Dear friends of Cooper Square,
As the year comes to an end, the Cooper Square Committee can take pride in our many achievements, large and small, in 2011 (see highlights below). However, with government budget cuts and tougher competition for foundation grants, we are struggling to reach our fundraising goals even as the demand for our services continues to grow. We also have a number of exciting initiatives in the works that we need to fund in 2012. We urge you to consider a donation of $10, $25, $100 at year end. All the best to you and your family during the Holiday Season and in the new year!
Highlights from 2011:
- Our housing staff counseled hundreds of tenants, and helped scores of tenants navigate housing court to fight evictions, and to bring HP actions to improve their housing conditions.
- Our series of co-op education workshops were attended by over 100 MHA residents. They received training about the MHAs articles of incorporation, the stock certificate, the proprietary lease, and board governance. Working with the MHA, we got over 240 tenants (over 80%) to sign purchase agreements.
- Christian Valerio and Daniel Weinberg assisted more than 30 tenants to successfully apply for Section 8 recertifications, and 24 tenants with SCRIE and DRIE applications. They also helped 16 people obtain or become recertified for Food Stamps and Medicaid.
- Our Housing Organizer, Brandon Kielbasa, formed 8 tenant associations in 2011 to help tenants address systemic problems. For example, he helped tenants of 89 E. 4th Street organize to speed up repair of their apartments after a building fire, stopped landlords at 435 E. 9th Street and 43 E. 1st Street from operating illegal hotels, and addressed lack of services at 309 E. 8th Street, a building in foreclosure with many housing code violations. He is now working with tenants in 6 buildings on East 4th St. owned by Meadow Partners, an investment group that is doing disruptive renovation work and allegedly displacing tenants.
- Our Board Chair, Joyce Ravitz and co-founder Frances Goldin spearheaded a very successful online petition effort that gathered over 44,000 signatures and major media coverage in support of the Bookshop, calling on Cooper Union to reduce their rent. This effort resulted in a big victory, saving the store over $37,000! Cooper Union reduced the rent from $20,000 per month to $17,500 per month for one year, waived $7,000 in back rent, and offered to assist the book store with revising their business plan.
- Our Go Green Project Coordinator, Angee Cortorreal, has been collecting income eligibility forms from MHA tenants in 9 buildings to help them qualify for free energy upgrades, include new energy star refrigerators, windows, and in some cases boilers and hot water heaters.
- Executive Director, Steve Herrick negotiated a partnership with the Ali Forney Center, which works with homeless LGBT youth. Together we developed a plan to renovate a vacant city-owned building to house up to 18 homeless LGBT youth, gathered over 500 signatures in support, and got CB3 to pass a resolution recommending that HPD grant us site control. Council members Rosie Mendez and Chris Quinn have written letters of support, and HPD will be recommending site control at their February Committee meeting. We will be applying to NYS for Homeless Housing Assistance Program funds in 2012 to renovate the building.
- We are increasingly using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize our work, and have added many more followers. Please click the Facebook button to follow us as well to stay informed about our organizing and community development work!
From the Staff and Board of the Cooper Square Committee