Spring might have sprung since the last time Community Board 3 met collectively. However, when it comes to the community being actively engaged in issues concerning the health and vitality of the neighborhood, residents seem to be hibernating. School test scores are drastically dropping, Census numbers are trending towards a record low, and many homeowners are once again facing tax and water liens.
After a brief intro and welcome, Chairman Henry Butler took a deep breath. Something heavy was on his heart. The district test results were in and Bedford-Stuyvesant scores were at an all-time low. Adding insult to injury, the twelve-member Community Education Council (the collective that shapes district-wide educational policy) only has 2 Bed-Stuy residents on its board. “We got to do better, people,” he said.
In the shadows of a major ad campaigns specifically targeting hard-to-count communities, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Census numbers once again are trending towards a record low. According to the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant (CIBS), as of Monday, April 5, 2010, less than 20% of applications were returned. Although residents have been warned via print and radio ads, posters and celebrity pitches of the importance of filling out the Census forms, Bed-Stuy residents are still lagging behind. Without accurate numbers, our community stands to lose billions of federally funded dollars. Yet, the urgency to complete the form and mail it in remains a low priority.
In an eleventh-hour dash to get residents to fill out their Census form, Melissa Lee, an associate from CIBS, is keeping hope alive and demanding that Bed-Stuy be heard. Her organization is making a commitment “to spreading the Census message by mobilizing residents of Bed-Stuy around the importance of achieving a complete count in 2010,” stated Ms. Lee. Over the next few days, Ms. Lee and her street team will canvas the community with an arsenal of posters and postcards urging residents to “BE Heard and BE Counted.” Deadline for turning in the Census forms is April 15.
It’s tax season again. Although this time of the year is often celebrated with an anticipated refund check courtesy of Uncle Sam, for many homeowners who have fallen behind in their taxes, it could easily result in the loss of their homes. The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant has teamed up with New York City Department of Finance to make sure that Bed-Stuy residents remain in their homes.
During the month of April, the Brownstoners’ foot soldiers will be knocking on doors personally inviting homeowners to the annual “Know The Facts, Don’t Lose Your Home,” tax lien night. The event takes place at 5:00 PM, Thursday, April 22 at Boys & Girls High School, 1700 Fulton Street. Lien candidates will have an opportunity to receive individual counseling and guidance from HPD, Department of Finance and DEP where they will have an opportunity to set up installment agreements and payment plans.
On a more upbeat note, Deputy Inspector Donald V. Lyons, from the 79th Precinct, dropped by to thank the community for helping take a bite out of crime. According to Lyons, incoming calls to the precinct’s crime tip line are at an all-time high and have resulted in taking several criminals off the streets including a high-profile rapist who had attacked two women in the area.
Other agenda items included two co-naming public hearings. Velma C. Armstrong of the Alliance of Panamanian Organizations in the United States petitioned the CB3 for a letter of support to co-naming Franklin Avenue between Fulton Street and Atlantic Ave. “Avenida Republica de Panama,” to commemorate the 107th Anniversary of the Independence of Panama.
The other co-naming was for Jefferson Avenue, between Throop and Tompkins to be co-named in honor of Bertram L. Baker. The presentation was given by Altovise Fleary, Jefferson Avenue TNT Block Association. Bertram L. Baker was Brooklyn’s first black elected official representing Bedford-Stuyvesant in the New York State Assembly where he wrote this nation’s first laws barring race discrimination. The board voted 35 for co-naming Franklin Avenue and 5 against. The Jefferson Avenue co-naming received a glowing 34 for, with no votes cast against it.
Keith L. Forest is a freelance publicist, writer and proud Bedford-Stuyvesant homeowner who lives and works in the beloved community. His current blog space (mybedstuy.blogspot.com) seeks to celebrate the people and places that make up this great community while addressing issues such as gentrification, predatory lending and other ill norms that seek to exploit, discredit and harm the area and its people.