"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
"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