Philanthropy New York’s Adventure Series: Version Red Hook

Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Daniel Lilienthal, Associate for Social and Emotional Learning, 
NoVo Foundation

On June 21st, Red Hook, Brooklyn, home of one of the largest public housing communities in the city, was host to a number of funders from New York’s philanthropic community. Beginning at the Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF), in Dumbo, representatives of the Liz Claiborne Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and others got an inside look at one of New York’s secret treasures, as well as an on-the-ground look at some of the projects supported by BCF.

The tour, part of a new adventure series put on by Philanthropy New York, began with a viewing of the new and beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park. An example of a public/private enterprise, the park has become a beacon for locals and tourists alike to enjoy Brooklyn’s version of the High Line.

Moving into Red Hook, the tour stopped to meet Ian Marvy, the Executive Director of a 2.75-acre farm located in the heart of the community known as Added Value. Marvy, an Echoing Green Fellow, also received a grant from BCF in its early stages in 2001, which helped in the development of Added Value. Added Value’s mission is to promote the sustainable development of Red Hook by nurturing a new generation of young leaders. Our visitors had an opportunity to see youth in action, turning compost into fertile soil, while younger students were drawing pictures of the various crops grown on the farm.

Also at the farm was a representative from the Red Hook Initiative. Known as RHI for short, the Initiative is a community-based organization that serves as a model for community development and social change. Led by Executive Director Jill Eisenhard, RHI works to confront and affect the consequences of intergenerational poverty through an approach that offers support in education, employment, health, and community development. Employing local residents, RHI is yet another vital organization that reflects the idealism and sense of community found in Red Hook, and the positive impact of local philanthropy on our communities.

Next stops on the tour included a visit to Red Hook’s newest mixed-income housing, where our grantmakers were greeted by Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, as well as Aaron Shiffman, Executive Director of Brooklyn Workforce Innovations. Through the support of local foundations, these two nonprofits support residents from Red Hook’s public housing in gaining access to affordable housing, as well as receiving the education and training needed to find employment.

From waterfront, to farm, to housing, the tour moved on to its final moments: a view of Lower Manhattan from Valentino Pier, visits to Red Hook’s art and dance collaboratives, and a final meal at Fort Defiance, a local restaurant featuring fresh greens from Added Value. The day, warm and sunny, provided a wonderful opportunity for New York’s foundations to see the impact of place-based investing, and for Red Hook as a community to show off its many assets that make it a place worth visiting, and a place welcoming our support.

You can also learn about the second program in Philanthropy New York’s New York Adventures series, a visit to Staten Island’s Snug Harbor presented with the Staten Island Foundation, by reading this article from the Staten Island Advance.

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