Category Archives: Equal Justice

Support Voting Reform Efforts in New York NOW

(Photo by April Sikorski from Brooklyn, USA (vote here) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

The movement for voting reform in New York State is gaining momentum – and not a moment too soon. While other states have taken measures to modernize and streamline their voting systems, New York has remained mired in rules and arbitrary deadlines that prevent thousands of residents from realizing their right to vote, leaving our state’s voter turnout rates embarrassingly low.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, 37 states offer early voting, a reform that greatly eases the voting process, and a growing number offer same-day and automatic voter registration. The latter reform has been shown to have the greatest impact on increasing voter participation, particularly among young voters, new residents, and immigrants. The primary obstacle to enacting these changes here in New York is a lack of political will. But that is changing.

Last month, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the “New York Votes Act,” calling for same-day registration, automatic registration, and early voting. New York State Senator Daniel Squadron and the Senate Democratic Conference have released an official report on the barriers to voting in New York and introduced a legislative package calling for many of the same reforms. Just this Sunday, thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Battery Park to voice their support for voting reforms.

Now, all eyes are on the final budget, due on April 1. Will Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature do the right thing or will he waffle and delay as he has done before? Please join us in making sure they commit to change!

Call and email Governor Cuomo. Tell him you support his pro-voter budget proposal and want to see it funded and enacted: call 518-474-1041(press 1); email

You can also find your State Senator and Assembly Member and ask them to support voting reform, including early voting and automatic or same-day registration.

Thank you so much for helping to keep the pressure on this important issue. There is everything to be gained when we stand and fight for our most basic rights, and everything to be lost when we don’t.




In the week since Election Day, we’ve seen more than 100 years of social and economic justice advocacy and legislation threatened and the cherished diversity of American society thrown into question. Not only the Affordable Care Act, but also Medicare is under siege. A Muslim registry has been proposed. Deportation forces that are opposed by the governments and police of our largest, most vibrant cities are planned. And, most tellingly, an array of bigots, xenophobes, racists, outsourcers, climate-change deniers, and just brutish and incompetent people is lining up to lead our nation at home and abroad.

Many of you have joined in protest. You’ve said #NotMyPresident, loud and clear. We urge you to continue, but also to resist the gradual “normalization” of this administration-in-waiting. There is nothing “normal” or “American” about what is being proposed.

What to do, right now? Here are three suggestions:

  • Read–and learn. Congressman Jerry Nadler has just come out with a must-read primer demonstrating how to use existing government as a tool of resistance.
  • Organize. Join one or more of the meetings taking place across New York to plot our collective way forward. There’s one called Rise Up Together: The American Majority Against Trump this Sunday, November 20th, from 6 to 8 pm at The Center at 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan.
  • Help. Support the neediest and most vulnerable–those who are immediately threatened. We’ll be making more suggestions, but you can start by supporting and empowering the Muslim community; defending reproductive choice and the right to free or affordable contraception; informing and protecting our immigrant neighbors and families; and standing up for the right to health care by using the hashtag #IfILoseCoverage.

If there was ever time for solidarity, it’s NOWWe’re partners in the campaign to #CLOSErikers. Join us for a vigil outside Gracie Mansion on Sunday afternoon, December 4th

This could be it — the tipping point.

One day, we may look back on this summer as the time when our nation resolved it would no longer tolerate racialized policing. The time when we took the first concrete action to change the way law enforcement agencies engage communities of color. When we reminisce, perhaps we will scratch our heads and wonder what took so long for us to even acknowledge the problem.

Many of us will be proud to say that we were there and helped do it. Together.

No matter what the coming days hold, let us never forget the lives lost to one of the most horrific manifestations of institutionalized racism. Dear Ally for Justice, step back and allow space for people affected by discriminatory policing to grasp and discuss the real possibility that they, too, could become a hashtag one day. Let’s listen openly and refrain from derailing these dialogues by centering other policy agendas.

Most importantly, let’s be mindful. Black Lives Matter is an affirmation of equality, not a demand for supremacy. This outcry is not preceded by an invisible “only,” nor does it exclude other, unspoken lives. If you’re tired of hearing and seeing Black Lives Matter, be thankful that your survival does not depend on this pledge becoming a reality.

  I N   M E M O R I A M  

Philando Castile, 32, had worked for the St. Paul, MN public school system since the age of 19. Recently promoted to a supervisory position in Nutrition Services, he was working as a cafeteria manager at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School at the time of his murder.

The kids called him “Mr. Phil.” In the words of a co-worker, “Kids loved him. He was smart, overqualified, … quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.’”

On the news of his death, a parent wrote, “Every day he fist-bumped my kids, even when they were acting up. He knew every single [student] by name, pushed extra food in them like a grandma, and sneaked extra graham crackers into my son’s bag because [he] got a kick out of it. My borderline autistic son hugged him every day….This was a good man.”

Alton Sterling, 37, was raised by his aunt, Sandra Sterling, who called the large, jovial man a “generous giant.” The father of five children, he had his own struggles with law enforcement, but was respected, kind, and deeply loved by his family. At the time of his fatal encounter with police, he was living in a shelter run by a church group in Baton Rouge, LA and making his living selling music CDs. He was widely known as a “people person” and called “Big A” by his customers.

His cousin, Elliott Sterling, said, “If somebody asked for blues or country music, he’d know it all. He couldn’t make it in a regular job, but he could make it selling CDs. He could converse with everybody.”

An aunt, Regina Adams, remembered: “When he was little, I used to always tell him to go home. I wish I could tell him to go home now.”

TAKE THE #M4BL PLEDGE, and share widely to help end the systemic violence that visits Black communities every day.

GNYCfC SUPPORTS CAMPAIGN ZERO to end police violence in America by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability. Its ongoing review of police union contracts is available here.

It’s Not Just Flint.

We know the immediate effects of the Flint, MI crisis—how the combination of “emergency management,” austerity politics, and irresponsible governance literally poisoned the children of a poor, majority-black city. Thousands of children are now at risk for stunted growth and reduced learning development due to toxic levels of lead ingested through their drinking water.

That means long-term deprivation and, most likely, more cycles of poverty in hard-working communities of color. Yet environmental racism and willful disregard for society’s most vulnerable have a far wider reach.

Think of Baltimore, where the rate of lead poisoning in children is three times the national average–all concentrated in a few racially segregated zip codes. Or Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” with its chemical- and refinery oil-laced water and air. Or, closer to home, the South Bronx, where health disparities from industrial pollution and repeated “industry dumping” in our nation’s poorest congressional district include asthma, enduring mental illnesses, and obesity.

This isn’t new. The systematic environmental abuse of the poor and communities of color is decades-long. But it’s time to demand that more resources—not less—be put into the neighborhoods that most need them.

Right now, you can sign the petition by our friends at Color of Change and demand that budget cuts to the Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program be restored to pre-2005 levels.

It’s a start. A stab at environmental justice. What’s happening in Flint must be prevented from happening elsewhere.


Support NYS Gender Identity Discrimination Regulations

URGENT! Comment on the New Gender Identity Discrimination Regulations from the NYS Division of Human Rights before the official comment period ends:

Simply copy and paste the full letter below into your email, add your own name and address after “Sincerely,” and send to the email address
under the subject heading Gender Identity Discrimination Rule Change: Comment. (Alternately, a PDF of the same letter is available at the link below.) All comments must be received  no later than end of day on December 21, 2015:

December 9, 2015
Caroline J. Downey, General Counsel
NYS Division of Human Rights
One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Re: Gender Identity Discrimination ID No. HRT-44-15-00033-P New Section 466.13

I wish to voice my enthusiastic and unconditional support for an interpretation of sex discrimination in New York State Human Rights Law that will include discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. This more inclusive interpretation has been successfully adopted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will guarantee all New Yorkers equal access to employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations, and all areas covered by the Human Rights Law.

This change is a necessary and fair step to correct the severe and ongoing discrimination experienced by a deeply marginalized group of New Yorkers. For the first time, transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers will have equal access to legal redress against discrimination. All New Yorkers will benefit from a fairer and more inclusive interpretation of the law that will now protect all of us.

While noting that this change in interpretation of the New York State Human Rights Law will not endow transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers with full equal rights under the law, I recognize it as a necessary and laudable first step. I hope the New York State Division of Human Rights will give the proposed changes its approval, and look forward to the day when all New Yorkers share full legal protection from discrimination.



Join an informed campaign to end police violence. 


Americans have watched the Black Lives Matter movement unfold in response to cases of police violence and unequal justice outcomes across the nation. As the movement gains prominence, some voices have questioned its motives, demanding that its purpose be made clear. Now a number of activists, working with the Center for Popular Democracy and President Obama’s DoJ Task Force on 21st Century Policing, have released a set of clear and detailed policy goals.

Their findings help us grasp the extent of the problem: out of 1,100 deaths by police hands in 2014, a large majority were of unarmed citizens. Many occurred during stops for minor offenses or routine traffic violations. Far too many were of people in need of mental health resources. While unnecessary police violence undermines all our civil liberties, this violence falls disproportionately on black Americans, who already bear the overwhelming, daily force of the historical racism embedded in our nation.

In addition to policy recommendations, Campaign Zero provides guidance on implementing change at the local, state, and federal level, while encouraging feedback and suggestions. The Campaign is also tracking presidential candidates to determine who’s listening.

We applaud the activists’ coordinated, data-driven approach, endorse the policy recommendations below, and commit to advocating for implementation here in New York City. You can, too. More detailed information can be found at Campaign Zero.

End “Broken Windows”
  • End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses
  • End Profiling and “Stop-and-Frisk”
  • Establish Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Crises
Community Oversight
  • Establish effective civilian oversight structures
  • Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct
Limit Use of Force
  • Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force
  • End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases
  • Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies
  • Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force
Independently Investigate & Prosecute
  • Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers
  • Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions
  • Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the State level for cases of police violence
  • Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians
Community Representation
  • Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve
  • Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices
Body Cameras
  • Body cameras
  • The Right to Record Police
  • Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training
  • Intentionally consider ‘unconscious’ or ‘implicit’ racial bias
End For-Profit Policing
  • End police department quotas for tickets and arrests
  • Limit fines and fees for low-income people
  • Prevent police from taking the money or property of innocent people
  • End the Federal Government’s 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments
  • Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry

*Policy solutions graphic courtesy of Campaign Zero