Brownsville Residents Shaping-up NYC's First Health Impact Assessment

Pictured above are Esmeralda Miller, Ernestine Hodges, Maxine Dotson, and Andrea McCullough, providing consultation in the research.

Nationwide, public health research has shown that our health is made where we live, work, and play. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, our health is literally made in Brownsville. Working from July 2014 to January 2015, Made in Brownsville performed a Health Impact Assessment to (I) analyze potential health impacts of proposed programs in the community, (II) research many of the factors that impact health in the community and (III) encourage local and regional stakeholders to pursue recommendations to continue building a healthier community.

I. Working with residents and civic leaders, MiB evaluated three proposed projects in terms of community context:

The Melting Pot Community Culinary Center, which aims to teach culinary arts and provide fresh, healthy, and food at affordable prices.

The Made in Brownsville Incubation Lab, which aims to engage at-risk youth to change the narrative and reality of violence through community organizing, planning, and design.

The Dream Big Foundation, which aims to transform communities by training, mentoring, and investing in community entrepreneurs.

II. Through interviews, surveys, historical research, and engagement workshops, the team identified major patterns that define Brownsville’s unique context. Structural inequalities and physical disinvestment is a persistent challenge to revitalization. Direct and indirect health impacts from crime and violence are a constant threat to residents’ well-being, and despite Brownsville’s long history of inclusion, people have continuously faced prejudice and exclusion from the norms of New York City. Negative perceptions of the community from the outside are adopted on the inside and community narratives are frequently critical and reflexive. Change, and the potential to imagine change has always been one of Brownsville’s greatest exports.

MiB identified three priority impacts that the proposed projects should address:

– Social Cohesion: Promoting opportunities for social interactions between community residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations

– Access to Goods, Services, and Recreation: Providing better access to local food sources and other opportunities for youth and families

– Community Safety: Provide protective measures through architecture and landscape design principles as well as programs to enhance community safety by reducing exposure to crime and fear of crime.

III. From these priority impact areas, a number of programming, policy and regulatory recommendations were developed to help maximize healthy community design principles for future redevelopment in the Brownsville neighborhood. They include:

1. Recognizing the reality of inter-development rivalries (turf areas) resulting in violence and engaging youth in trans-generational, spatial programming.

2. Addressing the actions and perception of law enforcement and security personnel.

3. Creating a positive relationship between residents, program officials, and law enforcement to allow participants from different housing developments to access programs.

4. Encouraging and publicizing walking groups to increase street access during periods of less pedestrian activity.

5. Recruiting businesses open during different times of day throughout commercial corridors.

6. Recruiting businesses that prioritize employing local residents.

7. Using transparent storefront windows that create a friendly and inviting atmosphere but cannot be damaged easily.

8. Creating facilities that have commercial store frontage at ground level with housing above.

9. Maximizing visibility for high risk areas with street lights.

10. Providing health insurance for family members of participants in youth programs.

11. Investing in community development projects such as neighborhood parks and community gardens to encourage recreation and social interaction opportunities.

12. Providing local recreational, as well as historic, cultural and educational amenities for Brownsville residents and neighbors from surrounding communities.

There will be a series of final feedback meetings before the document is published.


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