Councilmember Crystal Hudson made good on her campaign policy “A Black Agenda For New York City” on Thursday, introducing a package of bills central to the policy’s goals in the City Council.
Hudson, who represents parts of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, introduced the policy early on in her campaign, releasing a comprehensive study identifying the most pressing needs of Black New Yorkers and a list of recommendations for elected officials way back in February 2021. Now halfway through her first year in office, Hudson is taking her own advice and introducing four bills that address health, economic, housing and discrimination justice.
Making “A Black Agenda for New York City” a reality
“This Council is faced with the opportunity to enact meaningful policies that will deliver true, tangible change for everyday New Yorkers and improve the material conditions of the most vulnerable among us,” Hudson said in a release. “My ‘Black Agenda for New York City’ is a roadmap for this legislative body to deliver immediate and equitable solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing our City, from housing and education to childcare and public safety.”
Three of the four bills were sponsored by Hudson, and she is a prime co-sponsor on the fourth, which was introduced by Manhattan representative Kristin Richardon Johnson. The package was introduced during the full Council meeting on June 1.
“The policy recommendations put forth in the ‘Black Agenda,’ some of which we will begin to pursue with these introductions are critical to making our City a more compassionate place for all,” Hudson continued. “When we are deliberate in offering care to our most marginalized–many of whom are our Black neighbors–we ensure our entire City thrives.”
Rent Regulation Discrimination (Int. 0503-2022)
Rents are skyrocketing citywide, leaving many New Yorkers searching for affordable options as they’re priced out of their homes, and the city’s supply of affordable housing can’t keep up with demand — and things are difficult even for those who have secured an “affordable” unit.
Sponsored by Richardson Johnson, with Hudson as the primary cosponsor, Int. 0503 would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants of rent-regulated or rent-subsidized units by prohibiting then from using building amenities.
Many of the city’s newest affordable units were created by the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which requires that all new buildings constructed as the result of a rezoning include some number of affordable apartments. However, many brand-new buildings that are chock full of amenities like pools, laundry facilities, gyms, and even outdoor lounge space prohibit residents of the affordable units from using those amenities unless they pay an additional fee — one not required by tenants paying market-rate rent. Some even force tenants to use a separate building entrance.
If passed, the bill would take effect 120 days after it was signed into law, and would require landlords to allow all tenants equal access to all building entrances and facilities, regardless of their rent regulation or subsidies.
Doula Access Bill (Int. 0478-2022)
Black women are eight times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women in New York City. Medical discrimination and lack of access to quality healthcare due to cost or location are major contributors to that statistic.
If passed, the Doula Access Bill would require the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to launch an awareness campaign about the services offered by midwives and doulas throughout the city, as well as raise awareness about how exactly to access those and other free and low-cost services and resources related to pregnancy care.
“Having recently experienced childbirth, I feel strongly about the benefits that doulas and midwives offer to improve the birthing process,” said Bushwick Councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, who cosponsored the bill. “Not only can they provide emotional, physical, and educational support, but they also provide another advocate in the room who can ensure a positive and safe birth. Additionally, well-trained doulas are positioned to advocate for women of color in ways that have been shown to help reduce contributing factors of maternal mortality.”
Increasing education about and access to doulas and midwives would enable people to make better choices about their bodies and care, Gutiérrez continued, potentially saving lives.
The bill would require the first awareness campaign to be completed by January 31, 2023, with repeated campaigns each year for the following five years. To ensure the department was accountable for the campaign, it would also have to prepare a report describing the methods used in each campaign every year. Hudson introduced the bill in the Council’s Committee on Health, and it would take effect 120 days after being signed by the mayor.
Caribbean Heritage Month (Res. No. 199)
Finally, Hudson proposed officially designating June as Caribbean Heritage Month in New York City. Introduced in the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, which is chaired by fellow Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé, the resolution was cosponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and a cadre of other councilmembers.
Nearly 900,000 people born in the Caribbean call New York City home, according to the resolution, including a thriving community in Flatbush’s “Little Caribbean.” While Caribbean Heritage Month has been recognized federally since 2006 and is often celebrated by local organizations and lawmakers, it still hasn’t been granted an official designation in New York City. Given the community’s longtime history and deep roots in the community — and the fact that a number of frontline workers who saw the city through the darkest days of the pandemic are of Caribbean descent — Hudson thinks it’s time to change that.
“The diversity of cultures that the Caribbean represents — the people, the music, the cuisine, the traditions — is as rich as it has been influential to the people who are honored with Caribbean roots, and to the City of New York,” Williams said in a statement. “Our culture is one of vibrancy, of life, of facing hardship and persevering. These are values our City should celebrate.”
Universal Child Care Task Force (Int. 0477-2022)
Introduced in the Committee on General Welfare, the second bill in the package would create a citywide task force focused on making childcare more accessible and affordable for all families, while also providing support and funds to childcare providers. Within nine months of the bill becoming law, the task force would be required to produce a report detailing their recommendations for ensuring free or low-cost childcare for all New York City kids age five and under.
According to the text of the bill, the task force would be composed of commissioners from relevant city agencies and a number of appointees designated by the mayor and the Council speaker — including parents of young children, childcare providers, and experts in childcare advocacy and reform. As the task force works, they will have to consider factors including the number of young children in need of care, the capacity of childcare providers, and the average incomes of families with young children.
Thousands of New Yorkers live in “childcare deserts,” where there are not enough childcare providers – like day cares or early childhood education centers — or not enough affordable options. Long waitlists for affordable programs and the high costs of private options are particularly burdensome for communities of color. Hudson joins Brooklyn state Senator Jabari Brisport in pushing for universal childcare for constituents.
“New York City is facing an affordable childcare crisis of astronomical proportions,” said Julie Menin, who cosponsored the bill. “Providers around the City severely lack resources and cannot adequately pay and retain qualified staff. Studies have shown that children who are well cared for have greater success later in life and parents who can afford childcare are more productive members of society.”
“One of the wealthiest cities in the world must take steps to address the need for affordable, high-quality early childhood care,” Menin continued.