Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Monday, April 25, 2016

Who is the Crown Heights South Association?

As you know, much energy and creativity continues to go into the fight to prevent the Department of City Planning from re-zoning our neighborhood in particular, Empire Boulevard. If Empire is changed from commercial to residential, Black Crown Heights will become Williamsburg. No amount of landmarking will prevent that. Empire is the fight.

Just as we are in court to fight CB9's illegal resolution letter to DCP, we are also fighting a PLGNA "study" of our area (not theirs!) funded by our elected officials, because any "community-based" study can be characterized by DCP as a request for a re-zoning. We have been successful in holding off DCP for over 2 years, an extraordinary achievement. That is why I am writing to convey my concern about the upcoming Town Hall Meeting and Landmark-Weekend organized by Crown Heights South Association. Landmarking requires studies.

I can't find any information about CHSA's membership. They have an email address and a Facebook page; that is all. This makes me suspicious. The Borough President is 100% eager to deliver Empire into the hands of the developers; CHSA could be a front organization.

I say this with assurance: There will be no landmarking in Crown Heights, just as there will be no downzoning. This is true throughout the city, not just here. In fact, earlier this year the Landmarks Commission DE-calendared 60 buildings that languished for years without being considered. All those de-calendared proposals involved hundreds of hours of research, documentation, analysis and substantial fundraising (I worked to protect a threatened landmark for 15 years; I have had a lot of experience in this area). And all those proposals were back-burnered, especially if in minority neighborhoods.

Through their bought and paid for shills on the City Council, the real estate industry is seeking to impose a time limit for landmark consideration, after which any proposal will be rejected, as opposed to, say, increasing funding to the Landmarks Commission to insure timely consideration.

To suggest, as Crown Heights South Association is doing, that "Automotive Row" (Empire between Flatbush and Rogers) is a viable candidate for landmarking is naive at best. To actually create such a proposal would be a yuuuuuge waste of scarce resources of time, effort and money.

I suggest that it would be more useful for CHSA, whoever they are, to join our ongoing fight to prevent the Dept of City Planning (Plotting) from rezoning Crown Heights, and in particular Empire Boulevard. If DCP succeeds in rezoning Empire from commercial to residential, Black Crown Heights will become Williamsburg. No amount of landmarking will change that.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Do Over! Carmen Martinez doesn't make the short list, so a new search begins!

The riot never stops over at CB9. The April general meeting was Popcorn Night! Every attendee was handed this playbill

featuring Board member Tim Thomas with added (by the artist, not by TT) clown nose and wig, as well as a bag of kosher popcorn, a gesture much appreciated by former Board chair Jacob Goldstein, who again found a way to let his contempt for current chair, Demetrius Lawrence, be known. This month his objection was to the scheduling, by Lawrence and Housing Committee chair Carmen Martinez, whom he also clearly despises, of a housing information forum on a Saturday. Never would have happened on his watch!

Protestors wore clown noses, too. Here I am; Alicia Boyd is behind me.

Much time was given over to the consideration/issuing of liquor licenses, to the growing disgruntlement of the community. Someone suggested the name of the neighborhood be changed to "Liquor Heights," while another pointed out that Black people prefer to buy liquor from the street side of bulletproof glass and sell it at home; I didn't know that. In other words, the bars proliferating on Franklin are not serving Black people. In so many ways. One applicant kept correcting himself every time he referred to his "restaurant" as a "bar", what it actually is, something more like this:

Then came the problem of what to do about Carmen Martinez, Eric Adams' choice for the new district manager of CB9, the former true-blue treasurer for convicted Brooklyn powerbroker Clarence Norman, Jr. and a woman allowed to retire from her job at the City Comptroller's office after admitting she stole 14 years of public service, basically keeping Clarence's dirty little empire in shipshape while the master did his time. Nice choice, Eric! This is a woman as loyal as she is self-serving and knows how to get things done!

You may remember that last month, Chair Lawrence said the Search Committee was going to have to be rejiggered and start all over again because quorum had never been achieved in their meetings. Lawrence was present at all of the meetings, of course, and had no objection at the time, not so long as the committee was putting a good face on the selection of Adams' candidate.

But, lo and behold, the Search committee chaired by Lawrence's go-to guy, Hector Robinson – at one point, Robinson chaired three committees – did their job and selected the three most qualified applicants, none of which was the disgraced crony the Borough President prefers. What's a puppet chairman to do?

And so the Board went into an illegal executive session to discuss. I say "illegal" because executive session is reserved for discussion of matters like the personal information of the applicants, salary negotiations, etc., not matters of policy and procedure, which are subject to the Open Meetings Law. Rumor has it that the session was a brawl, replete with accusations and recriminations. In the end, the Board, with few exceptions, voted to create a new Search Committee with members hand-picked by Demetrius Lawrence, who understand their marching orders, and grasp the need to fill the position by the end of the fiscal year in June, to accomplish in two months what they have been unable to do in eight.

Can they do it? I'll do my part to make sure it doesn't happen. Join me! We have our work cut out for us. Martinez is already running the CB9 office on Nostrand Avenue, following the sudden disappearance of Terry Witherspoon, who had been answering the phones since her former boss, Pearl Miles, was kicked to the curb last September. Witherspoon has been variously described as on vacation, sick, and on extended sick leave. Meanwhile, Martinez is in there, setting up her fiefdom.

Not this Carmen Martinez: