5 Organizations Working To Improve Communities In New York

New York State is home to a diverse population, with many communities, and within those communities, a range of needs that allow those neighborhoods to thrive. This list, presented in no particular order, shares several organizations working to better the living conditions for residents of the Empire State.

Kicking off our list at #1 is the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation. Based in the Bronx, it is founded on the idea that all people deserve healthy, vibrant communities. The nonprofit builds sustainable, affordable housing, such as Intervale Green, an Energy Star-certified multifamily high-rise building.

In addition to housing, WHEDco supports the community through education and youth development. Its Head Start program serves pre-school children, addressing school readiness goals in language, literacy, social-emotional development, and more.

Next up, at #2, we have NYC Smoke-Free, a program of Public Health Solutions. It works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. The initiative partners with community members, legislators, and wellness advocates to support local efforts to end the Big Apple's tobacco epidemic.

Reality Check, its youth action component, is a student-led, statewide program for young adults between the ages of 13 and 18 that addresses tobacco control initiatives. Students who join can participate in and lead activities and events to help expose the tobacco industry and reduce the number of teens that start smoking.

Taking the #3 spot is Sustainable Hudson Valley. Based in Rhinebeck, New York, its mission is to speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy with high quality of life for all. It helps communities implement climate action plans with public participation, including 100% renewable energy strategies.

“If we are going to have a chance of containing climate catastrophe, we need to shift quickly off fossil fuels. Electricity is far more efficient than combustion for heating, cooling and transportation. But what we need is a massive shift by a large majority of people.”
- Melissa Everett, Ph.D., Executive Director of Sustainable Hudson Valley

With support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Sustainable Hudson Valley runs a Drive Electric initiative to boost the sale and use of fossil fuel-free vehicles. It offers consumer education, special discounts on cars, and dealership training.

The #4 entry is the Horticultural Society of New York. Its mission is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants. NY Digs, operated out of Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park and other locations throughout the city, connects New Yorkers to plant-based nutrition and wellness education. It offers free and affordable gardening courses, special events, hands-on workshops, and more.

With assistance from the Department of Corrections, the Hort transformed a two-acre plot on Rikers Island into the nation’s first prison horticultural therapy program. Supervised by trained therapists, incarcerated individuals tend and cultivate the garden and greenhouse year-round and participate in a unique curriculum that helps them relate to their lives, emphasizes critical thinking, and encourages teamwork and collaboration.

Rounding out our list at #5 is the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote and protect affordable homeownership for New Yorkers. Public and private partners established the group as a local response to the national mortgage crisis.

The organization runs a special platform to educate homeowners who are at risk of devastating floods on how they can protect their houses. In addition, the Center assists with loans and grants for residence repairs and retrofits, such as upgraded roofs and heating systems.