When facing challenges they say that attitude is everything and we saw an example of that in two meetings in Brownsville that dealt with those points where city and population meet: crime, garbage pickups and housing.
We first attended a tenant association meeting at Seth Lowe Housing at Belmont and Christopher. Chaired by Jenny Ortiz-Bowman, Council of Presidents administrator, it was a small group, including Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Resident Association. The New York City Police Department was well-represented by Captain Michael Kemper and Lieutenant Joseph Donachie of the 75th. Precinct officers from the 73rd as well as transit and housing police.
They had come prepared with the letters that had been sent to their commanders and they spoke to the changes they had made in their policing based on the information received. The residents spoke about specific problems of safety with people leaving for work at 3AM-4AM when most folks are just turning over.
Mrs. Bowman was good- humored and relentless as she explained that the people in the community wanted to partner with the police to rid the community of crime. As the residents told about several unreported robberies, Captain Kemper was listening and flexible, and spoke of the necessity of reporting all robberies while taking personal responsibility that what they were saying would not be sitting on someone’s desk. This intelligence would be directly transmitted to the people shaping the morning shift.
The task force meeting of the Council of Presidents was a standing-room-only affair in the Community Room at Seth Low Houses. Present were residents and tenant presidents,as well as building superintendents and managers. Gloria Finkelman, borough director of NYCHA was there with many of her staff.
Council President Reginald Bowman says he believes that when the community and NYCHA work together, common problems can be solved, in fact it’s somewhat of a mantra with him. “I don’t see constructive use in being adversarial. We can agree to disagree as long as we’re working toward the same goal.”
Mr. Bowman maintains that by coming together and solving a problem at one development, it can help solve a problem at another.
One problem that a tenant wanted to see addressed was what was happening at 296 Sutter Avenue. She reported that “Life is being made a living hell by other residents.” There was a concern voiced about the need for computer technology centers. “There are terminals in the complexes for the managers, we need this technology for the residents,” said a tenant president.
Several of the superintendents spoke about the work they do around the complexes and the particular challenges of being in charge of a physical plant of very small city. Tenants commenting said that the superintendents and the building staff were hardworking and dedicated people, with many working beyond what is called for. One tenant president said “One of the residents came to me and said the Super was out there working, and it was Veteran’s Day. I went and looked and sure enough he was working, and I know he didn’t have to do that.”
Bowman says he approaches situations with an attitude of partnership with the agencies, saying it was this approach and active participation from a coalition that has recently won a shuttle bus to make up for the closing of the “L” train station at . “We woke up with no L train. People had to walk 5-8 blocks”.
“Working together, we have a brand new shuttle serving the community today.”