Organizations Profiles

Margarita Lopez to Serve as Executive VP of NYCHA

Margarita Lopez of NYCHA
IMG: via Margarita Lopez of NYCHA

NYCHA named Margarita Lopez to a new role this month: Executive Vice President for Community Programs and Development. Ms. Lopez, who previously served as a NYCHA board member and environmental coordinator, will now report to General Manager Cecil House.

Though her title has changed, her role will remain much the same within the authority. She will be in charge of community outreach and development coordination. In a time when funding from Washington has been continually cut, Margarita Lopez’s work on NYCHA land development will be essential to the survival of the housing authority. Currently, Chairman John Rhea has proposed a series of private-public partnerships to lease land and raise money to keep NYCHA on its feet.

Ms. Lopez’s previous work within NYCHA saw her leading sustainability initiatives, helping to create Plan NYCHA, and assisting greatly with recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy in late 2012. Projects like the New York City Planter’s Grove were made possible only through Ms. Lopez’s work.

According to Crain’s, one department source said, “Her experience makes her an ideal leader in these important times for NYCHA and public housing residents.” We suspect that, even without being appointed to this new role, Ms. Lopez would have continued to be a source for good within the NYCHA community, promoting change and improvement—it’s what she does best.

Margarita Lopez has a long history of being active within the community. She has been an activist for a number of causes, including women’s rights, LGBT equality, sustainability, ending domestic violence, and more.


Sequester Still Punishes the Poor

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The failure of Congress to pass a budget is being felt by the poorest Americans, as cuts to subsidized housing groups continue.  The Budget Control Act, commonly known as the sequester, has slashed a trillion dollars in federal funding to public programs across the board.  The New York City Housing Authority, (NYCHA), the nation’s largest public housing authority, announced that over 200 million dollars in funding have been lost since the sequester took effect on March 1st.  Overall, as many as 150,000 households that rely on vouchers to pay rent could be affected by the cuts.  Most housing authorities are dealing with the cuts through canceling new vouchers that were due to be issued this summer.  Other units may have to raise rent or default on mortgages.

John Rhea said in a press release that the mandatory cuts “severely hinder” the work of the housing authority.  The NYCHA chairman continued by assuring residents the commitment to maintain their developments and meet the goals to eliminate the backlog of repair requests this year.  Other ways the organization is dealing with budget cuts have included lay-offs, a hiring freeze and possible furloughs.  The plan to issue 5,000 new vouchers had to be canceled.

The voucher program for subsidized housing began with programs created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Nixon’s term.  This is the first time the program has experienced any significant cuts.  The vouchers make it possible for low income households, especially seniors or those who are disabled, to be able to afford private rental housing.  If the vouchers are lost, it is possible many will lose their apartments and become homeless or institutionalized.  Some building owners rely on the vouchers to keep their building running, and some landlords also worry about defaulting on their loans.  This could put thousands of people on the streets and threaten the safety and health of not only New York, but cities across the country.

Organizations Profiles Resources

NYCHA Uses Land Leases to Preserve Public Housing

The New York City Housing Authority, NYCHA, is the largest public housing authority in the country. NYCHA provides housing for over 600,000 residents in the city of 8 million, and every day more add their names to the waiting list. Housing prices in New York have skyrocketed, making it one of the most expensive places in the country to live. But despite a growing public need, the federal government has underfunded NYCHA for the past decade, amounting to a loss of $750 million for operations and $875 million for upkeep.

“Our buildings are 79 years old. They need care,” said Margarita Lopez, NYCHA Environmental Coordinator. “We need to figure out how to find the money to fix them. If we don’t fix them we will lose them.”

Though the current financial situation is still bleak, NYCHA has found a promising new way to raise extra revenue for maintaining and improving its buildings—most of which are more than 40 years old. The housing authority is proposing a plan that would lease 14 separate pieces of land owned by NYCHA to private developers.

These developers would then finance, construct and operate new residential buildings—with at least 20% of the apartments being designated as affordable public housing. That’s somewhere around 800 permanently low-income housing units, to which NYCHA residents would receive preference.

NYCHA estimates that through these leasing contracts, which would be 99-year ground leases, they could raise between $30 million and $50 million each year. Additionally, construction and permanent job opportunities would be generated with the developments, potentially helping to improve the lives of many NYCHA residents.

This seems like a great opportunity for New Yorkers, NYCHA, and NYCHA residents—especially considering the government doesn’t seem to be getting out of its financial rut anytime soon. The housing authority has vowed that no families would be displaced nor buildings destroyed, land would be leased and not sold (no privatization), job opportunities would open up, rent would not increase because of the new developments, NYCHA residents would have access to new security enhancements and features, and that money would go straight back into maintaining and preserving current developments.

“We are not going to lose in this equation in any way, shape or form,” said NYCHA’s Margarita Lopez.

“Not a single unit of public housing is going to disappear.”

Click here to read our full profile on Margarita Lopez, NYCHA’s Environmental Coordinator.


Organizations Resources

NYCHA Invests $18 M in Capital Improvements

From January to March this year, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will be making the most of the $18 million provided by grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). With the capital, NYCHA plans to improve eleven of its housing developments in NYC.

“NYCHA continues to make improvements to its building structures and systems by spending its money wisely, and in the best interests of residents,” Chairman John Rhea of NYCHA said in a press release. “These major upgrades are needed regularly to ensure the preservation of our aging building stock, with 70 percent of our buildings more than 40 years old.”

The improvements to NYCHA that John Rhea is speaking of include brickwork, re-pointing, roof replacements, kitchen upgrades, installations of security cameras and intercom systems, bathroom renovations, basketball court renovations, and lighting fixture and spray shower upgrades.

Scheduled to be completed by March 2013, the repairs and upgrades will take place at Red Hook West, East New York City Line, Whitman Houses, Ingersoll Houses, Murphy Houses, Jackson Houses, Isaacs Houses, Glenwood Houses, Taft Rehab, and South Jamaica Houses.

The upgrades and repairs to NYCHA developments will affect about 22,000 residents, and will be an aggressive move to preserve what John Rhea calls “aging building stock.” In the past three years alone, NYCHA has invested more than $1.5 billion in capital investments to this end, with about $423 million coming from federal Stimulus funding. The ongoing effort keeps buildings structurally sound, economically friendly, and in a good state of repair for the more than 600,000 residents.


NYCHA Addresses Quinn’s Proposal Demands

Last week, City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn and Public Housing Committee Chair Rosie Mendez presented a proposal for improving operations in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).  Quinn’s and Mendez’s proposal includes recommendations that would increase transparency by making public records easily accessible and the tracking of critical infrastructure statuses available to residents.

According to NYCHA Resident Board Member Victor Gonzalez, improving and preserving NYCHA as an organization is an imperative. “I am sure it’s all over the country but in the New York City area we have a housing issue,” he says. “Why not work with what I consider the best of affordable housing and keep it and preserve it for the future? That is now more important than ever due to the fact that we have a crisis in housing.”

NYCHA is constantly evolving and changing, which can make it easy to lose sight of ultimate goals. But Plan NYCHA, which has been dubbed the organization’s “Roadmap for Preservation,” has set out a list of ten “Core Imperatives.” These imperatives communicate long-term goals for NYCHA as a whole.

Looking at the ten core imperatives, it becomes evident that NYCHA is already working toward addressing some of Speaker Quinn’s suggestions. The fifth imperative. “Strengthen the frontline,” details how NYCHA will serve all properties and incorporate the “best practices from property management companies to provide excellent service and high quality management.”

The ninth imperative states that NYCHA will “excel in customer service,” improving communications between residents and the organization and streamlining services. In doing so, NYCHA will become more customer-focused.

Making public information more available and implementing a status tracking system for critical infrastructures are small goals that fit easily into the overarching imperatives already set out. With enough funding and support, Speaker Quinn’s proposal could certainly come to pass.


NYCHA and the NYCHA board

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If there is anyone who has their work cut out for them it’s the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) who is responsible for about a half-million people in New York City.  But the organization is much more than just a housing group, NYCHA and the NYCHA board strive to also enrich its residents’ lives with educational and community programs, as well as employment opportunities and health services. They work hard to be informative and helpful to residents of any age, and offer programs to assist them in gaining valuable knowledge, skills, and confidence.

NYCHA and the NYCHA board are also working to become sustainable and eco-friendly, creating a Green NYCHA initiative to help make an effort to become more energy efficient.  NYCHA’s mission seems to be more than just providing housing to New Yorkers; it’s providing them with life opportunities that no everyday landlord would provide, and there’s honor in that. They’ve really raised the bar for themselves, providing services for the good of their communities every day.

Read our entire profile on NYCHA and the NYCHA board here. 


How to Make a Call to Action

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Every nonprofit organization should have a call to action. That is, they have a place where they tell people what they want them to do. It’s an objective to complete, and provides users with focus, a measurable goal, and direction.

To create an effective call to action, there must first be a groundwork set up. A specific must be identified and the organization must offer up a solution. There should be a benefit involved for those that choose to join with the organization. What will they get out of it? If an organization has the resources, it might offer small incentives, such as a bumper sticker or a button with donations.

Giving users options for a few distinct actions will also provide direction. It’s a good idea for organizations to provide some starting points to guide the user around the site or cause. Common actions might include donating money, becoming a member of the organization, or volunteering for an event.

Calls to action should use active, strong verbs that clearly communicate what the organization wants users to do. Examples include donate, purchase, volunteer, join, fight, or register. These words should create a sense of urgency—this is a problem that needs to be addressed now! To accomplish this further, calls to action often have deadlines for goals.

Website users should be able to see calls to action easily. It should be central on the page, not hidden at the bottom or off to the side. Utilizing “white space,” or blank space around the call to action can make it stand out more and keeps it from being lost in a busy page. Font size and color can also be used for emphasis.

Perhaps the most important part of a call to action is that it’s not just found on one page. It is on every page. For example, the Human Rights Campaign includes a basic banner at the top of every page on their website. The banner includes their logo, their mission (“Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights”), and buttons to become a member, receive a newsletter, and get involved via social media.

Another great example of an effective call to action can be found on the NYCHA PlanNYCHA website.  It was created by NYCHA leadership, including the NYCHA board, in order to get a very specific message out to the public. The site is dedicated to the cause of helping to preserve public housing, and no where is that message more clear than in John Rhea, NYCHA’s CEO’s, message.

“Together we have accomplished so much to enhance our communities and support NYCHA’s families. Our progress is significant, but our work is ongoing. As we move forward we will need the unwavering and broad-based support of multiple stakeholders to ensure that the transformative vision outlined in Plan NYCHA is realized,” John Rhea writes. “Join us as we embark on this collaborative journey toward a stronger, more efficient and customer-focused New York City Housing Authority.”

A clear, detailed, and driven message provided as part of a collaborative framework.  Other organizations could well take advantage of this example.



NYCHA’s Margarita Lopez is an Activist for Many Worthy Causes

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NYCHA’s Margarita Lopez speaks to the residents of NYCHA developments.
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Margarita Lopez, NYCHA Board member, has a plethora of causes for which she is continuously advocating. Among them are LGBT rights (she is, after all, a member of the community), environmental preservation, protection of rights for marginalized groups like the mentally ill, and against domestic violence. Besides helping found a credit union to help the impoverished, establishing programs to deliver food to the homeless, and creating programs at NYCHA to foster eco-friendly lifestyles and business practices, Margarita has contributed New York City’s culture and society in a multitude of ways.

To read more about Margarita Lopez, NYCHA Board Member, click here!