Author: Crystal Walthall

#FaithOverFear Fearless Leader Feature: Elizabeth Suggs, Throggs Neck Community Church

Faith Over Fear Fearless Leader Feature is a new blog series created by Fatima Mohamed, a leader with Faith in New York’s Faith Over Fear campaign and Writer with the Media, Messaging & Outreach Team. Stay tuned to our website every other week for a new profile of the leaders in the ground in NYC who are behind the organizing and social justice efforts that make Faith in New York! Resilient Pre-interview: The thing that strikes me most about Elizabeth is her open nature. She answers all of my questions honestly, thoroughly, and thoughtfully. This is only enhanced by her calm and patient demeanor. I noticed throughout our encounter, she would pause before giving her answer and every time she spoke, I could hear a bit of the Bronx, New York accent that seems to be fading from the city. Interview day: We met the day before Easter, so I found myself asking her about the holiday’s significance. She explained that it was the day memorializing the resurrection of Jesus. From there our conversation delved deeper into other topics of Christianity, which I am not too knowledgeable about, having been raised in a Muslim family. As we spoke, she described how she came to work with Faith in New York and supporting the Faith Over Fear campaign. “I came to Faith in New York because I needed to do an...

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#FaithOverFear Fearless Leader Feature: Claude Copeland Jr., New Day Church, The Bronx

Faith Over Fear Fearless Leader Feature is a new blog series created by Fatima Mohamed, a leader with Faith in New York’s Faith Over Fear campaign and Writer with the Media, Messaging & Outreach Team. Stay tuned to our website every week for a new profile of the leaders in the ground in NYC who are behind the organizing and social justice efforts that make Faith in New York! For what seems like the first time since November, the sun is shining and the sky is a cloudless blue. People are out and about enjoying the spring which has newly sprung. While sitting in a cafe, I realize that I have managed to spend the whole day indoors. I don’t mind though. Any day spent in the Bronx is alright with me. Today, I am waiting inside to meet with Claude Copeland, a veteran, climate justice worker and fellow Bronx faith leader. Due to a slight mix up, we end up at different cafes a couple blocks away from each other, so I walk out to the other one. It looks like I will be getting to enjoy a bit of this weather before the sun sets. ************************ When I arrive, Claude is seated at a table near the back of the cafe and I promptly join him. We converse for a little while about work and life. I...

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Holding on to that Rent-Stabilized Apartment Is Getting Harder in Some Neighborhoods

There are still more than 900,000 rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, but these regulated units are turning over at a faster rate in certain neighborhoods, according to a new report by the city’s Independent Budget Office Astoria, Morningside Heights and Bay Ridge all have high concentrations of rent-regulated housing built prior to 1974. It’s an important distinction, because older units are more likely than newer units to rent below market rates, the report says. But the neighborhoods also have particularly high turnover rates compared to other parts of the city, says the budget office’s Sarah Stefanski. “High turnover rates may indicate tenant mobility, changing neighborhood characteristics, or perhaps landlord efforts to vacate apartments,” Stefanski said. Diane Brown from the Justice For All Coalition has been organizing against gentrification in Astoria, which had 16,543 rent stabilized apartments between 2010 and 2015. She said the 300 members of her group are constantly complaining about rising rents. “They are moving out because they almost can’t afford the area anymore. The supermarkets are going up. Everything is changing.” Brown said tenants that get pushed out often resort to renting rooms because they can no longer afford an entire apartment. In Upper Manhattan, several neighborhoods have been gentrifying for years, but there are significant differences in the rate of turnover. The southern portion of Washington Heights had just over 21,000 rent stabilized apartments and a turnover rate of 9 percent,...

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Could Dozens Of Shuttered Catholic Churches Become Immigrant Sanctuaries?

Roman Catholic activists are calling on the Archdiocese of New York to take a stronger stance against deportation. While dozens of churches, mosques and synagogues across the city are opening their doors to immigrants, providing everything from know-your-rights training to physical sanctuary from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they say Cardinal Timothy Dolan isn’t doing his share. Some are calling on Dolan to explicitly denounce deportation, while others see an opportunity in the dozens of empty churches across Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx: buildings that have stood empty since August 2015, when the Archdiocese consolidated parishes as part of a sweeping plan to save on maintenance costs, particularly in parishes with dwindling attendance. Roughly 40 NYC churches have been merged into a neighboring parish since the consolidations, according to the archdiocese; 24 of them are closed for worship. The archdiocese, which also includes counties north of the city, shrank by 20 percent in one year. Felix Cepeda, an advocate for immigration rights and church reform, told Gothamist that the recent uptick in immigration enforcement across the country has inspired him. While ICE agents can legally cross a church threshold with a judicial warrant in hand, houses of worship technically qualify as “sensitive locations,” which ICE is directed to “generally” avoid. “A couple of these buildings need to be opened immediately,” Cepeda said. “At least one place that can be...

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