Grants in Action 2020 - The New York Community Trust

Addressing Racial Disparity

From the Desk of Shawn Morehead, Trust Vice President for Grants

Headshot of Shawn Morehead

Photo by Ari Mintz

The coronavirus pandemic touched everyone, but communities of color were disproportionately devastated, experiencing higher rates of illness and death. Black and Latinx New Yorkers were more likely to be laid off or work in high-risk, front-line positions. And predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods not only have crowded, multi-generational housing that facilitates the virus’ spread, but also lack adequate internet connectivity, leaving residents struggling to connect to remote healthcare, work, and school. Although the coronavirus is new, these inequitable circumstances, and their results, are not.

Widespread demonstrations in New York and throughout the country following the killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans reminded us all that systemic racism is deeply entrenched throughout our society, and the solutions are as overdue as they are long-term.

At The Trust, we make grants to make our region a more equitable place, from creating new opportunities for artists of color to building intergenerational wealth and advocating to minimize police presence in public schools. Our grants are also helping build the leadership skills of young people, who not only led recent demonstrations, but will take us into a future where race does not predetermine outcomes.

While we are proud of the progress we have helped foster, we are keenly aware that there is much more to be done. In this “Grants in Action” section, you can read about some of the grants The Trust made with our Emergency Fund and income from our permanent funds in 2020. I hope you will get a sense of the breadth of our work and the many solutions we are supporting across issues ranging from healthcare and education to the region’s environment and community development.

This work would not be possible without generous donors past and present and our dedicated grantees who stepped forward in big, bold ways during a very difficult time. We are honored to help them make our region stronger and more equitable.

[Read the “Grants in Action” transcript]

Trust grants help build a fairer and more equitable justice system for New Yorkers. They also support an education system that works for all students, especially those with special needs and English-language learners.

Many Black families face legal challenges and other obstacles to passing their homes on to the next generation. Grow Brooklyn helps families protect these valuable assets by ensuring they have clear estate plans, avoid foreclosures, and are able to navigate the court system.

Grow Brooklyn helps families protect their valuable assets. [Read the Grow Brooklyn transcript]


Our city’s child welfare system should help families thrive. But reports of child mistreatment and neglect in New York State can have unintended consequences. Once a parent is marked in the system, they are ineligible for many types of employment, cutting them off from job opportunities and making it more difficult to provide for their children. With our grant, Manhattan Legal Services is advocating for a fairer system for tracking reports of child mistreatment, educating parents on their rights, and representing parents so they can clear their records and find meaningful work.

Nonprofits providing vital services, including childcare, social services, and food distribution, faced a spike in demand, budget cuts, and the need for remote and socially distanced work. Our grants helped them adapt to these changes quickly so they could help New Yorkers through the pandemic.
An India Home community ambassador distributes masks at a local Sikh house of worship.
An India Home community ambassador distributes masks at a local Sikh house of worship.

Community centers accustomed to providing services in person had to quickly pivot during the pandemic to deliver food to homes and connect to their constituents virtually. This was the case for India Home, a center serving older South Asians in Queens. A Trust grant helped it create a survey to assess clients’ needs and the issues that affect them daily. The group is using the findings to improve their services, such as addressing mental and physical health, delivering halal and vegetarian meals, and organizing yoga, meditation, and other activities virtually. Here, an India Home community ambassador distributes masks at a local Sikh house of worship.

Young students hold up signs thanking Cafeteria Heroes.
Students involved with Community Food Advocates thank their cafeteria workers.

School meals are a lifeline for thousands of New York public school students suffering from chronic food insecurity. During the pandemic, city kids have been stuck at home, away from friends, teachers, and the meals they relied on every day. With our support, Community Food Advocates is working with city agencies to get free school meals to the children and adults who rely on them. At left, student activists thank their cafeteria workers.

From housing and commerce to civic affairs and voting rights, The Trust works to make sure our city’s communities stay strong. Grants also support the nonprofit sector by improving fundraising, board governance, and management.
A couple dances in the night at an event.
New Yorkers take advantage of outdoor offerings during the pandemic.

Every New York City neighborhood should have equitable access to design resources that support its planning needs. With the Urban Design Forum, Van Alen Institute is using our grant to further the work of Neighborhoods Now, a pandemic response initiative that connects architects, designers, engineers, lawyers, and planners with community organizations leading local recovery efforts. To date, Neighborhoods Now has supported more than 100 small businesses and cultural organizations, including more than 20 restaurants that have participated in the city’s Open Restaurants program. The effort also is working to reactivate underused public spaces as sites for cultural programming.

A march against evictions organized by the Flatbush Tenant Coalition at Flatbush Development Corporation.  [Read the Flatbush Tenant Coalition transcript]


Many families living in rent-regulated buildings lost jobs during the pandemic and struggle to pay rent. With federal and state eviction protections about to expire, The Trust is funding Flatbush Tenant Coalition at Flatbush Development Corporation to build tenant power in Brooklyn neighborhoods with communities of African, Caribbean, and South Asian descent; expand housing and immigration rights events in these neighborhoods; and connect tenants with legal help, job information, and pandemic-related assistance.

Arts and cultural groups saw their venues close abruptly, faced unprecedented disruptions, and lost revenue. Trust grants let these organizations adapt to working virtually and outdoors, expand audiences online, and help artists.

