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Independent State of Mind: The Rise of New York's Unaffiliated Voters

October 24, 2023

Common Cause New York, a longtime leader in the voting rights and democracy space, received generous funding from The New York Community Trust to conduct a statewide poll and qualitative focus groups of unaffiliated voters in the late summer and fall of 2023. Our research mandate was clear: develop and analyze clear, actionable data on unaffiliated voters, understand their motivations, and identify any policy proposals that could deepen and strengthen their civic and electoral engagement.This report is the culmination of such efforts and our findings are clear:Overall, unaffiliated voters are engaged in politics and think voting is important. Unaffiliated voters believe it's their civic duty to vote and that they want to have a voice.Nearly 90% of unaffiliated voters stated they are likely to vote in primaries if they could and are engaged with down ballot local elections as well.Demographically, unaffiliated voters are predominantly white, college educated, live in the suburbs, and are over the age of 40. Politically, most identify as moderate or independents.Unaffiliated voters have a strong, clear preference for flexible policy solutions, specifically policies that do not require them to affiliate with a political party in order to vote in primary elections.Unaffiliated voters are a large and rising group of voters, and New York's elections and election administration are inherently at odds with them in a closed primary system and in a governance structure that is solely bipartisan by design.The following data and analysis provides rich insight into who these voters are, what motivates them and how they see themselves in the political system. Our findings show unaffiliated voters would deepen their engagement in the political process if given the opportunity, and there is a viable path forward if there is the political will to do so. 

Out of Reach: How Gaps in Medicare Coverage of Substance Use Disorder Care Harm Beneficiaries

June 23, 2023

Retirement should mark an exciting new chapter, not a health care nightmare! More than 4.3 million adults 65+ have a substance use disorder, but very few receive treatment through Medicare. As leaders of the Medicare Addiction Parity Project, Legal Action Center developed an issue brief that includes stories from beneficiaries who have struggled to get the lifesaving addiction treatment they need and recommendations for how to close these dangerous gaps in Medicare coverage.In 2022, RRF Foundation for Aging awarded a two-year grant to Legal Action Center of the City of New York. Inc. in support of advocacy efforts to bring parity in healthcare coverage for older adults on Medicare experiencing substance use disorders.Click "Download" to access this resource.

Freedom on the Net 2022: Countering an Authoritarian Overhaul of the Internet

October 18, 2022

At home and on the international stage, authoritarians are on a campaign to divide the open internet into a patchwork of repressive enclaves.Key Findings:Global internet freedom declined for the 12th consecutive year.Governments are breaking apart the global internet to create more controllable online spaces.China was the world's worst environment for internet freedom for the eighth consecutive year.A record 26 countries experienced internet freedom improvements.Internet freedom in the United States improved marginally for the first time in six years.Human rights hang in the balance amid a competition to control the web.

Climbing the Ladder: Roadblocks Faced by Immigrants in the New York City Construction Industry

May 23, 2022

As of 2021, immigrants comprised a larger share of the construction workforce than of any other sector in New York City (Office of the New York State Comptroller 2021). Between 2015 and 2019, immigrants comprised just 37 percent of the total New York City population, but 44 percent of the city's labor force and 63 percent of all its construction workers (Ruggles et al. 2021). The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) estimates that in this time period, 41 percent of the immigrant construction workforce was undocumented.Economic exploitation and safety hazards are prevalent across the entire construction industry. However, despite the essential role immigrants play in the construction industry in New York City and the United States, immigrant construction workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation and dangerous conditions. Lack of employment authorization, social safety nets, English proficiency, credentials recognition, and training opportunities, as well as discrimination place immigrants at a stark disadvantage as they try to enter, negotiate, and advance in this industry. For this report, the CMS research team interviewed 16 immigrant construction workers from 10 countries and 10 other experts in this industry, including business representatives, union organizers, and representatives of community-based organizations (CBOs). Five of these representatives were immigrants and former construction workers. With research assistance from the New York-based consulting firm Locker Associates, Inc., CMS used these interviews, together with several other data sources, to examine how construction workers in New York City find employment, their work arrangements, and barriers and conditions that endanger their health, safety, and economic well-being.

Reviving the Deadzone

January 10, 2022

For more than 30 years, scientists have investigated an area of deep water in the Gulf known as a "dead zone," which contains so little oxygen that fish and other marine life flee from it or die (Hazen et al. 2009). In the summer of 2017, it swelled to the size of New Jersey. The size of this area experiencing often fatally low levels of oxygen—what scientists call hypoxia— varies depending upon spring rains and snow melt. These carry large quantities of excess soil nutrients, largely nitrogen, down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to the Gulf. There, this polluted water sets off a chain reaction of ecological and economic consequences straining the resilience of diverse fishing operations and local communities that depend upon a healthy Gulf for their livelihoods.

