This month the Magnolia Tree Earth Center (MTEC) launched an emergency GoFundMe to stabilize and repair the facades of its three brownstones along Lafayette Avenue. After an earlier contractor fiasco saddled the Earth Center with tens of thousands of dollars in city fines, the 50-year-old organization must now restore the deteriorating facades or it could lose its buildings.
“Our architect did the drawings, which got approved by the building department,” said Magnolia Tree Earth Center Board Chair Wayne Devonish. “We have a bid from two contractors. The main issue right now is having the money so the work can begin and get finished this year.”
MTEC was founded in 1972 by environmental and community activist Hattie Carthan, who organized her neighbors to plant around 1,500 trees in the area and led the effort to landmark MTEC’s namesake giant magnolia tree, which notably is New York City’s only living landmark.
Today MTEC plays a vital role in a historically Black community that’s undergoing rapid gentrification and cost-of-living increases that are making it difficult for longtime residents to stay in the neighborhood. MTEC offers career training in sustainability, clean energy, and horticulture STEM fields, as well as OSHA certification courses. It also throws community events, like a recent baby shower attended by 83 mothers-to-be and their families. Local activist, and actor Gbenga Akinnnagbe—best known for playing Chris Partlow on The Wire—released a video in conjunction with the fundraiser that dives into the history of the Earth Center:
The Earth Center hopes to use the proceeds from its GoFundMe to not only stabilize its buildings but also to expand its programming. So far, donors have contributed over $33,000 towards MTEC’s $350,000 fundraising goal.
Devonish said the Earth Center would be open to connecting with architects, engineers, contractors, or other building industry professionals who are able to offer services in kind to the organization. Interested readers can reach Devonish by phone at 917-297-2365.