May 3, 2021
As a society we claim to value our public systems. We view parks, education and the arts as being in service to the common good. But the narrative about public housing is persistently negative and steeped in racism. Public housing was created in the 1930s, leading to slum clearance, the displacement of Black families and sanctioning of segregated neighborhoods. Nationally, over 3,300 local authorities are charged with managing aging housing stock through decades of federal disinvestment. The NYC Housing Authority oversees 180,000 residential units and is the largest landlord in North America. Residents, demonized in TV shows and by pandering politicians, are simply trying to live their lives. They are also engaged community members advocating for solutions to aging infrastructure. As Rasmia Firmani, a passionate champion of NYCHA residents explains, they do this after coming home from jobs that are overwhelming at NYC agencies, from the NYPD to the Department of Education and NYCHA itself. Rasmia is a truth teller and a connector of the people and resources needed to generate change. She is an insider with community credibility. And she is changing the narrative.