Feb. 23 Make the Road New York/ Se Hace Camino Nuevo York, formerly Make the Road by Walking,
held their first open community assembly since joining up with Latin American
Integration Center (LAIC) last year to bring the community together and discuss
this year’s platform. The day after this winter’s first big snowstorm, at least
700 people made the soggy trek out to The Ganesh Temple in Flushing, Queens. Among the 700 were Make the Road New York
community members and 10 elected officials from all levels of government. They
included: Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,
City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Senator John Sabini, City Council Member John
C. Liu, City Council Member Cathy Nolan and City Council Member Hiram
Monserrate among others.
Make the Road New York is a non-profit community
organization that focuses on immigrant rights and building a political power
base among low-income New Yorkers. They strive to promote justice and equity in
through "community and electoral organizing, strategic policy advocacy,
leadership development, youth and adult education, and high quality legal and
support services," according to their mission statement. They have almost 4,000
members, 95 percent of whom are Hispanic.
As Make the
Road by Walking, they concentrated their campaigns in Bushwick Brooklyn, but
after the merger with LAIC, Make the
Road New York serves communities in Staten Island and Queens as well as
Brooklyn what they refer to as the "fastest growing and most underserved
boroughs in New York City."
Now, in addition to their center on Grove
Street in Bushwick adorned with a large outdoor
mural by Christopher Cardinale, they have centers in Woodside and Jackson Heights,
Queens and Port Richmond, Staten Island.
was to have community members represented and given a chance to speak to
elected officials," says Wesley Aten, Director of Development at Make the Road New
York, "It was a healthy and productive time when community members could
speak directly. It holds elected officials accountable and it gives the
communities they represent a human face. Most of the elected officials tried to
speak bilingually if they could, which was nice."
Make the Road New York community members presented the
organization’s policy priorities for 2008, which include: Increased educational
and economic opportunity, comprehensive immigration reform, healthy and
affordable housing, equal access to government benefits and services and the
expansion of civil rights across our communities for immigrants, workers,
students and LGBTQ people. They shared about the hardships faced by immigrants
in New York.
One community member, Luz Espinal, originally from Honduras, asked when there will be
immigrant reform in the country to help her and her family.
New York’s spirited 12th Congressional District Congresswoman, Nydia
Velázquez, spoke mainly about healthcare and insurance for Hispanics, reminding
the crowd that there are 44 million Hispanics in America and a gross 62% of them are
uninsured. She said, "Shame on us! We try to promote democracy in Iraq when we have neighbors with no
healthcare,"Ms. Velazquez is a staunch critic of the war in Iraq.
Quinn, the openly gay City Council Speaker (who has recently been catching heat
from the LGBT community for her support of the NYPD’s new "parade" regulations
that prohibit a public gathering or march of more than 50 people), was there saying
she stands ready to "remain in partnership" with Make the Road to work on
issues of education, housing and police reform. She also thanked Make the Road
for their past work and for their deep involvement in their community that, in
turn, allows her to be involved in the community. Quinn also promised to pass
the Tenants’ Rights Bill in the City Council this week in order to protect
tenants from discrimination and harassment by their landlords.
presenters were lively cheers of "Si se puede! Si se puede!" and "El puelo
unido jamas sera vencido!"
presentation ended with a humorous street theater-type performance put on by
members of the Make the Road New York
community. The style was half cartoonish, half Soap Opera, but was about
immigrant rights and healthcare!
was the first Community Assembly, Aten wasn’t sure what to expect but says
it was "everything he’d hoped for and more."