Progressive Caucus Statement on the formation of Mayor’s EDP Task Force

New York – In recent months and years, we have seen several tragic indicators that there are fundamental flaws in the way that our city addresses behavioral health crises. Most recently, the shooting death of Saheed Vassell has drawn renewed focus to months of calls for a task force to review and reform these practices, calls which members of the Progressive Caucus have been making with allies since the death of Dwayne Jeune in 2017.

The Caucus commends the administration for recognizing the dire need for an alternative approach to handling safety concerns around emotionally distressed persons (EDPs) through the formation of a city-wide multi-agency task force. Recognizing this tremendous step towards truly making our city a safe place for all New Yorkers, the Progressive Caucus will continue to advocate for reforms through this task force, including the creation of new systems where social workers or well-trained 911 call operators divert 911 calls to social workers or therapists or trained peers instead of police response; an expansion mobile crisis teams who can respond to crisis within 30 minutes of a call; building a large system of co-response teams who can respond to 911 calls; and building a system where trained peers or therapist can meet police at the scene of 911 calls.

We look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office and this task force to implement solutions which prevent the criminalization of mental illness while providing the support and resources needed to properly address behavioral health crises – both for the long-term well-being and safety of emotionally distressed persons and the community to which they belong. As the administration rightly notes, the approach must be comprehensive, encompassing not only emergency response but also preventative, community-inclusive measures that could avert such crises.

“The NYC Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force will grant stakeholders the opportunity to cultivate holistic approaches to prevent behavioral health crises. As the Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction, I am looking forward to the recommendations that will result from this task force and I thank Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray, and the Health Department for investing resources into the creation of this body,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction.

“It is as important as ever that we bring together professionals from all different fields related to behavioral health to come up with a new citywide strategy to prevent these crises before they happen,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Member of the Progressive Caucus, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “We must also look at expanding our response teams when emergencies occur to prevent any loss of life in our communities. A mental illness shouldn’t be a death sentence, which is why it is imperative that we continue the conversation around better practices and keep pushing to find a smarter and safer approach. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray for their continued efforts to attack behavioral and mental illness head on.”

“I am glad this this long overdue task force is being convened, and that the administration recognizes the need for this issue to be a priority. The deaths of Dwayne Jeune, Saheed Vassell, and too many others have shown that there are fundamental flaws in the way our city handles EDP emergencies. I look forward to working with the task force to reform this system to provide the support and resources needed to properly address emotional distress and mental health crises,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Member of the Progressive Caucus.

“The Mayor is to be commended for his commitment to expanding access to mental health services for New Yorkers and for recognizing the need to focus additional attention on the many complex issues related to police interactions with people in an emotional crisis. We believe a task force of this type is the best approach to create diversion and treatment strategies that are effective and sustainable,” said Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.

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City Council Progressive Caucus Stands in Solidarity with Community Organizations

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New York, NY – As elected officials representing diverse communities across New York, we stand in deep solidarity with these community organizations, which are at the front lines of the fight for respect and dignity for all New Yorkers. We are joined by Assembly Members Nily Rozic, Richard Gottfried, and Tremaine Wright.

Every day, these organizations undertake the most pressing work in our democracy—fighting for the rights of working-class New Yorkers, immigrants, and people of color.

Their members and staff work tirelessly to safeguard immigrant families from deportation, help tenants stand up to unscrupulous landlords and stay in their homes, ensure that workers are paid a living wage, to fight for all New Yorkers to have access to quality health care and fully-funded public schools, and more.

At a time when the Trump administration has declared war on our communities, it’s more critical than ever that organizations like Citizen Action of New York, Community Voices Heard Power, Make the Road Action, and New York Communities for Change be allowed—and indeed, encouraged—to continue their indispensable work.

We are committed to standing strong with these incredible organizations.

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Progressive Caucus FY19 Budget Priorities

Every year, the Progressive Caucus works to ensure a fair budget that maintains a commitment to strong core City services while supporting programs that protect the most vulnerable. At a time when the Trump administration threatens the most basic rights and beliefs of many of our residents, an equitable and fair budget that strengthens core City services and protects the most vulnerable is that much more important in order to resist the bigotry and divestment from public assistance occurring at the national level.

