Since 2008, Concrete Safaris has empowered children living in and around East Harlem’s public housing projects to become healthy leaders through outdoor exercise and education programs that enrich the mind, body, community & environment. Executive Director Mac Levine asked 16 children how they wanted to improve their health. They answered: by living in a cleaner, greener, safer neighborhood.
City Surfers is Concrete Safaris’ year-round, youth empowerment program in which 7 – 11 – year olds at PS 102 and Union Settlement exercise and learn outdoors five or two days per week, respectively. Our students choose how they want to participate in the urban environmental health movement. In 2008, they decided to improve physical and mental health by planting flowers. They now manage the largest children’s garden on public housing property at 15,000 square feet in Washington Houses.
In 2010, City Surfers voted to increase the physical activities offered through our agency from just gardening and leadership training to swimming, cycling, and running. In 2011, we hired our second full-time employee and a part-time employee to grow our organization from bi-weekly workshops for 7-9 and 9-11-year olds each (4 per week) at Union Settlement to a five-day/week program at PS 102. City Surfers advocated for neighborhood bike lanes at the Community Board 11 hearings, and the lanes are currently being installed.
They pitched the NYC Housing Authority to start gardens in Jefferson Houses through the 2011/12 school year, received approval in August 2012, and broke ground in September. They also led 1,200 neighborhood children in gardening and exercise activities.
This past summer, we began our first 5-day/week summer camp. City Surfers who learned to ride our fleet of bicycles beginning in October 2011 successfully cycled 6 miles around Central Park.
In the winter of 2013, Concrete Safaris started an official public speaking program in which City Surfers will learn to lead a Youth Empowerment Workshop about how they started and manage gardens in two public housing projects at the Just Food Conference in March 2013.