Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Food and Resilience Gardens Hub

The  BC Food and Resilience Gardens Hub (launching July 2020) aims to promote and interconnect school and community gardens and gardeners with Brooklyn College faculty, staff, and students to conduct research and support projects that promote food sovereignty and socio-ecological resilience in Midwood/Flatbush and other neighborhoods across Brooklyn. The Hub would be hosted by the Urban Sustainability Studies Program at BC and draw upon a range of faculty through the Center for the Study of Brooklyn (also at BC).

The Hub would have four functions:

  • To coordinate and support the growing of food for local consumption including food pantries for residents and students in response to the COVID emergency and long standing food insecurity issues among students and central and south Brooklyn communities.
  • To support the new School-Community garden in Midwood at PS 152/315 and other school and community gardens to provide support for learning opportunities among K-12 and college students (building upon existing Community Roots program hosted by BC College Now).
  • To lead and support gardening efforts on the BC campus for teaching and research with students, faculty and community partners for food provision as well as climate resilience including stormwater management, carbon sequestration, biodiversity promotion and urban soil management.
  • To research, innovate participatory, and teach democratic practices and economic democracy models not just for gardening but for other parts of the food system (transport, sale, etc.) including worker and consumer coops and participatory budgeting (PB) and to connect to city government through community boards, PB NYC and the NYC Civic Engagement Commission.

While face-to-face interactions are limited, a small number of internship opportunities, using socially distanced outdoor training, will be pursued for summer and fall. Also, there will be a a special focus on reaching across the digital divide and teaching and training diverse students and community members to use participatory democractic digital platforms for project management (e.g. Airtable), collaborative decision-making (e.g. Loomio), in depth and interactive surveys (e.g. pol.is), and proposal generation (e.g. Decidim) among other needs and uses.

On-Campus Partnerships

This project builds on existing projects, centers, and institutes at BC including the greenhouse operated by the Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center (AREAC), Environmental Sciences Analytical Center (ESAC), Urban Soils Lab, Legacy Lead Coalition, and the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.  The Hub will enhance existing partnerships with departments and programs across the campus including Earth and Environmental Sciences, Health and Nutrition Sciences, Sociology, Philosophy, Business Management, Economics, and Caribbean Studies among others.

Off-Campus Partnerships

The Hub working with the Center for the Study of Brooklyn will establish and/or enhance partnerships with off campus organizations such as the PS 152/315 Schoolyard Working Group, Bed Stuy Restoration, Canarsie Alliance, Canarsie Community Development Initiative, and the Flatbush Food Pantry as well as various civics and community boards especially in Flatbush, Canarsie and Midwood. It will also work to build out the recent partnerships with Community Care of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Communities Collaborative’s work on public health and economic democracy (BC is an “anchor” institution in this network).  Private sector partners will also be sought, for example for landscaping and landscape architecture with firms such as Local Office for Landscape Architecture (who is already permitted to work at CUNY).

Resilient Participatory Budgeting

Creating Resilience Curriculum for CUNY and Public Libraries to promote “green” proposals for the new city-wide Participatory Budgeting Process

“Resilient PB“ will create academic and non-academic programming on the topic of “creating a more just and resilient NYC” for the new city-wide participatory budgeting process (PB) as part of the civic infrastructure building activities of/for the new Civic Engagement Commission created in 2018 per the referendum to amend NYC’s charter.  The geographic focus is Brooklyn, but open to other jurisdictions.  Project planning starts in Spring 2020 and the grant runs officially through May 2022. 

The goal of the project is to further spread informed, participatory and justice-oriented discourse about climate change and how to make specific community-based social, economic and infrastructural proposals to adapt to it in a way that enhances equity and socio-ecological resilience. The geographic focus is Brooklyn.  The venues are Brooklyn College (BC), and select community boards (TBA), and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (and others). 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face gatherings and interactions, the first phase (summer 2020) will begin with a completely online process utilizing civic technology platforms such as pol.is, slack and Loomio.

Keep reading for more details on: programming and the course module.

Review an initial project of Resilience PB:

Community Partners

The community partners for this project will likely include several of the following: the Participatory Budgeting Project, the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, Community Boards (TBA), the Canarsie Neighborhood Alliance, and the Civic Engagement Commission.

At BC/CUNY we are linked with the Urban Sustainability Studies Program, the Center for the Study of Brooklyn and faculty in at least three different schools including the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Koppleman School of Business, and the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences.   

Funding & Support

This project is funded and supported by the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center as part of the  2020-2022 Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Office of the Provost at the Graduate Center, and the Center for the Humanities.


The programming will have three manifestations:

  • a “Resilience PB” module to be used in undergraduate classes at CUNY (incubated at Brooklyn College);
  • the creation of display media explaining resilience and city wide PB for a non academic audience to be installed in libraries throughout the Brooklyn Public Library System;
  • to train 5+ CUNY students and faculty to present, or co-present, on resilience and PB NYC for at least 3 Community Boards in Brooklyn. 

This proposal fits most directly under the “civic discourse” frame but also connects in large part to the “urban neighborhoods” frame and to a lesser extent to the “blue humanities” since water is a key part of resilience for coastal neighborhoods in NYC. 

The first phase begins in Summer 2020 with a BC student intern who will receive training in the civic tech platforms and be able to teach and support other students going forward.  

1/ The Resilience PB undergraduate class module.  There are still very few classes at CUNY that deal with the basic concepts of climate change, climate adaptation and socio-ecological resilience.  While developing new courses and programs is crucial, it is more expeditious in the short term to introduce this topic in a wide range of classes to expose a greater range of students to the basic concepts and develop their agency by connecting them to a participatory democratic governance process like PB and the CEC creating a “Resilience PB” module to be used in undergraduate level classes at CUNY.  The module will be constructed so that instructors can do a 1 day session or a 2 week session in which students will learn about resilience in a manner that enables them to formulate proposals to enhance resilience in a participatory democratic way using PB.  

2) Train CUNY students to present at support Community Boards.  To train 5-8 CUNY students to present, or co-present, on resilience and PB NYC for at least 3 Community Boards in Brooklyn (TBA).  Students will learn about existing NYC and non-city databases which have critical information that can assist neighborhoods in making decisions about what infrastructure projects and programming can enhance resilience and improve quality of life.  

Course Module

For BC, a course module will be developed on socio-ecological resilience that is informed by the principles of climate justice that we hope can spread across CUNY. The module will contain readings, media, assignments and activities integrating these topics. The content is interdisciplinary invoking history, philosophy, political science, Caribbean Studies, business, sociology, and ecology.  It is designed for courses in multiple disciplines and will be doable in a varying time frames: from a one class presentation to a two week utilization.

It will also contain an in-class PB exercise so that students can learn participatory resilience by doing it and start to develop a sense of collective agency that interconnects government and community. This module will be designed to be fully on line as well as face to face. Students will then learn about the new city wide participatory budgeting process and develop the background knowledge to work with their communities to create proposals that can be submitted in PB NYC in 2020-1. 

Another jurisdiction where NYCers have an opportunity to influence policy especially around land use is community boards which have been renewed and further empowered in the last year. We will create dedicated programming to present at CB meetings as well as a webpage to keep CBs up to date on what’s happening (to be housed at www.srijb.org where I am the Associate Director of Public Engagement). We aim to train 5+ faculty and students to present in this increasingly important and contentious NYC political space.

The 3rd venue is the Brooklyn Public Library though again it is now being designed to be fully on line in the initial roll out.  Libraries themselves are critical spaces of resilience especially for low income NYCers as well as old and young people as Eric Klinenberg’s work has shown. We will develop a different versions of our materials to be on display in a library setting where people interact with the materials in a non-academic setting and must be attractive in ways different from the captured audience of the classroom.