POSTPONED: Black Latino and Asian Caucus Employment and Small Business Opportunities Expo

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

Please join Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues in the City Council’s Black Latino and Asian Caucus at our second annual Employment and Small Business Opportunities Expo. This event will be held on Saturday, October 26th from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and is FREE, but you need to register by clicking here.

The expo will include resume review and job matching strategies for high growth industries, small business fundamentals, employment opportunities and more. Remember, the registration deadline is Monday October 20th so sign up today!

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Melissa Responds to Stop and Frisk Court Decision

Melissa released the following statement in response to today’s federal court decision declaring that stop and frisk violated the civil rights of New Yorkers:

“Today’s ruling is a validation for all of us – elected officials, advocates and New Yorkers across our city – who have seen stop and frisk for what it is: an unconstitutional police practice. I applaud Judge Scheindlin for calling for a federal monitor of the Police Department, who will surely institute a series of much-needed reforms over a policy that has relentlessly targeted low-income communities of color under the Bloomberg administration’s watch. Coupled with the pending veto override of the Community Safety Act, this is a truly historic time that will shape the future of police-community relations in our city for years to come. Safety only comes with a true community partnership along with police practices that respect the civil rights of all members of our community and are not based on the suspension of rights of one large segment of our population. This ruling validates that position.”

Tomorrow: Melissa to Speak at Climate Justice Youth Summit in Brooklyn

After SuperStorm Sandy we witnessed what climate change will look like for New York City’s communities and it’s just the beginning. Tomorrow, Melissa will be speaking to the youth attendees at the 3rd NYC Climate Justice Youth Summit: Frontline Resistance, who will spend Friday and Saturday exploring these important issues.

The summit will include learning circles, interactive panel discussions, performances, and much more! The goal is to engage YOUth, ages 12-24, to start building local community resilience and becoming their community’s frontline resistance to climate change. At the conference, there will be food, giveaways and performances, as well as agencies, organizations, and other groups that would be able to offer internships, fellowships, and potential employment. The NYC Climate Justice Youth Summit is completely free of charge

For more information check out this website: www.uproseyouthsummit.blogspot.com. REGISTRATION is now OPEN, the organizers urge everyone who intends to attend the summit to register.
WHAT: The 3rd NYC Climate Justice Youth Summit: Frontline Resistance

WHEN: Friday and Saturday, July 26-27 2013

WHERE: 220 36 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232

RSVP: Register today! http://www.uproseyouthsummit.blogspot.com

 Check out thisvideo for more info:

Melissa Responds to Supreme Court Decisions on DOMA, Prop 8 and Voting Rights Act

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a historic one for the LGBT community and for all of us who continue to fight for equal rights, respect and dignity for all. The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve known all along: that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. A lot has changed since DOMA passed Congress. Support for marriage equality has never been stronger. While we still have a long way to go until our LGBT community has full equality, today’s ruling will have a real impact on the lives of same-sex couples who deserve nothing less than the rights that all married couples enjoy. I am also pleased that in choosing not to hear the Prop 8 case, same-sex marriage will effectively become legal in California.

“Still, today’s incredible victories on LGBT rights should not diminish yesterday’s horrific decision on the Voting Rights Act. That decision could erase decades of gains in the rights of communities of color to fair representation and equal rights at the polls. In the wake of this decision, we must remain vigilant and fight every effort in every state to dilute the political power of communities of color in our country.”

Immigration Reform Roundtable: What New Yorkers Need to Know

Please join us on Saturday, June 29th at MIST Harlem for a free community forum and resource fair – Immigration Reform Roundtable: What New Yorkers Need to Know. This event is a chance to hear from and speak to the experts about efforts to establish federal immigration reform, how to avoid becoming a victim to immigration fraud, and learning your rights from the law enforcement and deportation aspect. Additionally, there will be many resources and services available to the immigrant community at this forum. Spanish, Chinese and French interpretation services will be  provided.

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WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, African Services Committee, African Advisory Committee, Asian American Federation, Casa Puebla, Centro Civico Cultural Dominicano Inc, Chinese American Planning Council, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, Dominican Sunday,  Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Manhattan Immigrant Rights Task Force, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants Rights and New York Council of Imams
WHAT: A community forum and resource fair – Immigration Reform Roundtable: What New Yorkers Need to Know
WHEN: Saturday, June 29th – 8:30 AM to 1 PM. 8:30 AM Doors Open/Breakfast; Program 9:30 AM Sharp
WHERE: MIST Harlem – 46 West 116th Street (between Lenox and 5th Avenues)

RSVP to Kate Spaulding at kspaulding@manhattanbp.org or (212) 669-2094

Para ver el volante del evento en español, haga clic aquí.

Did You Know That The G.E.D. Test Will Change in 2014?

On January 1, 2014 the G.E.D. exam is going to change, which means that if you’ve been working towards your G.E.D. but have yet to complete it, your scores will become invalid and you will have to start all over again. Come learn about the changes and how you can finish your G.E.D. in 2013 at the Union Settlement Association Youth Center at Washington Houses (1775 Third Avenue at 98th Street) on Wednesday, June 26th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Whether you are planning to continue your education, find better employment, or want to assist a family member with his or her studies – obtaining your G.E.D. is an essential step in the process. Regardless of when you dropped out of high school, now is as good a time as ever to complete your G.E.D., especially if you already began the process.

GEDWHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito
WHAT: Finish Your GED in 2013
WHEN: Wednesday, June 26th – 5:30 to 7:30 PM
WHERE: Union Settlement Association Youth Center at Washington Houses – 1775 Third Avenue (at 98th Street)

For more information, contact Lauren Quinones at (212) 828-9800 or lquinones@council.nyc.gov.

Melissa Speaks at the Committee on Finance & Public Housing Hearing

housinghearing1NYCHA’s Section 8 housing subsidies have been drastically cut by $205 million because of  the federal sequester, which will lead in 500 lay-offs, a hiring freeze, community center closures, and program cuts.  This travesty is just part of the bigger picture, which Melissa talked about earlier in the Chambers of City Hall during the Committee on Finance & Public Housing hearing that took place this morning. The Republican party is holding our nation hostage because of politics and preventing our President from moving his agenda forward. We need to come together as a city and tell Congress that we will not allow our community to suffer.

Join Melissa in the Bronx to Rally to Save Child Care & After-School Programs, Tomorrow

Melissa, along with Council Member Annabel Palma, Campaign for Children, The Children’s Aid Society and Good Shepherd Services will be holding a rally to save child care and after-school services in the Bronx tomorrow, Wednesday, June 12th at 4 PM outside the Bronx courthouse.

Because of the Mayor’s budget cuts, over 47,000 more children will lose child care and after-school programs. Click here to read the Campaign for Children’s full report: “NYC is Going Backwards: What the Mayor’s Budget Cuts to Child Care and After-School Mean for New York’s Children and Families.” This budget cut is simply unacceptable – there is too much at stake.

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WHO: Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and  Annabel Palma, Campaign for ChildrenThe Children’s Aid Society and Good Shepherd Services
WHAT: Bronx Rally to Save Child Care and After-School Programs
WHEN: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 4 PM
WHERE: Bronx Courthouse, 861 Grand Concourse

Para ver el volante del evento en español, haga clic aquí.

A “Ghetto” Tour of the South Bronx?

Melissa has written a letter with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to Real Bronx Tours, a company that reportedly gives tours of the South Bronx that offer “a ride through a real New York City ‘GHETTO.'” The letter urges the company to radically change the way this tour is marketed and presented to the public. You can read the letter by clicking here.

The account of the tour published in the New York Post yesterday is sickening. The tour guide not only painted the South Bronx as a haven for crime, but also mocked local residents who were waiting on line at a food pantry.

Are you as outraged as we are? Send an e-mail to Real Bronx Tours at realbronxtours@gmail.com or sign a Change.org petition that was created by BronxCentric: Bronx Movers and Shakers.

PHOTO: AP

Join Our Community Briefing on Proposed Immigration Reform Legislation, Next Thursday

Melissa, along with the East Harlem Immigrant Service Network, CUNY Citizenship Now, Make the Road New York and the New York Immigration Coalition, will be conducting a community briefing regarding pending federal-level legislation concerning immigration reform on Thursday, May 16th at the Union Settlement Association. Please join us in reviewing the overview of the proposed legislation and discussing everything from the good to the bad and how you can advocate for it.

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WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, East Harlem Immigrant Service Network, CUNY Citizenship Now, Make the Road New York and the New York Immigration Coalition
WHAT: Community Briefing on Proposed Federal-Level Immigration Reform
WHEN: Thursday, May 16th from 9:15 AM to 11:30 AM
WHERE: Union Settlement Association (237 East 104th Street, between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
All attendees should RSVP to Joe Pressley at jpressley@council.nyc.gov or via telephone at 212-828-9800.

Intro 410: The Immigrants Voting Rights Bill

The New York City Council is holding a hearing today about Intro 410: The Immigrants Voting Rights Bill, which would allow 1.3 million voting-age, tax-paying New Yorkers to vote in NYC municipal elections. Melissa is a strong supporter of Intro 410, along with 34 other council members. This is a very exciting time in our city and will directly affect around 27,000 individuals in District 8 alone! You can watch the hearing live at 1 PM on the City Council’s website, or stop by the Council Chambers at City Hall to show your support.

Read more about Intro 410: El Diaro NY and ivotenyc.org

Age Smart Employer to Honor Innovative NYC Multigenerational Workplaces

522631_152567761568336_1471581872_nAre you a NYC employer who has innovative practices and strategies that optimize the multigenerational workplace or do you know of one? With over 700,000 of NYC’s workers over the age of 55, they hold a disproportionate percentage of jobs that support and drive NYC’s economy. Organizations that have implemented strategies that utilize older workers’ strengths, talents and skills, have seen an increase in productivity and profits. The Age Smart Employer Award is about embracing a multigenerational workplace and being age smart.  Please click on this link to lead you to the Age Smart Employer website, where you’ll find more information, such as eligibility and selection criteria. 

A selection committee comprised of business and civic leaders in NYC will choose winners in September 2013. Winners will be honored at a ceremonial gala in October 2013. They will also receive city-wide recognition and have exclusive use of the Age Smart Employer Award 2013 Winner logo graphic, as well as receive promotion at national and international conferences and meetings.

Applications are due July 1, 2013 – so apply today or nominate an organization that you feel deserves this honor.

Healthy Moms = Healthy Babies

healthymomshealthybabiesIt is a sad fact that mothers and newborns living in low-income communities like East Harlem suffer from preventable illnesses and serious health risks that tragically take or undermine lives. Just because there are mothers and babies that live in poverty and do not have access to health care or may lack the presence of family or mentors that can help and teach them how to keep their babies well, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to knowledge about completely preventable health problems. The Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA) has made it their priority to bring maternal awareness to this travesty. And there are two ways you can get involved:

  1. LSA is hosting a Virtual Baby Shower through Amazon.com, where you can donate necessities to those who need it most – it includes everything from diapers to baby formula.
  2. Additionally, they are holding a Mother’s Day Haiku and Short Poem Contest. The deadline is May 10th at noon, and you can submit your work (Spanish and English accepted) online or tweet it to @LSA_EastHarlem. The First Place prize is a $100 Macy’s gift card; Second Place prize is a Mother’s Day brunch for two at Kings’ Carriage House; and Third Place prize is a beautiful spring bouquet by Kathy Flowers.

We hope you have a very Happy Mothers Day this weekend & don’t forget about the mothers and babies in our community that could use an extra hand.

Immigration Reform: What You Need To Know

We are happy to share with you a very clear rundown on Immigration Reform, provided by CUNY Citizenship Now:

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Visit CUNY Citizenship Now’s website. It’s a great resource to learn about everything from  protecting yourself from immigration fraud to finding English language classes and preparing for the citizenship test.

You can download the PDF of this flyer to share with your network through this link.

Scholarship & Student Recognition Opportunities

There are two fantastic opportunities available whose deadlines are nearing. Please share this news with anyone that you deem to be eligible and whom would benefit from these opportunities.

COMITE NOVIEMBRE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

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Comité Noviembre will be awarding a $1,000 scholarship to exceptional Puerto Rican youth who are making a difference in their community. Applicants should have a minimum of one-year of volunteer community service experience and be between the ages of 17 and 25 years old. DEADLINE: May 31, 2013. Link to application. 

NEW YORK LEAGUE OF PUERTO RICAN WOMEN’s 2013 COLLEGE AWARDS

Logo-Green-Aqua-32-399x400The New York League of Puerto Rican Women (NYLPRW) Inc. is currently accepting applications for their 2013 College Awards which will be given out during their annual College Awards Gala Dinner Dance in the Bronx on August 22, 2013. NYLPRW is looking to recognize undergraduate Puerto Rican women for their academic excellence and service to the community. DEADLINE: June 7, 2013. Link to application. 

Take a 10-Day Trip to Puerto Rico with Comité Noviembre

This will be the seventh year that Comité Noviembre (CN) will be holding their Annual Trip to Puerto Rico – Buscando Nuestras Raices VII. You must be 21 or older to partake in this 10 day/9 night trip that will take place from Tuesday, August 6, 2013 to Thursday, August 15, 2013. Enjoy all that Puerto Rico has to offer with educational workshops, films, live entertainment and guided tours through San Juan as well as small mountain towns, coastal landmarks and museums. CN is a non-profit organization that keeps the Puerto Rican life alive in NYC through celebrating its’ social, cultural, educational, economic and political accomplishments.

Space is limited so if you are interested, reserve your spot now or contact CN for more information. Early Bird Special must be paid in full on Monday, May 6, 2013. That is also the same date that a deposit of $500 is due to hold your reservation.

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Contact Information:
Teresa A. Santiago – 914.263.6599 – tascommunicationsllc@gmail.com
Angel Santini – 212.677.4181 – angel.santini@iprhe.org
Lourdes R. Torres – 646.541.8326 – ltorres@hostos.cuny.edu

For the high-res PDF flyer – click here.

Why Are NYC Public Schools Failing Gym? Melissa Joined the Panel to Discuss the Issues

Last Monday, Melissa spoke on a panel entitled “Healthy Minds in Healthy Bodies: The Case for Implementing a Full Physical Education Curriculum in NYC’s Public Schools,” hosted by the Women’s City Club of New York. The panel was convened in response to a number of recent studies showing that NYC public schools are failing to meet State guidelines for physical education.

This issue prompted Melissa to write a letter to the Department of Education last year, signed by thirty-five Council Members inquiring about the DOE’s plan to improve the quantity and quality of gym class in City schools and to address the disparities between schools. Melissa was joined by education chair Robert Jackson along with other phys ed experts, all of whom discussed the many evidence-based benefits of PE, including improved academic achievement along with physical health.

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Melissa expressed her strong stance on this issue:

“Providing quality physical education in our public schools is critical in a time when our City is facing a staggering childhood obesity epidemic! It is shocking that according to the City Comptroller’s Audit none of the 31 elementary schools visited were meeting State requirements for gym class, due to factors such as co-locations and budget cuts. This issue is particularly important to low-income communities of color such as the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and Bedford-Stuyvesant which are disproportionately impacted by higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other related illnesses. The issue of gym class is a symptom of the overall direction the DOE has been headed over the last decade. Budget cuts, a lack of gym teachers, an overemphasis on high-stakes test prep, and the co-location of charter schools, have all served to undermine physical education in our schools.”

DYCD is Taking Applications for the 2013 Summer Youth Employment Program

625472_10151351850632344_122226527_nThe Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is a six-week program open to all NYC residents between the ages of 14-24 – and the application is available now. We highly encourage District 8 youth to apply to SYEP because of the one-of-a-kind work experience they can receive in a variety of jobs, ranging from government agencies, community-based organizations, private sector businesses and more. Last summer, DYCD employed around 30,000 teenagers and young adults and placed them at 5,677 work-sites. Click here to download the paper application in PDF; and if you have questions, you can download the 2013 SYEP FAQ here as a PDF.

As per DYCD’s website, SYEP is designed to:

  • Emphasize real-world labor expectations
  • Increase awareness of services offered by local community-based organizations
  • Provide opportunities for career instruction, financial literacy training, academic improvement, and social growth

Apply today! 

Safer Neighborhood Streets: Apply for a Slow Zone by May 31st

slowzoneNeighborhood Slow Zones reduce the speed limit on residential streets from 30 mph to 20 mph. Slow Zones grant local families peace of mind because they know drivers in their communities will stick to safer speeds. Communities that apply for a Slow Zone can get safety improvements that reduce traffic crashes, cut-through traffic and traffic noise, making residential streets safer for biking and walking.

NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) is currently accepting applications to the Neighborhood Slow Zone program. Community boards, civic associations, BIDs, or other community institutions such as schools or churches can apply. If you’re interested in applying, you can download the application, and follow NYCDOT’s application instructionsApplications must demonstrate local support for the Neighborhood Slow Zone. Applications that include letters of support from key community stakeholders will be prioritized.  

Applications are due by Friday, May 31st. Are you interested, but don’t know where to begin? Need help drumming up local support? Transportation Alternatives will help! E-mail safety@transalt.org, or call at (212) 629-8080.

Council To Pass Melissa’s Street Vendor & Secure Communities/ICE Bills Tomorrow

We are happy to announce that two bills sponsored by Melissa will be passed by Council tomorrow.

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STREET VENDOR BILLS (INTRO 16)

Intro 16 will require the reporting of data related to vendor licenses and permits, as well as the outcomes of vendor adjudications. This bill is integral to the future of the reforming vendor policy in NYC because of the information collected. In addition to Intro 16, Council Member Steve Levin’s bill, Intro 434, which Melissa has supported, will also be passed tomorrow. Intro 434 will cap the maximum fine at $500 and reform the unfair escalation of fines. These bills are a critical first step towards efforts to provide greater support to our vendor community who has played an essential part of the fabric of NYC life for generations. Today, punitive fines leveraged against vendors can easily add up into the thousands, making it nearly impossible for vendors to make a living.

“Our city needs to support and not criminalize our hardworking street vendors,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am proud that the Council is taking a stand to lower the punitive fines that make it difficult for vendors to earn a living and I thank the Street vendor project for their incredible advocacy. Under the bill I am sponsoring, the Council will receive annual reports on vending licenses and fines. My hope is that this data will help inform future policy changes to our city’s vending system. I thank Speaker Quinn, Council Member Levin and Chair Koslowitz for their leadership and support.”

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SECURE COMMUNITIES/ICE BILL (INTRO 989)

We’ve previously discussed our objection to Secure Communities in this blog. Melissa’s Intro 989 amends current law to ensure that immigrants that pose no danger cannot be detained by the Department of Correction. Intro 982, sponsored by Speaker Quinn and co-sponsored by Melissa, focuses on being detained by the NYPD. Whether we like it or not, we are still in the secure communities program. But with this legislation, we will not use our personnel or resources to hold immigrants that pose no danger to our city.

“Today, the Council reaffirms its commitment to protecting our immigrant communities,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We will not allow our city’s resources to be used to facilitate the unjust deportations of hardworking New Yorkers that pose no threat to public safety. These pieces of legislation place limits on our city’s collaboration with the Secure Communities enforcement program, as we await Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I thank Speaker Quinn and Chair Dromm for their leadership on bringing this legislation forward, as well as the Bloomberg administration for their support. I also thank Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for being a critical driving force in passing these important bills.”

East Harlem High School Students: Sign Up For MCNY’s Free SAT Prep Classes & More

mcny-whiteWe are urging East Harlem high school students to take advantage of the Museum of the City of New York’s excellent and free Saturday Academy program. Saturday Academy is a free six-week program for students in grades 8 – 12 interested in American History or SAT preparation. There’s no homework or testing and all course materials are provided. Saturday Academy was the recipient of the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House, and was featured in New York Magazine’s “Best of New York 2011” issue.

Spring 2013 courses meet on Saturdays April 6, 13, 20, May 4, 11, and 18. Course offerings include:

  • Activist New York
  • Public Art in East Harlem: Interpreting Latino-American History in the 20th Century
  • Performing History: The Federal Theater Project and the Great Depression
  • The Many Meanings of Feminism in the 20th Century
  • Freedom and Slavery in the Age of the American Revolution
  • Bell Curves SAT Skills

For more information on the courses offered, please click here.

All applications must be received online. TO APPLY, please click on this link  and fill out all the required information. The application deadline is Tuesday, March 12. Although East Harlem and Central Harlem students will be given priority seating, enrollment is first-come, first-serve, so please apply early since space is limited!  Should you experience any trouble applying online, you may email Saturday.academy@mcny.org or call 917-492-3401 to request that an application be mailed to your home address for you to fill out and return to the Museum of the City of New York.

Melissa Responds to Mayor Bloomberg’s Marijuana Arrest Proposal & Stop and Frisk Rhetoric

Melissa released the following response to the Mayor’s comments on marijuana arrest policy and stop and frisk:

“In today’s State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to change the city’s marijuana arrest policy while we await action by the State Legislature to finally decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view. Under the new policy, anyone who is able to present identification and clear a warrant check will be released with a desk appearance ticket, rather than being held in custody overnight.

“This policy shift is greatly encouraging and a step in the right direction. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly for recognizing the fundamental problem with the city’s marijuana arrest policy, which has resulted in record numbers of arrests – up to around 50,000 per year – of mostly black and Latino males. The way the city has carried out this policy in recent years is a corruption of the intent of state law, which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago. I still recall a time when we were not seeing this level of openness within the administration and the NYPD to look at what the City could do to reduce the number of marijuana arrests. I also thank the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY and all of the advocates who have brought this issue to the forefront, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for this change at the state level to completely end small-time marijuana arrests.

“In spite of the welcome news on marijuana arrests, I was disappointed by the Mayor’s delusional defense of the city’s stop and frisk policy. The suggestion that without our current stop and frisk policy New York’s murder rate would equal Detroit’s is absurd and unfounded. It is time to stop irresponsibly cultivating fear as a way of drumming up support for this policy, which has damaged community-police relations and has made our young black and Latino men feel more alienated than ever.”


The State of the City Address doesn’t begin until around the 35-minute mark.

Learn About NEW Local Legislation To Further Protect Arrested Immigrants, Next Thursday

Please join Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, The East Harlem Immigrant Service Network and Make the Road New York in learning about new local legislation that will further protect arrested immigrants on Thursday, February 21st, 9:15 AM at the Hunter School of Social Work.

The proposed City Council legislation will:

  • Further limit unfair deportations;
  • Build on existing local law and is meant to promote public safety and community engagement; and
  • Relieve damaging effects of the federal government’s Secure Communities initiative.

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WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, The East Harlem Immigrant Service Network, and Make the Road New York
WHAT: NEW Local Legislation To Further Protect Arrested Immigrants Informational Session
WHEN: Thursday, February 21, 2013. 9:15 (prompt) to 11:30 AM
WHERE: Hunter School of Social Work at East 119th Street and 3rd Avenue. Second floor classroom.
For more info and/or to RSVP, please contact Joe Pressley in the Office of Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito at 212-828-9800 or via email at jpressley@council.nyc.gov.  

Melissa Calls On DOE To Comply With New York State Guidelines for PE

Last week, Melissa spearheaded a press conference, covered by NY 1, calling on the New York City Department of Education to be in full compliance with New York State guidelines for physical education (PE) in New York City public schools.  Recent reports from the American Heart Association and the Women’s City Club of New York have demonstrated a clear need to improve the quality and quantity of PE in New York City.  The benefits of PE are far reaching evidence shows that school-based PE leads to improved academic achievement, increased state standardized test scores and a student’s health and overall well-being. PE also improves a child’s cognitive ability and behavior.

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Melissa expressed her concern regarding this critical issue saying:

“Providing quality physical education instruction for our children is absolutely critical in a time when our City is facing a staggering childhood obesity epidemic!  It is unacceptable that teens in East Harlem (which I represent) are nearly three times less likely to attend a daily gym class than teens in more affluent neighborhoods!  And we wonder why our community has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the city.  This is why I spearheaded a letter to the DOE signed by 35 of my colleagues, asking the department about its strategy to improve the quantity and quality of PE instruction in our schools and demanding a plan to address the disparities between schools that have sufficient PE programs and those that do not.”

Help End Discriminatory Policing

Please join us tonight, Tuesday, February 5th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM for a Know Your Rights! training that will be hosted by Picture the Homeless. Here, you will learn your rights with the NYPD and how to exercise those rights as safely as possible. We will also be holding a Cop Watch! training next Tuesday, February 12th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, hosted by the Justice Committee. At this training, we will learn how to observe and document police activity in your neighborhood. The ultimate goal of these trainings are to help end discriminatory policing – we believe in standing up and being a part of the solution.

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WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Picture the Homeless, The Bronx Defenders, Justice Committee, and Communities United for Police Reform
WHAT & WHEN: East Harlem Stand Up! Trainings

  • Know Your Rights! Training: Tuesday, February 5th; 6:30 – 8:30 PM
  • Cop Watch! Training: Tuesday, February 12th; 6:30 – 8:30 PM

WHERE: Taino Towers, Crystal Room. 240 East 123rd Street (4/5/6 to 125th St)
For more information or to RSVP:

  • Know Your Rights! Training: shaun@picturethehomeless.org
  • Cop Watch! Training: info@justicecommittee.org

Learn How To Apply for a Play Street in Your Neighborhood

Transportation Alternatives and the New York City Department of Health are hosting a public workshop to assist and educate community based organizations with the Play Street application process. Play Streets are weekly one-day street closures in the summer that give children access to a safe, fun and supervised place to engage in physical activity. Many neighborhoods throughout New York City lack access to parks and open space, making it difficult for children to get the proper amount of exercise each day. Play Streets address this problem by empowering community groups to create their own places for children’s recreation and encourages a healthy active lifestyle.

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The workshop will provide participants with the knowledge, tools and assistance to win a Play Street for their neighborhood. Additionally, you will be guided through the application process and they will work with you on developing strategies to ensure a successful program. They will also provide you with information about improvements you can request from the City to make your neighborhood streets safer and more welcoming for walking and biking.

WHO: Transportation Alternatives and the New York City Health Department
WHAT: Play Street Permit Process Workshop
WHEN: Thursday, January 31, 2013; 4 PM – 6 PM
WHERE: 40 Worth Street, 5th floor, room 5.2/5.2
RSVP: playstreets@transalt.org or 646-839-6483

Be A Part of the MTA’s Second Avenue Subway Quarterly Public Workshop on Wednesday, January 30th

You are invited to attend an MTA public workshop regarding the construction of the Second Avenue Subway.

The goal of this workshop is to maintain an open dialogue between the MTA and the community at large. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage project representatives about current construction activity and the initiatives implemented by the MTA as a direct response to community input from the previous SAS public workshop.

MTA employees and contractors will attend the workshop to facilitate discussion and answer questions.

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WHO: MTA
WHAT: Second Avenue Subway Quarterly Public Workshop
WHEN: Wednesday, January 30th from 6:45 to 8:30 PM
WHERE: Temple Israel, 112 East 75th Street (between Park & Lexington Avenues)
RSVP: Reserve your seats online here or by calling (646) 564-5866.

* The capacity of the facility is 200 people and seats are filling quickly, so reserve yours today.
* Photo ID will be required for entry.
* Facility is ADA accessible.

Preparing For The Potential School Bus Driver Strike

The Amalgamated Transit Union 1181, representing about 8,800 New York City school bus drivers and matrons, is planning to go on strike this Wednesday. Below is updated information from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) about what to do in the event that they do strike:

METROCARDS

  • All students who currently receive yellow bus service may receive a MetroCard.  These MetroCards are being made available at your local school and should be requested through each school’s general office.  Schools will distribute student MetroCards beginning Tuesday, Jan. 15th.
  • Parents of pre-school and school-age children with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) requiring transportation from their home directly to their school as well as parents of general education children in grades K-2 may also request a MetroCard for the parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to school.  Parent MetroCards will be distributed beginning Wednesday, Jan. 16th.  These cards can be used on subways beginning Wednesday, Jan. 16th and on buses beginning Thursday, Jan. 17th.

TRANSPORTATION REIMBURSEMENT

  • The DOE is offering reimbursement for actual transportation costs (subject to DOE guidelines) for students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus service from home or a school bus stop and live in areas where public transportation is not readily available.
  • Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile.
  • Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that includes a receipt for provided services.
  • Requests for reimbursements should be made weekly on forms that will be made available on the DOE website and in each school’s general office.

ROUTE FINDER

CLASS MATERIALS

  • In the unfortunate event that students cannot get to school, the DOE will be posting materials online for every grade and core subject so that students can continue their learning at home during the strike.

Please contact your local school, 311 or the Office of Pupil Transportation at (718) 392-8855 for additional information. 

Get Involved By Joining a Community Board

If you have something to say about the neighborhood you live in, one of the greatest forums you can join is your local community board. This Thursday, Transportation Alternatives and Bronx Health REACH are hosting a FREE informational session, Community Board Join Up, where you can learn about your community board and how to apply to be a member. Hear from the Bronx Borough President’s office about just how integral community boards are in the decision making process within their neighborhood.

Enjoy snacks and drinks while meeting like-minded New Yorkers interested in joining their community board. You can fill out an application while you learn about the process. This Community Board Join Up will happen in the Bronx, but anyone is welcome to attend.

commboardevent

WHO: Transportation Alternatives and Bronx Health REACH
WHAT: “Community Board Join Up” informational session
WHEN: Thursday, January 10th – 6:30 to 8 PM
WHERE: Cornell University Cooperative Extension, 432 East 149th Street, 4th floor. Bronx, NY 10455
RSVP: Please click this link to RSVP through Transportation Alternatives

Para ver el volante del evento en español, haga clic aquí.

