A private equity accountability gap

Much advocacy on corporate accountability and responsible finance focuses on the public markets. But we are missing a big piece of the picture – the rapid expansion and influence of private markets, which often operate behind closed doors and with little oversight.

The following note provides food for thought and is a conversation-starter. It touches on the scale of private equity (as one segment of the private markets), its importance for advocacy on climate change, human and workers’ rights, and potential next steps for advocacy.

Fill out the quick three questions at the end to help address gaps, introduce new perspectives, and build the conversation!

The scale

Private equity (PE) plays a rapidly growing role in the global financial system. As an expert on the financial industry put it in 2020, private equity is “a beast we are going to encounter with increasing regularity”.

Globally, private markets increased 8-fold between 2000 and 2018, from $700 billion in assets to 5.8 trillion. While some PE investors have been affected by COVID-19 downturns just like other investment streams, it is at moments of crisis like this that private equity will also seek to expand its reach. In fact as the Economist has highlighted, private equity is “due a growth spurt“:

“A year ago [in April 2020] Blackstone, a PE giant, reported a first-quarter loss of more than $1bn. A reckoning seemed overdue. Widespread defaults on over-borrowed PE-owned businesses were expected. A year on, Blackstone has reported record profits of $1.75bn. So much for comeuppance.” Economist, May 2021

Private equity is influential in all regions. For example Asia Pacific’s share of global PE is now 26%. In Africa, PE has traditionally been a key partner of development finance institutions – about 10% of the money raised by private equity funds for investment in Africa comes from the UK’s development finance institution. In the US, PE controls twice as many companies as are publicly traded.

Leverage points

From labor rights to the climate crisis, private equity can and should be an important target for advocacy.

There is an opportunity for follow-the-money and joint campaign strategies targeted towards private equity entities themselves (some of which are becoming more reputation-conscious), as well as towards the banks that negotiate private equity debt, and the pension funds and other institutional investors that invest into private equity as Limited Partners (LPs).

There is a tension here – a pension fund will look to maximize the returns from its investments and is legally bound to do so – but institutional investors are increasingly sensitive to the longer term implications of their investments for climate change and inequality. As Institutional Investor has put it: “Given the size of the largest LPs, one could imagine a like-minded group of fewer than ten asset owners having the ability to influence the entire PE asset class”.

Examples: human rights, labor rights, and the climate crisis

PE plays different roles in different contexts; oftentimes positive, for example by spurring innovation and giving a boost to failing companies. Engine No. 1, the hedge fund recently in the spotlight for securing spots for three activist investors on ExxonMobil’s board, has executives from the private equity world on its team.

However the industry’s overall focus on maximizing short-term financial returns exacerbates the risk of harm to workers, local communities, and the environment. A few illustrative examples:

Climate: Early stage investments through venture capital and private equity will play a growing role in technological innovation as governments advance zero carbon policies; while a) these investors may pay limited if any attention to the human rights dimensions of those investments and b) they will often continue investing in fossil fuels at the same time. A recent survey of LPs found that they themselves believe PE firms are not doing enough on climate.

Workers: A frequently-cited example from the United States is Toys R US, which went bankrupt after being taken over by three private equity firms, leading to around 30,000 workers losing their jobs. Campaigners won the creation of a severance fund into which KKR and Bain Capital each paid $10 million – demonstrating that campaigns directly targeting PE can have an impact, albeit retroactive in this case (the third owner, Vornado, did not contribute). Toys R Us creditors have also sued the PE firms, saying that their executives took out millions of dollars to benefit themselves prior to bankruptcy.

Housing: Private equity firms such as Blackstone have become major landlords in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America (indeed real estate is the sector with the highest proportion of PE investments, followed by energy and utilities as the above infographic shows). UN mandate-holders and others have highlighted how the industry’s approach has undermined the right to adequate housing.

The need for action

Testimony by Americans for Financial Reform has summarized the problematic nature of PE, as it currently operates:

“The business model followed by the dominant private equity firms today is fundamentally predatory and extractive. Current law permits and even encourages private equity firms to be structured in such a way that the general partners [are] rewarded for maximizing immediate returns to themselves, and shielded from liability, accountability, and transparency for the decisions they make.”

In addition PE – from leadership downwards – still has a major lack of gender and racial diversity.

The industry will make the case for the various ways that it supports the businesses it invests in and generates economic growth. Yet it is telling that an industry-facing piece itself highlighted the negative experience some PE-portfolio companies have experienced during the pandemic:

“Their top concern cited was financial controls—such as those placed on investments and expenses as well as a lack of capital infusion. It was followed by tighter talent policies, such as headcount reduction and reduced compensation, while excessive operational scrutiny ranked third.”

Meanwhile the PE industry itself is gradually paying attention to “ESG” (environmental, social, and governance considerations), with varying degrees according to region. The UN Principles on Responsible Investment has a growing focus area on private equity and human rights. And private equity approaches are often favored by impact investors. There is a risk that the industry will self-define what its responsibilities are, and how well it is doing against them, without enough countervailing scrutiny and pressure from civil society. There is a need to fill gaps in terms of transparency and accountability – including regulatory reform (such as strengthening legal liabilities for general partners) – and to identify opportunities for joint-campaigns across issue areas focused on specific PE firms and their LPs.

Do you agree? Share your experiences and ideas for next steps in the form below.

For more on these issues – see Predistribution Initiative’s 2021 report “ESG 2.0: Managing and Measuring Investor Risks Beyond the Enterprise Model” (with good industry insights into business-model challenges with private equity and what can be done), and [June 2021 UPDATE] Empower’s freely available book for advocates, “Runaway Train: The Perilous and Pernicious Path of Private Capital Worldwide.

Private equity accountability
2. Which of these practical next steps would you like to see most? (Choose max of two priorities)

What the 2021 Pritzker prize says about social value

Latapie House, Lacaton and Vassal

This week two French architects, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, won the Pritzker prize. In an often-cited 2004 manifesto they had called for architecture to “never demolish, never remove – always add, transform and reuse”.

“Il s’agit de ne jamais démolir, ne jamais retrancher ou remplacer, toujours ajouter, transformer et utiliser”. 

Lacaton and Vassal’s projects include social housing and art centers. The choice of awardees conveys an important message about the way that we build, at a time when we’re pushing against planetary limits while millions of people around the world still lack a decent place to live.

More of their approach may just help resolve the contradictions inherent in the facts that:

  • buildings (their construction and operation) already contribute around 40% of global carbon emissions…
  • while some projections have global floor space doubling by 2050 to accommodate growing populations and urbanization…
  • and while the 2021 Global Circularity Gap report highlights reducing floor space as the most important intervention in materials use, if we are going to meet the Paris climate targets.

Lacaton and Vassal also seem to have a clear approach to “value”. As the Guardian reported on their work: “They always begin with a forensic assessment of what is already there, and how it could be improved with a minimum of resources.” [my itals].

Currently there is a lot of discussion among built environment professionals – investors, architects, construction and engineering companies – about defining and creating “social value.” Often, however, these approaches jump straight to thinking about new social value that can be generated by a project – rather than value that may (most likely already does) exist in the place where it is being built, and that may well be destroyed in the process of building.

I pass a striking example of this lost value every day when I walk down 30th Avenue here in Astoria, Queens, New York City. Back in 2011 I interviewed one person a week along that street. Among the interviewees were the owners/managers of four stores along just one block – a party store, billiards hall, music store and jewelers – who hailed from Mexico, Colombia, Greece and Uzbekistan respectively (photo below). In 2017 all four stores were closed or relocated to make way for a new “mixed use” development. For the the past four years that new building has sat completely empty, waiting for occupiers.

When small places close down, it’s not only the stores we lose but the people who own, frequent and love them, and the experiences they create.

A lot of social value can’t be measured or quantified, and perhaps that’s the most precious value of all. I’m gradually documenting perspectives from people living in each of NYC’s 51 council districts about their priorities and visions for their neighborhoods, during this critical period as the city responds to COVID-19 and as local elections are underway. The first question I’m asking is “what place or building means a lot to you, and why?”. Moving towards the future shouldn’t mean erasing what’s important in the present.

George Phillips of Astoria Music, Elizabet Flores of La Bomboniera Marylu, Ralph and Yury Almaz of Almaz Brothers, and Carlos and Marta Sancelementi of Astoria Billiards Club, in 2011 from www.30thAve.org

What’s most important to you in your neighborhood?

Share your ideas through a quick survey here (use words, video, recording, drawing – whatever works!).

All corners of New York City are suffering, in multiple ways, from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic downtown. There are urgent needs to respond to. We’re also in a moment of re-set and recovery, however long it will take. This is a window of time in which decisions have the potential to set new directions, new emphases, new directions.

So often, development happens in a top-down and piece-meal way. How about we turn things around? How about starting with what people already value the most in their neighborhoods, what they would like to change, and what their ideas for the future are?

Over the coming months the Rights Here Project will ask people in all Districts – from District 51 in Staten Island to District 1 in downtown Manhattan – three questions:

  • What building or place in your neighborhood means a lot to you, and why?
  • What concerns you about the way your neighborhood is developing?
  • If you imagine your neighborhood five years from now, what would you like to see?

2021 is a local election year, with multiple open posts at the citywide and district levels. Asking these questions will also help connect people in to how decisions are made, and to the elections.

Share your answers here – don’t take too long on it, and get creative! You can answer in writing, record a voice message, record a short conversation with a friend, a photo, video, or drawing.

The answers will contribute to a collective map of the city. It will be an incomplete picture, of course, but will tell a story – many stories – of New Yorkers’ priorities and aspirations for their neighborhoods at this time. In neighborhoods that have community-led plans, like Bushwick and Chinatown, the map will spotlight those as well.

Looking forward to your ideas! And please spread the word to friends, family, local organizations and schools in your neighborhood for them to join in as well.

Day laborers on the frontlines during COVID-19

A health and safety training course for women construction workers at WJP’s worker center in Williamsburg, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through New York City, day laborers in construction are among those who bear the brunt of the impacts.

It took time for non-essential construction to be halted, and now that it has, construction on many sites continues – continuing to expose workers to the virus while the city is urging people stay at home.

A day after the order to stop work on non-essential sites took effect, for example, the buildings department received more than 900 appeals from developers and contractors, arguing their projects should count as essential.

Migrant construction workers often lack the safety protections, sick-pay, and union protections that help hold contractors accountable.

In this context, worker centers like the Workers Justice Project in Brooklyn play a crucial role. The Rights Here Project interviewed Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of WJP, for Urban Omnibus. Read the full interview here.

As Ligia says: “We have built a strong community that understands the power of organizing and solidarity in times like this. Far too often, low-wage immigrant workers, who do not have access to available safety net programs, are left out of disaster responses while bearing the brunt of the difficult and dangerous work that comes in the wake of these disasters.”

Ligia has a clear vision for the future:

“My hope is that we can build a stronger workers’ movement: that there is a pathway for unionizing immigrant workers; that we build a new economy where there are opportunities for communities of color; that the construction industry becomes an industry of opportunity for women and communities of color; and that these jobs that are safer and more dignified for everybody.”

Read the full interview: “A Safe Space”, in Urban Omnibus

Several of the city’s worker centers have relief funds, for example:

Workers Justice Project, in Brooklyn
La Colmena, in Staten Island
NICE, in Queens

Workers rally to get SWEAT wage theft bill into law

Earlier this year, the Rights Here Project spoke with construction worker Rafael. “We day laborers,” he said, “we are prime targets for cheats. There have been times when we are driven for miles, get threatened with arms, work hard through the day in demolition or asbestos removal, and then don’t get paid.”

According to the US Department of Labor, up to $1 billion is stolen from workers every year: either in unpaid wages, or when workers don’t receive the minimum wage, overtime wages, or payment for all the hours they have worked.

That’s why workers from construction and other industries like restaurants and nail salons rallied yesterday outside Governor Cuomo’s office in NYC calling on him to pass the SWEAT bill in to law.

The bill gives workers and the Department of Labor the tools to recover stolen wages, by putting a lien on the employers’ business or property until the conclusion of a court case or investigation. The bill passed the NY legislature and now awaits Cuomo’s signature. Even when workers do take action and win settlements for unpaid wages, employers often close up shop and register under a different name, or hide their assets. The SWEAT bill aims to stop them getting away with this.

At the rally, Adriana Escandón of the Workers Justice Project said: “El robo del salario es un crimen. Pero mas allá de un crimen es un atentado contra la humanidad de los trabajadores y las trabajadores”. “Wage theft is a crime. And more than that, it is an affront to workers’ humanity.”

