All posts by ioby

This Thursday, 5% of sales from NYC Whole Foods will be donated to ioby!


This Thursday, 5% of sales from Whole Foods in NYC will be donated to ioby.  When you shop at a Whole Foods store on April 11, you are helping ioby to support the innovators across the country that are making our neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable.

At ioby, we are particularly excited about this day because, well, we love food.  We see so many leaders and innovators creating stronger food systems, neighborhood by neighborhood.  This is especially important in cities where access to healthy and affordable food can be limited.

And there are two ways that you can help!

  1. Help us to spread the word far and wide!  Even if you don’t live in NYC, please take 2 seconds to use Facebook or Twitter to show your support.
  2. Shop at Whole Foods on April 11!  Whether you need to stock your fridge or get ingredients for a dinner party, set your sights on April 11.  We will have a table to share information about the work of leaders across the country.  Come by and say hello!

Thank you for helping ioby to support the innovators across the country that make our neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable!

Here is a list of the seven Whole Foods stores in NYC:

Columbus Circle  — 10 Columbus Circle (Lower Concourse of Time Warner Center)

Bowery — 95 East Houston Street

Tribeca —  270 Greenwich Street

Upper West Side — 808 Columbus Avenue

Chelsea — 250 7th Avenue

Union Square — 4 Union Square South

Midtown East — 226 East 57th Street

Awesome Project: Food Extravaganza Demonstrations

The Astoria CSA, formed in 2006, wants CSA shareholders to grab unfamiliar produce by the horns, and taste it. Veteran CSA members are likely familiar with the swap bin filled with the unwanted rutabagas and radishes. Instead of abandoning eggplant in the swap bin for safer, greener pastures, what if people were able to concoct fast, easy, and delicious recipes with vegetables they once feared or detested?

This is the premise behind Food Extravaganza. The two words combined demand that every one of your senses be put to use, and invite you to wish up a few more. Food Extravaganza Demonstrations provide a way to familiarize CSA shareholders, and community members alike, with different types of vegetables and cuisines that most people may not necessarily feel comfortable handling. These demonstrations started in 2008, and usually happen once a month at the distribution point of the Astoria CSA at ARROW Community Center, located on 35th Street between 35th and 36th Avenue in southern Astoria.

Stacey Ornstein—co-founder of Astoria CSA, food educator extraordinaire, and ioby project leader veteran—explained in an interview last week that the idea for Food Extravaganza Demonstrations stemmed from a desire to increase awareness of obesity, food diversity, and the subsidized shares the CSA offers to low-income families. Astoria CSA provides food demonstrations to encourage people to learn to cook something new, and to share recipes with those that might not have access to locally grown organic fruits and vegetables.

Dalena Tonkin, Events Coordinator for Astoria CSA and Health Coach professional, shares her own favorite Food Extravaganza food with ioby exclaiming emphatically, “Through the CSA I have learned to appreciate something called a watermelon radish. They are the most brilliant hot pink shade of fuchsia on the inside, and they aren’t super spicy like radishes. They’re hot pink! You can’t go wrong with that!” It’s hard not to share Tonkin’s enthusiasm, and she hopes that others will learn to appreciate organic, local food the same way she does. “Nothing beats organic and local…I think a bag of carrots goes a little bit further than a bag of Doritos,” Tonkin insists. We at ioby could not agree more.

With an ever increasing obesity rate in this country, and the disconnect between people and food, Food Extravaganzas provide a way to come together and learn about new recipes, different cultures, and cuisine varieties. It serves as a means to show others your favorite dish, and the hope that your new favorite, must-have food is waiting just around the corner. Ornstein and Tonkin are hopeful for the CSA’s project on ioby that aims to raise $255 before mid-June, when they plan to start the demonstrations. With Food Extravaganza Demonstrations, “people discover new foods and new ways to prepare their foods. I think that’s one of the great things that people enjoy about Food Extravaganzas. It’s having that knowledge of how things should taste and look. It’s not scary! It’s easy! And fast! And good!” Ornstein passionately tells ioby.