With our values and the threats to our city from the national level in mind, Caucus members identified priority investments, using our eleven-point policy framework to outline our policy and budgetary goals for this legislative term. Due to the critical partnership and leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm, many of these priorities and other priority investments were advocated for in the Council Response to the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget.

The Council’s Budget Response to the Mayor reflected many of the budget items prioritized by the Progressive Caucus for the FY19 Budget Cycle, including:

NYCHA Repairs: Invest in NYCHA repairs to improve housing, health, and safety for public housing residents.

Universal Youth Jobs: Additional funding for slots in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) to baseline and grow the program, and more funding to providers to increase support for the development of NYC youth.

Universal Free Lunch for Seniors: Investment in Universal Free Lunch for Seniors to provide free lunch to eligible seniors aged 60 and older.

Fair Fares: Provide funding for half-price MetroCards pilot program for those New Yorkers living at or below the poverty level.

Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP): Increase funding to meet the basic needs of all food pantries and soup kitchens in the EFAP network across the City, and provide food relief for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

Combating Opioids: Allocate funding to lead prevention and treatment efforts around opioid abuse.

School’s Out New York City (SONYC): Fund the Summer SONYC program to ensure the safety and growth potential of children in New York City.

Citywide Citizenship Fund: Include funding in the budget for a citywide citizenship fund to reduce barriers to citizenship for NYC residents who require citizenship application assistance.

Citywide Census 2020: Allocate funds to educate the public about the importance of the census and to assist applicants with navigating the complexities of the process.

Construction Safety Training for All: Investment in ensuring construction safety training is available to all New Yorkers regardless of their background, legal status and gender by hiring new trainers and building the capacity for all construction workers and supervisors to fulfill OSHA requirements.

As we enter City Council’s Executive Budget hearings, we hope to continue work to ensure adequate funding for Caucus priorities above.

Progressive Caucus Advocates for Fair Fares to be Included in the City’s FY19 Budget

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New York, NY – The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council joined Speaker Corey Johnson, Riders Alliance and Community Service Society of New York on the steps of City Hall to advocate on behalf of Fair Fares. Fair Fares has been a top budget priority for the Progressive Caucus for a number of years, and yesterday, due to the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson, and the sustained advocacy of the Progressive Caucus, Riders Alliance, and allies, Fair Fares has been included in the Council’s budget response.

The Council’s Response recommended that the city pay $212 million to subsidize half-fare MetroCards for the 800,000 city residents living at or below the federal poverty line. No New Yorker should have to choose between subway fare and other essential living expenses. The Fair Fares program will help many New Yorkers access greater city resources, ensure equitable access to transportation, and encourage greater upward mobility.

“New York City’s working poor deserve respect. They should not have to jump turnstiles in order to have access to our public transportation system,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “If you make anything close to minimum wage, you have to put around three hours of pay aside every week just to afford to get to work. By funding half-priced MetroCards in the 2018 budget, we would bring much-needed equity to our City’s transportation system and increase opportunity for struggling New Yorkers.”

“It isn’t public transportation if people can’t afford the fare. I support funding reduced fares for all low-income New Yorkers. The economic and social benefits of Fair Fares proves it’s one of the smartest transit investments we can make,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Vice-Chair for Civic Engagement of the Progressive Caucus.

“I am proud to join the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance in urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund discounted metro cards for low-income New Yorkers,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, member of the Progressive Caucus. “The cost of a MetroCard should not inhibit New Yorkers from taking advantage of the economic opportunities our city has to offer. Furthermore, our current system penalizes those who can least afford it, charging more to riders who can’t cover the up-front cost of an unlimited MetroCard which would save them money in the long term. The Fair Fares Initiative will ensure that our transit system is equitable and accessible to all New Yorkers.”

