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Make the Road New York: Staten Island




Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace el camino al andar.
Searcher, there is no road. We make the road by walking.
-- Antonio Machado, Proverbios y cantares XXIX

Our Mission
Make the Road New York (MRNY) builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.

Our History

Make the Road New York was created in the fall of 2007 through the merger of Make the Road by Walking and the Latin American Integration Center, two of New York City’s most innovative and effective grassroots organizations. The merger was a natural partnership that built on proven successes and created a new state-level organization that combines democratic accountability to low-income people and an innovative mix of strategies to confront inequity and economic injustice, while fostering deep and active community roots.

Make the Road By Walking (MRBW)
MRBW was founded in 1997 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to help immigrant welfare recipients who suffered illegal disruptions in their public benefits in the wake of welfare reform. Vilified in the national welfare debate, MRBW helped community members organize to make their voices heard, ultimately changing the conversation and improving policy in New York City to ensure equal access to public services. MRBW integrated multiple approaches to fighting poverty and injustice, including education, high quality legal and support services, community organizing and leadership development. Over the decade of the organization’s existence, MRBW expanded its organizing and services programs substantially, and helped to win four more major City policy improvements.

Latin American Integration Center (LAIC)
In 1992, a group of Colombian immigrants who had recently escaped the political violence that ravaged their home country landed in Jackson Heights, Queens and founded (LAIC) to promote and protect human and civil rights of Latino immigrants and encourage their civic participation in New York City. Over the years, LAIC developed into a dynamic grassroots organization, combining education, support services, and grassroots advocacy in areas of school reform, access to health care, and immigration reform. LAIC’s pioneering community-led citizenship campaigns were some of the largest such drives New York City had ever seen. By the year 2000, LAIC had helped over 10,000 New Yorkers become U.S. citizens.

Our Community 

Looking at the borough as a whole, Staten Island appears largely white and middle class. Island-wide, the median income is over $66,000 and fully 69% of Staten Island residents own their own homes. Only twenty percent of the whole Island's population is foreign born, 36% of whom emigrated from Europe.

In contrast, the enclave of Port Richmond on Staten Island's North Shore is home to the city's fastest growing immigrant population. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, Staten Island's Latino population grew by more than 50%, with more than 81,000 Hispanic residents now living in Port Richmond. MRNY members in Port Richmond typically speak little English, and often speak only modest Spanish, second to their indigenous language. Neighborhood incomes average below $19,000 for a family of three.

Like those in Jackson Heights and Bushwick, the poor and immigrant residents of Port Richmond face exploitive labor conditions, often in poorly regulated sectors, and also have minimal access to government services and low levels of educational attainment. Half of North Shore residents rent and the percentage of renters in Port Richmond is even higher. Community members often live in illegal basement apartments without the protection of rent stabilization.

Day labor work in construction is typical of Port Richmond residents, who get picked up by contractors for jobs in New Jersey or Long Island. The industry is notorious for nonpayment of wages, a trend likely to accelerate if construction continues to slow and employers attempt to cut costs. MRNY's Port Richmond members confirm the trend noted by the Centers for Disease Control: foreign-born Latino workers face disproportionate and increasing rates of work-related injury, particularly among those working in construction. Employers intimidate workers, especially undocumented workers, from securing the workers' compensation benefits to which they are entitled, leaving immigrant families with staggering hospital bills and placing increasing strain on public hospitals.

A recent spate of anti-immigrant hate crimes in Port Richmond highlight the specific challenges facing this isolated, growing population.

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