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Nearing Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, “Key to the City” Initiative Launches Fifth Season in Far Rockaway


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  E-mail: Thanu Yakupitiyage
New York  (Monday, October 5, 2015)

Nearing Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, “Key to the City” Initiative Launches Fifth Season in Far Rockaway

Successful Initiative by Coalition Receives Expanded Investment by City Council to Provide Full Immigration Services from New York Legal Assistance Group

(New York, NY) At Public School 253 in Far Rockaway on Sunday, October 4th, 2015, hundreds of immigrant community members lined up to apply for consular identification cards and passports, receive free immigration legal assistance, and access a full range of social, educational, health, and financial workshops and services. The event marks the first in the fifth season of the New York Immigration Coalition’s City Council-funded “Key to the City” Initiative (KTTC). Since 2011, this Initiative has served over 27,000 New Yorkers from nearly 50 countries, providing more than 16,000 with identity documents and more than 1,000 with immigration legal assistance.

Far Rockaway was a critical first site to host this year’s first Key to the City Event. The community members of this Queens neighborhood, having been severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy three years before, continue to work hard towards recovery from the storm’s devastating impact. Far too often they have faced marginalization from New York City’s service infrastructure, and bringing comprehensive services directly to this community exemplifies the dedication of the NYIC, City Council, and KTTC partners to meeting communities where they are.

This fiscal year, City Council has increased their investment to fund full immigration clinics from the New York Legal Assistance Group at all Key to the City Initiative events. As immigrant communities in New York continue to face a shortage of local, accessible services, this expanded investment demonstrates the impact of community-minded leadership that New Yorkers can count on from our City Council. As we look forward to a year of events across New York City, we are excited for the potential of the Key to the City Initiative to be the premier one-stop-shop for immigrant communities seeking holistic, community-based services.

KTTC was originally launched with the support of the New York City Council after the NYIC successfully advocated for the NYPD and the DOE to expand the list of acceptable forms of IDs that NYPD School Safety Agents could accept to include consular ID cards and foreign passports. Since advocating for this policy change, the NYIC has worked in close collaboration with the consulates of Latin America and the Caribbean to bring their consular services to schools in immigrant neighborhoods alongside social, educational, and legal services, workshops, and clinics.

As these events have expanded, we have used them as a vehicle to inform communities on the latest developments in comprehensive immigration reform, who is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), how to apply for a tax identification number, where local adult education opportunities exist, how to access affordable health care, how to avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud, and much more. Since November 2014, the NYIC has worked in partnership with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) to offer full legal screenings at all events, which will now be funded by City Council.

“We are enormously grateful to New York City Council for expanding their investment in the Key to the City Initiative so that we can now provide comprehensive immigration clinics through our partner, New York Legal Assistance Group,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “It is with the support of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito alongside her colleagues in the New York City Council and our strong partnerships with Central American, South American, and Caribbean Consulates, New York’s public schools, community groups, and legal service partners, such as NYLAG, that we are able to put together a comprehensive one-stop-shop event for immigrant communities This fall, our Key to the City events are even bigger than before and we look forward to supporting thousands of more New Yorkers across the 5 boroughs.”

"New York City should be inclusive and welcoming for all residents," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "The Council is proud to support our city's immigrant populations through increased investments in the Key to the City Initiative. The services provided by this initiatve can make a crucial difference in the lives of individuals and families living in all five boroughs."

“The Key to The City events have become a foundational component of immigration outreach in our neighborhoods. The model is trusted by immigrant New Yorkers and their families—and the results have offered us ample data to confirm what we’ve known all along: when immigrants are enfranchised—our communities are stronger and more vibrant. This year’s expansion of legal services to all events is particularly timely as the debates about the future of immigrant families become more divisive. As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Immigration, I am prepared to advocate for policy and budget measures that will help immigrant New Yorkers lead dignified and full lives. Thank you to the New York Immigration Coalition and to the New York Legal Assistance Group for their partnership, and their heroic work,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

"Expanding immigration legal assistance is crucial to ensuring residents have access to the variety of services offered throughout the city that allow immigrants to come out of the shadows and receive the benefits afforded to any New Yorker," said Council Member Donovan Richards. "In Far Rockaway, too many hard-working immigrants were unable to recover from Sandy simply because they did not have the proper documentation. Thankfully, the Key to the City initiative will now be able to provide its well-rounded community-based services to even more communities that are in need of assistance. I'd like thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, my colleagues in the City Council and the New York Immigration Coalition for their continued efforts to enhance immigrant services."

