The rooftop of the William Vale Hotel isn’t finished yet—right now the floor is covered in some kind of black canvas—but I hardly noticed that when I was 21 stories up, with the Manhattan skyline to the west and all of North Brooklyn surrounding me. Across the river, this altitude is nothing (the Flatiron building is 22 stories, for reference) but in Williamsburg it’s pretty mindboggling.
Housing + Development
A group of a dozen small business owners and community advocates from Bushwick gathered at Esmeralda Valencia’s restaurant on Myrtle Avenue this morning with an alarming message on posterboard: “Los pequeños negocios nos declaramos en crisis”—We small businesses declare ourselves in crisis.
It was difficult to ignore the fluttering signs at last week’s Bushwick Community Plan meeting. Sure, they were black-and-white, only about as big as two sheets of computer paper and just as flimsy, but there were tons of them. As City Council members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal touted their community-driven alternative to developer-led change, almost everyone sitting in front of them seemed to be holding a flyer reading: “EVICT THE RICH.” The rallying cry may have been more Mao Tse-tung than #BushwickBerners, but the Brooklyn Solidarity Network (BSN) couldn’t have been more serious.
Lillian Melendez still remembers when Clinton Street was a destination for anyone planning a sweet sixteen, baby shower or wedding. “If you were having a party, you had to come to Clinton,” she said. “Clinton was famous, everybody knew Clinton.” As a child she spent afternoons playing in her mother’s shop, Genesis Party Supplies at 97 Clinton, packed with custom wedding and bridesmaids dresses, speciality balloons and centerpieces and themed baby shower chairs and pins. Back then, Genesis held court with three other Latino party shops on that stretch of the block alone– if a customer didn’t find what they wanted at Genesis, her mom would send them next door or across the street.
How many landlords does it take to change a lightbulb? Metropolitan Council on Housing volunteer Mary Crosby posed the rhetorical question to members of the Rent Guidelines Board at last night’s public hearing at Cooper Union. “None, because everyone knows landlords don’t do repairs anymore,” she said. Here’s another one for you: how many owners does it take to change a lightbulb? You’ll never guess… it’s also “none,” she said, “because the owners have removed the light sockets during an eviction.”
This morning shoppers looking for American flag swimsuits or bright-patterned leggings at Dr. Jay’s streetwear store in downtown Brooklyn were greeted by a flurry of slogans and posters decrying the brand’s owner, Joseph Betesh, as a slumlord. Tenants from 83 and 85 Bowery were gathered with local activists out front, chanting against Betesh’s efforts to evict them.