LONG BEACH, NY – The City of Moncton has responded online to claims that it is attempting to displace the Martin Luther King Community Center tenant, alleging the rumors were untrue. The city accused a former city council member of spreading the rumors.
An online petition that received 2,400 signatures Wednesday morning claims that the city is trying to oust the MLK Center’s only tenant, the nonprofit MLK Center, Inc. The city owns the MLK Center itself, but the MLK Center, Inc. rents the building and operates the services there.
People online claim that the city is trying to crowd out the nonprofit so they can rent the building and make more money or turn the building into condominiums.
“We can’t be more clear about this: The city is fully prepared to work with MLK Center, Inc. to provide programs and services to residents, especially our youth and seniors,” said City Council President John Bendo , in a press release. “The city and MLK Center, Inc. have a long history together that we want.”
According to the city, a new lease was handed over to lawyers at MLK Center, Inc. for review two weeks ago. The city said the lease requires “a modest rent payment and other conventional rental terms, similar to previous agreements between the parties”. City officials and nonprofits will meet on December 17th to try to finalize the deal.
The city said claims that they are trying to oust MLK Center, Inc. are false. It is said that the “deliberate inventions” are being shared online by former councilor Anissa Moore. Moore shared the link to the petition on her Facebook page.
“Moncton City Council and City Councilors have decided to suspend the only resident of the Martin Luther King Center in Moncton, MLK Inc, for over 40 years,” the petition said. “This grassroots organization has been based on the city’s most marginalized residents for decades, especially during times of crisis when the city either abdicated or did not serve residents of the North Park community. It’s not surprising that they chose to do this when Residents who are disproportionately affected by a global pandemic need services most urgently! “
The city closed the MLK center for months during the coronavirus pandemic. It closed for the first time when the city closed almost all other facilities in March. However, it didn’t reopen when others did as the city said the centre’s management didn’t have a coronavirus safety plan. It finally reopened in September.
Mack Graham, the managing director of the MLK center, could not be reached for comment.
In a statement to Patch, Moore said she would not withdraw her statement. Moore said developers had tried to buy up real estate in the North Park area for years when she was on the city council.
“Before I left the city council in the fall of 2019, it was known that developers were making contact with the North Park community,” Moore told Patch. “They have already got permission from the zoning board. If the council says now that they don’t know why I would make the statement, it is really irresponsible for them.”
According to Moore, the development in the North Park community is already pricing out people who have lived there for years.
Moore said the city can do two things to prove it is not trying to crowd out the MLK center tenants: either return the center to the community or give MLK Center, Inc. a long-term lease. However, Moore acknowledged that the city’s financial troubles could result in property developers getting property to expand their tax base.
“Why give people false hope?” She said. “Say what it is. Say we are fighting as a city and we may or may not continue the work we did in North Park.”