The other day, we dropped in on a meeting of a committee formed to plan the dispersal of $3 million of state funds designated to our community by NY State. One of the results of the disaster that was last year’s hurricane has been the formulation of many committees to figure out how our community (and others) become more ‘resilient’ in the face of natural disasters – many of them expecting the same trifecta of hurricane, high tide and full moon, causing flooding and it’s collateral damage. We apologize if this is a lot for our brain to handle all at once. The fact is that each committee or group treats us as if our main problem is insurance, or infrastructure, or transportation difficulties, or housing problems, etc. We expressed our confusion in perhaps a somewhat lighthearted way, and received the following thoughtful response from one of the committees:
From Gita Nandan
“Hi George, Thank you for coming to the meeting, and helping to spread the word about the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Zone Plan (CRZP). A few things I want to clarify that were mistakenly stated above. The first is that the committee selection was not conducted by the co-chairs. The committee selection process was originated by the Department of State (DoS) and the New York Rising Program Directors. The co-chairs have helped to reach out to those selected, and have worked to make recommendations so that the committee is representative. But each member must go through an approval process that is in the hands of the DoS.
As stated at the meeting last night, the committee is a conduit between the community and the planning process. Those selected have been charged with going back to the community and informing of the process, soliciting input and bringing feedback to the meetings. In addition, smaller break-out subcommittees, such as the outreachcommittee, should and will have non-committee members as part of the process so that we can reach as many people as possible.
Our goal is to have each and every Red Hook resident aware of the CRZ,and participate in the planning process. One other note, is that while there is funding being made through the Community Block Grant of $3 million, and a capital project willbe supported as a result, this is not the only goal. It is important for the community to understand that this is one part of the foundation for the building of a resiliency plan for Red Hook,that will encompass a wide variety of actions, projects, and transformation to make Red Hook a better, more resilient and sustainable neighborhood.
The project selected will just be one small aspect of the work to be done, and we want to have all of Red Hook involved. We are happy to arrange a meeting with you to explain the details, process, and answer any other questions that you might have. Feel free to reach out to us to find a time. Warm regards, Ian Marvy + Gita Nandan”
We at the Star-Revue would like to take this opportunity to propose what we see as perhaps an all-enveloping project. Perhaps a novel use of this funding that would go a long way to improving our community’s reaction to all sorts of problems, both short and long term. It would be something like teaching us to fish rather than just giving us a meal. Let’s start our own TOWN HALL.
We are basically a small town in the middle of a vast urban metropolis. The number of voters is tiny compared to the city as a whole. In this last primary, Red Hook recorded a bit more than 800 votes in a city of almost 9 million. There is no governing body that represents just us. Our city council representative is also responsible for Sunset Park, the south Slope, Sunset Park and parts of Borough Park. Our congressional district includes a huge area of Brooklyn, and parts of Queens as well. Our State Assembly and Senate districts are equally broad. Our Community Board includes Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and areas of Park Slope.
Think about what it would be like to have our own Mayor. A paid position, with a paid staff, that would advocate for all of us. Red Hook is a neat geographical area bounded by highways and the sea. A full-time person or person, chosen by our community in a local election, representing the interests of just us. One could see that person as an ombudsman – giving each of us one place to go to complain about Con Edison, or FEMA, or the Department of Environmental Protection, or the EPA, someone with the knowledge and wherewithal to act as our advocate. Someone who knows our community intimately who would be the go to person for our city and state officials and agencies when they have proposals that involve Red Hook. An office for every resident to go to when seeking permits for a block fair, or event, or parade. An office that would be responsible for promoting our business interests to the rest of the city. A place to go to when one has an idea – say for a place near NYCHA housing to have barbecues. Someone responsible for helping enforce the decisions of the one institution we can call our own, the Red Hook Justice Center. An office to bring complaints about policing – or suggestions.
We have huge zoning issues in Red Hook. Large parcels remain undeveloped, constraining economic development. We have potential business incubators, in the form of boarded up shops that are part of NYCHA on Columbia Street that could be opened up for young people in the houses to hone their business skills, and at the same time offer better shopping solutions for that part of the neighborhood.
These are just ideas off the top of our head. We welcome everyone else’s ideas. We have gone to countless so-called community meetings over the past three years at which the bulk of the attendees are the consultants and representatives of our politicians who are paid to be there. Why not pay one of our own to represent all of us, and coordinate what’s available to us, and help dictate what we all want, rather than be sliced up into groups and be separate fodder for the ideas of colleges, consultants, and political opportunists.
Let’s use some of this outside money to start our own little town hall. We all like to think that we are a little village in the midst of a big city. Let’s make sure it stays that way with our own mayor!