Community Relations Bureau
The Law charges the Commission with encouraging understanding and respect among New York City’s many communities. To address this mission, the Community Relations Bureau (CRB) provides services through the Commission’s five borough-based Community Service Centers.
The various services of the Community Relations Bureau’s field operation comprise its Neighborhood Human Rights Program (NHRP). The NHRP works on a local level with block, tenant, religious, educational, merchant and community groups to improve and stabilize communities, educate them about the protections they have under the Human Rights Law, and connect them to the Commission’s law enforcement functions and other City services.
Each field office, or Community Service Center, offers the Commission’s many services including: Immigrant Employment Rights training; Equal Access (disability access) investigations, workshops, and interventions; School Program sessions with three separate curricula (NYC Human Rights Law, Sexual Harassment, and Conflict Resolution); Peer Mediation Training in high and middle schools; and Mortgage Counseling and Predatory Loan Prevention to reduce predatory lending practices. Dedicated teams of Human Rights Specialists staff each borough office.
As part of a comprehensive public education campaign, the Commission published its informational booklet in several languages, including English, French, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. The contents of these books appear on the Commission’s website: www.nyc.gov/cchr.
The Commission maintains its aggressive outreach campaign to the public through the programs it provides.
Immigrant Employment Rights
The Commission conducted 102 workshops and other outreach events during 2006 to inform immigrant workers, employers and immigrant advocacy organizations about their rights and obligations under Federal and City Laws. The discussions, literature and PowerPoint presentations explained discrimination based on national origin and citizenship or alienage status. The citywide presentations were conducted in English, Spanish, Creole, and Russian.
This program was developed with the New York Immigration Coalition and supported in its first two years by funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Office of Special Counsel for Immigrant Related Unfair Employment Practices.
The Commission continues to expand its Equal Access Program. In conjunction with LEB, CRB staff regularly conducts investigations and provides pre-complaint intervention when individuals experience accessibility problems. As a result, CRB staff successfully negotiated 163 modifications during 2006 through pre-complaint intervention, including: installing permanent and portable ramps at building entrances; lifts; curb cuts; bell and buzzer systems for entry to stores, offices, and apartment buildings; creating accessible restrooms and widening aisles in stores; and unlocking access gates. The Equal Access Program also provides extensive public education to senior citizens, the disabled community and advocates, healthcare and housing providers, and community leaders.
Commission staff members visited 54 City schools and 14 youth centers, conducting 431 sessions and teaching over 7,500 students in grades 6-12 three basic curricula: the Human Rights Law, Sexual Harassment and Conflict Resolution. The Conflict Resolution workshops are the most requested and often lead to the schools’ interest in the Commission’s Peer Mediation Training Program.
The Commission’s Peer Mediation Training program prepares middle and high school students to become Peer Mediators. These students then assist their peers in resolving differences before they escalate into violence. CRB’s approach to teaching young students how to be peer mediators is grounded in the principles that underlie the Human Rights Law—tolerance, human dignity, and respect. The 10-week after-school program also teaches these young students valuable life skills such as patience, persistence, active listening, and problem solving while presenting alternatives to threats and violence. Students, faculty, and staff experience benefits from the program as well.
Approximately 20 students per school participate in the voluntary program. The Commission published Talk It Over: A Peer Mediator’s Guide to assist the student mediators with the mediation process.
During the 2005 – 2006 school year, 176 high school students from 11 schools throughout the City graduated from the Peer Mediation Training Program. JPMorgan Chase renewed their impact grant awarded to the Commission to continue this work, bringing the four-year total to $127,000.
Mortgage Counseling and Predatory Loan Prevention
CRB staff members track possible discriminatory and predatory lending practices and conduct outreach and counseling services to address the community instability created by these practices. These lending practices include excessively high fees and commissions, misrepresentation of the mortgage’s terms and conditions, high interest rates, repeated financing of loans, balloon payments and the financing of high-cost credit insurance. CRB staff provided 339 counseling sessions for 140 homeowners facing foreclosure and also conducted 6 workshops.
The Commission continued its aggressive outreach campaign to complement its counseling services. The campaign targets immigrants and seniors who comprise 95% of the counseling clients and alerts them to predatory lending practices and the discrimination often associated with those practices. The Commission distributes information which contains helpful resources, including consumer and banking information. The Commission also participates in homeownership seminars and predatory lending workshops in areas prone to this type of discrimination.
Other CRB Activities
The Commission also participates in activities to promote fair housing—equal housing opportunity under the law. These activities include: fair housing training for providers and protected groups; resolution of informal housing complaints, particularly those that are disability-related; investigation of unlawful real estate practices; providing technical assistance to tenants as part of the Citywide Task Force on Housing Court; and active participation in community activities that encourage harmonious intergroup relations and neighborhood stability in areas undergoing ethnic change. In 2006, CRB delivered 131 Fair Housing workshops.
CRB expanded its comprehensive database to include the Commission’s Equal Access Program and its Mortgage Counseling and Predatory Loan Prevention Program. The new software enables the Commission to track all CRB’s activities more efficiently and comprehensively. A Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded the database application.
By year end, CRB staff delivered 54,352 units of service to individuals throughout the five boroughs.
Most of the Commission’s educational programs and services were supplemented in 2006 with funding from JPMorgan Chase, the Tiger Baron Foundation, and the Christopher Reeve Foundation from previous years’ budgets.
The Community Relations Bureau consists of 31 program and field staff and 5 support staff members.
and materials on employment protection for immigrants (City
law and Federal law) in cooperation with NY Immigration Coalition
1) immigrant workers;
3) immigrant advocacy organizations.
COUNSELING & PREDATORY LOAN PREVENTION
counseling for individuals facing the loss of their homes that
1) reviewing in person their financial and mortgage status;
2) writing letters to creditors or banks to negotiate payment;
3) exploring alternatives to foreclosure with individuals and
4) referring cases of suspected predatory lending;
5) distributing literature and participating in housing coalitions;
6) community presentations on predatory lending and foreclosure
1) investigation of individual inquiries (interviews, space
assessment, code assessment, analyze possibilities of code
compliance, discussion of the law);
2) intervention, i.e. negotiation and education with owners
(calls, letters, visits);
3) group presentations to consumers, business people, social
service agencies, hospitals re: disability rights;
4) drafting complaints and follow-up investigations.
three basic curricula, the "NYC Human Rights Law,"
"Sexual Harassment," and "Resolving Conflicts":
1) to school classes (grades 6-12);
2) to community groups.
& COMMUNITY MEDIATION
1) responds to requests to mediate bias and other community
2) sets up peer mediation groups in schools (grades 6-12);
3) delivers conflict resolution training to community groups
as well as not-for-profit and school personnel.