Google and Co’s. to spread the wealth, give out microgrants

At the launch of the West Side Community Fund, from left, Google’s Carley Graham Garcia, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Borough President Gale Brewer and Peter Kostmayer, C.E.O. of Citizens Committee for New York City. Photo by Winnie McCroy

BY WINNIE McCROY | Local politicians recently gathered with private-sector donors from 19 companies to launch a new West Side Community Fund. The fund will provide microgrants of from $2,500 to $5,000 for local projects benefiting youth, seniors, homeless, the disabled, food pantries, L.G.B.T.Q. initiatives, community gardens, farmers markets and arts/culture programs.

The deadline for the first round of these biannual grants is Dec. 3.

Among the donors funding the grants are Google, Jamestown and Related/Oxford Hudson Yards.

“I’m proud to have this committed partnership to solve problems and invest in block associations and community efforts,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson from the lectern at The Church of Holy Apostles. “There couldn’t be a better place than the busiest soup kitchen on the East Coast to announce this. I am so proud to be here in the place, where compassion happens every single day.”

Also speaking at the Oct. 30 event, Reverend Dr. Anna Pearson said she was honored to have her Chelsea church chosen as the site this fund would be announced.

“With all the fear and hostility clamoring in our brains,” she said, “it is all the more important to use our resources to provide a climate where we celebrate our beautiful diversity, and come together to share a common commitment to supporting individuals and organizations insistent on saving lives and providing their tireless, life-giving energy, which enables us to do the work of love and serving others.”

Other companies involved in the funding effort include BlackRock, Boies Schiller Flexner, The Boston Counseling Group, Coach Foundation, Cooley LLP, Engineers Gate, IAC, KKR, Pfizer Inc, RXR, SAP, Silver Lake, Taconic Investment Partners, Third Point LLC, Warner Media LLC and Wells Fargo.

Each company contributed $25,000 to establish the fund, which will have an initial budget of $475,000. The group Citizens Committee for New York City and its C.E.O., Peter H. Kostmayer, will provide administrative and staff support for the fund.

“Since 1975, we have been funding small-scale neighborhood-improvement projects in this city’s underserved neighborhoods,” Kostmayer said. “We’re delighted to have been asked by the fund to support this effort, and we look forward to partnering with the fund and its founding funders to improve services to the Chelsea/Hudson Yards community.”

Organizer Carley Graham Garcia, Google New York’s head of external affairs, said they had been “thinking about doing something like this after a community member vocalized that it needed to be done. So it has been in the works for a while.”

The fund will be governed by an elected advisory board including Johnson, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“It’s great to see the efforts by all in helping the community in this innovative way, giving microgrants to do their work in many different ways,” Nadler said. “I congratulate Google and Hudson Yards for taking the initiative and coming up with this. It can do an immense about of good, and can really help put forward the good face of corporations and developers.”

Brewer echoed that sentiment, thanking “the companies, not just for what you are doing today, but for being good neighbors since you moved in.

“Google was the only company to ever offer free Wi-Fi to buildings in this area, including NYCHA,” Brewer said, referring to New York City Housing Authority public housing. “You have been successful in supporting local communities, and working with them on so many other projects. You have always been fair, as advertised, and transparent, and we want to thank you for making this possible. It’s important because in NYCHA housing, the income of individuals is low compared to that of the neighborhood, and sometimes they feel the neighborhood doesn’t want them. But this neighborhood loves them, and this fund sends that message loud and clear. You will get more bang for the buck than you could ever imagine.”

The fund launched its inaugural request for applications on Halloween, reaching out to more than 400 community leaders to solicit proposals for funding. The grants come in three levels: microgrants of up to $2,500 to fund smaller innovation projects carried out by neighborhood groups, including block and tenants’ associations, civic groups and schools/teachers; midlevel grants of up to $5,000 to fund new initiatives with a greater reach, including collaborations among several organizations; and large grants of more than $5,000 to fund large-scale programs, new initiatives, expanding innovative projects or collaborations.

The fund operators will focus on providing expanded or improved services to residents of Chelsea and Hudson Yards, especially those dealing with youth (including early childhood initiatives, afterschool programs, recreation, workforce, healthcare, arts and culture and safety projects) and underserved populations (seniors, homeless, disabled, special-needs and L.G.B.T.Q.).

The service area runs from 14th to 38th Sts. between Seventh and 12th Aves., and eligible applicants include neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, city agencies, schools and teachers, health clinics, NYCHA developments, police community programs, and homeless services.

Grants cannot support religious or partisan activities, nor programs that promote any form of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.

“Between Google, Chelsea Market, the High Line and the Whitney, the West Side has an embarrassment of riches,” Hoylman said. “So it’s great that these businesses have decided to give something back. As you succeed, our neighborhoods will, too.”

The current deadline to submit applications is Dec. 3. For more information, visit www.citizensnyc.org/grants/wscf .

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