#YoungVoices Wrap Up With Recognition and D.R. Pride!

#YoungVoices Wrap Up With Recognition and D.R. Pride!

“The Dominican Parade was a thoughtful experience. It really showed what being a Dominican was all about and the pride we have in our culture and lifestyle. Seeing how many Dominicans were unregistered shows how we could make a change in politics.”

-Jeff Banks, #YoungVoices

It was a busy time at DUSA headquarters this past week as we prepared to say goodbye to our young voices. Our young voices were part of New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Our 60 participants worked four weeks canvassing Manhattan and the Bronx, collecting 1,000+ voter registrations along the way. They also went on field trips to museums and college tours while also attending educational workshops.

On August 10th, DUSA held a dinner recognizing the accomplishments of our young voices. They were given certificates during a festive ceremony at the Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center. Senator Marisol Alcantara, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa were some of the prominent figures who also recognized and congratulated our young voices. They urged our teens to continue to participate in civic engagement and applauded our teens for their dedication this summer. This event highlighted how the Dominican population and culture continue to influence politics in New York City. Many of our teens related to seeing people who look like them in positions of power, and we’re hopeful our teens will continue to be involved in neighborhood issues.

A few days later, on August 13th,  DUSA and our young voices celebrated Dominican culture at New York City’s Dominican Day Parade. First, we attended the pre-parade breakfast at La Marina in Washington Heights. The breakfast was filled with Dominican pride, graced by the presence of Hall of Famer baseball pitcher Juan Marichal, who served as the Padrino of the parade. Our teens were excited to meet Dominican Actress Dasha Polanco from the hit television show Orange Is the New Black.

After the breakfast, our dedicated young voices canvassed the parade for voter registrations. We take pride in the fact that Dominicans are the largest Latino group in New York City. DUSA marched alongside fellow Dominican, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna. She congratulated the accomplishments of our young voices and articulated useful advice for them as well. She reminded our young voices that the reason there is Dominican representation in politics is the dedication of community members like them, who go out their way to register new Latino voters.

As an organization, we are confident that our summer program developed and mentored future leaders who will carry the torch in civic engagement. There is still work to do because teens between the ages of 14 and 21 are the fastest growing population segment among Dominican-Americans. We hope to connect to this group of potential new voters. We are looking forward to next year’s cohort of young voices.

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Dominicanos USA (DUSA) Participates in 3rd Voter Day;  Advocate for Voting Reform

Dominicanos USA (DUSA) Participates in 3rd Voter Day; Advocate for Voting Reform

By Nelson Santana

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Tuesday, May 2nd—Voter Day—a coalition of electoral reform activists visited Albany to voice their concerns regarding New York’s antiquated electoral system. Charter buses from Manhattan and the Bronx filled with New Yorkers arrived in Albany to deliver an important message: New York needs to become more voter friendly. Running on the campaign, “Vote Better NY,” NYC Votes and partners—including Dominicanos USA (DUSA), League of Women Voters, and Coalition Z—marched to the Capitol and spoke directly to legislators to improve the electoral system and get more New Yorkers to vote.

Part of DUSA team arriving.

Activists advocated for The Voter Empowerment Act, Early Voting, New York   Votes Act, and “Preclearance.” If passed, these legislations would make it the government’s responsibility to ensure all New Yorkers are registered voters, provide same-day Election Day registration, two weeks of in-person early voting, improved poll worker training, and more voter protection. For detailed explanation on the proposed legislation, please click here to view the “Voter Day 2017” factsheet created by NYC Votes.

NYC Votes is the brainchild of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. The campaign promotes civic engagement through community outreach, voter registration and engagement programs, and educational resources.

Several individuals spoke at the “Voting Day” press conference. Onida Coward Mayers, Director of Voter Assistance at New York City Campaign Finance Board, noted that, “Vote Better New York is a coalition from around the state” that wants “a better voting experience and we come to Albany to partner with legislators and to advocate for what we want to see in our election process.”

Director of Voter Assistance Onida Coward Mayers, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.

When presenting DUSA Executive Director Eddie Cuesta, Coward Mayers stated, “We need to really acknowledge this gentleman, Eddie Cuesta, because he makes sure that he works New York City up and down, making sure that disenfranchised New Yorkers understand their rights and gets them registered.” Since its founding, DUSA has registered close to 150,000 voters. Cuesta stated, “We are here because we have seen the problems that affect our communities, and we are here to support early voting. We know the problem, so we hope we could continue pressuring our state legislators and make sure that New York becomes, as the capital of the World, be number one and not be so antiquated with our voting laws.”

Advocating for early voting, New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins noted, “We have found that if we push them…if enough of us come out…if enough of us understand that elections matter…that things happen in life, that’s why early voting matters.”

