Because of You, ‘I AM’

P.S. 132 Elementary Students Create a Masterpiece Collection of Self Portraits  

The Urban Arts Partnership, Story Studio is a program run by P.S. 132. The program was established as an innovative arts and English language integration program for upper elementary, middle and high school students. Students with limited English ability are supported in the program as they learn, grow and become more connected to their new environment and communities. 

The students of the Urban Arts Partnership program brought their talents to NMIC and created a series of paintings that lined the walls of NMIC’s lobby, creating a colorful, familiar, and warm environment. The student’s paintings were all self-portraits titled “I Am” a proclamation of their self-identity and pride, accompanied by self-describing short poems. The students recited the poems in our lobby area as our clients waited to be seen. It was a heartwarming sight and a gentle reminder that immigrant experiences transcend ages.  

The “I AM” project is the first writing assignment in the Story Studio framework, which enables students to self-reflect and begin to consolidate the expanding and ever-changing facets of their self-identity Many people don’t realize that immigrants must form a new identity when they leave their home countries. The students I work with are all creating a new identity and it is very challenging for them.” Said Urban Arts Partnership Instructor, Ruthy Valdez.  The program allows students to learn and grow with students experiencing the same challenges and supports their growth in ELA, the arts and beyond.  

If Ruthy could share one thing with the public it would be the importance of giving back to our communities, especially children. And the knowledge she has of the incredible impact including the arts can have in a child’s healing, growth, and academic improvement. “The students become more confident, self- assure, and outspoken in all areas of their lives. By participating the students create a life marker where they can remember doing something courageous and amazing.” It is the work we do together as a community that has a lasting impact. Do you want to make an impact? Support our Education & Career Services program. Click here to donate. 

View Highlights of the Student’s Performance. 

Becoming a Homeowner for Just $2,500

NMIC’s Cooperative Team Helps Tenants Return Home After Ten Years 

Maria Tineo first arrived in the U.S in the 1990s, and like many other immigrants, she built roots here in the city and raised her family at 21 Arden Street in Washington Heights. In 2008 Maria, her family, and the tenants in her building were forced to relocate to new residences in the neighborhood due to the structure of their building being ruled unsafe.  

The building 21 Arden is a part of a tenant management program called Tenant Interim Lease, the program was established for city-owned occupied buildings, and with tenants involved with the management of the properties, they are eventually renovated and converted to cooperatives.  

However, the renovation project for 21 Arden was originally scheduled to last just one year the tenants did not foresee it would be 10 years before they began to see any hope of returning home. 

“When they were first vacated from their building in 2008, they were promised that their building would be renovated in 1 year.  It has been 10 years and they are only now starting renovations.” Said Jennifer Welles who is a part of NMIC’s Development & Organizing Team.  

NMIC has a longstanding history of developing and organizing tenants to empower and advocate for their communities. Jennifer has worked on 21 Arden since 2011 and has seen and experienced the many challenges associated with the tenants and organizers alike. “This is not a typical scenario by any means, but it is something that can happen, and it is very frustrating for all involved, not least of whom the tenants who have been waiting for so long to return home.”  

Getting projects like 21 Arden to the finish line come with many obstacles however what remains true is the reason why the work is needed, we must protect our community from predatory housing practices, the erosion of rent-stabilized apartments, and the skyrocketing costs of housing through active involvement and investment in their residences “The affordable housing projects we work on, particularly the cooperative ones, are amazing and rare opportunities for community control of assets and resources”  

Without the establishment of tenant organizing or the opportunity to ‘rent to own’ residencies native New Yorkers, like Maria and her family are susceptible to the price gouging practices of landlords looking to solely increase their profits, at the price of low-income families losing their homes. “Since I started in the position, we have helped 5 buildings become owned or controlled by the tenants. 21 Arden will be the 6th during this period.” Said Jennifer Welles. NMIC’s organizing and legal team work hard to protect individuals and families from being victimized by these practices, which often lead to unjust evictions and rent overcharges. Would you like to support their work? Click here to donate. 

What is So Important About the 2020 Census?

Judge Strikes Down Trump Administrations Controversial Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census. 

For months NMIC and other social service organizations have worked hard and advocated from Albany to City Hall to prevent a new proposal from the current administration that sought to include the controversial question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” the question of citizenship is a problem because it would incur fear and deter full participation in the census. Community resources are determined based on who is being counted. The impact of the result of the census lasts for ten years.  If the residents of a community are undercounted, then the community will not have the support to grow and enhance supportive services for everyone.  

Thankfully, in January 2019, a U.S District Judge Furman ruled against the citizenship question and cited it as being unlawful “To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition — central to the rule of law — that ours is a ‘government of laws, and not of men,” 

If allowed to pass, the citizenship question could have caused widespread fear and disproportionate allocation of critical funding for services and organizations like NMIC, that work with a variety of vulnerable populations including immigrants. Here in NYC funding for schools and two congressional seats were also at risk of being lost.  

So, how does participation in the U.S Census work? In March 2020 everyone will receive a postcard with instructions on how to complete the Census either online or over the phone. Alternatively, Census workers will come door knocking at the end of April 2020. NMIC has joined the NY Counts 2020 Coalition which works to conduct outreach and educate community members, and will also participate as Census Ambassadors. We ask for everyone to become Census ambassadors, to join committees, and spread the word about the Census. As individuals, we should get our family and friends to complete the Census form and ensure our communities have the proper resources to prosper.  

To learn more about the 2020 Census visit census.gov and to apply to become a Census Ambassador click here.  

Join us. Ignite the Flame that Creates Change.

40 years ago, NMIC was founded with the goal of assisting immigrants in Northern Manhattan who were at-risk of being evicted. 40 years later, the risk is still there.  

Residents are still at-risk of being displaced out of their communities as a result of rents increasing, wages remaining the same, and scarcity of jobs available to those with limited educational backgrounds. Rents are now only affordable to families earning roughly double the minimum wage. It is happening all around us and NMIC has been on the frontlines since 1979.  

This is the story of thousands of longtime residents in the communities NMIC serves – Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem, and the Bronx. NMIC alone can’t stop displacements, more work needs to be done. This year marks NMIC’s 40th anniversary and in honor of this milestone, we are launchingThe Spark Collective’a participatory philanthropical giving circle composed of an innovative group of 40 individuals investing $40 monthly to enhance life-changing programs. These monthly gifts provide us with the financial and social capital we need to create radical changes in the lives of our clients.  

NMIC’s very own Executive Director, Maria Lizardo is kicking it off and asking you to join her. “For the last 20 and a half years, I have witnessed the impact that NMIC’s work has on the lives of our community members. For me, being the executive director at NMIC is not just a job it is my life’s mission and as such, I commit to supporting NMIC’s work and celebrating our 40 years of service by pledging $40 a month. Yes, I want to be a part of the “Spark Collective” that creates change in the lives of New Yorkers.” – Maria Lizardo, Executive Director. Join Maria. Join us. Ignite radical change.

This is how it works:  

  • Give $40/monthly.  
  • One-time volunteer opportunities are available such as participating on a professional speaking panel based on your area of expertise.  
  • Invitation to agency milestone events. 
  • Get to know like-minded changemakers! Join us at an annual professional networking event with other Spark Collective members. 

Sign-up now#NMICignitingchange 

 

A 1998 School Trip to D.C Results in a Teary Reunion

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s words of wisdom impacted a young teenage girl from NYC.  

It was 21 years ago when Eliana Almeida stood in a circle with her classmates listening to the words of the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to the U.S Congress. On that day Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, was the only representative who said yes to a group of young, female high school students visiting the U.S Capitol for the first time. In the ten minutes spent with Congresswoman Velazquez, who not only was a physical representation of what was possible for the young black and brown girls in her presence but emphasized the importance of unwavering good character and getting an education. 

For Eliana, a young girl from NYC, this was a reminder of the teachings of her parents and was enough to inspire her to continue her college education, a year later. However, two years into her studies, Eliana had to make a difficult decision of discontinuing her studies, “my father was very sick, and I had to leave school to help support my family and become a caretaker.” Fast forward to twenty years later, on June 4th, 2018, Eliana received her degree. Fulfilling the vow, she made that fateful day with Congresswoman Velazquez.  

That summer, while in conversation with a colleague, Attorney Matthew Chachere, Elaina spoke of that first encounter with Congresswoman Velazquez, and how instrumental it was in shaping who she is today. Eliana expressed her desire to write to Congresswoman Velaquez to express her gratitude for those ten minutes of inspiration that have had a lasting impact 20 years later. Unbeknownst to Eliana, Matt had known Congresswoman Velazquez and offered to deliver her letter directly.  

This past December, Eliana received a surprise visit from Congresswoman Velazquez, “I will never in my life forget this moment.” Congresswoman Velazquez walks in with flowers and I just started crying and hugging her. She was crying with me too. We talked about school and I showed her some graduation pictures. We talked about my mom and her health and my journey in caregiving for my mother. Ms. Velazquez again was kind, positive and encouraging as I remembered her 20 years ago.”  

When asked what advice Eliana would give to a young girl as an adult today, she responded: “Educate yourself academically and be a woman of good character”.  Learn as much as possible about different necessities that a human being might have. Such as, mental health, disabilities, and the many health and life conditions that exist.  Life is not about pride and position, it is about the value of your character and the contribution you are providing to society

Kind words go a long way to inspire others. If you want to help support young adults continue their educationconsider donating or volunteering with NMIC’s Education & Career Services program.  

Community Union of Washington Heights & Inwood Raises Over $5 Million for Park Revitalization

Safe, Clean, and Drug-Free Playgrounds Should Be Available to All New Yorkers Including Low-Income Neighborhoods 

The Community Union of Washington Heights & Inwood or Union Comunal was founded almost 30 years ago. The Community Union is an alliance of neighbors, whose purpose is to organize and advocate to improve the quality of life for Washington Heights and Inwood residents. The organization is guided by the desire to see the Washington Heights and Inwood community thrive economically, socially and politically, and to protect residents against the many violations that afflict low-income communities.  

In a 2011 annual assembly meeting, Union members identified the poor conditions of the Audobon Playground located on West 170th street in Washington Heights. The park was littered with drug paraphernalia and the playgrounds amenities had lost their utility and the park over all was in a poor and crumbling condition. Union members also identified the stark contrast in quality with parks located in more affluent areas of the neighborhood like Bennet Park and the Javits Playground. Some of the changes members proposed to improve the conditions of the park included new and improved restrooms, resting areas with benches, better lighting, safety measures, new recreation and sports areas for children and young adults, as well as greenery (trees, flowers, plants). These improvements would not only revitalize the appeal of the playground but provide community members with a viable playground option that is safe, clean and enjoyable.  

The project was supported by Council Members Ydanis Rodriquez and Mark Levine who serve the Washington Heights Neighborhood areas. The $5,584,00 in funds procured to renovate the playground will allow children, seniors and all community members alike to have a space they can access without fear. Construction on building the new playground began in October 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2020. Click here to find out more about the Audobon Playground Project from NYC Parks.  

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