NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of several new task forces Sunday. Among them, one on racial inclusion and equity.
Heading up that task force is his wife and the city’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, along with Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson.
McCray’s appointment didn’t go unnoticed, and certainly didn’t go without criticism, especially given her lackluster and controversial role heading up Thrive NYC, de Blasio’s initiative on mental health.
Queens Councilmember Eric Ulrich tweeted, poking fun at McCray’s handling of Thrive. Numerous reports, including one by PIX11, showed a significant mishandling of funding.
Nonetheless, some community groups and advocates PIX11 spoke with said while they commend the Mayor for doing something they feel was long overdue, they’re also curious to see what recommendations the group comes up with.
Pachuska Vil-Audain, a Queens community advocate, said it’s important to note these lapses and disparities within communities of color is nothing new, and certainly not something that presented itself during the pandemic.
“We are always getting mistreated, not getting the best care, the best quality of care or services. I guess with COVID-19, it really opened people’s eyes to really see the disproportion of services in the minority community, said Vil-Audain.
The Mayor said more leaders from communities of color will be included and asked to join this new task force.
It’s goal would be to bridge the gap between community groups and the city, and immediately address places of inequality.
Other goals include plans to:
- Establish how to work with community based clinics and health providers
- Work with minority owned businesses
- Find out how best to support essential workers in affected communities
The most recent numbers provided by city officials show the disparities are alarming and dangerously clear, with COVID-19 claiming far more lives from communities of color than anywhere else.
Sadly, the Hispanic and Latino community making up more than 20% of the deaths in New York City, and blacks and Africa Americans, 19.8%.
Activists across the city believe those numbers are even larger than initially projected, particularly in Asian and South Asian communities.
Prarthana Gurung, who represents the Nepali community in Queens, said she hopes her group, among others, will be included, because they have been handling this crisis from day one.
She said the first step should be to make language inclusion and messaging a top priority.
New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron called for a task force for some time now, and said he’s glad the mayor has finally acted.
But he also said now is not the time for talk, but instead action. Communities of color, he said, already know what is lacking: resources.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams provided this statement to PIX11:
“I thank the Mayor for answering the call to confront the racial disparities exacerbated by COVID-19 with a task force of experts to rapidly implement an action plan in real time for both the immediate recovery and long-term response to this crisis in communities of more color. Who comprises this task force, how quickly they are empowered to act, and the force of that action are paramount. Throughout this crisis, our government has moved too slowly on all levels, and now we need to be quick and decisive.
“The primary function of this task force cannot be to engage in a long, protracted process of deliberation and study, dwelling on how we got here. We know this disparity was created by a long history of systemic inequities and injustices. Additional delays waste time that the people being devastated by this crisis– those who are deemed essential but treated as expendable– just don’t have. Ultimately, we need results, not a report, and the work of this task force must have a voice in and be supported by the city’s budget.
“I am glad, too, that the Mayor is asking for a preliminary roadmap to recovery – I ask him to review my own Preliminary Response and Recovery Plan, and look forward to working with the administration to create the changes this city needs in the midst and the wake of this crisis.”