The People's Voice- September 2015 Newsletter

East Harlem Neighborhood Planning Process


Community Voices Heard has launched a new website! New look, feel, design, but the same organization building power for low-income residents across New York State. check it out!

A lot of fun and exciting things have been going on over the summer in New York, but CVH hasn’t stopped working! We’ve been busy continuing to fight the good fight while identifying and building leaders in the process. So what have you been up to? Here’s some of what we’ve been doing and what’s coming to a city near you!


Join Community Voices Heard as we celebrate 20 YEARS of building power in New York City and State. This year we are honoring Henry Garrido, Executive Director for District Council 37 (DC37), Steven Banks, Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), The New York Women's Foundation (NYWF), Award Accepted by Ana Oliveira, President & CEO, and Tyletha Samuels, Board Co-Chair, Community Voices Heard (CVH). We’re celebrating Monday, September 28th @ El Museo Del Barrio, 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029 from 6:30-10pm. To purchase a ticket, donate, or get more information CLICK HERE! 


CHANGE IS COMING AT HRA AND EVEN THE NY POST GAVE CVH CREDIT! On Wednesday, September 16th CVH hosted a large public meeting with HRA Commissioner Steve Banks. Commissioner Banks has committed to phase out WEP by the end of 2016.  We wanted to make sure he realizes we want the change to happen faster.  He is working to make a pathway for public assistance recipients to get opportunities for entry level non competitive positions in the city.  Four concept papers of the new workforce development system at HRA were put out and CVH has commented verbally and in writing.

Jamaica has several welfare center and Back to Work and WeCARE offices.  CVH has hosted several house meetings at the library. The Jamaica team did actions to get a meeting with the Senior VP of FEDCAP Grant Collins who testified to Congress about how great the WeCARE program is.  We met with him and he committed to some of the changes that we asked for as well as a follow up meeting and to do a tour with us of WEP sites and WeCARE.

5 people got through the Labor Navigator program and into apprenticeships in the LIUNA Laborers.  We are working to expand the program to more unions and for more people to be able to be referred.

The Welfare and Workforce Campaign has also been busy collecting surveys about structural unemployment.  We will be releasing the results soon. We also supported the Fight for $15 and the End Homelessness actions over the summer.  

MEMBERS CALL OUT NYCHA & HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE IN FRONT OF PUBLIC HOUSING DEVELOPMENT. During an April 2015 action that targeted NYCHA for its lack for attention on mold in Clinton Houses, CVH members gave NYCHA until September 1st to address the sometimes deadly problem. At that time NYCHA officials were given a tour to see some of the developments dangerous apartments and allow them a first hand experience of what residents deal with on a daily basis.

Following their tour, repairs in certain apartments were underway. THANKS NYCHA! The problem is, those repairs stopped as soon as they started. Some progress was made, but nothing significant. So on September 1st, 2015 CVH held a press conference in front of Clinton Houses to acknowledge that NYCHA had made some repairs, but they lacked the commitment needed to really address the needs within Clinton Houses. This is indicative of how NYCHA handles a majority of their developments, and that’s not the right approach to a person’s life.

PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING NYC NAMED WINNER OF 2015 HARVARD UNIVERSITY INNOVATION AWARD! Since its inception in 2011 with just four City Council Districts, Participatory Budgeting New York City (PBNYC) has directly allowed NYC residents to decide how over $50 million dollars would be spent to improve their community. On September 17th, 2015 Harvard University announced the winners for their 2015 Innovation in Government Award. PBNYC was the winner of the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award for Public Engagement in Government. Along with winning the award, $100,000 will accompany it, which will help focus on replication of the award.

To read more about the award, why PBNYC was chosen, and what’s happening next CLICK HERE and check out their page.

EAST HARLEM IS NAMED ONE OF 15 COMMUNITIES TO BE REZONED. JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORS SO YOUR VOICE CAN BE HEARD! In order to create more “affordable” units for the growing population in New York City, East Harlem was named one of 15 communities to be rezoned under Mayor DeBlasio’s plan. In an effort to ensure community residents have a voice in shaping how E. Harlem will be in the future, a Neighborhood Plan, aimed at focusing on all aspects of a community is being created.

This process began in May 2015 and was started by Community Voices Heard, the City Council Speaker’s Office, the Manhattan Borough President, and Manhattan’s Community Board 11. There is a training planned for September 30th(location to be determined) that will focus on what zoning is and the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). This training aims to prepare the community to participate in a visioning session about affordable housing, zoning, and land use on October 22nd. Then the committees and ultimately the steering committee will vote on the recommendations to be included in the plan.

The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan is a participatory process for creating a long-term community plan. Residents, community members and stakeholders participate in the creation of this plan through visioning sessions, issue specific committees, and a steering committee. The Neighborhood Plan will include recommendations for policies and programs related to arts, culture, open space, education, NYCHA, housing preservation, small businesses, economic development, affordable housing, land use/zoning, transportation, safety, environment, seniors, and health. For each topic, the community has an opportunity to participate in discussions around concerns, needs and opportunities.

This Neighborhood Plan is being created because of a proposal to re-zone the East Harlem community in order to accommodate more affordable units to meet the Mayor’s goals outlined in his 10 Year Housing Plan. The idea is that this community plan will inform the rezoning that is being proposed by the City, as well as help inform policies and programs implemented by different city agencies.


CVH MEMBERS MAKE LIFE UNPLEASANT FOR MT PLEASANT RESIDENTS. Low-wage workers are tired of being ignored by County Executive, Rob Astorino. So on the morning of July 4th, a group of 30 low-wage workers from the Westchester Chapter of Community Voices Heard occupied a diner in downtown Pleasantville in their effort to secure a meeting with County Executive Rob Astorino. The actions came after over 10 attempts to schedule a meeting with the County Executive about the housing crisis in Westchester County. Members sent emails, 200 pledge cards, made phone calls and letters requesting a meeting directly with him. The action was a result of the People's Assembly on Housing that took place on Saturday, June 6th. Members want funding for an Affordable Housing Needs Assessment which would lead to a community plan being created to meet the need. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE VIDEO

The group intentionally held their action in Rob Astorino’s hometown of Mt. Pleasant. “Our goal today is to get Astorino’s neighbors and people he knows to make phone calls to him that push forward our demand that he meets with members of Community Voices Heard about housing,” said Jasmin Jones, CVH member-leader and Peekskill resident, “We want to get on his radar and show him that we mean business.” The group, predominantly Black and Latino, marched through the Pleasantville Diner, where Astorino frequents, and Pleasantville Farmer’s Market chanting “People of color deserve respect! Especially from our county exec!” Several leaders passed out flyers to customers and passersby with details on how to reach Astorino’s office with their message.

DO YOU LIKE CAKE? WE SURE DO! On Saturday 12 Setember, the Westchester County chapter of CVH held a Cake for Change fundraiser Similar to our Pie-off held in NYC, this event brought together not only members, but community residents across the county with a single issue on their mind, CAKE! Attendees had the option to submit a cake for competition and could taste others submissions that were voted on later in the event. It was a great turnout and as usual, some awesome cakes were submitted.

“I didn’t get to submit something this year, but I’m already planning on what I want to bake for next year…. Everything was great!” –anonymous


CVH CONTINUES TO BUILD POWER IN ORANGE COUNTY. Over the summer CVH dedicated many hours to regional expansion through membership growth and leadership development. Through our partnership with Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization responsible for creating long term development plans for the tri-state area, additional resources were provided to hire a short term organizer that could support our mission. Ignacio Acevedo, a CVH member-leader, took on that position and hit the ground running immediately. Through the work being done there a county-wide forum was held to address local and regional problems impacting low income communities. The forum housed over 60 people, predominantly people of color.

This marks our first county wide forum as well as our first bilingual forum in Orange County. The key issues that emerged across the county were barriers to access to work, and access to quality housing and transportation. Moving forward, organizers and member leaders are building relationships with new leaders in order to create leadership teams throughout the county that will prepared to act when necessary.


STRING OF SHOOTING & MURDERS CAUSE MEMBERS TO ACT IN AN EFFORT TO STOP THE VIOLENCE! Members organized a large march to Stop the Violence after a raft of shootings as they continue to work on funding anti-violence programs. After the murder in Dutchess County of Samuel Harrell a mentally ill prisoner at the Downstate Correction Facility by a gang of corrections officers we participated in a series of direct actions with partners in the Hudson Valley Black Lives Matter Coalition. Our protests made local, regional and National news including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Time Warner Cable News, Huffington Post, and Democracy Now. Members from both Poughkeepsie and Orange Chapters participated and central Poughkeepsie was at a standstill for three hours.