Thursday, March 19, 2009

Live from Hope Gardens...

...It's Community Board Four!

Ok, maybe I’m a little more excited than the other people in the room here tonight, but it’s the first time I’ve been back to a Community Board meeting in Bushwick in almost a year. Covering this meeting was one of my first assignments as a reporter, and it’s a great place to hear about everything that is going on in Bushwick. So, to bring the enthusiasm to residents who couldn’t be here last night, I’ve decided to write another running diary.

6:30 PM (6:00 PM Bushwick Time): Each CB4 meeting occurs on the third Wednesday of every month at 6 PM, but we are on Bushwick Time so the meeting technically starts on 6:30. Board members, residents, and representatives from local elected officials are scattered around twenty round tables in the community room at the Hope Gardens Community Center (195 Linden Street). BushwickBK contributors Anna D’Agrosa and Kevin Regan, and Arts in Bushwick Operations Director Laura Braslow have commandeered a corner table. They’re chatting about SITE Fest. Also sitting with them is Chris Henderson, Moviehouse founder and Capital B representative, mostly to update several arts groups with community board activities. He was at the CB1 meeting last night with Jonah Bokaer, Director of Chez Bushwick, and they are making the rounds.

6:47 PM: CB4 Chair Julie Dent calls the meeting to order as members finish helping themselves to a delicious buffet of chicken and broccoli stir fry and pork sausage. Dent yields the floor to Andrew Ingelsby, a Community Relations representative with the MTA, who leads a presentation about a new flood mitigation system near the Jefferson Street stop where a lot of development is taking place.

A woman who lives on Wyckoff Avenue asks the first question about street mitigation near Northeast Kingdom. She’s worried about liability issues and that new bars coming into the block will lead to the area becoming more of a hangout for drunk revelers. That is, beyond the Northeast Kingdom Sunday brunch crowd. D’Agrosa furrows her brown and folds her arms into her blue track suit. Regan continues eating.

7:08 PM: Now two attorneys hop up to join Inglesby for the Q and A period to specifically address the design of several benches. They sense a problem. Deborah Brown, right, a Bushwick-based painter and CB4 member, said the design is “pretty ugly” but is surprised by the uniformly negative reactions from her board members. She believes the Department Cultural Affairs should run a competition for Bushwick artists to design the benches and I bet metalworking artist Ty Tripoli could put something interesting together.

7:35 Whitted begins the roll call for the meeting. Representatives from the offices of Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Martin Dilan, Assemblyman William Boylan, Congressman Ed Towns, and Councilwoman Diana Reyna, identify themselves. Evelyn Cruz, a liaison with Congresswoman Velazquez, looks over in my direction as Julie Dent reads the minutes, points to me and whispers, “I want to talk to you!” Uh oh.

8:00 PM: A rep from Sen. Martin Dilan’s office talks about the State Senate’s MTA budget vote that transportation advocacy groups are not happy about. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has had a tough time rounding up votes and the Senate Republicans haven’t broken ranks. Dilan, Chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, was not optimistic that the MTA plan would pass and had floated other ideas. That was last week. This week, the Governor rejected the Senate bill calling for the East River bridge tolls that Dilan has opposed and the MTA is threatening major service reductions and fare hikes as early as next week.

8:08 PM: The colorful Austen Martinez arrives. Martinez, who can pass for a young Andy Garcia, is wearing a brown fleece hoodie with a black down vest and a snazzy brown hat. Before Laura Braslow joined the board last year, Martinez was the youngest member of CB4 by about twenty years. Reading of committee reports begins and the meeting begins to trudge along like Braslow’s blue Honda Civic.

8:17 PM: Four police officers, who have been sitting at a side table, got up and left the room. They’ve had a busy day. Seven hours earlier, a shooting occurred at a fast food restaurant on Knickerbocker Avenue near Troutman Street. According to Francisco Mercado, Diana Reyna’s liaison, three men entered the restaurant and shot up the place, injuring one. Cameras at the restaurant recorded the scene and police officers are still investigating.

8:19 PM: Mercado also mentions that Engine 271 on Himrod Street between St. Nicholas and Wyckoff may be in jeopardy of closing. Just last night, two fires broke out in Bushwick and Ladder 271 was closed overnight, after 6 PM. Its hours have been reduced since January 17. Tom Murphy, who supervises fire stations in Bushwick, is sitting behind Braslow and he isn’t happy. He said that the city will likely try to redistribute these firefighters throughout the city. The Community Board protested loudly two months ago when night hours were reduced and should be fuming if the city is indeed moving to close the station.

8:26 PM: We’re into announcements. To further pile onto the MTA tonight, the B25 line is being eliminated. Community Board Five is going to put out a petition to try to save the bus line. This looks like a job for Pass Kontrol!

8:47 PM: Mercado mentions a tenants rights conference Reyna will be hosting in South Bushwick house and Cruz talks about the effects of the stimulus package, particularly education funding. There’s also a Street Fair in the works on April 25th and Maria Hernandez Park that will benefit Trees Not Trash and the Brooklyn Public Library’s Bushwick Branch. Email for more information.

8:56 PM: Well, that’s it! Second roll call and we’re out of here. I hitch a ride in the Civic and head back home. There’s no easy way to end one of these things, so here’s some Sharon Jones. Happy Spring!

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