B’Heights civic gurus offer cash grants for local hourly workers

A food delivery worker wears a face mask as he rides his bicycle through Chinatown during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York
A food delivery worker wears a face mask as he rides his bicycle through Chinatown during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The Brooklyn Heights Association has launched a relief fund to give cash grants to the area’s struggling hourly workers who have suffered income or job loss due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the group’s leader.

“Brooklyn Heights is more than the people who live here, it’s also the people who work here — and we have come together to support them now,” said executive director Lara Birnback.

The civic group’s initiative, called “Brooklyn Heights Together,” will provide one-time $250 cash grants to workers formerly employed in the brownstone neighborhood to help ensure they can still afford their essentials — such as groceries, medication, or utility bills.

The cash stipends will go to people who worked in deliveries, restaurant kitchens, salons, and store clerks, among others — many of whom are immigrant or refugee workers that may be unable to access governmental assistance, but are a vital part of the community nonetheless, said Birnback.

“We tried to find out where there was a need that wasn’t being met through other efforts,” she said. “We knew we wanted to focus on some of the most vulnerable members of the larger community, the people who helped make our restaurants, shops, salons and other businesses such wonderful places.” 

The Cobble Hill nonprofit Arab-American Family Support Center, which focuses on providing services for immigrants and refugees, will administer the funds to applicants who qualify.

The generous program will be funded by the Brooklyn Heights Association, which received over $10,000 in donations from philanthropic neighbors within the first three hours of announcing their effort on May 7, according to the civic guru, who was awed by locals’ giving spirit.

“It’s really amazing, I’m really excited and grateful,” she said.

Like in many parts of the borough, the neighborhood’s commercial corridors, such as the usually-bustling Montague Street, have been eerily quiet since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the city, according to Birnback — making her worry about the livelihoods of the missing workers.  

“It’s very quiet,” she said. “Montague Street just feels like a ghost town, it feels very odd.”

People looking to make a tax-deductible donation can do so via the civic association’s website. For more information about the fund and who qualifies, the BHA set up a Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Those wishing to apply for a grant or refer an applicant for relief can contact Kerry Sesil at the Arab-American Family Support Center at [email protected] or call (718) 643–8000.