Crown Heights, community organizing, BK Reader, community collaboration, community initiative, grant-making, ommunity grantsRepair the World NYC, New York Communities for Change, Crown Heights Advisory Council, Neighborhood Strength , Bethany United Methodist Church, 596 Acres, Haiti Cultural Exchange

The Neighborhood Strength model puts Crown Heights’ residents in charge of local grant-making

The Brooklyn Community Foundation anounced on Thursday, that $100,000 in grants were awarded to five nonprofits that are expanding or advocating for inclusive public spaces in Crown Heights. The grants were directed by residents of Crown Heights through the foundation’s Neighborhood Strength model.

In 2014, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, a foundation that seeks to mobilize people, capital and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn, launched the Neighborhood Strength initiative in Crown Heights – the foundation’s home neighborhood – to create a new model for neighborhood grant-making that positions residents as key decision makers in local investments.

In the Fall of 2016, more than 130 residents participated in three public visioning sessions to identify the community’s main concerns, such as displacement of long-term residents, increased economic pressures, policing on communities of color, as well as solutions including support for small local businesses and the need for shared inclusive public and green space. Following the initial sessions, a 17-member Crown Heights Advisory Council – consisting of residents, representatives of local organizations, institutions and associations – reviewed the community’s top concerns and selected one key issue: the creation or enhancement of inclusive public spaces to strengthen community engagement and cross-cultural relationships, and to provide opportunities for residents to address shared challenges together.

Based on the council’s recommendation, the foundation proceeded to solicit support and proposals from nonprofits and community groups, searching for applicants experienced in creating and providing programs to make existing spaces more accessible. The selection criteria included accessibility to underserved parts of Crown Heights, the ability to attract new people, inclusion of residents from different backgrounds and a long-term sustainability strategy.

The winning projects were:

• 596 Acres: to support stewardship, preservation and transformation of two neighborhood lots into community gardens;

• Bethany United Methodist Church: to support services, workshops and cultural programming that engage residents around issues in the community;

• Haiti Cultural Exchange: to support local Haitian artists who will facilitate arts activities and programming in Westbrook Memorial Garden to bring community concerns to light;

• New York Communities for Change: to support the inclusion of community voices to inform the development plan of the city-owned Bedford-Union Armory;

• Repair the World NYC: to support increased accessibility, programming and community partnerships that bring new and long-term residents together to meet community needs at a storefront space on Nostrand Avenue.

Watch the video and learn more about how the Neighborhood Strength model seeks to engage and strengthen the community of Crown Heights.

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