Met Council Honors 3 With First ‘Jane Awards’

Supportive-housing advocate Edline Jacquet, Inwood-Washington Heights activist Graham Ciraulo, and Housing Works organizer Jaron Benjamin received Met Council’s first annual “Jane Awards” Dec. 15. The awards are named after “the Janes who built the housing movement” in New York City: Met Council cofounder Jane Benedict, longtime Chelsea housing activist Jane Wood, and Jane Jacobs, whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities argued powerfully that cities should be organized to suit human beings. 

Jacquet, who won the Jane Benedict Award, is a Met Council board member and senior policy analyst at the Supportive Housing Network of New York. The organization represents the nonprofit groups that provide more than 50,000 units of supportive housing in New York State—affordable housing coupled with social services to help individuals and families coping with mental illness, trauma and abuse, addiction, and chronic illnesses such as AIDS. She leads its lobbying, advocacy, and youth work.

The Jane Wood award went to Ciraulo, a founding member of the Northern Manhattan Is Not for Sale/Alto Manhattan No Se Vende coalition. He played a key role in the group’s campaign against the city’s efforts to rezone the area for the Sherman Plaza luxury development—which succeeded last August, when City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez was persuaded to oppose the rezoning. The coalition is now organizing against plans to rezone the northeast corner of Inwood for luxury high-rises that will contain only a small amount of housing neighborhood residents can afford.

Benjamin, who received the Jane Jacobs award, is vice president of community mobilization for Housing Works, the largest community-based AIDS service organization in the United States. Before that, he was Met Council’s executive director for two years, and helped put together the 2014 “Tax Breaks for Billionaires” report, which detailed how developers who donated money to state elected officials’ campaigns received massive 421-a tax breaks while building little or no affordable housing. Raised in Oklahoma and Texas, he moved to New York in 2008 to work with VOCAL-NY (then called the New York City AIDS Housing Network), where he organized the campaign that got rents for 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS limited to 30 percent of their income.