May, 2014

VP Paul Carson begins the meeting.
Discusses the free tree giveaway, where 98 trees were given away.
Informed the members of the farmers market that will be taking place at the same location as the tree give away: Mount Jamel’s Garden on Dean Street between Bedford and Franklin Avenues. It will be open Saturdays 8am-3pm, beginning on June 28th.

He then discussed the Crown Heights West Rezoning (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/crown_heights_west/index.shtml) after questions were asked at the previous meeting.

A member of the CB8 Housing/Land Use Committee then spoke up to inform the members that actions such as the rezoning are heard at those meetings, which meets the second Thursday of every month at CNR (727 Classon Ave). There is also an agenda that is posted before every meeting, which one can get by calling the CB8 main office. She also noted that the agendas tend to get fuller towards the summer since the CB8 Board does not meet in July and August. She also informed the members that anyone can become a member by attending three meetings in a row and implored people to attend despite the fact that Community Boards recommendations are advisory.

Paul continued to speak about the Rezoning, which essentially placed height limits on any new building in return for more floor area and lot coverage. This means that buildings can be wider, so long as they match the existing character of the other buildings.

Paul then went on to give an update on Berg’n the new beer garden opening up on Berg’n. They plan on opening up in July and encouraged anyone interested to stop by with a resume. Paul noted that most applicants in the neighborhood may not have resumes and suggested an application, which they do not have as of yet. For those at interested, they can contact Paul.

Treasurer Joanna Crispe
Announced that we have two new members, which brings us to 32 active members: 26 residential, 4 student/senior members, and 2 merchant members. We have a total of $1,110 in membership dues.

Brought up the Scholarship Fund, which is currently at $1,140 (including in-kind donations).

Invited members interested in community projects to come talk to her, after which she will bring it to the E-Board, who will then decide if it should be brought to a vote by the general membership.

Discussed the idea of a CHCA t-shirt to be sold for fund-raising and asked for a show of hands to gauge interest, which was favorable. The next step will be to contact Mike Perry, who designed the CHCA logo, to nail down design options and cost, which will hopefully be presented at the next meeting.

Secretary Josh Thompson
Announced some changes to the CHCA website, including a page dedicated solely to news passed on to us from CB8 and a similar page dedicated strictly to the 77th Police Precinct.

Project Manager Constance Nugent-Miller
Brought up the free tree giveaway mentioned earlier and said that about 90-92 trees were given away and she thanked Sue and Judy who spearheaded that project.

Asked Nick Juravich, Co-Chair of the Go Green/Go Clean Committee, to discuss the leftover soil from P.S. 705 Community Garden, which could be used to help beautify the sidewalks on Franklin Ave. Also mentioned some information pertaining to Community Gardens in the neighborhood. Roger That Community Garden is still trying to get their spaced purchased from those that own the land. They are in talks with the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust as well and could use support from anyone in the community along with elected officials who support them.

Connie then announced the Halloween Parade, which will be spearheaded by Sue.

Connie then introduced Lisa Pierre who announced the May winners of the Scholars Award Program (Apologies for any spelling mistakes).
The winners were: Kayla Rumble from P.S. 241, who will be graduating from the 5th grade; 2nd grader Jacuma Duviet; and Miss. Bernadine’s grandson (whose name was not provided) who is also in 2nd grade. Miss Bernadine was asked to stand in his place since he could not make it. The three winners were given iTunes gift cards.

Representatives from the Crown Heights Tenant Union: Keisha Jacobs, volunteer with the CHTU, and Lily Scolden, organizer with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), who are assisting the CHTU.

They handed out a full list of their demands as well, but also mentioned that CHTU is getting older residents and newer residents together together to learn their rights as tenants because some people are leaving the community due to lack of information.

They also noted that the issue of tenant rights extends to all of Crown Heights.

Meeting are held the third Thursday of every month at CNR. Also looking for organizations to endorse the Union’s demands.

CHCA President Frank Esquillin asked how one can get involved, to which they suggested that people come to the meetings at CNR. It begins with tenants of one building organizing themselves and eventually teaming up with other buildings because the more people involved will only help make an impact.

Councilman Jumaane Williams of the 45th district then addressed the membership on housing matters since he is the Chair of the City Council Housing Committee.

Brought up the Mayor’s Housing plan, which he says lays out a pretty good framework, despite not being very specific. It’s an $80 billion plan over the course of ten years. $40 billion from the City and another $40 from the private sector. He noted that this will have to include taller buildings in order to for supply to meet demand, specifically with income affordability. Councilman Williams said that he just wants to make sure the buildings are done contextually, so as to maintain the character of the neighborhoods in which new apartment building would be built.

Mr. Williams also discussed repealing the Erstat Law, which limits what the City can control (a.k.a Home Rule). This includes the ability to regulate rent. He applauded Mayor Bloomberg for bringing back Home Rule for education, allowing the City to have more control over how laws affecting education are handled, and wants similar action to be taken toward housing.

Mr. Williams also informed the members about the upcoming meeting of the Rent Guideline Board, which for the first time in many years, could decide to freeze rents, or at the very least, set the lowest increase possible, according to Mr. Williams. The vote will be taking place in June (find out date). He then took questions.

Frank asked about how “affordability” is defined because to many people, it is not affordable. Mr. Williams agreed with Frank and noted that there is a campaign called Real Affordability For All. Mr. Williams himself prefers the phrase “income-targeted affordability”, which reflects his concern for the lower and middle income demographics as oppose to the upper and middle classes.