Freedom on the Net 2021: The Global Drive to Control Big Tech

September 16, 2021

In the high-stakes battle between states and technology companies, the rights of internet users have become the main casualties. A growing number of governments are asserting their authority over tech firms, often forcing the businesses to comply with online censorship and surveillance. These developments have contributed to an unprecedented assault on free expression online, causing global internet freedom to decline for an 11th consecutive year.Global norms have shifted dramatically toward greater government intervention in the digital sphere. Of the 70 states covered by this report, a total of 48 pursued legal or administrative action against technology companies. While some moves reflected legitimate attempts to mitigate online harms, rein in misuse of data, or end manipulative market practices, many new laws imposed excessively broad censorship and data-collection requirements on the private sector. Users' online activities are now more pervasively moderated and monitored by companies through processes that lack the safeguards featured in democratic governance, such as transparency, judicial oversight, and public accountability.The drive toward national regulation has emerged partly due to a failure to address online harms through self-regulation. The United States played a leading role in shaping early internet norms around free speech and free markets, but its laissez-faire approach to the tech industry created opportunities for authoritarian manipulation, data exploitation, and widespread malfeasance. In the absence of a shared global vision for a free and open internet, governments are adopting their own approaches to policing the digital sphere. Policymakers in many countries have cited a vague need to retake control of the internet from foreign powers, multinational corporations, and in some cases, civil society.This shift in power from companies to states has come amid a record-breaking crackdown on freedom of expression online. In 56 countries, officials arrested or convicted people for their online speech. Governments suspended internet access in at least 20 countries, and 21 states blocked access to social media platforms, most often during times of political turmoil such as protests and elections. As digital repression intensifies and expands to more countries, users understandably lack confidence that government initiatives to regulate the internet will lead to greater protection of their rights.

Today's students, tomorrow's workforce: A roadmap for change at CUNY community colleges

September 7, 2021

This report was funded by a consortium of leading New York City philanthropic donors eager to see CUNY focus more intentionally on preparing students for the workplace. Work began just before Chancellor Rodriguez was appointed, and when he took office, he strongly encouraged the project.The understanding between the chancellor and Opportunity America: that the organization would bring an independent perspective to its research and ultimately speak with an independent voice, but that the aim of the study was to make recommendations that are plausible for CUNY—some implementable in the short term, others goals for the future.

Losing Ground: Farmland Consolidation and Threats to New and Black Farmers and the Future of Farming

April 15, 2021

Over the past century, farms in the United States have steadily grown in size while dwindling in number. Farm numbers have fallen from a peak of nearly 6.5 million in 1920 to just more than 2 million today, while average farm size has tripled (Dimitri, Effland, and Conklin 2005; USDA NASS 2019a). Farmland consolidation—the trend toward larger, fewer farms—is closely intertwined with another profound change in agriculture: the replacement of labor by capital, in the form of machinery and chemical inputs. This shift toward larger and more capital intensive farms has occurred as a result of public policies and markets that demand and reward maximum yields of a few commodity crops. But this emphasis on productivity has also brought about a complex array of negative social consequences. The consolidation of farmland, in particular, is associated with the barriers faced by new farmers and the hollowing out of rural communities. 

Farmworkers at Risk

December 8, 2019

The estimated 2.4 million farmworkers in the United States are vital to US food production. However, these workers are exploited, undervalued, and vulnerable to compounding climate change threats. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) assessed how pesticide exposure and heat stress conditions combine to present significant risks to farmworkers' health and safety. We focused on California, Florida, and Washington—states that lead the nation in pesticide use, farmworkers, and production of labor-intensive fruits, nuts, and vegetables. We found that farmworkers in these states already experience substantial threats and that these are likely escalating. Policies to protect farmworkers' well-being from the dangerous consequences of extreme heat and pesticides are urgently needed.

Public Action Public Value

November 1, 2019

The Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, known for its unique mix of industrial, artistic, and commercial activity is poised for significant changes driven by public actions and planned neighborhood investment. The polluted Gowanus Canal, designated as a Superfund site1in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is in the process of being cleaned up. The responsible parties, which include the City of New York and National Grid, are required to contribute to remediation costs currently estimated at $1.257 billion.Despite this public housing crisis, the City has not meaningfully linked its Housing New York and NYCHA Next Generation strategies to preserve public housing as part of the Gowanus rezoning. By excluding Gowanus NYCHA developments from the rezoning boundary, the City prevents NYCHA from directly benefiting from the land use action and therefore risks exacerbating the existing inequalities between residents of public housing and the community's wealthier and white neighbors.The City is missing an opportunity to address the public housing crisis that deserves its full attention, especially given NYCHA's extensive capital needs and the amount of property value being created through the City's land use actions. In New York, when regulatory actions such as zoning changes increase land values, landowners or speculative investors disproportionately reap the benefits. Property values increase, rewarding landowners while soaring rents often displace longstanding businesses and existing residents.

Field Notes: Equity & State Climate Policy

September 5, 2019

For more than a decade, states and cities across the country have served a leadership role in advancing science-informed climate policy through city, state and multi-state efforts. The rapid pace by which state climate policy is emerging is evidenced by the number of new laws, directives and policies adopted in 2018 and the first half of 2019 alone. Currently, there is an active ongoing dialogue across the U.S. regarding the intersection of climate and equity objectives with efforts targeted at addressing needs of disadvantaged communities and consumers. This climate/equity intersection is due to several factors, including recognition by many cities and states that climate change is and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations and will exacerbate existing stressors faced by disadvantaged communities and consumers. Research indicates that a greater proportion of environmental burden exists in geographic areas with majority populations of people of color, low-income residents, and/or indigenous people. It is well known that certain households (including some that are low-income, African American, Latino, multi-family and rural) spend a larger portion on their income on home energy costs. States and stakeholders are realizing that a transition to a low-carbon future by mid-century will require significantly increased participation of disadvantaged communities and households in the benefits of climate and clean energy programs.

Lessons from the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund

July 26, 2019

In 2014, The New York Community Trust brought together a small group of funders and advocates to figure out how the arts community could play a role in shaping the City's cultural plan. The New York City Cultural Agenda Fund, a funder collaborative, grew out of the group's recognition that New York City needed a strong and vocal advocacy community with a deep understanding of equity to effect change. Led by The New York Community Trust and Lambent Foundation, the Cultural Agenda Fund's goals were to strengthen advocacy, influence policy, and advance equity by ensuring that small and diverse arts groups were valued.