Participatory budgeting kicks off in Bushwick

By Matthew Fischetti

How would you spend a million dollars in your neighborhood?
That was the question posed to Bushwick residents at a joint participatory budget assembly, hosted by Council Members Sandy Nurse, who represents east Bushwick and East New York, and Jennifer Gutiérrez, who represents west Bushwick and Williamsburg, on Thursday Oct. 6th at Bushwick High School on 400 Irving Ave.

Participatory budgeting is the process where residents can have a direct say in capital projects (which include things like libraries, public spaces, parks, etc.) that cost at least $50,000 and last at least five years. The process is currently in the idea-collection phase which will last till the end of October (for district 37 they’re looking for proposals by the 17th) , proposals will be developed from then until January and voting will occur over a nine-day period in March and April, and the implementation phase starts in May. Anyone over the age of 12 can vote.
For the residents of District 37, which encompasses East Bushwick, this was the first year they were able to participate in the process. Not every councilmember chooses to opt into the program.
37-year-old Carolina Wang moved into Bushwick two years ago and visits Irving Square Park twice a day, everyday. She started an Instagram photographing the many dogs in the park, posting them to her account @Irvingsqpuppers. She attended the meeting because she wants to see improvements to the park, like a dog run, due to the increase in dog owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to have a safe space for the dogs and we want to make sure that we’re responsibly sharing it with people in the park,” Wang said in an interview.
While it is the first time she has gotten involved in participatory budgeting, she said that the public assembly was helpful and made the process seem less daunting.
“I really enjoyed the information that I got. And it makes the process seem less scary,” Wang said in an interview. “And I do appreciate them [representatives from Councilwoman Sandy Nurse’s office] letting us know it’s the first time they’re doing it. It may not be perfect, but we’re just gonna do our best to do this.”
Kurt Anderson, 72, has been involved with the Cooper Street Community Association, which tries to foster greater relationships with Bushwick youth and their 83rd police precinct by organizing programming together. He recommended at the meeting that some of the money be spent to build either a bowling alley or community center, which he says the east side of Bushwick needs.
Anderson had to organize a recent fundraiser for his organization at a bowling alley in Queens because there wasn’t one located in the neighborhood.
“It’s an enjoyable sport, and everybody can come and do that. And I think it’d be a plus for the neighborhood,” he said.
40-year-old Rashid Littlejohn has gotten involved in participatory budgeting priorly as a youth leader, but he was excited to make his voice heard for the first time as a resident. He runs an organization called GunsforGrants which focuses on giving youth pathways to success away from harm and violence. Littlejohn has a few recommendations for participatory budgeting, including a turf field at P.S. 384 on 242 Cooper Street and turning the former Bushwick Economic Development Corporation on 61 Cooper Street into a community center.
“It was great to hear the voices of the community, you know, really eager to have their interests met when it comes to the funding. There’s a lot of concern that no one’s ideas gets overlooked,” Littlejohn said.
If you are interested in getting involved with participatory budgeting visit or reach out to your local council member’s office.

Netflix opening new NYC studio

Streaming giant-turned-production company Netflix announced it is bringing a massive new studio to Bushwick.
The facility will be over 170,000 square feet and comes equipped with six sound stages, editing suites, and meeting and screening rooms. Netflix estimates that they will be able to film two television shows simultaneously or one feature-length film in the new building at any given time.
Netflix has steadily produced more and more projects in New York City over the past decade, thanks in part to New York State’s tax incentive program that allocates $420 million a year in breaks to attract film and television productions.
“This is really important for New York,” said Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “It’s not just nice to have, it’s a real economic driver.”
In addition to the new studios, Netflix has pledged to spend over $100 million in New York City and create thousands of new jobs. In response, New York State pledged $4 million in tax credits to the streaming company over the next 10 years, contingent upon the amount of jobs Netflix creates and retains.
Michael Manas, Netflix’s head of operations in Brooklyn, sees the new studio as a win for the local community and the film industry as a whole.
“It’s such a critical time for industry to say, ‘we’re here and we’re back,’” said Manas. “This really is a neighborhood project.”

Activists, pols rally for Bushwick Inlet Park

Local activists, politicians, and community members gathered along the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront last week to advocate for the complete construction of the long-promised Bushwick Inlet Park.
The event was organized by the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, a community group that has been fighting for the project for nearly two decades.
In 2005, large portions of Williamsburg and Greenpoint were rezoned under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition to new development, elected officials promised an expansive, miles-long park along the area’s formerly industrial coastline.
Although North Brooklyn has since experienced a boom in new development, the promised park remains elusive 16 years down the line.
“The population growth along the North Brooklyn waterfront initiated by the 2005 rezoning has exceeded the city’s estimates by historic proportions,” said Steve Chesler, an organizer with the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “Yet, the creation of Bushwick Inlet Park promised to help mitigate this new neighborhood density is happening at a snail’s pace.
“After 16 years and counting, only 8 acres out of 27 are built or in progress,” he added. “For our health and well being, the city must speed up its execution and funding for completion of this public green space and fulfill its commitment to its residents.”
“Sixteen years into the redevelopment of the neighborhood and we have 20 percent of the park we were promised,” said Ward Dennis, another Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park organizer. “We hope to at least make some progress and get rid of this building.”
The building in question is a large, storage warehouse along the waterfront. In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city bought the site for $160 million, rekindling hope that the full Bushwick Inlet Park would become a reality.
However, there are currently no plans in place to demolish the structure.
“We are here to celebrate the capital investment of Mayor de Blasio,” said Catherine Thompson. “We are grateful because he secured the future of Bushwick Inlet Park. Now Mr. Mayor, tear down this building!”
Thursday’s rally was attended by multiple local officials and members of the Triboro United Youth Soccer Club.
“I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for picking up the broken pieces left by the Bloomberg administration and the mostly disastrous 2005 rezoning,” said Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher. “Mayor de Blasio, we are almost there and your term is almost up. Let this be a part of your legacy.”
Counciman Stever Levin said he is currently working to include the park project in the soon-to-be-finalized city budget, with a special focus on demolishing the warehouse. The budget must be finalized ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
“Justice delayed is justice deferred is justice denied,” said Levin. “That is what we are seeing right now. There is a generation of kids in North Brooklyn who need this space.”

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