May 24 marked the conclusion of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) unprecedented outreach to public housing and Section 8 customers to attend 10 Community Conversations citywide. Close to 1,000 customers participated in the unique forums, which provided NYCHA with an opportunity to discuss elements of the draft five-year Plan to Preserve Public Housing (PPPH) and obtain feedback from the New Yorkers we serve.
On May 12, NYCHA Board Member Margarita López greeted a large turnout of almost 120 people at the West Brighton Community Center on Staten Island. She then joined the participants in the small group discussions that followed the presentation of the Plan’s highlights by NYCHA's Assistant Deputy General Manager (ADGM) for Community Operations, Deidra Gilliard and NYCHA's ADGM of Operations for Support Services, Brian Clarke. Employee facilitators played key roles in guiding the group discussions while note takers carefully recorded customers’ suggestions while maintaining their confidentiality.
|NYCHA staff and Chinese-speaking residents discuss important issues concerning public housing as part of a Rutgers Community Conversation. (Photo by Pete Mikoleski)|
On May 13, NYCHA’s conversations moved to Rutgers Houses in Manhattan. Deputy General Manager for Finance Felix Lam and Brooklyn Property Management Department Director Marguerite Mann presented an outline of the Plan to a full house of Chinese-speaking residents. Simultaneous translation was available in both Cantonese and Mandarin. Leased Housing Department Chief Nancy Lam, who served as an employee facilitator, said many participants in the group discussions expressed appreciation for NYCHA’s efforts to include them in the dialogue.
On May 14, NYCHA Board Secretary Vilma Huertas attended the first of two additional conversations held at Rutgers, where she met with a group of Spanish-speaking customers. Later in the afternoon, NYCHA conducted a special Community Conversation to get feedback from young adults. Some participants expressed that community programs should focus more on social and economic opportunities. While others mentioned safety and security concerns as the reason that sparked their interest in attending the Community Conversation.
NYCHA held its final Community Conversation on May 24 at Davidzon Radio Station in Brooklyn for Russian-speaking customers, all of whom used instantaneous translation. The participants included many Section 8 voucher holders as well as applicants for Section 8 and public housing. Employee facilitator Tatyana Tagotina, a Resident Services Associate who also assisted at a Rutgers Community Conversation, said, “good ideas can come from the people who actually have the problems that NYCHA is trying to solve. Employees can get used to doing things a certain way but residents can have a different perspective.”
On May 25, ADGM Gilliard, who co-led many of the Community Conversations with other senior staff, remarked, “This has been a really worthwhile experience. When we started this initiative we didn't know how it would be received. People have been genuinely appreciative and happy to speak with us, and we have received many good recommendations. People really want to know what is going on and to be heard.”
By Howard Silver
May 27, 2011