Akilah Browne, Skadden Fellow
Akilah Browne is a Skadden Fellow at New Economy Project, providing legal and policy support to groups working to develop community land trusts (CLTs) and related initiatives. Akilah previously worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where she helped to coordinate the firm’s pro bono program, which served hundreds of low-income people and nonprofit organizations annually. Akilah received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and her B.A. from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, majoring in Media & Society. While in law school, Akilah was active in Fordham Law’s Community Economic Development Clinic, where she led student teams in advising organizations as they structured nonprofit CLTs, negotiated community benefits agreements, and formed tax-exempt entities.
Sofia Butnaru, Program Associate
Sofia helps staff the NYC Financial Justice hotline and works on community outreach and education initiatives in English and Spanish. Prior to working at New Economy Project, Sofia was a researcher at an architecture studio in Brooklyn and studied issues of affordability and urban space in New York City. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in sociology and architectural studies. Her research focused on finance and urban land in Latin America with a particular focus on public housing and urban land struggles in Venezuela.
Deyanira Del Río, Co-Director
Deyanira’s work for more than 20 years has focused on promoting cooperative and community-controlled finance, immigrants’ economic rights, and equitable neighborhood development. As co-director of New Economy Project, she works closely with staff and coalition partners to advance community land trust, public banking, and other strategic initiatives. She also supports the organization’s loan funds and immigrant financial justice advocacy. Deyanira has trained hundreds of community groups, testified at local and Congressional hearings, and authored reports and articles on a range of fair lending, consumer protection, and community development matters. She currently serves as board chair of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Community Advisory Group. Deyanira has received the Frances Perkins Working People’s Award from Fiscal Policy Institute, the Mujeres Destacadas (Outstanding Women) award from El Diario/La Prensa, and the Revson Fellowship on the Future of the City of New York.
Julia Duranti-Martínez, Campaign Coordinator
Julia coordinates capacity-building and coalition initiatives to strengthen community land trusts (CLTs) in New York City. She also facilitates community education and outreach on CLTs and community economic development. She previously worked as a language justice interpreter in Austin, TX, and conducted participatory action research on community development and urban resilience in the Dominican Republic as part of her graduate studies. Prior to graduate school, she worked in Colombia providing human rights accompaniment and policy analysis, and facilitating popular education. She holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies and an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Anthropology and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame.
Ben Hagen, Senior Research and Communications Associate
Ben coordinates New Economy Project’s community mapping and research, graphic design, video production and website management. Ben graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2010 and earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, concentrating on Housing and Economic Development policy. He has presented research at the national conference of the American Planning Association, contributed to Orlando Weekly and Untapped NY, and is currently completing a book on Garden City-inspired neighborhood development in Queens.
Ali Issa, Coalition Organizer
Ali is lead organizer for the NYC public bank campaign, which New Economy Project coordinates in coalition with community, labor and base-building groups. Ali previously worked with War Resisters League, organizing against police militarization and helping build cross-community coalitions in cities around the country, and with The Street Vendor Project. Originally from Iowa, Ali holds a Master’s degree in Arabic Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of the book Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq.
Sarah Ludwig, Founder and Co-Director
Sarah founded New Economy Project in 1995, as the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP). As a longtime leader in the movement for community financial justice and neighborhood equity, Sarah has testified frequently at public hearings, trained hundreds of community organizers and advocates, and built and led effective coalitions that address manifestations of structural racism and other systemic inequities in our economy. In 2013, she helped shepherd the organization’s transition from NEDAP to New Economy Project, returning the organization to its original dual mission of working with community groups to fight for economic justice, and to create community-led vehicles that ensure self-determination over people’s housing, work, money, land, energy, and communities at large.
Sarah received the 2000 Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership fellowship; the 2002 Union Square Award; The Ford Foundation’s 2004 Leadership for a Changing World award; New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s 2008 Felix A. Fishman Award; and Chhaya CDC’s 2011 Architect of Change award. She serves on the board of directors of the Center for Responsible Lending, and for six years served as co-chair of North Star Fund’s Community Funding Committee. Sarah received a law degree from NYU School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow, and a master’s degree in urban planning, also from NYU.
Andy Morrison, Campaigns Director
Andy coordinates New Economy Project’s coalition organizing and helps plan and execute our strategic campaigns, in collaboration with community, civil rights, and labor groups, cooperatives, and others. He also co-leads communications efforts and supports direct-donor and other development campaigns. Andy previously worked at New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), where he ran the organization’s statewide canvassing operation, developed policy and organizing strategies, and trained students to be effective activists. His 2014 report exposing discrimination in New York’s auto insurance market initiated an investigation by the state’s insurance regulator, which led to a statewide ban on the use of education level or occupation status in setting auto insurance premiums. He graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science and is currently enrolled part-time at CUNY School of Law.
Mike Sandmel, Campaign Organizer
Mike joined New Economy Project in 2018 and helps coordinate statewide coalition-building and advocacy for the NYS Community Equity Agenda. He also contributes to New Economy Project’s communications work and various campaigns. He previously served for five years as Membership Director for the New Economy Coalition, a national network of more than 200 organizations working toward a democratic economy rooted in racial, economic, and environmental justice. Mike graduated Magna Cum Laude from NYU with a degree in Economics and Ecology and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public and Non-Profit Administration.
Susan Shin, Legal Director
Susan directs New Economy Project’s legal strategies, including our direct legal services to low income New Yorkers and community groups, and impact litigation that challenges Wall Street corporations and advances economic justice in NYC communities of color. Susan also co-chairs the policy work group of the NYC Community Land Initiative. She is a recipient of the Rising Star Award from the Partners Council of the National Consumer Law Center, the Consumer Advocate Award from the National Association of Consumer Advocates, and an award from the Civil Legal Advice and Referral Office (CLARO) for outstanding service and dedication to helping New Yorkers in need of legal assistance. Susan was previously a Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney with The Legal Aid Society in New York City. She is a 2006 graduate of New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow.
Raquel Villagra, Staff Attorney
Raquel Villagra works on New Economy Project’s impact litigation and provides legal assistance through our NYC Financial Justice Hotline. Raquel previously worked at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP as a litigation associate. Raquel received a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a B.A. in Art History from Columbia University. In law school, Raquel was a Helaine Barnett Fellow with Legal Services Corporation, was active in the Racial Justice Clinic and Juvenile Defender Clinic, and was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Review of Law & Social Change.
Matt manages office operations and keeps the office organized and running smoothly. He also assists with outreach and research for New Economy Project’s campaigns. Additionally, he coordinates individual donor fundraising efforts and supports administration of grants and contracts. Before joining the team in 2017, Matt organized with community and food justice groups in his home state of Washington. He graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a B.A. in Community, Environment, and Planning and a B.A. in Geography. You can find him bike exploring NYC parks and neighborhoods, practicing riding his unicycle, or cooking meals for his collective house.