Upper Harlem Resident Green Committee Chair Cheryl Minor and Co-Chair Channie Allen plant bulbs on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard with the Friends of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard Committee.

By Brent Grier

The enthusiasm of residents in five New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments to make their community more beautiful has paid off. Astoria Houses (Queens), Hope Gardens (Brooklyn), Ravenswood Houses (Queens), Samuel Apartments (Manhattan) and Soundview Houses (Bronx) all received a $500 "Love Your Block" grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City, in partnership with the Mayor's Office.

The grants are available to community groups that strive to beautify their block, such as by planting trees, removing graffiti and clearing vacant lots. They also include expedited support from City agencies such as the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Sanitation and Transportation.

The Uptown Harlem Resident Green Committee representing Samuel Apartments received a grant for tree guards, and like the other winners, will host events this Spring and Summer to promote their project. "We're going to install crafted tree guards along West 144th Street between Seventh and Lenox Avenues thanks to the grant," said Cheryl Minor, who chairs the committee. Tree guards are needed to protect the health of NYCHA's trees, especially newly planted trees that can be subject to damage and vandalism.

Castle Hill Upgrades Bring National Recognition

Green initiatives at Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx make it a modern marvel in public housing. NYCHA is the first housing authority ever to win an "Energy Project of the Year" award from the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) based on several heating and lighting upgrades at Castle Hill. AEE selected NYCHA's energy management project in a regional judging that included several states. To receive consideration, the project had to be operational for at least six months and proven to bring down installation costs and operating savings.

In efforts to improve residents' comfort and quality of life, NYCHA installed upgraded climate controls and lighting systems in 2010. The project includes Wireless Energy Modules in each apartment that monitor apartment temperatures, voltage and demand. The new, efficient lighting in common areas provides added safety for residents. The project also created green construction jobs for residents through NYCHA's Resident Employment Services program.

"This award is very special. We were competing against big companies and this represents the fact that we are doing the right thing," said Commissioner Margarita López, NYCHA's Environmental Coordinator. "This is a pilot program that if it continues to go well, we will replicate it across other developments. Every penny that we don’t spend on energy, we can use on maximizing services like maintenance and safety for residents."