New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
State of the City 2016
Samuel Gompers Campus
South Bronx

“More Justice”
February 11, 2016

¡Buenos Dias! Shuprobhat! Good Morning!

Thank you to our Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer.

Thank you Imam Khalid Latif for that moving invocation.

Thank you Jahleel Montero for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Thank you to Principal Helene Spadaccini for having us here today. You are doing wonderful work here at this school and we thank you for that.

And of course – thank you, Shatia, for that wonderful introduction.

Bienvenidos al Campus Samuel Gompers en el Sur del Bronx.

Welcome to Samuel Gompers Campus, in the South Bronx.

In this special part of my district, we are proud to have St. Mary’s Park, the largest park in the South Bronx, and home to the borough’s very first playground.

We’ve invested a lot to restore St. Mary’s Park- and we’ve only just begun.

Take a short walk south of here and you can visit the green fields of Randall’s Island by taking the brand new connector, one of our City’s most recent landmarks.

Also, don’t forget to stop by Port Morris Distillery for the best pitorro this side of Puerto Rico.

And my dear mamí was born in Lincoln Hospital and went to school not too far from here, at Bronx Elementary School 75 and James M. Kiernan Junior High School.

She’s in the audience right now, with my brothers Randy and Anthony. You all know how much I love Twitter – and let’s just say, it runs in the family. I’m sure my mom will be favoriting all your tweets.

The South Bronx has been at the center of the fight for urban America.

This is a community where you grow up hearing the familiar sounds of double-dutch rhymes and dominos.

This is a place where people have pushed back against pollution and neglect and fought tirelessly for environmental justice.

Not too long ago, the people of the South Bronx were largely left to fend for themselves.

While many turned their backs on the Bronx, this community never wavered.

Instead, they fought.

Today, the revival of the South Bronx is a great American success story.

Its strength and vibrancy are rooted in this community’s incredible spirit and manifested in its culture and art.

Not too far from here, in a nondescript building on Sedgwick Avenue – hip hop was born.

Young people channeled their creativity and talents into hip hop, and expressed poignant commentary on everything from social conditions, to neighborhood pride and drug awareness.

It was art born out of vision and struggle. The struggle for equality. The struggle for fairness. And the struggle along the march for justice – the same arc the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about.

It is fitting then, that we’re in a building named after another iconic pioneer in that fight for justice: Samuel Gompers. An immigrant who settled in New York City, Samuel Gompers dedicated his life to workers.

An eight hour work day, fair wages, better workplace conditions – all of these are hard-fought pieces of his legacy, a legacy that lives on to this day in the fight for 15, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.

He also said: “We need more justice, and less revenge.”
“Más justicia y menos venganza.”

One year ago in El Barrio, this Council laid out an ambitious agenda to lift every voice.

Our efforts have focused on sweeping aside long-standing injustices, righting systemic wrongs, and giving voice to the voiceless.

Because of this Council, we’ve banned the box and expanded access to representation in Civil Court, keeping more New Yorkers in their homes.

Because of this Council, our brave veterans have a Department to call their own.

And because of this Council, New York City is leading the dialogue on immigration and criminal justice reform.

This is a Council of action – time and again we are ahead of the curve. That’s because of who we are, the 51 men and women of this City Council who together represent 8.5 million New Yorkers.

We are LGBT and allies – even more so than last year!
We are activists.
We are living with HIV.
We are caregivers, immigrants and the formerly homeless.
We are diverse – we speak Kreyol, Hebrew, Russian, Mandarin, Yiddish, y tambíen español. We are New York City.

Somos diversos. Somos la Ciudad de Nueva York.

And so to all my colleagues in the Council, I say gracias!

With our ear firmly to the ground, we’ve identified problems and found solutions.

We’ve set up communities for success with an unwavering focus on social and
economic justice and taken on tough issues that were neglected for far too long.

And yes, along the way, we’ve rocked the boat a few times.

But you can’t have change without challenge.

While we’re proud of what we’ve done, our work continues.

The State of the City is strong, but its foundation must be strengthened.That foundation is New Yorkers themselves.

It’s you.

It’s the student eager to vote or the community fighting for more green space. It’s the immigrant family starting a business or the single mother bringing her baby home for the first time.It’s our City’s seniors and their caregivers.

