Developer Gives Back To The Neighborhood It Transformed

Developer Gives Back To The Neighborhood It Transformed
Photo courtesy of Lyons Community School Urban Workshop

A charity founded by a real-estate developer known for the transformation of DUMBO has invited public schools in the area to apply for grants to support creative programs that enrich student learning.

The Walentas Family Foundation, established by the principals of Two Trees Management, will award $250,000 this summer to schools in Brooklyn’s District 13 (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights) and District 14 (Greenpoint and Williamsburg).

Photo courtesy of Lyons Community School Urban Workshop

Two Trees owns and manages more than 2,000 apartments and 3 million square feet of industrial and commercial property around the city, but its website celebrates the company’s “singular role in transforming the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO.” The focus on schools in the neighborhoods around the Brooklyn waterfront is a nod to its connection to that area.

“The Neighborhood School Grants program was founded on the belief that community plays a role in the success of its schools and that vibrant and successful schools are necessary for thriving neighborhoods,” said Jed Walentas, principal of Two Trees Management Company.

Photo courtesy of Lyons Community School Urban Workshop

Individual grants can range up to $25,000 each, so programs in multiple schools will be funded. Since the grants were launched in 2013, the Walentas Foundation has awarded $1.25 million in Brooklyn. Last year’s recipients include the LEGO Engineering and Robotics program at PS 34 in Greenpoint, NURTUREart at Bushwick’s PS 147, and the Lyons Community School Urban Workshop in Williamsburg.

Robotics instructor Shanti Crawford said the grant allowed PS 34 to fund the staff and materials for the program. “This would have been impossible with a typical school budget,” she explained. “The school community really cherishes this initiative because kids who ordinarily do not experience a lot of academic success have been able to shine.”

Photo courtesy of NURTUREart

“It’s assumed that art is part of every child’s education, but unfortunately that is far from true,” said Molly O’Brien, education director at NURTUREart. “The Neighborhood School Grant allows us to provide an immersive art education program for students, teachers, and families at PS 147.”

At the Lyons Community School, a $25,000 grant funded the building of gazebos in community gardens by students. The program was designed to allow students a chance to earn high school credits in a hands-on setting as well as improve their math skills by providing a context for their application.

Photo courtesy of NURTUREart

The foundation does not impose restrictions on the type of projects to be considered for funding but seeks “initiatives that draw on the creativity, vision and energy of the entire school community,” according to the request for proposals. They promise to “give preference to projects that demonstrate the involvement of a large and diverse team through all phases of project conception, development and implementation.”

“We are thrilled to support an incredible mix of programs—from exploring identities to arts therapy to coding—that otherwise would not be possible at these schools,” Walentas said.

Photo courtesy of NURTUREart

Applications should come from teachers or administrators at the school, but parents and community groups can be involved in crafting the proposals.

Details about the grants and applications are available online at the Two Trees website. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2017. Grant recipients will be notified in July and grant funds will be distributed in August for use during the 2017-2018 school year.

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