Participatory Budget – The Votes are In!!


The 2014-2015 Participatory Budgeting results were announced in early May! The winning projects for Red Hook were… Technology upgrades for PS 676 (along with PS 1, MS 88, PS 105, PS 310, PS 69, & New Voices Middle School), bathroom renovations for the early childhood bathrooms at PS 15 (and PS 94), and a new Multimedia Room for the Red Hook Library! We are proud to say that the Library Media Room project was designed by one of the RHI youth delegates.

Throughout the month of April, RHI youth delegates have been out in the community spreading the word about their projects and getting community members out to vote. Here is what some of them had to say about their experience:

Okay, so this is it. The Participatory Budgeting 2014-2015 session is over :(. I had a blast while it lasted. I gained so much experience and met a lot of cool and amazing people on the way. The whole process is very inspiring and I recommend everyone to go and join next year. When I first heard about it I wasn’t really sure if I would like it, but over time I fell in love with it. It’s awesome – you actually have a say in decisions. So if you feel like an outcast, like I did, this will be the perfect opportunity to be heard. Not interested in politics? Don’t worry. If you’re into the arts and are very creative, this will still be perfect. After all the projects and decisions have been made, they will need your creative skills to actually build a model for how your idea of the project should look. So if you’re interested in hands-on activities, drawing, sculpting, etc., you’ll love Participatory Budgeting. It was so great and I shared a lot of memories that I won’t forget. A big shoutout to Catherine McBride and Ella Nimmo, who I will miss dearly :(, for making this whole thing a reality for me. I can’t wait for next year. Until then, adios!

Quincy Phillips, Youth Delegate

PB voting

The final week of the participatory budget was one of the busiest, most thrilling experiences by far! I had the chance to speak to the youth about what their community could become with their help. Also, I got the chance to show off the display that I had worked on with my team. It felt good to see all the hard work pay off in the end. People seemed really interested in what the boards had to display. I thought it was pretty cool for my first time – I had been on a website that I know thousands of people must have visited and I was on it talking about efforts in trying to improve my community! The PB process has been a fun learning experience and I most definitely see myself wanting to participate in other related events to help improve my community again.

Naheem Morris, Youth Delegate

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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)


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


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


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