[LGBT] neighbors saw the area’s potential and were not afraid to put in the work to save the neighborhood.” This area is nationally recognized for its diversity and tolerance.
Neighbors recall how they were on a first-name basis with many of the women working the streets during the early revival years; prostitution and drugs had become rampant. When the LGBT community decided it was time to take back the historic neighborhood, civic engagement grew and the entire atmosphere changed.
Today, the LGBT community is still an active force in preserving and improving Hawley-Green. In this small community located in a triangle between Lodi Street, James Street, and Burnet Avenue, there are multiple businesses and community organizations owned and run by our LGBT neighbors. The owners of Laci’s Tapas bar on Hawley Ave have supported NEHDA’s neighborhood building efforts by consistently donating to projects and hosting their own community events. The owner of Hairanoia, a salon on Green Street, also operates Friends of Dorothy House, where people fighting AIDS are welcomed and made comfortable through the end of their battle.
We were lucky to include one of our LGBT neighbors’ homes on the 2016 House Tour. Built in the 1840’s, the house on Hawley Avenue was originally home to craftsmen that helped to build up the City of Syracuse. Today, the “Bear Garden” is home to Will and Joe, who hold benefit cabarets throughout the year, with proceeds going to support different nonprofits in the area. By bringing visitors into their home, discussing the historical significance of the property, and sharing how the owners are still working to support the neighborhood, guests were introduced to the true spirit of Hawley-Green.
With NEHDA’s mission being to facilitate community development that promotes strong and safe
neighborhoods, thriving businesses, and active civic engagement, we are lucky to partner with our LGBT
neighbors who have been focused on these items for decades. The Hawley-Green House Tour is one example of how we showcase the work being done in our neighborhood, and how we show our thanks to the many neighbors that are working together to make this area a desirable place to live.
Listen to the Coalition’s podcast with Lexie Kwiek, Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator for NEHDA
One day in January of 2015, a young Ukrainian woman came in to visit Pat Singer, Founder and Executive Director of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA). The woman’s question dealt with closing her family’s apartment. Pat saw that she was pregnant, and also recognized her name from a Daily News article.
Viktoriya Proskurnyo had lived in the community in a walk-up apartment with her father and brother. She had recently survived a horrific nightmare. Her brother stabbed their father to death, then reached out to stab her but missed. He then threw himself off the fire escape, ending his life. Viktoriya was alone in her adopted land. She was also five months pregnant.
Pat shook her head in disbelief and told her, “I want to help you. I don’t know how yet, but I will find out. Do not give your key back to the landlord just yet.” Pat called various agencies including the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ office. She found one common answer: Path Family Center in the Bronx. BNA gave Viktoriya moral support and a little bit of money so she could get to the Bronx. She called BNA several times during the day of her visit. Each time Pat reassured her to be patient, that she would be helped. And by that evening, Viktoriya was in a furnished studio in Manhattan.
Her new apartment was clean, but Viktoriya felt lost living in Manhattan, away from her Brooklyn Doctor and the Russian community she loved. So Viktoriya would often take the subway to visit BNA, and the staff became her extended family. Pat advised Viktoriya to talk to an administrator at the current residency and explain her concerns. As a result, she was given the opportunity to move into Frances Residency in Park Slope, a shelter for pregnant women.
Viktoriya was told that she could remain at the residency for one year after giving birth. She was delighted to be near her doctor, her hospital, and also closer to BNA’s office. While she waited for the arrival of her son, the staff of BNA helped her secure food stamps and Medicaid. BNA also gave her small donations to insure her comfort. Viktoriya made friends with the administrator at Frances and was asked to be “spokeswoman” for the other girls in the residency, helping to “pay it forward.”
On May 6, 2015, Mark Nickolas Proskurnyo arrived at 7.3 lbs. just in time for Mother’s Day. Pat and her staff visited Viktoriya and had a chance to hold the organization’s new “mascot”.
Viktoriya now wants to go into social work and BNA will stand beside her as she moves forward into the next chapter of her life. BNA has continued to assist Viktoriya, recommending a child care program for Mark and helping her look for new housing. She and her son have a bright future ahead of them and BNA is happy to be a part of that.
Community League of the Heights | New York, NY
Green Excellence Matrix
Community League of the Heights’ (CLOTH) Green Excellence Matrix (GEM) is a groundbreaking sustainability initiative designed to improve the quality of life in Washington Heights. We have taken a multi-faceted approach to increasing environmental awareness, affordability and health in our community by engaging with the latest innovations in greening and community development.
Image provided by Urban Quotient
With an eye to increased affordability and environmental consciousness, CLOTH has begun the process of outfitting its impressive housing portfolio with a comprehensive set of green technologies such as Energy Efficiency measures, Solar PV (for electricity), Solar Thermal (for heat), Green Roofs and Rain Gardens. So far, we have identified 15 roofs that are viable for solar PV arrays and 7 for thermal. Green roofs will be built on the buildings that won’t support solar PV. All buildings will be undergoing energy efficiency improvements that will initially result in $41/unit savings. These measures do their part to support affordability in Washington Heights, with projected savings at $4 Million in 25 years!
Image provided by Urban Quotient
Another important aspect of CLOTH GEM is the urban farm and STEM education resource center that is in the works for the Dorothy McGowen Memorial Garden. Long underused due to limited access to light because of the tall buildings around it, CLOTH has commissioned a design for a two-story recycled shipping-container green house. The bottom floor will be a STEM classroom space open to use by the Community Health Academy of the Heights and afterschool programs, while the top floor will operate as a high-yielding urban farm that can feed into the food pantry that CLOTH also runs. The classroom and greenhouse not only provide an exemplary location for increased STEM education, but also a foundation in individual health based on organic produce and healthy eating. This multi-faceted project, soon to be known as the Dorothy McGowen STEM Education Center and Greenhouse, exemplifies the interconnectedness that is a defining element of CLOTH by bringing together several of the programs we offer to strengthen the overall community wellbeing.
From the beginning, the CLOTH GEM has been thought of not only as a singular project in Washington Heights, but as a model for city-wide implementation. This plan has been designed to be widely applicable and we hope to inspire other projects like it. We envision a greener, healthier, more affordable city and are proud to be front-runners in New York environmentalism.
Listen to the Coalition’s podcast with Yvonne Stennett, CLOTH Executive Director and Robert Crauderueff, President and Founder, Crauderueff & Associates
Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council | Brooklyn, NY
Community Artists Project
Mennonite United Revival Housing Apartments (MURA), the first affordable multifamily Passive House in New York State, was developed through a partnership between Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, INC. and Mennonite United Revival Church and successfully reflects RBSCC’s holistic approach to Community Development. RBSCC works to address the multi-faceted needs of economically disadvantaged families and the greater Bushwick community; RBSCC’s 40 years of mission based work strives to “build communities, not just housing.”
Mennonite United Revival Housing Apartments is visible from various viewpoints around Bushwick- characterized by its modern, “green” and industrial design elements; its well-insulated envelope is a visible indicator of Passive House standards and concern for environmental efficiency as well as low tenant utility costs. Its proud roof-top solar panel arrays and its prominent colorful exterior mural are features of MURA that are responsive to and celebrated by the local community.
Community Artist Project Mural on RBSCC’s MURA at 424 Melrose. RBSCC’s CAP- Public Art commissioned for Bushwick, by Bushwick. RBSCC is proud to contribute to the cultural and creative environments of Bushwick and to continue celebrating our local traditions of Public Art. Photo Courtesy of: Arts and Rhymes Collective
MURA features an exterior mural installed as part of RBSCC’s Community Artist Project (CAP). RBSCC developed CAP as an intentional community initiative focused on providing opportunity and support for the longstanding creative Bushwick community. CAP is a unique local opportunity, calling together RBSCC residents, RBSCC staff, our built environment and our creative community, to develop Public Art works which showcase the proud and diverse talents of Bushwick’s long–term artists. Bushwick artists who were selected for funding and support developed large scale images which reflect the diverse culture, history and experiences of the Bushwick community.
Public Art plays an important and historic role in Bushwick and Art was integrated into the design of the MURA Passive House structure. The three Artists/Art collectives who were selected for CAP have long-term ties to Bushwick and have long celebrated the creative expressions of the community. Creating paid opportunities for local Artists to create work in and for the community complements the responsive design of the structure and reinforces the holistic sustainability approach of RBSCC. CAP continues RBSCC’s tradition of developing services and opportunities based on the needs and goals of the community.
HopsArt at work at RBSCC’s United Revival Housing Apartments. Photo Courtesy of: Arts and Rhymes Collective
MURA’s CAP mural was designed and installed by HopsArt a member of Arts and Rhymes Collective. Both HopsArt and Arts and Rhymes are Bushwick-based creative entrepreneurs and active contributors to the vibrant social and cultural community as well as the visual landscape of the neighborhood. At MURA HopsArt and Arts and Rhymes Collective created a mural titled “Bushwick Windows.” In the words of HopsArt “The windows represent Bushwick’s long-term residents and their traditional domestic scenes.” Hops continues: “The mural’s physical challenges, the interaction with the public, and the artwork’s organic development are the most fulfilling aspect of the mural experience.”
MURA and RBSCC further goals of our development partners and the Bushwick community through promoting and providing opportunity for economic stability, advancement, and social sustainability. The unique and efficient physical structure, the tenants, the in-house social services, and community engagement opportunities address the spectrum of local community need and community goals while fostering community sustainability on environmental, social, and economic levels.
Listen to the Coalition’s podcast with Scott Short, Assistant Executive Director for Business Development and Real Estate, RBSCC
Project LEAP: Literacy Engagement and Achievement Program for at-risk urban males is a joint community/school-based program that will provide wraparound services for children in the Rochester 14609 zip code (Beechwood Neighborhood) one of four (4) neighborhoods designated a Focus Investment Strategy Neighborhood by the City of Rochester (https://www.cityofrochester.gov/fis). The Focused Investment Strategy is a neighborhood revitalization initiative centered on certain troubled neighborhoods in each quadrant of the City characterized by low educational attainment, high poverty rates and above average crime rates. Each area has a three-to-five year plan aimed at improving struggling City blocks by using an existing base of support, such as organized neighbors, or institutional anchors, like John James Audubon School #33.
The proposed program will provide direct services to 210 children for 2 afternoons a week (Monday and Thursday) plus one Saturday a month during the school year (for a total of about 200 hours of direct services per child), while also leveraging two existing summer programs (Horizons at University of Rochester [UR]-Warner and the Freedom School) as well as other services. Community engagement is a key component of the project, with intergenerational mentoring provided to youth as well as outreach /home visits to be conducted with families two days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) to provide continuous and sustained contact with the children most at-risk of dropping out of school. The program builds on an existing successful partnership between School #33-Audubon—a Focus School with 87% eligible for free or reduced price lunch (where program will be held), its active community organization (Northeast Area Development—NEAD), and several collaborative organizations with the University of Rochester (UR) serving as a primary collaborative organization.
The LEAP program is characterized by: (a) targeting African-American and Latino males in elementary school who are most at-risk of dropping out before they are exposed to years of negative behaviors and their consequences; (b) capitalizing on formal and informal learning environments to build academic skills as well as confidence as learners; (c) providing individualized literacy instruction to selected students to achieve the goal of having them read at grade level by 3rd grade, and (d) developing families’ and the neighborhood’s capacity to better support their students through programming mentoring and outreach for the entire family. As such, the program mission statement involves a holistic approach that provides engaging opportunities outside of the school day for students and their families to improve quality of life, increase academic success, and decrease negative behaviors leading to suspension and crime.
Listen to the Coalition’s podcast with NEAD’s Executive Director, George Moses
By Ron Boxx, Visions for Change
Carrinda Bacon, 37, of Syracuse, NY is living her dream. She is a director at an afterschool center, has a savings account, stable housing and her oldest son is about to start college. But that wasn’t always the case.
“For the longest time, I was in the poverty mentality,” says Bacon. “I was trying to figure out how I was going to feed my kids. Food stamps, Medicaid, I needed this stuff.”
