June 11, 2020
Dear HPD team,
As the protests continue in strength and size, I want to express my support for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers, including many HPD employees and partners who are exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest against police brutality and institutional racism. This is all of our fight, and I’m proud that HPD has long been committed to ending racial disparity in housing and in our communities. But more can and must be done. To that end, I wanted to follow up on my message from last week to provide an update on next steps as we begin the hard work of making sure that HPD is a place that is welcoming for people of color, and that our work is helping in meaningful ways to create a more just and equitable city.
As mentioned, we first want to host an Agency Town Hall to start a conversation that we intend to continue over the coming weeks and months. I see this as an opportunity for staff to come together and share their thoughts not just about the recent tragedies and ongoing response, but about structural racism and what we at HPD can do to combat it.
We are hoping to set this first meeting as soon as we determine the best way to simultaneously host as many people in the agency as possible, while making participation anonymous. Details will be sent separately, hopefully by mid-week next week. While I hope that many of you will join, this is of course optional as I appreciate that everyone needs to process in their own time and way.
In addition to the Agency Town Hall, we will send a survey to all HPD employees so that staff can anonymously share their views on, and any personal experiences they may have had with, racism and to identify the topics that you want to address in subsequent conversations in smaller group settings. The combination of these multiple approaches – the Town Hall, the survey, the smaller listening sessions, and other staff feedback – will inform the Agency’s efforts to address these issues going forward.
This agency is committed to fighting discrimination and segregation within NYC and has worked with many agency partners and the public for more than two years to produce Where We Live NYC, our draft report on discrimination in this City and goals, strategies, and actions that the City can take to confront segregation, fight discrimination, and increase access to opportunity for all. I am proud of the work the WWL team has done as well as the work that they continue to do in light of the inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other black Americans and the national outpouring of outrage against institutionalized racism that many New Yorkers are now marching against. I’ve asked the team to host an agency brown bag on Where We Live NYC. I hope you will read the report and consider participating in the upcoming discussion.
In the meantime, I appreciate that conversations will continue to happen organically, and I urge you to be kind and respectful to each other while having these conversations. I also want to remind you that our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion/EEO is here to support you as well. Please feel free to reach out at HPDEEO@hpd.nyc.gov.
We will be in touch shortly with an invite to the Town Hall, and will continue to keep you informed on next steps. While change will not happen overnight, I want you to know that HPD’s senior staff are committed to and excited to start the work of making our community, as well as the communities we serve, more equitable and inclusive.