NY Senator’s Op-Ed: Your Concerns Are Mine, Policy And Legislation Are My Misson

May 17, 2024

By Senator Cordell Cleare

As we continue to highlight our One Harlem unifying theme as a lifestyle, I am very pleased with the actualization of this in efforts like our 3rd Annual Eid celebration.

There, hundreds of Muslims and inter-faith communities came together to enjoy great food, prayer, dance, and song.

The outpouring of compassion and camaraderie speaks to the generous Harlem spirit eager to embrace the new New Yorkers, who attended the event in great numbers. Generational Harlemites and the new arrivals sat side-by-side as we enjoyed each other’s company. 

“… community have concerns about the availability and distribution of resources.”

Everyone understands the nuances of the situation. I am also very much aware that some community members have concerns about the availability and distribution of resources. It is about communication and understanding.

Even though I am in Albany, as we have wrangled with the budget negotiations for the last couple of weeks, my district office maintains an open-door policy for my constituents to walk in with their concerns.

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Everyday – Sundays included – my office and I – address community issues, be it housing, education, youth programs, or access to programs and resources. I am acutely aware of the factors which play a role in creating Harlem’s historic fabric. There have been intricate changes including gentrification which brought a new population.

Harlem is able to sustain its unique personality and character.

Since 2022 10,000 migrants have flocked to our beloved community to join their fellow countrymen and women who have lived and worked in–and contributed culturally, and financially to our community for decades.

We must avoid the specter of conflict or competition at all costs. Currently, our gracious local businesses, non-profits, restaurants, mosques, and churches continue to absorb the costs of taking care of our newest New Yorkers.

Out of the 180,000 migrants who came to New York in the last two years, from South America, the Caribbean, Russia, and China – 68,000 remain. 

On April 16th, I was able to submit testimony for the City Council hearing on “The Experiences of Black Migrants in New York City.”   

I emphasized how the Migrant Situation in Harlem is different from other areas of the City.  

We have primarily young men from West African countries, who have different food, language, religious, and cultural needs from what may be perceived as the “norm.”  However, in my district, these African Migrants are the absolute mainstream.  

“… the all-important task of feeding thousands of migrants and asylum seekers …”

We have held numerous community events, coat drives, and giveaways, distributed toys and supplies, and taken multiple community surveys; as well as the all-important task of feeding thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, and connecting them to groups and organizations that can help them get support for all aspects of daily living.  

As with all our communities, we focus on the economic, workforce, health and mental health needs of African Migrants.

Surveys that my office has conducted with migrants who attended our events revealed that they are almost 88% male; the average age of respondents was 28; the great majority identified their country of origin as Guinea or Senegal.  Furthermore, 77.1% of respondents spoke French as a primary language. Also, 58.3% of respondents spoke either Wolof or Pulaar as a secondary language. Only 17.8% of respondents spoke English as either a primary or secondary language.  Of those surveyed, 90.9% of respondents have not applied for Asylum; 98% were currently unemployed.

Related: Read more Senators Op-Ed by Senator Cordell Cleare.

Since 2022, I have repeatedly reached out to President  Joseph Biden, Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Governor Kathy Hochul, and Mayor Eric Adams to provide TPS for our African migrants and asylum seekers, to fund food, housing, and language programs, primarily administered by mosques, to ensure that language and education services are offered in French and African dialects.

My 30th District needs funds generally, but also for our mosques and African service organizations to support food programs and capital upgrades that will provide shelter.  

I continue to fight for equity and fairness for Black Migrants, as I recognize the impact my community is experiencing. We are waiting for the city, state, and federal government to give us the requested funds on many levels, while we continue to do the necessary. They must too. We are embracing our neighbors because we always do our part because we are One Harlem.

Cordell Cleare

New York State Senator Cordell Cleare was raised in Harlem and her family has lived there for four generations.   Cleare is a product of the New York City public schools, including Brooklyn Technical High School.  Today, she is best known for her fight for Reparations, Truly Affordable Housing, Quality Schools & Equitable Education, Access to Healthy Foods as well as Economic, Environmental, Restorative and Racial Justice. She entered the New York State Senate on an express train from Upper Manhattan, bringing fresh ideas and legislative proposals to make New York, the state of the whole people. https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/cordell-cleare

Photo credit: HWM.

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