STATEMENT: Community Advocates Condemn MTA’s Decision to Crack Down on Racist Fare Evasion Arrests, Call for Decriminalization


Contact: Nick Encalada-Malinowski, 347-259-4835,

Community Advocates Condemns MTA’s Decision to Crack Down on Racist Fare Evasion Arrests, Call for Decriminalization

In response to reports that the MTA is blaming increases in fare evasion for its ballooning deficit and expanding efforts to curb fare evasion–including physically blocking entrances to subway gates–VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director.

“The MTA has a litany of problems and somehow has decided once again to place the burden of their failures on the backs of low-income Black and Brown New Yorkers who are simply trying to get to work, school, and wherever they need to go. The hysterical tone of Andy Byford’s announcement coupled with the de Blasio administration’s denial that fare evasion is driven by poverty in our “tale of two cities” has created a media frenzy that will only push low-income New Yorkers further into the shadows and the outskirts of the city that they call home. 89 percent of fare evasion arrests are of Black and Latino New Yorkers–and now the MTA is creating “fare evasion strike teams” to continue the seemingly endless re-naming of broken windows policing.  If any progressive NYC politician wants to protect their reputation and truly speak for this city’s most vulnerable, they will condemn this rhetoric and work with us to decriminalize fare evasion once and for all.”

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For Immediate Release
October 5, 2018
Contact: Paulette Soltani, 775-340-2359,
Follow updates on Twitter: @vocalnewyork


After repeated calls by homeless New Yorkers and advocates to increase his affordable housing commitment to house the homeless, dozens gather to demand action. There are over 61,000 homeless in New York City.

SEE VIDEO (Mayor is confronted at 1:00, speak-out begins at 3:30):

NEW YORK CITY – A group of homeless activists, led by a 72-year old woman who has been homeless since 2015 confronted Mayor de Blasio inside his gym in Park Slope this morning and questioned his commitment to ending the record-high homelessness crisis in New York City.

Outside the gym, homeless New Yorkers and advocates led a sidewalk “teach-in” on de Blasio’s affordable housing plan and the needs of homeless New Yorkers They led chants demanding 30,000 units of affordable housing be set aside for homeless people and held signs that read: “De Blasio to homeless NYers: stay homeless!” and “De Blasio’s “fairest big city”: 61,000 homeless, 300,000 units of affordable housing, only 5% of housing plan for homeless NYers.”

The rally comes at the heels of calls on the Mayor to increase his commitment to rehouse homeless New Yorkers. Fifty-eight organizations from across New York City have joined the House our Future NY campaign to call on Mayor de Blasio to increase his housing commitments for homeless New Yorkers from five percent of his housing plan to ten percent, including 24,000 units created through new construction. The Mayor has refused every time, saying on September 21st, “No is the answer…I think our best hope going forward is the preventative efforts and the broader efforts to raise wages and benefits to get at the heart of the matter.” Advocates have pointed out that prevention strategies or raising wages do nothing to address the needs of the over 61,000 New Yorkers who are currently homeless.

Statements from the action are below:

“I shook the Mayor’s hand this morning, and asked why he wouldn’t do more to help homeless New Yorkers like myself. I am 72 years old and have been homeless for three years, but he made it clear that his morning workout was more important to him. We’re not asking for much: commit 30,000 units out of your housing plan for homeless New Yorkers.  Every time we ask him to do more for homeless New Yorkers, he changes the subject to prevention and the economy–but am I just supposed to stay homeless?” asked Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, Community Leader at VOCAL-NY.

“I am lucky: my time in the shelter system was shorter than most people’s time there. I was homeless for over a year and a half, but last week I finally moved into my apartment. I am grateful. But I know what it feels like to compete for such a limited amount of housing. If Mayor de Blasio wants to be remembered as a real progressive, he’ll have to commit substantial resources towards rehousing over 61,000 people in our city,” said GG Morgan, Housing Organizer at VOCAL-NY.

“Mayor de Blasio may love working out, but his plan for housing homeless New Yorkers is just weak. A mere 5 percent of the units in his plan are set aside for homeless families, at a time when homelessness continues at near-record levels. This is simply unacceptable and perpetuates the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ he vowed to fix. The Mayor must set aside 10 percent of his total plan for homeless New Yorkers, including 24,000 units to be created through new construction, in order to make a meaningful reduction in record homelessness,” said Giselle Routhier, Policy Director at Coalition for the Homeless.


CityLimits: De Blasio has no comprehensive plan to rehouse the homeless

WNYC: The Brian Lehrer Show-Ask the Mayor (minute 6:00)

NYNMedia: NYC’s affordable housing push leaves out key group—homeless individuals and families

CityLimits: De Blasio can fulfill his progressive promise by retooling his housing plan


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BREAKING: Gov Cuomo Announces Plan to Appoint First-in-Nation Hep C Elimination Task Force

Contact: Clifton Garmon, 336-909-2852,
Follow updates on Twitter: @vocalnewyork


Governor Cuomo Announces Plan to Appoint a Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force and Rolls Out Much Needed Regulatory Changes to Improve Hepatitis C Treatment in New York State

In March of 2018, Governor Cuomo made a historic commitment to eliminate hepatitis C in New York State. This announcement marked the first time in U.S. history that a Governor has committed to eliminating the hepatitis C epidemic that is killing more people than the combined deaths of any other infectious disease.

Making good on this commitment, today the Governor announced plans to appoint a Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force. Following the successful model of the Ending the Epidemic (ETE) Taskforce, which established a Blueprint for ending AIDS as an epidemic, the HCV task force would create recommendations that would be detailed in a HCV Elimination Blueprint.

“The creation of a task force brings us one step closer to a real elimination plan,” said Clifton Garmon, Senior Policy Analyst at VOCAL-NY, “For too long, we have failed to realize the severity of this epidemic. We need to act now if we are going to eliminate hepatitis C, and a task force is a very necessary step in the right direction.”

In addition to the task force, the Governor stated his plans for regulatory changes including:

  • Modifying reimbursement and licensure regulations allowing OASAS and OMH-licensed treatment providers can provide on-site hepatitis C testing and treatment.

  • Extending limited primary care licenses to include harm reduction settings, improving HCV treatment and medically assisted treatment (MAT) access for people impacted by HCV and/or opioid use disorder.

  • Authorizing Medicaid reimbursements for harm reduction services, such as medication management and treatment adherence counseling, to build provider capacity to deliver harm reduction services and hepatitis C treatment.

  • Expanding syringe exchange access by working with non-profit, religious, and local government entities across the state to distribute and collect syringes, and by allowing pharmacies registered in the Expanded Syringe Access Program to promote the availability of hypodermic syringes without a prescription.

  • Allowing Medicaid and commercial insurance reimbursement for HCV treatments via telemedicine, improving HCV providers’ ability to treat in rural regions of the state.

  • Extending HCV medication prior authorizations periods, and removing excessive viral load tests, avoiding unnecessary disruptions in HCV treatment.

Background: An estimated 280,000 New Yorkers are living with or are affected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), an infectious and deadly liver disease that has become the primary cause of liver cancer. In 2015 nearly 1,000 New Yorkers died of hepatitis C related causes. This is a low estimate considering an additional 1,634 New Yorkers died of liver cancer, which is often directly linked to HCV according to the CDC.  With every delay resulting in another avoidable death, the Governor’s appointment of a task force comes at a critical time in New York. The establishment of a task force was one of many recommendations resulting from the 2017 Hepatitis C Elimination Summit, another first in the nation milestone for hepatitis C.


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STATEMENT: Advocates Slam de Blasio’s New Marijuana Arrest Plan



STATEMENT: Advocates Slam de Blasio’s New Marijuana Arrest Plan

Nick Encalada-Malinowski,, 347-259-4835
Kassandra Frederique,, 646-209-0374

Follow updates on Twitter: @vocalnewyork and @DPA_NY

In response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement about new policies for marijuana arrests, VOCAL-NY and Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement, attributable to Civil Rights Campaign Director Nick Encalada-Malinowski and Drug Policy Alliance New York Director Kassandra Frederique.

