In 2013 Mayor Bill De Blasio was voted into office with pledges to reign in police violence and stop-and-frisk policing targeted at blacks and latinos. (Remember that emotional video about needing to have stop-and-frisk conversations with his son, Dante?) And since he took office, street-stops have continued on a downward trend–there were about 24,000 stops last year, a far cry from the peak of 685,000 in 2011 under Bloomberg.
As Participatory Budgeting has been adopted here in New York City over the last few years, residents of each participating district can now vote on how to allocate a minimum of $1 million of the city budget to the local improvement efforts they they care most about. In North Brooklyn, the budgetary contenders chosen by neighbors include projects in schools, parks, playgrounds, transportation, and public housing. (Sorry, Lower East Side and East Village– you’re left out again this year.)
Already ground zero for some of the city’s most dramatic rezonings, Williamsburg is facing yet another contentious development: an eight-story, 480,000-square-foot office complex known as the Brooklyn Generator. On Tuesday, Community Board 1 met to vote on whether or not to support the creation of a special mixed-use zone that would allow developers to move forward with the massive project. And they didn’t take the matter lightly. “This is going to affect us for the rest of our lives,” CB1 chairperson Dealice Fuller said of the board’s decision.
Bushwick council member Antonio Reynoso was among the many who challenged Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan last week, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to shoot it down entirely. Upzoning (i.e. rezoning certain areas to allow for higher buildings) is one of the more controversial aspects of the the mayor’s plan, and something that Bushwick residents have vehemently protested against in recent years. But in a report released earlier this month, Reynoso concludes that the mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which would require a share of those taller buildings to be permanently affordable, represents the chance to address “missed opportunities” in North Brooklyn housing development.
City Council members pushed Mayor de Blasio’s new rezoning plan to prioritize deeper affordability during a hearing yesterday on a key pillar of his effort to add 200,000 new affordable units over 10 years. If passed, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require new constructions in certain neighborhoods to set aside 25-30 percent of the units as permanently affordable.
Tenants and activists who are part of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (STS) rallied outside of 90 Elizabeth Street this morning before marching to City Hall to show their support for a package of bills that would address construction-related harassment. Today marks an important landmark for the coalition’s fight against landlords who are taking advantage of a lack of oversight and toothless fines.
“You really have to be quick crossing the street, or they’ll totally run you down,” a friend of mine laughed. “I’m actually really scared that someday they’ll catch me not paying attention.” He was right– even after dark last night, garbage trucks were still rumbling down Thames Street periodically, past his apartment and toward the Brooklyn Waste Transfer Facility, which neighbors are saying is a particularly devious garbage deposit. I was on my way to a community meeting that brought together activists, workers, residents, and local business owners– all of them concerned about waste inequity– inside La Luz, a storefront and pop-up venue space.
To get to the meeting, I had to cross directly in front of the garbage processing warehouse where, per usual, the massive doors were wide open (which activists and residents say is the case several times an hour), revealing voluminous mounds of stinky refuse. I picked up the pace, realizing suddenly that I was in the crosshairs of an enormous white trash truck and a frantic bulldozer– I felt the distinct possibility that I could be mistaken for a passing ant. Had it been summer, my friend assured me, this experience would have been a more nauseating one.
The Mayor signed a series of laws today criminalizing K2, part of the City’s continuing effort to crack down on the use and sale of synthetic marijuana. The drug, which Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton both referred to as “poison,” is a liquid substance manufacturers spray on herbs. It has been marketed as incense, spice and, perhaps the most hilarious departure from its actual use, bath salts.
“I have a really high tolerance for people doing stuff on the street,” said G Lucas Crane, a member of the Silent Barn collective. “I’m from Brooklyn, I just wanna see people do their thing, I don’t want to call anybody out– but when it gets to this level of saturation, the community needs to do something about it.”
The Silent Barn sits just a block from the intersection of Myrtle-Broadway, a hotbed for K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids that have been targeted by city officials. Now, a coalition led by Council Member Antonio Reynoso is bringing a new kind of attention and care to this bustling but problematic corner.
A group by the name of Stand for Tenant Safety, consisting of tenant groups and eleven City Council Members (including Rosie Mendez from the Lower East Side, Stephen Levin from Williamsburg, and Antonio Reynoso of Bushwick) rallied on the steps of City Hall this morning. Never mind the rain. The coalition is named for a new report, released today by the Urban Justice Center, that coincides with the introduction of a legislation package that would protect tenants from landlords and developers who carry out neglectful and malicious construction projects. “My tenants have rain coming down in their apartments, so this is nothing,” said CM Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side.
Sure, your first priority this weekend probably involves lying in the grass with a margarita blender, but don’t let the lurvley weather keep you from doing your civic duty. Between an epic town hall on the Lower East Side and the launch of Participatory Budgeting in North Brooklyn, in the next days you’ll have some choice opportunities to bend the ears — and pull at the pursestrings — of the city and state’s power players.
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.”