Asian American Federation Convenes Meeting with Mayor to Discuss Social Services for the Asian American Community
New York City: The Asian American Federation convened a meeting today with Mayor de Blasio and key members of his administration to discuss the social service needs of the Asian American community. The Federation’s request grew directly out of its findings in its Analysis of City Government Funding to Social Service Organizations Serving the Asian American Community in NYC report, which showed that despite Asian Americans making up nearly 15 percent of New York City’s population, funding from city agencies has not kept pace with the community’s rapid growth in the past 13 years.
Mayor de Blasio was responsive and asked leaders of several agencies to join him in hearing about the Asian American community’s needs: Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives; Steve Banks, Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services; Bill Chong, Commissioner of the Department of Youth & Community Development; Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; and Ursulina Ramirez, Chief of Staff to the Chancellor of the Department of Education.
The Federation invited several of its member agencies to present on key areas of needed support for the community’s most vulnerable and underserved members, including building infrastructure for immigration services and expanding capacity for senior, mental health, and youth services. Mayor de Blasio and his administration listened carefully as executive directors and program directors addressed the short- and long-term impact of working with limited resources to provide essential services to the community.
“This was an important first meeting with the Mayor to highlight the most urgent needs of our community,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation. “Our community is stymied by the model minority myth, which often translates to our being overlooked in important discussions, such as building capacity for immigration and integration services to help Asian immigrants find socioeconomic stability in the U.S.,” she added. “The Mayor’s invitation to hear about our community’s challenges and discuss real solutions demonstrates extraordinary leadership. This convening is the first in recent history, and we look forward to many more.”
Linda Lee, executive director of the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY, addressed the needs of Asian seniors, who are often overlooked. “We need to recognize that Asian seniors are the fastest-growing elderly population in New York City, with 25 to 35 percent of them living in poverty. Many of them absolutely depend on our services, such as meal programs, to get by on a daily basis. We need more support so that we can serve every senior in need,” she urged.
Asian seniors also need more mental health services, as do youth and emerging communities, pointed out Isabel Ching, Assistant Executive Director for Senior Services at Hamilton-Madison House. “Our seniors suffer from a high rate of depression – 40 percent – due to cultural gaps between them and their children, and social isolation. We also see a high rate of depression among our youth and new communities. When we look at the high suicide rates among both young and older people, there’s no question that we need to provide more in-language, culturally competent mental health services for our community,” she said.
Bullying and other challenges may contribute to the growing mental health issues among Asian American youth, said Sonia Bhuta, executive director of South Asian Youth Action. “There has been a 20 percent increase in the bullying of New York City’s Asian youth in the past five years, but there are few resources to help affected youth and their parents, who often have limited English proficiency,” she said. “In addition to that, there are not nearly enough college readiness programs to help Asian immigrant kids prepare for college. We need more capacity to serve our struggling youth,” she added.
Yoon Ji Kim, social services director at Minkwon Center for Community Action, also talked about the challenges in accessing benefits through the Human Resources Administration, such as language access, while Alison Karasz, executive director of Sapna NYC, discussed the need to expand outreach and social services to emerging Asian communities, like the South Asian community in the Bronx. In closing, Sheelah Feinberg, executive director of the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, asked the Mayor and his administration to address contract reform so that smaller non-profit organizations could compete for city contracts.
In the following months, administration leaders will be meeting with the Federation and several of its members to discuss their requests in more detail.
The Federation thanks Mayor de Blasio and his administration for being responsive to the Asian American community and its needs, and looks forward to working together to improve services for the community.
CONTACT: Howard Shih