From the Ground Up
A few words must be said about the leadership of the Association and the Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization Project, headed by Evangeline Porter and Sarah Taylor. Ms. Eve and Ms. Sarah are a rare combination of keen intellect, insight, mother wit, common sense, empathy, and openness. Board members, and others who have worked with them, know that they set for themselves high standards of excellence and are always striving to do more and better. Ms. Eve, Ms. Sarah and core volunteers have demonstrated a profound commitment to the rebuilding of Crow Hill and have made enormous contributions as noted below.
Franklin Avenue (Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue)
In 1999, the Association created the Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization Project to spur the physical, economic, educational, and cultural development of Franklin Avenue, between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue. Thus, Franklin Avenue is at the center of the Association’s community and economic development activities in the target area.
This stretch of Franklin consists of 22 city blocks and includes a variety of small businesses, mostly owned and/or operated by foreign-born merchants.
The area is also in close proximity to world-class cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Transportation is excellent to and from the target area.
These are some of the problems facing the Crow Hill community: Over the years, structural, economic, and quality-of-life changes; a decline and devaluation of grassroots participation in civic life; and a rise in illicit activities, combined with troubling educational and economic systems, have devastated this area. As you read about the Association’s Accomplishments, it is clear that it has come up with demonstrated, innovative strategies to turn around the devastation.
To begin, the group had agreed to:
- Lead the development by demonstration in order to raise the residents’ level of knowledge about Crow Hill and the power they possess to improve on the dilapidated condition of the area.
- Upgrade Franklin Avenue’s infrastructure and local storefronts.
- Encourage intergroup relations in order to adapt to the challenges and opportunities in the Crow Hill community so that all inhabitants can enjoy a high quality of life.
In 1999, when the Project started, there were a total of 90 local storefronts on Franklin. Sixty-nine (69) were occupied and 21 were closed. By 2003, there were 108 local storefronts and 17 were vacant.
Accomplishments: 2002–2003 (Phase II)
- The Association raised a significant amount of funds from the New York City Department of Small Business Services and utilized funds already raised from the Dormitory Authority of New York State primarily for commercial revitalization and capital improvements on Franklin Avenue.
- Since July 1999, the Association has engaged and worked with contractors to upgrade 32 local storefronts. The upgrading involved the installation of awnings (burgundy), mesh grille security gates, security cameras, and/or window glass.
- Thirty-three (33) local merchants contributed a respectable amount of funds toward facade improvements.
- In 2003, Assemblyman Roger L. Green made it possible to have decorative street lights installed on Franklin (Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue).
- The Association engaged Graffiti Answers Service Company to remove graffiti from buildings on Franklin Avenue and from other structures such as mailboxes and fire hydrants.
- On June 22, 2002, the Association conducted a Big Sweep-Up of over 25 blocks in its target area with the help of Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s Office, the Sanitation and Police Departments, and local merchants and residents.
- In 2002, local merchants hired youths for the summer.
- In October 2002, Franklin Avenue underwent resurfacing.
- In November 2002, 34 trees were planted on and around Franklin Avenue.
- April 2003 jump-started the Greenspace-Sanitation Initiative on Franklin (Adopt-A-Tree, Adopt-A-Basket, and Sanitation programs).
- The Association convinced Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens to build housing for senior citizens on the grounds of the former Monastery (Saint John’s Place at Bedford Avenue). The Monastery Senior Housing apartments (15 St. John’s Place) opened in April 2003.
- Street banners were designed for Franklin Avenue and erected in 2003.
- Lincoln Place was reconfigured (between New York and Underhill Avenues).
- A street light was installed on Franklin Avenue at Lincoln Place.
- The Association established working relationships with the Prospect Park Alliance, the New York Tree Trust, and the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation’s Senior Connection Program.
- Garbage receptacles were placed on every corner from Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue.
- Resurfacing and removal of potholes on St. John’s Place, from Underhill to N.Y Avenues.
- Tree guards were installed on St. John’s Place, St. Francis, and St. Charles, with the help of Borough President Marty Markowitz.
- The Association worked closely with the Department of Sanitation to issue summonses for unswept sidewalks and building fronts.
- The meeting site was moved to 705 Franklin Avenue for the convenience of residents in the area.
Accomplishments: 1999–2001 (Phase I)
- The Association raised a significant amount of funds from the New York City Department of Business Services and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York for project assistance and related community and economic development activities in the target area.
- Seven local storefronts were upgraded with awnings and security gates.
- Trees were planted on Franklin Avenue (between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue).
- The Environmental Protection Agency installed water and sewer lines in the target area.
- The Board of Health fined an unsanitary merchant.
- The City installed additional bus shelters and mailboxes in the target area.
- The Association established productive relationships and partnerships with various institutions working in the areas of community and economic development.
- Articles about the Association’s work appeared in Crain’s New York (12/00) and several times in Our Time Press (e.g., October 2002 edition).
Greenspace-Sanitation Initiative on Franklin Avenue (Phase III)
The Initiative began in April 2003. The Association engaged the Washington Avenue Merchants Association to lead this Initiative, which is based on the model currently in place on Washington Avenue. The Initiative involves planting, caring for trees, and developing sanitation programs to be carried out by residents and merchants.
Many of the local merchants conducting business in Crow Hill’s target area are members of the Association and have made financial contributions toward facade improvements along Franklin Avenue and its environs. Merchants’ contributions, along with funds raised by the Association, have been pooled together to support efforts to revitalize the target area in the Crow Hill community. The Association’s partnership with local merchants has grown out of a strategy of inclusion of the whole community, and it is producing visible and lasting results. The vitality of the Crow Hill community depends largely on the participation of business people in the area. So, the Association is exceedingly pleased that many of the local merchants have demonstrated their commitment to work with the Association to shape the economic, physical, and social life of this community and are thereby helping themselves as well. A hearty congratulations to these merchants. A list of the merchants’ businesses is on Page 9.
Services to Seniors
Over the years, members of the Association have provided assistance to the elderly in the community. They have helped seniors to understand and complete business forms such as enrollment in the State’s Star Program, Access-A-Ride, and HEAP; members also accompany seniors to doctors’ appointments and community meetings. The Association invites to our meetings professionals who are working in areas that deal with the elderly to share vital information.
The Association’s relationship with the Chase Manhattan Bank and its Christmas in April Program enabled some seniors to have repairs done on and in their homes. For example, basements and backyards were cleaned; in one home, a kitchen was painted and wallpapered; stoops were scraped and painted, flowers were planted, etc.
The Association operates on a shoestring budget in the truest sense of the word. Major funds raised from institutions and local merchants support the Association-sponsored Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization Project, and a minimal amount goes toward operations. Similarly, support provided by local merchants and the small contributions from the membership help with operational support. An audit of the Association’s financial records was a resounding success. We would be pleased to share more details about our finances with founders and the membership.