Jamel Evans has a vision of a sustainable Bushwick. This Bushwick will have community gardens, tree-lined streets, and sustainable energy. It’s in its beginning stages now, but like many environmental projects, it takes a lot to get started.
In an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle, Evans, a Bushwick resident for 28 years, has started the Brooklyn Beautification Project. The project aims to educate Bushwick residents on gardening for food and to beautify the neighborhood, and recycling.
"I just wanted to connect with families, young people, and anyone willing to get out there in the neighborhood," Evans said.
The project is broken up into three distinct phases. The first will involve giving out seeds and plants to residents. This began with a meet-up one Saturday in April, where Evans distributed many kinds of seeds, including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn, peas, and herbs.
The second phase is to repair existing tree beds and planters in the neighborhood, as well as installing more, with plans to include dog-waste bag dispensers to keep the area clear of waste. In his personal garden, Evans plans to grow cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries beans, and cucumbers.
Continuing throughout this year’s growing season are plans to hold workshops to help educate about sustainable gardening and garden maintenance.
To raise funding, Evans turned to IOBY, an organization that helps raise money for environmental groups who do not have tax exempt status.
IOBY stands for In Our Back Yard. "It is the opposite of ‘Not In My Back Yard,’" said Erin Barnes, co-founder and executive director of IOBY. "That is a kind of passive environmentalism. IOBY is all about environmentalism in our back yard."
The goal of the Brooklyn Beautification Project is to eventually expand to different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, but Evans chose Bushwick as the starting point.
Many groups trying to improve their community or work towards green goals have trouble because they are not 501(c)3 organizations, a specific tax code that usually covers larger non-profit organizations and allows them to solicit tax-deductible donations. This leaves projects like Evans’ too big to be funded by the organizers alone, but not big enough to offer donors tax exemption.
"I’m not so much worried about the status," Evans said. "I just wanted to do the work."
Barnes said, "We don’t want to see any barriers just because people are stuck in this tax status" She added, "IOBY helps groups that just need a little push."
According to Barnes, one third of all environmental projects are run on less than $1,000 per year, and 50 percent of environmental projects are entirely volunteer-run.
The project needs about $2500 in funding for materials. For more information and to donate to the Brooklyn Beautification Project, visit Ioby.org