Two new articles about gentrification and environmental activism in Greenpoint, appearing in The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, argue that the neighborhood is challenging the typical narrative that gentrifying neighborhoods will inevitably force out all long-term residents to make way for a gold coast of newly arriving gentrifiers.
The articles, by Winifred Curran (Department of Geography, DePaul University) and Trina Hamilton (Department of Geography, SUNY University at Buffalo) advocates a “just green enough” idea that “makes room for continued industrial use and blue-collar work, where cleanup does not automatically or exclusively lead to the ‘parks, cafes, and a riverwalk’ model of a green city.”
“Just green enough” coincides with “just clean enough,” wherein “as much of the environmental hazard as possible is removed in order to assure community health while still allowing for industrial uses on the waterfront for the explicit purpose of maintaining the area’s working-class population.” Continue reading →
We’ve all heard of the Sequester, the terribly and amazingly large amount of money the U.S. government is currently slashing from the budget, what President Obama has referred to as taking a “meat-cleaver approach.” This slashing of public spending, with some war/defense spending, was heralded as an only solution and coded under many names, including the Grand Bargain and the Fiscal Cliff.
DiNapoli’s office responded that “details about how sequestration will affect the State as a whole are still pretty vague” but that the total cut for local NY State governments would be around $140 million – and that’s only through September, 2013, citing this report.
DiNapoli’s own report from December 2012 warned “the State would lose more than $210 million in federal funding for education, well over $100 million for health and human services and a similar amount for housing programs.” Continue reading →
In 2005 I received a ticket for an open container at the intersection of Nassau and Manhattan avenues. It was St. Patrick’s Day. I had been carrying my 24 ounce Budweiser in a brown paper bag when I saw the NYPD cruiser approaching. I stuffed my beer in a garbage can, but it was too late. The cruiser stopped, a cop got out, looked into the trash can and gave me a ticket.
I did not pay that ticket.
In Spring of 2012, I heard about a Safe Surrender day in BedStuy and attended. I, along with hundreds (thousands?) of other – mostly black males – stood in long lines for most of the morning until we appeared before a judge in a local BedStuy church, where our tickets were resolved without fines or other punishment.
The minister of the church, noticing a white face in the crowd, became curious about me asking, “What’d they get you for?” When I told him, he just guffawed and shook his head.
All this to relate that Gothamist recently reported about the New York neighborhoods with the most public drinking complaints as well as those with the most public urination complaints submitted via 311 in the last two years.
Greenpoint is the only neighborhood to top both lists!
A Brooklyn Ink follow-up article on the topic assumed that all 311 complaints were solely about the homeless population in Greenpoint, referred to as “drinkers” – but does not verify that the 311 complaints are actually traced to complaints about the homeless population’s public drinking. The article quotes locals about the homeless – that “they stink” and “are obnoxious and rude” before admitting that “[t]hese people need support.”
Of course 311 complaints could just mean there are more people willing/able enough to complain in that neighborhood than in others, not necessarily that there is more public drinking and urination in those places. Given the recent troubles involving the shelter at Greenpoint Church on Milton Street, perhaps the number of Greenpoint complaints should not be surprising.
ExxonMobil dropped off a letter today at the apartment, no stamp or name and addressed only to “Dear Neighbor” in a tipped haphazard typewriter’s letters. This intimacy is creepy from one of the most massive entities in the world. Did ExxonMobil just drop by and leave a letter, being sorry they had missed me?
Anyway, the letter, below, is about the Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project, the endless process by which ExxonMobil is removing the Greenpoint Oil Spill from underneath my house, then refining and selling it – an ineluctable win-win.
The letter tells us that “soil boring activity” is about to wreck the sidewalk on the block. Reassuringly, the letter claims it “poses no health or safety issues for you.” Sweet. I’m sitting on top of 30 million gallons of oil, plus the Meeker Avenue Plumes, many of my neighbors have devices in their basements to capture benzene vapors escaping the spill so they don’t breathe them in inside their own homes – but there is no health or safety risk when they dig out the sidewalk to “further assess the remediation progress.”
Sick, ExxonMobil! I’ll just kick back and let the good times ride for “only a few days” and then “a few weeks later” and then some more “boring will be performed” and then the place will be “reasonably restored to previous or better conditions” and they promise to be “efficient and courteous”! And no doubt they will. Just ask Baton Rouge.
Brooklyn College has been the center of controversy the last few days, and Greenpoint’s City Council Member Stephen Levin has been involved in at least two sides of the many-sided issue.
On January 29th, Lewis A. Fidler (Assistant Majority Leader of the New York City Council) sent a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould, opposing the upcoming February 7th student-sponsored event at Brooklyn College featuring academics Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler – who were to address the idea of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a response to the over four-decades long Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The letter stated: “We are asking you to either cancel this event or, if it should proceed, then to remove your school’s official support for it.”
Fidler’s letter was signed by nine City Council Members, including Greenpoint’s own Stephen Levin. (Levin represents District 33, including Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, and parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope and Boerum Hill.) The letter stated that, “We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City … want their tax money to be spent on.” As Nation writer Katha Pollitt wrote, “Why do I think their position has more to do with election math than about their fears for the lofty mission of Brooklyn College?”
Fidler’s letter was consecutive to other opposition to the event, led by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. An email exchange/argument between Dershowitz – a Brooklyn College alum who wanted BC to cancel the event – and lawyer/journalist Glenn Greenwald – who insisted on academic freedom, including freedom from censorship by City Council – ensued and can be seen here.
Many, including this writer, contacted Steve Levin’s office to voice our opposition to seeing his signature on Fidler’s letter, which included the sentence “We believe in academic freedom” even as it sought to undermine it. As many residents of District 33 began to voice their dissent to Levin’s position, one Greenpoint resident, Billy Gray (@billymeltdown), tweeted: “I didn’t vote for @StephenLevin33 so he could tell students what events and opinions would be allowed.” Continue reading →
Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents Our Public Schools! or WAGPOPS! is an organization formed in 2011 by parents of public school students in North Brooklyn’s District 14.
The group, which is the focus of a recent Village Voice story, consists of hundreds of parents and community members “who support and promote schools that are of, for and by the community.”
Just this month, WAGPOPS filed a lawsuit against SUNY, in an attempt to stop Citizens of the World Charter Schools, which is trying to make inroads into District 14, from opening two new charter schools in North Brooklyn in Fall 2013.
The following interview was conducted via email with Brooke Parker, one of WAGPOPS’ founders:
GP: What does WAGPOPS do? When and in response to what was the group formed?
Brooke: Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents: Our Public Schools! was formed by a group of parents who met on the brooklynbabyhui, a private listserv for local parents of infants and toddlers. In December 2011, “Success Academy Charter Schools” launched a super-expensive ad campaign with “Success Academy” posters all over the Northside subways. Parents on the listserv then discovered that Eva Moskowitz’ husband, Eric Grannis, was trying to recruit parents off the brooklynbabyhui to push for more charter schools in North Brooklyn. We began emailing each other off-list, only meeting in person months later. None of us expected to become grassroots activists, but like the neighborhood residents who fought Radicac, we responded to a real threat to our neighborhood public schools and became more outraged the more we learned.
The Greenpoint Reformed Church‘s volunteers prepared more than 1,000 bag lunches over the weekend, on top of thousands of meals prepared by the Church’s volunteers throughout the week as a relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The volunteers of the weekly Wednesday hot meal at the Church’s Soup Kitchen led the organizing of up to 60 simultaneous volunteers preparing lunches and hot meals. Bag lunches included peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, juice, chips, cookie or granola bar, and fruit. The lunches were provided to Greenpoint’s Church of the Ascension on Java Street, where Councilmember Steve Levin has been coordinating drop-off donations and deliveries to Red Hook, Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach.
Many of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are reeling in the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy. The city itself, without having done door-to-door inquiries, admits 40,000 – 50,000 people will need shelter. (In addition to the already 30,000 people homeless in the city on any given night.) Reuters quoted Mayor Mike Bloomberg as stating that, “We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city. It’s a problem to find housing.” This despite homeless advocacy group Picture the Homeless’ findings that there are enough vacant properties in the city to easily house over 200,000 people, and then some. Continue reading →
‘Greenpoint’ is arguably now a term for rock climbers. According to climbing blog Planet Mountain the term means ‘climbing a sport route with the holds but using trad[itional] gear such as nuts and camming devices.’
Famous climber Kurt Albert developed the practice of painting a red X on spots in his climbs that he did not need to step or grab onto, finally painting a final X when he completed his ascent. This introduced the term ‘redpoint’ to the climbing world – of which I personally haven’t climbed anything but stairs and walls in years.
Several message boards featured the usual eye-rolling at naming anything. One post pointed out that ‘It’s actually called real rock climbing.’
Greenpoint’s name was, as the story goes, coined by Dutch sailors in the days of New Amsterdam. Sailors traversing their way up the East River would spy the jut of vegetated marshy land where Freeman and Green streets now end and exclaim ‘Green Pernt!’ before having a refreshing dip in Newtown Creek.
Of course, the area also used to be called Cherry Point and who knows why?
The OED contains no entry for ‘greenpoint.’ Nor does any other dictionary searched – aside from the Urban one, which cites the Brooklyn neighborhood.
In the summer of 2011, a large mural of Bradley Manning appeared near McCarren Park. Straddled between Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the image had “Hero” written above the smiling face of the world’s most famous whistleblower, who had supposedly leaked hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents to Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
I tracked down the artist of the mural, known as Bamn, who agreed to an email interview.
GP: When did you paint the mural? How long did it take?
BAMN: I did this mural early June 2011 with a paint roller. It didn’t take more than thirty minutes. I had to work fast because I didn’t really have permission.
GP: Why did you choose that particular spot for the mural?
BAMN: There was a suggestion from a friend who works nearby that something should go on the wall. I didn’t ask for permission, but I figured that if I was questioned my friend could back-up my “story”. What amazes me is that the owners haven’t removed it.
GP: The mural is shocking, given that Manning is the most public figure in a long time to possibly be tried for treason. I was very surprised the first time I saw it. Was this your intention?
BAMN: What’s shocking to me is that whistle-blowing is considered treason. I support Manning and Wikileaks wholeheartedly, but the mural was painted for the public. My only intention is to spark dialogue.
GP: What has been the reaction to the mural? How long until “Traitor” was written over it? I found this guy on the web who was not a fan.
BAMN: Reactions to the mural have been overwhelmingly positive. Every time I pass that wall I see people posing and taking pictures.
It took about a month for someone to build up the courage to write “traitor” across the mural. Then, according to my friend who works nearby, within an hour some random guy* put black tape over the word “traitor.” Then the next day my friend fixed the mural with paint. I expected dialogue, but never did I imagine it to be so immediate and literal.
As for that blogger, I don’t pay attention to people who can’t formulate an intelligent argument.