Video by Maggie Janik, production assistance Barbara Epstein

Karen Dawn Blondel is a trusted and respected local community leader and longtime resident of public housing in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

She has been widely recognized and honored at the community, city and state level for her grassroots community organizing efforts and unwavering commitment to social justice issues. These have included housing equity, climate change, Hurricane Sandy recovery, environmental health, and COVID-19 preparedness, all of which directly affect local community residents and NYCHA residents, in particular.

Karen is an alumni member of the AmeriCorps Vista Program, the Red Hook Public Safety Corp, Friends of the Library, Red Hook NY Rising Committee, Red Hook Community Collaboration and the Red Hook West Tenant Association. Most recently, the Human Impacts Institute and NYC Department of Transportation declared her one of NYC’s Climate Heroes. When NY State went on PAUSE, Karen partnered with the Red Hook Container Terminal and spearheaded the weekly distribution of fresh produce to Red Hook and Gowanus residents. She possesses an unparalleled level of motivation and breadth and depth of knowledge of local issues. She utilizes solution-driven approaches and educates herself on any and all aspects of a given problem.

Karen studied commercial cooking and catering in Ogden, Utah. She then went on to the NYSDOT Joint Urban Manpower Program as part of her NEW (Non-Traditional Employment for Women) apprenticeship where she trained as a computer aided designer and drafter, and construction inspector. She then became NICET (National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies in Highway Design) certified. She worked as a civil engineer assistant for several engineering firms including Ghandi, NAIK, and Hardesty & Hanover. Two years ago, she began working on the impacts of the Gowanus Canal remediation on NYCHA residents. Since that time, she has become certified in biomedical and behavioral research with human participants and completed the Coursera COVID-19 Contact Tracing Certification. She serves as a community liaison for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. And she is also a certified US Census field representative and data collector. In 2020, she founded the Public Housing Civic Association, a local community based nonprofit organization that gives voice to public housing residents as they address issues related to the built environment.

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