Red Hook WIFI set to expand

Red Hook Initiative Wins Competition to Expand Free Internet

Robert Smith accepts the EDC RISE:NYC award for RHI.

Robert Smith accepts the EDC RISE:NYC award for RHI.

Red Hook WIFI, a program of the Red Hook Initiative, was selected from over 200 applications from around the globe as part of the NYC Economic Development Corporation RISE: NYC competition. “RISE : NYC is part of the City’s comprehensive suite of initiatives to mitigate the effects of severe weather and climate change on New Yorkers, and all of the winning technologies will help support and strengthen small businesses across the City,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball. “Each of the 11 innovative winning technologies will make the City a safer, stronger and more resilient place, creating economic support and additional opportunities for New Yorkers and small businesses.”

The Red Hook Initiative, the only community-based non-profit to be awarded a RISE grant, will receive a portion of the $30 million award funds to expand the Red Hook WIFI network through partnerships with local businesses. The WIFI program began as a pilot by RHI in early 2012 and became the primary communication platform for public housing residents in the recovery period immediately following Hurricane Sandy. Over the past three years, Red Hook WIFI has expanded to 15 hotspots throughout the neighborhood, serving hundreds of Red Hook residents and visitors. Unlike most neighborhood or city-wide free WIFI programs, Red Hook WIFI has been designed, installed, maintained and promoted by young adults who are residents of public housing in Red Hook.

RISE: NYC funding will fast track the expansion and stabilization of the free WIFI network in Red Hook. Through a partnership with Sky Packets, a wireless network installation and maintenance company, Red Hook WIFI will install and maintain 70 access points throughout Red Hook. With such growth, Red Hook WIFI will cover 80% of the commercial areas in the neighborhood and make it the largest community-developed and maintained free WIFI program in the United States.

Red Hook WIFI is also partnering with The Beautiful Earth Group to enhance the stability and resiliency of the network through solar backup energy and have proposed an innovative distributed mesh network with designed redundancy in the event of a power outage. Additionally, local ISP Brooklyn Fiber will provide 1 gigabit of dedicated bandwidth for the network, enabling users to experience speeds faster than common residential access.

17 businesses hosting resilient Red Hook WIFI Internet gateway equipment will receive free high speed Internet service for the 2-year duration of the grant period, and over 50 additional Red Hook businesses and their customers will be able to take advantage of the free network. “A Red Hook WIFI network is a great step in the right direction, and a great way to fuel growth in the neighborhood,” said St. John Frizell, owner of Fort Defiance, a restaurant in Red Hook. The Red Hook WIFI homepage, which users visit upon accessing the network, features local news, job opportunities, events, and marketing support for Red Hook businesses.

The expansion of Red Hook WIFI will continue to be installed and maintained by Digital Stewards, a group of young adults who are residents of public housing in Red Hook employed by RHI in a year-long, paid tech fellowship. 30 young people have graduated or are actively employed as Fellows with 75% of graduates pursing a tech career, securing employment, or continuing their education.

“We are a team of positive individuals who are changing not only our lives but our family and our community by bringing our ideas to life using technology. It means a lot to me to finally be in an environment where I can grow as a person and put myself out there in a more presentable way as an upcoming artist or even an IT technician,” said Tyteana Griem, Digital Steward.

RISE: NYC funding will cover the cost of equipment, Internet bandwidth, design, and installation while RHI will continue to support staffing and salaries for the Digital Steward Program. “Red Hook WIFI offers a unique opportunity to blend essential job training and paid employment for young adults from Red Hook while bringing critical services for the local business community. It is truly an example of a community building strength from within.” says Jill Eisenhard, Founder & Executive Director of RHI.

The awards were announced on April 29, 2015 and Red Hook WIFI will begin the expansion work in early fall 2015.

Participatory Budgeting Pt 3

Since our last update on Participatory Budgeting the ballot has been finalized and the delegates have been preparing for the project expos and voting week! If you are a resident of Red Hook/District 38 and over 14 years of age make sure you come to the expos to learn more about each project and come out to vote! Without your vote none of these projects will happen!

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Expos will take place:

Thursday, April 2 at 6:30pm
MS 88 – 544 7th Ave

Sunday, April 12th at 2pm
Sunset Park High School – 153 35th St

Wednesday, April 15th at 6:30pm
The Red Hook Initiative – 767 Hicks St.

