Lively Discussions Fuel Talks at Transition Tent

Ann Valdez, an activist with Community Voices Heard, tells her struggles living in public housing project in Coney Island. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan / Voices of NY)

Ann Valdez, an activist with Community Voices Heard, recounts some of the challenges she faces as a resident of a public housing project in Coney Island. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

Cheers of “Fight, fight, fight, housing is a right” erupted from the Talking Transition tent on Monday afternoon during an open forum called “A Path to ‘Real’ Affordable Housing.” The event gathered a lively bunch of community organizations and New Yorkers hoping to address housing concerns in New York City.

“We’re here because we’re all in the same boat, struggling to have human rights: affordable housing, food in our refrigerators,” Wayne Starks, an activist with VOCAL-NY, an organization that works  with people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war and mass incarceration, told the gathering.

This was just one of the slew of panels that the Talking Transition tent will host from now until November 23. The grassroots initiative is providing a forum for New Yorkers to talk about the issues most concerning them as the city transitions from Mayor Bloomberg to Bill de Blasio.

Plopped in Duarte Square, on the corner of Canal Street and  Sixth Avenue, the spacious pop-up tent is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Panel discussions crop up several times a day, but city residents are invited to stop by any time and fill out a survey about their top concerns going forward into the next administration.

The Talking Transition tent is located on the corner of Canal and 6th Avenue. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan / Voices of NY)

The Talking Transition tent is located on the corner of Canal and Sixth Avenue. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

The panel quickly opened up to the audience who were asked to divide into groups depending on their top housing priorities: homelessness, public housing, supportive housing, community land trusts, preservation or new constructions.

After dynamic and often heated discussions, each section presented their top priorities to the larger group. The demands were vast; creation of more specialized shelters that cater to people with certain issues like disability or history of abuse, job training for residents of public housing and repurposing abandoned buildings for housing purposes were just a few of the proposals.

New Yorkers are invited to the Talking Transition tent to fill out online surveys and leave written notes to the next mayor. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

New Yorkers are invited to the Talking Transition tent to fill out online surveys and leave written notes to the next mayor. (Photo by Gwynne Hogan/Voices of NY)

“I enjoyed the discussions,” Starks said. “People got to voice their opinions, their different needs.”

“We need to start talking amongst each other,” he added. “We have to hold our elected officials accountable. We didn’t hold Bloomberg accountable, but now we can.”

Tuesday events at Talking Transition include “Advancing Economic Justice and Families in New York City,” “Community Mural Painting” and “Engaging New York’s Immigrant Communities Through Ethnic Media,” an interactive panel hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. For a full schedule, visit the Talking Transition website.

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