Wednesday, February 2, 2011


By SBU Director Maria Fernandez

Schools in our community have historically been under-funded and under-resourced,
broken apart, and pieced back together without a clear plan to address the underlying
problem in education. The Department of Education is notorious for setting schools
up to fail and replacing many with charter schools. The needs of students, parents and
teachers have been ignored, excluding them from the decision making process. This year
25 schools, serving a disproportionate amount of English language learners and students
with special needs, are on the DOE list of schools to close. The majority of these schools
are located in low-income communities throughout city – 10 of the 25 schools are in the

To elevate the issue that underperforming schools need investment and not just closure,
a civil disobedience action “Fix Our Schools, Don’t Just Close Them” was organized on
Monday January 31st, the day before the first Panel for Education Policy vote on school
closings. Youth leaders from Sistas and Brothas United (SBU), along with members of
the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) and the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ),
organized a rally and press conference leading up to the civil disobedience in front of
Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan. Over 300 students, parents, city council members,
and other advocates for education reform attended the action. Students and parents from
closing and persistently low-achieving schools recognized real issues in their schools and
spoke passionately about the need to fix problems rather than closing schools.

Ahmani Croom, 17, Student Council Representative for John F. Kennedy High School and leader at Sistas and Brothas United (SBU) says, “The DOE has been using our school as a place to shove students in who have sadly, been pushed out of their schools. This has been a key method into making Kennedy a low performing high school year after year. Where will future English language learners
and special need students go, if John F. Kennedy High School no longer exists? This can
potentially increase dropout rate of students’ long term.”

At the closing of the press conference, 23 community members, including city council
members Jumaane Williams and Charles Barron, carried out the civil disobedience
action. Twenty-three brave people, including myself,  SBU Director Maria C. Fernandez and
leaders Rafael Pena, Juan Antigua, Miguel Rodriguez, and Tyrek Greene, linked arms
and blocked traffic in front of Tweed Courthouse, while hundreds of students and parents
chanted “Save Our Schools” and cheered them on from the sidewalk. The Tweed 23 were
arrested and held briefly at a local police precinct before a warm welcome from dozens of
students and parents who followed them to the precinct.

The action was the lead story in all the local news outlets:

New York 1: rally-against-school-closures

News 12 The Bronx: articleId=272548&position=1&news_type=news

Pix Channel 11 News:,0,5301765.story
NBC New York: Arrested-At-School-Shutdown-Protest-114985484.html

Univison 41: de-escuelas

New York Post: dept_of_ed_sets_up_many_schools_n7IKUYTlYKTfdMwh8q2N4H

El Diario La Prensa: escuela-236758-1.html#commentsBlock

Reuters: idUSTRE71010X20110201

The Epoch Times:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NWBCCC and NYC HPD Commissioner Supporting Real People with Real Issues


On Monday evening, 40 NWBCCC tenant leaders were joined by HPD
Commissioner Rafael Cestero and Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo.
Tenants revealed the daily reality faced by  living in Milbank Buildings in the
Northwest Bronx. The Commissioners visited 3018 Heath Avenue, 2770/2780
Kingsbridge Terrace and 2785 Sedgwick Avenue and were led by tenant leaders Sergio
Cuevas and Maggie Maldonado through tours of each building as well as multiple
apartments. "I lived in my building for 32 years and I am happy you are here today,”
said Maggie “ We see this as the beginning…of a partnership with HPD that meets the
needs of tenants. We believe you can help us.” The Commissioners brought a team of
inspectors and together with tenant leaders and Receiver Joe Cicciu (Executive Director
of Belmont Arthur LDC) toured the buildings. The night ended with a mass meeting in
Our Lady of Angels Church, a NWBCCC affiliate institution. Commissioner Cestero
agreed to begin roof to cellar inspections in all the buildings in the Milbank portfolio
immediately as well as look into bringing 7A cases to Housing Court for all ten buildings
against Milbank/LNR.

NWBCCC continues to organize Milbank buildings for immediate repairs,
responsible financing and ownership of this portfolio.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

From Wall Street to DC to the Northwest Bronx, we say, STOP UNFAIR FORECLOSURES!

One week ago, Edda Lopez thought that Bank of America was going to take her home of 14 years away from her on May 24th. They were refusing to honor the mortgage payments that had been agreed upon by the original mortgage lender and Edda.

After they got word of what we were planning this afternoon (and no doubt all that they've been hit with in the past month), someone from their headquarters in North Carolina called Edda this morning. They told her that they were delaying the foreclosure proceedings and that they had to "review her mortgage info," claiming they didn't know the details of her case. We will be demanding that they terminate her foreclosure and honor the original agreement. We will also demand that they meet with us to negotiate a responsible sale price for the two Milbank buildings that they control.

In the future, there will be way more advance notice for actions and events in our backyard. We were made aware of Edda's predicament last Wednesday, but because of the hard work of New Day Church and Housing leaders we were able to pull off a good press conference and rally in a short amount of time. Bronx 12, Norwood News, El Diario and Bronxnet were there to cover and we will be getting video from Alex at Norwood News.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NWBCCC Organizers' Communique on the Armory Struggle


by Organizers Abby Bellows and Ava Farkas
On Dec. 14, 2009 the City Council voted to disapprove Related's plan for the Armory 45 to 1. Never before has the council voted down a development project sponsored by the Bloomberg administration. This decision has the potential to change the way development is done in NYC and make sure the Bronx is treated with the value it deserves in the future.

Mayor Bloomberg killed this project by refusing to negotiate in good faith with the Bronx City Council members pushing our case. We hear that over the weekend he pulled any plan for living wage off the table. Nothing else was ever offered to the Bronx in negotiations -- no community space, no recreation facilities, and no union neutrality. We knew the proposed development would cause 10,000 new cars to enter our community in an area ridden with asthma and force local businesses to close, with hundreds losing their jobs. This was a bad plan for the Bronx and our elected officials showed tremendous courage and backbone today by drawing a line in the sand and demanding respect for the people of the Bronx.

We should all feel extremely proud of our contributions to this campaign. This is an example of how ORGANIZING WORKS and the tremendous organizing activities of the clergy and community over the past 13 years were essential.

But our work is not over. This is only a partial victory because we still must win what we set out to accomplish: a high road, responsible development in the Armory and schools on 195th St. And we must win dignity for all low-wage workers by passing some living wage legislation.

There is lots of press links on yesterday's news at:

We also need to remain vigilant this week that the Mayor does not try to veto the city council's decision. We can help to do that by taking the offensive in the media. We should expect that there will also be backlash from the building trades in the press. If you can be a press spokesperson, please let me know.

We will keep you posted about next KARA meeting & our victory party!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Youth from Sistas and Brothas United Fight for the Student Safety Act Click here for ABC 7 Story

(Original story on NY1 website)
City Council Holds Hearing On Student Safety Act
By: Lindsey Christ

November 10, 2009

The City Council held a hearing Tuesday on the Student Safety Act, which would require more transparency on the police presence in schools. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

More than 5,000 New York City Police Department school safety agents work in the city's public schools every day, and City Council members want to know more about how they interact with the students they are there to protect.

"Our bill is focused on providing more information and clearer information in three areas: discipline in schools, crime in schools and complaints about school safety agents," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

At a packed hearing Tuesday, with more than 100 people in overflow rooms, Council members heard testimony on the Student Safety Act, which would require the Department of Education and NYPD to report detailed information about school safety issues.

Before the hearing, students and advocacy groups insisted the program has to be reformed, saying the police presence in schools not only sets a negative tone but sometimes results in abuse.

"A school safety agent grabbed me by the shoulders, another agent came up and hit me twice over the head with a flashlight," said one city public school student.

"Very often school discipline becomes a matter of going to the precinct instead of going to the principal’s office," said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

In the decade that the police department has managed school safety, reported crime in schools has gone down 34 percent. But there have been several high profile incidents of alleged abuse. Just last week, the city agreed to pay $55,000 to Stephen Cruz, who was hit in the head last year by a door kicked open by an officer.

The Safety Act would encourage students to report misconduct, but the police department says that invites false accusations.

"To prominently advertise, in schools and on our websites, the ability to call 311 to make a complaint against SSAs can be seen as an invitation to drive a wedge between school safety agents and the rest of the school community," said Officer James Secreto of the NYPD School Safety Division.

The DOE says it won't be able to report the details of every incident in each school, as called for in the act, without revealing private information about students.

With 33 Council members already signed on as co-sponsors and hundreds attending the protest and hearing, calls for more information on the relationship between police and children in the schools aren't likely to die down anytime soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Immigration testimony from Martha Felipe at Blueprint for the Bronx

Immigration testimony from Martha Felipe at Blueprint for the Bronx 10/25/09

My name is Martha Felipe of Our Lady of Mercy Church. But when you see me today, don't just see my face, but the thousands of immigrants in the Bronx, that I represent, each one of them with their own story.

Immigrants come to this country to obey the first natural law – to survive. We came here to have better educational opportunities for our children, to find better work, and to reunite with our families. We are not terrorists, we came here to work very hard and make something better of our future.

It’s so difficult to come here legally, and has gotten since September 11th.

- Many countries don’t have enough visas, and most of them are for professionals. The number of visas available has not been increased in 15 years, even though our economy depends on immigrant workers.

- Once you apply, the wait for papers can be as long as 22 years!

- Also, every year they increase the cost to just file the application for citizenship – now it is $700!

- That is why 12 million people don’t have papers. We’ve come here because we’re in between life and death – so we have to try!

I want you to listen to what happens every single day when people chose to fight for their families. I’m going to tell you the story of a parishioner at our church; I’ll call her Maria….Maria tried to cross the border from Mexico, to come here, and the “coyotes,” who said they would help her across the border, instead robbed her and raped her. As a product of that rape she became pregnant. On this side of the border, she was discovered and deported, losing the baby on the way due to miscarriage. Her family rejected her after what had happened, and she was depressed and suicidal, with nobody to turn to. She has a sister here who told her try again and she did. This time she was able to make it and now she is a member of our church, working hard to make a good life for her family. This story has a happy ending but we don't know how many others never survive the journey to this Promise Land.

We cannot live in a world where people have to struggle so hard to make a better life for themselves and their families. We have to change the immigration system. We cannot stop our fight until all our families can be reunited and allow then to have legal papers. This is our goal and we are going for it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BLUEPRINT FOR THE BRONX: Breaking Ground, Building Together!!

Bronx Residents Call the Community to Action to Demand a Voice in Responsible Development at the Kingsbridge Armory and Address Increasing Poverty, Overcrowded Schools, and Loss of Affordable Housing, Healthcare and Immigrant Rights

(Bronx, NY) –The Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) will convene more than 1000 residents, from faith based congregations, community groups, schools, and tenant associations to address the challenge of creating living wage jobs, schools, affordable housing, and social policies that benefit working families. Bronx elected officials will hear the concerns and present their plans to the community. Bronx residents want to begin to layout a blueprint for building a Bronx that is a powerful, vibrant, diverse community where everyone has the opportunity to participate in decision making, contribute to building the future and benefit from the growth and development of this great borough. Some of our specific demands include a community benefits agreement and good living wage jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory, four small schools to be built on the North Side of the Armory and affordable health care for all.

What: Blueprint for the Bronx- Community Action to Win Change for the Northwest Bronx

When: Sunday Oct. 25, 2009- 3pm

Who: Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Invited Elected Officials: Congressman Jose Serrano, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; City Council Members G. Oliver Koppell, Joel Rivera, Maria Baez, Helen Diane Foster, and James Vacca; State Assembly Members Jose Rivera, Naomi Rivera, Nelson Castro, and Jeff Dinowitz; State Senators Pedro Espada and Jeff Klein. Additional elected officials and their staff representatives are expected to attend.

Where: St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church
2345 University Avenue at Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10468 (entrance at Andrews Avenue)

Why: “To demand that the people have a say in community development, that a people’s blueprint for the Bronx is respected.” Ronn Jordan, Vice President, NWBCCC

Visuals: Hundreds of residents waving flags for the “Blueprint”, multimedia animated map of Bronx issues, Anti Bank band and Mary Mitchell African Dancers