Sign Up for An Allowable Political Activity by Nonprofits Course

The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development’s (ANHD) Affordable Housing Institute will be hosting an Allowable Political Activity by Nonprofits course on Wednesday, January 9th. This training will address the ability of nonprofit, tax exempt organizations to engage their communities in election related activities. While 501(c)(3) organizations cannot endorse or oppose candidates, they can run voter registration and Get Out The Vote campaigns, highlight community issues, and encourage civic engagement. The training will be conducted by Harvey Epstein and Ted De Barbieri, attorneys at the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.

WHO: ANHD and Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project
WHAT: Allowable Political Activity by Nonprofits course
WHEN: Wednesday, January 9th – 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
WHERE: ANHD – 50 New Street, suite 1125, Manhattan
COST: $50 per organization (free for ANHD members), admits two people. If cost is a concern fee reductions may be available, feel free to ask.
REGISTER: Email the form found here to Rita Mazza – rita.m@anhd.org. Please make checks payable to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Melissa Named 2012 NYC Streetsies’ Elected Official of the Year

streetsies_2012_smallPersistence and hard work does pay off. We ended 2012 with the honor of having Melissa’s hard work recognized with a Streetsie for Elected Official of the Year. If you don’t know, Streetsies are given by Streetsblog NYC, which covers all things sustainable transportation and advocates for “progressive policy changes that are saving lives and creating a more sustainable future for New York.”

The winner and Streetsblog’s Elected Official of 2012 is Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. This was the year that the East Harlem representative’s persistent advocacy for safer streets in her district finally paid off, when the first protected bike lane above 96th Street was installed on Second Avenue. From speaking on the City Hall steps in 2010 to facing down the misinformation campaign against the project in 2011, Mark-Viverito was at the center of the effort to bring complete streets to East Harlem. This wasn’t the first time she’d taken a stand for livable streets, either. Mark-Viverito was the council’s clearest voice for congestion pricing in 2008, and she’s a big proponent of Bus Rapid Transit. If every City Council member was so willing to embrace change, progress would come to NYC streets a lot faster.

Link: http://www.streetsblog.org/2012/12/31/the-2012-nyc-streetsies-part-3/

Thanks Streetsblog! Here’s to a great 2013 and more progress on bringing transportation improvements to communities throughout NYC.

Melissa Joins the Call for a Citywide Gun Recovery Initiative

In the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, so many across the country are clamoring for aggressive action to tighten restrictions around guns at the federal level. Right here in NYC, leaders and Council Members are also calling for a large-scale gun recovery initiative.  This initiative would be a way for the city government to do its part and honor the memories of the 20 children and 6 adults whose lives were cut short last Friday by ensuring that we take steps to reduce the scourge of gun violence.

Melissa supports and stands behind a gun recovery initiative that will help prevent another tragedy, like in Newtown, and instances in our district, from happening again. District 8 has not been a stranger to unnecessary gun violence and tragic murders. The fact is that as crime in NYC has been decreasing, it has been increasing in East Harlem, as per NYPD statistics. Just this Monday, a 57 year old woman was wounded by a stray bullet on 116th and Fifth Avenue and not even an hour later, a 17 year old boy was shot in the face on 109th Street and Second Avenue. This is completely unacceptable and scarily becoming the norm.

A parent should never have to question their child’s safety at school or on a street in their neighborhood – a change must be made and Melissa remains dedicated to the cause. By strengthening and implementing gun buyback programs and a homicide reduction program, we can make the streets a safer place. “This is something we all have a role in. This is something we are tired of. We want peace in our streets,” Melissa said.

“We cannot afford to lose one more child in this city to senseless gun violence,” Melissa added. “To truly tighten gun control, we need the help of our partners in state and federal government, but there are things we can do here in New York City to help make our streets safer. A citywide gun recovery initiative is one of those things. The killing of so many young children in Newtown was an unspeakable tragedy. On so many occasions, our communities have also experienced the pain of children being taken from us too soon as a result of gun violence. I thank Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and all of my colleagues who are adding their voice to this effort.”

Melissa Receives Top Human Rights Report Card Score For the Third Consecutive Year

MMV human rights report cardThe Urban Justice Center’s Human Rights Project works tirelessly to improve the lives of New Yorkers living in poverty by monitoring and advocating for human rights, especially those related to employment, housing, health, food and education. For the past five years, the Human Rights Project has released an annual Report Card. This Report Card is designed to advance the use of a human rights framework in policy evaluation and advocacy; as well as measuring the commitment of the New York City Council to promoting human rights in New York City.

We are all very proud to announce that for the third year in a row, Melissa has been one of the highest scored City Council members in human rights as per the Human Rights’ Report Card. With her passion and commitment to advancing the rights of our city’s most vulnerable populations and building a more just city for all, this is a major honor that underscores all her hard work in these areas.

Melissa Announces New Legislation To Protect Unjust Deportation of Immigrant New Yorkers

Today, Melissa joined her colleagues in announcing a new legislative action that will reduce the unjust deportations of immigrant families due to the federal Secure Communities program. Building on legislation sponsored by Melissa which became law last year, the two new pieces of legislation that will be introduced this month will limit the city’s ability to hand over immigrants who pose no threat to public safety for deportation proceedings. Melissa is the lead sponsor of one of the two new bills, which should receive a hearing within the first quarter of 2013. The other bill is sponsored by Speaker Christine Quinn.

Because of the current Secure Communities program in NYC, once an immigrant encounters the criminal justice system, they are at automatic risk of deportation. Under the current system, regardless of immigration status, age, criminal record or the accused crime, immigrants can be detained and deported – constantly living in fear. With this proposed legislation, the city would only be able to honor a detainer request from the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) if the person poses a threat to our city or has serious criminal charges pending. It would specifically ensure that immigrant youth and individuals that only have old or very minor convictions, or convictions directly related to their immigration status like driving without a license, are not funneled into the deportation system.

Melissa commented:

“New York City continues to be at the forefront of protecting our immigrant communities from unjust deportations. I am proud that this Council is again ushering through legislation that expands our city’s ability to have discretion in its collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. This legislation comes in response to the forced roll out of Secure Communities in our state, which threatens to funnel immigrant New Yorkers directly from central booking to deportation centers. We must extend to our police precincts the same protections we put in place in our city’s jails to prevent the unfair deportation of immigrant New Yorkers. We also want to strengthen the current law to ensure that immigrant youth and immigrants with old or minor convictions are clearly protected from deportation. I thank Speaker Christine Quinn and Immigration Chair Danny Dromm for their leadership, as well as Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for their continued advocacy.”

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This legislation will surely serve as a model for other municipalities throughout the U.S. as we await for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We will keep you all updated on this piece of legislation.

Melissa Mourns the Tragic Death of Jenni Rivera

“The tragic and untimely death of Mexican superstar Jenni Rivera in a plane crash on Sunday has shaken the Mexican and Latino communities here in New York and throughout the U.S., not to mention millions and millions of adoring fans throughout Latin America.

“The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Rivera was not only a successful musician and TV star, but she was also an inspiration for our community and in particular for Latina women. Her music challenged machismo and communicated messages of female empowerment, and the personal struggles she endured in her relationships made her a fierce advocate for an end to domestic violence and sexual abuse. She was also a key ally in the fight for immigrant and LGBT rights.

“In a testament to her continued rise to crossover success, Rivera was to star in an English-language sitcom on ABC, which would have helped provide some much-needed diversity in prime time television.

“She will be missed but never forgotten by our community. I send my condolences to Jenni Rivera’s family, friends and fans in this difficult time.”

Melissa Will Be On The City Limits Panel to Discuss “Latinos and the Mayoralty: Searching for El Primero”

logo_newCity Limits will be hosting a discussion panel, “Latinos and the Mayoralty: Searching for El Primero on the morning of Wednesday, December 12th. Melissa will be joined by featured panelists to discuss the past, present, and future of Latino political engagement in New York City. Come join the discussion!

WHO: Jarrett Murphy, Editor of City Limits will moderate. Panelists include: Melissa Mark-Viverito; Ed Morales, author and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race; Lucia Gomez Jimenez, the Executive Director of La Fuente; Ramona Hernandez, Director of CUNY Dominican Studies Insitute and professor of sociology at CCNY; and Angelo Falcon, President and Founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy.
WHAT: Latinos and the Mayoralty: Searching for El Primero
WHEN: Wednesday, December 12, 2012. 9:30 AM Panel Discussion & 9 AM Networking
WHERE: The Community Service Society, 105 East 22nd Street, 4th Floor
RSVP: Click here

Standing United with Car Wash Workers

Despite the intended purpose of car washes, many car wash operators conduct a very dirty business. The New York State Department of Labor investigators found that nearly 80% of NYC’s car wash operators are guilty of wage and hour violations. There’s an exploited workforce of around 5,000 employees for the almost 200 car washes throughout the five boroughs. Working anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week, overtime is practically non-existent for a majority of these minimum-wage or below-minimum-wage employees. And we haven’t even touched upon the many work-related hazards that employees are exposed to or what actually happens with the money in the tip jar in many cases.

IMAG0617

Car wash employees, regardless of their legal status, want and deserve dignity and respect on the job, which includes improvements in wages and benefits and safer working conditions. To date, four different car wash employees’ have voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and more than 20 car washes are involved with the campaign. The owner of two of the newly unionized car washes has been forced to pay $3.4 million in back pay and damages to workers from 2009 after a federal lawsuit.

2012-11-20dailynews-sunnydayAnd this is only the beginning. Last Monday, Melissa and Senator Gustavo Rivera joined car wash workers at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx, to confront the owner and protest outside. Sunny Day workers staged a previous walkout earlier in November after not getting paid for two weeks and were all subsequently fired – that is when they contacted the RWDSU.

We support the carwasheros in finding the courage to collectively take action. They will no longer be silenced.

IN THE NEWS:

Daily News – Labor dispute at Sunny Day Car Wash in Bronx clouds the holiday season for picketing workers: Local pols join protesting carwasheros to demand their jobs back; November 27, 2012

TO FIND OUT MORE:

Please Complete a Brief Survey Regarding Election Day 2012

https://i1.wp.com/media.silive.com/latest_news/photo/newvotejpg-f440dd42093cdf31_large.jpgOn and following Election Day (November 6th) 2012 there were many reports about long lines and confusion at polling sites across the nation. Media reports cited some similar concerns locally. As such, we have designed a brief survey (just 10 questions) for you to tell us about your experience on the most recent Election Day. The survey is for you to inform us about favorable and problematic experiences on Election Day.

We have developed the survey to gain a better understanding of what transpired recently here in New York City and in the communities that we serve. Even if you did not vote or are not registered to vote in New York City Council’s District 8, we are hoping that you could take the time to complete the survey by visiting the following link: 

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/M2QRRD3

If you have questions about the survey, please do not hesitate to call Joe Pressley at 212-828-9800. You can also email him at jpressley@council.nyc.gov. The survey will only take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete!

Temporary Work Available Cleaning Up Communities Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Governor Cuomo announced over $27 million was allocated in federal grants to hire workers to clean up communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This grant is provided to New Yorkers who lost employment due to Hurricane Sandy or are unemployed and not receiving unemployment benefits.

Workers interested in this program should call 1-888-4-NYSDOL (1-888-469-7365). The New York State Department of Labor will work with local officials to recruit and hire workers. You can fill out the Preliminary Registration form here. 

For more information about unemployment insurance for individuals or businesses that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, please visit the New York State Department of Labor’s website

New Age-Friendly Database Linking Older Adults to Educational Opportunities at NYC Colleges and Universities

Age-Friendly NYC College Link is a new searchable online database that empowers older adults to browse, search, compare, and connect with educational opportunities at more than 40 of local colleges and universities. The program grew out of consultations with hundreds of older adults throughout New York City who said they wanted to have more options for lifelong learning, but found it difficult to know exactly what was available. Older adults who are interested in seeking opportunities to learn new skills, interests, train for new careers, and simply just enjoy the rich resources available at New York City’s higher education institutions will find Age-Friendly NYC College Link to be a valuable informational hub.

Age-Friendly NYC College Link is a joint initiative of the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the New York Academy of Medicine, dedicated to making the resources of New York City more available to older adults.

Please share and visit www.agefriendlynyc.org for more tools and resources.

DREAM Act Eligible College Students: Apply for the 2013 DREAM Fellowship Program

Photo courtesy of Fund for Public Advocacy

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), in partnership with the Fund for Public Advocacy, is accepting applications for the 2013 DREAM Fellowship Program.

The DREAM Fellowship Program is a semester-long leadership development program. In its first semester in the Spring of 2012, ten college-level DREAM Act eligible student leaders from across the world, were selected for the fellowship. In the program, the fellows were exposed to leadership development trainings, internships at community organizations and received $2,000 scholarships toward tuition at City University of New York. You can find out more about the 2012 Fellowship here.

According to The NYIC, their leading drive for the Fellowship was the “vibrant and growing immigrant youth movement. With almost no paid staff, no lobbyists, and few financial resources, undocumented immigrant youth and immigrant communities galvanized a historical movement for passage of the DREAM Act.  In the aftermath of Congress’s failure to act, a new sense of urgency emerged. However, DREAMers faced the challenge of continuing to fight for their rights, while still excluded from most of the educational, financial and leadership opportunities their peers had, simply because of their immigration status. To address this disparity, recognizing the tremendous talent and leadership potential of these young people, the NYIC and the Fund for Public Advocacy created the DREAM Fellowship, a program that combines financial assistance with leadership training and hands-on field work.”

Photo courtesy of NYIC

We encourage you to share this opportunity with DREAM Act-eligible college students you know who could benefit from this opportunity! Please visit NYIC’s website for the application as well as the qualifications required to apply.  The deadline to apply for the DREAM Fellowship is Monday, November 19th, 2012. Applications received after that date will not be considered.

Volunteer Opportunities in Manhattan and the Bronx

When considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on other neighborhoods, we are very fortunate to have not sustained extensive damage in Council District 8 and we believe that it’s time to give back to others who have not been as fortunate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Below are volunteer opportunities that could use your help:

MANHATTAN – 

  • On Friday, November 2nd at around 12:00 noon, we will be meeting up with Council Member Margaret Chin (District 1), where Hurricane Sandy hit the hardest in Manhattan, at the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation (CPLDC) on 60 St. James Place.  From there, volunteers will be assigned to different tasks to assist downtown. While transit is still a challenge downtown, the M15 Select Bus Service on 1st and 2nd Avenues (which will again be free tomorrow) is a great option to get to CPLDC.

BRONX –

  • The Food Bank needs volunteers at their warehouse in the Bronx. People are needed tomorrow (Friday, November 2) to repack donated food for delivery to emergency food organizations. The volunteer shifts are 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 1:30 – 3:30 PM. For more information, contact the Food Bank’s Triada Stampas at 917-568-3389. Address: 355 Food Center Drive, Bronx NY 10474. It is accessible by subway/bus combo: 6 to Hunts Pt, then the Bx6 bus to the Hunts Pt Market.
  • Lehman College is currently being used as a shelter and is taking volunteers. Address: 250 Bedford Park Blvd, Bronx NY 10458

Additionally, the Parks Department is accepting volunteers to help aid in clean-up and recovery of parks citywide. For those who would like to volunteer, please follow the provided link to submit a volunteer application. When showing up to help, please remember to dress appropriately – closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get dirty are appropriate. Bring a water bottle and snacks (water refills and restrooms will be available at each site). All supplies for the clean up effort will be provided. Children 12 and older are allowed to lend a hand.

