Full Disclosure: JC Martinez-Sifre is an active member of the Kensington Plaza Stewards and the coordinator for the Kensington Trash Mob.
It was a big night of clean-up for the Kensington Plaza Stewards as they convened en masse last night to sweep away the detritus of poor assessments Community Board 12 has been reporting back to them by the few but persistent “squeaky-wheels.”
Since its inauguration on June 3, detractors to The Kensington Plaza have been voicing their objections of the new dynamic created by the installation of an expanded sidewalk, city benches, tree pits, and decorative concrete slabs where Church Ave, McDonald Ave, and Beverly Rd intersect.
At the AMICO Senior Center, 5901 13th Ave, Borough Park, the Plaza Stewards came together to put counterpoint before the Board to those objections. The meeting moved swiftly into the public hearing portion of its agenda, and bedecked in their yellow, reflective vests, Bridget Elder, Joy Rich, Jole Carliner, Annie Ferdous, Maggie Tobin, and others stood together while taking their allotted three minutes to have the floor each to vouch for not only the needs The Plaza addresses in a public space-poor Kensington, but also to put on record all the hard work and dedication they have invested in fulfilling their promises while The Plaza was being conceived.
Bridget Elder, who coordinates the Stewards and has dutifully aggregated stones in the central tree pit each with the word “tree” in every language Kensington hosts, said to the assembly that the issues of sleeping vagrants, late-night loudness, cigarette smoking, and general litter were issues that existed along that stretch of sidewalk long before The Plaza came into existence.
“The only difference is that they’re sleeping there instead of in our driveways,” she said of the vagrants. “It’s a societal problem, not a problem caused by The Plaza.”
Ken Elder, while not a Steward, joined in support of their efforts by taking the floor and voicing his belief that, as a hub for the MTA, they ought to be obligated to clean the litter left behind by bus and subway passengers awaiting transfers.
After the meeting the Stewards met at The Plaza joined by other members such as Mike Rosenbleuth, and they held their own general meeting to draft their Fall agenda. Some of the plans that were discussed include:
• Drafting a proposal for a joint cooperation between the DOT, the office of Brad Lander, and local businesses to install additional city benches along McDonald Ave, south of Church Ave, to disperse the congestion at The Plaza.
• A commitment to monitor the state of at least one city litter basket and file a report with 311 when it is observed to be overflowing.
• Work together with the office of Brad Lander to follow up with the NYPD 66th Precinct on the task of removing graffiti, and request from the appropriate city agencies the possibility of adding bicycle racks, additional lighting to the civic square and the installation of signage for Beverly Rd and Kensington Plaza itself.
• To suggest to the 66th Precinct that it fulfill its original commitment of increased presence at The Plaza by inviting the night-time beat officer to use The Plaza or park the patrol car in nearby parking spaces when completing reports, nightly paperwork, and during breaks.
While their meeting took place, Jamshad Hossain, a Bengali college student who had observed one of the Stewards at work on Sunday, requested to join and was inducted by being given his yellow vest. An elderly neighbor stopped by to disclose that she, too, cleans up street litter from time to time, and, one of those local vagrants that has caused so much objection to The Plaza, “Chago,” interrupted their meeting to request a few trash bags. Chago proceeded to do a neat job of de-weeding a tree pit along Beverly Rd near New McDonald’s Fruits and Vegetables before swaggering off into the night.
The next Community Board meeting will be on Tuesday, October 23. For comments, concerns, testimonials, or to join the Kensington Plaza Stewards, contact Bridget Elder at firstname.lastname@example.org.