Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Young leader for NYCHA residents uses petition to give pet owners a voice

Young leader for NYCHA residents uses petition to give pet owners a voice

The New York City Housing Authority’s new pet policy is in effect, but one young leader from Jacob Riis Houses is trying to prevent the drastic rules from affecting him, his neighbors, and more residents of public housing. Seven years after officially allowing pets in residences, NYCHA revised the rules for pet owners, lowering the weight limit on dogs by nearly half and banning pit bull, Rottweiler, and Doberman Pinscher dog breeds. Marquis Jenkins, a 26 year old Community Organizer for the neighborhood housing and preservation organization, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), began a petition to repeal the new policy, stating that “these regulations unfairly discriminate against responsible dog owners who reside in NYCHA and serve only to brand public housing residents and their pets as vicious and out of control”.

An animal lover and owner of a rescued pit bull (Star, pictured here), Marquis fears this is “just another way for NYCHA to try to evict people.” Having garnered over 3,000 signatures via a grassroots campaign, with the help of GOLES and leadership of Council woman, Rosie Mendez, whose name is on the petition, Marquis feels positive that suggestions on the petition such as to “revoke the bans on specific dog breeds” and “halt any and all evictions in association with the pet policy” will be taken seriously.

Most recently, he and NYCHA residents, Kanille Hernandez and Christina Lopez, spoke at a NYCHA Town Hall meeting, as did Council woman Mendez, regarding changing or revoking the new pet policy. Marquis also presented the stack of signed petitions to the NYCHA board in front of hundreds of residents, including Tenant Association Presidents, from all five boroughs. “We definitely got our message out,” Marquis said.
Now it is just a matter of waiting to see if these efforts have paid off.

View entire contents of the petition below:
GOLES: Good Old Lower East Side, Inc.
169/171 Avenue B, New YorkNY 10009, (212) 358-1231

New York City Housing Authority
Ricardo Morales Elias -- Chairman
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

CC: Rosie Mendez, City Council Member
Chair of City Council Public Housing Sub Committee

Dear Chairman Morales,

We, the Undersigned, oppose the manner in which NYCHA's amendments to the Pet Policy was implemented. We oppose arbitrary and condescending rules against particular breeds. We oppose weight restrictions on dogs. These types of regulations unfairly discriminate against responsible dog owners who reside in NYCHA and serve only to brad public housing residents and their pets as vicious and out of control.

Additionally, the manner in which residents were notified was sub par in even the most generous assessment. Mail notification did not occur in many developments; NYCHA's newsletter Journal only announced the policy change on the 11th page of its April issue; and most distressingly, the sparse notification that did exist was only distributed in English. Spanish and Chinese-speaking residents, among others, could not read the notice announcing the policy change -- let alone follow it.

To rectify these problems, we feel your offices need to:
1-Extend the May 1st deadline to May 1st, 2010.
2- Revoke the bans on specific dog breeds.
3- Conduct a full Authority review of the pet policy with the participation of NCYCHA tenants who are pet owners. We must create a real solution to he issues that having pets bring to the public housing community.
4- Halt any and all evictions in association with the pet policy.
5- At the Town Hall and final presentation of the Draft Annual Plan, solicit resident suggestions on a more rational pet policy. These suggestions should be the basis of the final pet policy to be implemented on May 1, 2010.

The Undersigned

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mother's Comfort Project testimonial: sewing cage comforters

Please see below another testimonial for the Mother's Comfort Project.

We still need a sponsor for 2009-10, so help us out so that we can continue this great project and bring more awareness to animals in need, especially those at the Brooklyn AC&C.

From Jeri, after the April 2009 sewing session:

“Do you think there really is a rescue gene?” I ask Susan. She has just told me that the woman’s face on the Mother’s Comfort patch is that of her grandmother, the woman who passed down her love of animals.

This is the kind of banter that goes on while we sew. We learn about one another: our names, our hobbies, our diets, our schools, our families. We discuss our different experiences with service dogs, pets, and rescue organizations.

You see, we did not know each other before we united on this stunning April day. We are women as young as 14 and as old as 51. Some of us are blonde, some auburn, some grey-haired. Some of us wear dresses, others wear Abercrombie tees or shorts. Some look like supermodels and actresses, others more like grandmas. One of us is even canine: Susan’s pet and our mascot, Sadie. However, there is one thing we have in common: the desire to make life a bit softer and a tad brighter for the homeless animals of New York City.

