In spite of the drumbeat of attacks on local communities coming out of Washington DC, there is cause for hope when we look at what's happening locally. Organizing continues to make a difference, it enables people to shift power and redefine the narrative so that they can win. Here are some of the victories for New York by current and former North Star Fund grantees in the past few months. In some cases, these are the results of years of persistent organizing.
Preventing Overdose Deaths – VOCAL-NY
Largely outside of the headlines, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death in our city's shelters. These are preventable deaths—they're happening because no one had naloxone or was trained in how to administer it. Members of VOCAL-NY have been rallying at City Hall, taking to the streets, and sharing the stories of loved ones who have lost their lives. This fall, Intro-1443 passed with all the expansions that VOCAL fought for! Now all NYC shelters will be required to have someone who is trained on reversing overdoses on site at all times. In 2018, shelters will begin training shelter residents as well, recognizing their value as first responders who can save the lives of their friends and family.
Construction Worker Safety – Worker's Justice Project, NICE and La Colmena
Deaths at New York City construction sites have been on an alarming rise, with falls and falling objects being a major contributor. Worker's Justice Project, NICE, and La Colmena members along with union allies advocated to pass an inclusive Construction Safety Bill, Intro 1447-C that will make construction industry safer for all. The new law will require workers to undergo at least 40 hours of safety training. At least eight of those hours will pertain to the dangers of falling workers and objects at construction sites.
Universal Free School Lunch – Community Food Advocates
After four years of hard work, Community Food Advocates won their Lunch for Learning campaign in September. Now every child enrolled in NYC public school—all 1.1 million children, from pre-K through 12th grade—will have access to universal free school lunch. This change eliminates the stigma of “free lunch” for low-income students so that more kids can eat lunch and be ready to learn.
Protecting Trafficked Domestic Workers – Damayan
After more than four years of organizing and negotiating, the Philippine Consulate General of New York signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Damayan to combat the labor trafficking and modern day slavery of Filipino nationals in New York. The MOU will pave the way for the creation of the Anti-Trafficking Working Group (ATWG) that will be composed of representatives from Damayan and the Consulate. Finally, domestic workers can hold diplomats accountable for wage theft, terrible working conditions, and being held hostage.
Funding for Restorative Justice – Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC)
This year, three new districts will receive an estimated $3 million in funding to implement restorative practices district-wide. The districts will receive intensive training on restorative practices, on-site coaching and support in launching advisory programs. This is huge and a testament to UYC's organizing around restorative justice and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. In addition to the funding, the city has also agreed to add new mental health support resources for 300 schools along with anti-bias and anti-bullying training for school staff. They will also increase protections and options for students being bullied in schools.
Protecting New Yorkers from ICE – Make the Road NY (former grantee)
In September, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order preventing New York State agencies from gathering and sharing the immigration status of New Yorkers with whom they come into contact. This is an enormous victory for Make the Road New York and allies, whose members have been organizing and advocating for this policy for more than a decade. It means immigrant New Yorkers can interact with state agencies without fear of having their information turned over to ICE.
Stand for Tenant Safety - Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (multiple grantees)
This summer, the city council passed the 12 bills of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition legislative package. Many unscrupulous landlords use dangerous or negligent construction to harass tenants out of rent-regulated apartments. When landlords successfully evict, displace or “harass out” rent stabilized tenants, their apartments can be leased to the next tenant at a much higher rent, adding to the loss of affordable housing in New York City. The bills give stronger protections for tenants to stay in their homes without harassment and were championed by a citywide coalition of community organizations. Councilmember Jumaane Williams specifically mentioned all of the calls, emails, and tweets in being instrumental in helping push the city council in this momentous vote.
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Need more good news? Here's a pair of victories from summer 2017 that we didn't tell you about:
Building New Schools in Sunset Park – Voces Ciudadanas
With an effective parent-led campaign, Voces Ciudadanas successfully pressured the School Construction Authority (SCA) to build new elementary schools in Sunset Park to alleviate overcrowding. In 2017, the SCA announced two new sites for schools, which add to the list of three school sites in the neighborhood for a total of about 1,880 new seats in the neighborhood. This will make a difference in the learning environment for children now and for years to come.
Protecting Communities from the Threat of Climate Change – Faith in New York
On Earth Day 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced the creation of the Green Jobs Training Corp which will give NYC residents apprenticeships in the union building trades to retrofit dirty buildings that emit the most carbon in our city. This program is based on the Hurricane Sandy “Build It Back” job training model that Faith in New York and allies fought for in Sandy recovery. The mayor’s executive proposal sets aside $12 million dollars to train the first wave of New Yorkers to do the work of greening New York City.
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