Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES)
This case is based on an interview with Damaris Reyes, Executive Director of GOLES on May 27, 2020.
True to its name, Good Old’ Lower East Side (GOLES) is based in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in Community District 3. The Lower East Side has a rich history that serves as a microcosm for trends that shaped New York City as a whole: from successive waves immigration into overcrowded tenements, to urban renewal and slum clearance, and finally neighborhood decline and subsequent gentrification. Before the pandemic, about a third of the residents lived below poverty level. Today, the area is a dense, mixed-use neighborhood featuring tenement-style apartment buildings and towers-in-the-park type private and public housing along the East River.
Much of the area is built on low-lying infill reclaimed from the East River. In 2012, storm surge from Superstorm Sandy flooded much of the neighborhood and disabled utilities for days on end – most notably an explosion at the large Con Ed power station on 14th Street and the East River. After the storm, the City began the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which aims to protect the neighborhood from future flooding through an extensive reconstruction of the East River Park. Community groups, NYCHA tenants’ associations, and residents of the Lower East Side have been organizing for more community participation in the process, as well as to fight displacement through gentrification.
Good Old Lower East Side
GOLES is a neighborhood housing and preservation organization that has served the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1977. It was formed at a time of arson, abandonment, and economic crisis around the simple idea that tenants could organize to exercise their legal rights, defend their homes, and preserve their neighborhood. It was also a powerful and expansive idea: people could organize from building to block, from block to neighborhood, and from neighborhood to the city.
GOLES’ name reflects the hope that the struggle for legal rights and personal security can lead to a struggle for collective security, and to the preservation of the diverse peoples, cultures, spaces, and institutions that, historically, have made the Lower East Side iconic for its rich cultural, artistic, and political life. (https://www.goles.org/history)
GOLES is dedicated to tenants’ rights, homelessness prevention, economic development, and community revitalization. GOLES’ long-term goals are to:
- Build the power of low-income residents to address displacement and gentrification;
- Preserve and expand the low-income housing stock;
- Assert community self-determination over the use of public space; and
- Ensure a clean and healthy environment where people live, work, and play (https://www.goles.org/mission).
GOLES is a membership organization with a multi-stakeholder process. It has a couple of thousand members. Community residents regularly participate in GOLES’s activities. From tenant meetings, workshops, forums, and town halls. The meetings can range from just a couple of people to 50 people. The proportion of women to men is around 60/40 or 65/35.
GOLES has a board and a staff of community organizers. A steering committee proposes new campaigns to the organizing team, and evaluates existing campaigns. Organizers are divided up by issue area, and shape strategy and planning decisions.
GOLES rents three adjacent storefronts in the Lower East Side: 169, 171, and 173 Avenue B.
Main Sources of Funding
GOLES has a budget of almost $1.6 million, with funding coming from grant income including government grants, foundation income, corporate, and events.
Coalitions and Partner Organizations
GOLES partners with groups along common interests and issues, such as the Essex Crossing development proposal and the SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area), as well local campaigns, such as LES Ready or changes to public housing rules or policies within the neighborhood.
For example, we work with a lot of groups on things like LES Ready because that's a local network, or if we're having a local battle and we need to bring people together, like we did for Essex Crossing and SPURA [Seward Park Urban Renewal Area]. If we're working on something, like changing the rules of public housing or policies that impacts not just our neighborhood, but many, we'll reach out to other groups to work in a coalition and build power.
When, how and why did you join the organization?
In 1996, before I joined GOLES, I started to get involved with some local activists who were working around public housing and informing the local community about two bills at the House and the Senate at the federal level that would privatize public housing. That was the first time I'd ever seen anything remotely related to activism, or organizing in my community. I always felt a tremendous sense of the need for justice before I ever knew anything about organizing. I remember being a teenager and seeing things on the television that I felt were horrible. I remember feeling like I wanted to create flyers before I even understood that they were called flyers. I just had this crazy feeling that people needed to know and we needed to have this conversation. It was just something that I had to do.
I was confronted with organizing when I came home one day and they were having a meeting on the sidewalk in front of my building. They were talking about these two bills and how this was prime, desirable real estate. Even though we didn't think so, it was, and we needed to pay attention. It hit me like a ton of bricks because, before that, even though I had a sense that I wanted to do something, it wasn't necessarily tied to my community. It was more tied to a larger sense of injustice because I still wanted the American dream. I was Puerto Rican, I grew up poor in public housing, and there are a lot of mixed feelings associated with growing up in the hood, as we call it, in poverty.
The media is telling you that to be successful in this country you have to achieve the American dream, own a home, have a job, and have 2.5 kids. Most people who live here think about it as transitional, like I’m out of here; I'm going to make money; I'm going to work; I'm not like these people. I didn’t realize that in some ways I was also a victim of oppression and racism, and that made me feel like I had to leave to be able to have the life that I wanted.
The point that I'm making is that it wasn't until that moment, when I came home and those people were organizing in front of my building, that I had a real sense that they could take this place from us. It's one thing to see yourself in relation to your community and make the choice, I gotta get out of here. It's another thing to understand that somebody can make the choice for you.
That moment just opened my eyes to the neighborhood I was in. There were so many things associated with being from the hood. And at that moment I thought, wait a minute, this is so true. It's waterfront. It's beautiful. It's historical. It has such a rich culture. It's so diverse. And how could I have been so blind all this time? That is how I got involved in organizing. That one meeting when I heard about the injustice and discrimination that may be coming, I understood where I was, my place, and my community. It woke me up to be part of this work.
When I first started organizing, I did not go to GOLES right away. I was part of just a group of residents. like any other leader. People recruit people to become members. I was recruited into becoming a part of a coalition of folks, not any particular organization. But before we were called PHROLES [Public Housing Residents Of the Lower East Side], we were called the Coalition to Save Public Housing and Section Eight. From there, I went to work for the City Council. I was working on all this public housing stuff well, and GOLES said they got funding for an organizing position and offered me a job while I was on maternity leave. So I started at GOLES in 2000 as a part-time organizer around our public housing work, and that was when GOLES officially took on public housing organizing. Before that, GOLES was mostly only organizing rent stabilized buildings and TIL (Tenant Interim Lease) buildings.
Around 2005, I was already director of organizing, and then that's when I became Executive Director. Margaret Hughes, may she rest in peace, was the ED who hired me. When she decided she was going to leave, she said, you should apply. And I thought she was crazy, I don't want that job. I never came to GOLES thinking I was going to rise or want to be the Executive Director. That was never anything I ever had in mind. I never came with that kind of ambition. My only ambition was to create a kick ass organization. And that organization, even though it was under GOLES, was PHROLES. Margaret said, the board thinks you're great and love all the work that you've been doing with PHROLES. That's really the real reason I took it. I said, all right, I'm gonna do this because I was scared that if a new Executive Director came that they would take away or change the relationship between GOLES and PHROLES, and take away our autonomy and our ability to do the work that we were doing.
I didn't think I was going to get that job, and I did. When they offered me the job, I asked them for some time to think about it. When I came into work a couple days later, they already had a letter drafted to everybody saying, we hired a daughter of the Lower East Side. I thought they had already told everybody, so I said, I guess I'm the Executive Director. My first day was, I believe, April 13th or 14th, 2005. On my first official day, I had to go testify before the City Council to the Manhattan Delegation for funding, talk about being thrown into something. I quickly learned that in order to do this job, I had to learn about everything we did, and not just public housing.
If you define grassroots as “small and from the community,” then I say yes. If you define grassroots as “small from the community and completely directed by itself as an independent force,” I wouldn't quite define us that way. We are small, powerful, with lots of community involvement but would define ourselves these days as a multi-stakeholder organization.
Many of those stakeholders are from this neighborhood. Almost all of them. When I say stakeholders, I mean the community (residents), members of the board, and staff. At GOLES, we set up the organization in the latter years to acknowledge that all parties involved take part in decision making. So, when folks say “we're in a membership organization,” the truth is that everyone makes some form of decision. We felt it was important to make all the forces that make up the organization see each other and hold each other accountable.
Right now at GOLES, many of the board members were staff members or members. At GOLES we crack jokes and say nobody ever leaves because you come in as a member, you might become staff, you might join the Board, and you might become a member again, and then you might become a staff member again. There's something about this that we feel really good about because it shows that everybody has an opportunity to play a different role within the organization. It is really important to commit people to goals, rather than to any one issue, or any one person.
Foundation and Evolution of GOLES
We've always had more women than men at GOLES during my time. I don't know if that is intentional. Women step up in a different way. I'm aware of that. I'm happy about it. I haven’t made a plan to say 70 percent of us are going to be women, but it all works out that way. In the last few years during my tenure, there have been more men involved, but still not more than women. At one point, out of fifteen or sixteen of us, seven of them were men. But again, it's not intentional. I have just had the opportunity to work with great women.
We rent three storefronts: 169 [Avenue B], which is where my office is, used to be a thrift shop operated by that GOLES had. We lost our space on 6th Street because the building we were in, which we helped to organize, wanted to triple our rent, so we closed. We also had a thrift shop on 2nd Street and a thrift shop on Avenue B between 10th and 11th Street. When I first came, we had shut the thrift shop down on 11th Street and that became my office for all the public housing work. We still had the thrift shop on 6th Street but we got priced out. We made a decision to close the thrift shop because it wasn't generating additional money, which was the purpose of it. We've got staff between my space and the other space. The original reason we went to my space was because it was managed and owned by the Lower Eastside People's Municipal Housing Association , and they gave us a fairly decent rent. In an effort to bring everybody closer together and not have us all around the neighborhood, when spaces next to us that were also owned by our landlord became vacant, I moved very quickly and asked if we could rent them. That's how we landed there, because they were owned by a nonprofit. They were affordable and they were right next door to each other. But if I had a chance to get one big space for all of us, we would move tomorrow.
During Sandy, it was mostly the women at GOLES who were running the show, managing the volunteers and coming up with different things. It was me, Carlina, Victoria, but it's not that there weren't any men involved. Then in the years leading up to now, we did see a surge of male engagement and involvement in the organization. It wasn't like there was some moment that the men had or that we as women had. We are clear that we are mostly women. We talk about the fact that we’re mostly women. That is at the forefront in a lot of ways of what we do. But we don't say GOLES is an organization of women. We have had a male as the Chair of the GOLES Board of Directors for the last four years, for example, and now the Assistant Director at GOLES is a male. So there's been some increased male leadership, but we still dominate.
The truth is that we still do live in a male dominated society where patriarchy is still alive and well. I see it in all the spaces that I'm in and I see it in the way that men move as opposed to the way women move. Rather than supporting each other and lifting each other up at all times, we tend to put ourselves in spaces where we compete, criticize and not always support each other.
I don't want to have anything to do with that. I've been working with a group of women to start thinking about creating a women of color engagement and power building process. Last November, we took a group of Latina women to SOMOS Puerto Rico so that they could be in a space filled with electoral and union power and bring some of the issues of the Lower East Side. We were planning a report back because we raised money to go on this trip. We were also planning a forum on women's issues, talking about how far we've come, what we still want to achieve, and how we are going to be launching this whole leadership education cohort.
I wouldn’t say there’s a [physical] space for women, but there was a women's group that was meeting in our space a couple years back when Carlina [Rivera], who is now our city councilwoman, was still working at GOLES. They had a few meetings, but I'm not sure what happened. As of yet, we don't have any space setup particularly for women, because, like I said, most of GOLES is women anyway.
Achievements and Challenges
Helping to navigate and bring in almost half a billion dollars for coastal resiliency was a great achievement. We could say that bringing five hundred units of permanent affordable housing at the A16 crossing, formerly known as SPURA, is a great achievement. The Two Bridges lawsuit could be considered a great, great achievement. If we ever get this damn waterfront zoned, maybe that'll be a great achievement. Steve Croman going to jail for a year and paying 13 million dollars in restitution and taxes is a great achievement , or working with 444 E 13th Street, a building that’s mostly all Spanish speaking immigrants who were threatened by the lack of relocation. They were going to blow-up the building and give them a million dollar settlement and cease harassment.
It's hard for me [to say] because I think it really depends who's looking. We’re diving more deeply now into how we're going to address race and racial inequality and weave it through all of our work in a very intentional way, though for years we have said that we look at our work through a racial justice lens. But now we're looking at it very intentionally. What are we going to do that's going to move the needle on these issues in a real concrete way? You could win 100 percent affordable housing at a development. But if you don't secure and make sure that the people who live there are diverse, then you have half a victory.
The whole membership piece has been one of the challenges. Making sure that it's true, honest, transparent, and robust. And it seems like it's an ongoing challenge. I'll just say that I think you learn with every year that passes, there's always something new that comes on up. And we are always searching for ways to more deeply engage folks, to resonate with them.
Those moments arise for us when we have successes and when we have failures. It makes us have to think, what's going on? Are we really reaching people? Why did this person say that at this meeting? We didn't prepare them enough. And another big question that has come up for us is the idea of doing the same thing every year and expecting different results. If what we want to do is build a powerful representation of people from this community fighting for justice and fighting for neighborhood-based self-determination, we've got to think differently and deeply and constantly share and reflect. That causes us to always be in this cycle of, what can we do differently? What can we change?
Community and Citywide Planning Activities
We're starting to do some real work with the Energy Democracy Alliance and also Housing Justice for All, too, another group that works across the state. The issues drive us. We don't usually work with people based on if we think that group is great. It's usually the issue. The reason. And we understand that these issues are bigger than any one of us. And it's going to take all of us to start that kind of thinking that pushes us into partnerships, relationships and coalitions, mutual interests.
We don't really work in-standing relationships with any international groups. We've connected with them when it makes sense, for instance, when we were approaching the Katrina
10-year anniversary through the Municipal Art Society we went internationally and met with groups from elsewhere in different cities. When I came to Berlin I met with other groups, but we didn't have any exchange with some international groups constantly. Not like that. We may know some folks and we've crossed paths. But we don't have an ongoing working relationship. We may know each other. We're friendly. And we might feel like we could ask a question. Right now, we scaled back some of our national work, but it looks like some of that is about to ramp up. And let's say there's a national coalition of public housing groups that are starting to form again. We started doing national work because we became affiliates of a national organization, through that, we work collectively around a set of housing issues, particularly public housing. So we went to other groups like in Chicago and in Los Angeles and we worked with them for several years to drive a national public housing agenda, mostly when we work nationally at this moment it has been around housing.
Involvement in Citywide Climate Change initiatives, including Superstorm Sandy
Most of everything before Sandy is all gone. The computers were flooded and damaged. There are some hard drives, but we've never been able to restore anything. So the closest we've come is that we created a timeline that still needs some work.
Right before Sandy, we had started this new thing called Membership Mondays. We had set up a series on Mondays with our members to dig deeper about what it really means to be a member. What is their role in decision making? Do we rule by consensus, by majority? Do we get a handbook? All those things. And then Sandy came. We'd only done one session, and it knocked us out. But then we regrouped, and in January, we started it again right after Sandy. And we were so crazy at the time, and we were dealing with so much that we didn't take actual notes in the meeting. Everything was being done by butcher paper. We were like, it’s okay we're going to transcribe everything. And one of our members threw everything away while they were cleaning the office. So you can't recreate that.