“It’s frustrating that as the New York State Health Department moves toward legalization, the City is continuing its shameful history of racist marijuana enforcement. It is also confusing because the new policy does not appear to address racial disparities at all, which was the issue that supposedly prompted this in-house review.

The exceptions that the Mayor has laid out — arrests for people on parole or probation, people with criminal records, people with warrants or lacking ID, or for ‘officer discretion’ — will compound existing collateral consequences and all but guarantee the status quo of racial disparity continues.

People who are directly impacted were not consulted in the Mayor’s review of NYPD enforcement, and although DPA spoke with NYPD the policy shift is not reflective of our joint position: we have firmly said there should be no arrests, no summons, no using marijuana as a pretext for police interactions and the beginning of a process to repair the vast harm caused by NYPD’s enforcement of marijuana prohibition which has almost exclusively targeted communities of color.”

TomorrowJune 20, advocates, community members, and NYC elected officials will hold a press conference and rally to address the NYC’s new marijuana policy and calling on the Mayor to also instruct the City’s agencies (NYCHA, Administration for Children’s Services, professional licensing boards) to address the harms caused by past arrests and reform their policies around marijuana.


What: Marijuana Justice Rally

When: June 20 at noon

Where: City Hall steps NYC



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Contact: Alyssa Aguilera,, 917-200-1446

Advocates applaud long-awaited endorsement of SCS, a public health tool that saves lives and connects people to needed care.

In response to the Mayor’s endorsement of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) and plans to move forward with their creation, VOCAL-NY has released the following statements.

“More people are dying of overdose in New York City than ever before and there’s no sign of stopping anytime in the near future. Safer consumption spaces will save lives. They are a proven public health intervention that prevent overdose deaths and connect people to the care and services they want,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY. “The reality is that people use drugs and forcing individuals to inject in public bathrooms and parks is unsafe and inhumane. We are pleased that New York City is finally moving forward on this lifesaving effort.”

“Finally the Mayor has come out in support of SCS to save lives. We have been fighting this fight for years,” said Asia Betancourt, Community Leader at VOCAL-NY. “It may be too late for my brother, who died of overdose, but I know he is smiling down on New York City today. It won’t be too late for the thousands of people who desperately need these services.”


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Mayor and First Lady Dodge Safer Consumption Spaces as Overdose Prevention

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2018
Contact: Jasmine Budnella,720-480-5262,

Mayor and First Lady Continue to Dodge Safer Consumption Spaces as Overdose Prevention

In response to Mayor de Blasio’s appearance at a town hall in the Bronx on April 18, 2018, and First Lady McCray’s Letter to the New York Times Editor regarding the article “Overdose Antidote is Supposed to Be Easy to Get. It’s Not,” VOCAL-NY released the following statement.

“At a time where addressing the overdose epidemic requires innovation and compassion, the Mayor and the First Lady have the audacity to look New Yorkers in the face and tell them that their community’s lives are only worth saving if they have the patience and stamina to sit through the muddled spiral of a hotline number. We called the prized 1-888-NYC-WELL number and were told naloxone would cost $136 without insurance, and were directed to call 311 to find where free naloxone was available. During another call, because the person calling uses heroin, the caller was told they would have to be assessed by a clinic to ‘see’ if they are eligible to receive naloxone. Both the Mayor and the First Lady have refused to take a position on the well-researched, public health intervention of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS)—which are guaranteed to save lives from overdose.

By promoting a hotline in which callers experience the humiliating process of outing oneself to an operator when needing naloxone, the First Lady, titled chief stigma buster by the Mayor, is doing all but busting stigma. Even more, the Mayor, during a town hall in the Bronx (the borough hardest hit by the overdose crisis) had the nerve to have the community repeat the 1-888 number three times while simultaneously disregarding the evidence of SCS.

It is the administration’s ignorance of SCS public health function, and politics, that is keeping this intervention at bay. The Mayor and First Lady do not recognize that people who use drugs need more compassion and services than an operator or a pharmacy (that may or may not have naloxone). If the administration doesn’t act to implement SCS, they are responsible for the lives lost in this crisis.”