Looking forward to the upcoming summer share, Tonkin hopes to have a vermiculture composting workshop with ioby’s very own Helen Ho. The CSA is also planning a series of farm trips throughout the season, and hopefully some canning sessions sprinkled in between. Tonkin hints that there is an Astoria CSA Cookbook in the works, so keep your ear to the ground, fellow veggie lovers!

Food Extravaganza Demonstrations are an integral part of the Astoria CSA, and there is much and more to be learned by attending these amazing cooking demos. This project can be found on the ioby website, and while registration is closed for the spring, be sure to look for new member sign up in the fall. I would not hesitate to join, as spots seem to go as quickly as they open. Who knows? When Food Extravaganza Demonstrations is fully funded on ioby, and up and running, you may even find yourself leading a cooking demonstration yourself.

Again, you can find the project here.

Calling All…

passionate, interested, dedicated do-gooders! Want to lend a hand to your favorite non-profit during the busiest time of the year? There is a range of volunteer opportunities available at ioby across the next month at a number of green events across New York City, from the GreenThumb Grow Together Conference on March 31 to a number of activities during Earth Week. Perks include going to cool events, interacting with people from a variety of green organizations, and, of course, contributing to grassroots environmentalism. Here are some pictures of past volunteer opportunities in case you need any more reason to roll up your sleeves and have some fun! If you’re interested in volunteering or have any further questions, please email helen@ioby.org or mario@ioby.org.

(ioby benefit at Brooklyn Brewery)

(making it rain at the Maker Faire)

Get Your Hands Dirty Saturday in Brooklyn

Calling for Volunteers on March 24 9AM-2PM. Must like dirt.

Like to get dirty? Feedback Farms- A Small Green Patch is looking for helping hands, shovels, and rakes to level out dirt onto their lots, this Saturday, March 24 from 9AM-2PM (rain date – March 31). Volunteers are suggested to wear boots, clothes to get dirty in, work gloves, a hat and sunscreen, and to bring water and snacks.

Feedback Farms is turning three vacant lots at 346 Bergen, between 4th and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, into a temporary research farm, a community space and a natural dye CSA with the Textile Arts Center. This is their first volunteer event and is a very crucial step in turning their idea into reality.

Feedback Farms is also looking for volunteers with cars to help deliver materials from the shop to the lots. Call 917.676.7819 for more details on delivery needs.

To learn more about Feedback Farms check out their website at www.feedbackfarms.com.

Clare, Kallie, Tom, Gregory and Tam look forward to working with you!

April Supper Club: Pinot en Blanc

​The Supper Club is an outdoor dinner series that creates the Supper Club Fund. The Supper Club Fund provides direct and matching funds to the many projects on ioby that have an explicit goal of increasing access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to NYC youth. The next Supper Club is on Thursday, April 19 at iCi in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Ticket information here.

Awesome Project: Concrete Green

When Taleigh Smith, a worker-owner at Concrete Green, tells people about her business, she is often met with incredulity. “They think we’re peddling some sort of environmental concrete,” Smith told ioby last week.

