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June 2023 – Notes from NMIC

As the summer season unfolds, we are excited to share the latest updates and developments at NMIC. As we reflect on the past month, we are reminded of hurdles we have overcome and the ongoing obstacles that lie ahead. In this dynamic journey, your support has served as a guiding force, driving our mission forward with unwavering momentum. We are incredibly grateful for your dedication and commitment to our work in the community.  

The Recent Price Hike in Rent-Stabilized Homes 

At NMIC, we are deeply committed to uplifting our community members and promoting housing security, recognizing that housing is a fundamental human right. Over the years, rent-stabilized apartments have played a crucial role in enabling families to continue residing in our city. In fact, approximately a quarter of New York City’s total population, which accounts for roughly two million people, currently call rent-stabilized apartments their homes.  

On June 21st, the Rent Guidelines Board reached a decision to raise the rent. By a close margin of 5 to 4, the board voted to raise rents on one-year leases by 3%, while two-year leases will experience an increase of 2.75% in the first year and 3.2% in the second year. These changes will apply to leases effective on October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024. We are concerned about the consequences these rent increases will have for our community. It is disheartening to know that these rent increases will lead to heightened financial burdens, placing residents at risk of eviction.  

Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advocate for the well-being and housing security for all New Yorkers. Safe and affordable housing is a basic right that many of our clients do not have access to. NMIC’s free legal, development, organizing, and weatherization assistance help the members of our community remove the obstacles that keep them from enjoying housing security.  

Click here to learn more about NMIC’s housing services and click here to donate today.  

The Future of Promise NYC 

Promise NYC, a childcare assistance pilot program initiated by ACS, has been a beacon of hope for low-income, immigrant families in New York City. We feared its imminent end, as over 600 children would lose access to essential childcare services. We are overwhelmingly excited to announce that Promise NYC was included in the budget for 2024.  

Our team at NMIC presented compelling testimony for Promise NYC on June 13th in front of the city council, shedding light on the transformative power of the program. We rely on programs such as Promise NYC to adapt and tackle new challenges, such as the increase in new arrivals to New York City. Through firsthand experience, we have witnessed the monumental difference that Promise NYC makes in the lives of our community members. 

For many immigrant families within the communities we serve, programs like Promise NYC are key to a parent’s ability to enter the workforce, impacting both their availability to look for employment and the number of hours they can work as soon as they are employed. Continued access to Promise NYC services is necessary to ensure these families are not further destabilized.  

Click here to read The City’s Article on Promise NYC. 

Thank You for Joining us at Unidos: A NMIC Benefit 

We are delighted to announce that Unidos: A NMIC Benefit, held on June 15, surpassed all expectations and emerged as a resounding success. The event brought together our dedicated staff, passionate supporters, esteemed partners, and valued community members, united in our mission to serve as a catalyst for positive change in the lives of the people in our community on their paths to secure and prosperous futures.  

It was also a momentous occasion to recognize and honor the exceptional commitment of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University School of Nursing, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, Tenant Cooperate 21 Arden, and Dr. Aldrin Rafael Bonilla.  

We are grateful for the unwavering support we have received from individuals like you who have played an integral role in our transformative journey. Let us take a moment to celebrate this remarkable achievement and acknowledge the difference we are making together.  

We invite you to relive the memorable moments from our benefit by exploring photos captured during the event, which can be found here 

#ItsOkayNotToBeOkay 

The Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health (OCMH), an imperative mental health initiative by New York City, strives to elevate awareness of mental well-being and guarantee access to crucial mental health services for all residents. We are proud to announce that OCMH selected NMIC to be a community anchor for Communities Thrive. Communities Thrive is a demonstration project designed to address disparities and expand access to mental health care through community partnerships and connection to tele-mental healthcare provided by NYC Health + Hospitals. Its purpose is to eliminate barriers to mental healthcare faced by Latinx individuals in New York.   

Access to adequate mental healthcare for New Yorkers and their families is often hindered by systemic barriers. Communities of color are especially vulnerable to mental health needs, yet they receive less care than their white counterparts. Around 30% of New York residents live in designated mental healthcare shortage areas, where there are insufficient mental health providers and services. This is aggravated by a serious shortage of mental healthcare providers, lack of insurance, and stigma. Given this situation, OCMH has partnered with community organizations to create an integrated referral network to connect clients to mental health services, eliminate obstacles to insurance coverage, provide advocacy, and connect individuals with culturally sensitive and readily accessible services. Additionally, Communities Thrive partnered with GoDiversity, a Latinx-owned marketing agency, to create a public awareness campaign about mental health to address help-seeking barriers and combat stigma.  

It brings us great pride to collaborate with OCMH, NY Health+Hospitals, and fellow community organizations such as BronxWorks, Dominican Women’s Development Center (DWDC), New Settlement, VIP Mujeres, Apicha, and Betances. As the community anchor for the project, our aim is to organize a network of community-based organizations and community-health organizations to provide assessment, referrals, and advocacy for clients in need of mental health services. Together, we are committed to forging a mental healthcare system that is fair, just, and caters to the distinctive needs of every New Yorker.  

To learn more about Communities Thrive,click here. 

Cafécito con Maria 

Before we delve into the advocacy work of Maria Lizardo, LMSW, NMIC’s esteemed Executive Director, we must first extend our heartfelt congratulations on a momentous occasion: her remarkable 25th anniversary with NMIC! Since joining our organization as the Director of Social Services in 1998, Maria has consistently left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals. Her professional journey reflects her profound love for the communities of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.  

Earlier this month, on June 21st, Maria and other nonprofit leaders from across the boroughs united in a powerful demonstration of solidarity. From 6:00 PM to 10:00 AM the following morning, they participated in a rally organized by the Human Services Council. The gathering aimed to draw attention to the exploitation of human service workers by the government, advocating for fair wages for those employed within the sector under contracts with New York City and the State. The next day, Maria also attended, “Human Service Workers, Tell Mayor Adams: Don’t Forget Us in the Budget.” The rally, sponsored by United Neighborhood Houses, Nonprofit New York, UJA Federation New York, and FPWA, was also in support of the #JustPay campaign. 

New York City, often referred to as the city that never sleeps, witnesses the tireless dedication of human service workers who consistently care for its residents around the clock. Despite the relentless demands of their work, these workers find themselves struggling with poverty wages. It is time for the city to reciprocate this care and acknowledge the vital role of human service workers by providing a 6.5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) within the budget. The efforts of these dedicated individuals deserve tangible support, allowing them to continue their invaluable work of caring for New Yorkers, day in and day out.  

Click here to listen to Maria’s remarks at Human Services Council’s rally.  

NMIC in the News 

  • In a recent article titled “Four million residents of the Big Apple could have obstacles to recertify their health insurance,” published by El Dario NY on May 25th, Maria Lizardo expressed concerns about the recertification process for Medicaid members. She stated, “In recent years, Medicaid members did not have to be certified. Now since the emergency is over, each person has to do it from this spring. We are afraid that many people will lose their health insurance, because they miss the date or do not understand the requirements.” Click here to read more. 
  • On May 27th, Maria Lizardo authored an article for Manhattan Times emphasizing the essential role of human service workers and the necessity of a cost-of-living adjustment. Click here to read more. 
  • An article published by The Indypendent on June 15th shed light on the impact of the unwinding of Medicaid, which could leave up to 200,000 New Yorkers without health insurance. Maria Lizardo highlighted the importance of having trustworthy individuals on the ground to support enrollees who receive notices in the mail. She stated, “You need boots on the ground, people that can trust to come to if they get a notice in the mail. It’s not gonna get done by a state agency calling someone, especially with so much distrust between communities and government.” Click here to read more. 
  • Telemundo 47 reported on the Public Hearings on Rent Increases held on June 21st, featuring Unidad Comunal, an independent entity that receives organizational support from NMIC. Click here to read more.

Observances 

  • Pride Month  
  • Caribbean-American Heritage Month  
  • Black Lives Matter Month  
  • PTSD Awareness Month  
  • Immigrant Heritage Month  
  • June 19, Juneteenth 
  • June 27, PTSD Awareness Day 

June 2023 – Notes from NMIC Read More »

Matthew Chachère Drafts New Law Protecting Tenants with Asthma

The Asthma Free Housing Act,  drafted by NMIC Attorney Matthew Chachère, requires landlords to maintain safe conditions for tenants with asthma.  

On January 19, 2019, the Asthma Free Housing Act went into effect in New York City.  This new law, passed by the City Council in 2012, requires landlords of multiple dwellings to safely remove Indoor Allergen Hazards that can trigger asthma attacks, such as mold, rodents, and roaches. Landlords are also required to implement measures to prevent indoor health hazards, such as leaks and pathways for vermin infestation, using integrated pest management (“IPM”), a practice that relies less on toxic poisons and more on eliminating the conditions that otherwise facilitate vermin problems.   

To ensure compliance with the new law, landlords are also required to initiate inspections once a year to clear their properties of indoor allergen hazards and actively respond to complaints from their tenants.  The law significantly increases the severity of violations for these conditions and the penalties associated with them and enhances the City’s code enforcement responsibilities.  In addition, medical providers can now contact the City to obtain housing inspections for patients with chronic asthma. 

The new law was drafted by NMIC Attorney Matthew Chachère who has been a pioneer in housing law here in NYC for quite some time. In 2003 Chachere was one of the advocates who drafted Local Law 1, a law that requires landlords to be responsible for protecting their tenants’ children from the harmful exposure to lead-based paint.   

The passage of the Asthma Free Housing Act is a step in the right direction for the city and is a great win for an estimated 84,000 children and 10% of Adults in NYC who suffer from asthma.

SOURCES: NYC Health Department, New York City Local Laws, NYC Housing Preservation & Development.  

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Newly Renovated Two-Bedroom Apartment Available in Washington Heights Coop

NMIC is pleased to announce the upcoming cooperative conversion of 618 W 187 Street, where we have been assisting the tenant association since 1986. Residents of this building organized against absentee landlords for years and are now able to become a cooperative and manage the building themselves, taking control of their homes and ensure the success of the building moving forward. This 20-unit building has one vacant 2-bedroom apartment, which is being marketed for sale.  It is a prewar five story walk up, recently renovated in 2018, and the purchaser who is selected will be the first to occupy this unit since the upgrades. Renovations include entirely new kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and building systems, such as the roof, boiler, plumbing, electric and heating; all enhanced to reflect modern domestic finishes and meet Enterprise Green Communities’ sustainability standards.   

The current residents and soon to be shareholders are predominantly Latino/Spanish speaking and benefit from having a strong and knowledgeable board who have lived in the building for a long time. This is a rare opportunity to become a homeowner in an HDFC limited equity cooperative, secure your living situation, develop more equity the longer you live there, and preserve the neighborhood’s long-term affordability. The location is convenient for subway transportation-less than a 10-minute walk from the 1 train and A train and there is access to multiple bus lines on Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue. 

618 W 187 Street is part of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) Program providing affordable housing for families earning between 80%-120% Area Median Income (AMI).  The vacant two-bedroom apartment is 712 square feet and the asking price is $103,700, this translates to $146/sq. ft, which is well below the $746/sq. ft for the Washington Heights neighborhood, according to Trulia.com. All applications must be printed and submitted in paper by mail to the address provided on the application. No electronic applications will be accepted for this development.

There is a 30-day application period for this apartment starting March 29th, 2019 and closing April 29th, 2019.  NMIC along with HPD will also host an Informational Session open to the public on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 at St. Elizabeth’s Church located at 268 Wadsworth Avenue New York, NY 10033 from 6 – 8pmacross the street from the building site, where we will be answering questions regarding the application process and projected timeline.

For an application, you can print one out using the link provided below or pick one up at our office 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor.  You can also have us mail you a printed application by calling 212-822-8300 ext. 408 or emailing edgarcabrera@nmic.org and providing your address or sending a self-addressed envelope to 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor, New York, NY 10033. For detailed information click Here

Download An Application:

Application (English) , Application (Spanish) , Application (Chinese) , Application (Arabic) , Application (Haitian Creole) , Application (Korean) , Application (Russian)

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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. 

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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 theybegan 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. 

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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 was21 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 education, consider donating or volunteering with NMIC’s Education & Career Services program.  

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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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