Wiliamsburg Town Hall Closer to Fruition

09/27/2011 2:55 PM |

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Local politicians have cash in hand to cover more than half of the cost of a long-planned cultural center in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Paper reports. Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilmember Steve Levin have $1.25 million to transform a firehouse on Wythe near North 8th that Mayor Bloomberg closed in 2003 into The Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center, which would offer office space to nonprofits, showing space to artists, and gathering space to families. Private fundraising has brought in about $250,000, which means organizers need (hang on a second while I crunch these numbers) another $500,000 to meet their $2 million goal.

Levin told us last year that continued support for the town hall was one of the things he received from the city in return for his support of the Domino development. At least it looks like something’s actually coming out of that, unlike other development-related promises that were made to the community.

17 Comment

  • Henry, let’s be Real–the Williamsburg Town Hall will be available almost exclusively to Neighbors Against Garbage and the People’s Firehouse–the latter has an untold and sordid history “under the desk” in the acquisition of properties in the area that, along with other community organizations in the area, triggered the first wave of gentrification. The “non-profits…artists…and families” the space will be made available to will be almost entirely within the pretending elitism of both those groups.

  • Blaming the gentrification of Williamsburg on Neighbors Against Garbage and the People’s Firehouse is deranged.

  • Local initiatives by groups like the People’s Firehouse, El Puente, Los Sures, and St. Nicks have been “sprucing up the neighborhood” since the 1970s. But they never had the traction to cause gentrification. You need a much larger demographic change for that to occur. In the case of Williamsburg, it was artists and bohemians who provided the population shift that set gentrification in motion, a process that started in earnest in the late 80s. To say, for example, that the flagstone sidewalk that went down on Bedford Avenue in the early 80s, or the pocket park that appeared near the entrance to Manhattan Avenue at around that time, were the groundwork for gentrification, is absurd. I lived in Williamsburg for eight years, from 1983 to 1991. It was basically pretty sleepy throughout that decade. The uptick was sudden, I can almost locate it to 1989, and it was without question the result of a logarithmic increase in the number of artists and bohemians moving into the neighborhood.

  • Hey jackasses, calling people absurd and deranged who never did an ounce of community work for the People’s Firehouse–take a breath before you gratify your egos again. I live on North 7th and Kent Avenue and I’m there every day outside and I’d like for yo-yo pa to take the courageous leap and find me there and say that to my face. Do you even know and understand the inner mechanisms of those groups, or are you worshipping without knowledge? Please, those organizations have inner histories that escape the gladhanding phony “journalism” of the neighborhood.” Firstly, the people who came into the neighborhood that like to call themselves “bohemians” or “artists” or “hipsters” or whatever it is that hides that more often than not they were doing nothing creative of the sort but were simply “attending” and were white, middle to upper middle class and recent college graduates, found their way into the neighborhood from the hiring spree made by groups like El Puente, Los Sures and St. Nicks [among others] in the late 1970s-early 1980s–people who were in fact “artists” who were volunteering their time [or being hired outright] to write grants for those organizations. It was from within those college circles that the gentrification of Williamsburg, in particular, was extrapolated. No doubt those organizations offered excellent housing advocacy in the area [especially St. Nicks and Los Sures], but the housing advocacy must be tempered in significant measure by the gentrification process–and the gentrification process began from WITHIN THE EMPLOY OF THOSE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS. Whether or not it makes you uncomfortable, or that you have friends employed there, or that your friends think themselves “righteous” and want to deny their elitism and privilege, is too fucking bad. I’m specifically directing my comments to Yo Yo Pa and not to Ethan, who has never had any exposure to any of those organizations or performed any community work period and has known only “about” those organizations through the prism of his peers–who have never claimed responsibility for anything that involves direct and critical examination of their works and times in Williamsburg unless it involved some valorization of their activities. Ethan seems to neglect mentioning that the sidewalk in the Northside [I have NO IDEA WHY HE IS EVEN MENTIONING THIS, as he is clearly baiting, and has nothing to do with my own comments] which was helped along by the Northside Merchants Association, was concomitant to many of the white middle to upper class recent college graduates who were coming into the neighborhood, and anything that happens aesthetically to the neighborhood, no matter how seemingly small or trivial, is to be measured against the neighborhood’s history. Ethan clearly knows that the bedding of the Northside Merchants Association with the so-called artists is at play here, which is why he is attempting to preempt those arguments [needlessly, because they are not the point of my comments anyway, SO IT IS ABSURD TO MENTION THEM].

  • And yo-yo pa seems to forget, or possibly never knew, which is so consistent with every jackass muthufucka who thinks they know Williamsburg but don’t know shit at all except “gee, WE are so great, and EVERYONE ELSE is a gentrifier,” that many of the principals in the organization and development of NAG were principals in the 2005-rezoning that clueless muthufuckas like yo-yo pa like to posit as the beginning of the gentrification of the Williamsburg but is really the beginning of when the ORIGINAL agents of gentrification were finally gentrified en masse but like to cry and pretend gentrification is only gentrification when it happens to them–’nuff said.

