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Wed Aug 6, 2014

German Gun-Maker on Smart Technology in the Washington Post -The Washington Post

UNTERFÖHRING, Germany — In nearly 30 years at Heckler & Koch, a legendary German gunmaker, Ernst Mauch designed some of the world’s most lethal weapons, including the one that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. A state regulator once called him a “rock star” in the industry.

Now the gun world sees him a different way: as a traitor. The target of their fury is the smart gun Mauch designed at Armatix, a start-up near Munich. The very concept of the weapon has been attacked by U.S. gun rights advocates even as it has helped Mauch resolve a sense of guilt that has haunted him his entire career. 

The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a group pushing manufacturers for better gun safety, recently met with Mauch in Germany and hope to bring him to the United States to persuade police chiefs to buy his company’s guns. The idea: If the technology is good enough for police officers, it should be good enough for consumers. Armatix is developing a 9mm smart gun targeted at the law enforcement market. The company hopes to offer other controls besides a watch, including a version that responds to voices.

“The idea of a smart-gun maker who has lots of experience making guns is intriguing because he’s not just some fly-by-night guy trying to do this,” said Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, a member of the group that met with Mauch. “Law enforcement officials have been quietly saying that if he comes over, they’d be willing to meet with him.”

Tue Jul 15, 2014

Manhattan Together Holds NYCHA Accountable to Promises on Mold -City Limits


It’s been six months since two community groups and the New York Housing Authority signed a landmark settlement agreement to address mold and moisture problems in public housing units and three months since a federal judge ordered the new rules into effect. Yet, Blanche Moore’s bathroom inside her eighth-floor apartment at the DeWitt Clinton Houses in East Harlem remains a textbook case for how to grow mold....

Community groups are beginning to spread the word about the mold and moisture settlement. Monique George, the NYC organizing director for Community Voices Heard, a group with a long history of working in public housing, says CVH has done “mold surveys” at five buildings in two public housing developments, and plans to conduct hundreds more.

“We’ve been door knocking,” George says. “Step two will be to actually document the cases.” Manhattan Together, South Bronx Churches, along with Metro IAF’s East Brooklyn Congregations, plan to engage thousands of public housing residents across the city on this issue.

“This (settlement) is a tool for us,” says Michael Stanley, lead organizer for Manhattan Together and South Bronx Churches. “It was always clear to us that this settlement by itself would not be enough … We have to make sure the rules are followed.”

Mon Jul 7, 2014

EBC Wins Park Improvements -News 12 Brooklyn

East Brooklyn Congregation winning battle for Bushwick playground improvements: A two-year battle for improved parks in Bushwick is finally starting to pay off. 

Several improvement projects are on the way thanks to residents from the East Brooklyn Congregation, a group of churches and nonprofit organizations, who have been rallying local leaders for better playgrounds.  Residents have spent two years lobbying for better park conditions for kids.

Wed Jul 2, 2014

East Brooklyn Congregations Works to Fix Parks -New York Times


In the quest for park equity, many residents in poor neighborhoods have seemed to have little recourse for the sorry state of their cracked basketball courts and out-of-service bathrooms.

But a group in Brooklyn has taken its fight to the streets — and playgrounds — using the kind of tactics more often associated with civil rights protests. In lobbying for capital improvements for two parks, East Brooklyn Congregations, a coalition of churches and nonprofit groups, has organized marches and demanded meetings with elected officials.

Last week, the group held a rally on the steps of City Hall. Adriane Williams, a parishioner at St. Barbara’s Church in Bushwick, exhorted Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose central campaign theme was righting inequality, to address the city’s open spaces.

“Mr. Mayor, you talked about a ‘tale of two cities,’ ” she yelled to the small crowd. “Well, let me tell you about a tale of two parks.” She then compared Central Park with Bushwick’s Heckscher Playground, a one-acre park on Linden Street at Central Avenue, which unfurls in the shadow of a housing project, and asked, “The question is: Are you just the mayor of Central Park or are you going to be the mayor of Heckscher Playground also?”

The group began its campaign for park equity by documenting the problems in a half-dozen parks in Bushwick. In spring 2013, representatives from the group met with Kevin Jeffrey, the parks department’s Brooklyn borough commissioner, and handed him a list of 32 items.

Over the past year and a half, two dozen maintenance problems from the list, including a missing toilet seat, burned-out light bulbs and a broken water fountain, were fixed across the six parks.

The remaining issues, however, were too large to be treated as maintenance issues and required capital money. Now East Brooklyn Congregations is seeking commitments for capital improvements for Heckscher Playground and Green Central Knoll Park, including new turf fields for both and, at Green Central Knoll, lights and a new bathroom.


Sat Jun 28, 2014

EQUAL Wins Storm Sewers -Times Ledger

Some southeast Queens residents, especially around St. Albans, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens, get the chills every time thunderstorms are looming. Heavy rain, to them, basically means flooding in their homes, lawns and streets.

E. Thomas Oliver, a Laurelton resident for more than 40 years, basically had to pump water out of his basement “24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Rain was bad news.

Thomas added that when it rained, he like his neighbors had to move their cars to higher ground. “I lost a brand new car to flooding. That time the water was up to the hood of the car,” he said. “Every time it rained, I got water in my basement, and the neighborhood looked like a lake.”

To tackle this chronic problem, the city Department of Environmental Protection started work a few years ago to upgrade the sewer system, a targeted solution designed with the collaboration of Empowered Queens United in Action and Leadership.

Thomas is a leader of the group, and he pointed out that the city agency has initiated “three of the five well-thought strategies that we designed and documented.”

In his case, the floods are finally gone, but not before DEP cleaned catch basins filled with debris.

Now the city agency has begun working on a project to install storm sewers and catch basins at 119th Avenue between 192nd and 195th streets in St. Albans. According to DEP, the infrastructure will cost $1 million and should be completed by this fall.

“We are pleased to collaborate with EQUAL on these important projects that will bring new storm sewers to reduce chronic flooding,” DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

Fri Jun 27, 2014

New Jersey Together Wins Affordable Housing -The Jersey Journal







David slew Goliath. They became allies. And now Goliath is helping David build affordable single-family homes.That's the short version of how a community group came to begin building the Jackson Green Homes – 22 single-family homes across the street from the Hub shopping center on Martin Luther King Drive – with the help of a multinational conglomerate.

For eight years, Interfaith Community Organization and Honeywell International were bitter opponents in federal court. The community group, which is being reorganized under the banner Jersey City Together, sought to force the corporate goliath to remediate the 32-acre Roosevelt Lanes site off Route 440 – the largest known chromium site in the city – after Honeywell absorbed the company responsible for the actual pollution.

The three- and four-story homes that comprise the $7.2 million Jackson Green development are being sold for between $112,000 and $204,000 — a price that families earning 80 percent of the area's median income, or $61,000 for a family of four, can afford, Jersey City Together leaders said.

Several resources, including the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund and federal HOME funding, were tapped to keep the homes affordable. In this regard, the revolving loan construction fund is key, officials said. The fund gets replenished every time a buyer goes to closing, so the builder doesn't have to use conventional bank financing, which would dramatically drive up costs.  


Wed Jun 18, 2014

300 Gather to Demand Kindergarten in NY -lohud

Last week, supporters of a grass-roots effort to require kindergarten in New York rallied at St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in New Rochelle to call on the state legislators to support a bill that would do just that.

The group, Westchester United, drew nearly 300 people to the church to thank state Sen. Jeff Klein for his support for Assembly bill 5786 and Senate bill S5056 and to ask other legislators to follow suit.

In speaking to the crowd, the Rev Bruce Baker of All Soul's Parish in Port Chester, said,  "We're asking Speaker (Sheldon) Silver and Governor (Andrew) Cuomo to do the same thing that over 40 states, New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Utica have done: Guarantee Access to Kindergarten!"

Heriberto Contreras, of St Gabriel's Church, added, "With Senate Majority Leader Klein's full endorsement, we've made real progress in a world that's designed to obstruct and stop ordinary people like us from accomplishing anything."

