Urban Justice Urban Justice Center individual rights - social change


Community Development

Our Mission

The Community Development Project (CDP) at the Urban Justice Center strengthens the impact of grassroots organizations in New York City’s low-income and other excluded communities. We partner with community organizations to win legal cases, publish community-driven research reports, assist with the formation of new organizations and cooperatives, and provide technical assistance in support of their work towards social justice.

Our issue areas include:

  • fair housing and anti-displacement
  • workers’ rights
  • consumer justice
  • economic development
  • civic participation
  • access to affordable health care
  • environmental justice

Click here to subscribe to CDP's email newsletter, Community Development Update.

Our Services

Community Lawyering

CDP’s team of experienced attorneys provides a wide range of legal assistance to help advance community groups’ campaigns for social and economic justice. CDP’s litigation arises out of the issues facing the groups' low-income constituents and members. For more information and examples CDP’s litigation, click here. CDP's attorneys also offer legal advice and assistance to grassroots organizations in topics including incorporation and tax exemption, complying with non-profit, employment and tax laws, and real estate and lease issues. To learn more, click here.

Research and Policy

CDP's Research and Policy Initiative partners with grassroots community organizations to develop, design and implement participatory research initiatives that support and strengthen our partner’s organizing and advocacy work. For more information on the Research and Policy Initiative and how it has supported community organizing and social change, click here.

Technical and Capacity Building Assistance

CDP's technical assistance work offers grassroots community groups training and assistance related to their formation and operation as not-for-profit entities. The goals of such efforts are to build these groups' capacity for effective organizational management and support their organizing and advocacy efforts in the communities they serve. For more information and examples, click here.

Our Theory of Change

CDP adheres to a theory of change where short-term and individual successes help build the capacity and power of our community partners, who in turn can have longer-term impact on policies, laws and systems that affect their communities.

We leverage short-term successes such as winning cases and publishing reports to build the capacity of our partner organizations, increase public awareness of the issues they are organizing around, and help achieve victories for their organizing campaigns.

This enables our community partners to create systemic change through law and policy reform, increase political power in low-income and excluded communities, and change abusive and exploitative practices affecting their communities.

Our Approach

  • We believe that social change is created through building power, developing leaders and increasing civic participation in communities that are traditionally excluded from political processes;
  • The priorities and goals for our work are guided by and responsive to the communities that we serve;
  • Our legal, research, policy and technical assistance has greater impact because it is done in connection with organizing, building power, and leadership development;
  • By developing equal partnerships with community-based organizations, we challenge and transform traditional power dynamics between service providers and low-income and excluded communities.

News and Events

City Council Awards CDP Proclamation Recognizing Outstanding Post-Sandy Work

CDP is pleased to announce that on Monday, April 7th, the New York City Council issued us a Proclamation in recognition of our legal, research, and advocacy work in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The Proclamation, signed by City Council Recovery and Resiliency Committee members Chin, Menchaca, Mendez, Richards, and Treyger, recognizes our post-Sandy recovery work of building power in affected low-income communities and empowering organizations and individuals to engage with city government. We are proud of our partnership with these council members and the work we do to promote resiliency in their communities, and we hope to continue in the future.

The Proclamation was presented at the Brooklyn Law School National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Chapter's Progressive Lawyering Celebration, at which the NLG Chapter and the Office of Public Service Programs also awarded CDP the Distinguished Lawyering Award. CDP Attorneys Sadia Rahman and Ted De Barbieri, both Brooklyn Law alumni, were honored on behalf of CDP. Garrett Wright, another CDP attorney, was also invited as a member of the National Lawyers Guild. Please join us in celebrating this wonderful honor of CDP's work!

New Report on NYC Public Housing After Sandy

CDP is pleased to share our newest report, Weathering the Storm: Rebuilding a More Resilient New York City Housing Authority Post-Sandy.

The report, using data from 600 surveys, interviews and background research, reveals some of the major issues that NYCHA residents have faced since Hurricane Sandy, such as slow and inadequate repairs, malfunctioning boilers, mold and a lack of job opportunities. The report offers practical and effective solutions that the new NYCHA Chair and City leadership can use as a roadmap as they partner with community-based organizations to assess how to spend Sandy-related funds, revise NYCHA's emergency procedures and consider broader NYCHA reforms.

This report was produced and written in collaboration with community organizations across the City, including Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), Alliance for a Just Rebuilding (AJR), Community Voices Heard (CVH), Faith in New York (FINY), Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and Red Hook Initiative (RHI).

Read the full report and executive summary.

Coverage by the Wall Street Journal and NY Daily News.

Consumer Debt Legal Clinic

The Community Development Project and attorneys from the law firm, Linklaters LLP provide free legal advice at our monthly Consumer Debt Legal Clinic. The clinics are free and open to the public. Sessions are 20-30 minutes long. Attorneys are available to help New York consumers who are having problems with creditors, such as being harassed by debt collectors, sued in New York City Civil Court, or experiencing the hardship of a frozen bank account or garnished wages as a result of consumer debt judgments.

For more details, see this page.

Most Recent Press

PDF "Budget of the People, By the People," Open City Magazine, April 4, 2014

PDF "De Blasio Picks 5 Members for Rent Board," The New York Times, March 27, 2014

PDF "Sandy Left Scars on Housing, Report Says," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2014

More ...

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  • 123 William Street 16th Floor New York, NY, 10038
  • Phone: 646.602.5600
  • Fax: 212.533.4598