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The spread of COVID-19 has deeply impacted the lives of all New Yorkers. The virus has fully exposed the weaknesses in our systems, offering a unique understanding of America’s deeply unequal society.

With businesses closed, millions of New Yorkers are left without a way to make a living. Some 1.3 million New Yorkers lack access to paid family leave, meaning many grocers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers cannot afford not to go to work. School closures have disrupted education for millions. People incarcerated in our prisons, jails, and immigrant detention centers are especially at risk. Even before protests decrying police brutality broke out across the nation, the NYPD’s enforcement of social distancing was disturbing, with documented stark racial disparities and needless use of force. And with data showing Black and Latinx New Yorkers dying at twice the rate of their white neighbors, COVID-19 provides more concrete evidence that structural racism is real and lethal.

The pandemic has also made remarkably clear the imperative of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s work. Without action, these inequalities will only be further engrained. In the face of this protracted crisis, we are demanding solutions to bring immediate relief to the most vulnerable New Yorkers — from releasing people from jails and prisons, to providing equal rights and adequate protections for workers; from ensuring quality, accessible food, healthcare, and other resources, to demanding equal access to education.

This work is made possible by a year of transformative change for New York, one that will help us cement civil liberties as the foundation of our long-term recovery.

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A Groundbreaking Year in Review

The NYCLU’s First 100 Days guide called upon New York’s state and local elected officials — both seasoned lawmakers and the new voices joining their ranks — to keep civil rights and civil liberties at the heart of their decisions. 2019 saw the introduction of approximately 15,000 bills in Albany; together with our partners, we monitored thousands and individually analyzed hundreds. The result was stunning: with passage of over 30 NYCLU-supported measures, we secured victories on nearly every item on our agenda. Our most notable legislative wins, along with some incredible legal victories, from the year include:

January’s legislative session set off this historic year:

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) protects gender identity and expression under the state human rights law.

A package of voting rights laws establishes nine days of early voting and kicked off the constitutional amendment process to establish same-day voter registration and “no excuse” absentee voting.

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) moves regulation of abortions from the criminal code into public health law, decriminalizes abortion after 24 weeks, and ensures all licensed medical professionals qualified to provide abortion can do so.

The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA) requires insurance companies to cover a range of birth control options, including affordable access to emergency contraception.

And on police transparency, the New York Supreme Court rejected the NYPD’s claim that a blanket “national security” exemption allowed them to deny our Freedom of Information request about surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists.

In March, lawmakers passed major protections for New Yorkers as part of the state’s budget:

Historic bail reform ends the practice of keeping behind bars thousands of New Yorkers who have not been convicted of a crime simply because they couldn’t afford to post bail.

Criminal discovery reform ensures prosecutors can’t hide vital evidence — including police reports, witness statements, and findings that might prove innocence — from defendants ahead of trial or a plea deal.

Speedy trial reform closes a loophole that allowed prosecutors to keep defendants awaiting trial for years, with some held in jail longer than the maximum sentences of their alleged crimes.

A Human Rights Law amendment ensures public schools are covered by anti-discrimination protections and reports of bullying, harassment, and other discrimination can be investigated.

The New York Education Law makes schools safer by requiring every school district with law enforcement or security to adopt a written agreement defining the role of police in schools.

In June, we won strong protections for immigrant New Yorkers throughout the state and for students in New York City:

The Green Light Bill makes all New Yorkers eligible for driver’s licenses, helping to protect immigrants from detention or deportation for traffic violations.

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act extends state labor protections to farmworkers, granting them fundamental workplace protections like collective bargaining rights.

We won our 2020 Census case at the U.S. Supreme Court, blocking the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question in order to intentionally discriminate against immigrants.

We helped broker a significant agreement with New York City’s Department of Education and the NYPD, helping to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline by limiting the NYPD’s role in schools, curbing lengthy suspensions, and dedicating millions toward student wellbeing.

None of this progress would have been made without the support of New Yorkers across the state. In the past year, the civil liberties majority came together with us to:

Seek Justice: We filed 27 lawsuits and amicus briefs, won 16 ongoing cases and reviewed 1,200 legal requests for referral or further investigation.

Stand United: We brought together 140,000 members and donors with almost 8,000 volunteers across 62 counties.

Take Action: We rallied 285,000 e-activists and almost 100,000 social media followers to take action through digital advocacy and engaged over 7,600 volunteers with 40 opportunities to get involved.


Founded in 1920, the ACLU has proudly stood alongside brave individuals who dare to create a more just and equitable nation, defending civil liberties and seizing opportunities to move freedom forward. To celebrate 100 years of speaking truth to power, fighting for our fundamental freedoms, and demanding justice for all, the ACLU conducted a national tour of 13 cities throughout 2019.

The NYCLU was deeply involved in the tour’s final stop in Brooklyn, where a new generation of civil libertarians came out in droves. East Harlem middle schoolers, Brooklyn Tech high school students, mixed-age youth from across Brooklyn, and high school and college-aged New Yorkers from across the state delivered inspiring dance, step, drumming, and theater performances. Bronx middle school students staged a live podcast recording. Four NYCLU Teen Activist Project (TAP) members spoke out about why they are part of the civil liberties majority.

The event featured exhibits exploring immigrants’ rights, mass incarceration, and voting rights, which provided a platform to showcase progress we’re making on a number of intersecting issues at the local and state levels. The ACLU of New Jersey held a panel on solitary confinement and bail reform. We also interviewed an abortion provider and held a panel for organizers working on restorative justice and decarceration. We held Know Your Rights workshops, distributed educational materials, and offered a number of ways for the more than 3,500 attendees to share their visions for a future that is centered on civil liberties.

Check out ACLU100.org to see highlights from the tour and learn more.

Strategic Initiatives

Protect & Strengthen Democracy

Monumental Gains for New York Students

In schools across the state, students are treated like suspects in their own classrooms.

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An Early, Easy Way to Vote

While the Trump regime and states across the country continue campaigns to undermine Americans’ most fundamental right, New York is expanding it, making voting easier and more efficient for all who are eligible to cast a ballot.

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When the Viaduct Comes Down

For more than 50 years, the Interstate 81 viaduct in Syracuse has stood as an unsightly monument to the failures of top-down thinking.

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Protect & Promote Equality

A Safe Haven in the Making

The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants in the United States — starting with the Muslim travel ban in his first week in office — has become a flashpoint in New York.

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Upholding Immigrants’ Rights through the Courts

New York is home to one of the largest and most diverse immigrant populations in the United States.

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Struggle for Justice

A More Just New York

The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a cornerstone of our justice system. But each year, accused people sit behind bars — away from friends, family, school, and work — simply because they can’t afford bail.

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Demanding Justice for Trans Women

Across the state, when transgender people come into contact with the criminal justice system, they are often abused, harassed, and held in jail and prison facilities inconsistent with their gender, even though state law prohibits this kind of discrimination.

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Rochester’s Historic Police Accountability Vote

We know what happens when a police department relies on internal mechanisms to discipline officers who break the rules.

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Protect Privacy & Autonomy

Safeguarding Our Reproductive Rights

Assaults on reproductive rights at federal level and in states around the country are unrelenting. President Trump has appointed anti-abortion judges and gave the Supreme Court an anti-Roe majority.

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A Deeper Commitment to Empowering Young New Yorkers

In the summer of 2019, the NYCLU welcomed Aliyah Ansari as our Teen Health Strategist, a new position within the Education Policy Center.

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Financial Statement

FY 2019: April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019

The NYCLU and ACLU received an unprecedented number of donations after the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s first Muslim ban. These donations and new memberships represent the hope and trust that supporters have put in us to lead the resistance against efforts to undermine our rights and civil liberties.

View full financials


  • Membership - $5,631,080
  • Contributions - $9,863,482
  • Foundation Grants - $379,634
  • Legal Fee Awards - $439,099
  • All Others - $678,449


  • Administration - $1,617,838
  • Development - $994,711
  • Legal - $3,704,937
  • Legislative - $767,676
  • Reproductive Rights Project - $692,398
  • Advocacy - $2,866,879
  • Communications - $1,092,005

our mission

The New York Civil Liberties Union’s mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due process of law for all New Yorkers. In pursuit of these principles, we fight for the dignity of all people, with particular attention to the pervasive and persistent harms of racism.