Close to two million voting-age New Yorkers are not registered. Although New York ranks third in population size among the 50 states, voter turnout is one of the lowest. Strong proponents of the Voter Empowerment Act, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh called for its enactment. According to Senator Gianaris, “There are over two million New Yorkers who are eligible to vote but are not registered to vote…the reason is because we put a lot of hurdles in their path in order to get registered.” Assembly Member Kavanagh echoed the senator, noting, “We have seen a passive effort to keep the laws

DUSA Executive Director Eddie Cuesta, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, and Director of Voter Assistance Onida Coward Mayers.

weak so that people don’t participate in the election.”

 

DUSA and NYC Votes.

Other states have modernized their electoral system to reflect the technological advances of the twenty-first century. New York, however, continues to lag behind. Blair Horner, Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group noted, “Too often in the hallways of Albany, it’s about big money and well-connected lobbyists, and when citizens get involved, it makes a big difference.”

Voter Day 2017 provided New Yorkers with the opportunity to speak directly with the senators and assembly members who represent them. NYC Votes and partners met with individual elected officials and staff in their offices. Among the elected officials at hand were Assembly Member Carmen de la Rosa, Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, and State Senator Jesse Hamilton. If passed, the proposed legislation would allow for a smoother electoral process and greater civic participation.

Join DUSA on March 31, 2017 As We Honor 1938 Sanctuary of Jewish Refugees in The Dominican Republic

Join DUSA on March 31, 2017 As We Honor 1938 Sanctuary of Jewish Refugees in The Dominican Republic

On Friday, March 31, 2017, the Office of the Dean for Community Relations at Hostos Community College (CUNY) will host a reception and program that will honor individuals who have contributed to research findings or projects associated with the 1938 Jewish migration to Sosúa, Dominican Republic. Honorees include DUSA Board Member Dr. Ramona Hernández, Dominican Consul Carlos Castillo, and Congressman Adriano Espaillat. The event is sponsored by the Dominican Studies Association, Dominicanos USA, American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the City University of New York. Please RSVP by phone at (718) 664-2752 or email at [email protected]. More information about the event can be found in the flyer below:

DUSA participates in Student Voter Registration Day at Walton High School

DUSA participates in Student Voter Registration Day at Walton High School


On Friday, March 17, Dominicanos USA (DUSA) participated in the annual Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD), thus providing our young people with a voice. Our efforts resulted in hundreds of students receiving a lesson in civic awareness. At Walton High School in the Bronx, we empowered the youth by participating in an information session where we answered questions and spoke to students about the importance of civic engagement. We partnered with NYC Votes, New York City Council, Department of Education, and New York Immigration Coalition to make this happened.

Special Guest Edgar “Shoboy” Sotelo, host of the Shoboy Show on 92.3 AMP radio attended a pep rally in the afternoon and gave the students an inspirational talk about the power of hard work and determination. He shared his “chancleta story” with the students which highlighted for them the importance of always projecting a positive image on behalf of yourself and your family.

SVRD is a local initiative that launched March 20, 2015 to raise awareness about the importance of student voter registration. This initiative came to fruition through a joint collaboration between NYC Votes, New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and members of the New Yok City Council. This city-wide initiative has led to over 10,000 high school students registering to vote. In the coming years, DUSA intends to remain a part of SVRD for years to come so that we can continue to provide this message of civic engagement to our youth.

View some of the pictures from our day of raising civic awareness below:

DUSA Joins Brooklyn Borough President’s Office to Host Massive Citizenship Workshop on Saturday, March 25, 2017

DUSA Joins Brooklyn Borough President’s Office to Host Massive Citizenship Workshop on Saturday, March 25, 2017


Dominicanos USA (DUSA) will hold its monthly DUSA Citizenship Workshop this upcoming Saturday, March 25, 2017 beginning at 9:00 a.m. The citizenship drive will take place in the office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

This free citizenship workshop will take place at the following address:
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

National Executive Director Eddie Cuesta is quoted in an official press release put out by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Dominicanos USA urges all eligible and legal permanent residents with no minor offense to take the initial step of becoming a naturalized citizen. United States citizens are afforded opportunities not available to residents, as citizenship improves one’s quality of life. A citizen can exercise their right to vote, has easier travel and re-entry into the United States, can apply for federal jobs and scholarships only open tocitizens, and also has access to a multitude of other benefits.”

