Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rallies Planned Against GMHC's Move to Siberia

(The loading dock that is scheduled to be transformed into GMHC's separate entrance for people with AIDS at their new location. Image and bloody alteration by Marcelo Maia.)

The battle over the impending move of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) to a difficult-to-access neighborhood in New York City will heat up in the coming days. Two rallies are scheduled to take place on May 19 and I encourage everyone who cares about the direct-care service needs of people with HIV/AIDS to attend.

Here's an announcement from Marcelo Maia, head of GMHC's Consumer Advocacy Board, regarding the rallies:
On Wednesday, May 19, from noon to 2 pm, we are having a huge rally in front of GMHC's building, located at 119 W. 24th Street, where we will be asking the CEO Dr. Marjorie Hill and the two Co-Chairs of GMHC Board of Directors Mathew Moore and Odell Mays II to step down.

Later on the same day, from 4 to 5 pm, we plan to have a second rally in front of 450 W 33rd St to avoid the sealing of the deal with that building’s owner.

We see visions of a gloomy future for GMHC clients including …

- Segregated entrance for People with AIDS. Clients must use a separate entrance while staff can use the main entrance;

- reinforcing HIV stigma, homophobia & racism.
Last week the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the divisions in the AIDS community over GMHC's intentions to relocate to what is essentially Manhattan's Siberia:

A plan to move Gay Men's Health Crisis from its Chelsea home has split the AIDS advocacy group, pitting longtime activists against the board and its executive director.

With the nonprofit's rent rising on its home of nearly 15 years, GMHC is negotiating to lease space on the West Side, near Hudson Yards. The new building, at 450 W. 33rd St., would force GMHC to end or severely change some programs currently offered, such as a medical clinic, a full dining hall and a research center. Critics say the move threatens its mission.

"If it goes through, the feeling is that many of the clients will go elsewhere because it's just too inconvenient to get there," said Larry Kramer, the playwright and co-founder of the organization. [...]

Larry circulated an open letter to the community about the looming move, and he places it in the larger context of St. Vincent's hospital recently shutting its doors and the loss of their health services for PWAs:
By sold down the river, is meant that because of landlord restrictions in the new lease, clients in this awful new location will be forced to receive less food, any access to any medical facilities, and to utilize “Jim Crow” separate entrance and elevator, as well as suffer the physical hardship of traveling to a neighborhood that is harshly served by anything remotely resembling accessible public transportation. [...]

Instead of fighting against this illegal discrimination [of landlords refusing to rent to AIDS orgs], the board and Dr. Hill have caved. Instead of demanding help from our Mayor and our elected officials Christine Quinn and Tom Duane, the board and Dr. Hill have caved. [...]

Can Chelsea, which has the highest proportion of hiv+ people in the city, afford to lose GMHC after having lost St. Vincent’s?

One hideous fact must be dealt with immediately. As I understand it (and believe me trying to get details out of the Soviet Russia atmosphere that exists now on West 24th Street is not easy), unless GMHC withdraws from negotiations by this coming Friday, May 14th, they will be forced to pay a penalty of several million dollars to WNET/PBS. One wonders what truly incompetent individual is negotiating for GMHC. [...]
One aspect to all of this that bothers me is the failure of the GMHC leadership circle to hold community forums, for the affected and infected populations they serve. This, ahem, community-based org has not roused itself to put on a single town hall. I'm getting lots of emails from NYC friends about all the machinations going on, and no one mentions a thing about GMHC organizing forums.

To their credit, GMHC leaders have created a page on their site addressing these concerns, and one thing stands out:
In keeping with this tradition [of being an open org], we are now in the process of organizing a Community Forum to address questions and concerns from our Clients, allies, staff and community stakeholders.
This is laudable, but I've long been over AIDS Inc groups waiting until a full-scale and red-hot crisis is upon them before getting their act together to treat the community with respect, and that means open-to-all public meetings. And hold them _before_ important decisions are made.


Anonymous said...

Most of the AIDS service organizations these days HATE the communities they serve. It's always been that way a little, but it's especially true now. GMHC cares more about rent and keeping enough money to pay executive (not line-staff!) salaries than they do about providing relevant community services. The clients should rise and up DEMAND accountability, from GMHC and ALL AIDS service organizations. There are SO many
"carpet-bagers" in these organizations now -- people who don't know much about HIV and who frankly don't care, but it's a job -- particularly for WOMEN who just want any non-profit executive job they can find, as long as it has a high salary. It's time we brought ASO's back into accountability -- and representation -- from the communities they serve.

donny said...

Now that Quinn is planning to run for city wide office, she has dropped her district like a hot cake. Don't count on her for support for anything unless it will help her get elected Mayor: