CHecking out the new voting machines at May’s CB4 meeting. — Photo by Aaron Short
Nearly all of the food has been eaten already, as it appears that the meeting is getting underway earlier than usual. There’s a line of people attempting to vote on a prototype electronic voting machine that the Board of Elections brought for people to try. Evidently Bushwick residents can’t wait to vote again for their incumbent legislators. There’s lots of excitement on the agenda tonight, so let’s get right to it with this month’s Community Board Four meeting.
6:35 PM: Julie Dent calls the meeting to order, giving the Board of Elections a round of applause.
"I want each of you to disseminate this information to your friends and neighbors about voting. I know we’re all excited about having these machines. I’m excited also."
Everyone is very excited.
6:48 PM: We have another Parks Department presentation from a member of the forestry department. After a whirlwind tour of forestry updates at community boards around the borough, Ian Jack is giving us an update on street plantings in Bushwick. Over the past year, they planted 295 plants in Bushwick and filled another 90 requests. Ian’s accent is a mesh between Tony Blair and Wallace from Wallace and Gromit.
Lots of questions from board members and residents about either new tree requests, replacing trees that were destroyed in accidents, or pruning old trees that are just too damn stubborn. Ian explains that the city has pushed back its pruning cycle to every 11 years from every seven years.
"You can become a civilian pruner. You will be given a license, a badge and a brand new hat. You will be given the tools to tackle the trees yourself. We’re trying to move the ownership of the trees to the people," says Jack.
Sean Michael Fleming says that a pickup truck smashed into a new tree in front of his loft and destroyed it. The tree, not his loft. He has since put in two requests for plantings and the area is still a pit.
"I’m one of the few people who will actually water my tree. Where’s my tree?"
Jack is sympathetic to the request but explains where the agency can’t plant. That includes bus stops (unless tree can be set back from curb), places directly above underground utilities, driveways, building entrances, stop signs, houses with disabled access, etc.
"If it’s a choice between ambulances, police, fire stations, and the trees, no one is going to approve the trees," says Jack.
A Bushwick resident wants the city to cut down a tree in front of his apartment because "the tree is huge." Jack is not sympathetic.
"We grow trees, but we won’t cut it down. We will prune it for you. You have one of the great trees of New York outside of your house," he says.
The room applauds as the resident scowls, clearly disappointed.
7:15 PM: A representative from the fire department’s 218 Battalion, (that’s Engine 271 and Ladder 124) has some fire stats and information about the closings. It sounds like the city is going to cut trees and fire stations.
In 2008, Bushwick had 47 structural fires and 19 contained fires. According to EMS stats for 2008, there were 86 civilian deaths, and in 2009, 73 civilian deaths. The Mayor’s office initially suggested that 20 stations could close but held off making a decision until the state puts its budget together. Still, the feeling among the firefighters is that Engine 271 will be targeted for closure.
"Closing Engine 271 could have catastrophic effects. Whole reason we merged with EMS is to increase response times. Any letters you have would be appreciative," the FDNY rep says.
7:27 PM: District Manager Nadine Whitted reads the roll and I ask the Board of Elections’ Valerie Vazquez Rivera why exactly she is showing up today.
Vazquez says that Dent, who is also chairwoman of Board of Elections, asked for a demonstration of the new machines. I think they should go to the Williamsburg waterfront for the Jelly Pool Parties this summer, because if it’s two things the kids like these days it is soft-core indie rock from Grizzly Bear and voting.
7:31 PM: Dent gives her report, introducing the elected liaisons. Time to get a soda.
Dent resumes, noting that the Bushwick Day Parade will be on Thursday, June 10 at 10 am, and word out of the committee is that The Soul Tigers will return to lead the parade. There’s a fundraiser at Borough Hall this month too. I cannot be more excited for this. Ladies and gentlemen, the Soul Tigers!!!!!!!!
7:43 PM: DM Whitted says that she attended a Community Board 3 meeting with "the girls" (Julie Dent, Martha Brown, and Barbara Smith), about the New York State Sex Offenders Act. She proceeds to give a highly detailed report about sex offenders.
"How can I learn whether there are sex offenders living in my community? There are several ways of learning this…" says Whitted.
Or, she could do what BushwickBK does and simply track all the IP addresses for Barrett Brown‘s columns.
7:56 PM: Nadine announces that Avellar Hansley’s Linden Street Block Assocation has applied for Brooklyn’s Greenest Block through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This is Linden Street between Broadway and Bushwick. I agree, this is one of the two nicest blocks in Bushwick.
8:02 PM: Parks Chairman Austen Martinez mentions that on Saturday, May 22 at 10am, there will be a little league parade for two leagues, Field of Dreams and Quebradilla. The parade leads off from Knickerbocker Ave. and Menahan St.
Martinez also has a recommendation from the committee to revoke the Roberto Clemente League’s permit for the Noll Street ball field because the majority of its children do not live in Bushwick. Apparently the league subleased the field to an older league of baseball players based in Williamsburg.
Whitted has a spirited monologue about the history of youth baseball leagues and ball fields in Bushwick. This is by far the most emotional moment of the night and anyone who has a Blackberry is deeply immersed in sending text messages and checking the Lakers score.
"We have parks that are sought after and the Parks Department has a system for allocating parks [to the youth leagues]. Is this the best system? I don’t know. At the end of the day, we’re trying to do the best thing for our children. In my book, technically a child is a child, but when we have people who take advantage, then I have concern about that," says Whitted.
8:26 PM: After a long debate, Martinez makes a motion to revoke the permits. Seconded. Granted. Watch out South Side. Bushwick is pissed.
8:27 PM: The Public Safety report is given by Whitted, and she notes that the next meeting will be June 1st.
8:29 PM: Announcements! Let’s just do the highlights.
*83rd Precinct President Barbara Smith says that the Mother’s/ Father’s Day Dance will be Friday, May 21 at 218 Wyckoff. Tickets are $15.
*CB4 member Deborah Brown says that Storefront will have an opening on Friday at 5-7 PM featuring the artwork of children at Audrey Johnson Day Care.
*Sean Fleming says that the Bushwick Farmer’s Market will open on Broadway and Linden at May 26 from 10 AM to 6 PM. There’s also a Saturday market opening at Maria Hernandez Park on May 29. Yee-haw.
*Councilwoman Diana Reyna will host a forum on May 27 at 7 PM at 211 Ainslie Street about improving Broadway from Driggs to Myrtle Avenue.
*There’s a public safety forum on Thursday, May 27 at 7 PM at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Ridgewood with a ton of electeds. Two Dilans, one Towns, and a Hynes will be on hand.
*Laura Braslow gives a plug for Bushwick Open Studios on June 4-6. If you haven’t seen the website yet, what are you waiting for? There’s also a benefit arts sale this Friday night at Lumenhouse at 47 Beaver Street from 7 to 10 pm.
*Jason Jensen and Alex Cohn note a new production studio / art gallery near Wyckoff Avenue at 384 Troutman. They will have some gallery openings and will launch a mural project this summer.
*Mary McClelland has some problems with Broadway and she’s telling everyone.
"There’s the potholes. You walk into them and you hurt yourselves," she says.
That’s it. See you next month!
Bushwick’s Community Board 4 meets on the third Wednesday of every month (except July and August) at Hope Gardens Community Center, 195 Linden Street at Wilson Avenue. To contact the office any other time, call 718-628-8400 or visit 315 Wyckoff Avenue, 2nd Floor.