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City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg for "finally getting serious" about expanding mandated language access by signing an executive order requiring city agencies to provide translation services for the city's six most-used languages.
Last week, Bloomberg signed Executive Order 120, which requires all city agencies to provide translation services for Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole in an effort to remove a language barrier preventing residents from accessing city services.
Since nearly 50 percent of city residents speak a language other than English at home, Bloomberg said the need for such an order was clear.
"For the 1.8 million New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, interacting with government all too often can be a challenge," Bloomberg said. "All New Yorkers should have the same access to the same services and the same opportunities."
Liu said the executive order is a natural step forward in enforcing Local Law 73, which he sponsored. When passed in 2003, it mandated on-demand language services in city agencies, but has up until this point been poorly enforced.
"When the administration's lackluster implementation of Local Law 73 has been a cause of alarm for many advocates, today's announcement is a natural progression toward equal access and civil rights for all New Yorkers mandated by our historic legislation," Liu said.
"By beefing up on-demand language services for New York's millions of limited English speakers, the administration is finally getting serious about implementing Local Law 73 and ensuring that New York City becomes the true capital of the world," Bloomberg said.
Nowhere will such legislation be more important than Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, home to residents from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 150 distinct languages, according to the borough president's office.
"Millions of immigrant New Yorkers will now be able to go interact with city government and get the help of an interpreter when they need it," said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York. "Never again will we never have to ask our children and grandchildren to translate complicated government forms for us."
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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