March 23 Town Hall Meeting Summary

CrowHill_TownHall_color-thumb

On Saturday, March 23, 2013 both old and new residents gathered together for Crow Hill Community Association’s (CHCA) first town hall meeting in the auditorium of PS 22. Overall, the meeting drew approximately 220 people, surpassing organizers’ expectations and reflecting the current energy throughout the neighborhood.

Organizers also noted, however, that while there was diversity amongst the attendees, the meeting’s demographics in terms of race and length of residency did not truly reflect the neighborhood.  So more intense outreach to members of the community who were underrepresented on the 23rd will become an even higher priority for future meetings.

To open the meeting,  a photo montage played on the overhead projection screen showing Crow Hill (the Crown Heights neighborhood stretching from Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue between Franklin and Bedford which has been at the center of conversations around gentrification) at the turn of the century to present day, and a local fiddler entertained the crowd.

CHCA members, Nick Juravich (of the ILoveFranklinAve blog) and local merchant Garnett Alcindor (co-owner of Taste Buds) welcomed the community explaining that the meeting had been called because business as usual was no longer working in Crow Hill and more people needed to get involved.  They explained that all types of issues could be discussed including the positive and negative aspects of gentrification. It was also emphasized that all parties were encouraged to speak openly and honestly.

Karen Granville, a Crow Hill resident for 17 years, then broke the audience into groups according to the month of their birth, which several people thought was quite unique.

Each group was guided by a volunteer facilitator from the neighborhood which lead the group in answering four questions:

  1. what do you like about your community
  2. what don’t you like about your community
  3. what are your dreams for this community
  4. what is one thing we could do tomorrow or within the next few weeks to work towards that dream.

After much lively conversation, the groups gathered again in the auditorium and each facilitator along with a volunteer speaker from the group shared responses to the questions.

While each of the groups reported a unique perspective of the problems and potential of Crow Hill, most of the conversations centered around three areas where people raised their likes and concerns: People, Access to Services, and a Livable Neighborhood.

Topics raised in each area included:

Like

Don’t Like

People

– Diversity

– Sense of community

– History

– Civic Engagement

– Racial separations & tensions

– People don’t say hello

– Unclear how to get involved in the community or access information

Access to Services

– Good mass transit

– Arts & culture activities (BK Museum, West Indian Day Parade)

– Green space (Park, Botanical)

– Locally owned businesses

– Good food

– Not enough business diversity( too many bars and high-end restaurants)

– Lack of welcoming community centers

– Struggling schools, issues with co-location & charters, lack of day care

Livable Neighborhood

– Relatively affordable

– Safe

– Pedestrian friendly/human scale

– Displacement from rising price of rents and goods

– Still lots of work to be done to make the neighborhood feel safe (crime, NYPD, lighting, violence) and clean (dog mess, trash, vermin)

Based on these lists, the top areas that emerged that people wanted to work on right away include:

Top Areas

Examples

Community engagement

Better offline outreach for community meetings, Get a more diverse base of residents involved in community conversation,  Events that help build community

Political Engagement

Access to and accountability of local politicians, clearer information sharing about upcoming projects that will affect the community, when/where CB8 and subcommittee meetings are; Tracking how are representatives are addressing the issues we care about most,  Working w/ Community Engagement Workgroup to get community members to meetings

Housing Workgroup

Tenants rights information, affordable housing designations within new developments

Livable Neighborhood Workgroup

Focused on issues of cleanliness, safety, transportation and beautification

Youth Workgroup

Issues involving neighborhood schools, Developing youth engagement opportunities in the neighborhood, creation of community spaces that serve youth, access to youth jobs

The event closed by opening the floor to senior residents.  Several long-time residents from the community took the floor to share their memories of the community and their dreams for its future.

Eve Porter, a pillar of the community, long time activist and Crow Hill Community Association founder and president, spoke eloquently about the days of crime and violence in the 1980’s and the deprivation and absolute resurrection of a decimated community along with the work that was required to get us to this point today.

Dr. Mildred Clark, a verbal whip who has lived in the community for 65 years, recalled the days before WW2 and the common thread of poverty that held Italians, Poles, Jews and blacks together in the Crown Heights of yesterday. She shared that she graduated in the same building where the group currently stood in the mid forties and implored us to shore up the United States educational system and to individually support our neighborhood schools.

While the weather was picture perfect outside, all in attendance thought it was of the utmost importance to spend an afternoon inside, looking their neighbors in the eye and speaking candidly from their hearts.  Special thanks to local merchants and institutions who supported the event (Pulp & Bean, PS 705’s Principal Soto, Mike Perry Studio, Big Sue LLC) and to all the volunteers who made this day possible!

Crow Hill Community Association has committed to help further these conversations, engage more local residents, and help move the conversations toward action.

Join us at the Landmarking and Rezoning Meeting, April 16th. A brief portion of the meeting will focus on laying out next steps around the listed areas, but the majority of the meeting will focus on educating neighborhood residents about two pending proposals – a Landmarking proposal organized by members of CHCA and the Rezoning proposal currently up before our Community Board 8.

Come and learn how these issues will affect YOU, how they will affect the issues YOU laid out at the last Town Hall, and what YOU can do to engage in the process surrounding these proposals.

Here are some additional next steps and ways that people can get involved:

Other upcoming events!

– In May, stay tuned for community forums with local politicians and the next in our series of Town Halls.

Stay informed!

– Sign up for the CHCA mailing list via the sign-in sheets up front or (http://crowhillcommunity.org/)

– Keep an eye out for print versions of notes/next steps throughout the neighborhood.

– CHCA’s monthly meetings. The Association meets every third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 (excepting July and August) at the Gospel Tabernacle Church, 725 Franklin Avenue (between Sterling and Park)

Get to work!

– We will hold subsequent meetings to keep the dialogue going!

– We will seed working groups to address issue areas listed above that community members are most passionate about!