Local Initiatives Support Corporation New York City (LISC NYC) will be holding their 2021 Big Apple Virtual Awards Gala on Thursday to highlight the work of their community partners and honor the storied career of Vice President Richard Manson, one of the company’s earliest employees.
LISC is a national organization that helps strengthen underrepresented, underinvested communities by way of partnerships, funding, and local, regional, and national policy changes. Over the past 40 years, LISC NYC has acted as a mediator between communities and the “hard-to-tap” public and private resources they need.
Community organizations seem like an indispensable facet of society today, but just a few decades ago they weren’t nearly as prevalent. It was at this time that Manson, hoping to revive a decaying city, started his work with LISC NYC.
“In the 1980s, as New York City was going through tremendous flight and decay, LISC and a handful of others were demonstrating that there can be a successful strategy of revitalizing neighborhoods through community organizations,” Manson said.
His goal was to make use of the vacant city-owned buildings by turning them over to nonprofit organizations and redeveloping them for long-term affordable housing.
“Once we were able to build support among the business community and the nonprofit community, we approached the City of New York, which had never done something of that size–setting aside the vacant properties in scale for nonprofit groups,” he said.
His efforts paid off.
“The program became the template for how municipalities around the country started looking to the nonprofit and civic community as a solution for the vacant and abandoned residential real estate,” said Manson.
Although Manson is retiring from the organization, his legacy and his passion for community development will carry on.
“The LISC program has demonstrated that this is not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking,” Manson said.
He believes that community-based organizations are a crucial part of the solution for addressing a city’s needs.
“It’s now a proven approach that can move the needle on issues that still need addressing,” he said.
Thursday’s gala is free to the public and viewable on LISC’s website. It will also address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been most devastating for the Black, Brown, and Latinx communities that LISC focuses its efforts on.
At the best of times, said Valerie White, Executive Director of LISC NYC, these communities already lack investment so the pandemic created a detrimental ripple-effect in these areas.
“Health became an issue, because many people in these neighborhoods couldn’t work from home, or they worked for industries or companies that had to shut down. So you saw huge unemployment and loss of income to various families,” she said. “And people were doubling up, because affordable housing is at such a premium, making an environment in which it was much easier to spread contagion.”
But the community-based organizations, White said, pressed ahead and worked to alleviate some of these conditions by providing basic services, food, and healthcare.
“We are in a crisis,” she said, “but it’s a crisis in perpetuity. Because we don’t know the end of the crisis, we don’t know the final impact of the pandemic. Just to continue to make inroads, so that we’re addressing the needs of the community, is extremely important.”
Thursday’s event, sponsored by Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and Citi, will honor all the community members, local nonprofit organizations, and financial partners who help drive this good work forward.