Last Friday, Public Advocate Leticia James named Carlos Menchaca the Red Hook representative to oversee the Request for Proposal procedures regarding the Long Island College Hospital (LICH). He joins the Cobble Hill Association, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Boerum Hill Association, Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Riverside Tenants’ Association and the Wyckoff Gardens Association, Inc.
Throughout the yearlong ordeal to prevent LICH from closing, these groups have been active advocates, participating in the court process that has forced SUNY Downstate into a new RFP process. While Red Hook has been often mentioned as a community underserved by local healthcare, it has been difficult if not impossible to get anyone from the Red Hook community to participate in the struggle. It is laudable that our new city councilman accepts this responsibility, but it points out a shortcoming.
Red Hook has one active community organization, the Red Hook Civic Association. It is a longstanding organization that has been kept alive through the legion volunteer efforts of John McGettrick. The Civic Association meets most months at PS 15, and it is attended by a small but loyal crowd of civic minded residents. The crowd gets bigger on occasion as special interests look for an outlet to be heard, (as happened before Sandy when a group called Occupy Red Hook was concerned about Stop and Frisk.) McGettrick is but one person, and he has fought many fights on our behalf. He has had help through the years, and more is needed.
The time has come for a bigger organization. Having to appoint a city councilman to stand for the community, when our neighboring communities, including the Gowanus Houses, have local organizations standing for them, is an indication of this.
One way to do this would be to merge some organizations. Perhaps the Red Hook East and West Tenant Associations should join together with the Civic Association. Perhaps ReStore Red Hook, or a successor organization should also be combined.
There is another way. Sandy has brought many outside organizations to Red Hook, and given many grants. The Red Hook Initiative, ReStore Red Hook and the Red Hook Volunteers are all recipients of sizable infusions of money. Why not convene a group of volunteers, headed by McGettrick, and prepare some grant requests?
With that money, someone could be hired on a part time basis to organize the Civic Association, changing it to a dues paying organization with a budget and a mission statement. Elect a board of directors, including representatives from the business community, property owners, housing activists and at-large members. Additional funding could to hire someone to create and manage a website, which would be a central location for important local announcments as well as other functions that one might imagine – for example an online historical association.
A bigger organization will provide our Red Hook community with a stronger voice and a firmer hand in the future of our neighborhood.