After the very difficult experience with the coronavirus, with the creation of the vaccine, in keeping with the hopeful message from the authorities, that we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, New Yorkers hope that the slow recovery is being established, reactivation of the economy .
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit the state and the city hard. At the state level, as of Wednesday 30, the Governor’s office reported 29,756 deaths, of which, according to the Mayor’s Office, 25,008 correspond to New York City.
Trump, his failed re-election and immigrants
New York suffered like no other state from the onslaught of the Trump Administration, which, mired in the political race and to ingratiate itself with its electoral base, targeted the sanctuary cities and states that protect the immigrant community. Perhaps the action that would definitively mark the course of the contest by the Republican was his intention to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census through a question on citizenship, which he had to withdraw before the Supreme Court decision.
This and the harsh anti-immigrant policies that he promoted since the beginning of his administration contributed to creating a movement of commitment to participate in the electoral process that was decisive in leading to the triumph of Democrat Joe Biden.
Both Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and State Attorney General Letitia James were forced to initiate various actions to curb executive orders and immigration restrictions such as the “public charge” rule, aimed at reducing the access to health services, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other social benefits.
In the New York City Mayor’s defense of the SNAP program, it said its removal would deny access to food assistance to more than 50,000 people in the Big Apple and would make tens of thousands of people vulnerable across the state. from New York at risk of starvation.
Rezonings and affordable housing midway
One of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s workhorses since 2014 was his housing plan to preserve and create 300,000 units of affordable housing citywide by 2026, driving neighborhood rezoning in the city’s counties.
The objective through the Housing New York plan, has taken most of the De Blasio administration, which is about to end in 2021. To date it has managed to fulfill the rezoning in East New York, Downtown Far Rockaway, East Harlem, Jerome Avenue, Bay Street and Inwood, but not before going through tortuous battles as it was in this last neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, whose final approval was given in the courts. Others, such as Sunset Park in Brooklyn, ended up being dismissed by the opposition of the community and leaders, in this case, Councilor Carlos Menchaca, who believe that the rezoning would generate a “supergentrification” and displacement of residents in this area of the city where many Latinos live.
Currently Bushwick and Gowanus, in Brooklyn, Southern Boulevard, in the Bronx and in the coastal area of Flushing, in Queens face pending proposals.
While the Mayor set out to rezone up to 15 neighborhoods during his administration, the attempt to fill the city’s affordable housing deficit will have to be taken up by his successor as mayor. According to figures from the New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), 147,933 affordable homes were created representing a city investment of $ 6.6 billion.
The long-awaited moratorium on tenant evictions
Leading tenant advocacy organizations were relieved by the new extension of the moratorium, approved Monday, December 28 by the Legislature and signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo imposed a moratorium on home evictions early in the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent New Yorkers from having to overburden housing courts, as well as widespread homelessness, as a number of industries stood still in interest. to stop the spread.
The COVID-19 Emergency Foreclosure and Eviction Prevention Act (S.9114 / A.11181) prevents residential evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination, and negative credit reports related to the COVID-19 pandemic . It also extends the senior homeowners exemption and the disabled homeowners exemption.
The National Council of State Housing Agencies commissioned a report earlier this year estimating that New York could face a rental deficit of up to $ 3.4 billion in January.
Hispanics seeking to replace De Blasio
A large list of candidates is preparing to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio, including at least two candidates of Hispanic origin: current councilor Carlos Menchaca and activist Dianne Morales. Rubén Diaz Jr., the Bronx Borough President, withdrew from the race in the middle of the year while also announcing that he will leave the political arena.
Menchaca, 40, the son of Mexican immigrants and the first in his family to go to college, could be the first Latino and the first openly gay mayor if elected.
“These are certainly tough times, but we must rise to that challenge with a bold progressive plan and not regress to the status quo that has failed us. We need a mayor who will stand up to the rich and powerful and put our communities first, “he declared in a video in Spanish, released simultaneously with the announcement of his nomination,” Menchaca, who represents District 38 on the Council, said during his nomination. .
Menchaca was the mentor to the city’s IDNYC program, the nation’s largest municipal identification program and was among the councilors this year who voted against the 2021 budget amid a fight to withdraw funds and reinvest $ 1 billion of the NYPD. The axes of his campaign, which he claims to seek “New Days for New York City”, will be focused on: improving police surveillance, climate change, traffic, housing and development.
Morales, of Puerto Rican descent, was the executive director of Phipps Neighborhoods, a non-profit organization that promotes social services in the Bronx. He resigned from that position earlier this year to run for mayor.
