Melissa Testifies to Keep East Harlem Whole

Yesterday, Melissa testified at the NYC Districting Commission’s Manhattan public hearing. In front of the Commission and District 8 constituents, who were the overwhelming majority of those in attendance, Melissa had another chance to speak before the Commission’s next map revision comes on January 23rd.

Melissa testified:

My community of El Barrio/East Harlem has a clear message: we want to remain united within one district. We are asking for the full restoration of the current East Harlem boundaries in the 8th District, which will protect a historic community of interest, keep our public housing developments united and encapsulate critical community and cultural resources within one district. We are also asking for the restoration of Randall’s and Wards Islands and the preservation of Central Park within District 8. All of this is accomplished by the Common Cause map, while greatly expanding District 8’s portion of the Bronx, something I fully welcome. I strongly urge the Commission to use the Common Cause map as the basis for the reconfiguration of the proposed District 8.

For the full testimony, please click here. 

To watch Melissa’s testimony, please fast forward to around the 52-minute mark:

Thank you to everyone who came out to testify and signed our petition. We presented a petition with over 150 signatures to the Commission calling for the full restoration of the East Harlem boundaries. For those who were not able to make it out to testify, the final hearing is on January 15th, so there is still time to submit written testimony to hearings@districting.nyc.gov.

Read more about yesterday’s hearing from City & State.

New Video Tells Story of Bike Lanes in El Barrio/East Harlem

https://i0.wp.com/www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FirstSecondCompletionRally.jpgAs you may know, protected bike lanes are on their way on First and Second Avenue in El Barrio/East Harlem. Melissa is featured in a new video produced by StreetFilms, How Complete Streets Came to East Harlem, which tells the story of how the East Harlem community fought for this important amenity in our community. Take a look at the video and stay tuned for information how we will kick off and celebrate the completion of the lanes this coming spring!

Daily News Op-Ed: If Park Slope gets a bike lane, why not East Harlem?

Today’s New York Daily News features an op-ed written by Melissa in support of bike lanes for El Barrio/East Harlem.  Take a look at the excerpt below and follow the link to read the full op-ed.  Then, take a moment to add your voice to the comments section below the article.

If Park Slope gets a bike lane, why not East Harlem? 

City Council member says poor and minority communities deserve the same amenities

BY MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

In October, Manhattan Community Board 11’s Transportation Committee and Full Board voted in support of protected bike lanes on First and Second Aves. from 96th to 125th Sts. Since then, a small group of local business owners has sought to stymie the process, peddling misinformation that has helped sway some community board members to vote to suspend support of the bike lanes pending further investigation.

This is bad news for East Harlem.

The addition of protected bike lanes — which have barriers to make riding safer for cyclists and drivers alike — is nothing short of a social and environmental justice issue. Until recently, nearly all of the proposed locations for these lanes were in primarily white and higher-income neighborhoods — from the East Village to Chelsea to the upper East Side to Park Slope.

But all along, communities of color like El Barrio/East Harlem have needed these lanes too.

READ MORE

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.

NY Daily News: Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

Cross-posted on the NYC Council Parks & Recreation Committee blog.


Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

BY DANIEL BEEKMAN
DAILY NEWS WRITER

If you build it, they will come – but not to Randalls Island.

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

“Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue,” he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

“Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?” she asked. “It was shortsighted and now we’re paying the price.”

“From day one, we were concerned there was no need to build so many” new fields, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “Now that has come to fruition. The result is the fields are empty.”

The park boasts fancy golf and tennis centers, but no basketball courts, he added.

During the rehab, the city took heat for a $2.2 million-per-year pay-to-play scheme involving Manhattan private schools. It was struck down in court after East Harlem and Bronx community groups sued.

“The fields were built mostly to accommodate the private schools,” Croft said. And Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called the park “a private playground … designed to bring in revenue.”

There’s a move afoot now to try and spread the word about what’s in the park. Randalls Island fields go unused partly because they are isolated and more people need to be made aware of the space, said Frances Masrota of Manhattan Community Board 11.

A renovated E. 103rd St. pedestrian bridge is set to reopen soon, while the M35 bus runs between the park and E. 125th St. – but few youngsters make the trip.

The Parks Department has assigned a representative to attend Board 11 meetings and share info related to Randalls Island to try to spread the word on what’s there.

The fields are “generally permitted to capacity” in the evenings and on weekends, Parks spokesman Zachary Feder said. The park foundation also offers a free summer program, he noted, and softball leagues
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/06/14/2011-06-14_kids_unaware_or_unwelcome_after_120m_randalls_island_fixup_theres_a_park.html#ixzz1PG07ybD9

Video, Photos and Media Coverage from Yesterday’s Latino Marriage Equality Press Conference

For those who missed yesterday’s press conference featuring Latino leaders and community members in support of marriage equality, we have compiled a video with some of the highlights, as well as photos and media coverage:

Press Coverage:

Photos:

Melissa Speaks Out Against Five Borough Taxi Plan

Melissa joined a large protest of livery cab drivers and base owners on Monday morning who were speaking out against the Bloomberg administration’s latest Five Borough Taxi Plan.  The administration is seeking to expand street hail service in the outer boroughs and Manhattan above 96th Street, where yellow cabs do not typically pass, creating a market in these areas for illegal street pick ups by livery cabs.

Photo by Michael Appleton/The New York Times

However, the Bloomberg administration’s plan aims to sell new yellow cab medallions, which come with licenses for a new class of livery cabs that have the ability to do street pick ups in the outer boroughs.  Livery base owners, who have traditionally provided pre-arranged cab services in communities underserved by yellow cabs, worry that they will be displaced by this new plan, while current livery drivers have expressed strong concerns that the $600,000 to $900,000 cost of these new medallions is far out of reach for them.

This plan requires Council approval and Melissa and several of her colleagues have pledged that they would not support the plan as it stands.

Melissa Joins Rally Against NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Practices

Melissa joined a rally held by VOCAL-NY near Mayor Bloomberg’s home to criticize the NYPD’s aggressive marijuana arrest practices, which disproportionately target communities of color and cost the City at least $75 million per year.  Watch the video above for Melissa’s remarks at the rally.

Photo by Angel Franco/The New York Times

In the 25th Precinct (East Harlem), there were 1,069 low-level marijuana arrests in 2010, compared to just 34 in the 19th Precinct where the Mayor lives.  Melissa is currently drafting a City Council resolution in support of bipartisan legislation introduced in the State Legislature that would de-criminalize displaying marijuana in public view.  Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is already de-criminalized under State law.  However, when police perform stop and frisks, they routinely ask that individuals empty their pockets.  If they take out marijuana, it is considered to be in public view and can be punished by arrest.

Click here to read more background information in the full press release.  Below are links to the press coverage from the event:

Melissa Chairs Hearing on the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program

New York City Parks Enforcement patch

Image via Wikipedia

Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program.  The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.

PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons.  They also review park facilities for health and safety issues.  There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks.  There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.

Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland.  Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.

The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.

In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.

Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing:

Melissa & Youth Violence Task Force Kick Off Series of Community Discussions on Violence in East Harlem

Melissa and the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force kicked off a series of community discussions yesterday afternoon with a meeting at JHS 99 (410 E. 100th Street) in East Harlem. Yesterday’s meeting provided an opportunity for community leaders to hear directly from young people, as we confront a rise in violence in East Harlem and to brainstorm collectively about ways to address it.  About 100 young people and adults attended the community discussion. 

Elsie Encarnacion, Director of Youth Services for Council Member Viverito, sits with young people to hear their ideas on solutions to youth violence (Photo courtesy of DNA Info).

Following an open mic section, attendees went into breakout groups for solution-oriented discussions on particular topics that provided opportunities for youth to take ownership over efforts to curb violence in the community. In order to tailor the discussion to specific parts of El Barrio/East Harlem, yesterday’s community discussion focused in on 96th to 106th Streets (from 5th Avenue to the East River). Subsequent meetings, to be scheduled in the coming months, will cover 107th to 116th Streets and 117th to 128th Streets.

Melissa and Task Force members made clear that this is only the beginning, and that the ideas gathered in these community discussions will inform concrete next steps in the continued effort to curb violence in the neighborhood.

“As we all collectively experience the rise in violence among our community’s youth, we thought it was critical to provide a space for young people and other local residents to come together to begin addressing this complex problem,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “It is not enough to simply call for more policing; we must engage directly with our young people to formulate positive alternatives to violence and provide them with the opportunity to take ownership over the development of those alternatives.”

The El Barrio/East Harlem community has witnessed a serious increase in violence, particularly among youth, with the homicide rate in the neighborhood tripling last year, and shootings at public housing in East Harlem and Harlem increasing two-fold. In response to these trends, Council Member Viverito formed the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, which aims to directly involve young people in the development of positive alternatives that will counter the increase in violence among youth.

The community discussion series is only the latest in a series of meetings organized by the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force. The Task Force previously met with youth at several NYCHA developments to learn about the unique challenges facing young people in each of those individual developments. The Council Member also brokered a meeting between NYCHA officials and young residents of James Weldon Johnson Houses regarding the Johnson Community Center, a project that has been stalled for over 10 years, and that will provide recreational space and programming for youth in the development.

The event was covered by NY1 and DNA Info.  Check back for additional coverage by CNN en Español and WNYC.  For a slideshow of photos from the event created by DNA Info, click here.

Melissa Joins in the Unveiling of a New Social Media Campaign by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS

This past Monday was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Melissa joined the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) at a press conference, as they announced a new online social media campaign targeting African American communities.  Former Manhattan Borough President C. Virgina Fields is now the President and CEO of NBLCA and led the press conference, which was also joined by Council Member Jumaane Williams.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

African Americans account for 44 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases in New York State, even though they only make up 17 percent of the state’s population.  For this reason, NBLCA has launched the “30 Years Strong! Together We Will Win” campaign, to utilize social media to encourage African Americans to get tested, while also pushing for policy changes and additional funding to support efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among black communities.  It will also give HIV-positive African Americans the chance to share their stories.  For more information, visit NBLCA’s website at www.nblca.org.

Click above to view coverage from NY1.

Council Members Viverito and Williams also presented a proclamation from members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus for NBLCA.  Each year, the City Council allocates millions of dollars in initiatives that seek to address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color.

Two East Harlem Women-Owned Small Businesses Profiled in Daily News, After Selection for Goldman Sachs Entrepreneurship Program

Michelle Cruz, owner of the East Harlem Cafe and Sharon Sinaswee, owner of Armada Building Services, Inc., both based in El Barrio/East Harlem, were profiled in two New York Daily News articles today, after being selected for an entrepreneurship program run by Goldman Sachs.  Ms. Cruz and Ms. Sinaswee were two of 23 local businesses who received training and assistance through the “10,000 Small Businesses” program.

Below are excerpts from the articles.  We congratulate these inspiring women for their participation in this program.

East Harlem resident Michelle Cruz had dreams of opening her own business as a kid; Goldman helped (Click here to read full article)

At age 9, Michelle Cruz decided that she would one day run her own business. The moment came while watching a TV program that showed some of the city’s blighted areas. An image flashed on the screen of her East Harlem neighborhood.

“I realized I was poor,” Cruz said. But she was determined to do better.