Mon Jun 16, 2014

VOICE Op-Ed on Requiring Banks to Rebuild Communities Devastated by Foreclosure -The Hill

By Rev. Clyde Ellis, Rev. Keith Savage and Father Gerry Creedon

Hannah Senft, Candy Savannah and Ron Taylor have been neighbors for more than 20 years in Georgetown South, a community of 800 townhomes in Manassas, Virginia. It’s a diverse, working-class suburban neighborhood about 30 miles from the White House.

And it’s being decimated.

Many communities suffered in the housing crisis and, for residents of Georgetown South, there’s no end in sight. Not only did J.P. Morgan Chase and other predatory lenders flood the market with subprime loans that were structured to fail, they turned Georgetown South into a place where absentee landlords allow their properties to fall into squalor as the neighborhood struggles to rebuild. 

VOICE has already secured $30 million in commitments from Bank of America, General Electric and the Virginia Housing Development Authority to rehabilitate blighted properties and develop new housing in neighborhoods like Georgetown South. To date, J.P. Morgan Chase has refused to participate.

Used properly, the DOJ settlements create a powerful opportunity to help rebuild devastated communities like Georgetown South and others nationwide and to find justice for the millions of Ron’s still struggling. The question is: Will President Obama and Attorney General Holder compel bankers to really clean up their mess?


Tue Jun 10, 2014

GBIO Acts on Health Care Costs -The Boston Globe

Saying it’s worried that mounting medical costs are squeezing family and government budgets, a group that is representing dozens of Boston-area religious congregations wants the state Health Policy Commission to determine whether a pending deal between Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare System will make health care more affordable.

Leaders of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization hope to bring more attention to a tentative pact that would allow Partners to complete a takeover of South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, while placing limits on how much the state’s largest health care provider can charge for services and restricting its expansion for five to 10 years.

“This agreement has potentially very significant implications for efforts to control health costs,” the interfaith organization’s president, the Rev. Burns Stanfield, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston, wrote in a letter to the Health Policy Commission.

“We believe that the [commission] should review and evaluate the agreement, and then render a judgment as to whether in your opinion it is, or is not, in the interests of the Commonwealth.”

The interfaith group waded into the debate over medical care prices last September when it invited leaders of the area’s largest hospitals and health insurers to a meeting at Temple Israel in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area — and grilled them on what they could do to blunt the impact of soaring health costs.

Tue Jun 3, 2014

WIN Calls for Policy Changes at Shelter -Washington Post

The rally was sponsored by the Washington Interfaith Network, a congregation-based community organizing group. Members of the organization said they had been visiting residents at the shelter in the past six weeks, and have been stunned by their stories.

On Tuesday, residents spoke of power outages and uncooked meat served in the cafeteria. One held up a sign saying, “No rats, no roaches.” “I have been sick and my daughter has been sick,” said Bre Archie, 35, who has lived in the shelter for 16 months. “This is no place for children,” she added. “Its stressful for adults.”

WIN is the latest group calling for policy changes at the shelter, including adding on-site counselors and a playground. City officials were stunned this winter by a 135 percent increase in the number of homeless families seeking shelter during hypothermia season, when the District is legally obligated to house the homeless. In an unusually cold winter, about 550 children were packed into the old hospital. The overcrowding reflects a dire lack of affordable housing in the city.

Out of shelter space, the city began placing families in recreation centers and motels in the District and the Maryland suburbs. The city leaders eventually ended the practice of placing families in other jurisdictions and a judge declared the practice of using recreation centers unsafe and illegal.

Pastor Patrick Smith of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Northwest told the crowd it was time to add pressure to fix conditions there. He told representatives from the churches to think of residents as neighbors.

Mon Jun 2, 2014

Governor of CT Signs on to DNSIB -New Haven Register

Connecticut leaders seek changes from gun makers

MILFORD >> Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Bridgeport’s police chief and other leaders gathered at St. Gabriel’s School Monday to pledge their support of the national “Don’t Stand Idly By” anti-gun violence campaign that calls upon change to begin with gun manufacturers.

Malloy, who received huge applause from the crowd, announced he is joining a bipartisan list of leaders who have signed on to a Request for Information to the gun industry about basic information regarding distribution practices so that guns don’t get into the wrong hands, and about technologies to improve gun safety.

Malloy said he’d like to see all guns come with gun locks and also “smart guns” that recognize their owner, but working with manufacturers in this way is a movement in its infancy.

According to information distributed by CONECT via the “Do not Stand Idly By” campaign, taxpayers and the public sector have significant power in the firearms marketplace because only 40 percent of firearms are purchased by the military and law enforcement, including police.




Fri May 30, 2014

GCC Takes Action on Gun Violence and Overcharging -WKYC

CLEVELAND -- Their rallying phrase: Our united power builds a Greater Cleveland. It's strength in numbers. It's getting loud enough to get something done. The Greater Cleveland Congregations pulls people from more than 30 faith groups to make change from the ground up with one new goal: stopping illegal guns. 

There've been more than 40 shooting deaths already this year across Cuyahoga County. GCC is suggesting a county-wide initiative that pull federal, county and city leaders together to squeeze the pipeline of illegal guns and hold people accountable.

GCC also addressed what they call Cuyahoga County's "felon factory" Thursday. They urged prosecutors to save prison time for violent criminals and seek misdeameanor charges and other methods, like rehabilitation for drug crimes.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty spoke in response to these requests, saying the focus of his office will be "serious offenders," and the office has tripled the number of drug cases it sends to diversion programs. He said those changes could help filter down to create a stronger and more attractive region."When we have better justice, this will be a better place to raise our families and the exodus will end," said McGinty.


Sun Apr 6, 2014

Cleveland: Gun Companies Must Play Greater Role -Plain Dealer

Here’s an idea.

Let’s revamp this notion of gun control. Let’s make America a safer place by making it much more difficult for criminals to get guns – not the law abiding.

Not a new idea?

You’re absolutely right. But we must do a far better job of enforcing it. And gun manufacturers, both domestic and international, must play a more active role in helping to police their products. 

Let’s change the nature of America’s vitriolic gun debate and focus on something that the most pro-gun supporters and most vitriolic anti-gun crusaders can all agree on:

Keeping guns out of the hands of killers and opportunistic street criminals.

The groundwork is already being laid for this evolution in the gun debate. Indeed, there’s a compelling new school of thought emerging on how best to confront the epidemic of gun violence in America....

Thu Apr 3, 2014

GBIO's Work Helps Launch New STEM Academy -The Boston Globe

For the first time in more than a decade, Boston is about to embark on constructing a school, potentially kicking off a new era for a school system that has long struggled to bring projects to fruition.

...It took an incredible amount of tenacity for the Dearborn and its supporters, including the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and the Trinity Episcopal Church in Copley Square, to make their dream a reality. The project has evolved from a renovation to an entirely new building and is credited for helping save a school on the brink of closure.

At one monumental meeting in April 2010 that drew hundreds, organizers called in the mayor, superintendent, head of the school building authority, and the state treasurer to make commitments to the new school. Two years later, when the project was waning once again, organizers pressed the officials to promise a groundbreaking by spring 2014.

“This is very exciting and concrete and people understand we are moving along,” said the Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church. “People who have not known how to trust are learning now to trust promises and their own potential.”


Thu Feb 20, 2014

Amid Debate Over Pre-K, Kindergarten Could Be Lost

As anybody who reads local papers knows, there is an important political contest taking place in New York politics. The mayor and governor are arguing how to fund a full expansion to universal pre-kindergarten (UPK). Each side is holding firm, making moves, counter moves. The resolution of this conflict is important, not just for the game of politics between New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor, but for the future of all of New York State’s children. While we are waiting for this game of thrones to continue, it’s important to pose two questions to the state’s key players in this debate that remain, in our mind, unanswered.