“We have had 109 mayors in New York. We had a black mayor. No woman. None Latino. None indigenous. None Asian. I am not a traditional candidate because I have not spent my life competing for work, ”she said at the launch of her campaign, which seeks to become the first Latina mayor of the city, proposing a progressive platform in the midst of several long-standing politicians.
Morales supports the reduction of the budget for the Police. He argues that the policemen have served as soldiers for the mass incarceration of minorities. NYPD money must be reallocated to youth programs, parks, and transportation. The applicant will seek to create a Community First Aid Department to take over some public safety functions, including calls to 911 for mental illness and substance abuse. He has also proposed providing all city residents with a guaranteed minimum income.
The Democratic primary is scheduled for June. The other candidates are: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Mayor Advisor Maya Wiley, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan, and former Sanitation Commissioner from New York, Kathryn Garcia. Council Vice President Corey Johnson decided to withdraw from the race.
Hispanics, the hardest hit by COVID-19
Figures from the New York City Department of Health established that at least 34% of the deaths registered by Covid-19 are Hispanics, who represent 29% of the population in that city.
The data establish that fewer deaths occur among white people and Asians, since the former constitute 32% of the inhabitants and 27% of the deaths, while Asians account for 14% of the population and 7% of the fatalities. Likewise, the black community is affected with 28% of deaths from the virus, despite representing 22% of the population.
Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi commented at the time that the data confirm inequalities in places and populations that have historically had underlying rates of chronic disease, putting them at higher risk for worse health outcomes.
“I am very concerned when I see the large percentage of Latinos who have died from COVID19. The overlapping of anti-immigrant rhetoric in this country, in addition to the inequalities in chronic disease rates, has real implications for the health of our community and is contributing to this result, ”Chokshi highlighted.
That devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on Hispanics, as well as on other minority groups such as blacks, was once again demonstrated by a study that reveals the extraordinary damage that the pandemic has had on immigrants and the working class.
In the report, ‘Excluded in the Epicenter’, prepared by the organization Make the Road New York (MRNY) in conjunction with Hester Street, it is shown that one in six members of the most vulnerable communities has lost a member of their family , nine out of ten have lost their job or household income, and nine out of ten worry about not being able to pay the rent.
The sample, which was conducted by surveying 244 people, mostly Hispanic immigrants, shows that despite the fact that the impact of the coronavirus crisis has been concentrated in these communities, these New Yorkers have been “overwhelmingly excluded from government solutions.”
The figures specify that while 84% of those who participated in the survey over the age of 18 said they had lost their jobs (88% due to COVID-19), less than 5% had received unemployment insurance in the last month, and only 15% of those surveyed reported having obtained some form of government support during the crisis.
Up to 50% of residents of low-income immigrant neighborhoods in New York already have antibodies, confirming that the pandemic has hit the poorest in the “capital of the world.”
Corona, the Queens neighborhood recorded the highest incidence of the virus in the entire city. In that area, mostly Hispanic and low-income, 51.6% of people subjected to antibody tests were positive, a rate well above the average for the Big Apple, which stands at 27%.
The second most affected neighborhood is Borough Park, Brooklyn, with 46.8% positive, in an area where most of the population belongs to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community characterized by large families and, in general, also with few resources.
In general, the poor neighborhoods of the city are those that have been particularly affected, while the rates are much lower in the more affluent. Thus, in areas of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for example, the incidence is only 12%.
Of the five counties in the Big Apple, The Bronx – the poorest – is where the most people have antibodies (33%), while Manhattan – the richest – is where the fewest positives have been registered (19 percent).
George Floyd’s death sparks police reform
After a wave of protests that convulsed the country, New York State took an important step to end controversial policing practices by signing legislation that prohibited the use of strangles and expanded police transparency.
Social protests and calls for racial justice began after the murder of African American George Floyd, in Minneapolis, on May 20 by a white police officer.
“The truth is this: Police reform is overdue. Cases similar to Floyd’s have happened many, many times before, ”Governor Andrew Cuomo said, signing the legislation in the presence of Valeria Bell and Gwen Carr, the mothers of Sean Bell and Eric Garner, two New Yorkers who also died in incidents. where the police were involved.
The law prohibits police from making suffocation hitches on suspects, a controversial tactic linked to the deaths of several people, including Garner.
The law also ended a law known as 50-A, which protects police disciplinary records from being scrutinized. Advocates for the law said it would shed light on the records of “bad” cops, while helping good cops defend themselves if they have a no-claim record and were charged with a crime or acting inappropriately.
Furthermore, the legislation empowers the state attorney general to become the independent prosecutor in the killings of unarmed civilians by the police.
