“Social services, not policing” – These Brooklyn Women Move Toward a New City Council

“Social services, not policing” – These Brooklyn Women Move Toward a New City Council
Watching the city council debate the budget at Occupy City Hall. Photo by Sandy Nurse, with permission.

As New Yorkers, we know what it means to be bold. As women, we know what it means to be defiant in the face of systems that weren’t designed for us. And as candidates for New York City Council in 2021, we know the path ahead will require us to be courageous. As women running for office in Brooklyn, we came together to reflect on this moment and align our visions for building a more just city.

Less than 48 hours ago, thousands of New Yorkers organized in dozens of concurrent actions throughout the day and into the night. Even days after the $88 Billion budget passed, #DefundtheNYPD occupation remains at City Hall in response to a budget that fails to address the cries for deeper investments in city public services. The city remains outraged and in mourning over the death of Breonna Taylor, and yet another filmed death of a Black person by police forces–this time George Floyd. The virality and constant consumption of violent Black death, along with the crisis of COVID-19, has broken this City’s unhealed wounds wide open. As the epidemic of videos exposes more New Yorkers to the immoral and yet exonerated killing of Black people by cops, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a political paradigm shift that is undeniable and inevitable.

Thanks to the centuries of unapologetic and unwavering leadership of Black women, Black Trans people, and more recently the coalition known as the Movement for Black Lives, protest signs have gone from “Justice for George Floyd” to “Defund the Police”. Black leadership across the country is clear that decades of inadequate reforms, protracted firings, and attempts at oversight are failures. They are calling for an end to the opaque and excessive funding of “brutal and militarized policing” by defunding police departments. This strategic focus now presents a moral call to action not only for NYC’s elected leadership, but for those of us asking our communities to vote for us.

Defunding the NYPD by at least $1 billion is a goal and a strategic demand. It is not the only solution — but it is critical that we, as City Council candidates in 2021, go on record with a commitment to investing our City’s budget into social services, not policing. It is why we’re starting the conversation now; because it should be a stark reminder to all of us that it was under “reformist” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the “progressive” City Council that NYPD managed to lobby and expand the police force and its budget. The disappointing result of this year’s budget reminds us that it’s not easy to make the right decision when funding and resources for your district are threatened, and when your political future is promised to be cut short. But as women who come from movements and who have worked in our neighborhoods for years, we bear in mind the work of dedicated community leaders who, for decades, have consistently called for increased investments in and the strengthening of our social safety net. We know that investing in our communities is not the politically easy thing to do–but we are clear this is our call to action.

On the heels of massive budget shortfalls and the greatest economic insecurity we have experienced in recent history, the demands for reinvestment in our youth, families and communities are at a fever pitch. We have heard New Yorkers – particularly those most marginalized. And it is time to divest resources from bloated and harmful carceral systems, and reinvest in services and programs that will lead to real opportunities and ensure our communities can thrive.

We believe that all reinvestment must include three critical criteria: 1) services and programs that prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable residents; 2) solutions that are co-created with impacted communities; and 3) an asset-based approach that invests in strengthening local neighborhood infrastructure.

We envision a future rooted in community control of public dollars as outlined by the Movement for Black Lives. This includes the expansion and much needed reform of Participatory Budgeting (PB) during the City Council turnover and removing policing from the social service and school systems, including in DOE’s budget. Historically working-class Black and brown neighborhoods continue to face the brunt of gentrification, displacement, and development without a community planning process that includes them. Public housing across our borough remains in shambles and with a backlog of unmet repairs. To this end, we commit to pushing for a Homes Guarantee at the local level.

Cutting carceral funding is not about advancing an austerity budget: it must be centered in restorative approaches to community safety and investing in fundamentally different programs that see these issues holistically. We are committed to fighting for just, fair and equitable investments in our communities, including a City budget that reflects those values.

For years, we have been told that radical change is not possible – that it’s too ambitious or that it’s not the right time. Now, more than ever, we have an unprecedented opportunity in our City to transform the status quo. With a factioned body of 17 votes against the budget, we will continue to watch how the current leadership chooses to use their tremendous power, and we will continue to speak truth to power — unapologetic and unafraid. And in 2021, we will win. Not because we’re party favorites or the “next in line.” We will win because we stand on the side of freedom, justice, and equity. We will accept nothing less.

Elizabeth Adams, City Council Candidate District 33

Jennifer Gutierrez, City Council Candidate District 34

Crystal Hudson, City Council Candidate District 35

Sandy Nurse, City Council Candidate District 37

Alexa Aviles, City Council Candidate District 38

Whitney Hu, City Council Candidate District 38

Shahana Hanif, City Council Candidate District 39