Residents and community groups met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and city agencies in Roberto Clemente Plaza on Tuesday, as part of New York City’s resource festival. The event is held in communities across the city, to help provide information and answer questions about the issues each neighborhood faces.
From sanitation to immigration, city agencies pitched tents along E. 149th Street and Willis Avenue, to distribute flyers, and to share information and receive feedback from locals. Meanwhile, elected officials met with agency commissioners and public employees, who tried to cool down from the 90 degree temps with Dominican Ices.
The issue most pressing on the minds of local residents was housing. Low-income residents complained that the sharp increase in market rate apartments in the neighborhood coupled with out-of-date or hard-to-understand information, has made it difficult for them to find places to live or even to figure out how to look.
“It’s weird to be looking this way, because back in the day, I didn’t have to depend on an agency,” said Nate White, 60, a retired clerical worker who said he suffers from a disability that prevents him from working consistently. He said he missed being able to earn a living, and resented having to ask for assistance, but has no other option. His current home, he said, lacked basic amenities, such as air conditioning during recent heatwaves.
“I need a home, not just a room to rent,” said White.
For other Bronxites, the fair was an opportunity to help provide useful information to fellow community members. The fair allowed Ivelisia Rivera, 57, to seek resources for members of her housing co-op.
“There’s a lot of information for my building’s bulletin board,” said Rivera, “We got a lot of elderly people and immigrants, so this information can be helpful to them. Sometimes there’s useful tips.”
For others, like Vanessa Marino, 20, the availability of public agencies provided a chance to find volunteer opportunities to keep busy over the summer. Marino, who hopes to become a doctor, said it was useful to see how city agencies interact with her neighbors.
“I want to help my community, and especially minorities and people in need, so this is a way to find ways to start,” said Marino.
The mayor fielded questions during the last hour of the event, addressing concerns with a long line of concerned individuals and organizations, from NYCHA services to policing.
The Street Vendors Project, an organization representing street vendors across the city, was among the groups that lined up. They complained that the city does not issue enough licenses for the number of vendors, and that punishments against unlicensed vendors are extreme. The group’s representatives read a statement to the mayor, while members waited behind them with placards drawing attention to their complaints.
“I think we were able to communicate from our perspective, of street vendors,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, the project’s deputy director. “I think a lot of the news that’s been out recently has not even asked street vendors what they think. So at the very least, that was communicated.”
Not all who were dissatisfied with the mayor’s presence were as diplomatic. Towards the end of the event, a small crowd began shouting down de Blasio while he conversed with others. As the mayor made his exit, an unidentified man with a megaphone angrily confronted police officers, demanding answers about South Bronx homeless rates and conditions inside Lincoln Hospital. The man was detained by police after he began pushing over tables and barricades.