In reality, Concrete Green is a five-member worker co-op that is attempting to revolutionize green industry in the Bronx.
Smith came to New York City in 2001 with a passion for finding global justice solutions. Through her work with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, she has come to understand that global problems can only be solved through local action.  Global solutions, she found, begins with a group of people trying something new in their neighborhood. So when an opportunity arose to start a green worker co-op in her neighborhood, Smith jumped at the opportunity.
The idea for the organization was born from an environmental literacy class that Smith teaches through the Center for Sustainable Energy at Bronx Community College. In that class, Smith guides students through environmental problem solving and green job trainings. Only a few short months ago, in September of 2011, five of her most ambitious and entrepreneurial students approached her with the idea that would ultimately become Concrete Green.
Now a joint project of the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Concrete Green is still in the early stages of development. The organization’s short-term goal is to provide a steady income to its member-owners, the five Bronx youths between the ages of 19 and 22 who are trained to install green infrastructure, solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems on rooftops. While the group has not yet been contracted out for a job, Smith told ioby that they consider themselves pioneers in the neighborhood.
Socioeconomic contexts in the Bronx present significant obstacles for a green start-up. The member-owners, all Bronx residents, deal regularly with the effects of unemployment, asthma and deteriorating health, school closures and a fundamental lack of economic opportunity in their home neighborhoods.
“We can’t just spin our wheels without making money,” said Smith. All five member-owners work part-time in the area, but each hopes to turn Concrete Green into a career.  To do so will take some hard work, coupled with the formation of strong partnerships and the generosity of donors.
The member-owners recognize that, at least in their early stages of business development, they will not be able to win contracts for rooftop installation projects without a track record. They are currently engaging with green design consultants in the hope that they might be able to spark a collaboration. With the right training and an opportunity to accompany specialty firms on contracted jobs, the member-owners at Concrete Green are confident that they will begin to build expertise and a reputation for excellence in the field. Ultimately, Smith hopes that property owners looking to install a green roof on their buildings will approach Concrete Green with their projects.
While the organization will be working with paying clients, Smith is careful to point out that the member-owners’ hearts are with the community. As a non-profit organization largely aimed at generating income for the workers who run it, the organization will continue to fundraise as it grows.
According to Smith, although their plan is to run a money-making enterprise, it is important to her team that they address the highest needs in the community, “whether or not they can pay for our services.”
In ten years, Concrete Green hopes to see a green roof on every building in the Bronx. “When we say green, we expect that to have different characteristics,” said Smith. Some buildings are ideal for typical green roofs and others, said Smith, are ideal for recreational or therapeutic uses. “We’ll measure our success,” Smith added, by looking at “business sustainability, projects we can point to and their environmental impacts, and seeing our work replicated.”
The organization will consider its mission at least partially fulfilled when organizations like it take root across the Bronx. The goal is not to monopolize, but to foster, the market for Bronx-grown green worker cooperatives.
Smith is keenly attuned to the global implications of the work that she is doing with Concrete Green. “The Bronx is in a unique position, being a part of New York City,” she told ioby. The city is an economic hub for the world, “yet the Bronx as a community has been marginalized and over-polluted and has a relationship to New York City that is similar to the developing world.” Smith affirms that environmental solutions in the Bronx have global implications for communities that have been marginalized and exploited around the globe.
With that said, the proximity of the Bronx to New York’s many international political and economic institutions affords the borough unique access to the world stage. In this way, Smith argued, “the Bronx has an advantage.” It is precisely for this allure that many organizations and companies come to the South Bronx to seed environmental projects. Sadly, these are often short-lived and provide few net benefits for the community. Smith firmly believes that environmental and economic sustainability in the Bronx begins with homegrown projects that both employ and benefit Bronx residents.
The future is looking bright for Concrete Green. With the right combination of donors and business partners, the organization might just be an exemplar model for community owned and operated green enterprises in the Bronx.
Concrete Green will be featured on-stage at the New York City Green Festival at the Javits Center on April 21. The event is open to the public but requires a small entry fee. For information on how to receive free tickets, courtesy Concrete Green, please contact Taleigh Smith at taleigh@northwestbronx.org.

Awesome Project: Hoophouse of Hope

 

For many city dwellers, the concept of urban farming seems contradictory.  For others, it provides a way to grow fresh food in their corner lots, backyards, and windowsills. But for the people living at four supportive housing residences in Brooklyn, NY, urban farming has come to represent a new lease on life.

The four residences in question are operated by Services for the UnderServed (SUS), a non-profit founded in 1978. The ultimate aim of their efforts is to help New Yorkers achieve independence by providing supportive services and housing to the city’s most underserved populations: people with developmental disabilities, people suffering from HIV or AIDS, and people who have histories of mental illness and homelessness. Following examples set by other city non-profits, including Added Value, a farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that offers long-term skill building to teenagers, SUS opened up its first urban garden in June of 2010. 
 
Dan Lohaus, 41, Director of Green Initiatives at SUS, helped breathe life into the urban gardens with his previous experience working with a similar program. “I did this project in Berkeley, CA, before, in the ‘90s, called ‘Fresh Start Farms.’ It worked to create jobs on urban farms for homeless individuals,” said Lohaus.  “I was trained for a year on how to set up an urban agriculture model, and luckily enough, the guy who trained me was kind of a guru.”
 
The combined support from Lohaus and SUS and the dedication of the veterans living at the SUS Knickerbocker residence in Bushwick resulted in the building of a small vertical tomato garden behind the building in 2010. Despite their efforts, however, the harvest was sparse: only about 50 pounds of fruit matured on the tightly packed A-frames. Undeterred, the gardeners decided to continue on and build a series of raised bed gardens for the 2011 season.
 
Many urban farmers struggle with finding space to grow food; luckily, SUS owns over 25 buildings which host supportive housing programs – and they also own the land that many of these buildings sit on. Lohaus inspected each building site to determine which were best suited for agriculture. “I went and looked at which buildings had the biggest space to use, which had the best sunlight, and from there, we decided where to put our gardens,” Lohaus said. They elected the Knickerbocker, Dewitt, Chester and Marcy residences, spread across Brooklyn, to host their urban gardens.
 
This time raised beds were extremely successful, producing a combined 1,200 pounds of produce last season. 
 
But the victory of these gardens extended far beyond the physical yield. Having an urban garden in their backyard provided residents – many of whom were dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues – with a peaceful, therapeutic green space. “When I got frustrated,” said one Dewitt resident, “I would just take a walk through the garden and I’d feel myself just calming down. The garden is a place where I stop thinking about my own problems and just concentrate on what’s growing.”
 
According to residents themselves, the most important benefit these gardens bring is the pride and responsibility earned through stewarding the spaces. “The garden gives me something positive to do,” said Fred, a resident and employee at the Knickerbocker building. “When you don’t have something positive to do, the negative finds you. Having this responsibility is the reason I’ve stayed clean.”
 
Fred is one of the eight fully trained staff members working at the SUS Urban Gardening Program, but each week anywhere from ten to 15 additional volunteers from the buildings lend a helping hand. “All in all, between 70 and 100 people were involved with the program last season”, said Lohaus. “It created a place where we could reach more people and in different ways than we had before.”
 
Building a sense of community, according to Lohaus, is what urban gardening is all about, and that can begin in the neighborhood, garden to garden. “The people at [the nearby] Phoenix Community Garden at Fulton Street and Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn gave us a lot of support. Some of the old time gardeners from Phoenix came and gave us a lot of help getting started,” said Lohaus. Phoenix Community Garden, founded in 2007, produces 2,000 pounds of produce each season for the people of Brownsville. 
 
Lohaus sees last season’s 1,200 pounds as just the beginning. The next step is expanding production to provide produce to neighboring communities and restaurants as well. “There’s not a lot of access to healthy organic produce in Brownsville, East New York or Bushwick,” Lohaus reminded me. “We’d like to start our own farmers’ market or latch onto a green stand nearby on Rockaway and Livonia.” The ultimate goal is to expand the gardens to allow more residents to find independence through employment.
 
This season, Lohaus hopes to build more raised beds, train more staff members, and bring fresh produce to these four neighborhoods in Brooklyn. You can help make that a reality by clicking here
 

Meet Vision. Meet Ahmed Tigani.

 

​Ahmed Tigani, a sound and light designer/technician, full time urban studies graduate student, and Vice President of the Manhattan Young Democrats, talks about the arts as a common denominator for organizing, the importance of persistence, and learning to live without all the answers.
 
 
I’m from Ethiopia. My mother is Ethiopian and my father is Sudanese and Dutch. I was born in the Bronx. I grew up in public housing in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and lived there until I moved to Manhattan as an undergrad at Hunter College. Now I am a resident of Astoria, Queens.
 
I like the individual aspect of New York, the feeling that I can walk from one part of the city to another part of the city and feel like I’m walking from one country to a whole different one. The walkability and livability and cultural immersion, it’s just fantastic.
 
The spot where I feel the most comfortable is 5th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It reminds me the most of growing up, which is always a good feeling. My favorite spot is Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. I hung out there a lot when I was a kid. Astoria, hands-down, is the most fantastic place to get fresh produce and food, and, for me, cheeses. When I want to be quiet, and just want to think, the water by 23rd St and 1st Ave is a great place to just go and relax, sit down, and read a book in the summer. 
 
I love the train. The train disconnects me from all cellular technology. I get to turn off, and just read a book. It’s also the most awesome place to view people, to examine your fellow citizens. You can see people interact in different way. This is my theater side coming out. It’s useful when you’re an organizer and you want to be able to relate your message to specific people. When you’re talking and writing about specific policy issues it’s important that the initiation and the desire is ignited by your own desire to see change. On the train I try to watch and see what people are feeling. The train is a great place to learn about other people.
 
I went to college to get my Bachelor’s in Theater and Political Science, because I wanted to be able to be Stephen Colbert when I grew up. But I realized that was much harder than I’d originally anticipated. 
 
I started to get involved in a lot of student organizing when I was an undergrad — student government, etc. I worked with a lot of different ethnic groups that had their own clubs to create cultural events that spoke about their traditions. I thought that was very interesting. I tried to get a job with the Department of Cultural Affairs, and I succeeded. That was fantastic. I ended up working for a program called Materials for the Arts, a 32-year-old support network.
 
The purpose of Materials for the Arts is to divert gently used and new material from the waste stream and into the hands of artists who can use it to prop up art programs around the five boroughs. There’s a sustainability and reuse aspect, where we’re trying to help the environment. We’re trying to prevent things from becoming trash. And there’s an art component to it: we encourage the rebirth of these items into any kind of art manifestation you could think of. 
 
The arts are a great common denominator for learning about all different kinds of issues. I think they allow people a universal language in which to express how they feel about what’s going on in current events. It tells personal stories in ways that people can digest without feeling awkward or embarrassed, or tell stories without feeling awkward or embarrassed. I think that good or bad art becomes a benchmark for us. It becomes a great indicator of where we are as a community when we’re able to show how appreciative we are of different styles that emerge. The diversity of our art is like the diversity of our community.
 
I remember one after school computer room project that kept twelve computers out of the waste stream, preventing harmful effects to our water. Another project had us redirecting seven floors of office furniture to about fifteen different schools, government agencies, and non-profits. 
 
Trash is necessary, but we can always do more to reduce it. I think as a society, we’re becoming more and more open to considering reuse as an option before buying new. 
 
We all worry so much about money, having money, buying things with money. There would be more money in our pockets if we reused things. I find that one of the best ways to get people’s foot in the door about trash and the importance of reuse is to talk about something that relates to their everyday pressures. They might not have all the time in the world to think about the environment, but they do have time to think about saving money.
 
There’s a good group that provides a good example of it is the Madagascar Institute, located in Brooklyn. They take pieces of metal, old machinery, and discarded wood, and create these fantastic objects that just come to life. They built something called the “Miracle Wheel” out of leftover metal parts. It spits fire. It’s amazing. It runs on bike power. It’s operated out of a Brownstone in Brooklyn. 
 
These are the kind of groups that we work with — groups that give rebirth to things that would otherwise be thrown out. Now these things have a whole new life and take tours around the world. We help these organizations stay alive by providing them resources like desks, office supplies, and computers. That way they can take their money and not spend it on administrative materials. Instead they can put it towards programs or hiring more teachers or expanding their offerings. 
 
I started working on political campaigns because I love talking to people…and because I’m a glutton for punishment. My first big one was in Queens, working for Mel Gagarin. A really good guy. A really young guy too. He was running for City Council. I was a staffer and field coordinator. It was a very eye-opening experience. I learned how to take all of this information about environmental policy, school education policy, housing policy, and boil it down into the 30 seconds that people were willing to give me in order to talk about these issues. So I learned very quickly about formulating messages that are clear and concise. 
 
I got to know more people in the political world, specifically young people, and I wanted to meet more young people, because I thought that it was interesting that we couldn’t get many activated during the City Council campaign. It was very much that we were speaking to an older crowd, which I thought was ridiculous because a lot of the issues we were talking about were going to affect us in ten to 15 years. 
 
I think the most effective way of bringing about change is by showing up in person and being persistent. 
 
People assume that you’ll give “one ask” — tell them about something that you want and then fade away. But if you say, “I want a tenant organization started in this building and you, in 2A, need to help me do it,” and then you come back a week later and ask about it again, they think, “this person might be interested.” If I come back a third time, then they know that either you’re crazy, or the issue is important enough for you to give your time to. If you really care about something and you want to see change happen, you have to be willing to dedicate time and effort. Through that you can inspire others to give their own time and effort. 
 
Being a good neighbor is really about being helpful when asked, and also being helpful when you’re not asked to be so. When people ask you to do things, you’re there for them. When people say “participate in the public planning situation,” you go, and you give your comments. But when you see that no one has asked for the public’s opinion, you also give your comments, and you tell you tell other people that our collective comments aren’t being asked for. You do both.
 
One of the biggest things that people who organize do is that they put a lot of pressure on themselves to always have all of the answers. The reason why you’re organizing is because you’re trying to get other people involved. The reason why you organize is because you believe in grassroots. In a grassroots situation you’re all supportive of each other. So as an organizer, you don’t have to have all of the answers. You just have enough to get another person with you. And then the two of you have to have enough answers to get the third person with you, and so on and so forth. And at some point, collectively, you’ll have a cumulative knowledge to push forward the issue.

Awesome Project: Raising Beds in Bed-Stuy

 

Shatia Jackson, 26, born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was sick and tired of looking at the vacant lot on her street. “The lot has been there as long as I can remember…over twenty years,” Jackson told ioby last week. So, in August 2011, when 596 Acres put up a sign on the fence enclosing the neglected lot on Halsey Street encouraging citizens to reclaim city-owned vacant space in Brooklyn, Jackson acted immediately. 596 Acres, a Brooklyn-based organization who raised money on ioby to print posters with the contact information of lot owners around vacant spaces in Brooklyn, quickly introduced Jackson to Kristen Bonardi Rapp, another member of the community interested in reclaiming the land. Both women appreciated the other’s passion for gardening, and with a two-heads-are-better-than-one mentality, they joined forces to secure the lot at 462 Halsey Street.
After a few months of paperwork and planning, 462 Halsey got its certification from New York City  garden agency Green Thumb. On December 3rd 2011, the community garden hopefuls opened their gates to begin transforming the once-forgotten lot into an accessible neighborhood staple. Brooklyn Permaculture, a small group of urban farmers, teamed up with 462 Halsey volunteers to prepare the lot for use, share gardening techniques, and create a design plan for the garden-to-be. Since Jackson and Rapp started work on the lot, they have succeeded in raising over $3,000, and do not intend to stop there.
Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of New York City’s “food deserts,” defined as “an area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods, particularly in a low-income area,” according to the USDA. Even if residents are able to make it to the grocery store, the healthier food options are often too expensive. Jackson and Rapp hope that 462 Halsey can provide their community healthy food options at no cost, and by doing so, Jackson explains fervently, “will give families the incentive to eat better and live healthier.”
For Jackson and her community, the 462 Halsey Community Garden will not only provide access to healthy food options, but also aims to serve as a community hub, planning to offer free yoga classes, seminars on healthy eating, and gardening classes for children. “We want to make it not only a garden in which you have a couple of members, we want to make everyone feel welcome…Even if you don’t know how to grow anything, you still have a place in this garden, you can still come to class, you can still do your morning stretches next to some beautiful flowers. We want it to be open and all encompassing,” says Jackson.
With the help of local residents, 596 acres, fully funding their project on ioby, a Love Your Block grant, and the invaluable assistance of Brooklyn Permaculture, 462 Halsey is preparing to open on April 1st of this year as a fully functioning garden. With a strong community support system, including local businesses and volunteers providing tools, compost, and time, 462 Halsey has been the picture of success. “Honestly, when you see that progress being made and you see that you have people starting a project that is meaningful and that is going to accomplish so much for a neighborhood that needs so much it keeps people coming back,” Jackson remarks of the garden’s inspired volunteers.Local residents are doing their part to help in order to have the garden ready for spring, gladly sacrificing weekends to collect compost and build raised beds.
Looking toward the future, Jackson hopes to see more people in the community come together for a common cause. “I want to see a bridge being built between people who are new residents to BedStuy and people who are longtime residents; people that have lived here their whole lives, third and fourth generation residents,” says Jackson. “You have to smart small; start where you can…If we don’t do it for ourselves, there’s no one who is going to do it for us.”
Members of the community have approached Jackson to applaud her efforts to improve her neighborhood. Jackson told ioby, “One man said to me, ‘From the bottom of my heart, I’m so happy that someone from here is doing this. I was starting to worry that the black youth don’t care anymore.’ It touched me to know that I gave someone hope and proof that the youth of today are active in making a change.” Jackson believes the garden will be a mainstay in her neighborhood. While the 462 Halsey community garden may be Jackson’s first project for her neighborhood, she knows it will not be her last. 
 

Brooklyn, Be Mine? Hometown Homerun

With February 14th in mind, ExchangeMyPhone has written this Valentine series for ioby highlighting a handful of people and organizations that perform labors of love for the borough’s wellbeing. ExchangeMyPhone is a website for anyone to sell (or recycle) their old phones and their blog is full of local, and global, green innovation stories.

Hometown Homerun 

Last Spring, the Red Hook Youth Baseball League celebrated its 14th birthday, which officially makes the initiative older than most of its players!  The league was established by a partnership between the Red Hook Community Justice Center and their neighbors in response to concerns over a lack of extra curricular athletic programs for the local youth.  The league has also doubled as a meeting ground for families (the players and their parents) and local law enforcement, who often act as volunteer coaches, which has strengthened community relations from a grassroots, interpersonal level.
 
On any given Saturday in the springtime, more than 150 boys and girls, dozens of community volunteers and parents fill Red Hook baseball diamonds and stands. The League is still about more than balls and strikes; everyone involved works to instill the young ballplayers with high standards of sportsmanship, leadership and respect. The philosophy of the league is to provide Red Hook youth with structured, competitive baseball, while at the same time encouraging their continued success in school and supporting them to become contributing members of the community.
 
Consistency is really the name of the game, and many of the coaches and players return season after season because of the meaningful relationships built on the field. For example, Brett Taylor will be coaching his 14th season this spring. Brett got involved with the League when he was a public defense attorney working with the Legal Aid Society at the Community Justice Center, and his team has fittingly always been called The Defenders. Individuals like Brett, and their enduring commitment to the league, are a testament to idea that a stable sense of community is valuable to everyone, not just the young players.