Pictured: Students greet visitors, including Rev. Al Taylor, NYS Assembly, 71st District (left), and present ideas for programs at the open house for HCCI + NYIT Building Resilient Communities. See more images below.
It’s a frigid Saturday afternoon in November, but the winter temperatures can’t seem to penetrate the warm and excited atmosphere at 263 West 153rd Street. Inside, dozens of NYIT students and faculty and staff members, representing all of the university’s schools and colleges, mingle with the team from HCCI (Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc.), members of the Bradhurst neighborhood of Harlem, and local politicians at the official open house for HCCI + NYIT Building Resilient Communities. The new partnership, which is being led at NYIT by Amy Bravo, senior director of International and Experiential Education, aims to encourage collaboration and to develop programming over the next five years that benefits the community and students at NYIT.
“Through this collaboration, we look forward to empowering Harlem residents by providing innovative technology labs, community-member led neighborhood design workshops, and expanding our STEM curriculum-based after school programs,” said Malcolm A. Punter, president and CEO of HCCI. Established in 1986, HCCI is committed to the comprehensive redevelopment of the Harlem community, including by developing affordable housing and helping people secure jobs and buy homes. “This alliance will positively impact the lives of the NYIT students and Harlem residents,” Punter added.
The partnership focuses on four key initiatives: after-school programs highlighting STEM-based learning, a community-led Neighborhood Design Center focused on urban housing, a Parent University English language program to help families with the college enrollment process, and a community health care program. At the open house, NYIT students and faculty members had a chance to demonstrate their ideas for programming that would support those goals, including workshops on how to code and sustainable building practices.
For Bravo, student involvement and community engagement is at the heart of the initiative. More than 150 students are already involved, many of them first or second-years who are doing their service learning component as part of their Foundations of Inquiry and Foundations of Science coursework. Bravo hopes more students will volunteer. “Students benefit directly by participating in high impact educational practices such as volunteering, service-learning, and mentoring,” she said. “Our hope is that we can come up with innovative ideas together to make our communities greater.”
Speaking at the press conference during the open house, second-year student Muhammad Tanveer, who leads STEM-based after-school programs, said “The best way to learn something is to teach it…I hope this partnership continues for many years.”
See images from the event and learn more about the partnership’s initiatives below.
The “clubhouse” where activities take place is being re-envisioned as a maker space and is already stocked with computers, 3-D printers, and even a green screen.
An NYIT student shows children how to make their own “slime.” Projects like this are part of the STEM-based activities in the after-school programs.
Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Kate O’Hara demonstrates the hydroponic garden that’s housed in the space.
Members of NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine perform free wellness screenings. Here, Associate Professor Sonia Rivera Martinez, D.O., looks on as Bill Perkins, NYC Council, District 9 (left), volunteers to have his blood tested. Lillian Niwagaba, Ph.D., director of the Center for Global Health, says they hope to continue to offer the screenings on a monthly basis.
(Left to right) Amy Bravo, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, President and CEO of HCCI Malcolm A. Punter, Deputy Borough President Matthew Washington, and Bill Perkins, NYC Council, District 9, stand in front of what will become the Neighborhood Design Center. Speaking about the goal of the center, Nicholas Bloom, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Social Sciences, said, “We want to be part of the debate to broaden ideas about public housing ... The center should be a place to think about urban housing before it gets to the policy level.”
Braving the cold, the group visits a public green space on 148th Street, which School of Architecture and Design students hope to redesign as part of the initiative Freedom by Design. Students Gabrielle Redding and Michael Riccardi noted that the group has already hosted four community meetings and four design charrettes in partnership with HCCI. They’ll present the top choices to the community, pick a winner, and hopefully break ground in the spring.
By Julie Godsoe