Myrie kicks off ‘Black Future Month’ with legislation to combat health disparities

Myrie holds hearing on early voting
Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie.

Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie (D-Brooklyn) recently unveiled a package of legislation, kicking off what he describes as “Black Future Month,” to address persistent racial health disparities impacting New Yorkers of color.

“Black and Brown people in the Brooklyn neighborhoods I represent have some of the most consistently poor health outcomes in New York,” said Myrie, who represents the 20th Senate District. “The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated these disparities, but they’ve always been here.

“From poor maternal healthcare to high rates of respiratory illness, diabetes and heart disease, Central Brooklyn has long been the epicenter of a racial health gap that plagues our people from birth, diminishes our quality of life, and often leads to premature death,” added Myrie, whose grandmother hailed from Jamaica. “Enough is enough.”

The legislation Sen. Myrie announced includes: S.7516, banning the use of “bug bombs.”

He said 1.5 million New Yorkers suffer from asthma, and people of color are over 300 percent more likely to be exposed to polluted air, a trigger for asthma, than their white counterparts.

“This bill would restrict the use of total release fogging pesticides, commonly known as ‘bug bombs,’ from consumer sale and prohibit their use in multi-unit commercial buildings,” said Myrie, pointing to a 2019 study, which says these products were largely ineffective in eliminating pests but likely to disperse insecticide where humans are likely to come into contact with it, exacerbating asthma and other respiratory effects.

Myrie also announced S.322, the Chisholm Chance Act that would direct millions in additional resources to create a maternal health hub at SUNY-Downstate Hospital, located in the epicenter of the severe maternal morbidity crisis.

“Severe maternal mortality rates are as much as three times higher among Black women than white women, and these rates have been going up, not down, in recent years,” he said. “The Chisholm Chance Act would invest in women-of-color led community-based organizations that support maternal and children’s health.”

In addition, Myrie also introduced said S.7487-A, the Predatory Marketing Prevention Act (PMPA).

He said obesity and related co-morbidities are currently the second leading preventable cause of death in the US.

“New Yorkers living and working in lower-income neighborhoods are exposed to almost twice the proportion of predatory food and beverage marketing messages as those in higher income communities,” Sen. Myrie said. “PMPA would allow state regulation of food industries that advertise unhealthy foods which cause child obesity, diabetes and other harmful effects.

“Make no mistake— through its actions and inactions, government has helped create these racial health gaps over many generations of neglect, disinvestment and discrimination,” he added. “Now, government must play an active role in closing these gaps. This package of legislation will help us imagine a healthy and equitable future where Black people and all people can thrive.”

In her award-winning writing, Brooklyn-based science fiction author N.K. Jemisin challenges us to imagine a future in which Black people and all people are equally-deserving of a future where they can safely live and dream.

Inspired by her essay, “How Long ‘Til Black Future Month,” Myrie said he will be highlighting legislation throughout the month of February aimed at undoing the harms of the past and uplifting communities of color for a “just, safe, healthy and secure future.”

More from Around NYC