Earlier on the day of the rally, workers had travelled in the ‘Chiva Justiciera’ bus to employers who had failed to pay their workers, demanding that they pay. Photo credit Nadia Marin-Molina / National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Read more:

El Diario: Op-ed by Ligia Guallpa y Adriana Escandón, Workers Justice Project, “Ruta Hacia la Justicia: No al Robo de Salario

City Limits: “Workers await Gov’s action to make wage-theft dead-beats pay

Talking with Judaline Cassidy of Tools & Tiaras

Judaline Cassidy (second from left) and a group of girls tour a construction site as part of the Construction Skills Day Camp. Photo courtesy of Judaline Cassidy.

In September, Annabel of Rights Here interviewed Judaline Cassidy for Urban Omnibus.

Judaline was the first female plumber in Plumbers Local Union 371 in Staten Island. She recently had a major breakthrough when Plumbers Local 1 officially recognized the “Croton Sisters” women’s committee.

In 2017, Judaline set up the nonprofit Tools & Tiaras Inc, which introduces girls to construction tools. Tools & Tiaras runs workshops during the school year, and summer camps in New York and New Jersey. As Judaline’s words make clear, teaching girls how to use tools is about far more than construction. It’s about power. 

“I didn’t want any little girl to grow up like I did,” says Judaline. “I didn’t have confidence in myself. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the world. And I knew how construction changed all of that for me. I went from being a poor girl, growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, to having a union salary that enables me to have a house, to start Tools & Tiaras. You always have a job as a tradesperson. That is powerful. That’s why more women need to know about it. The freedom.

“When you realize that you can do something that most women and a lot of men can’t do, it gives you this bravado. You even walk differently. Because the minute you start working with tools, the mind shift happens: ‘I can do this. I can do anything.'”

Read the full interview here: “Power Tools“, Urban Omnibus.

A group of Construction Skills campers and future tradeswomen. Photo by Judaline Cassidy

Time for a comprehensive plan, says Thriving Communities Coalition

New York City faces rising sea levels, increasing inequality and growth, and broken infrastructure. In that context, said Council Member Brad Lander at a recent CityLimits discussion, the city needs a comprehensive approach to planning. It makes little sense to continue with the current piece-meal process.

“The main reason we are going to continue doing it the way we have been doing it, is there’s a significant status quo bias,” he added.

This year a Charter Revision is underway. A commission is developing a set of revisions to the City Charter that will go before voters in November. Tomorrow evening, the Commission is holding a public meeting where they will vote on which proposals advance to the final recommendations.

One area under review is land use. The Thriving Communities Coalition has used this opportunity to call for a city-wide, comprehensive approach to planning that puts equity at the center. The coalition’s principles include a “fair distribution of resources and development”, “transparency and accountability”, and “real community power and ownership.”

Elena Conte of the Pratt Center, one of the coalition members, explained on the WBAI Max & Murphy Show what’s wrong with the current system.

“Right now we’re both failing to meet the needs of existing residents and we’re failing to plan holistically for the growth that is anticipated, the climate change that is already happening. It’s as though the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing when it comes to planning and policy. And the folks who are bearing the biggest brunt of that are communities of color because of the long legacy of unmet needs and racist planning decisions that have left them with baseline conditions that are so inappropriate for a baseline standard of living.”

At a Charter Revision hearing back in March, members of the coalition and Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who also backs its goals, were the last to testify.  They followed a series of testimonies that argued for things to stay as they are. “A lot of the case being made [so far] is so uninspired,” said Reynoso. “Yet we as a city are anything but that.”

“There has to be a better way…This is not how we should be planning in our city. It shouldn’t happen one step at a time, one council member at a time, we should have a thoughtful process, and truly believe that we can plan as a city.”

The commission’s staff recommendations so far have landed half-way between status quo and the changes the coalition is calling for (see pages 41-56 of the staff report).

They refer to the 12 separate kinds of existing plans – like the City Strategic Policy Statement, Ten-Year Capital Strategy, and Citywide Statement of Needs – which currently operate in a disconnected way, and could potentially be connected into a comprehensive plan for the city.

The question remains whether the Commission will put deep reforms that really address inequity in the planning process to the public in November.

