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It pays to be Green.

The DOE’s Office of Sustainability has proudly awarded a total of $717,224 in grants to schools this year in all five boroughs thanks to two grant opportunities: the Office’s annual Sustainability Project Grant and its first-ever Custodial Supply Grant.

Now in its fifth year, the Sustainability Project Grant provides DOE schools with an opportunity to apply for awards of up to $5,000 for school-based sustainability projects. Meanwhile, the newly created Custodial Supply Grant allows Custodian Engineers in City public schools to apply to fund operational items that support building efficiency.

Historically, grant funding was made possible by revenue from the City’s Demand Response Program, a program that adjusts electricity consumption during power surges and other emergency utility events to prevent brownouts or blackouts. This year, however, with the City struggling under the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ (DCAS) Division of Energy Management ExCEL Program provided funding in coordination with the Demand Response Program to make both grant opportunities possible for our schools.

Two NYC public school student planting seeds in an outdoor greenhouse

Some schools, like M.S. 323 in Queens, sought Sustainability grants to develop greenhouses for their students.

This year’s grant proposals were an inspiring mix of thoughtful and innovative ideas that were responsive to both sustainability and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, P.S. 20 in Manhattan proposed the purchase of outdoor classroom infrastructure, including outdoor seating, handwashing stations, weather shelters, and teaching supplies, to help support socially distanced outdoor instruction for students. Meanwhile, P.S. 39 in Brooklyn proposed the installation of kinetic tiles into the school—imagine being able to generate electricity for your school community simply by walking or riding a stationary bike!

Last year’s grant winners were able to make progress this school year with their award-winning projects. Alan Ackerman, a teacher and sustainability coordinator at P.S. 93 William H. Prescott in Brooklyn, won a grant to develop an outdoor garden last school year. “Receiving grant funding from the Office of Sustainability has helped our school tremendously in terms of beautifying the outside of our school as well as engaging students in green activities such as planting and gardening,” Mr. Ackerman explained.

Grant Highlights

This year’s awards touched schools in all five boroughs. Here a snapshot of how this year’s awards were distributed:

  • Sustainability Project Grants: $385,000 distributed to 98 schools;
  • Custodial Supply Grants: $333,000 to 59 school buildings;
  • Highest Demand/Most Rewarded Category: Gardens & Outdoor Learning ($258,000 across 61 projects)
  • Both grants provided funding support to improve building energy ratings under Local Law 33/95
A Solar battery on the roof of the TAPCo School in the Bronx

This solar panel was part of a grant-winning demonstration by the Theatre Arts Production Company School in the Bronx back in 2019

Since 2016, the DOE’s Office of Sustainability has provided over a million dollars in grants to DOE schools! We hope to continue this partnership in the years to come and provide many more opportunities to students and school communities in the future.

Congratulations to all of this year’s grant winners!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Photos in this post were taken prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Morning Bell

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

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NYC Department of Education, 2019