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They Fear Losing Their Homes
From El Diario
August, 22, 2002

By Gloria Medina

Where will we go from under the bridge? We need help from Human Rights! Why do they discriminate against those under Section 8?

So read some of the placards that dozens of tenants carried when they met in front of the offices of Cosmopolitan Associates LLC to demonstrate and ask that the owner not force them out of their homes.

Among those present — elderly, disabled persons, underprivileged mothers and children — was Adela Veras, a 93-year-old Dominican woman, who was in a wheelchair and said through tears that she did not have a place to go if they took away her apartment.

"Learning that those under Section 8 were going to be forced out has affected her greatly. She cries and says that she would prefer to be dead," said Mercedes Alejo, a nurse who cares for Veras 12 hours a day. "Sometimes she even asks me to take her home, but I can’t do that."

The problem began in the beginning of 2002 when the Section 8 tenants received a letter from the building manager. This letter informed them that in 2003 the contract with the city obliging managers to accept the Section 8 program would end, and they would no longer accept tenants with this kind of government aid. This would leave almost 250 families without a home.

Although they have yet to kick out a family from their apartment, the notice has effected many people, especially the elderly disabled people like Francisca Rodríguez.

Rodríguez, a Dominican who arrived in the country almost 30 years ago is now 65. She lives alone in her apartment, suffers from the beginning stages of osteoporosis, and can almost never walk. She also suffers from diabetes, dizziness, and recently underwent heart surgery.

Learning that she would probably have to leave her apartment and find a new home left Rodriguez with acute depression. "I was desperate, but I couldn’t go to look for an apartment due to the fact that I can hardly walk and I don’t know any English. Where was I supposed to find an apartment that accepted tenants under Section 8?" said Rodríguez, recounting the helplessness she felt in those moments.

Rodríguez arrived in New York February 14, 1977 in search of the American dream. She worked until she was 62, when her health problems would not allow her to continue being the independent woman she had been before.

Abraham Cruz, the director of Woodside on the Move, an organization dealing with housing rights, and the organizer of the demonstration, said that he would continue fighting so that Seltzer would not leave these families without homes.

"[The owner] did not want to arrive at any agreement in the meeting that we had with Tenants & Neighbors and Woodside on the Move and was very cynical in the response that he gave us," added De la Cruz.

Moreover, De la Cruz said that they are in the process of finding a lawyer to investigate the conditions of the contract and if possible bring the owner to court.

The manager of the buildings did not leave his office during the protest and limited himself to a, "No comment."

Section 8 is a housing program that aids people of limited resources.


Translated from Spanish by Naomi Lim

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