Re-building and building in Coney Island

Look at the NYC Department of Building’s map of active major construction, and there are large blue dots along the Southern Brooklyn waterfront. Dig further into the data, and it shows that over 70 major construction projects are underway within Brooklyn’s Community Board 13, which includes Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Gravesend and SeaGate.

From NYC Department of Buildings’ Active Major Construction map

The area was hard-hit by superstorm Sandy in 2012. Some Sandy re-construction of public housing projects is still not finished.

But developers are drawn to the water-side views, and to the benefits of a Bloomberg-era re-zoning, whose results were delayed first by the recession then the storm.  Developments are going up with names like “Ocean Dreams“. Local resident Moses, fishing on the Coney Island pier, says that he’s not surprised.

“Everyone wants to live by the ocean,” he says. Then he adds that what does bother him, is the noise from the construction – which echoed from building to building as he spoke.

He also projects that a lot more traffic will come with the new buildings. “Parking’s going to be crazy. It’s already pretty packed here in the Summer.”

Further along the pier, Mr. Jefferson is on a bench enjoying the sun. He comes here for peace and quiet, from New Jersey. “It’s pretty decent now. It’s not a crime infested, drug infested neighborhood,” he says. “What should they do here? Stabilize it, keep it as it is.”

With the booming development and the growing impacts of climate change, though, one thing that seems certain in Coney Island is change.

Residents have flagged the disconnect between the expansion of luxury and market-rate apartments, and the investment needs of the existing community.

Speaking with Fast Company, local Jaime Cartagena has said: “Building new luxury apartments here is like fixing your hat when there’s a hole in your boat…Look around, there are 33 empty storefronts on Mermaid Avenue. We don’t even have a rec center. We need things like community centers in the West End, places for kids to play.”

Read more:

Alliance for Coney Island

Special Initiative for Recovery and Resilience: Southern Brooklyn report

3 questions in St George, Staten Island

In districts throughout the City, the Rights Here project is asking people three simple questions:

– what place or building in the neighborhood means a lot to you and why?
– are there things that you don’t like about what gets built in the neighborhood?
– if you were to project 10 years from now and change anything, what would it be?

Here are some views from St George, on the North Shore of Staten Island – in Council District 49.

Tracey and Miriam in Bella Giornata luncheonette

In Bella Giornata Luncheonette – known locally as Mike’s place – teacher Tracey and one of her students, Miriam, were getting their breakfast.

On places that mean a lot in the neighborhood, “can I do two?!” asked Tracey. “The theater is amazing…with the famous people that come here. And here, Mike’s place. This is the only place we eat, this is where we come for breakfast, lunch, whatever. The people are friendly, the place is absolutely clean, the food is outrageous.”

Tracey says that changes she’d like to see include making the nearby park safer for kids to play, and more places for children down by the waterfront – the center that used to be there was destroyed in hurricane Sandy.

Kenya

Nearby, Kenya was buying food from a vendor who has been in the neighborhood for years. The theater – which was recently refurbished – was the first place that she mentioned as well, describing how she knew of a couple who had met each other there. The neighborhood’s growing, and she says there’s a need for more roads to accommodate the increasing traffic.

Joy Ghigliotti in Hypnotronic comics

Joy Ghigliotti opened Hypno-Tronics Comics in 2013, with her late partner Ed Varuolo. The store’s first on her list of places in the neighborhood that mean a lot to her – “it’s the best store in the World!”

“And St George theater is awesome,” she adds, “it’s really cool that they refurbished it lovingly.”

Hypno-Tronics’ tagline is “giving tourists a reason to leave the Ferry Terminal since 2013”. Joy sees the city missing a real opportunity.

“You have a built in tourist attraction, the Staten Island ferry. Thousands of tourists take this every day just to get a view of the Statue of Liberty. How do you not have anything here? It boggles my mind. I’d change it so we actually have attractions and things down here.” Joy would have welcomed the wheel if it had come. The plan for a giant ferris wheel ended in October 2018 after six years of plans, due to legal issues and battles over funding.

Hudson Yards and the Right to the City

One of the ads on the shiny new electronic stands at Hudson Yards assures us that Wells Fargo and Hudson Yards are “shaping New York’s Future Together.” Wells Fargo is the “preferred bank” of the $25 billion development that opened last week on Manhattan’s West side.

If indeed the future does look like Hudson Yards, it will be a dystopian one. In so many ways, Hudson Yards epitomizes the opposite of the “right to the city” – of city dwellers’ “freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves.”

A walk around Hudson Yards immediately puts many of our rights into question. For example…

The right to privacy

As people move around Hudson Yards, Related, the projects’ main developer, is collecting data about their movements. It will hold the data indefinitely. The electronic towers like the one with the Wells Fargo ad have interactive screens on the side, with tiny cameras installed. Jay Cross, President of Related Hudson Yards has said in a Real Deal interview that so far the primary use of the cameras is to convey information back to advertisers:

“We can say how many people looked at this ad, for how long. Did they seem interested, bored, were they smiling?”

That could just be the start of it, with Related able to share the data to third parties. “We can do what we want with our data,” Cross adds.

The rights to participation and to public space

Forget about it! With significant State-level involvement, there were not the usual City-based checks and balances to make sure that development projects take local, public needs into account. As Samuel Stein, author of “Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State” puts it, Hudson Yards is the “ultimate example of real estate-driven urban planning.”

Beyond the lack of community input on the process of developing Hudson Yards, is the fact that it is a development shamelessly targeted at a super-wealthy minority. New York Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman wrote:

“It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 percent.”

In many people’s minds, New York is associated with an image of chaotic, diverse streets and sidewalks. The sidewalks are places of spontaneous interaction – at times messy, often challenging and fraught with contention – but public interaction all the same.

Hudson Yards, with its concrete spaces surrounded by flat glass walls, destroys the idea of the street.

Ironically, Thomas Heatherwick, the architect of the “Vessel” (aka the “shawarma”) sees it as a “building extension of the public space”. He has described the twisting staircases as an opportunity for an “unspoken choreography as you see each other”. But through the lenses of selfie-taking, instagramming cameras, Vessel visitors don’t see each other, in fact it’s almost as if they don’t see themselves.

At the time of the opening, Related’s terms of service gave the right to all photos taken on the Vessel to the company – a policy it only tweaked after a public outcry.

The right to adequate housing

New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis, with over 60,000 people homeless each night, and increasing numbers of New Yorkers displaced from neighborhoods as they are unable to afford the rent. Hudson Yards – originally conceived by the Bloomberg administration following New York City’s unsuccessful Olympics bid – prioritized luxury apartments from the outset. Penthouses at Hudson Yards are going for $14 million and more, while only 1,300 apartments in the fully-completed complex will be subsidized at any level.

The right to non-discrimination

The 100% male and largely white line-up for the launch day says so much about the demographics of who calls the shots at Hudson Yards and who will reap the benefits.

The line-up conveyed a clear message, that this project is not by nor for the majority of New Yorkers.

Freedom of association

In 2018, Related began using non-union contractors on the Hudson Yards project, almost unheard of for major Manhattan developments. The building and construction trades council launched the “CountMeIn” campaign to fight back, but the Related move had stoked divisions between unions. Related reached a deal with the trades council conveniently right before launch day, hailing a “new model of collaboration”, and leaving many of the rank and file union members feeling betrayed.

Bennett Kremen, a member of Pipeliners Local 798 reportedly said: “Seeing this tragic betrayal of the ‘Count Me In’ movement now explains exactly why the great American labor movement and our struggling democracy are dying.”

The future

At an event at the 92Y that coincided with the Hudson Yards opening day, New York magazine’s editor at large Carl Swanson said: “I guess it reflects a kind of new international style”.

True…an international style that’s recognizable from Dubai, to Singapore, to new cities mimicking Dubai that are popping up across Africa.

However much the Hudson Yards developers and beneficiaries might like to believe this is a valid future they are creating, it’s an unsustainable one. The fight for the right to the city is alive and well in new York, as it is in so many cities.

Last night, organizations from across the five boroughs gathered to call on elected officials to make the vision of a Green New Deal for New York City a reality: reducing emissions from buildings, transitioning to renewable energy and more.

The new 2019 report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change features community-based assessments of adaptation and equity that are led by grassroots organizations in Harlem, Hunts Point and Sunset Park.

And the Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance is tirelessly fighting for legal reforms to protect New York’s tenants and homeless people.

These are the people who are shaping New York’s future together.

**************************

Follow district-by-district stories of people transforming the way we build in NYC, via the Rights Here map: