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.

Great Spring Creek Houses

Track 13 from the I Heart East New York storybook record

Resources & Links

The BCCP creates networks of educational innovation that connect under-served youth, local middle and high schools, high-need communities, and Brooklyn College.

Alexander Gorlin Architects is an internationally recognized design firm with a portfolio spanning from high-end residences to affordable housing.

East Brooklyn Congregations, an Affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, is multi-faith community organization working to improve conditions in Brownsville and East New York.

Nehemiah Housing Development Fund Corporation is the developer of the Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses, in affiliation with East Brooklyn Congregations.

Capsys is a manufacturer of high-quality steel-frame prefabricated buildings and modular homes based in New York City.

Funding Support

This project was made possible by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; and support from  the Bay and Paul Foundations,; The New York State Education Department; and the American Architectural Foundation’s Accent on Architecture Community Grants Program which is sponsored by the CNA Insurance Companies and Victor O. Shinnerer & Company.

Special Thanks

To our interviewees: Walter Campbell (Brooklyn Community Board 5); Ronald Waters (Nehemiah Housing Development Fund Corporation); Reverend David Keith Brawley (St. Paul Community Baptist Church); Jean Paul-Ho, Hayden Stephen, and Dorothy Leggett (Fillmore Real Estate); Ronald Dillon (The Concerned Homeowners Association); Ronald Hasselbrook and Bill McShane (Capsys Corp)

And to: Marlisa Wise, Moises Berrun, Carrie Fox, Elizabeth Hopkins, Luther B. Young II

Participants

  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Hatuey Ramos-Fermín
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich

  • Teaching Artist Assistant
  • Prudence Katze
Design Assistance

Rosten Woo


Project Support

John Mangin 

Mariana Mogilevich

    • The BCCP
    • Project Coordinators
    • Steve Ausbury 
    • Jessica Weis 
    • Umair Ilvas
    • Students
    • Ian Boyd 
    • Thaddeus Cooke 
    • Nayelly Escobar 
    • Dionne Matthias 
    • William Metellus 
    • Gavin Noble 
    • Isaiah Peeples 
    • Kendra Tull

        Press

        Adobe Creative Suite and One Nonprofit’s Winning Formula
        • TechSoup
        • November 22, 2010

        CUP won first place in the Other Media category for their expertly crafted I Heart East New York multimedia storybook record.

        2010 Winners – Show Your Impact Contest
        • Show Your Impact Contest
        • January 14, 2010

        I Heart East New York is both a teaching tool and a teaching method.

        Students Investigate Local Issues Through Service Learning
        • edutopia
        • August 03, 2009

        “That was one of the toughest interviews I’ve had in a long time,” the pastor tells the group after the hour-long interview.

        Looking 21 Years Ahead
        • Canarsie Courier
        • January 07, 2009

        Fillmore Real Estates’ Vice President told the students of his visions for the nearby Spring Creek Houses neighborhood.