Richard Buery continues lifelong work improving the lives of those less fortunate. In September, he became CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization dedicated to alleviating problems caused by poverty in New York City, and he’s hitting the ground running.
Last month, Robin Hood held its annual benefit when Buery was just a month on the job. The in-person event was hosted by actress Cecily Strong and had performances by Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and The Jonas Brothers. The benefit raised a whopping $77.5 million. Funds will go towards getting families back on their feet, kids back on track, and New Yorkers back to work as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview, Buery said being the CEO of Robin Hood is a continuation of the work he’s been doing for years.
“I’ve been lucky enough to spend my professional career really working on issues of equity and economic opportunity for poor working class New Yorkers, particularly Black and Latino working class New Yorkers,” he said. “I’ve been doing some version of that my whole life and Robin Hood is an incredible platform to do that work.”
Born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn, Buery said he grew up in a community that had tremendous challenges but resilient people. His parents are immigrants from Panama and his mother was a public school teacher. Buery said saw the impact she had on her students. His experience growing up in East New York ignited his urge to make change.
“New York City doesn’t treat all of its kids the same,” Buery said. “But there are places where kids have tremendous opportunities and pathways to futures, where they can live their dream and then there are communities where it just feels like the city and the state and the country are not making those investments. In those things I really found my passion.”
At age 16 he graduated from Stuyvesant High School and went on to graduate from Harvard and Yale Law School. While in college he volunteered to help disadvantaged children and co-founded the Mission Hill Summer Program in the Roxbury section of Boston in a public housing development.
When co-founding Mission Hill he also co-founded and acted as the executive director of two other nonprofit organizations: Groundwork Inc., a nonprofit serving children and families in Brooklyn public housing, and iMentor, a technology education and mentoring program connecting middle and high school students with professional mentors through online and face-to-face meetings.
Buery also has extensive experience in the legal field. His work includes serving as a law clerk to Judge John M. Walker of the Federal Court of Appeals and as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice. He’s also done work in education serving as a fifth grade teacher at an orphanage in the African nation of Zimbabwe and a lecturer at Baruch College.
He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
Buery previously served as president and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society and chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation.
On the municipal level, Buery served as deputy mayor during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term overseeing the rollout of the city’s Pre-K for All program, the city’s mental health reform initiative ThriveNYC, and he managed the city’s relationship with students at CUNY.
“I was lucky,” Buery said. “I guess the reason why I’m doing this is because it’s the best job in the world. I keep doing it because I get really excited about being a part of the solution.”
As for his future plans at Robin Hood, Buery said he’s focused on getting kids back on track from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting families back on their feet by meeting their basic needs. By doing that he said he wants to establish more partnerships for the organization.
“My vision is fundamentally to work closely with the state of New York and the city on these issues,” Buery said. “At Robin Hood, we pride ourselves on finding the most talented nonprofit organizations in the city, supporting them and helping to evaluate them, helping them amplify their work. That work happens in partnership with the public sector. For me, that’s in some ways my orientation. All the work we do and it’s been defined supporting the most impactful organizations in the city.”