Green City Force Prepares Youth for a Sustainable Future

by Justin Taylor

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Green City Force

What they do: Since 2009, Green City Force (GCF) has worked with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to engage 18-24 year old public housing residents in AmeriCorps service terms that benefit NYCHA communities and prepare them for careers in the green economy.

To date, GCF has engaged over 500 young adults. GCF’s programs are rooted in the belief that young NYCHA residents are uniquely positioned through leadership, training, and service, to drive change in communities while building skills and experiences to help launch careers and achieve economic prosperity. They also believe that partnerships, with residents, agencies, local and city-wide organizations, funders and employers (public and private), are essential to achieve the holistic approach and change they envision.

How they do it:

Clean Energy Corps

GCF’s city-wide Clean Energy Corps inspires passions and a commitment to service while providing young adult residents of New York City public housing with experiences and skills to help build a sustainable future for themselves and their community. Corps Members spend four days a week in the field, where they work in teams to improve energy efficiency in low-income homes, construct and maintain urban farms and provide resident-to-resident education on sustainable practices, and one day a week in the classroom.

AmeriCorps Programs

Through GCF’s service corps, The Love Where You Live (LWYL) Corps and the Urban Farm Corps (UFC), young public housing residents who face major barriers to employment serve as AmeriCorps members with GCF to make low-income public housing communities more environmentally sustainable and healthier. The corps provides hands-on work-like experience, trainings toward professional certifications, opportunities to practice communication and leadership, and full set of wraparound supportive services that includes career counseling and regular access to certified Social Workers. Corps Members receive stipends, monthly Metrocards, uniforms and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award upon graduation that can be used for continuing education. Service is designed to help CMs gain exposure to and enter careers in the green and clean energy economy in industries such as energy efficiency, sustainable construction, solar, urban farming, composting, and public health.

Alumni Services

GCF makes a long-term commitment to graduate success, continuing to work with alumni on career counseling, and offering free opportunities for additional technical training, and work opportunities related to energy efficiency in our growing social enterprise programs. Graduates have earned over $1,000,000 in AmeriCorps Segal Education Award scholarships for continuing education, making GCF one of the largest scholarship providers for NYC public housing residents. GCF operates social enterprise programs that hire GCF graduates to perform energy efficiency projects for low-income NYC residents. Through GCF’s service corps, social enterprise and full-time staff, GCF is a leading employer of NYCHA young adults in NYC.

Mission: “Green City Force’s (GCF) mission is to break the cycle of poverty, preparing urban young adults to succeed in their chosen careers by engaging them in service, training and work experiences related to the clean energy economy. In doing so, GCF encourages them to lead socially and environmentally responsible lives. We are working towards a “green city” built on principles of sustainability, social, economic and environmental justice.”

Latest project/campaign: Farms at NYCHA, a program of the mayoral Building Healthy Communities initiative has brought 6 large-scale farms to NYC public housing property that expand healthy food access, provide youth workforce and leadership development, and promote sustainable and connected public housing communities.

Major funding: ALLINBKLYN; AmeriCorps via The Corps Network; Anonymous; Arbor Brothers; Bank of America; Blessing Way Foundation; Brooklyn Community Foundation; Capital One; Celery Design Collaborative (pro bono); Community Service Society; Con Edison; Citi Foundation; Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust; Fund for Public Health in New York; Growth Squared LLC; Hamond Family Foundation; Hirsch Family Foundation; Hyde and Watson Foundation; JRM Construction Management; Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; Leon Lowenstein Foundation; Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; L+M Development Partners; Mary J. Hutchins Foundation; Merck Family Fund; The M&T Charitable Foundation; New York City Council; New York City Department of Sanitation; New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; New York City Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships; The New York Community Trust; New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA); Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (pro bono); The Pinkerton Foundation; Police Athletic League; The Scherman Foundation; William C. Bullitt Foundation

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual budget: $5.5 million

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Built the first large-scale urban farm on NYC public housing property, the NYCHA Farm at Red Hook West Houses, in partnership with Added Value and NYCHA’s Gardening and Greening program. Since 2013, GCF has distributed over 40,000 lbs. of organic produce to New York City Housing Authority residents from the Farms at NYCHA.



630 Flushing Ave 8th Floor

Brooklyn, NY 11206

Red Hook Houses Farm, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Howard Houses Farm, Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY 11212
Bay View Houses Farm, Canarsie, Brooklyn, NY 11236
Wagner Houses Farm, East Harlem, New York, NY 10035
Forest Houses Farm, Morrisania, Bronx, NY, 10456
Mariner’s Harbor Farm on Staten Island coming soon!

Core programs: Farms at NYCHA is part of Building Healthy Communities (BHC), a city-wide partnership designed to improve health outcomes in 12 neighborhoods in New York City. Through the initiative, young public housing residents are building and maintaining farms on public housing properties across the city to serve fellow residents, with local partners. The Farms expand healthy food access, provide youth workforce and leadership development, and promote sustainable and connected public housing communities. There are currently five farms, with a sixth coming to Staten Island in 2018. NYCHA residents pick up the week’s harvest from weekly farm stands at each farm in exchange for volunteering their time, or dropping off their compostable waste. In 2017, Urban Farm Corps Cohort 14 distributed nearly 20,000 lbs. of organic produce to NYCHA residents from the Farms at NYCHA.

The Love Where You Live (LWYL) Challenge, GCF’s signature service initiative continues to improve sustainability and livability at NYCHA along the guidelines of the authority’s NextGen agenda. GCF works to increase the number of NYCHA residents served with conservation education, and foster new partnerships to expand the number of sustainability topics in the NYCHA Sustainability Agenda that we focus on. In addition to energy efficiency, LWYL now includes recycling education and proper wastewater disposal with partners in the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP), and GrowNYC. In 2016-17, Cohort 13 delivered energy education to over 8,900 residents, “NYCHA Recycles!” education to over 5,600 residents and “Cease the Grease” education to over 1,900 residents. LWYL service focuses on MAP developments, where we served Brownsville and Van Dyke Houses in 2017. These initiatives have helped save power, water and money for the housing authority, allowing more funds to be reinvested in NYCHA’s improvement. They have increased recycling rates, saving waste from landfills and cutting costs to the City of New York, and have helped to reduce the nearly 62% of plumbing and sewage backups that NYC DEP says result from the buildup of grease in building pipes and city sewers. 

Number of staff: 31

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: Brooklyn, Manhattan 

Year started: 2009

Director: Lisbeth Shepherd

Contact information:

(646) 681-4700

Photo credit: Fund for Public Health New York City

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