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City Council members make the grade in ‘report card’

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/3/2014, 1:40 p.m.
City Council holds hearing on "shop-and-frisk."

The Human Rights Project at the Center for Human Rights released its sixth annual New York City Council Human Rights Report Card. The publication assessed City Council members across a range of human rights issues, including housing, government accountability, justice, disability rights, workers’ rights, health and voting.

The report card serves as a tool to hold council members, and the council as a legislative body, accountable.

Each member of the 2013 City Council was graded on his or her human rights record, based on their votes on and sponsorship of 187 pieces of human rights legislation introduced between Jan. 1, 2010, and Sept. 13, 2013, as well as submission of an eight-question human rights questionnaire, which informs the text on the individual council member pages.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not receive a letter grade, but rather a comprehensive assessment of her leadership on human rights legislation.

Among the 13 council members who got “A” grades were Charles Barron, Letitia James, Jumaane Williams, Debbie Rose and Robert Jackson.

“We are pleased to see our legislators taking action to promote human rights,” said Nicole Bramstedt, policy and research coordinator of the Human Rights Project. “We look to the new council to enhance this work. New Yorkers’ quality of life depends on it.”

In addition to grading each council member, the report card assesses the council as a legislative body. Since last year’s report card, the council passed 39 bills that promote human rights, including 11 bills in response to Hurricane Sandy.

For six of these 39 bills, the council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vetoes. Also, while the council passed laudable human rights bills, too many bills did not receive hearings or votes.

The report also revisits two recent land-use projects—Willets Point in Queens and the Seward Park Extension Urban Park Renewal Area in Manhattan, which impact New Yorkers’ housing and workers’ and government accountability rights. The human rights implications of waterfront redevelopment projects in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, and St. George, Staten Island, in post-Hurricane Sandy New York City are also highlighted.

“Human rights principles call for discriminatory outcomes to be addressed, even if there is no proof of discriminatory intent. Employing this type of frame means we can call on the city to proactively address disparities that can be tied to city policies,” stated Shani Jamila, director of the Human Rights Project.

Among some of the council members who received the report card’s “C” grade, the lowest grade, were Darlene Mealy, Andy King, James Oddo and Erik Martin Dilan.