New York City Housing Authority

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Residents presented a unified front in their bright orange caps.
Residents Rally in Washington to Support Public Housing

"The rally was great because it brought people together, and now we have a better understanding of each other and the Housing Authority as well." These words summed up the feelings of longtime NYCHA resident Linda Duke, who was one of almost 2,000 residents who traveled to Washington D.C. on May 15 to deliver the message that they are serious when it comes to funding for public housing.

"I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to be seen and heard," said Ms. Duke, who is a former TA President at Mitchell Houses in The Bronx, where she has lived for the past 42 years. "We really came together."

The residents filled 59 buses shortly after dawn and held the rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington’s Upper Senate State Park. It was the second rally they have held recently to express their concerns about public housing funding and how it affects people that reside in NYCHA developments.

The rally was organized by the Citywide Council of Presidents and the Resident Advisory Board, who worked in collaboration with advocacy organizations such as the Community Service Society (CSS), the Resident Alliance, the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and Friends of the Court. NYCHA residents underscored their message with a sea of orange hats bearing the insignia, "United We Stand, Divided We Are Homeless."

"The folks who came out in their orange hats made for a very inspirational feeling," said Ethel Velez, Executive Director of the Resident Alliance and Resident Association President of James Weldon Johnson Houses in Manhattan. "And the elected officials knew, they heard our voices."

NYCHA residents were joined at the rally by two busloads of DC 37 members. The rally drew residents from all five boroughs and the purpose was to keep public housing in the forefront of government concerns. The residents urged Congress to put more money into the federal budget to preserve and operate public housing and reverse eight years of declining or stagnant funding.

"If public housing needs to be changed then let’s get together and change it," said Ms. Velez. "It was so great to see the whole NYCHA family pulling together. Everyone was very happy they went – people felt empowered."

By Allan Leicht
May 23, 2007