Voting will take place April 11-19th:

Weekday Poll Sites:

UPROSE – 166a 22nd St. (3pm – 6pm)

Red Hook Initiative – 767 Hicks St. (3pm—8pm)

District Office – 4417 4th Avenue (10am – 6pm)

Miccio Center – 110 West 9th St. (3pm – 8pm)

Chinese – American Planning Council – 4101 8th Ave (3pm – 8pm)

Greenwood Park – 555 7th Ave – EVERYDAY (including weekends) 3pm – 7pm

Pop – Up Voting Sites Weekdays and Weekends at varying times:

1. Sunset Park Library – 5108 4th Ave (Tues. 4/14 3pm-6pm & Weds. 4/15 3pm-8pm)

2. Red Hook Library – (Tues. 4/14 3pm-8pm, Weds. 4/15 3pm-6pm & Sat. 4/18 1pm-5pm)

3. Schools in the District – (Drop off : 7am – 8:30 am / Pick up – 2pm – 4pm)

4. Churches – (Sundays 9am – 1pm)

5. Train Stations – (Weekends 12pm – 8pm – various times & Weekdays 5pm – 8pm)

6. Slope Park, Sunset Park and Coffey Park – (Weekdays 2pm – 6pm)

7. Red Hook Houses – (Weekdays 3pm-8pm)

8. Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow – 783 4th Ave (Tues. 4/14 & Thurs. 4/16 3pm-8pm)

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Here is what some of the youth delegates had to say about what they’ve been up to over the last month:

Hello, my name is Kayla Johnson and as a Participatory Budgeting Delegate my peers and I have gone to events to show our support, and I will gladly update you all on such things.One of the two main events my peers and I participated in was an event hosted by Arts and Democracy. There we created pictures, drawings, and other artistic designs on poster boards for the promotion of each of the projects for the PB Expos. The other event was an outreach training at St. Francis College that gave us knowledge on how to get others to join in the voting April 11th through 19th.

The first event had all delegates divided into a few groups. We were all given poster boards and next to one of the walls was a big table full of any artistic thing we would need: Construction paper, plain paper, scissors, designed letters, and even things I hadn’t really seen before. My group got started rather quickly and we were designing a poster board based on the topic of Red Hook Wifi. Other groups got different topics but Ella, Channe and I were much more focussed on our own topic,and we were having fun at the same time and that was great because it didn’t feel like were were slaving away at our own work.

The second event at St. Francis College was less active with more information. This event was mainly hosted by Michael from Community Voices Heard and Marissa from the City Council Speakers office. These two mostly gave information on what Participatory Budgeting was, how to do outreach, and everything in relation to it while the spectators sat quietly, listened and asked important questions. At one point we were paired up with others to talk about issues, and we would then come together to act out outreach scenarios. Most were shy but two brave and humorous people ended up making the event less serious than it originally was supposed to be.

Kayla Johnson, Youth Delegate

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Like Kayla mentioned, during the Arts and Democracy event that was scheduled for us to attend on March 11th we began working on our proposal boards! This was my first time in a long time since high school working on a board to be put up for display so that others can view. I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t have any ideas on what we should put on the board. Although it was my first time doing this, we had a few people at the RHI who were ready and willing to help us construct our boards. There were so many art supplies to choose from  it got a little overwhelming in for me at first. I was really excited once I saw the 3D model that was constructed to be put in the front of the display, I felt that really tied everything up in a bow tie and was ready to deliver to the world!

While it was getting time to wrap up on our committee boards two gentlemen and a lady  interviewed me on how PB was going so far. Some of the questions that were asked were “What are some challenges you faced during the PB process?”, “Was this my first time doing something like this?”, and “What was my overall experience doing something like this for the first time?”. It was a pretty cool feeling for me once I finished the interview because the guy who interviewed me told me I was a natural in front of the camera which boosted my ego a little.

Naheem Morris, Youth Delegate

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The community has spoken, and the council has chosen. Out of all the ideas to make Red Hook a better place, 6 have been approved by government agencies and await the expos in the coming weeks. One proposal will bring more trees/tree-guards to Red Hook to bring beauty to the blocks of Red Hook, and clean air. Another proposal called technology for schools will bring a technological upgrade to 9 schools (including some in Red Hook). The bathroom renovations proposal will revitalize all bathrooms inside PS.15. We the Digital Stewards (and other youth delegates from Red Hook) helped develop 2 project proposals that to us, are very important. One project being the Red Hook WiFi proposal. This proposal is to create WiFi nodes throughout NYCHA housing in attempt to bring the power of the internet to everybody. We feel that everyone deserves to be able to tap into the information highway. The other project proposal is the Red Hook Library Multimedia Room proposal. The proposal will fill the back room of the library with new iMacs, smart-boards, audio recording equipment, and surround sound systems. This proposal is important for the community because it will bring more people of Red Hook to the library. This is Jesus Benitez of the District 38 participatory budgeting committee reminding all who read this to come make an impact where they live by voting April 11th-19th!

