2011 in Review By The Our Time Press Staff
Medgar Evers College restrained from evicting Center for NuLeadership
The new administration of Medgar Evers College got into a heated debate with several elected officials and community leaders after it decided to evict the Center for NuLeadership.
The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is a public policy, research and advocacy academic center that assists with entry into college for those with involvement in the criminal justice system.
In an effort to force the center off the campus, President William Pollard and Provost Howard Johnson blocked the center’s funds and refused to approve a $2.4 million grant that would have given first-time nonviolent offenders a second chance by sentencing them to college rather than prison.
The Supreme Court granted a temporary restraining order to prevent its eviction.
The matter was finally resolved in March when Our Time Press learned that NuLeadership will accept an offer from the State University of New York.
Cathie Black Becomes Schools Chancellor
Former media executive Cathie Black was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg as the city’s new chancellor of the Department of Education.
Black promptly showed she had neither the experience or understanding for the job, sparking lawsuits and an outcry from the African-American political leadership – particularly after she issued insensitive slurs about residents needing more birth control to ease overcrowding.
“We are calling for her resignation. We don’t believe she should have been selected in the first place,” said City Councilman Charles Barron.
Councilwoman Letitia James offered a reasoned response to Ms. Black’s comments on school overcrowding.
“Apparently, within a week of Cathie Black taking over for former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, she has already shown her lack of experience in the field. Students have a right to a public school education, and overcrowding is not a funny subject,” said James.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE:
Focus of African-American and African Diaspora Studies Conference
This past week, scholars came to New York City from around the country and eight nations to take part in an historic conference on the state of African-American and African Diaspora Studies. The theme that ran throughout the conference was the need to bring the studies out of the ivory towers and into the streets, the hearts and minds of the masses of people of African descent.
Charter versus Public Schools
At an emotional and passion-fueled public hearing held recently by the Department of Education, parents and children turned out in large numbers to give their opinions and to have their voices heard.
The hot-button topic for discussion was the proposed site of a new public charter school; the co-location of the Teaching Firms of America Charter School into existing neighborhood Public School 308 (Clara Cardwell), located at 616 Quincy Street.
The community centered their objections to the proposed charter school around the issue of teaching space available. The parents advocated for their children’s right to have an “optimum learning environment” and grew frustrated as the children chanted “No Charter”– making their voices heard.
The New York City Council hosted a raucous hearing on the potential entry of Wal-Mart into the city market.
The hearing was hosted by the Committee on Community Development, chaired by Council member Al Vann, jointly with the Committees on Small Business and Economic Development.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio submitted a report on Wal-Mart’s Economic Footprint in collaboration with the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development.
The report found “Wal-Mart depresses area wages and labor benefits contributing to the current decline of good middle-class jobs, pushes out more retail jobs than it creates, and results in more retail vacancies.”
Von King Cultural Center hours cut
The city has quietly cut the hours of a popular park cultural center in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant that serves dozens of young kids, teens and seniors – helping some with homework, providing a computer lab for others and involving many with arts programming.
Parents were notified Feb. 8 that the Herbert Von King Cultural Center’s hours would be reduced from 10 am to 9 pm on weekdays to 10 am to 7 pm.
“I’m infuriated that the Parks Department didn’t even consider having a dialogue with the people this affects,” said Lydia Temples, whose nine-year-old daughter, Nia Temples-Orr, goes to the cultural center after school.
The center, a former public library, is located in the popular eight-acre Herbert Von King Park, bounded by Greene, Lafayette, Tompkins and Marcy Avenues. It includes an amphitheater, a computer lab and a homework room. The indoor/outdoor amphitheater also hosts popular concerts in the summer.
Boys & Girls repeats as boys basketball champs
The road to New York City high school basketball glory once again runs through
That after Boys & Girls High School successfully defended their Public School Athletic League Class AA title in beating Coney Island’s Lincoln High School 62-55.
The championship game, played at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, featured the two top-ranked public high school teams in the city. In the past seven years, either Lincoln or Boys & Girls have won the championship.
