PACC Gardening Event

Emily at PACC emailed me a little roundup of their Earth Day planting event with some photos:

Pratt Area Community Council celebrated Earth Day with its second annual gardening event on Saturday, April 17th. Last year tenants, PACC staff and volunteers spruced up Gibb Mansion's gardens for Earth Day. This year, on a cloudy morning, more than 25 volunteers joined tenants and staff at 15 Quincy Street to get their hands dirty "greening" one of PACC's affordable rental buildings. The team turned over garden beds in front and in back of the building, then planted flowers and trees including arborvitae, coreopsis, petunias, marigolds, flowering plum and cherry trees. Walk by the building on Quincy or Lexington to see what a difference a few hours of gardening makes!

Coffee for Fulton; Fashion for Myrtle

The Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) is working with FAB, Myrtle Ave BK Partnership and PACC to bring new businesses to Fulton and Myrtle.  They have asked that as many neighbors as possible take the following surveys to help better assess the needs and shopping habits of neighborhood residents.  Here's a chance to weigh in on new local services- jump on it! Dear Friends,

BEDC (Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation) along with Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, FAB (Fulton Area Business) Alliance, and PACC (Pratt Area Community Council) have partnered up to attract several new businesses to your area.

But we cannot do so alone - WE NEED YOUR HELP!

This week we have launched a survey of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill residents about their coffee drinking and clothes buying habits. We are committed to finding business that will complement the existing retail character and provide a much-needed amenity for the neighborhood.

It would be EXTREMELY helpful if you took 2 minutes to fill out the following surveys:

Coffee For Fulton:

Fashion for Myrtle:

Want to Open a Local Business? View Local Available Storefronts!

Are you looking to open a business locally?  Join Pratt Area Community Council this weekend as they give tours of vacant storefront space: presented by Pratt Area Community Council, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, in partnership with FAB Alliance BID, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, NYC Business Solutions, and NYC Small Business Services

Welcome Reception and Breakfast Saturday, March 20, 2010 Bed-Stuy Restoration 1368 Fulton Street, Between New York and Brooklyn

10:30am Breakfast Reception | 11-12pm info session 12-4pm self OR guided tour provided by Molly the Trolley

Maps and Property Info Pick up the list of vacancies at two starting points:

*Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Area* for info on vacancies between Flatbush and Bedford, pick up listings at PACC's Fulton Street Office: 896 FULTON STREET (between Washington and Waverly Avenues) CONTACT: DALE CHARLES 347-823-5700 EXT. 16

*Bedford-Stuyvesant Area* for info on vacancies between Bedford and Troy, pick up listings at Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza: 1368 FULTON STREET (between New York and Brooklyn Avenues) CONTACT: BERNADETTE MITCHELL 718-636-6989

Reading at Greenlight Bookstore by Gabriel Thompson: TONIGHT

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 7:30pm - 9:00pm Greenlight Bookstore 686 Fulton Street (@ the corner of South Portland) Join Young Friends of PACC for the Working in the Shadows Book Reading!

What is it like doing the back-breaking work of low-wage immigrants? To find out, Gabriel Thompson spent the year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. He dodged taxis as a bicycle delivery “boy” for an upscale Manhattan restaurant and was fired from a flower shop in Chelsea. Combining personal narrative with investigative reporting, Working in the Shadows shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement—while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.

Not so long before he went undercover as part of the low-wage immigrant workforce, Brooklyn-based author Gabriel Thompson was the director of community organizing at PACC. The Young Friends of PACC are thrilled to host this book reading at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.

Arrive early, light refreshments and wine will be served.

Young Friends of PACC is dedicated to engaging community members in their 20s and 30s in activities supporting affordable housing, tenant rights, community and economic development in Central Brooklyn.

For more info on this event, please call 718-522-2613 x 14.

Help PACC Win $25,000

Pratt Area Community Council, working in the neighborhood for 45 years, needs our help in voting for them in the Chase Community Giving Challenge! Chase Community Giving is awarding $25,000 to the 100 nonprofits receiving the most votes from their supporters on Facebook. And, if PACC is in the top 100 when voting closes on December 11th, they will then compete for a $1 million award. Help PACC make the top 100! Take these three simple steps at Chase Community Giving:

1. Sign-up 2. Vote for PACC by TOMORROW, Dec. 11th 3. Share with your friends! Yep, It's that simple!

Want to see what PACC has been up to this year?  Check out the PACC 2009 Documentary on YouTube!

The PACC 2009 movie gives you a rundown of what we've done in the past two years. Click here to view it on PACC11205, our Community, Diversity, Development  YouTube Channel.

CHB Interviews: Deb Howard

Recently I met with Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) Executive Director Deb Howard in her office on Dekalb Avenue. deb1

Hi Deb.  Do you live in the neighborhood?  How long have you lived here? She said she lives on Adelphi Street and has lived in the neighborhood since 1974.

Where were you educated?  Please describe your career path.  How did you get involved in housing advocacy work? Deb has a B.A. in Urban Studies from Knox College.  During her senior year she participated in an urban studies project in Chicago.  After that she became a VISTA volunteer for two years at “The Voice of the People,” where she got involved in tenant organizing and helped manage apartment buildings.  But she says that it was primarily music that brought her to New York City.  In 1974 she and a bunch of friends rented a triplex apartment on Clermont for $300 a month and started auditioning for different rock operas.  Two of them got into “Hair.” In the mid-1970s Deb ended up traveling all around the country performing in both “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” After her daughter was born in 1984, Deb became a stay-at-home mom.  She remembers coming across a job ad for a housing advocate in the window of PACC’s office on Dekalb Avenue and thinking this was something she could clearly do.  On January 2, 1990, she started working at PACC.  At the time, the organization only had three employees and a bookkeeper.  Now the community development corporation (CDC) boasts almost 60 employees and four offices.

What other community-based groups are you involved with?  I know that you sing with the wonderful Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble which is based at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Could you talk a bit about the latter and what it means to you? Deb was a founding member of the Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble 14 years ago.  Unfortunately her busy schedule often conflicts with the group’s concert and rehearsal schedule, so she no longer sings with them regularly.  As a member of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, she sings in the main choir every Sunday. She’s had a passion for singing since at least the age of 5. At the church she’s the chair of the capital campaign and has overseen the roof and church tower renovation as well as the restoration of seven stained-glass windows.  In addition to being active at the church, Deb serves on two boards:  South Brooklyn Legal Services and as treasurer of the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers.  She also mentioned that she was the president of Friends of the Clinton Hill Library for 17 years organizing their fundraising events but had to give it up when she became the executive director of PACC.  She regrets that the organization was not as active after her departure and hopes that it’ll somehow be revived, perhaps by a local young mother who can find time for the commitment.

What are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood? Deb loves the Irondale Theater Center, which found a great space as its home in Ft. Greene.  She also spoke enthusiastically about Jamel Gaines’ Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn which has Saturday classes at The Ronald Edmonds Learning Center MS113 on Adelphi.  As for local restaurants, she said she frequents Chez Oscar and the Black Iris, especially because she often works late, and they’re convenient to the office.  Deb also mentioned Yu Interiors as a great place for Christmas gifts.  In general, Deb loves architecture and looking at historic buildings.  A couple of the buildings she’s been obsessed with are 418-422 Classon Avenue between Quincy and Gates, one of PACC’s recently completed projects, and the old Brooklyn Fire Dept. Headquarters on Jay Street.


The Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) is celebrating its 45th anniversary and will hold a big party on October 21st at the Irondale Center.  I asked Deb to talk about some of their current projects and to tell me about some of the work they do that CHB readers may not be aware of. Deb highlighted four major areas in which PACC is active and stressed that one of its key functions is to link individuals to other groups and to engage in coalition building.

* Advocacy issues: PACC focuses on issues that affect the community such as affordable housing and economic justice and works in partnership with other organizations to effect legislative change in Albany. * Issue of predatory equity: This refers to private equity funds and developers who purchased rent-stabilized buildings at untenable prices during the recent real estate boom. Many of these buildings are now in jeopardy and tenants in danger of possible foreclosure. For example, PACC worked hard to get the Anti-Harassment Act passed in City Council in May 2008 and this spring in Albany to strengthen vacancy de-control laws which were weakened in 2004.  This piece of legislation protects older tenants from landlords who try to harass them out of their rent-stabilized apartments so that they can raise the rent above $2,000.  As an example, she names Dermot Realty, which bought up 25 buildings in Downtown Brooklyn and has been notorious in harassing older tenants.  PACC is instrumental in helping tenants to organize against such tactics by aggressive developers. * Home foreclosure: They have three counselors on staff to help people struggling with possible home loss. PACC helps people stay in their homes. She notes how Central Brooklyn (thru Jamaica, Queens) was targeted by subprime lenders. Due to Obama’s housing legislation, more loan modifications are now possible.  Last year, they saved 146 homes, and they hope to save 190 this year.  Her organization is very active in the state-wide coalition “New Yorkers for Responsible Lending,” which promotes community economic justice and works to eliminate discriminatory economic practices.  PACC also offers practical homebuyer workshops on an ongoing basis.  The cost for attending all five workshops is $50, at the end of which you receive a certificate enabling you to get access to affordable mortgages and free counseling. * Commercial revitalization/economic development: The goal being “targeted attention” to the revitalization of commercial corridors. They recently received a $200,000 grant from the Main Street program for façade improvements on Fulton Street between Grand and Bedford Avenues. Another achievement she mentioned is PACC’s initiative and persistence  in encouraging Capital One Bank to open a new branch on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Fulton Street. Before it opened a few weeks ago there were no banks in a 23-block stretch of the street.  Capital One has a strong small-business lending policy.  She also pointed to the Fulton Street Business Improvement District (BID), which PACC was instrumental in helping get signed into law last December.  Fulton Street business owners’ monthly assessments of $80 per 20 ft of storefront will begin in October, and the BID board expects to launch their program in September.

At their June 24th Annual Meeting, which was held at Gibb Mansion on Gates Avenue, they elected three new members to their Board of Directors: Tom Eastman, Lincoln Restler, and Jabir Suluki.  The election of the new Board was followed by a lively discussion by Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), and Keith Getter, management consultant at Neighborworks America, about the role nonprofits have today in preserving affordable housing.  Though both acknowledged that these are tough times, the consensus seemed to be that PACC is in better shape than most nonprofits because it is fiscally sound. Additionally, PACC believes in and has built partnerships and coalitions which play a role in navigating successfully through stressful economic times.

Would you like to comment on the current status of the Fulton Street BID? Deb believes that the BID will be beneficial to merchants and is convinced that there’s a real benefit for it to be associated with a community development corporation. One of the chief aims of the BID is to provide targeted marketing for businesses, something which has been proven to bring new business to commercial corridors.  In the case of the Fulton Street BID, particular emphasis will be placed on sanitation, security, and marketing.  Among the items slated for the program’s launch this fall are a new website, a holiday marketing campaign, better street cleaning, security personnel and holiday lighting.  Deb said the BID will enable them to attract capital dollars for the street so that it can be spruced up even more. In fact, Councilwoman Letitia James has just awarded the BID a $400,000 grant for new benches, banners, flower pots and garbage cans on 23 blocks of Fulton Street.

Which new projects are you particularly excited about? One of PACC’s key roles in the community is as an asset and property manager to maintain the affordable housing it has developed. PACC acquires and develops properties coordinating construction and long-term financing and applying for various types of subsidies to make them affordable.  Typically this requires a commitment of 30 years or more. The organization currently manages 57 buildings comprising a total of 550 residential and commercial units, but this year they’ll add about 300 new units.  They anticipate launching a  property management business in February 2010 as a new income stream that will help ensure organizational sustainability.  Their new office at 900 Fulton Street was opened explicitly for this purpose.

Finally, I asked how people in the neighborhood can support her organization and get more involved in the important work it’s doing. Deb said that they can become a member of PACC and start attending their quarterly breakfasts to gather info and see how to become involved in community housing work.  One way would be to start by joining the PACC Leadership Group or Young Friends of PACC, the housing or economic development committees which advise the PACC Board.  And of course people can always make donations.  For more information, please visit their website at You can also follow them on Facebook.

Volunteering at Gibb Mansion

On Saturday, I joined a crowd of volunteers to help landscape the Gibb Mansion.  The event, held in celebration of Earth Day, was coordinated by a new volunteer group called Young Friends of PACC.  Comprised of neighbors in their 20s and 30s, the group is dedicated to engaging younger community members around issues such as affordable housing and economic development. I've written about the mansion before, but PACC Executive Director Deb Howard provided some in-depth background before we started (and while we enjoyed pastries from Michael Allen Desserts - thanks, guys!).


