Passing the Torch
New EEC Members Assume Their Roles

EEC cohort one
Several EEC cohort one members with their certificates of recognition: Caretaker Shavelle Knox, Housing Manager Robin Singletary, Assistant Housing Manager Bianca Jones, Housing Assistant Jenise Santana, Senior Advisor Elena Tenchikova, Housing Assistant Jaritza Vazquez, Agency Attorney Melissa Renwick, Supervising Housing Groundskeeper Orlando Arroyo, Administrative Housing Superintendent Verna Ferguson (back row, from left to right), Director of Employee Engagement Yvette Andino, Asbestos Hazard Investigator Claudia Tejada, Associate Staff Analyst John Rubbo, Borough Coordinator James Ortiz, Executive Assistant to the Chair Andy Destin, and Housing Assistant George Jones (front row, from left to right).

NYCHA’s Employee Engagement Committee (EEC) strives to create a more inclusive environment for staff. The EEC partners with NYCHA leadership to champion a cohesive, collaborative organization that can bring about the Authority’s goals to change the way we do business as a landlord and create safe, clean, and connected communities for residents.

EEC members are handpicked every year to participate, and they represent a range of roles at the Authority, from front-line to central office staff. There were 20 members this past year, and 34 employees were selected out of 110 applicants to participate this coming year. In July, the members of the EEC’s first cohort passed the torch to the newest members so they can carry on the mission of making NYCHA a better, more productive place to work.

Icebreaker activity
Learning more about colleagues through an icebreaker activity.

During the ceremony, Yvette Andino, Director of Employee Engagement and the EEC’s founder and leader, said: “It’s been a full year of work activity and good times. We’ve talked about some serious issues. The first-ever cohort of NYCHA’s EEC worked on our core values and getting the word out to our colleagues about them, and we’ll be continuing that work this year. The first cohort is going to mentor and network with the second cohort; there’s a lot of people in this room who have contributed a lot to NYCHA.”

Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Kerri Jew also addressed the EEC members: “Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to participate in this very important initiative, which provides the opportunity to put all your good ideas in one place. NYCHA is a large organization, and this is your chance to make NYCHA smaller for yourself and your colleagues and to create your own community here, making your ideas for improving the Authority heard.”

Executive Assistant to the Chair Andy Destin, who helps lead the EEC, said that, “Changing culture at NYCHA is not something that happens overnight. We have to reach people one at a time. And then we’ll start to see change: people approaching things differently and respecting one another.”

About her year as an EEC member, Housing Assistant Jaritza Vazquez remarked: “It was a great experience for me. I got to do presentations, providing information based on NYCHA’s core values from the executive department to development staff. I learned that we can be ripples of hope and change – one person can make a difference, touching someone else, and that’s who change begins.”

Another first-year member, Associate Staff Analyst John Rubbo, said that the EEC “broke me out of my comfort zone, giving me a chance to speak in public settings. It also connected me to great, new people at the agency; I learned what they do, and I’ll stay in touch with them throughout my career.”

In small groups, the new EEC members brainstormed ideas they’d like to develop in their monthly meetings over the coming year, such as a mentorship program for employees and ways to improve communication between staff and with residents. Martin Golden, a carpenter in Manhattan, emphasized that “Communication is such an important and necessary skill. There are so many links in the chain to accomplish our goals of creating safe, connected communities where our residents reside and where we work . . . Communicating with each other can keep the links intact.”

Brainstorming session
Brainstorming ways to create a more cohesive, collaborative workplace.

Valerie Pepe, an analyst in Capital Projects’ Sustainability Programs, joined the EEC’s second cohort because she wants to “better understand the challenges faced by my fellow colleagues in both the field and central office positions; learning how they may tackle a problem can lead only to the best solution for both employees and residents.”

Cohort two EEC member, Health Initiatives Program Manager Marvin Jean-Jacques, is excited about the opportunity to highlight for his colleagues the potential that exists at the Authority through “a strong network of people at every level at NYCHA who are invested in making sure we all have the best information, opportunities, and access.” He hopes to become “even more collaborative in problem solving . . . everyone here has a diverse skill set, and we can all benefit from their insights as individuals and as a committee.”

Stay tuned for more photos and monthly reports from cohort two members…

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