On April 5, Leroy Williams received the 2017 Excellence in Customer Service Award from the Mayor’s Office of Operations at a ceremony at NYPD headquarters. Over his 20 years of service, Mr. Williams has become known to many employees and residents alike. NYCHANow spoke to him about the award, his career at NYCHA, and what led him to his current position as Director for Community Development.
How does it feel to be honored?
I was very surprised and grateful that I was nominated by my peers and selected for the award.
Why do you think you were selected?
I am a strong believer in fostering better communication with our residents, working with them, the community, community-based organizations, and elected officials to bring about the best quality of life at NYCHA.
I have a longstanding relationship with a lot of residents. I’ve been working here a long time – at community centers and on resident association elections and special resident events – and residents really trust me. My goal is to work more closely with residents to improve the way we do business.
What are your responsibilities as the Director for Community Development?
I oversee resident engagement on real estate programs related to new construction (such as the 100% Affordable Housing program and NextGen Neighborhoods) and permanent affordability tools that will repair and renovate housing such as RAD (the Rental Assistance Demonstration), which is part of NYCHA’s PACT: Permanent Affordability Commitment Together program. My job is to get vital feedback and input from residents.
I’m out in the field meeting with residents a lot. Residents come to me to get answers to their questions. Every week I participate in at least three evening meetings with residents, along with meetings with residents during work hours. I’ll also meet with elected officials to make sure they’re on the same page as us – we work to make sure that everyone has the same information at the same time.
I oversee a team of 18 that covers every borough. We’ll do door canvassing, knocking on the door of every single apartment where we’re launching a program to explain it, provide accurate information, and give residents the opportunity to have their questions answered.
What’s most gratifying about your work?
Seeing, hearing, and feeling that residents have a strong voice in NYCHA-related programs. I grew up in public housing (at Melrose and Bronxchester Houses) and have worked here for some time. In the past, we didn’t do such a good job in communicating, working with, and educating residents on various projects. With the renewed focus on resident engagement led by Chair Olatoye, we are reshaping engagement overall with all of NYCHA’s stakeholders. The difference now is that we are bringing our ideas to residents and asking for their opinion.
What do you like most about working at NYCHA?
There are many different areas you can be involved in here. I’ve had the opportunity to learn new things and explore and be challenged.
What positions have you held?
I started fulltime in 1999 as a Community Service Aide with Bronx Community Operations. I was promoted to Community Associate, and then Borough Administrator for Bronx Community Operations. In 2006, I became Deputy Director of Manhattan Community Operations. In 2016, I was appointed to my current position as Director of Community Development.
Why did you want to work at NYCHA?
I was the Youth Council President of Melrose Houses (there were youth reps back then) and was involved in planning events and programs. I saw that public housing residents were underserved, and I knew I had the ability to improve their quality of life.
How is NextGeneration NYCHA strengthening our organization and improving residents’ quality of life?
Its initiatives, especially the preservation programs, are the way to go. Recognizing that NYCHA doesn’t have sufficient funding, we looked outside the box and said we’re going to find a different way to maintain affordability while getting improvements for residents. It’s allowing us to answer the question, ‘How are we going to preserve this so we don’t lose it?’
Why is resident engagement so important?
Without residents buying into what we’re doing, we’re not going to succeed. At the end of the day, our core job is to serve residents. For everyone at NYCHA, our main stakeholder is residents. We have to make sure we’re working with residents and giving them the room to provide their opinions, because they can help shape a better NYCHA for the next generation.
See what Mr. Williams’ colleagues had to say about him: