City Council Passes CM Rosenthal’s Legislation Mandating Creation of New York City’s First Ever “Street Harassment Advisory Board”

For Immediate Release
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Contact: Sarah Crean // [email protected] // 646-763-0143 

Legislation Brings Together City Government & Community Organizations to Study Street Harassment & How to Address It, Prioritizing Non-Criminalization Responses
NEW YORK — The City Council unanimously passed Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s legislation yesterday mandating the creation of New York City’s first ever “Street Harassment Advisory Board,” which will help to guide the Mayor and the City Council on the issue.

“Street harassment is an ongoing, widespread and highly destructive aspect of life in New York City,” said Council Member Rosenthal. “Cat calling, verbal intimidation, the threat of physical violence, you name it. Street harassment can be based on perceived race or ethnicity, sexuality or gender expression, disability, and more. Until now — local government has been reluctant to tackle this problem.”

Council Member Rosenthal’s Intro 2424 is an important step forward. The legislation acknowledges the deeply entrenched nature of street harassment, but also rejects the idea that all who endure harassment must be forced to accept it as a normal feature of life. Intro 2424 builds the base for a pro-active, creative, and more collaborative response in several ways.

First, it defines street harassment as “unwanted or unwelcome disrespectful, offensive or threatening statements, gestures or other conduct directed at a natural [living] person in public based on the person’s actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any other trait, status or condition.”

Second, Intro 2424 creates an Advisory Board which will:

Bring together a diverse group of stakeholders looking for solutions —Relevant City agencies, including the Office of Nightlife. The MTA is also invited.Community-based organizations with expertise in street harassment and gender-based violence prevention, immigrant rights, and other relevant subjects.Study street harassment in depth — identifying those most at risk/most impacted, and designing and conducting a public survey.

Develop and recommend educational materials, training, and other programming for government agencies and the public — with a focus on more effective responses to street harassment (such as bystander intervention training) and long-term prevention strategies (such as educational campaigns, discussions led by trusted community leaders, and even urban design improvements).

Develop supports and resources for victims of street harassment. A resource guide will be posted by City agencies, for example.

Prepare an annual report with recommendations for legislation and programming, with a focus on non-criminalization responses. Recommendations will be based on survey results, research, and public engagement.

“The traditional tools of policing, civil penalties, and interactions with the criminal legal system have not fundamentally addressed the harassment that so many New Yorkers experience on the street,” said Council Member Rosenthal. “Our long-term intent is to support survivors, provide public education, and identify more effective, evidence and community-based models of combating street harassment and violence.”

“In a moment where globally, legislators are searching for solutions to harassment: this bill is a powerful model. It is intersectional in its understanding of how street harassment operates, and by its design: it lets the people who are closest to this issue drive the solutions. It’s also very clear: we cannot solve street harassment by increasing criminalization. I can’t want to see how this bill shapes and reshapes the streets of our dear city, and am so grateful to all the leaders, including Jean Son and Councilmember Rosenthal, who championed this bill,” said Emily May, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Hollaback!

“This bill is a milestone achievement for all New Yorkers and anyone who has ever been made to feel unsafe or unwelcome on our streets. Respectful, equitable conduct in public is a learned behavior. I hope that the advisory group’s focus on education and training will result in improved public safety, especially for our most vulnerable groups, and set an example for other cities to follow. As a native New Yorker, I’m so proud to have been part of the effort to bring this legislation to fruition,” said Jean Son, advocate and life-long New Yorker.

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