As an NYC organization deeply committed to the public health and well-being of our extended community, Housing Works denounces Tuesday night’s City Council FY21 budget passage and calls upon the NYC Board of Health to do what Mayor de Blasio and City Hall would not: commit to significantly reducing police violence against Black and Latinx New Yorkers by immediately addressing systemic, racist violence as a public health issue.
As was made abundantly clear by the vote, far too many of our leaders at City Hall are more interested in maintaining the status quo of the NYPD than in improving the lives of Black and Latinx people, poor people, and people experiencing homelessness. In the past few weeks, tens of thousands took to the streets for Black Lives Matter protests and built upon years of organizing work by BIPOC activists to demand $1 billion be moved from the NYPD budget to social services. But Mayor de Blasio and others at City Hall refused to hear them; while Speaker Corey Johnson and others in the City Council negotiated a cut of $430 million to the NYPD budget, all signs point to business as usual for NYPD and how it interacts with Black and Latinx New Yorkers, especially those experiencing poverty and/or homelessness.
Mayor de Blasio said that this budget was one that was fair and equitable for all New Yorkers. This is a lie. A city budget that slashes ETE initiatives by nearly 14% and makes it impossible to expand safety-net services when New Yorkers need them, to most is neither fair nor equitable. Instead of imposing a true hiring freeze on the NYPD - a measure in place at every other NYC agency - or making other common sense changes that could have cut the police budget by $1 billion, the Mayor and City Hall leadership partially defunded education, housing and youth services. Particularly alarming is the $65 million cut made to the “Fair Fares” half-priced Metrocard program for low-income New Yorkers, which will likely lead to more criminalization of poor people.
Our immediate next step is to continue to address the over-policing of Black and Latinx communities. Along with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Latino Commission on AIDS, and Treatment Action Group, Housing Works called upon the NYC Board of Health last week to hold an emergency meeting to address racism and over-policing of Black and Latinx communities as intertwined public health emergencies. If Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will not be moved, then the Board of Health must create real policy change to help repair the dramatic COVID-19 health disparities experienced by Black and Latinx New Yorkers, the history of over-policing and mass incarceration of Black and Latinx New Yorkers, and the recent incidents of violent over-policing experienced by people demonstrating for racial justice. The petition and its full recommendations are here: https://www.housingworks.org/advocacy/petition-to-new-york-city-board-of-health-to-commence-emergency-rulemaking-pursuant-to-new-york-city-health-code-article-9
We must also work to ensure that employees who are moved out of the NYPD have their jobs dramatically transformed so that they focus on social services, families, youth, and education: they can't behave as though they are still part of a paramilitary organization.
We wish to extend our thanks to the nine City Councilmembers - Barron, Kallos, Lander, Menchaca, Reynoso, Rivera, Richards, Rosenthal, and Van Bramer - who voted “No” on the city budget last night because they believe cuts to the NYPD didn’t go far enough, and to NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has promised to use his power to prevent the budget from being enacted.