We are honoring YPs working to improve the economic status and working conditions of employees in NYC’s workforce. Congratulations to our September Spotlights of the Month, Anna Vaysman and Xiomara Loarte!
My path to where I am today started with the desire to be an attorney and a plan to attend law school right after college. Of course, as they tend to do, things changed, and I ended up working in the legal field for two years instead. My view of the law, and what being an attorney meant, changed drastically after this experience. I vowed that I would never join the ranks of that particular profession. However, after I started working in the public sector, the people I met there inspired me and reminded me that the law is not something one-dimensional or easily categorized. Ten years after college, I went to law school part-time, while continuing to work. Currently, I am the Director of Investigations and Conflict Resolution at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. In this role, I work internally on various issues and policies related to investigations and labor relations. Throughout my career, I have worked with so many wonderful individuals in City government and I believe that I got to where I am today only with their help and support. I will always be grateful for everything they taught me.
I am most proud of HPD’s response during this extremely trying time, with a global pandemic and a public health crisis that is affecting the entire world. The Agency has done a truly amazing job with its response, in terms of supporting staff and adapting to ever-changing circumstances. As this is a novel situation for all of us, it is especially important that we come together as a real community, of which I am extremely proud to be a part.
The advice that I would give to anyone who wants to work on investigations is to always be flexible and observant. Investigators don’t have a “typical” workday in the office, as at any moment, something can develop that will require them to go into the field. So, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances is crucial. Also, as an investigator, you must be observant, as you are uniquely positioned to be among the first to see any structural or macro issues that may affect an entire agency. This gives you an opportunity to help change policies that strengthen the entire workplace.
I grew up in NYC and never really had an “ah-ha moment” when I realized that I was a New Yorker. It is woven so deeply into my identity that I never questioned whether I qualify as a “real” New Yorker. It wasn’t until I traveled to a different state and ate a slice of pizza with my hands, that I realized New Yorkers do things a little differently. I received shocked stares for not using utensils to eat pizza. So, I guess the takeaway is that “real” New Yorkers know that the best way to eat a slice of pizza is with your hands.
I got exposed to the coalition building and organizing that was happening around me when I interned for the New York State Senate in 2013. I was so inspired and activated that I came back after graduating from my undergrad as a legislative staffer. A friend of mine saw the position announcement at the NYCCLC and thought of me. I was drawn to my position because it was centered on the very skills I wanted to strengthen while giving me an opportunity to share my story with the NYC Labor Movement.
I’m a Peruvian-American from the City of Newburgh, a predominantly Black and Brown city in the Hudson Valley, raised by immigrant parents. My parents instilled the value of hard work, equality, resilience, and respect and I’ve found that those values drive the Labor movement, too. I’ve just started my master’s program at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban studies where I’m hoping to submerge myself further in the movement’s deep history.
I find it super satisfying to help with civic engagement efforts coming out of the NYC Labor movement. I remember growing up how disenfranchised, distrusting, and just angry my community was towards the government. I felt the same until I decided to get a better understanding. Helping people understand that institutions, whether it’s city government or Labor unions, work best when we let ourselves be heard is satisfying as hell.
Be yourself, recognize what you don’t know, be open to learning, and lean on your village. The Labor movement and coalition building within it, especially in NYC, has such a deep history and many moving parts. Don’t be embarrassed by not knowing it and above all else don’t let it hold you back from asking. One of the hardest parts of coalition building is establishing and building genuine partnerships which require effort, honesty, and willingness to learn from each other. Advocacy work can move quickly and it’s important to have a support system, “your village,” that you can share your thought processes and journey with and lean on during long days.
I was born and raised in the Hudson Valley which makes me a different type of New Yorker. I don’t think I can claim that title for downstate quite yet. But it’s cool being in different parts of NYC and having my CLC team point out different sites and share the history with me.