By Genia Gould
On Dec. 8th, Council Member Helen Rosenthal moderated a panel with speakers from human rights organizations at John Jay College before a standing room only crowd. Across town, at High School of Art and Design, Council Member Dan Garodnick led a similar group of non-profit leaders, also to a packed room.
The two gatherings were the latest in a series of meetings that the city’s elected officials have hosted for constituents since the election of Donald Trump. New Yorkers have expressed fears and concerns about a number of issues: will civil liberties under current laws be revoked? Will there be rollbacks in federal funding for Medicaid and public housing? Are undocumented immigrants at risk of being deported?
The meetings last week closely mirrored each other, featuring speakers from the New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, The Anti-Violence Project, and representatives from the mayor’s office, among others.
A central message, from both the East Side and West Side panelists, was that leaders from organizations across the city who work on a daily basis for civil rights and social causes will continue facing the issues head on. They said that New Yorkers can help by stepping up support of these organizations, by staying engaged, donating money and attending rallies.
After the meeting, Rosenthal said she was encouraged by the strong response coming from the de Blasio administration. On the mayor’s side, and on the city council’s side, she said, they are looking at worst-case scenarios: if the city loses federal funding, she said, “We are saying ‘how do we continue?’ No one is saying ‘do we continue?’”
Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, reminded West Side audience members that New York City will continue its “sanctuary city” policies that protect undocumented immigrants; individuals are never asked about immigration status related to schooling, housing, or health care and hospitals.
Rosenthal’s office prepared a packet for attendees listing dozens of resources for civic engagement and political organizing, and New Yorkers were encouraged to check her website and Garodnick’s for updates. Garodnick’s Facebook page also posted a live recording of the meeting.
Meg Barnette of Planned Parenthood said: “The key thing is that we have to recognize how interconnected all these issues are ... there’s no single-issue struggle, we don’t have single-issue lives.”