Bronx residents raise grievances

November 13, 2008

MORE THAN 100 South Bronx residents attended a public meeting held by Mothers on the Move (MOM), a community organization that has mobilized around local issues such as funding and safety for public housing, students rights and, most recently, environmental justice.

Among the grievances expressed by residents was the continued deteriorating condition of New York City public housing due to the lack of funding for crucially needed maintenance projects. There was testimony, especially from the elderly and disabled, on how building elevators are constantly out of service. Some said there were times they had to walk up 20 flights of stairs to get to their apartments.

There have been several demonstrations at City Hall to address these issues, but the city continues to cut funding for public housing. At the same time, the city charges the New York City Housing Authority $73 billion for the "special services" provided by the New York Police Department. Those "services" basically mean occupying subsidized housing facilities and harassing residents for suspected crimes. The city also wants to spend $550 million for jails in the South Bronx.

The environment has become a huge concern as well. The asthma rate is the highest in the South Bronx especially among young children, and the cancer rate is 25 percent higher in the Bronx then the rest of the city.

Tanya Fields of MOM spoke on the ongoing environmental degradation in the South Bronx. Tanya along with MOM has been involved in a campaign against a sewage plant run privately by the New York Organic Fertilizer Company. For years, residents have complained about the interminable stench that permeates nearby neighborhoods. "There's a lot of bureaucracy and empty promises, and the company's actions have been very different from their words," she said.

The student wing of MOM, called Youth on the Move, spoke of a recent victory in a local high school, where students pressured the administration to allow them to have an independent voice on school policy and implementation.

City Council member Christine Quinn attended the meeting and talked about a November budget proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that threatens to close 40 community dental clinics. There was also dissatisfaction with city plans to build new detention centers in the Bronx--a plan that a large majority of residents opposes.

With the worsening of the financial crisis, it's become increasingly obvious that the livelihoods of working-class New York City residents will be drastically affected for the worse. Along with putting pressure on politicians who supposedly "represent" the people, building networks and coalitions were put forward. Several spoke on the need to unite local community organizations like MOM with other community, labor and political organizations throughout the borough.

Local Bronx labor struggles such as the Kingsbridge nursing home strike and the strike against the bakery company Stella D'oro should be linked together in solidarity with community organizations like MOM. This is the type of grassroots organization that will win real change in this country. Yes we can!

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