“The first one (last year’s championship) was more of pressure, more of getting that monkey off your back,” Boys & Girls Coach Ruth Lovelace told reporters. “This one, I was a little bit more calm. I didn’t sleep (Saturday) night, but I did feel good. I told the guys in pregame talk that I really felt good about this one.”
NYCHA goes commercial
The cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is laying the groundwork for going into the commercial real estate business in Bedford-Stuyvesant, this paper has learned.
Several sources confirmed NYCHA has been meeting with stakeholders from both the Sumner and Tompkins Houses to discuss its preliminary plans to add hundreds of housing units to both developments with retail on the ground floor.
The Housing Authority ran a $19 million operating deficit for fiscal year 2010.
“NYCHA is looking for ways to generate income and is looking to put retail in both the Sumner and Tompkins Houses,” said a source involved in the discussions. “They were saying they want to add over 100 units to both of those housing developments.”
City looks to cut 17,000 child care slots
Kevin Gillespie stood in the drizzle outside the Tabernacle Church of God Day care Center with his three young children and contemplated his family’s future.
“Both my wife and I work, and we need day care,” said Gillespie. “Now one of us will have to stay at home and it will cut back on our money because one of us will be forced to stay home.”
Gillespie is one of thousands of working parents citywide who’s facing the same prospect as the Bloomberg Administration readies to cut some 17,000 day care slots.
The impact is particularly great in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods of color. For instance, in the City Council districts of members Al Vann and Darlene Mealy, which represents the bulk of Bedford-Stuyvesant, 534 children will lose their day care slots, which is more than half of the 794 children that have vouchers.
Boys & Girls gets money
Boys & Girls High School is in line for an infusion of several million dollars but school administrators, parents, clergy and other stakeholders in Bedford-Stuyvesant want to know the catch.
Their concern comes after the Department of Education (DOE) last week applied for federal funding to improve the 2,000-student school at Fulton Street and Utica Avenue under the condition it partners with an educational partner organization (EPO).
“We have tons of questions that need to be answered,” said Boys & Girls High School Principal Bernard Gassaway. “Such as how much will the EPO get funded, where it comes from and who makes the final decisions on school policy and practices.”
Bed-Stuy sanitation garage on hold
Bedford-Stuyvesant residents, which have been asking and pleading for a sanitation garage for 25 years, will have to wait at least another year.
That after the city pulled the money for the project out of the fiscal year 2011-12 budget and put it towards two other projects that distribute garbage more equally around the city.
“Obviously, it’s a total disrespect to our community,” said Community Board 3 Chair Henry Butler. “The Department of Sanitation gave no explanation as to why they took money from our project and gave it to other projects.”
Bed-Stuy youth wins national chess tourney
It’s morning at I.S. 318 on Walton Street in Williamsburg and James Black, Jr., 12,
looked across the chessboard at his opponent, coach Elizabeth Vicray, and hit the timer with his right hand.
“Checkmate,” he said, smiling.
And so went another chess victory for Black, Jr., a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident who is determined to become the youngest grandmaster in the United States.
Black, Jr. recently led the school’s team to the national championships in both the K-8 and K-9 divisions. He is only seven points away from the 2,200 needed to be named a master by the United States Chess Federation.
Unions Protest Bloomberg Budget Cuts
As New York City’s July 1 budget deadline looms, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed cutting
4,000 teachers, day care closures and the elimination of 22 firehouses.
Meanwhile, week after week municipal workers have been staging large protests, joined by hundreds of city residents who will be impacted by the cuts.
Last week, DC 37 became one of the latest unions to stage a public protest to Bloomberg’s proposals.
DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts “served notice on the Bloomberg Administration and the City Council that they cannot balance the budget on the backs of city workers.”
MoCADA gets money
The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) received a $2.5 million allocation from the recently passed 2011-12 city budget.
The money came through the strong lobbying efforts of City Council member Letitia James along with help from Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Laurie Cumbo, founder and executive director of MoCADA, said the money comes as a major step in her ultimate goal to develop and own a museum that brings cultural diversity to downtown Brooklyn.
The museum is located at 80 Hanson Place in Fort Greene.
