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Know Your Rights
Source: Brooklyn Legal Services Corp A
Subject: Profiles of MRNY
Type: Media Coverage

Two dynamic organizations unite to fight inequality and economic injustice – Make the Road New York

"One out of every five New
Yorkers lives in poverty. The poverty rate is not declining, and Manhattan has become the most unequal county in the entire
United States.
Beyond the narrow politics of red state/blue state lies the daily realities of
how families struggle to survive in New
York City. Poverty causes stress and indignity, and
truncates opportunity. Children go hungry. Families go homeless. Parents work
multiple jobs and are not around to support their children. Young people fake
[being] sick to avoid school trips they cannot afford."

– Make the Road New York

In 1997, Make the Road by Walking, Inc. (MTR) was founded in a Bushwick church
basement by local residents who wanted to address the potentially devastating
effects of welfare reform on poor and immigrant communities in the U.S.
According to Make the Road New

video, "An Introduction to Our Organization," Bushwick is one of the
poorest neighborhoods in New York City
with an average annual household income of only $7,000. Initially MTR focused
exclusively on organizing immigrant welfare recipients, but soon expanded its
focus to combat the systematic economic and political marginalization of
Bushwick residents. "Make the Road has been organizing people and
providing services to the community in Bushwick for ten years, growing over
that decade into an organization known across the city for its innovative,
democratic, community-led efforts to promote justice and equality for the
low-income population of Bushwick," said Mike Haber, a staff attorney in
Brooklyn A’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Unit.

In recent
years, MTR forged a productive, close working relationship with another
not-for-profit community group, Latin American Integration Center (LAIC). LAIC
was founded in 1992 by a social justice lawyer from Columbia who created the organization to
promote human rights and democratic participation in her community. LAIC sought
to mobilize Latino community members to overcome systematic barriers to basic
services and equal rights and to expand the power of immigrants within New York’s political and
civic life. LAIC grew to become a multi-service agency with two centers in
Queens, in an area with the highest density of immigrants in New
York City, and one center in Port Richmond, a community in Staten Island with the fastest growing Mexican community
in the City. LAIC has used these centers in its battle to protect the rights of
immigrants through community education, community organizing and strategic
policy advocacy.

MTR and
LAIC sought to merge their organizations together into one in order to create a
city-wide organization that brings together the groups’ deep and active
community roots, and that combines democratic accountability to low-income
people with an innovative mix of strategies to confront inequality and economic
injustice. The two groups were joined together legally through an asset acquisition
in October 2007, and the joined entity changed its name to Make the Road New York
to reflect
the change. Haber, who led Brooklyn A’s
representation of MTR during the ‘merger’ process, believes that "by
bringing together their different organizing and programming strengths, the
services provided in all three boroughs will be strengthened." With over
3,500 members, 60 employees, offices in three out of the five boroughs in New
York City and an annual budget of close to four million dollars, MRNY is
already well on its way to achieving the goals it defined at its inception.

Brooklyn A, through its CED Unit, represented MTR in its asset
acquisition of LAIC. Brooklyn A’s work on this project has included: drafting
and negotiating the confidentiality agreement binding the parties during the
term of the transaction; due diligence review; negotiation of the form for the
corporate transaction; drafting and advocating for assignments of LAIC’s grant
contracts; amending MTR’s by-laws; obtaining necessary consents to the
transaction from government regulators and other third parties; negotiating the
terms and structure of the asset transfer contract; and changing the name of
the corporation to Make the Road New York in recognition of the new
corporate structure. Now that the groups have joined together, Andrew Friedman, one of three MRNY co-directors, says: "We can
catalyze policy change at the city and state level, we can provide
comprehensive legal, support, adult education and youth development services in
Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island." With
the legal support of Brooklyn A’s CED Unit, Friedman adds, "we have
created a vehicle that low-income immigrant New Yorkers can use to make their
vision for a more equitable and inclusive New
York City a reality."

summer Brooklyn A represented MRNY in negotiating a long-term commercial lease
for their new location in Jackson Heights, Queens.
LAIC previously operated out of two smaller locations in Queens.
Now, MRNY will have ample space to expand its wide array of high-quality
services to low-income immigrants and residents of Queens.
Brooklyn A has also been working on finalizing
the architect and general contractor agreements to begin renovations on the new
space. According to Friedman, "The work of Brooklyn A has enabled us to continue focusing on our
core programs. Brooklyn A does such amazing and diligent corporate legal work
for us – from handling the merger, to helping us secure our new Queens space.
We are a bigger, better and more well-located organization as a result of Brooklyn A’s incredibly generous legal work." MTR
has been a client of and has partnered with Brooklyn A on a variety of projects
in the community over its decade of existence and MRNY and Brooklyn
A look forward to continued collaboration in the future.