“Key to the City” Event Empowers Immigrant Communities

Mohamed Farghaly

The New York Immigration Coalition hosted the “Key to the City” event at the Queens Public Library Langston Hughes on June 7.




The New York Immigration Coalition hosted its “Key to the City” event at the Queens Public Library Langston Hughes, located at 100-01 Northern Blvd on June 7. The event, a cornerstone of the Coalition’s community outreach efforts, provided essential resources and services to immigrant neighborhoods, free of charge.

The Key to the City event is a vital initiative aimed at addressing the diverse needs of immigrant communities across New York City. Services offered at the event included immigration legal consultations, access to health resources, social services, workshops, and referrals. With a focus on inclusivity and accessibility, the event catered to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the city, offering support in over 15 languages through translations and interpreters.

“Key to the City is really the place where we can provide that safe and informative space that families can ask questions they may not want to ask a city agency, all of these services are really geared towards the particular neighborhood that we hold them in,” Liza Schwartzwald,  Director of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment at the New York Immigration Coalition said.

The New York Immigration Coalition, a member-based organization, collaborates with community-based organizations throughout the state to provide direct services to immigrant communities. According to a spokesperson for the Coalition, the Key to the City events have been held for approximately 13 years, serving over 5000 individuals this year alone and distributing over 40,000 resources. The Coalition has organized 58 events thus far, with plans for five more in the current year.

“We want them to walk away saying, ‘I now know who in my community can help me get my kid into school,’ or maybe even, like, tell me what’s a good school here,” Schwartzwald said. “I think what makes the program so effective is it’s also sort of what people walk out of here feeling like they’ve connected better with their communities.”

Attendees at the event had the opportunity to engage with various service providers, ranging from assistance with enrolling children in school to immigration legal consultations. The goal, according to organizers, was to empower attendees with the knowledge and resources needed to navigate life in New York City successfully.

The event offered essential resources and services to immigrant neighborhoods free of charge.

Jodi Ziesemer, the Co-Director of the Immigrant Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), highlighted the collaborative efforts with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) to provide free legal immigration consultations at the Key to the City events for over a decade.

“We provide one on one individual consultations for anyone who makes an appointment or walks in, we’ve been responding to the needs in various different communities,” Ziesemer said. “This is a critical program, and I think especially because we’ve seen such evolving needs and changing needs of what the community needs.”

Ziesemer emphasized the significance of offering individual consultations to address diverse immigration needs, including asylum, status renewal, citizenship applications, and temporary protected status inquiries. They underscored the importance of these events in meeting evolving community needs and empowering immigrants with essential information and resources in multiple languages, enabling them to navigate the immigration system effectively.

Sushmita Diyali, the Assistant Manager at the South Asian Council for Social Services, outlined the organization’s multifaceted support programs during the Key to the City event. Based in Flushing and established in 2000, the organization serves as a vital resource for the New York City community. Diali highlighted the Hub Access Program, assisting individuals without insurance with Medicaid, Medicare, and long-term care, alongside initiatives like food pantry services for 200 families weekly, senior centers, mental health programs, and women’s wellness and economic stability programs.

“We help people every week with groceries, and we also have senior centers, and we do mental health programs too,” Diyali said. “We provide people with language assistance, providing English and computer classes also, and we also do advocacy with different like-minded organizations.”

With a staff proficient in over 21 languages, the organization prioritizes addressing the diverse needs of the community, offering language assistance, English and computer classes, and advocacy efforts. At the Key to the City event, they provided legal support for immigrants and extended their services for direct contact or in-person visits to their office.

The impact of the Key to the City event extends beyond the services provided. It fosters a sense of community and belonging among immigrant residents, creating a space where individuals can connect with others facing similar challenges and access support in a familiar and welcoming environment.

Looking ahead, the New York Immigration Coalition remains committed to supporting immigrant communities across the city. They also encouraged individuals interested in supporting the Coalition’s efforts to consider volunteering or contributing to their initiatives.

“It’s always a pleasure to collaborate annually with the New York Immigration Coalition for their Key to the City event, a crucial opportunity for our immigrant communities and low-income residents in District 21 to access essential resources for free,” Council Member Francisco Moya said. “Every year, I work closely with my colleagues to ensure the council funds this vital initiative that ensures the well-being and prosperity of those I serve.”

With a focus on inclusivity and accessibility, the event provided support in multiple languages and addressed diverse needs, from immigration legal consultations to health resources and workshops.

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