Carroll Gardens

Still and always, grateful

Some years, gratitude is closer to the surface. Some years, it takes a little more digging.

Four years ago, as Thanksgiving came, we were recovering from a natural disaster.

Hurricane Sandy had taken the lives of loved ones, and battered our city. There were 500 nursing home evacuees living on the drill floor of the Park Slope Armory. But we found – no, together, we made – a “paradise built in hell” (the title of a brilliant book by Rebecca Solnit, about the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster). With food, music, art, volunteers, bathroom-cleaning, doctors, donations, smart organizing, love, and a deep sense of purpose, we turned that Armory into a place (as described by evacuee Miriam Eisenstein-Drachler) of “courtesy, gentleness, and goodness beyond description.” Even if it could not hold back the hurricane, she said, “it makes one feel more secure and very, very grateful.”

Today, as Thanksgiving comes, we are trying to recover from a political disaster. While the lives lost and damage done by Hurricane Sandy cannot be directly compared, the experience of loss for many of us is still real. Not just that we lost an election, though that will have profound consequences. What feels especially painful to me today is the risk that we’ll lose a vision that we’ve been so proud to hold up for our kids – of a country called to its best self, rooted in compassion, embracing difference, with a real belief (even when we don’t make it real) that everyone deserves a more equal chance across all our lines.

That very dream, and the effort to make it real, provoked a sharp back-lash (a “white-lash”, as Van Jones rightly called it). At this moment, it seems easier to mobilize the darker, more closed, more resentful, sides of humanity – rather than the hopeful, open, embracing ones. I’m afraid, honestly, about what that means for being human.  

Still and always, gratitude is a critical part of the way forward. Not as a way of “feeling better” (although gratitude turns out to be good for your health). And not only because bitterness can consume us (although John Lewis reminds us that hearts full of love will do a lot better to sustain us for a long-term struggle). But also because gratitude for what we do together, for what we can’t do alone, for the ways we need each other, is at the heart of creating an inclusive community. “Organized compassion” is not only how we fight but what we are fighting for.

So, in that spirit, here’s some of what I am so deeply grateful for, still and always: Read more »

Tell the MTA: We demand better F train service for ALL riders!

Whether you use a “local” or an “express” station, you were probably taken aback when the MTA announced their so-called “F Express Proposal” a few weeks ago. I know I was – since there was no outreach or community consultation.

The MTA’s proposal adds no service to the F line. Instead, it would simply eliminate half the trains from stopping at the six local F stations between Church Avenue and Jay Street/MetroTech.

By the MTA’s own data, this would hurt more F riders than it would help. It cynically pits Brooklyn straphangers against each other, creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’

Riders in all parts of Brooklyn agree: We need better service on the F line for ALL riders. So today, we’re asking you to join your local elected officials to tell the MTA that we demand a new plan. Read more »

We are Orlando. So let’s do something about it

Even two days later, it’s hard to make sense of the brutal tragedy in Orlando.  There’s something truly incomprehensible – about so many lives lost at once, about raising our kids in a world where mass shootings have become horrifically normal, about the polarized political response, and about our galling failure to act.

First in our hearts are the lives lost and the families torn apart. Last night, outside the Stonewall Inn, thousands of us stood together to read their names.

Tonight at Grand Army Plaza, Public Advocate Tish James with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and community leaders from Brooklyn’s diverse communities will come together to join for a unity vigil to remember the lives lost in Orlando and stand together in the face of hatred.

Unity Vigil to Honor the Lives Lost in Orlando
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn NY
7:30 PM, Tonight (June 14)

As we remember and begin to heal, we are learning more about the 49 people – mostly young, LGBTQ, and Latino – killed while dancing and celebrating together.  Read more »

Some new candidates on the (PBNYC) ballot!

PBNYC Vote Week is underway – and there are some new candidates on the ballot!

For the first time ever, we’ll be offering a brand new voting opportunity. In addition to voting on how to spend $1.5 million on the “capital projects ballot” (with 13 great projects like those from prior years), you’ll also get to vote on how to spend $50,000 on our brand new “program ballot.” 

Every year, during the PBNYC brainstorming phase, we hear many great ideas that don’t meet the criteria for “city capital” funding, which has to be for “bricks-and-mortar” projects.

So this year, we are offering an entire second ballot of projects that qualify for city “programmatic” funding that lets us really take advantage of all the creativity we see in PBNYC.  I’m proud to say we are the only district in NYC piloting this new opportunity. Read more »

PBNYC 2016 Ballot is here: What will you choose?

You’re going to get a lot of chances to vote this year – the Presidential primary in April, the State legislative primary in September, and the General Election in November.

But only one ballot contains 13 fantastic local projects to improve our schools, parks, libraries, streets and transit: the PBNYC 2016 ballot for our district is here, and its time to get ready to vote on how you want to spend $1.5 million. Read more »

Hey, did you hear it might snow?

You might have heard somewhere these past few days, but we’re expecting a bit of snow this weekend. We’ve seen what happens when we under-prepare, as well as what happens when we over-prepare. But the bottom line is we just don’t know how much snow we’re going to get – so it’s best to be ready.

Side note: For those of you who want to learn more about the surprisingly fascinating world of weather forecasting, Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise has a great chapter on the topic that I recommend while you’re sipping your hot cocoa this weekend.

Since the Snowpocalypse of 2010 the City Sanitation Department and the City Council have done a lot to make sure NYC is ready for whatever winter weather comes our way.  New York City has set up a great Severe Weather Update website which is the best source for up to the minute information on city operations (and you can even track the progress of City snow plows). Read more »

Protecting Freelancers from Getting Stiffed

New York City is the freelance capital of the world, with over 1.3 million freelancers, so many of them right here in Brooklyn. More and more people are working “by the gig” (as graphic designers, film producers, for-hire drivers, nannies, and much more), rather than for a regular paycheck.

But despite the rapidly growing percentage of workers who are paid this way, our laws have not kept up with our changing economy. As a result, gig economy workers don’t have the protections and benefits of traditional employees.

One consequence: more than 70% of freelancers report having been stiffed out of payments they were owed – by being paid too late, too little, or not at all – to the tune of $6,390 every year, on average. I’ve heard stories from individuals who were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars they were owed.

Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, on time and in full. So on Monday, in partnership with the Freelancer’s Union, I introduced the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”  Read more »

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Read more »

Remembering Bette Stoltz, a champion of South Brooklyn

On Thursday, we lost a great champion for South Brooklyn, for Smith Street, for small businesses, for manufacturing, for Brooklyn jobseekers, and for low-income kids.  Bette led the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation for many years, and was a much-loved community leader, CB6 member, organizer, gadfly, husband, mom, grandmother and friend.  Read more »

More New Plans for St. Mary’s Playground

As you might have seen earlier this year, a major reconstruction is in the works for St. Mary’s Playground (under the F and G tracks, along Smith Street from Luquer to Huntington Streets).

The park has long been closed, due to MTA’s rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct and nearby Smith 9th Street station. But with that work largely complete, we’re working to bring it back!

On Wednesday night, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation will present their preliminary design for the northern half of St. Mary’s Playground (between Luquer and Nelson Streets) at the Brooklyn Community Board 6 Parks Committee: Read more »