J-School Gets Grant for Public Housing Mold Project

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism won a $35,000 grant Friday to seed a pioneering digital reporting effort to track the scourge of mold in New York City public housing developments.

The J-School’s NYCity News Service will work with the New York Daily News on the “Hack the Mold” project, which received the grant as part of the first Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.

The aim of the $1M Challenge Fund – a partnership of the Online News Association, the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund – is to explore new ways of providing information to local communities.

Another goal is to “hack” journalism school curriculum and promote the “teaching hospital” approach to journalism education by teaming schools with news organizations.

The J-School and the Daily News will use in-person and on-line engagement with city public housing tenants to chronicle mold infestation in the nation’s largest public housing system. As The News reported in December, the city has agreed to a consent decree that will give a federal judge oversight in ensuring that mold is removed from New York City Housing Authority apartments over the next three years.

Many tenants have waited in vain, sometimes for years, for NYCHA to answer requests to clean up toxic mold. The reporting project will employ digital engagement methods to track cleanup progress and help tenants tell their stories.

The Vine above shows Samantha Carasquillo, 22, of the Thomas Jefferson Houses in East Harlem. Carasquillo, who is pregnant, says she’s been waiting months to have mold removed from her apartment. (Video by: Oresti Tsonopoulos)

The grant, one of 12 awarded under the Challenge Fund, was announced at a luncheon Friday during the Journalism Interactive conference, held at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, adjacent to the University of Maryland. The CUNY J-School was the only northeastern journalism program to receive a grant in the competition, which drew 125 applications.

The team behind the CUNY J-School-Daily News project includes:

  • Jere Hester, Director, CUNY J-School’s NYCity News Service,
  • Greg B. Smith, New York Daily News Investigative Reporter,
  • Amanda Hickman, CUNY J-School Visiting Lecturer for Multimedia Storytelling and Data Visualization,
  • Lauren Johnston, New York Daily News’ Digital Editorial Director,
  • Sandeep Junnarkar, CUNY J-School’s Interactive Director,
  • Adam Glenn, CUNY J-School Associate Professor for Interactive

J-School Gets Grant for Public Housing Mold Project

Samantha Carasquillo, 22, says she's been waiting for months to have her bathroom in the East Harlem's Thomas Jefferson Houses rid of mold (Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos).

Samantha Carasquillo, 22, says she’s been waiting for months to have her bathroom in the East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Houses rid of mold (Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos).