Karen Dawn Blondel

Environmental justice organizer who was born in Coney Island and raised here in the 1960s and '70s

Karen Dawn Blondel
Interview Date:
August 12, 2017


Born in Coney Island in 1963, Karen Dawn Blondel shares memories of the 1960's, '70s and '80s. Family members, including both sets of grandparents, aunts, and cousins lived in the community in bungalows, apartments, and public housing, and after her mother became ill she was raised by an aunt. During her teen years, Dawn, as she was called growing up, worked a dart game ("Three darts for a dollar!") in the amusement area and went to parties in Kaiser Park. She recalls  the unusual experience of riding go-karts on the boardwalk, thanks to a cousin who worked as a mechanic for the ride.  Considered a "free spirit" and a "troublemaker" by family and friends, Blondel channeled these qualities into her work as an environmental justice organizer for Turning the Tide, a community-based collaboration led by Fifth Avenue Committee, and lives in Red Hook. It's in my DNA, she says, as the aunt who raised her was also an organizer.