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Statement in response to executive order to restore the right to vote for people on parole


Contact: Alyssa Aguilera,, 917-200-1446

In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement to restore the right to vote for people on parole, VOCAL-NY released the following statement on April 18, 2018, attributable to David Schermerhorn a community leader at VOCAL-NY

“It’s about time. Politicians have always ignored people like me on parole because we couldn’t do anything for them, now we have a voice. When you get locked up you lose your rights to do everything. Once you get out, it’s basically the same – it’s so hard to get a job while you are on parole – but now one of those barriers is gone. It makes me feel connected to society again. But we have to do more. There are so many elderly people who are eligible for parole who can’t get out. Look at Herman Bell. But now they will have a voice on the outside through us.”



VOCAL-NY is a statewide grassroots membership organization that builds power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration, and homelessness in order to create healthy and just communities. We accomplish this through community organizing, leadership development, public education, direct services, participatory research and direct action.

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Statement: As Budget Stalls, Activists Question: Where is Progressive Leadership?


Contact: Jeremy Saunders, jeremy@vocal-ny.org917-676-8041, Andrea Bichan,, 551-427-6280

In response to stalled budget negotiations, VOCAL-NY released the following statement on March 30, 2018, attributable to Co-Executive Director Jeremy Saunders.

“The ultimate irony–after months of desperate low-income communities pleading with Democratic legislators, who repeatedly said that comprehensive bail reform, housing for the homeless, and public health interventions to stop the exploding overdose crisis were impossible to pass in the budget, the budget is delayed by a State Senator taking a stand on an issue that won’t save any lives at all.

Governor Cuomo’s budget, tax, and policy priorities have led to a homelessness crisis of over 89,000 people; a criminal justice system where 200,000 people per year cycle through its jails; an overdose crisis that took the lives of over 3,600 people in our state in 2016, and a hepatitis C epidemic that is claiming more lives than any other infectious disease combined; and unfortunately the legislature is on track to give us more of the same, because our representatives don’t appear to have the will to act.

Any “progressive” politician could do what Senator Felder is doing–and with lives on the line, they should have done it a long time ago. Albany is failing us.”


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VOCAL-NY Responds to President Trump’s Opioid Announcement


Contact: Jeremy Saunders,, 917-676-8041

In response to President Trump’s announcement on March 19, 2018, including his support of the death penalty for people who sell drugs, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Jeremy Saunders, Co-Executive Director.

“The Trump Administration’s promise for more punishment, including even the death penalty, is ugly and ineffective at tackling the overdose crisis. His “get tough” talk, matched with his refusal to actually support harm reduction and public health with legitimate funding, is a dual death sentence for communities across America. The real question is: will politicians in the President’s party denounce these remarks and call for financial investment in the public health strategies that are proven to work? Here in New York, we’ve already seen two Republican members of Congress – Collins and Reed – either support Trump’s death sentencing proposals or advance their own death sentencing proposals, with not enough support towards putting federal dollars towards desperately needed public health interventions like safe consumption spaces, increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, and providing naloxone to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who need it.”


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MARCH 16, 2018

Contact:         Jason Walker, 202-823-8568,, Paulette Soltani,

In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement to expand access to the enhanced rental assistance and 30% rent cap protection to 4,700 New Yorkers living with HIV outside of New York City, VOCAL-NY released the following statement from spokesperson Jason Walker, HIV/AIDS Campaign Coordinator at VOCAL-NY:

“Today the Governor repeated the same flawed commitment that was made clear in his Executive Budget proposal and once again his commitment fell short. Governor Cuomo’s proposal does not mandate localities to expand the Enhanced Rental Allowance and 30% rent cap protection. Instead, it allows local social service districts the option to provide housing support or to deny them. The state should be replicating the successful efforts of New York City where all people living with HIV are entitled to this life-saving support.

 “People living with HIV are acutely impacted by the housing crisis. Failing to mandate localities will perpetuate inequity in housing access for people with HIV in upstate NY and Long Island who have been ignored and neglected for too long while their health deteriorates and people die. If Governor Cuomo is serious about ending AIDS, then he must find the resources to guarantee the Enhanced Rental Assistance and 30% rent cap protection to all HIV-positive New Yorkers.”

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