The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Last Week's Big Town Hall Meeting at St. Gabriel's

theQ made such a big deal about y'all going over to St. Gabriel's church last Wednesday that he really owes it to you to provide a recap of what happened there. Turns out that neighborhood nifty and nice guy Matthew Wojtkowiak of the PLGNA Safety Committee took much better notes than this cub reporter could ever manage, and he was swell enough to provide the following in-depth synopsis, which I share with you now with only minor edits. Here's Matthew:

Below is a summary of the meeting which was held at St. Gabriel's on Hawthorne Street. The meeting was led by Ms. Lindiwe Kamau (of the Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association), who did an excellent job keeping the audience's attention and moving the meeting along. Senator Eric Adams and Council Member Mathieu Eugene attended, in a public show of coordination of effort. During the meeting Ms. Kamau was able to nail down Council Member Mathieu Eugene to promise a NYPD security camera for the Nostrand/Fenimore area, which is no small achievement.

Before the meeting, sign up sheets were available, and people were asked to provide contact information. I believe that Ms. Kamau is the keeper of these lists. Roughly 40 to 50 people attended the meeting, and there was an active discussion among the people who attended. There was no heated debate, however. It is probably fair to say that the main unifying concern at the meeting was reducing violent crime by all reasonable means.

The meeting began with a brief presentation by a detective from the 71st precinct who circulated some photos of young men who were engaged in a recent shooting on Nostrand Avenue. The photo was taken from a private video camera feed which was provided to the NYPD. The meeting then moved to introductions of the neighborhood organizations, which were well represented: Martin Ruiz (PLGNA), Delroy Wright (FECMA) and Ben Edwards (LMA). Martin and Delroy introduced their organizations and discussed the groups' ongoing efforts to reduce crime. Ben spoke later in the evening (see below).

Senator Adams took the bulk of the meeting's time, and made good use of it. He presented Take Back Our Community (TBOC) which is available at this link to the Senator's website. TBOC is a comprehensive issue identification, data collection, and communication plan which uses an administrative team, block leaders and task forces like ours to address neighborhood safety and quality of life issues.

One of TBOC's tactics is to link neighboring blocks together so that they are in close contact, and then to link the block network together so that there is a centralized place to collect information on issues and then report to residents on affected blocks, and so that an action plan can be implemented. As far as complexity goes, TBOC is a fully loaded Cadillac of a plan and Senator Adams encouraged the group to use the parts that we like, to modify it as needed, and to get people involved in implementing it. We may not need all of TBOC but there are elements which I believe could be very useful in our efforts.

After presenting TBOC, Senator Adams fielded a lot of questions about the need for such a plan, as well as the benefits. Specifically, Senator Adams was asked why we need to collect crime data when the NYPD already has it. This is a fair question, and Senator Adams answered the questions by saying that we need to be able to back up our demands for city resources with data. Additionally, we may need to be able to back up our claims of problem issues (crime or other issues i.e. sanitation) with data, especially if the NYPD or other NYC agencies don't have the same data on file. I should note that one reason why the NYPD or other NYC agencies might not have the same data is that residents might not make the required reports, although they may tell certain neighbors about certain issues.

In the end, Senator Adams agreed that we ought to be able to get crime data concerning our neighborhood sectors from the NYPD. If this is the case, then we should do so when we are ready to make a comprehensive map of the various issues that we want to address.

The other major benefits that I see coming from TBOC or any version of it that we implement, is that we build on the community organizing work of Skei, Carmen, Sheila, who are doing neighborhood cleanups, PLGNA, which is organizing a neighborhood show, and plenty of other hard working groups, and harness it for our purposes: linking this community in ways that have not yet been done, and using these new links to better address crime and other issues.

Senator Adams implored the attendees over and over to sign up and get involved. He did not say the words but his manner was relatively clear -- the city cannot fix all of our problems for us. We all need to get involved.

Council Member Mathieu Eugene spoke next, and he kept his comments brief. He spoke of the need for additional youth programming and he promised to bring crime reduction ideas to the neighborhood in the near future. He did not specifically identify any initiatives, but he said that he would do so. Again, Ms. Kamau took Council Member Eugene to task concerning shootings and demanded a camera. Council Member Eugene explained that all discretionary funds have been allocated and promised already, but Ms. Kamau would not let him go -- he caved and promised a camera for Nostrand Avenue when the next city budget comes in (roughly June 2012).

Finally, Ben Edwards presented last, discussing the C.O.P. program and asked people to take sign-up sheets. Ben did a good job but his words were largely ignored, due to the noise and dispersion of attendees. However, there were a few new recruits who filled out the forms. Training will happen in the next couple of weeks, so all interested parties should fill out the form and send it in to Ben or me. The time commitment is four hours per month.  - MW

If you made it this far, I will reward with you with two VERY COOL and POTENTIALLY LIFE CHANGING PICTURES for YOU! The first is the Civilian Observation Patrol car that you and I will be riding around in when you sign up for the training and program. It's a minimal time commitment (4 hours a month) and it could be huge to gathering data and providing a stronger presence on our blocks. Heck, the Lubavitchers do it with their Shomrim, which is basically the same thing. Feeling like it's too conspicuous or risky? So what you're saying're not as courageous as the Orthodox? They're tougher than you? You kidding me? :) (that's a joke folks...some of my best rabbis are Jewish).

 Ladies and Dudes, let me reiterate...they HAVE A CAR READY AND WAITING FOR US. And that jacket I keep drooling over? Look at it here onFEPMA executive director Delroy Wright! Hot!

Contact LMA president Ben Edwards at or email me for more info. Do it, baby!

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