“The heartbeat of Queens is the working class and immigrants, not billionaires. At a time when our city is facing a crisis of affordability, New York is looking to pay Amazon, the richest corporation in the world, billions of dollars to gentrify Queens. This is outrageous. Rather than creating good jobs for the community this deal will displace existing residents. We do not need nor want Amazon in our barrio.
– We need affordable housing, not further gentrification – We need protections for immigrants, not a company that profits off of work with ICE – We need more funding for transit, not billions in corporate subsidies – We need good jobs, not a company that exploits workers
Our communities need real investment, not displacement. It’s time for New York to #NoAmazonNYC.”
Today almost all the local people know about the massive pollution of Newtown Creek and the oil plume that sits under Greenpoint, but it was not always so. One of the first fighters for the local environment was a Catholic nun—Sister Francis Gerard Kress. Born and raised in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen in 1914, all her life Kress was a fighter and a protester. At age ten she organized a pot banging demonstration of local children in support of Al Smith’s bid for the presidency, but her biggest protests were yet to come. Continue reading →
We have some big issues in NYC to think about after the failure to indict the police offer who killed Eric Garner.
Lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a celebration of our city and there was nothing to celebrate yesterday.When I posted about the protests there on Facebook last night, someone commented, “What does this have to do with Greenpoint?” Eric Garner is a New Yorker. And NYC police officers patrol 11222. Enough said.
If you feel so inclined to demonstrate, our favorite local activist Emily Gallagher sent us these tips:
Last week we talked about speed cameras being voted out of the city budget, which could be a major road block for Vision Zero, de Blasio’s ambitious campaign to end all traffic deaths in NYC. But what’s been most fascinating about the conflict, is seeing the ways in which New Yorkers have responded.
Tomorrow (4/9) Right of Way, a “direct action street justice group,” is taking their protest to the streets, staging a demonstration that will involve stenciling the outlines of 40 bodies on Grand St (Between Columbia and Lewis in the LES), the number of lives they believe will be lost as a result of the speed camera bill. The protest will point fingers directly at lawmakers in Albany, whom they hold ultimately accountable, using #killedbyalbany as a slogan, transposed over a logo of a bloody handprint.
Save Greenpoint, a local activist group made up of Greenpoint residents, who according to their website “expect the revitalization of our waterfront to be responsibly site-specific in scale and scope,” are hosting a Rally for Greenpoint tonight, September 4, 2013 from 6-7pm at Barge Park Playground (Commercial St & Dupont St) in order to “FIGHT THE TOWERS!”
According to their Facebook invitation, “40 story towers threaten the future of Greenpoint. The community has been shut out of the process. This is your chance to be heard.”
You have probably seen the signs around the neighborhood calling for a General Strike today, May 1, 2012. That means, no work, no school, no housework, no banking, no shopping. I like NOT doing all of those things, but what for? And what does this mean for Greenpoint?
According to the OWS.org website: “We are striking to halt the flow of capital, reclaim a tool of resistance, and unify movements against exploitation, repression, and corruption. You should join the movement and strike because: everyone else will be doing it and it’ll be fun and empowering. But more importantly, join because you’ve experienced exploitation, repression, and corruption, and you are aware of their impact around you. Join if you are forced to work and consume; if you want to have a choice for an alternative.”
“Everyone else is doing it,” is not convincing but a disempowered sentiment certainly lingers.
Janie Grenier, a 16 year resident in Greenpoint commented, “I believe people in Greenpoint and all over the city should follow their conscience on May Day. I admire and respect anyone’s choice to make a statement against income inequality and the essential injustice of the bank bailouts in the absence of meaningful help for struggling homeowners, the unemployed and the underemployed. That said, I hope the spirit of non-violence is observed by all, protesters and police alike.”
Written by: The Reverend John Merz Priest-in-Charge Diocesan Missioner to Greenpoint and Williamsburg 127 Kent Street www.ascensionbrooklyn.org
“When we arrived Naomi Klein was addressing the crowd. There were about 3 or so thousand people it seemed in the entire park and environs…that kind of thing is hard to tell. There is no public address allowed since the group has no permit to actually be in Zuccotti park, a private piece of property next to the building that houses Brooks Brothers at the base off WTC site. The manner people use to amplify the speaker is that the speaker speaks a line and then it is re-said in concentric circles out from the speaker by the crowd.
She spoke for a while about the inequalities in the economic structures and stressed the need for people to remain disciplined and non violent during demonstrations. She also took questions from the crowd.
The General Assembly Meeting started at 7pm in a corner of the park and the same manner of vocalizing was used. These meetings happen 2x per day, 1 and 7. There was a facilitating group and several ground rules for participation including an agenda. It is both highly structured and inclusive of anyone there, there is a clear process by which people can be heard and even for perceived violations of the processes of the meetings.
The agenda had several reports from working groups: Media, Public Relations, sanitation, Consciousness, Medical, Arts and Culture etc to state what is happening in their areas.
The park is broken up into various areas as you probably know from the press: food, media, camping, sacred space for prayer and mediation, a drum area and area for recycling and sanitation etc. The whole endeavor is super duper organized.
It is very much bottom up in terms of ideas and input. It would be hard to generalize on the age but the dominant age seemed to be 20’s 30’s although people right up through 70-80’s could be seen. The general message seemed to be a redress of wealth inequality and the “corporatization” of the public and political discourse.
The General Assembly meeting was still going on when I departed at 10:15pm which was somewhat painful….kind of like a vestry meeting or board meeting that would never end but at that point it was taken up with people from other occupy movements…..DC and LA etc sharing thoughts and experiences.
We spoke to a young man who was up from North Carolina and was part of the Catholic Worker movement. I spoke with a young woman who worked on wall street late every night but said she had been there every night after work for the last 8 days. In another instance I spoke with a young man who was a Roman Catholic Priest who had been silenced in that denomination for various what he called liberal social practices and criticisms of the hierarchy: he said he had been there every day for 2 weeks inspired that he found such a peaceful and hopeful community of people. Bob and I were warmly received by various people who took note of, appreciated and desired greater clergy presence (or people in various Official Religious Garb).
All in all an interesting and inspiring evening was had. I also might add that the food that they were cranking out in the food station looked really great. I was tempted to chow down and shouldn’t get too greedy. One serious problem is the issue of bathrooms and people seem to use the local restaurants. I, fortunately am armed with a book an old NY acquaintance wrote which gives you ideas in such situations (enough with the levity, I know). Actually I did find a bathroom at a local bar.
Anyway, this thing is clearly not going to be snuffed out and it looks like it is just getting started. Especially on weekends and other times when larger groups join in like Unions for demonstrations. To my mind from what I witnessed the issue is one of disgust with the inequities tolerated by our market culture and not with the idealistic and unrealistic vagary of scrapping a whole capitalist system.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Chelsea Elliott wishes that her move to the front lines of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests had been under better circumstances. On Saturday, September 24th, she was herded into an orange mesh barricade and subsequently assaulted with pepper spray by an NYPD officer whose name and rank has been published elsewhere. The videos depicting this event have become a touchstone for the protest and a source of anger for those watching the events unfold. It’s hard to guess what the thoughts of the officer behind that canister may have been, and Chelsea hinted that he may have been acting more as an individual rather than as part of a coherent strategic enforcement method. Whatever the motive, the effects of his actions are going beyond what he would have expected.
The simple facts of this incident aren’t what drove me to contact Chelsea. I knew other writers would be calling for her version of the events and indeed there was a pad and paper ready to take her story the moment she opened her eyes. It was a comment on the Greenpointer’s Facebook wall, when we mentioned our neighbors were among the women assaulted in this incident, which perked my interest. A reader wrote that these girls, she guessed were “Not lifelong Greenpointers…” Was this true? Did it matter? I decided to find out how Chelsea fits into our neighborhood, and how our neighborhood fits into events that make these questions important now.
