Fort Greene

Olivette Zarinah Shakir Thompson

Olivette Thompson, ”who lives with eight of her nine children in a public housing project has led a moneyless group in a successful fight to gain control of a multimillion-dollar development and provide apartments for middle-income families in the Fort Greene neighborhood.” – New York Times Sunday, April 14, 1968

Described as a “founding visionary”, Thompson (1919-2003) galvanized community members to purchase the Wallabout Houses from the Navy in order to meet the needs of neighbors who had to move out of the projects due to rising incomes. With small financial commitments from future shareholder/residents, the building was purchased at a cost of $875,000, with looming renovation costs. The Navy Yard Housing Development (aka The Eagle Building) became the first housing cooperative of its kind in the US. 

Thompson’s legendary activism was built around collaborative partnerships. Another one of her causes was the founding of Project Teen Aid, empowering teen mothers. Thompson’s grandson credits her with teaching him to “help people become better versions of themselves.”

Olivette Thompson’s leadership roles: 

  • Founder, Project Teen AID
  • Community Coordinator, Navy Yard Housing Development Fund Corporation
  • Chairwoman, Mental Health Committee, Mental Health Advisory Board, Community Advisory Board, Cumberland Hospital
  • Member, P.T.A.’s of PS #67 and Sands Junior High School
  • Past President, Ft. Greene Area Housing Development Corporation
  • Past President, Ingersoll Tenants Association
  • Chairwoman, Board of Directors, Willoughby Community Center
  • Past President, Fort Greene Rehabilitation Corporation
  • Member, Board of Directors, Willoughby Settlement Home
  • Member, Fort Greene Planning Board #2
  • President, U-CARE
  • Member, Mayor’s Task Force for Ft. Greene
  • Member, Advisory Board to NBC for Black Citizens Committee for a Fair Media
  • Women’s Advisory Committee of NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation
  • Member, Board of Directors, Ft. Greene youth Alcoholism Program
  • Addiction Counselor, Brooklyn-Cumberland Medical Center
  • Outreach Coordinator, Brooklyn-Cumberland Medical Center
  • Consumer Counselor, Fort Greene Community Corporation
  • Community Coordinator, NYC Board of Education
Portrait by

Diana McClure

Diana McClure is a writer, photographer and cultural producer. She has lived in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn for nearly 25 years.

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