Gowanus Canal Conservancy and CM Lander Launch “Gowanus Green Team,” A “Green Jobs” Training Program for Young Adults

Gowanus Canal Conservancy and CM Lander Launch “Gowanus Green Team,” A “Green Jobs” Training Program for Young Adults

Youth apprentices recruited from Gowanus’ public housing developments for paid positions in green infrastructure management, horticulture, urban forestry, and recycling.
August 3, 2017
CM Lander Contact: Whit Hu, 718.499.1090, whu@council.nyc.gov
Gowanus, Brooklyn

Gowanus Canal Conservancy and CM Lander Launch “Gowanus Green Team,” A “Green Jobs” Training Program for Young Adults

Youth apprentices recruited from Gowanus’ public housing developments for paid positions in green infrastructure management, horticulture, urban forestry, and recycling.

Gowanus, Brooklyn - Today the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) and New York City Council Member Brad Lander announced the launch of the “Gowanus Green Team,” a new green jobs training program for young adults in the Gowanus Canal Watershed. Funded with $50,000 from the New York City Council’s “Greener NYC” initiative, the Gowanus Green Team program expands green job opportunities for residents of the Gowanus neighborhood, with a focus on recruiting young people from the Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Warren Street Houses public housing developments. The program prepares a cohort of youth apprentices for careers in the growing environmental job sector in New York City.

The Gowanus Green Team employs five youth apprentices with one crew leader and will run for six weeks. Through the apprenticeship, participants will build skills and confidence through classroom learning and hands-on field training sessions, including field work with partner organizations and field trips to learn about parks and restoration areas around NYC. The program provides participants with physical skills, including gardening, infrastructure maintenance, and tree pruning; social skills, including teamwork and communication; and knowledge about urban environmental issues facing Gowanus and other NYC neighborhoods.

The participants are now tending spaces throughout Gowanus including the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Nursery, street trees and bioswales throughout the Gowanus Watershed (including the 6th Street Green Corridor), in Washington Park (which houses the Old Stone House), as well as at Added Value’s Red Hook Community Farm and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Additional City Council funding will enable the Lower East Side Ecology Center to hire young people to establish a bicycle-based e-waste recycling program in Gowanus.

“For the past 10 years, GCC has built a robust volunteer program, providing stewardship for priority areas of young urban forest, bioswales, parks and public spaces in the Gowanus Canal Watershed. With Gowanus Green Team we are thrilled to add paid jobs held by community residents to our growing open space stewardship team,” said Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “As the neighborhood changes, GCC is empowering the community to advocate for and steward these emerging new green spaces. Gowanus Green Team will continue to grow meet the stewardship needs of Gowanus Lowlands, GCC’s vision for a network of parks and public spaces centered on the Gowanus Canal and connected to its surrounding watershed.”

“Together, we are making Gowanus a model for sustainability, resiliency, and environmental justice, following many decades of environmental abuse and neglect,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “By employing young people from our community, by giving them job-skills for the future, and by making Gowanus greener, we’re investing in what matters. Thanks to the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and the Lower East Side Ecology Center for leading the way toward a more sustainable and more equal future.”

"Gowanus Green Team is helping to improve the local environment while being immersed in urban environmental issues facing Gowanus. Discussions have centered on combined sewage overflow, the Superfund process, and climate change, looking at how environmental careers can address these big topics,” said Diana Gruberg, Horticultural Manager of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “Armed with an understanding of the context, the kids then go outside and get their hands dirty, taking ownership over local spaces. It has been fantastic to see how kids who grew up in this neighborhood come to see it differently, to feel empowered to take care of it, and ultimately to make it better."

"Environmental and economic justice are not mutually exclusive," said Council Member Stephen Levin. "Through innovative programming and intentional community engagement, it's possible to prepare our youth for the jobs of tomorrow while we simultaneously invest in our resiliency. That's what's happening here. Through the Gowanus Green Team, Council Member Lander and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy are taking challenges and turning them into opportunities."

Council Member Lander funded GCC to create a program that could be a model for local stewardship of the many green spaces in the neighborhood, including curbside bioswales, street trees, and neighborhood parks. Improving air and water quality emerged as a top priority during the Bridging Gowanus community planning process, as did the need for quality jobs in the emerging sectors of environmental remediation and open space stewardship. The Gowanus Green Team is an important part of the Bridging Gowanus vision for a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the Gowanus neighborhood.

GCC has created the program in close consultation with community partners and experts in job training program development. Partners have provided support in getting the program off the ground, helping with recruitment, and providing fieldwork opportunities for the apprentices. They include: the Fifth Avenue Committee, Trees New York (Young Urban Foresters Internship Program), Trellis, Green City Force, the High Line, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Added Value/Red Hook Community Farm.

The Green Team will care for neighborhood parks, including Washington Park, Thomas Greene Playground, and Ennis Playground. This summer, construction is beginning on a new playground at St. Mary's Playground - location, details, etc. The Green Team program has been funded for Summer 2018, and will care for that space once completed.

Further investments from Council Member Brad Lander toward the Gowanus Eco-District includes funding to the Lower East Side Ecology Center to establish a community-based BikEcycle program. The BikEcycle program aims to hire local youth from the neighborhood and pick up unwanted electronic waste from elderly and disabled residents within a one-mile radius of their Gowanus Warehouse on motorized bicycles. It will begin in September. The E-Waste Recycling and Reuse program run by Lower East Side Ecology Center has collected over 7.5 million pounds of materials since 2003 but this project would be the first of its kind to offer pick-up services whilst remaining local and sustainable.

“Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) is very excited that GCC has launched the ‘Gowanus Green Team’ and that local young people are being trained to be environmental stewards in our community.  It is critical that as investments are made to improve resilience and sustainability in Gowanus that we also advance equity.  A workforce training program that local youth living in public housing can access is an important strategy to advancing both resilience and equity. We applaud GCC, Councilmember Lander, the City Council’s Parks Equity and Greener NYC for creating and supporting this program,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of FAC.

"We are excited to work with Council Member Lander to finally offer a pick-up program service that targets a most needed population when it comes to e-waste recycling: the elderly, persons with disabilities, and families without vehicles,” said Executive Director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Christine Datz-Romero.

“The communities adjacent to the Gowanus Canal are seeing investment in environmental remediation and infrastructure the likes of which will not likely be seen for decades,” said Michael Higgins Jr., Community Organizer for Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). “We are in full support of the Gowanus Green Team program for providing jobs for our young people not only as an opportunity to begin their working careers but to learn skills and build a sense of environmental stewardship in this area that can be sustained for years to come.”

"GCC and Council Member Lander has given these young teenagers a great opportunity to learn about the environment and also a job opportunity,” said Monica Underwood, from the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ) and Wyckoff Gardens Resident Watch Leader. “They have learned about sewage clean-up, and also how to plant and what plants are good for the environment. I’m excited this program will be back again next year."

“Trellis is glad to support this important initiative that provides valuable, practical and local business experience to students living in public housing.  We are encouraged by the proactive approach Diana and her team took in reaching out to the often overlooked teens,” said Zac Martin, Executive Director of Trellis. “Trellis is excited to partner with the Conservancy through our job mentoring program to provide the students with vision and a voice into what a greener, more resilient and just Gowanus can look like through their efforts.”

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