Death of a Sunday: Greenpoint Library Holds Candlelight Vigil

By Oona Milliken |


Book lovers gathered to mourn the death of Sunday services at the Brooklyn Public Library at a candlelight vigil in front of the Greenpoint public library on Sunday Oct. 17. 


After Mayor Adams five percent budget cut announcement, libraries announced their closures on Nov. 26. to cut back costs. After this Sunday, the Brooklyn branch, the last New York library branch to do so, is following suit. Sophia Cohen, a local resident, said that the community would feel the loss of Sunday service. 


“It’s horrible. I think this is such a vital service to the community and to lose a day where people can come and read and work, it’s a huge loss for the community,” Cohen said. 


With candles ablaze, politicians, community members, library go-ers and activists gathered to speak out against the budget cuts. With less than one percent of the city’s budget allocated for public libraries, the collective budget is down to $12.6 million from $36.2 million the previous year. State Senator Emily Gallagher said that Adams’ cuts were a reflection of his warped views on public safety. 


“A budget is a statement of our values,” Gallagher said. “Mayor Adams professes that public safety is at the core of what he’s about. We know at the core of public safety are places like a library, where people can go and be safe.” 


Lauren Comito, one of the organizers of the event and the board chair of Urban Librarians Unite, said libraries are a haven for community members. By slashing Sunday services, Comito said that the city was taking away time that neighbors could be together in a protected environment. 


“This is a place where people know each other. Those sort of tangential connections you don’t get when you’re working from home or staring at your phone on the subway,” Comito said. “Librarie are about people. Libraries are about human beings and the human stories inside them.” 


Lincoln Restler, District 33 city councilmember, said that New York City had a higher revenue than initially anticipated, eradicating the need to trim down on the city’s budget. According to a report by New York City Council, the city’s budget has a $2.6 billion surplus for 2024. 


“What is up with Eric Adams and his austerity agenda? The Independent Budget Office said there are billions of dollars in additional revenue this year. The council finance division has said there are billions of dollars in additional revenue this year,” Restler said. “There is no need for the mayor’s cuts. It is wrong. It is shameful.” 


Kevin LaCherra, a Greenpoint transportation activist and an organizer of the event, said New Yorkers deserve seven days a week services. LaCherra expressed his frustration with the mayor for cutting essential services. 


“We believe that seven day a week service ought to be the absolute bare minimum of what this neighborhood deserves, of what our city deserves. Greenpoint has seen clearly over the course of last year who this mayor is and what his priorities are,” LaCherra said. “At the end of the day, Eric Adams is far more concerned about what he can take from our communities than what he can give to them.” 


An employee of the Brooklyn Public Library, who declined to be named in the article, said their office was devastated when they heard that Sunday services would be cut. Despite their feelings in the office, the employee said they were happy with the crowd at the Greenpoint branch that came out to show their support. 


“I think it’s terrible. [The library is] a thing that people use no matter your background or if you can afford it, and so I think it’s sad,” the employee said. “I think it’s great that they’re spreading awareness and expressing the gravity of the situation.” 


John Cordovez, a union leader for library technical workers at Local 1930, said that the cuts would undermine the trust that patrons of the library have had in the institution for years. Cordovez said it was time for community members to rally in support for restoring Sunday service and increasing funding for libraries across the city. 


“The power is in the people, it has always been about the people, and we should continue to do what we need to do to get the word out and continue to fight,” Cordovez said. 

Collective Real Estate: A New Model for Vanishing Public Spaces?

By Oona Milliken | 


After an 18-month long fight, advocates for halting the sale of Greenpoint’s Park Church to developers GW Equities LLC are still pushing. In front of an audience gathered in the backroom of The Palace on Dec. 13, Jeremy Hook, an activist pushing to keep the church intact, announced that the sale has been paused by the Attorney General’s Office until January and community members can find a way to get enough money to buy the church. Hook’s proposal, under the name Commonplace, is to pool money from interested investors in order to own the property as a community collective. 


“This is an opportunity that we can win,” Hook said. “There is a mechanism that exists by which many, many, many hundreds, even thousands, of people can collectively raise funds to purchase property in New York City.” 


According to their website, Commonplace is meant to be a public space that is open to Greenpointers of all ages and walks-of-life to have a spot to gather. Their website reads: 


“What if there were a space in your neighborhood, like a giant living room, where you could meet your neighbors for a communal meal, play ping-pong with a stranger, see a concert with friends, schedule a meeting with collaborators, practice your hand at life drawing, or dance until late under a spinning disco ball?” 


The collective’s obstacle is raising enough money to make the proposition a reality. Hook said his goal over the holidays was to show the Attorney General Office that enough people had pledged money to halt the sale, approximately $1.25 million of the $4.8 million needed to beat GW Equities’ offer of $4.7 million. Hook said that people have already pledged $375,000, with $825,000 left to go. 


“I think we need it pledged, not in a bank, just pledged on a sheet that I can forward to the judge and say ‘Call any of these numbers,’” Hook said. “And these people will say that, ‘I did indeed pledge that amount of money,’ now I’m going to try and turn that pledge into a mechanical thing.”


The Attorney General’s Office was not available for comment to verify Hook’s claim. 


