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.”
The event, “BDS Movement Against Israel,” is sponsored by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine.
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
Church of the Ascension on Java Street has been Occupied. The church, which began helping coordinate relief efforts (with Councilmember Steve Levin) for Hurricane Sandy survivors immediately after the storm, has just been more formally Occupied by Occupy Sandy, an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street. The Greenpoint site is largely replacing the 520 Clinton Street location at the Church of St Luke and St Matthew in Clinton Hill, after a December 23rd two-alarm fire at that location which fire officials have called “suspicious” and Church Father Chris Ballard called “arson.”
The church, Occupy Sandy’s first Greenpoint location, will serve as an office hub for the various Occupy Sandy locales in the city and as a headquarters for “volunteer dispatch operations” to the Rockaways, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook, Coney Island, Staten Island, and Sheepshead Bay, where survivors continue to struggle with little help aside from volunteers like Occupy Sandy and others.
Occupy Sandy will also use the locale to offer a regularly scheduled orientation for new volunteers interested in helping in the ongoing long-term relief effort. More information is available on the Occupy Sandy website.
Greenpoint’s response to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath began immediately after the storm through City Councilmember Steve Levin, and both Church of the Ascension and Greenpoint Reformed Church.
As reported in the Greenpoint Star and DNAinfo, there are Greenpoint residents still suffering the affects the storm including moldy basements and problems getting insurance or government to help with necessary cleanup funds.
On August 19th, The Brooklyn Eagle speculated that an empty building near the northernmost point of McGuinness Blvd in Brooklyn had been bought by a developer, Triumph Hotels, in the knowledge that the building would likely be bought by the city to be made into a homeless man’s shelter. The residents of Greenpoint – and Councilman Steve Levin, and Assemblyman Joe Lentol – have, after all, been protesting the idea for months.
Previously, Steve Levin had said of the idea that the neighborhood “as a community [is] inundated with services that we provide to the rest of the city … on a level that no other neighborhood has to do.”
Activists and politicians have pointed out that, in care for the homeless and struggling alone, Greenpoint organizations have attempted to care for the neighborhood’s already large homeless population, through: the Greenpoint Reformed Church, Most Holy Trinity, Community Board 1, and the Outreach Project – not to mention the Greenpoint Hotel and the three-quarter house on Clay Street.
On the 22nd, The Real Deal reported City Comptroller John Liu’s office as stating that, “a fair, transparent and equitable siting process” would occur.
…And speaking of sharing: a recent article on DNA Info reported on protests by UES residents against an upgrade to the already existing garbage facility at 91st Street.
Writer Amy Zimmer points out that the upgrade is “intended to reduce the burden on neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, like the South Bronx and Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that have a disproportionate number of trash facilities.”
When imagining the enormous number of waste transfer vehicles rumbling around Greenpoint’s and Williamsburg’s children at all hours, the idea that “Upper East Siders are outraged by the possibility of trucks rumbling just feet away from where their kids play ball” makes one envious. (Italics all mine.)