Dr. Daryl Rock. Photo: Provided/ Rock.
Dr. Daryl Rock. Photo: Provided/ Rock.

By: Dr. Daryl Rock

I am writing concerning a grave injustice that is taking place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The Department of Transporting (DOT) is building a plaza on Gates Avenue despite the objections of the people most impacted. The Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 also opposes the project, but the DOT is moving forward. Their decision is tyrannical with racial overtones. I have lived in Brooklyn all my life and would never have believed such underhandedness and disregard could take place in 2022. 

The Fort Greene Partnership Homes Condominium was built in 1988 and 100 owners, including myself, all people of color, bought our homes despite safety concerns and the state of ill repair of so much of the neighborhood back then. We hoped that our entry into the neighborhood would be the beginning of a renaissance for the community and things would turn around, and it has. Many of those original owners have moved away, but there is a core group of us, mostly retired, who remain. It was a shock to us early in the Spring of 2022 when the DOT set up shop on Gates Avenue, the street that abuts our building. They came to announce that the DOT was proposing to build a plaza right outside our windows. We asked why there was no prior discussion about the project and the DOT representatives said they partnered with area businesses, yet no businesses are adjacent to the proposed plaza. 

We continued during that day to ask questions about our quality-of-life concerns, as well as the loss of parking spaces and we received dismissive answers. I had to personally chastise one of the DOT workers who spoke rudely to one of the elder resident owners. I reported his behavior and received an apology from the DOT. However, it is not OK for anyone, much less someone from a city-run agency, to come into our neighborhood, speak disrespectfully to one of our elder residents, and not follow proper protocol for getting community buy-in for large-scale projects. This proposed plaza will be right outside the windows of 32 homes. All the other plazas in this area are in commercial spaces. 

My neighbors and I are concerned about the noise, the loitering, the garbage, and the decrease in property values. Plazas may be nice places for people to hang out, but nobody wants people laughing, drinking, and smoking right outside their windows day and night. We expressed these concerns on a video call with the DOT and they were not responsive.

When it became clear that the DOT was not listening to our concerns, we focused on convincing Community Boards 2’s transportation committee that this project should not move forward. We knew they had an upcoming vote regarding support for the project. The DOT presented its proposal to the committee and we followed with our concerns. Residents spoke passionately about how the project would negatively impact lives, and during the committee’s August meeting, members voted down the DOT’s Gates Avenue proposal. We felt vindicated! 

Imagine our shock when a few weeks later, there was a sign on the lamp post on Gates Avenue saying the construction of the plaza would begin in October 2022. Why have a Community Board if their desires and voting outcomes are going to be ignored? On October 15th another sign posted said all cars need to be removed from the block beginning October 17th. This is not how government is supposed to work, nor is this how elder Black residents should be treated. 

Let me be very clear, we are not against safer streets. We also are not against green space or healthy areas for our children. The DOT was not able to show residents or the Community Board committee how this project would make our streets safer. A DOT survey shared on this proposed Gates Avenue Plaza project was extremely biased and shameful in its prejudice and pro-stance leaning. If the street is a real concern, why not increase the adjacent garden area? The residents are open to compromise, but we were not given the opportunity. We want to be treated with dignity and respect, and not marginalized within our own neighborhood that we helped transform.

Finally, I don’t know for sure if race played a factor, but the people from the DOT who interacted with the building owners were all white and we are mostly Black seniors and owners. There have been several developments in our Fort Greene Brooklyn neighborhood that have caused us concern. We understand change is inevitable, but you don’t treat anyone, especially elders this way. The process was flawed and disrespectful from the start. The voices of the people who built this community were ignored. We earned the right to be heard and what hurts us the most is the disregard for what we want in our own community. This whole affair was wrong, ugly, and handled poorly. We deserved better and the DOT should have done better.

Sincerely,

Dr. Daryl Rock

Fort Greene Resident and Homeowner  

The opinions, content and/or information in this article are those of the author and are independent of BK Reader.

The opinions, content and/or information in this article are those of the author and are independent of BK Reader.

Join the Conversation

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  1. They are building multi family housing on Clinton, Vanderbilt and Atlantic Avenues bring more residents (vehicles) impacting our current shortage of parking spaces. The city also willing to charge us $23 to enter the Manhattan daily so what are we to do with our vehicles. By the way it didn’t escape me that the DOT removed parking spaces from Gates Avenue between Clinton and Vanderbilt Avenues.

    Next, what’s the city’s plan regarding policing this open space. None of us excited to hear that the DOT plans to open an open air mental health facility on the corner of Gates and Vanderbilt Avenues. We have had it with crime in our transit system but now they plan to build a Mini Union Square Park in our neighborhood!

    The people said no…the answer is no! Just keep in mind retribution is always a November away. You might have forgotten that but I can promise the Republican have not!!!

    1. While I no longer live in the said neighborhood as a former Community Board appointee, know that CB members have little to no power; realizing that I chose to resign. Green space is wonderful but not necessarily the space as described by Rev. Rock. The community’s interests MUST BE RESPECTED.

