Truth and Justice

Why Pray Only to Wait?

Waiting, trusting God, and not freaking out is STILL an exercise of patience, perseverance, and long-suffering. Faith is caustic but rewarding.

PRESTONCHRONICLES

WaitEver prayed and wanted so desperately to see the object of your petition come to pass in the manner you desired when you desired? Remember, too, the intensely raw emotion coupled with your prayer request. What fervent attention you gave to God with exhaustive detail the matters of your heart. The immediacy of the request itself produced an urgent demand on the God of heaven and earth. Now, Lord come was the request as if appointments with God are scheduled solely on our whims and not by God Himself.

In humility we ought to petition with all reverence due the King of kings. Yet, we must not lack the bold confidence in knowing God hears us when we pray. The fervency of our call when urgent care is required of our benevolent Father may appear to sound slightly infused with imperative insolence–when I call, answer me quickly. The need requires a certain admission of vulnerability due…

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Christianity & Culture, Faith, Theology

Above the Valley Is Your Mountain!

imagesI recently read Psalm 23 for like the 100th time. We all know how the psalmist introduces God to us. I imagine the writer as somewhat emphatic, boastful and confident when he assures, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Don’t you like this? He’s our Shepherd. That really encouraged me, blessed me and caused me to break out into a fit of praise. As my shepherd, God protects me from being prey to the ravaging pursuits of an enemy that prefers that I don’t succeed. God leads me by waters that quench thirsts that only He can satisfy. He even feeds me from the best pastures. God oversees every matter so that I lack no good thing. How amazing!

Then, I read verse 4 as if for the first time. I heard a resilience of David’s faith I hadn’t heard for my own personal challenges, and just then I got it. “ Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.” (TLB)

It was a powerful moment. I heard clearly, “Preston, when you are in the dark and it seems there is no opportunity for overcoming life’s challenges remember to always look up. No matter the dreadfulness of the moment, above you is your mountain.” Of course, I had another round of praise.  Of a truth, I can’t count just how many times I have allowed myself not to walk with faith or look up to see what was waiting above the worst most humiliating of times. Have you been there? Then remember this. Right smack in the middle of trouble, temptation–any terrible situation, there is something corrective, altering, instructional and comforting about having the word, authority and leadership of our God and Shepherd (see verse 5). So, allow your trust in the faithfulness of God to help you see that above the darkest matters of the moment is a mountain God made for you to enjoy.  Let’s get over the experiences of our valleys and take our mountains. #TakethisMountain

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Christianity & Culture, Reasoning, Religion, Work

Do the Work.

I want the world to love the way I was never loved. I want families to stay together, not to fatally fight, but overcome their obstacles. Troubles define. Failures disrupt, but have learning abilities that mend the worst of us if we can just pay attention to the master building properties within our traumas and dysfunctions.

I have come to this place where I can no longer hold my tears. They are overwhelming and sometimes quietly embarrassing. I cry at the smallest things. What is small is hugely impacting to me. A father and child flying a kite, the birthing of a baby by a teenager who is surrounded by strangers while missing her parents acceptance wanting nothing more than to hear her phone ring with the voice, “Hi, it’s your mom.”

I am too overcome with this feeling that I will never quite understand or experience God’s idea of unconditional love. The unattainable weariness of this haunting notion of not ever having what I long for most is and has been the center of my dramatized life. I can’t seem to get past the imperfections that seem to surround me in my decisions. And this is something that can be a loathsome experience that leaves me under appreciated, under achieved and living a lonely existence in a crowd.

The tears in my space tend to give me solace in a strange kind of way. They make me feel in touch with the world I desire. Except it also reminds me just how vicarious my life has become. I imagine it makes me somewhat a voyeur watching others and getting off and into their lives from afar wishing, wanting, hoping and dreaming for what appears to be their perfected and accomplished lives. Amazingly, their pains seem to always meet a happy ending. My life, on the other hand, seems an abandoned shell of never ending air – the blowing through of emptiness.

I want the tears to stop for a moment. I desire to enjoy my space in life in the time God has allowed me with a freedom that is full and robust, without regret. Yes, that’s what I pray for, long for and believe I should have. Thousands of ships have sailed into the horizons of tremendous adventure without me, and I am worn by the wait for my turn to do the same. I am ready to launch. How about you?

Today, I am living life in Romans 7:15 (NASB) “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

I conclude that life can be better. Hope is good, but faith (the ability to see the end from the beginning) requires work. Let’s make decisions that are healthy and be ok with the time it takes to accomplish what we want. The stuff we hate lives because we allow it to. Let’s smother the wrong with piles of right. Let’s make the necessary changes in our lives today and experience the desired end of what we hope for. It is possible to live a better life. For every part of our lives that we hate, let’s dare to love ourselves and and our hopes and dreams enough to meet, beat and overcome the challenges we dislike most by simply doing the work necessary to achieve something better. Let’s do the work. #InIt2WinIt

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Career Choices, Goals, Purpose, Work

Working Hard at Something You Hate…

What do we know—truly know intuitively about the importance and purpose of our work in the earth? How much of it has been a wasted exercise and want for a success we could never measure up to because the measuring stick has not been our own? And just how good are we at something we absolutely hate to do? Making sense of it all is no easy exercise. When we are honestly doing the work that gives us pleasure and it contributes to the world something good, it is then we have found a most sacred place and become one with our purpose for living.

Unfortunately, the immeasurable value of our work can often be hidden among popular choices of success among strangers. Success however should only matter to us for its value to the greater good of the self without the competitive trappings of the very public stranger whose voice is only popular, not relational. To be clear, the greater good of the self allows one to be sure about the work without duplicity or regret. Success then promotes single-mindedness and an honest heart. The pursuit of it is constrictively moral and exclusive. It also presents the challenge of working through what is perceived as menial, worthless or professionally marginal.

Let’s all understand that the marginalization of work choice is the result of societal norms that can adversely sanction anything or anyone who steps outside the accepted and most popular lines of success. Being different is revolting. It starts out as perculiar, odd and uncommon, but continues to prove to be quite the innovator of modern invention, improving and changing the world over. Every part of the world, religious or secular, does well to understand this one thing. The conflicts of choice are compliments of change. Remember, too, that what others resist, resent and are repulsed by is often a formula for something new, better and improved.  Martin Luther said, “the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone.”

Be good to yourself, and not duplicitous. Work exclusively, purposefully and honestly from your heart with your unique self, skill and character driving the outcome. Celebrate always the rewards of your success, however great however small.

The point is the world is better when we allow ourselves to work in the place and position we are best designed for and fit best in. The best outcomes of our work happens only when we, despite any conflicts, pains or pressure, are still willing to work freely with integrity. Do whatever it takes to overcome the restraints of what is said or done by others. Consider your work and the success associated with it. Are you good at it, rewarded for it? Do you love or hate it? Your career choices should compliment you and produce an immeasurable place of personal peace and pleasure without duplicity. That’s the truest essence of ones measured personal value. Have you been honest with your career choice? If not, what’s the plan? Hopefully, we are all able to answer this.

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Affordable Housing, Brooklyn, East New York, Gentrification

The Red-Hot Rubble of East New York

“The high cost of housing is a vexing issue for New Yorkers at almost every income level, particularly those in Brooklyn, which was recently identified as America’s least-affordable home market (relative to incomes) by RealtyTrac. What’s a frustration for ­middle-class buyers amounts to a desperate crisis for poor renters. NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy says that more than three-quarters of low-income households in apartments spend a burdensome amount on rent.

De Blasio’s $40 billion housing plan calls for building or preserving 200,000 affordable units citywide, but most of the actual capital investment is supposed to come from the private sector. In wealthy neighborhoods, the city plans to rely on a zoning policy mandating affordable set-asides in new developments. In markets that throw off less heat, the city will use zoning and other incentives to encourage construction. In East New York, the promise of investment has had a perverse effect, pushing land and housing costs higher as speculators try to get in ahead of the redevelopment. According to RealtyTrac, home prices in the redevelopment area’s Zip Codes have risen by 30 to 45 percent over the past two years, and developers say local landowners have recently doubled or tripled asking prices. The more the wave swells, the more expensive it will be to build—and the more elastic the term “affordable” may have to become to meet de Blasio’s goals.”

Read Entire Article at:  The Red-Hot Rubble of East New York — NYMag

*This article appears in the January 26, 2015 issue of New York Magazine and at NYMag.com | Written by: Andrew Rice

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State of the Union, US Politics

State of the Union: Useful or Useless?

Sitting in my living room listening to the State of the Union address by President Obama, I was tempted not to watch. Feeling like why bother, I quickly sat up to listen even pay attention. Within moments of watching the sharply divided Congress before the President entered the chamber, I was already angered by the hypocrisy in the room.

In my mind I simply wondered just how the President’s speech might impact me personally.  Then, the Sergeant of Arms announced, “The President of the United States”.

The President came out confident as he appraised our America since he first took office. One might say tonight the President was an arrogant skewer of the truth. Others might say he appeared as the grand marshal of his own parade of more of the same political hype of six years. Perhaps, but truth is, I was simply not impressed.

“We believed and we did,” was the theme of the President’s speech. “We’ve made a difference,” he said while speaking of the valuable lessons learned over the last six years with respect to our global leadership.  We all agree, a strong foreign policy is necessary, but so is a formidable domestic policy. Our national security is not exclusive to military dominance, resourceful intelligence, strong borders and diplomacy. It must also include a committed investment in our brain bank–the education of our youth. The President, in my opinion, hit the bullseye with his proposal to work to fund a community college education for America’s youth. This should be a national imperative with immediate implementation.

Still, I didn’t feel the President’s tone was of the agenda setting sort for a non-working Congress. He seemed bent on talking around the fact that Congress has only done one thing for these six years of his presidency.  That is, they’ve worked hard to blame the President for anything wrong and make wrong anything he’s gotten right. I guess the good news in all of this is the President certainly didn’t sound like a victim. Good for him. Still, I wanted more.

I prefer bipartisan leadership and meaningful work, not the Congressional in-fighting that has crippled this nation’s progress. The executive office throughout these two terms has seemed way too soft and unable to maneuver Congress. But perhaps this State of the Union address was about the President moving on with his agenda without much regard for a Congress that hasn’t been interested in working with him. If so, it would explain what felt like a robotic going through the motions useful only for grandstanding, and intentionally useless to any partisan dissident looking for clues to out maneuver the office of the President. Regrettably, the President’s speech was a waste of my time.

As a side note, I couldn’t help feeling nauseous every time the camera panned on the supreme court justices during the President’s speech. They seem old, out of touch, forgetful and anything but objective just in my observance of some of the frivolous cases they hear. To add, their roles on the Supreme Court bench should not be a life time appointment–big mistake! Their rulings do little, it seems, to secure our basic rights under the constitution. States looking for a supreme advocate for advancing their own abusive legal process, especially relative to civil rights, are more and more using the high court in part because the Court seems moderately partisan in its interpretation of law. The history of the Court also suggests it too is a legal trampoline with hardly no binding checks and balances–it’s fundamental flaw and protection, but I digress.

All in all, the State of the Union did little to inspire me with its stout words and skinny Congressional agenda. Congress needs to do more than just show up for class for the sake of being marked present. It should be responsible for its homework! Six years of incomplete assignments is unacceptable. That’s perhaps why I was hoping for the homework producing presidential drama that never happened. That said, the President deserves no hall pass either.  After all, he just now got an improved report card of 50%.

The President and Congress should acknowledge this one thing. The State of the Union is only as strong as its useful parts.

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Gentrification, Middle Class, NYC

NYC Mayor Announces Affordable Housing for New Yorkers

Mayor de Blasio Announces More Than 17,300 Units of Affordable Housing Financed in 2014, Enough to House Nearly 42,000 New Yorkers

January 15, 2015

City exceeds projection of 16,000 units for calendar year 2014 as it begins project to preserve the affordability of 159 low-income co-op units in rapidly gentrifying Fort Greene

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the City financed the creation and preservation of more than 17,300 affordable units during calendar year 2014. With 11,185 preserved units and 6,191 new construction units financed, the City exceeded its first year projections by more than 1,300 affordable units. Based on average household size, these new and preserved units are enough to affordably house nearly 42,000 New Yorkers.

Affordable Housing Stat 2014

Preservation of affordable housing—keeping existing residents in their homes, rehabilitating old apartments and building systems, and locking in long-term affordability—is a major element of the Housing New York plan for 200,000 affordable units. The Mayor made the announcement at 45-55 North Elliott Place in Brooklyn, a low-income cooperative  home to 159 families EARNING less than $60,000 per year for a family of four—and many residents considerably less. In December 2014, the administration invested $3.1 million in capital funding, with an additional $250,000 dedicated by Public Advocate Letitia James during her tenure as Council Member, to ensure the building will remain affordable for another 30 years, keeping longtime residents in their homes in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The funding will also provide for upgrades including REPLACING WINDOWS, asbestos removal, elevator rehabilitation and boiler replacement.

Housing New York confronts an affordability crisis that affects families ranging from the most vulnerable to those in the middle class. More than 86 percent of the units financed in 2014 were for extremely low, very low, low-income families (see chart below). And to support housing for critical elements of the city’s workforce—such as NURSES, police, firefighters, office workers, and teachers—a further 2,400 units were financed for moderate and middle-income households.

“We came fast out of the gate with an aggressive affordable housing strategy to meet this crisis. That urgency translated into work on thousands of new units, as well as thousands of tenants that now will be able to remain in their own homes,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “By ramping up new construction and preventing displacement within our neighborhoods, we’re laying the foundation for a more affordable city. And in 2015, we expect even bigger and better results.”

As the City approaches its next milestone in the Housing New York plan—the end of Fiscal Year 2015—it is on pace to exceed the fiscal year TARGET of financing 16,000 units between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. As of December 31, 8,600 of those units had been financed. This first year’s strong showing resulted from the Mayor’s decision to double HPD’s capital budget, favorable MARKET conditions, and an emphasis on making the financing process more efficient. The City leveraged approximately $1.9 billion in bonds issued by HDC during 2014, which ranked HDC first in the nation among all municipal housing bond issuers for the year.

In 2015, the pipeline of new and preserved affordable housing will CONTINUE to increase as the administration’s first area-wide rezonings move through the land use process, RFPs are issued on additional publicly owned sites, new construction programs launch, and City agencies further streamline their operations.

Progress under Housing New York:

Income Band Percentage of AMI Monthly Rent Required to Prevent Rent-Burden Annual Income (4-person household) 2014 Units
Extremely Low Income 0-30% Up to $629 <$25,150

823

Very Low Income 31-50% $630-$1,049 $25,151-$41,950

1,603

Low Income 51-80% $1,050-$1,678 $41,951-$67,120

12,411

Moderate Income 81-120% $1,679-$2,517 $67,121-$100,680

877

Middle Income 121-165% $2,158-$3,461 $100,681-$138,435

1,534

*An additional 128 units house onsite superintendents.