The mansion was built in 1852 as a mansion for John Gibb, a lace manufacturer.  Over the years, it served as a fancy hotel, an orphanage and later as a short stay hotel before falling into serious blight.  In 1998, the building was sold at a bankruptcy auction and purchased by a welfare hotel.  The block association was unhappy with the thought of a welfare hotel on their street, and PACC negotiated a purchase.  Soon after, the building's facade collapsed.

The renovation was completed in 2003.

gibb mansion, bed-stuy

Today, the mansion houses low-income individuals, people with chronic diseases, and the formerly homeless.  Each resident lives in a small studio apartment, and the building is equipped with a library and a gym.  The mansion staff includes social workers, an art therapist and even an acupuncturist.


Our task was landscaping the front and side of the building, as well as building a raised bed to be used a vegetable garden for the mansion's residents.



News Channel 12 came out to cover the event. Here's PACC's Michelle Etwaroo giving an interview: DSC_0074.JPG

Gorgeous weather and great people. Not to mention a chance to get my hands dirty. DSC_0073.jpg

Earth Day with PACC

earthday Another celebration of Earth Day this coming weekend:

Pratt Area Community Council is planning a great Earth Day event, scheduled for April 18!  Get your hands dirty and help plant a garden.  Plus, if it means a chance to take a peek inside the amazing Gibb Mansion, it'll be worth it!

PACC will also be offering coffee and breakfast from the popular Desserts by Michael Allen (which seems to be bumping every time I walk past).


Calling All Community Organizers!

PACC is sponsoring an interesting event just south of us next week, focusing on the role a community can play in democracy and action.  A very interesting topic for our time in history.

Pratt Area Community Council

hosts Gabriel Thompson, Author of Calling All Radicals:

How Grassroots Organizers Can Save Our Democracy.

The event will take place on Oct. 6th at 6 p.m. at the

Restaurant Flatbush Farm on 74th St. Marks Ave., in Brooklyn

The Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), one of the most active not-for-profits in Brooklyn, which prioritizes low and medium income housing issues, is hosting a book reading by author and former PACC community organizer, Gabriel Thompson. Mr. Thompson was the Director of Organizing at PACC from 2002 to 2004. Mr. Thompson will be reading excerpts from his book Calling All Radicals and signing copies afterwards.

Calling All Radicals is a marvelous book, which is both instructive and inspiring. If taken to heart by the coming generation, it could have a profound effect on the history of this country.” - Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.

"Vivid and engaging, full of concrete stories about what it means to build democracy from the ground up." - Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen and The Impossible Will Take a Little While

About PACC (

PACC is known for Housing Development and Property Management. Our Home Services program encourages homeownership through a wide range of products and services. PACC offers workshops, access to lenders, mortgage and down-payment grant packages, foreclosure prevention counseling, outreach and education about predatory lenders, financial education workshops and counseling for debt management and savings plans. PACC also mobilizes residents and develop community leaders to confront broader concerns like the lack of affordable housing, gentrification, and displacement. PACC is the central hub that links low income tenants in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Northwest Bedford Stuyvesant with community organizing skills, leadership development, and direct services. We organize and provide ongoing support to more than 30 tenant associations every year. PACC’s staff responded to more than 700 tenant inquiries just last year. Nearly 200 of those inquiries were evictions related to the displacement pressures that low-income tenants are experiencing throughout our neighborhoods. PACC takes a long-term approach to resolving tenant and community problems. Over the past year, PACC worked in 59 neighborhood buildings and with 625 tenants to form tenant associations and block associations and to build new community gardens.

About the Book:

Forty-seven million Americans without healthcare. Soaring economic inequality. Environmental racism. Slumlords and sweatshop owners. Every year, students leave high school and college eager to tackle the crises facing the United States. But how, exactly, does one go about building social justice movements and strengthening our democracy?

Calling All Radicals argues that we can reclaim our democracy in the old fashioned way through grassroots organizing. Beyond campaign sound bites and the occasional election, democracy is about focusing on the development of leaders, taking collective action, and building power among groups usually ignored and abused. In essence, organizers are democracy "scouts" who recruit formerly inactive, sometimes cynical people to play their part in our unfolding democratic experiment.

Using the organizing activities of the author as a backdrop, Calling All Radicals examines the practice, philosophy and history or organizing, with interviews from veteran activists and chronicles of successful campaigns like a group of inner-city teens who help push through a groundbreaking anti-lead poisoning law and immigrants who force hospitals to provide life-saving translation services.

With inspiring stories, resources to connect readers with employment and training opportunities, and real-world advice, Calling All Radicals is the perfect book for anyone interested in stepping into the world of organizing and activism. For more information, and to read an excerpt of the book, go to

The event is free and light refreshments will be served. Please call 718-522-2613 ext. 28 to RSVP or send an email letter to

TONIGHT: PACC Mixer at Moe's

The PACC folks are nice, and they're having a little network-and-mingle event at Moe's this eveing:

What's Good? Thursdays is Moe's Happy Hour, so that means: $1 off all well drinks $5 frozen mojitos 2 for 1 on all draft beer...not including Guinness

Later on (around 8pm) an eclectic soul dj (DJ Dayo) will be spinning some lounge music, and there will be a selection of movies.


We're Mixing it up at Moe's

80 Lafayette Ave (at the corner of So.Portland/Near Fulton Street) Brooklyn, NY 11217

(near Atlantic Terminal and the C train, and B25,26,52,38 and 41)


Thursday 6:30PM until we leave!

Gibb Mansion

One of my favorite aspects of our neighborhood is the ability to constantly discover something new. For the last several months, I've been dating a Bed-Stuy resident, which has given me an occasional reason to walk or drive east down Gates Ave. I've often been stopped in my tracks by this insanely awesome standalone mansion that sits on its own pristine lot. I never have a camera with me, and I always forget to come back with one.


Yesterday, I received an email from the PACC about a photography show being held there. Finally! Some answers! I did some research.

Seems the PACC took over the house and created a living space for critically ill neighborhood residents who are working towards independent living. PACC has done an amazing job at restoring old homes in the area, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I found a photo of the mansion before renovation:


I know it's small, but it's all I could find!

Anyway, here is the press release for the photography event, which will be held tomorrow night!

When: Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6pm

Where: The Velmanette Montgomery Library at Gibb Mansion located at 218 Gates Avenue (near Classon Avenue) in Brooklyn.

What: Pratt Area Community Council and Gibb Mansion Social Services cordially invite you to join us for our very first Visual Journey of the Past, Present and Future, a showcase of images taken by Gibb Mansion Residents and Staff.

Hosted by Social Service Interns, Angie Dang and Carli Ovadek, the philosophy behind this "Visual Journey" is to explore the importance of society and environment and its impact on the residents of the Gibb Mansion community. Gibb Mansion will, for one night, become an art gallery, displaying 30 or so pieces that were taken with a photojournalistic approach. The show will present images representing the past, present, and future of its participants. Deb Howard, the Executive Director of PACC says, “The Visual Journey experience is a culmination of all the hard work and dedication of its participants.”

Gibb Mansion, PACC’s social service residential building in Bed-Stuy, is home to some 71 Individuals that are single, low-income adults, or that may be chronically ill but are working toward the goal of independent living. Equipped with a camera and a journal, the groups met weekly at Gibb to share techniques and images, and on some occasions engage in group sessions with a professional photographer.

The members of Visual Journey use photography to express personal life experiences and future goals. Group members had the opportunity to take pictures together or on their own. As a group they traveled to other neighborhoods and places of interest; i.e. Central Park to capture the beauty of winter or taking in the architectural grandeur of Rockefeller Center.

Angie Dang says, “This showcase represents weeks of hard work, soul searching and talent from residents and staff. The purpose for taking each of these photos were then shared and discussed with peers at our weekly meetings. This gave participants the opportunity to see images and perspectives through a different lens, in addition to sharing individual stories through their own photographs.”

Carli Ovadek continues, “Angie and I want to use this night to recognize the hard work of the Gibb Mansion residents, and give members the chance to present these pieces to the community and important people with their lives.”

The Visual Journey group members would greatly appreciate the support and attendance of PACC staff for this unveiling. Those attending will enjoy an evening of unique photography and the stories behind the pictures.