OUR ECONOMY PLATFORM

CONTRIBUTORS, WRITERS, EDITORS

POLICY CONTRIBUTORS

  1. Alana Cantillo, New York Immigration Coalition
  2. Andrea Bowen, Bowen Public Affairs Consulting
  3. Carlyn Cowen, Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)
  4. Gregory Brender, Day Care Council of NY
  5. Akilah Browne, New Economy Project
  6. Andy Morrison, New Economy Project
  1. Annie Garneva, NYC Employment and Training Coalition
  2. Chauncy Young, New Settlement
  3. Elena Conte, Pratt Center for Community Development
  4. Nora Moran, United Neighborhood Houses New York
  5. Deyanira Del Rio, New Economy Project
  6. Sade Swift, NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives
  1. Chai Jindasurat, Nonprofit New York
  2. Emilie Miyauchi, Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City
  3. Jose Paulino, New Deal Cooperative
  4. Louis Cholden-Brown, Collaborative Democracy Project
  5. Luis Saavedra, Human Services Council
  6. Michelle Jackson, Human Services Council
  7. Paul Sonn, National Employment Law Project

WRITERS

  1. Carlyn Cowen 
  2. Ashley Chen
  3. Dalal Shalash
  4. Andy Bowen
  5. Jennifer Qu
  6. Leena Dughly
  1. Paul Sonn
  2. Elijah Rockhold
  3. Alex Hunter
  4. Ilana Novick
  5. Gregory Brender
  6. Michael Sutherland
  1. Angelina Atieh
  2. Shubh Thakkar
  3. Alana Cantillo
  4. Alan Abraham
  5. Josie Steuer Ingall

EDITORS

  1. Zara Nasir
  2. Carlyn Cowen
  3. Angelina Atieh
  1. Ilana Novick
  2. Elijah Rockhold
  3. Lynn Yellen
  1. Jose Garcia 
  2. Virginia Hart 
  3. Alan Abraham
  4. Meg Jones
THE STORY OF THE LAST 7 YEARS

A “Tale of Two Cities,” unchanged by City policy, continues on and worsens. According to the New York Times, in his first State of the City address in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio noted how the city’s recovery from the Great Recession was uneven. During his candidacy, de Blasio named the vast divide between wealthy and poor and working class New Yorkers. At the State of the City, the new mayor promised not to ignore the “Tale of Two Cities,” the central theme of his mayoral candidacy. But as we look back on his years as Mayor, de Blasio failed to put forth a bold economic vision to address the very  problem he campaigned on fixing. Though the City Council passed some important worker protection legislation, vision from the most powerful city-level official, the Mayor, was lacking in this area. 

Five years into his administration, 40 percent of New Yorkers struggled to meet basic needs, an analysis by The New School shows. Now, the City is recovering from the worst economic and public health crisis of our time. Of course, the roots of the economic crisis extend far beyond what is in New York City’s power. But, the City’s policies failed to pivot drastically from previous political leadership. The divide between wealthy New Yorkers and the working class continues.

WINS OF OUR MOVEMENT

 Despite worsening inequality in New York City, advocates and organizers won some key protections for workers and wins for working families. 

  • Increase in minimum wage: With the hard work of grassroot organizers and labor leaders, the New York City minimum wage increased to $15 starting December 31, 2019. Nevertheless, a wage of $15 per hour is outpaced by the rise in the cost of living in the city.
  • Paid sick leave: In 2020, De Blasio signed a package of bills that would expand the City’s paid sick leave law to extend to more workers, protect the jobs of hotel workers, and extend protections for commercial tenants, following his 2014 Earned Sick Time Act to require employers of more than five employees to provide paid sick leave The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the ways that this City has failed to protect workers who are risking their health to serve their fellow New Yorkers and pieces of legislation that has been necessary even before the pandemic. 
  • Universal Pre-K: One of de Blasio’s hallmark accomplishments was establishing a universal Pre-K system which, according to the New Yorker, enrolled more than 68,000 children by September 2015. The program has especially helped low-income families as children enrolled in free, full-day pre-K save an average of $10,000 every year on childcare costs. 
  • Investments and creation of work cooperatives: In FY15, the City Council allocated $1.2 million to support the expansion of 20 worker cooperatives and the creation of 28 new ones through an incubation program, which allowed for 234 new jobs. This is particularly important because worker cooperatives empower member-owners by allowing them to develop leadership skills and accumulate wealth through their ownership stake in the cooperative.
  • Excluded Workers Fund: During the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately a million New Yorkers lost their jobs, and undocumented and informal economy workers were cut off from the enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits. New York City and Open Society Foundation established a $20 million fund to support approximately 24,000 immigrant families, and New York State established a first-of-its-kind $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund to support 275,000 families. 
  • Passage of historic street vendor legislation: Street vendors are a vital, largely immigrant workforce. However, the number of food vending permits has been capped at 3,000 since 1983, far below demand, and leading to a large illegal permit market. In January 2021, the New York City Council passed historic legislation to lift the permit cap, adding 400 new permits each year for the next ten years, helping to alleviate the pressure on the current system. 
  • Just cause protections for fast food workers: In 2020, after a campaign by fast food workers highlighting the hardship caused by unfair firings in their industry, the City Council passed one of the nation’s first “just cause” employment laws requiring fast food employers to provide a good reason and a fair process before discharging workers.
WHERE WE LOST

In addition to the growing gap between cost of living and wages, and widening inequality between the wealthiest and the working class, the City saw several policy and programmatic failures that contributed to widening inequities. 

  • Failed to invest in bridge programming: Bridge programming was designed to create career pathways for immigrants and non-traditional workers, and in 2014, De Blasio committed to investing $60 million in bridge programs on an annual basis by 2020. This funding was never fully allocated, failing to meet the needs of these workers. 
  • Failed to provide premium pay for essential workers: The City Council introduced the Essential Workers Bill of Rights which would require employers to provide additional protections to workers which includes hazard pay during this pandemic and other times of crisis. However, De Blasio has expressed that hazard pay should be allocated by the Federal government, diverting his responsibility to protect fellow New Yorkers. 
  • Lack of funding for social services: While DeBlasio has claimed that social services are crucial to New Yorkers, his proposed budget cuts to these programs over the years indicates otherwise. Over the past year, the administration proposed cuts to social services during a pandemic, including core funding like indirect funding and cost of living adjustments (COLA) for workers, and moving food distribution from community-based organizations to City control.  
  • Worsening economic conditions for for-hire vehicle and taxi drivers: The rise in the number of app-based rideshare services in the city has caused a decline in the demand within the taxi industry. Despite increased competition and static driver incomes, predatory lending practices artificially inflated the value of taxi medallion, creating a bubble which eventually burst to devastating results for drivers and their families. According to the New York Times, the value of taxi medallions was $1.05 million in June 2013, but by January of 2018 it had plummeted to $200,000. The de Blasio administration failed to address the financial burden that taxi drivers are facing as their crippling debt is tied to their medallion mortgages rather than industry competition.
  • Worsening economic conditions for other vulnerable workers: As unemployment skyrocketed during the pandemic, retail, hospitality and service industry employees and workers in informal economies found themselves in positions of extreme financial precarity, particularly given that workers in these industries were especially likely due to immigration status or past bankruptcy filing to have been excluded from federal aid or stimulus checks. 
A VISION FORWARD

All New Yorkers should be able to fulfill their basic material needs, and have a safe, dignified, and productive life that goes beyond work, and live free of economic insecurity. A bold vision for a shared economy is a caring, cooperative, feminist economy which guarantees stability and economic security for all, not just the wealthest few. This vision requires radically departing from the city’s approach to tacitly or overtly backing policies that support those who already have wealth and power, and instead building and supporting economic policies and institutions based on the principles of cooperativism, care, social safety nets and guarantees to meet basic needs, economic justice and equity, and self-determination for marginalized communities.

The City must center economic justice and dignity for all, distribute resources equitably, and support policies and budgets that empower those who have been historically and violently excluded from our City’s economic engine. This includes directing and prioritizing the City’s albeit limited spending power to provide relief, protections, support, and guaranteed economic security for the most marginalized New Yorkers through measures like a city-level jobs guarantee, universal child care, and establishing a public bank. The City has far too often upheld the economic violence that marks the foundation of our economic systems in the U.S., the aftershocks of which continue to reverberate and create huge economic chasms especially between Black and indigenous people, and the white and wealthy. Given the economic history of this city, the policies of the past remain pallid compared to the vision and political will that is needed to address past and current injustices. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified issues that communities of color have faced for decades before this crisis, which is precisely why New York City doesn’t just need a just recovery; it needs a complete reorganization of the way that the City approaches the economic and material needs of its residents. Communities must be provided with the resources to ensure that not only do we recover from this crisis, but that we all thrive and share in all that this city has to offer.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

1) PROVIDE AID AND RELIEF IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE PANDEMIC AND BEYOND

The pandemic has resulted in the closure of more than 75,000 small businesses in New York City since March 2020, according to the New York Times. The Times also reports that a few thousand of those businesses are permanently shuttered and only about 40 percent of the 900,000 jobs lost at the peak of the city’s pandemic recession have come back. The economic impact of COVID is both vast and uneven, and reopening the economy requires attention to those New Yorkers most affected.

1A. Provide rental support and suspend city taxes for small businesses

Problem: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses were caught between high commercial rents and sharply falling revenues, according to the New York Times. The lockdown protocols and the decrease in traffic for small businesses made it difficult for business owners to stay afloat. Affording basic necessities for their families became a challenge as their livelihoods came to a halt. Many owners had to shut down their businesses because of their inability to afford monthly rent payments. In the meanwhile, federal and state governments have done little to support small businesses during the pandemic.

Recommendation: Partnership for New York City estimates that roughly one-third of New York City’s small businesses will never reopen again after the pandemic ends. Unless aid is provided, small, family-owned businesses, many of which are owned by Black, Latinx, and immigrant people of color, will remain closed or unable to recover. There must be a push from the City to pass the Housing Relief and Recovery For All Act in the State Legislature.The City could also establish a fund for comprehensive rental support for especially struggling small and people of color owned businesses including arrears, that are struggling to stay afloat, administered through Small Business Services, and offer a tax holiday for small businesses.

Office: Mayor, City Council 

Mechanism: Budget, Advocacy for State Reform

1B. Supplement and aid immigrant New Yorkers in accessing the Excluded Worker Fund

Problem: In the federal government’s COVID-19 financial relief packages, one of critical flaws is that certain essential workers, especially undocumented immigrants, have been excluded. In fact, Make the Road NY reports that 54 percent percent of essential workers in New York City are immigrants, many of whom are unable to access these critical funds. During one of the worst health crises in our history, our government has failed to provide meaningful assistance to ensure that each and every New Yorker is safe and healthy. Many undocumented workers are continuing to risk their health, and bear the brunt of of this pandemic, unable to ensure that their families have the basic necessities to survive.  

Recommendation: After more than a year of advocacy from immigrant rights organizations and activists, New York State passed a first-of-its-kind Excluded Workers Fund to provide support to excluded workers statewide. The city should increase the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs/Soros investment to meet immediate needs, especially since there are delays in accessing State funds. State funds are limited to $15,600 per person, and require tax returns filed with a a valid Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The Daily News reports that the IRS is months behind in processing applications for these numbers for those who are eligible, and many more workers do not have ITIN or do not file tax returns. Those workers without proof of residency and identity are ineligible even for the lower tier of benefits, which is capped at $3,200. Critically, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated workers are also left out. City officials should work with the State to raise revenues through increasing city taxes on the wealthy and “pandemic profiteers,” large multinational corporations who have actually made billions of dollars during the pandemic and have business operations in New York City. The City could also use some City funding to cover where the State has left gaps for aid for vulnerable New Yorkers who cannot access other aid. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism:  Budget, Advocacy for State Reform

1C. Pass “right to recall” bill for priority rehiring of New Yorkers laid off during the pandemic

Problem: More than half a million jobs in New York City have not come back after the initial COVID shutdown, according to the New York Times, and these job losses are concentrated in lower-wage sectors like hospitality. Bklyner reports that more than 70 percent  of furloughed workers are people of color. There is currently no guarantee that employers will rehire the same now-struggling New Yorkers. Without a resurgence in the hospitality and entertainment industries, these mostly Black and Latinx workers are likely to experience long-term financial hardship. Additionally, according to the AFL-CIO, employees of subcontractors are particularly vulnerable because their contractors might decide to replace their contracts when the work reopens, resulting in permanent job loss. 

Solution: Black, Latinx, and immigrant workers who were laid off during the pandemic must not be left out of the city’s recovery. The City Council should pass Intro 2241, which guarantees workers who were laid off during the pandemic the right to come back to their jobs as employers reopen and rehire. The City should also ensure that furloughed employees of subcontractors are also protected and if possible rehired. These measures are necessary to promote a just and equitable COVID-19 recovery. 

Office: City Council

Mechanism: Legislation

1D. Invest in community gardens and food access

Problem: According to the Food Bank For New York City, 1.1 million New York City residents are food insecure, a rate 12 percent higher than the national average. Food insecurity disproportionately affects minority communities, as fresh, healthy food options are not readily available in low-income communities, often referred to as food deserts (as defined by a . Community groups such as National Black Food & Justice Alliance, Rooted in Community, and Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger work to alleviate food injustice by building and sustaining community gardens. In 2016, Mayor de Blasio implemented the “Building Healthy Communities” initiative to increase the number of community gardens in food deserts through public-private partnership, as well as the Shop Healthy Initiative to bring healthy foods to local bodegas. However, in the midst of the pandemic, food insecurity has skyrocketed, up to 40% in the Bronx according to Feed America. The City of New York must invest even more into community gardens and increase accessibility to healthy foods to combat food injustice.

Recommendation: The Mayor should expand food access initiatives and direct funding to community groups working to combat food injustice across the city. The Council should also expand funds under their discretionary and Council initiative funding for food pantries, food access, and community gardens. Expanding funding for hyper-local food justice initiatives, and ensuring that it is accessible to more informal community groups, such as community gardens, community fridges and mutual aid groups is a critical way to make sure the most underserved neighborhoods combat food insecurity led by the people that live there. The City should also invest in food education, from healthy eating to available resources, both at the school-age level as well as for adults. The City should also establish language access requirements as well as culturally competent practices for all City food programs, to ensure that people have access to the foods that are familiar and fit their cultural practices. The Mayor should also appoint mission-driven community leaders to inform policy about food injustice that is sensitive to the needs of people of color and other underserved communities in the city. Lastly, the City should expand SNAP at the HRA level to provide additional City funds that are flexible to families in need. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

2) INVEST IN COOPERATIVE ECONOMIES

According to the Democracy at Work Institute, economic inequality has accelerated due to closing businesses, high unemployment, and the shift away from local business ownership. One-third of workers who are nearing retirement have neither savings nor a pension. The symptoms of the vast economic devastation of the pandemic point to a need for a radical redistribution of resources and methods of ownership that promote community and cooperation over individualism and profit. There are several ways that the City can promote a move towards this kind of cooperative economy, through public banking and investments in cooperatives and worker centers. 

2A. Establish a municipal people’s public bank

Problem: Public money should work for the public good, not for private gain. The City of New York collects tens of billions of dollars each year in public money, including revenue from taxes and other sources. According to the New Economy Project, the City deposits municipal funds in JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and other Wall Street “megabanks” that finance fossil fuels, real estate speculation, and other destructive industries — fueling the climate crisis, tenant harassment and displacement, and widening inequality in our city. Wall Street banks have for decades blocked low-income people, immigrants, and people of color from mainstream banking, relegating them to high-cost and predatory financial services that extract massive amounts of wealth from Black and brown NYC communities each year.

Recommendation: The City must create a municipal public bank, chartered to serve the public interest and advance racial, economic and environmental justice, as detailed by the Public Bank NYC coalition. Through a public bank, New York City could divest public money from Wall Street banks–and invest in cooperative and community-led development, including in small and worker-owned businesses, community land trusts and deeply affordable housing, and other critical needs. The New York City Council must pass a comprehensive legislative package (“The People’s Bank Act”) establishing the nation’s first municipal public bank. As part of the bill package, Introductions 2099 and 2100 would shine a light on—and begin untangling—NYC’s financial relationships with Wall Street banks. Additionally, Introduction 2164 would require the NYC Banking Commission to provide meaningful notice of its public meetings and report to the City Council on its determinations of which financial institutions are eligible to hold the City’s deposits.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

2B. Increase funding for and investment in worker cooperatives

Problem: Although the City Council has supported worker cooperatives over the last six years, the scale of the current program is insufficient to rebuild the City’s businesses and ensure a worker-centered recovery, especially for Black, Latinx, and immigrant low-income communities hit hardest by first by gentrification, and then by the COVID-19 crisis. According to the City’s Department of Small Business Services, the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative received $3.6 million in funding in FY2019 and supported the creation of 49 new businesses using a cooperative model that enables workers to become business owners. 

Recommendation: The City must invest more deeply in the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative to build on the policy infrastructure that has served as a nationwide model for building cooperative strength. A Revolving Loan Program can support worker cooperatives with local procurement and other general needs.  The City must create a grant program to fund new cooperatives as well as existing businesses in vulnerable communities. According to Non-Profit Quarterly, the City’s Department of Small Business Services recommends improved efforts to assist co-ops with translation services, obtaining certification as businesses owned by women and/or people-of-color, and accessing City financing programs.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

2C. Increase funding for worker and day laborer centers

Problem: Day laborers work on a temporary or day-to-day basis at jobs like construction, landscaping, and painting. Day laborers often congregate on public streets or in front of potential employers’ stores in hopes of obtaining a job for the day. According to New Immigrant Community Empowerment, this underground workforce is exposed to severe exploitation, including wage theft, unsafe worksites, and little or no access to basic amenities like water, bathrooms, and shelter.  Workers lack access to health care, legal services, and workforce development training.. Because of the temporary nature of their work, day laborers also struggle to find employment on a day-to-day basis which contributes to wage insecurity.   

Recommendation: The City must increase funding for day labor centers and worker centers, which are run by community-based, non-profit organizations that provide an organized and efficient process to match day laborers with potential employers and support workers with labor issues. Increasing the number of centers will provide a safe and clean environment for day laborers to congregate and wait for work, in places protected from environmental and safety hazards. It will also improve access to language instruction, health care, and advocacy organizations. Additional funding will enable centers to assist more than 1,800 workers with combating wage theft and collecting stolen wages, building skills, and getting job referrals. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget

Every New Yorker deserves and has the right to a stable, well-paying, and dignified job. The devastating effects of the pandemic have caused especially difficult financial crises for poor communities and communities of color, according to CSSNY. The City can improve and build better job programs, implement a jobs guarantees and improve protections for workers, provide training and oversight as new technologies enter the job market, and address systemic issues around employment. The City’s jobs program should focus on the most pressing issues facing the city: an economy for all, transportation, and the environment. The City must also develop generative, healing pipelines to career pathways for Black, Latinx, and immigrant New Yorkers outside of policing, corrections, family regulation, and carceral systems, as discussed in our anti-criminalization platform

3A. Implement a mass city-level jobs program, building towards a jobs guarantee

Problem: New Yorkers of color have been especially devastated by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, New Yorkers of color faced higher unemployment and underemployment rates, according to the City’s Where We Live report. Without widespread jobs programs or pipelines for Black, Latinx, and immigrant New Yorkers, many low-income New Yorkers are trapped in minimum and low wage jobs, or worse, without employment at all. During the pandemic, some of these most essential jobs to our city’s functioning were characterized by low wages, few safety supports, and unstable grueling schedules. 

