The access to and affordability of public space in a community plays a vital role in neighbors and neighborhoods seeing each other, spending time together and in turn, working better together. In gentrifying neighborhoods, spaces like this can become more scarce and segregated. Recently two of our Trellis Crew attended meetings on the use and priorities of public space and shared what they heard and learned
At the public space community workshop, there were the residents of Gowanus, the people from Housing Preservation and Development, architects that worked with HPD before, and people from the city council.
The goal of the workshop was to have an engagement session with the community and hear the concerns they have about building new affordable housing. They want sufficient feedback from the community because they wanted to make sure that in 10 years the site is appealing to all. The first thing we did was pick out a picture and write down what it would mean to the community if it was incorporated. A resident picked a picture of a pool and said that he wanted to see a temporary pool or some sort of recreation center. I picked a picture of people who seemed to be doing homework or studying and believe that it’s ESSENTIAL that a community like Gowanus that have so many kids don’t have their own recreation center or library because they want to keep building residential sites. Also, the site is by the Gowanus canal yet has to be built 70 feet away because of the process of cleanup. There were suggestions about growing plants and having a community garden but I disagree because of the odor of the canal. Sitting at the workshop I learned that residents have power by speaking out and going to these meeting because we are apart of the community and the government should be willing to work with us not against us.
Anaya Lino-Suazo is a senior at Brooklyn Prospect Charter, a member of the Trellis Crew and a regular contributor
[Recently] I attended the Parks & Recreation/Environmental Protection Committee Meeting at P.S. 29, a 15 minute walk from my apartment. It was a Community Board 6 meeting and it caught my attention because:
a) I had never attended a community board meeting before --frankly, I didn’t even know what a community board was or that Red Hook even had one until a couple of weeks ago;
b) it had “environmental protection” in its name and that is something that I genuinely care about.
One of the aspects I pay close attention to at events is diversity or the lack of. Whether it’s racial, age, or gender, it’s important that it’s always present. However, the event I attended lacked all three types of diversity.
The racial diversity was so minimal that I was able to get an exact count of the people of color at the event, within seconds. There were two Black persons -a man and a woman- and two Asian persons -also a man and a woman- and then there was me, a Latina. That was definitely disappointing considering that Community Board 6 serves several neighborhoods. I just kept thinking to myself, “there must be more diversity than this.”
The age diversity was also very unfortunate. I was the youngest person there and there was a significant age gap between me and the person(s) who seemed like the second youngest. Theajority of the crowd were middle-aged or seniors and there were maybe about 3 young adults after 2 of them left at the beginning and then there was me, a teenager. That made me feel out of place and a little uncomfortable.
The lack of gender diversity was not as awful as the racial and age diversity but it’s still noteworthy. From where I was seated (middle, right; good view), more men than women were visible. The persons leading the event were men; however, the few women that were there were very vocal and to me, that kind of compensated for the lack of women.
I was very disappointed with the topic of the event because it was not what I was expecting. The entire event was about developing a park. We were given a presentation by the architect in charge of the project where he explained a study that had been conducted regarding what the public wanted to be changed or added to the park and showed layout designs. One of the things said that appalled me was about the greenery of the park. The architect mentioned that they planned on reducing some of the greenery to install new seating and to make two other nearby parks more visible from within the park. Since this event did include “environmental protection” in its name, I was looking forward to a concerned comment regarding that idea but no one in the audience had anything to say about it. Everyone seemed more focused on/ concerned about the layout designs and whether the park should have more straight lines or curved lines. I was baffled. In my opinion, the fact that the architect was considering such a thing was a red flag.
Also, through the comments and questions, it seemed that majority of the individuals at the event didn’t care so much about how the park would affect the persons who go there but instead how it would affect the persons that live near there. I heard comments between the lines of, “I’m worried that the new lights will be bothersome to me and my neighbors in our building” and “there is already construction next door to the park; we don’t want more construction sites.” It’s reasonable that they would want to participate in an event that discussed something that’ll affect them but I strongly believe that there should have been more representation of individuals that use the park frequently but don’t necessarily live in that area, such as nannies and students from nearby schools that live in other neighborhoods.
Overall, the Parks & Recreation/Environmental Protection Committee Meeting took a different route than what I was expecting based on the name of it and it was upsetting to me because I think it deviated from what was actually important: preserving as much of nature as we can in our big, gray city.
Maryory Martinez is a sophmore at Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and a Trellis intern
Meetings about the use of public space in your community generally happen every month as part of your community board’s community meetings. You can find out more by finding your community meeting and looking under events.
You can find your community board HERE
These meetings provide opportunity to hear about and vote on plans for the use of land and public space in your community