Responding to a question from a member on whether the Rent Guideline Board meets in Albany or here in the City, Mr. Williams said that Rent Guideline Board is here in the City and it consists of 9 members, who are appointed by the Mayor. Of those nine members, two are tenants, two are landlords, and five “public” members who in the past have sided with the landlords. Mr. Williams also pointed out how they rarely address the question of whether an increase is needed and go directly to how much should the increase be. This year, they may actually choose to ask the former first. He attributed this, in part, to one of the landlord members siding with the tenants.

A member then asked about the Atlantic Gardens developments going up next to the Barclays Center and when they would begin accepting applications. She also asked about their standard for affordability and how likely it would be for people in the community to gain access to those apartments. Unfortunately, Mr. Williams couldn’t really answer the question, but he did say he was against it from the beginning and pushed for the housing to happen before Barclays Center.

A member then questioned the recent trend of downzoning and height limits if more housing is needed. He noted that those ideas seemed at odds, to which Mr. Williams agreed. The problem, according to Mr. Williams, is that nobody wants new buildings in their neighborhood (often referred to as NIMBYism, which stands for Not In My Back Yard).

Tony Fisher, owner of Pulp & Bean and Bob & Betty’s
Discussed an offer that was made to him by a developer, which he rejected out of concern for the tenants that live above his establishments, the twenty-two people he employs, and his family. He did this to point out that not all property owners are completely self-interested and that he cares about the people in this neighborhood.

Mr. Fisher then went on to discuss his history with the neighborhood, beginning in 1965 when his grandfather opened up a store on Washington Avenue where a Thriftway Pharmacy is currently located. The store his grandfather owned was one of the first Met Food Supermarkets in New York. His dad then opened up a store at 822 Franklin Avenue. His family moved from the neighborhood in the early 1970s after they suffered a home invasion that scared his mom. Nevertheless, his family has always remained passionate about Franklin Avenue and despite living in Bay Ridge, he said he only goes there to sleep. Even his father, who now lives in Jerusalem, remains interested in Franklin Avenue, as conversations between him and his son consist mostly of what is happening on Franklin Avenue, according to Tony. Family health concerns led to the closing of the store at 822 Franklin, but things are looking up now, allowing Tony to begin re-opening that store.

Mr. Fisher then went on to address criticisms that have been made towards him regarding his products being targeted to the new higher income residents. While he does appreciate and welcomes the feedback, he feels the criticisms are unfair since most of his employees live within a five block radius of his stores who are very much invested in the well being of the stores. He also pointed out that his stores are all union-affiliated, which means his employees get livable wages, benefits and 401Ks.

“Did You Know?” with Mike Fagan
Her first mentioned the walking tour that he led in May, which drew 73 attendees.

The wooden portion brewery site on Franklin is near closing and they got about asking price. It appears to be all residential with no affordable housing included.

The Seacrest Linen site has since sold as did the nearby site where they have been parking their trucks. One went for about 14-15 million and the other went for about 10 million. No affordable houing seems to be included in those as well. They are going from commercial to residential.

He also brought up the The Trivoli Towers, where residents are being forced to move into smaller apartments in some cases. You can read more here: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140505/crown-heights/tivoli-towers-residents-resist-city-orders-move-smaller-apartments

He then took questions:

One member asked what establishments are going into the first floor of the new building on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin, to which Tony and Frank informed that it will be a Capital One on EP and a Starbucks on Franklin, next to Pulp & Bean.

Following that, a member questioned the motivation behind the walking tour. She felt that it was meant to draw outsiders to see the neighborhood instead of raising community awareness about what the neighborhood is lacking (e.g. a community center for youth). Mike informed her that the walking tour was sponsored by the Municipal Arts Society and CHCA. Paul also noted that it was part of a city-wide event in which walking tours were taking place all over free of charge for residents and non-residents alike. The content was developed by Mike though.

Sue addressed the community center issue, which she said had been discussed at past meetings. She said that she has been pushing to have the schools open up their doors in their off hours, which would be a much cheaper option and more feasible as well.

Another member noted that when Major Owens passed, the Bedford-Union Armory was supposed to be given to the community to be used as a community center. She also expressed concern for the youth having nothing to do for the summer.

Frank then stoop up to respond to a lot of the questions being asked and implored the membership to hold the elected officials feet to the fire instead of just complaining to one another.

Frank also announced that elected officials will be welcome, but should be ready to answer questions and finding out what the community wants instead of just talking at them. Therefore, unless we are notified in advance, they will not be given an opportunity to speak.

Frank then brought up a survey that went around at the meeting, which will allow us to find out exactly what the community needs.

Frank then acknowledged the elected officials in the room: Renee Collymore, Olanike, Mr. Gabriel from Laurie Cumbo’s office, and representative from Assemblyman Mosley’s office.

A member then responded to Frank, saying the message is clear. Affordable Housing, A Community Center where community members can meet and a the youth can play.

Frank then asked the community members to push their merchants to hire the local youth.

A member, who is PTA President for PS 316 and President for the District, then spoke up and asked that parks be included in the list, along with affordable housing and a community center. Elijah Strous Park in particular has been ignored by the City, despite repeated requests by the Community Board to clean it up and make it safer.

She then asked Frank to write something up for everyone to bring in to a local merchant regarding hiring local youth. This, she suggested, might help those who aren’t sure what to say, but might also be more effective than walking in and giving them grief.

A member then suggested that we talk to those in Park Slope who were successful in getting their local armory converted into a community center.

Frank ended by asking elected officials to give us a heads up of their attendance, so members can prepare questions and/or concerns.

Meeting Closed

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