Save NYC’s Abandoned Buildings, Save the Planet

Converting vacant buildings to housing for homeless New Yorkers might just save the Earth from climate change.

A vacant building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Flicker Clicker / Creative Commons

By Alex Davies, Communications Coordinator

In a January 2012 report, grassroots advocacy group Picture the Homeless surveyed vacant buildings and properties in New York City, finding enough space to house nearly 200,000 people — four times the homeless population of the city.

As the Center expands its work on environmental issues, I’ve been thinking about how the expression, “the greenest brick is the one already in the wall” applies to the report. It’s the unofficial mantra of the design section of TreeHugger, an environmental blog I contribute to. Here’s a simpler way to put it: It’s a waste (of time, money, energy, and resources) to build an entirely new structure when there’s one already there.  Continue reading “Save NYC’s Abandoned Buildings, Save the Planet”

Brandon Whitney of ioby Joins the Center as a Leader in Residence

Brandon Whitney. Photo: ioby

We’re pleased to announce Brandon Whitney is joining the Colin Powell Center as a 2012-2013 leader in residence. As the Center expands its work on environmental issues through its Partners for Change program, Whitney will guide the professional development activities and research projects of our fellows.

Whitney is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ioby, a non-profit organization that supports small scale, local environmental projects. He spoke with the Center about what drew him to the leader in residence position, and what he hopes to accomplish in the next year. Continue reading “Brandon Whitney of ioby Joins the Center as a Leader in Residence”

CCNY Students Bring a New Community Garden to Harlem

Two and a half years after receiving seed funding from the Colin Powell Center, the Community Agricultural Network is running a thriving urban garden in Hamilton Heights.

A child and a CCNY student enjoy the community garden in Hamilton Heights. Photo: City Agricultural Network

The City Agriculture Network (CAN) formed in the winter of 2010, funded by a Community Engagement Fellowship awarded to Kaizhong (Johnny) Huang by the Colin Powell Center. The goal of CAN, which received continued funding from the Center for 2010-2011, was to create a community garden from scratch in Hamilton Heights, and promote understanding and knowledge of the processes by which food can be created, distributed and consumed in a sustainable and equitable manner.

Two and a half years into the project, CAN is producing food, promoting healthy eating, and reducing the local carbon footprint. The below update on the group’s activity is by Elizabeth Kelman, a CCNY student who is now managing the network. Continue reading “CCNY Students Bring a New Community Garden to Harlem”

The Sack of Timbuktu

Mausoleums, shrines, and monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu are under attack by Islamic fundamentalists.

The city of Timbuktu, Mali. Photo: alwithacamera / Creative Commons

Originally posted on Africa in Transition by Mohamed Jallow. 

As a history buff, I have always been fascinated with the mystics of the ancient African city of Timbuktu. The city is renowned for its historical significance as the crossroads of civilizations. It is among the few places on the continent that still conjures up nostalgic images of Africa’s intellectual history and achievements. The great African empires of Songhai, Macina, and Mali all had roots in the city. In fact, most of modern West Africa can draw on Timbuktu’s long history of education, religion, and diversity.

So one would think Timbuktu is a city that all of Africa should be proud of. But not the al-Qaeda linked militants of Ansar Dine. Continue reading “The Sack of Timbuktu”

Occupy Warzones: Fighting Violence in Colombia

In an astonishing act of civil disobedience, local residents of Toribio, a small town in southwest Colombia, demanded that government forces fighting the rebel FARC go home — and destroyed their fortifications to underscore the point.

Soliders in the Colombian Army. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Originally posted on Huffington Post by Center Coordinator Michael Busch.

In an astonishing act of civil disobedience, local residents of Toribio, a small town in southwest Colombia, demanded that government forces fighting the rebel FARC go home — and destroyed their fortifications to underscore the point. The town has been witness to especially brutal violence in recent days that has left a number of people dead, and scores more injured and homeless. Yesterday afternoon, up to a thousand indigenous community members stormed the local police station in Toribio and destroyed the trenches fortifying it. Continue reading “Occupy Warzones: Fighting Violence in Colombia”

Service-Learning in NYC Schools: Outcomes and Lessons Learned

NYC Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford explains why service-learning is the route to stronger education and communities.

diahann billings-burford nyc service colin powell center learning
NYC Service Chief Officer Diahann Billings-Burford and NYC Schools Chancellor Walcott honor Service in Schools 2012 award recipients. Photo: NYC Service

By Diahann Billings-Burford, Chief Service Officer of NYC Service.

Last month, NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and I celebrated the accomplishments of more than 587,000 students who participated in service during the 2011-2012 school year as part of the City’s Service in Schools initiative. Thirty schools were recognized for student participation in projects that included working on a sustainable organic farm serving Crown Heights and leading workshops for elementary school students as part of City Year’s Young Heroes program in Hunts Point.

Our Service in Schools initiative, a partnership of the Department of Education and NYC Service, encourages student participation in service of any kind. But since our launch in 2009 we’ve seen that the greatest impact on academic performance and student engagement is a result of service-learning. Continue reading “Service-Learning in NYC Schools: Outcomes and Lessons Learned”

Keeping the Dream Alive — But Not Waking Up Yet

President Obama’s new immigration policy will give young illegals a form of amnesty, but leaves much to be desired.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Many undocumented students and workers–called DREAMers– now eagerly await more details about a new immigration policy that could alleviate their perpetual fears of deportation. News of the policy is a victory worth celebrating. But it still does not fulfill their hopes of becoming permanent residents or citizens in the country they call home. Continue reading “Keeping the Dream Alive — But Not Waking Up Yet”

Center Coordinator Hosts an Open Discussion on Dissenting Diplomats

Program Coordinator Michael Busch is hosting an open discussion with Hannah Gurman on opposition of US diplomats to American foreign policy.

Hannah Gurman’s The Dissent Papers. Image:

On Sunday, July 8, I’ll be hosting the FireDogLake Book Salon with New York University’s Hannah Gurman at 2:00pm. We’ll be discussing her recent book, The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and BeyondAs FDL notes,

Beginning with the Cold War and concluding with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Hannah Gurman explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century. During America’s reign as a dominant world power, U.S. presidents and senior foreign policy officials largely ignored or rejected their diplomats’ reports, memos, and telegrams, especially when they challenged key policies relating to the Cold War, China, and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The Dissent Papers recovers these diplomats’ invaluable perspective and their commitment to the transformative power of diplomatic writing. Continue reading “Center Coordinator Hosts an Open Discussion on Dissenting Diplomats”