A young woman testifies at a Racial Justice Commission session Credit: Contributed photo

The New York City Racial Justice Commission (RJC), launched in March by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is reaching the final phases of its public input sessions that will be used to revise the city’s charter and root out structural racism.

The work of the commission builds on the administration’s promise to address racial inequities highlighted during the COVID-19 response and recovery process. New Yorkers of all backgrounds are encouraged to testify at input sessions, held in each borough and virtually, as to what the underlying causes are that affect Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Island, Middle Eastern, and other people of color.

Commissioners present at the Monday, Nov. 8, session were J. Phillip Thompson, Lurie Daniel Favors Esq., Ana Bermudez Esq, Jo-Ann Yoo, Yesenia Mata, Chris Kui, as well as Jennifer Jones Austin––chair of the Racial Justice Commission.

A racial justice commission spokesperson said that largely people from community public land trusts organizations, violence interrupters, families, and immigrant residents concerned about access to civil service job opportunities showed up to speak.

In the session, residents proposed to amend the charter to put public land back in community hands and ban the property tax lien sale that often causes small homeowners to go into foreclosure.

“We realized there were a lot of vacant lots in East New York that could be and should be used for community purposes. We surveyed this one particular lot that I know for a fact, because I lived across the street from it, has been vacant for over 20 years. How is it that this land is vacant when we’re in a housing crisis?” said a member of the East New York Community Land Trust in the session.
Residents were also able to question commissioners about housing development, property sales, and land use.

The spokesperson said that the major difference between the input sessions happening this month and the months prior is how the NYC for Racial Justice: Interim Report has shaped the foundation of their public engagement.

The commission’s interim report broadly outlines six patterns of inequity residents have identified so far through their feedback: lack of quality services that promote social and emotional wellbeing, resources within and across neighborhoods not distributed equitably, inequity in employment and economic mobility, over policing and stark racial disparities in the criminal justice system, lack of representation in government, and accountability against discrimination.

These areas cover concerns ranging from quality education and access to affordable low-income housing to mental health services to encouraging more Black and Brown people to get out and vote.

“We want to know, do these patterns of inequity reflect the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other New Yorkers of Color,” said the spokesperson, “and what solutions can stop, prevent, or address these patterns.”

Nov. 10, Wednesday’s input session at the Sonia Sotomayor Community Center will be available online at on.nyc.gov/racialjusticepublicinput, and the last session for the month will be virtual on Nov. 18 by registering online.

Public input sessions are open for public participation and testimony through Dec. 1, 2021.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America Corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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