Urban gardens need evangelists, enthusiastic advocates who not only get others excited about the possibility of gardening in the city, but are willing to do the hard work associated with coaxing plants from concrete. Residents living in New York City Housing Authority developments across the city have become just these sorts of evangelists, building interest and educating their neighbors about the importance of environmental stewardship. The NYCHA Green Agenda really originated back in 2007, when Mayor Bloomberg appointed NYCHA Board Member Margarita Lopez as NYCHA’s first Environmental Coordinator. Lopez recognized how much residents in New York’s public housing system cared about the environment and sustainability, as well as how much the residents were already doing on their own to promote gardening, recycling, and energy conservation. She spearheaded the effort to coordinate and organize these residents into what are now the NYCHA Resident Green Committees, and boy are they making a difference around town.
NYCHA Resident Green Committees have accomplished some amazing feats over the past couple years. Some have received Love Your Block grants from the Citizens Committee for New York City, including the Uptown Harlem, Marcy, Boulevard, Hope Gardens, Edenwald, Soundview, Astoria, and Ravenswood RCGs. The Wise Towers and Pink Houses RGCs recently won New Yorkers for Better Neighborhoods grants to plant gardens and improve their properties. Many of the RCGs have forged strong partnerships with other city organizations; for instance, the Castle Hill RCG joined with Trees New York to offer a workshop on caring for the trees they had recently planted on the development property. Other meaningful projects some RCGs have taken on include the installation of tree guards and recruiting youth for Clean Energy Corps jobs with Green City Force.
The bottom line is that your neighbors living in the public housing developments of New York City are doing amazing things to not only to care for their communities by utilizing and beautifying the outdoor spaces they have access to, but to educate and encourage others to join the movement (and the fun). RCG members are ensuring that New York will be a healthy and livable city for future generations, and they deserve recognition and thanks for all their efforts. What a great example they’re setting for everyone.