importantly, it has not been empowered by the state legislature to carry out that function." The required documents must come from the Department of Homeland Security which has incorporated the formerly named Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"Those plaintiffs who face suspension of their licenses are living with a sword of Damocles over their heads," Justice Smith wrote. "Many live in areas where there is no easy access to public transportation, are dependent on driving their cars to carry out the daily tasks of living. According to the complaint, as a result of the inability to drive, plaintiffs face the inability to either partially or fully perform their job duties. A vast reduction of income or a complete loss of income further threatening the family's ability to pay for medication or for the parochial school in which their child is enrolled. As a result of these denials, at least one of the plaintiffs has been unable to take a sick child for ongoing medical treatments for her epilepsy or carry on all of the other daily tasks of living such as shopping for food, taking children to school, etc."

In addition, the court expressed a concern that the wholesale denial of motor vehicle licenses to persons who are unable to comply with the immigration status requirements of the Department of Motor Vehicle immigration will lead to much more serious consequences, such as people driving without valid licenses, and hence without insurance, and an even greater inability to track the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of New York residents.

"We must move forward recognizing that the world has changed, and do everything we can to prevent [terrorism] from recurring," the judge said. But the Department of Motor Vehicles "cannot be an enforcer for the Department of Homeland Security," and it cannot decide on its own to play a part in this; doing so would "usurp the function of the legislature...

"DMV cannot make current immigration documents, or any other documentary proof of one's immigration status, the only documents that are acceptable to verify an applicant's identity because such a policy creates a de facto fifth requirement [that the driver be legally allowed to be in this country] that is not currently part of the statute," the decision said.

Justice Smith has stayed enforcement of her order until it is decided by the appellate courts.

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice 

Civil Rights Restoration Act: Opposed by Mayor, Stalled in Council

A bill to strengthen the city’s human rights law is sponsored by a veto-proof majority of 38 members of the City Council, supported by a coalition of more than 30 civil rights groups, and passed through three public hearings, but it has yet to be voted on.

“We’re going to get that bill done after we fix some technicalities,” Council Speaker Gifford Miller told me (though he never provided clarification of what “technicalities” needed fixing). On the other hand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly opposes the bill, Intro 22, the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act.

When I first wrote about this billin December 2003, its chief sponsor, Councilmember Gale Brewer, said, "The administration doesn't love our bill, but we're going to plow ahead. I'm working to expand the coalition and hope to pass it early next year." Now, Brewer says, “We’re trying to get a bill that we can get passed.” This time, she said it would be done by the end of this year.

Brewer was hopeful when Human Rights Commissioner Patricia Gatlingappeared at a budget hearing before the General Welfare Committee on March 14 and, in response to a question, expressed support for this civil rights bill. Brewer said the commissioner’s response marked “a big change” in the administration’s stance.

But at an April 14 hearing on the bill itself, Gatling cited two “areas of concern,” objecting to the heart of the bill.

One is a provision that requires the Commission to do “thorough” investigations into discrimination complaints, saying such a standard “would undermine every Commission decision, expose complainants, respondents, and the Commission to increased litigation, and divert resources from other important matters.”

Gatling also testified that the key section of the bill that “instructs us to interpret the [City] Human Rights Lawmore liberally than existing law without setting the actual standard will be difficult if not impossible for covered entities (including city agencies) and the entire legal community, including judges and the Commission itself, to follow.” But when pressed for specific language that the administration would accept, Gatling did not respond.

Bob Perry, legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, disputed Gatling’s objections. “The provisions are quite reasonable,” he said. “Our City Council has a great history of protecting our civil rights as evidenced in the early 1990s,” when the last strengthening of the human rights law was enacted under Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Mayor David Dinkins. “But we’ve seen a continued curtailment of that legislative intent and all this bill is designed to do is to restore those rights as originally intended by the Council.”

Gatling's office said it was not able to provide a spokesperson for the City Commission on Human Rights to address these concerns.

What The Law Would Do

The Civil Rights Restoration Act would do six main things, according to Craig Gurian, a former chief counsel of the law enforcement division of the City Commission on Human Rights who worked on the last big revision in 1991 and who is now executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York.

First and foremost, it states that the “City’s Human Rights Law has been construed too narrowly to ensure protection of the civil rights of all persons covered by the law.” It says, “Interpretations of federal and New York State civil and human rights law shall not be used to limit or restrict the provisions of this title from being construed more liberally than those laws to accomplish the purposes of this title.”

Gurian said, “It protects the city law against cutbacks by an increasingly conservative judiciary. Concerns about this provision are misplaced. Judges simply need to consider what interpretation of the law best achieved its broad purposes, not treat city law as a mere carbon copy of federal. Requiring independent construction is an instruction that should not be difficult for judges to follow.”

Second, it provides stronger protection against retaliationwhen you file a discrimination case. Some judges, Gurian said, look for material harm before recognizing negative actions against a complaining employee as retaliation. Under the present law, something like getting transferred all the way across the city might not be held to be retaliation. “What’s best is to prevent retaliation,” he said.

Third, the bill allows for attorney’s fees even if a case is settled. “This is important when the case is not about damages, but changing policy,” Gurian said. Without such fees, attorneys are much less likely to take these cases in the first place. The provision in the bill allowing for them corrects a United States Supreme Court decision a few years ago that held that attorney fees are not available when a case is settled. “It gave defendants an incentive to resist, drive up costs, settle, and financially drain the plaintiffs,” he said.

Fourth, the bill would increase civil penaltiesavailable when cases are brought administratively, i.e., to the Human Rights Commission. The current cap is $50,000 where willfulness is not established, $100,000 when it is. The bill raises those figures to $125,000 and $250,000 respectively to give the penalties some impact, especially when courts are prone to use the cap as a penalty only for the largest and richest defendants.

Fifth is the requirement for “thorough investigations.”While the Commission objects to the word in the City bill, it is the standard under the federal Fair Housing Act which mandates city and state agencies “engage in timely, comprehensive, and thorough fair housing complaint investigations.” Gurian said, “’Thoroughness’ would mean interviewing fact witnesses in discrimination cases, not just taking the word of a defense attorney.”

Finally, the bill makes “partnership status” a protected categoryunder the Human Rights Law. The provision is a first step towards restoring protection for unmarried couples. The New York State Court of Appeals now holds that under the existing “marital status” category, only an individual’s status (a married, divorced, or single person) is covered rather than the status of a couple. Thus, a landlord who does not want to rent to a couple living together without benefit of marriage can legally discriminate against them. This contradicts a 1977 decision of the Human Rights Commission, but all that is added by this 2005 proposal is the new category of “partnership status,” which is defined as applying only to legally registered domestic partners. Live-in lovers are still at risk, but advocates hope that the bill's independent construction provision will cause courts to reexamine marital status coverage more broadly.

Commissioner Gatling supports the addition of “partnership status” but is opposing another pending human rights bill, Intro 57, requiring the posting of the Human Rights Law at all covered establishments. She testified that it would require the printing of “at least half a million” signs and would cost “3-5 million dollars, an amount that exceeds the Commission’s entire tax levy budget, which is currently below three million dollars.” She also said her agency “has no mechanism to issue and adjudicate notices of violation.”

New York State has a requirement that its human rights law be posted in covered workplaces and public accommodations, but the City law has more and different categories.

Tom Smith, a veteran gay activist and past president of the Stonewall Democratic Club who has been pushing the posting bill for a decade said, “Thousands of people don’t even know a human rights law exists and how they’re covered and that the city has set a higher standard that the federal and state governments. It is important for everybody to know their rights and for businesses to know what they cannot do in terms of discrimination.” He said Gatling’s estimate of costs were way out of line, noting he could get three-color signs retail for 59 cents at Kinko’s and that done in bulk, the signs could be produced for one or two cents apiece.


The life Bruce McMarion Wright, the attorney, judge, poet, and civil rights leader who died at age 86 on March 27, was celebrated at City College’s Aaron Davis Hall on June 4 before an overflow crowd of several thousand people. Among those offering remembrances were Harlem’s powerbrokers and Wright’s contemporaries--former Mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson, and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.

Sutton recalled that when he represented Malcolm X, Wright offered to help with the legal work. Sutton told Wright he didn’t want him to be out front. “He was my ‘Deep Throat,’” Sutton said.

Paterson said that as a young attorney, Wright was in a courtroom and heard the judge make a racist remark to a black woman. Wright forced the judge to publicly apologize, despite being urged by some colleagues to let it pass.

Wright’s son Keith, now a Harlem Assemblyman, said that as a child, he and his father and brother were refused entry onto a Manhattan bus by a racist driver. “Dad put us boys out in front blocking the bus until the driver relented,” Keith Wright said.

Bruce Wright’s longtime law clerk, Debbie Woll, said that working for the judge was an experience. Strangers who knew of his reputation for championing social justice would just show up to see him in chambers. “A court officer would call upstairs and say, ‘So-and-so is here to see Judge Wright.’ Bruce would say, ‘Never heard of him. Send him up!”

His son Patrick told a story of how a cop once stopped Bruce’s mother, who was white and walking with her little son. “Is this Negro boy bothering you, ma’am,” the cop said. His mother replied, “Officer, this boy has been bothering me for as long as I can remember.”

Keith Wright noted that his father, derided as “Turn ‘Em Loose Bruce” by the police union and some of the tabloids for his policy of not imposing punitive bail, “taught us to question authority.”

Rev. Herb Daughtry, himself a civil rights activist, invited Wright, described as a “devout atheist,” to give the Easter sermon at his Brooklyn church at the height of the controversy over his bail policies. When a reporter asked after the service what Wright thought of the Police Benevolent Association’s condemnation of him, he replied, “My father told me never to get in a pissing contest with a skunk.”

Wright was once questioned about why he went into his office at 5 AM. “Because the white man was there a half hour earlier,” he was said to reply. He was also said to want to be remembered more for his poetry than for being a judge. One of his poems was read by his two grandchildren, Jared and Jordan.

In a video interview by the celebration’s host, Gil Noble of WABC-TV’s “Like It Is,” Wright said, “I’ve never grown up and it ruined several of my marriages, but I hope I never will.”

An extended excerpt of Wright’s book “Black Robes, White Justice” is available at

Andy Humm is a former member of the City Commission on Human Rights. He is co-host of the weekly "Gay USA" on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (34 on Time-Warner; 107 on RCN) on Thursdays at 11 PM.  
































The Education Equality Act

When Catalina Martinez, a Mexican immigrant, first received a notice from her son’s school, she did not think much about it because she didn’t understand what the letter said. But that soon changed after several notices arrived. She became anxious about her son and suspected that he might have a problem.

“I need to understand what is going on with my son, ”Martinez, a mother of four, spoke in Spanish through a translator. “But I don’t really understand English very well.”

Martinez eventually went to her son’s junior high school and found that those notices were sent to let her know that her son had not been attending classes.

“There are thousands of parents like me out there,” she said.

With foreign born residents at an all time high in the city, Martinez is one of more than 25 percent of New York City parents, according to New York Immigration Coalition, who are excluded from participating in their children education because of their language barrier.

But the government is trying to do something about it. Intro 464: The Education Equity Act was introduced in the City Council by council members Hiram Monserrate and David Yassky. The legislation requires the Department of Education to translate documents, such as report cards and notices, into the eight most widely spoken languages-- Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Italian, French, Yiddish, Korean and Polish -- and provide interpretation services for parents who don’t speak English.

With the hope to make their concerns heard, Martinez and other parents gathered recently at City Hall to demand passage of that bill.

“This is the least the city can do for immigrants,” said Andrew Friedman of the Make the Road By Walking, a non-profit group that organized the rally. The group also organized a campaign for children and parents to write postcards to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and education committee chair Eva Moscowitz to urge support of the bill.

Like many other parents, Nabia Duque believed the legislation would help her to be more involved with her kids.

“When I go to the PTA meeting, I don’t understand what happened half of the time,” she said in Spanish through a translator. “I felt so left out and after a while I just got up and left.”

Some parents said some schools tried to help non-English speaking parents but they lack funding and resources to give proper translation services.

“They are using [bilingual] children as translators,” said Vladimir Epststein of the Metropolitan Russian Parents Association. “Most of the time they make a lot of mistakes.”

This year the Department of Education created a new translation and interpretation unit and promised to spend additional $7 million on the program. Citing this new initiative, the department has expressed opposition to the legislation arguing that it is unnecessary and costly.

Friedman argued that the department plan is temporary. “They only promise to spend that $7 million in one year. Intro 464 is much more specific and comprehensive.”

An estimated cost of implementing The Education Equity Act is reportedly $20 million. “If you can find $200 million to fund tax rebate, you can definitely fund the translation,” he said.

Over half of the city council members supported Intro 464 but some Republican councilmembers have asked the mayor to come out publicly against it. So far Mayor Bloomberg has not expressed his position on the bill.

“The act diminishes motivation for parents to learn English and in turn prolongs their time to fully immerse into American society,” said Republican councilmember James Oddo. “There are more than 180 languages spoken in the public schools so the selection of eight to translate is not fair to other groups”

Some parents said that they have been studying English. “I am taking classes,” said a Brooklyn mother Irania Sanchez, “ But I don’t want to wait until my English is perfect to be involved in my daughter’s education.”

An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen. 



















Charge Or Release!

When I graduated from Midwood High School a dozen years ago, the community surrounding it represented what is best about the city - the diversity of everyday living - something that was evident each time we ate at the diner at Flatbush Junction with its predominantly African American customers, or walked through the tree-lined streets of the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, or caught the bus at Little Pakistan on Coney Island Avenue

A decade later, Little Pakistan, one of the communities that make up the neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, has undergone an arresting change. The Pakistani Embassy estimates an exodus of as many as 15,000 within the past few years, with formerly bustling stores reporting a 40 percent drop in business, and mosques once so overcrowded during services that worshippers laid their prayer rugs on the sidewalk now one-third empty on Fridays.

Midwood's residents fled as a direct consequence of the government's new antiterrorism policies. The impact on this one community is part of a larger narrative on the impact of these policies on many lives, in particular those of people guilty of no crime. But this will not end with Midwood's Little Pakistan.

Since 9/11 the government has resurrected an old and disproved formula to violate civil liberties for a temporary sense of security. Widespread ethnic and religious profiling of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men living in the United States, and a relentless attack on immigrants' rights are commonplace today. Thousands of New York City residents have been detained, deported, or interrogated by the federal government.

In New York City, what began as profiling and detentions in Midwood, quickly spread to attacks on other rights and liberties, including the right to freedom of speech, expression, and association guaranteed to us all by the First Amendment. During last summer's Republican National Convention, city officials once again used the national security card to curtail New Yorkers' right to political expression and association. Just some of the tactics used by the police that left a chilling impact on New Yorkers' First Amendment rights include the closing of Central Park to political rallies; the mass arrests of hundreds of innocent individuals; the lengthy detentions of individuals charged with minor violations; and the widespread police videotaping of lawful protest activity.

Particularly disturbing were the cases of hundreds of individuals detained by the police with no access to a judge for excessive periods beyond what's permitted by law. During the Republican National Convention, hundreds of demonstrators were detained for 30, 40, or even 50 hours without arraignment after arrest for protest-related activities. As the months progressed and the overwhelming majority of the 1,800 arrests at the convention were dismissed, advocates began studying the issue and looking for ways to solve the problem once and for all.

That is why the Charge or Release bill is scheduled to be introduced in the City Council this week by Councilmember Bill Perkins. The legislation will address the serious injustice caused by prolonged detention without arraignment -- injustice not limited to immigrants. It is a response to the general attack on civil liberties post-9/11, and to problems faced by communities of color in New York City on a daily basis.

Each month in New York City, thousands of individuals are detained by the police for periods exceeding the 24 hours permitted before seeing a judge. A recent study by the NYCLU and its Bill of Rights Defense Campaign, a project I direct, found that during the months of October and November 2004, more than 16,000 individuals were held for longer than 24 hours. In Bronx County, 62 percent of arrestees were arraigned after 24 hours of detention, in violation of New York case law.

To understand the severity of the issue one must understand that bringing an arrestee before a judge for arraignment is more than a technicality of the law. The arraignment is the first time since the arrest that individuals are formally informed of the charges against them, their right to counsel and their right to seek bail. It is the first time that individuals who have been held for hours incommunicado may finally communicate with their counsel, family and friends.

Adding insult to injury, the majority of those detained in violation of the 24 hour mandate are charged with low level offenses, such as misdemeanors or violations, and would likely face no jail time if convicted. Yet while they wait unnecessarily in often overcrowded detention facilities, many are forced to miss work or school, or must urgently attempt to locate child care. Moreover, the prolonged detention of political demonstrators keeps them from taking part in ongoing protests and discourages others from participating in future demonstrations. This chills our right to freedom of speech and association.

The Charge or Release bill will require that the New York Police Department and the Department of Correction fulfill their arrest processing duties in an expeditious and timely manner to ensure arraignment by a judge within 24 hours of arrest. The bill also provides the New York City Council oversight over the arrest-to-arraignment process. It will create transparency where this is little now. (The bill only addresses problems faced by arrestees in New York City detained by the local police; it does not address the detention of immigrants by the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI, which are federal agencies.)

Future generations will remember the post-9/11 era as a time of great controversies in the United States. It didn't begin this way. Right after 9/11, New Yorkers and people from the across the country were united in their remembrance of the victims of those terrible attacks, and in a resolve to prevent future attacks from happening. Yet today, the post-9/11 era has come to symbolize opportunism and a time when civil liberties are placed in danger by ineffective government measures that do little to protect the nation, yet threaten our core values. The Charge or Release bill will restore some of those rights that have been needlessly lost.

Udi Ofer is the director of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign for the New York Civil Liberties Union


Bully Busting

Bully Busting

For Liliya Kane, a young immigrant from Russia, the problems began when she started seventh grade in a New York City public school. Her fellow students pelted her with spitballs and wads of paper, stole her diary and paid a boy to ask her out on a date. "Every day there was something new and something more horrible," Kane said. "I grew to hate everything that had to do with my nationality and my culture. I couldn't bring myself to completely trust anybody."

Kane told of her experiences at a recent City Council hearing. At the same meeting, several Asian high school students described being beaten up by a larger group of African-American teenagers. The lesbian mother of a third grader said classmates ridiculed her daughter, telling her that her parents were "disgusting."

New York City schools officially prohibit bullying, but verbal abuse, taunting, menacing, sexual harassment and physical violence pervade many schools. To confront the problem, the city has opened a high school for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered students - a frequent target of school bullies - and City Council passed an anti-bullying bill over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's objections. Now, the mayor refuses to enforce the law. The state has an anti-bullying policy, although legislation aimed at the problem remains stalled in the legislature.

Experts debate which measures work and which don't. But adults no longer dismiss bullying as just part of growing up. Most now agree that harassment wreaks lingering psychological damage, interferes with learning, and can lead to further, sometimes extreme, violence.


Fighting, teasing, taunting and arguments are commonplace in schools and on the streets. Bullying, though, according to the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Newsletter, goes beyond simple squabbling or even fist-fighting to entail "a power imbalance between the bully and the target" that can spring from differences in size, strength, skill, popularity or gender. Sexual orientation and race can also be factors. Bullying can range from an outright act -- hitting or insulting -- to more subtle but equally damaging acts such as excluding the victim from the group.

Ironically, the word bully derives from the Dutch word boel, for lover, but by the mid-1600s had come to mean "harasser of the weak." The 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days depicts Tom's efforts to deal with a cowardly bully at the notorious British Rugby School.

"I was bullied. No one has not been bullied," Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund told the Washington Post.

In her autobiography, Hillary Clinton recalls being bullied as a new kid on the block in a Chicago suburb. "Every time I walked out the door, with a bow in my hair and hopeful look on my face, the neighborhood kids would torment me, pushing me, knocking me down and teasing me until I burst into tears and ran back in the house," the senator said. The abuse continued until her mother forced her to go back outside and stand up for herself.

And bullying is not limited to schools - or even to children. An entire institute studies workplace bullying. Domestic abuse is often another term for bullying of children, partners and the elderly.

Some of the opposition to President George W. Bush's nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations centers around allegations that Bolton is a bully - or, as former State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford phrased it, a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of a guy."

Other grownups cited as bullies include rapper Eminem - "the bullied boy turned bully," in the words of a Boston Globe critic - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose taunts of "girlie men" have become the staple of satire, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, whose bullying of her staff provide grist for the roman a clef "The Devil Wore Prada."


The spate of deadly school shootings beginning in the 1990s helped move bullying from being a personal issue to a social and political one. Of 41 school shooters studied (.pdf) by the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, two-thirds felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured before the shooting, with many having been the victims of "longstanding and severe bullying and harassment,' according to a study. "It is reasonably clear," psychologist Elliot Aronson wrote, "that a major root cause of the recent school shootings is a school atmosphere that ignores, or implicitly condones, the taunting, rejection, and verbal abuse to which a great many students are subjected."


If kids feel they are being bullied, experts say they should go to a trusted adult for help and tell them truthfully what is going on.

Bully Stoppers has a list of 25 Great Comeback Lines," that students can use when they are teased or harassed, ranging from "You really know your insults," to "The real you can't be this mean." The group also advises children to be accompanied by friends on the street or schoolyard, since bullies are more likely to prey on children who are alone.

Parents should be alert to signs their children are being bullied. If there's a problem, they should discuss it with a teacher, guidance counselor or school administrator. It helps if the parents knows what school policies are in place to battle bullying.

Some seemingly obvious responses to bullying prove counterproductive, according to experts. Parents, should not, for example, suggest that their child try to avoid a bully or hit back. And parents should not approach the bully's parents, who will often simply take their child's side, leading, to further retaliation.

At the same time, research has indicated how pervasive bullying is. A 2001 study of students in 8th through 11th grades by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that "four of five students--boys and girls--report that they have experienced some type of sexual harassment in school."

A Los Angeles study of 192 sixth-graders concluded that almost half had been bullied at least once during a five-day period. "We knew a small group gets picked on regularly, but we � didn't know how much bullying we would find over a few random days," Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychologist and co-author of the study, has said.

"Building Blocks to Safety," a Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8 to 15 year olds found that more students cited teasing and bullying as "big problems" than mentioned drugs, alcohol, racism, AIDS, or pressure to have sex.

Connie Cuttle, director of Student Engagement for the city Department of Education, said that national research shows that the problem peaks in the middle grades and starts to fall off in the ninth grade. Teacher Frank Jump agrees the problem reaches an apex in middle school. "They don't know what is going on with their bodies and it is out of control," he said. "They are also testing out how they are perceived by others and where they fit in the scheme," he said.

Victims of bullying feel sick more often than their classmates, get lower grades and miss more school, Adrienne Nishina, who also worked on the UCLA study, told Time magazine. But the bullying also has effects on the perpetrators, with studies finding that bullies are far more likely than other children to go on to delinquent and even criminal behavior. And students who simply witness bullying can feel angry and anxious. "When kids pay attention to their environment, witnessing bullying often makes them feel bad," Juvonen has said.


As an art and health teacher at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, Jump sees more than his share of bullying. Most of it is racially motivated, he says, sometimes within the same race because someone is perceived to be "too white" or "too black."

"A girl in my sixth grade class who was tall and dark was getting picked on by black kids who called her 'burnt cookie.' I would intervene and say, 'Excuse me. I can't believe this is happening in my classroom,'" Jump said. "I ended up telling the girl, 'They hate you because you are beautiful,' and that became her defense. She started looking at herself more closely and saying, 'Maybe I am beautiful.'"

Jump says that in classes with very low functioning students, "bullying is almost constant. I have one class where it is such a problem that I can barely teach a lesson."

Youth Communications, which works with city teenagers, has compiled "Sticks and Stones," a collection of essays on bullying. In one, Nadishia Forbes writes that, growing up in the Caribbean, "I never really worried about whether my clothes matched." But she continues, in a New York junior high school she became a "perfect target" because of her immigrant status and the way she dressed. The bullying escalated from giggles and pointing to having "kick me" signs stuck on her back. "I would go to school each day with my heart pounding," she wrote.

Writing from the other perspective, Julio Garcia acknowledges being part of a "pretty brutal" gang of 8 to 10 year olds, who "beat up smaller kids" and said "nasty, disrespectful things to women." He credits getting involved in karate with turning him away from bullying. "At the dojo," he wrote of the karate training hall, "I learned respect for people and objects."


The city's school discipline code, (in pdf format) which describes violations ranging from cutting class to shooting someone, bans bullying. It bars students from "engaging in intimidation and bullying behavior, threatening, stalking or seeking to coerce or compel a student or staff member to do something; engaging in verbal or physical conduct that threatens another with harm, including intimidation through the use of epithets or slurs involving race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, religious practices, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability."

But some advocacy groups and City Council members felt this was not enough. So, last July, the council passed an anti-bullying bill, the Dignity for All Students Act. It requires the city Department of Education to establish policies and guidelines that prohibit harassment and bullying, and to create a system for tracking and reporting incidents.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, the main sponsor of the bill, said it responds to deficiencies in the discipline code. "Teachers tell us that they don't have the supportive mechanisms necessary to deal with the problem of bullying and that they are pressured not to report things because it would make the school look bad," he said

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ridiculed the council measure as "silly" and vetoed it. After the council overrode the veto, the administration declared the law "illegal" and refused to enforce it. Councilmember Alan Gerson said the council is preparing to go to court to get the administration to comply with the law.

The general counsel to the city education department, Michael Best, said the state's existing Safe Schools Against Violence in Education law pre-empts the city law. But supporters of the Dignity for All Students Act say that, unlike the city law, the existing state law does not specifically address bias-related harassment and attacks.

Advocates have proposed a state Dignity for All Students Act. The Democrat-controlled State Assembly overwhelmingly passes it every year, but the Republican-led Senate objects to listing categories of protection in the bill--especially "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" and expression. The Bloomberg administration says it supports the state version of the bill, even as it refuses to implement the city measure, which has many similar requirements for reporting, intervention, and training.

Bully Police USA, a group that monitors efforts to deal with bullying, gives New York State a grade of F on the issue. "If a state doesn't have a law, it is a crapshoot to see how the individual school or even a district will address the problem," says Tom Letson, a middle school counselor in New Jersey who works with an organization called Bully Stoppers.


The city Department of Education catalogued 1,769 incidents of harassment in New York City public schools last year �- an average of about one and a half per school. The department only counts incidents that require a police report.

Critics question how the number could be so low, but Rose Albanese-DePinto, director of School Intervention and Development insists "reporting must happen of all incidents." Students or parents are first supposed to report incidents to teachers who are supposed to convey them to principals who can make their reports in an online system.

Connie Cuttle said the education department has not collected any data on how bullying affects learning, absences, grades, and student mental health in New York City specifically.

Parents have testified about their frustration with getting school administrators to confront bullying. Malika Simmons, whose fourth-grade son attends PS 161 in Crown Heights, said her son was bullied continuously, but administrators would not intervene. "I feel bullied as a parent," she told the City Council.

Joy Tomchin, who has a 10-year old son at PS 41 in Greenwich Village, said her son was teased for being fat, a lavatory was designated the "faggot bathroom," and youngsters were bullied for being Asian, for their amounts of body hair, learning disabilities, being adopted, female, short, tall, or wearing the wrong clothes. Her complaints about such behavior, Tomchin said, "were met by silence."

Albanese-DePinto said parents who do not get satisfaction from their principal should go to regional superintendents or the central administration if necessary

Councilmember Gerson does see "greater attention within the [education] department" to bullying, which he attributes at least partly to the council's action.

The Department of Education trains staff in how to deal with conflict resolution and intergroup relations among students. It operates Harvey Milk High School for students harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, an open admission that the school system is not safe for these students.

Cuttle said the city is trying to apply two national programs, one for elementary and middle schools and the other for high schools throughout the system. The department will train teams in every school to instruct the staff on these techniques.

Some of the anti-bullying programs derive from the work of Norwegian educator Dan Olweus, who called for involving the whole school. According to Tom Roderick, executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility-New York Metro, "we have to show the kids ways to be allies for kids being targeted. And...we have to provide individual counseling for both the bullies and the targets."

But anti-bullying programs cost money and take time. Since discussions of bullying inevitably deal with the sensitive issues of race, sex and sexual orientation, schools can be reluctant to confront it in the classroom.

While some studies question the effectiveness of such programs, other studies conducted in the 1990s in England and Norway found they could cut bullying by 30 percent to 50 percent.

"If we begin to evolve the youth culture to the point where it is cool to be empathetic, just as we have made progress on fighting drugs,� said Gerson, �we can succeed."

Liliya Kane's experience shows that some programs can work. In high school, she became involved with The Council for Unity, a program launched at Brooklyn's John Dewey High School after a violent racial incident in 1975. It provides training for students and teachers, stresses cultural awareness and offers mentoring programs. Kane said it has helped her. "My self- esteem and confidence improved a lot, if not soared," she said. "I regained pride in my culture and my nationality."


Immigrant Family Literacy Program

Leslie Lin enjoys learning English so much that she has never studied so hard in her life.

A retired music teacher from Taiwan, Lin is a permanent resident of the United States who decided to settle down in Flushing, Queens just a year ago. Before that, she had spent five years traveling between Taiwan and New York every six month in order to maintain her green card. Learning English is one of the main reasons she says she decided to settle down.

“I didn’t get a chance to study overseas when I was young,” Lin said. “Now I am enjoying it so much that I never miss a class”.

Lin, currently taking ESL course at the Flushing Public Library, is one of countless immigrants trying to learn English in their new adopted home in New York.

Now, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would spend $1.8 million for a new initiative called the Immigrant Family Literacy Program, which will fund English classes, as well as legal services for immigrants and workers.. The initiative won immediate applause from immigrants. But many said it is not enough.

“It’s great that the city is providing money to fund those classes,” said Lin, who attends five hours of classes at the Flushing Public Library. “But whenever there is a new class, the line is so long and they put a lot of people on the waiting list.” She was informed two months after the class began that she finally got a slot because someone dropped out.

But not many immigrants are as lucky as Lin, who has a pension. To many immigrants, being able to speak English means a better job, better opportunities for their children -- a better life.

“Some of my neighbors could not even tell the difference between the ‘W’ and ‘M’ on the parking sign and they end up getting tickets,” said Lin. “English is the primary language here. If many people can’t speak it, it will eventually bring down the overall competitiveness of the country.”

According to the Immigrant Family Literacy Alliance, an umbrella group of immigrant social service providers, components of immigrant family literacy may include ESL classes, basic adult education, GED preparation, parenting classes, activities for parents and children together and so on.

A recent Department of City Planning study showed that a record-high 2.9 million of New Yorkers are foreign-born, constituting 38 percent of the city’s population. Many social services organizations said the demand is far greater than what the funding could provide.

“We’ll take whatever we get, but we could always use more,” said Elyse Rudolph, executive director of the Literacy Assistance Center. “Immigration has always been one of the major forces behind this city’s vitality.” She added that there are more than a million children and adults in need of help in English but the mayor’s new funding, combining an additional $900,000 in private funding, could only provide for about 1,000 families.

Some immigrant support groups say the new initiative is long overdue and call for a substantial increase.

“As Mayor Bloomberg’s first and only immigrant funding initiative since he came into office, it dramatically falls short of what is needed both in terms of the dollars and in the scope of services it funds,” said Chung-Wha Hong, deputy director of New York Immigration Coalition. The coalition is urging the mayor and the City Council to provide $10 million in the city budget to meet the need.

Meanwhile, some community leaders call for more classes that would fit the working immigrants’ schedule so they can fully take advantage of them.