Commonplace is working with NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative, a non-profit organization that seeks to make the process of collectively buying land and property in New York easier. David Glick, a co-founder of REIC, said the money collected from community members would go into an existing bank account that could be used to purchase the church. 


“We see [REIC] as a way of democratizing the tools that are normally restricted to a few, putting them in the hands of everyday workers to have more of a voice and be empowered through crowd investment,” Glick said. 


Lyn Pinezich, a filmmaker and a Greenpoint resident, said the Commonplace proposal was incredibly exciting. Pinezech said she has been disappointed in seeing so many semi-public spaces being converted into real-estate developments and did not know that organizations like REIC existed.


“In the past, this would have been a slam dunk for the developer,” Pinezich said. “However, these sorts of structures that are apparently in place now that I hadn’t ever heard of before, are really encouraging, because I do feel that these communal things that benefit a community outweigh the value of an individual person, especially in a building that has never been a commercial space.” 


Mikel McCavana and Sam Palumbo, attendees of the presentation, said they would both pledge money to try and make Commonplace a reality. McCavana said he had attended music shows at Park Church before the pandemic and valued the church’s role as a community gathering area. 


“My first memory of the church was going to this ambient noise and projection show. Very sick,” McCavana said. “I’m really happy living in this neighborhood and I would be sad to see a space, like a potential community space, not being used to its full potential.” 


On whether or not the Commonplace plan would become a reality, McCavana said he wasn’t sure, but wanted the proposal to go through. 


“I have no ability to conceive of whether or not it’s going to be successful, I have no idea. I want it to be, love it to be successful,” McCavana said. 


With the January deadline looming, Greenpointers have a ways to go before Commonplace can be set into motion. Still, Pinezich said she wanted the residents of the community to stay hopeful and not give up on Park Church quite yet. 


“This is not a pie in the sky idea, that a community can value something and it carries weight for once,” Pinezich said. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Hosts Gun Buyback

Oona Milliken | 

In the dining room of Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery this past week, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that the District Attorney’s office would be offering $400 to buy illegal guns and assault rifles at a Brooklyn church on Saturday, Dec. 16. For every additional gun, owners will be offered $200, as well as $25 for rifles, shotguns, imitation pistols, air guns and non-operable weapons. The event is intended to provide a space for illegal gun owners to relinquish their firearms without punishment. After collection, the guns will be taken out of commission and melted by the NYPD. 


Gun violence has gone up seven percent in New York City between 2011 and 2020, according to statistics collected by Everytown. Gonzalez said the Brooklyn DA has created a comprehensive strategy for reducing these statistics, including prosecuting illegal gun possession, targeting gangs in Brooklyn as well gathering intelligence on repeat offenders of crimes and deaths involving firearms. The gun buyback, the third event of its kind that the District Attorney’s Office has hosted, is just one of those methods. 


“It’s very hard to get rid of a gun. You can’t just call the police department and say ‘Hey, I’ve got a gun and I’d like to surrender it,’ Gonzalez said. “[The buyback] allows you to surrender [illegal] guns to make sure that they don’t get used in the commission of a crime, and it will help save lives.” 


Critics have questioned if gun buybacks are effective in reducing gun violence. The buyback programs only target illegal firearms and are voluntary, with a limited turnout. However, last year’s December buyback for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office collected 200 firearms. On Saturday, they only gathered 50, according to NY1, but Gonzalez said Brooklyn DA has taken 400 guns off the streets in the past two years through the program. 


The announcement was held at Junior’s in Downtown Brooklyn, owned by restaurateur Alan Rosen. Rosen said he wanted to host the press conference after observing violent and deadly incidents involving guns in the borough, such as the toddler who was killed by a stray bullet in Brooklyn in 2020, and a 12-year old boy who was fatally shot in the back of a car while eating in November 2023.* 


“A study released just this week found that New York ranks as the third most anxious state in terms of gun violence. Let that sink in for a minute. We are on edge. It is obviously on top of everyone’s mind, even more so with the holiday season upon us. I am one of those anxious New Yorkers,” Rosen said. “My holiday wish and prayer is that we make this the safest city in the country. That would be the best present I could ever hope for for all Brooklynites, New Yorkers and of course, my friends and family here at Junior’s.” 


Dr. James A. Thornton, a pastor for the Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Flatbush, said he was delighted to be a partner in helping get guns off the streets of Brooklyn. Thorton urged parents and community members to spread the word to bring illegal firearms to the church on Saturday. 


“I want to appeal to parents that if you know that you have people in your home with guns, Saturday is the time to come and turn it in safely without any consequences whatsoever. And so I’m appealing to everyone, wherever you are to let’s get these guns off the street. Let’s make a difference. This is the season for Christmas. And there are three words for Christmas: hope, peace, joy, and love.” 


Carlos Velasquez, from the Police Athletic League, a youth development organization focused on mentoring relationships with young people and the police, said that they have lost several members due to guns in the past year but hoped that would change in the future. 


“Unfortunately, the Police Athletic League has known the repercussions of violence. We’ve lost five young people this year to violence in our programs, and the work is continuous and we try the best that we can do inside our doors,” Velasquez said. “Programs like this and supporters like Mr. Rosen, DA Gonzalez and Pastor Thorton is what makes the difference.” 


*Disclaimer: Rosen misidentified the victim as a young girl during the press conference. 

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