Recommendation: New York City can create a mass employment program that centers jobs training and career pathways for low-income, Black, Latinx, and/or immigrant New Yorkers to grow their careers in stable and high growth sectors, especially those that are prioritized in infrastructure and pandemic recovery plans such as healthcare, climate resiliency, renewable energy, broadband, tech, and caregiving. In the vein of the New Deal, the City should use mass employment programs to rebuild the economy while providing infrastructure upgrades to NYCHA, the subway, public spaces and walkways, as well as meeting the growing needs of our healthcare sector, and climate change preparedness. The City should provide good wages, on-the-job training, and career pathway development, with the goal of building towards a City-wide municipal jobs guarantee. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

3B. Develop, expand and fund a city-wide 21st century career development system

Problem: According to a report written by New York City Employment and Training Coalition and the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, New York City’s combined unemployment and underemployment at the end of 2020 was 24.5 percent, more than twice the “official” New York City unemployment rate and five times higher than before the pandemic. This factors in those leaving the labor force and an estimated 320,000 involuntary part-time workers. According to the New School, many job losses occur in service-based and face-to-face industries, often categorized as low-wage and low-skill jobs. Many vulnerable New Yorkers – the working class, immigrants, and communities of color – are prevented from accessing stable, higher-paying jobs like technology and health care, due to the inaccessibility of the credentials, professional and personal networks, and skills (including literacy, numeracy and language skills; vocational and sector specific skills; and foundational skills necessary for every workplace, such as digital fluency, communication, and problem solving) these higher-paying jobs require.

Recommendation: Under-investments in education and job training have sustained economic and racial inequity. The City should develop, expand, and fund a City-wide 21st century career development system that weaves high school and postsecondary education with the workforce and economic development systems that focuses on training, upskilling, employment & education supports for a post-COVID economy. NYCETC recommends aligning these programs to labor market demand in essential and high growth sectors, which have been more vital during the pandemic; building 21st century skills into all workforce programs; expanding digital skills training for workers who have been displaced; expanding paid work based learning programs such as internships, apprenticeships, and applied learning opportunities and degree programs; and ensuring access through scaling up of effective on ramps to skills training such as “bridge programs,” pre-apprenticeship models, contextualized adult literacy and ESOL programs. Additionally, NYCETC and its members and partners have a more comprehensive set of recommendations on barriers to employment and related workforce support. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

3C. Implement community hiring for low-income New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color

Problem: According to the New School, over the last 18 months, over one million New Yorker City residents lost their jobs, disproportionately women, people of color, low income workers, immigrants and historically marginalized New Yorkers. Nearly two-thirds of those who lost a job had annual workplace earnings of less than $40,000; and 59 percent of those who lost their jobs were Black and Brown New Yorkers. Small businesses have also experienced collapse. In a typical year, the City spends about $10 billion in capital investments, including projects for the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings and parks, and $17 billion in procuring goods and services, which might include engaging computer programmers to write software or the purchase of cleaning supplies. However, without enabling State legislation, the City cannot, in most cases, require its contractors to hire qualified low-income individuals or residents of low-income communities. Currently, General Municipal Law prevents the City from using it’s procurement power to do anything other than obtaining best work at the lowest possible price and preventing corruption in the awarding of public contracts.  

Recommendation: City elected officials should push the Community Hiring bill at the State level, as advocated for by Mayor de Blasio’s administration, which would allow the City to develop and implement a Community Hiring Program requiring contractors and others who do business with the City to hire such individuals. Such a bill would allow the City to incorporate Community Hiring into the award methodology for contracts as a quantitative factor based on a bidder or proposer’s capacity to meet or exceed the community hiring goals. To support contractors in meeting these hiring goals and ensure equitable access to this hiring system, legislation would enable the City to connect contractors with referral sources such as workforce development programs that will help them meet their hiring goals by referring qualified talent, including veterans, NYCHA residents, cash assistance recipients and individuals with disabilities. According to an analysis from Dr. James Parrott of The New School, this legislation would have the potential to provide job opportunities for 40,000 workers a year, putting them on a path into the middle class.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Advocacy for State Reform

3D. Integrate workforce development programs into all economic development efforts

Problem: Past mayors have not adequately focused on connecting New Yorkers to training to appropriately serve in the city’s workforce. According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, Mayor de Blasio announced his plans for a Career Pathways framework that aimed to equip New Yorkers with skills for high-quality jobs and New York Works, which aimed to create 100,000 good-paying jobs over 10 year. Despite these plans, a lack of investment and coordinated City leadership means that little systemic change has occurred and significant hurdles remain in scaling up the workforce system, as outlined in a report by Center for an Urban Future. But these investments are integral in ensuring access to training programs and jobs for marginalized New Yorkers, as well as in connecting local residents to jobs created through economic development investments and strategies.

Recommendation: The City should harness its economic power to ensure a fair and equitable recovery by providing employment and apprenticeship opportunities for low-income New Yorkers and New Yorkers living in economically disadvantaged communities. In infrastructure and development projects in neighborhoods, the City should prioritize local hiring practices. The City’s goal should be to create jobs, and then to ensure that New Yorkers are able to develop the skills to work and advance within careers. All City economic development RFPs and contracts should include language requiring private sector partners to detail how they will implement and invest in a pipeline connecting local workers to training and to jobs. The City should also establish hiring goals for disadvantaged and local workers on projects involving City resources and ensure development projects achieve and maintain their workforce goals through accountability to a designated City agency and transparent process. The City should develop a flexible and dedicated workforce development fund supported by private sector and government funding. Ten percent of all funds allocated for economic development initiatives of any kind should be allocated to building a quality, neighborhood talent pipeline in partnership with the City’s workforce development system, including local community-based organizations and CUNY, using the work done by West Harlem Development Corporation and Workforce Professionals Training Institute as a model.

Office: Mayor, Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Land Use Action

3E. Mandate “right to retraining” for workers in workplace technological changes

Problem: As the global economy shifts away from manual labor and towards higher productivity, new technology and workplace innovation, companies often leave their workers behind in efforts to cut costs. The need for factory and manual white-collar labor has decreased in the U.S., leaving manual laborers––oftentimes with a workforce that is majority low-income and Black, Latinx, and immigrant workers––with few opportunities for training and professional development that would otherwise help them adapt to the changing economy. 

Recommendation: The City must mandate workers’ rights to training, similar to the Workers’ Right to Training Act in other states, which provides workers with advanced notice when their employer adopts new technology and requires that workers also receive appropriate training to adapt to these changes. Additionally, the City should require companies to bargain directly with workers when they implement these changes, empowering the workers to have a say in how technology should be deployed in the workplace. If a worker does lose their job due to the introduction of automation, the bill should require that employers provide six months of severance pay and a year’s worth of training to ensure that workers have the skills needed to succeed in our constantly changing economy. 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

4) EXPAND LABOR PROTECTIONS

New Yorkers deserve strong, secured labor protections no matter the work they do. But work has largely become more insecure and less stable in recent decades. Massive corporations have transformed more domains of American work into gig-economy jobs, exploiting their workers and data mining their employees. “At will” employment leaves New Yorkers unprotected and vulnerable to losing valuable sources of income. The City must be proactive in dismantling current systems that perpetuate worker harm, and building new systems that support a range of labor protections, including just cause, protecting employee data, and protecting employees from destructive practices of large corporations. 

4A. Pass “just cause” employment protections for all New York City workers

Problem: Under our “at will” employment system, workers can be fired abruptly—without notice, a chance to address employment problems, or even a stated reason—and left with bills due and no paycheck or severance pay. Black and Brown workers are hurt most by such unfair firings, since they’re more likely to face extended unemployment when they lose a job and have less family wealth or household savings to fall back on. At-will employment also makes it difficult to enforce our laws banning discrimination in the workplace and retaliation against whistleblowers because employers can legally give almost any reason—or no reason at all—for a firing. Without meaningful protections from arbitrary firings, workers have a much harder time speaking up on the job and organizing for their own well-being at work.

Recommendation: In 2020, New York City passed historic just cause legislation protecting fast food workers from unfair firings. The City Council should build on it by extending those important protections to all workers. It should also  include the right to severance pay for all terminated workers. By doing so New York can continue to lead the growing grassroots movement powered by workers—including many Black and immigrant workers—organizing to replace at-will employment with just cause protections, as reported by In These Times.

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

4B. Enact comprehensive gig worker employment standards

Problem: The giant corporations that dominate the gig economy unfairly reap exorbitant profits on underpaid workers. These companies attempt to sidestep basic employment protections for disproportionately Black and brown workforces—from unemployment insurance contributions, to the minimum wage and overtime, to anti-discrimination and health and safety protection. This leaves many workers of color impoverished and vulnerable and costs taxpayers billions in lost tax revenue. With the passage of Proposition 22 excluding rideshare and delivery workers from employment protections in California, CNN has reported that gig companies like Uber, Lyft and Doordash are moving aggressively in other states to push similar rollbacks — including widely criticized legislation introduced in Albany that would have rolled back existing City and State protections for gig workers, but did not pass, as reported by The City.

Recommendation: To push back against the gig giants’ attempts to rollback rights, New York City and Seattle have both already passed laws guaranteeing a minimum wage to rideshare drivers. Seattle has extended its paid sick days law to gig workers and required that gig delivery workers receive premium pay during the pandemic. New York City should build on its rideshare worker minimum wage with comprehensive protections for gig workers, as the City Council is now considering, according to the NY Daily News.  These should include: extending the minimum wage to other gig workers such as app-deployed delivery workers, extending paid sick days benefits, guaranteeing gig workers premium pay during declared emergencies, and other protections. The City should also expand the 2017 Freelance Isn’t Free Act to extend payment protections to gig workers of all kinds, and expand the protections to freelancers to include right to a minimum wage and paid sick days, right to protections from retaliation, and right to a grievance process. 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

4C. Adopt protections around data, electronic monitoring, and algorithmic management

Problem: Today, workers across the economy are faced with employers’ increasing use of data collection, intrusive workplace monitoring and surveillance, and unaccountable algorithmic decision-making and scoring. With the growing adoption of these technologies, workers are being hired, managed, evaluated, disciplined, and fired through processes that may involve little human input and can worsen existing inequalities based on race, gender, and other dimensions. New forms of technological control also create information asymmetries and magnify the power differential between employers and workers, and workers see these technologies result in the intensification of productivity demands, more job precarity, and greater interference with their right to organize. Over time, this power asymmetry can reduce wages for entire sectors.  

