The Today Show
Urban farms work to get healthy foods to their communities
These days, hunger is hitting black and brown communities especially hard. In urban “food deserts” where access to healthy foods is hard to come by, some are turning to age-old solutions. Craig Melvin visits an urban farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, as TODAY’s Inequality in America series continues.
The New York Times
They’re Young, Unemployed and Facing Bleak Prospects
New York City has been hit harder by the economic crisis set off by the pandemic than most other major American cities. But no age group has had it worse than young workers. By September, 19 percent of adults under 25 in the city had lost jobs compared with 14 percent of all workers, according to James Parrott, the director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School. The Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit community organization in Brooklyn, places young adults in paid internships with small businesses and social justice groups. But with few places taking new people, it is now paying many of them $15 an hour to work in the community, including giving out free food from its urban farm and handing out face masks and hand sanitizers. Knowledge Westbrooks, 23, said the work kept him afloat after he was laid off in March from a warehouse in Brooklyn where he coordinated delivery routes. “I wasn’t able to pay for food and stuff so I had to try to figure out another opportunity,” he said.
Enterprise Community Partners
Community Organizer Fellowship Spotlight: Red Hook Initiative
An Interview With Kiyana Slade at the Red Hook Initiative In 2019, Enterprise launched the Community Organizer Fellowship, a program funding three community-based organizations across New York State to further their community organizing priorities. The fellowship seeks to empower these organizations to address pressing issues including displacement and increasing the supply of affordable housing. In this blog post series, we will provide space for each organization’s community organizer fellow to reflect on their work.
I Believe Good Food Is a Right. So I’m Teaching Kids to Farm.
Today, with the help of my team of youth farmers, we packed up 216 bunches of red Russian kale and scallions for families in need. That’s nothing compared to what a larger-scale farm can do, but I’d argue that the work we’re doing is more important. Red Hook Farms takes up just an acre and a half of public park space in Brooklyn. (Central Park, by comparison, is 843 acres.) We have three growing seasons here—spring, summer, fall—and during each season we have about 20 farmers, largely Black teenagers and youth, who work the land.
Red Hook Houses residents demand NYCHA slow down construction project
RED HOOK, Brooklyn (WABC) — There are calls from a community to stop a construction project at a housing development in Brooklyn that has already closed off access to ball fields, playgrounds and benches in the middle of a pandemic. But residents of the Red Hook Houses living in the middle of a construction site, surrounded by 39 acres of metal fencing and mountains of soil with courtyards turned into mazes, say it is also raising other serious health concerns.
Kings County Politics
Let Red Hook Breathe Says NYCHA Residents
Screaming to ‘Let Red Hook Breathe,’ residents and public housing advocates demanded more playgrounds, clean air and water, the replanting of the neighborhood’s trees, more lighting, air and soil testing because of the neighborhood’s industrial history with toxic land use, and a better emergency response and fire safety plan for the community.
Red Hook farms helping feed families during pandemic
RED HOOK, Brooklyn — The Red Hook Farm is three acres, tucked in the middle of an industrial corner of Red Hook on Columbia Street. The farm is run by a non-profit organization called the Red Hook Initiative. Every week, the group is busy putting fresh food in boxes for families in need. Since COVID-19 began to spread, the group went from feeding 100 families a week, to now almost 500 families a week.
Here Are 7 Brooklyn Organizations Raising Funds and Doing Good Across the Borough
While New York slowly emerges from stay-at-home orders, there are still plenty of Brooklynites in need. Here’s a roundup of just some of the organizations that are raising funds to make a difference, whether it’s feeding those in need, supporting frontline workers or trying to keep small businesses afloat.
Rising sea levels leave public housing residents struggling with mold
When splotches of mold surfaced on Brandy Cabrera’s shower wall in September 2019, the 37-year-old bus attendant began to worry about her teenage son, who is autistic. “He has got to breathe in all that mold while he is taking a bath,” Cabrera says, referring to his longstanding morning routine. To fix the leak causing the mold, Cabrera followed protocol, contacting the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which owns the Red Hook Houses, the public housing complex in Brooklyn where she has lived for the past 13 years. But Cabrera says that workers just plastered over her wall. The next month, she contacted them again to stop the spreading mold, but no one came.
The New York Times
The Complicated Calculus of Helping Neighbors During a Pandemic
In the coronavirus crisis, kind gestures like picking up groceries could carry great risk. Javier López, the chief strategy officer with the Red Hook Initiative, a youth development organization, said the ways of helping that developed after Hurricane Sandy hit the neighborhood in 2012 have had to be “tweaked.” Staffers from the initiative have been working through a list of 2,000 phone numbers for residents of the Red Hook Houses, one of the largest public housing projects in the city, to create a map for who might need help. “But throughout the process,” he said, “there is hesitancy. This is not Sandy. This is different. It’s a different response. They’re checking in through social distancing.” When it comes time to distribute food and supplies, he added, there will not be central collection spots as there were after Sandy.
NYC 2020 Census
NYC Complete Count Fund
Red Hook Initiative is pleased to announce it has received a $125,000 award from NYC Complete Count Fund. A partnership between CUNY, Mayor Bill De Blasio and the New York City Council. The NYC Complete Count Fund is a first-of-its-kind census-related community organizing program that will support and resource community-based organizations to help NYC reach a full and accurate count in the 2020 Census. These funds will support the 2020 Census outreach and education in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
NBC 4 New York
A Farm Grows in Brooklyn
NBC 4 New York joined us on the Columbia Street Farm bright & early to interview our farm staff and youth apprentices. Dontae McCoy, on his stewardship as a young farmer, reflected: “Coming from the community, I know that there’s not a lot of fresh foods, and a lot people aren’t used to having a farm next to their community, so it’s pretty cool to give back.” Dontae and his fellow youth farmers harvested over 20,000 pounds of sustainably grown produce this year.
NEWS 12 BROOKLYN
Annual Red Hook Farms festival raises awareness of local organic food
The annual Red Hook Farms Harvest Festival celebrated the fall season with food, horse rides and some healthy competition, and also recognized one of Brooklyn’s largest youth-led urban farms. Red Hook Farms operates two urban farm sites – one on Columbia Street, and another on Wolcott Street. The farm prioritizes teen farm apprenticeship and their school workshop, all while bringing healthy produce to urban areas. Organizer Melina Valle said the festival helps get people in the community familiar with “sustainable, organic food at a cheaper price” that is within walking distance from their homes. Red Hook Farms has a weekly farm stand with fresh produce at its Columbia Street location.
NEWS 12 BROOKLYN
Can you handle the heat? Chile Pepper Festival celebrates all things spicy
News 12 Brooklyn joined us at the Botanical Garden for the 27th annual Chile Pepper Festival. In partnership with Haiti Culture Exchange, the festival featured more than three dozen food artisans and vendors with products made using peppers, including hot sauces, honey, sorbet and chocolates.
Taste of Red Hook Returns for 13th Year of Sampling Local Food and Drink
The 13th annual Taste of Red Hook event brings a culinary fest celebrating the food, drink and people that define the neighborhood. The fundraising event will offer tastings from more than 50 restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries from Red Hook’s ever-growing culinary community. Participants this year will include Baked, Defonte’s Sandwich Shop, Fort Defiance, La Slowteria, Six Point Brewery and Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. In addition to the food and libation, there will be a silent auction with craft, wellness, travel and culinary items up for bidding. All proceeds from the event will benefit event host the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), a community center in Red Hook which serves over 5,000 residents annually.
