June 24, 2019

CBOs in NYCHA Communities: A History of Partnerships & Opportunities to Expand

The Promise of New York Public Housing banner over a New York city skyline

There is a long history of collaboration between the New York City Housing Authority and community-based organizations (CBOs) to expand and improve the services available to public housing residents. As early as 1948, organizations like the Community Service Society worked with NYCHA residents to provide health, welfare, and recreational programs.

CBOs continue to play a major role in the lives of public housing residents – they provide essential resources like senior supports, childcare, afterschool programs, and social services. For example, many CBOs operate Cornerstone Programs at NYCHA community centers throughout the city, which offer a range of high-quality programming for both youth and adults. They also help residents tackle important issues like rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) conversions, and broader policy changes in their communities.

RiseBoro Community Partnership is one such organization that has made an impact in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn by providing a comprehensive range of services for public housing residents in the community. RiseBoro works in partnership with NYCHA residents at Palmetto and Hope Gardens to offer nutrition access, health screenings, cultural programming, adult education, senior care, and more. The organization also engages in community forums and actively advocates with public housing residents on broad initiatives like safety and security, open space access, the Bushwick Community Plan, and rezoning. 

In 2015, with support from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) and Morgan Stanley, RiseBoro hired a Community Development Fellow to provide Bushwick’s NYCHA residents with access to information regarding potential policy changes that could impact their neighborhood, such as NextGen NYCHA, Community Based Rezonings, and PACT. The fellow led an effort to survey residents about their preferences regarding new development, open space uses, existing and desired community services, and community demographic information.

The survey led to forums and informational sessions and helped to inform Community Planning principals that were incorporated into the Bushwick Community Plan. It will be also used to guide the incoming RAD developer’s designs and upgrades. RiseBoro’s continued engagement with and support of the community’s public housing residents demonstrates how a local CBO can educate NYCHA residents about, and help them remain involved in, the changes impacting their communities. 

The relationships between CBOs and their communities help ensure inclusive partnerships that are responsive to local needs. CBOs can use their existing social infrastructure and community reach to engage and empower residents so they may actively participate in the decisions and processes that affect their community. 

CBOs are vital to supporting NYCHA residents and their communities. Not only do CBOs step up to ensure that vulnerable residents are connected with critical resources, but they also provide new and innovative ways for residents to be change-makers in their communities. However, there is an urgent need for CBOs to more comprehensively engage with NYCHA residents, particularly regarding job training, education, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. With the expansion of programs like PACT and NextGen NYCHA, the demand for CBOs to carry out work that educates and empowers residents is greater than ever. Investing in this increased engagement between NYCHA, its residents, and CBOs will lead to stronger transitions that best meet resident needs. 

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