Press Release

Fact Sheet: Expanding Language Access at City Agencies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 6, 2017
CONTACT: mediabox@moia.nyc.gov, 646-343-7164

"Today, the City is speaking to more New Yorkers in their language than ever before – a step that is consistent with the de Blasio Administration's commitment to serving all residents equitably. This local law will mean that more New Yorkers with limited English proficiency can access City services in their language, especially important in engaging newer immigrant families, as we also continue to connect them to English language learning opportunities. The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, alongside the Mayor's Office of Operations, is proud to assist City agencies in implementing the new law."

– Commissioner Nisha Agarwal

This week, Local Law 30 went into effect, requiring City agencies that provide direct services to the public to translate their most commonly distributed documents into the top 10 citywide languages. The top languages, based on an assessment of U.S. Census and NYC Department of Education data, are Arabic, Urdu, French, Polish, and the six languages previously required under City law (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Creole, and Korean). Giving residents of diverse backgrounds the tools they need to communicate efficiently and effectively with City agencies enables more capable, inclusive service of the multilingual communities that make up New York.

"Newly expanded translation requirements for City agencies will remove barriers that too often keep immigrants and their families from understanding City services in their own language," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. "Whether you're starting a business, finding a school, getting healthcare, or paying a bill, language should not keep you from fully connecting with your community. I'm proud New York will expand the number of languages used by City service agencies from six to ten and that we've provided generous resources for people seeking English language courses."

"Our message to Arabic, Urdu, French and Polish-speaking immigrants is you are welcome here in New York City and we speak your language," said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. "New York City is about to get a lot more accessible to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who speak Arabic, Urdu, French and Polish with translation services available for the top ten most spoken languages in our city. It has been a pleasure to serve as Chair of Governmental Operations supporting Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's law to expand language access in our city. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for signing this important language access legislation and putting it into practice for a more accessible city."

Language Access is Critical for NYC's Diverse Communities.

  • Three out of every five New Yorkers are immigrants or children of immigrants.
  • Nearly one in four New Yorkers have limited English proficiency.
  • The new law's additional language requirements for Arabic, Urdu, French, and Polish will mean that 86 percent (up from 81 percent) of New Yorkers with limited English proficiency have access to documents in their own language. Based on 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, approximately 100,000 New Yorkers may be directly impacted by this increased access to City services in their native languages.
  • These new language access requirements have been written in to the Administrative Code as a permanent part of City law.
  • The law builds on the groundwork laid by Executive Order 120, which required language services to be available in 6 languages.

The Mayor's Office is Ensuring Language Access Across City Government.

The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Operations are working with City agencies to guide implementation of the new language access law – which formally went into effect on July 1, 2017 – by convening agency language access coordinators, developing guidance materials, sharing agency best practices, and discussing solutions to language access challenges. The new law also requires that City agencies providing direct public services provide telephonic interpretation in at least 100 languages and develop a language access implementation plan to be posted to their agency website. MOIA and Operations will continue to review agencies' language access implementation plans and reports to ensure that expanded language access services move forward across the City in a cohesive manner.

"New York City is home to over 200,000 immigrants from Africa, and our communities have been heavily targeted by repressive, anti-immigrant policies at the federal level," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together. "Local Law 30 expands language access to include French and Arabic, which are widely spoken in our communities. It will make critical City services accessible to Africans, and help realize the promise of a New York that welcomes all."

"The Asian American Federation applauds Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council for this important milestone to ensure that our city remains a welcoming place for newcomers," said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. "Local Law 30 will expand the number of languages in which City agencies are required to provide translation services, increasing from six languages to ten - an important development to accommodate some of the fastest-growing communities in our city.  We give a special thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito and her staff for their dedication and leadership in shepherding a thoughtful language access expansion that recognizes long-standing immigrants, as well as the newcomers. In adding the four new languages, the City recognizes some of our most vulnerable and underserved neighbors who need access to in-language services and information, especially in the current political climate. Time and time again, New York City leads by example in how to help new immigrants feel welcomed by our government agencies and create an environment in which they can establish new roots, thrive, and contribute to their new home. We are pleased to stand with our leaders in this important moment!"

"The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) applauds the City's commitment to strengthen language access services and ensure city agencies nurture a culture where language accessibility is second nature to service delivery," said Vanessa Leung, co-Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. "Investments in monitoring and reporting will help City agencies better understand diverse community challenges and improve services. We look forward to partnering with all stakeholders to ensure individuals get the services and supports they need in a language they understand, and to continue to work with the City to identify ways to support individuals who speak languages not covered by Local Law 30."

"Language access is absolutely essential for New York City's three million immigrants who look to our City government for information and leadership," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Local Law 30's codification and expansion of the City's language access protections ensures that our diverse communities can come closer to language equity, while having greater access to the City's vital services. We are grateful to our elected officials, who in the face of threats from the Federal government, are making true on their promises of sanctuary. Now more than ever, we are proud to say: this is our New York."

About MOIA

The NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs promotes the well-being of NYC's immigrant communities by recommending policies and managing programs that help to successfully integrate immigrant New Yorkers into the civic, economic, and cultural life of the City. For more information on all MOIA services, go to nyc.gov/immigrants, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.