After a touring rock opera brought Deb Howard from Chicago to Brooklyn in the 70s, she found herself going back to urban studies and her AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer experience, when she fought against the tearing down of five city blocks that would have destroyed a Chicago neighborhood. Seeing an ad for tenant organizer brought her back to this work, which ultimately led to a 27-year tenure at the Pratt Area Community Council (now IMPACCT Brooklyn).
She loved always learning on the job as new issues came up with each project, and community need changed over time. Her approach is to think strategically on how to fill that need, and to pilot these ideas before going for funding. She has organized tenants through the collapse of the co-op market and founded a citywide task force against contractors taking advantage of senior homeowners. She has developed supportive housing and renovated city-owned buildings into affordable housing. She has educated residents to speak out against lead paint poisoning leading to the passage of Local Law One, trained first-time home buyers, counseled homeowners facing foreclosure and initiated the formation of FAB Alliance supporting a healthy business corridor among many other initiatives.
Whether through her job, or volunteering with Brooklyn Legal Services, or serving at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Deb’s personal mission continues to be trying to restore and improve people’s lives. Deb believes you have to be an optimist to be an organizer so that you can imagine what could be.