Our taxed community
by Emily Gallagher
Mar 22, 2017 | 373 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brooklyn-based People's Firehouse is embarking on a mission to increase fire protection in our community, as the population has increased greatly. Fire Department services are not the only things lacking in this community. Nearly all of the services that a society needs to function are now under-performing because they are overwhelmed in capacity in our neighborhood. It begs a very complicated question: how do we keep our community safe from fire, from violence, from accidents and from danger in general? There are so many of us relying on very meager services who live here, and many thousands more who work and visit the neighborhood each day. While our police patrols have most recently been grilled for dangerous comments regarding rape in our neighborhood, the reality is that they are also short staffed and often lacking some of the training they may need or desire. The Greenpoint Task Force was told that only a few squad cars patrol the 94th Precinct at night, and our precinct includes waterfront Williamsburg with the myriad new high rise developments. We were told that because of the proclivity of bars in that section, the cops are mostly focused there. This means that the wait for other parts of the neighborhood would be long, and may even have to wait until other incidents were attended to. Indeed, in the middle of the day on Sunday, I witnessed a fight at a bar. One of the participants was able to walk away unscathed, but the other slipped in the snow and bashed his skull against the curb. Other bar patrons pulled him up and positioned him leaning against a car, and we watched his face turn grayish-green and cover with blood while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. Happily, the ambulance did arrive swiftly on the Sunday afternoon. But as one can imagine, in many other circumstances – at night or during a busier weekend time – it may have been difficult to get to him. The incident disturbed me for many reasons. Witnessing violence, as I have with somewhat regularity here in the neighborhood, is possibly most disturbing because it is largely silent. We expect violence to happen with a great deal of screaming and yelling, but in the case of this fight, it might as well have been a silent movie. Some quiet conversation, a punch, a shove, and then, silence. The man was changing color, bleeding, and silent. Everything around us was silent. We all stared and called each other into action, but it was still all very quiet. It makes me realize how often this kind of incident could have gone unseen and unreported had it not happened in a busy public place. Happily the ambulance arrived first, and miraculously the man with the head injury was able to walk himself over and into the back of the ambulance. Had the police arrived first the scenario may have been different. Last year, Councilman Stephen Levin tried once more to support a state bill to have all police officers trained in CPR, but it was shot down for the fifth time. The bill, Briana's Law, had been introduced four times by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. It was named after an 11-year-old girl who died when a police officer was unable to perform CPR on her after an asthma attack. And that is not the only time the police have not been able to save someone in an emergency. The lack of CPR training was also blamed for the death of a 25 year old in 2013, and as an additional cause of Eric Garner's death after he was put in a chokehold by Staten Island police. It is time for us to unite as a community and urge the city and it's developers to recognize that as they profit from the population growth of neighborhoods, there must be better training and more facilities to keep communities safe. Adequate firehouses, patrols (and personally I advocate for community policing), and proper sensitivity and skill-based trainings are an important part of our resources, and more valuable than nearly anything else they can provide.
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Group starts campaign for more fire protection
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 22, 2017 | 102 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A longtime community nonprofit is pushing for more fire protection in north Brooklyn. The People’s Firehouse (PFI) announced last Wednesday that it’s beginning a year-long campaign to promote fire protection in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, two neighborhoods that have seen a dramatic population growth. According to executive director Daniel Rivera, since the city approved a large-scale rezoning of the area in 2005, the population has increased from 155,972 in 1990 to 173,083 in 2010. “Yet fire protection services have not increased in Brooklyn Community Board 1 during this period,” Rivera said. Rivera pointed out that in 2003, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed Engine Company 212 on Wythe Avenue in Northside Williamsburg. When the city tried to close Ladder Company 104 in the Southside, community residents mobilized to save it. “Assuring that all residents of North Brooklyn have adequate fire protection is an issue with which Mayor Bill de Blasio is familiar,” Rivera said. “As a councilman, he was arrested while working to save Engine Company 204 in Cobble Hill, as I and others were arrested here in Northside while working to save Engine Company 212.” According to Rivera, then-councilman de Blasio won a community activism award for his efforts. To kick off the fire protection campaign, the People’s Firehouse commissioned an artist to design a campaign button. They’re giving away 1,000 buttons at their building at 113 Berry Street to raise awareness. “We’re asking people to wear them everywhere they go,” said Kurt Hill, director of outreach and anti-arson programs with the People’s Firehouse, “to school, to work, to church, to temple, to mosque, to the theater, to support increased fire protection in our community.” The PFI campaign will run through the mayoral election next year, which ends on November 7. “A large number of new buildings, including high-rises, have been constructed to serve the growing need for homes in North Brooklyn over the past period,” said Del Teague, chairwoman of the People’s Firehouse. “What is the city doing to meet the special firefighting requirements of the increasing number of high-rise structures? “Are officials making plans to expand fire protection, such as bringing back Engine Co. 204 as a Cobble Hill neighborhood firehouse?” she added.
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MTA to accelerate L train rehabilitation work
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 22, 2017 | 94 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The L train shutdown may not be as long as expected. The MTA announced last week that it is aiming to finish the work on the damaged Canarsie Tunnel under the East River in just 15 months, three months earlier than planned. Officials will seek the board’s approval to award an expedited contract this week. “The heavy damage sustained by the Canarsie Tunnel during Superstorm Sandy requires a full reconstruction in order to ensure the integrity of the tunnel and the safety of riders for generations to come,” said MTA interim executive director Ronnie Hakim. The $466 million contract, which will be awarded to Judlau Contracting and TC Electric, will add $15 million in incentives to finish the project in 15 months. The work includes repairing the tunnel, improving two stations, and building a substation that will allow more trains to run on the L line. During the project, workers will demolish and reconstruct duct banks, track and track bed, and concrete lining. The plan also calls for installing tunnel lighting and fire systems to protect the tube against future storms. Before the tunnel shuts down, the MTA will renovate the stations at First Avenue in Manhattan and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. The work will improve the station’s accessibility and circulation by adding four ADA-compliant elevators. The MTA will also construct a new Avenue B substation and improve existing signals to allow more trains to run on the line in the future. “At the same time, we promised to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of this vital work on L line riders,” Hakim said. “Today, we’ve done just that by shortening the tunnel closure from 18 months to 15 months.” The 7,100-foot-long portion of the Canarsie Tunnel was damaged by salt water from Superstorm Sandy. After months of public meetings, the MTA opted to shut down service completely between Brooklyn and Manhattan to make the appropriate fixes. The L train closure is set to begin in April 2019. L trains will still run in Brooklyn between Williamsburg and Canarsie. Elected officials applauded the MTA’s shortened timeline. “Their actions in expediting the L Train closure speaks volumes to this line’s importance to the Brooklyn and Manhattan communities,” Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said. “While Hurricane Sandy created many problems across NYC, this line’s operation is critical to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers’ lives. “From businesses to straphangers, the L train is the lifeline for many,” he added. “Completing this project as quickly as possible is essential to New Yorkers.”
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Brownsville rallies to save historic church
by Patrick Kearns
Mar 22, 2017 | 144 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brownsville residents and members of the New York City preservation community are hoping the historic Our Lady of Loreto Church can find a second act. The long-dormant and crumbling building is significant as both a neighborhood staple and an architectural marvel, preservationists and Italian-American historians argue. First constructed in 1907, the church was the first example of Roman Renaissance style in New York City, according to Mario Toglia, who researched the church for the Italian American Studies Association. The front pediment features the only sculpted representation of the “House of Mary,” and above the central arch are large statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. It was constructed and designed entirely by Italians at the behest of Reverend V. Sorrentino, who was the pastor of the congregation at the time. “This church was built as a response to the nativist prejudice against Italian immigrants,” Toglia said. “He was making a statement: this is our culture and this is what we built. “Basically, when that church goes down, nobody will know that Italians lived here,” he added. According to Toglia, the Diocese of Brooklyn and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens are planning to demolish the building for affordable housing after claiming it would cost $9 million to secure the property to keep it as is. As of press time, permits have not been secured for the demolition. Toglia claims that the diocese is being purposefully misleading however, noting in 2010 diocese officials signed a resolution to save the church. In 2013, an Evangelical congregation was interested in moving in, but the diocese said it didn’t want it used as a church. “The diocese did not tell Albany,” Toglia said. “But according to their resolution, they were supposed to let Albany know.” Now, after letting it sit another three years, they put forth a plan to demolish the church and build 88 units of affordable housing. A statement from Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, CEO of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, said he would love to save the church, but doesn’t believe it’s viable. “When Catholic Charities acquired Our Lady of Loreto Church, we had high hopes to preserve the property,” he said. “This was my home parish and the place where I was baptized, received First Communion and Confirmation, and where I worked as a youth coordinator prior to entering the seminary. It was a parish with a great history of serving Italian immigrants and their children and grandchildren.” However, due to disrepair and other issues, Catholic Charities believe it’s best to demolish the church and build affordable housing, which is badly needed in Brownsville. “It would be irresponsible, neglectful and dangerous to leave the site abandoned and in disrepair,” LoPinto said. “We are concerned for the safety of the residents in the neighborhood. The building has dangerous levels of asbestos and lead and there is no active heating.” But a coalition of community organizations is trying to have the site landmarked before any demolition can take place. “The behavior of Catholic Charities in regards to this project is completely unacceptable,” said state senator and mayoral candidate Tony Avella. “Their refusal to uphold the 2010 resolution is clearly a demolition by neglect tactic in order to expedite their efforts to have the church demolished.” According to Toglia, if the church is granted landmark status it would be eligible for grants to make repairs and potentially transform it into a community space. Les Ford with NIA Theatrical Production Company envisions the historic church serving as an arts and culture center. “It would be the first of its kind in Brownsville,” he said. “The city is right now in Brownsville working with arts and cultural organizations such as myself trying to help them expand or increase their capacity for arts and culture. This building fits right into that plan.” But with the de Blasio administration focused on creating affordable housing, landmark supporters might not get much help from City Hall. The local councilman, Rafael Espinal, has not taken an official stance on the landmark designation. “Our Lady of Loreto Church is under the private ownership of the Catholic Diocese and we have to respect the decision of the private owners of the property to use the space in a manner in which they see fit,” he said in a statement. “A proposal for affordable housing should not be taken lightly, especially now as we are dealing with a housing crisis. “At the end of the day it is not my decision, but of course I will work closely with both the community and the Diocese to ensure a positive outcome for Brownsville,” he said. “My main priority is making sure this transforms into a space that benefits the Brownsville residents.”
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