Jumbo-sized checks aren’t just for lottery winners or skilled game show contestants; in Manhattan, they’re for organizations dedicated to improving life in the city, too. “These groups behind me,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said during a press event in Union Square on Tuesday, “are all leaders — and major parts of the communities that I represent.” She ceremoniously awarded checks on March 22 to representatives from a total of 10 organizations based in District 12 and beyond.
The congresswoman secured over $6.3 million for New York City organizations for fiscal year 2022, still to make it to recipients’ pockets from Washington. In accordance with a process outlined by the Appropriations Committee, only state, local government and nonprofit groups were eligible. Narrowing down the list was tricky, Maloney told Our Town, since the city is home to many such organizations working to give back to their communities. In the end, the significant stream of funding allocated by Maloney will benefit groups focused on issues of increasing concern and relevance in Manhattan and its neighboring boroughs — from local business regrowth post-pandemic to nutrition and wellness.
“It’s going to help thousands of people,” Maloney said.
Building Back Jobs
A hefty topic of conversation among the city’s politicians, as of late, has been the yet-to-be-determined fate of local businesses in the wake of the pandemic. The problem? “The best estimates are that about a third of businesses may have gone out of business” over the past two years, said Jessica Walker, president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “But nobody really knows, so that’s why this funding is so important.”
Maloney’s allocation of $800,000 to the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce will go toward a three-pronged initiative to identify existing storefront vacancies, create pop-up installations and back the growth of new businesses that managed to open during the pandemic. Madison Avenue is one part of the city said to have experienced vacancies that could receive attention, Walker told Our Town. “This grant is going to be the game changer, really, in accelerating Manhattan’s comeback” she said. “It’s going to tell us where to focus our efforts and provide the resources necessary to do so.”
Funding totalling $300,000 for Vision Urbana, a nonprofit assisting low-income Lower East Side communities, will go toward “entrepreneur training” and other work-related services for NYCHA residents. The AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan was awarded $1 million for a program that offers job training for those with chronic medical conditions who are low-income. Another $800,000 will go to Urban Upbound, in Long Island City, to benefit a career and training program for low-income youth and $250,000 has been allocated to Queens Together, a project focused on “business education, worker education, technical and marketing skills” for local restaurants, according to the congresswoman’s office.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Nutrition and health have similarly been cast a spotlight recently, following Mayor Eric Adams’ February introduction of “Vegan Fridays” in the city’s schools and other wellness initiatives from his office. Beyond support for restaurants, Maloney’s picks for funding also reflect this focus on food and holistic wellness.
Common Threads, a national nonprofit dedicated to emphasizing the importance of healthy food and cooking, was awarded $50,000 as part of the recent funding roll-out. In the city — and mostly in Harlem — the organization works in schools with young kids to host cooking classes and other educational programming about food and nutrition. It’s part of an effort to “combat the obesity problem that leads to other health issues within children,” Program Manager Sarah Walter told Our Town.
The pandemic made the group’s work in schools, which became inundated with other priorities, more difficult. With new funding, Common Threads will likely implement its programming in more schools in the five boroughs — sometimes at no cost to those partnering schools. “Now we can be like, ‘Hey, this is free,’” Senior Program Manager Abby Batista said.
Health and wellness more generally got a boost from Rep. Maloney in the latest funding announcement. Funds totalling $676,000 will go to the North Brooklyn Angels, a group that provides free food to those in financial need, delivers meals to seniors and runs a mobile soup kitchen; $1 million will fund the construction of a new YMCA for Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents; $925,000 will benefit the Floating Hospital, which offers healthcare in Long Island City to vulnerable populations; and $500,000 will go to New Alternatives for Children to provide telehealth services to children and families.
When Maloney nominated her ten chosen organizations for funding consideration, it wasn’t guaranteed that all would make the final cut; it’s a win for the city that they did. “I can’t believe it myself,” the congresswoman said.
“These groups...are all leaders — and major parts of the communities that I represent.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney