By Dr. Jocelynne Rainey, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation
New Yorkers are known for having big opinions and telling it like it is. But when it comes to elections and other avenues of civic life, as a whole, we’re shockingly silent. Voter turnout across New York City is chronically low, with Brooklyn registering just 33% in last year’s election.
As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we are committed to making sure every Brooklynite knows their power and their voice is heard. And right now, Brooklyn is undoubtedly NYC’s power center – home to our mayor, comptroller, public advocate, and the greatest share of the NYC electorate.
This month, I’m excited to highlight two new community engagement initiatives that aim to leverage Brooklyn’s collective power for change. Community engagement is not just a feel-good effort; it’s part of our DNA. We want to bring everyone to our table, and create change, together.
First up is our 2023 Listening Tour. Last year was the maiden voyage for these community conversations, which help us maintain a dynamic understanding of all of Brooklyn’s communities and the challenges they face. We traveled across 10 neighborhoods, from Bay Ridge and Bushwick to Coney Island and Canarsie, and met with nearly 200 passionate Brooklynites.
This year, we’re making stops in 10 new neighborhoods, to identify issues and build connections and collaborations at the grassroots level:
Carroll Gardens/Gowanus - March 31, 2023
Fort Greene/Clinton Hill - April 21, 2023
East Flatbush/Wingate - April 28, 2023
Greenpoint/North Williamsburg - May 12, 2023
City Line/Cypress Hills - May 19, 2023
Red Hook - June 2, 2023
Midwood/Borough Park - June 9, 2023
Prospect Lefferts Gardens/Crown Heights South - July 14, 2023
Kensington - July 28, 2023
Bensonhurst - August 11, 2023
If your neighborhood is on this year’s list and you want to be part of the conversation, email us! And if we didn’t visit your neighborhood last year, and it isn’t a stop on this year’s tour, we’ll likely be visiting you next year.
One thing we heard at almost every meeting last year is the impact of the local city council member. Which means 2023 is a big year for New York City. Thanks to redistricting, every city council member will be on the ballot this fall. In light of this critical moment, we’re joining the GoVoteNYC funder collaborative to support smaller grassroots, neighborhood-based organizations and coalitions driving voter engagement and participation.
United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is an example of the type of organization receiving GoVoteNYC support. UNH’s members, all settlement houses, have provided critical social services since the 1920s, including after school programs, senior citizen centers, food pantries, and more. Now, with the support of GoVoteNYC, UNH members have the resources to engage their communities around local elections, the issues, and the candidates.
This is incredibly exciting work and we can’t wait to see it play out. And moreover, because of Brooklyn’s size and reach, we believe that we have an obligation to be part of it. “Brooklyn is a large part of our potential impact because of the borough’s size and reach. To have Brooklyn Community Foundation, which focuses on Brooklyn like a laser, at the table is really significant,” says Patricia A. Swann, GoVote NYC Co-Chair and the collaborative’s liaison at The New York Community Trust.
As I mentioned, important elections are fast approaching — and of the 51 city council districts, 17 represent our borough. If we really want to achieve our vision of a fair and just Brooklyn, it’s going to take electing the leaders who represent our values and our viewpoints. To do this, we need all of Brooklyn involved and engaged. We need you to get out the vote, join our listening tours, and think of us as your go-to partner for giving and investing in change.