NYCHA REES Zone Coordinators are your personal guides to achieving your economic dreams. They partner with resident leaders and local organizations to connect residents to jobs and job training, adult education, financial empowerment, and business development services close to home. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you can find your Zone Coordinators at the REES office at 787 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’re out and about in their zones visiting residents and partner programs.
Here’s what you should know about Brooklyn Zone Coordinators Rayford Hooks, Kisha Jackson, Evelyn Melendez, and Micah Owino.
Rayford Hooks, Brownsville and East New York/Zone 7 ((Brownsville, Cypress Hills, Howard, Linden, Pink, Tilden, Van Dyke, and Woodson Houses, Hughes Apartments, Saratoga Village, and more.)
He’s been a NYCHA employee for 15 years and a Zone Coordinator for three years.
Rayford has worked at senior centers, coordinated tree planting for the Million Trees Initiative on NYCHA properties, and helped homeless veterans transition to independent living in the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program.
He lives and works on the border of East New York/Brownsville: “I work within my own community. I see residents at BJ’s, at the laundry, at the post office—I know I have a responsibility and impact not only the NYCHA community but also my neighbors.”
Zone partners include: Jobs-Plus, NPower, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Brooklyn Public Library, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, CUNY’s Green Maintenance for Buildings Program, SUNY’s Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center, Workforce1, Brownsville Partnership-Community Solutions, and Central Brooklyn Economic Corporation.
His favorite partner: “Green City Force. Eighteen to 24 is a critical age. Some people haven’t finished school, are out of school, out of work, have become parents, or have challenges at home. I like that GCF is geared toward building up the individual and exposes young people to things they’d never heard of before. They are given the resources to sustain, such a stipend, a uniform, personal development, certifications, education, and they’re AmeriCorps members. I’ve seen young people’s lives personally transform because of GCF.”
What he loves about his job: “I’m happy to be the person that can build a bridge, to be a wonderful connector. As a Zone Coordinator you have the opportunity to fill in missing pieces for residents and put opportunities in front of them, to have conversations that will shape their decision making.”
Kisha Jackson, Downtown Brooklyn/Zone 6 (Albany, Farragut, Gowanus, Kingsborough, Red Hook East, and
Red Hook West Houses, Atlantic
Terminal, Warren Street, Wyckoff
Gardens, and more.)
She’s been a Zone Coordinator for three years, though she’s worked for NYCHA for 21 years. You may recognize her as a former community center director at Atlantic Terminal, Farragut, Independence, and Ingersoll. She also grew up in Ingersoll Houses, and both her parents were born and raised in Whitman Houses.
Zone partners include: The HOPE Program, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Public Housing Communities, Project Home, Impact Brooklyn, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and SUNY’s Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center.
Resident success story: “I connected a young man to REES for training and employment opportunities but he wasn’t successful. As a REES staff member, I re-introduced him to opportunities and this time he was successful and is now a full-time NYCHA employee.”
She loves working with the Hope Program because “They are an employment training program for opportunities in the retail area and have strong outcomes in the workforce development industry. Their employer-driven approach helps build more sustainable lives and communities by training people for stable jobs with room for advancement. From the time a student enrolls in the program there are high expectations in a very professional environment.”
She wants residents to remember: “Sometimes you may get discouraged, but we’re here to connect you to
opportunities and help you become more self-sufficient.”
Evelyn Melendez, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, and Bushwick/Zone 5 (Armstrong, Brevoort, Bushwick, Cooper Park, Hylan, Lafayette, Marcy, Tompkins, and Williamsburg Houses, Borinquen Plaza, Hope Gardens, Independence Towers, Palmetto Gardens, Stuyvesant Gardens, Williams Plaza, and more.)
She’s got a long history as a NYCHA employee. Evelyn was a community center director for 14 years prior to becoming a Zone Coordinator in 2013. No matter the position, her job has always been to “assist residents, families, and communities!”
…and as a NYCHA resident. She lived in LaGuardia Houses for nine years. Her daughter, Evelynda Santos, currently lives at LaGuardia and was featured in the August/September 2016 issue of The NYCHA Journal for her in-home child care services.
Zone partners include: Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, Brooklyn Cooperative, St. Nicks Alliance, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and Jobs-Plus.
Her favorite partner organization: “St. Nick’s Alliance, because they meet residents at their level of need. They support residents to accomplish what they want to do, even if there are barriers, to provide residents with what they need to accomplish their goals, such as MetroCards and child care. They’re passionate, family-oriented, and really want to help each individual.”
The best thing about her job? “I love that I’m able to change people’s lives. I interact with different organizations and find out about services they have for the residents at no cost. I really enjoy what I do. If I impact one person, that’s great because it trickles down to another person and that’s the ripple effect.”
Micah Owino, East Brooklyn and Coney Island/Zone 8 (Coney Island Houses, Haber Houses, Marlboro Houses, O’Dwyer Gardens, Surfside Gardens, and more).
He’s a new Zone Coordinator with the newest zone. Micah joined REES almost a year and a half ago to launch the zone. Prior to NYCHA he worked for the City’s Human Resources Administration, where he helped launch pop-up IDNYC locations to make the ID card more accessible to neighborhoods across the City.
This zone works unofficially with numerous partners: The HOPE Program, St. Nicks Alliance, Chase, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, and Workforce1 on Coney Island. “Essentially, we’ve been utilizing borough-wide and citywide partners for services.”
Favorite program: NPower, “an organization that serves 17-to 24-year-olds and promotes youth who are into technology and are trying to break into that industry. There were two residents who got into the program and were super excited. We tracked the trajectory, and with this program they can jump right into careers in technology. I look forward to working with them on a larger scale in the future.”
From NextGeneration NYCHA to NextGen Careers: “We need to expand our partnerships to the future—let’s talk about next generation careers for youth as well. Technology is the future.”
Success story: O’Dwyer Gardens resident Nsowaa Stewart participated in the NYCHA Resident Training Academy and started her own MWBE business; she now consults and contracts for grants. “I think her story is one of the reasons why we do this work.”
What he loves about being a Zone Coordinator: “I see myself as closing communication gaps, as the conduit for getting information out to residents, stakeholders, and elected officials, and I really enjoy that piece.”