The first is for Governor Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Silver. While the mayor and governor are focused on a universal full-day pre-k plan, the governor and Legislature have failed to plug another hole: protecting access in the state to kindergarten. That’s right. New York State is one of only eight states in the nation that does not guarantee kindergarten to all of its families. When districts’ budgets get tight, as they did two years ago, school districts in lower income communities all across the state consider cutting back to half-day kindergarten. Some did, and some threatened to eliminate kindergarten all together. With costs rising and revenues shrinking, the temptation to reduce or eliminate kindergarten will only grow.

Thu Jan 23, 2014

Westchester United in the NYT: Universal Pre-K -The New York Times

Andrew M. Cuomo arrived at The New York Times in an expansive mood on Wednesday. Reporters being reporters, they barraged him with the usual, “Hey, you going to let New York’s new mayor tax the wealthy in pursuit of prekindergarten” questions.

He smiled, jaunty: No problem. Prekindergarten with every bell and whistle the mayor could imagine — it’s all going to happen. “Whatever he needs,” he said of the new mayor. “As fast as he can phase in, we’ll fund it.”

Just one detail: The mayor will not accomplish this with a tax increase on the wealthy. Oh, and you know, the governor confided: “Nobody has a good estimate on what it is going to cost. The mayor appointed a commission to figure it out.” He smiled.

I got Michael Gecan on the telephone. A few years back, he and others fromWestchester United, a citizens’ group, pushed the governor to make good on 45,000 promised jobs from the Tappan Zee Bridge’s rebuilding.

For months, they couldn’t get a straight answer. Then a spokesman for the governor clarified that the governor was talking about 45,000 job years, which could mean 5,000 people working nine years. Or something like that.

What, I asked him, do you make of the governor’s latest promise? “It looks good, it sounds good, it just has to happen. It has to be real, right?”


Mon Jan 6, 2014

Metro IAF NY Work Airs on Dateline -NBC Dateline

On Sunday, January 5th, NBC Dateline aired an important story on Metro IAF's work to pressure the New York City Housing Authority to clean up the mold and moisture that causes asthma. This work led to a legal settlement with NYCHA and the CITY in December.

Mon Jan 6, 2014

Supply and Demand: Gun Safety in Our Lifetime -New York Daily News

On the one-year anniversary of Newtown, and approaching the fifteenth year after my father was murdered with a handgun in Chicago, I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long time regarding gun violence in America: optimism. Working with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation citizens’ organizing network, clergy in ten states have been approaching mayors, police chiefs, governors (and President Obama, who hasn’t responded) to ask that they pay more attention to the practices and capabilities of the companies they buy guns from.


Tue Dec 17, 2013

Metro IAF NY Wins Federal Judicial Oversight to Ensure Real Cleanup of Mold by NYCHA -New York Daily News

The City Housing Authority is about to come under judicial oversight to erase one of its worst plagues — creeping mold in aging apartments, the Daily News has learned.

The city signed off on a consent decree Monday that will give a federal judge the ability to ensure the New York City Housing Authority finally eradicates the longstanding and dangerous condition.

The federal court intervention is seen as a game-changer in the battle to reform NYCHA’s inability to tackle an issue that affects hundreds of tenants citywide.


Mon Dec 16, 2013

German Deutsche Welle Interviews Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on Metro-IAF's Gun Violence Reduction Campaign -Deutsche Welle

One year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, US gun violence continues unabated. European manufacturers compound the problem.

The father of Joel Mosbacher, a rabbi from New Jersey, was shot dead in a petty robbery in 1999. The anger stayed with his son, but he decided to use it wisely and got involved in the citizens' organizing network Metro IAF.

This year, he and other clergy from New Jersey started the "Do Not Stand Idly By" initiative to reduce gun violence. A key demand is to get gunmakers to accept responsibility, and act accordingly.

The top manufacturers fueling US gun culture are all European. Mosbacher and other local clergy have therefore decided to raise awareness and confront the manufacturers in Europe. DW talked to Rabbi Mosbacher about his visit.

Fri Dec 13, 2013

VOICE presses for Affordable Housing Units on Public Land -Sun Gazette

Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE, is asking County Board members to direct staff to analyze a list of publicly owned sites that could be used for affordable housing, and report back next April with the three most feasible sites.

