BUSHWICK— Many longtime Bushwick residents are disturbed by the upheaval they see in their community due to rezoning and recognize the need for political empowerment. To that end, about 35 residents braved the freezing rain on Monday night, December 16, to attend the inaugural meeting of the Bushwick Political and Civic Club (BPCC).
Held at Latinos Americanos Unidos on Wyckoff Avenue, the first formal gathering was the culmination of ad hoc meetings over several months by a small group of concerned residents. The organizers began the work on Monday night of hammering out details about things like membership and committee work, as well as share their vision and purpose of the club.
“I’m seeing Bushwick get destroyed,” said Robert Camacho, a Bushwick native and a driving force behind BPCC. “I’ve seen people get pushed out and displaced.”
Camacho told the crowd that he feels heartbroken to see what’s happening to the community that he loves.
“My concern is mostly for our seniors. Our seniors are being pushed out,” he added, hinting at the skyrocketing rents in what has become one of the city’s most popular destinations for new higher-income residents.
He also lamented about the significant enrollment decrease at Bushwick public schools and the lack of job opportunities for the community’s young people, despite all the money that real estate developers are pouring into the neighborhood.
BPCC is on a mission to raise the voices and concerns of Bushwick residents who feel disenfranchised or disengaged from the political system, said Julio Salazar, a community liaison in U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-District 7) office. Salazar explained to the attendees that BPCC is “a personal project,” independent of his position in Rep. Velazquez’s office. The new political club wants to take to every corner of Bushwick “to include everyone,” he continued.
While the organization is a group effort, Salazar got involved by encountering many of the same residents and activists at various community meetings, rallies, and events.
Bklyner received this statement from Velazquez, whose district includes Bushwick: “Civic engagement is a cornerstone of our democracy and residents of Brooklyn should be engaged now, more than ever. I always want to see more New Yorkers involved in the local issues that affect their daily lives like transportation, affordable housing and access to quality health care. I am interested in seeing how this new club will draw more of our neighbors into the process and empower them to contribute to the conversation.”
BPCC has four foundational pillars: educating residents on public policy, increasing civic education and participation, promoting political culture responsive to all residents of Bushwick, and supporting candidates who align with BPCC values.
Creating a forum to vet political candidates is key to Camacho’s vision.
“This is going to be a tough election. You’re going to have people come here and promising you things and filling you up with dreams,” Camacho warned his neighbors at the meeting, as he protested neglect from lawmakers who have overlooked Bushwick compared to other neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg, Cypress Hills, and East New York. “We want to make sure that candidates come to this club and tell us their ideas and where they see Bushwick in 10 years from now.”
A successful launch means BPCC would become a force to reckon with for candidates seeking the club’s endorsement. Once elected with the club’s help, BPCC will surely hold them accountable for failing to follow through on election-year promises. Organizations like BPCC have long been part of New York City’s political landscape.
“Political activism is at the core [of BPCC],” Salazar said, underscoring that the club has to work quickly to prepare for the upcoming elections.
Salazar means the federal, state, and local elections in 2020. At the local and state levels, the organization would support candidates who are focused on issues directly affecting the Bushwick community–like affordable housing and undocumented immigrants.
BPCC also wants to educate the locals about the Census and how it could affect resources in the neighborhood. Brooklyn is notorious for having poor turnout rates for the census and has the hardest to count communities across the U.S.
The organization plans tentatively to hold meetings on the third Monday of each month. People interested should attend meetings and follow them on social media (Facebook) and can contact them by email, Bushwickpcc@gmail.com, with specific questions.