“At current funding levels, tens of thousands of immigrants are turned away from English classes because community groups do not have the resources to offer enough classes, especially the evening and weekend classes that working immigrants need,” said Ana Maria Archila, executive director of Latin American Integration Center in Woodside, Queens.

While many immigrants come here to pursue a better economic future, some are also looking to find a sense of belonging.

Regina Kim, a housewife originally from Korea who attended English class in Queens, said learning English also offers some comfort and connection to American society.

“We immigrants are not going anywhere,” said Kim, who arrived 15 years ago with little English skill. “Now I can read books and watch television. It makes me happy.”

A native of Taipei, Taiwan, Larry Tung is a frequent contributor to the Citizen.  



















Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights For All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City’s Future

This is an exciting year and an exciting opportunity because we have a chance here in New York City to do something important for our entire country. You know, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a mayor in New York who’s a real progressive leader for urban areas in our country in general. Like many of you, I got on buses to swing states, went to phone banks and called Florida and Ohio, and was disappointed with the results of the last election. But I don’t know how we can expect to win Ohio if we can’t win back the most Democratic city in the United States of America.

We have a chance this year to send a clear message that we’re going to force this country to deal with urban issues, because the mayor of the City of New York is the urban leader in our country. Until we have a Democratic, progressive mayor, we’re never going to have conversations about how we educate kids in urban areas, about how we make sure that we protect cities from foreign attack, and about how we deal with equal rights for gays and lesbians and civil rights issues generally. We’re never going to have that conversation because the mayor of the City of New York for the last 12 years has been apologizing for policies and practices that have bankrupted not just New York City, but urban areas all over the country. When I go all over the city and I talk to people, I see people looking for new leadership and here at home and around our country.

This mayor is making the wrong choices for our city’s future. He has chosen to focus all of his political energies and billions of taxpayer dollars on the construction of a football stadium that we don’t want and we don’t need. He could be putting that capital, both political and financial, into building schools and protecting subway service, and building the affordable housing we need.

It’s the wrong choice to have focused all of these energies and to have shoved this sweetheart deal through, when the right choice is an open and competitive process that would yield billions of dollars for the MTA, and when the right choice is to build housing and commercial developments on that site.

He’s been making the wrong choice on our schools, choosing to focus on bureaucratic reshuffling instead of the fundamentals that we know work in education. I think the best thing that this mayor has done is get control of our schools system. The best. And the worst thing that he has done is squander that control. After more than three years, we have not only the right, but the responsibility to hold him accountable for those results.

What are the results? Attendance is down. Test scores are off. Parents are more disconnected that ever. Teachers are leaving the system in droves. Violence is an increasing problem. And it’s because he’s focusing his time and his energy on the wrong things and mismanaging the things that he’s focusing on.

What’s the right choice? It’s actually not as complicated as this mayor and his chancellor sometimes suggest. We know what works in education. It’s actually pretty simple. Think about it: smaller class sizes, more quality teachers, safer schools, and stronger after-school programs. That’s it. If we focus on those four things, combined with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which creates the opportunity for a real leap forward, we can truly improve our schools and make this a city of opportunity for our children.

This is a mayor who has focused on the wrong choices on jobs, declaring victory on unemployment. I hear him go all over the city and say, “We’re doing great; unemployment has never been so low,” at the same time that he and I and you all know that 49 percent of [male] African Americans in the city, and 43 percent of [male] Latinos in the city don’t have jobs. What’s the right choice? The right choice is to focus on job training for the formerly incarcerated, programs to keep kids in schools, and give capital and training support for entrepreneurs and community scholars. That’s what the City Council has done under my leadership.

This mayor has made the wrong choices on LGBT rights. He has chosen to spend almost four years ducking the issue of gay marriage, telling us that his personal opinion doesn’t matter. He’s mayor of the City of New York, and he says his personal opinion on the central struggle for civil rights for LGBT New Yorkers and Americans doesn’t matter.

Now we finally got a court decision that many of us fought for here in New York, and he tells us his personal opinion. And it turns out he’s right; his personal opinion didn’t matter. Because once he tells us what his personal opinion is, he uses the weight of his office and my and your taxpayer dollars to go into court, and fight against equal rights for New Yorkers. He actually submitted papers in which he compared gay civil marriages to allowing marriages between uncles and nephews. It’s outrageous. What’s the right choice? The right choice is to stand up and fight for equal rights for New Yorkers.

I have been for gay marriage since I ran for office for the first time in January of 1996. More than a year ago, I stood on the steps of City Hall with many of you and called upon the mayor to issue marriage licenses immediately. The right choice is to issue those marriage licenses, to stand up and say, “The equal protection laws of the State of New York applies to LGBT New Yorkers, and I, as mayor - if you choose me, if I’m so fortunate to be elected - will issue those marriage licenses immediately, because it’s the right thing to do.

And finally, this mayor has made the wrong choice, over and over and over again, choosing to roll over to a president and to a governor who do not have the city’s best interests at heart, instead of choosing to stand up and keep fighting for our fair share. When this mayor came into office, we were sending $20 billion more to Washington than we got back every year. And now, more than three years later, we’re sending $24 billion more to Washington than we get back every year. He took a situation that nobody thought could get any worse, and made it worse.

What’s so frustrating to me about this, is that I know that this can change. It has to change. Think about it. We live in the most powerful city in the world. New York City has the most powerful business community, the most powerful labor community, and the most powerful political donors. We’re the most powerful city in the world and we have to act like we’re powerless because we’re paralyzed by a lack of leadership.

What’s required is for somebody to roll up their sleeves and bring together those powerful business, labor, and political leaders, with our delegations, and say, “Enough is enough. I am the leader of the City of New York, and we are going to change this together.” And if we did, if we could get some of that, if we weren’t starting $24 billion behind, think what we could accomplish as a city.

Now, we know that the mayor has made the wrong choices, but I’m not going to talk to you about his wrong choices, I’m going to talk to you about the right choices that I’ve laid out. How do you know that I’ll make those right choices, because I’m asking you to support me for mayor? You know I’ll make the right choices as mayor because I’ve already been making the right choices as Speaker.

As Speaker of the New York City Council for the last three and a half years I’ve brought together the most diverse legislature in the country, behind great goals that people said could never be accomplished, during the toughest time this city has ever faced and accomplished them.

I’ve passed the first city Earned Income Tax Credit that helped lift 700,000 people from poverty toward prosperity.

I passed the first real living wage law that helped 50,000 people whose jobs were created by city tax dollars provide for their families.

I’ve passed the first real lead paint legislation in the history of our city or anywhere else in this country that will protect children without driving the cost of housing through the roof. This was something everyone said couldn’t be done.

And over and over again, I’ve stood up for principles and progressive values I believe in, passing the equal benefits law over this mayor’s veto, the Dignity for All Students act, the first transgender civil rights act, the only domestic partnership recognition act in the country that recognizes other jurisdictions’ marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships. Through the toughest budgets we have ever faced, I have found money to fund LGBT groups that are doing extraordinary work all over the city. I have also put the rest of our values and principles in place: putting education first, fighting back the mayor’s cuts for education, protecting our senior centers and child health clinics from closure, and still doing it in a fiscally responsible way.

And if you elect me as mayor, I’ll continue to make those right choices for our city’s future. I know we can do this. I know we can. We don’t have to settle. We can have a mayor who will stand up and fight for every community in the city, no less the LGBT community. And I can only do it with your help. I can’t do it alone. And so I’m here to ask you to support me for mayor, but also to ask you to get involved. This is our city. I love this city. I know you love this city. We can make it better. We can make it more just. We can make it stronger. But we can only do it together.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, there are only 30 city-funded beds for LGBT homeless youth; I want to know what the city can do to provide for these kids. Will you commit yourself to increasing funds in this year’s budget and what other steps can you take?

Miller: Good question and an important issue. As speaker, I have certainly fought hard to increase funding for groups that address the concerns of LGBT homeless youth. Certainly, there is a considerable population whose needs are not being met, and I will seek to ways in the budget to increase funding for those needs.

QUESTION: There was a gay bashing up in the Bronx a few weeks ago. As mayor, what can you do to address this problem?

Miller: As speaker of the council, I have repeatedly supported funding for organizations that deal with violence against LGBT people. My staff also works closely with the police department on these incidents.

More broadly, we have to make this a city that banishes that sort of hatred and bigotry. We need a mayor who not only supports the concept of equality for all New Yorkers, but provides leadership to address it. Ultimately, gay bashing comes from bigotry. That why it is so offensive that the mayor spent four years saying that his opinion on gay marriage doesn’t matter. It marginalizes the community and the struggle.

The mayor of the City of New York is required to have an opinion on everything! You can’t even imagine the variety of things the mayor of New York is required to have an opinion on - and this is the one on which the mayor says, “My personal opinion isn’t important.” That’s wrong. And it creates an environment where it is OK to overlook bigotry, to overlook discrimination.

We live in a society that systematically discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. LGBT New Yorkers and LGBT Americans do not have the same rights that everyone else has. As long as we accept this and say “it would be nice if we could extend equal rights to all Americans and all New Yorkers,” then we support an environment where some New Yorkers don’t have the same value as others.

QUESTION: Once a month, Union Square Park becomes a war zone with a massive police presence surrounding the park and arresting people on bicycles. Will you end the existing NYPD/Bloomberg policy and work with Critical Mass they way they used to before the Republican Convention?

Miller: People have a right to ride a bike in this city, but they have to abide by the laws. We used to make it possible for people to march and do all things across the city before this mayor took office and the RNC came to the city. I was critical at the time and continued to be critical of the way the mayor welcomed the Republican National Convention but did not seem to understand that he had the responsibility to welcome those whose views were not on display at Madison Square Garden. It was OK for people to go to a Dave Matthews Band in Central Park, so it ought to have been OK to have protestors exercise their First Amendment rights in Central Park. We have to have a police department that works with groups to accomplish the kinds of activities connected to that.

Other Candidates Speeches:

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights For All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”



Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

It was looking forward to this forum and saying hello to people with whom I have been working for over 20 years. It has been 22 years since I first cast my vote [for gay rights legislation] in the City Council. It was the first landmark piece of legislation, guaranteeing lesbians and gays civil rights and human rights. After that I have talked to the issues of HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. [I have worked] to take the fight out of the press releases and into the Board of Education, into our hospitals and non-profit organizations, to stand up for domestic partnerships, to stand up for marriage equality. I left the City Council in 1987 to become Bronx borough president, but my activism did not stop there. I was proud to sit on the first LGBT task force in the borough, to fund the first Lavender Center in the borough, and to help organize the first gay pride parade down the Grand Concourse, which I led as the grand marshall.

Sometimes people have told me over the years, “You don’t make an awful lot about your record.” Well I don’t think you deserve gold stars for doing the right thing.

I know what it is to come from a community that does not enjoy its full civil and human rights and have them denied from time to time. I know what it is to sit in the City Council and hear others try to make false distinctions between the someone else’s civil rights and their own. There is no distinction. If you believe in human rights, you believe in human rights. There is no gold star for that. You do what you must do, forge the coalitions that you must.

Whether it’s a discharge motion, or the extension of domestic partnership rights to those you do business with the city, or the rights of the transgendered - for me it fits into same category. You cannot believe in some human rights and not for all.

There was a tragic murder that took place in the city a few weeks ago. Rashawn Brazell was not only murdered, but dismembered, simply because he was gay. It is a stark and sobering reminder to all of us, that while this can happen in this city, we can’t stop talking about human rights. I won’t say anything more about that particular murder, but I will say the following. There are some who say, “I can’t do this, because we are not prepared for it,” but I do believe that people who believe fervently in human rights make the world ready for them.

That is what I tried to do as the borough president of the Bronx for 15 years - make the Bronx ready. You have to make people ready for human rights, and I prefer to lead on that issue rather than follow.

QUESTION: In March 1986, the gay rights bill passed out of committee by a vote of 5 to 1. On March 20, it passed [the full council] by 23 to 9 to 3. It was a historic vote, and it took 16 years to get that bill through. You did not sponsor the bill. There were 15 sponsors and you would not sponsor it. I would like that addressed.

Second, [in May 1986] there was a bill introduced into the City Council that decimated the gay rights bill in terms of housing. Ruth Messinger was quoted as saying that that bill would make our community into second-class citizens. You were one of the people who voted to weaken the gay rights bill. Ed Koch vetoed that bill and it didn’t become law. I would like you to explain that vote.

Last, our enemy number one is [Bronx State Senator] Ruben Diaz, Sr. and last year you did cable TV commercials in support of his State Senate campaign. Can you explain that one?

Ferrer: Let me take the third one first because that is the easiest one to address. When it is between him and a former criminal defendant [Pedro Espada Jr.] who was charged with ripping off poor people and especially individuals with AIDS in the Bronx - it was easy for me! It was easy for me! Choices are seldom perfect, but you make them.

To get back to 1986, I am so delighted that you mentioned it. But you failed to mention that was on the General Welfare Committee [that voted in favor of it] and you failed to mention that I debated the bill in spite of having my sexuality questioned and threats of fire bombing on my house. But I proudly debated and voted for that bill in 1986, because, as I said then and today, you can’t be for some human rights and not all.

As for your second question. Just so we all know what this question is all about, it concerns a side agreement to that landmark anti-discrimination law that I helped pass 19 years ago. That amendment was part of a keeping together a fragile coalition that we needed in order make that law a law. I want to call your attention to an editorial in the New York Times on May 3, 1986 that said exactly that. I have a copy here, and I will quote “a fragile coalition for passage was thus preserved.” Choices aren’t only perfect, but I am proud to have played a role not only in the coalition, but preserving that coalition.

If this about a record that goes back 22 years, then that is more than most people have spent in public service. I have been at this fight a long time. And I am serious about making progress on human rights. And if you are serious about making progress, you have to focus on what matters. And those are things I have been working on beginning 22 years ago.

I know what it is like to be the target of bigots. I recognize it every time I shave in the morning. I know what it is like to get late night phone calls threatening you and your family’s safety in your own home and requiring police protection. Despite that, I would do it again gladly in a second.

Q: I work in social services with LGBT homeless youth. We only have 22 emergency beds in the city and 15 to 20 transitional beds. But the city funds a very large Catholic organization where our youth are harassed physically, sexually, and verbally. They would rather sleep on the train than go to this provider. If you become mayor, how would you help this population?

Ferrer: Today, homelessness in general is approaching the record numbers we saw in 1986 and 1987. It’s approaching what we saw during the Great Depression in this city. As I said when I was borough president and Mayor Dinkins had a commission to discuss homelessness, we can’t treat homelessness and homeless individuals and families as one amorphous blob.

People have different needs and different reasons for being homeless in the first place. LGBT youth need to be supported. You can’t put them in the same facilities as so many others because it will only compound their problems and compromise their safety. The city owes them more.

I believe in differentiated and supportive housing. By the way, it isn’t only LGBT youth who are at risk at the Franklin Avenue Armory. It’s everyone. There are a great number of people who refuse shelter, not because they are not crazy, but they fear for their safety. This city isn’t doing enough to keep them safe and secure. As mayor, you can count on me.

Q: I would like for you to clarify your characterization of the Amadou Diallo case? It is my simple interpretation that it was a sort of retreating from your original position that it was a criminal matter but that now it is civil.

Ferrer: First of all, it was no retreat. Second, in spite of what you might read in some newspapers in daily circulation that have a point of view - one of them especially has a point of view and it is far right of anyone in this room - I acknowledged already that I used some careless words and I have taken responsibility for that.

But I also acknowledged in the same remarks before police audiences and civilian audiences that the reason I got arrested with cuffs behind my back, was because I believe that divisive policies by the police commissioner and the mayor contributed to the police failures that night. The extension of the Street Crimes Unit and all of the other things that we know happened on Wheeler Avenue that night. And I have addressed those issues.

I have come here to talk about the things that New Yorkers really need to focus on - full human and civil rights, decent and affordable housing, good schools without excuses, the gargantuan waste of our money for a West Side Stadium when we should be dealing with the crisis of affordability in this city.

And while we are talking about the police, there are 6,000 fewer police in our ranks today than at the end of 2000, and we’re wondering if this city will be ready to face the next problem - God forbid we should face it at all. Those are the things we need to talk about in this city.

Q: Follow up question on police. I submit that we are wasting huge amounts of money on the last Friday of every month with the police surrounding Union Square Park…. Will you change the existing policy of the mayor and police commissioner in working with the group Critical Mass?

Ferrer: I think the theory of preemption is as bankrupt in New York as it has proved to be in Iraq.

Other Candidates Speeches:

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”


Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

C.Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs To Listen

I am now in my 16th year in government. I served eight years as a member of the New York City Council and I am now in my eighth as the president of the Borough of Manhattan. All of those experiences have provided a broad based knowledge and understanding of every aspect of government - budget, policy, personnel, administration, and I might add, political diplomacy. In addition to the time spent as an elected official, I also served as the chair of the local community board for two years and as a member of that board for 10 years. All of that is relevant to process of governance and I have fundamental differences with this mayor and his approach to government.

This mayor is one who governs by exclusion, with a top down approach and fait accompli decisions. He does not listen, does not include, and does not reach out. I believe the decisions that affect all of our daily lives are not well informed and certainly lack the input from elected officials and others in the community.

I will have a much more inclusive approach. I think opinions matter; point of view matters. When it comes to issues within the LGBT community, I will have that dialogue. I will use those relationships so that we can address issues in a way that is most beneficial for the whole community.

When it comes to education, let us include educators and not make those decisions with a trial and error process that does not lead us to the best result for our school children.

When it comes to housing, there are steps we can take, concrete steps to build affordable housing.

Let us involve and listen, so we can get things done.

My work with you, the LGBT community, has been extremely meaningful. I am for marriage equality. I am for the Dignity for All Students Act. I am for adoption rights for LGBT parents as well as the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” because it doesn’t work. I am for the protection of transgendered people.

As borough president, I have appointed more people from the LGBT community to local community boards than any other borough president in history. That is important because the voices need to be there to shape decisions. I have been happy to fund the work of the common law health center as well as the LGBT community center.

I understand the sting of prejudice, the sting of discrimination. As an African-American woman, I know what it means to be locked out, left out, and told, “you don’t matter, and you are not worthy.” In my case, it’s the color of my skin. In your case, it is sexual orientation, plus color of skin. It is one thing to knock down discrimination in laws, but it is another thing to deal with attitudes. What we need to do now in the city and in this country is change attitudes. We have a lot of work to do.

I am looking forward to being a leader of this city, delivering a clear mandate and projecting the kind of attitude that should relate to all of us - leading us forward, working together, and getting things done.

QUESTION: One unfortunate aspect of our city’s diversity is the way politics of different people varies in different neighborhoods. We have neighborhoods where people who spoke in favor of the “children of the rainbow” curriculum had to have a police escort out of a public hearing. And the tires of a blood mobile at a lesbian blood drive were slashed. As a candidate from Manhattan, what will you do to ensure the safety of LGBT people in the outer boroughs?

Fields:It is unfortunate that we have to ensure the safety of people because of their sexual orientation, but it is real and we must address that. I think tolerance is important in understanding different people in different communities as it relates to sexual orientation, race, and other issues and that it must be taught through our schools, our churches, our religious institutions, in our homes. That is the way you get people to discuss it. These are issues that we haven’t confronted.

Let’s do some public things and have some discussions. Bring some LGBT people together with non-LGBT people. Let’s open up these discussions in the same way we have in certain communities of color around issues of HIV/AIDS. Many in the black community did not want to admit that this was an issue in our community and we allowed it to move further and further before we did something about it.

We should acknowledge it, recognize it, bring it into open discussions, have people in leadership positions like the mayor talk about this and talk about the importance of respecting people. In incidents where we need to reinforce police or protection, let’s do that.

We are very concerned about what happened to the African-American gay man Rashawn Brazell [who was murdered in February] out in Brooklyn. Very little has been said about it. Very little has been done about it. That should be discussed and become part of a larger discussion. If the crime was a result of him being gay, let’s use it to teach and change minds and attitudes. Let’s use every vehicle and mechanism in our disposal to have those discussions.

Q:In the nearly four years that Mike Bloomberg has been mayor he has not appointed one openly gay man or lesbian woman to the courts. What do you make of this?

Fields:You’d have to ask Mayor Bloomberg why that hasn’t been done. I can only say that Mayor Fields would take a much different approach. I would look to be diverse in terms of my appointments to various positions including judges and that includes members of the LGBT communities, as well as others from various racial, ethnic, and religious communities.

Q:When you get to be mayor, how will you extend affordable housing programs?

Fields:One of the things we started in my office about four years ago was a Mitchell-Lama task force because we saw that we were coming to the end of a 20-year period where owners of Mitchell-Lama buildings were being bought out. That started in Manhattan and it has now spread citywide. We were able to encourage Assemblyman Vito Lopez to introduce legislation in Albany that would enable us to get some Mitchell-Lama housing under the rent stabilization program. As mayor I would be a strong advocate in Albany, because if we lose a lot of the people who live in Mitchell-Lama developments, working people, middle-income people who have stabilized our communities and if that housing becomes only market rate, then we will see massive displacement. We need to fight back at all costs.

With respect to affordable housing overall, we have a plan and we will work to implement that plan. That is to put in place ways to really create affordable housing. The reality is that the city must invest dollars. When we look at how we were able to build affordable housing in the past under Mayor Ed Koch, money was put into the budget, and subsidies were leveraged to increase private investment. It would start with the funds put into the Battery Park City fund for affordable housing. We haven’t had a mayor use those funds since Koch. At the rate we are going, we could have approximately $1 billion in that fund over the next ten years.

We also need to take an inventory of city owned properties throughout this city. And instead of selling city owned property at market rate prices as the administration is currently doing, we need to make it part of the incentive package as we have in the past. I know it can be done. On 112th Street to 135th Street, we sold city land at a nominal cost and we were able to provide incentives to work with developers to build housing at different levels so people in different income levels could afford it.

Other Candidates speeches:

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

• Anthony Weiner: Democrats With a Big and Small “D”






















Democratic Mayoral Candidate Forum: Gay and Lesbian Issues


• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

On April 6, 2005, the four Democratic candidates for mayor - Gifford Miller, C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer, and Anthony Weiner - spoke at the Greater Voices mayoral forum, organized by several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the city. The following is an edited transcript of the candidate’s opening remarks and a sample of some of the questions from the audience.

Anthony Weiner: Democrats with a Big and a Small "D"

I have a history of fighting for civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered New Yorkers. When I was running for Congress in 1998, long before the issue of gay marriage was particularly hot, and at that time civil unions was the big issue being contested, I endorsed gay marriage.

It was at the Lambda endorsement meeting that I did. Within 48 hours, there was a meeting of the largest Orthodox [Jewish] organization in New York. One of my opponents was an icon of the civil rights movement - Noach Dear. I didn’t say what type of an icon, just that he was iconic. Somehow he had a tape recording of my remarks, which he had reproduced and distributed on the tables at the dinner. There was speculation at the time that this might be the ruin of my campaign.

You have to understand a little about the district I represent. They are great people from Brooklyn and Queens in communities of Flatbush, the Rockaways, Rego Park and the like. There was a great deal of speculation that in the conservative, Orthodox [Jewish], and Catholic community - that maybe support of gay marriage would be the undoing of a very close campaign.

I would argue that I did not get elected in spite of that support, but because of it. I began a discussion about basic human dignity and basic rights of all New Yorkers. I engaged in a discussion with people who to this day strongly disagree with me about why we in the Jewish community should always be conscious and careful not to deny rights to anyone.

I also started a career where I have been able to win overwhelming majorities in the same district that Mike Bloomberg is getting a Republican primary from his right. Let me repeat that. I won 70 percent of the vote this year in the district where Mike Bloomberg is being challenged for not being conservative enough.