And now we have to take on new work. COVID is different from Sandy. And it has some similar elements. The thing that runs across both situations is that the work doesn't stop. And you have to figure out how to do it anyway. The difference was that during Sandy, we had no power, but we could have people contact us. During COVID, we have power, but we couldn't have people-to-people contact. So we couldn't go door knocking and talk to people in the same way. And we had to figure out how to reach people. In a different way. And volunteers even had to be different. During Sandy, it was a disaster. Almost three thousand people showed up at our office to help. We don't have that ability to do that right now.
They've been different and they've been the same. The work didn't stop. But I think it changed, and people had to think very quickly on their feet how to connect what they were already doing in a real way.
Visions for the Future
I think we are doing what we do for an equitable just society that creates equal access to health care, housing, employment, that values people over profit, that connects us to our earth and our human right to share in this planet in a way that doesn't give others the ability to commodify everything. This should be naturally a birthright. Some make money while the rest of us have to pay to buy land that belongs to everybody. That's what we all want. I want the same thing. That's what I ultimately want.
What would I be happy with? I can settle on having a real mechanism in place that makes sure that public housing is funded, maintained in a rich, healthy, safe environment for the people who live here, where they can live with dignity. I would be happy with laws that you cannot push people out of their homes no matter what their home is, rent stabilized, Section Eight. I would be satisfied with some iteration of really strong protections. I don’t have to be at the end of the revolution, I just want to be at the beginning of it. I want to know that it's ready and for sparks to happen, so I would be OK with a similar moment in time to what we're living in right now. If you think about COVID, and you think about what is happening around racial equity, police reform. Where's it going.? I don't know. But it's definitely been a game-changing moment. I think that it has lifted people's minds, thinking, and changing relationships to each other very differently.
There were a lot of things that were building up to this place. I think of this moment in time, and what is different, and what sets us apart, and what doesn't. I think a lot about the way life was. And a couple months ago, I was in a very different space where I felt like I was mourning my past life pre-COVID. And then feeling in some way scared and excited for post-COVID. And I was dealing with those two feelings at the same time. Those two very real realities. And thinking a lot about the world and what has set us up. Like, why was this particular moment so incredibly impactful? We had Trayvon Martin and we had Eric Garner. We had other moments. But why was this moment the moment that threw us over the edge? Is it because social media had a role and these things have been happening forever, but now they are up front and center? Is it because we've had our share? Is it Cheetos, and his orange craziness?
We were vulnerable enough during COVID, so we were like, what do we have to lose now? A moment of introspective self-reflection that made us so different because I find it incredible that from one minute to the next, we went into this place that should have happened a long time ago. That's been a long time coming. But not only did we go into it, but so deeply that everybody and every moment is talking about it. And so why was that so different? This wasn't the first time Black Lives Matter came. But it is definitely everywhere, you see signs everywhere. And I think a lot about where we were and the time that we live in, this is an incredible moment, for whatever is worth. I'm not saying that it is the generation or century that has evolved the most. I mean, we invented the wheel and that was a big deal. But in this moment, we've had a lot of social movements sort of picking up. And we've generated a set of tools that we are using.
Nobody thought we were going to go from an in-person call to a virtual. We've had the ability to Skype and Zoom for a long time. But now can you imagine life without Zoom? I can't. I'm not saying I want to do every meeting on Zoom, but I can't imagine life without Zoom anymore. I think that half of my meetings forever will be on Zoom. And some of them will be in person. We might still have a space where we organize in person, but we'll probably record it and put it on Facebook live now and reach more people every time we have a public meeting.
Lessons from GOLES
I think there's something to be said for having strong local connections. Having involvement from people who really know the neighborhood well, very intimately.
I think those things help, for example, myself and the co-chair of LES Ready both live here. And I have lived here my whole life. She's lived here for about 50 years. So we know this neighborhood, we know the players, we know everybody, and it helps us to navigate. So I think being really familiar with the areas that you serve, understanding the culture of the communities is invaluable, and I think that that is something that for me has cut across both disasters.
The first time knowing the neighborhood, knowing where to go. Knowing how to find the people we were trying to serve. Knowing that even without power, I had a map in my brain. So when I was delegating to volunteers, I would be like, OK, you go here to this corner and over there there's this building. That building is a senior building. And in order to get in, you're going to have to do this, stuff like that, knowing just the inner workings, the politics.
When you know all of those things it really helps you to kick into action and to activate a network or to jump into a network. Everything that we're doing at GOLES is not necessarily something that we are in charge of. So we had an opportunity, we could have been in charge of a massive distribution effort. But some of our partners were working on things and instead I made the decision. No. Let's do it this way. Let's give it to them and then we can help in distributing. But they have better mechanisms. What do you do when you get a pallet of perishable items? We don't have an indoor freezer, but Henry Street has three.
So knowing and being clear about where your strengths lie. How to play your position, no matter what that position is. I think that is important. So knowing your community, knowing the work you're doing, knowing all the players, knowing the inner workings and also knowing yourself as an organization, as an institution and understanding where your strengths lie.
I also think that sometimes you think that you're good at some things and then you start doing it. And then as you're in practice, you realize, oh, actually, we're better at this other thing. So also being clear and being open to being able to pivot in the moment to do or take on stuff.
For me, as a mother of a young son, sometimes I feel like I'm betraying my son when I talk about some of these things in this way. But the truth is that we still do live in a male dominated society where patriarchy is still alive and well. And I see it all the time and I see it in GOLES. And I see it in all the spaces that I'm in and I see it in the way that men move as opposed to the way women move. And that takes the form of a lot of things. There may be an issue that we're working on and the women might be like, let me find out more information. Let me think about this. And one of the males might pick up the phone and just make the call. You could say that that's just a matter of personality. That is not a male tendency. I beg to differ because I have seen it again and again and again in the way in which men show up. They don't think about certain things. They don't think about the obstacles because those obstacles do not exist for them, because they've never had to necessarily worry about them. When you are the gender that people don't question, when you move in a certain way then you just think that that's normal and maybe it is normal. Maybe it's not normal for us to not step up in those ways. And maybe that is because men enjoy that space subconsciously and don't want to relinquish power to us. I believe that actually more than anything.
So, yes, I have seen males sort of step up in a different way at GOLES. And I think we try to make space, but we still dominate. It's not that I want to support men, but I don't think they need my help. It’s not typical for men to put themselves in the center of many women. I still think it's a choice that you make and it's still a demonstration of your male privilege. Because as a woman, I can't just decide I'm going to go hang out with all the fellas and put myself into that space. I can't do that. This isn’t the right spot for you. In order for me to be in a room or work with a whole cohort of men, they have to make all those assumptions about my gender and sexual preference.
There are moments where my children hold me accountable differently than they hold their father. But I was the parent in the end who they lived with. And he moved away. They have issues that I worked too much. I didn't have time. Sometimes they bring it up. I might say I had this much time and I had to be the one who went to school to talk to your teachers when you were acting like morons, or who had to go back to school shopping for you when you needed clothes when school was starting, or who took you to the doctor so I could give you all my fun leisure time because I had to spend my time being your parent, too, and then working and doing other things. But all they remember is that I worked a lot. And it causes us an incredible amount of stress still to this day, and it has impacted my communication with them and I work at it. I work at it very intentionally now. I get angry. Once you become a mother, you become a mother for life. And it's never about you again. And now I have a grandson. So I think about the world differently. He's the apple of my eye.
