New York, NY – Affordable housing, pre-employment marijuana testing, public safety and workers’ rights were just a few of the topics that Public Advocate Jumaane Williams touched upon during his first-ever State of the People address at Brooklyn College on Wednesday.
Williams is nearly a year into his term, but has already taken drastic measures to restructure power in New York City in order to give it back to the citizen’s of the Big Apple who want major changes throughout the five boroughs.
“Less than two weeks after I and dozens of others were arrested at the Governor’s door, but after twenty years of knocking on them, the most sweeping steps for housing justice in decades moved that boulder forward,” said Williams. “And that movement is still gaining speed.”
After confronting Gov. Andrew Cuomo about affordable housing, the Governor’s Office released its initiative to invest $1.4 billion in Brownsville for supportive housing, $578 million of which would be committed to developing 4,000 units of apartments – an enterprise that could certainly help provide union jobs.
“We’ll be putting a specific spotlight on the most culpable, least responsive developments in the city – demanding more funding, and better management of those funds,” added Williams. “We’ll also be pushing legislation to create a tenant-centered task force to solve problems by focusing on the people facing them in their daily lives.”
While looking at areas that the city needs to improve he also praised legislation that bans pre-employment testing for marijuana, which had far reaching consequences for people in many job sectors from technology to the National Football League.
Since marijuana can stay in one’s system for over weeks after being smoked, individuals who were prescribed marijuana for pain management were losing out on high-paying jobs, but with bill Int. No. 1445-A, employers, labor organizations, agents, or employment agencies cannot prescreen for the substance, however, if deemed necessary, they can screen post-hire for certain jobs.
In 2019, the National Football League’s Player’s Association union issued a statement that it will look into studies and the potential use of marijuana as a pain management tool for players. The NFL and the NFLPA will form two medical committees for the studies.
Williams used his speech to also advocate for the repeal of the 50-a bill, which prevents unfettered access to body camera footage.
“We need to move forward to strengthen the transparency and accountability that have been even further limited in this administration- to fight to repeal 50-a and reveal body camera footage, to continue to fight bias based policing and support black transgender women and others who are targeted by our laws while deserving enhanced protection, not enhanced enforcement, and to utilize newly strengthened civilian oversight to bring real accountability,” said Williams.
This initiative of the public advocate led to pushback from the all the major law enforcement unions, which instead backed former City Councilman Joe Borelli, chair of the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management.
The public advocate also pushed for the Empire State to lead the way in terms of workers’ rights.
“Every employee deserves paid time off to address their mental health, family and other fundamental life needs-to say nothing of a vacation,” said Williams. “Together, we’re going to get this done – it’s time to give New Yorkers the opportunity to take a break.”