Fwd: [reclaiming-spaces] Fwd: Z Magazine: "Voices of the Other New York"
marknbarrett at googlemail.com
Wed Jul 15 21:50:06 BST 2009
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Feedback from the " Second Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement
"in New York
hosted by Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) ...
---------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Z Magazine: "Voices of the Other New York"
From: "Movement for Justice in El Barrio"
<movementforjusticeinelbarrio at yahoo.com<movementforjusticeinelbarrio%40yahoo.com>>
To: movementforjusticeinelbarrio at yahoo.com<movementforjusticeinelbarrio%40yahoo.com>
Voices of the Other New York:
Dispatch from the Second Encuentro for
Dignity and Against Displacement in El Barrio
July 02, 2009
Amid the global financial crisis, the private equity companies that once
threatened to swallow up the last of Manhattans affordable housing stock
may be on the road to mass extinction. And amid the political crisis in
Albany, the politicians who promised rent reform may be on the road to
But the Other New York is still here and still at it, fighting for the block
and the dignity of its denizens. Here in East Harlem, known to its own as
El Barrio, the banners insist, We will not be moved, or No
nos moveran. To those who've watched this movement fight (and win) battle
David-and-Goliathian battle with local slumlords and multinational
corporations, it is clear that they mean it.
On the evening of June 7, 2009, the Second Encuentro for Dignity and Against
Displacement brought 38 organizations and scores of people, tenants,
organizers, families with children, all gathered in the basement of an
East 116th Street community center into conversation with each other, with
international movements, and with presenters from East Harlem, West
Harlem, Chinatown, Sunset Park.
This Second Encuentro (or encounter) was hosted by Movement for Justice in
Barrio (MJB), an organization based in the immigrant communities of East
Harlem, internationally allied with the Other Campaign of Mexicos
Zapatista movement and, like the Zapatistas, a movement from below and to
the left. (MJB also organized the First Encuentro held here in October
2007. See Further Reading.)
We are humble people. The majority of us are mothers who are fighting for a
better future for our children, explained Ana Laura Merino of MJB at the
opening of the encuentro. MJB awakens the desire to struggle in our
community, added Sonia Guzman in the closing speech.
The tenants who live in the buildings, who organize, are the ones who make
decisions in their own struggle, said Oscar Dominguez. We all together
decide to see what is the path that were going to take as an organization
and to develop a struggle against the enemy, which is capitalism and the
bad governments. We practice autonomy and democracy. We go to the streets
to consult the community.
The Second Encuentro, writes MJB, like the First Encuentro two years back,
inspired by the encuentros of the Zapatistas in order to get know each
other and recognize one another in our struggles for a world where many
worlds fit and against neoliberal exclusion.
East Harlem marks a fitting backdrop for this kind of gathering. Its
mirror those of low-income and immigrant communities all across New York
City, facing skyrocketing rents they cannot afford, landlords who will not
maintain their buildings, and companies that have not hesitated to harass,
overcharge, evict and target tenants for replacement with those at a
higher income bracket.
Speaking of each of these struggles were members of not only MJB, but also
Organizing Asian Communities, which is fighting the gentrification of
Chinatown and beyond; the Harlem Tenants Council and the Coalition to
Preserve Community, which persist in resisting the expansion of Columbia
University and rezoning of 125th Street; the Sunset Park Alliance
of Neighbors, building local power in south Brooklyn; and Thomas Jefferson
Tenants Association, taking on police violence in public housing.
They were joined, too, by a troupe from Make the Road New York, the
community organization based out of Bushwick, Brooklyn, which expressed
its own community's struggles in little bits of theater pitting prowling
loan sharks and cigar-chomping landlords against the good people of New
York, who ultimately overpowered the powerful to the sound of maracas,
guitars and accordions.
The conversations at the encuentro crisscrossed barrios and neighborhoods,
organizers, guarded on each side by a Zapatista puppet and introduced by
Juan Haro of MJB, took on the conditions they face, how they struggle, who
their enemies are and what their dreams look like.
