November 12th, 2013 Venture Philanthropy Fund Pitch Night

On November 12, 2013, OLC attended the, “2013 Venture Philanthropy Fund Pitch Night” hosted by the Venture Philanthropy Fund. The event’s presenting organizations were 596 Acres, Shore Soup Shop, and Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy’s Green Jobs for Youth.

The event was moderated by Heidi Klaimitz and Emily R. Kessler, Co-founders of the Venture Philanthropy Fund.

Heidi Klaimitz introduced the Venture Philanthropy Fund as an organization that combines the financial resources, skills, as well as business/social connections of its members to facilitate the growth and developments of groups that are using innovative approaches solve the problems of New York City.

After her introduction, the first presenter, Paula Z. Segel, Executive Director and Legal Director of 596 Acres presented her organization. 596 Acres aids the communities of New York City to clear the difficulties to community land access through the use of online tools. The tools created by 596 Acres coverts city data into information about particular pieces of land and connect people to one another through simple social networking functions. The purposes of this organization and its created tools are laid out in six points:

1.    Making municipal information available online and on the ground (e.g. by placing signs on vacant public land that explain a lot’s status and steps that the community can take to be able to use this land.)  

2.    Providing education about city government and ways to participate in decisions that shape neighborhoods

3.    Assisting communities with legal support and campaign-development on land use issues.

4.    Maintaining networks that allow communities to share knowledge and relationships with decision-makers.

5.    Working with groups after they get access to land to build sustainable community governance as they become stewards of a public and inclusive resource.

6.    Advocating for municipal agencies to increase participatory decision-making surrounding public resources.   

The second presenter was Robyn Hillman-Harrigan, Executive Director of the Rockaway Rescue Alliance: Shore Soup Project. The Rockaway Rescue Alliance: Shore Soup Project was formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Although, the project was initially established to start a community feeding program to provide hurricane relief, it has grown into something more. Currently, the Rockaway Rescue Alliance hosts community programs including legal clinics, health information workshops, free farmers markets, CSAs and community gardening projects.

The current project for the organization is establishing SHORE, a permanent relief restaurant. The goal of this restaurant is to establish a pay-when-you-can restaurant that helps increase access to healthy food in the Rockaways communities by forming initiatives to create a sustainable local food system. More information about this organization can be found at:

The third and final presenter was Paulina Mohamed, Program Director for Green Jobs for Youth. Green Jobs for Youth is a student program founded in 2012 by the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy to establish a 7 week paid internship for underprivileged high school students in NYC. The newly selected participants of the program attend college lectures given by Lehman College's Biology Department. And returning participants attend GIS Certificate trainings provided by NYC Parks staff where they complete fieldwork with horticulturists and forest restoration staff from Van Cortlandt Park while concurrently completing labs. The purpose of this program is mentor students based on the frameworks of a STEM educational model in order to instill and nurture applicable skills for the job market.

Green Jobs for Youth is currently in partnerships with the City of New York Department of Parks, CUNY Lehman College, Youth Development Institute, Career Internship Network, Friends of the Van Cortlandt Park, TD Bank, Prospect Park Alliance, New York Restoration Project, Central Park Conservancy, and Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.