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First Community Board Meeting of the Year Addresses 2020 Census, New Tenants’ Rights

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9/11 memorial lights were visible in Park Slope during the first Community Board 6 meeting of the year.

The crowd was overwhelmingly young at the first Community Board 6 meeting of the year. And while the vast majority of the audience appeared to be in the 21-to-35 demographic, about a third of the residents were seniors. Thomas Miskel, a member of the permits commission, doesn’t even remember how he got involved. When he was growing up, “nobody knew anything about Brooklyn,” he remarked.

Snippets of introductions and conversation, such as “Is this your first meeting?” and “I just moved here last month” mimicked the first day of school in the New York Presbyterian Methodist Hospital auditorium in Brooklyn. One person in attendance actually did just start his first day of school. A male senior in high school from Carroll Gardens was later announced as one of the four new members of the Community Board.
As dozens of residents took their seats, Chairperson Peter D. Fleming opened the meeting on a somber note, commemorating the anniversary of 9/11 and the recent death of longtime community member and activist, Alan Fleishman. The rest of the meeting, which lasted less than an hour, took on an excited and politically motivated tone.

Rather than focus on the local needs of Park Slope, this meeting’s speakers hovered around big-picture political issues nationwide, and how these issues will affect Brooklyn residents and New Yorkers at large. Among other issues, speakers brought up the ICE raids that had occurred over the summer, as well as the 2020 census.

A spokesperson from State Senator Zellnor Myrie’s office expressed concern for the census, which could result in the loss of two of New York’s congressional seats in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said. The same spokesperson from Myrie’s office announced that there would be an event in Crown Heights the following week, encouraging residents’ participation in the census.

A spokesperson from Senator Montgomery’s office also made a short presentation, and State Assembly member Bobby Carroll briefed the audience on legislation that had passed in Albany over the summer. In June, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would increase protections for tenants statewide. Carroll announced an upcoming housing resource fair where residents can learn about their new tenants’ rights, as well as attend seminars on home ownership and housing lotteries.

Audience members also had something to say about housing. Patrick Johnson, a tenant advocate in Park Slope, says he has moved 11 times over four years, and has been evicted three times. A self-described Democratic Socialist, Johnson opposes the commodification of housing, and places the impetus of solving the housing crisis on New York’s politicians. Having a home should be “like air,” he says. “It should be a human right.” He believes citizens should put as much pressure as possible on people in power so that they fully realize housing is a problem.

Johnson was not the only socially and politically active person in the room, by far. One guest had a pin on her purse that said Moms Demand Action — the name of an organization working to reduce gun violence.

On their way out, audience members made their way to a table in the back of the auditorium covered in fliers and booklets advertising various community events and upcoming projects organized by local politicians. Residents picked up as much as they could before heading back out into the hot, end-of-summer night, where two columns of light from the World Trade Center memorial shone bright from more than four miles away.

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