When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in the fall, faith leaders rose to the challenge of attempting to provide basic needs -- not only for our own congregants but for the greater community as well. Unfortunately, the families who were hit hardest were the most vulnerable. These families were already trapped in an economic storm that had been pounding away for 30 years. New Yorkers across the five boroughs have been trying to stay afloat amidst public policy choices that continuously undercut wages and the availability of affordable housing.
Faith in New York, a member of the PICO National Network, is an interfaith, multicultural, grassroots federation of 53 congregations which is building an emerging faith movement to fight for racial and economic justice. On June 13, Faith in New York, in partnership with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, the Sandy Regional Assembly, and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance convened a mayoral candidates summit entitled Reviving Our City. Five mayoral candidates attended the summit and spoke in front of 1500 diverse New Yorkers, many of whom sustained damage following Sandy. The leadership of Faith in New York shared with these candidates the imperative for Sandy recovery efforts to lift up and support working families and neglected neighborhoods.
As a response to Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg created the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) which was released on June 11. When Mayor Bloomberg launched the SIRR in December, he said, "The biggest challenge that we face is adapting our city to risks associated with climate change. And meeting that challenge will require us to take a leap into the future. " I respectfully disagree with the mayor. The biggest risk that New York City faces is that the poor keep getting poorer. His team created an action plan which helps things, not people. The nyc.gov website highlights two components in the SIRR plan. They are the strengthening of buildings, and steps that ensure access to water, air and heat during extended power outages. The video on the website focuses on climate change. Resiliency means more than just building sea walls. There is a big piece missing from Mayor Bloomberg's plan. If we want a resilient city, we need to reduce the widening income and opportunity gap to create resilient families.
Following interviews with hundreds of people across the city, Faith in New York presented four goals at the Summit.
1) Resolve the Continuing Humanitarian Crisis
2) Prioritize the Creation of Good Jobs
3) Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing
4) Infrastructure Investments that Protects the Environment and Working Families.
If elected mayor, John Liu, Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson enthusiastically told us that they would participate in a tour of Sandy-impacted communities with Faith in New York and bring in their top staff to work with us to turn our goals into action. The New York faith community needs a partner to help working class families who were impacted by Sandy, so we can continue to be the Greatest City on Earth. We really hope our next mayor will be that partner.