2012 – Neighborhood Women Legacy Project

‘The complexity of community life today presents problems so difficult that we believe woman need a special kind of network to empower and support us becoming strong, effective, and efficient leaders.’

Jan Peterson, NCNW founder

The Neighborhood Women (NW) Legacy Project intends to highlight the role of grassroots women’s leadership in the historical development, growth and vitality of their communities. Continue reading

1982 – Neighborhood Women House Living and Learning Center

NW Members outside the NW House‘The spaces will blur the traditional divisions between working and living. They will allow for personal privacy, peer-support, and bring permanent residents, visitors and the community together under the same roof. Embedded within the LLC concept is the belief in life beyond retirement; the value of multiplying partnerships and interface between grassroots groups; the opportunity Continue reading

1982 – Greenpoint Hospital Battle and NW Houses

Greenpoint HospitalIn 1982, the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) announced its plan to close the 67-year-old Greenpoint Hospital on this site and replace it with the 600-bed Woodhull Medical and Mental health Center in Williamsburg which had been built in 1978 but remained vacant because the city said it could not afford to open it.  The Greenpoint Hospital Task Force had created plans to build a nursing home Continue reading

1977 – First Battered Women Shelter in NY

In January 1977, the National Congress of Neighborhood Women and the Brooklyn YWCA opened the first battered women shelter in NY, The Center for Elimination of Violence in the Family. The problem of battered women had just started to gain attention. Evidence showed it was a widespread issue in the borough of Brooklyn. In 1974-75, out of 700 hundred women filing for divorce in Kings County represented by Brooklyn Legal Services, Corporation B, 41.5% complained of physical assaults by their husbands. In Park Slope, the 72nd Police Precinct informally reported in 1976 that 50% of their night calls were from battered women. Continue reading

1976 – Neighborhood Women Network News

Neighborhood Women Network News

‘The NCNW newsletter was an interesting mix of articles on women’s groups across the country, the organization’s local efforts in Brooklyn and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., recipes, oral histories, essays and personal columns, and letters to the editor. The newsletter went through many incarnations as different women joined the group and contributed to it. The first version Continue reading

1975 – Neighborhood College Program

Neighborhood College Program

Neighborhood College Program Photograph by Janie Eisenberg

‘The women made it clear that they did not want to be viewed simply as recipients of services and subsidies. They felt they had valuable experience and skills to offer from having provided services informally Continue reading

Mildred Tudy-Johnston

Mildred Tudy-JohnstonIn June 1953 Mildred Tudy-Johnston moved into Cooper Park Houses with her three young children. She helped to form the Cooper Park Houses Tenant Association and served as President for many years advocating for issues including fair treatment and racial equality, housing maintenance and better services in the property, better jobs for teens, modern and clean recreational facilities at Cooper Park Continue reading

Tillie Tarantino

Tillie Tarantino

Photo by Rafael Gamo

In 1968, grassroots women leaders Elizabeth Speranza, Molly Manna, Tillie Tarantino, Millie LaCioppa, Margaret LaPolla, Marion Varriale, Agnes Grappone, Anna Barone, Frances Anella and Anna Mae Pecora founded the Conselyea Street Block Association (CSBA) to improve the lives of those in Williamsburg-Greenpoint.

In 1969, under the guidance of woman activist Jan Peterson, the CSBA founded the Small World Day Care and Swinging Sixties Community Center to bring services to children, parents and seniors in the community. In 1975, Tillie Tarantino became the Executive 




“Tillie Tarantino Way”  Street Naming Ceremony on October 20, 2017

To honor and remember the activism and important accomplishments of Tilllie Tarantino, her block in Williamsburg was named “Tillie Tarantino Way.”


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Sandy Schilen

Sandy SchilenIn 1986, Sandy joined the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW).  She coordinated the NW College Program, which allowed grassroots women to attend a college that reflected their values, used their neighborhood as the campus, and fostered and formalized their community leadership. At the height of welfare reform in the late 1980s, she protested at City Hall with single mothers in NW’s educational programs, successfully rallying political support to shift job Continue reading

Juanita Orengo-Rodriguez

In this interview with Jan Peterson, Juanitz Orengo-Rodriquez talks about how she found out about the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, learned to become a community activist, and worked for her neighborhood.  The interview was made in the summer of 2016.

