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Mayor Adams Signs Legislation To Prohibit Height Or Weight Discrimination In Employment, Housing, And Public Accommodations

Mayor Eric dams: Good to see you, brother. Congratulations.

Good morning, good morning, good morning everyone. Really excited about this bill and thanking the councilman for really thinking differently of how we deal with equality in a real way in our city and for hearing the concerns of not only his constituents, but throughout the city those who in any way were denied opportunities for any reason at all. We are here today for a public hearing and bill signing for Intro 209-A, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s height or weight in opportunities of employment, housing and access to public accommodations.

We all deserve the same access to employment, housing and public accommodation regardless of our appearance and it shouldn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh. When you’re looking for a job and you are out on our town or you are trying to get some form of accommodation or apartment to rent, you should not be treated differently and this Intro 209-A prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s height or weight or any other physical appearance. It helps level the playing field for all New Yorkers. It creates more inclusive workplaces and living environments and it protects against discrimination. It does however, allow for exemptions in cases where an individual’s weight or height will prevent them from performing essential requirements of the job.

I want to really thank our Council Member Shaun Abreu for introducing this bill and Council Member Nantasha Williams for the support of this bill. At this time, I’d like to open the floor to any public comments and we want to start with Josh Kellerman.

Josh Kellerman: Good morning.

Mayor Adams: Good morning.

Kellerman: Thank you to the mayor and to Council Member Abreu for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Josh Kellerman. I’m the director of public policy at the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of this law we’re signing today. Banning height and weight discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation will change lives. It will raise this issue nationally and internationally. It will provide new economic opportunities for people and it will begin changing our culture and how we treat people who are fat, little, or otherwise don’t fit into the mold our society pushes us into.

Thank you to the mayor, to Council Member Abreu and also to the agency who will be responsible for implementing this law, the Commission on Human Rights. I’d like to extend our thanks to the Retail Action Project, a worker center that builds power among non-union retail workers, many of whom are directly impacted by this form of discrimination and lastly, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to NAAFA, for their dogged leadership on this issue and their unwillingness to give up this fight that they’ve been holding since the ’60s. Here’s to many more fights alongside you all. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you very much. We have another public comment from Tigress Osborn.

Tigress Osborn: Good morning everyone.

Mayor Adams: Good morning.

Osborn: Thank you, Mayor Adams. Thank you, Council Member Abreu. We thank all the members of the New York City Council who supported this bill and those before this session who supported the early work on this bill.

As the chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance and a co-founder of the Campaign for Size Freedom, I am so thrilled at the example that New York City is setting today. We all know, y’all know, New York is the global city and this will ripple across the globe in terms of showing to people all over the world that discrimination against people based on their body size is wrong and is something that we can change. We can’t legislate attitudes, but we can do everything that’s in our power to ensure that people are treated equally and that people have equal opportunity under the law.

Thank you everyone who worked on this bill and everyone who supports this work across the country and all over the world. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Let’s now invite the sponsor of the bill, Councilman Shaun Abreu.

Council Member Shaun Abreu: Thank you, Mayor Adams. I am incredibly honored to be here today with you. Your eagerness to stand with us in the fight against height and weight discrimination sends a critical message that this is a new day in New York City and I couldn’t be more grateful. I look across this room and I see all the advocates that fought for years, even decades to make this happen. I would like to acknowledge Tigress Osborn, Lydia Green, Josh Kellerman, Victoria Abraham, Dr. Nodal, the Commission on Human Rights team right here, who negotiated with us on this bill and others that I have had the privilege of working side by side with to propel this legislation across the finish line. None of this would be possible without you. To those who share their intimate stories of experiencing size discrimination and weight stigma, who devoted their time and their lives to make our society more equal, more dignified and more just, I say thank you.

Today is a monumental advancement for civil rights, size freedom and body positivity and while our laws are only now catching up to our culture, it is a victory that I hope will cause more cities, states and one day the federal government to follow suit. No one should have to live with the silent burden of size discrimination, to feel as if they are defined by their stature, rather than their character. I’m very proud to join the mayor today in standing strong for diversity and inclusion, to be building a city that cares about how it treats and protects its citizens. Thank you again, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. We’re going to do some on topics. She has an on topic? Yeah, sure.

Question: [Inaudible] from Spanish TV. This bill is about avoiding discrimination and equal opportunities, but some people think though that this laws isn’t going to protect obesity instead of fighting against the health issues. What would you answer to those critiques?

Mayor Adams: Okay, I didn’t hear it clear enough.

Question: Some people think that this is fighting against obesity. What would you say to the critics who say instead of fighting that?

Mayor Adams: No, I don’t think it is. Everyone knows that I’m a person that believes in health, so when you talk about not discriminating against someone because of their body type, it’s not fighting against obesity, it’s just being fair. I think this is the right thing to do. We are going to continue to talk about our progressive health agenda and science has showed that body type is not a connection to if you are healthy or unhealthy and I think that’s a misnomer that we are really dispelling.

Okay. All right. All right, brother. Thank you. Thank you all.

What’s going on, Mike?

Question: All good. I wanted to ask you about something that’s come up in recent days. Reynoso had an event about this recently and a couple of Council members have talked to me about it and they’re highlighting this issue, what they describe as warehousing of apartments. I’m wondering, why haven’t you talked about that more in terms of trying to put solutions to the migrant crisis? They say that this is something that there should be more attention focused to as a way to house migrants. I’m wondering if you could just discuss why they believe there hasn’t been as much focus on that and what your plan is on that.

