Compromise is Not an Option for These Crown Heights Residents…when It Comes to Gentrification and Protecting the Environment

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Photo: Nathaniel Adams Alicia Boyd of Movement To Protect the People (MTOPP) shares thorough and inspiring analysis as she leads a discussion at the International Action Center on Gentrification in Brooklyn and a developer’s proposal to build a residential tower next to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens greenhouses.

Crown Heights Meets Manhattan

A few dozen Crown Heights residents assembled in a Manhattan meeting to address ways in which they can mobilize to thwart the process of zoning and its corollary – gentrification, in their community. Alicia Boyd, one of the leaders of MTOPP (Movement to Protect the People), made the meeting highly informative and easy to comprehend, even for someone who may know nothing about the intricacies and nuances of gentrification. If any college or university is considering creating a course on gentrification, I wholeheartedly recommend that you immediately seek out Alicia Boyd to lead it. That’s how thorough she was in terms of delivering a message palatable for even the least informed. The meeting ran like any other meeting, in that there was an overview of an agenda, and, to a lesser extent, a recap of previous meetings and organizing efforts by the group.

Development Proposal on BBG Land

An issue that came up on more than one occasion was that of a proposed plan to develop a 40-story high-rise on land near the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (BBG) greenhouse conservatories. Should such a plan go through, it would effectively compromise the subsistence of the three conservatories that are housed in the garden. Boyd made it a point to highlight that such a proposal invites more than just the common complaints of gentrification and zoning. What also comes with such a detrimental zoning plan are concerns pertaining to the environment and sustainability. Turning the meeting into a brief science lesson, Boyd explained how a 40-story building in an area with, by and large, structures that are no more than six feet, would compromise the “visual integrity” of the three conservatories of the BBG that it would directly impact – in addition to the obvious environmental issue. It is for this reason that Boyd made a call to action for all in attendance to come up with creative ways to defeat such a proposal.

Assemblyman Barron Sets the Tone

Perhaps to further inspire those in attendance, Boyd referred to the example of Assemblyman Charles Barron, who, as a prominent politician, refuses to compromise with developers. Development in the East New York area in Barron’s district is contingent upon “developers making housing 100% affordable for the residents of East New York.” Evidently, Barron’s advocacy for the people in his district worked, as Boyd saw, firsthand, “buildings built by the same developers that create buildings in other neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Prospect Heights , but that are affordable for the people inhabiting East New York.” Boyd added that “East New York is the only neighborhood in Brooklyn where the Black population has increased over the years.”

In addition to the 40-story building proposal on land near the BBG conservatories, not compromising with developers imposing their rezoning and gentrification plans was another major theme of the night.

The Point of it All

Yet another portion of the meeting was spent describing terms connected to zoning and gentrification. For example, Boyd described how certain areas are easier to develop than others, such as in commercial versus residential areas. In general, if there was a term that Boyd mentioned and felt she needed to possibly define, she briefly polled the room to ensure everyone was on the same page. This is one of the many reasons why people should be encouraged to attend meetings such as these. The get-together concluded with a reiteration of the group’s commitment to social and economic justice as it pertains to housing. The group also planned the next meeting.

Priscilla Mensah covers topics related to improving health, wellness and overall community empowerment. She is also a former Health Reporting Fellow at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and can be reached at pmensahbrooklyn@gmail.com.