Juanita Rodriguez

Juantia Orengo-Rodriguez has been a community activist in Brooklyn for 28 years. She is a member of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW), the Neighborhood Women of Williamsburg-Greenpoint (NWWG), GROOTS International, and the Huairou Commission. As a community organizer, she has worked to better the school systems Continue reading

Mary Alice Richardson

President of Neighborhood Women Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Mary Alice pioneered work on economic development as the first director of a Community Action Program in the 60s. She created the first women’s political party, Williamsburg-Greenpoint Action Alliance Political Club. Continue reading

Caroline Pezzullo

Caroline Pezzullo

Photo by Martha Stuart Communications, March 1980

Caroline was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Her interest in social justice led her to join the Young Christian Workers in her youth.  Her experience working in development transformed into a commitment to empowering grassroots women globally. In the mid-1980s she became leader and board member of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW), where she co-designed the Annual Institute on Women and Community Development. Caroline’s vision of a network of grassroots women’s organizations that would act and speak on their own behalf in global development arenas became Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Continue reading

Geraldine Miller

Geraldine MillerIn 1971, Geraldine Miller founded in New York City the Household Technicians, a group that fought for equal rights for women who worked informally as maids, nannies and cooks. Geraldine understood the struggles of being a household worker because she had started doing domestic work at an early age. The group pressured employers to comply with minimum wage standards and Social Security laws. In 1974, Miller worked closely with Rep. Shirley Chisholm to help household workers win the right to be included in the Federal Minimum Wage Act.

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Elizabeth “Betty” Marrero

Elizabeth Marrero photoBetty was an active community volunteer for many years. From her first floor apartment and porch in the Neighborhood Women Houses, accompanied by her faithful dog, Rocky, she functioned as a neighborhood ambassador, talking and listening to everyone, offering wisdom and friendship.  A member of Neighborhood Women Renaissance Housing Board for ten years,
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Marie Leanza

Marie Leanza talks to Jan Peterson about how she became a neighborhood activist and leader with the support and guidance of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women. This interview was made during the summer of 2016.

The building located at 29-39 Debevoise St, Neighborhood Women Houses, is named after Marie Leanza and Tillie Tarantino for their abiding commitment to the betterment of Williamsburg-Greenpoint.

Marie Leanza

Image from Metropolitan Avenue directed by Christine NoscheseMetropolitan Avenue

Marie is a lifelong Williamsburg resident. She became involved in 1975 with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women through the Neighborhood Women College Program. Marie Leanza worked for over three decades at St Nicks Alliance specializing in senior housing. She led the fight against redlining in Williamsburg, which resulted in a commitment from Anchor Bank to invest five million dollars in the neighborhood. She was key to the establishment of the Building Survival Fund.

Mildred Johnson

Mildred Johnson

Image from Metropolitan Avenue directed by Christine Noschese

A native of North Carolina, Mildred served as president of the Cooper Park Tenants Association for many years. A devout worshiper in the Free Gift Baptist Church, Mildred manifested her faith in the community by establishing youth and headstart programs, getting sidewalks and play areas built, and revitalizing the community center. She represented Copper Park Houses on GREC Community Coalition. Continue reading

Margaret Carnegie

Margaret Carnegie

Image from Metropolitan Avenue directed by Christine Noschese

Margaret Carnegie was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, on April 27, 1910. She moved to New York in 1920 where she attended the Florence Garnett Training School for Girls, Junior High School 136, and Morris High School in the Bronx. In 1953, Carnegie moved to the recently built Cooper Park Houses. For the next forty years of her life, she became deeply involved in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg community. Carnegie had a special interest in improving the livelihood of seniors. She worked for better housing and safety for the elderly, as well as activities for their mental and physical health. She is credited with bringing ‘Grandparents Day’ (first Sunday after Labor Day) to New York. Grandparents Avenue, located along a section of  Continue reading