There’s no word that better describes how I’m feeling than heartbroken.
Heartbroken for George Floyd and his family– and rampant mistreatment of African-Americans– heartbroken for Minneapolis, New York City, and our nation.
With the continued violence and looting last night, both before and after the curfew belatedly announced in late afternoon, I am truly heartbroken for Manhattan.
But governing is not only about feelings.
At its most basic, governing is about preserving the public order, however imperfect and unjust. And that has not been done. Our entire leadership shares the blame: the Mayor, the Governor, and the NYPD (and to be clear I am not exempting myself– or leaders in Washington!).
Looting and violence by a few have now tainted the ongoing fight for justice.
What if the scaffold fire on lower Broadway set during the protests resulted in the death of one of the families living inside the scaffolded building?
What if the police officer hit by a brick had suffered a hemorrhage and died?
What if the protester whose mask was taken down by a police officer and pepper sprayed had suffered his own seizure and died?
And what if, after these many nights of protest, COVID-19 infections spike again and flood our hospitals?
We in Manhattan have long been able to manage, albeit imperfectly, the high-low dynamic of being home to some of the wealthiest and the poorest New Yorkers.
Many other factors happening at the same time helped bring us to where we are now: the boom in global tourism to NYC since 9/11 and the resulting boom in retail and hotels, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath which exacerbated income gaps, left no one punished, and resulted in historically low interest rates which real estate magnates used to finance ever-more-expensive developments (and the national chains who drive out local mom-and-pops), and, not least, the impunity that police have enjoyed in the face of outrageous and deadly racial incidents.
We have to work to enact structural reforms that fairly tax the wealthy to fund fair and equitable schools, healthcare, and housing so that all New Yorkers, wealthy and less so, benefit from the unique energy and joyfulness that used to define our city.
My friend State Sen. Liz Krueger wrote earlier this afternoon:
“…For years, protesters have chanted “no justice, no peace.” I hear this phrase not as a threat, but as a warning and a statement of fact. Peace is not achieved simply by a lack of violence. A truly peaceful society, one where we can all go about our own business unmolested and without fear, can only be achieved by first creating a just society. Only by working for justice and equity will we ensure that our city, our state, and our country are able to emerge from the multiple crises we are facing.”
I urge you to read the whole thing.
I applaud NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who kneeled with protesters in Washington Square Park Monday in support of George Floyd. That kind of empathy is something we need more of.
This morning I joined Rev. Sharpton, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and members of the City Council and U.S. Congress Members Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries and other elected officials in Foley Square to support City legislation to ban the use of chokeholds by police, and national legislation to make such tactics a federal civil rights violation. Then I toured the damage in SoHo, and went to another rally with Congress Member Adriano Espaillat at the State Office Building in Harlem.
I will keep showing up, but I can’t do it alone. I urge you to take steps in your own lives to help bring about a better world. You’ll see that Sen. Krueger quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in her note, but I also like the Rev. Desmond Tutu:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”