Brooklyn’s Black pols want sweeping revitalization plan for Black communities in wake of COVID-19

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Nelson A. King

In a joint letter on Wednesday, April 22, 19 of Brooklyn’s Black elected officials called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to implement a sweeping revitalization plan directed to Black communities, which they said have suffered the most harm from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Signatories of the letter comprised: Jumaane D. Williams, New York City Public Advocate; Congress Members Yvette D. Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, 9th and 8th Congressional Districts, respectively; Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President; and Sens. Kevin Parker (21st Senate District), Zellnor Myrie (20th Senate District) and Roxanne J. Persaud (19th Senate District).

Other signatories were: Assembly Members N. Nick Perry (58th Assembly District), Walter T. Mosley (57th Assembly District), Latrice M. Walker (55th Assembly District), Charles Barron (42nd Assembly District Assembly), Diana Richardson (43rd Assembly District), Jaime R. Williams (59th Assembly District), Tremaine Wright (56th Assembly District), and Mathylde Frontus (46th Assembly District).

City Council members who signed the letter were: Alicka Ampry-Samuel (41st Council District), Farah Louis (45th Council District), Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (35th Council District) and Inez Barron (42nd Council District).

The elected officials said the proposed Elizabeth Jennings Graham Community Investment Plan, otherwise known as the “Lizzie Plan,” would seek to involve the Black community in the public response to the crisis and include plans for data collection, testing, personal protective equipment, among other things.

“Black people are dying at a higher rate than the rest of New York while making up the majority of frontline workers keeping the state afloat,” the letter reads.

“This disproportionate impact demands a commensurate response and is why we write today to demand that New York immediately convene a task force to specifically address the Emergency, Relief, Recovery and Rebuilding needs of Black New Yorkers in Central and South Brooklyn,” the letter adds.

“Thus far, Black voices have been excluded from the decision-making in response to COVID-19,” the letter continues. “The convening of this task force, and subsequent adoption of the recommendations put forth by the Plan, seeks to rectify this injustice.”

The legislators said the scope of the proposed task force would include: Specific and granular data on infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths in the Black community; provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all essential workers, many of whom are Black; “all manners of testing” in Black communities, including the testing of essential workers, the availability of rapid testing and additional testing sites; relief for Black-owned businesses; and resources specifically dedicated to food distribution in the Black community.

The scope also includes: Housing affordability and stability for renters, homeowners and property owners; accountability for nursing homes; consumer protections against rate hikes, negative credit reporting, garnishment and debt collection; relief for immigrants who, thus far, have been left out of relief efforts; reforms to the criminal legal system, including the release of justice-impacted individuals at increased risk of infection; bridging the digital divide, particularly in the context of education; and emergency Census outreach “given the historical undercounts in Black communities compounded by the current crisis.”

The elected officials pointed to state data that shows while Blacks comprise nine percent of New York population, they make up 18 percent of statewide deaths from COVID-19.

Analysis of national census data shows that Black workers are more likely to serve in essential services, such as retail and transportation, than White workers, with 37.7 percent of Black workers working in “essential” services, compared to 26.9 percent of White workers, the legislators said.

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