  2. DOT has been running renegade for years. Several years ago, DOT tried to shove, down our throats, their idea of making Clinton Avenue a one way street with a dual bike lane and a separating medium. DOT gave no thought or regard to how Access-A-Ride or emergency service vehicles would gain appropriate access. Finally, after much, much protest, they pulled the plan. Now, DOT takes up extra parking spaces on open streets by installing planters and painting colorful designs on street corners. All unnecessary and without regard for the community!

  3. Don’t only contact political parties but spike Lee who used to live in Fort Green. Matter of fact he had a home to!

  4. Dr. Rock, please know that the DOT is doing the same thing in communities all over the city. We’ve been fighting them here in Jackson Heights and it’s the same exact behavior. Please reach out to the Jackson Heights Coops Alliance. We’d love to compare notes.

  5. Dr. Rock,
    I am so sorry you and your neighbors have been treated in such a disrespectful way. The same has happened to us here in Jackson Heights, Queens. The idea is not about safety but about land grabbing and displacing long time residents from their homes. As you will soon find out and all the concerns you have delineated in your well-written OpEd, most of you will eventually simply move out and move on which is exactly the whole idea. Gentrification is on steroids here in Jackson Heights. Thank you for speaking up!

  6. This is an important confrontation coming to a head, and hopefully it will beat back bike activism.

    Bike activism is overwhelmingly a white gentrifier activity, but they have been wearing a lot of blackface pretending otherwise. They had to begin in gentrified, invaded neighborhoods because there isn’t a single place in NYC where the people that grew up locally agree with the ecofascism.

    But – then they were criticized for concentrating their “improvements” away from communities of color. Now they are forced to try to “improve” those communities to advance their agenda, and that’s going to present a messaging issue for them as they get caught out mistreating black folk who don’t want the privileged takeover of public space.

  7. Hate to make this political BUT…remember these things when you all have an opportunity to vote for:

    BK Borough President – Antonio Reynoso
    City Council – Crystal Hudson
    Mayor – Eric Adams

    These are the people who make these things happen, because ultimately, the Community Boards are filled with people appointed by the BK Borough President and the City Councilmember. The DOT Commissioner is selected by the Mayor.

    You don’t have to vote Republican, but if you blindly vote for someone who has a “D” next to their name without listening to what they’re actually saying, and what they want for their constituents, ultimately you only have yourselves to blame.

    Reynoso is part of the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party, which is essentially just the blue version of some of the nuttier folks in the GOP. Crystal Hudson only narrowly beat Michael Hollingsworth for her City Council seat, and based on how she moves, she’s more concerned with making Brooklyn more like Seattle than listening to her constituents. Her opening in the speech at PS 20 regarding the “Open Street”, and how Fort Greene/Clinton Hill has seen a 20% decrease in Black population over the past few decades was virtue signaling at best, considering she handed the mic to Ydanis Rodriguez and his puppet Kyle Gorman right afterwards to let the community know that they don’t matter and that DOT was going to do whatever DOT wanted. She has even claimed that she was unaware that Citibike would be taking up valuable parking spaces under the BQE in order to set up shop in the neighborhood, an obvious lie, unless she is quietly letting us know that she truly does not have a clue what is going on in the neighborhoods she represents.

    And that leads us to Mr. Eric Adams. Many of those reading this probably thought to yourselves that by voting for a Black man who was the former Borough President of Brooklyn AND a former NYPD officer, you’d be getting the best of both worlds: a man who understands that while the NYPD is necessary, it is not above reproach or improvement, and that a hometown guy would know what New Yorkers and their communities want.

    Wrong.

    Eric Adams, like many of his delusional predecessors, is more concerned with his potential to be reelected, so that he can add it to his resume on the way to chasing the Oval Office. His delusions of grandeur are comparable to his forerunners Wilhelm De Blasio, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. History allows us to sit back and remember that DeBlasio barely got 1% of the vote in the presidential primaries, a failure that was only overshadowed by his more recent failed congressional bid. “Bill” now spends his days pretending people care about what he has to say on MSNBC during Morning Joe appearances. Mr. Bloomberg realized that being a billionaire with free time and not being beholden to the entire country was far more preferable than being POTUS, and of course Rudy Giuliani continues to embarrass himself anytime a camera is placed in front of him. So it only makes sense that Adams, a man who seems more concerned with rubbing elbows with celebs at popular night spots, forgets that many of the votes that pushed him over the top, came from Black and Brown communities. And while it seems that it was Maya Wiley who captured the hearts and minds of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, it stands to reason that in order to win again, using Ydanis Rodriguez as his Transportation Czar is perfect cover that allows him to claim that he is about public safety, all while convincing the bike zealots and anti-car brigade that has infected this city, that he is their guy. In a town where ranked choice voting has become the current serving platter, this will likely be what he needs to push him over the top, with regards to any challengers.

