Since our founding in 1994 Community Voices Heard has continually won concrete improvements for low income communities.
Good Jobs & Access to Them | A Just Social Safety Net | Truly Affordable Housing | A Participatory Democracy | Sustainable Communities | Awards & Honors
Good Jobs & Access to Them
- Community Voices Heard pushed New York City to create more than 30,000 plus paid transitional jobs for welfare recipients (averaging 3,000 annually), beginning with the groundbreaking Parks Opportunity Program in 2002 and later with the Department of Sanitation, through a legislative and implementation campaign. CVH went on to win a statewide Transitional Jobs Program in 2010.
- CVH members in Westchester got the got the City of Yonkers to “Ban the Box” – eliminating the check box on municipal job applications asking if the applicant has been convicted of a felony, opening up access to jobs to ex-offenders.
- CVH fought to preserve the City of Poughkeepsie’s public bus system, preventing it from being taken over by the County. We won public assurances from both the Mayor of Poughkeepsie and the City Council that there will be similar funding for City buses in the budget, that neighborhood service will be preserved with no substantial changes in bus routes, no layoffs in bus service, and that signs and schedules will be posted at major bus stops.
- CVH got New York City, under Mayor Bloomberg, to create the Commission for Economic Opportunity to focus on poverty and joblessness. CVH got the Commission to focus on the integration of the city's workforce development systems as a priority moving forward; and successfully inserted paid transitional jobs and CUNY/ SUNY access into the anti-poverty agenda.
A Just Social Safety Net
- CVH scored a monumental victory in October 2014 when NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks announced a plan to implement sweeping reforms of how the city administers public assistance. The cornerstone of this plan is the elimination of the Work Experience Program, the city’s primary unpaid “workfare” program within two years. CVH has been fighting to eliminate this program, in favor of a paid jobs program with education and training options, since the early days of the organization.
- CVH released major policy reports on New York City's Welfare-to-Work programs (including WEP, POP, ESP and WeCARE) and Back to Work program, with major recommendations that we put forth informing new concept papers that will implement an overhaul of the welfare system’s employment services programs in NYC.
- CVH led efforts to avert shut-down of the Newburgh Mental Health Clinic. Members petitioned, called allies in city council and county legislature to action, and met with Orange County Commissioner of Mental Health resulting in the announcement that the clinic will remain open indefinitely.
- CVH successfully pushed New York City’s then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to create a new Deputy Mayor position to focus on Health and Human Services (HHS).
- CVH members drafted, and got NY State Assembly and Senate members to sponsor, a bill outlawing the use of WEP and other unpaid work to meet federal requirements for public assistance throughout NY State. Although the first bill did not make it to vote, CVH got the bill re-introduced in the State Legislature, where it is currently moving through the committee process.
- Members campaigned for and got the New York City Council to pass the City Access to Training & Educate Law that allowed welfare recipients to go to school.
- CVH worked to stop a 25% benefit reduction in welfare grants & saved welfare for childless adults in New York State.
Truly Affordable Housing, Including Public Housing
- In 2015, CVH's Westchester County Chapter secured $120,000 in the County budget for an affordable housing needs assessment.
- CVH’s Public Housing Campaign scored a major win early in 2014 when the newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio ended payments by the NY City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for the basic city services of policing and sanitation under a Memorandum of Understanding with the NY City Police Department and the Department of Sanitation. This came after a multi-year campaign by our members to end the payments, including work done during the Mayoral Campaign to highlight public housing issues with all the Mayoral candidates. In 2015, Mayor de Blasio permanently terminated the MOU. The ending of these payments is freeing up vital funds that are being applied to further address the repair backlog within NYCHA developments.
- CVH members were able to move New York City’s Mayor and City Council to include an additional $100 million for NYCHA in the FY2016 budget, and the State Legislature to allocate $100 million for NYC public housing in the state budget, the first time such funding has been made available in over 20 years. The City also forgave NYCHA from PILOTs (Payments In Lieu of Taxes), saving NYCHA an additional $100 million.
- CVH members got then-NY Governor Eliot Spitzer to sign the Shelter Allowance Bill, increasing payments that the state makes for the rent of public assistance recipients, which has added $47 million annually for NYCHA’s operating budget.
A Participatory Democracy
- CVH kick-started the largest Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in the United States in the City of New York which now has 28 participating Council Districts and determines spending decisions for over $35 million annually. PB is a process through which ordinary people get to directly decide how public monies are spent.
- CVH released the report “Democracy (In)Action: How HUD, NYCHA, and Official Structures Undermine Resident Participation in New York City Public Housing”, about the shortcomings and challenges of the current system of public housing resident participation. One of our main recommendations was to implement Participatory Budgeting in NYCHA. The City Council appropriated funds in the FY 2016 budget to support the implementation of a PB process to public housing. While other jurisdictions have various mechanisms for input into their public housing budget, this will be the first PB process in the U.S. that allows any resident of an affected public housing development to vote directly on how to appropriate public money in their developments.
- CVH helped get the Orange County Legislature to table and ultimately redraw the boundaries for new legislative districts. The original redrawn lines had packed Newburgh residents of color into one “majority-minority” district. The new lines created two “majority-minority” districts in the City of Newburgh.
Sustainable & Resilient Communities
- In 2016, CVH released an East Harlem Neighborhood Plan - in collaboration with the Speaker of the City Council the Manhattan Borough President and Community Board 11 and a host of other Steering Committee Members. This plan serves as a robus model for a bottom-up, participatory planning effort and is helping to shift how NYC thinks about comprehensive community based planning efforts.
- We worked successfully in coalition to get a Foreclosure Bond Ordinance passed in Poughkeepsie, the first such ordinance in NY State. It places the financial burden of maintaining property in foreclosure on the banks, requiring a bond the City can tap for upkeep of the property.
- The Westchester County Legislature passed a 2015 budget that included nearly everything CVH members demanded: a 3% increase in afterschool funding, $687,000 additional funding for childcare, $60,000 for the childcare outreach position at Child Care Council, and $75,000 for a Youth Shelter Program.
- CVH participated in the creation and launch of the Newburgh Community Land Bank, which takes ownership of City-owned vacant properties and facilitates their responsible rehabilitation. CVH leaders have served as delegates to the Land Bank’s Board of Directors and its Resident Advisory Committee.
- CVH members in Newburgh were able to push a developer to pay back CDBG funds that he misappropriated, and were also able to push the city to direct these funds to establish a local jobs hiring and training center.
Awards & Honors
- 2015 -- Innovation in American Government Award, Harvard Ash Center -- CVH, along with the Participatory Budgeting Project and the New York City Council, received the Innovation in American Government Award as part of the Participatory Budgeting NYC (PBNYC) initiative for our work in bringing truly democratic participatory governance to NYC.
- 2015 -- Back to the Future, Progressive Technology Project -- Progressive Technology Project presented an award to CVH for being instrumental to the work of PTP and having amplified our community organizing work with the power of technology.
- 2015 -- True Blue, New Kings Democrats -- The New Kings Democrats presented the Participatory Budgeting Central Organizing Team, of which CVH is a part, with their True Blue honor for creating the space to empower others to make decisions for their own communities, one dollar at a time.
- 2014 -- Honoree, Participatory Budgeting Project -- The Participatory Budgeting Project honored CVh at its 2014 celebration for our vision and commitment to Participatory Budgeting in NYC.
- 2013 -- People’s Voice Award, Fifth Avenue Committee -- The Fifth Avenue Committee People’s Voice Award goes to groups that work to uplift ordinary citizens’ voices in community decision-making. CVH received the 2013 award along with our partners in the 2012 NYC Inaugural Participatory Budget Group.
- 2013 -- Best Practice in Open Government, Obama Administration -- The Obama Administration recognized Participatory Budgeting (PB) as a best practice in Open Government as part of a new National Action Plan. CVH was then invited to the White House with organizations from across the country to highlight our outreach & engagement work around PB.
- 2012 -- Jesse Crawford Community Service Award, Three Parks Independent Democrats -- The Three Parks Independent Democrats presented CVH with the Jesse Crawford Community Service Award for its 'invaluable work improving the lives of low-income families and communities.
- 2012 -- Brooke V. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Board Leadership, Finalist -- This Award from the Volunteer Consulting Group recognizes the critical volunteer experience of nonprofit Board service. CVH was one of five finalists in the inaugural year of the award.
- 2009 -- Frederick Douglass Award, North Star Fund -- The North Star Fund Frederick Douglass Award recognizes grantees making exceptionally innovative community-driven change. CVH and long-time ally and partner organization VAMOS Unidos received the award in 2009.
- 2009 -- Distinguished Honoree, National Center for Law & Economic Justice -- NCLEJ works to advance the cause of economic justice for low-income families, individuals and communities across the country. CVH Executive Director Sondra Youdelman was honored with Michael D. Fricklas, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Viacom, Inc. and John DeWitt Gregory, NCLEJ Board member and Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law at Hofstra University.
- 2009 -- American Express Building Leadership Award, Independent Sector -- The American Express Building Leadership Award, formally known as the Leadership IS Award, is sponsored by American Express. The award, which was established in 1999, recognizes the importance of investing in leaders of the nonprofit community by celebrating an organization that embodies this principle in spirit and practice.
- 2001 -- Leadership for a Changing World -- Leadership for a Changing World seeks to recognize, strengthen and support leaders and to highlight the importance of community leadership in improving people’s lives. Awardees are provided with shared learning and networking opportunities; financial support for their work and; an opportunity to research how leadership is perceived, created and sustained.