Wed. May 18th, 2022


Ilona speaks in front of many more people, including Doverz Movement School and Republican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Pictures: Ilona Duverge

For New York City-based organizer Ilona Duverz, housing justice is not just some theoretical concept. He knows for himself what it feels like to be insecure at home.

“In 2017, I lived in town, I was going to college at John J., and … I was surfing the sofa,” he said. “I mean, fortunately, I have an incredible support system so I always had a couch to keep my head up at night. But yes, there was a time in my life when I was out of a backpack and I didn’t have a place of my own. “

It was during his time at John J. College of Criminal Justice that Duverge decided to first throw himself into the housing movement. She used to come to college to study law, but her class এবং and Donald Trump’s 2016 election তাকে made her feel frustrated.

“I quickly learned that many of the systems we’ve created, many of the existing laws, many of the rules of life in society are completely out of place,” he said. “I grew up in the unregistered and working class, and I realized that these rules are not really for me.”

However, instead of throwing up his hands, he began to think about how to fix those systems. In the end, the answer for him was that change must come from the bottom up, with ordinary people taking over the halls of power to create a world that works for them.

“How do we change the law? We change the face of power, “he said. “And that’s when I began to see the election campaign as a tool to build a movement to achieve a livable future.”


The dangers of inadequate low-income housing crystallized in tragic fashion earlier this month when a At least 18 people have been killed in a fire at an apartment In the Bronx. A space heater caused a fire that quickly spread toxic fumes on each floor of the 19-story building. It’s one The challenge is microcosm People today are dependent on low income or public housing. Lack of insulation, inadequate heating, and other problems with efficiency have forced residents to move from space heaters to ovens to keep them at risk. In summer, hot weather can occur Equally suffocating; Many public housing developments and areas that were previously redlined Even more intense heat island Due to the abundance of vegetation and sidewalks compared to the surrounding area.

These problems demand wholesale changes in the way we think about housing in a changing climate. Duverz found a way to push for those changes when his friend Randy Abreu launched a campaign to represent the New York City Council for District 14 of the Bronx. He thought his vision was progressive and decided to get involved. Abreu was defeated by a more centralist candidate, but Duvaraj said everyone has learned a lot from experience – including him. Through her work with Abreu, she met with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and became a field organizer in her initial campaign before becoming her Deputy Organizing Director for the 2018 general election.

While working on the Ocasio-Cortez campaign, the Duverge Movement began building schools, an organization that organized training for working class workers on how to run a successful political campaign. Always high achieving, he was still running the school, as well as doing an internship at the Center for Court Innovation in the Brooklyn East Brooklyn community. There, she worked as a housing and legal assistant, working with tenants in the city’s public housing to help them advocate for themselves.

Rep.  Ocasio-Cortez and San Bernie Sanders are launching the Green New Deal for public housing, with the Capitol Hill Dover slogan.

Pictures: Ilona Duverge

“I had families who lived in NYCHA, so I was familiar with NYCHA and I know how to get around those communities,” he said of the New York City Housing Authority, which oversees public housing in the city. Duverge developed deep professional and personal relationships with his clients, set aside extra hours to help them, and often went to their apartment for dinner or conversation after work. She said feeling at home with her clients helped her success in helping them keep their apartment.

Once Ocasio-Cortez won his general election in 2018, he began working with the Sunrise Movement to popularize the Green New Deal as a way to address the crippling and interconnected crisis of climate and ethnic injustice. In his first year in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez Green introduces new contracts As a resolution that would basically scaffold for a suite of policies to decarbonize the United States and reshape society.

Duverge, who no longer works for the Congressional woman but maintains a relationship with her and her staff, was immediately drawn to the focus of the concept on democracy and environmental justice. But on New York City soil, working class people are talking about the importance of housing protection rather than the fight against climate change. Fighting for fair housing is busy connecting New Yorkers to demand and Green New Deal Dover, but a Jacobin article Sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen began to crystallize a way to do just that. The article, entitled “A Green New Deal for Housing,” proposes to build 10 million no-carbon public housing units over the next decade.

Importantly, the houses planned by Aldana Cohen will not only be livable, they will also be beautiful. Although public housing upgrades are needed across the country, New York may be the most important test case. This will have a major impact on reducing the cost of zero-carbon technology by modernizing the largest number of units and existing housing stock and building new apartments.

“I started to think, why can’t NYCHA be America’s first green city?” Dr. Duverge. And it can really benefit … and give preference to people of color and the working class, people who are constantly alienated from everything. “

Duverge’s idea was driven by Abru, who worked in Ocasio-Cortez’s office and oversaw the Green New Deal portfolio. He came armed with a strong sense of how NYCHA operates and the challenges its residents face, including the high power bill, Exposure to pollutionAnd difficulty understanding their rights.

“It simply came to our notice then. And I was, you know, we’re talking about getting a green new deal, but we really have to start thinking about how we’re going to get there. It’s a way we can get a great first step, “he said.

Abreu saw Duverz’s point of view and took it directly to Ocasio-Cortez, who liked it and said it was worth writing a federal bill. The Congress Women’s Party brought in Aldana Cohen to help formulate policy. But getting inputs and buying-in from residents was also essential, and town hall meetings with public housing residents in Doversey played a key role in legislating what they wanted to do for them.

Aldana Cohen worked in one Offer back in 2015 For a green new deal for NYCHA, which he called a “complete flop.” But with Doverz and others from the Ocasio-Cortez team, he said, he saw an opportunity to make it a reality. Duverz introduced him to public housing tenants who were colleagues in a Movement School Housing Justice program called Reclaim, and they finished consulting on the plan. He was amazed at how truly participatory the policy-making process was and how it helped make it a reality. It was a complete change from what he said to a process where, in general, “NGOs that are well funded speak on behalf of the working class people and mediate between them.” Removing this barrier means that the law can be more directly responsive to the needs of the people who will benefit from it.

In November 2019, Ocasio-Cortez Green officially launched the new contract for housing Capitol Hill with Sen. Barney Sanders, who sponsored it in the Senate. It was the first official Green New Deal policy, and sought to invest $ 172 billion in public housing upgrades in 10 years, including wiring updates, electrical equipment, on-site renewable energy installation, ventilation leak plugs, and more. It promises to improve the living conditions of about 2 million people living in more than 950,000 government-owned units, as well as create jobs and prevent carbon pollution.

The bill is a platonic example of what a Green New Deal might look like. The goals of climate and justice sit together. More importantly, it is built on public input that will influence it, free from the influence of special interests, and written by a member of Congress from a working class background.


Yet two years later, the Green New Deal for Housing Bill has not been heard, let’s get closer to the pass. But Duverge is still working to make it a reality. The fact that the law exists is also affecting policy conversations and organizing on the ground.

In the spring of 2021, Duverge’s Movement School partnered with the Sunrise Movement to make the Rickim Fellowship national. In addition to offering fellowships to another group of New York public housing tenants, the companies have launched teams in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Each program works to help organize public housing tenants to fight for the Green New Deal for Public Housing. Duverz sees the fingerprints on this work throughout the Democrat-backed reconciliation bill. Joe Manchin has no name. The proposal initially included $ 80 billion in funding for public housing.

“It simply came to our notice then. “It would never have been on the table if it hadn’t really been for our work.”

Such transformative investments will be crucial in the coming years to address the backlog of public housing repairs and prepare the unit for a more warm, windy and heated future. The federal government has long denied housing justice Pours the money In organizations like the Department of Defense. The Green New Deal for public housing gives an idea of ​​what would be possible, though, if those priorities were to shift. The work that Duverge has done to sue and engage tenants is a way to bring that change closer to reality.

“He’s the one for whom the climate-EconomyLink is so intuitive that it can be extraordinary, ”said Aldana Cohen. “The underlying premise of the Green New Deal is, to him, common sense.”



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