First Lady McCray, Harlem Speaker Mark-Viverito And Others Announce NYCHA Farm Expansion

September 28, 2017

First Lady Chirlane McCray, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Housing Authority Chair Shola Olatoye and Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships came together today.

They came together today to announce the City will expand the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative by building two new urban farms on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property.Building is set to begin in October at Forest Hills in the Bronx. The second location will be at a to-be-determined NYCHA residence on Staten Island.

Launched in 2016, BHC is a $12 million dollar public-private partnership designed to address health inequities and improve health outcomes by investing in 12 neighborhoods across the five boroughs. The two new farms are made possible by a City investment of $500,000.

In 2016, three urban farms were built on NYCHA property in Brownsville, Canarsie and East Harlem.

The farms have had a significant impact to date, producing and distributing over 25,697 pounds of fresh, sustainably-grown produce for free to NYCHA residents. Over 800 NYCHA residents have volunteered at the farms, creating community cohesion and enhancing public safety. In 2016, three urban farms were built on NYCHA property in Brownsville, Canarsie and East Harlem. Along with the farm in Red Hook, which is now supported through the BHC program, they provide NYCHA residents with the opportunity to access fresh vegetables, trade food scraps used for compost for fresh food, and have greater access to green space, while also serving as hubs for education, community engagement and job training for residents. Green City Force, a nationally recognized AmeriCorps program, recruits and trains 18-to-24-year-old NYCHA residents to build and run the farms.

“We want more families to flourish with healthier and more robust food options, green spaces and tangible employment opportunities for young adults. The Building Healthy Communities Initiative is creative and productive, but it also improves community cohesion, good mental and physical health, while promoting sustainability,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts.

“As I announced at my State of the City Address, the Council invested $500,000 towards the construction of the new urban farms in the Bronx and Staten Island for NYCHA residents across the city to enjoy. These urban farms are an exciting development for NYCHA. They will help us build the green city that we want to see by starting with our largest community – New Yorkers themselves. It is also therapeutic, and all New Yorkers would appreciate spending some time on the farms. The Council will continue to work with the Mayor’s Administration to ensure that NYCHA residents continue to have opportunities to engage in, and discuss, sustainability, food justice, and nutrition,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“For far too many of our City’s families inequality extends to their kitchen tables,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. “Expanding the Building Healthy Communities public-private partnership will provide NYCHA residents in the Bronx and Staten Island with access to fresh and healthy food and give opportunities to families and friends to engage in their communities.”

Spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and the Fund for Public Health, BHC is a multi-agency initiative that focuses on three key goals: increasing opportunities for physical activity, expanding access to healthy and affordable food, and making improvements to public safety. The 12 designated neighborhoods in the BHC initiative were chosen due to a historic lack of investment in parks and open spaces, unsafe public spaces and little access to healthy, affordable food. Most also bear the heaviest burden of chronic disease and poor health in New York City, including high rates of obesity, diabetes and asthma.

The plan for BHC was developed through a multi-agency effort that was designed to join public resources with private funding and community-based engagement, and align all three in a comprehensive effort to revitalize neighborhoods likely to benefit the most. The City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks Department, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, New York City Housing Authority, Department of Transportation and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy all collaborated with the Office of Strategic Partnerships and the Fund for Public Health.

Shola Olatoye, NYCHA Chair and CEO; Carla Hall, restauranteur and co-host of ABC’s The Chew; Sara Gardner, Executive Director of The Fund For Public Health; Laurie M Tisch, President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; Roderick Jenkins, Senior Program Officer at New York Community Trust; Matthew McCarthy, VP of Foods at Unilever North America; and Katie Harris, Wagner Houses Resident Association President were in attendance at today’s announcement.

Funders for Building Healthy Communities include Aetna Foundation; Astoria Energy LLC; The Durst Organization; Empire BlueCross BlueShield HealthPlus; KaBOOM!; Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; Merck Family Fund; The New York Community Trust; New York State Health Foundation; The Scherman Foundation; Stavros Niarchos Foundation; Target; Unilever North America; and Wakefern Food Corporation.

The farms are strengthened and supported through community based partnerships with Added Value, Harlem Grown, East New York Farms!, and Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, Inc.

Other Building Healthy Communities investments include:

  • NYC Soccer Initiative: In partnership with the US Soccer Foundation, the New York City Football Club, adidas and Etihad Airways, the City is in the process of building 50 soccer fields across the city, which, once established, will include after-school soccer and youth mentorship programs with the City’s Young Men’s Initiative.
  • Fresh Food Programs: BHC is working with GrowNYC, Harvest Home and other citywide food leaders to expand access to fresh produce. To date, BHC has supported eight Youth Markets – farm stands run by young people and supplied by regional farmers – and Fresh Food Boxes – fresh produce clubs that offer fresh produce for up to 50 percent less than retail. These initiatives are currently taking place in Hunts Point, Morrisania, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.
  • Shape Up NYC: BHC is significantly expanding Shape Up NYC’s free community-based fitness classes, including those offered in Spanish in partnership with NYC Parks. Newly trained Spanish language teachers are offering more than 15 new free fitness classes in East Harlem, and Spanish language instructor training recently started in the South Bronx.
  • Active Design in Schools: Working with the Department of Health, BHC is helping schools enhance their schoolyards and recreation spaces to support activity, play and learning. BHC awarded fourteen schools in the South Bronx, Flushing, Brownsville, and East Harlem with support for improvements that range from the re-design of courtyards to expansion of school gardens.
  • Improving Public Spaces and Wayfinding: BHC is working with the Department of Transportation and local partners to improve paths and signage to encourage more residents to walk and explore their neighborhoods. To help showcase great outdoor spaces like plazas, parks, gardens and waterfronts, BHC has produced community maps for Brownsville and the South Bronx. BHC has also provided direct support to community partners to lead sports programming, running groups, and skateboarding workshops to encourage young people and families to be more active in their local parks.

“We are thrilled to expand NYCHA’s farm program to two more developments as we strive to provide safe, clean and connected communities for all NYCHA residents,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “Farms at NYCHA are an innovative program and they create an important cornerstone for our communities.”

“At NYC Parks, we know that neighbors who support one another’s health and wellness are the foundation of strong communities. Just like our Shape Up partnership, which has brought free fitness courses to people across the five boroughs, these new urban farms will give NYCHA residents the resources they need to get involved and stay healthy,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.

“Data show that New Yorkers aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, and particularly in low-income neighborhoods,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Eating more fruits and vegetables provides important nutrients and can lower your risk of heart disease. Today’s investment in urban farms builds on a host of healthy eating initiatives under this Administration, from promoting healthy choices in bodegas as part of Shop Healthy, to the innovative sodium warning icon appearing next to high-sodium menu items, to expanding Health Bucks so SNAP recipients can purchase 40 percent more produce at farmers markets.”

“The Fund for Public Health in New York City is committed to building cross sector partnerships that engage individuals and community groups to positively impact and revitalize neighborhoods. The Building Healthy Communities’ Farms at NYCHA initiative embodies this goal,” said Sara Gardner, Executive Director of the Fund for Public Health in New York City. Since the start of the program, individuals and organizations have been collaborating to ensure greater access to healthy and affordable food, to improve opportunities for physical activity, and to promote safe and vibrant public spaces. We are excited to lead this initiative with the First Lady and the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships working with communities to align resources that ensure public health is everybody’s business.”

“The additional investment in these urban farms will support residents ‎to create lively, vibrant public spaces that allow neighbors to spend more time outdoors together. Active streets are safe streets and City partnerships with communities to enhance public spaces will continue to make our neighborhoods even safer,” said Amy Sananman, the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety.

“All New Yorkers should have access to healthy foods, no matter their socio-economic background. The construction of urban farms in NYCHA property in the Bronx and Staten Island are a step in the right direction in addressing the issue of food deserts in our most vulnerable communities. I commend the efforts of NYCHA, community leaders, and the support of our city officials through continued investment and commitment to addressing this issue,” said U.S. Representative José E. Serrano.

“This added investment furthers the City’s commitment to closing the inequality gap and ensuring public housing residents have access to fresh food. These new urban farms will not only provide access to healthy produce but also provide jobs to young residents and community space. The First Lady and the Speaker’s leadership is commendable and I look forward in being a partner in this expansion,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing.

Council Member Vanessa Gibson said, “As a city, we must do everything we can to provide people with increased access to healthy food. I am thrilled that the residents of Forest Houses will soon have direct access to farm fresh produce grown in their own backyard. This initiative provides critical support to the Bronx’s vision of healthier community and I thank First Lady Chirlane McCray and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for making this important investment in health and wellness in the West Bronx.”

“We’re fortunate to have leaders like Chirlane McCray who recognize that young people are the key to transforming our city. Without the City’s investment in programs like Green City Force, we would not be able to offer catalytic opportunities to young public housing residents,” said Lisbeth Shepherd, Founder and Executive Director of Green City Force. “We’re honored to serve as the backbone to the Farms at NYCHA initiative, putting the young people of NYCHA at the center of this ambitious endeavor, and to work in close partnership with NYCHA, the Fund for Public Health in New York, the City and our community-based partners across the city. We are also thankful to the City Council and private funders who have contributed to this endeavor. This is truly a collective effort with a breadth and diversity of partnerships that attests to the scale of the change we are all working to achieve.”

“For the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the NYCHA urban farms and the broader Building Healthy Communities initiative are right on mission, which is to increase access and opportunity for all New Yorkers,” said Laurie M. Tisch, President of the foundation. “The farms are creating opportunities for young adults who deserve a chance to succeed, and they are increasing NYCHA residents’ access to healthy food that’s often lacking in many communities around the City.”

“The Merck Family Fund is proud to be a supporter of all the partners involved with the Urban Farms at NYCHA project and is inspired by the work of residents, community groups and young people to grow and celebrate fresh, local food,” said Jenny Russell, Executive Director of Merck Family Fund.

“Training young people for green jobs, increasing access to healthy foods, and building communities; this project does it all,” said Roderick Jenkins, Senior Program Officer at The New York Community Trust. “We are proud to support this effort as it grows across the city.”

“Every New Yorker deserves access to a healthy community. We are proud to expand the Farms, which are a beautiful example of what can be achieved when residents, community organizations and government work together to build healthy, equitable neighborhoods,” said Tamara Greenfield, Director of the Building Healthy Communities initiative.

“Our youth development and farming programs in Central and East Harlem not only provide young people with hands-on learning opportunities and fresh produce, but also build critical life skills — resilience, patience, and self-confidence…”

“Our youth development and farming programs in Central and East Harlem not only provide young people with hands-on learning opportunities and fresh produce, but also build critical life skills — resilience, patience, and self-confidence. We are happy that the Mayor’s Office and City Council recognize the value in the urban farming program that we are building here at Wagner, and look forward to seeing this model flourish in the Bronx and Staten Island,” said Tony Hillery, Harlem Grown founder and Executive Director.

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