MANHATTAN – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Randall’s Island (Friday & Saturday only)
  • Happy Warrior Playground (West 98th and Amsterdam Avenue)
  • Annunciation Park (West 135th Street btwn Amsterdam and Convent Avenues)
  • Carl Schurz Park (East 87th Street and East End Avenue)
  • Anne Loftus Playground (at Fort Tyron Park – Broadway at Riverside Drive)

BRONX – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Van Cortlandt Park (1 Bronx River Parkway)
  • Orchard Beach (Park Drive and Orchard Beach Road)

Some Subway Service to be Restored Tomorrow

A hopeful sign that we are on our way to recovery: We are happy to report that the MTA will begin restoring select subway lines for tomorrow, November 1st (though there is still no train service below 34th Street).

Click here for the full list of subway lines and the specific routes they will take.

Or you can click here to view a map of available service tomorrow.

If you are driving tomorrow or Friday, please keep in mind that all of the East River bridges, as well as the RFK/Triborough Bridge, Henry Hudson Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel will be required to have 3 or more people in order to enter into Manhattan from 6:30 am to midnight.

Council Members Mark-Viverito and Brewer Urge New Yorkers to Respect Directive to Stay Out of Parks

Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito (Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee) and Gale A. Brewer, who represent districts on the east and west sides of Central Park, issued the following statement to urge New Yorkers to follow the City’s directive to stay out of parks.

“Hurricane Sandy has had a devastating impact on our city’s public parks, including over 250 downed trees in Central Park alone. As Council Members who surround the park, we are strongly urging our constituents to please heed the directives to stay out of Central Park and all of our parks until further notice. This directive is meant for everyone’s safety. 

“We have already had incidents of people who have tragically been killed by falling trees in the wake of Sandy. Just because the storm is over, it does not mean that branches can no longer shift and fall down. Unfortunately, we have heard reports of individuals trying to defy the directive to stay out of the parks and force their way in. The Parks Department and the Conservancy are hard at work to clean up Central Park and make it safe for everyone’s enjoyment as soon as possible, but in order to do so safely, they need the park to be free of non-essential personnel.

“We are clearly in the process of a long recovery from the storm in areas across the city, including our public parks. This is a time for us all to come together. There are people in neighboring communities who are in desperate need of assistance, and so the most efficient use of our city’s resources has become more important than ever. We ask that everyone please respect directives from the City that are only intended to keep us all safe and allow the clean-up efforts to move forward as quickly as possible.

“Like all New Yorkers, we look forward to the reopening of our parks and thank Parks Department staff, conservancy groups and all those that are helping in the clean-up efforts across the city.”

The Aftermath of Sandy: A Message from Melissa

I hope that everyone is doing ok. Though compared to other areas we didn’t get hit so hard in our Council district, the damage across the city as a result of Sandy is absolutely devastating. As you know, MTA service continues to be suspended until further notice. The FDR Drive still appears to be flooded. The East River bridges are just reopening. And hundreds of thousands of people across the five boroughs are without power. Also, as the Mayor just announced schools will again be closed tomorrow.

Please continue to let me know of any downed trees or dangerous conditions by e-mailing newsfrommelissa@gmail.com or by tweeting me @MMViverito. You should also report them to 311 and take note of your tracking number.

A few very important things:
  • If you absolutely need to go outside, please be careful and please do not drive unless it is absolutely necessary. We need to keep the roads as clear as possible for emergency vehicles and first responders.
  • Only call 911 if it is truly an emergency. For all other concerns, please contact 311 online or by phone.
  • Please don’t go near damaged trees or power lines and stay out of parks, which are still closed.
There is clearly a lot of work ahead. The Mayor said this morning that it could take several days to fully restore all subway service and power to all New Yorkers. In the meantime, I will continue to share critical updates over e-mail.

Please continue to be safe, and again, let me know of any outstanding issues at newsfrommelissa@gmail.com or @MMViverito on Twitter.

-MMV

Getting Ready for Election Day: Do You Know Where You’re Voting?

AP Photo

We hope you’re as excited as we are for Election Day! In preparation, we’ve confirmed where our poll site is. Why so early? Well, knowing where your poll site is ahead of time will save you time and possibly a huge hassle on Election Day. If you’re not sure where your poll site is, please check out the Board of Election’s Poll Site Locator & Sample Ballot tool that is available online. If you have a iPhone, Android or Blackberry, go ahead and download the app here.

 

There have been two changes that may affect where your poll site for this election will take place:

  1. Since the Primary Election in September, the Board of Elections has changed the location of several poll sites, meaning that this may be the first time that you have voted at this new poll site. Before voting, please check here to see if your poll site location is one of the few that have changed.
  2. You may have received a letter in the mail if your poll site has been deemed inaccessible for physically disabled voters (for the full list, click here). This just means that those sites do not meet the full ADA requirements due to ramps that are considered too steep or other barriers to access. To those of you who received this letter, please note that you can still vote at your normal poll site but if you are physically disabled, you have the right to request that your poll site be changed to one that is accessible.

Happy voting!

Melissa Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Renewed Push for Marijuana Arrest Reform

Yesterday, Melissa issued the following statement in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strong support of legislation that would end small-quantity marijuana arrests, calling for its passage and the passage of a minimum wage increase before considering pay hikes for legislators.

“I commend New York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators.

“I strongly support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their pockets during stops. Enforcement of this policy costs the city an estimated $75 million each year.

“The new law would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Since there are currently over 50,000 annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth. Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of this legislation, which I sponsored, and Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have voiced their support of these reforms. The Commissioner even issued a directive to officers intended to slow down the number of marijuana arrests. Still, it is essential to codify this policy change at the State level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this issue so seriously.

“I am also very pleased that Governor Cuomo is renewing the push to raise the state’s minimum wage, a vitally important measure which will help working families remain in New York City and the state during times of increasing poverty and income disparity.”

Make an Appointment Today for Your FREE Mammogram on Monday, October 29

Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA) and the Association of Secretaries to Supreme Court Justices (NY County Chapter) are funding FREE mammograms on Monday, October 29. The mammograms will be given by Project Renewal’s ScanVan program.

Project Renewal’s ScanVan is a mobile radiology clinic that provides mammograms and chest x-rays to those without access to other health care providers. The staff provides counseling, education, and initiates and ensures follow-up treatment for all positive screening. Women that are 40 and older should have an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram. Early breast cancer detection can save your life.

Hear the personal journeys of two women whose lives were touched by the ScanVan:

 

WHAT: Free Mammograms
WHEN: Monday, October 29 – starting at 8 AM
WHERE: ScanVan outside of the Harlem Community Justice Center, 170 East 121st Street, between Lexington & Third Avenues

* APPOINTMENTS ARE NECESSARY – Please call 1(800)564-6868
* For women 40 and older who have not had a mammogram in the past year, this is of no cost to you. However, if you have insurance please bring the information with you.

Para un folleto en español, haga clic aquí – MAMMOGRAFIA GRATIS.

Deferred Action: “The Basics”, an Informational Session, on Thursday, October 18

Melissa, along with New York Immigration Coalition, the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, and the East Harlem Immigrant Service Network will be holding a general informational session that will focus on the federal Deferred Action policy. The goals of the Deferred Action: “The Basics” session is to give agencies who may come into contact with undocumented individuals basic information on Deferred Action, share preventive measures that participants can use to protect themselves from fraud, and finally share the various resources that exist for people seeking information on this or other policies as it pertains to immigrants.

WHAT: Deferred Action: “The Basics” Informational Session
WHEN: Thursday, October 18 – 9 to 11 AM
WHERE: Hunter College’s School of Social Work, 2180 3rd Avenue (corner of East 119th Street)
RSVP: Joe Pressley at 212-828-9800 or jpressley@council.nyc.gov

Para ver el volante del evento en español, haga clic aquí.

Education Partners: Parents, Schools, and the Community Panel this Thursday

How can you get more involved in your child’s education? In what ways can schools and the community work together to provide resources to young people and their families? Boys & Girls Harbor is hosting its inaugural educational panel to discuss these and other topics on Thursday, October 18, at 6 PM.

Boys & Girls Harbor’s Education Partners: Parents, Schools, and the Community will have an impressive roster of panelists including seasoned educators, New York City politicians, representatives from community-based organizations, and parents. This year’s panel will be moderated by Harbor Executive Director Dr. Thomas Howard and will address critical issues and challenges facing today’s parents. Panelists include: Margaret Harrington, Ed.D., education consultant and Harbor Board member; Paula Martin, Executive Director of Harlem Center for Education; Jeanne Mullgrav, Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD); Kelly Smith, Harbor parent; and Lew Smith, Founder and Director of the National Principals Leadership Institute

Light refreshments will be served. Don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of this important conversation!

 

WHO: Boys & Girls Harbor

WHAT: Education Partners: Parents, Schools, and the Community Panel

WHEN: Thursday, October 18 at 6 PM

WHERE: The Heckscher building, 1 East 104th Street

RSVP to news@theharbor.org for guaranteed seating. Walk-ins are welcome!

Melissa to be a Panelist at Participatory Budgeting Seminar this Thursday

Baruch College will be hosting a free seminar, Participatory Budgeting in New York City: First Year Experience and Future on Thursday, October 18, from 4 to 6 PM. The seminar will present a broad perspective on Participatory Budgeting (PB) in government and discuss the pilot process for the four council districts that participated last year. Melissa will be one of the panelists along with Councilmember Brad Lander, the Project Coordinator of the PB Project, Donata Secondo, and member of the District Committee in the 45th District and Citywide Steering Committee for PB, Hazel Martinez. Although the admission is free, the space is limited so RSVP today.

WHAT: Participatory Budgeting in New York City: First Year Experience and Future Prospects
WHERE: 151 East 25th Street (between Lexington & Third Avenue) – Baruch College Information & Technology Building, Newman Conference Center, 7th Fl, Rm 750
WHEN: Thursday, October 18th – 4 to 6 PM
RSVP here

Let’s Implement the Community Safety Act!

Melissa, along with the Progressive Caucus and many members of the City Council, believe that there is a need for more police accountability in New York City. Progressive Caucus Member Jumaane Williams, with the support of the Progressive Caucus, is sponsoring four bills that collectively make up the Community Safety Act.

The Community Safety Act includes the following:

  • Int 0799-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to requiring law enforcement officers to provide notice and obtain proof of consent to search individuals.
  • Int 0800-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibiting bias-based profiling by law enforcement officers.
  • Int 0801-2012: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to requiring law enforcement officers to identify themselves to the public.
  • Int 0881-2012: A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to establishing an office of the inspector general for the New York city police department.


Join us at one of the upcoming hearings:

Free Self-Defense Training Workshop in Central Park

Following the recent disturbing, violent attacks towards women in our parks, Melissa, along with Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Council Members Gale A. Brewer and Jessica Lappin, will be sponsoring a Free Self-Defense Training run by The Center for Anti-Violence Education. This workshop is open to all over the age of 13, including seniors, although it is geared towards women and the LGBT community. Here’s your chance to learn how to defend yourself – RSVP today & make sure to wear comfortable clothes!

WHAT: FREE Self-Defense Training Workshop
WHEN: Sunday, October 7th, 2012 from 2 – 4 PM
WHERE: North Meadow Recreation Center in Central Park (Mid-Park at 97th Street)
RSVP: events@council.nyc.gov or 212.788.6871

* Training will also be provided in Spanish / También se proporcionará capacitación en español 

Green Jobs Green NY Bronx Contractor Forum on Tuesday, October 9

Currently there is only one certified GJ/GNY contractor in the entire Bronx! Becoming one can grow your business!

Through the Green Jobs Green NY (GJGNY) program, thousands of homes can receive free or reduced cost audits and retrofits, stopping air leaks, installing installation, upgrading HVAC systems, changing lighting, etc. In order to do this work, a contractor must be Building Performance Institute (BPI) accredited before they can participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program sponsored by the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA).

At this Contractor Forum, you will learn:

  • What BPI certification encompasses, how to become involved in the NYSERDA GJGNY program, and available incentives.
  • AEA, BCC, and Solar One will discuss their training opportunities for BPI certification.
  • What contractors need to be prepared to offer, in terms of capacity to get the assessments and retrofits completed.
  • MWBE certification and the opportunities for procurement that it can open up for MWBE contractors. Also additional incentives and training funding opportunities offered through SBS.
  • Additional incentives for business development for GJGNY, such as OJT training funding.

HOSTED BY: Solar One and Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation; with support from Bronx Community College, Association for Energy Affordability, NYC Small Business Services, Sustainable South Bronx

WHAT: Bronx Contractor Forum

WHERE: Bronx Community College, Language Hall, Facility Dining Room (map)

WHEN: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM

If you are interested in taking advantage of the quickly expanding market for home energy upgrades or “green jobs”, RSVP today!

Apply Today for the Saturday Academy at the Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York’s Saturday Academy is a free six-week program for students in grades 8 – 12 interested in American History or SAT preparation. There’s no homework or testing and all course materials are provided.

Fall 2012 courses meet on Saturdays October 27, November 3, 10, 17, December 1 and 8. Course offerings include:

  • Arts Movements in New York: From World War II to the 1960s
  • Futurama! America’s World’s Fairs and Envisioning the World of Tomorrow
  • Voices of Resistance: Photography and Poetry of the Civil Rights Movement
  • From Epidemics to Healthcare Reform: The History of American Medicine
  • Bell Curves SAT Skills

All applications must be received online. TO APPLY, please click on this link and fill out all the required information.

The application deadline is Tuesday, October 9. Enrollment is first-come, first-served, so please apply early since space is limited! Should you experience any trouble applying online, you may email Saturday.Academy@mcny.org or call 917-492-3401 to request that an application be mailed to your home address for you to fill out and return to the Museum of the City of New York.

PICTURE POST: Participatory Budgeting

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Two neighborhood assemblies down and five to go! We’re having a great time conversing with our constituents and brainstorming on potential capital projects that deserve funding in our district. Make sure to join us and have your voice heard at one of the next five assemblies:

Saturday, September 29th – 11 AM to 1:30 PM
Draper Hall – 1880 1st Ave (@ 97th St)

Thursday, October 4th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Millbrook Community Center – 201 St. Ann’s Ave (@ 137th St)

Thursday, October 11th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Red Oak Apartments – 135 W. 106th St (@ Columbus)

Tuesday, October 16th – 4:30 PM to 7 PM
* Special Assembly for Young People, Ages 14-24
Children’s Aid Society – 130 E. 101st St (@ Lexington)

Wednesday, October 17th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Harlem United El Faro Day Center – 179 East 116th St (btwn Lexington & 3rd)

To find out more about Participatory Budgeting and the process, please click here.

Opportunity for a Career as a Union Skilled Construction Craft Laborer

Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79 will be taking the first 2,000 applications they receive for the opportunity to become a Skilled Construction Craft Laborer Apprentice with the hopes to accept up to 200 Apprentices in the next 9 to 24 months.

