Get involved! $20,000 Red Hook youth-led resiliency art project


Red Hook Youth, you can make our community more resilient! 

Check back for next meeting date!  The kick-off meeting occurred Wed, 2/8/17, 6:00-7:30pm at the Red Hook Library. More meetings coming! 

Here are updates on this project since the release of this blogpost:

Here are some photos that show how youth input can shape a public art project, thanks to Dan Wiley, Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.  Youth drawings inspired the designs on the carousel, and another example shows “how high the water was.”

The de Blasio Administration and Council Member Carlos Menchaca have unveiled a $20,000 art project, to be guided by the creativity of Red Hook youth and serve to educate the city on the effects of climate change and sea level rise.  Download the flyer here

Here is info we got from the Mayor's Office and Red Hook's NY Rising committee that works to make Red Hook more resilient.

There are typically 3-4 meetings total, including the one next week that will be a kickoff to introduce the idea and the process to the community. 
•    The 2nd meeting will be in a few weeks to discuss potential artists, and there will be a vote at that meeting to select 5 artists to submit proposals
•    The 5 artists present their proposals at a 3rd meeting
•    At the final (4th) meeting, the artist and project are chosen

In emails with PortSide, Rachel Finkelstein ( Policy Advisor at New York City Mayor's Office - Climate Policy and Programs, sent an email with the description below, noting that feedback at the kickoff meeting is intended to shape how things go forward.

Excerpts from email:


The process is being facilitated by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program (, who has done hundreds of these projects, though this is the first one focused on climate change. Their past projects are catalogued here: We’re basing the structure of the process and our timeline on their experience, and the timeline to create proposals typically lasts from 6 weeks - 3 months, putting us sometime in the spring to finish up the 4 meetings.


I think our intention is to solicit proposals from artists that involve youth in the design and creation process in some way. There are examples of past Percent for Art projects that have done this in different forms, one is The Totally Kid Carousel in Riverbank State Park that based its carousel animals on children’s drawings, (photos and short descriptions here and here) and another interesting one is the Sound Playground in the Bronx, (photo and description here). I think we’re very open to how artists interpret how to involve youth in this process, but there would be a lead artist or group of artists who would be facilitating that involvement.


After the kickoff meeting, the Department of Cultural Affairs will convene an advisory committee that is made up of arts professionals, community reps, and city agency reps that suggest artists to consider and bring examples of work to the second meeting. The whole room votes on the pool of artists and the committee votes too to select the 5, and the voting committee selects the final artist after the 5 submit proposals. There is also an FAQ Page on the Percent for Art site that covers this process: This is not an official Percent for Art Project (it’s not funded through a City capital construction project, we have a grant) so some of the questions won’t be relevant to our project, but the questions about how artists are selected and how community involvement works are helpful.

(end of email)

Official Press Release

The plan is described in a October 29, 2016 Press release:

On the 4th Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the de Blasio Administration and Council Member Carlos Menchaca announced a partnership to work with Brooklyn’s Red Hook community on a new public art project. The artwork will educate and inspire residents about the challenges and opportunities for the neighborhood and the city as a result of climate change and rising sea levels. The Red Hook neighborhood saw unprecedented flooding during Hurricane Sandy, which took a heavy toll on its residents and businesses. This landmark public art project, facilitated by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, will engage Red Hook youth in the development of artwork that depicts the future of their neighborhood and city in era of vast climate change challenges.

“Art has the ability to move hearts as well as minds. As we sometimes forget, the arts are an endeavor which increases our children’s cultural intelligence, heightens our individual awareness while also deepening our collective sense of humanity,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Community driven art efforts like this project can be a powerful way to engage Red Hook’s younger generation on climate change, an issue which is so important for their neighborhood, and one that is perhaps the biggest societal challenge of their lifetime.”

“This investment in community art will be guided by Red Hook’s youth who lead our neighborhood’s climate change planning. Their creative expressions are a valuable part of building a truly resilient community. Making art together is a worthy way to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and to shape what Red Hook will become for future generations,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“Adapting to climate change requires more than technical solutions – it requires stronger social infrastructure and a reimagining of our neighborhoods.  Art can serve a valuable purpose in this effort as we work to build resiliency across the city,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer for the NYC Mayor’s Office. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the innovation and engagement of the residents of Red Hook to educate, inform, and empower communities—especially young people—as we work together to deliver on our commitment of creating a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient Red Hook.”

“When people come together to collaborate on public artwork, the process has the power to heal and inspire an entire community,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “My agency is honored to take part in this landmark public art project, working with Red Hook youth on a project that captures the neighborhood’s unique character and remarkable vibrancy while making a statement about the urgent issues surrounding our society’s response to climate change.”

Red Hook was hit incredibly hard by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. Water flooded the neighborhood from all three sides of its coastline – from the Upper Bay, Buttermilk Channel and the Gowanus Canal. Flood waters impacted much of the neighborhood, including NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses. Properties along the Columbia Street Waterfront District also experienced significant flooding, and thousands of residents were without basic services for weeks.

Next steps

In early 2017, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, in partnership with Council Member Menchaca, will initiate a collaborative, inclusive process that will engage the Red Hook community in selecting an artist and site location for the artwork. The City will draw on the expertise of the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program to facilitate the process.

The project will be funded with a $20,000 grant from NYC Emergency Management. This project is part of the City's broader education efforts around climate change and sea level rise, which include the recently launched  campaign to educate New Yorkers on their flood risk.