Why is this important? It is important because one of the things we need to do is recognize that we need to speak truth to all corners of the city. The next evolution of the debate about equal rights for all and true civil rights for all is going to be to take those people who think that someone having the right to marry who they love is an apocalyptic change for our country and teach them otherwise.

This is the most important way that Mike Bloomberg let us down. When Mike Bloomberg took the law firm of the city of New York and challenged the lower court ruling on gay marriage, he took the power of city and all of us and put it behind challenging that decision - and it was bad.

It was bad for another reason. It denied us a moment of political victory. It denied the moment for me to go to my constituents in conservative part of Queens and say, “look the sky hasn’t fallen, you don’t have chaos in the streets, you don’t have anarchy.”

He denied us a moment to engage in a debate and to say for this moment in time gay marriage is legal in New York. And it hasn’t taken away anyone else’s rights. By him challenging that decision and announcing almost overnight that he was going to do so, not only did he put the full legal weight of the city against us, but also he denied us those precious few weeks or months of political victory.

That is window into the type of mayor Mike Bloomberg is and a window into how I would be different.

People make the argument: Does it really matter whether Mike Bloomberg is a Republican who acts like a Democrat or a Democrat who postures as a Republican? They say there is no conservative or liberal or Democratic or Republican way to collect the garbage.

I tell you that there is an enormous difference whether there is a Democrat or Republican running the show.

One example, imagine for a moment that we had the Republican convention here in town. The mayor of the city of New York had the opportunity to speak at that convention. Imagine if he would have said, “My Republican friends, welcome to New York. Welcome to this great city. Welcome to this great diversity. Enjoy yourself while you are here.” But while he had this moment in the sun, imagine if he had also said, “The way that you are treating people who are different than the Republican Party is an outrage. The way that you are dividing one community against another is an outrage. The way you are stigmatizing people because they fell in love with a person of their own gender is an outrage.” It would have taken that issue and elevated it overnight to the front page of the New York Times.

This notion that you get more with sugar than with vinegar is sometimes true. But it hasn’t been the truth in this case.

It is more than what you say; it is also the process that you believe in. We as democrats with small “d” and big “D” believe that there is a way to govern. Do any of us believe that if we had a truly open process and democracy was followed and we sat down with the most creative people on the planet - New Yorkers, the most creative land use theorists, the most creative engineers, the most creative open space thinkers -we would have come up with a stadium for the West Side of Manhattan? Not in a thousand years.

When we were revamping the education system, if we had said let’s bring in some teachers, parents, and had the audacity to ask other elected officials about their experiences, would we have the kinds of problems we have in education today? It is more than just process for process sake. The outcomes you get when you practice democratic with a small “d” and a capital “D” are simply better.

When the mayor proposed selling the West Side railyards, he said let’s get $100 million. He said, “Let’s not get any other bids. I made a deal with a fellow billionaire, that’s it.” Well even the modified open process that the MTA followed netted us an extra $300 to $400 million. How does the mayor justify that? How does he explain why he was willing to give away $400 million of our money?

This notion that he is a brilliant businessman above reproach and he is incapable of making a bad decision - I have to tell you there is more “pay to play” in this administration than any administration in recent memory. It doesn’t come in the form of campaign contributions, which are disclosed within minutes. They come through contributions to the Olympic 2012 committee. They come over dinner parties with crystal chandeliers on the East Side of Manhattan. Those are rooms we never get into, and that is going to change when I become mayor.

We are going to have a different kind of dialogue in this city. We are going to disagree, we are going to fight - we always do. But that isn’t going to be what determines whether or not we proceed in this city.

If you agree with me that we need a true spirit of democratic reform in this city, where are you going to get it?

I would argue that you get it from me - someone who is not beholden to the big developers for his campaign contributions; someone that doesn’t come from the womb of the traditional Democratic machine; someone who has truly been elected as an independent Democratic. I wasn’t supported by the Brooklyn Democratic party when I ran for City Council, I was outspent three to one, and I won. When I ran for Congress, I was opposed by the Queens Democratic Party and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, I was outspent three to one, and I won.

The reason is I engage people in the discussion of ideas and ideals. I do it everyday. I don’t think of myself as a politician who is going to advance himself - although if that happens it’s a nice benefit - but I think of the families in my district. I think of them when they sit at the breakfast table and they think about the school they are going to drop their kid off at and how the experienced teachers are giving way to a less experience crew. I think of them as they go to the subway and hope that this is the one in three days that it is actually going to work. When they are on lunch break and they look at their coworkers and realize how impossible it is to find housing in this city unless you are very wealthy. And the moment they have a health care crisis that can lead them into bankruptcy. These are the things I think about and why I work so hard. We need to start fighting for our city again.

Too often we as Democrats come into these knife fights with library books. This Mike Bloomberg has another thing coming with me. I am going to hit him with so many rights he is going to be begging for a left. I am going to be in his face every single day.

QUESTION: Recently there have been several high profile gay bashing incidents in the city. As mayor, what would you do to reduce those situations and what would you do when they do happen?

Weiner: For too long in this city, we have had mayors who have treated the fundamental rights of gay people as a political issue. Bloomberg has done it. Giuliani certainly did it. There is too much measuring of our reactions based on who might be offended or put off by the things we say. Any increase in crime is bad, and there has been an increase in these types of crimes. I have never heard the mayor talk about it. I never hear the police commissioner talk about it.

We need to elevate these crimes out of the nuisance category. We have to educate a police force that is frankly made up of very young officers who often come from backgrounds different from the communities they patrol and we have to make sure they get it.

That means bringing people to roll call and explaining what it’s like to be a gay man in this city. And treat these as hot spot issues as any other crime. I’m not convinced they do that. We worship at the alter of the seven index crimes FBI crimes and what has gone up or down, but to an individual person who is a victim, it is terrible.

It really strikes at the fabric of our city is when there is a blow struck against somebody because of the community they represent and no one knows that better than a Jewish New Yorker. When there is an anti-Semitic attack, we all react. When there is a gay bashing attack, frankly all New Yorkers should be outraged.

Q: I am from Staten Island, a very conservative community and a Republican stronghold. We are hoping to have a gay pride parade in June and we doubt that our Republican borough president or any of the elected officials - Democrat or Republican - will march with us. What would you do as mayor would to convince and encourage your Democratic colleagues to embrace the concept of human rights for everyone in the LGBT community?

Weiner: One thing I would do is make it kosher for all of my Democratic colleges by doing it myself. I don’t persuade Orthodox people in my district that I am right and they are wrong, but I try. More important, I go to them and explain to them that I am not going to talk past them on the issue, I am going to engage them. Sooner or later they are going to live in a New York City where gay marriage is not only legal, it is common, and they don’t even notice. It is just a matter of when that realization sets in. I honestly think one of the obligations of all of us in public life is to lead.

Don’t believe the hype. I am going to win in Staten Island. I am going to go out there and talk to them about the fact that Wal-Mart is offensive to the values of all New Yorkers. I am going to explain to those labor households that the way they got so comfortable in suburbia is because we supported the labor movement in this city and in this country. I am going to talk to them about how their president has left them behind. I am going to explain to them how they are less safe because of the cuts of the Bush administration. I am going to go right at them.

I don’t buy for a moment that it is going to be a Republican stronghold in the city of New York. I am going to win Staten Island, and some of that may be cause my name is Anthony, but that’s another story.

Q: I am the child of two Holocaust survivors. Ten years ago, the city spent $800,000 to build a holocaust memorial in Sheepshead Bay. Although it is dedicated to all of the victims, there were ten stones that were supposed to be inscribed to memorialize the homosexuals who died during the Nazi era. You happen to be listed on the board of directors of the group that has made that decision. If you are mayor can you get them inscribed? And what can you do in the meantime?

Weiner: I was a city councilman when it was created - all of the elected officials in the area are listed [on the board of directors]. And when this controversy first arose, I insisted upon the original plan. When it came up again, I believe I sent a letter again. I will ask the mayor. And I will ask that my name be taken off unless they do it forthwith.

Other Candidates Speeches

• Gifford Miller: The Right Choices for the City's Future

• C. Virginia Fields: A Mayor Needs to Listen

• Fernando Ferrer: Human Rights for All

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