A new report curating six-months of interviews with everyday Brooklynites reveals residents’ varied hopes and concerns, spotlighting a range of issues from income inequality to rising immigrant populations to inequities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
The Brooklyn Insights Final Report, produced by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, was released last Thursday at an event at the Brooklyn Museum, accompanied by an action plan for the Foundation’s grantmaking and special initiatives in the borough.
“We felt it was imperative to be a bold force at this time of rapid change and uncertainty,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President Cecilia Clarke. “But to be truly effective, we knew we needed to go into neighborhoods, sit down with residents and leaders, and hear about their experiences and insights. We wanted to construct a fresh approach to supporting community-led change, led by the ideas and expertise of those who live here and work here.”
“Deep dives” into three Brooklyn neighborhoods (Coney Island, East New York and Sunset Park) surfaced critical local issues and residents’ priorities for change. Each of the dialogues involved more than 300 people in one-on-one discussions, group conversations and town hall meetings in neighborhoods that reflect the diversity, complexity and changing dynamics of the borough as a whole.
The report outlined key statistics underscoring participants’ concerns, including surging economic inequality, a 10% rise in homelessness over the past year, a poverty rate of 35% for children in Brooklyn, an overwhelming disparity in the population of young people in juvenile detention facilities (95% black and Latino), and an influx of new immigrants (with two in five Brooklyn residents now foreign-born.)
The Foundation has already granted nearly $20 million in partnership with generous donors to address critical needs and advance innovative nonprofit programs across Brooklyn.
Last January, the Foundation launched Brooklyn Insights in a unique effort to hold a dialogue across neighborhoods about Brooklyn’s future. Nearly 1,000 residents and local leaders participated in the process, sharing their concerns about challenges in their communities and sectors, as well as opportunities they see for positive change in a borough where nearly half of all residents are living in or near poverty.
“In nearly every Brooklyn Insights meeting, we heard about the dramatic pace of real estate development and gentrification around the borough,” said Clarke. “The result has been greater fragmentation and inequality within and across neighborhoods, which is particularly acute in the lives of young people of color living in poverty, who are seen as both the greatest asset and vulnerability for the future of their communities.”
Responding to the issues highlighted by residents, the Foundation has developed a new vision and mission for its work, and a new approach to funding community-based initiatives. In 2015, the Foundation will launch four new core programs, each of which will address barriers to equity for low income residents and people of color.
Through Invest in Youth, the largest of these efforts, the Foundation will focus on increasing opportunities and outcomes for young people by tackling issues related to juvenile justice, immigrant families and youth leadership and development. Through the Focus on Neighborhoods initiative, the Foundation will foster local leadership and community strength, beginning in Crown Heights, where it recently moved its headquarters.
Additionally, the Foundation will launch a unique awards program—Brooklyn’s Best—to recognize the excellence and innovation of select local organizations each year. And a new Brooklyn Accelerator program will aim to tailor solutions and connections for nonprofits and donors, including a new incubator hub for budding organizations within the Foundation’s new offices.
The first of these new core programs will begin in early 2015, and each program will be led by a committee of Foundation Board members, donors, community leaders, and experts in the sector. For more information, visit http://BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org/programs-impact/core-programs.
—Additional reporting by Matthew Taub, Special to the Eagle from Brooklyn Brief