Those at the frontlines of New York's housing movement know their enemies.
This truly is neoliberalism at its worst, said Nellie Hester Bailey,
of the Harlem Tenants Council. We are its victims. She should know. Her
husband was murdered by a brutal landlord 20 years ago this month. What we
are fighting, she declared, is the ruling class. This is the epicenter of
international finance capital. What we are talking about is whether poor
people can live on expensive real estate. [With Plan 2030,] As rich people
come into the city, Bloomberg is pushing us out of the city.
The presentations from Bailey and other speakers are periodically punctuated
by chants of, Harlems
Not For Sale! Harlems Not For Sale! Harlem No Se Vende! Harlem No Se Vende!
Tom Demot, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, has been working to that
end for 30 years. I like to talk about enemies, he told the crowd. Our
enemies don't want to hear the word, they want us all to be friends as
they screw us. In addition to developers, Demot called out the elected
officials at City Hall, most of whom have supported the rezoning and
gentrification of Harlem, along with the local development corporations,
the land use laws, and the elitist class system in the United States.
Other organizers pointed to the alignment of the city's policies and the
landlords interests. The city is working with the landlords in kicking
people out of their homes, says Bin Liang of CAAAV, who's been organizing
in Chinatown for years. Tenants are essentially being punished for
landlords failure to do what they're supposed to, she says, citing city
evictions of families from tenements with only 2 hours notice. One of the
root causes is profit-driven incentives for landlords to do this.
So its not about peoples human rights and their housing needs, Liang
concluded, but how to make money the fastest way possible.
Its the rich people who are trying to take away our homes, and its the
political system, including the mayor and the city councilmen
[Mark-Viverito, Jackson and Dickens], that are helping them to do that,
reported Dominguez of MJB. We decided not to work with the politicians,
because they will never be in our favor, because they're for the rich
Pearl Barkley, of the Thomas Jefferson Houses Tenants Association and
Against Abusive Policing, suggested another means that the city has
employed to implement policies of planned shrinkage of troubled
neighborhoods: Aggressive policing of people who live in public housing.
We see the practices of NYPD, says Barkley, in concert with NYCHA [NYC
Housing Authority], as a way of eliminating all low-income people who live
in NYCHA. Its a very insidious thing. People cannot walk out of their
building or empty the garbage without police asking them for ID. That's
the plan for eventually getting us out. How is NYPD and NYCHA doing it?
Through criminalization of its tenants.
Javier Genao, an organizer with the Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors, here
his young daughter, offered a warning to those assembled: We know that
there's a history of divide-and-conquer. This is something we've seen in
the past that the city has done and developers have done, because they
don't want us to unite and struggle against our same enemy. Yet there are
Latino and Asian neighbors organizing together, he reported, on issues
from tenants rights to toxic developments.
The new villain on the block, Bailey went on to say, in addition to familiar
ones like absentee landlords and imperially minded universities, is what
she calls predatory equity investment the influx of private equity firms
that once aimed to evict 20 to 30% of the tenants in their properties and
quietly convert thousands of rent-regulated apartments into luxury units
meant for a different kind of city.
On some blocks, the financial crisis has put such hostile takeovers on hold.
The payday never dawned for Dawnay, Day, the London-based investment bank
that once sought to build a U.S. real estate empire starting with East
Harlem and, in the process, at once overleveraged its assets and ran into
global resistance from an MJB-led International Campaign in Defense of El
Something strange happened on the way to the bank, Bailey explained. You
Theyâ€™re all in foreclosure. All of those projects, including the East
125th Street project, are on hold. (Applause.) Columbia University is in
major trouble. It is inconceivable that the university can pursue its
original plans for a $6 billion expansion. The chickens have come home to
roost for these developers.
The Second Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement also opened up the
floor to the voices of national and international movements for vivienda
digna, dignified housing. Eviction and displacement are happening all over
the world, noted Filiberto Hernandez of MJB. Which is why we have to
organize so that united we can destroy this corrupt system in its
The speeches were accompanied by documentaries and dispatches from other
fronts, including New Orleans, where footage showed the man-made disaster
represented by the demolition of public housing and the cleansing of half
the city's poor; and Atenco, Mexico, where the Peoples Front in Defense of
the Land was brutally repressed by security forces in 2006. The crowd also
watched footage of the recent MJB takeover of the Mexican Consulate to
demand freedom for the political prisoners.
More chantsLibertad y Justicia para Atenco! Presos Politicos, Libertad!
Todos Somos Atenco!
Oralia Mondragon Ramirez, an MJB organizer, proceeded to read aloud a
from Atenco sent by the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land:
One struggle unites us. The struggle against capitalism. It doesn't matter
where we encounter ourselves. In Harlem, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Cochabamba,
Zaragoza, Sydney, Paris, Manchester. The struggles against all forms of
domination are the same. From Atenco, we struggle, just the way you do in
El Barrio and in New York. We salute your struggle, and we appreciate your
teaching a lesson of struggle and of hope. We believe that the role you
all play in the belly of the empire is crucial. The Second Encuentro for
Dignity and Against Displacement represents for us the necessary
construction of world transformation that we are all building.
The land is not for sale, the statement proclaimed. It is to be loved and
Each of the presenters went on to share a piece of their dream for their
neighborhood and their world, just as they had shared a piece of their
Our dream, said Liang, is for every tenant to live peacefully, whether they
have money or not, and not to be harassed.
That housing is not a privilege, said Bailey. That housing is a basic human
right. It doesn't matter if you have a job, if you're old, if you're
inform, it is your right. That has to become a reality.
We dream of a world, said Guzman, in which we can exercise our rights to
justice where we can advance together hand in hand where the powerful stop
trying to manipulate the humble at their economic convenience where our
children can have a shining future.
For our children to stop being killed. That's very real for my community,
Barkley. We dream of the day when we are related to as full human beings,
and not a cash crop to provide for the police and prison-industrial
We dream of a victory, said Genao. We dream of having community control of
our communities. We dream of the day when people don't respect the
authority of police officers or of elected officials, but that people
respect the authority of what people decide together as a community.
Those are the dreams, he concluded, that carry us through this very
Meanwhile, the young ones flitted back and forth next door ahead of the
game of Gentrification Pinata/Neoliberal Pinata that was to be the final
event of the evening. The pinata, a mean and green and greedy-looking
thing, hung by a single thread from the ceiling of the East Harlem
community center. The children of El Barrio prepared to take it down once
and for all.
Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a freelance writer from New York City whose work
appeared in The Nation, Z,Tom Dispatch, Monthly
Review, Jewish Currents, and Poets Against the War (Nation Books).
* * * *
Images from the Second Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement (by
Reading on the Second Encuentro and Movement for Justice in El Barrio
Movement for Justice in El Barrio. Chronicle of the Second NYC Encuentro for
Dignity & Against Displacement, June 7, 2009,
Gretchen Morgenson, Questions of Rent Tactics by Private Equity, The New
Times, May 9, 2008,
Jennifer Janisch, Victory in El Barrio: East Harlem Tenants Win One, The
Indypendent, Nov. 17, 2008,
Kavita Shah, The New Face of Gentrification, The Nation, June 9, 2008.
Michael Gould-Wartofsky, We Will Not Be Moved: El Barrio Fights Back Against
Globalized Gentrification, April 22, 2008,
Michael Gould-Wartofsky, The Battle for the Block and Another World: A
from the First Ever Encuentro for Dignity & Against Gentrification,
October 2007, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15817.
served by JPBerlin
Address for messages to the list:
reclaiming-spaces at listi.jpberlin.de
info-page, access to archive, (un)subscribe
Visit our blogs:
Sign the statement to G20 in response to the global financial & housing
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Diggers350