Brooklyn Community Foundation Launches 3-Year Initiative to Plant the Seed for a Healthier, More Sustainable Brooklyn

“Brooklyn Greens” Coordinates Environmental Efforts in Southside Williamsburg, Bedford Stuyvesant and Cypress Hills to Develop Borough-wide Green Roadmap
August 10, 2011

Today, the Brooklyn Community Foundation officially launched Brooklyn Greens, a three-year $750,000 action plan to guide three distinct Brooklyn communities in their efforts to implement sustainable practices toward broad environmental improvement. The initiative was unveiled at a “Cool Roofs” painting event in Williamsburg’s Southside, a key community in the program along with Bedford Stuyvesant and Cypress Hills. Working collaboratively through the Pratt Center for Community Development, three long-established community development organizations—El Puente, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation —will go on to create a “green roadmap” of replicable strategies and tools to be used across all of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

Brooklyn Greens is supported through the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Green Communities Fund, which fosters the development of green spaces, jobs and neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Of all five boroughs, Brooklyn has the highest number of public housing units, the lowest percentage of land devoted to parks, and an unemployment rate above 11%. Bedford Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, and Williamsburg have Brooklyn's highest rates of children's emergency room visits for asthma, and Williamsburg’s childhood lead poisoning rates rank among the highest in New York City. 

“The world looks to Brooklyn to set trends, and there’s no trend more worthy of becoming tradition than the push to make our communities greener and healthier, and to lessen our impact on the environment,” said Marilyn Gelber, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation. “By promoting collective action and shared resources through this initiative, we ensure that the successful efforts of these three communities will benefit the entirety of Brooklyn, to make it a model of urban environmental improvement in years to come.”  

Through Brooklyn Greens, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Cypress Hills Local  Development Corporation and El Puente are engaging their communities’ young people, adults and institutions to improve the local environment by employing energy efficiencies; training and placing residents in jobs weatherizing homes, community facilities and businesses; and applying conservation and environmental principles to affordable housing developments.

As part of the initiative, with the help of organizations like Community Environmental Center working under the NYC °CoolRoofs program, community residents and volunteers across the three neighborhoods are painting their buildings’ roofs white. This simple step greatly increases energy efficiency and cuts down on peak energy demand by reducing roof temperature by up 80 degrees Fahrenheit, lowering the interior temperature by up to 30% and saving up to 40% on electric bills.

Pratt Center is coordinating the initiative, convening the organizations and a network of community partners, and tracking their progress over the three years. “Brooklyn Greens will advance the City’s goals to reduce carbon emissions and green New York City’s neighborhoods,” said Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center.

“We are thrilled to be working with Brooklyn Community Foundation and our community-based partners to develop and implement tools, strategies and metrics that can help all New York City neighborhoods to become healthier, more affordable and environmentally sustainable.”

In addition to developing a long term action plan, Brooklyn Greens will
-    produce 480 energy efficient retrofitted homes, apartment buildings, facilities and small businesses;
-    construct 130 units of new green residential housing;
-    train 140 community residents in green collar jobs, with a minimum 50% placement rate;
-    and plant 750 street trees and create or improve 12 neighborhood green spaces.

“With the support of Brooklyn Community Foundation, our Cypress Hills Verde project is tackling issues as diverse as energy efficiency, food access, and brownfield redevelopment,” said Harold Green, board president of Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. “This kind of work makes our neighborhood a greener, healthier, more affordable place to live.”

Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s President Colvin W. Grannum added, “Restoration has long been dedicated to helping low-income residents save money on their utility bills, but the tremendous support from Brooklyn Community Foundation through Brooklyn Greens has enabled the organization to take a more holistic and comprehensive approach, from job training to greening efforts, in order to establish Bedford Stuyvesant as a green and healthy community.

“This funding is key to developing the Southside of Williamsburg—perhaps one of the most toxic neighborhoods in New York City—as a ‘Green Light District’,” said El Puente Founder and President Luis Garden Acosta. “We want to demonstrate that it is possible to sustainably reduce health disparities and dramatically lower pollution, while shrinking significantly the carbon footprint of an entire neighborhood.” 

“Brooklyn Greens will improve the quality of life and wellbeing for thousands of Brooklyn residents, many of whom suffer every day from community-wide environmental degradation and neglect,” added Gelber. “We anticipate significant systemic change toward a greener, more beautiful Brooklyn.”

About Brooklyn Community Foundation 
Brooklyn Community Foundation's mission is to improve the lives of people in Brooklyn by strengthening communities through local giving, grantmaking and community service. The first and only one of its kind in Brooklyn, the Foundation was founded in 2009 to support the borough's most effective nonprofits in five Field of Interest Funds: Arts for All, Caring Neighbors, Community Development, Education and Youth Achievement, and Green Communities. Thanks to a start-up gift from the Independence Community Foundation, 100% of all donations to the Brooklyn Community Foundation are tax deductable. Learn more at: www.BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org; follow at www.Twitter.com/DoGoodBklyn; and like at www.Facebook.com/DoGoodBklyn.

About the Pratt Center for Community Development
The Pratt Center for Community Development works for a more just, equitable, and sustainable city for all New Yorkers, by empowering communities to plan for and realize their futures. As part of Pratt Institute, we leverage professional skills— especially planning, architecture and public policy— to support community-based organizations in their efforts to improve neighborhood quality of life, attack the causes of poverty and inequality, and advance sustainable development.

The Center is continuing its 40-year legacy by partnering with Brooklyn Community Foundation to help community groups to revitalize their neighborhoods, create and preserve affordable housing, support economic development and improve the environment. Learn more at: http://prattcenter.net/brooklyn-greens.

About Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation's first community development corporation, partners with residents and business to improve the quality of life of Central Brooklyn by fostering economic self sufficiency, enhancing family stability and growth, promoting the arts and culture and transforming the neighborhood into a safe, vibrant place to live, work and visit.

About Cypress Hills Development Corporation
The Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) was formed in May 1983 by a group of activist residents and merchants. CHLDC is a not-for-profit community organization, serving 8,000 residents a year through a comprehensive array of community service programs and neighborhood development projects.

About El Puente
El Puente is a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members (youth and adult) in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action. Founded in 1982 by Luis Garden Acosta, El Puente currently integrates the diverse activities and community campaigns of its Center for Arts and Culture and its Community Health and Environment Institute (CHE) within its three neighborhood Leadership Centers and its nationally recognized public high school, the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice.

 

Media Contact: 
Liane Stegmaier, Brooklyn Community Foundation
718-246-6882, lstegmaier@bcfny.org