Housing and health care: Looming crises in the Bronx


In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and an upcoming election that may test the strength of our democracy, Northwest Bronx Indivisible affirms two interconnected principles that are essential to our borough:

• Safe and stable housing is one cornerstone of protecting health.

• Universal access to affordable, high-quality, comprehensive health care is, as the World Health Organization wrote in 2018, fundamental to health security.

Recently enacted emergency legislation protecting New Yorkers from eviction and supported by our local legislators makes a good start on a newly visible housing catastrophe. Too many of our Bronx neighbors face deeply entrenched housing inequity: Scarcity of affordable housing makes rents unaffordable, and forces overcrowding into substandard buildings.

Our legislators — and we — must do more, especially because housing courts reopen Oct. 1. They will begin rulings on pre-pandemic cases, and may spur a rise in evictions and homelessness in our neighborhood, and in our borough.

The New York Health Act — supported by local representatives like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, and by Northwest Bronx Indivisible — would bring us affordable, comprehensive, universal health coverage.

It would allow physicians to treat everyone according to their medical training, rather than what will be profitable for insurers.

Many public health experts acknowledge that had New York Health been in place, we in the Bronx — and all of New York state — would have suffered less under COVID-19.

We congratulate The Riverdale Press for its well-deserved statewide recognition. (re: “Press captures best news stories, general excellence at awards,” Aug. 27) The New York Press Association selected editor Michael Hinman — along with Kirstyn Brendlen and Heather J. Smith — for their deep dive into the New York Health Act and local health disparities for first prize for local news.

Enacting this legislation will save money for 90 percent of New Yorkers — and New York state — as well as dramatically improving public health across the state.

Readers who are not yet familiar with it should review The Press’ years of superb coverage.

Why do we prioritize housing and health amidst so many other pressing issues?

• The Bronx has the highest rates of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the city — one of the highest in the world. Our Black and Latinx neighbors die at three to five times the rate of white New Yorkers.

Our fellow Bronxites have lost more loved ones, lost more jobs, and continue to work at more low-paid frontline jobs per capita than other boroughs, and most of the rest of the United States.

CNN reports that a COVID-19 vaccine may be delayed because trials have failed to include racial and ethnic minorities.

• Nearly one-in-six city workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic was undocumented, making Bronx neighborhoods even poorer. These workers and families have been excluded from stimulus checks, the unemployment insurance system, and pandemic unemployment assistance.

Hunger and struggle have become starvation and homelessness.

• Even before COVID-19, the Bronx ranked last among New York state’s 62 counties in an annual survey of health indicators. Before COVID-19, 50 percent of the Bronx population was on Medicaid, often receiving separate and unequal health care, while another 22 percent of Bronx residents had no health care insurance at all.

Job loss under employer-based insurance means that now fewer than 25 percent have insurance.

All of us should support housing and health care equity now. If you are distressed about these — and so many other issues — talk to your neighbors. Call your local and state representatives. Consider joining Northwest Bronx Indivisible.

We mobilize because effective advocacy can create real change in the Bronx, in New York state, and across the country.

The time is now.

The author is a member of Northwest Bronx Indivisible.

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Barbara Estrin,