Testimony to the New York City Council Hearing on Resolution 0976 – 2019 and INT 1621 – 2019,
January 28, 2019.
I stand here as a retired New York City school teacher, Jamaica High, Queens, receiving a pension from the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).
And I stand here for the future of my students and the tens of thousands of students who marched past these chambers at the September 20 Youth Climate Strike.
Nuclear weapons pose catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that demand their abolition. An essential step in that process is divestment.
New York City pension funds are required by statute to consider ethical factors as part of their fiduciary responsibility. This has led to divestment from apartheid South Africa, tobacco, for-profit prisons and a five-year plan to divest from fossil fuels.
The City’s pension funds regularly engage in shareholder initiatives addressing the financial and reputational risks of investment in weapons and conflict. However, none of these have dealt with nuclear weapons. This legislation would fill that gap.
New York City has $475 million of our Retirement System invested in nuclear weapons; ten times smaller than the value of the assets related to fossil fuels. More than half of these are in just two companies — Boeing and Honeywell; 80% are in just five companies.
It is imperative for New York City to divest from nuclear weapons:
- because of their regulatory and reputational risks
- because of our city’s longstanding tradition of socially responsible pension investment
- because stocks that screen out nuclear weapons perform better in terms of both risk and return over the short and long term.
My pension with the TRS has a Socially Responsive Equity Fund, which has consistently outperformed TRS’s other equity funds.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, New York City has an opportunity to assert its local power, re-directing our investments to critical infrastructure and human needs, thereby emboldening cities around the world to do the same.
Now is the time for New York City to align our pensions and finances with our progressive values.
Now is the time to cease investing in our mutually assured destruction and redirect our investments to our mutually assured survival.
Founder, Youth Arts New York