NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed the commissioners for the Department of Health and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Thursday.
Both appointees are seasoned veterans in their field, like most of de Blasio’s choices. Mary Bassett will lead the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Rose Pierre-Louis will lead the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence. Bassett and Pierre-Louis stressed their commitment to helping the de Blasio administration bridge the gap of inequality in areas of health and domestic violence.
“These two leaders are tasked with the most fundamental of government, which is protecting the health and safety of our people, including those who are most vulnerable,” said de Blasio at City Hall Thursday.
Bassett has more than 30 years of experience working in hospitals and nonprofits. She served as deputy commissioner of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention under former Mayor Bloomberg. She oversaw campaigns to ban smoking and trans fats in restaurants as well as requiring restaurants to post calorie counts. As commissioner, she promised to address the inequalities in health care in the city.
“We will build alliances to ensure that people can make the choices to keep them healthy and prevent disease,” said Bassett. “People also have a right to health care when they are sick, and this is also part of public health.”
Under Bassett, the health department will continue the core policies laid out by Bloomberg such as the smoking and trans fats ban. The administration will also continue the process to ban big sugary drinks. However, de Blasio stressed that the way in which these policies are carried out will be different from the former administration by relying community outreach rather than mass media campaigns.
Pierre-Louis most recently served as the former deputy borough president for Manhattan under Scott Stringer. She is the founding member and former chair of the African American Task Force on Violence Against Women. She also led the domestic violence unit at Harlem Legal Services.
“We want everyone in our city who may be confronting all the difficult emotions and choices, the confusion, uncertainty, threats, and fear engendered by domestic violence to know that you have strong allies and advocates for you at City Hall,” said Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis promises a collaborative effort between city agencies, such as the NYPD and Health and Social Services, to prevent domestic violence.
“New York is a great city but it cannot realize its greatness if we cannot address the problems of poverty and understand the role violence plays in those problems,” she said.
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.