Boost for local quality of life

By Stephen Witt

Sixteen community-based organizations around the borough recently received cash awards to improve the quality of life in their local communities. The non-profit Citizens Committee for New York City, a private non-profit corporation, doled out the grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 as part of their twice annual grant award giveaways. “These community groups are the hearts and souls of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods,” said Peter Kostmayer, president of Citizens Committee for NYC. “Their unique perspectives help them keep their fingers on the pulse of their communities and allows them to address problems and conditions in the places where they live, work and play,” he added. Among those organizations that received $3,000 are the Plumb Beach Civic Association in Sheepshead Bay and Garden Friends of Los Sures in South Williamsburg. “There’s no one specific thing that the money is going for yet and it will be decided by our board of directors,” said Gene Berardelli, general counsel for the Plumb Beach Civic Association. Berardelli said that, generally speaking, the money will most probably go toward beautifying the neighborhood and wanted to publicly thank Community Board 15 Theresa Scavo, who helped write the grant application. “She did 90 percent of the work and we are extremely grateful for her help,” said Berardelli. The Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center based at the Whitman Community Center in the Fort Greene Public Houses received $2,500. “Our basic mission is to teach low-income and working-class communities about film literacy and about different careers in film,” said Trayce Gardner, director of the program. Gardner said the money will be used to send a survey/newsletter out to the surrounding community of the Fort Greene Houses, which is becoming increasingly gentrified. “The surrounding communities around public housing, if they care, should start to create inner dialogue and exchange with those communities,” said Gardner. Gardner said the plan is to create a network so local filmmakers, trade people and professionals in the more gentrified surrounding community can begin to serve as mentors in the local public housing. Gardner noted that the federal government and the city have cut back on funding the New York City Public Housing Authority, thus making such groups as the Citizens Committee for NYC an even more important source of funding. Among the other groups receiving money are Concord Village Compost Committee, which is part of the Concord Village residential development located at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge which received $2,750, and the Community Research class at the Academy for Environmental Leadership in Bushwick, which received $2,250. Trees Not Trash, also in Bushwick, received $1,000. Kostmayer said Concerned Citizens is a Manhattan-based CBO founded in 1975 that raises about $1 million annually and gives cash awards out in the spring and the fall. The criterion is to have a worthwhile project, be it a community garden, cleaning graffiti, or forming tenant and/or block associations. “The larger issue is to get New Yorkers involved in their neighborhoods,” he said, adding the organization also focuses on specific neighborhoods every year. This year one of the neighborhoods is Crown Heights where the organization is mentoring 40 at-risk kids, he said. Kostmayer said almost all the money is raised privately with very little government involvement and the application to receive funds is very simple, less than two pages. “We’re not interested in groups jumping through hoops. We’re interested in giving money to New Yorkers to improve their neighborhoods,” he said. The Citizens Committee For NYC can be reached at (212) 989-0909 or logging onto www.citizens.nyc.org.

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