New York City Housing Authority

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Residents rally to support public housing
Residents Rally to Support Public Housing

The message was simple but packed a punch:  “United We Stand, Divided We’re Homeless!”  It was emblazoned onto the orange caps of 1,400 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and members of a variety of community based organizations, as well as elected officials, who recently traveled to Albany, NY to demand that the State restore operating funds for public housing.

NYCHA residents and housing advocates ventured to New York State’s capitol to address Lieutenant Governor David A. Paterson, Deputy Attorney General Marty J. Mack, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Committee on Housing Chair Vito Lopez, and all of the local Assembly Members and Senators. They chanted “Show me the Money!” and “Keep Your Promise!” as they lobbied for state officials to reinstitute funding for 15 State-built NYCHA developments that have not received funding since 1998.

Now, as NYCHA faces a budget deficit that is nearly double that of last year’s, it is more important than ever that the State restore funding for these orphaned developments.

"Our mission was to get the Governor's attention," said resident leader Gerri Lamb of Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx. Referring to NYCHA's surplus at the time that Governor George Pataki cut funding, Ms. Lamb added," That was then, this is now.  Right now the Housing Authority is in a budget crunch, like all housing authorities in the country. The current governor needs to undo what Pataki did."

“Neighbors Empowering Neighbors,” is the coalition of community based organizations and NYCHA residents that joined together to show their support:  along with NYCHA’s Council of Presidents (COP) and Resident Advisory Board (RAB).  This group includes the New York City Public Housing Alliance, Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side (PHROLES), the Community Service Society, the Legal Aid Society, Housing Here and Now, Community Voices Heard, and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Lisa Burriss, who is in charge of community organizing for PHROLES, and a former longtime resident of Vladeck Houses on the Lower East Side, said it was unusual for many of the groups to join together on NYCHA’s behalf. “But this is a critical time, so we came together.”

PHROLES worked with resident leaders and NYCHA residents to educate people about the Housing Authority’s budget situation.  Among other actions, notices were sent out to all 181,000 NYCHA apartments to notify residents of a public hearing that was held at Baruch College in Manhattan.

Prior to the rally, the Senate and Assembly had already adjusted their original budgets to allocate $4.5 million to NYCHA. “If we get the money, it will be a drop in the bucket,” said Ms. Lamb, but if state allocations to NYCHA begin to increase annually, it will make a difference, she added.

It’s hard to measure whether the rally was a success, but the coalition of demonstrators definitely helped to bring visibility to an issue that affects scores of NYCHA residents. In Ms. Lamb’s opinion, the rally went very well. “All over Albany folks were asking, ‘Who were people in the orange hats?’”

By Eileen Elliott
April 9, 2007