Prioritizing Racial Equity to Ensure the Success of All New Yorkers
New York City’s greatness comes from our range of people from all corners of the globe and walks of life that make this city their home, bringing together cultures, traditions, and ideas that have formed the base of our collective New York identity. Our racial and cultural diversity make New York City a unique place to live, work, and play—and yet, race and culture have long been used to deny entire communities in our city the resources and opportunities needed to thrive, or even to receive basic services.
Shaun Donovan believes that who you are, how you look, your level of ability, whom you love, and where you live should not predict your chances for success or your life expectancy. That is why our campaign is built on the notion that we must reimagine our city as a place that truly works for everyone, where everyone has a fair chance at creating a healthy, secure, sustainable life for themself and their family.
We are focusing attention and action toward turning racial inequity on its head—reaching a point where race does not determine or predict the distribution of resources, opportunities, and burdens among members of a society—because we recognize that the creation and perpetuation of racial inequities has been baked into American culture and government, and that racial inequities across all indicators for success are deep and pervasive. At the same time, we acknowledge the broad range of identities used to marginalize people, helping us take a more intersectional approach while always naming the role that race plays in people’s experiences and outcomes.
Shaun is the only candidate who combines decades-long commitment to racial justice with a record of real progress on racial equity at the highest levels of government. Helping build over 5,000 affordable Nehemiah homes as a means of attaining home ownership and building wealth, and then helping New Yorkers protect that wealth by creating the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, the nation’s first response of its kind to the foreclosure crisis and predatory lending that stole two thirds of our country’s Black wealth and half of Latinx wealth, are just a few examples of how Shaun has worked to close the racial gaps in opportunity that have persisted in our city.
After this work caught President Obama’s attention, he asked Shaun to serve in his cabinet as Housing Secretary and then Budget Director, where Shaun worked to advance fair housing all the way to the Supreme Court and make investments at the federal level to ensure everyone would have a chance at a good education, secure housing, high-quality health care, and a clean environment.
As mayor, Shaun will combine his experience, the perspectives of the city’s residents, and the lessons learned from activists and allies from across the nation and the globe to ensure that racial equity is embedded in City policies, programs, and services. This work will make tangible differences in people’s lives through the application and integration of best practices, training of City staff, development of equity tools and action plans, and tracking and measuring of our progress along the way. Through these efforts, we will work toward a future where a child born in any zip code can have the same great school, hospital, park, and prospects as any other child in our city.
Our plan will focus on:
- Ensuring an Equitable COVID Recovery
- Applying an Equity Lens to the Way the City is Governed, and Establishing the Infrastructure to Set and Meet Goals
- Pursuing Equity-focused Policies as Part of Every Platform
Ensuring an Equitable COVID Recovery
Throughout his 30-year career in public service, Shaun has learned that the communities that are most vulnerable before a crisis are the hardest hit during and after that crisis, and as such, we must measure the success of our recovery based on our ability to support those most in need. That has entirely been the case when it comes to COVID-19 and our city’s most vulnerable communities. This pandemic has ravaged our Black and Brown communities, and our City’s response has been inadequate and at times, shameful.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Reorient the City’s vaccination campaign towards hard hit communities of color
At the height of the pandemic, New York City and State implemented contact tracing to better track transmission of the virus. These efforts were flawed, but still helpful in containing the pandemic and keeping New Yorkers safe.
However, as we shift our focus from containment to inoculation, it is critical that we stand up vaccination efforts with as much funding as possible. With community spread already taking place in all five boroughs, the priority must be getting more shots into New Yorkers’ arms, especially in communities that have been left behind in the efforts so far. This will only become more critical once the next mayor takes office. As such, a Donovan administration will immediately begin to repurpose contact tracing funding and transition towards robust vaccine distribution.
We must also make sure that our city is receiving the adequate amount of vaccines to meet the needs of its residents. Shaun will work closely with members of the Biden administration, many of whom he already has a strong working relationship with, to ensure that our city gets the vaccines—as well as protective equipment, funding, and other resources—that it deserves.
As mayor, Shaun will focus our vaccination efforts towards the communities that need them most. This means using a neighborhood approach and leveraging the power of trusted voices in those neighborhoods to help educate New Yorkers about the importance of getting vaccinated, while also listening to these communities about their reasonable concerns and fears. Doing this will help to build trust between these communities and the public health institutions that have historically overlooked them and even at times exploited them.
We also need to meet people where they are. Vaccination sites, although important, are not serving the communities that need them most. Part of this is because of a lack of meaningful outreach to these communities, but also because those who are in most need of the vaccine often do not have the time required to get vaccinated. That’s why Shaun’s administration will bring vaccines directly to the people who need them most by holding education and vaccination events at NYCHA developments, naturally occurring retirement communities, and senior centers, leveraging in-language communication and partnering with local community-based organizations to find the best ways to reach people. These are crucial steps to ensuring that our response to COVID is not leaving behind any New Yorker who cannot reasonably access our city’s services, particularly our aging population and New Yorkers living with disabilities.
Meeting New Yorkers where they are also requires that the next mayor do a better job of reaching non-english speakers when it comes to educating New Yorkers about the importance of getting vaccinated. As mayor, Shaun will ensure that we are using in-language messaging when educating New Yorkers about the vaccine and other public health issues.
Improve the long-term health of communities through the COVID response
The pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to get more New Yorkers the care they need. As such, a Donovan administration will use vaccine distribution to sign people up for health insurance and connect people to primary care for underlying conditions—services that will be more accessible to New Yorkers through Shaun’s efforts to expand health insurance at the federal and state level and supplement coverage with a city-level public option, and through expanded access to primary care in the 15 minute neighborhoods model, respectively.
Read more about our efforts to strengthen and preserve the wellbeing of our communities in our Health Platform.
Applying an Equity Lens to the Way the City is Governed, and Establishing the Infrastructure to Set and Meet Goals
In order to properly address the racial inequities that persist in our city, it is crucial that the next mayor not just pursue policies that promote equity, but pursue equity as a policy itself. Using an equity lens means that our policymaking, service delivery, and distribution of resources will account for the different histories, challenges, and needs of the people of New York City.
A Donovan administration will be committed to setting goals for increased equity and opportunity across all facets of New York City life, tracking our progress and holding ourselves accountable. And we will work to normalize concepts of social and racial justice within City government, organize all staff, from the mayor and commissioners to entry level, around advancing equity in their agencies and departments, and operationalize equitable policies, programs, and procedures within city government.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Designate the City’s first Chief Equity Officer
A critical step in truly addressing issues of equity in our city and understanding how effective our efforts are is to set proper commitments and develop a strategy for measuring progress. To this end, we will establish an Equity Office that reports directly to the mayor, composed of a Chief Equity Officer and a team responsible for integrating racial equity principles into all operations, projects, and services of the city, and collaborating with all agencies in the City of New York to ensure progressive achievement. The goal of this office is not to take the onus of advancing equity away from individual agencies, but rather to apply a centralized and coordinated approach that adds cohesion and accountability to otherwise disparate equity efforts.
The Chief Equity Officer, a cross-agency leader, collaborator, and ultimate responsible stakeholder, will work to achieve a set of specific, measurable targets in program design and implementation, as well as structural policy-making, to ensure that we are turning the lens on ourselves—on our own actions and behaviors—to critically evaluate our decisions, and will be both accountable to the mayor for progress on these targets and equipped with the authority to ensure they are met. The Chief Equity Officer will be tasked with taking a data-driven approach to understanding which strategies are going well, how our policies can be refined, and how we can most effectively scale successful initiatives—and will have the authority to conduct data audits of agencies in alignment with these responsibilities. By actively participating in decision-making at the highest levels with other members of the mayor’s cabinet, the Chief Equity Officer will set the tone for bringing more New Yorkers to the table and leveraging city funding to bridge the racial wealth gap.
Through the role of the Chief Equity Officer and the larger equity team, we will commit to a breadth and depth of institutional transformation that prioritizes engagement, partnership, and learning from communities to achieve meaningful, and sustainable results. Read more about the responsibilities and targets of the Chief Equity Officer in the Economic Development Platform.
Properly invest in the tools and strategies required to address inequity, drawing input from the communities most directly affected
Tackling racial inequity requires more than individual actions—it requires planning and executing a coordinated response, informed by the experiences of those who live the consequences of inequity every day. Shaun began his career helping rebuild the same communities that he saw struggle in the 1970s and 1980s, and understands what it means to listen to and act on the voices of those who best understand our city’s challenges.
This begins with investment in inclusive engagement and community capacity building, particularly around efforts to ensure that every New Yorker has equitable access to the job, housing, health, and education opportunities needed to thrive in our city. The goal is to establish continuous channels of communication and input so that communities not only inform the administration’s policies, but hold it accountable through ongoing feedback, whether it’s more effectively meeting the learning needs of local students, expanding or repairing affordable housing, or ensuring everyone in the community has access to necessary health care.
Based on community input, and led by the Chief Equity Officer, we must develop a citywide equity plan that serves as a roadmap for action and change and prioritizes strategies that are targeted toward specific issues and communities.
This plan will go hand in hand with an increased focus on data as a tool to understand inquiry as it exists and identify the metrics that need to be measured to have real, substantive change. The City has already taken a big step in this direction with the launch of the EquityNYC online platform, and we must work to expand these efforts to all City agencies. At the same time, we must be critical of the potential biases in the data gathered through service delivery tools like 311, and work to address these.
Read more about our plans to leverage the latest tools and build robust systems to support New Yorkers while maintaining transparency, privacy, accountability, and equity in our Innovation Platform.
Then, we must put our money where our mouth is. As Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun learned that a budget is more than a ledger of dollars and cents—it’s a statement of values—and he acted on this understanding by investing in critical issues like climate resilience, high quality public education, accessible health care, and affordable housing. He will take a similar approach in New York, investing in equitable change through a city budget which reflects our values as New Yorkers and applying a racial equity lens to designing, planning, and delivering equitable resources allocations that alleviate burdens on communities of color.
The City also has the opportunity through procurement, contracting, and employment practices to address racial and economic disparities and expand opportunities. Read our Economic Development platform to learn more about how Shaun would leverage City processes to uplift Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), empower entrepreneurs of color, and create pathways to family-sustaining jobs for all New Yorkers.
By combining constant community engagement, robust data analysis, and a commitment to apply a lens of equity to all government decisions, we will be able to track, assess, and continuously improve the investments being made in equity.
Pursuing Equity-focused Policies as Part of Every Platform
Shaun has developed a set of comprehensive, detailed policy platforms across the city’s most pressing issues, informed by community advocates, policy experts, and business leaders from every part of the city. We aim to close the gap in racial equity through targeted policies that address key factors including: opportunity, accessibility, safety, and health.
We encourage you to browse all of Shaun’s platforms here, and have summarized some of his principle equity-focused policies in the following section.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Build wealth and economic opportunity
Generational wealth disparities play a fundamental role in systemic inequality, and as such, any efforts to mitigate those inequalities need to focus on closing the gap in wealth. Shaun has put forth an ambitious plan to do this at a massive scale through his Equity Bonds Plan, which would provide $1,000 to every child in New York City, followed by up to an annual $2,000 for each year until they turn 18, with payments scaled based on family income.
What this means is that a child born in poverty under this program will have roughly $50,000 waiting for them when they graduate high school. We know that this money can change the economic trajectory of an entire family over generations—a college education, home ownership, opening a business, erasing debt—and that can transform our children’s lives and turbo charge the recovery and development of our city. Read more about Equity Bonds on our website.
We also cannot address issues of economic opportunity without considering the pathways to family-sustaining careers that begin in our schools. We have laid out extensive plans to not only better acknowledge and serve our diverse student population, but recognize that diversity for the asset that it is. Our policies are geared toward training, hiring, and promoting a more diverse teacher workforce so those leading our classrooms look more like the communities they serve, rethinking school admission policies to address persistent school segregation, tapping into our city’s linguistic and cultural diversity and bringing this into the classroom, and creating a School Diversity and Integration office within the Department of Education to create a comprehensive integration approach, with public goals and accountability.