Recommendation: New York City should adopt new workplace data and algorithmic accountability standards to protect workers, including on-demand platform workers and independent contractors, from these abuses. In particular, such policies should strictly regulate the use of intrusive surveillance, data collection, electronic monitoring, and algorithmic management for employment decisions such as hiring, termination, and discipline. Employers must disclose to workers and validate data-driven technologies in advance of using them, and workers must have the right to review and challenge the use of these tools in employment decisions. Finally, government agencies will need strong regulatory and enforcement powers, including auditing, given the rapidly changing and untested nature of many of these 

Office: City Council, Comptroller 

Mechanism: City Legislation, Oversight and/or Auditing

4D. Ban coercive waivers of workplace rights and authorize qui tam enforcement

Problem: An estimated one-quarter of workers in low-wage jobs who are covered by forced arbitration requirements face wage theft, according to the National Employment Law Project, yet they are denied any effective means of recovering their unpaid wages. This employer- dominated process—in which workers are barred from joining together to seek relief as a group and settlements are secret—effectively makes it impossible for most workers to enforce their rights and allows years of abusive treatment to remain hidden. In 2019 alone, NELP found that individual forced arbitration requirements enabled employers to steal $12.6 billion in wages. Non-compete agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) similarly pressure workers to give up their employment law protections in order to keep their jobs.

Recommendation: New York City should restore the ability of workers and members of the public to go before judges and juries to enforce the City’s worker protections by including whistleblower or “qui tam” enforcement under all existing and new worker protection laws. Modeled on California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), these laws allow workers or representative organizations to bring enforcement actions for violations of State employment laws. The City should also ban non-compete and no-poaching requirements imposed by employers on a wide swath of workers, including those in lower-paid jobs. It should also limit employers’ power to impose non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) on workers to prevent them from speaking out about their workplace, including about their experiences with discrimination and harassment, and wage theft.

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

4H. Require disclosure of rights’ waivers and allow “private attorney general” actions

Problem: Corporations that mistreat their employees are increasingly using forced arbitration requirements, class action waivers, and other coercive waivers of worker protections to mask wrongdoing and block working people from vindicating their rights before judges and juries. According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than 60 million U.S workers are required to arbitrate their claims in secret proceedings before private arbitrators who are not accountable to the public. Employers typically include forced arbitration requirements which workers have no power to negotiate. Women, Black workers, and workers in low-wage jobs are disproportionately impacted. Forced arbitration requirements typically incorporate class action waivers that prevent employees from banding together to challenge employer wrongdoing. 

Recommendation: The City can enact contracting disclosure policies that require all contracting entities to disclose information about their use of forced arbitration requirements, class action waivers, and non-disclosure agreements. This information can then be used in the contracting process to evaluate bidders, with the goal of contracting with bidders who can demonstrate or certify that they do not and will not use forced arbitration and class waivers to resolve employment disputes.  The City has a strong proprietary interest in ensuring that the contractors it does business with are not covering up rampant workplace abuses. Such actions supplement limited public enforcement resources—and in the process can generate millions in new revenue for City agencies, allowing them to hire more staff. Importantly, private attorney general enforcement actions are not subject to forced arbitration and class waivers.

Office: Mayor, City Council 

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

4I. Protect workplace whistleblowers with stronger protections against retaliation

Problem: Unless workers feel safe sounding the alarm when employers are endangering them or the public, such protections are hard to enforce, and employers endanger all of us. A 2020 by the National Employment Law Project survey found that almost one in five Black workers reported fear of retaliation in their workplace for reporting COVID-19 risks. Federal and state law do not adequately protect workers from retaliation for speaking up. As a result, employers from Amazon to major hospitals have been punishing workers who complain about COVID-19 risks at work, or who notify co-workers or the public about dangers. Workers of color are leading the fight against their employers’ dangerous actions, as is the case reported by The New York Times with the Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center and poultry plants across the country.   

Recommendation: The City should support workers’ calls for strengthening public health and safety by adopting a City whistleblower protection law to protect workers who speak up about workplace conditions from retaliation. Such a whistleblower law should include: (1) a private right of action and qui tam enforcement; (2) significant penalties; (3) protection for not just when workers file a formal complaint, but also when they notify fellow employees or the public about workplace dangers or issues; and (4) guarantee a right to refuse to work under dangerous conditions without being fired. The City should also take the further step of adopting a just cause standard for termination so that employers cannot use arbitrary reasons to mask retaliatory firings.

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

5) STRENGTHEN WORKPLACE STANDARDS & BENEFITS

There is currently no overarching framework or policy that mandates all workers receive dignified and enforced standards and benefits. The City must enact policy that offers sweeping protections in workplaces and establishes benefits such as paid time off, benefits funds, retirement, and severance pay to all industries and to all workers. These mandates are especially important for communities that do informal or gig work and who are currently at the whim of large corporations or predatory landlord and leasing practices. Ensuring all workers can work safely and with good benefits will promote an economy where all can participate and create a dignified life. 

5A. Enact paid time-off legislation and extend to other industries

Problem: Nearly sixty percent of low-income full time workers in New York City do not receive any paid personal or vacation days, according to the Community Service Society. The same audit revealed that even among moderate- to high- income workers a surprising portion – 34 percent – do not receive paid time off.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, part-time workers are less likely than full-time workers to receive any paid time off. The human and financial cost for these workers is profound.  Without paid time off, thousands of working New Yorkers are forced to choose between missing badly needed days or hours of pay and being able to make time for personal needs and life events – everything from a child’s parent-teacher conference to the funeral of a loved one to a family vacation or religious observance.

Recommendation: New York City should lead the nation in addressing the paid-leave gap by finally guaranteeing that all New Yorkers have paid time off.  Building off of the familiar framework of the City’s Earned Safe & Sick Time law, the City should start by ensuring that full-time workers are guaranteed paid time off each year, and allow part-time workers to accrue time off in proportion to their shorter hours. By legally guaranteeing New York City workers adequate paid personal time, New York could bring its labor standards in line with the rest of the industrialized world. According to the Community Service Society, the United States is unique among OECD nations in not guaranteeing any paid vacation time, with most countries requiring 20 days per year. 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

5B. Establish pool benefits fund for information workers and domestic workers

Problem: Millions of workers, prominently informal, gig, and domestic workers, do not have traditional employer-provided benefits. The paradigm of tying benefits to employers has consistently harmed workers, especially Black, Latinx, and immigrant workers of color who disproportionately rely on gig, freelance, and informal work to survive. Moreover, private insurance companies will exploit independent people who do not receive benefits through an employer by charging extremely high rates for basic, life-sustaining services. Domestic workers in particular, who disproportionately come from Black, Latinx, and immigrant backgrounds, are at a greater risk without health benefits, paid time off, and protection from clients and other businesses.  

Recommendation: There needs to exist a pool benefits fund, as described by the Aspen Institute, that exists outside of the employer-employee relationship to provide benefits and rights to informal and domestic workers. There are a variety of forms this can take, but all include multiple sources of input: employers, customers, the City, and workers will all contribute to these pools, which are used to provide and administer benefits to all workers within it. They can include health insurance, retirement, training programs, and childcare allowances, among other benefits. These programs are also known as “portable benefits,” which means they can be transferred easily as workers change jobs or take on multiple gigs. Such programs also should stipulate minimum wages, explains WIRED, for all domestic workers, babysitters, companions for the elderly and more.  

Office: Mayor, City Council 

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation

5C. Mandate severance pay and advance notice of termination at mid-to-large workplaces

Problem: Many New Yorkers lost employment and therefore their livelihoods after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Mass unemployment disproportionately affected marginalized workers of color; the New York Times reports that 10 percent of Black women lost employment after the pandemic compared to 5 percent of white men. Many of these workers, without severance pay are unable to pay their bills, their rent, or other basic necessities. Currently, New York City does not require severance pay according to the National Law Review

Recommendation: In 2020, New Jersey became the first state to mandate severance pay for mass layoffs. The National Law Review reported that this legislation defines instances when companies employing over 100 part-time or full-time employees must produce severance pay. Additionally, employers must provide 90 days advance notice of termination. New York City elected officials should pass similar legislation to protect employees at risk of financial insecurity from mass layoffs. 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

6) PROTECT VULNERABLE WORKERS

Our elected officials must protect our most vulnerable workers. The expansion of the “gig economy” and reduced labor rights leave immigrants, people of color, and those in overcriminalized sectors with lower job security and reduced labor protection. All New Yorkers should have basic labor rights like sick time, benefits, access to licensure, and a living wage. Additionally, street vendors, immigrants working in informal economies, and sex workers are vulnerable to targeted policing. The next Mayor and City Council must pass legislation that equips all working New Yorkers with basic labor rights, and protects them from criminalization as well as exploitation from their employers or clients in informal and gig economies. 

6A. Pass domestic worker rights 2.0 legislation

Problem: Domestic workers do not have access to basic labor rights. They cannot count on protections for their wages, their schedules, or employer relationships. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, passed in 2017 by the State Legislature does not fully protect domestic and informal workers. The National Domestic Workers Alliance points out that domestic workers do not have access to basic labor rights or protection in their workplace. 

Recommendation: A comprehensive legislation package that protects and provides labor rights for domestic workers will include access to health and safety equipment and create safety standards for house cleaners. The policy should mandate paid time off following current NYC sick leave guidelines. Much like “standard” employees, domestic workers are entitled to a 21-day written notice of termination and a 30-day notice of eviction, vacation, severance pay, and protection against retaliation from previous employers. The City or employers should provide safety equipment and supplies for workers, which will protect workers from harsh chemicals and materials since domestic workers currently are not covered by the federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

6B. Expand labor protections for ride-hail and for-hire vehicle drivers

Problem: Independent contractors have been excluded from minimum wage increases, and their earnings are extremely low according to a report by the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. Misclassification of independent contract workers has been a persistent problem. With the rise of on-demand labor platforms – ”gig work” – is often unstable and low paid. Characterized by precarious work conditions and a majority workforce of people of color, these industries include personal services, construction, transportation, retail, and building services. New York State lawmakers recently worked to remedy these misclassifications in companies like Uber and Postmate. However, gig workers should not be limited to platform workers, as the misclassification of workers as independent contractors is widespread in the largest low-paying industries. 

Recommendation: New York City should pass Intro 1926, which would expand the City’s paid sick days law to cover workers misclassified as independent contractors. Elected City officials should also support a state-level effort to further examine and clarify the definition of independent contractors. These workers have low pay, receive little to no benefits, and are not protected by labor protections (i.e. minimum wage, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation). 

Office: City Council 

Mechanism: City Legislation

6C. Provide financial support and facilitate debt restructuring for taxi owner-drivers

Problem: Compounding the insecurity caused by competition with sprawling, venture-funded rideshare apps, precipitous drops in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic have rendered yellow cab drivers some of the City’s most vulnerable workers, according to TIME. A survey by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), which represents about 23,000 taxi and rideshare-app drivers, found more than 82 percent of drivers ran out of money to buy food in spring of 2020. This can be attributed in part to the heavy loan burden for taxi medallions, the value of which, according to the New York Times, has been artificially inflated by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two decades. Many drivers now owe millions of dollars to exploitative banks and private lenders. In March 2021, Mayor de Blasio announced that federal stimulus monies will be leveraged to offer up to $29,000 in no-interest loans to roughly 3,000 taxi owner-drivers, according to City and State. But drivers and expert analysts alike have identified this plan as misguided and insufficient — it does not respond to the decline in medallion value or facilitate equity for drivers trapped in predatory lending schemes. 

Recommendation: The City must enact the NYTWA’s debt forgiveness plan to compel lenders to restructure medallion debt to $125,000 (the current market value) and refinance for no more than 20 years at a 4 percent interest rate. Further, according to NYTWA, the City must establish a retirement fund for owner-drivers whose savings were decimated by the medallion crash. Looking forward, the City must create a medallion regulatory board, which must be fully authorized to cap prices, freeze sales, and robustly investigate and halt predatory lending practices by mandating credit reviews for owner-drivers and ensuring attorney oversight of buying agreements. This regulatory board, which must include owner-driver representatives, should be empowered to investigate and enact alternative strategies for organizing the market, ending auctions which facilitate artificial inflation.  Further, according to transportation analyst Charles Komanoff, as reported by City and State, “fairness would be Uber and Lyft investors funding a full bailout with their outsize profits from invading the taxi drivers’ franchise.” The City should explore legal options to force these companies to pay their share. 

Office: Mayor, City Council  

Mechanism: Budget  

6D. Expand number of and access to licensure for hair braiding salon workers

Problem: Hair braiders are a marginalized workforce, employing thousands of women and African immigrants in New York. African immigrant hair braiders face structural and regulatory barriers. According to a Participatory Action Research project by African Communities Together (ACT) and TakeRoot Justice, most have not been able to obtain the Natural Hair Styling license, required by the State to legally do their work. Lacking a license leaves them vulnerable to theft of services and penalties from authorities. Almost all surveyed hair braiders reported that they would likely encounter a barrier to obtaining a license, including limited language access and burdensome timely and costly training programs. During COVID-19, hair braiders have been facing even greater challenges while trying to access supports and benefits. As New York City prepares to reopen, the City must prioritize removing these barriers to a vulnerable population of the workforce.  

Recommendation: Make licenses more accessible by improving access to information about licensure. This means ensuring that all braiders know that the license exists – this information must be accessible to those with limited English proficiency. Hair braiders should have in-person access to information about the licensing program to overcome technological barriers. Another solution is to streamline the process by which experienced braiders document prior experience. Additionally, appoint an African hair braider to the New York State Appearance Enhancement Advisory Board, which sets policies and makes recommendations on licensing and training requirements for hairstylists. Having someone who understands the particular language barriers and regulatory challenges would help address these issues.  

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Advocacy for State Reform

6E. Expand protections and funds for nail salon workers

Problem: Wage theft and workers’ health safety violations are rampant in the nail salon industry. In a April 2021 research study by the New York Nail Salon Workers Association, three out of four surveyed nail salon workers experienced wage theft. More than 80 percent of them were qualified for paid sick days, but are not receiving them. The nail salon industry and its workers have also been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also unlikely to receive public COVID-19 relief, as the majority of nail salon workers are undocumented, wherein their citizenship status renders them ineligible from all forms of government assistance. Without a steady source of income, nail salon workers experience precarious living conditions. 

Recommendation: The City should center communities and workers that have been most impacted in the recovery and rebuilding of the economy. First, provide an accessible fund for workers who are excluded from public relief to prevent homelessness and poverty in majority immigrant workforces. Second, to improve accountability in the nail salon industry, provide workers with licensing regulations as a mechanism and paid sick days to ensure that employers are complying with regulations like minimum wage and paid sick leave. This includes mandatory training for all nail salon owners and workers on labor and health and safety laws and certification requirements for owners. Given the high rates of wage theft and other workplaces abuses, the nail salon industry should not go back to “normal” upon COVID-19 recovery – instead, the City should rebuild a better industry.  

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, City Legislation

6F. Expand protections and increase wages for delivery workers

Problem: Delivery workers connect New Yorkers with our favorite cuisines which is not an easy task. Many of these food delivery apps penalize their workers for delayed delivery time which in turn increases the possibility of accidents and injuries. There have been instances of stolen equipment which are not insured by their companies. The lack of worker protections for our essential workers violates the basic rights of employees. Delivery workers heavily rely on tips given that their base pay tends to be below minimum wage. Our delivery workers are essential and should be afforded the protections and rights other NYC employees possess.  

Recommendation: The City should support the implementation of community-based reporting mechanisms and provide the necessary resources so that immigrant communities are empowered to hold those accountable. Furthermore, hazard pay must be offered to all delivery workers especially during the COVID-19 pandemic or similar crises. The City Council must pass a bill which would establish a minimum per-trip payment for delivery workers. According to The NY Daily News, the Council has just introduced legislation to address many of these workplace concerns. Many of these delivery workers are immigrants and people of color and these wealthy third party companies shouldn’t and cannot exploit them any longer. Furthermore, it offers a sense of transparency and stability for the workers knowing that they are certain to make a guaranteed amount per trip. Any legislation to improve work conditions for delivery workers should require restaurants to allow the city’s delivery workers to use the bathrooms when they pick up orders through third party apps. The legislation should exempt restaurants whose bathrooms require delivery workers to walk through a kitchen. 

Office: City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation

6G. Increase public spaces available and permit for street vendors

Problem: According to Grub Street, The City Council recently passed Intro 1116 to increase the permit cap by 4,000 permits over the next decade and will create a separate street vendor enforcement department to prevent the NYPD from harassing our street vendors. This was the first step in ensuring our worker protection. However, placing a permit cap in the first place prevents many low-income, immigrant, and communities of color from establishing a business to support their families without fear. In addition to the obstacles in starting a street vendor business, they must constantly adapt to the ever changing landscape. Many real estate developers and business-improvement districts have displaced many street vendors as they fail to consider them in their design plans. 

Recommendation: To ensure that all street vendors are protected, to encourage families to establish their businesses, and stimulate our economy, we need to fiercely advocate on the State level for the bill proposed by Senator Ramos (S1175A) that would lift the permit cap in cities. By doing this, we allow for the protections of those who are already vending without a permit to easily access one and to prevent interactions with enforcement departments and agencies. While the steps taken by the City Council are crucial in the meantime, the bill in the State legislature is much more expansive and much more meaningful in supporting our marginalized communities. Street vendors should also be included in any open streets and sidewalks initiatives. The City must also expand infrastructure for street vendors such as restroom and kitchen access. Additionally, the Department of Small Business Services should create a small business services division specifically for street vendors to support them to grow their businesses and navigate compliance. Lastly,  the City must conduct a review of the “restricted street” lists for vendors which has not been updated since the Guiliani administration in which they failed to include street-vendor representatives in the decision making process.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Advocacy for State Reform

6H. End criminalization, and expand resources and protections for sex workers

Problem: Sex workers have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, and are at risk both of criminalization and workplace exploitation and violence, since criminalization and fear of police violence or prosecution means that sex workers are unable to access to basic standards and legal protections for other workers, and unable to seek help when facing exploitation or harm. While sex work decriminalization is only legislatively possible at the state-level, there is also not enough being done at the city-level to combat criminalization and expand on the necessary resources needed to support those engaged in sex work. Many sex workers are in dire need of housing, healthcare, legal services, and other resources; yet the City has no organized or well-resourced approach to address these needs. Sex workers are not recognized as workers, and afforded the resources and protections that go along with that recognition. 

Recommendation: As recommended in our anti-criminalization platform, the City should fully decriminalize sex work at the city-level by divesting from policing resources used to police sex work. According to ACLU, full decriminalization of sex work will allow for sex workers to access health care and labor protections, lower the risk of violence from clients, and likly be able to gain more financial independance. The City must fully recognize sex work as work, and provide any possible worker protections and resources accordingly. A model that could be used to support workers in informal economies includes the day laborers and worker center models. The City must fund comprehensive resource centers that supports sex workers. The centers could provide resources such as housing referals, harm reduction services, educational tools and opportunities, legal services, health care services, and community building with other sex workers. The City must ensure that the centers are not a target for policing and have no interaction or affiliation with law enforcement. Furthermore, the City should expand funding for organizations that provided resources, such as health care and mental health, to sex workers.  

