Historic NYC Racial Justice Commission Approves Final Ballot Proposals Intended to Dismantle Structural Racism in the City’s Charter

New York, NY – Today, the NYC Racial Justice Commission, the first of its kind in the nation, unanimously approved its final report outlining three landmark ballot proposals intended to advance racial equity and dismantle structural racism in the City’s Charter. New York City residents will vote on these proposals in the November 2022 general election. This final report also outlines specific legal changes to the New York City Charter that would take effect if the ballot measures are approved by voters and it includes a Roadmap for Racial Justice, which offers recommendations to local, state, and federal governments the Commission believes could further advance racial equity. 

The final approved ballot proposals are: 

Proposal 1: Add a Statement of Values to Guide Government 

Adding a preamble would allow New Yorkers to adopt a vision and statement of values, and it acknowledges past and continuing harms experienced by marginalized groups and individuals. The proposed preamble would be used to guide City agencies and officials in carrying out their duties. 

Proposal 2: Establish a Racial Equity Office, Plan, and Commission 

This proposal establishes a framework for planning and evaluating City government efforts to advance equity. It would create an Office of Racial Equity, require a citywide Racial Equity Plan every two years, and create a Commission on Racial Equity to represent communities’ needs and publicly review the citywide Racial Equity Plan.  

Proposal 3: Measure the True Cost of Living 

This proposal will require City government to develop and report, beginning in 2024, an annual “true cost of living” measurement of what it costs to live in New York City without consideration of public, private, or informal assistance. The proposed measurement is intended to focus on dignity rather than poverty, by considering the cost of meeting essential needs. 

“Today, my fellow Commissioners and I humbly and proudly put forth a set of charter revision ballot proposals that are aspirational and actionable, and which would hold City government accountable for catalyzing sustainable change to dismantle structural racism and advance racial equity here in New York City”, said Jennifer Jones Austin, Chair of the NYC Racial Justice Commission. “Let us all do our part in learning about and sharing with our neighbors these proposals that we believe will make our city a greater place to live for us all.” 

“I want to congratulate the people of New York City for demanding the meaningful change that led to the establishment of the NYC Racial Justice Commission and these ballot measures. Although the Commission’s proposed ballot measures are a major milestone in the fight for racial equity, there is still much more work to be done. I ask that New Yorkers remain engaged in this process by educating and encouraging others to turn out to the polls in November,” added Henry A. Garrido, Vice Chair of the NYC Racial Justice Commission. 

“Throughout this truly historic process, including nearly six months of citywide public engagement, New Yorkers of all races and backgrounds showed up to fight for a more equitable city. This final report marks the culmination of the Commission’s drive to shape broad, bold proposals that will set a path forward for delivering change. The three proposals approved today by the Commission, if passed by New Yorkers, would set a foundation for the years of work ahead of us in the quest for racial justice. I am enormously grateful to the people of New York for their faith in the Commission, to the rest of the staff for their tireless work, and to the Commissioners for their passion and vision,” stated Anusha Venkataraman, Executive Director of the NYC Racial Justice Commission. 

The Commission invites New Yorkers to join a march tomorrow, December 28th at 10:30 a.m.,  from the Triumph of the Human Spirit Fountain in Foley Square to the Office of the City Clerk and deliver ballot measures for NYC Charter revisions. New Yorkers can register to join the outdoor gathering and participate in the historic march to deliver ballot proposals aimed at dismantling structural racism in the NYC Charter. 

The NYC Racial Justice Commission was established earlier this year and consists of 11 Commissioners from all 5 boroughs. Following this report, the Commission will embark on a comprehensive public education campaign to ensure all New Yorkers are aware of and understand the impact of the ballot proposals ahead of the November election. 

“We worked across the five boroughs to lift up the voices of New Yorkers and transform their stories of inequity to proposals intended to bring human justice to our communities. I’m proud of this Commission and am confident New Yorkers across this city will spread the word about the vote in November,” said Commissioner K. Bain, Founder and Executive Director, Community Capacity Development.

“I am honored to be a part of this Commission and to have contributed to this historic vote putting forth ballot proposals that could be the start to dismantling structural racism in the NYC Charter. I look forward to continuing our commitment to engaging New Yorkers next year,” said Commissioner Ana M. Bermúdez, Commissioner of NYC Department of Probation.

