New York City-based members of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are celebrating the bipartisan adoption of a package of nuclear disarmament legislation by the New York City Council, Thursday, December 9, 2021.
“As a New Yorker, I feel deeply pained by the horrors of the Manhattan Project and I celebrate this legislation as a way to address harms of the past and to join a global norm that demonstrates our leadership in building a safer world for all,” said Dr. Emily Welty of the New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (NYCAN).
Resolution 976, introduced by Council Member Daniel Dromm, with Council Members Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal, and co-sponsored by 31 other Council Members and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, calls on the Comptroller to initiate divestment from nuclear weapons producers. Companies involved in nuclear weapons represented less than 0.25% of the City pension funds’ holdings in 2019 and generally underperformed more socially responsible investments. Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander co-sponsored the bill.
“My legislation will send a message to the world that New Yorkers will not remain idle under the threat of nuclear annihilation. We seek to right the wrongs of nuclear harms in our city by divesting funds, upholding international law, and remediating the environmental damage produced by the Manhattan Project,” said Finance Chair Council Member Dromm.
Asserting that “New York City has a special responsibility, as a site of Manhattan Project activities and a nexus for financing of nuclear weapons,” the Resolution calls on the US to support and join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Adopted by 122 countries at UN headquarters in 2017, the TPNW comprehensively bans nuclear weapons and establishes a framework for assisting victims of use and testing and remediating contaminated environments.
Setsuko Thurlow, an atomic bomb survivor who accepted ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize and has met thousands of NYC youth through the Hibakusha Stories initiative of Youth Arts New York, said, “Listening to my personal story, as a 13-year-old school girl who survived the indiscriminate massacre that destroyed my beloved Hiroshima, the youth of New York City understand that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist. I’m therefore thrilled to hear about City Council’s comprehensive legislation that divests from nuclear weapon producers and creates community engagement to take action for disarmament. I hope such local laws will be replicated around the world.”
The Resolution states that “Catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences would result from any nuclear detonation in New York City and could not be adequately addressed.” While nuclear missiles and the nuclear-capable Navy base in the city have been decommissioned, sites in Staten Island and Queens remain contaminated by radioactive materials associated with early nuclear weapons activities. This legislation seeks to address these harms.
New York City Council also passed Int. 1621, which received the support of 45 Council members and sets up a committee to educate the public about nuclear disarmament and advise the City on how to reaffirm its Nuclear Weapons Free Zone status established by the Council in 1983.
Brendan Fay, disarmament advocate and director of the recent film Remembering Mychal – Priest of 9/11, said, “We extend thanks to Speaker Johnson, Council member Dromm and the City Council for today’s historic vote on divestment from nuclear weapons. City pensions must no longer be used as weapons of war. New York nurses, doctors, teachers, sanitation workers, firefighters, social workers are about healthcare, healing and peace. We must invest in saving lives rather than threatening lives, in responding to the needs of healthcare, housing and hunger. As New Yorkers this is our moment to make hope for humanity and peace on Earth possible for a new generation.”
“I am thrilled that this legislation aligns NYC’s pensions with our progressive values. I did not spend my adult life investing in the future of our City’s youth only to have my pension invested in their destruction,” said, Robert Croonquist, retired New York City public school teacher and founder, Youth Arts New York
ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for building global support for the TPNW which became international law for its member countries on 22 January 2021. That month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, now Mayor-Elect, responded with a Citation commending NYCAN’s advocacy for the Treaty and Council bills, helping “to make Brooklyn and the world safe and a better place to live, work and raise a family.” With this legislation NYC joins hundreds other cities around the globe as a member of the ICAN Cities Appeal, in which local authorities call on their national governments to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.