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

6I. Stop policing of immigrants and people of color in informal and formal economies

Problem: Many undocumented New Yorkers work in economic activities and enterprises that are not regulated, sanctioned, or protected by the City or the State, also known as the informal economy. Because of this, immigrants are often subject to harassment at the hands of police and criminalized for their work. Immigrants who work as street vendors are commonly harassed as a result of caps on vendors. Immigrants who work in massage parlors are also unfairly penalized under the criminalization of sex work and thrown into greater precarity by police interaction due to their undocumented status. Police harassment prevents many immigrants from doing their jobs and earning a livelihood.

Recommendation: As recommended in our anti-criminalization platform, the City should prevent police interfacing with undocumented New Yorkers, whose interactions with the criminal justice system may be injurious to their residency or citizenship status. The City must push to end the criminalization of activities concentrated in the informal economies where immigrants work at a disproportionate rate and review all City and State laws, policies, and practices that contribute to this problem, and push to repeal or change them. The City should also end police harassment of all workers who work in informal economies, including delivery work, street vending, sex work, massage work, and domestic labor, which are disproportionately made up of people of color, women of color, and LGBTQ people of color. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7) LEAD THE CITY AS A MODEL EMPLOYER

The City government is the largest employer in New York City, according to New York Business Journal, and indirectly is responsible for the jobs of many more New Yorkers through contracting. Because of this, the City can set an example for other sectors by establishing intentional standards through its own labor practices and contracts. The City should hire more women and people of color through its contracting. By establishing clear labor standards in their Requests for Proposals (RFPs), the City can encourage better labor practices with contracted organizations. Additionally, the City should pay the true costs of services to contracted organizations to ensure that employees receive a fair wage. Requiring better labor rights through contracts will lead to a more equitable workforce. 

7A. Set labor standards through city contracting

Problem: The nonprofit sector, which the City contracts to carry out mandated services, is primarily composed of women of color, making up “some of the lowest paid workers in the New York economy,” according to The Human Services Council.  In addition to chronic low wages without Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), non-profit employees are given insufficient healthcare, retirement benefits, and inadequate leave policies.  While many human service workers are paid more than $15/hr, their education levels and skills indicate that they are extremely underpaid for their qualifications. This speaks to the lack of pay parity, especially among women of color.

Recommendation: The City should set basic labor standards with contracted agencies through the City’s awarding of contracts, and fully fund non-profits for the cost of service including labor. Firstly, the City should enact pay parity standards to help raise wages and ensure equitable wages across the contracted nonprofit sector and with similar City jobs. The City should also ensure that employees of contracted entities are given paid time off, adequate health, retirement, and leave packages. Including these guidelines into the contracting process would not only require employers to abide by these regulations but ensure an equitable workplace.  

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget, Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7B. Increase contracts with women and people of color-owned enterprises and cooperatives

Problem: The City has a long history of systemic inequality when allocating funding and resources to minority and women-owned businesses and enterprises (MWBEs). According to the NYC Comptroller’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, the City awarded only $1.1 billion (4.9 percent) of the $22.5 billion contracts that the City awarded in 2020 to minority and women owned businesses. Separately, there has been criticism of the City’s MWBE program for erasing  intersectional identities, and an overwhelming representation of MWBE businesses are owned by white women or Black men, with as much representation of those with multiple intersecting marginalized identities.

Recommendation: To rebuild the economy in an equitable manner, the City should increase contracts with minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), and prioritize the most marginalized intersectional identities. MBWE businesses are at the heart of marginalized communities and  are more vulnerable to closing without adequate and meaningful investments. The City must acknowledge that MBWE businesses closing have lasting repercussions on their communities. The City should make the contracting process less onerous on small and MWBE businesses, change the point system to a weighted system that accounts for multiple marginalized identities, award additional points in RFP rankings to MWBEs, and develop a pipeline for onboarding MWBEs into the contracting process. The City’s process should offer additional weighted points to businesses with cooperative ownership status in order to prioritize contracting with these organizations. The City should change the name of this program to reflect the changing language around marginalized identities; for example, changing “minority” to “people of color” and expanding the gender identity component beyond “women” to “women-identified, trans, and non-binary and/or gender-non-conforming people.” 

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

7C. Enact non-profit contracting reform and pay the true cost of services and wages

Problem: The nonprofit sector has been chronically underfunded, with City contracts paying only a portion of the true cost of service delivery, and contracted staff disproportionately underpaid. The City has traditionally outsourced mandated social services to the nonprofit sector. The City’s underpayment of these services forced nonprofit organizations to rely on the City Council’s unpredictable discretionary funding to deliver basic services rather than guaranteed baselined funding. During FY21, discretionary funding for nonprofits faced a 20 percent cut in the budget and several initiatives were cut without warning. The cuts have made it more difficult for these organizations to meet the growing demands of their communities.

Recommendation: The City must adjust current and future contracts to pay the true cost of providing services rather than writing RFPs that deliberately underfund services. The City should fully reimburse indirect rates and “Other Than Personnel Services” costs in a timely manner. Comprehensive contracting reform should create model budgets that reflect the true cost of providing services,living wages, and adequate benefits for all staff.  The City must commit to funding wage and labor changes, increasing wages, standardizing pay between City jobs and similar jobs in contracted CBO’s, regular cost of living adjustments, and must amend contracts as it passes crucial legislation.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget, City Legislation

7D. Maintain prevailing wage protections and expand to more contracting industries

Problem: Construction companies bidding for public works contracts submit proposals at the lowest possible cost to undercut other bids. Without government intervention, profit-seeking firms lower project costs by sacrificing livable wages and safe site conditions. Further, firms based in areas outside New York City with lower costs of living can profit from City projects while paying their workers non-City wages, crowding out local firms and depriving local workers of opportunities in the five boroughs. The result is lower wages, dangerous working conditions, and exploited workers.

Recommendation: The prevailing wage of an industry is the hourly rate paid to the majority of the industry’s workers, which is usually the union rate. Governments can enforce prevailing wages to ensure that workers can reliably earn a living. According to the Economic Policy Institute, because labor costs compose a small portion of the average construction project, prevailing wages allow governments to protect the livelihoods of construction workers without raising total costs for public works contracts. Outside firms no longer have the built-in advantage of lower wages, allowing local firms and workers to remain competitive. Prevailing wages can raise industry wages overall, as firms must offer higher hourly rates to attract workers to private projects. New York City currently sets prevailing wages for construction, maintenance, service, and other contract industries. The City should maintain existing prevailing wage standards to match pace with economic conditions, while looking for new industries to expand wage protections.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

8) PROTECT SMALL BUSINESSES

Small businesses have suffered immensely during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdown and significant loss of revenue, compounded by sky-rocketing commercial rent and lack of regulation. The City must pass commercial rent regulation, fight predatory lending, and preserve the Open Streets program, a boon for small businesses and city residents alike.

8A. Enact commercial rent regulation for small businesses

Problem: A third of New York City small businesses may not survive the coronavirus pandemic, according to a 2020 report from the Partnership for New York City. The pandemic has only exacerbated a crisis that New York has faced for years: commercial rents are too high for many small businesses to survive. A 2019 study from Comptroller Scott Stringer found that retail rents rose 22 percent between 2007 and 2017.  

Recommendation: A City Council bill introduced by Council Member Stephen Levin, in 2019. The bill would give retail tenants the right to ten year lease renewals and force landlords into arbitration if the two parties cannot agree on a rate, as Curbed explains. This would create a system of commercial rent registration regulation, including a seven member board, for retail stores and office spaces that are 10,000 square feet or less, and manufacturing sites under 25,000 square feet. The board would have to approve any rent increases, protecting smaller businesses from rent increases that exacerbate gentrification and unaffordability.

Office: City Council

Mechanism: City Legislation

8B. Combat predatory lending and support cooperative financial institutions

Problem: Predatory lending is illegal in New York State, but the federal government, particularly during the Trump administration, made state restrictions harder to enforce. In late 2020, the Trump-era Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) enacted the True Lender rule. This allows non-bank lenders (including payday lenders) to offer real estate and mortgage loans, laundering them through nationally chartered banks. As Talk Poverty explains, the rule “upends almost two centuries of U.S. banking law and could trap millions in debt, unless Congress acts soon to overturn it.”

Recommendation: While the City does not have jurisdiction over fighting the OCC rule, it can provide funding for outreach and technical assistance for communities most frequently targeted for predatory loans. The City should support cooperative, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that work in traditionally redlined Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities to provide fair access to accounts, loans, and other services. This would help stop predatory lenders, especially in the interim while state Attorneys General, Congress, and other federal officials work to strengthen protections.

Office: Mayor

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy

8C. Keep open street programs to support struggling businesses

Problem: Starting April 2020, the Open Streets program provided New Yorkers with more outdoor space to enjoy. by closing select streets to cars and opening them to pedestrians. In addition to this,the Open Streets have provided critical space to restaurant owners who had lost their indoor dining space, and it has helped over 9500 restaurants operate during the pandemic according to CBS New York. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, the program has allowed New Yorkers and small business owners to maintain social distance while providing a space for all residents to enjoy.

Recommendation: A vote in April 2021 by the City Council overwhelmingly (39-8) approved making Open Streets permanent, and the Mayor should follow suit by signing the legislation into law. The program allows for a greener New York for residents and pedestrians, while allowing some additional revenue restaurants, street vendors and small businesses after a devastating year of pandemic shut downs. As restaurants or businesses benefit from such a program, there must be more consideration around how there can be revenue capture for the City to fund and support public spaces and amenities. The program must also require these spaces to be open to all New Yorkers, not just diners or business patrons, so that streets can be truly open to all New Yorkers regardless of different circumstances and income levels.

Office: Mayor, City Council 

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, City Legislation

Currently, parents and care workers in New York City face distinct hardships in terms of time, worry, and expense when providing for their families. Many working parents earn too much to qualify for assistance, but too little to afford care on their own. The City must expand the programs and funds available to these families, and also lower the barrier to qualify for these services. As care crosses the lifespan, elder services must be included in this care continuum, and made more accessible to the populations they are meant to serve. This includes expanding senior centers, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), caregiver services, SNAP assistance, and home-delivered meal programs. 

9A. Pilot a universal care fund for child and elder care with fair pay for homecare workers

Problem: According to the New York State Nurses Association, nearly one in four U.S. households provided informal care to a relative or friend 50 years or older. This care, when done by family members, can be difficult and draining on top of other paid work, and when done by care workers, can be too expensive to afford for many ineligible or unable to access subsidized support. Child care is also financially burdensome for low-income families. The city’s working poor – who often earn too much to qualify for subsidized care, but too little to afford the high cost of child care – need additional support from the City. According to a report by the Center for an Urban Future, approximately 40,000 parents are on the waiting list for child care services.  

Recommendation: To address the essential needs of caretakers and low-income parent workers, the City should provide a new fund for child and elder care. The funds should not go towards the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), as the ACS has historically practiced family regulation and enforcement systems, specifically targeting vulnerable communities. The City should model the funds like the 1199 SEIU Funds, specifically the City of New York Education’s Child and Eldercare Fund, one of the strongest labor-management funds in the nation, that provides quality, affordable programs for its children from birth to age 17. Finally, the City should support the state campaign towards raising the wage of homecare workers.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

9B. Offer universal childcare by expanding universal 3K, Pre-K, and after-school

Problem:  While the City has made huge progress in making school day programs available for 4 year-old children and 3 year-old children in select school districts, care for infants and toddlers remains scarce. Department of Education’s Birth-to-Five RFP which reprocures contracted, center-based programs funds only 2,300 slots for infants and toddlers in the five boroughs. Similarly, programs that operate for a full work day are only available to families who meet strict income and work qualifications. Many working parents who are making just above income guidelines struggle to find child care which meets their family’s needs. Fees are also set according to neighborhood income, which often makes child care unaffordable for families who drop their children off at childcare near their workplace in a neighborhood they could never afford to live in. Currently, families and children can be denied access to child care based on their immigration status, work status or slight changes in income. 

Recommendation: The City must invest in a truly affordable universal system of high-quality early childhood education. The City must formally recognize birth to five child care as a right for New York City families on par with K-12 education. The City should subsequently expand programs to cover all neighborhoods, families in shelters and transitional housing, programs to accommodate non-traditional work schedule hours such as overnight programs and more. The City must expand subsidies drastically, making childcare fully free for families under 200% of the Federal poverty line, and sliding scale fees beyond that. The City should simplify enrollment procedures, allowing contracted community based organizations to enroll families and eliminating excessive requirements and recertifications. Lastly, the City must improve salaries and benefits for the childcare workforce, building on the 2019 salary parity agreement to ensure that the salaries and benefits of community based early childhood educators increase to levels equal to their counterparts in public schools. The City should also work to grow the early childhood workforce by supporting professional development early childhood educators, directors and support staff and invest in early childhood educator certification programs.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

9C. Expand services for elder New Yorkers

Problem: According to the Department for the Aging, an estimated 20.6 percent of New York City’s population will be over the age of 60 by 2040. The poverty rate among older adults is double the national average at 20 percent. Yet funding for the Department for the Aging is disproportionately small compared to the population it is meant to serve. Per the Center for an Urban Future, elder New Yorkers are also experiencing heightened levels of food insecurity and fatality rates from the COVID-19 pandemic. Elder services currently focus on congregate meal/social service delivery within senior centers. Thus access to services throughout the pandemic has been a tremendous challenge. 

Recommendation: Services need to expand and adapt. Senior services through the Department for the Aging are underfunded and have waitlists. Not only is more funding needed, but these programs often act in silos. Greater integration would prevent older adults from being left out of programs during emergencies. Additionally, the Center for an Urban Future estimates that nearly half of the 60+ population in NYC is foreign born. Senior services must be culturally responsive and offer translation and interpretation services. The City should also provide financial and respite support to caregivers, as many are responsible for giving care to their aging family. As populations age in NYCHA developments, per the New York City Health Department’s report, the City should consider expanding Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) funding that allows nonprofit partners to hire case management staff, allowing elders to stay in their homes without disruption.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

10) PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE CITY’S MANUFACTURING ZONES

New York City’s manufacturing zones, a haven for green, blue-collar, and union jobs, continue to shrink due to a lack of public investment and competition from private real estate developers. The City must tighten its zoning restrictions for this land and ensure these spaces are, in fact, used for industrial purposes. Additionally, the City must invest in jobs and the industrial infrastructure within these zones, and create a dedicated entity or agency to manage the use of these manufacturing zones.

10A. Limit non-industrial uses in key manufacturing zones to create mixed use zones

Problem: Manufacturing is under immense pressure due in large part to non-industrial uses encroaching in light manufacturing and mixed zones. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development’s ‘Making Room for Housing and Jobs’ report policies from both the Bloomberg era (rezoning manufacturing zones in order to create more market-rate housing) and de Blasio administration (placing an emphasis on affordable housing creation) have caused immense development pressure and speculation in manufacturing zones. Even the City’s 21 Industrial Business Zones (IBZs), safe havens for manufacturing, are not immune from pressure. The City’s laissez-faire approach to mixed use zones has permitted developers to prioritize more profitable commercial and residential uses—leaving out industrial uses, which are crucial for job creation and a vibrant manufacturing sector. 

Recommendation: The Engines of Opportunity and Industrial Action Plan, as released by the New York City Council, details the City should designate the 21 IBZs as Industrial Employment Districts (IEDs). These IEDs would eliminate or very strictly limit non-industrial uses in IBZs, including banning big-box retail stores and self-storage facilities. For schools, social services, hotels, or non-ancillary office uses that would not displace manufacturers or provoke speculation, a special permit would be required. In this vein, commercial uses would only be allowed if they support or compliment the districts’ industrial uses. Additionally, the City should codify IBZs as IEDs, which would provide landowners and businesses the security of relative permanence, and should consider increasing allowable density in IEDs to encourage and spur new green industrial development. The City should also consider a new approach to mixed-use zoning, and cease to propose new MX districts (the current special mixed-use district). A new zoning tool that balances residential, commercial, and industrial uses could address these issues.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Land Use Action

10B. Invest in infrastructure to support growth of blue collar jobs in mixed use zones

Problem: Industrial zones are “critical to the City’s basic ability to function,” as the Pratt Center for Community Development wrote in its 2018 report, What Makes the City Run. These  neighborhoods however, are frequently rezoned for housing and other non-industrial uses and the city loses stable, blue collar jobs for those without college degrees.

Recommendation: The City should create industrial employment district zoning to limit non-industrial uses in manufacturing areas, and specifically keep manufacturing jobs, and it should pair that with investment in green manufacturing. The Mayor and City Council Members can also preserve arts and industry, as done in the the Gowanus rezoning by Council Member Brad Lander, by keeping existing Industrial Business Zones, designating additional blocks specifically for industrial and commercial uses, and creating an additional zoning use for a mix of light manufacturing, arts, and nonprofit uses. 

Office: City Council, Mayor

Mechanism: City Legislation, Budget, Land Use Action

10C. Create a dedicated, citywide entity to manage and lease manufacturing land

Problem: Manufacturing in New York City is in dire need of revitalization as many New Yorkers would benefit from a robust functioning manufacturing industry. Manufacturing faces a number of hurdles—land supply constraints, high labor costs, intense real estate speculation—but one of the foremost problems is a lack of serious public investment in the sector. Zoning laws and an overwhelming economic incentive have pigeonholed developers into prioritizing residential and commercial development. A lack of security in manufacturing’s relative permanence scares away private capital investment, and sets up manufacturing businesses to fail. By lacking a strong, healthy manufacturing sector, our city is missing out on quality, union jobs, green development, and a more diverse economy. 

Recommendation: The Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY) has shown that with strong capital investment from the City, an intent focus on maintaining industrial land uses, and a combined public-ownership and non-profit management of land, a manufacturing area can not only survive, but thrive. According to the Pratt Center, the BNY creates $2.5 billion in economic output, an immense boon to the city’s economy. The non-profit that manages the BNY, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC), remains true to its original mission of job creation, industrial sector growth, and community engagement. The City should look to create a dedicated, citywide entity to manage and lease manufacturing land in a vein similar to the BNY and BNYDC. Another option is creating a network of smaller entities to manage property in specific areas around the city. The Comptroller should study and investigate the most efficient way City funds can be devoted to this initiative, which should then be acted on as quickly as possible.

Office: Mayor, City Council, Comptroller

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget, Oversight and/or Auditing

10D. Support mission-driven, non-profit owners and managers of industrial space

Problem: According to the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, major cities like NYC have become hotspots for private, for-profit real estate developments, which has significant implications for racially and socioeconomically underserved communities. These for-profit endeavors often lead to large-scale gentrification and diminished high-quality industrial job opportunities, exacerbating homelessness and neighborhood instability. While mission-driven non-profit groups like Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City are available, they face harsh competition from private investors who often place higher bids and are more immune to market pressures. Mission-driven non-profit groups should be protected from real estate sharks in order to create sustainable jobs and affordable housing.

Recommendation: As set forth by the Living Cities Foreclosure Mitigation Initiative, mission-driven brokership has several benefits including: “[establishing] continuums of service, correcting market failure, and enhancing neighborhood stabilization efforts.” Given this, the City Council should expand funding to non-profit mission-driven development such as the Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City in order to maintain industrial space for manufacturing and affordable housing for families. Moreover, the Council should subsidize these housing and manufacturing efforts to allow these non-profit, mission-driven actors to compete with private real estate investors. This redirection of funding will create opportunities for underserved New Yorkers with high-quality, sustainable employment, homeownership, and other services. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget

11) INCREASE DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION

New York City cannot center economic justice and dignity for all, and promote an economy that works for all people, without affording the opportunity for all of its residents to participate in its democratic processes, including those who may not be citizens. Immigrants are the lifeblood of the city, and even if they are not US citizens, they are still New Yorkers. Accordingly, New York City must be a model for other cities, and allow non-citizen voting. Additionally, the City must place greater emphasis on participatory budgeting, as this will allow residents of the city to directly shape its economy.

