Just two years after MillerCoor’s offensive EMBORÍCUATE ads (that were ultimately pulled down due to the mass outrage on social media outlets) the Puerto Rican flag is now being placed on cans of Coors Light as a “stamp of approval” from the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Coors Light’s sponsorship and marketing for the Parade directly correlates our culture to an offensive stereotype of alcoholism, which is especially shocking when the theme of this year’s parade is Health.
Melissa has wrote a letter to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade’s Chairperson, Madelyn Lugo, along with four fellow Puerto Rican elected officials, expressing their disappointment of the Parade’s board and sponsors. Instead of focusing on the positive attributes and contributions of the Puerto Rican community, the sponsors that are working with the Parade have misrepresented our culture as a whole.
Here is a copy of the letter sent to Ms. Lugo, below:
Please join Melissa at the upcoming Stop the Bullying Candlelight Memorial Walk, in memory of Joel Morales, who tragically was driven to commit suicide last year at the age of just 12 years old after enduring relentless bullying. This event is being spearheaded by Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez and gives all of us in El Barrio/East Harlem the opportunity to come together, remember Joel and renew our fight against bullying in our schools and communities.
Melissa has written a letter with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to Real Bronx Tours, a company that reportedly gives tours of the South Bronx that offer “a ride through a real New York City ‘GHETTO.’” The letter urges the company to radically change the way this tour is marketed and presented to the public. You can read the letter by clicking here.
The account of the tour published in the New York Post yesterday is sickening. The tour guide not only painted the South Bronx as a haven for crime, but also mocked local residents who were waiting on line at a food pantry.
This issue prompted Melissa to write a letter to the Department of Education last year, signed by thirty-five Council Members inquiring about the DOE’s plan to improve the quantity and quality of gym class in City schools and to address the disparities between schools. Melissa was joined by education chair Robert Jackson along with other phys ed experts, all of whom discussed the many evidence-based benefits of PE, including improved academic achievement along with physical health.
Melissa expressed her strong stance on this issue:
“Providing quality physical education in our public schools is critical in a time when our City is facing a staggering childhood obesity epidemic! It is shocking that according to the City Comptroller’s Audit none of the 31 elementary schools visited were meeting State requirements for gym class, due to factors such as co-locations and budget cuts. This issue is particularly important to low-income communities of color such as the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and Bedford-Stuyvesant which are disproportionately impacted by higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other related illnesses. The issue of gym class is a symptom of the overall direction the DOE has been headed over the last decade. Budget cuts, a lack of gym teachers, an overemphasis on high-stakes test prep, and the co-location of charter schools, have all served to undermine physical education in our schools.”
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito released the following statement in response to the tragic accident that resulted in the killing of a 6-year-old boy at 117th Street and 1st Avenue in El Barrio/East Harlem this morning.
“This morning’s heartbreaking accident which led to the death of a 6-year-old boy is an absolute tragedy,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “My office has been in touch with the local police precinct throughout the day as investigations continue so that we can understand the specifics of what took place and see what action might be needed to prevent a similar horrific accident from occurring in the future. I offer my most sincere condolences to this child’s family in this extremely difficult time.”
We are happy to announce that two bills sponsored by Melissa will be passed by Council tomorrow.
STREET VENDOR BILLS (INTRO 16)
Intro 16 will require the reporting of data related to vendor licenses and permits, as well as the outcomes of vendor adjudications. This bill is integral to the future of the reforming vendor policy in NYC because of the information collected. In addition to Intro 16, Council Member Steve Levin’s bill, Intro 434, which Melissa has supported, will also be passed tomorrow. Intro 434 will cap the maximum fine at $500 and reform the unfair escalation of fines. These bills are a critical first step towards efforts to provide greater support to our vendor community who has played an essential part of the fabric of NYC life for generations. Today, punitive fines leveraged against vendors can easily add up into the thousands, making it nearly impossible for vendors to make a living.
“Our city needs to support and not criminalize our hardworking street vendors,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am proud that the Council is taking a stand to lower the punitive fines that make it difficult for vendors to earn a living and I thank the Street vendor project for their incredible advocacy. Under the bill I am sponsoring, the Council will receive annual reports on vending licenses and fines. My hope is that this data will help inform future policy changes to our city’s vending system. I thank Speaker Quinn, Council Member Levin and Chair Koslowitz for their leadership and support.”
SECURE COMMUNITIES/ICE BILL (INTRO 989)
We’ve previously discussed our objection to Secure Communities in this blog. Melissa’s Intro 989 amends current law to ensure that immigrants that pose no danger cannot be detained by the Department of Correction. Intro 982, sponsored by Speaker Quinn and co-sponsored by Melissa, focuses on being detained by the NYPD. Whether we like it or not, we are still in the secure communities program. But with this legislation, we will not use our personnel or resources to hold immigrants that pose no danger to our city.
