News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2018

Contact:        Ryan Max / Annie Leist;; 212-513-9323


Cultural nonprofits and community-based development organizations will team up to strengthen the role of culture in three neighborhoods undergoing broader planning efforts: Bushwick, Brooklyn; Far Rockaway, Queens; and Morrisania, Bronx

Over $240,000 will be distributed for the first phase of the program to support neighborhood arts inventories and community-driven cultural planning

New York – The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) today announced the launch of its Building Community Capacity (BCC) program in three new neighborhoods: Bushwick, Brooklyn; Far Rockaway, Queens; and Morrisania, Bronx. BCC takes a collaborative and comprehensive approach to building cultural capacity in targeted low-income areas. While each neighborhood cohort can tailor the program to its local needs, the broader goals are to ensure that culture is included as part of the City’s interagency efforts around neighborhood planning and economic development; and that local cultural stakeholders have a voice in their own community’s overall development strategies and efforts.  

“A vibrant cultural life is essential to healthy neighborhoods,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “The Building Community Capacity program puts this belief into action in communities across the city. As BCC launches in three new neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, we’re excited to see what benefits these collaborations among City agencies, cultural groups, social service organizations, artists, and residents can bring to these areas as they work together to chart the future of their communities.”

Partnerships of cultural and community organizations in each neighborhood will receive over $80,000 in funding to participate in the first phase of the program. During this discovery and visioning phase, teams will assess the current state of arts and culture in each community, identify areas in which increased cultural capacity would contribute to overall community well-being, and engage local residents in creating an action plan to leverage the arts to address local civic concerns. In addition to funding, each selected partnership will benefit from technical support and professional development programming, and opportunities for peer engagement and collaboration across communities. BCC is also partially funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through their Community Development Block Grant program.

Only residential neighborhoods currently or recently involved in a community development initiative conducted by the City of New York and with a population over 51% low- or moderate-income were eligible to participate. Neighborhoods meeting this criteria were invited to apply through an open call, and applications were evaluated through a panel review process. Each application team was required to consist of one certified Community Based Development Organization (CBDO) and one non-profit arts organization.

Selected program participants in each of the three new neighborhoods are:

In Bushwick, Brooklyn:

El Puente has been committed to peace, justice, and community-based leadership development for young people and their families for three decades. They will work in Bushwick with their cultural partner, The Bushwick Starr, a theatrical venue dedicated to the idea that affordable, accessible art can obliterate the boundaries of class and cultural divides. This team will also engage with the Department of City Planning (DCP) through its Bushwick Community Plan.

In Far Rockaway, Queens:

The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance strives to build a stronger, more vibrant coastal community through educational programming, the arts, environmental conservation, and outdoor recreation. They will be joined in their work by cultural partner Rockaway Artists Alliance, which collaborates with cultural institutions throughout NYC to bring cultural experiences, employment opportunities in the arts, and programming for all ages to the geographically isolated peninsula. The Far Rockaway, Queens neighborhood has recently been the subject of both the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s Downtown Far Rockaway Neighborhood Development initiative and the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan conducted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

In Morissania, Bronx:

A force in giving the South Bronx access to resources necessary for a thriving vibrant community for a quarter century, the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) will turn their focus to the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx. Their cultural partner, DreamYard Project, Inc., supports young people by nurturing artistic expression and cultivating skills necessary to reach positive goals. Morrisania is participating in the Building Healthy Communities program with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, and is also the subject of a Neighborhood Action Study conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ).

“I’m thrilled to have helped lead the fight to create new funding streams and initiatives like Building Community Capacity that align with CreateNYC and expand access to arts and culture in underserved communities,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations.

"The South Bronx has always been a community of incredible cultures, creators and artistic expression,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “With that said, to remain who we are, it's important that we support organizations that in turn support our cultural identity. WHEDco undoubtedly is one of those organizations, and I'm grateful to see their work is being supported through DCLA's BCC." 

“Brooklyn’s arts and cultural organizations lift up communities and help promote the heritage, history, and languages of our diverse neighborhoods,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. ”I commend DCLA for investing in cultural organizations in Bushwick through the Building Community Capacity program. This critical funding will enliven grassroots community art in northeastern Brooklyn by empowering organizations to showcase the local culture of that neighborhood to the wider public as a means of economic development, enhancement of public realm, and improvement in quality of life.”

“The Building Community Capacity Program is an innovative way to support the development of vibrant cultural spaces that will make neighborhoods like Downtown Far Rockaway even more attractive places to live, work and visit,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “The Program will augment the ongoing efforts to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway to create our borough’s next great commercial, cultural and residential hub there. Queens commends DCLA for this initiative to support arts and culture in emerging neighborhoods.”

“DCP is thrilled that El Puente and Bushwick Starr, which were selected as grantees for DCLA’s Building Community Capacity Program, will be leading a community dialogue about arts and culture in Bushwick,” said Marisa Lago, Director, Department of City Planning. “DCP had the pleasure of working alongside El Puente throughout the Bushwick Community Planning process, and recognizes their strong leadership in the community on arts and culture, as well as their commitment to youth development. We look forward to continuing to work with them as part of the Building Community Capacity Program!”

“Arts and culture are at the heart of healthy communities,” said Javier López, Assistant Commissioner for Systems and Partnerships, Center for Health Equity, New York City Health Department. “Building the capacity of communities to strengthen local art and culture is key to the long-term sustainability of neighborhood assets and resources. Community-based organizations elevate the needs and priorities of the neighborhoods they serve. Building community capacity to support and nurture the arts through these valuable stakeholders will help drive the long-term work of creating healthy, equitable neighborhoods.”

“NYCEDC and the entire de Blasio administration have worked to thoughtfully invest in Downtown Far Rockaway and bring the neighborhood’s first rezoning since 1961,” said NYC Economic Development Corporation Director James Patchett. “We are excited for launch of the Building Community Capacity initiative in Downtown Far Rockaway, which will build on the swell of new investment in the neighborhood and bring new opportunities to residents.”

“All across the five boroughs, our work to create affordable housing and strengthen neighborhoods is anchored in empowering local leaders and engaging entire communities,” said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “We are excited that DCLA is launching this new program that ensures culture continues to be a meaningful component of our work to revitalize neighborhoods across the city.”

State Senator James Sanders Jr. said “A thriving arts and culture scene is important to the vitality of a community because it provides ways for people to express themselves and engage with others in the creative process. Far Rockaway has some of the most talented people around, and I am proud and pleased to hear that a BCC grant has been awarded to the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and their partner, Rockaway Artists Alliance. I’m sure they will do amazing work with this resource, and will continue to make their community proud.”

“The more we invest in arts and culture in our communities, the better the outcome is for our young folks,” said NY State Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato. “The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and the Rockaway Artists Alliance are such valuable programs in our neighborhood and I am so excited that the City is devoting resources to community-driven cultural growth.”

"We are incredibly excited that community organizations in the South Bronx like WHEDco and DreamYard have been chosen to receive this Building Community Capacity grant funding,” said NY State Assembly Member Michael Blake. “Over the course of the last 24 years, these two organizations have been working tirelessly to make sure that children in our communities have access to arts education and other youth development opportunities. It is crucial that we continue to promote a love of art and culture in our young people, and this grant will be a great help to our vital South Bronx institutions as they continue that mission, furthering the path to #BuildingABetterBronx."

“This crucial investment acknowledges the fundamental contributions that cultural organizations make in the positive advancement of our communities and the importance of addressing cultural concerns as they directly impact important social outcomes in education, health and quality of life. I applaud the efforts of the Administration and DCLA for this recognition and effort,” said NY State Assembly Member Marcos A. Crespo.

“El Puente and Bushwick Starr have a tremendous impact on the youth in our community. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for awarding these two great institutions. This initiative will help promote cultural awareness and enable the groups to continue their mission statements,” said NY State Assembly Member Maritza Davila.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of DCLA’s Building Community Capacity initiative together with the dynamic organizational teams from Far Rockaway and Morrisania,” said El Puente Executive Director Frances Lucerna. “We look forward to continuing and deepening our ongoing work of nurturing a community driven process for the holistic development of Bushwick and building bridges for sustainable arts and cultural equity.”

“Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is proud to host a community engagement process in partnership with the Rockaway Artist Alliance, Far Rockaway Arverne Nonprofit Coalition and the Queens Public Library to create a cultural arts inventory for the Far Rockaway community,” said Jeanne DuPont, Executive Director, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. “We feel very fortunate to have been selected by the NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs through the Building Community Capacity grant to represent the interests of the Far Rockaway arts community in strengthening the network of artists, musicians, and performers who represent one of the most diverse and culturally rich communities in New York City. Our team is looking forward to working with DCLA and the local community on this important engagement process in the coming months.”

“What an honor it is for WHEDco and our friends at DreamYard to build on our decades-long experiences in Morrisania partnering with children, youth, families, entrepreneurs, artists and others, through DCLA’s Building Community Capacity program! A long overlooked hotbed of music and diversity, immigration and migration, and quintessential Bronx warmth and grit, we’re beyond excited to see how the very stories of social movements, local assets, and the arts that make up the fabric of Morrisania might stitch together a community-led vision for an even brighter future, especially as we look to open our Bronx Commons housing and Bronx Music Hall in the neighborhood in 2019,” said Kerry A. McLean, Vice President of Community Development, WHEDco.

DreamYard is thrilled to be working with WHEDco on a DCLA Building Community Capacity project in Morrisania,” said Tim Lord, Co-Executive Director of DreamYard. “Morrisania and the Bronx are home to amazing cultural, family and community assets, and the history of Morrisania is so rich as a cultural center and catalyst for the city and, let's face it, the world. To be able to engage with our families and their neighbors to explore and learn from and build on that history with the support and guidance of DCLA and our colleagues in this program is deeply exciting. We can't wait to get started!”

About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit