Friends of the Court/Friends of Public Housing Residents

October 17, 2005

Contact: Nellie Bailey 212-234-5005 Dr. John Derek Norvell: 917-507-0732

On Tuesday, October 18th at 1 P.M. on the outdoor plaza of the Harlem State Office Building located at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Blvd. in Manhattan public housing resident activists and supporters will hold a public information session to draw attention to the plight of over 70,000 families living in New York City public housing that are facing forced community service or eviction. A coalition of housing groups including Friends of the Court/Friends of Public Housing Residents, Carleton Manor Community Service Program of Far Rockaway, Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side (PHROLES)- a division of GOLES (Good Ole Residents of the Lower East Side), and others along with State Assemblyman Keith Wright and an array of elected officials including Mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrar will call upon all New Yorkers to support the campaign for passage of Rep.Charles Rangel’s federal legislation, H.R. 1018, “Respect for Tenants Act,” that will repeal the forced community service requirement nationwide.

The Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act or QHWRA, the federal legislation of 1998 passed under the Clinton Administration requires all eligible public housing residents not receiving public assistance to perform 96 hours of community service annually lest they face eviction. Public housing residents receiving public assistance are exempt. The requirement was implemented nationwide in September of 2001 with the exception of New York State because of 9/11 but subsequently reinstated in February of 2003. All eligible families from 19 years of age to 62 must perform 192 hours of community service retroactive from 2003. Other states are already evicting residents and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will start evictions as of January 2006. The implementation of community service is administered by NYCHA and yet that agency has not made available to residents the necessary forms for exemptions.

Activists pointed to the testimony of Monica Mims before the New York City Council’s Public Housing Subcommittee Hearing on the implementation of community service held this past June 19th. Ms. Mims, a nurse at New York University Medical Center testified that several public housing residents along with their children were treated for injuries as a result of performing community service on the grounds of Grace Mansion. According to Derek Norvell, “These families with children should have been exempt but NYCHA did not provide the exemption forms as required by law”. He went on to say, “This really lies at the heart of our campaign, the repeal of forced community service and to challenge the current implementation process by NYCHA that is arbitrary and without regard to the health, safety and dignity of families. Forced community service puts slavery once again on the federal statutes and is a direct threat to the Constitutional rights that all Americans enjoy.”