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Local Grants Make Big Impact

Jim Farfaglia, 68, and other volunteers planted flowers, installed new lighting and repainted a riverside gazebo used for summertime concerts, part of an effort to revitalize Fulton's neglected public gardens.
Lauren Petracca

When Jim Farfaglia and other residents of Fulton brainstormed ways to improve their upstate city, they jumped on a suggestion by the parks and recreation department to resurrect Fulton’s neglected public gardens.

“I’ve been a gardener all my life and just wanted to contribute,” says Farfaglia, 68, who is helping to revive a community space in the city’s downtown. He and other volunteers planted flowers, installed new lighting and repainted a riverside gazebo used for summertime concerts in Fulton, a former textile town that has a population of 11,000 and is about 30 miles northwest of Syracuse.

The improvements were funded by a $2,500 AARP Community Challenge grant awarded to the Fulton Block Builders, a neighborhood revitalization program. It was one of 10 AARP Community Challenge grant winners in New York that together received more than $96,000.

The grants are part of AARP’s Livable Communities initiative; they fund quick-turnaround projects aimed at making areas more livable for people of all ages. Projects must be completed by Nov. 30.

In Fulton, volunteers worked with the parks and recreation department to rejuvenate a downtown space that is close to two senior housing residences.

The grant was part of a new category of microgrants for community gardens and walk audits, says Robyn Haberman, AARP New York associate state director for community engagement. Three other New York entities—in Staten Island, Woodstock and Victor—won $2,500 microgrants to help improve pedestrian safety.

Replicating smart solutions

Also new in 2023: demonstration grants to help expand housing and transportation options. One went to the Suffolk County Economic Development Corporation, which is using a $10,000 award for a design competition for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, particularly for multi-generational living arrangements.

The Albany-based Rural Housing Coalition of New York also received an ADU-related grant for $15,000. ADUs, such as in-law suites and backyard cottages, can increase living options for older adults to age in place.

“Demonstration grants are meant to look at what’s working well in some places and help replicate it in other places,” Haberman says.

Among other grants, Fordham University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning won $25,000 to help turn an empty parking lot in the Bronx’s Highbridge neighborhood into a community space. The money is funding new benches, a weekly resource fair and the expansion of a farmers market near several senior living facilities.

It will help increase access to fresh produce for those who have difficulty navigating the neighborhood’s steep hills, says Surey Miranda, the center’s director of campus and community engagement. The center worked with several other organizations on the project. “It is a product of love and collaboration,” Miranda says.

To learn more about AARP’s Livable Communities work and see the full list of winners, visit

Hilary Appelman is a writer living in State College, Pennsylvania.

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