Facilitate action at the local level to democratize power.



Sustainable South Bronx

"It’s been a primary mission of the organization to attack poverty through creating investment and opportunity for folks who don’t have that." Miquela Craytor, Underdome Interview

Sustainable South Bronx runs a green jobs training program called the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST).  Begun in 2003 with a focus on horticulture, landscape contracting, and bioremediation, BEST extended in 2008 to cover the growing energy efficiency sector. It is a 16 to 17 week program free to participants. Sheila Somashekhar, Greenway and Green Building Coordinator at Sustainable South Bronx explains: 

Trainees get a combination of hands-on technical training, classroom training, and soft skills development to make people employable in a lot of different levels.  A lot of the folks who come into our program have very limited work history, if any work history. And a lot of the folks also have incarceration records. I think about 30% have incarceration records at this point. ... We provide a lot of different kinds of support so that at the end of the day folks are ready to interview, they have their résumés ready and they are ready to actually deal with the challenges that they have in their lives, and get and keep a job. 
“For the actual technical part of the training, we do a combination of things.... We don't want to track people into one particular career option, especially with the current state of the energy efficiency sector, as there are a lot of question marks as to where the jobs are and where they're going to be. So we do some basic carpentry training, where folks learn how to construct a wall. They actually do a hands-on wall construction project; putting in a window, putting in a door, putting in insulation.  So that's some of the basics... And then we do a week long weatherization training with AEA [Association for Energy Affordability].... We go into an actual home and get to practice some of those skills with caulking, pipe insulation and that kind of thing.  It's really important that folks get some industry recognized certifications so they get asbestos handling certification, lead awareness.... 
“It's full time, at no cost to the students. They get a metro card for transportation; they get a lunch stipend; and at the end of the program we have this amazing little graduation ceremony; and they actually get a small transitional stipend to help them with their transition into actually getting jobs.  We work with them afterwards; we have two job developers on staff who work with employers and with the students, try to connect the students with opportunities. And we stay with the students; we track them for at least 3 years. ” Sheila Somashekhar, Underdome Interview
SSBx is about empowering the community, Executive Director Miquela Craytor explains: “ For many of our students, this learning process creates the feeling of empowerment and a feeling that they have a choice to make. That they’re not always having to be reactive to all of the negative things thrown at them. They can be part of positive change that gives them the space feel, 'I can get back to my family. I have more pride about myself, instead of now thinking very negatively about my background, my history.  Now I actually have something, a positive direction.' It’s really amazing....
“What got me so excited, as I had an opportunity to help it and grow with the program, is that it is kind of the proof of the pudding of these theoretical ideas. You know, we talk about development and say, 'it-will-create jobs.' But most times planners and designers don’t spend enough time to think about, what’s actually going to make that happen. There are a lot of these barriers to overcome—institutional racism and the other -ism, that prevent these communities from actually gaining the real benefits of these projects. So unless we’re willing to face those- ism’s and recognize what is preventing a developer from hiring someone who doesn’t have a job—because of a history of job employment or someone who was formally incarcerated—unless we really face that and try to think about how to break down those barriers we will just have another big developer who comes in and hires people from some other place, and the folks here will still not bear the benefit.” Miquela Craytor, Underdome Interview

Heather Rogers

"In terms of the jobs and what the stimulus package can do, again, you’re looking at this situation where it's top down, and I think that's really challenging to carry out effectively and for it to make meaningful changes that last. And there are all kinds of unintended things that are happening with the weatherization money. It is creating jobs, which is good, I think. And they are jobs that can't be outsourced. But one of the things that's happening ... is that labor unions are really pissed off about how the money’s getting spent, because a lot of the agencies that are getting the money aren't unionized.

"And so now, states are having them back up and do new kinds of agreements and it's getting really complicated for people to access the funds and they're having to do all this extra documentation and if you’re a small business, you can't afford to figure out how to do all that stuff, or have the time to do it, because the time you're doing that, you're not doing your work. If you don't have all that—and there's a certain kind of cultural capital you have to have to know how to get in there—if you are from the south Bronx or west Oakland, and you don't have a college education, and you don't have a lot of contacts, it's much more challenging. And the way that it seems to me like it's taking shape is that the terrain can be navigated, but organized labor, people that are doing training, and people that are doing energy audits, they need to be working together and that's sort of fallen through the cracks, it seems."

(Underdome Interview)


The USGBC combines a market orientation with grassroots organization, having a chapter in all 50 states, and local branches under the chapters. Each chapter is its own 502(c)(3) organization, with individual membership typically $65 per year and non-transferable. The World Green Building Council, begun in 1998 by USGBC co-founder David Gottfried, seeks to extend the USGBC network on a global scale.

Benefits of membership may include the following: “When you join a chapter, you have the opportunity to support the USGBC mission of market transformation at the local level through education, advocacy and outreach. In addition, you can meet other like-minded people involved in green building, share your expertise to help raise awareness or hone your skills in an area in which you’re interested, from public-policy advocacy to communications to event planning. As a chapter member, you also have the opportunity to become a USGBC course reviewer and earn continuing eduction hours (CE's) toward your LEED professional credential. (http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=6495)

Some chapters of the USGBC have, “Online Communities” which are intended to assist in creating relationships between members with resources such as community directories, job forums and discussion forums. One may create a profile, join a group, and share files. The communities centered around chapters and local branches outreach to recruit more members, function as educational and networking resources, and, “advocate for LEED,” the USGBC’s own rating system. (http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=115)


Vishaan Chakrabarti

"The hard part about density, the hard reality of it, is it’s a far riskier kind of building. It’s just riskier to build twenty or two hundred apartment units than it is to build a house. And it takes more players, and it takes a more complex field which is why it’s more expensive.” Underdome Interview

“I’m a person who has a lot of faith in people. I think people will rise to occasions if given the opportunity and given respect and patience. I’m a Jane Jacobs devotee next to a lot of people, but the problem is the books never address anything large-scale... It’s always about this kind of fine-grained urbanism which is extremely important, and it’s driven the way even developers do business today. If you look at the world of large-scale development across every major city in the world, everyone’s trying to build mixed-use, everyone’s trying to do a lot of the things that Jacobs talked about, just in different scales and in different ways maybe than she intended. But in terms of building large pieces of infrastructure she’s just largely silent on the topic. And the problem is that large infrastructure takes large planning mechanisms. It’s not a grassroots enterprise." Underdome Interview




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