Our Mission

The Rockaway Youth Task Force is a member-led organization of youth of color within the Rockaway peninsula that builds power to secure social, economic and racial justice for all. We develop politically conscious leaders who are invested in improving themselves and their communities through youth-led campaigns, leadership development, movement building, and cultural expression.

Our History

The Rockaway Youth Task Force is a community-based youth advocacy organization based in Far Rockaway, New York City. Our work focuses on engaging our community around local issues, developing youth leaders through specialized training, organizing advocacy campaigns, and providing space for community members to build power. Our guiding philosophy is simple: young people can be effective advocates of change in the communities and neighborhoods they live in.

Our founder, Milan Taylor, saw the lack of youth representation in civic affairs and was driven to change the narrative in his hometown of Far Rockaway. Over the past five years, Mr. Taylor’s vision has come to fruition. Since our founding, we’ve brought measurable change to the Rockaway Peninsula. We’ve rallied for an end to stop-and-frisk, better transportation, and educational equity in the Rockaways. During Superstorm Sandy, we organized over 200 volunteers to hand deliver goods and supplies to disabled and elderly residents stranded in high-rise buildings in our community.

One of the organization’s biggest successes is the RYTF Urban Farm and Community Garden, one of the largest youth-run community gardens in New York City. To date, the garden has grown over 100,000 pounds of food for the Rockaway Community. We seek to ensure that the youth voice is fairly represented in conversations about the future of our community. There is power in youth advocacy and RYTF is committed to providing the youth of Rockaway with a seat at the table.

Our Community

Neighborhoods in the Rockaway Peninsula vary widely in affluence and available services. Gentrification of the 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 sufficient healthy food options, and a lack of hospital facilities and social services. Many residents are forced to endure long commutes, sometimes lasting upwards of an hour and half, to find quality job opportunities, health services, retail, and grocery stores in other areas of New York City. Rockaway residents have the longest commute out of any NYC neighborhood, averaging 55 minutes.

Despite the existence of higher-income neighborhoods and popular tourist destinations in the Rockaways, there are a disproportionate percentage of individuals living in poverty. For example, in Far Rockaway and Edgemere, two key neighborhoods served by RYTF, the poverty rates are 25% and 34%, respectively, compared to an average 18% across New York City. Over a quarter 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. In the Rockaways, 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. Areas like this are commonly known as “food deserts”. Fast food options have 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. More than 65% of Rockaway 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 NY State rates.

Victories & Accomplishments

megaAmplifying Our Voices:

  • Successfully campaigned to change a New York State law to lower the age to serve on community boards from 18 to 16
  • Successfully campaigned to bring Participatory Budgeting to Far Rockaway

ic_school_black_24dp_1xStrengthening Our Schools:

  • Advocated for over $1,000,000 in capital expenses to Rockaway schools through Participatory Budgeting
  • Assisted community youth with organizing a demonstration to bring awareness to the needs of students of color in Rockaway schools

carrotImproving Our Health Outcomes:

  • Built and maintains one of the largest youth-run urban farms in New York City
  • To date, we have provided over 100,000 pounds of produce to the Rockaway Peninsula through a partnership with GrowNYC
  • Built and maintain a second community garden for local public housing residents
  • Provide growing space for over 80 families on the Rockaway Peninsula

Improving Our Public Transit:

  • Successfully campaigned to extend the Q52 bus line by one mile to provide Far Rockaway residents with increased service
  • Successfully campaigned for the free Rockaway Ferry Shuttle Bus to provide free access to residents in Far Rockaway

Building Our Movement:

  • Conducted food justice workshops and trainings around the United States and internationally
  • Participated in and organized Black Lives Matter demonstrations across New York City
  • Started a hyper-local citizen journalism project, the Rockaway Advocate, to lift local voices and provide a media platform for youth of color in Rockaway

Our Team

Milan Taylor

Founder/Executive Director

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. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Milan and his small team mobilized an extensive relief effort, coordinating the exhaustive delivery of supplies, food, and other necessary resources to the elderly and homebound who were stranded in high-rise apartments throughout Rockaway. These efforts were recognized by CBS News and BET Honors. Click here to read more

Tamera Jacobs

Director of Finance & Operations

Tamera is a Guyana native and grew up in Far Rockaway, NY. After joining RYTF as a Youth Organizer, Tamera was quickly promoted to Director of Food Justice and was responsible to managing RYTF’s Urban Farm & Community Garden. Tamera currently serves as RYTF’s Director of Finance & Operations and works to maintain the organization’s fiscal and operational health. Tamera is also a member of Community Board 14 and a full-time student, currently pursuing her bachelor's degree at the City College of New York.

Malachi Davidson

Membership Engagement Organizer

Malachi was born and raised in Far Rockaway, NY. He joined the Rockaway Youth Task Force as a member in October 2015 and has worked with the organization in various capacities since then. In March 2017, Malachi was promoted to RYTF staff and currently serves as RYTF's Membership Engagement Organizer. Malachi is also a full-time college student, studying business marketing at Baruch College.

Andrea Colon

Community Engagement Organizer

Andrea is a senior at Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability. She enjoys being an activist and has learned a lot from being part of the Rockaway Youth Task Force. She values being able to advocate for herself and on behalf of others and currently serves as RYTF's Community Engagement Organizer. When she’s not in the office or working on campaigns, you can find her playing the guitar.

Aury Diaz

Operations Manager

Aury is a senior at Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability. She first joined RYTF as a member and currently serves as RYTF's Operations Manager, assisting the Director of Operations and Programs in ensuring the RYTF's fiscal and programmatic health.

Barry Mckenzie

Rockaway Advocate Coordinator

Barry was born in Trinidad and grew up in New Jersey and New York. Barry has been a dedicated member of RYTF since its inception and has taken on many roles during his time with the organization. During Superstorm Sandy, Barry was forced from his home for nearly a year and that experience solidified his commitment to the Rockaway community. Currently, Barry serves as RYTF's Rockaway Advocate Coordinator.

Board of Directors and Leaders

In addition to our staff members, RYTF is supported by a Board of Directors and Leaders. The board serves to guide the organization’s long-term vision. Our board of directors consists of nine members who bring a diverse set of skills to our organization. Leaders are Organizers who have been elected to serve on RYTF’s leadership team. Leaders have four different roles in the organization: Co-Chair of Organizing (two positions), Chair of Member Engagement. Chair of Grassroots Fundraising, and the Chair of Communications.

Our Partners

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