Being a woman is hard, being a woman in leadership is hard, knowing when to be aggressive or sometimes just doing things that you feel are necessary, and as a woman, people think you're just being aggressive. When a man does it, he's not being aggressive. He's just being a man, but also checking in on my own self and learning about the things that keep me back. And why don't I, as a strong woman, feel like I can do certain things? I certainly see myself as someone who can go toe to toe with any man. I’ll have a debate, an argument, whatever it takes, I'll testify. I'll do whatever I have to do. I'm never afraid of that. But then there are things that I don't do that I won't take action on because I feel like I'm not supposed to. And I think ultimately that comes from the female side of me, which I don't think is inherent in being female. It's just inherent in how we were raised. And even though I am still someone who fights against these things, I am still somebody who is fighting myself around the cultural and gender and sex roles that I have been raised under. It’s 2020 and there's still certain things about being a Latina woman. There was a certain time when people would talk about sex or anything around sex. God forbid, you had more than a handful of partners in your life or something like that. You’re a hoe, but this dude slept with half the Lower East Side and nobody cares. They just say he's the man. And so why would I care about that? I'm forty-eight years old. I'm a fighter and advocate for justice, for equality. I consider myself to be a feminist. And yet I still think twice sometimes. And I catch myself thinking, no, I would never do that. And then I'm like, do what you want to do as long as you are safe. The way you move, the way you get up and speak in a room, the way I demand respect or the way I don't.
There's all these realities. We won the rights of gay marriage, we've been talking about immigration, we had the Me Too movement. We were doing a lot to get us to this place. And so, naturally, I think the issue of women and gender is one of the oldest, biggest, most important things we could ever be for. Gender cuts across everything, race and all. And we've been operating as a society where women have held up the world on their back. Who the hell is holding us up?
AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] certainly is not the first Puerto Rican woman in Congress. Nydia Velazquez came and she did amazing things, but AOC came in and is now challenging power in a different way. Women are making tremendous strides. But men are still getting a tremendous amount of credit, even in this moment. So, in my neighborhood there’s a few networks that are happening around food distribution.
And I would say that the ones that are headed by men get more airtime and maybe it's not a whole lot. We make sure that the women in the work we're doing are being lifted up. But I'm always seeing other people's posts on social media thanking this guy and that guy. And then every time we come to a woman, they’re like, I don’t like her politics, but she's doing a good job here. Nobody says that when it comes to the males. He is doing amazing work. But so is Camille Napoleon at Baruch Houses who is servicing the largest development in all of Manhattan. Three, four times a week, and she doesn't have the organization behind her resources and money. She's just the vice president of her tenant association. I'm committed to creating this new effort. What it looks like entirely, I'm not sure. But it is going to be around how women support women. It is going to be around helping us advance our skills. It is going to be around helping us own our power and not being afraid to use our voice in any space. And it is going to be around creating and supporting women in leadership. And creating that cohort. A lot of women, whether I agree with them and their politics or not, in the last couple years, stepped up to take on positions to do community work. Everything from running for office to charity distribution to even organizing. I'm just a little fly on the wall. Time to do this. Listen, I know people think that I'm plotting the world's takeover. And the truth is that I'm tired like the rest of us. I wish I didn't have to do any of this work ever. I wish that this was all taken care of. And as passionate as I am about my community, about humankind, about justice, I'm also very resentful that we live in a world where we have to fight for these basic necessities and rights. And it's always part of my torture. And it's also part of my driving force. I think if I was more intentional about what I was always doing, maybe we might have seen something different. It doesn't mean I won't be. I will say that in the latter part of my career, I have been thinking a lot about the work we do. What is the impact and what is the best way to use the time, energy and resources? Because time is infinite, but lifetime is not. And you have a certain amount of time to move and make things happen. But I've always firmly believed that we weren't going to win the war during my lifetime, but we'd win a bunch of battles. And if I could be part of planting some of those seeds in a real way, that sets us up for the kind of world that I want to see children and great grandchildren live in, then I did my part.
We say sorry all the time. I say I will start every email with, I'm sorry it took me so long. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for talking. I'm sorry. If I was a man, I would talk this much and I wouldn't be sorry. I'm not saying I don't talk a lot, but I'm just saying that if I was a man, I wouldn't be saying sorry to you right now.
 See http://www.lespmha.org/
 See article in The Lo-Down: https://www.thelodownny.com/leslog/2018/08/heres-how-tenants-harassed-by-steve-croman-can-receive-restitution.html