Op-Ed | Lives at stake in RGB rent increase vote

By Rigaud Noel and Sheila Garcia

Why are we forcing New York’s most vulnerable out on the streets rather than creating a fair and equitable process that will keep people in their homes? If the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) proceeds with increasing rents this year, 2.4 million low-income individuals in the Bronx and throughout New York City who currently lack the means to afford the cost of living, will be forced out of their homes.

While the world is seemingly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are countless New Yorkers – from families of color to small business owners, to seniors and our youth – who are still reeling from the devastating impacts and are in critical need of support and resources in order to make ends meet and survive each day. They should never be put in a position to decide between rent and food for their family. We cannot simply ignore this reality.

According to the study from JustFix.nyc, “mom and pop” landlords make up less than 1% of landlords who own 10 units or less. The data also shows that large landlords own vast majority of rent stabilized housing in NYC, which means that despite the argument from proponents, rent hikes will serve corporate investors over small landlords.

Last year the RGB made the decision to hold another season with limited online hearings and a subsequent vote to raise rents for one and two-year leases on more than one million rent regulated apartments. Without access to public hearings, these tenants will no longer have a voice in the discussion; and without that opportunity in this process, they will be forced to pay unaffordable rent hikes this year. When you combine substantial rent hikes – the largest increase we’ve seen in 10 years, and with the rising costs in food and basic living expenses due to inflation, the end result is a massive crisis. This will have a detrimental impact on millions of hardworking rent-stabilized families and children who are already rent-burdened and are at risk of losing a roof over their heads. The lack of transparency throughout this process is not only unjust but seeks to exacerbate the divide that already exists by race and zip code in this city.

It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. It’s an absolute disgrace, and we’ve had enough.

We are demanding that the RGB freeze rents and implement a fair and just public hearing process that our city’s low-income tenants deserve. The pre-pandemic hearing format consisted of five public in-person hearing sessions across New York City, and it is vital that this structure is restored. These are real human lives that are at stake, and time is running out.

New York City is known as the greatest city in the world because of its resilience and strength. In our city’s toughest moments, we pride ourselves in uniting to help our fellow New Yorkers. To the RGB and Mayor Eric Adams we ask you: why aren’t we coming together to help our fellow New Yorkers when they need us most?

Rigaud Noel is the Executive Director of New Settlement; and Sheila Garcia is the Director of Community Organizing at New Settlement and a member of NYC Rent Guidelines Board.

Originally published via AMNY

New York State Announces SNAP-Ed Grant Awards for Food Box and Community Growers Grants

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM), in partnership with the Office of Temporary and Disability Services (OTDA), today announced nearly $1.1 million has been awarded to 32 organizations through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (SNAP-Ed) grants. The SNAP-Ed Food Box and Community Growers grant programs each provide funding to eligible groups to further expand access to fresh, affordable foods in underserved communities across New York State and support New York’s agricultural industry. Funding is still available through the Food Box Grant Program and eligible organizations are encouraged to apply by July 18. The awards announced today come as part of Governor Hochul’s 2022 State of the State priorities to expand SNAP access to New York farms and increase support for urban farms and community gardens statewide.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The SNAP-Ed Food Box and Community Growers grant programs are critical in boosting the production and consumption of healthy foods across New York State, particularly in historically underserved communities. I’m excited to see so many great projects awarded funding this year and look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition. I encourage all eligible organizations to apply for the remaining Food Box Grant Program funds to continue expanding access to nutritious, local produce to our communities that need it most.”

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, “Having access to affordable produce and other nutritious foods can have a transformative impact on the health outcomes for low-income households. The programs funded through these grants helps to both improve access to these foods and to educate families on the important role they play in their diet. We are pleased to see strong interest in the Community Growers program and encourage other eligible organizations to participate in the SNAP-Ed Food Box grants while funding remains available.”

Community Growers Grant Program

The SNAP-Ed Community Growers Grant Program provides direct support to community-led gardens and not-for-profit farms that work to combat food insecurity in under-resourced areas and help food insecure communities develop an interest and skillset to grow and cook healthy, locally produced food. Through the 2022 funding round, $1 million has been awarded to 23 grantees across New York State. A list of the awarded projects is below.

