GCF's Thanksgiving Celebration: A Decade of Service and Looking Ahead for the Next 10 Years

Tue, Dec 1st 2020 at 6:30 PM EST · By Green City Force
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Tue, Dec 1st 2020 at 6:30 PM EST
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Tue, Dec 1st 2020 at 7:30 PM EST
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On behalf of Green City Force Alumni, our Service Corps, Board Members, and Staff, please join us in support of our first GCF Thanksgiving Celebration on ‘Giving Tuesday’, December 1st. As we mark 10 years of service with our first-ever (virtual) fundraising event, we’ll feature friends of GCF and leaders committed to social, economic, and environmental justice.  

Your Giving Tuesday gift will help break the cycle of poverty, and support young adults from frontline communities as the essential force for driving the emergence of sustainable and resilient cities—by transforming their own lives, leading community transition, and promoting the values of a new regenerative and inclusive economy.

Event link provided upon RSVP.

Host Committee:
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin 
Bahij Chancey 
Kevin Delaney 
Anne-Laure Fayard
Mark Foggin
Naomi Johnson
Sharon A. Myrie
Daphany Rose Sanchez
Jennie Schueler
Victoria Shaw
Shannon Snead
Lee Trotman Celebrating a 

Celebrating a Decade of Service and Leadership Award Recipients:
Ed Cohen
In Honor of Lawrence Harris
Matt Nimetz 
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison


Featured ‘Friends of GCF’ include:

Domingo Morales, GCF Alumni and inaugural David Prize winner. Domingo discovered his passion for farming and composting as a member of Cohort 10 in 2015. While serving with GCF, Domingo secured a job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden working at the very compost site where he was receiving his training. Several years later he was managing the largest human powered compost site in the country. Domingo's vision is to build sustainable compost sites throughout NYC, with an emphasis on underserved communities and NYCHA. He is also developing an educational video series focused on urban composting.

Ritchie Torres, a fighter from the Bronx who has spent his entire life working for the community he calls home. Like many people in the South Bronx, poverty and struggle have never been abstractions to him, and he governs from a place of lived experience. Ritchie’s mother single-handedly raised him, his twin brother, and his sister in a public-housing project. She paid the bills working minimum-wage jobs, which in the 1990s paid $4.25 an hour.  While Ritchie grew up with mold, lead, leaks, and no reliable heat or hot water in the winter, he watched the government spend over $100 million dollars to build a golf course across the street for Donald Trump. Ritchie attended New York University, but dropped out his sophomore year, suffering from severe depression - the lowest point in his life. After leaving NYU, he became a Housing Organizer for former Council Member Jimmy Vacca and was inspired to run for office. In 2013, at the age of twenty-five, he became New York City’s youngest elected official and the first openly L.G.B.T.Q person elected to office in the Bronx. At the City Council, Ritchie stood out, and during his seven years has tenaciously tackled problems big and small for the Bronx and New York City. He has passed over thirty pieces of legislation, including legislation protecting the City’s affordable housing stock and tackling the city’s opioid epidemic. He was also instrumental in passing landmark criminal justice reform legislation that changed how New York approaches low-level offenses. Most recently, he passed legislation protecting tenants from discrimination from landlords related to COVID-19. As the Chairman overseeing NYCHA, he held the first committee hearing ever in public housing, which led to a $3 billion-dollar FEMA investment, the largest in NYC history. As the Council's Chair of the Oversight & Investigations Committee, he has led investigations into the heating outages and lead poisoning at NYCHA, the Taxi Medallion scandal, the City's controversial Third-Party Transfer program, and Kushner Companies. Ritchie is the Congressman-Elect for NY's 15th Congressional District. Ritchie currently lives in the Bronx.

Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, is an independent consultant focusing on urban problem solving, housing, movement building, governance design, non-profit management, narrative development and strategic planning. Rasmia is currently working with the Ford Foundation on public housing reform. Until December 2018, Rasmia was Director at the Office of Public/Private Partnerships, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), appointed to the executive team in 2015. She developed and managed NYCHA’s strategic relationships with external cross-sector entities. While at NYCHA, Rasmia founded The Fund for Public Housing in 2016 where she served as its first president. The Fund for Public Housing invests in the well-being of public housing residents and their communities by collaborating with partners to re-imagine and improve the way public housing in NYC works.

Prior to that Rasmia served as director of The Brownsville Partnership, a community based organization. She spearheaded the effort to build a collective impact neighborhood network working with community residents, many of whom live in public housing. Rasmia earned a Master of Science degree in Urban and Public Policy from The New School and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies from the College of Wooster in Ohio. She is Chair of the New York Foundation, board member of Hester Street, serves on the national advisory board of the Center for Court Innovation, and Chair of the Youth Design Center (formerly Made in Brownsville, Inc). In 2018, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation named Rasmia a Sterling Network Fellow, New York City leaders from government, non-profit and business sectors working together to tackle the challenge of increasing economic mobility across the five boroughs.

