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Seven Council Members Joined Thursday’s New York City Council Speaker Candidate Forum

In Effort to Advance the Rights of New York City Women, Coalition of Stakeholder Groups Convened Forum, Launched Policy Guide

NEW YORK – In the final weeks of New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s tenure, candidates to succeed her gathered Thursday at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College to make their case for how they would utilize the speakership to advance the rights of cisgender and transgender women and gender non-binary (TGNC)New Yorkers. The New York City Council Speaker Candidate Forum, moderated by Politico’s Laura Nahmias and Shatia Burks of the New York City Young Women’s Initiative, was convened by PPNYC and 13 other stakeholder organizations seeking to ensure that New York City is a place where women and TGNC communities can thrive in all areas of their lives. Participating candidates included Council Members Mark Levine, Corey Johnson, Jimmy Van Bramer, Jumaane Williams, Robert Cornegy, Ydanis Rodriguez and Donovan Richards.

In conjunction with the forum, the convening coalition launched a policy guide for New York City elected officials. The guide is an effort to ensure that New York’s leaders preserve and advance the New York City Young Women’s Initiative (YWI). The YWI was launched in 2015 by Speaker Mark-Viverito to identify gaps in services for young women in New York City and advocate for racial and gender equity when it comes to healthcare, education, the criminal justice system and economic development.

Politico’s Nahmias and the YWI’s Burks posed questions to the candidates on a range of topics from healthcare, to education, to economic and workforce development, to criminal justice, anti-violence, and budget and governance. Key topics of conversation included participating council members’ plans to protect access to abortion and other reproductive justice issues in New York City in light of the White House’s anti-choice agenda, plans to fix wage disparity for women of color and LGBTQ and TGNC individuals, how to maintain New York City’s status as a “sanctuary city” and protect undocumented New Yorkers at risk of deportation, and how to improve police accountability and transparency.

“The next City Council speaker plays a critical role in ensuring the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” said Laura McQuade, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. “As a leading sexual and reproductive health care provider in NYC, Planned Parenthood of New York City is committed to breaking down barriers that deny New Yorkers access to care and opportunities because of their gender, identity, sexual orientation, income, or race. At a time when our communities are under constant attack, our next City Council Speaker must prioritize fighting discrimination and inequity in all its forms, and must ensure that NYC is a model for the rest of the country when it comes to how we treat women and non-binary New Yorkers—particularly those of color. We look forward to learning more about how Speaker candidates will be a champion for reproductive health, rights and justice—and build a future where all people can build the lives they want and deserve.”

“As an organization seeking to improve the life outcomes of Black men and boys, this work cannot be done without also advancing equity for women and girls,” said Shawn Dove, Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) CEO. “CBMA works nationally, and we believe the Young Women’s Initiative model NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito launched locally can continue to be scaled, and replicated across the country. For this to come to fruition, it is imperative the next City Council Speaker takes up the mantle of advocating for New Yorkers across gender, income, race and sexual orientation lines.”

“While New York City has taken many important steps to address gender equity for cisgender and transgender girls, young women and adults, the next City Council Speaker must build upon this groundwork and be a champion for equality,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director, Citizens’ Committee for Children. “Given the threats from Washington, the current inequality in salaries, wages, access to health care, rates of family homelessness, and educational outcomes, the Speaker’s leadership will be critical.  We look forward to learning more from the Speaker candidates about how they would make New York City a better and safer place for cisgender and transgender girls.”

“The voices of this diverse city contain multitudes, but it is the voices of New York women, trans women, and queer women, that ring out the loudest at this moment of change for our city and country,” said Brette McSweeney, president of Eleanor’s Legacy. “4 million women live in New York City but there will be just 11 women serving on the new New York City Council in January. This is a crisis point. And anyone who wants to speak for our city must speak with all women and for all women.”

“Now more than ever, New York City is in need of another progressive Speaker who values the lives of young women​ ​and TGNC youth of color,” said Joanne Smith, Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity. “Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made New York City the first in the nation to lead a Young Women's Initiative, now 9 other cities are following our vision. We call upon our next Speaker to​ ​keep the momentum going and boldly join government leaders, advocates, policy experts, and​ ​youth to combat the systemic inequities​ ​experienced by young​ ​women and TGNC youth of color. New York City deserves nothing less than a Speaker willing to champion the strategies, policies, and practices that will transform​ ​the lives of​ ​our city’s young people.”

“Our city is enriched with the diversity of experience and perspective brought by women across the gender identity and race spectrum,” said Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “With the size of the LGBT caucus decreasing and losing the only female member, plus an absence of women running for the office of City Council Speaker, it's imperative that our next Speaker be clear and vocal in their plans to support women. We look forward to working with the next Speaker to execute a progressive plan to protect, empower and uplift these communities.”

“New York is the most diverse, welcoming city in the world,” said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “Our next City Council Speaker must uphold the legacy of their predecessor and ensure that all New Yorkers are afforded the right to accessible reproductive health care, including abortion, and that they can access the care they need free from fear, intimidation and violence. When the White House and State House won’t stand up for reproductive freedom, City Hall must -- our next Speaker should refer to NIRH’s Model City and our instructive Local Reproductive Freedom Index to protect and advance the rights of all New York women.”

“As the number of women who serve in the City Council has fallen, it’s paramount that the challenges facing women are a priority for our future Speaker,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women - New York City.  “We need the next Speaker to build on the legacy and leadership of outgoing Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito by not compromising on the issues that matter in women’s lives.”

“The City Council Speaker plays a vital role in ensuring that real progressive values like gender equity are a reality, not just a dream, in New York City," said Chelsea Davis, Co-Director of the New Leaders Council- New York City, an organization working to train the next generation of progressive leaders throughout the country. "NLC is committed to ensuring everyone has a voice in NYC, and hope the next Speaker will work tirelessly to keep all New Yorkers engaged and included in government.”

“In recent years, New York City has not only made progress on issues important to women and LBGT/GNC individuals, it has made history. To build on this momentum it is critical that we hear directly from the candidates for City Council Speaker about their plans to improve the lives and economic futures of over half our population. Too, tonight’s forum is a clarion call that together our community will continue the struggle for full equality for all,” said Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York.

“With only 11 women serving on the City Council, and no women running to be our next City Council Speaker, we need to ensure that these eight candidates will serve as allies to all women, particularly women of color, immigrant women, and women who proudly identify as LGBT-GNC and disabled,” said Cristina Gonzalez, co-Founder of Women of Color for Progress. “The diversity of this coalition we have built in organizing this forum shows the need to put an intersectional lens on a variety of policy priorities, including housing, healthcare, education, economic development, and criminal justice. We hope the next City Council Speaker understands the value of creating policy that is intersectional, and works to advance the needs of our communities of color to create a more equitable and just New York City.”

Convening partners of Thursday’s forum included: Girls for Gender Equity, Women of Color for Progress, Brooklyn Movement Center, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, PowHer NY, Planned Parenthood of New York City, National Organization for Women-NYC, New Leaders Council--NYC Chapter, National Institute for Reproductive Health, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Eleanor’s Legacy, National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter. Hosted by Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

The policy guide is available here. The next Council Speaker will be chosen during a formal selection process in January, 2018. The candidate who wins the majority of their fellow council members’ support will be New York’s next City Council Speaker.  



All partner organizations involved in coordinating the New York City Council Speaker Candidate Forum believe strongly that New York’s next Council leader must ensure that New York City women and non-binary New Yorkers – particularly those of color – thrive. This will require a policy agenda that lifts up our communities while building on the legacy of Council leadership before them.


Read the Policy Guide Here:

Policy Priorities to Lift up Cis and Trans Women, Girls and Non-Binary New Yorkers


Learn more about each partnering organization:


Girls for Gender Equity - ggenyc.org

Women of Color for Progress - womenofcolorforprogress.org

Brooklyn Movement Center - brooklynmovementcenter.org

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center - gaycenter.org

PowHer NY - powherny.org

Planned Parenthood of New York City - ppnyc.org

National Organization for Women - New York City - nownyc.org

New Leaders Council- NYC Chapter - newleaderscouncil.org

National Institute for Reproductive Health - nirhealth.org

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol - brotherhood-sistersol.org

Campaign for Black Male Achievement - blackmaleachievement.org

Citizens’ Committee for Children - cccnewyork.org

Eleanor’s Legacy - eleanorslegacy.com

National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter - naswnyc.org