  • Capital Region
    • Kite’s Nest, Inc. (Columbia County) – $49,983
  • Finger Lakes
    • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County (Steuben County) – $36,693
    • Taproot Collective, Inc.  (Monroe County) – $50,000
  • Long Island
    • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County (Nassau County) – $50,000
  • Mid-Hudson
    • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County (Orange County) – $47,562
    • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County (Sullivan County) – $32,138
    • Our New Way Garden, Inc. (Westchester County) – $49,980
    • Poughkeepsie Farm Project (Dutchess County) – $50,000
    • Westchester Land Trust (Westchester County) – $16,840
    • YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County (Ulster County) – $45,545
  • New York City
    • Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, Inc. (Queens County) – $50,000
    • The Crenulated Company, Ltd., dba New Settlement (Bronx County) – $50,000
    • Edible Schoolyard NYC (Kings County) – $50,000
    • Grandma’s Love, Inc. (Kings County) – $41,486
    • Green Guerillas, Inc. (Kings County) – $50,000
    • International Rescue Committee (New York County) – $50,000
    • Morris Campus Educational Farm, Inc. (Bronx County) – $50,000
    • New York Restoration Project (New York County) – $49,841
    • United Community Centers, Inc. (Kings County) – $50,000
    • Seeds in the Middle, Inc. (Kings County) – $22,456
  • Western New York
    • Baker Hall Inc. dba OLV Human Services (Erie County) – $32,478
    • Buffalo Vineyard Inc. dba 5 Loaves Farm (Erie County) – $49,998
    • Grassroots Gardens of Western New York (Erie County) – $25,000

Food Box Grant Program

The SNAP-Ed Food Box Grant Program provides direct support to community-led gardens and not-for-profits to make local produce available and accessible to SNAP eligible communities while also providing nutrition education. As of today, $90,000 has been awarded to nine grantees across New York State. Funding is still available and applications for the program are accepted until July 18, 2022 at 4:00 pm. Eligible groups are encouraged to learn more about this opportunity at https://agriculture.ny.gov/rfa-0273-snap-ed-food-box-grant-program.

State of the State

The SNAP-ED Food Box and Community Growers grant programs each support Governor Hochul’s 2022 State of the State priorities to make local food accessible to more residents, including those in food deserts and underserved communities, and to encourage more urban farming. As part of the Governor’s vision to expand SNAP access to New York Farms, the State will become a national leader in facilitating SNAP EBT purchases direct from New York farmers online, clearing a major access hurdle. Additionally, SNAP recipients will receive a special FreshConnect benefit toward purchasing a food subscription from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. These initiatives will assist underserved members of the community in accessing wholesome fresh food, while also supporting farmers across the state.

Original publication via New York State

Tenants and Landlords Get Final Chance to Talk Rent

Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), in collaboration with the Rent Justice Coalition (RJC), a city-wide coalition of Rent Stabilized Tenants, tenant advocates, and their allies, rallied outside of a Rent Guidelines Board in the Bronx on Wednesday, June 15, ahead of a looming vote that could raise rents for more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments throughout the city.

Yankee Stadium Tower Garden Unveiling & Partnership with New Settlement

The New York Yankees unveiled the Yankee Stadium Tower Garden on Monday, May 23 at Yankee Stadium’s Gate 2. Participating in the event was New Settlement executive staff and other community leaders, Yankees executives, local students and Yankees pitchers Nestor Cortes and Michael King.

Children wearing costume hats look up and smile at two Yankee baseball players.
New York Yankees 2022; YANKEE STADIUM TOWER GARDEN; Nestor Cortes and Michael King

The structure, located inside Yankee Stadium’s Gate 2, uses the vertical, aeroponic garden system of Tower Farms, allowing for the growth of healthy, fresh produce that requires minimal resources. The garden will be used to provide a hands-on learning experience for students taking part in the “New York Yankees Healthy Home Plate Program,” which the team has been proudly conducting since 2011. Additionally beginning in June, items grown in the space will be served to fans in select menu items, most notably in salads found at Yankee Stadium “grab-and-go” locations.

The “New York Yankees Healthy Home Plate Program” — which teaches children how to prepare and incorporate healthy, sustainable and affordable meals into one’s lifestyle — will serve young people from New Settlement, a Bronx nonprofit organization that aims to break systemic barriers, advance justice, promote leadership and strengthen neighborhoods in the Bronx. To further reinforce the lessons provided in the Yankees Healthy Home Plate program at Yankee Stadium, New Settlement will be receiving Tower Garden equipment at their facility in the Bronx.

Group photo of children, Bronx community leaders and Yankees players in front of a hydroponic garden.
New York Yankees 2022; YANKEE STADIUM TOWER GARDEN; Nestor Cortes and Michael King

As part of the Yankees Healthy Home Plate program, which is supported by Yankee Stadium’s Legends Hospitality, kitchens in Yankee Stadium are utilized as classrooms with Legends Senior Executive Chef Matt Gibson engaging young people with hands-on cooking demonstrations. Each student participant receives a personalized chef’s jacket, a cookbook of healthy recipes, a bag filled with provisions to prepare healthy meals at home, a gift card from Peapod and tickets to attend a Yankees game.

The curriculum for the Yankees Healthy Home Plate program has been curated with the assistance of the Green Bronx Machine, a nonprofit organization founded by life-long educator Stephen Ritz who observed the effect of students’ food choices on scholastic performance, engagement and ambition. Originally an after-school, alternative program for high school students, Green Bronx Machine has evolved into a full K-12+ indoor gardening curriculum.