The Commission’s Community Relations Bureau (“CRB”) promotes understanding and respect among New Yorkers. Its five borough-based Community Service Centers provide resources to help New Yorkers understand their rights and obligations under the City Human Rights Law.
The following is a recap of some of CRB’s accomplishments in 2017.
The Commission’s newly formed Bias Response Team responded to 86 bias incidents in 2017, primarily arising from incidents of discrimination based on perceived gender identity and religion. Responses included contacting victims to inform them of their rights, providing instructions on how to file complaints, and engaging in community-based actions, including literature drops, events, and days of action. Examples of incidents the team responded to include:
• The team worked with elected officials and several City agencies to respond to tenant harassment at a Queens condominium.
• The team conducted workshops for the Bronx’s Community Board 7 in response to incidents of anti-Semitic slurs at the New Jewish Home to provide education to community members regarding their rights under the City Human Rights Law, and to connect them to the Commission’s resources.
• The team provided Know Your Rights training to attendees of the Beit-ul-Maqdis Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn after the Center was vandalized. This outreach was conducted to support the community and to supplement the investigation undertaken by criminal law enforcement officials.
The Commission continued to educate housing providers and community groups on their rights and responsibilities, offering 263 fair housing workshops and presentations to 2,709 attendees, and providing technical assistance to 1,350 people as part of the Citywide Task Force in Housing Court, as well as through tenant organization meetings. The Commission also hosted its fifth annual Fair Housing Symposium, which this year was held at Hostos College in the Bronx. The symposium provided Know Your Rights workshops to over 200 tenants, advocates, service providers, attorneys, and tenant organizations with a special focus on combating lawful source of income discrimination. Commission attorneys were also on site to take housing complaints from attendees.
In May, following the brutal assault of an immigrant street vendor from Burkina Faso in the South Bronx, the Commission hosted its first forum for African immigrant communities at the Metropolitan College of New York in the Bronx. The forum was an opportunity to inform people about their rights under the City Human Rights Law. More than 20 community-based organizations and City agencies were on hand to provide information on government resources and legal protections for African immigrants. The Commission also hosted a series of events focused on racial justice. These included a panel discussion on the impact of gentrification in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a mobile legal services clinic at a neighborhood church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and a community response effort that included providing Know Your Rights information and legal screenings to Brooklyn community members following reports of racial discrimination in a local restaurant.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Commission held a town hall and resource fair in Washington Heights co-sponsored by major Spanish-language media outlets and several elected officials. The event was an opportunity to educate communities about their rights under the City Human Rights Law related to discrimination based on immigration status and national origin, and to provide resources focused on economic empowerment. The Commission also co-hosted a summit for Latinx and Black schoolgirls with the Office of the Bronx Borough President and Councilmember Vanessa Gibson. Held in the South Bronx, the summit was an opportunity to educate girls and young women about their rights under the City Human Rights Law.
The Commission continued its work on behalf of people with disabilities through Project Equal Access, which identifies barriers to accessibility in housing, workspaces, and public accommodations, and resolves them prior to intervention by the Commission’s Law Enforcement Bureau. Individuals, housing providers, disability rights organizations, and social service providers have praised this innovative program in which Commission staff regularly conduct workshops and engage in collaborative discussions with relevant parties to address accessibility issues and encourage quick resolutions. In 2017, Project Equal Access successfully negotiated 216 modifications across the City, including accessibility improvements like the addition of ramps and automatic door openers in restaurants and apartment buildings, the creation of accessible supermarket checkout lanes, and the addition of lifts in medical facilities.