For Leroy Johnson, a compactly built man with a lilting West Indian accent, standing up for ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is a matter of giving back to the organization that saved his apartment.
“The minute ACORN stepped into the forefront at the Parkview Apartments, everything changed,” he said, recalling how the landlord of the 128-unit, seven-building complex on Parkside Avenue in Flatbush wanted to opt out of the federally subsidized Section 8 program earlier this year.
Johnson said after ACORN became involved the landlord agreed to keep the program, allowing several tenants to keep their apartments.
Johnson, who joined ACORN as a community organizer about two years ago after a volunteer knocked on his door, was one of several hundred ACORN and non-ACORN people who attended a rally last week at the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church in Downtown Brooklyn in support of the organization.
The rally came as ACORN came under fire recently in Brooklyn and nationally when two undercover citizen journalists posing as a pimp and a prostitute were told on video how to launder earnings to obtain a house.
The expose led to ACORN losing millions of dollars in government funding and prompting an internal audit.
Amongst the cuts included funding from the IRS, in which ACORN received money for a tax assistance program that offered free advice to low- and moderate-income taxpayers.
“It is absolutely critical that taxpayers have trust in our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program partners,’’ the IRS said in a statement. “In light of recent events, the IRS has decided to terminate its relationship with ACORN.’’
But Johnson and others at the rally characterized the expose as a right-wing media conspiracy designed to discredit an organization that has empowered millions of low- and moderate-income people across the country. ACORN, founded in Brooklyn in 1982, is also credited with getting huge voter turnouts in several swing states.
Johnson said when the video came out he and other ACORN members were in Albany fighting to repeal vacancy decontrol laws.
ACORN is in the forefront of fighting for housing rights and improvements in education and health care, he said.
Others at the rally recalled how ACORN was instrumental in keeping affordable housing at Starrett City, the largest subsidized housing complex in the nation located in East New York just outside Canarsie.
Pat Boone, President of New York ACORN, said the rally showcased the support garnered throughout working-class New York.
“We are proud that so many New Yorkers and community groups who know the real work that ACORN has done for years and years in neighborhoods across New York City got the chance to stand up today and talk about the ACORN they know,” she said.
©2009 Community News Group
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