Dear Mayor de Blasio,
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified what the community based organizations (CBOs) in the human services sector have always known about inequities that exist within the institutions that all New Yorkers rely on. The outrage that has been expressed in our city – and across the country – over the last few days is not solely representative of an isolated incident; rather, it is a reflection of the anger and frustration that exists from inequity and injustice being born on the backs of communities of color, immigrants, and low-income New Yorkers over and over again.
A strong social safety net is the only way that our city survives a crisis. As we experience the unprecedented intersection of a health crisis, a social-justice crisis, and an economic crisis that could devastate our city for years—even decades—to come, not all city agencies are bearing the burden. We were dismayed to see that the FY2021 Executive Budget makes cuts to crucial programs and social services that serve the very communities who are being hardest hit by COVID-19 — communities of color, immigrants, and low-income New Yorkers — while maintaining funding for the NYPD, an institution that too often fails to protect and serve, and disproportionately harms, these exact communities.
Services like senior food programs, homeless services, youth development, employment programs, public health and others – proven tools that help us protect and serve communities – are experiencing more demand than ever before, but instead of enhancing funding to these programs, the city is proposing more cuts.
Our social services workforce has been designated as essential by the city, and our services will be more essential than ever as more New Yorkers rely on them when we move into recovery. Yet our (mostly women of color and immigrant) workforce is paid poverty wages, sent on the frontlines with inadequate supplies, and is being asked to meet growing community need with less city resources.
Echoing the letter from the City Council released on May 31st, the proposed budget cuts are not equitable. While our social services and discretionary funding (which is a key support for smaller CBOs and CBOs of color) is on the chopping block, funding for the NYPD has been largely maintained. Budgets are a statement of values. When we are facing a budget deficit where the city is emphasizing that difficult decisions must be made across the board, the decision to decrease funding for social services while maintaining funding for the NYPD is the opposite of what our values should be. Particularly in light of the actions of the NYPD over the last few days, it is clear that our city requires diametrically opposite approaches to repair what has been broken.
While this mayoral administration has been working on criminal-justice reform, it has also expanded the role of NYPD into human and social services — including putting cops in schools instead of counselors, policing the homeless instead of providing adequate supportive services and housing, criminalizing poverty instead of investing in addressing root causes and uplifting individuals out of poverty, and over-policing young people of color instead of providing summer programming. Cutting funding to social services while continuing to over-police our communities is the opposite of what the city should be doing right now.
As the human services sector is being impacted by budget cuts and as our vulnerable children and families are struggling, it is unjust that the NYPD can maintain its level of funding and not be required to change its harmful policing practices. Police reform must be a mandate for the NYPD in the next fiscal year.
We are proposing a different way, and a new way, to protect our communities – economically, socially, psychologically. Stop over-investing in policing our communities and start to make real investments that serve communities in need. This “new way” is cheaper, it’s proven, it’s just.
As community-based organizations, we know that it’s not the police that keeps communities safe. It’s the work that we do to support, enrich, and empower New Yorkers that keeps communities safe. Our communities are safe when residents have affordable and quality housing, transportation and food; seniors and people with disabilities are healthy and engaged; individuals have good jobs and worker protections; youth have summer programming and arts education; immigrants have language accessible services; and more.
It’s time to invest in supporting our communities instead of policing them. It’s time to be bold by making targeted cuts to the NYPD. We need to protect investments in human services, the social safety net, racial and economic justice, and the vision that all New Yorkers deserve to thrive.
Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)
Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center
82nd Street Academics
Academy of Medical & Public Health Services
Ackerman Institute for the Family
African Communities Together
Ali Forney Center
Apicha Community Health Center
Asian Americans for Equality
Bannon Consulting Services
Barrier Free Living Inc.
Beachwold Residential LLC
Black LGBTQ Migrant Project
Boys & Girls Club of Harlem
BRC (Bowery Residents Committee)
Broadway Housing Communities
Brooklyn Community Services
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
Carroll Gardens Association
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens
Catholic Migration Services
Center for Family Life
Center for Frontline Retail
Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY
Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans, Inc. (CIANA).
Child Development Support Corporation
Chinese Methodist Center Corporation
Chinese Progressive Association
Citizen Action of New York-NYC Chapter
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Citymeals on Wheels
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF)
Coalition for Homeless Youth
Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF)
Community League of the Heights. Inc
Community Resource Exchange
Covenant House New York
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
Day Care Council of New York, Inc.
East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU)
Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities
Emerald Isle Immigration Center
Empire State Indivisible
Empire State Progressives
Faith in New York
Fifth Avenue Committee
Food Bank For New York City
Gender & Family Project at Ackerman Institute for the Family
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE)
Good Shepherd Services
Goodwill Industries of Greater NY and Northern NJ, Inc.
Grand Street Settlement
Heights and Hills
Henry Street Settlement
Here to Here
Human Services Council
Indochina Sino-American Community Center
Iris House, Inc.
Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement
JAIA YOUth Empowerment
JCC Staten Island
Kingsbridge Heights Community Center
Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc.
Lantern Community Services
Literacy Assistance Center
Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, Inc.
Lower East Side Family Union
Lutheran Social Services of New York
Make the Road New York
Martin De Porres Youth and Family Services
Mercy Home for Children
MinKwon Center for Community Action
Mixteca Organization, Inc.
MMCC (Mosholu Montefiore Community Center)
Morningside Heights Resistance
Nazareth Housing Inc.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Neighborhood Care Team, Inc
New Settlement Apartments
New York City Anti-Violence Project
New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy
New York COVID-19 Food Coalition
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Nonprofit Finance Fund
Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW)
New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC)
NYS Harm Reduction Association
OCA New York Chapter
Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
OutRight Action International
Partnership for After School Education
Partnership with Children
PHNP- NY Metro
Power of Two
Pride Center of Staten Island
Providence House, Inc
Queens Community House
Queens LGBT Center (Q-Center)
Red Hook Initiative
Riseboro Community Partnership Inc.
Rising Ground, Inc.
S.T.O.P. – The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
Sadie Nash Leadership Project
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Samaritan Daytop Village
Sanctuary for Families
Sapna NYC, Inc.
SCO Family of Services
Service Program for Older People, INC
South Asian Youth Action
St. Francis Friends of the Poor
Sunnyside Community Services
Supportive Housing Network of NY
Teens for Food Justice
The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
The Center for Anti-Violence Education
The Children’s Village
The Coalition for Behavioral Health
The Data Union
The Fortune Society
The HOPE Program & Sustainable South Bronx
The Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services
The Korean American Family Service Center
The New York Foundling
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
UJA Federation of New York
Unique People Services
United Chinese Association of Brooklyn
United Community Centers
United Neighborhood Houses
Urban Justice Center
Violence Intervention Program
Vision Urbana, Inc.
Women Creating Change
Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement
YMCA of Greater New York
You Gotta Believe
Youth Action Programs and Homes, Inc.
Youth Action YouthBuild
Youth Studies Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies
One thought on “Opinion: Invest in Human Services, Not Over-Policing Our Communities”
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
I wholeheartedly agree with this letter being sent to you. Growing up as a low income Puerto Rican teenager in the 70’s and 80’s I had the unfortunate displeasure of being illegally detained, illegally arrested, racially profiled and illegally assaulted by NYPD officers of the law on multiple occasions. If I wasn’t totally grounded by my spiritual faith I may have done something to those officers that would have changed all of our lives forever. Thankfully, programs like Summer Youth Employment were around to introduce me to the working world and entice me into finding a career which now helps me to support my family and keep them safe. I don’t know why you can’t understand how important it is to police the police. During my lifetime, and I’m 52 years old, I have seen police corruption on many levels. I’ve seen police officers and detectives giving drug dealers drugs to sell for them on the streets. I’ve seen police brutality on minorities and for the most smallest misdemeanor crimes with no resistance from the accused. I’ve also seen minorities murdered by the police because the Police can’t be bothered to de-escalate the situation. I’ve seen a few police stations completely shut down and closed due to drug trafficking amongst other charges. If you take the time to look at the charges that have been placed against Police officers over the years by people in the communities you will see a pattern of racial bias, racial profiling, racial hatred and racial inequality. I have lived through this injustice by the NYPD and will probably continue to so if you don’t take steps to clean out the police force for the betterment of our NYC communities. I was also illegally arrested once while trying to catch a cab home late at night. I, along with over 50 men of different races, clothes, skin colors, heights and weights, was arrested for the same crime. Apparently what happened was that someone tried to break into a SUV but NYPD did not have a description of the offender so the Police arrested over 50 men including me and sent us all to central booking. Basically every male walking on that block at the time was arrested for the same crime without a description. At Central Booking an Assistant District Attorney questioned each and everyone of us on camera with a stenographer taking notes. I asked the ADA for the name, badge# and title or rank of every Officer and person involved with my arrest. At that point I was put in a cell by myself for maybe 30 minutes then released from central booking through a side door on 161st Street without ever having seen a judge for the crime I was arrested for. So basically I was illegally detained by being tackled to the street on top of winter slush, illegally arrested for about 12 hours, then thrown to the street late at night with no money and no way to get home. It was a miracle that I did not lose my job but think about the innocent families that did have their fathers lose their jobs over this totally illegal action by NYPD which continues to happen every day. The NYPD needs a massive cut to show them that they must change their policies against people of color and that they should be working to improve our living conditions rather than killing us and allowing their officers to use minorities as billion dollar paychecks for prison system owners.