“Making mass transit affordable to the New Yorkers who rely on it most should be our top priority. This of course means exploring ways to reduce fares for lower-income residents. And just as important, it means seriously addressing the MTA’s ever-increasing costs, which lead to frequent fare increases. Let’s get the MTA’s costs under control so we can focus on what truly matters – excellent subway and bus service that is accessible and affordable to all,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“I join my colleagues in the fight for ‘Fair Fares’ as part of this year’s budget. Half price bus and subway fares will be extremely helpful to low income New Yorkers who are generally most affected by Fare Beat arrests. This funding will alleviate that issue to some extent,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“People shouldn’t have to decide between their subway fare and their groceries,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, member of the Progressive Caucus. “All New Yorkers, especially those living below the poverty line, need to be able to take the bus or subway to appointments, work and school. As lawmakers, we can make Fair Fares a reality, guaranteeing half price MetroCards and ensuring access to transportation to some of our city’s most vulnerable.”

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Progressive Caucus Stands with NYC Students to Demand Safe & Just Schools

The Caucus is supporting high school students and youth organizations who are calling on the Mayor to reallocate funding from school policing to increase citywide investments in Restorative Justice, Mental Health Supports, Guidance Counselors and Social Workers, and Culturally Relevant Education

New York, NY – On Wednesday, April 4th, the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council joined Chair of the Education Committee Mark Treyger, New York City students, the Urban Youth Collaborative, Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change, Desis Rising Up and Moving, and Dignity in Schools NY to rally at New York City Hall to call on the Mayor to adopt young people’s solutions for creating safe and just schools for all.

The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is proud to stand in solidarity with students across the country and in our own city. We recognize that gun violence disproportionately impacts students of color, and so we rally for student safety not only inside of classrooms, but within our greater communities. Young people have led countless movements for change here in New York City and across the country, and as progressive elected officials; we pledge our commitment to uplifting the voices of student advocates and fighting for their safety.

“New York City schools need to spend more money on guidance counselors, social workers, and teachers not on criminalizing students and turning schools into detention facilities,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Students need to feel comfortable while they are safe in order to learn. Thank you to the Urban Youth Collaborative and Education Chair Mark Treyger for bringing attention to this topic.”

“I know firsthand that what struggling students need is support, not suspension. High school aged students who are dealing with social pressures, and mental or emotional health concerns should not be criminalized as a first response, which often leads to further interactions with the criminal justice system out of school and facilitates the school to prison pipeline. Rather, we need a structure in place that provides aid, and I am proud to join with the voices of these students calling for safe, supportive, and inclusive schools,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Member of Progressive Caucus.

“School safety should not be synonymous with punitive approaches like suspensions, scanners and unjust suspicions levied against students of color. Instead, our city should be making lasting and positive investments to transform our schools into truly safe havens for all students,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Member of Progressive Caucus. “I want to thank the young people who are leading this movement to revolutionize the way we approach school safety and to create an education system that is responsive to students of all cultures and backgrounds. I will continue to fight to make sure that your voices are heard.”

“It’s time for leaders in Washington, Albany, and here at home to pay attention to our young people, who are courageously showing us the path toward a future where our students can feel safe and supported,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education. “As a former educator, I know that students gravitate toward social workers and guidance counselors when they need help navigating life in and outside of their school building. Social workers and guidance counselors help students cope, process, and ultimately, open up to the full academic and social experience available to them. We need to stop focusing on punitive measures, and start listening to our students and providing them with the help and resources they need. Investing in more social workers and guidance counselors means investing in our students and their futures. I am proud to have stood with so many of our students, the Urban Youth Collaborative, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer today at City Hall, and I thank the members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus for joining us.”

Following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, New York City (NYC) students have experienced a backlash of criminalization. Young people have called for an end to school safety approaches that criminalize students of color, including, metal detectors and scanning, arrests, summons, NYPD in schools, and the use of suspensions. Students are calling for citywide investments to bring restorative practices to every school, significantly increase the number of guidance counselors and social workers, develop a mental health continuum, scale Culturally Responsive training for all educators, and increase student-led college access and support programs. The Caucus supports this call for action.

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