Citizens NYC helping to fuel local change with community grants

In the heart of East Harlem, the vibrant spirit of community meets sustainable fashion through the NYC Fair Trade Coalition. The group stands as a testament to positive transformations pushed by the nonprofit organization Citizens NYC, which provides community grants for groups making impactful changes in their neighborhoods.
“Everything you see behind me is just $1,” said Andrea Reyes, executive director of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition. Reyes says the coalition is commitment to democratizing fashion, providing accessible clothing and fostering a sense of community. 
“People who want to be a part of community, people who want to have a place where they’re not going to spend all of their money,” said Reyes. 
The Sustainable Fashion Community Center, as it is also known as, thrives on donations. In 2023 alone, it collected a staggering 25,000 pounds of donated clothing, doubling the amount from the previous year. Their work in the sustainability fashion movement has been expanded through grants from Citizens NYC - which have been a crucial resource since the inception of its East Harlem space.
“We really have to think about where it's all going and are we having the true impact that we set forth to have. So these grants really help me keep pushing and keep including more services,” said Reyes. 
“We’re currently working with an artist, Benjamin Von Wong, and we’re putting together a giant art installation that will appear on the Highline, so we need to collect 20,000 bottles by the end of February. So, If you bring in a household or beauty bottle, you get free clothing in exchange, added Reyes
“They're both an environmental resource and a community resource,” said Michael Hickey, chief operating officer of Citizens Committee for NYC. It’s the dual significance of the environment and community that caught the eye of Citizens NYC, leading to the two grants over the years. 
“We give out about 300 grants a year, two-thirds of which are to volunteer-led organizations,” said Hickey. These organizations range from food pantries to community garden initiatives, or those working with vulnerable populations. 
“It’s very easy to apply to. We make our application really simple because we know a lot of people are applying for the first time,” said Hickey
Hickey says they receive around 2,000 applications annually. Its next grant cycle will have the potential for community collaboration, which is something Reyes is excited about. 
“I definitely believe the more we work together, the bigger things we can do,” said Reyes. 
For anyone interested in applying for a grant through Citizens NYC, the window remains open until March 1. To learn more and apply, visit citizensnyc.org.