Community Wins National Award

Community Wins National Award BROOKLYN, NY - The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP) and the New York City Police Department's 88th Precinct will be honored on Thursday, November 12th, by MetLife Foundation for their accomplishments in creating a safe environment and spurring economic development and job creation on the Myrtle Avenue commercial corridor in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award ceremony will take place at 5:00 p.m. at 330 Myrtle Avenue between Washington Park and Carlton, as part of a soft opening celebration for Sans Souci, a brand new restaurant by Brooklyn's top Caribbean chef Basil Jones.

The Award, sponsored by MetLife Foundation and administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), recognizes partnerships between community development groups and police departments that have reduced crime and spurred housing development, economic activity and improved community services in low and moderate-income communities. April Hawkins, director of civic affairs of MetLife Foundation, will present a $25,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Award to the Brooklyn partners, who were selected from more than 650 applicants nationwide.

"Community groups and police departments share a common goal: creating safe, livable communities," said Dennis White, president & CEO of MetLife Foundation. "MARP and the New York City Police Department's 88th Precinct provide an exemplary model of partnership, and we are pleased to join LISC in recognizing their achievements and sharing their best practices with others across the country."

MARP and the NYPD's 88th precinct have worked with a number of local partners over the years to spur Myrtle Avenue's resurgence, including Pratt Institute, St. Joseph's College, JPMorgan Chase, Community Board 2, and a number of local elected officials, including Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and City Council Member Letitia James.

"It is a real honor for MARP to be recognized by a national award for the work that we have done locally on Myrtle Avenue over the last 10 years," said Michael Blaise Backer, MARP's Executive Director. "We are fortunate to have had such able and willing partners as Captain Tasso at the 88th precinct, and his team of community affairs and crime prevention officers."

Once tagged "Murder Avenue" by the broader Brooklyn community, Myrtle Avenue struggled with a negative image stemming from high crime and perceptions that it was unsafe due to building vacancies and poorly maintained public space. Simple yet effective strategies were used by MARP and the NYPD to turn the tides. MARP began by facilitating communication between merchants and the 88th precinct and by removing all graffiti from the commercial corridor. From there, the partners worked to increase police visibility on Myrtle Avenue, helping to reduce crime and make the retail district a more welcoming place to visit. Other ongoing efforts include storefront and streetscape improvements, recruiting new entrepreneurs to fill retail vacancies and attract foot traffic, hosting special events, and coordinating a system for Myrtle Avenue merchants to communicate quickly and frequently to facilitate crime prevention. The commercial corridor now thrives as reductions in crime and vacancies continue to attract new businesses and private investment to the area.

MARP is a not-for-profit local development corporation incorporated in January 1999 with the mission to restore the "Main Street" of the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill community to a bustling, economically vital neighborhood commercial corridor that provides entrepreneurial, cultural, recreational, and employment opportunities for all those who live, work, study or have an interest in the area. To revitalize Myrtle Avenue, MARP provides programs in commercial revitalization, business attraction & retention, facade improvement, historic preservation, cultural tourism initiatives, technical assistance, environmental stewardship, and urban planning and advocacy for the neighborhood and its small businesses. In addition, MARP manages Myrtle Avenue's Business Improvement District (BID), which provides supplementary sanitation, graffiti removal, beautification, and marketing services.

LISC is the nation's leading community development support organization, dedicated to helping resident-focused, community-based development organizations transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities - good places to work, do business and raise children. Since 1980, LISC New York City has served as a critical link between non-profit community developers and the public and for-profit sectors, providing more than $160 million in loans and grants and over $1.7 billion in equity to more than 75 community development corporations. With LISC support, these groups have developed close to 30,000 affordable homes and apartments and more than 2 million square feet of commercial space. As a national program, LISC's Community Safety Initiative supports strategic alliances between police and community developers to reduce crime, disorder and fear in troubled neighborhoods; it has administered the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Awards since 2002.

MetLife Foundation, established by MetLife in 1976, is a long-time supporter of LISC's community revitalization programs. In 1994, the Foundation made a $1 million leadership grant to pilot the Community Safety Initiative. MetLife and the Foundation have also made below-market rate loans and grants of more than $77 million to the organization.
Source: Local Initiatives Support Corporation

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