Council Speaker Vows Greater Access for Community, Ethnic Press

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (right) speaks with members of the community and ethnic media at City Hall, Dec. 11, 2014.

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (right) speaks with members of the community and ethnic media at City Hall, Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo by Yehyun Kim for Voices of NY)

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito met with members of New York-based community and ethnic media on Dec. 11 at City Hall to discuss how the City Council can foster a relationship with these media outlets and encourage them to educate immigrant communities about the Council’s legislative role.

“My vision is for a New York City that is more equitable and inclusive, and this includes having that kind of relationship with media, all media,” said Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and the South Bronx. “Ethnic, community and independent media … serve New Yorkers in ways that the big dailies cannot.”

Mark-Viverito, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold a citywide elected position, and the first, she said, to be fully bilingual, added that many people don’t know what the City Council does, or how its activities, which include determining the city’s budget and land use policies, as well as overseeing city agencies, affect them.

Her hope in fostering a relationship with journalists from the community and ethnic media was that the City Council’s work would be better communicated to all New York City communities, including non-English speaking residents. “We want to see you as partners,” the speaker told the journalists.

More than 1.8 million New Yorkers, nearly a quarter of the city’s population, speak little or no English. Almost half speak a language other than English at home.

The roundtable discussion was organized by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media (CCEM), and attended by reporters and editors representing more than 35 publications, whose audiences include New York’s large foreign-born communities, more than one-third of the city’s population.

Mark-Viverito touted the Council’s new legislation on municipal IDs, and funding for legal services for undocumented minors. Municipal IDs will be rolled out in January and allow New Yorkers ages 14 and older to gain government-issued identification, regardless of immigration status, which will help ID holders gain access to city services and cultural institutions, she said.

“That information is critical,” Mark-Viverito told the journalists. “It’d be great if you could write articles about it.”

The Council speaker also introduced Juana Ponce de León, director of media diversity relations, a newly created position in which Ponce de León will focus on reaching out to members of the community and ethnic media on behalf of City Council members and the speaker.

While Mark-Viverito focused on her promise to grant greater media access, and her request to “help us get the information out about how the Council works for [New Yorkers],” many reporters in the room were more interested in social issues affecting their communities, and the lack of advertising dollars from city agencies going to their publications compared to larger, English-language dailies.

The Jewish Post’s publisher Henry Levy cited a CCEM study that showed about 82 percent of city ad dollars go to mainstream, English-language publications while the community and ethnic press pick up the remaining 18 percent.

Others asked about police accountability, the speaker’s working relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, affordable housing, and the discrimination faced by New York City students from Africa after the Ebola crisis dominated headlines this fall.

Mark-Viverito was transparent about the purpose of the roundtable meeting being to develop a two-way relationship, with community-level reporters gaining greater access to City Hall, and her asking them to communicate the Council’s message to immigrant communities, in return.

She said she recognizes the valuable role members of the community and ethnic media play in “getting information out to the communities that we value.”

2 Comments

  1. Amaury Negron says:

    I also support Melissa M. Viverito , The Bronx Family Court must be exposure to the Public , How much Damage they doing to the future Young community by allowing perverts employee such Mr. Cesar Molina an Attorney who is interfering in long process wish I’m the father.

  2. Pingback: News (December 2014) | Virtual Boricua

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