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City Council member grades reaffirm commitment to advocating for human rights

Patience Edet Goanue | 4/11/2014, 5:25 p.m.
13 city officials received certificates from the Urban Justice Center on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday, ...
Urban Justice Center Patience Edet Goanue photo

“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,” said former Council Member Charles Barron.

The term-limited council member was one of 13 city officials to receive certificates from the Urban Justice Center on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday, April 3. These council members received passing grades from the annual New York City Council Human Rights Report Card.

The sixth annual report card, released on Tuesday, March 25 during an hour-long webinar, assessed 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 13 City Council members were present to receive the certificates and reaffirmed their commitment to continue fighting for the human rights of New Yorkers. Barron, of Brooklyn’s 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 districts are treated equally.

The annual assessment of City Council members’ human rights activities is an attempt by the 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 representative of Brooklyn 35th District and current 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,” James said. “I look forward to doing more together on issues such as pay equity, LGBT rights, workers’ 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. Former City Council Member Robert Jackson, one-time chairperson of the Education Committee and co-chair of the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian 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.

Jackson disclosed that as part of the achievements made in the educational sector, the City University of New York is putting forward application fee waivers for those who cannot afford to apply in the face of the failure of the New York State Dream Act. The Dream Act was intended to provide access to state financial aid to undocumented immigrant minors. Jackson stressed the importance of education and jobs.