Teaming Up with NYCHA Tenants to Strengthen Public Housing

Young people wearing masks hold boxes of hand sanitizers and masks in front of a NYCHA building

Cynthia Tibbs had a dilemma.

The state had just delivered hand sanitizer and face masks to her office – items which, as president of the Westside Urban Renewal Tenants Association, she knew her neighbors were clamoring for. But her buildings are brownstones and they don’t have elevators.

“I have 36 walkup buildings,” she explains. “I walk with a cane; I am not physically able to go up and down all those stairs.”

Word had spread about the delivery and tenants were gathering at the complex’s community room—definitely not behavior she wanted to encourage during a pandemic. “I had to tell all of them to go home and it would be done safely.”

Then she called Goddard.

“They sent some workers from the youth program over and got it done. It took a couple hours but they were troopers—I gotta hand it to them,” she says with a laugh.

Tibbs is part of a group of NYCHA public housing tenant leaders that has been meeting regularly with Goddard Executive Director Rod Jones and Director of Organizing Larry Wood.

“We’ve always maintained good relations” with NYCHA tenants says Wood, noting that many Goddard programs are located in NYCHA buildings and serve significant numbers of public housing residents. Typically, Goddard leadership would get together with the NYCHA tenant leaders once a year. But recently they began meeting monthly, realizing they could benefit by working together more closely.

When COVID hit they switched to virtual meetings every two weeks. “There were just so many concerns,” says Wood.

Goddard provides resources and support. The tenant leaders share what’s happening at their developments and find ways to work together, particularly around lobbying for repairs.

“We say whose elevators aren’t working, whose doors aren’t working, whose buzzers aren’t working, And rather than one president write a letter, we all co-sign it. That way they see that we’re unified,” Tibbs explains.

“It’s been working great. it’s a great collaboration.”