It is also crucial that we address racial disparities in special education screenings, which both over-identify Black and Latinx students for certain disability classifications and under-identify Black and Latinx students for other classifications, all without effectively addressing their needs of helping them achieve academically before these identifications. And this must be paired with research-based, tested programs that meet the needs of students with disabilities, and quality special education that begins as early as possible.
Our plans for education must also tie directly to professional opportunity for our children, which is why we’ve committed to providing every public school student at least one paid career opportunity during high school, creating stronger pathways to post-secondary education and tools for CUNY students to succeed, and establishing partnerships with leading employers in growing, innovative fields to help high school and CUNY students prepare for and connect with the jobs of the future. Read more about these policies in our Education Platform.
Recovering quickly and effectively from this pandemic means not just restarting our economy, but making sure it addresses historical lack of investment in our people and our communities. In addition to creating 500,000 jobs for New Yorkers by the end of Shaun’s first term, the administration will create the largest comprehensive skills-based training program in the country, including the establishment of 10,000 apprenticeship placements. We will give every New Yorker the opportunity to build skills toward secure, family-sustaining jobs, with support from the Chief Equity Officer to ensure that these opportunities reach those who have been historically denied them.
We will also invest in our neighborhoods as engines for economic recovery, again targeting equitable investment and development where it has historically lagged. We will nurture entrepreneurship, especially among immigrants and Black and Latinx New Yorkers, support small business and MWBEs, and make capital more readily available to those who have historically lacked access to it. And we will protect and support our neighborhood business districts to ensure that every community and every New Yorker has access to economic opportunity nearby. Read more about these policies in our Economic Development Platform.
Lack of secure housing can be an overwhelming obstacle to taking advantage of all of these educational and professional opportunities. As he has done throughout his career, Shaun will work toward ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to affordable, accessible, high quality housing. He has committed to reimagining the right to shelter in our city as a right to housing, investing in revitalizing and expanding affordable housing in every borough, and supporting those who have fallen on hard times, whether it’s through finding a new home or staying in the one they’re in. Read more about Shaun’s plan to help all New Yorkers get—and stay—housed in our Housing Platform.
Make all of New York City Accessible
Well before the pandemic, many New Yorkers struggled to access basic necessities near their homes. Many in our city have to travel long distances for work, for their children’s education, or simply for food. But it doesn’t have to be that way—many New Yorkers have never known a city where what one needs isn’t just around the corner, and leading planners across the globe are already innovating in ways that make the benefits of cities accessible to all of their residents.
That is why one of Shaun’s key campaign commitments is to make every New York City neighborhood a 15 minute neighborhood, where every New Yorker has access to a great public school, fresh food, rapid transportation, a beautiful park, and a chance to get ahead within 15 minutes of their front door. These investments will also be focused first on neighborhoods where the need is greatest, and will aim to close gaps in access to opportunity and resources that exacerbate racial inequity.
A vital part of this effort is building a more robust public transit system that acknowledges and addresses the legacy of racism in transportation decision-making that has made New York significantly less accessible to many. We will deploy data and tools to make sure often ignored communities get real transportation benefits and services. We must also ensure that these communities are not overlooked during the development of innovative transportation developments, like our commitment to create a smarter and faster Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. And, we must ensure that these and other improvements are made with accessibility in all of its forms as a guiding principle, so we are not excluding our aging neighbors and those with disabilities from the benefits of our investments. Read more about all of these policies in our Economic Development and Transportation platforms.
Ensure safety and security in and out of one’s home
New York City has long struggled to balance issues of public safety like investigating serious crime and reducing gun violence with preserving the rights and wellbeing of communities of color. As we reimagine New York as a city that works for everyone, we must ensure that we are meeting the safety needs of all New Yorkers equitably and effectively.
The way forward is to reimagine a public safety system that is accountable and community-driven, reduce over-policing and over-incarceration, and reinvest in services that provide safe and healthy communities for all New Yorkers. New York City’s justice system has to work for everyone by prioritizing safety, inclusion, and racial equity. Criminal justice policy should advance justice, promote civic engagement and transparency, and emphasize data and technology innovation in a manner that uses public resources wisely and fairly.
But it isn’t enough to outline bold policies. Our next mayor must have a plan for getting them done—and paid for. By the end of his second year in office, Shaun Donovan will invest $500 million annually in community-focused public safety and racial justice initiatives, primarily by redirecting funds currently allocated to law enforcement and corrections. He will dedicate roughly $3 billion or 20% of the city’s public safety budget for these efforts by the end of his first term, directed to the neighborhoods with the greatest needs and guided by community input.
Crime and violence are caused primarily by cycles of trauma, systemic absence of opportunity, and lack of legitimacy of governing institutions. Too often, responses have revolved solely around law enforcement, ignored these driving forces, and made matters worse with heavy-handed, racially-disproportionate enforcement. Too often, we have asked police and public safety personnel to address social and community issues they are not equipped to handle, such as mental health, homelessness, and school safety.
We will reduce over-policing and over-incarceration, close the Rikers jails, and ensure that individuals have access to affordable housing, health care, job development, and critical social services to help prevent contact with the criminal legal system and cycles of incarceration. We will also establish a comprehensive, citywide response system for mental health emergencies so that police are not asked to assume the role of a mental health professional or social worker.
Read more about these and other policies in our Criminal Justice Platform.
Provide access to the resources and services needed to live a healthy, active life
Black and Latinx New Yorkers have accounted for more COVID hospitalizations and deaths in each individual borough than any other group, with a date rate per 100,000 people nearly twice as high as White New Yorkers. At the same time, COVID-19 has masked a “second pandemic” of untreated chronic disease, which will impact health well into the future. Both of these trends are in large part due to the relative lack of access to health care and resources for living a healthy life available in marginalized neighborhoods.
We outlined above Shaun’s central 15 minute neighborhoods policy, which aims to provide every New Yorker with access to everything they need within 15 minutes of their front door. High-quality health care must be part of every resident’s neighborhood, and as such, a primary health facility will also be included within 15 minutes of every New Yorker’s home, addressing the unacceptable lack of health care options in many New York City communities.
For those that do not have equitable access to fresh food in their neighborhoods, we will also work to close that gap through our 15 minute neighborhoods. Over one million New Yorkers face hunger every year, including one in five children. The needs for food are mounting in the wake of the pandemic, as millions are pushed in poverty. Additionally, we will increase funding for community-based organizations to identify and enroll low-income families and seniors in critical benefits including SNAP. We will also increase funding for emergency food providers, including food pantries and soup kitchens as well as call on the federal government to boost SNAP benefits and extend eligibility.
More than half of adults in New York City are overweight or obese, and the rate of childhood obesity is rising. We will work with schools to coordinate healthy meal standards and ensure that the food being provided encourages healthy eating habits. We will also strengthen the New York City Food Standards and encourage further adoption among private employers. As we’ve committed in our Transportation Platform, we will bolster Open Streets to provide more areas for New Yorkers to get outside to walk, play, and exercise.
Climate is also a major contributing factor to overall health by increasing chances of suffering from asthma or heat-related health issues, based on the neighborhood in which one resides and with communities of color at increased risk. We will work with and support local community-based organizations and elected officials advocating for the expedited closure of all “peaker plants” currently located in all five boroughs, empower neighborhoods to reimagine their communities, and target investments for climate adaptation and quality of life improvements to environmental justice communities currently most at risk of feeling the impact of climate change. Read more in our Climate Platform.
And it is important that we recognize the challenges faced by aging New Yorkers—and how they’re exacerbated by racial inequities—and take a targeted approach to addressing these. This includes identifying resources and services that are currently less prevalent or absent in marginalized communities, and addressing these gaps. One example are the “Senior Pedestrian Focus Areas” where crossing times at crosswalks are extended, curbs and medians are widened, and new stop controls and signals can be found, but almost none of which are located in neighborhoods with high concentrations of Black residents. Read more about our policies advocating for the wellbeing of our older residents, including through the establishment of a Bill of Rights for Aging New Yorkers, in our Aging Platform.