By Basir Mchawi,
Special to Our Time Press
Farragut Houses is a New York City Housing Authority development in the downtown Brooklyn area. It consists of ten buildings and 1,390 apartments. Over the last years continual development and gentrification have had a major effect on Farragut residents and the surrounding community. When politicians and heads of City Agencies mention “Quality of Life,” what are they really talking about? A community coalition, Farragut Stakeholders, has been formed to address a myriad of concerns.
Farragut Houses sits in a strategic area that is crossed by approaches to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway as well as the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. To add to further congestion and safety concerns, major development is taking place in the Brooklyn Navy Yard which literally sits across the street from Farragut. High rise buildings and projects such as the Barclay Center and a series of downtown Brooklyn hotels have made Farragut and other nearby public housing developments prime real estate areas. While developers and real estate moguls would like to privatize or even convert areas like Farragut to unaffordable housing, resistance is mounting.
Farragut Stakeholders has come together to address several issues, but a pressing one is a series of bike lanes in various stages of completion. A major bike lane already exists on Sands Street in the middle of Farragut. This bike lane gives riders a direct connection to the Brooklyn Bridge but has disrupted parking and car traffic since unlike most bike lanes, it is in the center of the street. Deliveries are difficult and services like Access-A-Ride have major problems providing transportation to residents living on Sands Street. New bike lane construction is taking place on Flushing Avenue and on Navy Street to ultimately connect the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods to downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge. The de Blasio administration has already started work on dedicated bike lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge itself, making the new street lanes part of a large network of interconnected bike lanes. While the members of Farragut Stakeholders support biking in general and see a need for ways to curb pollution caused by fossil fuels, they do not see how the current proposals provide any real solutions.
Farragut Stakeholders feels that planning for the bike lanes took place with little input from residents and concerned citizens. The coalition includes Reverend Mark Taylor and members of Church of the Open Door, which is located in Farragut on Gold Street, Ms Mary Andrews, President of the Farragut Houses Tenants Association, the Principal of PS 307, Stephanie Carroll and Ms. Latrell Mosso, a community resident and member of Community Board 2. The concerns of the group include parking for residents and visitors, parking for school staff, pedestrian safety and the health and well-being of all community residents. With the diversion and disruption of traffic, the group estimates that over 600 cars an hour will be in the area during rush hour. This is of concern for not only pedestrians, but the increase in harmful emissions from trucks and cars could lead to increased cases of asthma in both children and adults. The health conditions could be similar to those in parts of the Bronx where high volume traffic has caused some of the highest rates of asthma in the United States. Ms. Salisa Hudson, a member of Farragut Stakeholders says, “The concerns of residents of Farragut have been largely pushed aside and ignored.” As development and gentrification continues, it will be instructive to see if future planning in the area will include all parties. Farragut Stakeholders is prepared to participate in that process.
Basir Mchawi is an activist, educator and communicator. He can be heard on his award winning WBAI radio program, Education at the Crossroads, on Thursdays at 8 pm.