“Love Your Block” Grant Looks to Fund Community Beautification Projects

The seventh-annual “Love Your Block” grant program was announced today, a city beautification initiative administered by the Citizens Committee for New York City in partnership with NYC Service and with the support of Citi. Awarded in denominations of $1,000, the Love Your Block grant funds volunteer-led community improvement initiatives across the five boroughs.

“These projects often become the gem of their neighborhoods,” Saleen Shah, director of communications at Citizens Committee, told me over the phone. “And a lot of these volunteer groups go on to become full-fledged nonprofits.” Both the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and the Lower East Side Ecology Center received Citizens Committee grants in their early days, and although the Love Your Block grant is only in its seventh year, the Citizens Committee has been a force in New York City’s grassroots volunteer community for four decades.

The Love Your Block grant began under the Bloomberg administration in 2009, as an initiative of then–brand new NYC Service, which approached Citizens Committee for its vast network of hyper-local volunteer groups. According to the grant’s guidelines, it is aimed at proposals that will “address important community concerns; contribute to building stronger communities through neighbors working together; and result in concrete and sustainable improvements.” In its first year, Shah told me, Love Your Block funded twelve projects, and since then has funded over two hundred more. He says they hope to fund close to fifty projects in the 2015 round.

The grant-awarding committee favors hyperlocal community improvement, with a focus on beautifying with function. Winning projects have ranged from community gardens to updating and improving sidewalk tree-guards; one year, a student group on the south Bronx won a grant with a proposal they wrote themselves. Every change counts, the thinking goes, and all the better when New Yorkers are working to improve their immediate surroundings alongside their neighbors.

In addition to $1,000 in funding, winning projects will receive help from three city agencies—the departments of Sanitation, Transportation, and Parks and Recreation—to make their work possible. This can include anything from delivering mulch to removing graffiti or replacing damaged or missing street signs. Since 2009, more than 8,000 volunteers have been involved in Love Your Block initiatives, but countless more have been touched by their efforts.

Applications for Love Your Block grants are available at Citizens Committee for New York City’s website, and are due by Friday, November 7.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.

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