Mr. Cuesta’s quote can be found in several media outlets including the following newspapers and online mediums:

The Post Eagle (English)

Diario Digital (Espanol)

 

A Guest Post About the Jerome Ave Rezoning

A Guest Post About the Jerome Ave Rezoning

 

Some information about the Jerome Avenue rezoning: The City of New York is proposing a rezoning plan for Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, which encompasses all of Jerome Avenue between E 165th Street to the south and 184th street to the north; and also includes sections of Edward L. Grant Highway, E 170th Street, Mount Eden Avenue, Tremont Avenue, Burnside Avenue and E 183rd Street. All areas where a high population of Dominicans reside. In total this plan constitutes more than 70 blocks in the Jerome Avenue area. As of right now, the NYC Department of City Planning’s proposal consists of building a great deal of new residential units, but does not have any measures to protect current Bronx residents, most of whom are Dominican, from rising rent, displacement, or increased harassment from landlords that will most likely occur as a result the rezoning; neither does it outline how the resulting construction jobs will be regulated to make sure they are safe, well-paid, and for local residents; the proposal also doesn’t address the multitude of auto shop business that will be displaced and the hundreds of jobs that will be lost in the auto industry as a result of the rezoning.

 

Why should Dominicans care? The Jerome Avenue rezoning would affect District 4 and 5 in the Bronx, a major residential area for Dominicans in New York. This proposal would not only give incentive for increased landlord harassment, it will most likely lead to increased rental prices in the area for residents and small business owners. In addition, the proposed rezoning forces the majority of Jerome Avenue auto shops–many of which are owned and operated by Dominican immigrant men–to leave without anywhere to go; therefore taking away a primary source of income for many Dominican men in the Bronx. All of these factors would make it even harder for Dominicans to live in the Bronx.

 

In response to NYC Department of City Planning’s Jerome Avenue rezoning plan, the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision was formed. This Coalition aims to make the Jerome Avenue rezoning planning process a collaborative effort between the City government and the thousands of residents and business owners affected by this proposal and hold our government officials accountable to policies and regulations around the Jerome Avenue rezoning. Through extensive surveys and multiple community meetings, the Bronx Coalition has highlighted key issues for the Jerome Avenue rezoning:

 

  1. Anti-displacement strategies for current residential and commercial tenants. Current tenants and small business owners will not benefit from the rezoning if the rezoning increases rents, speculation, and the forces of displacement. The City should take steps to ensure that the people and businesses that are here now are protected and are able to stay.
  2. Real affordable housing. All of the new housing built in the community should be at rent levels that reflect the need in the community.
  3. Good jobs and local hire. New construction and businesses will mean a lot of new jobs in the area and the City should guarantee that those jobs create career opportunities for local residents. Also, developers should not be allowed to build unless they commit to using contractors that are part of State Department of Labor Registered and Approved Apprenticeship programs.
    1. Safety and training. There recently has been an alarming increase in construction worker fatalities and life changing injuries in New York City. 18 construction workers died in the field from the beginning of 2015 to date. The City must mandate provisions for worker safety and training to ensure our most vulnerable workers are protected.
  4. Real community engagement. Residents need to have a say over what happens in the community, and the City should have long-term tools to ensure accountability for implementing commitments made during rezoning approval process, including a role for community in overseeing progress. The community needs this to ensure that the rezoning is actually part of a community plan that is effective and fully implemented.

As a prominent Latino community, we need to make sure that the Jerome Avenue rezoning plan benefits both long-term Bronx residents and newcomers. Get involved:

  1. Attend monthly rezoning campaign meetings on the first Thursday of every month, from 6PM-8PM at 1501 Jerome Avenue, Bronx. There is food, childcare, and interpretation (English and Spanish). The next meeting on March 2nd will be a Town Hall on the state of the Jerome Avenue rezoning with elected officials, Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera.
  2. Sign this petition online and encourage others to do so.
  3. Attend Bronx Voices: Empowering Community in the Face of Rezoning, a community event showcasing Bronx visual and performing artists, as well as an open mic session for anyone to sign up and express themselves through song, story-telling, poetry, etc. The event will take place on February 25th at 5PM at 1501 Jerome Ave, Bronx.
  4. Keep up to date on the NYC Department of City Planning’s Jerome Avenue rezoning plan by visiting their website, along with events and rallies organized by the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision.

Together we need to find a way..

to move forward with the Jerome Avenue rezoning plan without displacement, exploitation, and harassment in the Bronx–a plan that benefits both current Bronx residents and new residents. Otherwise, we risk losing one of the last neighborhoods where low-income New Yorkers can afford to live and we risk losing the diversity and vibrancy of our City.

 

DUSA

Katie Milagros Duarte

Dominicanos USA Guest Blogger

Bronx resident and graduate of Vassar College. Katie is a member of Bronx Rising, a group that aims to get Bronxites to re-engage with their communities by creating spaces, dialogues, and events to re-awaken the love for their communities and focus on celebrations and issues that affect the people of the Bronx.