BUSHWICK – The last Community Board 4 meeting before the summer break was expected to go smoothly: a presentation on zoning changes, the election of new board leaders, and an update on the Bushwick Community Plan.
And it did, for a while, with the audience sitting respectfully through a monotone presentation by the Department of City planning and the board’s election of a new chairperson and committee. But when it came time for an update on the Bushwick Community Plan, protestors in the crowd weren’t silent anymore.
A group sprang to their feet and unfurled anti-gentrification banners, with slogans like “Bushwick Is Not For Sale” and representing the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network. They used the “human microphone” technique to amplify the voices of speakers above the meeting, bringing proceedings to a standstill.
At first, board members attempted to curb the interruption by asking the 15 or so protestors to speak during the public comment period, but quickly realized the protestors weren’t there to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Community Board 4 members instead sat back and let the protestors speak:
In the video above, a protestor relates her experience as a life-long Bushwick resident facing displacement due to rising rents. The protestors opposed all development or rezoning, they said, and called out initiatives like affordable housing percentages as enticements for investors and developers, not solutions for the poor. They decried the specific targeting of communities of color and of the working poor during rezoning, as well.
Importantly, the protestors were entirely in opposition of the Bushwick Community Plan, a collaborative effort between residents, City Councilmembers and community groups to make assurances regarding affordable housing and neighborhood preservation in the face of both ongoing gentrification and the full-on rezoning of the neighborhood that many see as inevitable.
Once it became clear the meeting wasn’t going to get back on track, board members moved towards the mass of protestors, with both sides raising their voices and engaging in a brief bit of pushing that was quickly broken up by 83rd Precinct NYPD officers in attendance.
As two sides faced each other, additional police arrived to stand in between the groups. Protestors either attempted to tell their stories or simply resorted to shouting down efforts to communicate from the Community Board members, drowning them out with chants of “Let Us Speak!” and “No Rezoning!”
Many board members tried to tell the protestors that the Bushwick Community Plan they were working on was part of the fight against gentrification, appealing to a sense of unity. The protestors, however, weren’t interested in common ground with anyone working hand-in-hand with the city.
As RiseBoro staff and board members folded up the tables and chairs, disassembling the meeting around the protest, local leaders like Councilmember Antonio Reynoso worked to start any kind of dialogue.
“A lot of people seated across from you agree with you,” he started, before being cut off by accusations that by voting for the Mayor’s housing plan, the City Council had sold out communities.
Newly elected CB 4 Chair Robert Camacho addressed the crowd, guaranteeing those present they’d be part of the process as the Community Plan continued. “I know how you feel,” he said, “People don’t trust the city and I’m with you—they say one thing and do the other.”
Only chants of “Stop the Process!” and “Stop the Rezoning!” came back in response.
Councilmember Reynoso quieted the crowd long enough to turn the mic over to outgoing CB 4 Chair Julie Dent, who has served on the board since 1981, to adjourn the meeting.
No presentation was made on the Bushwick Plan last night and the Community Board is in recess through the summer. As they were ushered out, protestors threw their parting shots:
“See you in September!”