Bacon and her household of six are residents in one of the affordable housing developments built and managed by Housing Visions. Housing Visions, with the mission to be the catalyst for sustainable positive change in neighborhoods through real estate development and community collaboration, has developments in fourteen cities across New York State and Pennsylvania.
“We learned long ago that if we are going to change the neighborhood, it is more than just housing,” says Kenyon Craig, President and CEO of Housing Visions. “If people have good jobs as well as good quality housing, it’s a great enhancement of the neighborhood.”
Generational poverty is a substantial issue in Syracuse. A recent U.S. Census report states that one of every two children who reside within the city limits are living below the poverty line. That is the highest rate in New York State.
Housing Visions founded Visions For Change, a nonprofit organization, to partner with City residents by assisting them in finding jobs and providing support in breaking the cycles of generational poverty.
Bacon graduated from VFC’s program in October of 2012 and began to take charge of her life. She set goals and developed small, manageable steps to make them happen.
“This program taught me how to save and that it was ok to come off the [safety-net] system,” says Bacon. “I didn’t realize how to save. Nobody taught me.”
Many individuals participating in safety-net programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Program, are pushed toward any low-paying job they can get. Once they start employment, they have less spending power and may quit. Consistent work history becomes a huge barrier to success.
VFC staff worked with Bacon to develop and maintain a budget that allowed her to plan for the future. They also pushed her to network and seek out opportunities for promotion within her employer that would allow her a wage that would support her family. She has since been promoted twice.
Bacon credits having stable housing as a key factor in providing opportunities for her kids. “Affordable housing helped me get my son into college because I could focus on other things than keeping a roof over our heads,” she said. “I learned to be an advocate for my kids and for myself.”
Housing Visions seeks to partner affordable quality housing with education and long-term support to break the cycles of generation poverty for families like Carrinda Bacon’s. Through coaching and long-term support, VFC has aided 149 people in attaining employment. Over 80% of those have maintained their jobs as they pave new pathways for their families.
If your organization would like to submit a story, please view the submissions page for further details.
Cooper Square Committee: Bea Arthur Residence for Homeless LGBT Youth, Manhattan, NY
There is a homelessness crisis in New York City, with a homeless population of over 57,000 in the shelter system and on the streets. Over 4,000 of these people are between the ages of 16 to 21, and it is estimated that up to 40 percent of them identify LGBTQ. Many of the youths have been disowned by their parents after coming out or have run away from abusive home situations.
Compounding this problem is the fact that homeless LGBTQ youth often avoid the shelter systems because they are risk of violence and sexual assault. Many who end up on the streets resort to survival sex in order to have a place to sleep, putting themselves at risk for HIV and other STDs. Youth experiencing homeless also experience a higher incidence of depression, increased rates of suicide attempts, and other mental health disorders.
Cooper Square Committee (CSC), a housing preservation organization and the Ali Forney Center (AFC), an organization that serves homeless LGBT youth, have partnered to form a solution to part of this problem. Thus, the Bea Arthur Residence Project was born. On June 30, 2015, the Bea Arthur Residence HDFC acquired 222 East 13th Street from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, a building that has been vacant for over 20 years.
The three-unit, four-story building has been designed to provide a safe home for 18 homeless LGBT youth so that they can live free of stigma and make plans for their future. The historic building, which dates back to 1851, will get an addition in the rear, enlarging it from 4,900 sq. ft. to over 6,000 sq. ft. The ground floor space will be occupied by the Ali Forney Center, which will provide 24/7 on site programming services for residents.
At the ground breaking ceremony in July, Steve Herrick, the Executive Director of Cooper Square said, “I’m proud that we are developing this urgently needed housing for homeless LGBT youth in partnership with the Ali Forney Center, and I’m looking forward to moving this project to a successful completion.”
The Neighborhood Preservation Program provided crucial funding support during the three years of pre-development work, during which time CSC received no developers fees or other financial support for this project. The Bea Arthur Residence at 222 East 13th Street would not be possible without the funding from the Neighborhood Preservation Program. The renovation should be completed and open to residents in 2016.
Listen to the Coalition’s Podcast with Cooper Square’s Executive Director, Steve Herrick
If you would like to submit a story, please view the submissions page for further details.