Vice President of the Board, Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Since childhood, Zenobia McNally knew she wanted to be a community activist. The lifelong Flatbush resident is a member of numerous community- improvement groups and prides herself on being a no-nonsense environmentalist.
“I’m the most passionate about urban planning and making sure the community builds,” said McNally, who is vice president of the board of Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush. “I’m concerned about responsible construction, including the material used. We want materials that are not toxic, sustainable products. For example, the wood that being used should be responsibly farmed. I’m passionate about environmentalism and one of my biggest concerns is water and water harvesting. Everyone I know has a rain barrel because you have to save water.”
MOTIVATION: McNally’s motivation for her relentless community activism ‘sounds simple,’ but is drawn from her years as a community resident.
“I live here, and everyone should be involved in their neighborhood if you live there,” explained McNally, who is a member of the Lott Street Block Association. “A woman once passed by my garden across the street several times while I was cleaning it and asked me if I was getting paid. I said, ‘I live here, and when you live somewhere you take care of it.’”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My biggest challenge has been and continues to be New York City’s response to homelessness,” said McNally. Instead of just building shelters, we should look more at the cost implications of having subsidized housing for the homeless. It hit close to home when they decided to build a shelter in our neighborhood around 12 years ago and we realized the shelter wasn’t there to help the homeless, it was to help the owner of the building. This building was a huge, tall tower and it was a way to make people feel excluded and ostracized.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “We did an eco-fair called We Can Green Brooklyn beginning in 2010 and it was the beginning of people realizing that we can be green in everything that we do,” said McNally, who mentioned the fair was on hiatus this year but will continue next year. “People had never done anything like that in Flatbush and it started because we wanted to make sure that low and moderate income communities weren’t left behind in the green revolution. I didn’t want an ecological divide. We talked to residents in East Flatbush and greater Flatbush communities and invited people to talk to energy providers and solar installers to see how they could save money and be more green.”
PERSONAL LIFE: Although McNally is the founder and owner of the marketing company Zenergy, she is adamant that an activist’s duties transcend into one’s personal life.
“When you’re an activist, you should be an activist in anything you do,” explained McNally. “I don’t think you can separate your activism from your personal life, because it seeps through everything you do, it’s a part of you.
“I wish people would find their inner activist, whatever it may be,” she added. “That’s my desire for a lot of people, even if it just means within your family. You don’t have to be worldwide change agents, but you can be an activist in your own circle.”