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Uptown Housing Coalition Raises Money for Spanish-Speaking Translators

By Carolina Pichardo | October 12, 2016 10:37am
 Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale said the money raised via the Go Fund Me campaign is to pay for translation and interpreting services for two upcoming meetings for Spanish speaking residents.
Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale said the money raised via the Go Fund Me campaign is to pay for translation and interpreting services for two upcoming meetings for Spanish speaking residents.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

INWOOD — A coalition of nonprofit organizations trying to raise awareness in upper Manhattan about housing concerns and upcoming zoning changes wants extra funding to provide more workshops in the community.

Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale, which has organized several dozen meetings and rallies since it was created in early 2016, has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for translation and interpreting services for several upcoming meetings to help explain the city's Inwood NYC Neighborhood Study rezoning proposal and the mayor's affordable housing plans to the Spanish-speaking community.

The fundraising campaign had raised $835 of the $1,200 goal as of Wednesday morning.

"We are working hard to improve communication at all our meetings despite our limited resources," Graham Ciraulo, the group's spokesman, wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York.

“We've been paying a lot of money to get top-notch translation at our community meetings,” he added. “We do all we can to ensure that both English and Spanish speakers are able to process information and communicate their thoughts and concerns on an equal level. But it has not been perfect ... the nature of housing policy discussions makes simultaneous translation extremely challenging, because so much of the language is highly technical, which is why we need experienced translators.”

Interpretation services often cost between $500 to $600 per meeting, and the organization has been using Caracol Interpreters Coalition and

as well as translation headset equipment from Community Board 12 and Faith in New York, although often they don’t have enough headsets for everyone who wants them.  

As DNAinfo reported previously, uptown's Community Board 12 has pledged to translate more of their own meetings for Spanish speakers, after struggling to find funds for translators despite having translation headsets intended for that purpose.

Caracol provides Spanish and English services for several nonprofits and agencies, including Henry Street Settlement, the city's Department of City Planning and Department of Education, a spokeswoman said, adding that they require the organization to “be doing some kind of work in the community to improve the living condition in the community.”

Organizers said that housing policy can be “difficult enough for native English speakers to process...in English.” Still, Ciraulo said the organizations are determined to clear the communication hurdles.

“We are also looking at doing some zoning education sessions,” Ciraulo said. “These will also likely be in Spanish w/ English translation. Our main goal is to bring the monolingual Spanish population into the conversation.”

Organizers from Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale have been working to influence the city and policymakers on preserving affordable housing and preventing displacement of existing businesses and residents in upper Manhattan.

The group wrote a letter last month to EDC, Community Board 12 as well as elected officials including Brewer, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark, Viverito and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez among others, asking that the city extend the timeline for the Inwood Neighborhood Planning.

The city's Economic Development Corporation has been planning to wrap up its outreach for the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Study — which launched in September 2015 — by 2017.  

The organization is having a meeting at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Good Shepherd School at 620 Isham St. They're also planning a retreat for all organizers on Saturday, Oct. 29, where they want to provide translation as well.