Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman John B. Rhea today launched the Red Hook Urban Farm, a 1-acre urban agriculture installation and the first-ever large-scale community farm on NYCHA property. The model farm will serve as a source of fresh produce for the community while also providing a center for education, job training, and community engagement for residents. Produce will be sold at farmers’ markets operated by the nonprofit group Added Value or donated to families in need, and revenue from sales will fund stipends for members of the Green City Force Clean Energy Corps who will maintain the project. Based on this model, NYCHA is seeking providers for urban farms at five additional housing developments. The Red Hook Urban Farm was installed by participants in the Center for Economic Opportunity’s (CEO) Work Progress Program, a component of the Young Men’s Initiative, which has resulted in 34 urban agriculture job placements to date. The Farm was made possible with the assistance of funding from CEO and in-kind donations from the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Deputy Mayor Gibbs was also joined by Food Policy Coordinator Kim Kessler, Center for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Kristin Morse, and partners from Added Value and Green City Force.
“We have taken a clear look at where obesity strikes hardest, and food access has emerged as one of the indispensable planks in our strategies to fight poverty and improve outcomes for young black and Latino Men,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “The Red Hook Urban Farm will provide residents with access to a healthy source of produce while also providing young people with a pathway to education and employment.”
“Low-income communities tend to have limited access to the healthy food choices and nutrition education which can help their residents lead healthier lives,” said NYCHA Chairman Rhea. “Our partnership with the Mayor’s Office, Added Value, and Green City Force is a key example of how we can work together to provide NYCHA residents with the benefit of fresh produce grown right in their community as well as information about healthy eating habits.”
“NYCHA has a long-standing greening tradition that supports our residents in creating and maintaining more than 600 community garden plots throughout the five boroughs,” said NYCHA Board Member Margarita López. “This is an opportunity for us to build upon this great tradition to develop a sustainable environment that will contribute to our residents’ health and the green collar economy.”
“When I visited this site over a year ago, the possibility of creating a farm here was still just an idea. I am thrilled to be here today to see how a successful collaboration between City agencies, community based organizations, and community members has turned this idea into a reality,” said Food Policy Coordinator Kim Kessler. “This is also yet another example of how the City continues to work with partners to champion urban agriculture which promotes access to produce and nutrition education.”
“CEO is proud to have partnered with NYCHA to offer young residents both wages and work experience through its Work Progress Program,” said CEO Executive Director Kristin Morse. “Many young people throughout the city have the skills needed to make the successful transition to full-time work, requiring only short-term interventions to boost their economic mobility. This program has offered just that, resulting in an urban farm that is a win-win for both hardworking residents and the broader community.”
“Today is really the culmination of four years of important work developing a shared vision for the development of this beautiful Urban Farm here in Red Hook,” said Ian Marvy, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Added Value. “Now, every day as the children gathered here today walk with their family to and from school to their homes in this wonderful community they will share stories of what they planted and what they grew, and this experience and knowledge translates into conversations in the grocery store, increased visits to farmers markets and indeed families eating more health-promoting fresh foods. We are grateful to our partners the New York City Housing Authority, The Center for Economic Opportunity, Green City Force, the Brooklyn Community Foundation and to our neighbors for helping to make this dream a reality.”
“This is a special collaboration where NYCHA, Added Value and Green City Force bring complementary areas of expertise to bear to create opportunity and support sustainability and health for residents,” said Lisbeth Shepherd, Executive Director of Green City Force. “Through this unique project and partnership, young adults living in NYCHA are training and preparing for success in starting their careers, while engaging as young leaders in expanding access to healthy food right at residents’ doorsteps. They are making the connection to healthy eating and living for themselves and for fellow NYCHA residents by leading children and community members in learning about the benefits of locally grown, organic produce.”
NYCHA will be soliciting partner organizations for five additional urban agriculture sites based on the Red Hook Urban Farm model. Creation of these new sites is one of the 26 initiatives of the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force, which allocated capital funding to NYCHA for the installations. NYCHA will partner with other nonprofit organizations to develop the additional sites and provide programming, including a job training component.
The Red Hook West Urban Farm has two primary missions: the growth and distribution of healthy foods and the education of local residents about healthy diets; and a green jobs training program for NYCHA youth who are out of school and unemployed. The six-month work readiness program, managed by the nonprofit organization Green City Force and supported by Added Value, will provide hands-on job skills training in the field of urban agriculture, as well as educational support and life skills development.
Over its first three years, the Farm will be overseen by Added Value, a nonprofit organization promoting the sustainable development of Red Hook by nurturing a new generation of young leaders. Their goal is to create opportunities for the youth of South Brooklyn to expand their knowledge base, develop new skills and positively engage with their community through the operation of a socially responsible urban farming enterprise.
Last month, the Green City Force (GCF) Clean Energy Corps was awarded the first-ever NYC Innovative Nonprofit Award by Mayor Bloomberg and CEO. GCF’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty, preparing young adults to succeed in their chosen careers by engaging them in service, training, academics and work experiences related to the clean energy economy. In doing so, GCF encourages them to lead socially and environmentally responsible lives. NYCHA and Green City Force have already recruited more than 20 young residents for the Red Hook West Urban Farm project.
New York City has a comprehensive approach to improving the food environment and is committed to increasing healthy food access and nutrition awareness among New Yorkers.
The Food Policy Coordinator works to streamline the food policy work of City programs, improve interagency communication, engage stakeholders, and strengthen public-private partnerships. Funded in part by CEO, the Food Policy Coordinator oversaw the development and implementation of numerous food-related initiatives in the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force final report, including those to increase the City’s healthy retail access programs, expand healthy school food and wellness initiatives, and launch new urban agriculture projects.
In January 2012, Mayor Bloomberg charged Deputy Mayor of Health & Human Services Linda Gibbs and Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway to strengthen the City’s anti-obesity efforts by convening a multi-agency Obesity Task Force that would recommend innovative, aggressive solutions to address the obesity challenge in New York City. The Mayor’s Obesity Task Force was convened in January 2012 with commissioners from eleven City agencies including NYCHA and representatives from the Mayor’s Office participating. The Task Force identified four key goals to guide its work: reduce obesity, address disparities between communities, reduce preventable health conditions, and create strategies to lower health care spending and lost productivity.
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
NYCHA provides decent and affordable housing in a safe and secure living environment for low and moderate- income residents in New York City. NYCHA serves approximately 420,000 public housing residents across 334 developments in all 5 boroughs. To fulfill this mission, NYCHA must preserve its aging housing stock through timely maintenance and modernization of its developments. NYCHA also administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. Simultaneously, we work to enhance the quality of life at NYCHA by offering our residents opportunities to participate in a multitude of community, educational and recreational programs, as well as job readiness and training initiatives. NYCHA has the largest running public gardening program in the nation and has supported residents in developing more than 650 community based garden plots.