Since Wednesday’s tragic building collapse, so many of you have reached out to offer your help and support. Today, I am pleased to announce that, at the request and urging of my office, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC has established a special East Harlem Building Collapse Relief fundraising effort. I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for working with my office to establish this relief fund and for all that they have done in the days since this tragedy.
Funding will be utilized to create a victims assistance fund for expenses related to housing, funerals and replacing lost possessions, long-term case management and counseling services, and specialized outreach to El Barrio’s immigrant communities. Local community based organizations like Union Settlement and Little Sisters of the Assumption will be among those providing these important services.
The fund has already received pledges from a range of entities, including the families and Board members of the East Harlem Tutorial Program, the Real Estate Board of New York, Con Edison and the Association for a Better New York. I thank them for their generosity.
We’ve all heard about the student debt crisis in our country. The New York City Council passed two resolutions on Monday related to our ballooning student debt. Melissa sponsored one of the two resolutions, in support of the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would reduce the interest rate of federal subsidized Stafford student loans for one year from the current 3.4% to 0.75%.
If Congress does not act before this coming Monday, the interest rates of all federal student loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8%, a move that would have devastating impacts across the country. The federal legislation supported by these Council esolutions can allow students to refinance their student loans as well as lower interest rates to those offered to U.S. banks by the Department of the Treasury.
Currently, over 38 million people have student loan debt obligations, amounting to close to $1 trillion. Over the last 10 years, student loan debt has quadrupled from $240 billion in 2003. With the planned increase in federal Stafford loans, more defaults are expected as currently, students are not able to refinance their loans.
“Our two resolutions send a clear message from New York City that we demand action in Congress on measures that will lower student loan debt. We must continue to invest in our young people without asking them to assume such a high level of debt in return, especially in today’s economy. The planned doubling of interest rates will only discourage prospective college students from seeking to better themselves through higher education. That is why I am supporting Senator Warren’s proposal to lower interest rates to the same level that banks pay for at least one year, as well as Senator Gillibrand’s legislation for a long-term fix. We cannot continue to be held hostage by forces in our country that want to do nothing else but impede our President’s agenda while turning a blind eye to our most vulnerable. Senators Gillibrand and Warren are both showing incredible leadership on this issue and I thank them as well as Higher Education Chair Rodriguez for ushering these resolutions to passage in the City Council.”
NYCHA’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.
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.
It is not news that East Harlem faces a challenge with littering. This is a problem that Melissa has previously addressed and is now calling for your help. If you are as tired of litter in our community as we are, please volunteer and join Melissa and our office on Saturday, June 22nd from 10 AM to 1 PM in sweeping our sidewalks, showing our community that we take pride in our neighborhood! For the full flyer and schedule of the days events, please click here.We hope to see you there!
Please join Melissa at the upcoming Stop the Bullying Candlelight Memorial Walk, in memory of Joel Morales, who tragically was driven to commit suicide last year at the age of just 12 years old after enduring relentless bullying. This event is being spearheaded by Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez and gives all of us in El Barrio/East Harlem the opportunity to come together, remember Joel and renew our fight against bullying in our schools and communities.
Melissa, State Senator José Serrano, and the East Harlem Immigrant Service Network are sponsoring an all-inclusive roundtable discussion entitled “Bridging the Gap; Expanding the Dialogue”that will be held on Friday, June 7th from 9 AM to 11:30 AM at the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence. This dialogue is intended to broaden conversations about sexuality and gender identity in El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx. This is a chance for you to have an interactive discussion between elected officials and other members of the community about the best ways we can combat stigma, homophobia and transphobia in our community.
If you know of any other fun or informative tours or activities that highlight the South Bronx, please feel free to comment with the website and contact information! Or just let us know what you LOVE about the Bronx.What we love about the South Bronx is you – our constituents! We asked for your help yesterday and you not only helped but spread the word fast. There’s nothing greater than a community that sticks together for a good cause.
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.
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.