Meet Kanika Khanna, Building Capital Fellow

What excites you about joining Open House New York as a Building Capital Fellow

So many things! I am thrilled to join Open House New York as we examine perpetually under-explored questions of equity and access to opportunity. I’m looking forward to engaging with a range of stakeholders, be they community members, activists, policymakers, practitioners, and others, on how systematically neglected neighborhoods can become what their residents imagine them to be…without fear of losing their homes, figuratively and structurally.

What experiences/skill sets to you bring to this work?

My background is in research and policy analysis, incorporating spatial analysis (I love maps!) and qualitative data (focus groups, interviews, and the like). My research specialty is urban policy, planning, and space, with an emphasis on racial residential segregation and integration. I worked in New York City government, examining issues that impact New Yorkers’ every day lives, and alongside community groups and nonprofits working to make people’s lives better. I hope my background as well as my love for this city shines through during my time at OHNY!

What do you hope to accomplish as a Fellow?

I hope to facilitate groups getting the resources they need to achieve the quality of place and quality of life they inherently deserve. We all have the agency we need to advocate for ourselves, but getting started can be daunting. 

I want to put discussions about equity and antiracism on the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to building capital, encouraging others to think of these concepts as practices, rather than things you become or are. Communities lack access to opportunities because of willful negligence and discrimination. Reversing this course requires active commitment to these praxes. 

Finally, I hope to become part of a growing coalition of New Yorkers committed to make each neighborhood, community, and corner of this city the best it can be. Whether that means supporting New Yorkers as they lead the way in shaping how their communities are developed, or educating others on how their positionality adversely impacts their neighbors, this is a collective, enduring effort.

I’m an Open House New Yorker because … 

That OHNY was founded in the wake of September 11, 2001—to ensure every New Yorker can enjoy full access to the greatest city in the world—resonates deeply with me. As a child of Desi immigrants, 9/11 shaped the way I interacted with the city. Despite being born and raised here, I was often told that “people like [me]” didn’t belong in New York City. I’ve devoted my life’s work to serving this city and its residents, regardless of who they are or where they came from. New York City is the greatest city in the world for many reasons, but the reason most dear to me is that it can be home to so many from all walks of life. 

Kanika Khanna is a fifth year PhD candidate at Cornell University’s Department of Government. Her research focuses on race, inequality, and housing policy. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Kanika was as a policy analyst for the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD and a consultant for nonprofit organizations serving unhoused individuals and families. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from CUNY Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island and a Master of Public Policy from Brown University. Outside of her work, Kanika can be found catching the Staten Island Ferry, searching for her favorite new falafel spot, or taking photos around New York of her favorite New Yorkers.

After a competitive search, Kanika was selected as the OHNY Building Capital Fellow. She started with OHNY in August 2022.