LAN

The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Control gentrification in Jersey City now, community leaders say. Residents are being pushed out of their homes.

(This Op-ed originally appeared on NJ.com on 4/18/19)



Jersey City skyscrapers
Long-time residents of Jersey City are being pushed out


By Richard Smith and Christian Estevez
With skyrocketing rents outpacing what most ordinary people can afford, Jersey City should be coming to terms with the fact that its residents are being priced out and forced out.

Developers who are making unfathomable amounts of money building homes for wealthy new residents have no incentive to solve this problem. It is time for Mayor Steven Fulop and the City Council to adopt an effective policy that requires developers to make at least 20 percent of new homes affordable as a way to curb the gentrification that is emptying Jersey City of longtime residents. In the case of city-owned land, or when public subsidies are used, the percent should go above 20 percent.

For decades, our state’s urban cores suffered from disinvestment, while wealthy suburban communities boomed. This disparity, driven by many towns’ exclusionary zoning laws, has helped make New Jersey one of the most racially and economically segregated states in the country.

As New Jersey’s urban communities revitalize, working families and communities of color in places like Jersey City are at the losing end of a real estate market that pursues profits over fairness and high rents over fair rents.

After living in Jersey City through challenging decades of disinvestment, lower-income African American and Latino families are being particularly threatened with displacement as investment floods in.

While we welcome additional investment in New Jersey’s cities, it must not come at the cost of displacement and homelessness. Our elected officials have an obligation to prevent the negative impacts that rapid gentrification has on our state’s most vulnerable communities.

Jersey City’s elected leaders must act – or they risk turning the city into an exclusive enclave of the rich and powerful.

It is irresponsible that Jersey City has added thousands of new apartments in recent years, rewarding developers with lucrative density increases, without putting inclusionary zoning requirements in place to protect lower-income families – as permitted under state law.

Left to their own devices, powerful developers will build housing for people earning over $100,000 annually and call these units “affordable.”

But that is not where the greatest need is.

Jersey City must target new affordable housing requirements to protect families earning as little as $20,000 to $45,000 per year – where the need is greatest.

And officials must prevent new requirements from being undermined by loopholes that would allow developers to wriggle out of their affordable housing requirements.

An effective fair housing policy must focus on housing – not be subverted as a tool to meet other goals while allowing gentrification to take over the city.

Mayor Fulop’s press releases and social media posts in recent years have claimed that his administration is going to address this issue. Most recently, the mayor wrote on social media last November that “Jersey City will be enacting an inclusionary zoning ordinance like many other major cities. … It is very close to becoming reality and will be a huge benefit to keeping Jersey City a special mixed-income community.”

But to date, there has been no real progress. While the mayor’s promises go unmet, developers are making Jersey City a “special” community for New York transplants who think nothing of paying $1 million for a condo – at the expense of the city’s African-American and Latino residents.

Indeed, while Jersey City stands still, other nearby cities have put in place protections for longtime residents and adopted equitable housing policies, including Hoboken, Newark and Union City. These ordinances require homes to be affordable at the lowest possible ranges.

Hoboken is even in the process of strengthening its affordable housing ordinance.
These gentrifying communities have benefited from the leadership of mayors like Dawn Zimmer, Ravinder Bhalla, Ras Baraka, and Brian Stack. Yet in the face of incredible progress, Jersey City, which has the greatest potential and the highest need, lags behind.

The time for Jersey City to adopt an effective housing policy has arrived.
We urge Mayor Fulop and the City Council to do what should have been done long ago: Adopt an inclusionary zoning ordinance that ensures that all residents of Jersey 

City benefit from the private market interest in the city. The ordinance should require all developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable housing. No buyouts, no loopholes, and no scams.

We need legislation that forces developers to address the negative consequences of gentrification. And we need it now.

Christian Estevez is president of the Latino Action Network and Richard Smith is president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

COURT AGREEMENT PROVIDES NEW JERSEY JUNIORS AND SENIORS WITH CLEAR PATHWAYS TO HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION

red school house



A Court-approved agreement reached with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) will provide clear pathways to graduation for all current high school juniors and seniors. The agreement was negotiated by the Education Law Center and the ACLU of New Jersey on behalf of several civil rights and parent advocacy groups, including the Latino Action Network, Latino Coalition of NJ, Paterson Education Fund, and NAACP NJ State Conference, that successfully challenged high school graduation testing requirements imposed by the NJDOE in violation of state law.

On December 31, 2018, the Superior Court, Appellate Division, invalidated the graduation assessment regulations enacted by the NJDOE in 2016, which included the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) end-of-course exams, because they violated statutory requirements for “exit” testing to obtain a high school diploma. In January, the NJDOE filed a motion for partial reconsideration, asking the Court to amend its order to address graduation requirements for current juniors and seniors.

