From Ditmas Park, Stories Of Fear, Anger & Hope In A Changing Neighborhood

Eric Adams, Eugene at town hall

From the sea of people who packed the PS 139 auditorium for a town hall hosted by Borough President Eric Adams and the Flatbush Development Corporation Thursday night came a flood of stories: of being robbed at gunpoint, of feeling unsafe and vulnerable, of both wanting and not wanting more police, of gentrification, of affordable housing, of battling to hold onto the apartments in which people have lived for decades, of anger and sadness and frustration and hope.

Eric Adams FDC crime town hall

At the gathering, which Adams and the FDC held in direct response to a series of armed robberies in the community, neighbors spoke of their businesses being targeted, of shootings, of wanting safer streets. They spoke of high incarceration rates and the need to provide opportunities to neighbors when they return home from prison. Of trusting and distrusting the police. Of wanting to believe that, in their home, they would be safe: from robberies and shootings and being displaced.

It was an evening of more unresolved issues than resolved ones – but, as one neighbor said, it was the community at its best.

“Folks showed up. A lot of folks showed up – and deeply care about things and have the courage to talk about them,” said Rev. Carmen Mason-Browne, whose daughter, Kari Browne, owns Lark Café (1007 Church Avenue), where an armed gunman recently stole laptops from a writers’ group.

“These are markers of a healthy community,” Mason-Browne continued. “Apathetic communities don’t show up. I celebrate that – that’s not always what happens in communities.”

Eric Adams town hall Tom Valentino

A number of those who spoke at the town hall  addressed the recent crime, including Tom Valentino, a 50-year resident of South Midwood and the assistant general manager for the Flatbush Food Co-op, and Anya Shiferson, one of the Mimi’s Hummus employees held up at gunpoint at the end of October.

“I’d like to know what has emboldened the criminals to go back to crime that we haven’t seen since the ’90s?” Valentino asked.

“During the holiday season, you always have people who will come out and commit crimes,” Adams said. “The economy is not doing so well – 25 percent of this borough is still living in poverty, and our unemployment is in double digits.”

Shiferson, meanwhile, discussed the emotional fallout that has happened in the wake of the armed robbery at Mimi’s.

“Our employees feel extremely unsafe now,” Shiferson said. “Walking home, we all feel the need to have our boyfriends or girlfriends or friends walk us home.”

Shiferson, whose last night as a waitress at Mimi’s was the one during which they were robbed, went on to say that while “I appreciate all the police officers I’ve been seeing in the neighborhood, the fact is around Cortelyou and Argyle we’ve had, for the past 30 years, murders, stabbings, shootings. I can’t tell you how many drugs you can buy just standing there. Why don’t we have cameras there?”

Eric Adams town hall Jackie Bourne

This sparked conversation from Councilman Mathieu Eugene; members of the 70th Precinct – including Lieutenant Jackie Bourne, who noted that Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 70th Precinct, was unable to attend the town hall because of an emergency; and Assemblyman Jim Brennan.

“I’ve met with my staff to see if we can purchase cameras,” Eugene said. “After the meeting at Lea, we want to find out how many cameras you need and where they’re going to be… We have to work together with the police department.”

After Eugene mentioned that the process to purchase a camera would be a lengthy one, Shiferson asked if there was a more expedient way to purchase and install cameras.

“I want it happening,” she said. “I know 100 percent after the new year, when all the crime goes down, we won’t see all the police. When are these actions going to happen? Because we can talk about this until the cows come home.”

Responding that he has no money available for cameras now, Eugene stressed that he would need to wait until the next budget cycle to consider funding one, or more – after which Bourne added that she wasn’t sure that the NYPD would be able to fund a camera in the area.

“The cameras are very expensive,” Bourne said. “And this is done through an agency in the police department that deals with finances, so I can’t speak on their behalf.”

Meanwhile, Adams noted that a private security company, SW24, offers cameras that private citizens can purchase, but which are monitored by the NYPD. And Brennan and Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, who’s about to be replaced by Assemblywoman-elect Rodneyse Bichotte, said they are looking into funding for additional lighting in the neighborhood.

In addition to cameras, others said they wanted to be able to better communicate with police, as well as see more officers in the area.

Eric Adams town hall Gabe Carugno

“I’m a merchant on Cortelyou for 61 years,” said Gabe Carugno, who owns Gabe’s Camera City on Cortelyou. “I’ve seen it all. But lately the hornets nest has been hit. As far as the 70th Precinct is concerned, I have wonderful respect for them… Whenever we had a problem with customers or break-ins, we had [an officer’s] number, and he’d follow through. When he left for another precinct, we had Alicia [another officer]. Whatever you wanted, she could do for you. But right now it seems we don’t have the one-on-one with the 70th Precinct for some reason. We used to have a list of names to call, but that list is maybe 10, 15 years old. I myself have called the 70th Precinct, and you just can’t get through.”

Bourne said she would connect Carugno with Officer Galindo, who works with merchants on Cortelyou, and noted that he could also reach out to the precinct’s Community Affairs Office by calling 718-851-5557.

