Tag Archive | "Flatbush"

Flatbush Grows Greener with Gentrification

The Sustainable Flatbush team stands next to its compost bin in the Church community garden. (Photo: Stephanie Vatz | City Beats)

With a crime rate that increased by five percent since last year and the percentage of residents who receive federal aid doubling over the last 10, it would be difficult to describe Flatbush as a community in the throes of gentrification. But the five coffee shops, the six gourmet eateries and the organic food co-op within a six-block radius on Cortelyou Road tell of a more affluent and eco-centric community on the rise.

Local businesses and organizations like Sustainable Flatbush, Compost for Brooklyn and the Flatbush Farm Share are using green initiatives to reach out simultaneously to both communities—old time residents, who tend to be poorer and non-white, as well as newer residents—in an effort to maintain diversity while catering to the interests of young and hip newcomers.

However, there are some difficulties. Sustainable Flatbush, a group devoted to creating open spaces and teaching environmentally sustainable practices, has been successful in gaining a fan-base among newer residents but seems to have trouble reaching the pre-existing community.

In late September, members gathered for an event called “Moving Planet” at the community garden they planted at the Dutch Reformed Church, a Flatbush landmark that was built by the Dutch at the end of the 18th century.

Flatbush residents were supposed to tour the garden, see some composting demonstrations and drop off their own compost, but halfway through the event, only nine people were present and every one of them was already a member of Sustainable Flatbush.

While shoveling dirt around his newly planted flora at the entrance to the church courtyard, Chris Kreussling, who calls himself the Flatbush Gardener,” explained that the violas, lilies and goldenrod flowers that were native to Flatbush were having a difficult time growing now. The soil had changed too much over time, he said.

The neighborhood, too, has changed. Between 2000 and 2009, the U.S. Census reported, the number of white residents in Flatbush increased by 21.8 percent, and the number of Asian residents increased by 18.3 percent, while the percentage of black residents dropped 15.3 percent and Hispanics by five percent.

Income has changed as well. In 2000, when Cortelyou Road was found to be the most diverse tract of land in the United States by the Census, average family income was $30,985. Now, the average is $40,942.

Similar to Sustainable Flatbush in its green practices, Compost for Brooklyn specifically focuses on composting. This organization was founded a year ago by NYU graduate student Louise Bruce who wanted to turn one of the many deserted plots of land in the neighborhood, then filled with trash, into a community garden.

Many of the food scraps that Compost for Brooklyn turns into soil are collected at the Flatbush Farm Share, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that provides organic produce from upstate New York to members who, depending on income, pay between $85 and $330 for 22 weeks of produce delivered on a weekly basis.

Despite its sliding scale, the program has had problems gaining membership because members have to sign up for all 22 weeks and pay in advance. However, Flatbush Farm Share member Natalia Sucre said the membership is almost evenly divided into upper- and lower-income members.

“The idea of the CSA may have begun as a kind of transplant, brought in by relatively new community residents,” Sucre said, “but by now, it’s harder to speak of ‘we’ and ‘them’ – or rather, it’s easier and even more realistic not to.”

Amid the green organizations, a new sustainable and low-income housing development called CAMBA Gardens is also being constructed in East Flatbush near the King’s County Hospital. The 209 housing units will have community space and garden areas for tenants, energy efficient systems such as heat and electricity and equipment to provide healthy air quality.

“Tenants in the building will benefit for health reasons with the clean air and close proximity to the hospital and lower electricity bills which is key to their financing,” said Margaret Tabby, CAMBA Housing Venture’s project manager. “And from an agency perspective, we understand that it’s a responsible thing to tread a little bit lighter.”

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Forum on Crime

Crime Forum Reveals Little Faith in NYPD

After 67 shootings and three killings in New York City within 72 hours on Labor Day weekend, community and police organized a forum in East Flatbush, Brooklyn on Sept. 20 to reduce local crime. Four of the shootings and one of the fatalities took place in Flatbush and many others were in surrounding areas but community residents seemed more concerned about police behavior than about the violence in their midst.

Forum on Crime

Senator Adams discusses crime in front of police and Council Member Mathieu Eugene. (Photo: Stephanie Vatz | City Beats)


“They should come around to the blocks and talk to people,” Janet Bagot, a retired school counselor who attended the forum, said the day after in a telephone interview. “There is no serious trust. We don’t trust them because we don’t see them a lot and we don’t know them.”

Council Member Mathieu Eugene organized the meeting at Parkside Academy Middle School’s auditorium and invited panelists including high-ranking police officers, members of the clergy, and one state senator.

Council Member Latitia James was one of the first to speak from the panel. Her message was brief: In order to discourage violence and make more arrests, she said, community members need to “snitch on one another.”

This message, although simple, became complicated when the floor was given to residents who were less concerned with climbing crime rates than with police misconduct and negligence.

Colin Moore, a private attorney and senior editor at the Caribbean American Weekly newspaper, said search and seizure procedures are particularly concerning.

“It’s a site that you see almost on a nightly basis, a police officer conducting a search and seizure on a young black man,” said Moore. “Obviously these encounters must create a lot of tension in the community.”

The same Labor Day weekend that the 67 shootings took place, a well-liked council member, Jumaane Williams, was arrested for crossing a police barrier at the West Indian Day Parade, leading to questions about racial profiling within the central Brooklyn precincts. The Williams arrest was brought up several times throughout the meeting as an example of police misconduct. The police representatives apologized to the crowd and assured them that they had filed an internal investigation.

Bagot, the retired school counselor, said that crime wasn’t the real problem. Lack of programs that keep children off the streets is the real issue, she said.

“I do not know that it’s a serious issue in this community,” Bagot said “I’m not saying that it should not be addressed, but 15 years ago, young people were going around to stores and sticking people up.”

The list of crime statistics given by all three precincts confirmed Bagot’s belief that crime was not a new issue. Deputy Chief Inspector Steve Bonano, who manages all three precincts, said homicide rates this year were three percent lower than last year.

But those numbers made no difference to one woman who told Captain Schiff that when her son was robbed after school, she reported the incident twice but officers refused to file the report. The woman did not identify herself at the meeting, but said that her son, who is in elementary school, no longer goes outside after dark and refuses to take out the trash. In response, Schiff offered to conduct a personal investigation.

Underscoring some of the concerns of the residents, as well as that of the police, three days after the meeting police shot and gravely wounded a 30-year-old man, Jerry Benoit. Police said Benoit shot first.

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