She studied accounting and pursued a career in banking while nurturing a dream to open her own restaurant.

Two and a half years ago, she opened the East Harlem Cafe at E. 104th St. and Lexington Ave. It’s become a community hub to see local musicians, artists and authors. A second cafe will be in the Caribbean Cultural Center when it relocates next year.

Wall Street giant Goldman shares the wealth in entrepreneurship program ‘10,000 Small Businesses’ (Click here to read the full article)

Sharon Sinaswee, the Trinidad-born owner of a small janitorial company in East Harlem, didn’t know what to expect last summer when she rode the elevator to the 43rd floor of the new headquarters of Goldman Sachs.

Then one of the most powerful execs in the world, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, sat next to her.

Sinaswee, the 42-year-old founder of Armada Building Services, was a member of the first class of an entrepreneurship program sponsored by Goldman called 10,000 Small Businesses. It was time for execs from the investment bank to read participants’ business plans. She’d been paired with Blankfein.

They spent an hour together as the Wall Street titan grilled her about her business. Among his tips: Sinaswee should cultivate a large pool of freelance handymen to tap at peak times.

“He said I was on the right track,” said Sinaswee, who recently added two employees to her four-person staff and scored a contract from the city’s Department of Education. “I was flattered that someone in that position was so interested in me.”


Article Highlights Work of El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force

DNAInfo has published an article highlighting the work of the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force that our office formed this summer to address the increased level of violence we have been seeing in our community.

The East Harlem/El Barrio Youth Violence Task Force was formed during a rise in shootings last summer and has been meeting with kids at East Harlem housing projects, where gang feuds have many afraid of venturing beyond their immediate neighborhoods.

At James Weldon Johnson Houses, teenagers griped that a long-promised community center had yet to open. At Taft Houses, youths told the group that their last basketball court had been turned into a parking lot.

The task force, led by City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, doesn’t want to become another in a long list of well-meaning coalitions that outline problems and disappear. It wants solutions. Members are lobbying housing officials to expand recreational outlets at Johnson and Taft, and planning to do more of the same as they hear of problems in the rest of East Harlem’s public housing developments.

To read the full article, click here.  You can keep up with the work of the Task Force by e-mailing Elsie Encarnacion (eencarnacion@council.nyc.gov) and requesting to be added to the e-mail list.

Melissa Talks DREAM Act, the Bush Tax Cuts and Mayor Bloomberg on ‘Pura Política’ This Weekend

This weekend, Melissa appeared on the NY1 Noticias show “Pura Política” to discuss the DREAM Act, the proposed continuation of the Bush tax cuts and Mayor Bloomberg’s policies around education, immigration and the economy.  Below are the two segments:

Progressive Caucus Applauds Study by Center for American Progress on the Benefits of Higher Wage Standards

*** For Immediate Release ***

Contact: Rachel Goodman (Lander) 646-319-8665, rgoodman@council.nyc.gov
Joseph Taranto (Mark-Viverito) 917-535-5531, jtaranto@council.nyc.gov

Progressive Caucus Applauds Study by Center for American Progress on the Benefits of Higher Wage Standards

Caucus Members Call for Passage of Legislation to Ensure that Taxpayer-Funded Subsidies in NYC Create Good Jobs

New York, NY – Members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus hailed today’s release by the Center for American Progress of “Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities: How Higher Wage Standards Affect Economic Development and Employment.” The Progressive Caucus welcomed the study’s findings, and called for passage of two key pieces of legislation to insure that taxpayer-funded subsidies in New York City are used to create good jobs. The study is available at http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2010/11/living_wage.html

Too often, taxpayer-funded subsidies and incentives – issued in the name of job creation and economic development – are used by developers and corporations to create low-quality jobs that pay poverty wages and provide no benefits. To combat this problem, cities across the country have adopted wage standards to make sure that when businesses receive subsidies, they are required to pay their workers family-supporting wages.

The new study released today by the Center for American Progress (CAP) finds that wage standards do not have a negative effect on job creation.  Cities that have applied these standards saw the benefits of family-supporting jobs, and still maintained the same levels of employment growth as a comparable group of cities without wage standards. This study proves that, despite arguments from the opposition to the contrary, it is not necessary to compromise job growth for job quality.

The Progressive Caucus called for passage of two bills before the New York City Council that would apply wage standards of the type studied in the CAP report:

  • Intro 18 (sponsored by Progressive Caucus co-chair Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito) would require owners of buildings receiving financial assistance from the City to pay a prevailing wage to their building-service workers.
  • Intro 251 (sponsored by Progressive Caucus member Council Member Annabel Palma and Council Member G. Oliver Koppell) would require companies receiving economic development benefits to pay a living wage to all workers in the project.

“With nearly a third of all New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, New York must do more to help create good, family-sustaining jobs,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.  “If developers want large hand-outs from the City, they should commit to doing right by the New Yorkers who are helping finance these lucrative projects.  In passing the Good Jobs Bill and the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, we as a City will be putting our foot down to end the practice of subsidizing poverty-wage jobs.  I stand with my colleagues in calling for the passage of these two critical measures.”

“The Center for American Progress report clearly illustrates the great potential of the Prevailing Wage and Living Wage bills,” said Council Member Annabel Palma.  “The report debunks the theory that these bills would hurt our city’s competitiveness and confirms that, if enacted, both Prevailing Wage and Living Wage would provide thousands of New Yorkers access to the well-paying jobs they need and deserve.”

“Public subsidies should create quality jobs not poverty wage jobs,” said Caucus co-chair Council Member Brad Lander. “This is really a pretty simple idea, and I am pleased that the Center for American Progress study shows that this common sense policy doesn’t cost cities jobs.”

“Economic development that receives public funds must be responsible and create good jobs for its workforce,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Our city should never subsidize poverty level jobs. These two pieces of legislation are the right thing to do.”

The Low Road vs. the High Road

The Caucus also highlighted “low road” and “high road” economic development projects in New York City.  High road projects create good jobs, with health benefits, to help grow the city’s economy and create widely shared prosperity.  Low road projects create jobs with poverty-level wages, enabling developers to make money on a project without sharing the benefits with their workers.

  • Low Road:  The redevelopment of Albee Square Mall into “CityPoint” has received City subsidies for the development of a shopping mall in Downtown Brooklyn, the city’s third largest business district. Under the current agreement there are no labor standards, opening the door for low-wage retail jobs with few employment protections.
  • High Road:  The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center received City subsidies to rehab a loft building in East Williamsburg that will house over 100 well-paying manufacturing and industrial jobs.

Wage standard legislation would ensure that NYC subsidies are only used for high road projects, with good jobs for working families.  The CAP study shows this to be the more responsible route, so that communities can encourage investment in good jobs without a negative effect on job growth.

“Creating jobs doesn’t have to mean a race to the bottom—job quality and job quantity can go hand in hand,” said Council Member Letitia James.


Community Leaders Call for Response to Disparities Among Puerto Rican Youth

Melissa joined other Puerto Rican community leaders and activists yesterday in demanding an aggressive response to recent findings in a Community Service Society study that Puerto Rican youth are the most disadvantaged group in New York City.  Among the statistics presented by the report, nearly 25% of Puerto Rican young men are “disconnected,” meaning that they are neither in school nor employed.

 

Photo by Catherine Yang of The Epoch Times.

 

Among those also represented at the press conference were Mujeres del Barrio, United Puerto Rican Organizations of Sunset Park (UPROSE), Caribbean Cultural Center, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and Council Member Rosie Mendez.

The organizers of the press conference called for a unified strategy among  government officials, nonprofit organizations and the Puerto Rican community at large to reduce these disparities.  Proposals have included increasing the allocation of public dollars for organizations serving Puerto Rican youth, and creating expanded opportunities for young people to be placed in leadership positions within community groups to help inform the decisions made and services provided by those organizations.

The report examines Latino youth in general, as they are now the largest share of NYC residents under the age of 25.  While there were many troubling statistics around Latino youth in general, the findings around Puerto Ricans were most alarming, including that these young people experience the highest rates of poverty and, particularly among males, lowest rates of employment and school enrollment.  The data in the report is compared to Mexican, Dominican and “Other Latino” youth, as well as African Americans, Whites and Asians.  For example:

  • 33.4% of Puerto Rican households are identified as “poor,” compared to 29.3% of Dominican and 27.4% of Mexican households;
  • 55% of native-born Puerto Ricans attend school, compared to 61% of African American youth; and
  • 24.6% of Puerto Rican males are both out of work and out of school, compared to 23.7% of black male youth.

Click here to download a copy of the report in PDF.

Below is some coverage from yesterday’s press conference:

Melissa Publishes Opinion Piece on Synthetic Turf on CityLimits.org

Melissa has written a new opinion piece for CityLimits.org on the issue of synthetic turf in New York City’s public parks and playing fields.  Below is an excerpt:

The issue of synthetic turf appears deceptively simple. With such a high demand for recreational open space throughout our city and a rising obesity epidemic, who would not want to facilitate greater use of our athletic fields? However, the debate over the proliferation of synthetic turf in our public parks is far more complicated than it appears at first glance. In evaluating these surface materials, policymakers must balance the health, environmental and safety implications of this surface material with community members’ desire for reliable, all-weather recreational space.  Click here to read the entire article.

City Limits has dedicated its September issue to the topic of synthetic turf.  New Yorkers for Parks recently released a report card on synthetic turf fields in our parks, which demonstrates serious deficiencies in the maintenance of these spaces.

Melissa Stands with NYC’s Community Gardeners to Call for Greater Protections

Melissa joined Speaker Christine Quinn and the NYC Community Garden Coalition for a press conference yesterday to call for greater protections for our city’s gardens.  Community gardeners have expressed serious concerns with a set of rules recently announced by the City, which they feel do not go far enough to protect these spaces from development.

Video from yesterday’s press conference:

There will be a public hearing on August 10th at 11:00 a.m., where Melissa will provide testimony expressing her support for community gardens and her concerns with the rules as they stand.  The hearing will be held at the Chelsea Recreation Center (430 W. 25th Street).  Click here for more information.

Next month, the agreement between the City and the NYS Attorney General’s Office, which has protected gardens since 2002, will expire.  A new set of rules promulgated by the City will provide critical short-term protections, as Speaker Quinn, Melissa and gardeners work together with the Bloomberg administration to identify a long-term preservation strategy.

“Community gardens provide vital open space and sources of fresh produce in neighborhoods across our city,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I remain very concerned that the proposed rules by the administration do not go far enough to provide the strong protections that our community gardeners deserve. While we will continue to work toward long-term preservation strategies for the gardens, it is my hope that additional language can be added to the current rules that will offer greater security to ensure that our communities do not lose these important spaces to development.”

Melissa Speaks Out Against Closure of Subway Station Booths & Layoffs of Station Agents

Melissa has been speaking out against the MTA’s plans to close booths and lay off station agents, submitting testimony at a public hearing last Wednesday and helping to organize a press conference with Council Members and the Transit Workers Union Local 100 on Friday.

Video from Friday’s press conference:

The MTA is moving forward with plans to close booths in 89 subway stations and to fire over 200 more station agents throughout the city.  Several stations in District 8 will be affected by reductions, including 110th and 116th Streets on the 6 line and the 96th Street stop on the 1, 2, and 3 lines.