Opportunities in the arts are crucial for young women of color because they offer a platform to project their voice and to respond to the sociopolitical issues that shape their lives. The viBe Theater Experience in Brooklyn is an important resource for these New Yorkers, providing space and support to write, direct, and perform original theater productions at no cost. A Trust grant is helping viBe develop new leadership and continue to provide a transformational experience for young women of color. At right, a participant recites poetry at a socially distanced performance.

A split screen of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, with another side in an old version, what it looked like before and what it looks like currently.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights has witnessed more than two centuries of the city’s history.

One of the oldest buildings in the city, the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights is a National Historic Landmark that has witnessed more than two centuries of the city’s history, serving as both George Washington’s war headquarters and a location in which Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote parts of Hamilton. The Mansion is using a Trust grant to reinterpret its history to include the stories of enslaved residents, indentured servants, and working-class people, and create a more accessible museum-going experience. The historic home also will produce English-Spanish bilingual descriptions, resources, and programs designed to engage its surrounding community. See the video about Morris-Jumel Mansion [Read the Morris-Jumel Mansion transcript]

Leading a rich and meaningful life comes from being able to be independent, employed, and engaged in community and motivating activities. Trust grants work to provide these opportunities and more.

People with disabilities have fewer educational and employment opportunities than the general population, and government programs often fail to provide the support students with physical and learning disabilities need to transition from school to a meaningful job. With Trust funding, Bridges from School to Work is providing job counseling, placement, and continuing support to high school students facing this transition. At right, a mentor and mentee discuss job opportunities.

A lady sits by a window looking outside.
Our grant is helping make group homes safer for residents.

People with developmental and intellectual disabilities, who often live in group homes and have chronic health conditions, are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and other contagious diseases. With our support, the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation is creating and testing disaster planning resources for groups that serve people with disabilities, so organizations can respond more effectively to the next crisis, and protect the lives of their residents.

We cannot take our air, water, and other natural resources for granted. We all depend on the health of the environment, and The Trust is facilitating our collective duty to protect it.
Man riding his bike in the park.
Our grant is helping ensure parks are clean and well maintained.

As the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread closures, many New Yorkers found solace in the city’s open green spaces, with parks becoming one of the few places for fresh air and recreation for millions. But more visitors and budget cuts meant more wear and tear and fewer resources to address it. From Willowbrook Park in Staten Island to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the City Parks Foundation is using our grant to make sure parks are clean and well maintained by promoting nonprofit and volunteer stewardship throughout the five boroughs.

A pile of trash on the sidewalk.
A Trust grant is helping address how we dispose of recyclables.

Over the past few years, shipping U.S. waste overseas to be recycled ceased to be a viable option. This made it cost-prohibitive for many towns and cities across the nation to recycle. To reinvent how we deal with recyclables, the Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Performance (SWEEP) Standard for Sustainable Materials Management is using a Trust grant to create performance standards and a tracking system that will help local municipalities reduce waste and costs.

Our healthcare system has been tested by COVID-19 and disparities in care have been amplified. The Trust works to improve health systems and make sure quality care is accessible to everyone who needs it.
A veteran profile.
Our Long Island Community Foundation division is helping address the mental health of veterans.

Whether in nursing homes or living alone, many senior citizens not only have faced the highest risks from COVID-19, but their mental well-being has suffered due to extreme isolation. Our Long Island Community Foundation division made a grant to the Association for Mental Health & Wellness to monitor the health of older veterans, and to help them transition from independent living to assisted living and make other end-of-life plans.


Drug overdoses among opioid users are up in New York City, and a Trust grant to Housing Works was aimed at reversing the trend. The group is taking advantage of improvements in federal policy to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment, where prescribed drugs and counseling are tailored for an individual’s needs. To ensure this treatment continues, Housing Works is developing a system to make this a viable option that can be financed under Medicaid. At left, a Housing Works staff member tends to a client.

The pandemic crippled the city’s service economy, thrusting many into unemployment. Trust grants are helping to retrain some of these workers for in-demand jobs and connecting young people with the skills they need for well-paying careers.
Emergency medical technicians and paramedics training.
We're helping expand a training program for emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

New York’s healthcare system was pushed to the limit by COVID-19, putting a spotlight on the need for front-line health workers. With a 2018 Trust grant, LaGuardia Community College began a program to train emergency medical technicians and work with community groups to recruit students and award scholarships to low-income Queens residents. With a subsequent 2020 grant, LaGuardia is expanding the program to meet the demand for emergency medical technicians and paramedics brought on by the pandemic, shown at right.

Girls in a classroom participating in a pre-pandemic course on programming and flying drones.
Girls participate in a pre-pandemic course on programming and flying drones.

To ensure women achieve equity in the workplace and beyond, the next generation needs mentoring to help them find their voices as leaders. With a grant from our Westchester Community Foundation division, G.O.O.D. for Girls provides quality, long-term, one-to-one, and group mentoring, predominantly to Black and Latina girls, ages 9 to 18, at a pivotal time of life when they can take important steps toward adulthood and independence. The young women also take part in financial literacy, leadership, college, and career exploration activities. At left, girls participate in a pre-pandemic course on programming and flying drones.