Cuomo said he understands the protesters’ message – that there is a lack of trust between the community and the police. The governor noted that the police must work with their communities to address issues such as the use of force by officers, community policing and prejudice.
The governor acknowledged that there is still much to do, and that the law is a first step, and hopes that New York’s action will be an example for other states in the country to follow.
School closure due to coronavirus
One of the headaches that has the most impact among New Yorkers is the closure of its school system, which with 1.1 million students in total, is the largest in the country. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the school year has been interrupted several times and depending on the circumstances, it has been fully and partially reactivated or vice versa, depending on the behavior of the virus.
The closure of the schools has put the De Blasio Administration to the test and in particular the Chancellor of Education, the Mexican-American Richard Carranza, who has considered every opportunity to return to normality.
On the one hand, De Blasio has had the pressure of the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which have demanded all the measures that guarantee their health when they return to the classrooms, and on the other, the parents who seek that their children are not left behind academically because, with remote study they say, the results are precarious and additionally, having the children at home adds to the impediments to join their activities 100%.
In short, parents are committed to the closure of the school system, while the authorities face a second wave of the pandemic. Mayor Bill de Blasio made the decision to shut down the public school system on the grounds that the average COVID-19 positivity rate in the city reached 3%. Parents were outraged and calling the measure “outdated and arbitrary.”
On December 7, the City made the final attempt to partially open schools. 145,000 elementary school students returned to school and another 190,000 from middle and high schools will do so in January, if conditions permit.
The hybrid option, which consists of taking face-to-face and remote classes has not been the best, meanwhile, in an effort to somehow recover the academic gap left by the irregular operation of the system, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the ‘2021 Student Achievement Plan ‘, which aims to help students make up for lost time in learning as a result of the pandemic.
The initiative plans to first seek to identify the areas in which the student is lagging, and then develop a digital curriculum, creating a unique place for online learning and expanding the resources available to parents, and, above all, treating the traumas that the students caused by this crisis, as well as their mental health problems, face.
“It is time to really deal with this challenge that we are seeing very, very clearly, which is the way that COVID has gotten in the way of educating our children,” De Blasio said.
The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine
After President Trump’s absurd threat at some point that the vaccine would not be delivered to New York due to its differences with Governor Cuomo, not only that it arrived on time but also, New York was the first city in the country to apply it to a nurse, in Queens. The milestone did justice because the city and the state were the epicenter of the pandemic and remain the worst hit by the virus so far.
According to the New York City Department of Health, as of Tuesday, December 29, more than 70,000 New Yorkers had been vaccinated. Meanwhile, at the state level, according to figures from the governor’s office, to that day the total number of immunized residents exceeded 140,000.
The concern continued to lie in reaching the most vulnerable, the poorest, immigrants, Hispanics, blacks and all minorities quickly, which, according to data from the Department of Health, were the most prone to contagion and to die from the disease. COVID-19.
Mayor Bill De Blasio directed the creation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Command Center to ensure that the vaccine is distributed fairly and transparently, as well as reaching as many New Yorkers as possible. Immunization with the first dose began on Monday, December 14, with first-line health workers, the elderly living in nursing homes and the personnel of those institutions. In this last week of the year the city firefighters were also immunized.
The process with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that require two doses continues apace and according to schedule, confirmed Governor Cuomo, noting that experts suggest that 75 to 85% of the population should be vaccinated for the economy to return to an apparent normality.
Cuomo anticipated that his strategy will be to be vigilant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge that the vaccination process be “inclusive.”
The black, Hispanic and poor community have paid the highest price for COVID. The pandemic revealed inherent discrimination in the health care system of people living in communities with less access to health care. Consequently, Cuomo said, it is not going to enhance and aggravate the discrimination that has already manifested itself by excluding or discriminating them now in the vaccination process.
A firm step for the ‘Dreamers’
In New York, the lawsuit was forged to reverse the suspension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on which more than a million young people who seek to regularize their status in the country depend. Finally, on November 15, a federal judge ruled in favor of reinstating that immigration relief that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended in July.
Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, the organization that led the lawsuit, said that while they await the start of the Biden Administration, they recognize that this victory is only the beginning.
“The new administration must not only immediately protect DACA and TPS holders and reverse all of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, but must also provide swift relief and a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented families across this country.” , highlighted Valdés.
Now all eyes are on Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas, a Cuban-born, is expected to reverse the Trump Administration’s tough immigration policies.
There is good hope for that to happen. In 2009, Mayorkas was director of the Obama administration’s Immigration Service and oversaw the implementation of DACA, later becoming Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security between 2013-2016.