Click above to open video from NY1.

Melissa and her colleagues in the City Council have called on the NYS Assembly to pass a bill that would keep all booths open until a comprehensive study can be performed.  The bill has already been passed by the Senate.

See below for Melissa’s testimony before the MTA.

Melissa Joins Electeds in Keeping Pressure on Gov. Paterson to Sign Stop & Frisk Database Reform Bill

Melissa participated in a press conference yesterday, organized by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office, to keep the pressure on Governor Paterson to sign a bill passed by the Legislature that would prohibit police from keeping data on those who are stopped and frisked but are not convicted of any crime.  Currently, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is urging the Governor to veto this bill.  Governor Paterson must come to a decision by this Friday.

The city’s stop and frisk policy has come under serious criticism in recent years, as these searches have been found to disproportionately target blacks and Latinos.  About 90% of those stopped are not found to be in violation of any law, yet their names and contact information are still logged in the NYPD’s database, a practice which would end under the new state law, if it is signed by the Governor.

Below is a video of Melissa’s remarks at the press conference:

Council Members Danny Dromm and Jumaane Williams, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat and four Democratic candidates for Attorney General were also in attendance at yesterday’s press conference.

Last week, Melissa signed a letter from the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus calling on the Governor to sign this legislation.  We will update the blog when the Governor announces a decision.

NYC and Chicago Elected Officials Release Joint Statement on Police Intimidation of Peaceful Protesters in Puerto Rico

NYC Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Annabel Palma along with Illinois State Senators Iris Martinez and William Delgado and Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado have released a joint statement condemning the actions of police officers that used intimidation and excessive force against peaceful protestors in the Capitolio, Puerto Rico’s legislative building.

The statement, as well as videos on these events, can be found below.

Click above to open video from NY1.

Statement by Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Annabel Palma, Illinois State Senators Iris Martinez (20th District) and William Delgado (2nd District) and City of Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado (D-26th Ward)

Re: Police Intimidation of Peaceful Protestors in the Capitolio, Puerto Rico’s Legislative Building

Yesterday the Police used excessive and unnecessary force against non-violent protestors whose only intent was to peacefully enter Puerto Rico’s Capitolio. In addition to several protestors, at least one reporter and two legislators were hurt in the altercation that ensued. This was a flagrant abuse of police authority, and unfortunately also appears to be a growing trend in Puerto Rico.

Press reports and video evidence clearly demonstrate that there was no justification for responding to the peaceful protestors with beatings and pepper spray without any attempt at dialogue first. People were denied entry into a public building that is constitutionally mandated to conduct its business openly and publicly.

We emphatically condemn this police brutality and express our concern regarding the incident, which defies the most basic democratic values we hold dear. We will not stand by and allow civil liberties to be disregarded and attacked. We join others’ efforts to fight the suppression of democracy in Puerto Rico and we call on Congress to investigate yesterday’s events.

Ayer la Policía reprimió de manera excesiva la manifestación de un grupo de estudiantes y otros ciudadanos, que pretendían ingresar al Capitolio de Puerto Rico. En adición a varios de ellos, por lo menos un reportero y dos legisladores sufrieron lesiones.  Los informes de prensa y la evidencia videográfica es clara que no había razón ni justificación alguna para recibir a los manifestantes con golpes y gases, sin que mediara diálogo.  Les negaron el ingreso a un edificio público, que por mandato constitucional debe conducir sus trabajos de manera pública.  Por este medio expresamos nuestra condena enérgica por los incidentes de brutalidad policíaca y la más profunda preocupación por los acontecimientos ocurridos, que ponen en entredicho los más altos valores de democracia.

###

El Diario Editorial on Dawnay Day Properties Features Community Voices Heard

An editorial by El Diario yesterday on predatory equity features the work of El Barrio/East Harlem group Community Voices Heard (CVH) in trying to bring in a non-profit entity to preserve the troubled Dawnay Day properties as affordable for current residents.

Once owned by the British firm Dawnay Day, the buildings are in foreclosure proceedings. Dawnay Day overleveraged their properties and couldn’t meet mortgage payments.  During its ownership, tenants rallied against the owners’ attempts to push out low income tenants for the purpose of increasing rent. Community Voices Heard (CVH), a local advocacy organization, says 11 of the buildings have been already converted to market rate rents in a neighborhood where the median income is $30,000.  Click here to read the full editorial.

CVH, affordable housing advocates, non-profit developers and Melissa’s office have been working together closely on these efforts.  Currently, CVH is engaged in door-to-door surveying of the buildings’ residents to determine what kind of government financial assistance might be available to keep units affordable if a non-profit developer should acquire the property.  In the editorial, El Diario urges the undocumented immigrants living in the building to partake in the survey and to not fear disclosing their personal information.

Melissa’s office has long supported CVH, making discretionary allocations each year that have gone to support their work in our local public housing developments.

New Op-Ed on Revenue Options Published Today on Gotham Gazette Website

Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander published an op-ed today on the Gotham Gazette news website, which again lays out the argument for new sources of revenue to address the city’s budget deficit.

Here is an excerpt from the op-ed:

Even as working New Yorkers are bracing themselves for these cuts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have refused to consider taking a more balanced approach by enacting new revenue-generating options that would reduce cuts by asking Wall Street and the wealthiest city residents to put in their fair share. The current economic crisis has only made already longstanding inequities in our city much worse. In taking revenue options completely off the table, the administration is failing to demonstrate the leadership that the majority of New Yorkers needs in order to bring more fairness to the current budget and to secure a stable future for all residents of our city.

