Residents demand inclusion in new DoBro tenants coalition
by Daniel Bush
Mar 29, 2011 | 1522 views | 2 2 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FUREE staged a rally in front of the Sheraton Brooklyn to protest a closed-door meeting of planners.
FUREE staged a rally in front of the Sheraton Brooklyn to protest a closed-door meeting of planners.
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The closed-door meeting of a new tenants' group in Downtown Brooklyn sparked protest from longtime residents who fear they're being left behind as the neighborhood expands.

Members of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) rallied outside of the Sheraton Brooklyn on Duffield Street last week, as stakeholders gathered inside to lay the groundwork for a new coalition to reflect the area's booming population.

Organizers said it would be a broad-based group devoted to the concerns of tenants in the neighborhood's new upscale towers and those of public housing residents alike.

“It's not just for new residents of the neighborhood,” said Mike Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, adding that the smaller, invitation-only meeting was designed to facilitate discussion, not exclude anyone.

“We felt that a larger meeting would” have hampered dialogue, he said.

The planning session was attended by tenant association leaders from the Ingersoll, Farragut and Whitman houses, Weiss noted. Neverthless protesters worried the needs of low-income residents could still fall by the wayside.

The greater Downtown Brooklyn area has lost a supermarket and small businesses since it was rezoned to make way for the large-scale development that has brought thousands of new residents to the area.

Much of the affordable housing promised in the 2004 rezoning has yet to materialize, while housing advocates warn that displacement has become a growing problem.

“The big developers are trying to run us out of town,” said Arnetha Singleton, who's lived at 5 Fleet Walk for the past 33 years.

“This is our community and we're here to stay,” said FUREE member Lillian Green. “As our new wealthy neighbors get organized, we insist that the voice of low-income families are included.”

Councilman Steve Levin said that's the plan.

“This coalition needs to be as broad as possible and that includes residents of NYCHA and the broader Downtown Brooklyn community,” he said. “It's in everyone's interests to work together.”

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Valery Jean
|
April 12, 2011
Thank you, Randally, for expressing your thoughts but I would like to point out a few facts about this meeting:

1. FUREE received an e-mail about the meeting that was later retracted and highlighted that the meeting was for condo residents only.

2. Elected officials, their staff and other community representatives were told that FUREE was invited though we never received any such invitation by mail, phone, e-mail or talking a 2-block walk to our offices which staff from the MetroTech BID has done before.

3. At the rally, members were told it was an open meeting only to be escorted out by hotel security.

4. The action was not about creating enemies but about opening a local and public debate about equitable development, ensuring that the needs of low income and working families are being heard and that a community can, in fact, be developed so that all people are welcomed and included no matter their skin color, salary size or background.

If it wasn't because of this member-conceived and member-driven action and its intention of ensuring that the narrative of those who have been negatively affected by aggressive development in Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn was also heard, we wouldn't even be having this debate.

Daily, we deal with elders who are being evicted from public housing not for rent arrears but because their grandchild got arrested. We deal with residents who were once workers but are now laid off, exhausted unemployment and catapulted back to public assistance. We see youth who had to drop out of school to work so they can help their parents make ends meet. These are the people that FUREE is accountable to at the end of the day and it's why we fight for accountable development.

Besides, it's not really about FUREE, the organization. It's about our members and all people who have been and apparently continue to be left out, pushed out and silenced. It's also about ensuring fair development that breaks current development models and practices that result in economic segregation.

If the promotion of that vision and the intentional inclusion of low income families as decision-makers, would cause a person or group to consider FUREE an enemy, I would be almost 100% sure that they were not considering us as allies.

Valery Jean

Executive Director

FUREE
Randally
|
April 12, 2011
FUREE has great goals, but they should not assume that the new residents of the area want to throw them under the bus. They should have asked to be included or asked who was being included before protesting the meeting. I suppose that asking for access and being let in before the meeting started would not serve their goals as there would be no headlines. They should be weary of creating enemies out of potential allies.