CBA for East New York
A detailed Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) has emerged between the local East New York community and Related Cos., the developer of Gateway Center Properties Phase ll.
The CBA’s purpose is “to provide benefits in conjunction with the development of Gateway Center ll, and to ensure the viability of this economic resource” in a manner “that is advantageous to both the neighborhood and surrounding communities.”
The Gateway ll CBA calls for job training and development, business development, environmental sustainability, enforcement of developer obligations, and accountability.
Mayor deflects questions on opportunities for people of color
City officials last week remained tight-lipped on its plans to increase employment and business opportunities for people of color in downtown and Central Brooklyn.
The issue came up at a press conference where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz announced that United American Land would develop 49,000 square feet of retail space in the city-owned Brooklyn Municipal Building at 210 Joralemon Street across the street from Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Bloomberg got testy when asked what plans are in place to ensure that jobs and business development will come to communities of color and in Downtown Brooklyn, where many African-Americans and Hispanics shop?
Bloomberg’s $127M Young Men’s Initiative
Where’s the money going?
That’s what some African-American-run community-based organizations (CBO) want to know about Mayor Bloomberg’s recently announced three-year $127 million Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) to improve the futures of young black and Latino men by systematically targeting the areas of greatest disparity.
“Nobody approached us,” said James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), which has a database of about 5,000 people from the targeted initiative community looking for work and opportunities. Under the initiative, Bloomberg will put in $30 million, hedge fund billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations are putting in $30 million and the city will allocate $67.5 million.
Troy Davis Executed Supreme Court Denies Last Appeal
On the streets, in churches and in homes, vigils were held waiting on the slow-motion lynching that was the killing of Troy Anthony Davis by the state of Georgia. After the execution hour had passed we learned of a last appeal to the Supreme Court. Three hours later we were told that the Justices had denied Davis’ appeal, the death warrant was enforced and Troy Davis was executed September 21, 2011 at 11:08pm.
NYPD Detains Councilman Williams
The heat on the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk initiative targeting mainly black and Hispanic young men was turned up several degrees Monday when cops handcuffed and detained two black city officials at the West Indian Day Parade along Eastern Parkway.
“It is a reflection of a culture which includes stop-and-frisk protocol that I hope after this incident will finally end based on how unfairly it targets innocent black and Latino young men,” said Williams at a press conference concerning the incident.
Move to end food stamp fingerprinting
The City Council is trying to end the city practice of requiring federal food stamp applicants to submit to fingerprinting to receive benefits.
Under the legislation that will be introduced next week, the city’s Human Resources Administration must submit an annual report to the Council on the amount of money spent on finger-imaging each year, and the number of fraudulent cases detected and referred to for criminal prosecution as a result of the practice.
Von King Park goes wireless
Bedford-Stuyvesant residents can now launch with their smartphones, tablets, laptops and other WiFi-enabled devices for free at Von King Park.
The launch is part of a five-year digital city initiative to provide free WiFi at 26 locations in 20 New York City parks across the five boroughs.
Other locations are expected to come online over the next several months.
From Brownsville to Wall Street
Several hundred marchers came from Brownsville to Wall Street last Saturday to protest the result of economic inequities and to speak on the many connections between the targets of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the situation of African-Americans.
Not forgotten is that the 1% got to be the 1% by first stealing the labor of African-American ancestors and using it as “starter capital” to clear the land, build the roads, and plant and harvest the crops. To load ships with slave-produced goods, and then use the unloaded ballast as cobblestones on New York streets.
The march was organized and led by Mr. A. T. Mitchell and his community empowerment organization, Man Up!, known for working in the hard world where the results of economic violence are everyday affairs and where the people were saying they were sick of it.
Occupy Our Homes
Rain did not deter 500 “Occupy Our Homes” protesters who marched the streets of East New York on Tuesday.
The group took a tour of foreclosed homes in the area and supported one family who “liberated” a foreclosed home on Vermont Avenue.
Chants ranged from, “All day, all week, Occupy East New York;” “We are the 99%,” “the people united will never be defeated;” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out;” “Get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town.” The crowd flowed from the sidewalks to the streets, at times blocking traffic. As the drivers drove by, they honked in solidarity.