    All of this is to say, you have an opportunity to put an end to this madness but only if you vote, and only if you vote for people who are clear and honest about how they plan to address community concerns. Many of Ydanis Rodríguez’s interactions with the public are available on YouTube and social media for all to see. This is a man who is more concerned with Vision Zero numbers than actually listening to the concerns of the residents that he has been tasked to manage transportation for.

    The idea that an entire building of residents could show up to Community Board meetings (looking at you CB2), plead their case, explain that this will cause more traffic and remove parking spaces for the residents who already live there and have lived there for decades, is sad, and reeks of a deeper more nefarious plot to weaken Community Boards, their impact on how the city operates, and give a voice to newcomers and gentrifiers who have far less of a stake that long time communities.

    Furthermore, using the death of a child in order to justify changing the fabric of a community is a particularly vile move on the part of the DOT, especially since the death of the infant had nothing to do with residential traffic, and more to do with the vehicular police chase of the suspect, which resulted in the tragic incident that took place at Gates and Vanderbilt.

    Fort Greene and Clinton Hill: You have a voice and a vote. Use it when you have the chance.

    And for those of you who don’t know, CB Meetings are recorded and are on YouTube. The Transportation Committee for CB2 does not have clean hands here and have not for quite some time. The only thing they care about is getting rid of cars, and anything that furthers that goal, will get the thumbs up from them, regardless of how it impacts the neighborhood.

  8. This man and his letter are further examples of the need to build HOME OWNERSHIP opportunities in NYC – invested residents look out for each other, the neighborhood, the future. Thank you Dr. Rock, YOU RÖCK 🤘🏼#middleClass #homeownership #nyc

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Rock — and thank you for your voice. The level of disrespect is Off. The. Chart. I have never seen, heard or experienced such disdain for a community. They don’t care and go so far as to expose themselves in public (CB2 meetings, PS 20). If I didn’t like the people in whose neighborhood I planned to move, I would stay where I was and begin to research another location to invade. To move somewhere and then begin privatizing streets and other public areas all while treating longtime residents like we don’t exist is nothing short of colonization 2022. What’s happening in our community is an infestation of privilege, entitlement, supremacy, greed and disrespect. As Concerned Black Native NYer reminds us (and yes it is all political): look at our current elected officials, remember when they come up for re-election and pay close attention. They have totally abandoned the very same people who helped them win their seats. Shame on them! Our longtime, tax paying, law abiding, concerned citizen voices are just as, if not more, important than the noise that seems to be drowning us out. And, still we rise.

  10. Thank you, Dr. Rock. I completely agree with these sentiments, as well as many of the comments expressed here. I am a Black woman in my late 30s, and a native Brooklynite who grew up in East Flatbush and has lived in Fort Greene for the last 10 years. Home ownership seems completely unobtainable for me at this point. The influx of high-rise rental buildings in this neighborhood are also a clear signal to me that folks who look like me need to get in where we fit in, or find somewhere else to go—where, I don’t know. Imagine wanting to spend your golden years in peace, in a neighborhood you’ve been a contributing member to for years, and no one really gives a damn about your well-being.

  11. Pedestrian streets and plazas have been what brings people together for milleniums. We are meant to live around them, not on sidewalks or on streets full of cars. Cities are built around plazas because they allow for humans to meet without any commercial or business end goal. In France where I’m from, the villages who are decreasing in population are the ones with only roads and no plazas. Same in the US. I also personally don’t see any ageism or racism in this decision but only an attempt at making the neighborhood more liveable, based on research and facts. It’s a far stretch calling it “disrespect” in my opinion.

    1. This is actually the exact “we know better than you” attitude that we’ve been describing, ad nauseam.

      Coming in to preexisting neighborhoods, pushing out the natives economically or otherwise, and then claiming that they’re striving towards some European based utopia that doesn’t actually exist.

      You’re the modern Christopher Columbus types of this era, you just don’t want to accept it because it makes you think about the privilege you actually have and heaven forbid you feel bad about it…I mean it’s your right, you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t break the law or break it too flagrantly without some sort of legal muscle behind it, right?

      Anyways…

      If you’re Black and from Brooklyn, you need to understand this: the above commenter is NOT your ally. She, much like the people who identify with this kind of thinking are in it for themselves. The goal is what it’s been for at least 20 years in FG/CH, to remove us from the playing field and take back what was discarded decades ago.

      Notice the language used here as well, as if a community didn’t exist here before.

      Christopher Columbus Syndrome 101

      Remember this when Crystal Hudson is up for reelection again. If you pay close attention, Hudson has been avoiding this thing like the plague because she knows it’s the difference between the gentrifier vote (reelection) and being sent back to Seattle to do whatever she was doing before. She will allow the DOT to do what it wants, all while claiming that she is about “transparency”, because much like that “Community Meeting” at PS 20, she’s not really built for the whole addressing the concerns of the community shtick, especially when it’s easier to do fluff pieces and hide behind skewed DOT trickery amongst other things.

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