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CIBS: On a Mission to Retrofit Bed-Stuy, Block by Block

The Pratt Center and BSRC are making energy-efficient home improvements accessible and affordable to all

For homeowners, the idea of weatherizing your home to make it more energy efficient, while also reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions may seem like a no-brainer. But in today’s economy, who has the money or time for such luxuries?

The Pratt Center and Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (CIBS) are making these types of home improvements accessible and affordable to all homeowners of Bed-Stuy.

Through their Retrofit NYC Block by Block program, Bed-Stuy homeowners can receive a home audit worth $350 for only $50, and if eligible, take full advantage of bundled packages of energy retrofits at a very low-cost.

These include incentives from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), Con Edison, National Grid, the Weatherization Assistance Program and tax incentives.

Jedidah S. Baptiste, outreach coordinator of Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives at Restoration said, although the programs have been made easy and affordable, getting the community to take advantage of the services has been a challenge:

“Our greatest challenge has been getting people to get the audit done,” she said. “It’s been a challenge because it’s a new program, and then there’s still issues with trust.

"But it’s a win-win situation, a great way to save money on your energy bills while also make your living environment more comfortable. We’re trying to do 200 more retrofits by the end of this fiscal year.”

The Pratt Center for Community Development is working with community-based organizations to tap each neighborhood’s social networks — block associations, houses of worship, businesses, and other local institutions — to get the word out to community residents and to demystify the retrofit process so that residents can create "green blocks."

Bed-Stuy resident Luvenia June-Mack had an audit and retrofit completed on her home this past March. She describes the process as professional, and she said that what helped was said the technicians explained everything to her while conducting the audit, explained the problem, and then encouraged her to watch:

“During [the audit] process, the technicians discovered a gas leak. NYS Energy Audits, the contractor, immediately contacted the gas company (National Grid) who responded within the hour and fixed the gas leak,” said June-Mack. “I have been in my home for more than ten years. While my meter was read monthly, not once did the gas technicians detect the gas leak. I am truly grateful for this program. It really saved my family’s life.”

After providing June-Mack an audit, they did a free insulation, all around her doors and windows. They also insulated and sealed her skylight window. It substantially reduced her fuel bill, she said.

Currently, Retrofit Block by Block is working with the following 15 blocks:
Bainbridge Street  between  Ralph Street and Howard Street
Mac Donough Street between Saratoga Street and Howard Street
Lefferts Place between Franklin Street and St. James Place
Jefferson Street between Nostrand Avenue and Tompkins Avenue
Arlington Place between Fulton and Halsey Street
Halsey Street between Bedford and Marcy Avenue
Hancock Street between Bedford and Marcy Avenue
Hancock Street between Stuyvesant Street and Patchen Street

If you live on one of these blocks in Bed-Stuy, and you are interested in an audit, please contact Jedidah Baptiste at 718-636-6973.

“I’ve lived in this community my entire life, and I’m seeing that the community is changing in many ways for the better,” said Baptiste. “But we still have a lot of people who are facing foreclosure – people who cannot afford to pay their utility bills.

“We have a lot of elderly people who cannot maintain their homes. So if we can get them some retrofit measures, this would be a great time to do it. This program offers low-cost home improvements that will help people save money, while also help the environment.”

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