Letter from Michelle

Happy Thanksgiving! We are so grateful for your support of our mission to build a strong, sustainable community. When I look back on our year, I think of new gardens sprouting in empty lots, youth leaders advising their fellow high school students on the path to college, and residents realizing the American dream by purchasing their first home. We are proud of the work we do to build our community and we could not have done it without your generous support.

PromiseIt’s been an exciting and busy fall, as you’ll read in this newsletter. Just two weeks ago, neighbors, parents, and young people came together to envision how their community can support all children to succeed in school, and to come up with specific ideas to implement here in Cypress Hills. It’s all part of the Promise Neighborhoods planning process in

which we are partnering with dozens of community groups. And we’ve also launched the Middle School Student Success Center at IS 171, which assists students and families in navigating the complex process of sifting through hundreds of New York City high school and choosing the one that will prepare them for college and career. And so much more is on the way. We are hard at work on the last stages of construction of Cypress Village, which will give 29 low-income families a beautiful, affordable, and sustainable place to live. They’ll start moving in by end of next month!

All of this, of course, is part of what we do every day, nurturing leadership in our youth programs, our community organizing efforts, and our day-to-day work with residents-the kind of leadership that leads to improving our neighborhood. So from all of us at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, thank you and may you have a joyous and bountiful Thanksgiving.


With warmest regards,

Michelle Neugebauer
Executive Director


Residents gather at forum to voice ways to support students

Forum participants at P.S. 89

Forum participants at P.S. 89

For one day in Cypress Hills, there was nothing but solutions. Residents young and old packed the auditorium at P.S. 89 on Nov. 16 and worked throughout the day to find ways to make the neighborhood a wellspring of support for children to achieve academically-and in life.

“I’ve seen the community go and come back, and then go and come back again,” said participant Vivian Moore, who has lived in Cypress Hills for 46 years. “There is a lot we have to do for this community and a lot we have to do for our kids. We haven’t been paying too much attention to them and that’s why their grades and achievement are so bad. But today we’re paying attention.”

The wide-ranging forum was designed to engage residents in envisioning the various aspects of a Cypress Hills Promise Neighborhood, the ambitious initiative taking shape under CHLDC’s auspices in collaboration with more than 30 community organizations. Promise Neighborhoods have emerged in President Barack Obama’s second term as the centerpiece of federal “cradle-to-college” efforts to end generational cycles of poverty. Work on a full-scale plan comes as some community groups from around the country begin the process of implementing their initiatives. CHLDC was one of 10 groups, among more than 200 applicants, to receive planning grants in 2012.

Children and adults celebrate a successful day by making music.

Children and adults celebrate a successful day by making music.

The forum was structured around community strategy sessions that focused on K-12 education and college access, community life and safety, school readiness, and health. The ideas ran the gamut from broad and general to detailed and specific. In school readiness, for instance, the focus was on making sure children four years old and younger enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Ideas ranged from ensuring expectant moms have access to prenatal care and increasing the number of preschool slots in the community to making more books and technology available to young children and their families. The K-12 education group, meanwhile, focused closing the achievement gap and highlighted the crucial partnership among parents, schools and the community, as well as the importance of providing tutoring and mentoring services for students.

“Our neighborhood has a lot of issues,” said participant Guillermo Chavarria, an architect who moved to Cypress Hills in 1972 when his family emigrated from Nicaragua. “Parents have lots of worries and they’re working three jobs to be able to feed their families. They love their kids but they’re tired. We as a community have to help. I am very hopeful about this Promise Neighborhood. There are a lot of things we have to fight for as a community.”

The forum is just one of the ways the teams developing the plan are gathering input. Residents are also being engaged through surveys and focus groups, and plans are to apply for an implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Education next year.


We are proud to acknowledge all of our partners in the planning process: PS 65, PS 89, PS 108, PS 290, PS 345, Achievement First – Apollo, JHS 302, Liberty Avenue Middle School, Vista Academy, Academy of Innovative Technology, Brooklyn Lab School, Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep School, Multicultural High School, ARTs East New York, Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, New York City Department of Probation, New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center, George Walker Jr. Community Coalition, East New York Diagnostic and Treatment Center, East New York MediSys Center, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Brooklyn District Public Health Office, North Brooklyn YMCA, North Shore-LIJ Student Health Center at Franklin K. Lane High School Campus, Jamaica Hospital, Cohen Children’s Hospital, Healthier Brooklyn at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Achievement First, City Year New York, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, Future of Tomorrow, Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, New York City College of Technology, New York City Department of Education – Community District #19 Superintendent, New York City Department of Education – Middle School Quality Initiative, United Way of New York City, New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at CUNY, St. Peter’s Day Care, Urban Strategies, Baybee Lounge, Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation, Pine Street Day Care, St. Malachy’s Child Care Center, Marie Durdin Day Care Center, A Castle for Classy Kids Learning Center, Friends of Crown Heights, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, The After-School Corporation.


New middle school center helping students chart path to high school success

Parastoo Massoumi and Emanuel Beato

Parastoo Massoumi and Emanuel Beato

Daisy Reyes and Emanuel Beato will be the first to tell you that two years ago, as sixth graders, the last thing on their minds was high school. It was enough to navigate the halls of IS 171, the large middle school on the eastern edge of Cypress Hills.

That was then; this is now.

Selecting one of the more than 700 New York City public high schools can be a dizzying challenge even for the most determined students, but not for Daisy and Emanuel. Weeks before the deadline, both had completed their applications, thanks to the Middle School Student Success Center, the fledgling CHLDC program that guides young people through the ins and outs of not simply selecting a high school, but finding the best one for them.

“I researched a lot,” said Daisy, 14. “I found out the graduation rates the schools had and how many students were in the schools. I used the center every day and they helped me with the process-they help me understand.”

“It was hard because you have to find out about schools you don’t know a lot about,” Emanuel, 12, said.  “That’s why I would come by and I’d go through the list of schools and they would show me schools that I might be interested in and then I’d get their opinions about the schools. They help you pick the right school-not just any school.”

And having students at IS 171, most of whom come from low income families, avoid that “any school” syndrome is precisely what the center is trying to do.  High school is too important to leave to chance, said Center Director Parastoo Massoumi, and picking the right one can mean the difference between graduating and going to college, or struggling academically and worse. “It’s not just about us translating the process for our students,” she said. “It’s about supporting our students to go to schools that are going to help them be college ready, and changing the culture around what it means to go to a good school and why that’s important for our students’ future.”


Daisy Reyes

It’s been a whirlwind for Massoumi and the center’s three staffers (one of whom works with students at JHS 302). The center launched in early September but already there have been parent workshops, sessions in classrooms, and lots of thinking among the staff about the future. The plan is for the students themselves to counsel and advise fellow students through the process–a model used successfully in CHLDC college access programming at Franklin Lane High School.

All of that, however, is in the future. For now, Daisy and Emanuel, given their newly found expertise, have some advice for sixth and seventh graders: Start the process early, do your research, and, most of all, take advantage of the Middle School Student Success Center. “They should come here because they really help you find the right school for you to get a good education,” Emanuel said. “They really try to help you find the schools that have a really good education and they make you think about what you want from that school.”


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the New York City Department of Education, the New York State Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation for their support of the Middle School Student Success Center.