Social Justice

Whenever one group is treated differently or denied protection under our laws, it undermines the foundation on which our country was built. Discrimination, whether against two people who love each other and want to marry, against a family whose only transgression is wanting to make a better life for their children in American, or against a religious institution seeking to locate near one of the most contested sites in the city, is patently un-American. The City Council should act as force against hate and intolerance, as well as fighting to bring those who live in the shadows more fully into our society.

New York Times Op-Ed: "What Would It Take to Integrate Our Schools?"

Orignially published in the New York Times, December 15, 2015

By Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres 

Even though we may believe that “separate but equal” public schools are inherently unequal, we haven’t been prepared to do much about it. In recent years, we’ve rarely even talked about it.

But over the past year, as the nation’s attention has turned to issues of racial justice, we’ve at least resumed the conversation. Powerful episodes of public radio’s “This American Life” (“This Problem We All Live With”) called attention to an attempt at integration in St. Louis, featuring the high school Michael Brown attended, and to a much more successful effort in Hartford.

An eye-opening study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, woke us up to the finding that New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country — and more segregated than they were a decade ago. This fall, rezoning proposals in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side raised hard questions about race, class, segregation and gentrification.

Read more »

Protecting Freelancers from Getting Stiffed

New York City is the freelance capital of the world, with over 1.3 million freelancers, so many of them right here in Brooklyn. More and more people are working “by the gig” (as graphic designers, film producers, for-hire drivers, nannies, and much more), rather than for a regular paycheck.

But despite the rapidly growing percentage of workers who are paid this way, our laws have not kept up with our changing economy. As a result, gig economy workers don’t have the protections and benefits of traditional employees.

One consequence: more than 70% of freelancers report having been stiffed out of payments they were owed – by being paid too late, too little, or not at all – to the tune of $6,390 every year, on average. I’ve heard stories from individuals who were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars they were owed.

Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, on time and in full. So on Monday, in partnership with the Freelancer’s Union, I introduced the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”  Read more »

First-of-its-Kind Legislation Will Crack Down on Nonpayment Epidemic Facing NYC’s 1.3 Million Independent Workers

Freelancers Union Unveils “Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” Sponsored by City Council Member Brad Lander, with support from AFT, UFT, 32BJ, Kickstarter, Make the Road, New York Tech Meetup and National Domestic Workers Alliance

Average Amount Each Freelancer Loses to Deadbeats Every Year: $6,390

New York - Chanting “freelance isn’t free,” hundreds of graphic designers, domestic workers, accountants, writers, adjuncts and laborers converged on City Hall on Monday to unveil the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” – first-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation cracking down on the explosion of deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million independent workers.

More than 70% of freelancers experience late or nonpayment at some point in their career, and they’re stiffed an average of $6,390 every year – forcing many to use credit cards or rely on government assistance to make up the difference. Read more »

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Read more »

New shelter for families with children at 385 McDonald Avenue

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’m thankful for the place that my family and I call home. Like you, I’m deeply grateful for the warmth, safety, and security, and for the space my kids have had to grow and thrive.  

Unfortunately, nearly 60,000 New Yorkers – including 24,000 kids – aren’t so lucky. As the crisis of homelessness continues in NYC, every community has a role to play. 

Like you and your neighbors in Kensington, I just recently become aware of plans from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to establish a shelter for 64 families with children at 385 McDonald Avenue (the site of a former college dorm and, before that, an assisted living facility but now vacant) that will open its doors in the next several weeks. Read more »

Caring for our Seniors – Community events coming up!

From facing hard decisions about care giving needs, to finding enough money to pay rent and medical bills on a fixed income, life can be challenging for our senior citizens and those who care for them. Fortunately, there are policies and programs that can help our elderly neighbors and loved ones make the most of their later years.

Next week some great senior focused organizations in our community are putting on informative events to help you make sure you or your loved ones know how to take part in these programs and get the highest level of care possible. Read more »

Hope, Not Hate

The following are remarks from Council Member Brad Lander at the Brooklyn Vigil for Paris, November 15, 2015:

Article 1. Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.

Article 4. Liberty consists in the power to do anything that does not injure others.

Article 9. Every man being presumed innocent until he has been pronounced guilty.

Article 10. No one should be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not upset the public order established by law.

Article 11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.

Article 12. The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen requires a public force; this force then is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the personal benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.

We defeat terrorism by re-asserting our values. As we mourn the victims of Paris, Beirut, and Kenya, and remember those of Lower Manhattan, there’s no place better to start tonight than the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, written in Paris in 1789. Read more »

NYC ID card sign up coming to our area!

Almost a year ago New York City made history by launching IDNYC, our city’s new municipal ID card program. Since then, over half a million New Yorkers have signed up, and IDNYC is now the largest municipal ID program in the country.

If you haven’t had time to get your card yet – I’ve got some great news for you! IDNYC is coming to us. Read more »

Gotham Gazette: City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy

by Samar Khurshid, in Gotham Gazette

There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.

Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.

The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, Handy.com cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to reports compiled by the Freelancers Union.

With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy. Read more »

Join My Daughter to Support Global Education for Girls

I don't usually e-mail about personal things, but this one is different.

My daughter Rosa and her friends have been inspired by Malala Yousafzai's courageous stand for girls' education all around the world. They feel lucky to have great schools here in Brooklyn, and can't believe that over 60 million girls around the world don't have the chance to go to school. So a few years ago, they started organizing the "Girls Read for Girls" Read-a-thon.   

The read-a-thon raises money for The Malala Fund and the money raised will help empower girls through education, raise awareness of gender equity issues, and inspire young people to make change in their communities. Read more »