We are here in Flirt Home Ec, a chic boutique cum craft class cum sewing shop in Park Slope Brooklyn, helping to make animal toys and beds. Today, we are cutting various donated fabrics, snipping and stuffing batting, adding pinches of catnip, or operating sewing machines (some of us for the very first time).

Next month, other volunteers will repeat our work. And then in June, Susan and some of her supporters will visit the [Animal Care & Control] shelter in another part of Brooklyn, to deliver the beds and toys, each one adorned with an orange awareness ribbon.

This is the second year of the Mother’s Comfort project. It is one of many innovative ways Susan Brandt and her Rational Animal organization publicize homelessness and enhance animal welfare around the City. After taking part in this event and being lavished with Sadie kisses, I have to say my own life was enhanced too.


[Jeri Dayle is a freelance writer, a keystone volunteer of Loving Touch Rescue in Queens, and an ardent supporter of Rational Animal. This is the 9th Rational Animal event--including two Gimme Shelter concerts, a Gingerbread Homes display and a Barking Arts gallery—that she has attended.]

Saturday, July 4, 2009

NYCHA new pet policy investigation leads to chance meeting of an unexpected history

NYCHA new pet policy investigation leads to chance meeting of an unexpected history.

Over the last couple months, I have been interviewing many people living in public housing, and whether they have pets or not, every individual I've spoken with has an opinion about the latest revision to the Housing Authority's "pet policy", which was first made public via appearing on the last page of The Housing Authority Journal, April 2009 issue.

An investigative story incorporating first hand experiences and feedback from residents in various housing developments, from East Harlem to the Lower East Side, this story has allowed me to meet people I never would have had a conversation with before, because I never would have had a reason.

Last week I happened upon a woman named Regina. A resident of the George Washington Houses, Building E, she has a 7 mo. old pit bull named Sparks, who is registered as a service dog. She also has a cat and a rabbit, but her cat just had three kittens. Disappointed to hear this, I realized she was another animal lover who did not fully understand the importance of the various housing rules, including mandatory spay/neuter. But for some reason, that was a side thought in the conversation, as she told me about how she was on the cover of National Geographic, for a piece by journalist, Jere Van Dyk, titled "Growing up in East Harlem".

The story came out in May 1990, so nearly 20 years ago. Although she now has lupus and arthritis, she still exudes a lot of energy and has very strong opinions about animals and humane treatment of them. I don't mean to sound cheesy or cliche in my remarks -- I certainly wish she would neuter her pit bull and stop her cat from having more babies. It wasn't my place, for the purpose I was trying to achieve that day, to say my opinion. It didn't matter at that point, nor did it with any of my conversations with these residents.

In fact, I asked very few questions and just listened to her, as she also told me about a cat she and other residents take care of. I don't know what this cat's name is, so I just refer to him as Survivor Kitty.

This cat was actually a stray and a victim of cruelty, when some kids -- residents of Regina's building, though they are long gone -- wrapped a lot of rubber bands around his tail, forcing the hair to fall out. The same kids, Regina told me, threw fireworks at this cat, and one exploded near his face, blowing off a part of his mouth. Although these injuries are horrific, the cat is strong, now at least 15 years old (but who's counting). Regina and others I met that day feed the cat, let it inside to the basement in the Winter, and protect him from others. Regina made it very clear to me that she would not tolerate any cruelty in her neighborhood. If she saw it, she said, she'd have to 'kick some ass', as she put it.

As I watched the cat eat some food a couple older residents opened and put out for him, Regina said she had to go to the store, and she left.

Only after this conversation did I research and finally see the cover photo -- of her cradling a puppy. It all made sense!

I looked high and low and finally tracked down a back issue I could order and have shipped to me. I plan to return to Regina's building and show her the cover. I think it would bring a smile to her face. Maybe that would be my in to talk about spaying and neutering...

The piece has become more layered than I anticipated, which is exciting. Should be out in a couple weeks. I certainly feel rewarded for having had the close interactions I did with so many different people. It's a tough economy -- and who am I to complain when I'm talking to some people who have very little. Aside from the assignment and my quest to find out not only how people feel about pets in housing, the rules or if they know what they are, and the way animals are treated by the good and not so good people, I only take interest in what is going on in their lives, because I know nothing about it but feel it matters if I am to be an informed writer and New Yorker.