Citizens Committee for New York City (CitizensNYC) has re-launched a program to help small businesses and community organizations of all kinds continue their work.

The “All In Neighborhood Grants” program sets aside $1 million for those doing good work locally. With the money, CitizensNYC dishes out micro-grants to community leaders on the “front lines” of their neighborhoods. This could be community organizations, small businesses, and neighborhood gatekeepers. This spring, CitizensNYC gave 278 grants to community groups dealing with COVID-19 recovery efforts. 

With the re-launch of the All In Neighborhood Grants program, CitizensNYC aims to reach even more New Yorkers who are dedicated to helping our city rebuild from the pandemic. 

CitizenNYC’s history of community work spans 45 years.

New York City in the 1970s was down in the dumps. With the city having a hard time sustaining itself, and being denied aid by U.S. President Gerald Ford, disadvantaged New Yorkers were in a worse position than before. But they also needed help. That’s when organizations like CitizensNYC step in.

“As government budgets were challenged and as quality of life was being threatened…came this organization “that’s based on the idea that everyday New Yorkers can come together and improve their neighborhoods by working together in rolling up their sleeves.

Dr. Rahsaan Harris, who became the first African-American CEO of CitizensNYC in March 2020, spoke to the AmNews about microgrants, which gives money to these small businesses and organizations.

“So they apply with their great idea…to, you know, beautify their block or the young people have positive things to do, or to make sure that, you know, neighborhood businesses that have 10 employees or less have access to capital so they can continue to be the pillars of their neighborhood and provide services and preservation of culture that is needed,” said Harris to the AmNews.

Harris said that the organization sees hundreds of applications to select from. They give, on average $3,000 in grants to award recipients. 

Allyson Martinez and Rachel Goodfriend of BK LVL UP. Credit: Citizens Committee for NYC

One organization that benefitted from this is (Brooklyn Level Up) BK LVL UP. 

BK LVL UP is a group that connects like-minded organizations and individuals who share the same goal of acquiring wealth and building in the community. The organization knows that this can’t be done without some financial help. That’s why founders Allyson Martinez and Rachel Goodfriend are grateful for groups like CitizensNYC.

“Through funding from CitizensNYC’s All in Neighborhood Grant program, we were able to expand our COVID Resilience Project, an initiative we created to connect East Flatbush residents to available vaccination appointments,” said Goodfriend and Martinez in a statement. “We worked with a Black-owned tech company to create a database of “hard to reach” residents to make appointments, schedule rides, print off vaccination registration documents and hand-deliver them primarily to seniors in the community. So far, BK LVL UP has helped over 120 of our neighbors get life-saving access to the COVID-19 vaccine through our work. We’ve also hosted events to promote COVID-19 vaccination as well as economic development in East Flatbush. 

In October, BK LVL UP hosted a an “Vax & Relax” event at Suede Restaurant, where attendees could access the COVID-19 vaccine, PPEs and hand sanitizers along with resources on housing access and entrepreneurship. 

“We are thankful for CitizensNYC’s support and are excited to be a part of CitizensNYC’s growing coalition of grassroots organizers, activists, and entrepreneur,” stated Martinez and Goodfriend. “As our city rebuilds from the pandemic, we are thrilled to work alongside CitizensNYC and their robust network on the frontlines of change.”

Stories like these are what CitizenNYC is all about for Harris. He summed up the group’s message in one sentence.

“Philanthropy is not just for billionaires and multimillionaires,” said Harris.

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