This holiday season, all of us here at AAFE are reflecting on how much we have to be thankful for: our colleagues, the communities we serve, and all of you who support our work. Sadly, many of the families we serve, whether through affordable housing, youth and family leadership, or our advocacy efforts, are at risk from the next administration’s proposed budget cuts and hostility towards undocumented immigrants.
The most vulnerable populations know they can turn to us.
The tenants at 43 Essex St. in Manhattan, many of whom are monolingual Chinese and elderly, did just that when they noticed illegal construction going on in their building. The building had been sold to a new owner, and tenant harassment followed soon after. Their homes began shaking from the illegal construction and the hallways filled up with dust and debris. The cooking gas and heat were shut off. An aggressive tenant relocator began pressuring many of the tenants to move out.
With our help, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) inspected the building and imposed “Stop Work Orders” just in time. If action had not been taken, the tenants would have been forced to vacate. In court, we forced the landlord to stabilize the building, install a temporary boiler and restore the cooking gas and heat. After a year-and-a-half of no heat or hot water, these services were finally restored in September.
Tenants turn to AAFE because we have walk-in offices staffed with counselors who are culturally sensitive and speak the clients’ languages, oftentimes Chinese dialects. AAFE staff take pride in having the ability to engage our clients, educate them about their rights, and develop plans to meet their goals. We’ve gained the trust of the community along the way.
With rampant gentrification in the neighborhood’s we serve and developers looking at rent regulated tenants as lost profits, the clients who come through AAFE’s doors are rarely treated with respect or dignity by their landlords. But here at AAFE, we work closely with the clients to fight back – to fight for their dignity. Donna Chiu, Director of Housing and Community Services, has said, “I’m slowly learning that New York’s most vulnerable residents’ most prized possessions are their stories and struggles. Their experiences are part of their dignity – this is what AAFE helps them fight for. It’s important for them to share it and other people to hear about it. “
This case began in April 2015, and after achieving incremental wins throughout the last 18 months, the lawsuit is finally being settled today.
This is just one of the many stories we encounter every day. As tenants fight unimaginably demoralizing battles each day to preserve their housing and the community they have worked so hard to build, we at AAFE fight alongside them, always honoring their humanity and tenacity first and foremost.
Now, more than ever, we will not back down from fighting to ensure equality for all. Now, more than ever, what we need is to come together as leaders who understand our community’s most basic needs.. While we continue to fight our everyday battles and provide services, we need your help in making sure we have enough funding to keep our communities thriving.
Please consider making a donation today by following this link.