Brooklyn, New York - If you think that a steelband meeting of any sort, can be heated and disagreeable, think again. Even the most contentious steelband meeting pales in comparison to what When Steel Talks (WST) witnessed last evening. Emotions ran high from start to end at the Brooklyn Community Board 9 meeting, originally begun in the Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College on September 23. Indeed all signs early on indicated that this was not going to be your normal ‘communal gathering’ - as the initial venue quickly filled up and overflowed outside, with many people shut out, and still more arriving continuously. In fact NYPD (New York Police Department) declared the auditorium a ‘fire hazard’ because of the over-run of people, with the exit being blocked, etc. The meeting was quickly moved to Medgar’s main auditorium across the street which, too, quickly filled up to capacity.
The meeting was well-attended by members of the New York steelband community which will be directly affected by this rezoning plan should it take effect. If the rezoning is allowed through - luxury condos will be built on Empire Boulevard - effectively killing the almost-steelband-music-exclusive annual New York J’Ouvert celebration. J’Ouvert City International, organizers of New York’s annual J’Ouvert was also present. However, the consequences of these rezoning efforts are much, much bigger than the J’Ouvert celebrations. It would usher in the destruction of a community as the residents know it.
Members of the community in auditorium at Medgar Evers College at the September 23 Community Board meeting - open to the public
For the most part the meeting was raucous, full of rancor and confrontation. Things quickly became very testy with continuous threats of shutting down the meeting by the lead chairperson and even the NYPD Community Police. District Manager Ms. Pearl Miles—who has become one of the central figures in this life-changing community re-configuration—brought the meeting to a head when she yelled “Shut-up!” at the community residents and attendees. Her attitude displayed complete arrogance and contempt for any in the auditorium who dared raise their voice in opposition to her, as if those such were ‘beneath her.’
Most of the community attendees were clearly taken by surprise by the disrespectful utterance of this district manger. This caused an uproar as community residents continued to voice their anger and displeasure for the community board’s resolution to conduct a study for the rezoning of the Empire Boulevard and surrounding areas. Ms. Miles appeared completely un-phased by the outpouring of comments against her, her words and her actions.
There was little or no support for the rezoning movement by the community board, as speaker after speaker took to the microphone and spoke about the damage to the community the rezoning would cause, with some from adjoining communities sharing first-hand what was to come, having already been negatively impacted by similar ‘rezoning’ actions in their own neighborhoods. Many present accused the politicians of selling out the community.
One expects the developers to continue to push hard for the rezoning that is part of the massive gentrification that has hit all parts of Brooklyn.
Until the issue is resolved in favor of no rezoning in its current proposed format, a lot is in serious jeopardy, including New York J’Ouvert. And yet again - another challenge to the survival of the New York steelband community, its culture and history.
Click here for the key concerns of MTOPP (The Movement To Protect The People), the organization at the forefront of the push-back against the current rezoning plan as it stands. The group were a main part of the debate during the meeting.
As a follow up to this article.
Some time after, a motion to rescind the previous vote was made and seconded, after some discussion the Board voted yes to rescind, the vote was recorded as, sixteen (16) yes, nine (9) no and eight (8) abstentions.
After the Chairperson was caught playing with words, it was determined that it would be placed back into the community's hands to decide what takes place next, not the committee.
It will be redbaited at future Community Board meetings.
Good luck and praises to the residents of Community Board 9, you won this battle, but the war is far from over. -- click to read more
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