St. Nick’s Alliance
After 30 years, millions of dollars, and countless coats of paint, St. Nick’s Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to the revitalization of North Brooklyn, finally cut the ribbon at the Renaissance Center, their new headquarters and arts center on the former Greenpoint Hospital campus.
Since 1975, St. Nick’s has developed and preserved affordable housing in North Brooklyn, keeping roofs over the heads of thousands of low- and middle-income families. In recent years, the group’s work has evolved, and blossomed. “This is one of the most dynamic periods in the history of our organization,” said Executive Director Michael Rochford. “And the Brooklyn Community Foundation is supporting our new directions.”
St. Nick’s now serves more than 9,000 people. They provide health care and elder care, workforce and economic development, youth services, and arts classes. A $25,000 Brooklyn Community Foundation grant this year helped St. Nick’s preserve affordable co-op units owned by residents in the area. Another $25,000 grant has gone to foster the workforce development program, which places
about 450 residents in jobs each year, and arts programs, relatively new territory for the decades-old organization.
The support is sorely needed. Though Williamsburg has become hip, sprouting glassy condominiums, and some of the most lauded restaurants in the city, many here still struggle. Ten major public housing developments dot the neighborhood. Unemployment for those residents hovers around 50 percent.
“There is a very stark contrast economically between these two different worlds,” Rochford said. “We wanted to find a common ground for the entire community to come together, and we found it around the arts.”
St. Nick’s employs 14 artists-in-residence in its afterschool centers. They interweave the area’s rich racial, ethnic, and religious diversity with the vibrancy of the newer artistic community. The Renaissance Center has become a hub for that. Several thousand people have visited in the inaugural year to take free classes or to check out the art shows, all of which tie back into the community.
The Community Foundation helped make this possible.
“The Brooklyn Community Foundation really has a picture of the whole,” said Rochford. “They’re active in the civic infrastructure. They help us to advocate for more resources. They’re reaching out to people to invest right in their own neighborhoods.”
That deep knowledge of the landscape has done more than help St. Nick’s, Rochford said. It has helped to preserve and foster a better Brooklyn.
“If all of the people of modest means are forced out, I don’t think we’d have the rich experience that embodies Brooklyn,” Rochford said. “We’re grateful for the leadership the Community Foundation has provided in offering support for the revitalization of communities like ours.”