2015 Newsletter Archives

December 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to thank our dedicated partners – individuals and organizations that help make our work possible.
Thank you for your continued support; this year and every year.
CHLDC wishes you and your family and friends warm and joyous holidays!

The Community Reminded Me of Home
Reinvesting in Cypress Hills

“The Community Reminded Me of Home”

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CHLDC supporter Kimberly Coca

CHLDC’s programming is possible because of our many funders and supporters; people who believe in Cypress Hills and know that CHLDC’s work is making a difference. To commemorate the contributions of our supporters in 2015, we are profiling one of our generous donors and saying thank you.

Kimberly Coca became a College Success Partner three years ago after learning about the organization through Heitler Houstoun Architects, where she works with CHLDC on the design and construction of our affordable housing developments. Kimberly is a child of immigrants from Cuba and Italy and was raised in Union City, New Jersey. Along with her sister, she was one of the first members of her family to graduate from college.

Upon visiting Cypress Hills, she says, “I found that the community reminded me a lot of home.” She was inspired to become a College Success Partner and volunteer her time to work with young people from the area because of her own experiences in high school. “My high school happened to have a great college guidance program, which was really my only window into the world of college at the time. I felt that if I could help guide someone else through that process that I would be paying it forward in some small way.”

She also sees it as an opportunity to help young people find a career that’s right for them. “I truly love what I do,” she says about being an architect. “My main message for students thinking about college is that you don’t have to figure it all out before you get there; it’s a learning process. College is the first opportunity you have to make real decisions about the path of your education. You should use the experience as a tool to explore your interests and ultimately find what you’re passionate about.”

In addition to her volunteer time, Kimberly has attended our Spring Fundraiser and been a supporter of our programming for the past three years. She sees CHLDC as an organization worth investing in because, “I’m impressed with CHLDC’s holistic approach to community development. They are working to address real needs in the community through a variety of programs.”

Consider becoming a College Success Partner like Kimberly! You could inspire the young people in our community to earn a college degree and help CHLDC raise resources towards our goal of making Cypress Hills a college-going community. To find out more, contact Martine Wisotsky at martinew@cypresshills.org.

“Reinvesting in Cypress Hills”

A few years ago, the Cypress Hills/City Line Reinvestment Committee was convening about a long-time concern: increasing bank lending in the community to un-banked residents, small businesses, first-time homebuyers, and low income homeowners. Too often in the past, residents have sought credit with loan sharks, sub-prime lenders and higher-cost internet lenders. Neighborhood residents and businesses have often been unable to access and qualify for loans and have not had the same economic opportunities available to other New Yorkers.

At the same time, City National Bank of New Jersey’s Branch Manager Kirsy Anderson was noticing a pattern among her customers. They’d come into her bank branch on Atlantic Avenue in East New York hoping to get a loan or credit card, but couldn’t; either their existing credit was already poor, or they had no credit history at all. The best solution that City National had at the time was to encourage customers to sign up for secured credit cards, which involve putting down a cash deposit as collateral before they can use the card. However, Anderson says, “Many of them couldn’t come up with the $300 to $500 they needed to pay upfront.”

The Reinvestment Committee is a group of local residents, small business owners and board and staff of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation who partner with local banks to come up with individualized strategies for increasing responsible lending and educating residents on basic banking, credit and debt and home buying. City National of New Jersey is one of the banks that has committed to developing the local economy and offering financial education in partnership with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. They are now part of CHLDC’s Cypress Hills Business Partners program, committed to hiring local residents, using ethical employment practices and participating in business forums with CHLDC and other Business Partners.

After the meeting with the Reinvestment Committee, they came up with new tool for helping local residents improve their credit. In June of last year, they premiered a product known as Credit Builder.

“Preston Pinkett III, the CEO of City National Bank of New Jersey, visited with us and really listened to the glaring need that we have in the community for residents to establish or repair credit. The Credit Builder product is tailor made for Cypress Hills,” says Harold Green, the president of the CHLDC Board of Directors and Reinvestment Committee chair.

Credit Builder lets applicants take out a “loan” of between $500 and $1,000 and make payments to City National of New Jersey over a period of 6 to 18 months. At the end of the period, a successful applicant will be able to improve credit; obtain a secured credit card; and savings account which secures the credit card.

In addition to the loans, City National provides customers with individual counseling to make sure they are taking all the necessary steps to improve their credit, such as paying off other existing debts. They also offer monthly workshops on personal finance to their customers. So far, 88 residents of East New York and 500 in total have been served through the Credit Builder program.

One such community member is Jose Velez. He started using the Credit Builder products in March with the hope of improving his credit score and has already seen tremendous improvement. “I had income, but I could not get a car loan,” he says, “No matter how much money you make, you still need credit. I paid the loans for a few months, and by July or August, my credit score had jumped about 80 points.’” As a result of his improved credit, Velez has been able to secure a car loan with reasonable interest rates. He also hopes to buy a home someday, a goal that now feels attainable.

October 2015

Fall is harvest season, and Cypress Hills’ gardens are flourishing. It’s also marathon season in New York City!

With Thanksgiving coming up next month, we are all thinking about what we are grateful for and how to give back. This month, meet a community volunteer and a CHLDC staff member who are giving back to Cypress Hills, and find out how you can support their efforts.

Table of Contents:
Developing the Community With a Sense of Pride
Running for Cypress Hills

Developing the Community With a Sense of Pride

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Community garden volunteer Johnson Paul sells green peppers and other produce from Glenmore Grows at Pitkin Verde Farmers Market.

When Johnson Paul moved to East New York two years ago, he lived near what was then a vacant lot on Glenmore Avenue. “There was lots and lots of rubbish,” he recalls. He immediately saw the potential for the space to be used to grow plants, and the following summer, he began planting pumpkins in the lot. When Johnson found out that there were plans to officially develop the lot into a community garden, “I was elated,” he says. “I told them that I wanted to be the garden coordinator.”

Today, that vacant lot is Glenmore Grows, where Johnson and other community members cultivate pumpkins, corn, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, string beans, cauliflower, squash and chives. Recently, the Glenmore Grows volunteers have even begun selling their produce at CHLDC’s new farmers’ market, Pitkin-Verde. Johnson’s goals for Glenmore Grows next year are for it to be “More like a farm, where we plant and cultivate things that can be sold at the market.”

Urban agriculture is an important component of CHLDC’s Cypress Hills Verde initiative, which seeks to make Cypress Hills a healthy, sustainable place to live.

Community gardens provide a source of healthy food for the neighborhood and transform unused vacant lots into green space which can be enjoyed by the whole community. Glenmore Grows is set up as a gathering space for neighborhood residents, with picnic tables available to eat and socialize.

CHLDC provides resources and support for five such community gardens, which rely on the time and efforts of volunteers like Johnson. To find out how you can become involved in a community garden in Cypress Hills, read more on the urban agriculture section of our site

As Johnson says, “Community gardening is a way to develop the community with a sense of pride.”

This programming is supported by LISC Illumination Fund’s Communities for Healthy Food initiative and by the US Department of Agriculture.

Running for Cypress Hills

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Lisa LoFaso of CHLDC (l.) and a friend at the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

On Sunday, November 1st, Lisa LoFaso, Director of CHLDC’s Student Success Center at the Franklin K. Lane High School campus, will be running the New York City marathon – and helping Cypress Hills!

At the Student Success Center, Lisa oversees efforts to help high school students prepare for and transition to college. The SSC provides students with individualized counseling and group workshops that start in 9th grade. One of Lisa’s favorite things about the SSC is the way that students known as Youth Leaders support their peers in the college application process and develop their leadership skills in the process. “What really makes us special is the Youth Leaders. They are able to foster a college-going culture in a much more organic, meaningful way than if it was just adults talking to students about college.”

These efforts are critical in Cypress Hills, where many students are the first in their family to go to college and benefit from the extra resources that the Student Success Center can provide.

So when Lisa qualified to run in the New York City marathon, she thought it would be a great opportunity to raise critical dollars for CHLDC. “I had already qualified for the marathon, so since I had the chance to add in raising money, I thought, why not? CHLDC is a really special place and I’m excited to use my entry as a way to support the organization.”

To support Lisa’s efforts in the marathon and help CHLDC maintain its valuable programming, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/cypresshillslocaldev1. Good luck, Lisa!

September 2015

It’s September, and it’s time to go back to school! CHLDC wishes all of its students – from kindergarten through college — a terrific month back in the classroom.

Table of Contents:

Back to School in Cypress Hills!
Career and Education Opportunities
Community Schools
Save the Date for the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation Fundraiser

Back to School in Cypress Hills!

MS SSC Youth Leaders

Left to right: Britnee, Nayely and Brianna at the MS SSC

Britnee, Nayely and Brianna are going into the 8th grade at IS 171. It’s a big year for them – they’ll be applying to high school! And they’ll be helping other students do the same, as Youth Leaders at the Middle School Student Success Center, which uses a peer counseling model to help 8th graders with their high school applications. The girls say that MS SSC is “like a family” and that working there has helped them understand the complicated high school application process. This year they look forward to sharing their knowledge with other students and helping them find the school that’s right for them. Their advice to other 8th graders is to match their interests with the high schools they apply for and to go after what they want. “Challenge yourself – take the Specialized High School Admissions Test or do an art portfolio. If you like to dance, sing or act – go for it!”

The MS SSC is supported by the NYC Department of Education, Change Capital Fund and NYS Higher Education Services Corporation.


Career and Education Opportunities

Building Works Graduates

Isaiah (l.), and Shaquine (r.) Building Works Graduates, Class of 2015

Even if you’re not a student at the moment, now is a great time to consider going back to school as an adult – to get your High School Equivalency degree, learn English, or get job training and experience to help you succeed in the workforce. CHLDC can help! Isaiah and Shaquine (l.) are recent graduates of our Building Works program, which connects young people with jobs in carpentry. With the experience they gained in Building Works, they are now on their way to becoming union carpenters.

Click here to learn more about all the career and education programs available to you.






Community Schools

This month also sees the launch of New York City’s Community Schools Initiative at Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep and Multicultural High Schools on the Franklin K. Lane campus!

Through this initiative, community-based organizations like CHLDC will be working in schools with teachers, principals, parents and students to improve academic achievement by providing extra support services for students and their families. This holistic, evidence-based approach aims to help students in high-need areas whose families may be struggling with poverty and hunger, medical needs, or language barriers that interfere with students’ ability to perform in the classroom. By addressing these needs onsite in school through a coordinated offering of resources and engaging parents in the school’s activities, we can help students meet their full academic potential. By 2017, over 100 New York City schools will be participating in this program.

Read more about the Community Schools Initiative on the nyc.gov website.

Save the Date for the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation FundraiserHarvesting Hope photo II

Get your tickets now for Harvesting Hope II, the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation’s annual fundraiser! It will be held on Monday, October 5th, 6:30 p.m. at Tavern 29 in Manhattan. Tickets are $40 and include two drinks. Come out for a fun evening supporting nurturing, high quality early childhood education in Cypress Hills – purchase your tickets here. We hope to see you there!





August 2015

Table of Contents:

Summer Fun at CHLDC!
An Update on Rezoning Activity in Cypress Hills/East New York
CHLDC@Work – Lawrence Louis
Pitkin Verde Farmers Market – Now Open for Business!
Cypress Hills Youth Leaders Present at the NCLR Annual Conference
Get your High School Equivalency – YouthLEAD is recruiting!

Summer Fun at CHLDC!

We have had a great summer in Cypress Hills!

Our summer day camps were packed with field trips, academic enrichment, creative expression and plain old fun. Our Summer Youth Employment Program had young people working as day camp counselors or in our offices, learning job skills and building their resumes while helping CHLDC.

Our program participants shared some of their most memorable moments from this summer with us:

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Donovan, age 10, Summer Camp Participant


Kiera, age 9, Summer Camp Participant

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Matthew, SYEP Intern in the Technology Department











A Plan for Cypress Hills

This past spring, Cypress Hills rallied in Highland Park for affordable housing, anti-displacement policies for tenants, living wage jobs and better community services as a neighborhood rezone advances.

We were encouraged by the city’s decision to postpone the ULURP process to September instead of April, giving us more time to do outreach and make sure neighborhood residents are prepared for the coming changes to the area.

Now, the Coalition for Community Advancement has released their alternative plan for Cypress Hills and East New York, laying out details on what our community needs to thrive.

And our voices are being heard! The City has set aside funding to build 1,200 units of deeply affordable units in the next two years and funding for a new public school.

This is a victory for Cypress Hills and East New York – but our efforts are far from over. We have other goals for the neighborhood such as anti-displacement policies and resources, thousands of more units of deeply affordable housing, creating living wage jobs to raise local employment rates, improving transportation, upgrading community facilities and building new schools. With the ULURP drawing closer, now is the time for all residents to get involved! We must continue to rally, organize, plan and unite to make sure this rezone results in the best possible outcomes for Cypress Hills.

Read the Coalition’s plan to learn more, and follow the Coalition on Facebook for regular updates.

CHLDC@Work: Lawrence Louis

What He Does

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Lawrence Louis, Assistant Director of College Success Programs

Lawrence Louis is the Assistant Director of College Success Programs, which includes College Persistence programming; support services to college students with the goal of helping them to become successful college graduates. Lawrence came to CHLDC in 2012.

His Background

Lawrence’s parents came to the U.S. from Haiti in the 1970s. He went to Vassar College, where he was one of a small number of black students.  “I was in this predominantly white space, which was different.” Navigating these experiences, as well as experiences he acquired while obtaining a Masters in Education at Tufts, teaching in Washington D.C., and serving as a college counselor in NYC at Harlem Children’s Zone, shaped Lawrence’s abilities to relate to students and help them to do their best in college.

The College Persistence Program

The College Persistence Program provides year-round support to college students through peer counseling from College Coaches and various services that include office hours held on campuses at the schools that students attend, summer academic programs, and workshops on subjects such as financial literacy, resume writing, and job readiness. With the program, as Lawrence says, “If you ever need somebody to talk to and facilitate something–office hours, talking to a professor, issues with bills–you constantly have a resource.”


We are seeing great success in College Persistence! This past fall, the College Persistence Program provided counseling to over 500 college students; 89% of the freshmen we worked with this year persisted for one year of college. The rate of high school students in our programs who immediately enroll in college after graduation, 72%, exceeds the national average of 66%. The first class of students enrolled in four year universities are on track to graduate in the spring of 2016.

Favorite Part of the Job

“I am really proud of where we are now. We are going into our fourth year and we are still around. To see the level where we were in 2012 and where our College Coaches are now is amazing. To see an 18, 19, 20-year-old really own a FAFSA or be able to troubleshoot, to see a young person help another young person who is going through the same thing, is so inspiring.”

College Persistence Programming is supported by the Clark Foundation, the Charles Hayden Foundation, the Carl Marks Foundation, New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, the Pinkerton Foundation and the Robin Hood Foundation. 

Pitkin Verde Farmers Market – Now Open!

On Tuesday, IMG_4431 CropJuly 28th, CHLDC celebrated the grand opening of our brand new Pitkin Verde Farmers Market! The community turned out for lively dancing and music performances and delicious food from local vendors.

Come visit us at Pitkin Verde! The market runs every Tuesday from 9 am-5 pm in front of the East New York Diagnostic Center (2094 Pitkin Avenue) on Pitkin and Pennsylvania Avenues. It offers fresh locally grown produce, cooking demos, veggie pies, and freshly baked breads.

For more info on our farmers markets, email Cassandraf@cypresshills.org to get regular updates and check out the markets section of our website. You can also learn here about the Cypress Hills Verde initiative, which involves healthy food access and community gardening in Cypress Hills.

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The Pitkin Verde farmers market is part of our Communities For Healthy Food Initiative, supported by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) with funding from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Cypress Hills Youth Leaders Present at NCLR Annual Conference

Youth Leaders at NCLR-1

L to R.: Liz Kahn, CHLDC Director of College Success Programs, and Youth Leaders Javaughn Farquharson, Kumarie Ramkishun and Silvia Belmonte

We are so proud of our Youth Leaders from the Student Success Center at the Franklin K. Lane campus! Last month they attended National Council de la Raza’s Annual Conference in Kansas City and hosted their own presentation about the role of peer mentoring in college access. We continue to be inspired by our Youth Leaders’ commitment to helping other students achieve success and get into college.

If you need help applying to college, please call us! Learn more about our College Access work here… 

College Access programming is supported by Capital One, the Clark Foundation, the Charles Hayden Foundation, National Council de la Raza, the NYC Department of Education, the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, the New York State Department of Education, New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education.


YouthLEAD is Recruiting!

Victor YouthLEADCHLDC’s YouthLEAD program is enrolling new participants, now through September 3rd! YouthLEAD offers free preparation courses to help students pass the TASC exam and gain their High School Equivalency diploma.

Victor graduated from YouthLEAD in June. He says Youth LEAD has helped him to believe in the power of giving 100%, and is preparing to pursue his goal of studying programming and graphic design in college.

Youth LEAD is for young adults between the ages of 17 and 24. Classes are offered Monday-Thursday from 5:00pm-9:00pm.

If you, or anyone you know, are interested in participating in Youth LEAD, come to one of our enrollment sessions, held from 1:00pm to 4:30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 2836 Fulton Street Brooklyn, NY 11207, on the corner of Schenck Avenue.

Please contact us at (718) 235-8837 with questions and spread the word to people you know!

YouthLEAD programming is supported by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, the Clark Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the Tiger Foundation.

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