March 9, 2016

Groundswell, the New York City Housing Authority, and Council Member Ritchie Torres Bring New “Public Art / Public Housing” Initiative to Castle Hill Development

40 young adult NYCHA residents will be employed to create

three monumental new murals for Castle Hill Development supported by City Council Funds


NEW YORK, NY – Groundswell, New York’s leading organization dedicated to community public art, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and New York City Council Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres today announce a major one-year initiative entitled “Public Art / Public Housing.”


Through this initiative, Groundswell is engaging a total of 200 young adult NYCHA residents ages 16-24 in the transformation of vacant walls throughout public housing developments in all five boroughs. Youth in this initiative will transform these walls into artistically excellent and public art pieces with positive community messages that explore the experiences and concerns of residents living in public housing. The initiative is supported with council funds under the leadership of Councilmember Ritchie Torres.


In this pilot year, the initiative is focusing on one development in each of the five boroughs, identified from the Mayor’s Action Plan (MAP) for Neighborhood Safety. The Tenant's association at each development will guide the creation of three mural projects, for a total of 15 new public artworks throughout the city. These mural projects will demonstrate how art, public housing, and Groundswell’s youth development model can be aligned to support long-term, community-driven change.


“This new and innovate initiative with Groundswell aims to creatively tell the individual stories behind public housing – stories that must be told. The medium of art is an incredibly powerful and important tool that can transform lives and inspire change. The murals created through ‘Public Art/Public Housing’ will be a symbol of what is possible in public housing developments when we engage youth and the community,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing.


Through this participatory public art project, Groundswell will employ 40 young adult residents of Castle Hill to facilitate the collaborative research, design, and creation of three mural projects spotlighting the unique assets of the Bronx community.


The first mural project began in February 2016, and Castle Hill held its first Community Painting Day on March 8, 2016. The final mural in the series will be completed in August 2016.


Through community interviews, surveys, and explorations of their own experiences, youth artists will examine Castle Hill’s history, hidden treasures, challenges and strengths to develop a vision for positive change. Led by artists and informed by the study of contemporary art, participants will develop a mural design that encapsulates their research and the story they want to tell before fabricating each mural. All youth will be compensated as apprentice artists for their participation, strengthening 21st century workforce skills.


The participating developments are Castle Hill Houses (the Bronx), Queensbridge (Queens), St. Nicholas Houses (Manhattan), Stapleton Houses (Staten Island), and Tompkins Houses (Brooklyn).


“I joined this project because I like art, a lot. I paint at home and I wanted to be a part of something in my community. Our mural theme is unity, which to me means everyone coming together so that we can all succeed. I feel some people do succeed but don’t help others out. It is important to pay it forward. Through this project we can send out this important message,” said youth artist & Castle Hill resident Brenda Rodriguez, age 20.


“Groundswell is thrilled to partner with Councilmember Ritchie Torres and NYCHA residents through ‘Public Art/Public Housing,’” said Rob Krulak, Groundswell's Interim Executive Director. “For nearly 20 years, Groundswell has worked closely with artists, youth, and communities to activate the power of art to advance social change. Our artists are looking forward to guiding the process of understanding and articulating the unique concerns and visions of residents at these five developments. We hope the project will be both a touchstone for these communities as they explore their future, and a window into their experiences for everyone who sees them. We are proud to help further the goals of the Mayor's Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety."


“I’m thrilled to have Groundswell, as part of the Public Art/Public Housing initiative, partnering with our NYCHA residents at the Castle Hill Houses, to create three visually compelling murals, which will reflect the rich cultural fabric of this neighborhood. This project incorporates the collective talents of the local community, by establishing a platform to facilitate public discussions on mural themes; I feel this is critical to making this project a resounding success and leaving a lasting impact. Art, as a medium, can offer a window to the soul, and can be utilized to convey poignant ideas and messages; I am excited to be a part of the project, and to bear witness to the end result,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, District 18.


“Public art is a powerful way to reflect the vibrancy of our communities and people,” said NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly. "Thanks to the leadership of Council Member Ritchie Torres and this innovative, artistic partnership with Groundswell, we are empowering and elevating the voices of NYCHA residents and the community – for all to see.”


About Groundswell

Groundswell, New York City’s leading organization dedicated to community public art, brings together youth, artists, and community partners, to make public art that advances social change, for a more just and equitable world. Our projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue.


About Councilmember Ritchie Torres

Councilmember Ritchie Torres was elected to office in November 2013 to represent the 15th Council District in the Central Bronx. As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing; Councilmember Torres oversees the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). NYCHA is the largest provider of affordable housing in New York and the largest provider of public housing in the United States.


Only a month into his Chairmanship, Councilmember Torres held the first ever committee hearing at a public housing development. His historic oversight hearing played an important role in securing the largest FEMA grant in NYC's history: $3 billion dollars for the repair and resiliency needs of NYCHA developments damaged by Superstorm Sandy. He also presided over the largest investment of City and State funds in NYCHA in over ten years, directing hundreds of millions of dollars towards vital repairs to the City’s public housing stock. 



The New York City Housing Authority's mission is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by providing safe, affordable housing and facilitating access to social and community services. More than 400,000 New Yorkers reside in NYCHA's 328 public housing developments across the City’s five boroughs. Another 235,000 receive subsidized rental assistance in private homes through the NYCHA-administered Section 8 Leased Housing Program.


To fulfill this mission and better serve residents while facing dramatic reductions in traditional government funding, NYCHA is developing new financing options and building innovative partnerships across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. These strategies help NYCHA address many key challenges, from preserving aging housing stock through timely maintenance and modernization of buildings to increasing resident access to a multitude of community, educational and recreational programs, and job readiness and training initiatives.