It’s the New Yorker struggling to find a home, or the young man languishing in Rikers.

And it is every young woman looking up at the glass ceiling.

Son los neoyorquinos los que hacen de esta una gran ciudad. Y son los neoyorquinos quienes necesitan más justicia.

It’s New Yorkers who make New York great. And it’s New Yorkers who need more justice.

This year, we will begin by kickstarting the heartbeat of our democracy, civic engagement.

We’ve already seen how innovations in voting systems can bring New Yorkers to the polls.

One of this Council’s proudest achievements is the expansion of participatory budgeting. PB is a laboratory for what an enfranchised voting populace
is all about.

And this year, we are proud to announce that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is here with us today, will be pledging $1 million for the City Council’s participatory budgeting process. Thank you, Borough President Adams.

In the City Council’s last PB cycle, we tested diverse strategies to bring democracy to voters – including reminder texts that say when, where, and how to cast a PB vote.

The result was unprecedented participation across all sectors of our City – especially among our youth. In fact, 12% of the total PB ballots were cast by New Yorkers under the age of 18!

New York City’s youth are eager to get involved – we just need to provide them with opportunities.

That is why the Council will fund civic engagement programs, so students can advocate for issues that matter in their communities. And we will expand support for voter registration drives in our City’s high schools, with the goal of registering 10,000 students
to vote.

Here with us today are students from across our City, young people who will not only inherit the City, but play a defining role in its future.

Our young people can – and should be – a powerful voice in the next election.

Voting is the most basic and essential act in our democracy – but the truth is, too few of us bother to do it.

New York State ranked 49th in the nation for voter participation in the 2014 elections –
just 29% of eligible voters went to the polls. Part of the blame for low voter turnout rests with antiquated voting laws that have failed to keep up with improvements seen in other states.

This is why the Council will push for key innovations that will make it easier to vote.

In order to achieve significant election reforms, we need action at the State level. Governor Cuomo made this a priority in his State of the State – and we will support him.

Imagine being able to vote early, or walking into your polling place and registering to vote on the spot. Even better, imagine if registration was automatic.

The public cannot stand up and be counted if we fail to modernize our voting process. At the City level, we can do this by embracing technology.

The Council will work to create a voting app and online portal that will allow users to find their polling place, get election information, check their registration, track absentee ballot information, and much more.

To increase turnout, we’re also going to create voter notifications through email and text messaging – just like we’ve successfully done with PB. We are going to bring democracy right to your fingertips.

Because we get it – New Yorkers are busy, and it’s easy to believe your vote won’t make a difference. But it does.

And not all the solutions to problems in our voting system are high-tech. It’s also as simple as making sure old polling locations have directions to new ones.

We’re also going to create meaningful opportunities for young people to gain experience in local government. Many New Yorkers who complete graduate school feel drawn to public service – only to find dead ends.

Every year, we lose out on talented young professionals who have so much
to offer our City. New York must do a better job of recruiting and training social workers, lawyers, policy analysts, and others who are committed to advancing social justice through City government.

We will harness their passion and creativity by creating a Social Justice Postgrad Fellowship in New York City. Its goal will be simple: give a diverse, talented group of young professionals more opportunities to engage in public service.

We will place graduates with professional degrees throughout City government so they can put their expertise to work. And someday, a graduate of this program may even lead our great City.

We need to recommit ourselves to a simple yet powerful notion: New York needs to be a city for everyone, with policymaking and governance that is open to everyone.

We need to have more voices at the decision-making table.

That is why the City Council will bring more justice to communities so they can make informed land use decisions.

Neighborhoods across New York City are in the midst of rezoning discussions. Planning for the future of our neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions.

This process presents a critical opportunity to discuss real neighborhood concerns and
needs – from school overcrowding and pedestrian safety to sewers and public transit.

So the Council proposes that the City develop a Neighborhood Commitment Plan to accompany rezoning proposals, describing and tracking commitments for housing, schools, infrastructure, and other City services.

If we make a promise to a community, we should keep it.

That is why we must also overhaul our so-called “Fair Share” system for siting City services. Fair Share is supposed to mean a more equitable distribution of important services throughout the City.

The things everyone wants near them- like libraries and daycare. And the services people often don’t want nearby, but our communities still need – like waste transfer stations or drug treatment centers.

Our Fair Share guidelines are vague and difficult to enforce. They haven’t been updated in 25 years and there is limited information available to the public to inform these critical decisions.

Too often, less desirable facilities are concentrated in just a few communities – like this one, in the South Bronx.

That is not enough justice.

So the Council will empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the
Fair Share process – making the system more fair for everyone.

We will also explore using land use and other tools like tax incentives to keep New York City affordable, diverse, and vibrant in the face of increasing pressures on our small businesses.

Mom and pop shops are the economic heart of our City – essential to the character and diversity of our neighborhoods. But skyrocketing real estate prices mean that when small businesses have to renew their leases, they often face significant and unaffordable rent increases – forcing many to relocate, or close completely.

Too many storefronts are allowed to stay vacant for months on the speculation that they will be able to attract deeper-pocketed tenants.

This is what leads to the kind of cookie cutter retail that is proliferating in our most diverse neighborhoods, creating a sameness that represents none of what makes New York City unique.

So this year the Council will launch a planning study to develop recommendations for strengthening our small business community through land use policy and other tools, such as tax incentives. This work will give neighborhoods the opportunity to create new strategies for protecting retail diversity.

Nearly half of New York City’s small businesses are immigrant-owned.

Immigration is our past, it is our present – and I can assure you, it will be our future. We only need to look around this community to see how immigration has shaped us.

La inmigración es nuestro pasado, es nuestro presente – y les aseguro que será nuestro futuro.

Somos una ciudad de inmigrantes. We are an immigrant city.

Within our five boroughs, you will find New Yorkers from all over the world speaking hundreds of languages.

But over the past few months, the immigrant City has come under attack.

On the campaign trail, immigrants have been denigrated, humiliated, and dehumanized.

They say build a wall. They say kick them all out. And they call them illegal.

Ningún ser humano es ilegal.
No human is illegal.

Compañeros, fear and hate may be strong – but love and acceptance are much, much stronger.
El amor es más fuerte que el odio.

New York is proud to be a sanctuary city. We’re proud that IDNYC is the most successful municipal ID In the country. We’re proud that every unaccompanied minor has a lawyer. We’re proud that we’ve removed ICE from Rikers. And we will continue to build on our successes.

We all know how difficult navigating government can be – now imagine how frustrating it is if you don’t fully speak the language.

Our language access law is due for an upgrade. And let me be clear, this means more than translation services. We need to do a better job communicating effectively with all of our communities.

We must ensure that City agencies are developing appropriate language access plans, designating language access coordinators, and utilizing interpreters.

So, the Council will pass legislation making sure agencies gather information on the language needs and demographics of people accessing direct public services, so they have a better understanding of the communities they serve. Once implemented, we will require agencies to provide translation services in the top six languages their clients speak.

Harnessing technology, the Council will also work with our partners in City government to ensure emergency push notifications come in multiple languages.

Finally, we will use the power of information to increase access to financial health and the affordable housing system.

So the Council will establish consumer financial education campaigns for target populations – including immigrants, seniors and women – along with financial literacy outreach teams in neighborhoods with new opportunities for affordable housing.

This ambitious program will help countless individuals and families who have found themselves on the outside looking in.

El no saber inglés, nunca debe ser un obstáculo para acceder servicios de la ciudad.
English proficiency should never be an obstacle to accessing City services.

This Council is in the business of removing barriers – barriers that have historically blocked New Yorkers from opportunities and success.

For many young families, getting a healthy start in life can be a challenge.

We know that pre-natal and early childhood stages of development are critical, shaping a child’s ability to learn, build relationships and grow.

Conversely, we also know that disparities during early childhood – in nutrition, education, homelife, and more – are magnified over time and often have long-term, negative consequences.

For expecting mothers – especially first-time mothers – poverty can be a major obstacle to a healthy pregnancy and the best possible start in life for their babies.

Here in the Bronx, rates of infant mortality, low birth weights, teen pregnancy, insufficient prenatal care vastly exceed those of the City and the State.

Raising a child does take a village – and that’s where we can help.

The Nurse Family Partnership is an extremely successful nurse home-visit program for low income and other at-risk first-time mothers, providing valuable support during pregnancy until the child’s second birthday.

Building on its success, the Council proposes a $8 million expansion of the Nurse Family Partnership.

By intervening early, we can eliminate many of the risk factors and challenges that complicate pregnancy and child-rearing. The Nurse Family Partnership has reduced infant deaths, prevented substance abuse and addiction for both mother and child, and curbed child abuse and neglect.

When something works – and works as profoundly as the Nurse Family Partnership – we must support its expansion.

Esto es más justicia para las familias.
This is more justice for families.

To further support our City’s families, we must also increase our investment in after-school programming for elementary school students.

These programs provide children with enrichment opportunities and a nurturing place to go after school, while allowing hundreds of thousands of parents to balance jobs with family responsibilities.

And as we care for our youngest New Yorkers, we must also support our seniors who are the anchors of our communities.

That is why we must also meet the enormous challenge of creating a dignified and sustainable system that allows our City to care for them.

This Council has consistently fought for New York City’s 1.5 million seniors by funding senior centers throughout the five boroughs and increasing the income limits for the SCRIE program, so that thousands more seniors can afford to stay in their homes.

With our aging population on the rise, it is incumbent on our City to ensure that our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents receive the care and companionship they need to age with dignity. And that includes providing support for their caregivers.

We know that so many New Yorkers are struggling to balance the commitments of work
while helping to make sure their elderly loved ones get to the doctor’s office, eat a home cooked meal, or simply have an arm to hold while walking in the park.

So the Council will pass legislation requiring the City to develop a comprehensive plan to identify the needs of our caregiver population, and to improve services and programs that will assist them.

We will also establish a Division of Paid Care within the newly-created Office of Labor Standards, ensuring that workers in the caregiver industry have the supports they need to provide the best care for our seniors, children and disabled family members.

Finally, the Council will put more money in New Yorkers’ pockets by working with the State to expand the City’s child care tax credit – while simultaneously enhancing it to include adults who are unable to care for themselves.

And we will continue our fight for paid family leave.

Para asegurar un futuro brillante, la Ciudad tiene que invertir en más servicios y programas para los niños y las familias.
In order to secure a bright future, the City must make these important investments in services and programming for children and families.

Unfortunately, for many families, poverty doesn’t mean “cutting back” or “saving more.”

Poverty is the terrible choice between putting food on the table and making that month’s rent, between paying hospital bills and having nothing left over to live on.

Every night, over 58,000 New Yorkers sleep in the City’s shelter system. Over 3,000 more face the cold on the street, unsheltered.

This has been a growing challenge for decades. It’s a challenge that we as a City are committed to addressing.

It’s easy to paint a simplified picture of homelessness – we might imagine someone who is jobless, or perhaps someone who is struggling with their mental health. And in many cases, that might be part of the story.

But here is the truth: for thousands of New Yorkers, the only thing standing between them and homelessness is one missed paycheck or one unforeseen medical emergency.

And with costs of living on the rise, these stories are becoming more and more common. We have a moral, humanitarian, and legal obligation to end the City’s systemic homelessness crisis.

The Council is proud to play a key role in that fight.

We provided over $11 million in funding for anti-eviction legal services and emergency assistance for families in danger of becoming homeless. And we’ve passed legislation making it easier for domestic violence survivors to qualify for shelter.

But clearly more must be done.

Necesitamos más justicia.
We need more justice.

Para empezar, tenemos que aumentar el salario mínimo.
First, we need to raise the minimum wage.

Under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, New York City has raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for City workers. And Governor Cuomo has called for a $15 minimum wage across the State – a momentous decision that would uplift countless families.

This is a huge step. And now Albany must act.

As for the City’s ability to provide appropriate housing for those in need – support from the federal government is critical, especially Section 8.

This federal program provides subsidies for eligible low-income families to rent decent, safe, and affordable housing – but the demand for these vouchers far outpaces the supply.

So this Council calls on Congress today to recommit to – and expand – Section 8. Homelessness is a national problem, and the federal government must do its part.

At the City level, we can act decisively by creating our own expansive, permanent rental subsidy program.

Such a program would stop families from re-entering the shelter system due to the increasing gap between wages and rent. And recipients and property owners alike would benefit from knowing there was a consistent support system in place –
one that wouldn’t automatically cease after a few years.

We all know that our City is growing less and less affordable. It is unrealistic for many families to go from living in shelter, to making full rent payments after only a few years of temporary assistance.

A permanent subsidy would help establish stability, by preventing families from cycling in and out of shelters, maintaining people in their communities, and keeping children in their schools.

We also call on the State to do its part and allocate adequate funding for this important program. And together, the City and the State should accelerate their commitment to develop thousands of units of supportive housing.

As the largest source of permanent affordable housing in our City, the New York City Housing Authority plays a pivotal role in fighting homelessness.

In 2015, almost 1,700 formerly homeless families moved into public housing, and NYCHA connected nearly 1,000 homeless families and veterans with Section 8 housing.

Pero podemos hacer más.
We can do more.

So the Council calls on the Administration to allocate additional public housing units for homeless families, including survivors of domestic violence.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis that requires immediate solutions, and providing more NYCHA housing is something the City can implement in the short term.

Nadie debe vivir en las calles.
No one should live on the street.

Everyone deserves a stable home.

New York City is committed to taking on institutional injustice wherever we find it.

We are one of the safest cities in the world. That safety is ensured by the brave men and women of our diverse NYPD. I especially want to thank PSA 5, PSA 7, and the 23rd, 25th, and 40th Precincts who are here with us today.

They deserve our respect and appreciation, and we join them in continuing to mourn the deaths of Detective Brian Moore, who was killed protecting the people of Queens, and Detective Randolph Holder, who lost his life protecting East Harlem.

Whether it’s adding new officers to the force, or funding bullet-resistant vests, this Council is proud to support the NYPD.

We also understand that we must continue the quest for reform.

Our support for the NYPD and our efforts to improve the criminal justice system are not mutually exclusive – in fact, they go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

One year ago, we set out to create a system where the penalties fit the crime.

Where you don’t end up at Rikers because you can’t afford $500 bail.

Where a prior arrest does not unjustly prevent you from getting a job.

And where committing a low-level, non-violent offense does not land you in jail or give you a permanent criminal record.

Más justicia y menos venganza.
More justice, less revenge.

The Council is seeking to achieve more justice for New Yorkers through the Criminal Justice Reform Act. The CJRA will ensure there are fairer, more proportionate enforcement and penalties for low-level offenses.

Because giving someone a permanent criminal record
for being in a park after dark is simply not fair or proportionate.

And spending the night in jail on a ten year old warrant for being in the park after dark is not just unfair —it’s senseless.

Yet this is exactly what is happening every day in our City, thanks to the over
1.5 million active summons warrants on our books.

This makes even less sense now, since under the Criminal Justice Reform Act,
that person would likely receive only a civil penalty for the violation, with no possibility of a warrant; no possibility of a criminal record, and no possibility of spending the night in jail.

That is why our next step must be to reform our warrant system.

Old warrants for minor, non-violent offenses have hung needlessly over too many people’s heads for far too long.

So the Council will work with our partners to create a system to clear old summons warrants for those who have spent years – even decades – out of trouble. But even after we clear old warrants, there will still be hundreds of thousands left on the books.

So we will increase outreach to communities to inform people about outstanding warrants and provide them with more opportunities to address their situation the right way – without spending a night in jail.

We are also going to help victims of crimes.

Too often, people simply don’t know where to turn for help, so the Council will create the Crime Victim Services Coordinator, within the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

The Coordinator will work across City agencies and with service providers to make sure victims have the help they need. The Council will also target persistent pockets of crime by passing legislation ensuring that the City has a multi-agency plan to provide social services in these areas.

By addressing underlying problems – such as unemployment, high school dropout rates, or drug and alcohol abuse – we can work toward reducing crime.

We will also pass legislation improving the quality of life through the creation of targeted neighborhood support teams – an approach that has already worked in East Harlem.

Over two years ago, my office began organizing monthly community stakeholder meetings to address quality of life issues in my neighborhood. Last year, I led a number of Commissioners on a walkthrough around 125th Street and Lexington Avenue,
and we began having regular discussions with City agencies.

And I thank Mayor de Blasio for working with us so closely to tackle these issues.

Together, we have seen improvements in street cleanliness, built a new pedestrian plaza, and addressed the K2 epidemic head on through legislation, enforcement, and the delivery of health services.

