Superintendent Kenneth Torain Offers His Advice to Illuminators

July 26, 2017  |   Posted by :   |   Blog   |   Comments Off on Superintendent Kenneth Torain Offers His Advice to Illuminators»

Over the last two weeks, GCF Illuminators, our AmeriCorps graduates hired on a contract with Ameresco, have been working at Edenwald Houses in the Bronx educating fellow NYCHA residents on the importance of energy efficiency. On site, Edenwald Houses Superintendent Kenneth Torain offered the team some words of advice. We caught up with Kenneth for an interview to see what he thinks of the sustainability initiatives going on at his development and what this opportunity means for young people living at NYCHA.


How long have you been the superintendent? Worked at NYCHA?

“I’ve been the superintendent a Edenwald Houses since May 2012. I’ve been at the New York City Housing Authority going on 22 years.”

Are you a resident of Edenwald Houses?

“I’m a former resident of Edenwald Houses.”

Why is this energy retrofit work important for Edenwald Houses and for NYCHA generally?

“One of the things that stood out is the education component that we’re giving the residents teaching them about energy efficiency. A lot of times, living in public housing, because they don’t pay utilities, I think they take energy efficiency for granted. So just with the information alone that’s being passed out and the interaction that they’re having with the young people, they’re being educated on the importance of energy efficiency.

So you know, that’s something, going into years coming, we have to be more mindful, they have to pay more attention to energy efficiency in detail.”

Aside from the Ameresco work that’s currently going on at Edenwald, have you noticed other sustainability initiatives going on through NYCHA around the development?

“Yes, currently we have a water retention program that’s going on right now. That’s based on dealing with runoff and waste and rainwater. Most of the residents that come out to the Resident Association meetings, the residents that are involved, they understand what’s going on as far as the water retention program, with wastewater and bioswales.

We also had an Earth Day event not too long ago, so most of the residents do understand what’s going on, since there’s such a large scope of work going on throughout the development, they’re asking a lot of questions. So they have been informed of the work that’s going on right now.”

How is the residents’ reception to the work? Do they like what’s going on, do you think they think it’s important?

“Oh yes, they think it’s important. And also, one thing I’ve noticed about residents in NYCHA, anything with change, anything with upgrades and betterment for the community, usually they’re all in. They like it because, you know, this is home. Anything that’s going to make home look better they’re all hands on deck”

Specifically talking about the Green City Force Illuminators, the young people who are working on the contract with GCF. What was your impression of the team, how were they received up there, what do you think of the work they’re doing?

“I think the work that they’re doing is excellent. I also explained to them that this is where most of the jobs will go in the future. I told them to build up their resumes. They have to be responsible for one another, they have to be responsible for the people who are going to come behind them and work. If this program is a success we can make a lot more opportunities for young people in NYCHA to get these jobs.”


What words of advice would you pass on to the young NYCHA residents serving, training and working with Green City Force?

“Take it serious. You have to have ambitions, you have to have motivations, you have to be driven. You have to understand that this is a start, there’s not an ending. Like I said, if you build up your resume, you build up your work experience, especially working in green efficiency jobs, this is where the future is going to be based. Those that have knowledge in energy efficiency, that’s where the jobs are going to be in the future. So the better off you are, the more you know, the more experience you get, the better off you’ll be able to prepare yourself for the future.”

You spoke to the Illuminators on site. What kind of message did you have for them in person?
“That was basically what it was about. Just talking about young people living in NYCHA, because I was one of those young people just like them, where somebody gave me an opportunity. I just told them to seize the moment, don’t waste the opportunity, don’t come here to joke around and not take the job seriously. Take the opportunity, seize it for what it’s worth.”

How did you get your start working with NYCHA? What were you first doing?

“I got an opportunity with the Resident Association President who is still here in the office after all these years. I was doing a lot of volunteer work throughout the community. I started a non-profit organization in my community. During the process, you know, he asked me if I would be willing to work seasonally, and I said “sure”, I would work seasonally. You know, I was 19 years old at the time and I worked seasonally, then I became a full-time worker and worked my way up the ranks to become superintendent”

What was the non-profit that you started?

“The non-profit was called We Can Get Along Inc.. Even if you come to Edenwald houses, the basketball court that got funded when the Bronx Borough President was in office, his name was Fernando Ferrer, you know, the basketball court that we used the profit for, is still up and standing. It’s just been upgraded last year by Councilman Andy King. The corporation itself is not as active as it used to be because we do have a lot on our plate, but the basketball court is up and running, and being used by the kids in the neighborhood on a regular basis.”


Is there anything in particular you want to sign off with?

“I just want people to give the young people in public housing opportunities. You know, the opportunities are very small for a lot of young people that live in public housing. When you give them opportunities to work in the environment that they grew up in, they tend to thrive because they understand what it is to give back, they understand how it is living in public housing. Despite the conditions that they grew up under, they can be successful in life.”

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