Central Brooklyn Weathers Stop And Frisk, "Gentrification," Hospital Closings And Other Woes

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Ken Thompson made history by ousting Charles Hynes as D.A.

[Central Brooklyn: State Of Siege]

A siege,  according  to one definition in the American Heritage Dictionary is --  a prolonged period of adversity ", "or a prolonged state of hardship"- which aptly describes Central Brooklyn which includes the embattled areas of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and East New York.

Here  are several major examples of a siege, related to personal safety, health, education, and housing.

Possibly, the most obvious pressing condition, with impact on a large number of the residents is the NYPD's practice of "Stop, Question and Frisk".  From 2002 through 2013 a total of four million New York City residents were stopped.

The peak was 1st quarter of 2012, when 203,500 were stopped and the lowest, 4th quarter in 2003 at 44,382.

Eighty percent stopped were Blacks and Latinos; 9 of 11 were completely innocent. Would you hazard a guess as to the feelings experienced by the observers of these  senseless, public, humiliating, disruptions to daily travel, compared to those directly subjected to "questioning"?     

Another element of the "siege",  with life-threatening potential , is the long struggle of Interfaith Hospital Medical Center serving primarily Central Brooklyn, that has surfaced during the past year with pending bankruptcy action, and community-union coalition rallying, attracting Mayoral support and governmental infusion of interim funds.

The severe physical  and mental health needs remind communities of the disappearance of St. Mary's Hospital and its well-located clinics. Are there medical services geographically accessible to meet  the documented needs of these communities - other than Downstate Medical and Long Island College Hospitals -- that are also targeted for sharp reduction?

On the educational front', same Central Brooklyn arena, a symbolic question is raised -- "what's up with" Boys and Girls High and the "quick-start"- of a new Mandela School for Social Justice to this site?

We know that the mix of its student admissions has undergone change. Contrast the situation to the Frank Mickens era, when the "High", its scholarship, the modern physical plant, and its athletics were the pride of the community. Yes, President Obama did visit another nearby site in October and praised Pathways in Technology Early College High School Tech or P-Tech High School. Since 2011, it has been sharing the  Albany Avenue space with Paul Robeson High that is not accepting first and second year students since it will be phased out. This school was formerly known as Alexander Hamilton H.S. (Oh, you weren't born yet ? ). I believe more residents know of Hamilton High than P-Tech!

Further, during mid-January, Governor Cuomo also lauded this same  P-Tech High School. And while you are making sense of that, consider the fact that there are less than 9% admission of African-Americans to Brooklyn Tech, the other specialty high School in the area. (Pardon, I digress).

Now, let's take a look at a most important Central Brooklyn siege issue.  Do you believe that gentrification has reached its full stature or that forthcoming affordable housing will be "affordable," or "forthcoming," and for whom? Who has the money to rent or purchase available affordables, which costs have now risen above the reach of middle-class earners?

The new City administration has this as a major challenge.

Now, back to, "Stop, Question, and Frisk" which clearly confronted more ethnic minorities in Central Brooklyn.  It took on a life of its own during mid-2013 as the mayoral campaign. To the surprise of many, including several astute observers of the political scene, highly publicized and moneyed early "front-runners" of Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson saw their campaigns fizzle over their tepid positions on "Stop, Question, and Frisk." (On the other hand, in Brooklyn, candidate Ken Thompson's aggressive and appropriate attacks were damaging to the incumbent D.A. Charles Hynes.)

Prior to that, a coalition of community-based advocates challenged the policy and practices of the New York City Police Department in its "Stop, Question, and Frisk" regime, developed momentum of petition drives, panel presentations city-wide, and gained increasing attention of the media.

The 2012 and 2013 numbers of stops by the police dropped, precipitously. There were no immediate or clear explanations as to the sharp change.

The initiation of the Federal (SDNY) court hearing of the class action suit Floyd v. NY did not garner constant attention during its six month duration. However, when the ruling from Federal Judge Shira  Scheindlin became known in August, the one item that struck alarm for then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly crowd related to the appointment of a federal monitor.

Subsequently, the City Council passage of a profiling bill did not diminish the momentum of candidate Bill de Blasio's campaign thrust. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 13 rejected the Bloomberg administration's motion to reverse Judge Scheindlin's decision, which had been stayed. However the Second Circuit will not return her to the case. In any case the City under de Blasio is dropping the Bloomberg appeal and settling the Floyd v. NY case.

November 19th statistics from the NYPD, mandatorily released to the City Council, indicated that Stop and Frisk encounters plummeted to 21,187  as compared to 105,988 of the same period in 2012.

As the end of Bloomberg's term neared, the clock ticked slowly as advocates for Stop and Frisk elimination looked towards other NYPD police abusive practices as well as identifying ways to reduce and refine the role of police presence that could be better performed by other professionals, in schools, in domestic violence and mental health situations and other cases.

With the appointment of William Bratton as Police Commissioner just prior to the Mayoral Inauguration, there was a community-wide watchful pause, with some minor but not muted opposition. Commissioner Bratton immediately and not surprisingly launched a public relations campaign with community oriented releases and engaging such public figures as Rev. Al Sharpton.

Former Federal Prosecutor Zachary Carter was appointed New York City's Corporation Counsel.

On January 30, at a press conference at the Brownsville Recreation Center, Mayor de Blasio announced withdrawal of the City's appeal of the Floyd decision. A teen center member remarked that he was "uncomfortable since it was necessary to watch my back for criminals and police".   

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