In 2009, The Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP) asked CUP to team up with their students to investigate neighborhood change. CUP, teaching artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and the students, many of them East New Yorkers, noticed some odd new buildings popping up in a desolate landfill on the border of East New York. What were these strange rows of houses and where did they come from?
The huge development was being built on what was dubbed “the murder capital” in the 1990’s, and creating a new neighborhood from scratch. To find out what was going on, the crew interviewed a pastor, a development manager, a community board member, and a neighborhood homeowners’ group. They visited the modular building manufacturer and the development site. Through their investigation, they uncovered the story of the Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses: a visionary development model for low- and middle-income communities through congregation-based community organizing. They created a storybook record (with a dozen original songs) to teach other what they learned.
On July 23, 2009, students presented their book to an audience of artists, architects, and advocates at the Sculpture Center in New York City. Students also presented their project to thousands of listeners on an East Village Radio Show during the “Performa 2009” festival.
Thoughts from the team:
“I used to be shy about asking questions. But if you take the time to think about it, it’s a skill that everyone has. It’s really just curiosity.” Isaiah Peeples, student, the BCCP
“I just joined for the credits, but after a while, I started to see it was more of an educational experience.” – Gavin Noble, student, the BCCP
Listen to a sample track below, or get the whole the storybook record here.