Editorial – Our Red Hook State of Mind

In this month’s story about the Red Hook Coalition, we describe the genesis of the Coalition as being a $100,000 grant offered by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, following Sandy.

Some quick thinking community minded Red Hookers got together and formed an entity to accept the money and pass it on to businesses in need.

Last month we spoke of the fact that Tish James had to pick City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who not only represents Red Hook but a host of neighboring community, as representing us in an important part of the battle to save the Long Island College Hospital.
There will be many future situations in which people from the community will be asked to step up.

Red Hook is a discrete part of Brooklyn, separated from every other neighborhood by water on three sides and highways on the fourth. This separation has no doubt been a factor in a Red Hook state of mind that separates us a bit culturally from places like Bensonhurst and Park Slope.

It is with all this in mind that once again we put forth the idea of hiring some exceptional person to be our city manager – a full time, decently paid position.

The people who are representing Red Hook in the Coalition, in the Civic Association, and in the NY Rising Committee are all volunteers giving generously of their time. All of them are otherwise employed – self or otherwise. We all know the stresses of paying the bills in this tough city of ours, and we owe every volunteer a big debt of gratitude.

In the course of researching our story on the Red Hook Coalition, we discovered that the outside world – especially the philanthropic world – quite impressed with our community. In other words, we have a good rep, and there is money out there for the right idea.

What we envision is an office where any resident with a specific question involving life around them can go for support. This manager would be well versed in government, and know where to go to begin solving the problem. That could be the community board, a city agency directly or through the councilman. It could be the governor or the state assemblyman. This person would end up knowing everybody and would become the go-to person connecting Red Hook with the outside world.

The only vested interest that this person would have is the good of all of us. There would be no conflict with time, for that would be his/her only job. Part of the job would of course involve constant research to make sure that we never again become an underserved community, left out to dry by city or state government.

This person would also be the go-to person for outside business interests looking to come into Red Hook. Of course, anybody can do whatever they want, and if they have the cash usually they do. But we have seen with both the BASIS School and the Beard Street detox facility that the community can get riled up if not consulted.

Turning that around – our proposed manager would advocate for the community. Meetings would be held to discuss proposals before it becomes too late to do anything about them. New projects would be discussed fully until some sort of local consensus is reached – and then it becomes the job of our paid advocate to do their best to see that community wishes are respected.

Finally, the budget to pay for this person would also include money for communication. A completist web site, a humongous email list and regularly published newsletters distributed both electonically and by mail in both English and Spanish is essential.
Democracy is best when local. The most important thing for communities is preparation against disasters, and protection against outside interests at odds with the desires of the existing residents.

The Red Hook Coalition is working on a plan to protect against natural disasters. A paid Red Hook manager would help them and protect us against man-made ones as well.

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