  • And, Ethan is claiming the “neighborhood was sleepy,” but meanwhile, all of his Internet work goes to arguing about the supposedly significant “warehouse events” that were transpiring in the mid- to late-1980s. Ethan is following the jackass logic that it’s not gentrification unless there are crowds on the sidewalk AND street. The reason why “the neighborhood was sleepy” was because the bulk of the activities by the artists in the area were not from within HIS social circle–which was largely the so-called “warehouse events”–most of the labor of art in the neighborhood at the time was from within the community organizations, places that Ethan avoids like the plague. The uptick that was happening in the early 1990s was because of a new wave of warehouse events on the waterfront, and a new independence of the artists from community organizations like El Puente, in the Kent Avenue Piece Factories, beginning with “the October Revolution” [1990 or 1991], which was a multi-day festival that married Manhattan and Williamsburg alternative/punk bands with some organizational help from ABC No Rio [ABC No Rio even closed its doors for the weekend of the October Revolution]. This, along with the “New Bohemia” article [whose cover was in the Southside, not the Northside, not near any sidewalk] that began to capture mainstream attention and draw Manhattan crowds that Ethan is mistakenly believing has something to do with anything completely organic by Williamsburg’s artists.

    Here’s some more interesting info so you can both understand what Williamsburg’s gentrification was all about and not get your jollies riled up when your friends are put through some critical examination. In the next year thereafter, either in 1991 or 1992, noting that “October Revolution” had gained Manhattan attention and craving that attention while simultaneously accusing others of pandering to attention [which is what Williamsburg "artists" do best], the Astro Zombies, recent entrants into Williamsburg and digging holes for themselves at the Right Bank [where the most rightist and jarheaded of Williamsburg's "artists" went, notwithstanding their punk pretenses], tipped the promotional scales further in Manhattan’s favor with more organizational [but surreptitious] work by principals over at ABC No Rio, and organized “Radioactive Bodega”, which was supposed to be some “sequel” to October Revolution, but this time, instead of weird “arty” alternative or grunge, the festival organizers capitulated to a more conventional and banal Manhattan punk style. In the next year thereafter, either 1992 or 1993, and this is important, all the “artist” pretenses were completely stripped away and Williamsburg went full jarhead with the first of what we know as “the Beer Olympics”–even though there are organizers in Pennsylvania and Atlanta who are making the claim the Beer Olympics came from [1993 in the former and 1996 in the latter], what really happened is that the Beer Olympics FIRST happened in Williamsburg, and because there are people like Ethan who want to emphasize, quite falsely, the “artsiness” of the gentrification while concealing or even outright lying about its true jarheadedness, it is also largely unknown. This is the “uptick” that Ethan is talking about–it did not come from the original wave of agents of gentrification that he is attempting to attribute this uptick to, because THEY WERE ALMOST ALL GONE BY THE MID-1990s. Ethan himself points out he was gone by 1991–which is dubious. I’ve also read him say he’s been there for 30 years, or 2 years, or a few years–we can never get a consistent timeline for his residency there because his timelines are consistent with whatever valorization he is attempting at the time for he and his peers. Nevertheless, Ethan is evidence that by the early to mid-1990s, there was a MASS exodus of the original “artists” from the neighborhood. The population influx that was happening at the time was compelled by not by “the New Bohemia”–it was from this outreach into the Manhattan music scene, because immediately after the October Revolution, Radioactive Bodega and, most importantly, THE BEER OLYMPICS [which had massive appeal, ran for a few years, and attracted outfits like the Casualties, Blanks77, the Anti-Heroes] we have our next wave, much more significant in numbers, of the gentrification of Williamsburg.

  • The 2005-rezoning that some, like the NY Times, like to posit as the beginning of gentrification in Williamsburg [when it is actually only the beginning of the displacement of the precious at NAG and the People's Firehouse] is, at best, a third-stage development in the gentrification of Williamsburg. I would posit the first stage in the tenure of Mayor Ed Koch, who was attempting new policies of land transfership that differed from previous policies like those of Robert Moses, first, and in reaction to the Robert Moses style of land development, Brownstone Brooklyn second. That’s right–this is where organizations like People’s Firehouse come in. Instead of large scale developments and going buck wild with eminent domain petitions as it had in the past, the City was turning over property management, administration and ownership TO ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THE PEOPLE’S FIREHOUSE, specifically properties designated 7A. I won’t go any further unless panties go on fire among yo-yo pa’s circles, but if he wants more complexity about the People’s Firehouse role in the gentrification of the neighborhood, which was often quite racist, I suggest he take his stammered eyes off the occupation of Engine 212 [which has been such a lovely media nugget, sparkling and blinding, and removing all critical reasoning] and maybe take a look at how some of those parcels of property actually ended up.

  • The “inner mechanisms” of the community groups are irrelevant. They may be corrupt, they may not. It’s beside the point. There has not been a decade in the history of Brooklyn that has not seen spruce-up initiatives or housing projects of the sort advanced by local groups like the Firehouse or Los Sures. Just because those kinds of projects occurred in the 70s

  • Excuse me, I wrote, “I would posit the first stage in the tenure of Mayor Ed Koch, who was attempting new policies of land transfership that differed from previous policies like those of Robert Moses, first, and in reaction to the Robert Moses style of land development, Brownstone Brooklyn second.” I meant, “I would posit the first stage in the tenure of Mayor Ed Koch, who was attempting new policies of land transfership that differed from previous policies like those of Robert Moses, first, and, in reaction to the Robert Moses style of land development, Brownstone Brooklyn’s land preservation second.” This distinction is important BECAUSE GENTRIFICATION IN BROOKLYN DID NOT BEGIN WITH WILLIAMSBURG, IT BEGAN WITH THE ZONE POPULARLY KNOWN AS “BROWNSTONE BROOKLYN,” and the gentrification of Williamsburg has to be measured against that zone. Indeed, the gentrification of Williamsburg is almost an exact play-by-play of Brownstone Brooklyn except for one critical difference: the gentrification of Brownstone Brooklyn that commences in the 1950s was based almost entirely on land and building preservation which is opposed to the scorched earth development history of Williamsburg, and, its apparent or actual racism notwithstanding, because of this critical difference, it organized and developed significant civic and resident associations whose achievements far outstrip our associations–whose overall “land philosophy” contributed to the land philosophy you see in Williamsburg right now, that of annihilation of the previous landscape.

  • I lived at 209 Bedford Avenue, at the corner of North 5th Street, from 1983 to 1991. I have never said anything else. I also worked for St. Nicks, as a writer for their newsletter The Greenline. And a million other things. It’s all on my Facebook page, open to the public.

  • Ah. Got news for you. the landscape was already annihilated. It was a blighted and unsustainable situation. And I had more fun there than I’ve ever had in my life. But I knew a place like that could definitely not last.

  • Ethan, that is nonsense on its face–the “inner mechanisms” of the community groups are irrelevant. I can’t argue with you when you say anything that lacks factual basis–I’ll go over it again, because I know you like to piece together press releases that have no substance whatsoever. Now your dating is suspect: your connecting to “2000” now–in other places you’re saying it’s the mid-1980s, others it’s the 1990s. In your earlier post you were claiming an uptick in the mid-1990s and now it’s 2000. You’re just moving back and forth between positions as you attempt to get over on me, all the while your arguments lack any historical data. The only common denominator is “the bohemians did it.” I get tired of your inconsistency and innate corruption of logic.

  • Excuse me, writing conservative screed for the Greenline does not translate into community advocacy for St. Nick’s. Please.

  • Really, Ethan? Give me some evidence the landscape was annihilated? Are you saying all the development in Williamsburg was over empty lots? Preposterous. The bulk of the development in Williamsburg were over homes razed.

    And, since you feel you can just dismiss arguments without argumentation or factual basis by just saying “it is irrelevant” I will say the same: the works and pretenses and schemes and largely failed little plans of the so-called “bohemians” were irrelevant.

  • It would seem that for people like Ethan the “bohemians” happened in a vacuum, no social conditions whatsoever generating them, not the fact of their whiteness, their middle to upper middle classness, their recent college graduation-ism. None of that happened. And you know what? None of their “art” happened either, then.

  • And as to you “always” saying you lived in Williamsburg until 1991, I know that from our personal interactions that is a straight bald-faced LIE. You told me yourself you lived in Williamsburg for a couple of years, and then you moved to Park Slope, where you live now and pretend a projection onto Williamsburg to the present day. Which is it, then? Are we going to have to start puttering around the City’s records to finally discern the truth from you?

  • Oh, and I want to add, because this is MOST IMPORTANT: to the present day, people on the whole do not know or understand what “gentrification” is. It’s only recently that the term has come into mainstream consciousness–though it has existed since the 1940s [coined by a London sociologist whose name escapes me at the moment]. In fact, and interestingly, it’s first public usage was in the early 1970s by a Hispanic advocacy group, and against the gentrification of Brownstone Brooklyn. So because the Northside Merchants Association was unaware, ignorant of or outright denying the semiotic “gentrification” does not mean they were not involved in the semiotic’s underlying reality. To suggest otherwise is consistent with the pattern of the white artists in Williamsburg [as evidenced in the public dialogue between 30 Days and the Waterfront Week and carrying over into the present]: first, agents of gentrification play stupid and claim “gentrification” has too many syllables to understand; second, agents of gentrification deny that it even happens at all, or use bromides like “change happens” or “it’s the economy, stupid”; third, agents of gentrification acknowledge that it happens but only to them; fourth, after time has transpired, not only acknowledge that it happens, but claim credit for it and demand payment in ego-gratification.