Sustainability in the South Bronx: Mill Brook Houses awarded grant money for resident-led sustainability projects

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Community leaders at the Mill Brook Houses will use $5,000 in funding to revitalize their community garden and educate youth living in public housing.
Photo courtesy NYCHA

Public housing residents of the Mill Brook Houses, an NYCHA complex in the South Bronx dating back to 1959, will receive grant money for resident-led sustainability projects as a part of a city program that funds up to $5,000 toward community climate action and sustainability.

The Mill Brook Houses stood the test of time in a housing-depleted, burning South Bronx during the ’70s and ’80s, and longtime residents have withered traumatic events such as a resident’s fall from the 15th floor last summer and high-rates of housing crime in recent years.

But there is a sense of pride amongst Mill Brook residents who want more and envision more for the South Bronx.

In 2018, Mill Brook residents fought to convert former garden space at the Cypress Avenue complex into an active community garden with produce, flowers, a seating area and educational programs.

Community leaders at the complex will use the new funding to revitalize that community garden and educate youth living in public housing through on-site composting, solar energy equipment, planting new vegetables, and painting scientific murals at the garden.

The South Bronx, which has some of the highest food insecurity rates in the world, are in need of nearby fresh produce, residents tell the Bronx Times. The newly launched program was funded in part by a grant from Con Edison and Daphany Rose Sanchez, a New York native and energy equity advocate.

The 16-story Mill Brook Houses was one of four NYCHA buildings to be awarded funds. The others, Woodside Houses, a Queens housing complex, and Brooklyn’s Red Hook West Houses and Wagner Houses.

In 2021 NYCHA — home to roughly 1 in 16 New Yorkers across more than 177,000 apartments — launched the Climate Action Network workshop series to elevate awareness about energy and sustainability projects and initiatives, and build a community around sustainability related activism.

Feedback from the workshop series led to the development of Climate Action Grant funding for resident-led sustainability projects, sustainability goals and needs for aging public housing infrastructure.

“We identified this as a key strategy in helping NYCHA meet the moment around climate change because providing residents with opportunities to drive the future of their communities fosters deeper engagement around sustainability topics,” said Vlada Keniff, NYCHA’s senior vice president for sustainability.

The September 2022 opening of the 158-unit Mill Brook Terrace in the former Mill Brook Houses parking lot one block over also opened up more housing for Mott Haven’s aging residents.

The development of the Mill Brook Terrace also reaped benefits for the NYCHA complex in $2 million in improvements and access for its senior residents to programming at the Mill Brook Terrace Senior Center.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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