As we chatted at Black Rabbit I learned that Chelsea is not a lifelong Greenpointer. As her story unfolded I found we cannot call her a lifelong resident of any place as she’s moved at least once every five years throughout her life. This has taken her from her birthplace in Arkansas to Georgia, Montana, and Florida before landing in New York. Like many of us, she moved here for work. Her ascent through New York is a familiar story, from the first bedbug-infested Harlem apartment to couch surfing the Upper West Side to being chased out of LES by rats before finally arriving in Greenpoint. First on Kent St and now by McGolrick, Chelsea says, “I felt for the first time since I’ve lived in New York that this is my neighborhood. I didn’t even feel that in most of the places I grew up in. I just loved it.”
This is a common feeling among those who try different places in New York before settling here. We know that the simple comfort of being here is one of the reasons why Greenpoint works so well as home. This is a function not only of the place itself but of the people here, old and new, who continue to build and develop it.
“It’s really important for me… to be around older people and to be around family. I’m far away from my family and it’s so important to interact with people who are different and have a different perspective.” In short, the feeling of home, of belonging, is contagious, and helps to define livable space.
She detailed her relationships with the septo- and octogenarians with whom she shares her building. Living downstairs is Frank, whom she met originally when he complained about her dog, but soon their relationship progressed to sharing his “amazing movie collection” and having lunch dates.
Her neighborhood integration isn’t limited to her building. Chelsea grew up in a religious family, and “is still figuring out where that falls in [her] life.” She found a source of community in the Church of the Ascension. “Father John… [is a] very bright man. I’ve never been particularly religious, but his sermons were… what’s the right word… you would go into the history, he’d break down the words, the syntax, the translations, and his sermons weren’t fluffy. It was very educational.” Finding community, a place to explore spirituality, and intellectual stimulation prompted her to return the favor, and she found herself cooking community dinners among a diverse group of neighbors at the church.
We spoke about the sentiments some raise concerning newcomers to the neighborhood and Chelsea raises a legitimate question: “who are you to claim it?” Chelsea herself admits that she may not stay for life – “who wants to stay someplace forever?” she asks, but she presents a great example of someone who has come to a new place, engaged with and added to it.
Concerning the protests on Wall Street, she mentioned the distinct blue-collar qualities that have historically defined Greenpoint and how the feelings at this rally are a modern expression of the loss of those ways of life, which are associated with manufacturing, building, and designing real things. This anger and confusion towards the global finance system parallels the same local sentiment towards the incoming class of people. However, the primary complaints about gentrification – the loss of neighborhood character, a generational gap, being priced – can be seen in places without a large incoming population.
Before living in Greenpoint, I spent a year or two in Housatonic, Massachusetts. There, older neighbors lament years of change, but it can’t be simply chalked up to newcomers since there largely weren’t any. Instead, it was the same problems against which the protestors on Wall street chant and raise signs: global economic conditions shifted, causing the well-paid blue collar jobs to disappear as the paper mills closed. What remains is a vacuum of cheap rent and the inevitable vacancies created by an aging population, into which newcomers can either move (gentrification) or not (stagnation.) In this way, newcomers are a symptom and not a cause, and the cure has more to do with rebuilding the local economic base through encouraging local production than raising walls against newcomers like Chelsea. It’s important to note that this protest is, for many, as much about listening and learning about the forces against which many of us feel opposed as it is about being heard.
Chelsea’s energy and spirit are not diminished by the week’s events despite a slew of interviews with everyone from the New York Times to yours truly. She’s glad to lend her voice and, to a lesser extent, her mucous membranes to this cause just as she has been glad to lend her time, care, and attention to Greenpoint. While she’s “not a lifelong Greenpointer,” I’m not the only one who’s glad she’s here.