Vinson Cunningham, a staff writer and a theatre critic at The New Yorker. His essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, FADER, Vulture, The Awl, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. In 2020, he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in Profile Writing. A former White House staffer, he now teaches an MFA Writing course at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Brigitte Vicenty, a lifelong New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) resident, is the founder of the Inner City Green Team. She has led the fight for herself and fellow residents in their "Right to Recycle" for a decade. She created ICGT when she learned that NYCHA's recycling program was nonexistent and there were no other options. She envisioned a convenient way for residents to recycle that could create jobs in communities with some of the highest unemployment rates. As a teen, Brigitte observed her mother’s passion for caring about her community and witnessed the effects it had on others. Brigitte hoped to serve in a cause that would be impactful beyond where she grew up. With her passion for the environment and appreciation for its life-giving power, Brigitte wants others to join her “green ministry.” In 2018, she won the NYCx Co-Lab Challenge and was honored at the Zero Waste in Shared Space Recognition Ceremony. The project was recently featured on New York’s PIX11 and News12 as well as by Politico. Brigitte is a 2020 Echoing Green Fellow.

Gregory Russ, the Chairman/CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). He came to NYCHA after serving 2 years as the Executive Director for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA). Prior to working in Minneapolis Mr. Russ served as Executive Director for 12 years at  the Cambridge Housing Authority. Mr. Russ has over forty-four years of experience in public housing policy, operations, and program management. Although it is early in his tenure at the MPHA, issues related to the creation of  sufficient capital investment in the housing stock, voucher reform, energy, customer service, and program efficiencies will drive future initiatives and efforts.  

At the Cambridge Housing Authority, Mr. Russ lead the policy and operations team that: designed and  implemented the Agency’s Moving to Work (MTW) Public Housing Rent Simplification Program, secured  $81M in an initial round of funding for the Agency’s ten-year $300 million housing preservation program;  worked with the City to rehabilitate the old police station into combined CHA and city office space;  secured a $300M portfolio repositioning opportunity for the all the agency’s Federal public housing using  CHA’s Moving to Work flexibility and HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration; secured State and City  funds along with tax credits to rebuild Public Housing at Jefferson Park; provided assistance to foster a  city wide resident group; implemented an MTW sponsor-based voucher program to address housing and  support needs for hard-to-house families; and, developed an expiring use preservation program that uses  MTW flexibility to retain affordability for these properties in Cambridge and elsewhere in Massachusetts.  Under his leadership, CHA’s policy team has also designed unique MTW subsidy programs that, in  cooperation with local partner agencies, elevate the Agency’s role in ending homelessness and fostering  family asset development and self-sufficiency. 

Mr. Russ started in this field at the Dauphin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (DCHA) in  central Pennsylvania. After working at DCHA, he went to work for the State of Pennsylvania and  subsequent to that ran his own consulting and training firm for 12 years. In 1995 he went to work for HUD  in Washington, DC where he played a key role in HUD’s successful take over of the then troubled  Chicago Housing Authority; he also worked in Detroit as part of an partnership effort to move that troubled  agency forward. Later, Mr. Russ went to work for the Chicago Housing Authority first as the Chief of Staff  and then as Chief of Policy Development where he assisted in the negotiation of Agency’s MTW  agreement and the accompanying Plan for Transformation. Mr. Russ came to Cambridge from the  Philadelphia Housing Authority, where he served as Deputy Executive Director for Operations and  contributed to the creation and implementation of that Agency’s MTW Rent Simplification policy.  

He is the past President of the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA). He is also a  member of the Board for the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) serving since 2007.

About Green City Force:

Green City Force’s (GCF) mission is to train young leaders to power a green and inclusive economy, through service. Our model corps in New York City enlists and trains young people from low income housing communities for a new and more equitable economy. We equip them with the tools to change the trajectory of their lives and access good jobs.  Corps Members develop a passion for sustainability and service through driving large-scale environmental and health initiatives in public housing and other frontline communities. We design service as a path to greater well being and means to enlist young people to become contributors and leaders in the movement to build a greener, fairer and more just world. Graduates go on to jobs or college, directly or through alumni initiatives that build towards sectoral jobs and apprenticeships, via social enterprise contracts or advanced training developed with employers. Our network of alumni, partners and supporters constitutes a growing ecosystem anchored in our corps.

After 10 years, GCF has maintained an average of 82% graduation rate and 83% job placement rate after six months. We’ve grown more than 100,000 lbs. of fresh, organic food across 6 farm sites on public housing - distributing that food at no cost, and in exchange for compost. We've reached more than 40,000 public housing residents through large scale energy education campaigns across NYCHA developments citywide. For more information about GCF, visit www.greencityforce.org

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