As a first-year Apprentice, you will be making $36.80 per hour in wages and benefits. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, you will become a Journey worker, making $59.39 per hour in wages and benefits. This is obviously a great opportunity, not only to be a part of a union, but to have a career.

Minimum Requirements:

  • 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Physically capable of performing the work
  • Pass a pre-entry drug screening at your expense (once you’ve already been selected into the program)

Instructions:

  • Applications will be distributed for 10 business days, or until they reach 2,000 applicants. Beginning September 24, between 9 AM and 11:59 AM, go to WWW.MTTF.org (very important to include the “WWW”)
  • Follow the directions on the website
  • You may only apply once during these ten days
  • Fill out the form no different than if you were ordering a product online. If you are planning on moving in the next 2 years, please include two different addresses – at least one of which is very consistent (ex: a family member that does not plan on moving & will let you know when mail arrives)
  • Click submit

Everyone that applies will be mailed a letter of invitation for an interview. These names will be drawn at random, when needed periodically over the next  9-24 months. This could take up to 2 years depending on economic conditions. If you or anyone else you know is interested, make sure to apply as early as possible so that you’re part of the first 2,000 applicants.

Remember to Vote in the Primary Election Today!

AP Photo

For those of you have not already voted in today’s primary election, please note that the polling location you have had previously may not necessarily still be your designated poll site. Before you go to vote, confirm your voting location here. You can also download a sample ballot to see what races are going on in your part of the district.

Please note that because this is a primary and not a general election, in some parts of the district, there are no races to vote on. But if you do live in an area with a contested primary, we urge you to vote.

The polls will be open today until 9 PM. If you have any problems, please contact the Board of Elections at 866-VOTE-NYC.

Tomorrow: Small Business Job Fair Prescreening

Tomorrow, the Workforce1 Manhattan Career Center is hosting a job fair prescreening event featuring small businesses in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx that are looking to recruit employees in a number of fields. Applicants that meet employer requirements will be asked to return for an interview with the employer. See below for more info!

Image

Thursday, September 6th between 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM

Location: 60 Madison Avenue, Suite 704

Please bring: Valid (non-expired) Photo ID, Social Security Card, and your Resume.

(Applicant must be in proper interview attire)

APPLICANTS WITHOUT RESUMES WILL NOT BE ADMITTED

Best of luck!

Take Advantage of Free Performances at Lincoln Center

One of our favorite things about living in NYC is having so many free cultural events made accessible to us across the five boroughs. Lincoln Center is one of the organizations that provides extraordinary free performances for all New Yorkers. Here is their upcoming schedule for weekly events and free performances  at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center:

WEEKLY EVENTS:

Target Free Thursdays: Taking place every Thursday night at 8:30 pm, all year long, Target Free Thursdays provide free public performances that represent a diverse cross-section of musical genres, including pop, Latin, rock, soul, country, spoken word, and world music. Performers come from Lincoln Center’s resident organizations including Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Julliard School, as well as independent artists from across the five boroughs.

Meet the Artist Saturdays: On the first Saturday of each month at 11:00 am, Lincoln Center offers Meet the Artist Saturdays free-of-charge to the public. Meet the Artist offers a unique blend of performance, participation, and education that is specially created for family appeal. Each program provides audiences of all ages with the opportunity to experience the arts firsthand with world-class performers and every presentation includes a Q&A with the artists.

FREE PERFORMANCES:

When: Thursday, August 30th, at 7:30pm
What: Target Free Thursdays / “Lysander Piano Trio” / Grand Prize winner at the 2011 Coleman Chamber Music Competition, Lysander Piano Trio performs an exciting cross section of the most beloved piano trio repertoire.

When: Tuesday, September 4th, at 7:30pm
What: Special free performance / “The Tres Amigos: The Spicy Special” / The Tres Amigos deliver earnest, often comic originals and innovative takes on a range of classics, all tightly arranged to suit the group’s unique mix of alto sax, accordion, acoustic guitar, and hollerin’ voices.

When: Saturday, September 15th, at 11:00am
What: Meet the Artist Saturdays / “Classical Jam” / A vibrant ensemble of flute, percussion, violin, viola and cello, Classical Jam (CJ) brings five of the most highly demanded soloists and chamber musicians together.

When: Thursday, September 20th, at 7:30pm
What: Target Free Thursdays / “The Donations” / The Donations is comprised of Lincoln Center staffers — a singing group originally commissioned by Reynold Levy, President of Lincoln Center, to perform at Board functions.  Friends and colleagues will accompany the group on an eclectic selection of songs ranging from Broadway to the King of Pop. We hope you’ll join us for an evening of merry music-making!

When: Thursday, September 27th, at 7:30pm
What: Target Free Thursdays / “Stevy Mahy” / Float away on the enchanting voice of Stevy Mahy whose lyrics flow seamlessly over rich acoustic melodies that envelop and warm the soul. Growing up in a musical household, she spent her time between her birthplace, Paris and Guadeloupe. Stevy’s music is distinctly influenced by her global childhood. Singing in English, French, and Creole, her hushed tones and intimate style are complemented by the hints of Caribbean rhythm.

When: Saturday, September 29th, at 2:30pm
What: Meet the Artist Saturdays / “Lincoln Center Local Final Series Performance” / Journey across Latin culture with Alexander Wu and the Zigzag Quartet to find the threads of salsa, samba, and tango in classical jazz and modern musical compositions. This performance features ballroom dancers and will be broadcast live to selected libraries in Queens.

When: Thursday, October 4th, at 8:30pm
What: Target Free Thursdays / “Ne(x)tworks: John Cage’s Variations IV” / To celebrate iconoclastic American composer John Cage’s centenary, local creative music ensemble Ne(x)tworks (with special guest R. Luke DuBois on video) presents the evening-length work Variations IV (1963). Fourth in a series of classic indeterminate works from the 1960’s, Variations IV is a seminal exploration of simultaneity and site-specificity, and is Cage’s composerly representation of the Hindu/Buddhist concept samsara or “the world of everyday life.”

When: Saturday, October 6th, at 11:00am
What: Meet the Artist Saturdays / “NewSong Music: Songwritting workshop with James Maddock” / British born James Maddock was first recognized in the U.S as leader of the band Wood (Songs From Stamford Hill – Columbia Records). Songs From Stamford Hill, which remains a fan favorite 10 years later, produced a Top 5 Triple A hit, “Stay You” and was included in the first Dawson’s Creek compilation.

When: Thursday, October 11th, at 7:30pm
What: Target Free Thursdays / “O Sole Trio: From Prima Donna to Post-Madonna
How Italy and Italian-Americans influenced American Popular Music” / A vibrant musical ensemble featuring the lush voices of soprano Erin Shields and baritone Giuseppe Spoletini along with the amazingly versatile David Shenton on violin and piano. The night will offer a blend of some of the most popular Italian opera, Neapolitan and classic jazz standards with a concentration on the Italian language.

For additional performances in October and beyond, check out their schedule.

The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center is located between West 62nd and 63rd Streets with entrances on Broadway and Columbus Avenues.

Hispanic Federation Will Award 100 DREAMers $50,000 to Apply for Deferred Action

In the midst of rejoicing with the still-new news of DREAMers being able to obtain protection from deportation and receive work permits for at least two years, there’s a harsh reality for those who qualify for deferred action – the cost of applying. At $475 per applicant, it’s not a small fee, especially for families with multiple eligible DREAMers. This is why the Hispanic Federation, along with 10 Latino nonprofit partner organizations, is going to award $50,000 to aid 100 deserving, eligible immigrant youth applying for the Obama’s Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Immigration Program.

DREAMers looking to confirm their eligibility and apply for assistance with the application fee must do so through the 10 partner organizations, which are listed below:

Make the Road NY (Brooklyn & Queens, NY)
347-SONAR12 (347-766-2712)
dream@maketheroadny.org

Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (Manhattan & Bronx, NY)
665 West 182nd Street, Ground Floor, New York, New York 10033
212-781-035

El Centro del Inmigrante (Staten Island, NY)
1546 Castleton Ave, Staten Island, NY 10302
718-420-6466

Westchester Hispanic Coalition (Hudson Valley, NY)
46 Waller Avenue, White Plains, NY  10605
914-948–8466

Center for Latino Progress (Hartford, CT)
95 Park Street, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT 06106
860-247-3227

Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury (Danbury, CT)
87 West Street, Danbury, CT 06810
203-798-2855

Immigration & American Citizenship Organization (Passaic, NJ)
647 Main Avenue, Suite 205, Passaic, New Jersey, 07055
973-472-4648

La Casa de Don Pedro (Newark, NJ)
39 Broadway Newark, NJ 07104
973-481-4713

Juntos (Philadelphia, PA)
2029 South 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
215-218-9079

Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (Philadelphia, PA)
4261North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140

Donations to support DREAMers can be made to the Hispanic Federation through their website or by contacting Tania Munguia at their headquarters at (212) 233-8955. If this is something you or someone you know is interested in applying for, spread the word and apply today. Best of luck!

Deferred Action Application Now Available for Undocumented Youth

Earlier this year, President Obama announced that DREAM Act eligible immigrant students will be able to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation and can access work permits. Applicants who have not committed major crimes can apply for Deferred Action without fear of deportation for at least two years.

The application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (I-821D) has been released along with the application for employment authorization (I-765)  and I-765WS, form I-765 worksheet. If you are filing for Deferred Action make sure to file all applications. Filing address depends on state of residence, check out the complete list here.

The total fee for forms for deferred action I-821D, employment authorization I-765 and the worksheet I-765WS is $465. This fee includes the $380 form fee for the working papers I-765 and an $85 biometric services fee. Make sure you do not pay more for the applications.

Here is the list of the requirements and a list of documents you need in order to prove you are eligible for deferred action.  

Attend New York State Youth Leadership Council’s (NYSYLC) Manhattan’s Deferred Action Workshop to get more information about Deferred Action, the requirements, how to apply, when and where. Get your questions answered by an accredited lawyer.

Manhattan Deferred Action Workshop

WHEN: Thursday, Aug 16th from 6:30pm-8:30pm

WHERE: Little Sisters of the Assumption on LSA Family Health Service, 333 East 115th St, New York, NY 10029, 3rd Floor.

For more information contact info@nysylc.org, visit NYSYLC’s website, follow @NYSYLC or like NYSYLC on Facebook

Additional information provided by U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services: Deferred Action Informational Flyer & Deferred Action Detailed Informational Brochure

Back to School Back Pack Drive: Helping Local Families in Need

Now through August 24, 2012, Bishop Joseph Harris, the Senior Pastor and founder of Life Changers Church and Ministries of Manhattan, is on a mission to collect as many book bags with school supplies for children ages 5 to 12 in East Harlem and Porte-Prince, Haiti.

In these hard times, there are many families in our community and in Haiti that cannot afford to provide their children with basic tools that they will need to succeed in school, such as back packs and school supplies. By simply just providing our youth with these tools to learn, we can help take this one burden off of these families’ backs whose burdens include worrying about where their next meal will come from or if they’ll have a roof over their head.

At the end of the Back to School Back Pack Drive, on August 25, 2012, Life Changers Church will throw a “Back 2 School Block Party” for all the young people of our East Harlem community. Stay tuned for more details on this event!

If you would like to contribute, Life Changers Church is suggesting you donate a book bag with school supplies inside such as: a 3-ring binder, erasers, folders, loose-leaf paper, crayons or markers, pens and pencils. Please contact Felipe Ayala to set up your donation: (914) 458-2096 or fayala@lifechangerschurch.org.  

Melissa Comments on the Calls for a Federal Investigation of NYCHA

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is under the microscope right now by some elected officials and the media. Melissa released the following statement yesterday in response to these recent reports:

“With all of the challenges facing NYCHA, we as local elected officials and advocates for public housing need to be constructive in expressing our concerns and seeking real solutions,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “In the context of this Republican Congress, which would like nothing more than to dismantle one of the largest remaining housing authorities in our nation, now is not the time to call for a federal investigation of NYCHA. In a city that has grown too expensive and now has the highest income disparity in the nation, NYCHA serves as an important stabilizing force, as the cornerstone of affordable housing in New York City. Clearly, we want all of our agencies to function effectively and efficiently, but we must not lose sight of how these sensational news stories, and the political response they have provoked, could serve to undermine all the work that still needs to be done to improve the lives of NYCHA’s 400,000 residents.”

The fact is that in the past three years, NYCHA has been making progress on many important issues, including: addressing the work order backlog, federalizing and preserving 20,000 units, enhancing employment and empowerment opportunities for residents, wisely investing stimulus funding, developing a “Green Agenda” and planning for the future. It was also during these past three years that they spent about $1.5 billion for a number of vital initiatives, including: completing the 75,000 repair work orders in more than 16,000 apartments citywide, $400 million in capital improvements such as brick work, elevator modernizations, boiler and electrical system upgrades and the creation of 3,200 jobs for New Yorkers. NYCHA has been actively working on empowering their residents with connecting them to jobs through the proven Jobs-Plus programs. That included over 500 members of our communities of East Harlem and the South Bronx.

Despite continuous federal cuts, NYCHA is working hard to have their Operating deficit completely eliminated in 2015-2016. We applaud NYCHA’s efforts to preserve and protect New York City public housing despite all of the cuts that they have endured.

Voice Your Opinion at the NYC Districting Commission’s Public Hearings

It’s that time again. Every ten years, the NYC Districting Commission meets to redraw the New York City Council’s district lines in order to account for shifts in the population based on the last Census. This process has officially begun this summer. Don’t be left out of the conversation!

The NYC Districting Commission will be holding hearings this month so that the public can give its input as the Commission enters the initial phases of drafting a new districting plan. If you would like to register for speaking time at one of these hearings or submit written testimony in advance, please sign up online at http://www.nyc.gov/districting. Those speaking will be allotted up to three minutes to provide their testimony.

You can also keep up with the latest on the process by visiting the Districting Commission’s website or following the Commission on Twitter or Facebook.  

Below are the two public hearings for our Manhattan and Bronx constituents:

MANHATTAN – Thursday, August 16th – 5PM-9PM

New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

BRONX – Thursday, August 23rd – 5PM-9PM

Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, East Dining Room, Music Building, Bronx, NY 10468

We welcome you to participate and share your views with the Districting Commission as well as pass the word on to your neighbors!

Para información sobre la Comisión de Designación de Distritos en español, haga clic aquí

RSVP Today for a Special Know Your Rights Training for NYC Youth

A special Know Your Rights Training session for NYC youth will take place on Thursday, August 16, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. Knowing your rights is the first step to empowering yourself.

Our community, like other minority communities in NYC is plagued with racially biased and unlawful stop and frisk practices, which could lead to unjust arrests for possession of marijuana. We’ve sponsored a resolution that the City Council overwhelmingly adopted and the New York State Senate failed to agree on, we’ve held silent marches and we’ve spoke out for justice.  This event for our city’s young people is the next step. Sponsored by the New Yorkers for Health and Safety, and a collaboration by the Drug Policy Alliance, Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform & Alternatives,  Center for NuLeadership and VOCAL-NY, Know Your Rights Training is giving our young people the knowledge and tools that they need to implement justice and accountability in their everyday lives.

We strongly urge you to RSVP today or find out more information by calling Chino at (718) 484-5887 or Alfredo at (718) 415-9254. Spread the word!

WHEN: Thursday, August 16th – 5:30pm-7:30pm

WHERE: RFK Building, 113 East 13th Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenues), New York, NY 10003 [Directions: 4, 5, 6, L, N or Q train to 14th Street Union Square]

Free Rodent Management Training

Community Board 7 is opening their doors to anyone interested in a free training program in rodent abatement. The Rodent Management Training session will be held on Wednesday, August 15th at 250 West 87th Street, 2nd floor.

Whether you’re a building owner, manager, super or simply a resident that has seen rats and mice in and your building, learn how to safely and effectively manage the unwelcome pests around your property. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene implemented a “Rat Indexing” program in the Bronx and Manhattan, where they would inspect most properties, even if no complaint of a rat was received. Here is how our district fared: Manhattan Community Board 11, Bronx Community Board 1 and Manhattan Community Board 7.

Registration is required so please register by either calling (212) 362-4008 or by emailing office@cb7.org. Register today for this useful training session!

Click here for Spanish.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 – 2 PM to 4 PM

WHERE: 250 West 87th Street, 2nd Floor

Free Deferred Action and College Fair Information Session this Saturday

Achieving a higher education is very much a reality for DREAMers. On Saturday, August 11th, MASA-MexEd, along with CUNY Citizenship Now, CUNY’s Admission Office and the New York Legal Assistance Group will be hosting an informational workshop covering everything from President Obama’s Deferred Action to how to apply to college regardless of your legal status.

DREAMers, family and friends are welcome to come take advantage of this free session and receive guidance about obtaining a work permit, applying to college and learning what financial resources are available to you. Your legal status does not mean that you cannot obtain a college degree. The first step is finding out the tools you need to succeed at the Deferred Action and College Fair Information Session on Saturday.

Please spread the word! If you need more information please contact Angelo Cabrera at acabrera@masany.org

WHO: MASA-MexEd, CUNY Citizenship Now, New York Legal Assistance Group and CUNY’s Admission Office

WHAT: Deferred Action and College Fair Information Session

WHEN: Saturday, August 11, 2012 – 2 PM to 4 PM

WHERE:  Centro Comunitario de MASA-MexEd Inc. 420 East 145th Street, Bronx, NY 10454

Poll: How Do You Feel About the Soda Ban?

You have probably seen all of our recent posts about the Mayor’s proposed ban on the sale of large sugary beverages.  We have created an informal online poll to see how our constituents and friends feel about the proposed soda ban.  Let us know what you think!

Groomer to the Stars, Jorge Bendersky and Melissa to Host a Pet Care Grooming Workshop

Celebrity dog groomer Jorge Bendersky will be at Jefferson Recreation Center with Melissa on Saturday, July 14 hosting a free Pet Care Grooming Workshop.  You may have seen Jorge on Animal Planet’s realty show, “The Groomer Has It,” as a judge on TLC’s “Extreme Poodles” or as the grooming expert on Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101.”

Although most of Jorge’s clients are among the rich and famous and he is the most sought out Manhattan groomer, Jorge is dedicated to giving back. In doing so, he is offering his talents and knowledge to those dogs (and pet owners) who would not normally be able to afford such lavish amenities. Jorge will cover how to properly brush your dog, along with tips and tools for early detection of a wide spectrum of potential canine diseases at the free Pet Care Grooming Workshop. Early detection is essential to not only saving your dog’s life but to saving an enormous amount on vet bills.

Come join us and learn about all of the benefits of proper grooming for your furry best friend! To find out more about Jorge and his work, you can visit his website – planetjorge.com.

WHO: Melissa and Celebrity Dog Groomer Jorge Bendersky

WHAT: Pet Care Grooming Workshop

WHERE: Jefferson Recreation Center (2205 First Avenue, corner of 113th Street)

WHEN: Saturday, July 14 – 10 AM to 12 Noon

Melissa & Council Member Letitia James: Why The Soda Ban Won’t Work

Melissa and Council Member Letitia James blogged about Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban:

There are few who would criticize Mayor Bloomberg for working towards the goal of a healthier New York. Unfortunately, there are many who would criticize Mayor Bloomberg for seeking to achieve that goal the wrong way. In fact, most New Yorkers think the so-called “soda ban”– which would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages over 16 ounces by most food establishments — is a bad idea.

Although we stand with Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to support New Yorkers in making healthy food choices, and recognize the city’s outrageous rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes — especially among communities of color — we remain deeply concerned about the proposal for the following reasons:

a. the ban, if implemented, will yield an adverse economic impact for small businesses and may result in job losses; and
b. the ban would harm producers that ship soda-syrup and cups across state lines into New York, possibly violating the federal commerce clause; and
c. the ban infringes on the civil liberties (choice) of New Yorkers, and may be overturned

Click here for the rest of the blog post.

As Melissa and Letitia go on to mention, the administration should be focusing on goals that will have a greater impact on public health than a beverage ban that might hurt small businesses. The city should be expanding youth recreation programs, school sports and open spaces, and creating programs to subsidize healthy food access and rehabilitating outdoor parks and playgrounds, as well as indoor recreational spaces that would encourage New Yorkers to exercise.

Public comment on the soda ban ends July 24, 2012, which leads us to the question – what do you think?

Statement from Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Letitia James in Support of the Con Edison Workers

City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Letitia James deplore the extreme and irresponsible action taken by the Con Edison utility company when it locked out 8,500 workers in the early morning hours of July 1st, without a moment’s notice, in the midst of contract negotiations. Con Ed has blamed the union for the situation, when in fact the Utility Workers of America Local 1-2 did everything it could to avert this lockout, including offering to work without a contract to ensure that New Yorkers’ safety was not compromised.  This dangerous action will increase the likelihood of brown-outs and blackouts for New Yorkers during this heat wave! Kevin Burke, CEO of Con Edison who has an $11 million salary, has cut off the healthcare benefits for all 8,500 workers and their families.

This is a company that recently upped its rates by 10% (among the highest in the country) and made $5 billion in profits last year, gave its CEO a $25 million compensation package and an $18 million pension, and has over 40 senior staff making at least $300,000. Yet Con Ed wants to take away the pensions for its hardworking men and women and replace them with less-dependable 401k-style plans, as well as force workers to pay a 100% increase in health care contributions.

The company has made it clear that it’s willing to lock out its workers and jeopardize its customers rather than engage in fair and honest negotiations around pensions and healthcare plans. All 8,500 utility workers are ready to reach a deal and get a fair contract so they can go back to work but Con-Ed is disregarding everything but its own greed.

Councilmember James and Councilmember Mark-Viverito stand in solidarity with the Local 1-2 utility workers and their families and urge their colleagues and all New Yorkers who believe in justice and equality to do the same.

East Harlem’s Senior Pool Party to Launch Senior Hours in 14 City-Wide Pools

We are delighted to announce that the Parks Department, Department for The Aging and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs’ office will be holding the public launch of 14 city-wide swimming pools’ senior hours at our very own Thomas Jefferson Park Pool on Monday, July 9th at 10 AM. But the party doesn’t start then – the East Harlem Senior Pool Party will start at 9 AM on Monday, July 9th to kick-off our senior hours which will be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 to 11 AM (July 9 – August 31).

In response to our local seniors’ requests, Melissa pushed for Thomas Jefferson Park Pool to be the first to offer dedicated hours to our seniors as a part of the Age Improvement District initiative alongside with New York Academy of Medicine last summer. Because of Melissa’s efforts, our community will no longer be the only one benefiting from senior hours at public pools, which promotes recreation and physical well-being, but now 13 other pools city-wide will be able to as well. Throughout the summer, a qualified instructor will be at each of these sites teaching organized water exercises and swim instruction.

“I am always proud when our community of El Barrio/East Harlem can serve as a laboratory for successful, innovative initiatives like this one,” Melissa commented.  “We were the first to launch an Age Improvement District with the New York Academy of Medicine and the first to offer dedicated hours at our public pool for seniors.  It is truly wonderful to see these senior pool hours being offered across the five boroughs this year.  I thank Commissioner Benepe and the Parks Department for expanding this program citywide, as well as all of our local partners who are helping to make our community a healthier and more livable place to grow old.”

So come join us for this pool party to kick-off a monumental swim season for our seniors. We welcome all those over the age of 50 to enjoy the free snacks and music with your neighbors.  To get the full list of pools participating in senior hours – click here. We hope to see you there!

WHAT: East Harlem’s Senior Pool Party & the launch of Senior Hours at public pools city-wide

WHERE: Thomas Jefferson Park Pool, First Avenue and East 112th Street

WHEN: Monday, July 9th; 9 AM (the launch of Senior Hours will be at 10 AM)

City Council Overrides Bloomberg’s Living Wage Veto

Last Thursday, the City Council voted to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the living wage bill that aimed to provide a living wage for 75% of all hourly jobs on economic development projects, including retail tenant jobs. The bill would have required that those who directly benefit from at least $1 million in taxpayer subsidies to pay their employees a wage of $10 an hour with health benefits or $11.50 an hour without. In order to track the bill’s goals, the bill includes mandatory wage reporting obligations that will allow the City to monitor its process.

Although this bill is practical and would be an invaluable tool towards reducing poverty for all New Yorkers, Mayor Bloomberg is adamantly opposed and has talked about possibly suing. The overwhelming majority of the City Council voted for this override. It only seems fair that large developers who are receiving our taxpayer subsidies should be responsible for providing decent wages and benefits to their employees.

[photo courtesy of livingwagenyc.org]

Check Out Lincoln Center’s Target Free Thursdays

Lincoln Center is doing a series of free performances taking place every Thursday night at 8:30 pm, all year long, in the David Rubenstein Atrium between West 62nd and 63rd streets with entrances on Broadway and Columbus avenues. Target Free Thursdays provide free public performances that represent a diverse cross-section of musical genres, including pop, Latin, rock, soul, country, spoken word, and world music. Performers come from Lincoln Center’s resident organizations including Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Julliard School, as well as independent artists from across the five boroughs.

Check out the great performers they’ll have this year.

Melissa to Speak on Panel: Combating Youth Violence, Concrete Solutions for New York City

Melissa will be speaking on a panel at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs will be holding an event Combating Youth Violence: Concrete Solutions for New York City on Wednesday, March 21 from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM at the Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, 55 West 13th St. (between 5th and 6th Avenues), 2nd Floor. Admission is free but attendees must reserve a seat by emailing centernyc@newschool.edu.

Youth violence has declined sharply over two decades–more than 70 percent in New York State, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Yet in some neighborhoods there are now increasing reports of gang activity and violence. Tensions and distrust remain high between law enforcement officials and community members–especially young people. Leaders in other cities have shown that youth, communities, and law enforcement can work together for successful solutions. Can we follow that path in New York? What strategies are already working, and how can we make them stronger?

Remarks from:
David Kennedy, author of Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America; Director, John Jay Center for Crime Prevention and Control

Followed by a conversation with:
Phillip Banks, III, Chief of Community Affairs, New York City Police Department
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member, District 8, New York City Council
Reean Charles, Organizer, Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (Y.O.S.O.S.)
and others

Resolution in Support of the Restore the American Dream Act

This week, Melissa introduced a resolution in support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act.

This legislation in the U.S. Congress, introduced by Reps. Ellison, Grijalva and others, would put Americans back to work, creating more jobs and improving the overall health of the American economy. The proposal would create an emergency jobs program to repair public schools and hire childcare workers, teachers, first responders and staff our national parks. Estimates suggest this could create as many as 2.3 million jobs in 2012, while also reducing the deficit. The bill would increase taxes for millionaires and billionaires, repeal tax loopholes for oil companies, and reduce spending by the Department of Defense.

To read more about the Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act, click here.

Video: Melissa Makes a Statement on the Virginia Abortion Debate

Melissa made a statement on the floor of the City Council regarding the current debate in Virigina over legislation that would put in place new requirements before a woman can have an legally exercise her rights to an abortion, as well as other proposed measures that would undermine those rights.

You can watch a video of the statement below:

Fiscal Year 2013 Discretionary Funding Process

The application process for Fiscal Year 2013 discretionary funding is now available on the Budget section of our blog.  Please visit www.mmviverito.com/budget for the latest info on deadlines, application forms and other requirements. 

For more information please contact Joe at 212-788-6960 or jtaranto@council.nyc.gov.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito Responds to New York Fundraiser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Tonight, New York State Republicans will hold a fundraiser for Scott Walker, the union busting Governor of Wisconsin.  At a time when people across Wisconsin prepare to submit petitions for the recall of Governor Walker, it is disheartening that Republican New Yorkers would gather to support him in an effort to subvert the democratic process.  Governor Walker’s efforts to strip public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights, which were infamously bankrolled by the Koch Brothers, have made him the poster child for the austerity movement in the United States.

“While Governor Walker claims to have created ‘thousands’ of new jobs as a result of his economic policies, the Los Angeles Times reports today that ‘Non-farm employment grew by 4,500 jobs between November 2010 and November 2011, up just 0.2% — one of the worst performances among the states.’

“It is officials like Governor Walker that have inspired the kind of historic push back from communities across the United States – from the protests in Madison to the Occupy movements that emerged around the country, and continue to organize and galvanize around issues of income disparities.

“I express my grave disappointment that our state’s Republican Committee is bolstering the governor’s attempts to stifle the voices of Wisconsin residents and raise my voice in solidarity with those who seek to fight Governor Walker’s anti-union agenda.”

New Commercial Zoning Protections Proposed for Upper West Side/Manhattan Valley

The NYC Department of City Planning announced earlier this week the initiation of public review on a series of proposed zoning regulations that aim to protect the vibrant retail character of the Upper West Side community.  An original version of the proposal did not include the Manhattan Valley portion of the Upper West Side in these zoning protections.  However, after advocacy by local community leaders, CB 7 members, small businesses and Melissa’s office, City Planning has agreed to extend these protections to parts of Amsterdam Avenue in my district from W. 96th Street to W. 110th Street.  For details on these zoning protections, click here. 

“We must do all that we can to ensure that diverse retailers continue to define the distinct character of the Upper West Side,” said City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am thrilled that part of the Manhattan Valley neighborhood which I represent is being included in this proposed zoning change, so that it can also be protected from the increasing dominance of banks and retailers that tend to occupy a large ground floor footprint, leaving little room for the diverse small businesses that fuel our local economy. I applaud Commissioner Burden and my colleagues for their leadership on this zoning change and look forward to voting for it in the City Council.”

These new zoning changes aim to slow down a trend that we are seeing in many parts of our city, whereby banks and chain stores are leasing exceedingly large ground floor commerical spaces.  This practice reduces the diversity of our streetscape and retail corridors and does not provide opportunities to the local small businesses that make the Upper West Side the vibrant neighborhood that it is. 

The zoning protections being proposed by City Planning will include restrictions on frontage space for stores, banks and residential lobbies, and once adopted, will apply to new developments as well as alterations, conversions and changes in use in existing buildings.

Melissa Demands that ABC Apologize for “Work It” Anti-Puerto Rican Comment

Please find below a letter sent by Melissa and nine of her City Council colleagues demanding an apology from ABC after their new show “Work It” insulted the Puerto Rican community by including the following line: “I’m Puerto Rican, I would be great at selling drugs.”

UPDATE: Sign this new online petition at Change.org to demand an apology from ABC!

Melissa Appears on Democracy Now! to Discuss Citizens United

Melissa made an appearance on Democracy Now! this morning to discuss the resolution she sponsored with the Progressive Caucus in the City Council yesterday that opposes the infamous Citizens United decision that gave corporations the same rights as people.  Under this decision, corporations can now donate unlimited funds to federal political campaigns.  Melissa and her colleagues in the Progressive Caucus are now joining the call for a Constitutional amendment to overturn this court decision.

Take a look at the video below and let us know what you think.  Should corporations have the same rights as people?

New Year. More Progress.

Dear Friend:

I hope your holidays were both restful and full of cheer. As I looked back at our community’s many accomplishments in 2011, I couldn’t help but reflect on how hard we worked and how much it paid off.  In the coming year, I look forward to continuing to expand even further on the progress we are making in District 8.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for our community?  Please leave them in the comments section below!

Last year, we engaged directly with local residents to help shape the future of our community.  The El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, which was convened by my office, released its official platform, a plan to bring peace to our streets that was created in conjunction with our community’s youth.  Soon after the release of our platform, NYCHA finally opened the Johnson Center after over 10 years of community struggle.  Our community was also one of four in the city to take a major step towards democracy in 2011 as my office began implementing a Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in Council District 8. Through PB, community residents will decide how to allocate $1 million in discretionary funds towards capital projects of their choosing.

For our older residents, my office continued to make progress on developing El Barrio/East Harlem’s Age Improvement District, by working with the City to launch Senior Pool Hours at Jefferson Pool and to unveil several new benches on our sidewalks, which will provide a resting place for older adults as they walk outside.

And let’s not forget the citywide and national efforts to which we have contributed.  Like so many of you, I have became more motivated than ever to pursue economic and social justice in our community and our city. I marched alongside thousands of Occupy Wall Street protestors and was arrested for civil disobedience as a way of making a statement on the unconscionable level of economic inequality in our society. I was also proud to sponsor and see passed into law a bill that will help protect undocumented New York City residents from detention and deportation, which will help keep more families united.

Our accomplishments in 2011 have set the bar for a great 2012. We’re starting off on the right foot by celebrating Chinese New Year with our Chinese neighbors this month (more details to come). From there, the work continues. After another round of public meetings in February, we will hold the official Public Vote for the Participatory Budgeting process in late March.  And of course my office and the organizations that make up the Youth Violence Task Force will continue to lead the fight for safer streets, as we seek funding to implement the recommendations from our platform. In the coming months, I will also be fighting against City budget cuts and to bring more resources to our neighborhoods.

And as always, I will continue to be active on local issues of importance across our district.  Exciting and challenging times are ahead.

Please don’t forget to take a moment to share your New Year’s Resolutions for our community by leaving a comment below!

All the very best,
Melissa

Progressive Caucus Sponsors Resolution Declaring that Corporations Are Not People

The Progressive Caucus of the City Council has sponsored a resolution opposing the United States Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which gave corporations the same First Amendment rights as people (including the right to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns), and urging the U.S. Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution rejecting this infamous decision.  Melissa is a co-lead sponsor of the resolution, which will be adopted by the entire City Council at a meeting today.

Restoring confidence in government and strengthening democratic participation is a core principle of the Progressive Caucus.  We believe that corporations should not share the same rights as people, that unlimited and unreported corporate donations meant to sway the electoral process should not be considered freedom of speech, and that the government should regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations intended to influence elections.

I want to thank Speaker Quinn and my colleagues for ushering this resolution to adoption. In this time of growing inequality in our society, which has been so powerfully vocalized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the need to disentangle corporate interests from our democratic political process is more clear than ever. This Supreme Court decision does just the opposite and that is why we are calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to make clear once and for all that corporations are not people and therefore cannot make unlimited donations to political campaigns to exercise their influence.

As Justice John Paul Stevens recognized in his dissent in the Citizens United decision, “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help facilitate and structure the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

Melissa Appears in Holiday Play & Hands Out Gifts to Students

Melissa made her acting debut this week in an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  Prior to the show, she handed out gifts to attendees of the play, including students from our district.  The show was produced by http://www.the5dollarplay.com.  See below for photos and video from the event.

Melissa and her staff wish each of you a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!

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Melissa Celebrates Agreement on the Livery Taxi Bill

Melissa joined Mayor Bloomberg, elected officials and representatives from the livery taxi industry in Washington Heights yesterday to celebrate the agreement reached between Governor Cuomo, the State Legislature and advocates on a bill that will provide legal street hail service to under-served areas in New York City (including Upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs).  The bill will also authorize a medallion sale that could bring up to $1 billion in new revenue to the city to help plug our budget deficit, and will expand the number of wheelchair accessible taxis.

“Today is a great day for Upper Manhattan and outer borough residents,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Finally, our communities will have access to the same safe, dependable street hail service that residents of the Central Business District have, and the drivers and bases that have served our neighborhoods for decades can provide this service legally.  Any action that helps chip away at the barriers we face towards achieving equity is a victory for all.  That is why this bill is so significant.  I congratulate Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Yassky and all of the livery bases and drivers who have advocated so strongly for the passage of this legislation. I also thank Governor Cuomo for arriving at a fair resolution on this bill.”

Earlier this year, Melissa stood against a plan that would have excluded a vast number of livery bases and drivers by offering upgraded street-hail licenses at prices that were far out of reach for our communities; however, she strongly supported the bill that was ultimately passed by the State Legislature in June, which made this business opportunity more affordable, while still expanding service to parts of our Council District.

Tomorrow: Learn More about New Law Protecting Immigrants in NYC

Please join Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s Office and the East Harlem Immigrant Service Network for a community meeting tomorrow to discuss the City’s new law protecting immigrants at Rikers Island.  This law was sponsored by Melissa, and was recently signed by Mayor Bloomberg.  The event will take place tomorrow, December 15th from 9:30 am to 11:30 am at the NYC Department of Health (E. 115th Street and Lexington Avenue).

Melissa and the Network will be joined by guest speakers from Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School, who helped shape this landmark piece of legislation.  We hope you will be able to join us!

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Joey Pressley at 212-828-9800 or jpressley@council.nyc.gov.  Translation into Spanish will be available.

The Governor’s Plan to Make Our State’s Tax Structure More Progressive

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Governor Cuomo announced NY State’s new progressive income tax last week. The State was facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit that endangered vital social services and would have led to more layoffs at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet. Under the Governor’s proposal, which has now been passed by the State Senate 55-0, the budget deficit will become far more manageable.

Yet, we have more work to do. Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly deserve credit for putting aside their differences, working together and remembering that a more progressive tax system is critical to putting our state in a better financial position. But NY State will still face a $1.5 billion deficit next year, and we have received no indication that our schools, parks, hospitals, and public housing will be shielded from the cuts. These institutions, along with many others, are invaluable, especially in hard times like the ones we are facing now. We cannot allow resources to be driven away from these essential resources.

Send Governor Cuomo a message. Remind him that we still need revenues and that cuts to our vital services are not acceptable.

I had been very vocal in my criticism of the Governor when he came out against the extension of the Millionaire’s Tax, which in my view made New York fairer. Last week, I set my criticism aside and I am happy to say that I stand in support of this new plan to invest in our state’s economy. Yes, I would have rather seen the Millionaire’s Tax extended, but it is nevertheless gratifying to know that Governor Cuomo agrees that those who earn more ought to contribute more to our State in furtherance of a more just society. I am particularly encouraged by the commitment to invest in jobs for our youth, which are so desperately needed in communities like ours.

The Governor has come a long way in recognizing that New York’s tax system has been unfair for many years. I believe he can come a bit further.

Let’s push Governor Cuomo a little further to the left. Ask for more revenues and less cuts.

Sincerely,
Melissa

Tomorrow: Join the Occupy Wall Street National Day of Action

Tomorrow, November 17th, thousands of New Yorkers will take part in a National Day of Action in support of Occupy Wall Street.  As you know, the City will begin enforcing new rules at Zuccotti Park, which will prohibit OWS protestors from staying overnight and using tents and tarps.  More than ever, this movement needs the support from all of New York City’s 99 percent.  A rally will be held tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. in Foley Square to commemorate the two month anniversary of this global movement and to continue the call for economic justice in our city and our nation.  We urge everyone to join us at this rally so that we can all make our voices heard!  Check out this Facebook event to RSVP and to learn more details on all of the day’s actions.  If you are interested in joining our office at the rally tomorrow, please call Lauren in our District Office at 212-828-9800.

Yesterday, Melissa joined many of her colleagues and partners in the labor movement in condemning the overnight removal of the OWS protestors from Zuccotti Park.  Click here for coverage from NY1.  Below is a joint statement issued by several Council Members which also criticized the late night eviction.

Statement from Council Members Gale Brewer, Daniel Dromm, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Steve Levin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma, Deborah Rose, James Sanders, Jimmy Van Bramer, Jumaane Williams on the Eviction of Occupy Wall Street

We, the undersigned members of the New York City Council, are dismayed by the late night eviction of the occupation of Wall Street. We condemn the violation of the FirstAmendment rights of the protesters. It is shameful to use the cover of darkness to trample on civil liberties without fear of media scrutiny or a public response.

We are proud to be a part of the movement for economic and social justice and shared sacrifice sparked by Occupy Wall Street. We commend Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, who demonstrated their solidarity by standing with protesters at Zuccotti Park last night. In the aftermath of the eviction, we reiterate our support and look toward the future.

We know that the fight is far from over, and that last night’s events will only fuel the fire for change. We will march to hold the banks accountable and call for a fairer economy on November 17 and beyond.

Youth Violence Task Force Platform Released Yesterday!

The El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force released its official platform yesterday, following more than a year of community discussions and meetings with young people. The Task Force, organized by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, was founded after the Council Member and community groups noticed a growth in neighborhood violence among the youth.  It is a diverse collaborative of youth and community organizations that aims to directly involve young people in the development of positive alternatives to gang and gun violence.  The platform is available for download here.

(c) William Alatriste New York City Council

The press conference unveiling the platform was held outside the Johnson Community Center, which has been in the works for over 10 years as an important resource for our community’s youth, but still has not been opened.  Senator Jose Serrano, Council Member Jumaane Williams and local youth and community groups were all on hand to support the work of the Task Force.   The platform calls for collective action on the part of government, law enforcement, non-profits, youth, parents, schools, and the community as a whole to address the recent rise in youth violence.

The recommendations, which derive from ideas that were shared during a series of community discussions and other gatherings of local youth, revolve around seven key areas:

  1. Outreach to High Risk Youth
  2. Improving Police/Community Relations
  3. Extracurricular Youth Programming
  4. Youth Employment
  5. Investments in Public Education
  6. Parental Involvement
  7. Youth Empowerment.

Some specific recommendations include: introducing the “Violence Interrupters” Model in El Barrio/East Harlem, which has helped to prevent shootings and retaliatory violence among youth in other communities, successfully re-opening the James Weldon Johnson Center, reinstating the New York Midnight Basketball program, and leveraging the Young Men’s Initiative funds for workforce development.

This platform is only the beginning.  To learn more about the work ahead, please contact Elsie Encarnacion at eencarnacion@council.nyc.gov or 212-828-9800.

Tomorrow: Join Us as the Youth Violence Task Force Unveils Anti-Violence Platform

Tomorrow, November 10th, at 3:30pm, Melissa, East Harlem community-based organizations, local youth, and other elected officials will release the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force’s official platform, which calls for collective action by government, non-profits and the community to reduce neighborhood violence.  The platform’s recommendations build upon ideas shared by East Harlem youth at community discussions held over the past year.  The press conference will be held outside of the James Weldon Johnson Community Center located at Lexington Avenue and 115th Street. This brand new community center, which has been in the works for over a decade, could be a vital resource to our youth, but is still shuttered.

The release of the Youth Violence platform follows a story published in this Sunday’s New York Daily News that revealed that Council Member Mark-Viverito’s car was hit by a stray bullet this past September. The alleged shooter was a 16 year old young man.  Council Member Mark-Viverito will speak about the incident and how it reinforces the need for collective action on the part of the community and the city to prevent more young people from turning to gangs and gun violence.  Youth and community leaders will also speak about the recommendations outlined in the platform and call for an end to senseless violence.

We welcome all community members, friends of East Harlem/El Barrio, and concerned citizen to join us. An official copy of the report will be made available here tomorrow afternoon.

Coming Together and Taking Collective Action on Youth Violence

Dear Friends:

The Daily News published an article today about a stray bullet that hit my car while I was driving up 3rd Avenue this September.  Thankfully, nothing happened to me or my mother that night.  But the fact that the shooter was a 16-year-old young man again reinforces the need for our entire community to come together and collectively take action to prevent more young people from turning to gangs and gun violence.  That is why we convened and are facilitating the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, a collaborative of community organizations and elected officials working to curb violence in our community through the development of positive alternatives.

Although the incident I was unknowingly involved in, in retrospect, was truly scary, unnerving, and extremely unfortunate, it is in no way a reflection of our youth or who we are as a community.  To me it is indicative of a greater challenge before us.  That young man, out on the street at 10:30 pm, carrying a gun and aiming to shoot someone, was surely let down by many people along the way, and that saddens me.  It is an “all hands on deck” moment for our community and our city.  We all have a role to play, and that is the message of the Youth Violence Task Force.  We can’t stand idly by while we are losing a generation of our youth.  Young people and the community as a whole want to pro-actively be part of dialogue to arrive at sensible and effective strategies and solutions.

This Thursday, the Youth Violence Task Force will release its official platform, which is a direct result of our community discussions and other meetings with young people, who shared with us their ideas about how we should all work together as a community to reduce violence in our neighborhood.  The release of this report is only the beginning, as the Task Force will move on to more action-oriented next steps that will directly engage young people and the entire community in anti-violence efforts.

As a proud member of our community, I did not take lightly my decision to go to the press with this story.  I feared that it might reinforce the notion that our neighborhood is a dangerous place, when clearly, violent incidents are the exception, and not the rule.  However, I also thought it was important to draw attention to the hard work that our community has been doing on tackling the issue of youth violence.

Please stay tuned to my blog (www.mmviverito.com) for the latest on the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, and check back on Thursday for the release of the platform.  Thank you as always for your support.

Sincerely,
Melissa Mark-Viverito

Monday: March in Support of the 99%

The Occupy Wall Street protests have gripped the city and the nation with their message that we must strive for a more fair and equitable society.  This Monday, November 7th, a coalition of unions, elected officials and community groups will hold a march from Washington Heights all the way down to Lower Manhattan to show solidarity with the OWS movement, and to call for the Millionaire’s Tax, and progressive solutions on jobs, education and healthcare. 

Watch Melissa and other Progressive Caucus members talk about OWS.

The march, entitled “End to End for 99%,” will commence at 181st Street & St. Nicholas at 10:30 a.m., and will stop at various points along the way, where rallies and gatherings will be held.  The following is a list of meeting locations and the times when marches are expected to arrive.  Feel free to join the march at any point along the way, but try to get there before the expected arrival time!  For those who use Twitter, please follow @EndToEndFor99, which will be updated throughout the day on Monday with the latest location of the march.

  • 181st Street & St. Nicholas: 10:30 a.m.
  • 125th Street & Broadway: 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.
  • 72nd Street & Broadway: 1:30 p.m.
  • 14th Street & Broadway: 3:30 p.m.
  • Zuccotti Park: 4:30 p.m.

For more information, email november7march@gmail.com, or call 718-844-9849.  See below for a flyer, or click here to download it.  Please help us spread the word about this event!

Autumn Updates from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus

As you may know, Melissa serves as the Co-Chair of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.  Read the latest on what the Caucus has been up to in the Autumn updates below.


The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is excited to report on the work that we’ve been doing and to spread the word about upcoming events. It’s been a busy autumn, and we have a lot of news to share!

Receive this update from a friend? Sign up for our e-mail list.

Want a daily dose of the Progressive Caucus? Follow us on Twitter (
@nycprogressives), like us on Facebook, or visit our website!


Updates on The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

Save the Date: Many Voices, One Goal
The Progressive Caucus will be joining Living Wage NYC and faith, labor and community leaders to call for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act on Monday, November 21 at 6:30pm. Spread the word to your friends and neighbors and join us at Riverside Church!

Date Set for Public Hearing on the Living Wage
The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the revised living wage legislation on November 22 [10am at 49-51 Chambers Street]. The changes to the bill focus in on the main target of the legislation: large-scale retail developments. We’re looking forward to discussing the amended bill and taking the next step toward implementing this landmark legislation.

Supporting Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the attention and imagination of our city and country. Members of the Progressive Caucus have joined the chorus of elected officials, labor leaders and our community allies in amplifying the call to action and invoking the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Read this recent op-ed in support of Occupy Wall Street by Councilmember Jumaane Williams.

Occupy for Education Election Day Rally
In response to overcrowded classrooms and cuts to vital programs, parents and educators are calling on the Governor to renew the millionaire’s tax and save our schools! On Election Day, members of the Progressive Caucus will be joining a rally organized by activist parents at Governor Cuomo’s New York City office (633 3rd Ave).  Come out on Tuesday, November 8th at 3:30pm to show your support!

In favor of a fair share tax, but can’t make it to the rally? E-mail Governor Cuomo today to say that you’re counting on him to do the right thing for New York’s working families!

Center for Working Families 2011 Policy Conference

The Progressive Caucus is a co-convener of this year’s Center for Working Families’ annual policy conference, which brings together advocates, organizers, policy makers and legislators to discuss progressive solutions to New York State’s most pressing problems. This year’s conference will feature a keynote address by Barbara Ehrenreich and discussions and workshops about green jobs, voter owned elections and progressive taxation. RSVP to join us on December 2nd!

City Council Holds Oversight Hearing on NYPD’s Intelligence Operations
The Progressive Caucus joined members of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, the Brennan Center for Justice, community groups, and civil rights advocates on October 6 to raise concerns about the New York Police Department’s infiltration of our local Muslim community and to call for more oversight of the NYPD’s intelligence operations. The Progressive Caucus actively participated in the City Council hearing that followed the joint press conference, and will continue to monitor this issue.

Rebuild the Dream

The Progressive Caucus has joined progressive organizations nation-wide in signing on as a partner to Rebuild the Dream, a hub for the emerging American Dream Movement. Rebuild the Dream recently worked with thousands of Americans to create the Contract for the American Dream, and supports many of the ongoing efforts to fulfill that dream here in New York. We’re excited to be a part of this movement.

Make the Road New York Marches Against Stop and Frisk

On October 13, members of the Progressive Caucus joined Make the Road New York in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for an end to discriminatory policing, particularly stop and frisk. Councilmembers and advocates called for more accountability and transparency from the NYPD and an end to racially biased police practices.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Contact the Progressive Caucus at nyccprogresscaucus@gmail.com

Tell Us What You Want to Build in Your Neighborhood – In a Video!

As part of our new Participatory Budgeting initiative, a contest has been launched where you can create a video to share how you would spend $1 million to improve our community.  All of those who create a video will be entered into a raffle to win a Flip video camera!  All contest details are below, as well as some tips for those who may be new to making videos.  Please read the instructions carefully and upload your submission before the November 21st deadline.

You have a chance to decide how to spend $1 million to improve your neighborhood. What do you want?

Tell us in a video.  Deadline November 21.

Participatory Budgeting is a new and different way to make decisions about publically funded infrastructure projects in your neighborhood.

If you or someone you know has ideas about how things could work better in these districts – make a video and let us know!  All eligible ideas submitted by November 21 will be considered. 

Here’s How You Can Participate

  • Read and follow the rules
  • Create a 30 second to 3 minute video about how you would spend $1 million to improve infrastructure in one of the four districts
  • Upload your video to YouTube and tag it pbnyc (very important to tag it!)
  • Send us an email at pb@artsanddemocracy.org with your contact info and the name of the video that you uploaded and tagged. Everyone who uploads a video will be entered into a raffle for a Flip video camera, so make sure to send us your info!
  • Submit your video by November 21

There is a Video Workshop to Help You Out

November 7 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Brooklyn Community Access TV (BCAT) studio 232 Third Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn at the Old American Can Factory. RSVP required rsvp@artsanddemocracy.org (space is limited, first come first served)

For more information

contact pb@artsanddemocracy.org

Rules

  • Videos should be no longer than 3 minutes – shorter is great!
  • Capital projects only: that’s money for physical improvements that benefit the public like rebuilding a street, renovating a park, installing benches or street lights, or trash cans, repairing buildings, or buying computers or equipment for a school or community center.
  • Any music used must have the permission of the artist or be available via a Creative Commons license (see https://creativecommons.org/legalmusicforvideos). Or create your own music!
  • By tagging your video pbnyc you agree to allow the Arts & Democracy Project, Participatory Budgeting Project, and the City Councilmembers to use your video for educational purposes and feature on their websites.
  • Projects need to be within the four City Council districts: District 8, Manhattan/Bronx, Districts 39 and 45 in Brooklyn and District 32 in Queens. Check http://pbnyc.org to see what neighborhoods are in these districts.
  • Videos need to be submitted by November 30 for your ideas to be considered this year.

Tips

  • Plan ahead. Even if your idea is simple, think through how you want to do it before you start recording. If your idea is more complex, write out a script or a storyboard.
  • Make sure you have enough light, especially if you are shooting indoors.
  • If you are recording sound with your camera mic, make sure there are no background noises and then make sure that the person speaking is loud and clear.
  • Make sure you can see everything/everyone in the shot before you start recording.

Resources

Thanks to the American Friends Service Committee & the National Priorities Project for sharing their resources and inspiring this project!

More Benches Coming to East Harlem Sidewalks

Melissa with DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan and local seniors. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mays/DNA Info)

Yesterday, Melissa helped announce a new City initiative that will place 1,000 new benches on sidewalks throughout New York City, beginning with the two brand new benches at East 109th Street between First and Second Avenues, outside of the Leonard Covello Senior Center.  The initiative, called City Bench, was launched in our community in response to the efforts undertaken by Melissa’s office and East Harlem’s Aging Improvement District (AID) to make our neighborhood more age-friendly.  These new benches are mainly intended to help seniors have an opportunity to stop and rest as they are out walking in the community.

In the past year, the Department of Transportation (DOT) acquired federal funding to install 1,000 benches across the city to improve quality of life among the elderly. As part of the AID process, the New York Academy of Medicine surveyed seniors from throughout the East Harlem community last year to hear from the seniors directly as to what we as a community could do to make life easier for them. In response to the overwhelming request for more seating on our sidewalks, Melissa brought the idea back to DOT and they promised to launch their new and upcoming bench program in East Harlem.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mays/DNA Info.

This is just Melissa’s latest effort to help provide an improved quality of life for our senior residents. Last month, Melissa stood in support of a DOT proposal that would bring bike lanes to the neighborhood. These lanes not only improve the health of all members of our community but the lanes will also make it easier for older adults to cross 1st and 2nd Avenues, since pedestrian islands will be created as part of the plans.  This past summer, she also helped launch the first-ever Senior Pool Hours at Jefferson Pool in East Harlem, and earlier this year, the East Harlem AID distributed chairs to local businesses that agreed to offer seating in their stores for seniors.

Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan, Aging Commissioner Barrios-Paoli, Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Council Member Lappin, who chairs the Council’s Aging Committee were all on hand for the City Bench announcement, along with many older adults from the Leonard Covello Senior Center.

We look forward to bringing more benches to the district. If you would like to propose a new site for a bench, please visit http://www.nyc.gov to make your request.

Gun Buy-Back Events to Be Held This Saturday

This Saturday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department are holding two gun buy-back events in El Barrio/East Harlem and Harlem from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The locations are Beth Gospel Assembly at 2-26 East 120th Street and St. Joseph of the Holy Family R.C. Church at 405 West 125th Street.  Operable handguns can be exchanged for a $200 bank card, no questions asked.  Please review the flyers below in English and Spanish for more information (click each image to expand the flyer).  We hope you will help us in spreading the word about these important events.

Melissa Reflects on Occupy Wall Street Protests

Occupy Wall Street has gripped the nation, with an estimated 30,000 protesters, including Melissa,  marching from Foley Square to Liberty Square last Wednesday. Before the march, Melissa spoke to her colleagues at the City Council stated meeting and encouraged them to stand up for reform and join hands with the protesters. Her full statement is included below. And you can learn more about what Melissa thinks by watching her interview with SEIU 32BJ’s Hector Figueroa on Pura Política (in Spanish).

Occupy Wall Street has stirred the conscience of our nation with protests focused squarely on the ethic of greed that has consumed Wall Street. I rise today to encourage the members of this Council to support their cause.

The protesters call themselves the Other 99 percent. Why? Because they represent the majority of Americans who have been hit hardest by the Great Recession. While the top 1 percent earns 25 percent of our nation’s income, controls 42 percent of financial wealth, and receives tax breaks and mega-million bonuses, the rest of Americans are struggling to get by. Hounded by spending cuts and wage freezes, the Other 99 percent are strangled by a mountain of debt. Mortgages, car notes, student loans, medical bills, rising insurance premiums, there is no relief in sight. These families play by the rules and still they have had the American Dream snatched from their grasp. This is wrong and Occupy Wall Street represents a collective effort to highlight that injustice.

I’ve heard several pundits and colleagues complain that the protesters lack a purpose or program. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They want what we all want, a more just and equitable society. The policies they support are broadly those supported by many in this Council: a progressive income tax, a living wage, collective bargaining rights for workers, more jobs, fewer cuts, social programs for the poor and needy. Occupy Wall Street is campaigning for a BRAND NEW DEAL, where workers and business, communities and developers, main street and wall street all collaborate for a better economic future and a stronger America.

It may surprise Wall Street to know what we’ve known all along, that more equity is better for long term prosperity, but the evidence has been there for decades. In the current issue of Finance and Development, the IMF’s quarterly magazine, economists Berg and Ostray explain that “Countries where income was more equally distributed tended to have longer growth spells.” In fact, making an economy’s income distribution just 10 percent more equitable prolongs the typical growth spell by 50 percent.

America has not invested in equality in a long time. Since 1973, the median wage of workers has stagnated and, in 2010, for the first time since World War 2, the median income actually declined. All the while, the top 1 percent has continued to increase its average income to over 1 million dollars a year and Wall Street CEOs have more than quadrupled their salaries. With this kind of inequality, it’s no wonder that booms and busts that plague our economy and decimate our communities have become more frequent.

New York State has gotten caught up in this race toward inequality. As of 2010, we became the state with the greatest income inequality, with median incomes in New York City dropping 5 percent and poverty claiming 20 percent of our residents. This is appalling and not worthy of the City that claims to welcome “the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses longing to be free.”

The Other 99 percent need a fair deal and that’s what Occupy Wall Street is pursuing. If they are successful, every American, including the wealthiest, will benefit tremendously. Shared prosperity is the only kind that lasts.

Congressman Gutierrez Visits New York as Melissa’s Immigration Bill Advances

Capping off an exciting weekend of events with Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the City Council held its first hearing this week on the bill introduced by Melissa that will limit immigration agents’ reach in our city’s jails.  The Bloomberg administration now supports the bill, paving the way for its passage by the end of the year.

Press conference outside of Ascension Church. Photo by William Alatriste.

This past Saturday, we welcomed Congressman Luis Gutierrez to New York City. He spoke at an event in Staten Island on the importance of immigration reform, emphasizing the impact of the Secure Communities program and the changes to federal policies on deportation.

On Sunday, Congressman Gutierrez joined Melissa, Speaker Quinn, Congressman Rangel, Make the Road New York, and many other electeds and community members at Ascension Church on West 107th Street in Melissa’s district.  Following the 9:30 am Spanish language mass, the elected officials addressed the congregants and then held a press conference outside to celebrate the advancement of Intro 656, a bill introduced by Melissa that will restrict the collaboration between the City’s Department of Correction and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Congressman Gutierrez spoke highly of the legislation and stressed the importance of local and national collaboration on immigration reform.

Video from Saturday and Sunday’s events are available by clicking here.

Finally, on Monday, the City Council held a hearing on Intro 656. This legislation is truly pathbreaking, and we hope that it will pave the way for municipal immigration reform all around the country.  The hearing included testimony from the Bloomberg administration that it stood in support of the legislation as the proper balance between ensuring the security of our neighborhoods and protecting our city’s immigrants.  The bill is scheduled to be passed before the end of 2011.

As lead sponsor of the legislation, Melissa had the opportunity to offer some opening remarks:

Thank you Chair Dromm, and thanks to all of you for being here this morning.  This is a historic day, as we take one more step towards making this legislation a reality in the city of New York.  I want to take a moment to thank Speaker Quinn who has shown great leadership on this issue and of course all of the advocates, especially Make the Road New York, for your commitment, strong support and hard work.

The message throughout this process has been clear: in a city that truly values its immigrant communities, it is clear that we can no longer allow immigration agents to have unfettered access to inmates at Rikers Island.  While the Criminal Alien Program, which is the basis for the relationship between DOC and ICE, claims to place public safety first and focus on the most dangerous criminals, the numbers tell a different story.

Of the Rikers inmates who had a detainer placed on them by ICE, around 50 percent had no previous criminal convictions; and only roughly 20 percent had a misdemeanor as their highest charge.  These are not the hardened criminals that the Criminal Alien Program was meant to target. Still, every year, hundreds and even thousands of New Yorkers are separated from their families and communities for extended periods of time and, in some cases, permanently. Continue reading