Mayor Bloomberg’s Legacy: Dismantling Our Communities’ Social Service Infrastructure

As the analysis of Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy continues in the coming months and years, low-income communities of color like mine will surely remember one thing about this final year in particular: the Mayor is presiding over a virtual fire sale of City-owned land which stands to deprive our communities of vital services and open space.

In El Barrio/East Harlem alone, we are seeing four parcels of NYCHA land being considered for luxury development (including one where a busy community center operates), the sale of a Human Resources Administration Multi-Service Center, the closure and unclear fate of the East Harlem District Public Health Office building, and the tearing down of a school serving over-age and under-credited youth to make way for more luxury housing. These are not just buildings and parcels of land; they represent direct services to the El Barrio/East Harlem community.

Mayor Bloomberg has made privatization a hallmark of his administration, which has been most salient in his administration’s rampant contracting out of municipal services. But in this final year, we are watching as this agenda goes into overdrive in an effort to have the next administration inherit as many of these projects as possible, when it might be too late to stop them. The net effect of these proposals is a dismantling of the local social service infrastructure that is so vital to low-income communities like mine.

If these development projects are carried out, not only will my community almost certainly see a reduction in social services and open space, but we will also see an acceleration in the displacement of local residents as El Barrio is increasingly marketed as an extension of the Upper East Side.

A most absurd example of these proposed development projects is one that would raze the School of Cooperative Technical Education, which only recently received millions of dollars in city-funded capital upgrades, so that a 40-story luxury tower could take its place. In itsRequest for Expressions of Interest, the city’s Educational Construction Fund reported that the area surrounding the school — just two blocks south of a housing development where NYCHA has proposed its infill development plan — has a median income of over $107,000.

And these types of deals are not only happening in my district. The Brooklyn Public Library had also proposed the sale of the historic Pacific branch for private development, which was recently averted (for the time being) in an agreement with the City Council.

In this final year of the Bloomberg administration, it’s hard not to feel like our communities’ public resources are under assault. If all of the aforementioned development projects in El Barrio/East Harlem are able to proceed unchecked and with no regard for needs of the communities, there will be serious consequences with regard to my district’s already fragile infrastructure.

This is a moment for everyone to come together — elected officials, community boards and local residents — to push back on this final frontier of Bloomberg-era privatization and to get commitments from all mayoral candidates that they will halt these efforts once in office and help protect our public assets.

NYC Council Member, 8th District



This Day in Black History: April 15, 1889

Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph was born.

072611-National-Black-Herritage-Stamps-A-Phillip-RandolfA. Philip Randolph, a major force leading the 1963 March on Washington, was born on April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida.

Randolph moved to Harlem to become an actor after graduating from Cookman Institute. He held several jobs and later co-founded the Brotherhood of Labor to organize against impoverished conditions for waiters on a steamship where he worked.

In 1925, Randolph founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and served as its president. He also pushed the federal government to address racial discrimination in the war industry workforce and the U.S. Armed Forces.

Perhaps his most noted accomplishment was speaking at the March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Randolph would later receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson for his dedication to labor and civil rights.

Randolph died on May 16, 1979, at age 90 in New York City.

By Natelege Whaley
Posted: 04/15/2013 08:00 AM EDT
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Defiant Daughter – Harlem Renaissance Era Drama

A distinctly New York play finally lands in the city when Knock Me A Kiss, by playwright Charles Smith, begins previews Thursday in its Off-Broadway premiere at the New Federal Theatre on the Lower East Side.

Leading the cast, Tony Award nominee Andre De Shields said the role of W.E. B. Du Bois presented a great and satisfying surprise. “The role is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tragic king, Lear, due to Du Bois’ inability to be spontaneous, his Ptolemaic need to be the center of his self-crafted universe, and his controlling relationship with his daughter, Yolande,” said De Shields. “Those similarities afforded me the opportunity to mine the tragic elements of Du Bois’ character.”

From left, sitting, Andre De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois, and Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen. Standing, from left, Marie Thomas as Nina Du Bois, and Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois.

The year is 1928, and the daughter of America’s foremost black intellectual, Du Bois, is just one month away from marrying a young poet, Countee Cullen, whose work was considered one of the pinnacles of the New Negro movement, which we now know as the Harlem Renaissance.

The marriage marked the height of the renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of African-American talent and beauty. It would unfold during the apex of a cultural phenomenon, which through intellect, literature, art, and music challenged the era’s pervasive racism and stereotypes, and redefined how America and the world perceived African-Americans.

What could go wrong?

“I want the audience, after seeing this play, to investigate these characters and dig deeper into the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, and the Harlem Renaissance,” said Chuck Smith, the Chicago-based, Emmy winning director of the play and one of its producers. “I want viewers to see what’s changed, and get more involved in our culture. They should know that the lifestyle of affluent black Americans is not that much different than anyone else,” Smith said.

Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois and Morocco Omari as Jimmy Lunceford.

The play opens as jazz bandleader, Jimmy Lunceford, woos a willing but skittish Yolande Du Bois, who insists that she and Lunceford be married in a manner befitting her stature. She tells her friend, Lenora, “I want to touch and kiss and all he wants to do is hump and bump.”