Voices in Focus: Dire Straights for Washington Heights Nonprofit

Today’s stories, selected from New York’s ethnic and community press, focus on small business, including troubled times at community nonprofit Alianza Dominicana, a bakery that changes lives, a look back at Jewish grocers, and a new partnership among Asians and Latinos in Southwest Brooklyn.

Activists and former employees of Alianza Dominicana are calling for back pay and a resolution to the situation. (Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

*Alianza Dominicana, a community nonprofit that seeks to provide opportunities for social and economic development, is having a tough time financially, El Diario reported. Past leadership of the Washington Heights nonprofit has put the organization in a tight spot.

In February the Washington Heights nonprofit named a new executive director, Robert A. Espaillat, replacing Moises A. Pérez, who stepped down down after the city discovered “improper transactions between Pérez, Alianza Dominicana and a company that lends money to nonprofit organizations,” according to DNAinfo.

Some Alianza employees have gone months without pay. Ex-employees and activists have protested, calling for a resolution to the situation.

Milagros Batista, who worked [at Alianza] for over 25 years as director of health programs, said that she left the organization four months ago after going weeks without pay.

According to sources close to the organization, the affected employees threatened to jointly resign, but the executive board asked for more time.

On Monday, El Diario published an editorial calling for the organization to be saved. It faults city politics for the organization’s troubles. Below is a brief, translated excerpt:

Alianza’s problems go beyond money. Its real condition is that it no longer suffers from stark illness–[its only sufferings are that of] the thousands of residents that have been left without essential services.

*Hot Bread Kitchen is a nonprofit that sells bread to help women and minority entrepreneurs gain access to the culinary industry. Its new storefront is located at 1590 Park Ave. and 115 St. Recently El Diario spoke with Antonia García, a graduate of the professional bakery.

“This program changed my life because now I work and make enough to support my family, and I no longer depend on government assistance,” said García, who stayed on after the course as an employee of Hot Bread Kitchen and supervises its baking.

*American cities have a long tradition of Jewish grocers. The Jewish Daily Forward looks back on a time when kids’ after-school activities consisted of stacking cans and bagging foodstuffs.

While the use of family members undoubtedly helped to save money, this practice bred resentment, especially on the part of the household’s youngsters. Ruth C. [the daughter of a Washington, D.C., grocer of the 1940s] recalled that “the only time you were really excused is if you had a big test the next day and [were] sitting with all your books; [then my father] would try not to bother you.” She continued, somewhat plaintively, “If you had a date or you had to go somewhere, forget it.”

*Most Staten Island businesses were started by immigrants, DNAinfo reported. The statistic comes from the Center for An Urban Future, a think tank, which hosted a forum Tuesday night along with the Fund for Public Advocacy, a city initiative for government accountability.

In the borough, 11.9 percent of immigrants are self-employed, nearly double the 6.9 percent of native born Staten Islanders who are self-employed…

“This is a great opportunity for Staten Island,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Manhattan-based think-tank. “We need to make sure that this is a part of the economy, strongly supported, and that it can grow.”

*Asians and Latinos in Southwest Brooklyn have announced a partnership with redistricting experts at the New York chapter of Common Cause, an advocacy group, OurChinatown reported. Their goal is to ensure representation as the city re-draws district lines. The NYC Districting Commission is holding hearings from August 13, 2012 to August 23, 2012.

“This process is about making sure that our voices as a community are heard and respected,” said La Casita Comunal de Sunset Park’s David Galarza. “The Asian-American and Latino community may not share a common language, but we share many common goals and dreams for ourselves and our families.”

*Our Time Press noted that while over a third of the population of Brooklyn is black, only one of the borough’s sixteen judges is African-American.

The lack of blacks on the Kings County Family Court bench comes as the Bloomberg Administration continues to defend its controversial NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic that has put thousands of youthful people of color in the judicial system – many for the first time.

*Colorlines profiled an activist who encourages people to ask to superheroes for their green cards.

Neil Rivas is an artist and activist who wants Americans to care as much about undocumented immigrants as they care about imaginary heroes. To accomplish his goal, he has created posters and recorded messages parodying an ICE hotline.

“If [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is going to be rounding up people and labeling them ‘illegal’, that has to be applied to these pop culture gods and goddesses,” says Rivas. “In America, these characters hold a lot of nostalgia for people and make people care. When it’s Superman and Superman belongs to your childhood, it will stir some feelings. I wanted to create something that got people’s attention and got a strong response, whether it was confusion or agreement or anger.”

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