Borough 2014 Units
Bronx

5,518

Brooklyn

5,190

Manhattan

5,022

Queens

1,044

Staten Island

602

Project Type 2014 Units
New Construction

6,191

Preservation

11,185

All data are based on preliminary project information.

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for the affordable housing his administration has created and preserved during his first year in office. The future growth and prosperity of our great city depends on meeting our affordable housing challenges head on, and Mayor de Blasio is taking on this challenge with leadership and focus. Whether it is preserving federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, securing dollars for boiler repair in public housing, or successfully advocating for the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund, I will continue to deliver and work for any and all available federal investments toHELP Mayor de Blasio see this housing plan through,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

“I commend the administration’s work in creating and preserving over 17,000 affordable units throughout last year. Today, 56 North Elliott Place—a former military housing site— is home to 159 low-and-moderate-income families, thanks to an ambitious $3 million administrative investment that includes City Council funding. Today, we begin to turn the tide and OFFER greater stability to working-families. I look forward to working with the administration to promote affordable housing projects throughout the City of New York,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“Brooklyn is home to everyone from everywhere, and it must remain that way in an affordable, sustainable fashion. We have made important strides in the past year in creating and preserving thousands of affordable housing units in this borough, and I believe the momentum towards progress for all will only build in the months ahead. I thank the de Blasio administration for prioritizing of affordable housing, and I look forward to CONTINUING to work with them to identify and execute opportunities for affordability across Brooklyn, from Greenpoint to Gerristen Beach,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric ADAMS.

“Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Been have had a successful year expanding our affordable housing stock through preservation and new construction, laying the foundation for even more progress to come,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Now we must look to our leaders in Albany to protect our rent laws and plug the legal holes that threaten to allow too many of our affordable apartments to slip away.”

“In 2014, we not only crafted the most comprehensive and ambitious housing plan in the nation and rolled out many new PROGRAMS to align our housing production with the plan’s core values and objectives—we also exceeded our production targets,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. “Financing more than 17,000 affordable units in our first year is a great achievement, but there is much more work to be done in our efforts to bring relief to New Yorkers facing increasing rent burdens. My thanks to Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Glen for their leadership, to the staffs at HPD and HDC for their commitment and excellent work, to our not-for-profit and for profit development partners for their dedication to providing affordable housing, and to our community leaders, tenant advocates, and elected officials, who have given us ideas and supported our efforts to make this a more affordable and equitable city.”

“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan is as visionary as it is essential, and the production achieved in 2014 is a brilliant start to delivering on the promise and purpose of that plan. I thank the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Glen, and Commissioner Been for their vision and commitment; and I salute their staffs and my own for their passion and dedication. The numbers celebrated today are not only about units; but about the lives those units will impact and the opportunities they will provide. HDC looks forward to working with the administration and our valued partners on many more years of successful Housing New York,” said HDC President Gary Rodney.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler said, “We are proud to have worked closely with HPD this year to streamline our permitting, inspection and technological processes, HELPING to enable these outstanding affordable housing figures that surpassed expectations. This achievement proves the significant benefits that can be realized when agencies collaborate to meet the needs of the public.”

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Been for prioritizing the preservation of New York City’s affordable housing stock and recognizing that we cannot simply build our way out of New York City’s housing crisis,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney in Charge of The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice. “We look forward to working with this administration to ensure that the almost ONE million units of rent regulated units remain an affordable housing resource through strengthening the rent laws and closing their loopholes.”

“Affordable housing for low and moderate income tenants is essential for diverse and liveable neighborhoods. We commend Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Been for the progress on preserving and developing affordable housing units. We look forward to working with the administration to preserve and protect the rent regulated housing stock in the upcoming rent renewal year for 2.5 million low and moderate income New Yorkers,” said Katie Goldstein, Executive Director of Tenants & Neighbors.

“NYSAFAH CONGRATULATES Mayor de Blasio on exceeding the ambitious 2014 unit goals of the Housing NY Plan. These units change the lives of individuals and families and revitalize communities. The many changes implemented over the last year in policies, programs, and funding have allowed NYSAFAH members to create and preserve an extraordinary number affordable housing units.  This milestone is an important step towards addressing the affordability crisis in our City. The Mayor’s leadership has been invaluable to the affordable housing industry,” said Jolie Milstein, President and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.

“Thanks to Mayor de Blasio, HPD, HDC, and other agencies and partners who have worked hard to surpass the City’s goal to create or preserve 16,000 affordable units, New York is ONE step closer to ensuring that all New Yorkers have a stable affordable home,” said Rafael E. Cestero, President and CEO, The Community Preservation Corporation, Inc. (CPC). “As we celebrate this milestone, we applaud the Mayor for his vision and pledge to CONTINUE providing much-needed capital to create and protect New York’s affordable housing stock.”

Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio, HPD, HDC, and the rest of the administration on surpassing their goal to create or preserve 16,000 units of affordable housing,” saidJudi Kende, Vice President and New York MARKET Leader, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. “Enterprise has set a goal to end housing insecurity in the U.S. within a generation, which means no more homelessness and no more families paying more than half of their income on housing. The City’s accomplishment brings us closer to our goal and means over 16,000 families and individuals now have a solid foundation of opportunity and a fair shot at success.”

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to address the housing needs of all New Yorkers is off to a promising start. With more than 17,300 affordable housing units built or preserved in its first year, we look forward to a continued successful collaboration with the administration on this critically important goal,” said Steven Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York.

“The preservation of affordable housing units is ONE of the greatest challenges we face as one of the largest cities in the world. Over the past several decades, the city’s inventory of affordable housing units and preservation efforts did not keep up with the growing needs of our citizens. I applaud the Mayor for making this one of the highest priorities of his administration, and I look forward to seeing more rehabilitation and new construction in areas of the city with the greatest needs,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks.

“I commend Mayor de Blasio on the successful first year of his administration’s Housing New York plan,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “Because of the investments made under this plan, thousands of New Yorkers will be able to remain in their homes, with a roof over their heads at a reasonable cost. Affordable housing is vital to keeping the middle class alive and well in our city. As New York CONTINUESto add and preserve thousands of affordable housing units, I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio to ensure the implementation of the Housing New York plan continues to be as successful in the coming years as it was during its first.”

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for making the issue of affordable housing a top priority for our city,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “I have been fighting in Washington to secure federal funds that will HELP cities build more affordable housing. I’m proud that in December, after years of my urging, the Federal Housing Finance Agency decided to again fund the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, which will provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year for affordable housing. I believe we can do a great deal more, and I will continue working with the Mayor to ensure that working and middle-class people can afford to live and thrive in New York City.”

“Thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s commitment, I am proud that our City is reaching its first year goals to create and preserve affordable housing. The success of our Mayor’s plan is an important step forward in advancing equal opportunity and quality of life for our constituents. Access to affordable housing is essential first step on the path to economic mobility, and I will continue to fight for it in Congress,” said Congressman Charles Rangel.

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for the unprecedented progress made under Housing New York. As someone who grew up in a city housing project, I know how vital these units are for so many New York families. I am pleased that the City has made affordable housing a top priority, and am thrilled to see the exceptional results of that attention, especially in the Bronx. It is imperative we CONTINUE to offer assistance to those most in need, and I commend Mayor de Blasio for doing just that,” said Congressman Eliot Engel.

“Housing affordability is not only key to growing and strengthening our working class but it is critical to the sustainability and FUTURE success of our city,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “I’m glad affordable housing is a priority for this administration and am encouraged by the impact programs like Housing New York can have to ensure our city is more livable for all New Yorkers,” said Congressman Joe Crowley.

“Keeping housing affordable for working families must remain a priority at all levels of government – federal, state and local.  While I’m pleased to see additional resources are HELPING preserve the City’s stock of affordable housing, we must continue pushing for additional progress in this area,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

“Substantial disparities in income and wealth have resulted in a crisis in which many families in New York City cannot afford to pay rent or BUY A HOME, as prices continue to increase even as wages stagnate. Mayor de Blasio understands this crisis, and he has a plan to keep New York City residents in their homes at an affordable cost. This effort involves not only the establishment of a living wage – which he has worked to achieve – but also the construction of affordable housing units and the preservation of affordable homes that already exist. Mayor de Blasio established high priorities for affordable housing and – with 11,150 units preserved and another 6,150 units of new affordable housing financed – he has exceeded them by 1,300 in the first year of implementation. I CONGRATULATE the Mayor and the Department of Housing Preservation & Development on their success, and I am committed to working with them to create the additional 200,000 units of affordable housing we need in the next ten years.” said Congresswoman Clarke.

“Affordable housing is a priority for the residents of New York City and Mayor de Blasio has delivered, and exceeded everyone’s expectations, on his promise to protect and expand access to quality and affordable housing. Thanks to his efforts, there are an additional 6,150 affordable housing units in the Bronx. This is only the beginning and I look forward to continue seeing the results of the Mayor’s Housing New York Program during the next couple of years.” said Congressman Serrano.

“I am very happy to learn that the Mayor’s efforts to preserve affordable housing are bearing fruit so beautifully, and so soon! In my district, my people are facing a severe affordability crisis. In fact, tonight I will be holding a major community meeting with other electeds, housing advocates, and hundreds of community members to begin a movement to ensure that all necessary laws are passed and that the pressure on our neighborhoods is relieved. I look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor on this critical work,” said Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

“News that the Mayor’s Housing New York Plan has created and preserved over 17,000 affordable units is an excellent indicator of things to come. As our urban landscape evolves, it is essential that we continue to protect and prioritize the issues surrounding the city’s housing stock. I will continue to be a vocal advocate and active in the fight to address the housing needs in our community,” said Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley.

