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Building Healthy Communities | Brownsville, Brooklyn

Brownsville is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that can be described as both urban and rural—urban in its density, but rural in its disconnectedness from the rest of New York City. In April 2015, a New York Times article highlighted Brownsville as the community with the lowest life expectancy in New York City. Although Brownsville has suffered from decades of disinvestment, much is being done to improve social cohesion and the overall health and wellbeing of Brownsville residents.

Grantee Name: Community Solutions
Project Title: Brownsville Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative
Grant Amount: $350,000

COMMUNITY FAST FACTS

  • 78% of residents are black;
  • 36% of residents live below the federal poverty line;
  • 23.8% of public school children (K–8) were categorized as obese, and 30% of adults in the community are obese;
  • 44% of working-age residents are unemployed;
  • It has the largest concentration of public housing in the country;
  • It has 77 community gardens and 12 urban farms in the neighborhood; and 
  • It is home to a 15,000-square-foot Planet Fitness gym that registered more than 2,500 members within the first three months of its grand opening.

PROJECT GOALS

  • Increase access to healthy and affordable foods by engaging with and building the capacity of local businesses interested in selling healthy produce; and
  • Plan and implement resident-driven improvements to the physical environment, especially in public spaces and housing and community facilities.

WHAT WE’VE ACHIEVED TO DATE

HEALTHY FOODS

  • Sold 35,000 pounds of local produce to date through two youth-managed GrowNYC Youthmarkets;
  • Conducted outreach to three businesses through the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District to connect them to the City’s Shop Healthy initiative;
  • Updated a health assets map, a visually engaging guide to healthy food options, fitness-friendly areas, and medical services within Brownsville; and
  • Planted a new community garden at New York City Housing Authority’s Brownsville Houses in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and youth corps from Green City Force.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT & PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
  • Worked in collaboration with community partners in the East New York neighborhood to complete 18 miles of bike lanes between the two neighborhoods;
  • Supported the New Yorkers for Parks’ (NY4P) initial physical assessment in preparation of a more detailed Open Space Index to identify all physical assets in Brownsville and then sharing the resulting assessment with their partners; and 
  • Helped form a 30-member resident workgroup to advocate for residents’ desired renovations to be integrated into the City’s improvement plan for Betsy Head Park. In August 2016, Mayor de Blasio announced that Betsy Head Park would be among 5 City parks to receive $150 million in renovation funds ($30 million per park) to support improvements such as new hiking trails and sports fields. 
  • Published a policy brief with recommendations for using strategies on affordable housing design to increase the physical activity of residents and improve their health, including on a newly constructed development in Brownsville.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
  • Hosted the Live on Livonia event, in partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Department of Transportation, which brought out 1,200 residents to participate in a day of fun activities and offered visioning sessions on affordable housing and the development of vacant lots;
  • Hosted four annual HOPE Summits, which bring residents together to provide ideas and feedback on the priorities for Brownsville, and then planned and deployed place-making activities that address concerns raised by residents at the HOPE Summits; and
  • Opened MGB Pops Public Market, a pedestrian marketplace on a vacant lot that supports local vendors and entrepreneurs, as well as bolsters engagement and economic opportunities for residents.

PARTNERSHIPS

WHAT WE’RE INVESTING IN

UPCOMING EVENTS

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