Community Highlights

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.

Bias Response Team Takes Action

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.

Fighting for Fairer Housing for All New Yorkers

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.

A Focus on Racial Justice

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.

Empowering Immigrant Communities

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.

Making New York City More Accessible

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.

Working with Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

The Commission continued its work educating incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals about their rights under the Fair Chance Act, which protects individuals from discrimination in employment based on their criminal history. In 2017, CRB conducted 305 outreach and educational activities for 9,169 individuals, while providing technical assistance to 918 people about the Fair Chance Act.

Outreach efforts included workshops on the Fair Chance Act with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Services and the New York City Department of Probation at office sites where probation clients report monthly. Presentations on the Fair Chance Act were also conducted for clients of Workforce1, via the New York City Department of Small Business Services, before they went to job interviews. The Commission also presented workshops on the Fair Chance Act at the Manhattan Detention Complex, the Brooklyn Detention Complex, and the Vernon C. Bain Center in the Bronx.

Supporting LGBTQ Youth

The Commission built upon its longstanding work with LGBTQ communities by joining First Lady Chirlane McCray’s NYC Unity Project – the City’s first-ever multi-agency strategy to deliver services to LGBTQ youth. This bold commitment unites 16 City agencies to offer new and enhanced programs and support to ensure every LGBTQ young person in NYC is safe, supported, and healthy. The Commission, alongside the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, spearheaded the Unity Project’s work with faith communities.

Through the Unity Project, the Commission was tasked with the specific role of galvanizing houses of worship that affirm LGBTQ youth and serve as safe spaces. The culmination of this work led to the launch of the Unity Project Faith Network – a group of LGBTQ affirming faith leaders, houses of worship, and community-based organizations that are committed to providing resources for leaders and houses of worship that seek to be more affirming.

The Commission also hosted open houses for LGBTQ youth in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island in collaboration with the Brooklyn Pride Center, Destination Tomorrow, the Caribbean Equality Project, and the Staten Island Pride Center. The open houses celebrated National Coming Out Day and provided resources to LGBTQ youth regarding their rights under the City Human Rights Law.

CRB also continued its work with local schools by collaborating with several Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) across the City to raise awareness about bias-based harassment in LGBTQ youth communities.

Partnering with Faith Communities

The Commission continued to unite and engage faith communities across the City to celebrate diversity and inform faith-based communities about their rights against religious discrimination and harassment.

The Commission held its Second Annual Iftar in the City, this year in Brooklyn Heights, to celebrate Ramadan. The iftar convened over 500 New Yorkers from different faiths.

The Commission partnered with community leaders, religious officials, and community-based organizations to host an interfaith Seder at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. The Seder was co-sponsored by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, The Interfaith Center of New York, the Islamic Center at New York University, Union Theological Seminary, New York Divinity School, and Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia.

The Commission organized an interfaith forum at JCC Harlem that brought together Christian, Jewish, and Muslim community leaders to discuss the intersection of race, ethnicity, and faith in the face of Harlem’s gentrification.

The Commission co-hosted the first ever interfaith Diwali celebration with the Bronx's diverse South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities. The event was held at the Sonia Sotomayor Center in partnership with the Vishnu Mandir, a local Hindu temple. Faith and community leaders from Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities came together to deliver a message of peace and unity. Over 300 community members attended, and State Assemblymember Luis R. Sepúlveda gave remarks.