Backing Change in Brownsville

September 21, 2012


It’s no secret Brownsville is struggling. One of Brooklyn’s largest neighborhoods—over 116,000 people call it home—it has the highest concentration of public housing in the nation, with the majority of residents living at or below the poverty line. It’s also a neighborhood of young people: nearly 1 in 3 residents is under age 18.
While the Brownsville story most often heard over the past few months has been about tragic gun violence—particularly among youth—the other side of the story, less frequently told, is of a community fighting back and seeking change. And we’re on their side.
By supporting the Brooklyn Community Foundation, you’re investing in neighborhood-specific solutions to Brooklyn’s biggest challenges.
In Brownsville, this means creating alternative pathways for troubled youth through the Center for Court Innovation, taking action to prevent families from losing their homes with the Brownsville Partnership, bringing the arts to kids in public housing via the Mark Morris Dance Group, and giving residents the opportunity to become community organizers with the Citizens Committee for NYC. 

Last month, an inspiring new sight was unveiled at 512 Rockaway Avenue, towering above a new community garden: with bright pink letters, it reads “Yesterday I Was ____, Today I Am ____, Tomorrow I Will Be ____.”

It’s the latest mural from our Arts for All grantee Groundswell in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation, designed by a team of young men—half of whom had a history with the juvenile justice system.

The mural prompts passersby to consider their identity and their potential. It’s an important question in a neighborhood where the imprisonment ratio for young men ages 16 to 24 is one in twelve, and 21% of all 16- to 24-year-olds are out of school and unemployed.

Our funding for the Center for Court Innovation’s Brownsville Community Justice Center backs a life changing alternative-to-sentencing program, dedicated to building multiple off-ramps for young people who come into contact with the justice system. Their goal is not only to reduce crime and imprisonment, but to regain the community’s faith in the justice system.

This summer, Justice Center youth engaged in 115 hours of community service in Brownsville. In addition to creating the new mural, they assisted in the opening of a new community garden and farmers market, provided free face painting at the Pitkin Summer Plaza, participated in the National Night-Out against Crime, and packed over 200 bags at a local food pantry. In only its second year, the Justice Center is a sure sign of positive change for the neighborhood.

And this fall, in partnership with Citizens Committee for NYC, we’re presenting the first-ever Neighborhood Leadership Institute series in Brownsville.

Last Saturday at the Brownsville Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, 25 residents gathered for the first of four workshops, to learn community organizing skills. Over the next three sessions, they’ll be trained on how to increase public support for their efforts through the media, navigate city government, and grow grassroots fundraising for their work. It’s about building leadership from the ground up.

We’re committed to helping Brownsville residents and nonprofits change the storyline for the next generation. We urge you to let Brownsville know that all of Brooklyn is behind them.

Get informed, get involved, donatethe more we work together, the more we do good right here.

What's "Good" in Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at and follow us at

Stop by our table this Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival to enter to win two free tickets to see Barbra Streisand at the Barclays Center on October 11th! Find us at table location #3 near the Main Stage in front of Borough Hall.

A Conversation on Poverty & Education
Join us Wednesday, October 3rd at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO as we partner with City Limits to present "Tackling Poverty: How Can Schools Succeed In Educating Poor & Homeless Children." Details and RSVP here.