Community engagement and environmental stewardship organization
The Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (formerly Rockaway Waterfront Alliance RWA) influenced my life is so many ways that I could never have imagined. I joined the organization in high-school, and for the first time was introduced to fields such as urban planning and design. I also went through a fun, engaging, and fruitful Youth Leadership Program where I was able to make some positive changes in the Rockaway community. Since then, the organization has grown so much. I was lucky enough to grow with them as a staff member once I was in college! Today, RISE reaches SO many of the elementary, middle, and high school students on the peninsula. Students have the opportunity to be involved in so many different classes, programs, and projects where they learn about their own neighborhoods and how to advocates for their communities. They also get the chance to do really fun recreational activities like kayaking and surfing that they otherwise would never get the chance to do. Beyond youth programming, RISE engages ALL of the Rockaway community in planning, design, and outreach work. They took initiative during Hurricane Sandy, provide food to low-income families through a Farm Share, have created resources for mental health services as well as arts initiatives across the peninsula, and host a slew of fun activities that change the community in positive ways (from tree plantings, to an annual Earth Day event, and even a bike parade!). This organization has become a beacon for the community and has helped changed thousands of Rockaway residents’ lives for the better.
RISE is housed in an old abandoned NYC firehouse. Among people familiar with the organization, many still say "I’m going to the Firehouse!" The building was updated in a sustainable way that still kept some of the features of the firehouse intact. "RISE" is splashed across one side of the building while the other retains its brick cladding, and the front features an innovating garage like glass door that rises up during events. The inside retains some original walling and the original concrete floor, but also features a lovely wooden mezzanine space and energy efficient lighting and water systems. The building is a marvelous display of sustainable preservation that offers a large event space but also a homey feeling. RISE also owns and operates the Hip-Hop Community Garden on their site. This garden is really a small public park that features native plants, picnic tables for families, and a large grass area for kids to play in.
I miss heading to the firehouse to see my RISE family and take part in some of the events they have going on. RISE has been working diligently [through the coronavirus shelter-in-place order] to keep in touch with their students and community members online, but that can’t replace the community feeling that everyone has when they’re in the space or the garden. When I can visit again, I am really looking forward to taking part in a planting event or a planning session for some of the new projects they have going on as well as meeting some new community members.
(added April 2020)