Help arrives for civic groups trying to clean up after the storm
by Holly Tsang
Oct 05, 2010 | 4842 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Federal aid for tornado-affected neighborhoods may not be arriving anytime soon, but for those dedicated community members who have been working to get their neighborhoods back to normal after the September 16th storm, help is on the way.

Non-profit organization Citizens Committee for New York City awarded 60 block beautification grants of $500 to $1,000 to civic groups last year, and now the organization is encouraging those who serve areas that were hit by the storm, particularly in Queens, to apply for the next cycle.

“When times are like this, people think, ‘I’m part of something larger, a community, a neighborhood,’” said Saleen Shah, program director of Citizens Committee’s Love Your Block Grant Awards Partnership. “They can apply for this grant and revitalize their block.”

He pointed out civic engagement is something that has been lost over the years, and though the grant is relatively small, it can be the impetus for a group to take on an important project.

Citizens Committee was founded in 1975, at a time not very unlike the present, when many city services were being cut because of budget deficits. The founders envisioned citizens coming together, rolling up their sleeves and cleaning up their own blocks.

“When people come together and take ownership of their neighborhood, they can do a lot with what we offer them,” said Shah. “Groups that have a clear idea in their mind deserve services.”

On top of the Love Your Block grant money, qualifying groups can receive expedited services from the Department of Transportation, Parks Department and Department of Sanitation. Citizens Committee also provides technical assistance, project planning and information sessions on how to fill out the grant application.

Applicants need to give a detailed description of the block’s physical appearance and provide photographs. They are asked to explain how they propose to improve conditions, including what materials are needed. Civic groups are required to have a minimum of 20 members. Newly formed groups do not need to have their 501(c)3 status, but they should have either an account in the group’s name at a credit union or request an established group to serve as a fiscal conduit.

Shah pointed out Citizens Committee works with many groups in Brooklyn, and though everyone is welcome to apply, he hopes to expand the program’s presence in Queens. He noted that in storm-affected neighborhoods, many green spaces and streets have been damaged.

"Cleanup efforts are often temporary, but we want to make this something sustainable,” said Shah. “We strongly encourage groups from Queens to apply, particularly neighborhoods that have been hit by the storm.”

The deadline for the Love Your Block grant application is November 15. For more information please visit http://www.citizensnyc.org/projects/love_your_block.html.
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