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.
“The education you receive, long run, the more money you will earn to support your family, the better off your families will be, for education, healthcare, housing and the things that we need,” Council member Jackson said adding, “jobs are the most important issues for families today. Without a job, you can’t feed your family, you can’t get them the healthcare that they need and you can’t house them.”
Although absent at the event, Deborah Rose of Staten Island 49th Council District said in a statement that the Human Rights projects report card has brought a spotlight to how civil and human rights are incorporated into the lawmaking process. She outlined her plans for this year.
“Priorities of mine this year include ensuring that Superstorm Sandy victims… get relief and access to the funding that was set aside for them to help re-build their homes and their lives,” Council member Rose said.
Urban Justice Center said it commends each of the 51 City Council members assessed in the report card for their commitment to public service and New York City but that the 13 Council members are applauded for continuing to make New York City a trailblazer in human rights.
“Whether it is Manhattan Borough President Brewer’s push for paid sick leave, Council member Levin’s work for street vendor rights, Council members Lander and William’s calls that the NYPD treat each individual as they would treat me. Council member Van Bramer’s push for the reform of the Board of Standards and Appeals Process, or Council member Rodriguez efforts to ensure each New Yorker has their human rights fulfilled,” Nicole Bramstedt, Research and Policy Coordinator, Human Rights Projects at the Urban Justice Center said. She added saying, “each of these 13 Council members has gone above and beyond to ensure equality and government accountability.”
Between 2010 and 2013, the Urban Justice Center data showed that only 20 percent of bills introduced were in line with human rights ideals, 225 out of 1156.
Shani Jamila, Director of the Human Rights Project said the organization is working to create a city that preserves and protects the human rights of all New Yorkers.
“It’s a pleasure to spotlight the achievements of the Council Members whose work leads us in the right direction,” stated Ms. Jamila.