Rockaway Youth Task Force

The mission of the Rockaway Youth Task Force is to empower youth in our local communities through civic engagement & volunteer opportunities.

Our Mission

The mission of the Rockaway Youth Task Force is to empower youth in our local communities through civic engagement and volunteer opportunities. We seek to spark social change in the Rockaways through youth leadership, and provide opportunities for teenagers and young adults to become productive citizens of the Rockaways.

Our History

At 21 years old, Milan Taylor founded the Rockaway Youth Task Force in 2011. Then, the youngest member of Community Board 14, he was concerned with the lack of youth representation in civic affairs. Believing it the utmost importance to include youth voices in community development, he created RYTF, a youth-led, community-based, volunteer organization.

Since 2011, RYTF has engaged hundreds of local Rockaway youth between the ages of 15—25. RYTF’s mission is cradled with our humble beginnings—to empower local youth through civic engagement and volunteer opportunities. We build on our Four Principles: advocacy , volunteer work, mentoring, and professional development.

Since our founding, we’ve brought measurable to change to the Rockaway Peninsula. We rallied for an end to stop-and-frisk. We’ve conducted voter registration drives, and hosted communal Thanksgiving dinners and space heater drives. Our Superstorm Sandy efforts were especially notable, considering that we organized over 200 volunteers to hand deliver goods and supplies to disabled and elderly residents stranded in high-rises.

Our most impressive work surrounds our community garden, a once vacant lot that has been transformed into a half-acre of usable, self-sustainable space for local residents to enjoy. Our community garden is a major component of our newly developed Food Justice program.

RYTF has been fortunate to see measurable success in a relatively short period of time. Our unique approach to youth recruitment, training, and development is an emblem of our belief in the spirit and drive of young people. As we continue to expand as an organization, we are thankful to all those who supported us along the way.

Our Community

The Rockaway Peninsula consists of neighborhoods that vary widely in affluence and available services. Despite the existence of higher-income neighborhoods and popular tourist destinations, the Rockaways are a community with a disproportionate percentage of individuals living in poverty. Gentrification of this oceanfront property has put many residents at risk of displacement due to rising rents and corporate developments. Limited access to adequate public transit in areas with high poverty rates exacerbate social issues such as gang violence, barriers to insufficient healthy food options, and a dearth of hospital facilities and social services. Commutes from these areas to midtown Manhattan and other areas of New York City with job opportunities, health centers, and retail and grocery stores can take between an hour and an hour and a half.

Many areas of the Rockaway Peninsula are comprised of disproportionately high percentages of individuals living in poverty. For example, Far Rockaway, a key neighborhood served by RYTF, is comprised of 27% of individuals living in poverty, as compared to 15% across New York City. 26% of the population ages 25 and older have not completed high school as compared to 15% in New York City, and just 13% have a bachelor degree, as compared with 19% in New York City. 41% of the population is Black or African American and 22% is Hispanic or Latino.

The Rockaway Peninsula lacks sufficient supermarkets and grocery stores carrying fresh, nutritious foods for its residents. The map below indicates all of the major supermarkets serving the Peninsula. In areas like this commonly known as “food deserts,” fast food options become a major component of residents’ diets, causing a plethora of health concerns. According to the St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Community Health Needs assessment and Community Service Plan for 2014-2017, the death rate from heart disease in the Rockaways is 78% higher than the overall rate in Queens, and 59% higher than New York City as a whole. More than 65% of Rockaways residents reported being overweight or obese in the NYS Department of Health/Mental Health 2011 Community Survey as compared to 55% in Queens and 58% in NYC. Rockaway residents die of diabetes at more than double the rate of Queens residents overall, and nearly two times the NYC and NYS rates.

Our Accomplishments

megaStrengthening Our Voices:

  • Successfully advocated to lower a New York State law to lower the age to serve on community boards from 18 to 16.
  • Successfully advocated to bring Participatory Budgeting to the Rockaway Peninsula.

ic_school_black_24dp_1xStrengthening Our Schools:

  • Advocated for over $800,000 in capital expenses to Rockaway schools through Participatory Budgeting

carrotImproving Our Health:

  • Built a half-acre community garden
  • Sold 20,000 Pounds of Produce Annually in partnership with GrownNYC to the Rockaway Peninsula

Our Team

Milan Taylor

Chief Executive Officer

At 21 years old, Milan founded the Rockaway Youth Task Force in 2011. Appointed to Community Board 14 in 2010, Milan founded RYTF after recognizing a dire lack of youth participation in the political and civic process. With this realization, Milan created RYTF as an advocacy organization composed entirely of young people in Rockaway.

In 2012, Milan’s mettle was tested during Superstorm Sandy. Along with his small team, he mobilized an extensive relief effort consisting of a national array of volunteers. He coordinated the exhaustive delivery of supplies, food, and other necessary resources to the elderly and homebound who were stranded in high-rise apartments throughout Rockaway. CBS News and BET Honors recognized his efforts.

Silaka Cox

Chief Operations Officer

From Brooklyn, Silaka Cox joined RYTF in 2011 and has played an instrumental role in the organization ever since.

Cox’s approach to community engagement is holistic. She currently serves as the youngest sitting member of Community Board 14. Previously, she served on the Citywide Steering Committee for PBNYC, the New York Communities Rising Rockaway East Planning Committee, the OEM’s Community Emergency Response Team.

Accepted to the esteemed New York University in 2013, Cox majors in Social and Cultural Analysis. She’s on track to graduate with B.A./M.P.A in 2018. A practicing minimalist, Cox believes in the power of Target.

Jazmine Outlaw

Member Coordinator

Born and raised in North Carolina, Jazmine Outlaw moved to Far Rockaway in October 2012. She joined RYTF in December of that year, and currently serves as the President of the 101st Community Precinct Council. She is currently attends City Tech College studying Graphic Arts and Advertising. Jazmine enjoys graphic design, listening to music, and shopping at her favorite store, Walmart and watching cartoons late at night.

Our Partners

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