New York City Launches Citywide Anti-Discrimination Campaign in Response to Rise in Bias Incidents and Harassment Against Vulnerable New Yorkers

May 23, 2017

Ads and posters will appear in subways, bus shelters, Staten Island Ferry terminals, LinkNYC kiosks, NYC and Taxi TV, houses of worship, local businesses, ethnic and community radios and newspapers, and social media

NEW YORK – Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Commission on Human Rights today launched a citywide anti-discrimination campaign affirming New Yorkers’ right to live, work, and pray free from discrimination and harassment. The campaign, which includes ads, PSA videos, and community events, follows a 60 percent increase in reports of discrimination to the NYC Commission on Human Rights in 2016, a trend that continues into 2017.

“It is now more important than ever for New Yorkers to stand united as one city and reject hatred and intolerance,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “In New York City, our diversity is our strength. It does not matter where we come from, who we love or who we worship. We are all New Yorkers, and deserve to be treated with dignity. Regardless of the national rhetoric, we have absolutely no tolerance for discrimination in our City.”

"NYC welcomes people of all cultures and orientations, and strives to continue that tradition, regardless of what goes on elsewhere in the world," said First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, who leads the ThriveNYC mental health effort. "I am delighted that we now have a citywide campaign that encourages inclusiveness and understanding."

“Every New Yorker has the right to be themselves without being discriminated against, no matter where they come from, what language they speak, who they love, or their religious faith,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Carmelyn P. Malalis. “At a time when bias incidents are on the rise, this campaign sends a clear message to all New Yorkers that they do have the right to live free from discrimination and harassment and that NYC has your back. In this city, we are all New Yorkers. No one has permission to discriminate against you or your community. If they do, rest assured that the NYC Commission on Human Rights will hold them accountable.”

“No matter what country you’re from, the color of your skin, your religious tradition or immigration status, New York City stands with you,” said Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This anti-discrimination campaign is another demonstration of that fact and we will continue our work alongside the NYC Commission on Human Rights and with ethnic and community media to ensure that this message reaches New Yorkers across the city in many different languages. New Yorkers will not tolerate harassment or discrimination. We encourage filing complaints to the NYC Commission on Human Rights so that we can better protect all New Yorkers.”

“There’s no place for hate or bias in our City,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “At a time where bias incidents are rising at alarming rates across our nation, this campaign reminds us that all New Yorkers have a right to feel safe and secure. I want to thank the administration and the NYC Commission on Human Rights for their commitment to eliminate intolerance and prejudice in our city and  for their continued partnership with the City Council to make New York a more fair and justice city for all people.”

The ads feature six individuals standing up to scenarios of discrimination and harassment commonly experienced by vulnerable New Yorkers, including Jewish, Muslim, Hispanic, Asian, Black, and LGBTQ New Yorkers, and affirms their right to pray, speak, and live in New York City without discrimination or harassment. The ads also remind victims that the Commission is here to help and urges people to contact the Commission at 718-722-3131 to report discrimination.

Campaign ads will appear in English and Spanish in more than 3,400 placements citywide over the next six weeks, including on subway cars and stations, bus shelters, Staten Island Ferry terminals, LinkNYC kiosks, houses of worship, laundromats, barber shops, and nail salons. The ads will also appear in 25 ethnic and community newspapers and radio stations in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, and Haitian Creole, including El Diario, World Journal, Allewaa Al-Arabi, Jewish Press, Amsterdam News, Thikana, and Radio Soleil and Davidzon Radio among others. The digital component of the campaign includes three videos which will run on Hulu, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, NYC TV and Taxi TV, as well as native ads on several online publications and across digital media. Later in the summer, the campaign will be expanded to on-location posters in neighborhoods citywide in at least five languages in addition to English and Spanish. 

The campaign follows a significant increase in reports of discrimination and bias incidents in NYC to the NYC Commission on Human Rights, as well as an increase in investigations resulting from those reports.

  • The Commission saw a 60 percent increase in overall reports of discrimination in 2016, a trend that continues into 2017.
  • Reports of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and immigration status increased by 30 percent in 2016.
  • The Commission is currently investigating 30 percent more complaints of discrimination than this time last year, with more than 1,600 current open cases of discrimination compared to 1,200 in May 2016.
  • More than 40 percent of all open cases at the Commission (more than 700 cases) involve discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and immigration status.
  • In fact, the Commission has more than doubled the number of investigations into race, religion, national origin, and immigration status over the last two years, filing 823 complaints in those areas in 2016 and 2015 combined compared to 418 complaints in 2014 and 2013 combined.

Given the rise in reports of discrimination, the Commission has increased its public outreach efforts to inform vulnerable New Yorkers about their rights, including hosting “Know Your Rights” events around the city, subway outreach efforts in all five boroughs, the launch of anti-discrimination ads on NYC transit mobile apps, the creation of a Bias Response Team, and the expansion of the Commission’s Infoline. The Commission has also increased its internal language capacity to 29 spoken languages, up from just six two years ago. The campaign announced today is part of the City’s continued effort to inform vulnerable communities about their rights.

Over the next six weeks, the Commission will host a series of community events tied to the campaign to further educate the City’s diverse communities about their rights and how to file discrimination complaints with the Commission. These “You Do Have the Right in Your Neighborhood” events range from panel discussions on race, faith, culture, and human rights to festivals that celebrate diverse communities and the values that unite them and make them stronger against discrimination. For a full list of events, including times and locations, visit NYC.gov/YouHaveRights.

If you or someone you know believes they are the victim of discrimination or harassment, call 311 and ask for NYC Commission on Human Rights or call the Commission’s Infoline at 718-722-3131. For more information about the campaign including full community events details, visit NYC.gov/YouHaveRights and follow @NYCCHR on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About the NYC Commission on Human Rights:

The NYC Commission on Human Rights is the City agency charged with enforcing the NYC Human Right Law, one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country. The Law protects every New Yorker from discrimination and harassment across 22 broad categories, including race, religion, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender and gender identity among others in housing, employment, and in public spaces. The Law also protections individuals against discriminatory harassment, which is a civil form of hate crime, and against bias-based profiling by law enforcement.

The Commission has the authority to fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the Law and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. The Commission can also order trainings on the NYC Human Rights Law, changes to policies, and restorative justice relief such as community service and mediated apologies.

"It is unacceptable that any group of New Yorkers would be discriminated against because of how they look, how they worship, or whom they choose to love. New York is a progressive city and we must continue to move this city forward,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “We must ensure that New Yorkers of all backgrounds are treated with the respect and equality they deserve because love always trumps hate."

"The only thing we don't have room for in our enormous and diverse city is hate," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "So many New Yorkers have already stood up and said 'not in our city' -- we should all follow their example, by intervening when we see something wrong or calling the Human Rights Commission or the police."

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, "Incidents of bias and discrimination have been occurring with more frequency throughout New York City and across the country.  This is not OK.  Now, it is more important than ever for New Yorkers to stand together against discrimination in all its forms. If you see something, say something.  If you witness an incident, call it out and report it to the Commission. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and Queens denounces any act of discrimination, whether microaggression or blatant.”

“The LGBT Caucus of the New York City Council applauds the Human Rights Commission for their work to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, age, and many other identities, are treated with respect. As members of the LGBT community we know first-hand how a discriminatory practice at the work place, in the streets, or in your home can have a devastating impact on one’s daily life. This is why it is even more crucial that we stand up and push back against all forms of discrimination, and further embrace diversity. People should not have to live in fear in our City,” said the New York City Council LGBT Caucus.

“New York is standing up against the recent sharp rise in discrimination reports. The City’s new ‘I Should Have the Right’ campaign tells the truth. Everyone in New York deserves respect and freedom from bias or harassment. I thank the Mayor and the NYC Commission on Human Rights for expanding the reach of this good message in 29 different languages and by using the local media outlets most trusted in immigrant communities,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“Hate and intolerance are poisons to our communities. Even in our most trying times, we must push forward together, marching in the face of fear and anger. This visibility campaign affirms New Yorkers right to their freedom of speech and expression and what they can do if those rights are threatened. We must all continue to be vigilant," said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

Council Member Brad Lander said, "In New York City, we all have the right to be who we are, free from hate and discrimination. NYC's human rights law is the strongest in the country, and we've worked hard to make it even stronger. So no matter where you're from, how you worship, or who you love, you have the right to live, work, play, and pray without discrimination. Thanks to the NYC Commission on Human Rights for stepping up to make sure everyone knows it."

“As a trauma informed service provider serving the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant communities, the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) has experienced firsthand the physical and mental repercussions of the current social and political environment on the lives of the communities we serve,” said President and CEO of the Arab-American Family Support Center, Rawaa Nancy Albilal. “Our staff and volunteers have seen an increase in hostility and aggression towards our communities, including youth being called terrorists, a staff member being attacked on a bus, families experiencing increased trauma from losses related to the life they left behind, and the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if they will ever see their family members again. We stand with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s and the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ citywide anti-discrimination campaign. We believe that all New Yorkers have the right to feel safe and live in dignity.”

“Community Voices Heard is excited to support this ad campaign from NYC Commission on Human Rights as a mechanism to help ensure that New Yorkers are better informed of their rights,” said Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, Afua Atta-Mensah. “New York City, arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world, is filled with different people from distinctive cultural and racial backgrounds. All New Yorker institutions must support and practice the ideals of anti-discrimination.”

“This campaign comes at an important moment for our city and in our immigrant communities,” said Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Manuel Castro. “It will serve as a critical tool in continuing to make this a welcoming and safe city for all New Yorkers.”

“This campaign of comes at a very important time for many New Yorkers, especially in the current political and cultural climate where discrimination towards those perceived to be different has become normal,” said Executive Director of Sauti Yetu, Zeinab Eyega. “The message that New Yorkers will not tolerate bias or discrimination and that there is a place to go for help will go long way in reassuring individuals and communities.”

“It is essential for people to stand up and let our voices to be heard,” said Senior Rabbi at the Beit Simchat Torah Congregation, Sharon Kleinbaum. “If anyone has suffered discrimination of any kind, report it! We are blessed to live in a city which has a robust human rights law and it is up to each of us to utilize it. It is imperative to have ads that make visible our powerful human rights law.”

“The rise in bias crime is an unsettling development that strikes at the heart of every minority group,” said Executive Director or Asian Americans for Equality, Christopher Kui. “Fearing for your own and your family's safety just for being perceived as different is a painful reality that Asian Americans once again have to face. This campaign is a strong statement that will help assure people that New Yorkers will not tolerate a step back, and we will stand together in the face of hate. I commend Mayor de Blasio and the Commission on Human Rights for taking strong action to defend the rights of all New Yorkers.”

“JCC Manhattan is committed to providing an environment where all are welcome," said Executive Director of JCC Manhattan, Rabbi Joy Levitt. "We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, veteran status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression in any of our programs or activities. JCC Manhattan is proud to work with the NYC Commission on Human Rights on this important campaign and encourages New Yorkers to stand up to discrimination in all its forms.”

“All humans have the right to live free from discrimination,” said Executive Director of El Centro de Immigrante, Favio Ramirez-Caminatti. “This campaign reflects that New Yorkers have a commitment with that. Our City is a place where everyone can live in peace, regardless of their race, religion, or immigration status. We do have the right.”

“There has never been a more important moment for a campaign such as this,” said Executive Director of the Arab American Association of NY and co-chair of the Women's March on Washington, Linda Sarsour. “I am grateful to the NYC Commission on Human Rights for sending a strong message that we are all New Yorkers and deserve to live freely and safely in our city. New York is the greatest place on earth, a city full of diverse people with diverse opinions and I know we can be the most respectful, inclusive and intersectional city in the world. I hope all New Yorkers join us to make that commitment together.”

“Chhaya CDC applauds the NYC Commission on Human Rights' outreach efforts to confront the rise in discrimination in our immigrant communities,” Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, Annetta Seecharran. “These efforts directly support our work in combating discrimination in the South Asian community, which has been the subject of hateful rhetoric for quite some time. Providing resources and access to supportive services are critical for our communities at this time and we are proud to be partners with the city in such efforts.”

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