Mayor Adams: Well, okay. One thing is very important and I want to keep encouraging my lawmakers because for some reason there’s a sense that the problems of a city is solved by just the mayor of the city. The mayor is part of the team of solving problems. When I go into the subway system to talk people that they should go for services, Council people should share that with me. When I talk about how do we solve the asylum seeker issues and go to Washington, they should go to Washington, they should go to Albany. They should look within their own district. When I talk about the unemployment issue, they should hold hiring halls.

When you hear someone state, why isn’t there more attention played on the subject, then why aren’t they? I mean they are elected officials. When I was borough president, whatever issue needed to be highlighted, I didn’t wait for Bill de Blasio, Mayor de Blasio, I highlighted those issues. There’s a noticeable difference from my role as state senator, borough president, and other positions. Even as a police officer, I highlighted issues and I stood to change those issues. We are looking at everything, including the warehousing of apartments. Whatever is preventing us from having housing, we are going to put on our plate to address, but they could join us. They don’t have to be silent.

Question: Some of the sense I got from it is that they’re hoping you use your more elevated bully pulpit to call on landlords to pitch in on this and I was wondering maybe if you could elaborate on that part of it. I think one of their beefs in this is that you’ve got a bigger platform than them and you could put this more out into the world than possibly they can.

Mayor Adams: Their accumulated platform fully supersedes my platform. I mean, you followed me as borough president. My role as borough president, I was touching national topics, as well as citywide topics. I think they’re thinking less of their roles and their offices. If all of my Council members, all of my borough presidents, all of my state lawmakers come together in a unified way and say this is an issue, then they can use each one of their legislative houses to address that issue. Albany has the right to use their legislative powers to address this. The City Council has the right to do so and so it’s a combination. This is not just a mayor’s role to navigate the city out of a crisis. They cannot be on the sidelines and saying, why isn’t the mayor raising this? We all have to raise these issues that impact our constituencies.

Question: Do you agree with the sentiment from Comptroller Brad Lander, given at the budget hearing earlier this week, that new revenues need to be raised to help pay for much of the citizen’s expenses, including the rising cost of the migrant crisis?

Mayor Adams: New revenue? I assume he’s saying raise taxes on New Yorkers, who are already struggling and that we are watching many businesses leave our city because of some of the high taxes. If that’s what he’s talking about, I would like to see the attention more from the comptroller on the federal government resolving this issue, that includes Republicans in immigration reform and that includes the White House and making sure this is properly funded. If we are going to say, let’s just raise taxes on New Yorkers, if that’s the answer to our problem, I just don’t agree with that. If that’s his definition of new revenue, I just don’t believe that’s the correct manner.

Listen, this problem is not sustainable. I don’t know how I could say that any clearer. If we continue with what we’re seeing, thousands of people a week, it’s not sustainable. It’s just opening new places, expanded to throughout the state. This is not a sustainable method to address this problem and so we just can’t see if we’re going to tax our way out of it by hitting New Yorkers with additional tax. We need to get the help from national government, as I’ve been stating for some time now.

Question: Hi Mr. Mayor. Earlier this month, the city stopped breaking down the number of migrants in the DHS shelter system and also in the emergency shelter sites. Now as you know, there have been questions about the count that advocates are raising. Wouldn’t it be better for the city to put all of this to rest by providing more data on the number of migrants at all the different shelter facilities, as opposed to pulling back and providing less data?

Mayor Adams: No, listen. We want to be as transparent as possible. This is a moving target and I always hear people say the advocates. The advocates that matter to me, they’re the men and women of this city. Those are the people I hear from and they clearly understand how this problem has been dropped in New York City’s lap. Over 90,000 people currently in our care, 45,000 when we took office, 108 percent increase. We are trying to be as transparent as possible as busloads, planes come in, people are driving in. It is coming in so many different directions and we try to give as much information as possible as we get it. It’s a moving target that continues to grow and I think that the entire apparatus, the entire team, has been as transparent as possible. We want to continue to do so.

Question: Hi mayor.

Mayor Adams: What’s up Emma?

Question: Hi. The City Council passed this bill that would remove the requirement of waiting 90 days to apply for a housing voucher. Are you going to veto it?

Mayor Adams: Well, we went to the City Council to state the same thing. We see that it’s a smart thing to do, to remove the 90 day part of it, but this is more than just the 90 day. Let’s be clear on that. This is a package of bills that are concerning and we’re looking at all of our options on what the next steps are. I spoke directly with the speaker and stated that we could easily resolve the issue around the 90 days. The alarming part of the package of bills is stating that those already existing vouchers that we have, which a substantial number of people can’t find housing because this is a real housing issue. There’s a housing shortage that we’re trying to resolve in Albany so we can build more, but to state that if you fall behind in your rent two months and you are below of, I believe it’s $50,000 a year in income, whatever the exact dollar amount, that you’re eligible for a voucher. The numbers just don’t add up.

We’re talking about billions of dollars that’s going to be added to the course and it’s just something that we have to look at and we’re going to have to look at all of our options, as I just pointed out. We are in support and I want to be clear on this. We’re in support of remove the 90 day rule for families. We’re in support of that and I spoke to the speaker, spoke to her several times and shared our concerns on what the package of bills is. This is not the 90 day for families that we’re talking about. I’m in support of that. I’m not in support of the entire package that they produce.

Question: You got any big plans for the weekend, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor Adams: Hopefully nothing.


Question from readers –
Can employers face legal action in the workplace under the new law, where termination is based on an individual’s inability to perform a task due to being overweight?

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