Black Lives Matter and Curbing Police Brutality

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Police brutality is a manifestation of systems that exist to uphold institutionalized racism and the suppression of black lives. Over the past week, the masses responded in mass protest after the heinous murder of George Floyd, which was met with greater police violence brought down across nearly all major American cities.

In New York City, the NYPD has been increasingly aggressive in their efforts to respond to the growing protests across the city - no matter the peaceful nature of the protest. And while criminal activity has occurred, it should not be joined or used to obfuscate the protest efforts or justify certain police actions. Across the State, protesters have faced unprovoked violent arrests, pepper spray, clubbing, shield smashing, beatings, police vehicles attempting to run over crowds, police drawing their firearms. Two of my colleagues, Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and Senator Zellnor Myrie, were pepper sprayed and arrested. A curfew was hastily implemented with confusion amid an ongoing pandemic and its protocols, with reports of essential workers arrested.

The disturbing police brutality in response to protests about police brutality further highlights how disconnected the police and their leadership are to the issues they perpetuate. Therefore, on our end, we will be pushing for legislation that will deconstruct tools that have allowed police departments to operate without accountability.

Holding Police Accountable

We in the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus have endorsed a legislative package to reform police in New York State. Among the reforms included:

  • Repeal of 50-A: repeal of law that allows police officer misconduct to be shielded from public view
  • False 9-1-1 Complaints: makes it a hate crime to issue a false 9-1-1 complaint
  • Office of the Special Prosecutor: creates the Office to investigate and prosecute criminal cases against law enforcement
  • Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act: enforces transparent data reporting from policing actions
  • Establishes a ban on chokeholds
  • Legislation strengthening laws prohibiting law enforcement profiling on basis of protected class

The fundamental relationships between members of law enforcement (in all levels of government) and the public require transformation beyond the capacity of legislative changes, but we can and should do everything in our power to change the status quo and we have a chance to take action.

While we aim to deconstruct racist and discriminatory policing, the questions of racism, anti-blackness, white supremacy, and their resulting violence, remain institutional in character. Meaningful transformation cannot be achieved by legislation alone, rather it requires fundamental challenges to the institutions – for a healthy democracy cannot exist with institutions that dehumanize black lives. In this struggle, I stand in support of the protesters.

Back in Session

Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020

The Assembly and the Senate was back in session last week, and there were a number of actions that the State took to aid in the fight against the pandemic and towards a recovery.

One of the most important pieces of legislation that was before the conference is relief for renters and homeowners. State revenue has been halted as a result of the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, but there is a way to use $100 million from the federal CARES Act aid package that can be used towards rental relief.

What does it do?

  • Covers period from April 1st to July 31st
  • For tenants who are: rent burdened (30% or more of income towards rent) and are in 80% of the Area Median Income
  • Gives NYS' housing agency authority to prioritize the vouchers for tenants with greatest economic and social need.
  • For homeowners: mortgages regulated by New York State can receive forbearance for 90 days for demonstrated financial hardship

The relief bill cannot address the extensive and continuously rising total number of tenants who may not qualify for relief under these guidelines, but it is a step towards some relief that can nevertheless help. With the State's revenues halted, much depends on the action taken in Washington which determines our ability to take action in Albany. What may be passed in the coming days may not be necessarily the only aid that can be passed - a lot of work remains.

When revenue is halted, efforts must then look at new sources - the ultra-wealthy. I fully support this approach, and I've been fighting for legislation doing just that. My efforts to abolish the Luxury Condo/Co-op Tax Abatement and use that revenue to fund NYCHA's dire capital needs is one example. New revenue does exist, and I'm working on bringing it to help our communities.

Combating COVID-19 and Protecting New Yorkers

As our fight against the pandemic continues, the New York State Legislature passed and advanced a legislative package of 31 bills to combat COVID and protect New Yorkers.

Among some of the key legislation we passed:

  • A.10290B: Prohibits evictions for nonpayment for tenants who suffered losses from restrictions of New York on PAUSE
  • A.10351B: Requires New York State regulated banking institutions to grant 180 days of mortgage forbearance, with the option for an additional 180 days, on a residential mortgage on their primary residence as a result of COVID.
  • A.10294A: Authorizes Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) to create a COVID-19 State of Emergency loan program to provide capital funding for small businesses and not-for-profits
  • A.10528: Establish a COVID-19 pension benefit for families of public employees who die due to their workplace exposure to the disease
  • A.10447A: Required, to the greatest extent possible, that COVID-19 contact tracers be representative of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the communities they are serving
  • A.9036: Extends the period of time to file civil claims under the Child Victims Act by one year

To find the full list, visit here.