Recognizing Our Grantees

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Pivoting and Responding to COVID-19: Part 2

Adapting Grant Funded Programs to a Virtual Environment

Although we may not have been able to release a round of grants in 2020, that did not mean environmental justice work stopped. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental justice organizations continued to work hard to serve as many people in their community as possible, in both safe and creative ways. DEC's Office of Environmental Justice was continuously impressed by the way so many groups were able to improvise, adapt and overcome during this incredibly difficult time. 

Bronx River Alliance

The Bronx River Alliance developed a new at-home STEM curriculum for middle and high-school students relating to plants and pollinators and their importance to local parks. It was able to share this curriculum with local schools, educators, and partners, reaching 20 parents and educators and an estimated 2,000 students. It also developed a virtual scavenger hunt where students have the opportunity to explore Concrete Plant Park and Starlight Park for pollinators and other wildlife by following a series of questions.

Human Impacts Institute 

Human Impacts Institute is looking for New York City-based environmental health leaders to participate in a six-month fellowship as part of its pilot program designed to showcase how community-based leadership and creativity are central to the health and wellbeing of the City.

From community gardeners to asthma specialists to policy advocates, New Yorkers are working every day to make our air, water, and soil healthier. The Crew at the Human Impacts Institute are excited to launch their Brooklyn Environmental Health Lab, where they are experimenting with new ways to build resilience to environmental health threats, while more creatively connecting our communities to diverse pollution prevention tools. 

Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Gowanus Canal Conservancy converted their Blue School Design Challenge to a virtual program. Using digital design and model building tools, students create green infrastructure design proposals for their school campus, including green roofs, rain gardens, and other natural systems to reduce stormwater runoff and climate impacts like urban heat island and increased precipitation.

Experts visit the virtual classroom through live chats and video, guiding students in the design process and exposing them to landscape architecture, urban planning and engineering fields. Even more exciting, they continued sharing the Gowanus Blue Schools digital curriculum through Google Classroom with NYC teachers beyond their project’s three partner schools, including through the STEM Teachers NYC network with thousands of STEM teachers.

North Brooklyn Neighbors

North Brooklyn Neighbors partnered with the Pratt Institute and launched an interactive map for its Mapping Environmental (In)Justice project. The Environmental Legacy & Improvements (ELI) map is a tool for Greenpoint and Williamsburg community members to learn about the area’s industrial past, engage with current data, and collaborate with neighbors to build on historical fights for a more just environment.


Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity transitioned their Shore Corps program over to virtual classes. Due to COVID, it was difficult to resume outdoor activities, but they kept the classes focused on environmental conservation and habitat restoration by engaging the students in remote collection of data through bird/bat monitors and camera traps. Forty-two students completed Shore Corps over the summer continuing to use the monitoring equipment for research on the coastal shore. Shore Corps was also able to continue community cleanups, dune management, and plantings this past fall in small groups to ensure safe social distancing. 

Rocking the Boat 

Rocking the Boat’s program sailed along remotely via video conference classes and online file sharing platforms through the summer semester. Their Youth Development technical tracks were combined into one Bronx River ecology curriculum, dubbed the Bronx River Experience. The student class (29 students) spent three virtual program days in a curriculum unit called Water and Responsibility, where they learned about combined sewer overflows affecting the river, and used Sewer in a Suitcase models to illustrate runoff issues and design their own urban landscapes to prevent contamination from runoff. The Job Skills apprentices (21 apprentices) dove deep into the impact of the Clean Water Act of 1972 as the foundation for water regulation today.