In response, the groups that brought the case sought broader relief and highlighted the fact that the NJDOE’s request would leave thousands of students, who had not yet satisfied the testing mandate, without clear options to fulfill the requirement and earn their diplomas.

The agreement filed today will ensure all high school students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 have clear pathways to achieve a New Jersey diploma. The agreement postpones the effective date of the Court’s decision invalidating the graduation testing regulations and allows all juniors and seniors to use the rules defined in the regulations for the class of 2019—the broadest set of options—to fulfill the graduation testing requirement.

The agreement will also provide the NJDOE with time to propose new graduation testing rules for the classes of 2021 and 2022, current freshman and sophomores, that comply with statutory requirements and provide fair notice to affected students.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement that safeguards the graduation rights of seniors and juniors who relied on the rules invalidated by the Court,” said Jessica Levin, ELC Senior Attorney. “We look forward to working collaboratively with State officials to develop appropriate graduation policies for future classes.”

For more information about the lawsuit challenging the high school graduation regulations, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

TESTIMONY BY THE LATINO ACTION NETWORK BEFORE THE NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 24, 2019

15 an hour hearing



TESTIMONY BY
THE LATINO ACTION NETWORK
BEFORE THE NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE
JANUARY 24, 2019
DELIVERED BY:
Christian Estevez, President
Latino Action Network
2560 U.S. Highway 22, Suite 322
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Phone: (973) 418-7012
esteveznj@gmail.com

Good morning, my name is Christian Estevez and I am President of the Latino Action Network.  We are a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to mobilizing New Jersey’s Latino community to seek greater social, economic and educational justice. The Latino Action Network has been working with a broad coalition of organizations that are committed to helping New Jersey’s working poor by getting the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour.  

I thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of Assembly Bill A-15 which raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour within 5 years for most workers.

While we believe that it would be more beneficial to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour immediately, the pace set forth in this bill for the implementation of the increase is a compromise that we feel we can live with.  It is imperative that we achieve a living wage posthaste.

We also remain concerned about those that will be left behind by this bill, especially farm workers and those that work for small businesses.  The bill collectors do not treat people differently based on where they work.  A gallon of milk costs the same for the person that works for the big corporation and the person that works for the small business or on a farm.  No discounts are given because you earn less.

While this bill is not perfect, we feel that we must support it because the status quo cannot be allowed to continue.

It is unacceptable that hard-working people, including a disproportionate number of Latinos, continue to struggle to meet the most basic of needs.  A person earning the current minimum wage in New Jersey of $8.85 per hour would barely earn $18,000 per year if they worked full-time.  That is below the poverty line as set forth by the federal government for a family of three.  The reality is that the average family in New Jersey has 2.7 children.  That means that in a family with 2 children, both parents would have to work full-time jobs just to keep their heads barely 
above the poverty line if they were both earning the minimum wage. Given that New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in, earning just above the federal poverty line is just not enough.  Unfortunately, this is a reality for far too many New Jersians.

Latinos are overrepresented amongst low wage earners:

Latinos constitute 17 percent of New Jersey’s population, yet account for 29 percent of low-wage earners that would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage according to a report issued by New Jersey Policy Perspective, an independent nonpartisan think tank that promotes shared prosperity and widespread economic opportunity in the Garden State.  According to the National Employment Law Project, almost 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15 per hour. 

These numbers speak to the scope of the problem that low wages pose to Latino working families.  While low wages negatively impact workers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, Latinos are the group that is most disproportionally impacted by this problem.  

The scale of the impact that low wages have on the Latino community can be seen in our schools where Latino parents have a difficult time participating in their children’s education since many have to work two or three jobs just to keep their families above water.  As a result, many Latino students fall further behind academically, making it harder for them to get into college so that they can compete for the high-skilled, high-wage careers that are in demand in New Jersey. Instead, far too many young Latino workers are relegated to low-skilled, low-wage work just like their parents.  

We have an opportunity to break this cycle by passing common-sense legislation that raises the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 per hour within the next five years.  If we do not act now, we will relegate too many of our working families to poverty and foreclose on the futures of more generations of the children of the working poor.  

Raising the minimum wage will not only help Latino working families, but it will also help Latino owned small businesses and local economies since it will put more money in the pockets of consumers that will spend those dollars on their families’ necessities.  This additional economic activity will lead to job growth and increased profits in communities that are still struggling to recover from the recent economic crisis that was caused by wild speculation on Wall Street.  Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will deliver economic stimulus to Main Street where it is needed the most.

We at the Latino Action Network urge you to vote Assembly Bill A-15 favorably out of committee and we hope that your colleagues will support all of New Jersey’s working families by voting in favor of this bill when it reaches the floor of the Assembly.

Thank you.