Steering Committee Biographies

Hal Bergold, Steering Committee Member

Hal Bergold is the Lead Organizer at CASA. He has been organizing since 2015 in the tenant movement in NYC, and worked as a union organizer at SEIU-USWW organizing airport workers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was born and raised in Brooklyn.

Susanna Blankley, Coalition Advisor 

Susanna Blankley is the former Coalition Coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. Prior to the Coalition, Susanna was 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, Coalition Coordinator

Malika is an experienced community organizer, coalition builder, campaign strategist, and social worker. She has worked in the social justice movement for more than a decade and has extensive experience building coalitions and campaigns from the ground up.  Malika previously served as Senior Organizer at ANHD, where she ran a workshop series for tenant organizers and led CATHnyc, a city-wide coalition 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.

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.

Katy Lasell, Campaign Organizer  

Katy Lasell is a social worker, community organizer and educator based in Brooklyn. She’s organized in the movement for single payer healthcare, in local struggles against neighborhood rezonings and gentrification and in housing justice coalitions. She directs the Writing & Critical Thinking program at Harlem Clemente, and previously worked in writing programs at VOCAL-NY and Barnard College. In 2021, she earned a Master of Social Work, in the Community Organizing, Planning and Development track, and with a Policy speciality, from Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work. 

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. 

Ruth Riddick, Steering Committee Member 

Ruth Riddick is one of FTC’s founding members since 2011, has been a community leader who helped lead us into victory as she fought tirelessly alongside tenants, organizers, and lawyers statewide in the fight for stronger rent laws. Ruth, a former clerk who built her way up to a supervisor position, played a major role in creating training that helped countless colleagues to grow in their departments. A decade later, Ruth continues to fight for housing justice while recruiting members in her community to fight collectively.

Lauren Springer, Steering Committee Member 

Lauren Springer is a volunteer tenant leader with Catholic Migration Services, a non-profit legal services provider in Queens providing legal assistance and know-your-rights education in the areas of housing, immigration, and labor.  She represents the tenant perspective as a steering committee member of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition.  By profession, Lauren is a practicing criminal defense attorney.

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.