An overwhelming amount of volunteers worked alongside Rebuilding Together NYC and the Brownsville Partnership to conduct repairs on homes, renovations at the Seth Low Community Center, Langston Hughes basketball court and on Belmont Avenue

Langston Hughes Tenant Association President Ciprian Noel (front) with longtime residents Karen Callender, Ms. Carrington and Brownsville Partnership’s Layman Lee (left to right)

On Saturday, the Brownsville community came together for Rebuilding Together NYC’s (RT NYC) annual Fall Neighborhood Rebuilding Event to provide free home repairs for low-income families and fixes to public spaces. An overwhelming amount of volunteers from the local community worked alongside RT NYC to conduct repairs on homes, renovations at the Seth Low Community Center and Langston Hughes basketball court, and to install lights along the Belmont Avenue business corridor.

Volunteers gave the Langston Hughes’ basketball court a much needed paint job

“It was very exciting to partner with the Brownsville community for this year’s Fall Rebuilding Day – our work is that much more impactful when local residents get involved,” said Kimberly George, executive director of Rebuilding Together NYC.

The day began at the Seth Low Community Center for a quick safety training provided by RT NYC contractors who, as all participants, volunteered their time and expertise. Then, all the volunteers, consisting of both residents and organizations such as Mission Continues, Brownsville Recreation Center, Made in Brownsville, Brooklyn Community Services, Brownsville Community Justice Center, were dispatched to their various assignments. Four homes of senior residents – former veterans and public servants –  underwent critical repairs and upgrades including removing carpets, replacing floors, patching holes, painting walls.

Volunteers beautifying the walls of Langston Hughes Houses with artful murals

Another troupe of volunteers tackled the Langston Hughes basketball court which received new backboards, hoops and benches; the court itself was completely repainted, cracks were filled and new court lines were drawn. The nearby housing complex also received some color thanks to the artistic hands of volunteers who created beautiful murals.

Residents of Seth Low Houses hard at work painting the benches in the court yard

A third cohort of volunteers was dispatched to the Seth Low Community Center to repaint the center’s game room in a fun arcade-inspired theme. Seth Low’s community garden received new raised plant beds, benches were added in the courtyard and the center’s entrance underwent some beautifications.

Lastly, the Belmont Avenue business corridor also benefitted from the Fall Neighborhood Rebuilding event: Volunteers installed 50 outdoor solar-powered, motion-detecting lights on the exterior of small business storefronts, and sidewalks were cleaned and equipped with new flower boxes.

The Brownsville Partnership and the RT NYC initiated the Fall Rebuilding event, but the 200 volunteers were the driving forces who turned it into a “Brownsville lifting up Brownsville”- day! The participation of the volunteers, and the input and direction of Seth Low’s resident association and the Langston Hughes tenant association was crucial and exceptional, as Mary Tobin of the Brownsville Partnership emphasized.

Volunteers building new plant beds at Set Low Houses (photo credit: RT NYC)

The Brownsville Partnership engages residents and partner organizations from many sectors in measurably improving the health, safety and economic prosperity Brownsville. The organization hosts monthly meetings to keep a “tally” of the community’s needs, and determines priorities of projects and initiatives accordingly.

“During our Hope Summits we are trying to bring residents, community and civic associations together to assess the community’s needs and priorities,” explained Tobin. “One of our teammates learnt about a grant given out by RT NYC. We applied and were excited that we were chosen for their annual Fall Neighborhood Rebuilding event.”

For the Fall Neighborhood Rebuilding event, the Brownsville Partnership sought the active input and guidance of the community, which took the lead in determining which projects it wanted realized.  “All” RT NYC had to do was to bring their experience in the field of construction and repairs, and their professional manpower to help the community to realize their projects.

Ms. Crystal (left, a resident of Seth Low who volunteered on her day off, with Brianna McKinney of Rebuilding Together NYC (right)

“The response from the community was overwhelming,” said Brianna McKinney of RT NYC. “The Brownsville community is so motivated to be part of the solution; the people’s  support, follow-through and enthusiasm was extraordinary, to an extent we have not seen before.”

RT NYC will return in the coming weeks to do the finishing touches to some of the projects. The next Neighborhood Rebuilding event will be in the spring – and fueled by the community’s enthusiasm, RT NYC would like to return to Brownsville.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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