WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Northern Manhattan has got an agenda, but it needs help shaping it.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez launched a coalition of electeds and local arts and advocacy groups called the Northern Manhattan Agenda on Thursday to better address the needs of the community.
The plan is to create working groups that would give teeth to grassroots efforts to improve education, health, economic development, housing, and arts and culture within the community. But Rodriguez said he's still looking for more neighborhood groups to join.
“For much too long, we have been lax in terms of pulling ourselves together to create what we envision our community to look like, be like, think like, feel like — and I think most of us can agree with that,” said Yvonne Stennett of Community League of the Heights, one of several advocacy groups that have already joined the cause.
“And I’m not just talking about the initiatives around rezoning, I’m talking about encompassing our entire community and what we all do.”
Rodriguez announced the initiative Thursday morning at Yeshiva University alongside Stennett, State Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, State Senator Marisol Alcantara and Sandra Harris of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Some of the organizations present were the HDFC Coalition, Inwood Preservation, Jazz Power Initiative, Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, Pan American Art, United Palace, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia.
Rodriguez said he invites more groups to participate, and urged attendees to contact their network of local organizations as well.
The group will put out meeting dates in newsletters to the public, but they will not be open to the public.
"Community groups based in or which provide substantial services to the Northern Manhattan community were invited and the coalition is welcome to any who meet this criteria," said Rodriguez spokesman Russell Murphy, "We want this to be a comprehensive body with voices of those that know the issues and concerns on the ground and which are interested in working collaboratively to solve them. We organized this meeting to help bring together uptown service providers and advocates specifically, to marshal their collective resources to compete for grants, provide a resource directory, work holistically on community challenges and more."
Harris said the goal of Thursday's breakfast was to organize the steering committees, which were broken down into five groups — education, health, economic development, housing, and arts and culture.
The project, Harris said, is aimed at strengthening the actions of Community Board 12, by offering a platform to identify the concerns and disseminate information from each group, identify resources and address gaps in services.
While some of the members of CB12 signed up to be on the conferences, the meetings will happen independently of CB12, officials said.
"We have identified five working groups to come together and begin to first assess what are the resources, the needs and services we have in each of the areas identified for these five working groups," Harris said. "The task will be for these groups to come together, identity co-chairs or co-leaders for the working groups and time frames to meet, and put this work together."
The steering committee will meet monthly for the next four months, and then meet quarterly, to plan for grants, create and maintain a website for the endeavor, and circulate funding opportunities for the needs of the community, officials said.
"When we fail to plan, we become vulnerable," Stennett said. "We become open to other individuals and other entities planning for our families and our community."
Organizers said they're still seeking the support and input of other community-based organizations. The goal is to have 20 representatives for each working group.