6:30 PM: Twenty minutes before the start of the Community Board 4 meeting, BushwickBK founder Jeremy Sapeinza sent an email to contributors announcing he was discontinuing the website because it was not financially viable (was it ever?).
So this might be my last report from the bowels of the Hope Gardens MultiService Center that you read in a while. Hey, never say never. Bushwick has come back from a hell of a lot worse than neighborhood businesses who don’t want to pay a pittance to support a local news servce.
Oh, and one other thing before we begin. If you told me that the Ridgewood Bushwick-published, taxpayer-funded Bushwick Observer would outlast BushwickBK a year ago, I would have wagered a steak dinner at Peter Luger’s with Vito Lopez. Hey Vito, it’s on me. But Angela and Christiana have to pay their own way.
6:40 PM: Land Use Chairwoman Martha Brown calls the meeting to order and gives the mic to New York City Transit’s Andrew Inglesby. Board Chairwoman Julie Dent is not here tonight because of a death in the family.
Remember how much you like the M train? Inglesby announces that the Knickerbocker and Central Avenue M-train stations will be closed for six-month periods beginning next year for renovations. Knickerbocker will be shuttered from June to November 2012 and Central will be closed from February to June 2013.
During that time, the MTA will be rebuilding the station mezzanines, stairs, and platforms, so they won’t look like the station where Patrick Swayze was mugged and killed in “Ghost.” Instead, commuters can take B54 “shuttle buses” that will run every 20 minutes on Myrtle Avenue from 12 am to 5 am and during the day.
District Manager Nadine Whitted wants more buses to accommodate the lack of trains at night, especially for third-shift workers.
Board member Will Harris asks how the construction work will affect the Department of Transportation’s renovation of Knickerbocker Plaza, which should begin next year. And Inglesby explains that the MTA has not seen those plans yet. I can count two board members rolling their eyes at my table alone.
6:56 PM: Martha opens the meeting, asking for public officials to introduce themselves — and for once we have some in attendance. State Senator Martin Dilan and newly-elected Assemblyman Rafael Espinal introduce themselves, as do brand new reps from Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Diana Reyna, and Espinal’s office.
7:05 PM: Dilan gets the mic and dives into the state’s redistricting debates. The way that political districts are formed in the state (and throughout the country) is actually a pretty fascinating portrait of how politics works in our country. Dilan is running the redistricting committee for state Democrats, so he’s got an inside look at how the process is going down:
“New York will lose two congressional districts — one downstate and one in western New York, but the Voting Rights Act protects minority districts which will get drawn first,” said Dilan. “The state senate may try to make downstate districts very large and make upstate districts smaller, geographically. Also Republicans want to move from 62 districts to 63 and have even mentioned 65. If they do that, I will take them to court. But I agree it should be odd. Let’s go to 61.”
With respect to Bushwick, the maps for new districts haven’t been drawn yet, but Dilan expects 32,000 voters will be removed from his district. The new maps should be out next month but one proposed map added Ridgewood, Glendale, and Maspeth to his district but took away Cypress Hills and City Line. He doesn’t like that proposal.
I ask Marty if it is more likely that he will lose Greenpoint and he answers, “probably.”
7:31 PM: Whitted gives her district manager report. I’ll summarize.
*Bushwick Avenue from Woodbine to Eastern Parkway may be getting repaved during daytime hours next summer. This means the city will shuts down parts of Bushwick Avenue next summer during the day. But also, side streets from Broadway to Evergreen Avenue would be repaved, and the work on Bushwick Avenue between Cooper and Eastern Parkway could be repaved at night as soon as next month.
*It could take two to three days to deliver mail now, because the USPS is losing money, they’re not hiring the way they used to, and there are more than 200 branches that are considered for closure.
*Bushwick Playground ball field will be renamed for Barry Sly Morrow, Chairwoman Julie Dent’s late husband who passed away several years ago.
*400 seasonal workers could be laid off from the city’s parks department so the city is looking for people to volunteer as “parks stewards” to help maintain Bushwick’s four parks.
“We already have five volunteers for Irving Square Park and they’re all men. It warms my heart because usually when you hear about volunteers, it’s always a bunch of women. And now we have some men!” Whitted said.
*Anybody heard of apple pops? It’s not this. It’s sweet, soda-like alcoholic beverages like flavored vodkas or hard lemonade and the board wants to write a letter urging local bodegas and grocers to not sell them where they are accessible to young children.
*IS 296 was renamed after the late Anna Gonzalez, a former board chairwoman, and Nadine doesn’t like it one bit because the school is “failing” and nobody bothered to tell the board until after they renamed the school. (Jesus!)
7:56 PM: Now we’re onto committee reports. I’ll summarize again.
*Martha Brown puts her Land Use hat on and announces that next Tuesday city planning officials will visit her committee to talk about zoning policy. Will this inspire a contextual zoning measure that will preserve the historic character of Bushwick’s boulevards? Or will the city reveal a plan to upzone sections of the neighborhood making way for 40-story condos in every available scrap of vacant property? Martha makes her opinion known by comparing neighborhood “gentrifiers” to “Spanish conquistadors.” That meeting is next Tuesday night at the board office on 315 Wyckoff Avenue.
8:19 PM: Recommendations. Two board members will be removed from the board because of their poor attendance. It gets seconded and voted upon. And now there are two openings on the board! Call the borough president office for more info at 718-802-3700.
Nadine asks board members to vote on the Bushwick Avenue paving. It gets approved. Hello Bushwick Avenue traffic!
Nadine asks for the board to support the "ban" on “apple pops” in local bodegas. The board approves. Bye bye apple pops!
And the board votes on the public safety report, and that is approved. We’re moving as quickly as an escaped lion from an Ohio zoo.
8:28 PM: Announcements. Final stretch here.
*Barbara Smith says the 83rd Precinct is beginning its pledge drive. It’s kind of like National Public Radio, except everyone involved has a state-issued gun.
*Evelyn Cruz from Rep. Velázquez’s office has a message for the board regarding rezoning: “If you live in this community, you should be fighting to downsize. Five years later in Williamsburg, the community is now asking the city, where is the promised affordable housing and parks.”
*A post office employee thanks residents for supporting his campaign and he’s looking for signatures.
*A librarian with the Washington Irving branch thanks Councilman Erik Dilan for helping secure $1 million to renovate the branch.
*A free mason wearing an ill-fitting tuxedo from the Ridgewood Masonic Temple promises a “change of management all the way down.” The masons want to be more involved in the community and promises to call all of us regularly. I wonder what it’s like in there during meetings.
That about does it here — until a community board member pulled me aside after the meeting and blasted me for “not writing enough positive stories about Bushwick.”
Now. A common criticism from longtime Bushwick residents, some of whom are affiliated with nonprofit groups in the area, that much of the news they read about Bushwick, whether it is about crime, politics or other stuff, is negative.
And whenever I hear that argument, I always pointed them to BushwickBK. The stories are not just catered to residents from the Midwest who unloaded their worldly possessions into an overpriced railroad apartment or foodies who got off the L-train looking for Roberta’s or Los Hermanos (foodies, please stop asking me for directions to “that taco factory.”)
Our audience was diverse — just like Bushwick — and our stories were about everything going on in this neighborhood.
You could read Scarlett Lindeman’s culinary adventures into the best Puebla places Bushwick has to offer, Paul Cox’s forays into hidden corners of the neighborhood such as Ridgewood’s gun club, Stephen Truax’s art surveys cataloguing the rapid growth of artists in the neighborhood, and Anna D’Agrosa and Melissa Smario’s weekly round-ups reminding you of the wonderful things happening just down the street.
I don’t know what the future of web-based news will be. It could certainly be this. But I’ll wager that you will miss all of this. Now, what kind of steak should I get?