NEW YORK - Two Brooklyn members of the New York City Council are concerned that the City's Human Rights Commission was failing to help stem the tide of racial and other forms of discrimination.
The Chairman of the Council's Oversight Committee, Jumaane Williams, and City Councilman Charles Barron, now in his third term at City Hall, have both complained the Commission wasn't aggressive enough in trying to root out discriminatory patterns of discrimination.
"We believe that the Human Rights Commission isn't doing enough to end discrimination," said Williams, who is now in his freshman year on the Council. "We held a hearing on the source of income discrimination in housing and it was clear that the Commission wasn't as aggressive as it should be in curbing discriminatory practices in the City.
"We believe that the Commission isn't doing the best it can to ensure that landlords are living up to their responsibilities under the law. I think the Commission has a tough job to do but it is not making itself as relevant as it should."
Williams, who captured the 45th Council seat in the November elections, used his extensive experience as a Brooklyn community organizer to develop an agenda on housing, youth activities, education and services for senior citizens to defeat the then incumbent Dr. Kendal Stewart. He told the Carib News that the Commission was seldom seen these days as the first place to turn for action when discrimination was an obvious fact of life.
"Being an organizer and speaking with other organizers, the Commission was not place that we sought when we saw issues of discrimination," was the way Williams put it. "That was not a place that we said we should go to because we didn't believe anything would happen.
"What we found during the hearings of the Oversight Committee was that there were many things the Commission simply wasn't doing. They are not following up on information.
"They are not being pro-active enough to ensure that landlords and others know the rules and follow them. It's a problem. We need to see them becoming more relevant. The Commission seems to exist in name only and we have to ensure that they do the job which has been assigned to the Commission."
What Williams really wants is for the human rights panel to be viewed as the front line fighter against discrimination, a place "to which victims can turn for some relief," Williams said. "Right now people don't believe that and most times they are right."
Williams' concerns were shared by Barron, one of the most vocal critics of the Bloomberg Administration at City Hall.
"Absolutely I agree that the Commission isn't getting the job done," said Barron, "I also feel that both the Oversight Committee and the office of the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn should put pressure on the Commission to get it to carry out more investigations into complaints."
For example, Barron wants the Police Department and its head, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, to be scrutinized for Human Rights abuse, because of the "unconstitutional way" the stop-and-frisk policy was being carried out by officers across the City, especially in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
"The Human Rights Commission should definitely be doing more to protest the human rights of Black and brown people in our community," Barron insisted. "The Oversight Committee should take these issues on."