Eric Adams town hall line of speakers

Sarah Garvey, another neighbor, rattled off a long list of crimes that have occurred in the neighborhood in less than a year, including muggings and shootings, and stressed that she, and other neighbors, can feel unsafe, particularly when walking home from the subway at night.

“Where are all these officers you claim are out there?” Garvey asked, referring to an earlier statement by Bourne that the precinct has “flooded the streets” with officers following the robberies. “…We deserve experienced law enforcement officials we can see every day.”

“We do have a lot of plain clothes officers in the area,” Bourne said. DiBlasio, the commanding officer of the 70th Precinct, also said at a community council meeting Wednesday night that additional officers have been patrolling Cortelyou, Newkirk Plaza, and the western end of Church Avenue following the armed robberies.

Many other speakers disagreed that more of a police presence was the way to go.

“I’ve been talking to my neighbors about these issues, and the big common thread I’m hearing from people is everybody wants to feel safe in their neighborhoods, but we’re not all on the same page,” a neighbor named Sullivan said. “I’m hearing from a lot of neighbors that when they see more visible policing on the streets, that makes them feel less safe. The NYPD has a bad track record, especially when it comes to racial profiling.

“When we get those extra officers, what that ends up creating is a lot of people getting harassed for minding their own business,” Sullivan continued. “I’m not interested in seeing something that’ll make a lot of my neighbors feel less safe and some of my neighbors feel more safe.”

Gabrielle Radeka said “there are more insidious crimes happening here” than solely the armed robberies.

“I’m concerned about the growing inequality in our neighborhood that leads to this kind of crime,” she said. “We’re concerned because gentrification is a complicated thing. When gentrification spikes, people get pissed off and want to take back what is theirs… We need to reframe what community development looks like.

“How can we make Cortelyou Road and Ditmas Park a neighborhood that isn’t turned into what is happening in a lot of Brooklyn?” Radeka continued.

Eric Adams town hall Simone Gamble

Simone Gamble echoed Radeka’s sentiment.

“A lot of what has happened has been economic crimes,” Gamble said. “Police do not stop economic crimes. Instead of more police, we need to think about ways to increase jobs and economic opportunities.”

A number of residents reiterated Radeka’s and Gamble’s point, saying that longtime residents are facing an overwhelming lack of affordable housing, as well as spiking rents and landlords who are attempting to push them out in order to offer their units at a higher price.

“There’s going to be a major fight in 2015 in Albany – there’s a major battle going on next year that is going to deal with our rent laws – they’re about to sunset,” Adams said in reference to the state rent and eviction-protection laws that will expire on June 15, 2015 unless they are renewed by lawmakers in Albany. “The Republican-controlled Senate – they don’t have to vote against them, they just don’t have to bring them to the floor. If that happens, all these rent-controlled apartments will go to market rent.”

Eric Adams town hall

“There needs to be a major mobilization of tenants,” Adams continued. “We need to get the governor involved. We need to re-energize all our renters and push to make sure we protect our rent laws… We need to stop turning a blind eye to the harassment of tenants. We need to start criminalizing our landlords who target tenants… I’m hoping all our [district attorneys] start to push and criminalize this.”

Longtime neighbor Alicia Boyd further stressed the pressure residents are feeling in the wake of increased rents and unscrupulous landlords attempting to evict them.

“As we come into poor or moderate income homes and we gentrify them, we expect the existing people not to react or not to be afraid or not to resort to violence because that’s all they’re given,” Boyd said. “When you come into a community and you decide you want to take it, be prepared for people to fight back. We need to be conscious of that. It’s starting to boil over. There are signs inside the train stations telling people to leave… We have two groups here – we have the gentrifiers and the people who’ve been here, but we’re not talking to each other. We’re talking at each other.”

Eric Adams town hall Alicia Boyd

“We are in court being pushed out,” Boyd continued. “Do you know what it’s like to live on an $18,000 income and have a child?… The gentrifiers are coming in, and they’re telling us to step aside – we will not step aside. Let’s talk about what’s here: gentrification coming into our communities, and our communities fighting back. We need to have a serious, honest dialogue. We have to start somewhere. Let’s start really talking about coming together.”

Equality for Flatbush, a grassroots anti-gentrification organization, released an extensive statement about the town hall that mirrored speakers like Boyd, Radeka, and Gamble.

From the statement (you can see the entire message here):

We, too, are concerned about the recent armed robberies of Ditmas Park businesses and community members. As community residents, we understand that people are scared. It is an incredibly traumatic experience to be robbed or attacked. The underlying issue with these robberies is about the economic divide in our society, and increasingly highlighted in our community because of gentrification.

Equality for Flatbush defines gentrification as the deliberate pricing out of low-to-middle income residents from neighborhoods by corporations, real estate developers, and landlords in favor of renting, selling, and catering to people of higher and/or more flexible incomes. We see gentrification as an intersectional issue that is deeply connected to the ways that race, class, gender, sexuality, gender identity, age, ability, nation of origin, immigration status, physical and mental capacity, and other characteristics that impact individuals and our communities. For example we know, from first-hand experience, that the same unscrupulous property owners who use tactics to force long-time older tenants of color out of their rent-stabilized apartments will illegally overcharge incoming younger white tenants for the same apartment. For this very reason, we believe all of us, long-time and new residents, communities of color and white communities, low-income and middle-class people have a stake in the urgent struggle to fight gentrification and save affordable housing in Brooklyn.

As Gamble said, another neighbor, José, whose family has lived in the area for 22 years, stressed that there needs to be more economic opportunities for individuals in the area – particularly those returning from prison. If neighbors were able to access affordable housing and good-paying jobs, he noted, recidivism rates could plummet.

Eric Adams town hall Jose

“Our solution should not be put more people in jail, but give them more opportunities when they get out,” he said.

And Philippe Jean, who owns Jr. Bella’s Pizza on Coney Island Avenue, too said, “I don’t think more cops are the answer.”

Instead, Jean said he’d like to see more of a focus on community outreach.

“I have a mentoring program – two hours every Sunday I’m teaching kids about restaurant skills,” he said.

Eric Adams town hall Kari Browne

Another business owner, Kari Browne, from Lark Café, addressed the complexities of the changing neighborhood.

“What happened to us was a crime that hit a lot of us personally, and it’s been very difficult,” Browne said in reference to the armed robbery at her café. “This issue is a difficult one, and it’s a complex one. I’m a minority woman-owned business. The folks I employ are young people from the neighborhood. I employ a lot of people of color as well. The folks who were robbed on Thursday was a women’s writers group who were all of color – all of them. I don’t think it’s so simple to say this is a black and white issue… but a lot of people are affected. It’s not as simple to say that this is simply because of gentrification.”

Eric Adams town hall w: Adams, Jumaane and Bourne

At the end of the meeting, Adams and Councilman Jumaane Williams said there must continue to be a dialogue about the issues raised Thursday night.

“We need to follow up and talk about how we do some community healing,” Adams said. “…I’d like to come back and sit down and talk about how do we live like neighbors here. How do we organize together to save our housing?”

“When we focus on the police department as the only people responsible for public safety, we run into a problem,” Williams added. “There are other services the community needs that will help… It’s fine to have extra police, and it’ll help in the short term, but you can’t be committed to that strategy. With the borough president’s leadership, let’s have a comprehensive discussion. Cameras don’t stop crime – they help solve it afterward.

“There should be discussion about where police are deployed and strategies being used – but also what services are being offered to the community as a whole,” Williams continued.

Eric Adams town hall group shot

If neighbors would like to either follow up, or get involved, with this discussion, Adams said you may contact his office, which can be reached by calling 718-802-3700.

Comment policy


  1. I just wanted to thank you for the comprehensive coverage you provided. I wasn’t able to make the meeting and it was great to read the varying perspectives.

  2. Thank you so much for this write-up, and thanks to all the neighbors who came out and spoke up. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it; it sounds like a great and really important conversation.

  3. It’s nice to see people coming together talking about these issues that intersect one another but these robberies are more to do with opportunity. This is happening everywhere. Pick a rapidly changing neighborhood and you’ll see a pattern. More businesses opening up rough areas are going to be targets of robbers. Technically, we are still in the hood. Look around you ladies and gentlemen. This isn’t Portlandia. Ditmas/Flatbush isn’t exactly like the west end of Crown Heights or Prospect Heights. If the criminal element aren’t robbing businesses, they are mugging people on the street at night. The issue of policing is also something that has to be looked into because I am beginning to notice some of them are slacking off. I hope is not intentional. Cameras are important. Please, if you own a business, go out and buy one
    and buy one with a higher resolution. Higher than 720p.

    This is little to do with any perceived backlash against gentrification or new people. I do however would like to encourage all newcomers to embrace the community in which you live in. It helps diffuse the tension. If you chose not to, you are only adding more to the problem. The conversation needs to continue and please don’t feed the trolls.

    I’m sure they are people who don’t like what gentrification is doing but they aren’t the ones committing these crimes. I too have a lot of qualms about gentrification but it’s not forcing me to go out there and rob a cafe. Because a lot of us do not engage in that kind of activity. This neighborhood does a problem with wayward teens and young adults who are addicted to the street life. That’s another issue in it of itself but it does tie in with everything that was discussed last night.

  4. I am both a police officer and a Ditmas Park resident. My family and I moved in to this neighborhood six years ago because we thought, and continue to think, that this is one of the safest, most community oriented neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I, along with everyone I work with, both love the job and consider what we do a service to the community. That said, I would never tell anyone in the neighborhood that I am a law enforcement official, because I feel I would immediately become a target of disdain from a public opinion that always seems to have a visceral reaction to the topic of the day, rather than looking at the long term realities of the crime in the city or the constraints put on police. I do want to speak to the current situation from a law enforcement perspective, though. The three points I think are worth remembering are that: 1) the recent crimes are bad, but they’re not new or even the worse thing happening in the city; 2) police are committed professionals who are doing what they can with the resources they have; 3) and the community should stick together and help one another, as it has been doing throughout this ordeal.

    I figured I would share a handful of stories to put things in to perspective, and give the point of view from the other side. The first paragraph is a bit graphic, so consider this a warning if you’re squeamish.

    The first homicide I went to involved a man being beaten to death over $7. He and an acquaintance were arguing over the money, and the victim was struck repeatedly on the bridge of this nose with a blunt object. He passed out from the blows, and while lying on the ground the blood from his nasal passage pooled in to his lungs. The coroner actually ruled that he drowned, which until that day I thought was only possible if you actually near water. Live and learn. The first homicide I was assigned to work was when a young man was attempting to purchase stolen video games. He pulled up to a street corner he had been told to go to, showed his $50 to the “seller,” and was shot through the leg by the bad guy. The bullet struck the victims femoral artery, and he bled to death. When we finally caught up to the bad guy he said he had no intention of actually killing anyone, he just wanted to scare him by shooting in to the car. Neither of these homicides made the news, be it print, television, or digital.

    The reason I tell these stories is because people who aren’t use to being around violent crime or criminals are often astounded when terrible things happen. They look for answers, such as “why would people risk robbing Ox Cart if they got away with less than $1,000?” “If they robbed Mimi’s and Lark, it must be a push back to gentrification.” “There surely is an underlying racial motive to the violence.” The truth of the matter is, bad people are bad people, and there are certain individuals who would just as soon kill you for $5 as they would for $500. Bad things happen every day in this city that you will never be aware of. I’m not at all trying to undermine what has happened to anyone who was robbed recently. I’m simply saying these things have been going on for a long time all around us, and it‘s important to maintain perspective. It’s only recently, however, that the crimes are hitting spots that are visible to people in this community. We are very fortunate no one has been seriously injured so far, but it is important these individuals be stopped before they have a chance to do greater harm than they have do thus far.

    So what can the police do?

    Some people in the neighborhood want more cameras, but others are concerned about creating a police state. Even if you have high resolution cameras and get a photo of the bad smiling right at the lens, it doesn’t mean you’ll determine who it is. It’s a great piece of the puzzle, but it isn’t the end game.

    Some people want descriptions released of criminals, while others are worried about profiling. If you ask 5 people to describe someone based on physical characteristics, you’ll get five totally different descriptions. Police are left with descriptions like, “He was tall, between 5’8” and 6’4”, with light skin, either white, Hispanic, or Asian, and wearing a hat. The hat was either red or green, but it was definitely a baseball hat. Or a golf hat.”

    Some people want police to stand on every corner, but others are intimidated by law enforcement. Foot patrols are a great way to build community relations, but almost completely useless at fighting crime. A foot patrol officer can respond to a very limited radius. If Lark was being held up and your closest foot patrol officer was near the Church Ave station, it would be a hell of a sprint to get there quickly.

    If more than a few days goes by and arrest hasn’t been made, then the assumption most people jump to is that police are slacking off and not doing their job. The reality is a large percentage of crimes are solved through sheer luck, when a jilted ex contacts police to rat out the criminal. Rather than simply saying, “It’s the job of the police to figure this out (which it is, and I’m not shirking that responsibility),” try putting yourself in their shoes and see what steps you would take to solve any given crime. It’s usually the ones that seem easy that are the most difficult, because everyone you talk to is lying to you about something.

    99.9% of police officers on the street are amazing people, who are willing to selflessly put themselves at risk on a daily basis to protect total strangers. The community at large responds with apathy at best, and outright hostility most of the time. After an incident such as what happened with Michael Brown or Eric Garner, the general outcry is that all police are corrupt and the community should fight them at every step of the way, disregarding the hundreds of thousands of positive actions taken by law enforcement across the country during the same day as one person did something questionable.

    If you had taken a poll 3 months ago to ask where city funding in our community should go, I highly doubt people would have asked for increased security measures. Now people are yelling at council members and police officials wanting to know why the cameras they talked about last week have not yet been installed. Changes in procedure take time: money has to be secured, cameras installed, and the network and personnel put in place to maintain and operate the system (which would be an amazing feat to accomplish in even 6 months time). Putting up cameras is a bit more involved than slapping a few go-pros on to street lamps, but by the time a system does come on line, people will have forgotten about the robberies and will be furious at the police for what they will down the road look to as overreach.

    Policing is a hard job in and of itself. You’re asked to insert yourself in to dangerous situations, often with little knowledge of what you’re getting in to, and looked at with suspicion and mistrust by the very people you’re trying to help. I highly recommend anyone who has the time to sign up for a ride along with the NYPD. I think you would have a new perspective of the job if you saw the realities officers face on a daily basis.

    The biggest thing that can be done in response to these crimes is a strong show of community support.

    Continue to patron local businesses to show support. Volunteer your time in community outreach programs in our neighborhood. Attend local precinct and community board meetings. Feel free to question politicians on what is being done, and hold them accountable for their promises. As I said at the outset, I am in law enforcement, I live in the 70th, but I work elsewhere. I can assure crime is much, much higher in other areas of the city. I hope these individuals committing these crimes are swiftly brought to justice, but it is important to remember that supporting the police in providing information, along with maintaining unity in our neighborhood, is the best way to ensure this. The reason I love this neighborhood so much and continue to think it’s one of the safest places in the city, is because of the strong sense of community that we have. Police are a big part of the picture, but they aren’t all of it.

  5. Thanks so much for your coverage. I couldn’t attend the meeting either, and was hoping to see it laid out here. You didn’t disappoint.

  6. Thank you for a heartfelt testimony. And believe me that many of us deeply appreciate all that the good guys in NYPD risk for us and do for us. Even during the darkest days of the Abner Louima scandal, most of us realize that most of you are decent guys doing your best under highly difficult circumstances. And most of all, as a blogger who has repeatedly campaigned for more attention to be paid to the murders of our young minority men by other young men of color, I appreciate that our current lower crime rate is primarily saving the lives of our young black and Hispanic men. For every young man who dies in an encounter with cops, there are dozens if not hundreds who are still alive because of a murder rate that has fallen so greatly–because these young men are the ones, overwhelmingly, whose precious lives are lost to homicide.

  7. Those that are saying it is about gentrification are merely attempting to co opt recent events to further their own aims.

    The people doing the robberies almost certainly aren’t the foot soldiers of equality pushed into violent crime through the presence of ‘gentrifying’ businesses. They’re just scumbags who saw a new target.

    There was more crime in the neighbourhood before gentrification so go figure.

    Ditmas Park was built as a middle-upper class neighbourhood. It should be ‘gentrified’.

  8. I was impressed at the meeting that there actually were some good ideas from the community, from the borough president and from the police. I was also struck by the concept that….for instance….if you think we need more cameras knowing when the budget is being discussed is a good time to contact Mathieu’s office and suggest a meeting. I was also happy to know that there is number to call other than 911 or 311 to discuss specific community issues within the 70th precinct. I will be more impressed if I see a table set up at the farmer’s market by the community affairs department of the 70th within the next few weeks. It was an enlightening meeting.

  9. I’m not sure how “comprehensive” I would call this. There is no mention of Matt Eugene stammering and pandering in the two instances he had the bravery to speak up, and the disgruntled audience pleading for him to just answer the question. Nor is there mention of Alicia Boyd getting in a shouting match with Eric Adams after refusing to leave the microphone.

  10. I was a little saddened by the small turnout of this meeting, as it was by far the most productive one of the entire week. The auditorium was barely half full.
    Bourne did a great job of offering actual ANSWERS compared to DiBlasio the night before, who I think we were all relieved decided to take the night off from the public eye.

  11. Very refreshing to see your side of things in print. I understand your point of view, because I have a few friends that are cops. I understand the frustrations you go through on the job, given the stories my friends have told me about their experiences working for the NYPD.
    You should also provide your perspective to the ‘Equality For Flatbush” folks. While their intent is noble, they are telling a narrative that illustrates all cops evil and corrupt. Perhaps if they heard the other side of the story first hand, it would go a lot further than outreach programs.

  12. Anna, this is a great recap of the meeting which I also attended. I came away very impressed with Eric Adams and my fellow community members who gave their opinions and suggestions. While some may unfairly characterize the meeting as officials stonewalling the community, I felt the individuals on the panel were caring and attentive with the key exception of Council Member Eugene who could speak for five minutes and give no meaningful answer.

    Adams really helped break down why foot patrols look good but are ultimately meaningless when it comes to rapid crime response or why manning is such an issue in the evening slowing response times. (i.e. four units on the street gradually whittled down to one as an arrest is made or a car accident occurs or a heart attack response…) The big takeaway was that the community has to help in these efforts.

    As for the speakers, I really enjoyed the gentrification remarks and think the advice for newcomers like myself to interact with my neighbors is wise. Only working as one community can we help provide the information necessary to catch people who commit crimes.

    However, I think it’s burying the lead not to mention Lark’s owner stating that it was a business owned by people of color that was robbed and four women of color whose laptops were taken. Obviously, this crime issue can not be explained by gentrification.

    I also loved those who pointed out that more cops on the street does not make many of us—both current and new neighbors—feel safer. Especially when cops create an occupation mentality and harass people going about their normal business. I’m always disappointed by cops on my corner who rarely interact with the people on my 22nd street block and miss countless opportunities to say hi to neighbors to make them feel more comfortable. Good community outreach is good policing. It’s as simple as that.

    I am so happy I went to this meeting, and I hope to attend more because I felt connections were made, good points were raised, and at points we were talking to each other as a community. This is larger than a crime issue and I’m glad that came out in the meeting.

  13. It was a great meeting and very productive as far as covering all the important issues. I loved the diversity of opinion. We learned there were no easy answers or solutions.

  14. I’m glad you feel good but what I take away from your post is that nothing got done and nothing will get done.
    Extra cops are supposedly counterproductive and we will wait a long time for cameras to due expense and Eugene being generally ineffectual. But at least we got to hear Equality for Flatbush spew the usual nonsense and got a new inflammatory whack case, Alicia Boyd, our neighbor from over in Prospect Lefferts. Yes, people need jobs but that is not reason armed thugs have been holding up people,stores and restaurants. The thugs do it because they are criminals, not because they are thwarted job seekers. They are so hurting for money but they manage to buy guns?

  15. There’s always more crime in a neighborhood before gentrification – no need to “go figure.” However, in the process of gentrification creates a lot of negative feelings in the people being pushed out, and yes, this can lead to lashing out, though not usually in any sort of organized or even conscious way. It’s not an attempt to stop gentrification, but an expression of anger in a moment of opportunity.

    But there’s no such thing as “should be gentrified.” All neighborhoods of all classes should be safer. People should not get priced out of their homes of many decades.

  16. What an illuminating perspective. Thanks so much for sharing – it has really enhanced my understanding of the situation.

  17. So the crimes were an “unconscious lashing out caused by negative feelings about gentrification?”. And this means what? We should sympathise with the perps? Cut them some slack?

    We all have frustrations, difficulties in our lives but those that choose to express these through armed robbery don’t deserve any slack. An amateur sociology lesson doesn’t make things any easier for the victims.

    And why should “people not get priced out”? Yes it’s unfortunate for them but unless you are proposing doing away with the capitalist economy it’s the way America is. The people moving in have been priced out of somewhere else but they are getting on with improving their new area. Should people who can no longer afford to live here be immune from this themselves because it’s more convenient or because you say so?

    It may not be to everyone’s benefit all the time but it’s the system Americans have chosen for themselves. Better get used to it and stop the whining.

  18. Amazing comment. Hey, moderators – see if you can convince this person to become a regular columnist, please! I think he/she would provide a great insight to the neighborhood and great perspective to happenings.

    As for you, DP Cop, thank you for all you do every day – I grew up in Marine Park (a super-heavy cop neighborhood back in the day) and I know how tough life on the job can be. Keep doing what you do, and please keep commenting!

  19. To call Alicia Boyd a “longtime neighbor” is generous at best – she’s not anywhere near the 70th Precinct or Cortelyou Rd., (she lives in a townhouse that she owns on Sterling St. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens) and to have her speaking about the pressures of gentrification is laughable, knowing that she in fact owns a $1 million + townhouse, the value of which increases with the gentrification to which she is so opposed.

  20. I’m wondering about cameras. Is the crime in this neighborhood worse than Borough Park generally? If so, why did they get cameras? Also, who is overseeing the cameras in BP?

  21. Oh, come on, she is oppressed. She rents out rooms in her beautiful Sterling St, rowhouse for 65$ a night with a minimum 25 night stay. She is oppressed. Take up a collection.

  22. thank you for that info!

    that woman was outrageous!

    and yes with her attitude she should not be surprised if those ‘gentrifiers’ (that have been responsible for the increases of her property)rather talk to their dog then to her ( something she accused THE gentrifiers of)

    she put on her calm concerned voice and spread hate! disgusting!

    The whole meeting was mostly unproductive in my opinion and the group against police force talking about a police state I am sure never lived in nor experienced a true police state! There are no such meetings in a policestate and if you have one you may not see the next day!

    The low income housing issue is certainly a problem but not created by people moving in but rather by bad laws that protect slumbag landlords and developers and by useless politicians like Matthieu Eugene and Jim Brennan!
    Go vote! ( NYC had a 25% voter participation only!!!!in last election)

    and sorry but the panel did badly in managing the time and let some people talk way to LONG! even PA meetings are run better!

    Yes, the community needs to work together and most of the organized groups of people that showed up and spoke to a different topic ( low income housing and over-policing), created exactly the OPPOSITE!

    If you really want to build community then stop attacking the other groups in your community! But attack YOUR problem by its SOURCE not it’s ‘symptoms’.

    Also the commend of one woman that those perps need to feed their families was ridiculous.
    I am sure the thugs need to get themselves some new gold chains, drugs or guns. And even if they have some kids to feed, I would call that bad parenting!
    The crimes committed are not done out of more desperation by criminals but because of more opportunity for criminals.
    And all the people living under financial distress are not the once benefiting but rather their kids are in more danger of getting pulled in by the criminals!
    So it should be in all our interests to stop these crimes!

    And by the way our neighborhood is still one of the most diverse communities in this country!! And I am wondering who actually cannot tolerate diversity here?!!!

    Thank you Ditmas Corner for an informative/subjective report!

  23. This means we should not start frothing at the mouth about some conspiracy the lower income residents have mounted against newcomers. Many of you sound like you think they are specifically targeting you in an organized campaign of terrorism. They’re not.

    But as usual, many of you are too blind to your privilege to even try and understand what is being said here.

  24. Good grief! Mathieu Eugene is useless! He won’t even get involve in the participatory budgeting process! “We don’t need it.” “I have saved hospitals.” That’s is response to everything.

    Good meeting BTW.

  25. It’s the system that some Americans have chosen for themselves. People have the right to express an opinion that you disagree with, without it being called whining. People also can work on changing things they don’t like. Who made you the boss? Why should people get used to things they don’t like, instead of trying to change things if that’s what they hope to do? Do you also just tell people to leave NYC when it becomes hard for them to afford living here?

  26. Assemblyman Brennan is far from useless. He’s the only politician I have ever voted for, with no qualms. He is ethical and really looks out for his constituents. If you have an issue with him, please let him know, so that he can be pro-active.

  27. How does owning a townhouse that’s value has risen invalidate your opinion on gentrification? Does seeing the property value rise make her blind to the struggles of neighbors and friends?

  28. What invalidates her opinion is her race-baiting and deliberate misinformation, and her pretending to be something she isn’t. I have seen her disrupt a Community Board meeting, screaming, “This black neighborhood is not for sale,” and encouraging her followers to do the same, calling any white people who tried to speak Crackers and any black people who didn’t agree with them Uncle Toms. Additionally, she has encouraged people to “donate” to her cause with fund funneled through her other not-for-profit “healing” organization as fiscal sponsor – a potential conflict of interest at best and an outright scam at worst. Her antics at the most recent Community Board meeting (and she lives in CB9, not the Community Board here) included dragging some poor kid up front and detailing how he would soon be homeless, in a shelter, and subject to sexual abuse. See an account of that performance here: http://theqatparkside.blogspot.com/2014/11/finallythe-smoking-gun.html Her goal is not to encourage dialogue or community unity but exactly the opposite. I actually suspect she is working for developers, in order to drive down the price of land on Empire Blvd. and elsewhere through the perception that these are racially troubled areas where newcomers are unwelcome.

  29. Amen to that. Jim Brennan is terrific, totally supportive and about as un-sleazy a politician I have ever encountered. Please don’t lump him together with Mathieu Eugene.

  30. How come he gets re-elected in a landslide every single time then? I’m not being provocative, I’m genuinely curious as everybody seems to detest him yet he cruises by every election.

  31. Sure people can try to change things they don’t like. I’d just argue that it comes across as naive and fruitless to simply say “people shouldn’t be priced out” as the commenter I responded to did.

    In my opinion (which is only that) if they can no longer afford to live here they would be better off working out where they can afford to live and once there changing it to suit their needs if necessary.

    Otherwise they are fighting something – the longstanding economic system of the worlds most powerful country – that they are very very unlikely to win against. It’s a waste of effort.

    I know lots of people who have moved to Ditmas because they were priced out of brownstone Brooklyn. They didn’t waste time and effort arguing that some arbitrary allownance be made for them because they’d lived there for 5, 10, 20, 40 years or whatever. They got on with moving to where they could afford and opened businesses and contributed to the neighbourhood.

    No one has a ‘right’ to a neighbourhood.

  32. IMO – Because, unfortunately, most City Council races in NYC are basically decided in the primary as it’s such a highly Democratic city (except maybe in Staten Island, where it’s still decided in the primary – just on the Republican side). But people don’t necessarily realize this and turnout is low. It’s low for the generals too.

    You (and everyone) should know though that Eugene – and Jumaane Williams and many others – will be term limited out in the next election. So it’s going to be someone new regardless.

  33. What? How could you not understand my post?
    I wasn’t there because I couldn’t afford to be there. Literally, I make so little that the bus fare to get there and back is bank breaking. So if I wasn’t there, even though I work in the neighborhood, I can’t comment on the proceedings? Sorry, I didn’t just jump in the back door of a bus to get there.
    I expected more than bs from all the officials present. And hysterics from apologists from the “community.” Where is that community exactly? And what can you point to as that “community” doing anything positive?
    In Ditmas Park we need more patrols and cameras. And less crap from people supposedly frightened by the police. What is the alternative: we all self govern? Or just all get mugged, robbed and shot.

  34. Much of New York’s social strife is probably a result of it having one of the least free markets in the Unites States through most of its history. New York has a terribly unfree real estate market. If the market were freely operating, high prices would help stave off the influx of people who can’t be housed and would incentivize the construction of living space for this influx of people, and would help these forces reach an equilibrium. This is happening to some extent, but in a highly distorted manner. The mayor’s response to this is to give handouts to the construction companies to make “affordable housing” for people who make over $50,000 per year, because he apparently wants to help middle income folks more affordably price out their lower income neighbors.

  35. “When gentrification spikes, people get pissed and take back what is theirs.”

    Some perspective, please. Fear and anger and hope, you say? We’ve been there.

    Just a reminder about the hopes and fears that long-time residents of pre-war buildings on and along Ocean Avenue and elsewhere in Flatbush felt in the late 1960s when Section-8 housing began. They hoped their new neighbors would be quiet and clean, but that hope was dashed when a critical mass of drug dealers and deadbeats piggybacked onto a well-meant program. Generations later, they’re still there.

    By the early 1970s people who’d lived for dozens upon dozens of years in their homes, and even from the time those buildings went up in the 1920s and 1930s, had to move — some to Kings Highway and Sheepshead Bay, some to Long Island — to wherever they could afford to live — if they could afford to move. Their once-pristine hallways and vestibules had become dirty hangouts, full of cigarette smoke and vomit, their laundry rooms were no longer safe. Their walls and ceilings reverberated with loud music all night.

    Younger displaced residents assumed long commutes to get to their jobs. They had the number of kids they could afford to have, and they worked hard to send them through school and college. If they felt anger, they were too busy trying to earn their livings to dwell on it.

    Far too many of the newcomers to this part of Brooklyn preyed on businesses and individuals; Flatbush was no longer safe. Homeowners stayed put for the most part, but the apartment houses went downhill. Landlords got tired of paying their supers to swab urine from the incinerator rooms and replace lightbulbs deliberately smashed, and the buildings became run down. Small businesses folded. Police, ambulance, and fire engine sirens wailed night and day.

    Some storeowners carried guns. If I remember correctly, the guy who ran a bagel shop on Foster Avenue shot and killed a man who came in and aimed a gun at him. He was acquitted, but he closed the store a few years later. A bagel worker on Kings Highway wasn’t so fortunate; he was killed.

    Deadbeats with guns are always the same, everywhere. Whether they’re holding up shops or shooting women sitting on their stoops, children playing in the streets, babies in their cribs and in their strollers, grocers, grandmothers — they’re all the same. They kill to impress other guys, to get revenge, to prove a point. Some of their victims are simply caught in an inane cross-fire.

    They’re the same guys who, elsewhere in the country, bring along an arsenal and shoot up shopping malls, movie theaters, gas stations, and elementary schools. Did they have sad childhoods? So what? So do a lot of people who move on and grow up and get jobs.

    Talk about narcissists and people with a sense of entitlement.

    And — who wants to take what back?

  36. Thank you. Those of us who chose the wrong professions can’t live, say, across from the Metropolitan Museum as we’d like, either.

    On the other hand, there’s Section-8 housing across from Lincoln Center….

  37. Mathieu Eugene is the first Haitian-American City Councilperson, and that carries a lot of weight with many voters in this district. Furthermore, he is the anointed one chosen by Una Clarke and her daughter Yvette, which also means a lot for older voters in this area. Finally, he was endorsed by the SEIU, which has many members in the district, and the WFP (a reason I will never vote WFP again in my life). I think only the people who read and post on these blogs know enough about him to see through him, and unfortunately it seems that not many of us bother to vote (i do).

  38. Mathieu Eugene has already hinted that he’s not going away, implying perhaps that because there was a second, special election required to confirm him in office (since he didn’t have an address in the district the first time he won (it’s still questionable whether or not he actually lives at his purported Flatbush address)) he won’t be considered term limited in the next election. I sure hope he goes!

  39. Or you could explain how owning a long-held property that rises in value makes you responsible for gentrification?

  40. Where in your original post is the information about you being unable to afford the bus fare to travel there? Yet you work in the neighborhood? You do realize there is no concrete community, it’s something we imagine to exist or strive to create. That was part of the meeting process. To allow neighbors to speak to those in power and to each other.

    You are in an unusual position where you can hardly afford bus fare yet you want more police presence. That’s not the typical response of lower-income families and minorities who feel threatened by an increased police presence which often results in racial profiling-based harassment. Come on over to 22nd street and watch it in action when the police are dropped off in vans to “patrol” the area.

    And you did read the part about crimes being down in this community? These are exceptional occurrences which the police are working on solving with conflicting witness accounts and blurry restaurant camera images.

  41. once again it does not make you responsible FOR gentrification! but stop spitting on people that are indirectly responsible for the your gain by moving into an area.
    The real culprit here are the landlords that do not cash checks they get for section8 dwellers and then claim not having getting paid so they can evict! I would call that a flaw in the system(what about direct deposit!!!) as well as fraud on landlords hands!
    stop defending her. she has no ones interest in solving any ones problem but is riding on racial inequality! ( which I am not denying isn’t a problem)
    she is full of hate.

  42. There’s some decent housing stock in East New York and it’s way way cheaper than the same housing just a mile or so away. Yes, there’s a lot more crime but there is a lot more crime in Flatbush compared to the areas the ‘gentrifiers’ have moved from.

    My advice would be for those that are getting priced out that can afford it would be to try to get on the property ladder there (and I appreciate there are many who cannot afford to buy anything anywhere) and eventually they too will profit. All it takes to kick it off is say for Broadway Junction to be re-developed which is being discussed.

  43. It was a remark he made during the last elections – I’ll have to look through the various accounts of his appearances to find it. In any event, he tends to say a lot of things that aren’t true or don’t make sense, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did try to stay.

  44. It appears that they may have installed the cameras as I passed one on 17th ave last night. From what I recall, a private organization (staffed with former law enforcement) are handling them and report directly to the NYPD.

  45. I was supposed to disclose everything about myself in my original post? Who says I should have? Did you?
    I was happy there was a community process but I would like to hear how”Equality for Flatbush,” or Alicia Boyd (not from our neighborhood) has done ANYTHING TO IMPROVE ANYTHING. Except blaming everyone else for crime.
    Yes, I want more police presence. And cameras. I don’t believe crime is down in our neighborhood, despite what some statistics might say. Talk to your neighbors (where do YOU live?). Less crime has not been my recent experience. I’ve worked in the neighborhood for two years and lived a bit further out for more. Break-ins, robberies, muggings, car theft, my coworkers and neighbors are not happy about that, but don’t think it unlikely.
    But being held up in a public space with 9 or 20 other people seemed very unlikely. Until it happened more than once.
    But now it is becoming a norm and you are telling us crime is down.
    Is there a bridge you want to sell me?

  46. I feel bad for you. You clearly have a lot of anger but railing at people on this board isn’t going to fix the problem. No one here has any power to change the system.

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