Jesus Benitez, Youth Delegate

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Participatory Budgeting Part 2

Over the last month, the RHI Participatory Budgeting (PB) Youth Delegates have been hard at work narrowing down the list of project ideas from the community and developing project proposals to send to city agencies. If you missed their last update, you can take a look at it here! Our delegates each worked on different project proposals with committees of community members – right now they are waiting to get approval from the city agencies. Here is what they had to say about the process of working on the proposals for a Multimedia Room for the Red Hook Library, free WiFi for the Red Hook Houses, a Skate Park, and a parking lot for the new Red Hook Senior Center.

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The past couple of weeks we have been attending Participatory Budgeting meetings. At most of the meetings, we have been trying to figure out what’s best for the community. There has been great input at all of the meetings. Most of the meetings we had at RHI were the blueprint for us to actually figure out how to make all of the things work with the budgeting. We have worked on making a multimedia room and another group from RHI is trying to get a skate park for the youth as well.

We have also met with some of the locals that are attending the meetings at the library. They are interested in bringing new computers to the schools. They are also committed to trying to bring in SmartBoards as well. We have seen the dedication and hunger in their eyes to help the community. I think most of the proposals are great – we had to narrow the choices down and made sure it met the quota. Other committees are actually working as hard as we are but we look at it as we all are working to achieve a goal, which is to make our community a better place.

  • John Reid, Youth Delegate, Education & Technology Committee

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The time that I spent working on the multimedia room proposal has been a journey for me. When we first saw the room in the back of the library, I thought to myself, “What will we be able to do with this space and what kind of technology can be added?”. After we checked out the empty space in the library room my committee members and I brainstormed about things that will help benefit the people in the community. It took us about two days to get all the items listed and priced. The process of finding all of the items we could add took me a really long time – there was a time when I was trying to find an item and it took me almost an hour to find the exact piece I was looking for. This little moment stuck with me once I finished the list of items because I felt that it showed my commitment to my community. We all agreed that having Apple computers, a smart board, projectors, the latest media software and many more items will encourage more people to come visit the Red Hook library.

  • Naheem Morris, Youth Delegate, Education & Technology Committee

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The free WIFI project on NYCHA housing was originally created by the Digital Stewards. Tony Schloss and the Digital Stewards at RHI already manage WIFI in select areas around Red Hook, so this project is basically extending the WIFI we provide already into Red Hook public housing. This project is important because we’re living in the digital era and everything is online – even stores now want an online application for jobs. By doing this we are going to be bringing a connection to a lot of people that don’t have it but need it. Within this project is the solution to people not being able to keep in contact with other people. Coming up with the proposal wasn’t hard – we know that this is a very helpful project that everybody in Red Hook would enjoy and benefit from if it wins!

  • Jesus Benitez, Youth Delegate, Education & Technology Committee

Last week we had a meeting in Sunset Park where we finalized the proposal for the skate park, so I guess you could say it was the most important meeting out of all the meetings! We talked about the location, the cost and how it would look when it’s finished. We also discussed how it would benefit people and more importantly what the purpose of it is and why it deserves to be built. The idea of the skate park is to satisfy the youth and overall everyone else. The idea is to have people not be bored all the time and to have something to do. We also think that it will decrease the crime rate among the youth because now people will have more things to do instead of being negatively influenced. So I think the skate park is a wonderful idea and it will serve a great purpose!

  • Quincy Phillips, Youth Delegate, Parks & Environment Committee

My proposal is to make a parking lot for the new Senior Center at 110 West 9th Street in the back of the building or in front of it. When we had the meeting about the Senior Center, many of the seniors were asking where they will be able to park their cars because the new center is a distance from where they live. West 9th Street between Clinton Street and Henry Street is a very busy block. There are several industrial businesses and a lot of traffic during day as well. With the parking lot, they will  have a designated parking space for an ambulance if an emergency happens. We were thinking it could have 8 to 10 handicap parking spaces. This would help the seniors feel safe and be safe on a very busy block.

 

  • Sandy Serrano, Delegate, Health & Safety Committee

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In the coming months, our delegates will be out in the community doing outreach and getting the word out about their amazing proposals. None of these projects will happen unless the whole Red Hook community comes out to vote April 11-19th!