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Boosting the Borough of Brooklyn

by Hope Ferguson

SUNY Empire State College holds the distinction of being the first college invited to join a Financial Literacy Council, established by the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President. The council hopes to educate Brooklyn residents about financial matters that could either help or stymie their economic well-being. Prompted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams’ concern that the residents of Brooklyn have the highest personal debt of all New York City residents, the program is one of his 20 “pillar programs” for the betterment of the borough. 

Brooklyn Mentor Cory Kallet, Brooklyn’s Chief Program Officer Sandra Chapman and Metropolitan area Mentor Robert Carey in Brooklyn City Hall. Together the three have developed projects to benefit the citizens of Brooklyn.

Improving Financial Literacy in Brooklyn

“Financial literacy is a crucial tool that we will use to achieve economic stability and prosperity across Brooklyn in the coming years,” said Sandra Chapman, chief program officer in Adams’ office. The workshops are meant to educate the community about getting out of debt, budgeting, purchasing real estate, starting businesses and avoiding financial sinkholes, such as payday loans. And, because financial health is often a prerequisite to returning to school, Empire State College is concerned about the fiscal well-being of these prospective students.‌

The first of these workshops was held this spring, but the college got a taste of the need for this type of programming last year. It sponsored “Taking Control of Your Personal Finances” at its Livingston Street location in late September. Those workshops drew 40 people, aged 20 up to retirement age. Topics included financial planning, planning for retirement, entrepreneurial planning and managing credit. When the college partners with the Brooklyn borough president’s initiative this spring, the outreach will be expanded across the Brooklyn community at large, said Mentor Cory Kallet. “This is a continuation of what we started locally,” he said, adding that being invited to be part of the council benefits the college’s students and adds to its credibility.‌

Understanding the influence the college can have in preparing its students to impact the economy, the college’s Brooklyn site also has joined the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership as a participant in “Tech Triangle U” for the second year.

photo of an Empire State College street banner hanging was a light post in brooklyn and a poster promoting a Tech Triangle event in Brooklyn

(left) Empire State College is a partner in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle initiative, which works to connect the borough’s academic communities with its technology and creative sectors. (right) The community engagement of SUNY Empire State College is evident in a variety of places, including lamppost banners.

“The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential and retail destination,” Kallet said. “The Tech Triangle U event is a week-long effort … that enables New York City students and community residents to connect with the 500-plus innovation firms located in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.” 

In addition to identifying possible internship and job opportunities, Tech Triangle U includes workshops and panel sessions hosted by local companies and incubators, as well as faculty members from eight downtown Brooklyn colleges, including Empire State College. Mentors there to represent SUNY Empire are Bob Carey, Kallet, Tica Frazer and Justin Giordano, who focus on teaching participants about business development and how to take a concept and transform it into a profitable business endeavor.

It’s all part of the college integrating into its communities and leaving them better.

Photography by Marty Heitner ’92