In a unanimous decision yesterday, the New York City Council’s Committee on Women and Gender Equity, led by outgoing Bushwick councilmember Darma Diaz, voted to create an advisory board focused on the prevention of street harassment.

The measure – Intro 2424-B – will require a board of advisors to advise the mayor and the City Council regarding the issue of street harassment. The board will have the duty of studying the occurrence of street harassment, identifying people and communities most at risk, and developing resources for city agencies and the public to curb its prevalence. The bill’s language also emphasizes the avoidance of criminalization measures.

“Street harassment is a widespread and highly destructive aspect of life in New York City,” said Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, the bill’s primary sponsor, in a statement. “Mandating the creation of an advisory board will help to support survivors, provide public education and identify more effective, community-based responses. The traditional tools of policing, civil penalties and interactions with the criminal legal system have not fundamentally addressed what so many New Yorkers are experiencing on the street.”

The bill requires the board to annually post a summary of its findings and activity on the websites of the Commission on Gender Equity and the Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence beginning on Dec. 21, 2023. Board members will be appointed by May 1, 2022, and are required to meet no later than Jun. 1, 2022.

The emphasis on moving away from criminalization as a way to combat street harassment was a major reason for Hollaback!, a leading nonprofit organization focused on the issue of street harassment, to support the bill, according to the organization’s deputy director, Jorge Arteaga. 

According to Arteaga, Hollaback’s executive director and co-founder Emily May played a part in creating the bill.

“We don’t want to criminalize street harassment because we already know by criminalizing it what communities become targeted; low income, Black and Brown communities become the target,” said Arteaga.

Instead, Hollaback! focuses on education and bystander training. According to Arteaga, the organization trained over 193,000 people last year, with the eventual goal of reaching one million.

“If we can get more people to act when they see harassment happening, we can help significantly reduce trauma,” said Arteaga.  

Hollaback! is holding a training event in Bushwick this Friday at Liv Lavi between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Register here.

Featured image: Cat Agonis for Bushwick Daily.

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