When Mayor Bloomberg appointed me as the Commissioner / Chair of
the NYC Commission on Human Rights in February 2002, my first goal
was to reduce the 5,000 case backlog that was immobilizing the Commission.
The Commission was in legal gridlock and could not function effectively
in law enforcement or community relations with so many unresolved
complaints dating back many years.
executive legal staff began a thorough review of each case pending
at the agency. With the reenergized help of our staff attorneys
and investigators, we have issued determinations for almost 4,000
cases, leaving the Commission with a current inventory of 1,100
cases; a manageable caseload average of 40 cases per attorney and
investigator. Working now with a one-year turn around time, they
continue to review new cases to ensure that the allegations are
jurisdictional and meritorious.
goal this first year was to build programs in the Community Relations
Bureau and integrate them with the work of the Law Enforcement Bureau.
I began with re-training for the entire staff on the Human Rights
Law and the operations of the agency. Community Relations staff
began rotating through the Law Enforcement Bureau to assist with
complaint investigations. We also initiated several new or expanded
programs for protected populations under the law: employment rights
for immigrants, accessibility for the disabled and elderly, educational
presentations for middle and high school students, mortgage foreclosure
counseling for victims of discriminatory predatory lending practices,
and community and peer mediation for intergroup tensions.
The future at the Commission looks bright. We have testers operating
throughout the city to identify systemic human rights violations.
Attorneys will be assigned to the five borough-based Community Service
Centers for filing and investigating complaints and participating
in community education. We will be implementing community mediation
programs to intervene before minor situations escalate and a peer
mediation option for the schools. Finally, the Commission is attempting
to contract with the US Housing and Urban Development to prosecute
fair housing complaints. Those cases would generate income for the
Commission, making us less reliant on City tax-levy dollars.
of us at the Commission look forward to an even better year in 2003.