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City's Final Inwood Library Presentation Leaves Out Spanish Speakers

 The final Inwood Library redevelopment project report was presented Monday night in English only, leaving the predominantly Spanish-speaking community
The final Inwood Library redevelopment project report was presented Monday night in English only, leaving the predominantly Spanish-speaking community "disempowered," residents say.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

INWOOD — The city made its final report on the Inwood Library redevelopment project to over a hundred residents at Community Board 12 this week — but despite a large Spanish-speaking population who requested a translator, the speech was entirely in English.

The New York Public Library, Housing Preservation Development and the Robin Hood Foundation, which are partnering on the Inwood Library redevelopment project, presented their final report Monday night as part of joint meeting between Community Board 12's Youth and Education Committee and the Housing Committee.

Eugenie Dubnau, member of the Riverside-Edgecombe Neighborhood Association asked CB12 chairman Shah Ally at the start of Monday night’s meeting whether the board had brought much-requested translators to the meeting to aid Spanish speakers.

“Are you going to have this bilingual tonight?” Dubnau asked.

But Shah said despite requests to do so, there was no translator present.

“No, we’re not going to have the translation services available tonight. But that’s something that we would be working on,” Ally said, adding that “it is a very big issue.”

“We have headsets, but we don’t have [a translator],” Ally went on. “But there is material in Spanish.”

DNAinfo New York reported last year that while CB12 and other boards around the city have received pricey translation headsets on the taxpayer dime, but fail to use them because there are no funds to pay interpreters for the services.

Dubnau said this is “embarrassing for the community board,” who she says “disempowered the Latino community” with last night’s lack of translation services.

According to a profile conducted by the Department of Health in 2015 on CB12, 71 percent of Washington Heights and Inwood identify as Hispanic.

“They do it on purpose. This is all just show… pretending to involve the community,” Dubnau said, adding that her organization, as well as the group she’s a part of Northern Manhattan Is Not 4 Sale, has asked that they do more to involve other local groups and organizations that work with Spanish-speakers in the community.

Meanwhile, HPD says they’ve conducted outreach to the Spanish-speaking community.

“Spanish translators were present at all three workshops and all materials were in both English and Spanish.” The agency did not provide DNAinfo New York with a list of the organizations they’ve conducted outreach to in Inwood.

The presentations also — as of Tuesday afternoon — were only listed in English on the website provided to the community.

The NYPL and HPD said they’re going to share — but not make a presentation — the final conclusions of the public visioning process at the CB12 general board meeting on Tuesday, May 23 at the Richard M. Ruzika Theater Campbell Sports Complex 505 West 218th Street and Broadway.