New York City Mayor Eric Adams and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel outlined a report Monday offering a set of recommendations to improve social equity throughout the city and within its prisons.
During their joint press conference at City Hall on Feb. 7, Siegel and his impaneled commission announced the report which focuses on high-priority social justice issues including First Amendment rights, climate change, education, prison reform (particularly on Rikers Island) and more.
The goal of the commission as well as the executive order is to expand on promises made by Adams during his campaign, including his belief that “public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity.”
“This is a great civil rights attorney and leader,” said Mayor Adams as he introduced Siegel. “I’m happy that not only is he a friend, but he has been a trusted advisor. We are proud to sign this order…..and look forward to reviewing these recommendations in further detail as we govern and develop new policies to serve New Yorkers.”
Siegel then introduced the recommendations, which he believes will serve New Yorkers during the pandemic, and after as well. This report follows a similar one conducted by the de Blasio administration in 2021, but aims to add to the recommendations in order to further serve the NYC community.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the Adams administration,” said Siegel. “We came together this past August to produce the report to Mayor Adams clarifying the meaning of social justice as it relates specifically to obligations that the city of New York should have to its residents. Although independent, the commission was created with the knowledge and approval of Mayor Adams. The report and its 81 recommendations are a framework for governing through the prism of social justice.”
Intended to guide the Adams administration in making decisions regarding the wellbeing of freedom of speech, citizen rights and incarcerated individuals, the report also outlined methodologies to be adapted by the New York City police department. Namely the need to diversify the force in order to protect and serve communities without the injustice of police brutality or disproportionate surveillance.
“Knowing Eric’s history and the conversations we have had over the past 30 years, I would expect him to let the police department know that past practices are not acceptable anymore and that within the next year — clearly in the next four years — [we] are going to see a police department hierarchy much more dependent on diversity,” said Siegel to amNew York. “What they have over there [right now] is unacceptable, and we will hold Eric accountable for that, and if necessary we can always use the weapon we’ve used over the years which is to litigate and go to court.”
Siegel also passionately advocated for the rights of incarcerated people, especially those on Rikers Island, who the attorney said were in desperate need of aid – particularly during the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Rikers is a mess,” Siegel said. “In 1990 or 1991, [I] taught a class on Rikers for one year. When the course was over – there were about 20 guys in the class — I said to them at the end ‘when we go out into the real world, tell me the one thing that you want us to tell the outside world that you need’. One guy after the other got up and said ‘help us learn how to read and write’. There should be literacy programs in all the jails, especially Rikers. Mayor Adams, that’s a challenge [for you].”