CB4 honchos Nadine Whitted and Julie Dent, together again.
I am running horribly late (nearly an hour!) after covering some breaking news in South Side Williamsburg. A small group of Orthodox Jewish abuse victims decided to hold a rally in front of Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s office Wednesday afternoon, at about 3 PM. Basically the same guys I hitched a ride up to Albany with to write about the Markey and Lopez sex abuse bills a month ago. Guys, you’re killing me! It’s layout day at the paper! Word of advice for all you demonstrators out there: Try not to hold press conferences or rallies on Wednesday afternoons. Ahh, all right. News happens when it happens. Even if nothing is happening.
7:29 PM: Thanks to a dead sprint up the stairs at Broadway Junction and onto the L-train, I walk into the middle of Julie Dent’s Chairperson report. Julie thanks Community Board Four District Manager Nadine for throwing a wonderful Bushwick Day Parade.
Looks like I missed dinner. All that’s left is three bowls of balsamic vinaigrette and a half-empty bottle of Diet Coke. Dammit.
7:35 PM: Italia Guerrero of Brooklyn Borough President Marty "Marty!" Markowitz’s office hands out the yearly awards for community board perfect attendance. It’s like 4th grade all over again! This year’s winners include Barbara Smith, Cyril Joseph, Felix Ceballos, Reverend Matthew Rae and the legendary Avellar Hansley. Everyone applauds, but wait a second… oops! Looks like they forgot to bring Ruby Clinkscale’s certificate. She has one of those scowls my late grandmother used to have whenever I forgot to bring the seltzer for her homemade matzo ball soup during a visit. Sorry Ruby.
"I was wondering what happened when I heard Reverend Rae but didn’t hear Mrs. Clinkscale, because they always come in together," said Julie.
"I am so proud of our efforts, so proud of our elected officials that we did not lose the services of our fire station. We won’t ever forget what happened to our community in the ’70s. We were not in a position to lose any services, particularly those where life could be threatened by. I hope the representative from the fire department is happy."
"I am," said Chief Tom Murphy, who staked out a seat in the corner of the room. He’s standing up now. "I’d like to thank anybody from the board who put pressure on the Mayor to keep the firehouse open."
Julie thanks Erik Martin Dilan and Diana Reyna for their work in the budget negotiations and Nadine continues:
"The parade for me is more than just a parade. It’s a parade of honor, a parade of pride. It shows that the people of Bushwick are in unity. This particular parade was touching in so many ways, was dedicated to our community’s fallen heroes. Our own Anna Gonzalez left us a month ago, and it was Ms. Elvena Davis who had the brilliant idea we dedicate the parade for our fallen heroes and have Mr. Romel and Mr. Sucuzhañay be our parade Marshals. They are here tonight. We will not let this family go. They are a part of our community."
Nadine announces that on August 1st, Kossuth Place will be co-named José Sucuzhañay Place and the board members applaud.
7:49 PM: The elected officials introduce themselves, but I see Tracy Johnson, of the Administration for Children’s Services, get up to leave and we talk outside for a bit. Johnson and other ACS staff members, along with Bushwick Community Partnership Initiative (featuring former Community Board Four MVP-Raul Rubio) gave a presentation about child safety and recruitment. She shared lots of demographic information about Bushwick, which had a total population of 109,843 under the age of 17 in 2008. There is apparently a high rate of abuse and neglect in the neighborhood. To that extent, there are 154 active foster boarding homes in Bushwick, but 356 children need foster care.
"This means a lot of kids are placed out of Bushwick. We need more homes in Bushwick so that children can stay in their community of origin," said Johnson.
7:57 PM: Back to public session and a librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library. The system was facing a budget cut of $17.5 million, but with the help of community members most of that money was restored. Library branches in the Bushwick cluster will maintain its six-day service and there will not be any layoffs.
More budget news as Diana Reyna liaison Francisco Mercado announces that the City Council passed the budget which keeps Engine 271 open, restores classrooms, and prevents some childcare centers from being closed. However, it is not all good news as the Department of Education will lose teacher aides and crossing guards and your sales tax is going to go up.
There are some other events coming up this summer too:
*On June 26, there will be a Father’s Day Dance benefiting the 83rd Precinct Community Council at Jalreign Hall on 269 Stanhope Street from 8 PM to 1 AM. Tickets are $10.
*Knickerbocker Avenue bordering María Hernández Park will be shut down for pedestrian traffic on July 15, in a partnership between the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and, yes, you read correctly, Arts in Bushwick. It’s like Williamsburg Walks, but in Bushwick. More on this later.
*Cyril Joseph’s Linden Street Block Association garden will feature a farmer’s market opening on July 1 and will run through Nov 15.
*National Night Out is on August 4th, which means free food (!) catered by the 83rd Precinct. Barbara Smith will probably be behind the grill but will Raul Rubio?
*A Back to School Block Party will be on Saturday August 22nd in MH Park from 11am to 6pm.
8:06 PM: We’re in second roll call and what’s left of the crowd is getting antsy. Nadine wishes everyone "a very fun-filled prosperous summer" but threatens to call everyone back for a meeting if necessary.
I run into Barbara Smith and ask her about her fundraisers.
"Don’t come like you’re going to take pictures," said Barbara. "You’re going to give me a donation!" Yes ma’am.
Francisco Mercado is also waiting around after the meeting, greeting several community board members. Some members of Diana Reyna’s staff, like Antonio Reynoso, have switched over to her campaign office full-time, but Francisco is still a district liaison. That means he pulls 15-hour days working for Diana on Bushwick issues and volunteering on the campaign when he’s not in the district office. I ask him how the food was. It was the usual chicken and sausage but he didn’t know how it was because he didn’t get to eat any of it.
"We’re on the Diana Reyna diet," said Francisco. "I’m lucky if I only get to eat once. I think I lost 15 pounds since early May."
Finally, it’s time to recognize one of the brand new members of Community Board Four, Gladys Puglla-Jimenez, a member of Make the Road New York. Though it was a relatively slow meeting, Gladys was excited about contributing to the debate over the next year. She hopes to share several ideas and involve Make the Road more in the CB4 agenda.
"I think I’m going to do a lot in here and help my neighborhood, and make the organization a part of this, too. From what I heard today, people mentioned problems and then they were resolved by the community board. I think that being a part of this and Make the Road, I’m going to help a little with housing, public safety, and the asthma problem we have in Bushwick. We want to change the view of other people who say that this neighborhood is bad, that there is a lot of violence and discrimination. We want to prove to people outside that our neighborhood is good, too."
Let’s go over her list of favorites:
Favorite musician: Maná.
Favorite sports team: New York Yankees
Favorite player on the Yankees: Derek Jeter
Favorite NYC holiday: July 4th — that’s the birthday of my pet, Teddy.
Favorite NYC tourist destination: Central Park
Favorite restaurant: El Montañero and Pollo Rico, both on Myrtle Avenue
Favorite NYC moment: Street fairs, because you meet a lot of people there. I like to mingle with different kinds of people.
Have a good summer everyone!