“My district, primarily made up of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, is a prime example of an area that is in desperate need of affordable housing. I would say about 75 percent of the constituent calls my district office receives are from people looking for affordable housing. If that doesn’t illustrate the need for affordable housing in New York City, I don’t know what does. I look forward to working with the Mayor to secure more affordable housing throughout New York City,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol.

“In neighborhoods across Brooklyn, like Fort Greene, affordable housing must remain accessible to single-parent households, minimum wage earners, low and middle-income families,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. In order to strengthen our city, we must become an inclusive society by embracing our economic diversity. Housing New York builds upon our shared commitment to ensuring that families are not uprooted from their communities by preserving the affordability of a city we all call home. Affordable housing is a vital component of our “new” New York City that is dedicated to narrowing the opportunity divide.”

“Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Glen, and Commissioner Been have accomplished great work this year in dramatically expanding the stock of affordable housing available to New Yorkers,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The fact that the City has exceeded its projections for 2014 is testament to the commitment and dedication this administration has to creating real change in the affordable housing landscape.  I’m proud to support the de Blasio administration’s efforts to increase the number of spaces our city’s most vulnerable residents can call home, and I look forward to seeing even more affordable units created throughout the next year.”

“Affordable housing is crucial to our success as a city. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to making New York City a place where all New Yorkers can make it,” said Council Member Steve Levin.

“The shortage of affordable housing plagues New Yorkers citywide. In building and preserving thousands of new units, the Mayor’s plan continues to tackle this crisis in an innovative way. Affordable housing is crucial for struggling families throughout our city. I thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment and progress in making housing more affordable for New York City,” said Council Member David Greenfield.

“We CONGRATULATE Mayor de Blasio for a successful first year of his ambitious plan to create more affordable housing for New Yorkers,” said Sam Marks, Executive Director of LISC New York City. “At LISC, we look forward to CONTINUEDpartnership on this comprehensive effort to make sure that every New Yorker has an affordable, safe, healthy place to live.”

“We congratulate the De Blasio Administration in surpassing its FY 2014 goal of 16,000 affordable units.  We stand ready to work with the Administration and will support efforts to create PROGRAMS and improve current policy aimed at increasing the production of affordable housing for deserving NYC residents of all income levels,” said Meredith Marshall, Managing Partner and Co-founder of BRP Companies.

“We applaud the Mayor and the Council for strengthening code enforcement laws by passing the Quality Housing Act in their first year. Those laws will improve the housing conditions of thousands of tenants and hold negligent landlords to do repairs,” saidJavier H. Valdes of Make the Road NY.

“Affordable housing is such a critical need in Queens where families pay a high percentage of their income for overcrowded and in some cases inappropriate living spaces. Queens Community House applauds the mayor’s efforts to create more housing for average New Yorkers,” said Irma Rodriguez, Executive Director, Queens Community House.

“As a Harlemite and activist who has been caught in the city’s housing bureaucracy looking to buy the home I lived in for over thirty years, I am more than excited to learn about Mayor de Blasio’s plan for more affordable housing and homeownership, and what sounds like greater provision of oversight where management of such housing is concerned. As it is important that the City CONTINUES to finance and monitor the creation of new affordable housing to meet the needs of its residents and community caretakers,” said Iesha Sekou of Streets Corner Resources

“This year, we have seen a sea change in the number of affordable housing units put under way, the populations they serve, and creative uses of available financing tools to produce them.  What is equally as impressive, is the next “wave” of affordable housing on the horizon which will prove to go beyond this year’s already impressive production,” said Les Bluestone, Principal of Blue Sea Development.

“From the North Bronx to the South Bronx, to the far reaches of northern Manhattan, SoBRO has been a proud partner of Housing NYC. By joining with the Mayor’s office, HPD, and our affiliates on the NYC Housing Implementation Advisory Board, SoBRO is pleased to be a part of a historic precedent in providing over 200,000 new and preserved units of housing—the most aggressive and meaningful steps in urban housing in recent memory. Today’s announcement is more than a symbol of our City’s progress in exceeding the expectation, it is progress—it is ensuring that all New Yorkers have a place to call home,” said Phillip Morrow, President and CEO of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.

Preserving Affordability and Improving Housing Quality
Maintaining the quality and affordability of the existing housing stock is critical to the goals outlined in Housing New York. In 2014, there were 11,150 preservation units financed—which is more than 65 percent of the total units financed in 2014. This financing will help keep New Yorkers in their homes and ensure that the properties they live in are well-maintained both financially and physically. Preservation financing typically HELPS to extend the affordability and finance repairs/maintenance of existing affordable housing, and can also be used bring new properties into affordability programs by assisting in the acquisition and rehabilitation of privately owned low-income housing.

