The New York City Council on Nov. 15 passed a bill to establish a commission within the Department of Aging to study and make recommendations to meet the needs of LGBTQ older people living in NYC.
The bill, Int. 564, was spearheaded by LGBTQIA+ Caucus Co-Chairs Councilmembers Tiffany Cabán and Crystal Hudson, though Cabán is the lead sponsor. It’s one of several policies proposed in The Marsha & Sylvia Plan, which the Caucus released in June.
Int. 564 states the commission would “analyze and study the health, housing, financial, psychosocial, home-and-community-based services, assisted living and long-term care needs of LGBTQIA+ older adults and their caregivers.”
Every city lawmaker who voted on the bill approved it, though five councilmembers were absent — including LGBTQIA+ Caucus member Erik Bottcher of Manhattan. Another member of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, Kristin Richardson Jordan of Manhattan, missed the vote due to medical reasons.
The Marsha & Sylvia Plan highlights the need to build more housing for LGBTQ elders, provide free sexual health and wellness programming, and conduct outreach to HIV-affected older people. It also notes that New York City’s older adult population is projected to increase 41% by 2040.
LGBTQ older people living in New York face challenges, including disproportionate rates of poverty and discrimination, and loneliness, an AARP study found. According to a 2018 survey, three out of four LGBTQ people 45 and older “were concerned about having enough support from family and friends as they age.”
The commission will consist of a range of members, including representatives from an NYC-based organization that advocates for LGBTQ older people; a healthcare organization serving LGBTQ people; a trans-led advocacy organization; a labor organization; and an organization serving people with disabilities. There will also be three people from organizations serving Black, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, Indigenous or Latinx LGBTQ people.
In a speech on the Council floor prior to her bill’s passage, Cabán said it was vital for New York City to treat LGBTQ elders with dignity.
“Sadly too many of the people from the Stonewall generation are no longer with us,” she said. “To honor them, the movement for queer liberation must support our elders before they become our ancestors.”
Cabán continued, “Queer elders deserve to live and grow old in dignity with comfort, with joy, with family, and with love — but with something else as well, stewardship of our culture — and we deserve to be in rich community with our elders so that they are able to pass along their stories and teachings to build a society where we are all free to be who we are.”
Hudson, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Aging, said in a statement that “establishing a group where experts can identify the challenges facing our queer elders, voice their concerns, and put forth meaningful solutions to meet these material needs is a vital step toward closing the gap in services and resources offered to queer folks across the five boroughs.”
SAGE, the world’s largest organization serving LGBTQ older adults and New Yorkers living with HIV, celebrated the bill’s passage.
“Our City’s LGBTQ+ elders and older New Yorkers living with HIV have always been at the forefront of the movement for LGBTQ+ equality and justice,” said Darcy Connors, the executive director of SAGEServes, in a statement. “The establishment of a commission dedicated to addressing the unique needs of this community will help ensure that these history-makers have equitable access to the services they need to age with dignity and respect.”
The bill now heads to Mayor Eric Adams’ desk for signing.