Wednesday, May 7, 2008

For Quinn Latinos Are The Invisible Group

The lone Latino

By Humberto Garcia
El Diario / La Prensa,
1 May 2008. Translated from Spanish by Marissa Billowitz.

Despite Latinos being one of the groups most affected by the disappearance of affordable housing in the city, a city commission that was created to seek solutions to the problem has only one Latino member out of 24.

City Council President Christine Quinn, who created the commission, announced on Monday through a press release that she had met with the group. The release included a list of the members, among whom the only Latino is Rafael Cestero, ex-Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

“What we want from this commission, particularly, is a combination of experts in different aspects of housing,” Quinn explained yesterday, after admitting that she was not aware of the ethnic composition of the group.

After asking her if it was difficult to find Latino experts in the housing field, she answered, “That is not what I am saying.”

The commission, an initiative that Quinn announced during her speech on the state of the city at the beginning of the year, has as its mission to create “a comprehensive plan” to provide permanent affordable housing to middle class New Yorkers. The commission is led by Felice Michetti, ex-Comissioner of the HPD, and Maxine Griffith, ex-Deputy Secretary of the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, President of the Hispanic Federation, indicted that the lack of Latino representation in municipal commissions is a common problem, citing as examples the Urban Planning Commission, the Commission for Preservation of Historic Sites, and the Arts Commission.

“I hope that President Quinn names more Latinos to this commission (for afordbale housing), given the importance of the Latino communit in the city and the impact that scarce housing has had on Latino families,” said Rodriguez Lopez.

According to data from the National Institute for Latino Policy, despite Latinos representing almost 30% of the city’s population, they only make up about 17% of city employees, showing the same disparity on a different level.

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), who has worked closely with Quinn on several housing projects, like the law prohibiting landlords from harassing their tenants, said that she was not familiar with the issue.

“I will speak with [Quinn] to see what we can do to assure that this working group represents the city’s diversity,” Mark-Viverito promised.

Translation © 2008, IPA, all rights reserved. Included by permisson of El Diario / La Prensa.

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