Statement on City Council hearing on disparate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color

I come to this issue from a perspective of double discrimination. I represent thousands of constituents who live in public housing or other densely populated areas and who work as grocery workers, delivery drivers, health care workers, MTA employees and others who have had to report to work during this outbreak, often without proper protection. Without the luxury of working from home, they expose themselves to this disease every day to keep our city moving.

We’ve seen many charts and data about how this segment of the population has borne a disproportionate share of this disease. Indeed Staten Island ranks second in New York City and 10th in the nation with positive cases by population. But the data doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Data reflects positive tests. I live on an island of nearly a half million residents, and for weeks, the primary testing location was a drive-through-only location that is 12 miles from the western portion of my district.

  • Many of my constituents didn’t have access to tests — so you won’t see them on your charts.

  • They also didn’t have access to a public hospital — and all the resources the city has sent to public hospitals.

  • Yes, our private hospitals received PPEs (as many health care workers said they did not have access to PPEs) but the city would not quantify how many were sent to our hospitals.

  • We had one Regional Enrichment Center on the North Shore of Staten Island serving children of essential workers — and the city closed it after one week, sending many parents scrambling for alternate plans.

  • Our ferry, which links many essential workers to jobs in other boroughs, now operates only once per hour, lengthening an already exhausting commute. Bus service was also scaled back severely. I just saw a report of Amazon workers cramming onto the few buses that serve the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island.

This is double discrimination. Discriminated because of race and class AND because of geography

Data is important. But so are stories. And the stories I have heard are unacceptable. Those running our city must listen to the stories being told today and work with us on solutions.


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