By Emily Gallagher
November 10, 2015 | Queens Ledger
On Monday night, I attended St. Nicks Alliance’s 40th Anniversary dinner. I really believe that if you are looking to donate money to a charitable organization, this is the way to do it. Attending one of these events is so uplifting.
St. Nicks Alliance started their work in response to arson-for-profit happening in Williamsburg, a shady and popular strategy in this community. The goal is to free yourself from responsibility for an existing property by burning it down and cashing in on the fire insurance. St. Nick’s grew out of an urgent need to house those whom had been made homeless by these actions.
As they started to target the issues of safe and affordable housing, they realized the far reach of systemic impact that daily life opportunities could have on alleviating poverty.
St. Nicks amazes me because they persistently address the creation and preservation of affordable housing, fighting corrupt landlords and developers and repairing existing housing stock, while also creating new programs that help prepare people for improving their lives – job training programs, head start and after school programs, elder care and community development work.
My favorite aspect of these benefits is the opportunity to learn about community members who are working hard to creates social and economic justice in our neighborhood, usually without any recognition or fanfare. These people should be famous, but because they are fighting oppressive systems, they usually are left in obscurity.
Monday night I learned about FG-PH, a company that does not displace residents while they improve and preserve their affordable housing but instead works around them. This is an amazing task because it is difficult to improve buildings on a budget, let alone to do it in a creative way that allows tenants to live uninterrupted.
I also learned about Tyrone Anthony Sellers, who specializes in accounting for nonprofits and offers affordable advising and financial management to organizations doing this work, a needed service.
Finally, I was moved by the story of David Lopez, who has fought for visibility and justice for the Southside Latino community. He has created job service programs, mediation programs, and tenants rights services for his community. He was a passionate speaker and poet and is a lifelong advocate for social change. It was so inspiring to be in his presence.
While the image we may see of our community on television and in newspapers may be one of trendy affluence, it remains fact that the majority of our community is low income. St. Nick’s fills a needed and necessary role. Thank you, St. Nicks, for protecting and developing our neighborhood for so long.
This piece appeared in the November 12, 2015 issue of the Queens Ledger. It is printed here gratefully by their permission.