“Today, the Council reaffirms its commitment to protecting our immigrant communities,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We will not allow our city’s resources to be used to facilitate the unjust deportations of hardworking New Yorkers that pose no threat to public safety. These pieces of legislation place limits on our city’s collaboration with the Secure Communities enforcement program, as we await Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I thank Speaker Quinn and Chair Dromm for their leadership on bringing this legislation forward, as well as the Bloomberg administration for their support. I also thank Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for being a critical driving force in passing these important bills.”
Melissa released the following response to the Mayor’s comments on marijuana arrest policy and stop and frisk:
“In today’s State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to change the city’s marijuana arrest policy while we await action by the State Legislature to finally decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view. Under the new policy, anyone who is able to present identification and clear a warrant check will be released with a desk appearance ticket, rather than being held in custody overnight.
“This policy shift is greatly encouraging and a step in the right direction. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly for recognizing the fundamental problem with the city’s marijuana arrest policy, which has resulted in record numbers of arrests – up to around 50,000 per year – of mostly black and Latino males. The way the city has carried out this policy in recent years is a corruption of the intent of state law, which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago. I still recall a time when we were not seeing this level of openness within the administration and the NYPD to look at what the City could do to reduce the number of marijuana arrests. I also thank the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY and all of the advocates who have brought this issue to the forefront, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for this change at the state level to completely end small-time marijuana arrests.
“In spite of the welcome news on marijuana arrests, I was disappointed by the Mayor’s delusional defense of the city’s stop and frisk policy. The suggestion that without our current stop and frisk policy New York’s murder rate would equal Detroit’s is absurd and unfounded. It is time to stop irresponsibly cultivating fear as a way of drumming up support for this policy, which has damaged community-police relations and has made our young black and Latino men feel more alienated than ever.”
The State of the City Address doesn’t begin until around the 35-minute mark.
Last week, Melissa spearheaded a press conference, covered by NY 1, calling on the New York City Department of Education to be in full compliance with New York State guidelines for physical education (PE) in New York City public schools. Recent reports from the American Heart Association and the Women’s City Club of New York have demonstrated a clear need to improve the quality and quantity of PE in New York City. The benefits of PE are far reaching evidence shows that school-based PE leads to improved academic achievement, increased state standardized test scores and a student’s health and overall well-being. PE also improves a child’s cognitive ability and behavior.
Melissa expressed her concern regarding this critical issue saying:
“Providing quality physical education instruction for our children is absolutely critical in a time when our City is facing a staggering childhood obesity epidemic! It is unacceptable that teens in East Harlem (which I represent) are nearly three times less likely to attend a daily gym class than teens in more affluent neighborhoods! And we wonder why our community has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the city. This is why I spearheaded a letter to the DOE signed by 35 of my colleagues, asking the department about its strategy to improve the quantity and quality of PE instruction in our schools and demanding a plan to address the disparities between schools that have sufficient PE programs and those that do not.”
CouncilMember Melissa Mark-Viverito released the following statement today in response to the arrest of Jason Commisso, the suspect in a string of eight muggings targeting Asian American residents of El Barrio/East Harlem:
“Today, we are all breathing a sigh of relief as the suspect behind eight vicious muggings of Asian American East Harlem residents has finally been apprehended by police. These brutal robberies have shaken all of us in the community, but I am happy to say that we had a unified response and came together to denounce this kind of violence.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and all of the officers of the 23rd Precinct, who demonstrated such a strong response to this string of attacks. I would also like to thank all of my colleagues in government, Asian American community leaders and residents of El Barrio/East Harlem, who joined me in distributing flyers in the neighborhood this weekend. In particular, I would like to thank Comptroller John Liu and Asian Americans for Equality.
“We will all continue to remain vigilant and ensure that no group of people within our community is made to feel unsafe. All of us in El Barrio/East Harlem, and in every community throughout the city, have the right to live without fear.
“I urge the District Attorney’s office to prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law in order to send a message that these acts of violence will not be tolerated.”
Yesterday, Melissa was honored to speak at the inauguration ceremony for Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the newly elected mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For so long we have watched and hoped for a moment like the one in which we find ourselves right now. A moment that is truly a transformative one for Puerto Rico and all its people. The people are demanding that their government represent the needs of the majority and not that of a small sector of interests. Some people have compared this moment in Puerto Rico to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which literally helped reshape and reframe the public discourse around income inequality and government representation…
Her message has been simple but powerful: “Un San Juan Para Todos” (“A San Juan for All”). Her inclusive vision for the future of San Juan extends to all – old and young, women and men, poor and wealthy, members of the LGBT community, immigrants… everyone. Even those that did not vote for her. Those who historically have not had a voice in our society are included to bring forth a new future for San Juan, together with our inspiring mayor.
All this means that new ways of doing business must be put in place. I am proud to say that Mayor Carmen Yulín – who I consider a sister in struggle – has committed to engaging in a participatory budgeting process here in San Juan, a way to turn the power over to the people and their communities to decide how to spend public dollars. I was among the first Council Members to engage in this process in New York, which is only the second city to do so in the U.S. It was an honor for me to invite Carmen Yulín to City Hall to discuss this initiative with her, and I look forward to seeing it happen here in San Juan.
To watch Melissa’s speech, commence at the 38:30 mark: