Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series
Name: WE STAY/Nos Quedamos, Inc.
What they do: Nos Quedamos is a South Bronx-based housing and social service organization that was initially formed to help prevent Melrose residents from being pushed out of their community by redevelopment efforts. Their work respects, supports, and involves the community in plans and policies addressing issues of long-term affordable housing, open space, environmental justice, and community renewal. Nos Quedamos’s efforts began in 1992, when NYC proposed the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area, which designated 30 blocks in Melrose to be redeveloped for middle-income New Yorkers. Outraged by the injustice of their displacement, the local community banded together to draft and pass a community led alternative proposal. The generative work as innovators of the “Melrose Urban Renewal Plan ” has become a one-of-a-kind, internationally-recognized case study in transformative community power. NQ has been an agent of change and transformation to include the development of affordable housing.
They have a collection of low-income rental and affordable home-ownership housing units, and have to-date assisted more than 4,500 households to find housing. Many of Nos Quedamos’s buildings are LEED-certified, and include rooftop gardens and other spaces for urban agriculture. In fact, Melrose Commons was the first NYS neighborhood to receive LEED Silver certification from the US Green Building Council. The preservation of Melrose’s network of community gardens and the $6.6M construction of Yolanda Garcia Park provide green space for Bronxites of all ages.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Nos Quedamos partnered with community gardens to distribute food to those in need. Furthermore, they offer residents educational workshops on a variety of topics, from financial literacy to nutrition. Their Environmental Justice Youth Team helps young people learn about environmental topics and affords opportunities for them to become involved in the environmental justice issues that affect their communities.
How they do it: Nos Quedamos has four major focus areas:
- Advocacy & Policy: Nos Quedamos advocates for affordable housing, environmental justice, and community education and development. They are members of many advocacy groups, including the NYC Community Land Trust Initiative, the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the South Bronx River Watershed Alliance, the Bronx People’s Platform, and the Association of Housing and Neighborhood Development.
- Development & Housing: As members of the New York City Community Land Trust Initiative, an alliance of social justice and affordable housing organizations, Nos Quedamos advocates for communities and populations that are not served by the private housing market. They also assist the community in accessing affordable housing rentals and work to support homeownership through their social services.
- Civic Engagement & Culture: Nos Quedamos hosts and promotes many cultural celebrations and events in the South Bronx and engages with local elected officials to promote their important programming. Each year the organization hosts the WE ARE MELROSE Community Festival, which celebrates the culture and diversity of the Melrose community. Previous partners for their programming include Pregones/PRTT, BronxNet and a host of regional dance, music, spoken word, and performing artists..
- Environment & Resiliency: With Melrose being a federally classified “Environmental Justice Community,” Nos Quedamos has been a staunch advocate for community protections. Nos Quedamos has been a leader in and member of a number of environmental justice groups and promotes environmentally sustainable developments in the South Bronx. They co-authored a 2009 report on air quality and public health in the South Bronx along with former Congressman José Serrano, New York University, and other local community organizations. Nos Quedamos’s developments are often located on brownfields (land whose redevelopment is complicated by the presence of pollution or other contaminants), and the organization is a leader in the revitalization of these contaminated and polluted spaces.
Latest project/campaign: In October 2022, Nos Quedamos was awarded a $50,000 Climate Justice Award from NYU Tandon’s Urban Future Lab for its “Resiliency Hub” project. The idea for this project came in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which devastated portions of the New York City area — including Melrose, which experienced significant delays in emergency response. Residents had no power for several days (leaving them unable to refrigerate food/medicine or contact family members). Nos Quedamos worked with their partners to create centralized weatherproof structures in community gardens where neighbors could go to receive help and resources during any crisis. These structures were the groundwork for the upcoming Resiliency Hubs.
Community gardens have supported community members throughout difficult times, from Sandy to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Resiliency Hubs will ensure that there is a strong infrastructure to help people during emergencies. Nos Quedamos is now working on getting the required permits before construction. They are also working with community garden leaders (who have expressed excitement for constructing the Hubs) and NYU’s Urban Future Lab to train people to use the various resources in the Hubs, such as solar power, broadband internet, stormwater collection, and more.
Major Funding: Grants and other contributions, including a $640,000 capital investment to construct the Resliency Hubs.
Profit/nonprofit: 501c3 non-profit
Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: Many Nos Quedamos buildings are LEED-certified, and the organization continues to advocate for “green” buildings in the South Bronx area. Their advocacy includes plans for the use of rooftop gardens on many of their buildings, and the Nos Quedamos Environmental Justice Youth Team is in charge of developing and planning these gardens. The first garden will be located on their building El Jardin De Seline. The goal for these gardens will be to provide enough food for all residents of the buildings they serve. Food is incredibly important to Nos Quedamos’s work — it brings people together!
Location: Melrose, the Bronx
Number of staff: 6
Number of volunteers: 3 Delegates and 3 Youth Leaders
Areas served: South Bronx
Year Started: 1992
Director: Jessica Clemente