With an even bleaker outlook for next year, the city simply cannot wait any longer to ask the wealthiest for their fair share. This coming year, thousands of low and moderate-income families could find themselves hit by budget cuts on multiple levels and across generations — in just one low-income area in Brooklyn, two child-care centers, a senior center, a health clinic and a public pool are all on the chopping block. Meanwhile, the safety and quality of life of our communities as a whole could be compromised by the closure of fire companies, the reduction of public health services and decreased maintenance in our parks.  Read the rest of the piece on the Gotham Gazette website.

Watch Four of Melissa’s Progressive Caucus Colleagues on NY1’s ‘Inside City Hall’

Council Members Danny Dromm, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose and Jumaane Williams appeared on last night’s ‘Inside City Hall’ on NY1 to discuss the formation of the Progressive Caucus and the need for the consideration of new revenue options in our City.

The video can be opened by clicking on the image below:

Progressive Caucus Releases Budget Survey Results as Thousands Rally Against Cuts Outside City Hall

An aerial photo of the huge crowd outside City Hall Park (Courtesy of the United Federation of Teachers)

This afternoon, the Council’s Progressive Caucus released the results of its budget survey just before thousands gathered at the “Save Our City” Rally outside City Hall to demand that the Mayor find alternative solutions to budget cuts.

Melissa and other members of the Progressive Caucus joined advocates and social service providers on the steps of City Hall today to announce the results and again renew the call for the consideration of new revenue options.

Among the nearly 2,000 New Yorkers that responded, 89% supported protecting vital services by asking those who can afford to pay to put in their fair share.  The survey indicated that New Yorkers support a number of new, progressive revenue options, including closing a tax loophole for hedge fund and private equity managers and fair share reforms to our tax structure.

More detailed results can be viewed in the report below.  A press release on the survey results can be found here.

We would like to thank all of those who took part in the survey!

Below are the official results.  If you are unable to view this document, click here to download it in PDF.

Introducing Melissa’s New Video Channel

We have begun collecting video clips featuring Melissa on a brand new video channel, which can be accessed at http://mmv.vodspot.tv. Watch clips of Melissa at press conferences, rallies, special events and more.

The latest additions to this page come from a recent interview on Insight Nueva York, hosted by David Diaz.  On the show, Melissa spoke about the Progressive Caucus, this year’s budget, Latino leadership and asthma rates in District 8.  All of these interview clips can be found at the video channel.

One of the clips can be found below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Op-Ed on Good Jobs Bill Published in ‘El Diario,’ ‘West Side Spirit’ and ‘Our Town’

Melissa has published an Op-Ed on the Good Jobs (Prevailing Wage) Bill, which she introduced earlier this year.  The Op-Ed has been printed in El Diario, the West Side Spirit and Our Town.

Click the links below to read the Op-Ed:

The Good Jobs Bill, Intro 18, would require prevailing wages be paid to building service workers in projects subsidized by the City or where the City rents space.  This legislation currently has 34 sponsors in the City Council.

Watch Melissa Talk About the Puerto Rican Day Parade Controversy on ‘Tiempo’

This weekend, Melissa appeared on the ABC show ‘Tiempo’ to speak about the selection of Osvaldo Rios as Padrino Internacional of this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, despite his history of domestic violence.

Watch both segments below.  If you are unable to view the videos, click here.

Vodpod videos no longer available. Vodpod videos no longer available.

Last week, Congressman Gutierrez announced that he has declined the invitation to serve as the States Grand Marshall of the parade due to the selection of Rios.

To read a joint statement by Melissa and six other Puerto Rican and Latina elected officials on Rios’ selection, click here.

Melissa Joins Fasters to Call for an End to the City’s Collaboration with ICE

Yesterday, Melissa joined an event to highlight an ongoing fast undertaken by members of Make the Road New York and faith leaders to call for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform and an end to the City’s collaboration with ICE.

Here is a video from the event, where Melissa speaks in Spanish and then in English, regarding ICE’s presence at Rikers Island, Arizona’s immigration law and the historic opportunity we have to change our social and economic policies in the United States.

The fast began on Wednesday and will end tomorrow. It is yet another example of the continued national escalation on the part of immigrant communities to call for comprehensive immigration reform this year.


District 8 Youth Council (D8YC) Submits Video for NYCLU Freedom of Expression Contest

Members of the District 8 Youth Council (D8YC) have recorded and submitted a video for the NYCLU Freedom of Expression Contest.  Their video focuses on the many ways in which youth can express themselves, and features footage from Thursday’s March Against Violence in El Barrio/East Harlem.

The D8YC meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in our district office. The Youth Council provides our young people with a great opportunity to get involved in local politics and the many issues that impact our district.  For more information on the D8YC, e-mail eencarnacion@council.nyc.gov.

The Youth Council’s video can be viewed below:

Melissa Pushes Prevailing Wage Bill at DMI’s Marketplace of Ideas Event

Melissa spoke yesterday at an event held by the Drum Major Institute (DMI), a progressive think tank, called the Marketplace of Ideas, which looks at policies enacted by cities around the world, and why New York City should follow their lead.

Yesterday’s event focused on tying wage standards to city subsidies, the spirit behind legislation Melissa introduced in February that would require that all building service workers would be paid a prevailing wage in those buildings where the City rents space or where the City has provided financial assistance.

Melissa served on the panel, which also included Pittsburgh Council Member Douglas Shields who spoke about his experience enacting legislation on this topic in his home city, as well as Peter Colavito of SEIU 32BJ and Ava Farkas of the RWDSU.  Comptroller John Liu delivered opening remarks.

Click below to view a video clip from the panel, where Melissa speaks about the importance of having a standard prevailing wage policy, as well as the need to consider revenue options in light of the recent budget cuts and forecasts that next year’s budget will likely be even worse.