“The Consulate General of Mexico welcomes the launch of the Fifth Season of the Key to the City Initiative (KTTC) and recognizes the New York Immigration Coalition's (NYIC) exemplary leadership and advocacy on behalf of immigrant communities in New York, many of which are of Mexican origin, in particular through KTTC Initiative,” said Ambassador Sandra Fuentes-Berain, Consul General of Mexico in New York. “The Consulate acknowledges and welcomes as well the expanded investment of the New York City Council to offer full Immigration Legal Clinics from the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) within the KTTC events.Through the positive partnership established between the Mexican Consulate and NYIC, we have been able to bring a wide array of services to our communities, including hosting our Consulates on Wheels to provide documentation services, legal screenings and referrals, health information sessions and workshops, birth certificates and many more. I look forward to maintaining this strong alliance with NYIC, the NY City Council and NYLAG, which has become vital in our day-to-day activities to address the developing needs of the Mexican Community.”

“We are thrilled to continue our collaboration with the City Council and the New York Immigration Coalition in providing comprehensive legal screenings to immigrants who so desperately need them. We are grateful to Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Menchaca, for their unwavering commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of immigrants across our city. We also thank Councilmember Richards for sponsoring this latest Key to the City event,” said Beth Goldman, President and Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group. “As we approach the third anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, our upcoming event in Far Rockaway takes on a special significance. This community was hit hard by the disaster, and many residents still struggle with complex legal challenges. The road to recovery has been especially difficult for immigrants, who are often isolated and uninformed of their rights – or afraid to seek assistance. I hope they come out this Sunday and take advantage of the services NYLAG and our community partners are so eager to provide.”

“Embracing Chancellor Farinia's emphasis on collaboration, the P.S. 253Q community is thankful for our partnership with Councilman Donovan Richards and City Council. Collaboratively, we've been able to provide free legal and immigration services to our families and dental screening for over 200 students in Far Rockaway,” said P.S.253Q Principal, Phoebe Robinson. “We look forward to embarking on future initiatives that will continue to build awareness and offer opportunities; ultimately, better positioning our students and families for academic achievement and successful living.”

"Thank you to the NYIC for organizing another wonderful opportunity to bring a vital array of services deep into New York City neighborhoods”, said Marianne Scharf, Program Manager at Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans (CIANA). “As a community based organization, we are honored to be a part of Key to the City, and are proud to bring our holistic approach to immigrant services to the events."

At Sunday’s event, community members received a range of services, including:

  • Consular services to receive foreign passwords and consular IDs from the Consulate of Mexico and consular informational services from the Consulate of Guatemala.
  • Immigration legal screenings and assistance from New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • Information on DACA from Coalición Mexicana, through the Mexican Initiative for Deferred Action (MIDA)
  • Support making appointments to apply for NYC’s municipal ID program (IDNYC)
  • Information from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Information on Adult Literacy programs from Queens Library Far Rockaway branch
  • Information on Workforce and Career Development from Ocean Bay Community Development
  • Information on legal services from Center for the Integration and Advancement of New (CIANA)
  • Information on free, high quality childcare for parents from Living for the Young Family through Education (LYFE)
  • Health insurance enrollment from Public Health Solutions
  • Information about the Restoring Family Links program, for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, from the American Red Cross
  • Information on housing and food Stamps enrollment from Jewish Community Council of Rockaway Peninsula
  • Health access information from Joseph P. Addabo Family Health Center of Rockaway
  • Information on financial counseling from Urban Upbound
  • Information on child support enforcement from the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA)

New York Immigration Coalition and New York Legal Assistance Group staff with Council Member Donovan Richards and PS 253Q Principal Phoebe Robinson at Sunday's Key to the City Event in Far Rockaway on Sunday, October 4th, 2015. 

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The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)  is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.



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