Equity must be the cornerstone of our policies, the way we govern, and how we meaningfully engage diverse communities. We spent the past year working to build a city that stands on the strength of inclusion and diversity.

In 2016, my colleagues and I ushered in landmark legislation and budget initiatives to create sweeping change and improve the lives of New Yorkers of all backgrounds.  We worked in leaps, not steps, to address systemic racism by funding alternatives to incarceration programs and reforming the way our criminal justice system penalizes people for low-level, non-violent offenses. Previously, thousands of New Yorkers were unnecessarily marked by a permanent record and detention time, and police resources were diverted from more serious crimes. Our reforms have created a more equitable and efficient system.

We introduced measures that value and protect a range of workers – from caregivers to freelancers – as we bolstered services for seniors, immigrants and LGBT youth, among other vulnerable communities.  Our collaborative Young Women’s Initiative led to an unprecedented $20 million commitment to address disparities for girls and teenagers of color – a model that other cities are emulating.

My colleagues and I took action to protect our neighborhoods. This included requiring that the City evaluate the effectiveness of tax breaks and openly track commitments made in the course of planning.  In response to a series of devastating gas explosions, we put stricter protocols in place for gas related work. We also made sure that commercial tenants have the opportunity to seek legal recourse if they are harassed by their landlords.

To achieve greater access and transparency, we charged ahead with a multiplatform approach for bringing more people into the government decision-making process. In the last year, we applied user-friendly design in work that included the creation of a tool to explore the City’s budget, and made proactive outreach to ethnic and community media the standard at the Council.

This annual report highlights much more of the work and accomplishments that would not be possible without partnerships with leaders across sectors, community-based organizations and advocates. I am confident that all of these efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of so many people, as well as on this institution that is entrusted to serve them.

The times ahead will test our mettle as New Yorkers, but I truly believe that together we will not simply stay the course but rise to protect and enhance what we have struggled for and remain bold in our vision of a city that brings all residents to the table.

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Melissa Mark-Viverito
Speaker of the New York City Council