Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Progressive Education and Research Associates, Inc. d/b/a
New Haven Peoples Center
37 Howe Street, New Haven Connecticut 06511
June 5, 2012
Statement by Progressive Education and Research Associates, Inc.
regarding the request for state bonding funds to restore the New Haven Peoples Center

The withdrawal of funds from the state bonding budget to restore the historic New Haven Peoples Center is a blow to democracy at the expense of the people of this city. 
This 1851 Italianate building which is a site on the state Freedom Trail meets all criteria for bonding funds, as was attested to by the office of the Governor.  However, a group opposed to the multi-racial and multi-cultural youth, labor, civil rights and peace programs offered at the Center, sought to stop the funding by creating a charged political atmosphere, resorting to McCarthyite-style anti-communism. 
Initial complaints by Republicans that two officers of the building are members of the Communist Party USA were unsuccessful in stopping the funding. Next, a veterans motorcycle group and other veterans were recruited to come to New Haven for a protest at the site of the building. They opposed the funding on the grounds that the People's World, the newspaper of the Communist Party, has an office in the Peoples Center. 
Their purpose was to create an anti-communist media frenzy.  They ignored the fact that the bonding request was to restore an historic building.  They ignored the many veterans who participate with the Peoples Center including president Alfred Marder who was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism during WW II.  They did not have any interest in the youth, immigrant, cultural and educational activities so vital to New Haven.  They disregarded the wide array of support by elected officials, labor leaders, clergy, peace and progressive organizations representing tens of thousands of Connecticut residents. 
Their press conference launched a weekend campaign to pressure members of the Bond Commission to vote no.  It is a shameful and sad day in Connecticut that the request was pulled by the Governor when nothing had changed regarding the validity of the project.
The People's World is one of many groups who utilize the Peoples Center along with Unidad Latina en Accion, New Elm City Dream, Jobs and Unemployed Committee, the Marsalka reference library, Free 2 Spit, the Peace Council, many unions including SEIU 32 BJ, AFSCME Council 4, and many more. As a newspaper, the People's World should be treated as such without discrimination against its content.
Giving in to such a threat opens the door to fear and division and diminishes our state.  All those who believe in the Constitutional right to freedom of expression should be outraged at this dangerous development. If one project or group can be discriminated against, any project or group can be next.
We call upon all supporters of the Peoples Center, all democratic minded people in Connecticut, all those who appreciate the rich labor and anti-racism history and contributions of the Peoples Center, all those who have benefited from participating at the Peoples Center to come forward and speak out against this grave injustice. 
Together we can create the necessary counter pressure to restore the Peoples Center, reflecting its continuity since 1937 as a labor - community center for social, educational and cultural activities. From housing the first inter-racial theater group and basketball team in New Haven in the 30's and 40's, to the first homeless run day center in the 90s, to the youth organizing and immigrant worker organizing of today. 
Messages of support to Sen. Toni Harp for her unwavering stand in defense of the funding are appreciated. Messages urging Governor Malloy to reconsider his decision are in order. Comments posted on media websites covering the story are helpful.
Excerpts of some of the testimonials of support for funding submitted to Gov. Danell Malloy:
New Haven Board of Aldermen:
"As city officials we are acutely aware of entities who are committed to the public good and deserve our support. We can say without hesitation that this is one of those agencies. We have very few places like this in our city and are in desperate need of more. Until we have more we must support the ones we have. Without the state bonding funds we risk losing this facility as well."
Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen:
"Constituents and myself very much appreciate the historic contributions to the good and welfare of the community and support funding for the Center's restoration....It makes a tremendously valuable contribution to the well-being of our community, and I am therefore committed to help the Peoples Center continue and grow its work."
Connecticut AFL-CIO
"This building is of great historic value as well as a vital resource for labor and community today....We are aware of some opposition from some Republicans. We want to empahsize that Connecticut and New Haven are greatly enriched by the presence and contributions of the Peoples Center. Restoring the building is an excellent investment."
The Amistad Committee, Inc.
"The Amistad Committee, as the mandated coordinator of the official State of Connecticut Freedom Trail endorses the proposal to fund reapirs to the historic New Haven Peoples Center, a sit on the Freedom Trail."
AFSCME Council 4
"Since its founding, the New Haven Peoples Center has been an anchor of forward thinking and community engagement....Today the Peoples Center carries on that tradition and continues to press for a stronger community, one free of prejudice and self-destruction. It is both a piece of our history and a part of our future. Council 4 AFSCME is a proud supporter of the Peoples Center. However it is badly in need of repair. We urge you to fulfill this request. We cannot afford to lose such a cherished landmark."
UNITE HERE Local 217
"The Peoples Center recognizes the human rights and dignity of all working people. It is a place that all our members can enjoy....The Peoples Center has stood firm for the rights of immigrant workers and their families, and in so doing represents the greater good of the entire community. WE appreciate all the assistance that can be given to insure the restoration of this wonderful building so that the important work taking place there can continue and grow."
UNITE HERE Unions at Yale
"The Peoples Center is well known to our members who hve appreciated many events and programs held each year featuring speakers and cultgural programs that have provided a forum where our members and their families can share their accomplihments and conerns and enjoy events with the broader community. The Peoples Center has been a steadfast friend and ally to the working families of New Haven and Connecticut. We are proud to support the Peoples Center as a place that makes our community strong."
Greater New Haven Central Labor Council
"This institution has been pro-active for the needs of working people for 75 years....The Peoples Center is vital to our community and beyond that to the state of Connecticut. Funding the restoration project is a worthy and important investment for the working people of Connecticut."
"Our union fully supports the request for bonding funds to restore the building at 37 Howe Street in New Haven which houses the New Haven Peoples Center....Restoring the building is an excellent investment. It will benefit the historic area in which it is located, and it will benefit all of those who have used and continue to enjoy the opportunities it provides."
The youth of the New Elm City Dream
"Being in the Peoples' Center helps the youth stay off the streets and helping the community, and also it is training us the youth in our community to become leaders. The Peoples Center helped a lot of the youth to do much better in school and with some of their personal issues, such as their behavior and grades....The building needs repairs and needs a face lift. If it gets repaired more youth will come, and the building....can positively affect young lives for years to come. Also, right now we are making history by planning a March for Youth Jobs on June 16, 2012.

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