Greenpoint Gazette

Brooklyn A Keeps Up Shriver’s War on Poverty

BY Jeff Mann

The timing could not have been better. While Occupy Wall Street was wrapping up its “day of action” with a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, just a few blocks away, at the Brooklyn Marriott, Brooklyn Legal Services A, for whom every day is a day of action, was celebrating its 43rd anniversary.

Brooklyn Legal Services A (or just Brooklyn A) provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals in North and East Brooklyn. It also partners with local organizations that share its commitment to protecting those individuals. Its work has helped create and maintain affordable housing, primary care health facilities, senior citizen and day care centers, charter schools, and tenant associations and cooperatives.

Thursday night, November 17th, at the Marriott saw Brooklyn A celebrating a successful year and honoring those that helped achieve it. According to Marty Needelman, Brooklyn A’s Project Director & Chief Counsel their biggest accomplishments in 2011 included their continued work with the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Tenant-Anti Displacement Collaborative (a coalition of local tenant advocates Los Sures, St. Nick’s Alliance, People’s Firehouse, NAG, and North Brooklyn Development Corp.) to keep long-term residents in their homes and the fight for broader community involvement in the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle Urban Renewal Area at the border of Williamsburg and Bed Stuy.

The highlight of the evening was the inauguration of the first Sargent Shriver Memorial Award, named for the late Sargent Shriver. As head of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and the Office of Economic Opportunity, Shriver created and led the national legal services program, from which Brooklyn A grew, and endowed them with their mission to bring justice to the neighborhoods’ lower income residents. His son, Mark, director of the Save the Children Foundation, accepted the award on his family’s behalf.

“Sarge’s incredible work, and the legacy, vision and mission that he gave us, initially came at a time, like ours, of dramatic economic problems, huge internal conflicts, and a divisive and questionable war,” said Needelman. “We should learn from his commitment to government devoting itself to making things better, at both a global – but perhaps more importantly – at a local, neighborhood level. Bringing justice to low income communities, and lawyers in support of neighborhood based initiatives, to salvage, reconstruct, grow and sustain those neighborhoods for their long term residents, was and should be the way we go. Brooklyn A is proud to have maintained that as our Vision and Mission too!”

Dan Nissenbaum of Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group and Harvey Lawrence, Executive Director of the Brownsville Multi Service Family Health Center, were also honored at the event, which was emceed by NY1’s Roma Torre.

As 2011 comes to a close, Needelman is gearing up for 2012. Number one on his wish list is to reverse massive proposed cutbacks to Legal A’s resources and to “expand the scope of their much-needed work on behalf of the lower income residents of North and East Brooklyn.”

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