Chronicle of Philanthropy
Community Group Uses Employment to Help People Climb Out of Poverty
About 10,000 people live in public housing in Red Hook, a tiny waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. The housing projects are surrounded by townhomes that sell for millions of dollars. It’s a tightly packed example of Brooklyn’s vast wealth disparities. 17 year-old Red Hook Initiative helps young people in Red Hook graduate from high school and get jobs or go to college. It advocates for transportation and public safety. It even has a community farm. But its most innovative effort is remarkably simple: hiring. The organization hires more than 125 young people from the neighborhood, and some of them go on to join the organization’s permanent staff of 50, also largely hired from residents who live in public housing there.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After months without gas, Red Hook NYCHA residents demand reimbursement
When roughly 60 families in the Red Hook Houses had their gas turned off on Feb. 13, many believed it would be a temporary issue — nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But soon days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. Though the families had their gas restored late last month, they’re now demanding NYCHA reimburse them for money laid out on meals. “This issue is that the residents are not centered in really being provided with all of the information that they need to understand the totality of the problem,” said Javier Lopez, chief strategy officer of the Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit community center. “They’re given a lot of false starts, and they’re not told from soup to nuts what the infrastructural problems are and what is needed to really correct them.”
Curbed New York
New York City’s best urban farms
When most people think of urban farming in New York City, they picture a bearded Brooklynite picking kale from atop a warehouse while drinking a home-brewed beer. And while that person does exist, there are a lot of other farms in this city that don’t fit the stereotype. Formerly known as Added Value, this community farm in Red Hook is one of New York City’s older urban farms. It started in 2001, and every year, the 2.5-acre plot produces enough vegetables for a neighborhood CSA.
Is New York City’s Public Housing Ready for the Next Storm?
In the meeting room at Red Hook Initiative (RHI)—a Brooklyn community-development nonprofit dedicated to youth empowerment, social justice, and sustainability—a large painting hangs high up on the wall, bordered by the words “rebound and rebuild.” It shows the neighborhood of Red Hook in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, with waves crashing on a row of sandbags, as cans of food, light bulbs, and batteries lie strewn about haphazardly. Last summer, a group of residents of Red Hook’s public-housing developments, just across the street from RHI, gathered here for the orientation meeting of RHI’s 10-week emergency-preparedness training, called “Local Leaders.”
New York State Senate
Senator Montgomery congratulates Red Hook Initiative for winning $100,000 Grand Prize in NBCUniversal Foundation’s “Project Innovation” competition
NBC New York and Telemundo 47 present a $100K check to Red Hook Initiative as the Grand Prize Winner of the NBC Universal Foundation’s “Project Innovation” grant competition. RHI’s Digital Stewards program was recognized for preparing low-income young adults for tech careers by training them to install/maintain Red Hook WIFI, a community effort to close the digital divide, create economic opportunity and improve quality of life in Red Hook.
PBS Peril & Promise
When disaster strikes, how do we communicate?
When Superstorm Sandy hit, residents of the Red Hook Houses, the largest public housing development in Brooklyn with over 7,000 residents, struggled without power and clean water for almost a month. Instead of waiting for help, residents and civic groups transformed themselves from storm victims to storm responders. Meet the local leaders who are stepping up to the plate and taking emergency preparedness into their own hands including installing and expanding a free, solar-powered Wi-Fi network to make sure that communication is always possible when disaster strikes. With climate change, sea level rise, and another superstorm always threats, they’re making sure that Red Hook is hooked up.
Brooklyn Community Foundation
Announcing the Winners of Our $100,000 Spark Prize!
Today we are thrilled to announce the five Brooklyn nonprofit organizations selected to receive our annual Spark Prize! The winners are Cave Canem Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Exalt Youth (exalt), GRIOT Circle, and Red Hook Initiative. The Spark Prize recognizes outstanding pioneering nonprofit organizations rooted in the borough that have demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing racial and social justice. Each of the five Spark Prize recipients will be awarded $100,000 in general operating support. The organizations were selected from a competitive pool of over 130 applicants by a distinguished committee of 30 members representing Brooklyn’s civic, business, and philanthropic communities.