The event was covered in today’s Daily News.

Melissa Discusses Budget Cuts and Revenue on ‘Pura Politica’

This weekend, Melissa appeared on another installment of ‘Pura Politica’ on NY1 Noticias, where she and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez discussed the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts and the need for an open discussion of revenue options.
Take a look at the video by clicking below:

Click the above image to open this video.

UPDATE: The link has been fixed.

Did You Miss the ‘True Life: Wise Latinas’ Special? It’s Now Available Online!

In case you didn’t get a chance to catch Elsie Encarnacion, Laura Benitez and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito in the MTV special “True Life Presents: Wise Latinas,” it is now available online in its entirety!

Click here to watch the show.

For background information on the ‘True Life’ special, click here.  Feel free to share your thoughts on the show in our comments section!

Join us as MTV Airs “Wise Latinas” Special Featuring Elsie of our Office and Laura of D8YC

Please join us at a viewing party held by Women of El Barrio to watch the premiere of MTV’s “Wise Latinas” documentary, which features Elsie Encarnación, a member of Melissa’s staff, and Laura Benítez, a longtime member of the District 8 Youth Council. Both Elsie and Laura were born and raised in El Barrio/East Harlem and are active members of the community.

The event will take place on Monday, April 19th at 7:00 p.m. and will be held at FB Lounge (172 E. 106th Street).  We hope you all can join us to celebrate!
 
If you can’t make it to the event, be sure to tune in to MTV at 9:00 p.m.

Here is some background information from Women of El Barrio:


Back in December, MTV put out a casting call for a show entitled “Wise Latinas” with a focus on Latinas who have dedicated themselves to improving their communities, nurturing the next generation of Latinas and who self identify as being a “Wise Latina.” Continue reading

City Council Unveils Plans for an Expanded and Improved Recycling Program

Yesterday, Melissa joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, several other Council Members and environmental advocates in announcing a package of legislation that will dramatically expand and improve our City’s recycling program.

Click above to open video from NY1 Noticias.

As part of this package, Melissa will introduce a piece of legislation that will help encourage NYC residents to safely dispose of household hazardous waste, by requiring the City to hold at least one annual event to collect these materials in each borough, with the goal of increasing the number of events or making collection sites permanent.

“I’m proud to be introducing legislation that will give people more opportunities to safely dispose of household hazardous waste,” said Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito.  “Every New Yorker has items like pesticides, cleaners, or leftover paint sitting in a closet or under a sink, and they often don’t know what to do with them.  We need to make sure these materials are properly collected, before they end up polluting our soil or water.”

Other components of the comprehensive plan include expanding the recycling of plastics, improved recycling by schools and City agencies, and the creation of special programs for the recycling of paint, clothing and textiles.  For a complete list of the proposed reforms, click here.

12 NYC Council Members Announce the Formation of a New Progressive Caucus

Yesterday, Melissa and 11 of her colleagues announced the formation of the New York City Council’s new Progressive Caucus. Melissa will serve as Co-Chair of the Caucus, along with Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn.

The Progressive Caucus was created to be an entity that will push for a more just and equal city that offers genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers. The Caucus plans to tackle a number of issues including pushing for the passage of paid sick leave legislation, addressing the Section 8 voucher crisis and the creation of quality, living wage jobs.

Click here to see an article on the Caucus from yesterday’s New York Times.

Melissa and Brad Lander also published an op-ed piece on The Nation’s website yesterday explaining the rationale behind the formation of the Caucus. The article was cross-posted on Huffington Post.

Melissa and Other Council Members Continue to Press the DOE on School Closings Policy

Yesterday, the Education and Oversight & Investigations Committees held a joint hearing on the recent closing of 19 public schools by the Department of Education, two of which are in District 8.

Melissa joined the hearing to ask representatives of the DOE about the closings as well as the growing achievement gap in our City.  Click below to view NY1’s coverage of the event, which features a clip of Melissa’s comments:

Click the image to open link.

As you may remember, the DOE’s Panel for Education Policy approved the phasing out of these schools at a hearing in January, after listening to over eight hours of testimony, an overwhelming majority of which was against the Department’s plan.

Melissa Works with Local Senior Centers to Fight MTA Budget Cuts

Melissa has joined Council Member Lappin, chair of the Council’s Aging Committee, in visiting local senior centers to collect petitions against MTA budget cuts.

Seniors and the disabled are among those groups that will be most disproportionately affected by the cuts.  In addition to general cuts to buses and trains, the MTA has also proposed eliminating door-to-door services for the disabled.

The petitions collected at these senior centers will be delivered along with others from all over the City to the MTA as they hold public hearings this week.

For more information on these efforts, see this press release.

Press Conference on Multiple Dwelling Registration Bill Held Today

About 100 members of Make the Road New York and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) joined Melissa and Council Member Chin on the steps of City Hall today to call for the passage of the soon to be re-introduced multiple dwelling registration bill.

(c) William Alatriste, NYC Council

This legislation, which was first introduced by Melissa last term, will help tenants of those buildings owned by LLCs to more easily reach their landlords when problems with their housing arise.  Under this legislation, corporate owners would have to provide the City with the names and contact information of their principal partners, information which, for some tenants, is currently only learned through legal action.

At the press conference, tenants and advocates spoke about the difficulties they faced in trying to get housing issues resolved when the only information they had for some landlords was a P.O. Box number.

Here are more photos from the event.  Click each one to enlarge.

(c) William Alatriste, NYC Council

(c) William Alatriste, NYC Council

(c) William Alatriste, NYC Council

(c) William Alatriste, NYC Council

NY1’s New Yorkers of the Week: Hoops by the River in East Harlem

We would like to congratulate the founders of Hoops by the River, Willie Kelly II and Willie Kelly III on being named New Yorkers of the Week on NY1.  Hoops by the River is an East Harlem-based youth basketball program.

Click here to view the video, which began airing on NY1 this weekend.

To nominate someone to be New Yorker of the Week, send an e-mail to nyer@ny1.com describing their qualifications.

Tomorrow: Council Members, Advocates and Tenant Leaders Stand in Support of Multiple Dwelling Registration Bill

Tomorrow, February 17th, Council Members, housing advocates and tenant leaders will hold a press conference in support of Melissa’s multiple dwelling registration bill, which is soon to be reintroduced.  The event will take place at 1:00 pm on the steps of City Hall.

The multiple dwelling registration bill will require LLC owners of apartment buildings to disclose the names and contact information of the corporation’s partners.  Under the current law, tenants of such buildings often do not have access to their individual landlords’ contact information, making it more cumbersome to resolve any housing problems that may arise without legal action.

See the media advisory below for more information on tomorrow’s event.

City Council Holds Hearing on the Loss of Section 8 Vouchers

The City Council’s Public Housing and General Welfare Committees held a joint hearing yesterday on the recent cuts to Section 8 vouchers which is impacting thousands of NYC families.

Melissa and the other committee members heard testimony from New Yorkers who have lost their vouchers as a result of these cutbacks, as well as advocates and legal service providers.  Without the Section 8 vouchers, many of these New Yorkers will be left with few options but to go into the shelter system.

Various Council Members have called on the City to use stimulus funds allocated for homelessness prevention to restore the cuts to the Section 8 program.

Click below for coverage of the hearing by Telemundo:

Click to open video.

Melissa and Speaker Quinn Call for the Protection of NYC’s Community Gardens

Melissa spoke at the New York City Community Garden Coalition‘s forum on Saturday, where advocates, elected officials and local community members met to discuss how we can protect the city’s community gardens.

Click above to see NY1's coverage of the event.

The agreement between the City and the State Attorney General’s office that has helped preserve the gardens will soon expire.

At the forum, Melissa spoke about the importance of community gardens in her district and throughout the City, as well as the efforts the City C0uncil will engage in to ensure they remain a part of New York City’s neighborhoods. Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also took part in this event.

Melissa released the following statement about community gardens on Saturday:

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, stated:

Community gardens are more than simply gardens. They are truly unifying public spaces, areas of reprieve and recreation for neighborhoods desperately lacking community space. Local community members have struggled for years to support themselves, oftentimes against powerful forces, and in spite of a lack of support and resources. Today, they know they are no longer alone in this fight and we in the City Council will work until we achieve real permanent protections for our gardens.

Melissa and Delegation Make Trip to Puerto Rico to Denounce Hate

Part of the delegation in Puerto Rico (from left to right: CM Dromm, Speaker Quinn, Pedro Julio Serrano, Melissa and CM Van Bramer)

As you know, Melissa and a delegation of elected officials and activists made a special trip to Puerto Rico yesterday to denounce the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado and to call for justice for his family and the Puerto Rican LGBT community. On the trip, Melissa and the delegation met with the family of Jorge Steven, as well as with prominent LGBT activists, legislators and religious leaders.

Among the members of the delegation were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Members Rosie Mendez, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as Illinois State Senator Iris Martinez and Pedro Julio Serrano, a leader and activist in the LGBT community.

In the below clip, Pedro Julio and Melissa speak with a reporter about the purpose of the trip (in Spanish):

Click here for another video from Telemundo Puerto Rico.

Melissa and other members of the delegation spoke strongly against Governor Fortuño’s weak response to this vicious act of violence. They called on the governor to unequivocally speak out against the murder of Jorge Steven, and to work so that U.S. and local hate crimes laws are applied to Jorge Steven’s case and all instances of hate crimes in Puerto Rico.

The delegation also met with the family to show their support and solidarity, and to deliver personally the funds raised at events both in New York and Chicago to help cover the funeral costs and legal expenses they have incurred.

Another photo of part of the delegation (Courtesy of El Nuevo Dia).

The meetings with LGBT activists, elected officials and religious leaders helped strengthen and create linkages which will help members of the delegation to remain active and involved in the struggle for equality in Puerto Rico. As the trial of Jorge Steven’s murderer begins, Melissa and the delegation will continue to watch the development of this case closely, and will keep putting pressure on the government until there is justice.

To read more, take a look at the following articles:

Trip to Puerto Rico Covered in Today’s El Diario

Today, El Diario covered Melissa’s trip to Puerto Rico with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Members Rosie Mendez, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, and several representatives from Chicago, in response to the hate crime against Jorge Steven López Mercado.

Headline on the cover of today's El Diario (Click to expand).

Click here to read the article, which includes a quote from Melissa.

The article, on Page 4 of El Diario (Click to expand).

Stay tuned to our blog for the latest information on the trip.

Melissa Interviewed by NY1 Noticias’ Pura Politica

Click here to watch an interview on NY1 Noticias’ show Pura Politica: Voces de la Ciudad with Melissa and Bronx Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo[Note: the interview is in Spanish]

In the 15 minute clip, the Council Members speak about the recent vote against the Mayor on the Kingsbridge Armory re-zoning and the prospect of a new direction for the Council in the next term, among other topics.

Deadline Approaching for Penalty Relief Program

Take a look at this video featuring Melissa talking about the City’s Penalty Relief Program, which allows businesses and homeowners with certain Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations to resolve defaulted violations without paying additional penalties, late fees or interest.  The deadline for applying to this program is December 21, 2009.

For more information on this program, click here.