This evening, Council Member Antonio Reynoso is planning to sit with seven others in the middle of Ainslie Street with the intention of getting arrested. “This is not something we would have wanted to have done at all,” says Jennifer Gutierrez, a spokesperson for Reynoso’s office. “We’re just frustrated.”
The act of civil disobedience is a last resort, a final attempt to grab the city’s attention in hopes that it will purchase and prevent the loss of three Williamsburg community centers. The Swinging Sixties senior center and the Small World day care operate in the same building at 211 Ainslie Street. They’ve both dealt with the specter of eviction since the property was purchased by real estate developers in the November of 2013. The new owners, Victor and Harry Einhorn, have raised the rent by 250 percent and want $10.5 million dollars if the building is to be bought, the Greenpoint Gazette reports.
Since the end of last year, North Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has twice attempted to introduce legislation to save the centers. The bills have used the principle of eminent domain to prevent the building’s new owners from evicting its residents, but according to The Brooklyn Paper, the legislation has struggled to make it past the Senate. The Nuestros Ninos Day Care on South 4th Street has faced similar problems. “Our lease expired in January,” says Miriam Cruz, director of the day care. “We were given six months notice on December 23.”
“We’re all in the same situation,” Cruz adds, “we’ve got to give each other support.”
The rally will begin this evening at both the Nuestros Ninos Day Care and 211 Ainslie Street. The two groups will then converge on Manhattan Avenue, outside what was the Bushwick United Early Learn, a day care that unfortunately succumbed to the fate of property developers back in December. Gutierrez says that over 300 people, from every social and ethnic enclave in Williamsburg, are expected to lend their support. Together, the group will journey back to 211 Ainslie where Reynoso’s demonstration will take place at 5:30 p.m.
Frankie, a recent retiree and regular at the Swinging Sixties center says that he’s confident the rally will prove successful. “The center is one of the greatest going and it’s going to stay here,” he says, “I know we can win!”
Frankie say that he visits the center almost every day to socialize and help out where he can. “The center’s a very valuable resource,” he explains. “It’s a second home to me.”