Media Inquiries

press@advocate.nyc.gov

Williams' Statement On The Passing Of Representative Elijah Cummings

October 17th, 2019Press Release

" Today, the United States has lost a great leader - a giant of civil rights, a champion of democracy and of our country, with the passing of Representative Elijah Cummings. A statesman who believed in the best of this nation, its government, and its people while holding to account when those marks were not met, he held us to our highest ideals.

"The death of Representative Cummings is a tragedy, his life a model of commitment to public service and to the people of Baltimore whom he served for decades. His courage, strength and pursuit of justice will long be remembered, in generations of leaders who have been inspired by his public work and personal character."


Williams Calls For The Repeal Of Section 50-a At State Senate Hearing

October 17th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called for the repeal of Section 50-a today at a hearing by the New York State Senate Committee on Codes. Section 50-a of the New York State Civic Rights Law relates to restricting access to personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers.

In his testimony, the Public Advocate supported passage of S3695/A2513 in the State Legislature. He is the sponsor of a resolution in the City Council calling for this legislation to be passed on a state level. Public Advocate Williams highlighted that if 50-A is not repealed, "public trust in our law enforcement and the NYC administration will continue to be eroded" by denying transparency and accountability. He further stressed that "Passing this legislation does not mean that we are anti-police or that we do not very much support our men and women in blue, who are tasked with protecting us every single day. To the contrary, it is because of our support of them and better policing we know this must be repealed."

The full text of his testimony as written is below and can be downloaded here. TESTIMONY OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS TO THE NEW

YORK STATE SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON CODES PUBLIC HEARING ON POLICING, REPEALS PROVISIONS RELATING TO PERSONNEL RECORDS OF POLICE OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS

OCTOBER 17, 2019 Good afternoon,

My name is Jumaane D. Williams, and I am Public Advocate for the City of New York. I would like to thank Chairman Jamaal T. Bailey and the Members of the Standing Committee on Codes for holding this hearing on Senator Bailey's bill, S3695, which repeals section 50-A of the New York State Civil Rights Law. This bill would repeal provisions relating to personnel records of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers, essentially making them available to the public.

The interpretation and application of section 50-A deprives the public of information fundamental to oversight and lends a shield of opacity to the very public state and local police agencies that have perhaps the greatest day-to-day impact over the lives of citizens. Section 50-A increases the harms caused to New Yorkers who experience police abuse by denying them and their loved ones access to information as to whether departments take disciplinary action against officers who mistreat them, which includes withholding information about officers whose actions result in a person's death. It also prevents us all from creating a true system to identify officers who, with early intervention, can be put on a corrective force or guided to another career before the worst occurs. Between 2011 and 2015, at least 319 NYPD staff committed offenses, including lying under oath, driving under the influence, and excessive force with almost no serious consequence.

Given the clear lack of discipline with regard to police misconduct, Chairman Bailey's bill is crucial for enforcing accountability and improving police-community relations. That is why I have introduced Resolution 750-2019 - with 21 council members' support - calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign S3695/A2513 in the beginning of next year's session.

There is nothing more corrupting than power exercised in secret. Those are the words of the late investigative journalist, Daniel Schorr, who was number 17 on Nixon's enemy list, and his words ring even more true today. The NYPD's ability to operate with almost zero public consequences in cases of misconduct and abuse is a clear example of power exercised in secret - and it is corrupting. We must demand transparency and accountability at all levels of government, and that includes ensuring that those in charge of protecting us are also answerable to us. Passing this legislation does not mean that we are anti-police or that we do not very much support our men and women in blue, who are tasked with protecting us every single day. To the contrary, it is because of our support of them and better policing we know this must be repealed.

If we do not repeal section 50-A, public trust in our law enforcement and the NYC administration will continue to be eroded. The two areas where people are yearning to see change are transparency and accountability, and we have not seen much progress in those areas, unfortunately. Section 50-A can no longer be used as an excuse to tie the hands of District Attorneys as a reason for a slap on the wrist treatment of officers who have undermined their duty to serve and protect.

I am sad that not much has changed in the two areas I have mentioned. Repealing 50-A is a necessary step toward justice for Eric Garner, for Saheed Vassell, for Ramarley Graham, for Delrawn Smalls, for Dwayne Jeune, for their families, and for the countless New Yorkers who are just asking for truth and openness.

For those reasons, I urge the members of the Senate to pass S3695. Again, thank you to Chairman Bailey and the Members of the Standing Committee on Codes for taking up this issue.


Williams, Elected Officials Oppose Transition Of Women's Shelter

October 3rd, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, with Congressman Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Danny O'Donnell, and Council Member Mark Levine have sent a letter to Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees the Department of Homeless Services, strongly opposing a proposal to transition a women's shelter on the Upper West Side into a men's shelter. The planned transition, which was met with fierce objection at a September 24th Community Board 7 meeting, may be imminent and involve significant eviction and displacement.

In their letter opposing the plan, the elected officials said that "We take issue both with the process employed by your agency and, more pressingly, with the substance of the proposed change," and "We ask that you reconsider your proposed change to the resident population at the 107th Street shelter." The full letter is below and can be downloaded here. October 2, 2019

Dear Commissioner Banks:  We write in opposition to the proposed changes to the resident population at the HELP-USA-run shelter at 237 West 107th Street. We take issue both with the process employed by your agency and, more pressingly, with the substance of the proposed change. 

On September 16th, some elected officials received phone calls informing them of the shelter's transition from a women's shelter to a men's shelter. We asked the Community Board (CB) to take up this issue and on September 24th, over 70 shelter and neighborhood residents attended the CB 7 Health and Human Services Committee meeting. Everyone attending that night asked that the current shelter population of women remain. The Committee then unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) keep the shelter as is. No one from DHS attended that meeting, either to present information or to answer questions. In addition, on September 26th, CB 7 wrote a letter to HRA reiterating its position. On September 30th, over 100 shelter and neighborhood residents met in a nearby church. Shelter residents expressed anxiety about the lack of information, while neighbors expressed their strong support for the women at the shelter as well as their equally strong opposition to changing the current resident population to men. 

As the elected representatives of the neighbors and residents of 237 West 107th Street, we have a primary responsibility to advocate for our constituents. Many of the women who currently reside in the shelter have jobs (some work for the City of New York) and all are members of our community. We want them to remain here.  Because there has been no formal communication, presentation at the Community Board or for community residents, rumors abound. We are only able to determine your agency's proposed plans for the women and the building through individual phone calls to members of your staff. This is in itself a disservice to all who are actively engaged in our communities. 

We ask that you reconsider your proposed change to the resident population at the 107th Street shelter, and that your agency communicate with all involved. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.


Williams' Statement On The Firing Of Daniel Pantaleo

August 19th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams issued the following statement in response to the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo by NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

STATEMENT BY THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE

" Commissioner O'Neill came to the right decision to fire Daniel Pantaleo. Finally. After five years of waiting, five years of pain, five years of justice delayed and denied, we have some action, providing a small semblance of justice deserved.

"But the work needed to prevent these tragic incidents, to bring real accountability and transparency which will continue the push toward true community-police relationships in this city and around the country, is only beginning. Supporting our men and women in blue and demanding accountability are not mutually exclusive, and we must reject the voices of those who try to make us choose.

"We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together. We must move forward together."


Williams, Fraternal Leaders Release Statement On Ninth Nypd Officer Suicide

August 15th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement today with law enforcement Fraternal Organization Leaders Anthony Miranda, Chair of the National Latino Officers Association, and Charles Billups, Chair of the Grand Council of Guardians, in response to the ninth NYPD officer suicide this year.

STATEMENT BY PUBLIC ADVOCATE WILLIAMS & FRATERNAL LEADERS

"We offer our condolences, empathy, and support to the families of those officers who have lost their lives in recent days, weeks, and months as this devastating trend continues and spreads. In the last five years, an average of five NYPD officers have taken their lives each year, and nine have died by suicide in the last eight months-- two in the last two days. It's vital that we all come together and respond with compassion, understanding, and resources. "This is a crisis that often goes unseen as officers suffer in silence, now made visible in tragedy and loss. It's often extremely difficult -institutionally, societally, personally - to talk about mental health or seek help in a time of need. We need to break down the stigma preventing officers from seeking help and ensure that such aid is there when needed. By policy or legislation, our city must also create a system that permits all officers to seek confidential mental health treatment. "It's critical that throughout the city and across all ranks, New York City's police force is equipped with the support systems and resources needed to address mental health concerns, both in times of emergency and proactively, to prevent such a crisis moment."


Williams Introduces Bill To Create Expanded Youth Employment Education Program

August 14th, 2019Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams will introduce legislation today to create a new Youth Employment Education Program for all school-age New York City residents. The new program would be a parallel, expanded program to the Summer Youth Employment Program, and would be open to all youth, regardless of immigration status.

To announce the legislation, Public Advocate Williams rallied this morning on the steps of City Hall with a broad coalition of advocacy organizations and elected officials ahead of the bill's introduction. Dozens of young people joined the effort to amplify the need for all of New York City's youth to have the opportunity to gain experience and education in work-related skills. Organizations present included the Brooklyn Neighborhood Improvement Association, Chinese-American Planning Council, the Campaign for Summer Jobs, Coalition for Asian American Children + Families, Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, Safe Horizon, Make the Road NY , the YMCA of Greater NY  and more.

"Youth employment education is vital for young people in our city," said Public Advocate Williams . "The legislation being introduced today helps build on the success  of the Summer Youth Employment Program so that all students in New York City, regardless of immigration status, have access to a job. It's about more than a paycheck. It's about learning vital skills and providing our youth with a positive path.  While Donald Trump and his administration are seeking to limit opportunity for immigrant communities - such as with his public charge rule - we in the city can step up and expand them."

The Youth Employment Education Program, as proposed in the legislation,  would be open to all youth of 14-22 years old, regardless of immigration/work authorization status. Besides legal status, other program differences include age range served, employment opportunities, and remuneration. The proposed program's age limit is 22 years old as per New York City's Department of Education requirements. Employment opportunities are focused on government offices and a grant of $1,500 or more will be provided to Youth Employment Education Program participants.

Council Member Debi Rose, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said, "Our city's Summer Youth Employment Program provides invaluable academic, employment and civic experience to tens of thousands of young New Yorkers - while revising employers opportunities to give back and learn from our young people - and I believe all young people deserve the chance to access those opportunities. We should not perpetuate a two-tiered system among our youth, and this bill would ensure that all young people could apply for this program. The Public Advocate has been a successful advocate for expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program over that last decade, and I am proud to join in him supporting universal access.

Council Member Margaret S. Chin, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said, "By providing our kids with invaluable hands-on job training, the Summer Youth Employment Education Program represents one of the City's best investments in the future of New York. The opportunities the Summer Youth Employment Education Program provides should never be denied to any child regardless of their immigrant status. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill alongside my colleague Council Member Rose, and I thank Public Advocate Williams for pushing for an expansion of this vital program."

Gregory Brender, Director of Children and Youth Services at United Neighborhood Houses, said,  "A first work experience is a powerful lesson in independence and maturity; we all remember the pride that comes with spending hard-earned cash and the discipline required to take on new responsibilities and manage relationships with co-workers. United Neighborhood Houses and the Campaign for Summer Jobs are proud to stand with Public Advocate Williams and call for work experiences to be the meaningful and accessible pathways we know they can be for all New York City youth."

Julie Shapiro, Executive Director of The Door, said,  "We at The Door applaud the Public Advocate for introducing this bill. The undocumented youth with whom we work are increasingly targeted and discriminated against by our federal government, individuals, and society at large. Including them in this program is an important step towards showing them how much they matter to our city. Decades of research have shown that summer jobs programs have a positive impact for young people and society alike. It is about time that undocumented youth unleash their full potential by being able to access the city's SYEP."

Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon, said,  "We are proud to support Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and his efforts to make the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) all-inclusive. As one of the leading providers of services for homeless youth, we know access to employment and career exploration opportunities is imperative. This is an important step in offering youth career pathways and workplace skills."

Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, said,  "As an organization that serves Asian Americans and immigrants of all backgrounds and status, CPC is thrilled to support this bill that would make SYEP accessible to all young people in New York City. CPC is one of the largest SYEP providers in New York City and knows firsthand how SYEP is critical to the development of young people. This bill is a huge step forward towards building a true sanctuary city."

Alicia Guevara, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, said,  "Young people benefit greatly when they have access to career development opportunities that prepare them to succeed in today's global knowledge economy. SYEP creates impactful workplace opportunities for career exploration and readiness that advance Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City's commitment to igniting the potential and biggest possible futures for all NYC youth."

Shijuade Kadree, Chief Advocacy Officer at The LGBT Community Center, said,  "Through The Center's robust Youth Program, we witness how employment and career development opportunities positively impact young people-particularly those who are part of historically marginalized groups. By giving more young people a path to employment and financial autonomy, we will begin to demolish barriers to equality that too many New Yorkers currently face."

Vanessa Leung, Co-Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children + Families, said, "CACF, the nation's only pan-Asian children's policy advocacy organization, applauds our Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for pushing to expand NYC's Summer Youth Employment Program to include all youth age 14 to 22 years old to apply, regardless of their citizenship status. Asian Pacific American students make up more than 15% of the student population. Many come from low-income households. This change opens the opportunity to young people across the City to be able to benefit from SYEP which is a critical resource for our young people seeking employment. More importantly, SYEP provides young people an opportunity to gain and develop the competencies they need to be successful in their future jobs as well as explore their career options. This is especially helpful for youth from immigrant households who can benefit from the the exposure to jobs and increase their understanding of their employment options. We look forward to advocating on the expansion of SYEP to increase access for youth across the City."

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