Brooklyn's Boom Leaves Many Behind

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We should be thrilled. The world, it seems, has finally, famously “discovered” Brooklyn. Celebrities are naming their offspring after the borough; we have become the mark of coolness, of edge, of style?and of innovation. We couldn’t be more pleased with the successes of our small businesses, restaurants, and of the energy of the new arrivals streaming across the bridges into Brooklyn. The “Brooklyn brand” has been inked.

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by knowing that Brooklyn has another side—one less flashy and closer to the edge.

Despite our now recognizable brand, twenty-five percent of Brooklyn’s seniors are still poor. This year, 64 percent of Brooklyn emergency food providers didn’t have enough food to meet community needs. More than 50,000 young people in Brooklyn have neither a diploma nor a job; preserving affordable housing has become increasingly difficult; Brooklyn’s economic transition from blue collar business to technology and creative commerce has left many people behind. And, until now, local philanthropy has been focused elsewhere. In fact, according to a Foundation Center study, nearly 90 percent of all local philanthropic giving was focused on Manhattan-based nonprofits.

That’s why we launched Brooklyn’s first community foundation in 2009. We wanted to create a new civic institution focused on giving and service solely in Brooklyn. We knew we’d face many challenges as we began our work in the height of a recession,

But our challenge, as we see it, is making this moment for Brooklyn last. To do something good, sustainable and meaningful for Brooklyn’s future and for all who live here.

As a community, we must agree to improve educational outcomes for all of Brooklyn’s young people—particularly for those living in high poverty neighborhoods; we should invest in the power of the arts to unite, enlighten all people from all cultures and all economic backgrounds; we must all ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors receive the community supports they need to be safe and secure in their own homes; we must fight to preserve affordable housing, and support well-designed new housing that fits in with the character of the community, and, we must strive to create a greener and healthier Brooklyn with well-maintained parks and open space, and opportunities to promote community wellness.

So, while we are indeed more than satisfied with the long-overdue attention being paid to our fair county of Kings, we must—as a community, and a Foundation—make sure this is more than a passing fancy.

We hope those putting down their roots in Brooklyn and fostering this sense of incredible pride and creativity will continue to invest in their communities and Brooklyn’s brand for the long-run. After all, fads come and go, but real community change lasts much, much longer. And, it never goes out of style.