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A-Grade Rating Past and Present City Council Members Reaffirm Commitment to Advocating for Human Rights

4/7/2014, 5:08 p.m. | Updated on 4/7/2014, 5:08 p.m.
The Urban Justice Center gave out certificates to 13 City Council members on Thursday April 3, on the steps of ...
From L-R Shani Jamila-Director of the Human Rights Project; Robert Jackson-Manhattan Council District #7; Ydanis Rodriguez-Manhattan Council District #10 and Nicole Bramstedt-Policy and Research Coordinator of the Human Rights Project

The Urban Justice Center gave out certificates to 13 City Council members on Thursday April 3, on the steps of the City Hall in Manhattan. These council members received passing grades from the annual New York City Council Human Rights Report Card.

The 6th annual report card, released on Tuesday March 25, during an hour long webinar, assessed the City Council members' legislative records across a range of human rights areas including workers' rights, criminal and juvenile justice and government accountability.

Seven of the thirteen Council members were present to receive the certificates and reaffirmed their commitment to continue fighting for the human rights of New Yorkers. Council Member Charles Barron of Brooklyn 42nd District, called for a radical rearrangement of the political and economic order of America and the redistribution of wealth. He received a certificate for his persistence to ensure all New York Council districts are treated equally.

“It’s a shame that in the richest country in the history of the planet earth that some people don’t have enough to eat and some people are sleeping on the streets. It is a shame that in this city, we have so many people in need of minimum wage,” Council Member Barron said.

The annual assessment of City Council members’ human rights activities is an attempt by Urban Justice Center to push for a higher standard of government accountability than U.S. legislation typically allows.

Honored for her affordable housing work, former Council member of Brooklyn 35th District, Public Advocate Letitia James said elected officials should be graded on the ability to create a better life for New Yorkers.

"I am so proud to serve as the city's Public Advocate and to continue working with an increasingly progressive and equitable City Council. I am proud of the wonderful work that the City Council and the administration has done,” PA James said adding, “I look forward to doing more together on issues such as pay equity, LGBT rights, worker's rights, and other issues to further universal human rights standards in this great city. "

The human rights project places domestic poverty and discrimination issues within a human rights framework. The human rights standards are to provide an avenue of response to social injustice when national, state and local laws and processes fail, according to the Urban Justice Center.

Robert Jackson, Chairperson on Education Committee and Co-chair of the New York City Council Black and former Latino and Native Caucus was awarded for his work in education. He said that the fight for education is a human right as opposed to just being a civil right. Council member Jackson disclosed that as part of the achievements made in the educational sector, the City University of New York is putting forward application fee waiver for those who cannot afford it in the face of the failure of the New York State Dream Act. The Dream Act was intended to provide access to State financial aids to undocumented immigrant minors. He stressed the importance of education and jobs.