The goal? Cut the cost of construction by building on parcels that the government already owns.

The ecumenical organization plans to present County Board Chairman Walter Tejada on Dec. 12 with a 10,000-signature petition in support of its effort, then turn up en masse at the Dec. 14 County Board meeting to press its case.

VOICE leaders have been meeting individually with County Board members over the past week. Organizers of the effort say board members have been receptive and asked informed questions, offering varying degrees of support for the concept.

VOICE of late has pressed for changes in county policy that would provide housing for those with significantly less income than those traditionally helped by the government’s existing policy, which focuses mostly on families earning no less than 50 percent of the region’s median income. VOICE wants the focus shifted to assist those earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the median.

In a timeline put together by VOICE, the county government would move forward next June with a three-year plan for adding housing to public parcels, then cast a net for proposals from both for-profit and non-profit developers. Under the proposed timeline, ground-breaking on the first project would take place in December 2015.

Fri Dec 13, 2013

Common Ground Health Care Co-op Enrollment Surges -Business Journal

Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, a creature of an Obamacare initiative for nonprofit customer-owned health plans, has enrolled more than 2,200 Wisconsinites so far — and 75 percent to 80 percent of them enrolled via the online health-insurance marketplace.

Bob De Vita, chief executive officer of Brookfield-based Common Ground, said he is confident the co-op will meet his goal of signing 10,000 people by the end of 2014.

“I would say with 19 counties in our service area, we’re going to be able to eclipse that,” he told an audience at the Milwaukee Press Club downtown at a luncheon Wednesday. “It’s a bold statement to make, but I think we’re going to do it.”


Fri Dec 13, 2013

Metro IAF Delegation Lobbies Gun Manufacturers Abroad -New York Daily News

Clergy members from Metro IAF affiliates left Sunday, December 9th to lobby European gun manufacturers as part of the “Do Not Stand Idly By” gun violence reduction campaign. The clergy are seeking meetings with Austria’s Glock, Germany’s SIG Sauer and Italy’s Berretta, which dominate gun sales to police departments and government agencies in the U.S.

Their goals are to:

  1. Meet with executives at the major gun manufacturers Glock, SIG Sauer, and Baretta, as well as officials, policymakers, and local leaders.
  2. Learn more about European efforts to develop the relatively "safe gun" and firearms tracing technologies.
  3. Discuss the importance of conditions placed on firearms export licenses from Europe to the U.S.

Metro IAF has gotten a lot of press over this trip, including internationally. Read all about it here:

New York Daily News:

Huffington Post:

Redattore Sociale: (Italian- Click HERE for translation)

Suddeutsche: (German- Click HERE for translation)


Tue Dec 10, 2013

Preventing Gun Violence a Year After Newtown -The Huffington Post

The days after the Newtown massacre, I, like so many religious and civic leaders, had the difficult task of meeting with scared parents and frightened students about the school shooting. There was nothing I could say that could possibly console them or alleviate all of their fears. My role was primarily one of listening and helping people find words to describe what they were feeling.

In many streams of Jewish thought, as in many other traditions, reflection is thought to be the basis for action. Careful, thoughtful, concerted action in response to what we learn through the reflective process. To the dismay of many, we as a country have not taken decisive action to prevent gun violence.

Gun violence has continued. I and many others feel far too passive as we watch the news and see story after story about it.

Sun Dec 8, 2013

NY, NJ clergymen to lobby European gun makers to toughen rules for U.S. sales -NY Daily News

In a novel approach, the religious leaders fly across the Atlantic on Sunday to push European gun manufacturers, who have a roughly 25% share of the U.S. market, to apply some of the more stringent standards they already follow in their own countries to the weapons they sell in the U.S.


They want the European gunmakers, for example, to refuse to allow their weapons to be sold through unlicensed gun dealers. They also want the manufacturers to renounce political meddling in the U.S. through contributions to lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association.

Their mission is the work of the Metro Industrial Arts Foundation, better known as Metro IAF, the highly effective grass-roots organizing group that is legendary in New York for building thousands of units of affordable housing.