“The work of this commission is profound and though we’ve finished a significant step with today’s votes, the real work is yet to come,” said Commissioner Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. “I am so grateful to my fellow commissioners and to the amazing staff for a job well done. I am also looking forward to further engaging in the very necessary work of educating New Yorkers about these ballot proposals, their meaning, their potential and the way we hope they can set a foundation for a more racially just and equitable New York City. This work is only just beginning – we need all New Yorkers to engage in this process and do the work of creating the world in which we want to live.” 

“I thank Mayor de Blasio for this opportunity and my fellow commissioner and the staff for the seriousness with which everyone took the task before us. I strongly believe institutionalizing racial equity assessments, advancement and oversight through the Office and Commission will ensure on going attention to structural racism. It took us 400 years to get to this point. It will require a long time hence to get us beyond where we are now. These proposals we are putting before the voters of the City of New York, are intended to sustain efforts for racial Justice for decades, if not centuries, to come,” said Commissioner Rev. Frederick Davie, Senior Strategic Advisor, Union Theological Seminary and Chair, Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). 

“Beginning with a new Charter preamble that asserts a commitment and municipal responsibility to promote and facilitate our common humanity, civic engagement, economic inclusion, and social equity, along with the establishment of a new executive office and an independent commission on race equity to foster these values; the Racial Justice Commission proposals present a foundation to substantially move us towards a more economically and racially justice city. I am looking forward to another chapter of our journey towards justice with New Yorkers getting to the polls next November,” said Commissioner Darrick Hamilton, Founding Director, Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy at The New School and Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy.

“The three Charter ballot measures represent the aspirations of New Yorkers and their proposed structural remedies needed for the city to attain racial justice and equity.  The delivery of these three proposals to the City Clerk to be included in the November 2022 general election ballots is a giant step toward equality. These measures are the result of wide-ranging outreach and public engagement with New Yorkers from all walks of life and racial-ethnic backgrounds. They recognize the legacy and honor the contributions of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, and other People of Color in the development and growth of New York City. At the same time, we designed these measures to shape and guide the city government at all levels to begin the hard work of fulfilling its duties to ensure justice and equity for all New Yorkers. As an Asian New Yorker, I am truly touched that we are finally being recognized as a part of the social fabric of the city. I look forward to working with other Commissioners and staff in the coming year to outreach to and educate the community to participate in the upcoming November election to vote on these ballot measures,” said Commissioner Christopher Kui, President RISE NOW INC, and Former Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality. 

“Today is a historic day as the final report is being presented. This report echoes the voices, of all New Yorkers from across all five boroughs. I am grateful to have worked with my fellow commissioners and the Racial Justice Commission staff on this. We all come from different backgrounds and different struggles but are committed to the same fight to make New York City the most just place for all regardless of race, religion, sex or immigration status. Equally important, I want to recognize the work that the advocates and organizers have done, like marching, protesting, and civil disobedience, to lead to us to this moment. But as we know the work is not over, this report is just the beginning of a foundation. I want to thank everyone who came out and testified, specifically a big shout to Staten Island, who made their voices heard and made sure that we are no longer the forgotten borough. La lucha sigue,” said Commissioner Yesenia Mata, Executive Director of La Colmena.

“I want to thank the many New Yorkers who participated in this process and care so much to make this a better city. We are at the beginning of a process to fully align our City’s ideals, structures, policies, and practices with justice and multi-racial democracy. No work is more important or challenging in the United States. It will take sustained commitment from the people of this city to realize the goals outlined in the Racial Justice Commission’s report,” said Commissioner J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. 

“The Racial Justice Commission’s mission was a huge undertaking at a time when a global pandemic laid bare the very inequities that we were tasked to address.  For me, the most moving moments were the testimonies of New Yorkers who struggle against a system that leaves so many behind.  Those stories will stay with me for a very long time and will continue to shape my own work to live the values of equity, justice and respect for all New Yorkers.  Now, we ask our fellow New Yorkers to read the report, learn about the proposals and vote in November 2022,” said Commissioner Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of Asian American Federation.