Albany, NY — More than 120 activists from Citizen Action of New York gathered in the Capitol today to tell legislators and the governor “it’s time to deliver our justice agenda,” a platform of progressive policy on housing, education and child care, climate, criminal legal system reform, health care, and democracy.
Through the live creation of art pieces and spoken word poetry in the Empire State Plaza Concourse, the activists illustrated what a New York with Our Justice Agenda could look like. As Citizen Action board president Ivette Alfonso said, “Our Justice Agenda is about creating a New York where every person’s basic needs are met so they have the ability to thrive. We’re here to tell the governor and the legislature, ‘It’s time to deliver!’ We deserve a New York where every person is able to reach their fullest potential. That means ensuring low, cost high-quality housing, child care for every family, and protection of bail reform.”
Later in the day, activists delivered the art pieces to their legislators’ offices to emphasize how important it is for their representatives to vote to deliver justice–housing justice, climate justice, economic justice, criminal legal justice–for all New Yorkers. According to Citizen Action Legislative Director, Rebecca Garrard, “This message has become even more urgent over recent weeks as Kathy Hochul unveiled plans to roll back bail reform, weaken discovery laws, and allow private corporations to exploit prison labor. It’s become more urgent as the real estate lobby pours millions of dollars into a campaign to make it easier for predatory landlords to abuse and exploit tenants. Today is about making clear that we demand a state budget that puts people first.”
Activists were joined for a press conference by Assemblymember Anna Kelles, Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor Ana Maria Archila, and Elisa Crespo of New Pride Agenda. The speakers addressed the need to deliver on every plank of the Our Justice Agenda platform from investing in child care, housing, and climate to ending mass incarceration to expanding health care access and voting rights. New York’s budget should meet the vital needs of this state,” said Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas. “That means we must adequately invest in housing, child care, health care, and not corporate subsidies and mass incarceration. I stand with Citizen Action in calling for an investment of healthcare coverage for all undocumented immigrants, the defense of bail reform, and increasing housing accessibility. This is how we honor the inherent dignity of all New Yorkers, not just the privileged few.”
Several members of Citizen Action delivered impassioned remarks about criminal legal system reform, policy that is in great jeopardy given the right’s lie-filled attacks on bail reform and Hochul’s recently released plan to throw even more people in jail, separating them from their families and communities. Citizen Action member Yvonne Griffin from Syracuse said, “Bail Reform affects every aspect of a person’s life, from deciding between your rent, electricity and gas bills, daycare, even vehicle repairs, to public transportation or bailing out your mother, father, grandparents, your son, daughter, your family. Choosing dinner or one’s freedom is never okay and that is what we do on a daily basis throughout all of New York State.”
Citizen Action member Maggie Veve from New Paltz told the story of her son, Armando, who dealt with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder, was failed by our mental health and criminal legal systems and died at the age of 27. “But this story is not about Armando. This story is not unique; this story is about the millions of people who lose hope. The thousands of families who need hope for their loved ones incarcerated unnecessarily. I come to you to tell Armando’s story because we have to give hope, we have to create the policies and laws that create hope for the people who are now incarcerated and their families. I come to support Elder Parole, Fair and Timely Parole and Clean Slate because what we must do as a state is to continue the movement of decarceration and pass Elder Parole, Fair and Timely Parole, Clean Slate and to be proud of what we have done with bail reform.”
Immediately following the press conference, Citizen Action announced its endorsement of Ana Maria Archila, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Ivette Alfonso said, “We are thrilled to endorse Ana Maria Archila because we know she will be a champion of the people. She fights for our values of racial, social, and economic justice and recognizes that every person has inherent dignity. With her in office, we are confident that our state will deliver for the people.”
Archila said of the endorsement, “Citizen Action of New York has been at the forefront of the fight for social, economic, and racial justice across this state for decades, and I am proud to earn their endorsement. Our campaign is focused on the same thing as Citizen Action members: in this year’s budget and beyond, it is time for state government to truly deliver for working families. That means truly affordable housing, Coverage for All, universal childcare, replenished funds for excluded workers, and more.”