Susanna Blankley, Coalition Coordinator
Susanna Blankley is the Coalition Coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, which is made up of more than 45 tenant advocate groups, tenant organizing groups, faith based groups, academics, and legal services providers throughout the New York City. While the Director of CASA (Community Action for Safe Apartments), Susanna helped form the coalition in 2014, launching a campaign to pass legislation making it a right for tenants to have an attorney when facing eviction. Her current work focuses on oversight and implementation of the new legislation, in turning a law into a basic right for all tenants. Susanna began her work as a Labor Organizer in Puerto Rico, and has been organizing for safe and affordable housing in New York City since 2009. She teaches community organizing at the City College of New York as well the Advanced Community Organizing Class through the Center for Neighborhood Leadership. Susanna has worked to advance Women’s Rights in Ecuador, New York City and Kenya. She received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her Masters in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management from the SIT Graduate Institute.
Malika Conner, Director of Organizing
Malika is an experienced community organizer, coalition builder, campaign strategist, and social worker. She has worked in the social justice movement for over nine years and has extensive experience building coalitions and campaigns from the ground up. Malika most recently served as Senior Organizer at ANHD, where she ran a workshop series for tenant organizers and led CATHnyc, a city-wide coalition that is fighting against the harassment and displacement of low-income tenants. Her previous work has focused on creating good jobs for low-income communities of color in the transportation and technology sectors, building the capacity of tenants’ rights organizations through leadership development and training, and facilitating support groups and Know Your Rights workshops for survivors of domestic violence. Malika holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Sociology from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, where she majored in Community Organizing, Planning, and Development and minored in Public Policy.
Sandra Contreras, Steering Committee Member
Sandra graduated with an MSW in Community Organizing, Planning and Development from Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work. She is the Lead Tenant Organizer at the Goddard Riverside Law Project.
Marika Dias, Steering Committee Member
Marika Dias is a public interest attorney who has worked in civil legal services since 2001, in a range of legal service and community organizations in Melbourne, Australia and New York City. Marika’s work has focused on providing legal services that support community organizing efforts and grass-roots community groups, in particular in struggles around housing, immigrant rights, and LGBTQ rights. Marika is currently the Managing Director of the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center. Marika also represents the Urban Justice Center on the Steering Committee of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. Previously, Marika was the Director of the Tenant Rights Coalition at Legal Services NYC and prior to that, the Managing Attorney at Make the Road New York. In both roles she led teams of attorneys and advocates working in partnership with grassroots community organizers.
Randy Dillard, Steering Committee Member
Randy Dillard is a resident of the Bronx, a single father of 5 children. He has a been a CASA member for 6 years and a CASA leader for 4 of those years. Randy have been intricately involved in the city-wide Right to Counsel coalition since 2014. Randy was also appointed to a local community board #3 in the Bronx, where he is serving his 3rd year, and is also a member of the Bronx Defenders and the National Action Network.
Jenny Laurie, Steering Committee Member
Jenny Laurie is the Executive Director of Housing Court Answers where she has worked since 2008. She directs the organization’s work with unrepresented people in Housing Court and its advocacy campaigns which are focused on ensuring justice and fairness for the many thousands of low income people without lawyers in Housing Court. Prior to 2008, Jenny was at Met Council on Housing for 15 years working on strengthening rights and protections for New York City tenants.
Lorena Lopez, Steering Committee Member
Lorena Lopez is a Tenant Organizer at Catholic Migration Services, where she first did 2 years of Americorps fellowship and then became part of the staff in 2015. Lorena supports the organizing work through engaging, developing/educating and empowering immigrant and low income communities in Queens. Some of the local activities include know your rights workshops, community meetings, building meetings, canvassing and other efforts. Supporting city and state-wide efforts are a big part of Lorena’s work so she represents Catholic Migration Services in various coalitions and helps strategize campaign work.
Andrew Scherer, Steering Committee Member
Andrew Scherer is the Policy Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School, and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at NYLS. He also directs the Impact Center’s Right to Counsel Project. In addition, he serves as a consultant and expert witness with respect to housing, land and property rights matters as well as matters involving access to justice and economic rights. He is also the author of the treatise, Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York (Thomson Reuters), originally published in 1994 and updated annually, and of numerous other publications. In 2010, Mr. Scherer stepped down after nine years as Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, where he had worked in a variety of capacities since 1978. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his J.D. from NYU Law School.
Aga Trojniak, Steering Committee Member
Aga Trojniak, Coalition Director, co-founded the Flatbush Tenant Coalition in 2011, together with eleven tenant leaders who were fighting harassment and displacement in their rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Prior to her work with the Coalition, Ms. Trojniak served as the Director of Housing and Immigration Programs at Flatbush Development Corporation for four years. Ms. Trojniak was an Advanced Community Organizing Fellow with the Center for Neighborhood Leadership (2010-2011), and in 2015 she received the NYC Shirley Chisholm Women of Distinction Award for her work with the Coalition. She holds a Master of Urban Planning degree from Hunter College.