This coordinated approach will be used as a model to address the varied and often unique quality of life concerns experienced by other communities throughout the City.

By focusing at a local level, we can begin to address the systemic issues that plague neighborhoods and start to actually
fix them.

We will also take this targeted approach with our City’s jail facilities.

Last year, the Council passed 8 pieces of legislation creating real transparency at Rikers.

This year, we will continue to shine the spotlight on our City’s jail system by passing legislation establishing an Inspector General for the Department
of Correction.

The Inspector General will focus on systemic issues in the City’s jail system and will be modeled after the successful NYPD Inspector General established by the
City Council in 2013.

Every year, there are about 70,000 admissions to Rikers and other City jails – but only about 16% of those admitted are ultimately sentenced to prison.

As we know, even a short stay at Rikers can be harmful. As a result, many fall into an endless cycle of recidivism.

And the deeper you fall into that cycle, the more difficult it is to get out.

Many lose hope in themselves, and in the system itself.

Si hay neoyorquinos que sienten que no tienen esperanza en el futuro – esa es nuestra falla.
If there are New Yorkers today who feel they have no hope for a future – that is our failure.

Reducing recidivism must be a top priority.

To start, the Council will work with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to create a Municipal Division of Transition Services. This Division will help those reentering our communities to get back on their feet: through computer classes, resume building, drug treatment, housing resources and more.

We will continue to expand programming at Rikers to support rehabilitation and to reduce the amount of conflict that occurs when there is too much idle time.

And we know that maintaining community ties has been proven to reduce recidivism.

So the Council will develop a video visitation program for those who are incarcerated so families can go to a local library or neighborhood center and talk to their loved ones, or even read together, when they can’t make the day-long trip to Rikers Island.

And we will continue to demand that the State raise the age of criminal responsibility.It is a travesty that our 16 and 17 year old children are automatically treated as adults in our criminal justice system when they should be dealt with in family court.

New York is one of only two states left in the country that still does this, and it is shameful. Que vergüenza.

Treating 16 & 17-year-old children like adults builds cycles of revenge and ruins
too many lives.

A little more than a year ago, the world was introduced to a young man from the Bronx named Kalief Browder.

Kalief was 16 years old when he was sent to Rikers to await trial – the fair and speedy trial that we are promised in the Constitution. That trial would never come.

Instead, Kalief languished in Rikers for three years.

Sitting in solitary confinement for almost two of those years, he endured unspeakable psychological and physical abuse. He was never even convicted of a crime, and the charges were eventually dropped.

But it was too late.

Kalief entered as a child, but left as a broken man. A few months later, Kalief died by his own hands.

It was not one failure which led to his death; it was generations of failures compounded on one another.

There are certainly other Kaliefs out there – young people who have left Rikers so damaged by their interaction with the system that they reoffend, relapse, or worse.

Mrs. Browder, thank you for being here today.

Our current Rikers-centric system has been plagued by a culture of violence requiring federal oversight. It is also wildly inefficient.

Necesitamos más justicia en el sistema de justicia.
We need more justice in the justice system.

Far from the courthouses, it regularly costs the Department of Correction $25 million per year just to transport inmates. And if you want to visit friends or family or see an attorney, it typically takes them an entire day just to travel to Rikers and go through processing.

This system keeps those who have been accused of committing crimes out of sight and out of mind.

It is time to take our criminal justice system out of the shadows – and finally address
the institutional racism which has plagued it for far too long.

It’s time to reimagine our entire criminal justice system.

Today, I am announcing a new independent Commission, chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who is here with us today, which will explore a community-based justice model that will complement existing reform efforts.

The Commission will create a blueprint for justice for New York City.

It will recommend ways to continue to reduce pre-trial detention rates, and assess moving adolescents and those suffering from mental illness off Rikers in the short term.
It will also look at utilizing more community courts and borough-based jail facilities.

Rikers Island has come to represent our worst tendencies, and our biggest failures.

It is where Kalief suffered and his spirit broke down.

For too long, Rikers has stood not for more justice, but for revenge.

We must explore how we can get the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality.

This is how we will get there – this is how we will bring more justice to New York City.

Finally, I want to speak to all of you about a certain ceiling we keep hearing about, one that perpetuates inequality and thwarts access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

Of course, I am talking about the glass ceiling.

For young women, that glass ceiling is still too low. For young women of color, it’s even lower.

But you know what’s good about glass? You can shatter it.

And if you ask me, it’s time to do just that.

Necesitamos más justicia para las mujeres.
We need more justice for women.

Right here in the City Council, we have fourteen strong women committed to serving their communities. We have three women of color negotiating a City budget that will uplift millions of New Yorkers.

But it’s not enough.

Of the eight City Council seats that will be vacated because of term limits in the next election, five are currently held by women. All women of color.

We need to do better.

We need more women leaders – women at the table… making decisions… informing the discussions around issues so central to our everyday lives and the lives of our families.

We need more women in elected office – so that when our government tries to make decisions about our bodies, our healthcare, our rights – we can fight back.

We need more women-owned businesses – because financial literacy and independence go hand in hand.

We need more gender parity in education – so that no girl is told ever again that she can’t do math, pursue a career in science, or become an astronaut.

Empoderar a las mujeres significar empoderar a todos nosotros – creando una sociedad más fuerte, más saludable y más justa.

Empowering women means empowering all of us – creating a stronger, healthier, and more just society.

That is why the New York City Council launched the Young Women’s Initiative last year. This first in the nation coalition was designed to examine the systemic, chronic inequality faced by many young women – and figure out how to dismantle it.

The Young Women’s Initiative is a ladder of support, of investment, of opportunity for the young women in our City.

Over the last several months, more than 200 advocates and policy experts convened at the Council to examine the disparities experienced by young women and girls.

We brought young women themselves to the table – like Shatia, the young woman who introduced me today, and we ensured that the process was inclusive of the experiences of transwomen and gender-non-conforming New Yorkers.

We also met young people where they are: building a digital campaign with the hashtag #SheWillBe, or #EllaSera, to drive conversations.

This process has produced important recommendations for our City to focus on in the future, including:

Investing in programs designed to end sexual exploitation and connecting survivors
to safety, justice, and opportunity;

Ensuring that schools provide meaningful access to guidance and career counseling,
and promoting leadership development opportunities for young people;

Expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program to a comprehensive,
year-round program that provides real job skills and offers pathways to career readiness;

Improving transgender health care services; and

Creating a fund for access to contraceptives.

So I am very pleased to announce today that the Council will allocate $10 million over the next 2 years to fund important programs recommended by the Young Women’s Initiative.

Even better, our partners in the philanthropic community will match this funding.

This $20 million initiative will truly make a difference in the lives of young women and girls throughout New York City.

Young women should be asking “how” not “if.”

Las mujeres jóvenes son la fundación, el epicentro de la esperanza de nuestra ciudad para el futuro.

Young women are the very foundation, the core of our City’s hope for the future.

So we don’t need cracks in the glass ceiling – we need to shatter it, once and for all.

Because she will be – she will be anything and everything she wants to be.

Estamos en un momento único en la historia.

We are at a unique time in our history.

In New York City, the pendulum has swung from regression and exclusion to progress and inclusion.
En la Ciudad de Nueva York hemos logrado vencer la regresión y exclusiٕón para abrazar el progreso y la inclusión.

And as we know, when New York City leads, the world follows.
Y como sabemos, cuando Nueva York lidera, el Mundo nos sigue.

So when we commit to improving how communities and the criminal justice system interact;

When we lay out ambitious plans to help the homeless or to engage our youth;

Or when we stand up for our neighborhoods, immigrants, caregivers, new mothers, and young women;

the world takes notice.

What we do in New York matters.

So we must remember, we are each other’s keepers. That we must care for, and respect one another.

Whether you live in Manhattan or Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens or right here in the Bronx, we all crowd into the same subways and buses. We all walk on the same sidewalks.

And our shared humanity makes us unlike any other city in the world.

New Yorkers have a symbiotic relationship, and each of us has a role to play.

The beat cop on the street.
The bodega owner.
The lawyer.
The journalist.
The veteran.
The carwashero.
The senior.
And the homeless family.

They are all New Yorkers.

Necesitamos más justicia.
We need more justice for them.

Necesitamos más justicia para nuestros ninos.
We need more justice for our children.

Necesitamos más justicia para nuestra ciudad.
And we need more justice for New York City.

¡Pa’lante siempre pa’lante!

Thank you!