Lower East Side Community Hero
Nominated by Steve Herrick, Cooper Square Committee (CSC)
photo by Whitney Browne
Harriet Putterman has had a long association with Cooper Square Committee (CSC) and has been a housing and social justice activist for decades. After serving on their board for several years in the 1980s, she has returned to serve since the Spring of 2012. In the words of her nominator, Cooper Square Committee’s ED, Steve Herrick, “She has been instrumental in helping Cooper Square Committee do strategic planning about how to grow our community organizing capacity, and she has pushed our board in the direction of reaffirming organizing to promote social justice rather than simply taking a case management approach to tenant problems in our community.”
Since joining the board, she has worked with Brandon Kielbasa, CSC’s Director of Policy and Organizing, participating in regular organizing strategy meetings to develop a response to the systemic issue of speculators who buy multiple buildings and displace tenants through harassment and disruptive renovation. She attends city-wide coalition meetings, rallies and press conferences and helps CSC’s organizing team prepare press releases. She has helped CSC design a survey about disruptive renovation and DOB’s ineffective response, and helped CSC write a “white paper” about the issue.
Harriet is also active in CSC’s senior committee, known as Senior Health, Advocacy and Recreation Program (SHARP). With her help, part of CSC’s catchment area was recently designated one of 7 Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). She also serves on the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, which owns the land that the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association buildings occupy.
In 2013, Harriet retired from being the Membership Coordinator at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) after 17 years. She brought the same energy and passion for organizing to NASW that she currently uses in her work with CSC. While at NASW, Harriet oversaw pivotal increase in membership from social work students, and in conjunction with these efforts, helped NYPIRG develop their existing voter registration efforts.