11A. Pass legislation to allow non-citizen voting

Problem: We live in a democracy, and yet nearly one million New Yorkers cannot vote. These individuals live here, work here, go to school here, and are raising families here. Despite paying billions of dollars in taxes every year, they have no vote on the direction of the city or their representation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, over half a million immigrant New Yorkers have risked their lives to keep us healthy and keep this city running. Half of all frontline workers are immigrants, and one in five are noncitizens. They represent: 53% of grocery and pharmacy workers (27% noncitizens); 53% of healthcare workers (16% noncitizens); and 70% of building cleaning workers (36% noncitizens).

Recommendation: In New York City, a self-proclaimed Sanctuary City, we must hold ourselves accountable to the idea that democracy should be inclusive and reflective of the people who call it home. The Our City, Our Vote coalition is supporting legislation that expands democracy in New York City so green card holders and those authorized to work in the United States can vote in elections for City-level offices. Introduction 1867 would allow for residents of New York City for at least 30 days, who are otherwise qualified to register under New York State election law, to vote in municipal elections.

Office: City Council

Mechanism: Legislation

11B. Increase participatory budgeting in the City budget

Problem: According to the City Council, the purpose of participatory budgeting is to put residents in control of budget decisions that directly affect them. However, a CUNY study notes that participatory budgeting (PB) involves a tiny fraction of the City budget and is limited mainly to capital projects costing at least $35,000, robbing New Yorkers of the ability to have a direct role in determining how their tax dollars should shape their city. According to the Citizens Budget Commission, the total City budget was $88.2 billion for FY 2021; participatory budgeting accounts for less than $40 million annually. CUNY notes that because PB is used only for district projects, and requires the voluntary participation of City Council Members for a district to benefit, residents cannot address inequalities due to segregation nor can they address problems on a large scale. Currently, PB is more symbolic than meaningful.

Recommendation: In 2020, the Participatory Budgeting Project and other advocates called for a $500 million budget in order to make participatory budgeting citywide. The Civic Engagement Commission, created by a 2018 referendum, will manage the expanded program. CUNY recommends both expanding the funds and increasing the variety of eligible projects to give stakeholders the chance to define local needs and exercise democratic authority. Scaling up and allowing thematic projects that can draw funds from across districts would enable residents to fund public health, arts initiatives, and investments in equity. Careful expansion would use funds from federal sources, such as the American Recovery Act and Community Development Block Grants. Allocating PB funds for NYCHA residents, public school students, and other underrepresented stakeholders would promote equity and give historically marginalized New Yorkers more collective power in shaping their communities and futures.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget

12) RAISE REVENUE BY MAKING THE WEALTHY PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE

Despite having large endowments and reporting millions in profit margins, wealthy private institutions and businesses across New York City continue to consume City resources and services without contributing their fair share. This system has always been unfair, but in the midst of a pandemic when so many New Yorkers are financially hurting, it is especially damning that the City fails to capture the excesses of wealth for the purposes of redistributive budget policy. Currently, private universities and insurance companies are exempt from taxes on property and business income, respectively. The absence of this revenue limits sources of funding for vital civil services. The City must collect payments to compensate for revenue lost as a result of tax-exempt status and invest money raised from these payments into underfunded social services and programs. 

12A: End tax exemptions for private universities 

Problem: Under New York State law, properties owned by nonprofit entities, such as hospitals, universities, and places of worship,  are  generally exempt from property taxes.  When tax-exempt private institutions of higher education, such as New York University and Columbia University, purchase real estate, the City cannot collect property taxes on new real estate, limiting sources of funding for vital civil services.  In the context of the last decade, where NYU implemented a twenty year expansion plan, private universities are consuming many of the City’s resources and City services without contributing their fair share. It is also important to note that private institutions of higher education have large endowments to support their mission: NYU’s total endowment fund is valued at around $4.7 billion, and Columbia’s endowment is valued at over $11 billion. Although these funds are not always liquid, these institutions possess large amounts of untaxed wealth. 

Recommendation: The City of New York must begin to collect payment in lieu of taxes for private institutions of higher education. These payments are made to compensate governments for property tax revenue lost as a result of tax-exempt status. If the City began to collect payments on tax-exempt property, it is estimated that the City would receive around $714 million, according to the Independent Budget Office of the City. Other cities in the United States, such as Boston, already collect payment in lieu of taxes from private institutions, and there are existing models that the City can utilize to effectively implement this plan. The money raised from these payments could serve as funding for underfunded social services and programs across the City.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

12B: Extend the General Corporation Tax to Insurance Company Business Income

Problem: Since 1974, the City of New York has not collected a General Corporation Tax on insurance companies’ business income, despite the largest insurers in the City reporting millions of dollars in profit margins. According to the Independent Budget Office, “insurance companies are the only large category of businesses that are currently exempt from New York City business taxes.”  It is argued that these companies already pay state and federal taxes and that this exemption should remain in place to protect the economic contributions of these corporations.  However, the City loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the tax exemption, according to the Independent Budget Office.  

Recommendation: The City must extend the General Corporation Tax to the income of insurance companies. The Independent Budget Office states that if insurance companies were subjected to this tax, over $437 million would be raised in revenue annually. A lot of the benefit from this exemption goes to companies located outside of New York City that collect premiums from residents of the City, and this tax exemption does not do anything to attract business to the City, since insurers outside the City can continue to benefit from it. In addition, this money can be reallocated towards direly underfunded social programs and services.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

13) ENSURE ECONOMIC JUSTICE AFTER MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

With the legalization of recreational use and sale of marijuana to the citizens of New York State as per the Governor’s State of the State Agenda, the City must ensure that the economic benefits and opportunities of marijuana legalization reach communities most impacted by its criminalization. The City should intentionally reinvest revenue back into communities harmed by drug laws, provide technical assistance and workforce development programs for marijuana distribution or processing, and expand cooperatives to support marijuana business infrastructure.

13A. Reinvest revenue collected through marijuana sales to impacted communities

Problem: With the legalization of recreational use and sale of marijuana to the citizens of New York State, the City must now ensure that the revenue collected from these sales is distributed to those communities most affected by the previous criminalization of marijuana. As of the 4th quarter of 2020, marijuana criminal arrests have still predominantly been Black and Latinx individuals, who made a combined 91 percent of all marijuanamarajuana criminal arrests. According to NYPD State reports, Black individuals account for 53 percent of all arrests and Latnix individuals account for 38 percent.

Recommendation: The revenue collected from the new sales of marijuana in the city should be put back into those same communities most affected by its criminalization. The State largely determines the majority of this revenue reinvestment, and much of it is outlined in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, saying that “40 percent of most tax revenues would be reinvested in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs; 40 percent would be steered to public education; and the remaining 20 percent would go toward drug treatment, prevention and education.” In addition, a 9 percent tax is added upon retail sale, which goes to the State, and another 4 percent tax is added upon retail sales, which goes to the localities (1 percent goes to the County, and 3 percent is divided at the local level based on retail sales).  The city can use this tax revenue to fund workforce development and training, as well as infrastructure, to ensure that business opportunities are geared towards benefiting communities historically harmed and criminalized by marijuana prohibition.

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Budget

13B. Create workforce development and training for marijuana economic opportunities

Problem: According to Brookings, over 80 percent of cannabis businesses are owned by white people. Yet despite little variation in cannabis use by race, Black and Latinx people have historically been disproportionately criminalized by cannabis prohibition. Although the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) promises economic opportunities, if not implemented properly Black and Latinx communities in the City are at risk of being kept from accessing the MRTA’s benefits, as other states and localities have struggled to achieve racial equity in the cannabis industry. For example, in Massachusetts, three years after enacting cannabis reform, only two out of 184 licenses were awarded to social equity applicants. 

Recommendation:  A goal of the MRTA’s social and economic equity program is to award 50 percent of distribution and processing licenses to people disproportionately impacted by marijuana criminalization and other marginalized groups. Achieving this goal, however, requires intention and strategic investments and policy interventions to support small business owners of color to break into the industry. The marijuana industry is projected to create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs in New York State as a result of the MRTA. In order to ensure access to economic opportunities for those most impacted by previous drug laws, the City should provide technical assistance and workforce development programs to train and prepare folks interested in applying for licensing for marijuana distribution or processing. The City should partner with CUNY to conduct City-level training certifications, and in doing so should primarily aim to include Black and Latinx people and people from marginalized communities who were most harmed by marijuana prohibition. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget

13C. Strengthen infrastructure for marijuana businesses owned by people of color

Problem: With the legalization of recreational use and sale of marijuana to the citizens of New York State as per the Governor’s State of the State Agenda, the City must ensure that the current tax law is updated to include tax breaks on retail spaces as well as creating the infrastructure that is necessary to accommodate this growing industry. Since federal tax law section IRC Section 280E states that cannabis businesses “cannot deduct its advertising, selling or other business expenses” from taxes, cannabis businesses will not be able to take advantage of the same tax benefits as other industries, and small business owners of color especially will need the relief of tax breaks to break into the industry and make a living wage off of their businesses. 

Recommendation: In general, this burgeoning cannabis industry is a good opportunity for the City to promote more equitable, cooperative, and ethical business models that can benefit especially low-income New Yorkers of color. The City should create cooperative incubators, funding streams, and infrastructure to support small businesses owned by people of color interested in collective worker-owner models. The City could also give tax breaks on retail spaces, and potentially open up city-owned properties for shared processing spaces and kitchens in order to create more cost saving solutions for cannabis businesses, which again do not benefit from tax deductions offered to other industries. The City could fund this by directing State and City taxes from marijuana sales back into these incubator and infrastructure programs for small business owners of color especially. 

Office: Mayor, City Council

Mechanism: Mayoral and/or Agency Policy, Budget