Increasing the City’s Affordable Housing Stock
As the population of New York City grows, it is important that the City continues to finance the creation of new affordable housing to meet the needs of its residents. This year, the City financed approximately 6,150 new units of housing that will provide affordable homes to low and moderate income New Yorkers. In late 2014, HPD and HDC announced the creation of new programs and across the board changes to existing programs to better align the city’s future affordable housing production with the priorities of the Mayor’s housing plan. As the housing plan progresses, these key changes will HELP to stretch public subsidy, encourage mixed-income development, aggregate small sites to create new rental and homeownership opportunity, and help address the homeless crisis and provide housing for those with special needs. For more information regarding the new term sheets for the City’s affordable housing programs, please visit the HPD and HDC websites.
Streamlining Agency Efforts to Increase Productivity
As they committed to do in the housing plan, HPD and HDC have undertaken a review of agency procedures and policies in an effort to find efficiencies in a number of processes and requirements to better streamline the production and preservation of affordable housing.

HPD has dramatically reduced the burdens the regulatory review processes impose on inclusionary housing projects. For example, lengthy design and architectural reviews have been replaced by a new system that uses architect’s certification, combined with random audits, to ensure compliance with design requirements. Additionally, HPD and the NYC Department of Buildings are working to adopt a common technology that will allow both agencies and the developer to review the architectural drawings, and are working to prioritize affordable housing applications.

HPD and HDC also have taken steps to make the NYC Housing Connect online lottery portal even more user-friendly by increasing accessibility to the disabled and those for whom English is not a first language. Additionally, HPD has restructured internal MARKETING divisions to encourage better coordination and information sharing about the vacancies that naturally occur over time in buildings, in addition to newly constructed units.

Additional details about streamlining efforts will be announced throughout 2015.

Learn more at nyc.gov/housing.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov(212) 788-2958
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Civil Rights, US Politics

Ralph Abernathy: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Overlooked ‘civil rights twin’

Left to right, foreground: Tessa Thompson plays Diane Nash, Corey Reynolds plays Rev. C.T. Vivian, David Oyelowo plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Colman Domingo plays Ralph Abernathy in "Selma," from Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Originally Posted on Religion News Service (RNS) on January 15, 2015 by Adelle M. Banks

In a scene in the movie “Selma,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sits in a jail cell wondering where the civil rights movement is headed. His cellmate, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy Sr., responds with a lesson from the Gospel of Matthew about the futility of worrying.

(May 10, 1963) The "Big Three" of the civil rights movement put their heads together here just before releasing a statement that accord had been reached on their grievances. (Left to right) The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Rev. Fred Shuttleworth; the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Religion News Service file photo

In real life, the two men — family and colleagues say — were inseparable. One man is honored with a national holiday that will be celebrated Monday (Jan. 19) while the other is frequently overlooked, even as he CONTINUED King’s plans for decades after King’s 1968 assassination.

“Ralph is the best friend that I have in the world,” King said of Abernathy when his colleague introduced him for what would be his last sermon, in Memphis, Tenn.

But Abernathy, who died in 1990 at age 64, was harshly criticized for writing in his autobiography, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” about King’s marital infidelity. Abernathy’s family members believe that criticism contributed to efforts to “erase” him from the annals of civil rights history. His widow and his namesake son say the new movie does not fully depict the close partnership he had with King.

Click on the  Religion News Service link to read the entire article.

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Politics, US Politics

Is This Country Crazy?

Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know 
By Ann Jones

Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States.  Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.

search-2In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet.  I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.

That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people — in the Middle East, no less — willing to withhold judgment on the U.S.  Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it.  Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him.  And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.

In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.

Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.”  It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them. This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think — even countries with which we were recently, are currently, or threaten soon to be at war. America’s belligerence alone, not to mention its financial acrobatics, compels the rest of the world to keep close track of us.  Who knows, after all, what conflict the Americans may drag you into next, as target or reluctant ally?

So wherever we expatriates settle on the planet, we find someone who wants to talk about the latest American events, large and small: another countrybombed in the name of our “national security,” another peaceful protest march attacked by our increasingly militarized police, another diatribe against “big government” by yet another wannabe candidate who hopes to head that very government in Washington.  Such news leaves foreign audiences puzzled and full of trepidation.

Question Time

Take the questions stumping Europeans in the Obama years (which 1.6 million Americans residing in Europe regularly find thrown our way).  At the absolute top of the list: “Why would anyone oppose national health care?” European and other industrialized countries have had some form of national health care since the 1930s or 1940s, Germany since 1880.  Some versions, as in France and Great Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems.  Yet even the privileged who pay for a faster track would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive health care. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not frankly brutal.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially advanced in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program, funded by the state, is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system.  In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have an equal right to education (state subsidized preschool from age one, and free schools from age six through specialty training or university education and beyond),unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining services, paid parental leave, old age pensions, and more.  These benefits are not merely an emergency “safety net”; that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy.  They are universal: equally available to all citizens as human rights encouraging social harmony — or as our own U.S. constitution would put it, “domestic tranquility.”  It’s no wonder that, for many years, international evaluators have ranked Norway as the best place to grow old, tobe a woman, and to raise a child. The title of “best” or “happiest” place to live on Earth comes down to a neighborly contest among Norway and the other Nordic social democracies, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland.

In Norway, all benefits are paid for mainly by high taxation. Compared to the mind-numbing enigma of the U.S. tax code, Norway’s is remarkably straightforward, taxing income from labor and pensions progressively, so that those with higher incomes pay more. The tax department does the calculations, sends an annual bill, and taxpayers, though free to dispute the sum, willingly pay up, knowing what they and their children get in return. And because government policies effectively redistribute wealth and tend to narrow the country’s slim income gap, most Norwegians sail pretty comfortably in the same boat. (Think about that!)

Life and Liberty

This system didn’t just happen. It was planned. Sweden led the way in the 1930s, and all five Nordic countries pitched in during the postwar period to develop their own variations of what came to be called the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universalimages-1 social welfare, political democracy, and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It’s their system. They invented it. They like it. Despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?

In all the Nordic countries, there is broad general agreement across the political spectrum that only when people’s basic needs are met — when they can cease to worry about their jobs, their incomes, their housing, their transportation, their health care, their kids’ education, and their aging parents — only then can they be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that, from birth, every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.

These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution. You know, the part about “we the People” forming  “a more perfect Union” to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Even as he prepared the nation for war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt memorably specified components of what that general welfare should be in his State of the Union address in 1941. Among the “simple basic things that must never be lost sight of,” he listed“equality of opportunity for youth and others, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privileges for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all,” and oh yes, higher taxes to pay for those things and for the cost of defensive armaments.

Knowing that Americans used to support such ideas, a Norwegian today is appalled to learn that a CEO of a major American corporation makes between 300 and 400 times as much as its average employee. Or that governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state’s debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from the pension funds of workers in the public sector. To a Norwegian, the job of government is to distribute the country’s good fortune reasonably equally, not send it zooming upward, as in America today, to a sticky-fingered one percent.

In their planning, Norwegians tend to do things slowly, always thinking of the long term, envisioning what a better life might be for their children, their posterity.  That’s why a Norwegian, or any northern European, is aghast to learn that two-thirds of American college students finish their education in the red, some owing $100,000 or more. Or that in the U.S., still the world’s richest country, one in three children lives in poverty, along with one in five young people between the ages of 18 and 34. Or that America’s recent multi-trillion-dollar wars were fought on a credit card to be paid off by our kids. Which brings us back to that word: brutal.

Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down?  Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty? The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest raterecorded in Texas history?  (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)

Other things I’ve had to answer for include:

* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?

* Why can’t you understand science?

* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?

* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?

* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?

* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?

* Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?

To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?

That last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions. Throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, right-wing parties that have scarcely or never played a role in government are now rising rapidly on a wave of opposition to long-established immigration policies. Only last month, such a party almost toppled the sitting social democratic government of Sweden, a generous country that has absorbed more than its fair share of asylum seekers fleeing the shock waves of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

The Way We Are

Europeans understand, as it seems Americans do not, the intimate connection between a country’s domestic and foreign policies. They often trace America’s reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order.  They’ve watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a government that has done so little new for them over the past three decades or more, except for Obama’s endlessly embattled health care effort, which seems to most Europeans a pathetically modest proposal.

What baffles so many of them, though, is how ordinary Americans in startling numbers have been persuaded to dislike “big government” and yet support its new representatives, bought and paid for by the rich. How to explain that? In Norway’s capital, where a statue of a contemplative President Roosevelt overlooks the harbor, many America-watchers think he may have been the last U.S. president who understood and could explain to the citizenry what government might do for all of them. Struggling Americans, having forgotten all that, take aim at unknown enemies far away — or on the far side of their own towns.

It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others. Crazy may be too strong a word, too broad and vague to pin down the problem. Some people who question me say that the U.S. is “paranoid,” “backward,” “behind the times,” “vain,” “greedy,” “self-absorbed,” or simply “dumb.”  Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely “ill-informed,” “misguided,” “misled,” or “asleep,” and could still recover sanity.  But wherever I travel, the questions follow, suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others. It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around.  There’s another world out here, an old and friendly one across the ocean, and it’s full of good ideas, tried and true.

Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Ann Jones   |   This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

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Apologetics

Feel-bad

The want for validation apart from the Scripture can be an unconscionable vileness that can leave one the victim, accuser and assailant. Sin and shame are rather an ironic and unhealthy mixture of arrogant contradictions that raise issue with every position of truth just because. This “Feel-bad” article is worth the read.

See, there's this thing called biology...

Feelbad is an epidemic on the internet and in our popular culture. What it is this constant need to seek validation and approval from others and an attempt to squash anyone and anything that allegedly makes you feel bad.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with desiring validation, seeking some like-mindedness, wanting approval from a select group of friends or family. That’s healthy, that’s normal. Not that you’ll always get approval from those you care about, but the desire for it is perfectly reasonable. We’re very social creatures.

What I speak of is this need for validation from the Entire World, expecting everyone and anyone to like you and to approve of whatever you are doing. Demanding that others make you feel good about yourself. Anyone who doesn’t has allegedly committed a great offense against you personally. We have entire campaigns that attempt to force random strangers to validate things…

View original post 926 more words

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