On Tuesday, New Yorkers will go to the polls to elect candidates to help them navigate out of the turbulent waters we find ourselves in during this critical COVID-19 crisis where Black New Yorkers have been disproportionately harmed by every negative facet of this pandemic.
Before COVID, many Black New Yorkers were already in a bad place due to the unaddressed institutional racism which affects and infects every aspect of our lives in areas such as: education, economic opportunities, employment, housing, homelessness, and quality healthcare–which has now taken on new urgency.
Because of these institutionalized inequities it isn’t surprising Black Americans are suffering significantly in this time of COVID and are dying and being hospitalized at high rates, relative to our population percentage– which has been made worst by the heavy economic losses we are experiencing and surely can’t afford.
The next mayor, while fighting to bring the city back for all New Yorkers, must realize New York City’s Black and Latino communities require special attention right now to alleviate the levels of trauma, despair and hopelessness that is plaguing our people.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is positioned to easily beat Republican Curtis Sliwa, who isn’t offering anything substantial that can be discerned. But the job of bringing New York City back from the devastation of COVID won’t be easy on many fronts. Besides trying to resuscitate the economy, the next mayor will have to deal with tricky things like what to do about municipal workers who adamantly refuse to be vaccinated.
Of course, the other pandemic which is screaming for capable, bold, leadership to face it head on is: the institutional racism that permeates the out-of-control NYPD. Is New York City ready to become a change agent and national example on fixing racial policing?
As a former NYPD officer, Adams has said his experience as a Black officer has prepared him and puts him in a unique position to fix the racial policing problem within the NYPD. We agree. However, Mr. Adams must know he faces no easy task here given the corrupt power of police unions, and their bully mouthpiece spokespersons who do everything to resist necessary change.
The current mayor became mayor by promising the Black and Latino community that he would change the corrosive cop culture within the NYPD and bring accountability. But his betrayal started early when (apparently, to appease some whites) he appointed William Bratton, the champion of Broken Windows, to be the police commissioner, instead of seizing the time and going in a different direction. In the end, he was undermined by Bratton and backed down from his campaign promises to Black and Latino New Yorkers, and was thoroughly intimidated by police brass.
Now, there has been a lot of talk lately about the rise in gun violence, which obviously must be tackled. But many are talking of this gun crisis as if the only remedy is more of the same tried, tested, and failed “get tough on crime” actions that politicians have been touting for decades.
The elephant in the room that needs discussion is the disinvestment in Black and Brown communities where we have been plagued with crumbling or non-existent infrastructure and an appalling lack of capital investment. Much of the crime we’re talking about here starts with our failing schools, high levels of unemployment, high homelessness, etc. Why do politicians continue to pretend not to see the connections between economic disinvestment and most of the crime problems in Black and Latino neighborhoods?
The current gun violence spike in New York (and other cities) was foreseeable giving the existing conditions which were further aggravated by COVID. Will we finally see a commitment to addressing these institutional issues, which will fix much of our crime problems too? Or, will we see a new wave of mass incarceration measures under the guise of keeping us safe?
Economic stability, and really investing in non-white communities, will bring more safety to all of New York City than further bloating the police budget.
In recent years, the cry has become clear that Americans want changes in this so-called criminal justice system that targets Black Americans for criminalization. This has led Blacks to become more focused on races for judges and district attorneys.
In Manhattan, Mr. Alvin Bragg is running to be the next Manhattan District Attorney. Bragg has said if he wins he will restructure the office to stop it from criminalizing poverty and that he will work towards ending mass incarceration. He has said he will engage in reforms to improve both the police and prosecutions.
Again, this is easier said than done when we have police and politicians who like the current system, as is, which targets Blacks for criminal and economic exploitation. We know the NYPD racially profiles (police have also told us this) Black and Latinos to fill their quotas on tickets, summonses and arrests. Because police are evaluated on how many of these they garner, it encourages racist attacks by police on our non-white citizens.
We are encouraged by Mr. Bragg’s platform. He has pledged to: end mass incarceration, free the wrongly incarcerated, increase police accountability, reform pre-trial detention, combat hate crimes, fight for economic justice, address mental health issues and homelessness, and deliver on housing justice, to name a few.
Mr. Bragg has been endorsed by important figures from the Black community like: Gwen Carr, Harry Belafonte, former Congressman Charles Rangel, former Governor David A. Paterson, NAACP’s Hazel Dukes and others who argue he is the right person at this time to be the next Manhattan DA.
On Tuesday, there will also be a special election to replace the state senate seat that was left vacant when former state Senator Brian Benjamin accepted the appointment to be Governor Kathy Hochul’s Lt. Governor.
Benjamin has endorsed Ms. Cordell Cleare to be his replacement for the 30th State Senate district seat: which includes central and east Harlem, the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights.
Many community leaders and activists have thrown their support behind Cleare who worked as a staffer for former Councilman and State Senator Bill Perkins for nearly twenty years. A respected long-time community activist, Cleare has listed some of her most important policy proposals as:
- Protecting Harlem’s landmarks
- Police free schools
- Green jobs/businesses
- Solar and Renewable Energy
- Promoting and funding Arts & Culture
- Restorative justice
- Raise the cap on vending licenses
Cleare is particularly prioritizing housing and has said she intends to:
1. Increase and strengthen tenant protections including succession
2. Allow basements in privately owned homes to be converted to apartments
3. Support the use of failed hotels and other commercial space to be developed as permanent affordable housing.
4. Mandate that remaining city owned land be used to create housing that is affordable to low income and working class families/individuals.
5. Work with the Mayor, my colleagues, state and federal elected officials to fund and develop a plan to build housing according to a neighborhood median income and not the current AMI.
6. Reduce and limit the grounds for eviction.
7. Preserve the affordable housing stock we already have. Stop deregulation of rent stabilized units and recover units already lost.
Because of their platform pledges, the Black Star News is endorsing Mr. Eric Adams, for New York City Mayor; Mr. Alvin Bragg, for Manhattan District Attorney; and Ms. Cordell Cleare for New York’s 30th State Senate district seat.