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Andrew Friedman

Bloomberg’s New Year’s Resolution

Mayor Bloomberg told the New York Daily News and the New York Sun that his New Year's Resolution for 2006 is to learn Spanish. That's a solid choice in a City where one out of every eight New Yorkers speaks Spanish, and does not yet speak English. In fact, 50% of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English in the home. If Mayor Bloomberg succeeds at resolution, he will open worlds to himself. I applaud him as an individual for making the effort.

As Mayor of New York City, though, I would argue that it is far more important that he resolve to have City agencies speak Spanish. While it would be great for Mike to be able to chew the fat with folks up in Washington Heights or to enjoy the guilty pleasure of watching Decisiones on TV, it is crucial that HPD inspectors be able to communicate effectively with Latino tenants in Corona, or school administrators be able to communicate with parents in Jackson Heights, or ACS investigators be able to understand what families need to tell them in Bushwick. It is simply not possible for New York City government to live up to its responsibilities if it is incapable of communicating with millions of New Yorkers.

Some say that these two million New Yorkers should learn English. Certainly they should. Most are trying. Learning a language, though, takes time. Just ask Mayor Bloomberg - he's had a private Spanish tutor for years. He's still in the process of learning, and I don't think he'd feel comfortable getting his medical treatment from a doctor who only spoke Spanish.

Be sure to read Andrew's great op-ed on language access in AM NY this morning! It's called "Ignoring a Crisis" and its on page 12. It will be on our website soon.

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Posted at 9:27 AM, Jan 05, 2006 in Civil Rights | Language Access | New York
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