NYC Tackles Myriad Woes

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Council Member Yvette Clarke asked her colleagues to support her resolution condemning the remarks of a Hot 97/WQHT-FM radio deejay, Tarsha Nicole Jones, who, during the New York City Transit Workers strike, called the union’s Caribbean-born President, Roger Toussaint, a “dumb coconut.�

Housing, universal health coverage, and a racial slur were just a few of the many important items on the agenda at the last City Council meeting.

Council Member Yvette Clarke asked her colleagues to support her resolution condemning the remarks of a Hot 97/WQHT-FM radio deejay, Tarsha Nicole Jones, who, during the New York City Transit Workers strike, called the union’s Caribbean-born President, Roger Toussaint, a “dumb coconut.� Not only was this an insult to him, but, by extension, a disparagement of the entire Caribbean community. “We need to send a resounding message that we don't tolerate this kind of thing,� stated Clarke. “If you didn't like what the man said, you should address that and not his ethnicity. That just promotes racial bigotry.�

On another hot topic – the scarcity of affordable housing – Council Member Rosie Mendez called attention to two bills she’s sponsoring to extend the City’s rent control and rent stabilization laws. “We have a housing crisis,� she declared. “The homeless rate is the highest it’s been in over a decade.� Backing her up was Council Member Miguel Martinez, who stated that it’s crucial that the City Council take a pro-active stance on this urgent matter because entire communities are on the verge of displacement. He also pointed out that instead of State legislators having control over New York City’s rent regulations, the City needs the power to legislate its own laws in this field.

Council Member Charles Barron also introduced a bill aimed specifically at protecting senior citizens from eviction. The bill requires that any landlord who evicts a senior citizen must report it to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and to the City’s Human Rights Commission. “That way seniors will have the protection of the City when it comes to evictions, and if a tenant must be evicted, it will be done properly,� he explained.

Council Member Oliver Koppell asked for support for his resolution strongly urging Congress to pass John Conyers’ HR 676, which calls for a national health insurance system in the United States. “One of the most important problems that we face in New York State and around the country is the absence of the availability of health insurance to countless millions of Americans,� Koppell stated. “It is an absolute disgrace that the United States is one of the very few industrialize nations in the world that don't have universal health care systems. The time has long since passed when we should join England, France, Canada and other industrialized nations and have a universal health care system.�

Koppell went on to delineate how American industries are unable to compete globally due to the cost of providing health coverage for their employees and retirees – whereas industries in countries with universal health care don’t have to foot that bill. “Our economy would be helped by it, but most importantly, the families of our constituents would be,� he concluded.
During the meeting, Council Member Al Vann spoke very highly of a group of 14 resolutions submitted by Council Member Helen Foster on a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to bring some measure of equality and compassion to the downtrodden and those who have not received a fair deal. Among the many items are:

The disparity in life expectancy between the City’s poor communities of color and wealthy communities; The under-representation of “minorities� in management within the municipal workforce; The unjust law that bars students with previous drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid for college; The need for a special prosecutor’s office for matters involving police misconduct and brutality; The necessity for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to stop requiring applicants for drivers’ licenses to provide information regarding their immigration status.

Vann urged his fellow councilmembers to take a close look at Foster’s resolutions because in them “she has really captured what is wrong in our City and has proposed recommendations for how we should go about dealing with it.�

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