Safer Passage to Bushwick Schools

Plus: Comptroller Stops By Bklyn. Board 4

An effort to make Bushwick students’ walks to schools safer and a surprise visit from City Comptroller John Liu were the highlights of the Brooklyn Community Board 4 meeting held last Wednesday, June 20 at the Hope Gardens Senior Center.

Department of Transportation (DOT) consultant Albert Yam (standing) explains the agency’s plans for improvements to intersections near four Bushwick schools to Brooklyn Community Board 4 at its Wednesday, June 20 meeting at the Hope Gardens Community Center.

Albert Yam, a consultant working for the city Department of Transportation (DOT), unveiled plans for improvements to the streets around four Bushwick schools-J.H.S. 291, I.S. 383, P.S. 116 and P.S. 86-under the third phase of the Safe Routes to Schools initiative.

The schools were chosen after studies that focused on helping students get to and from class in a safer fashion.

For J.H.S. 291, located at 231 Palmetto St., the agency is proposing what they call “neckdowns”-sixfoot extensions to the sidewalk into the street-at three of the four intersections (Gates Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue, Knickerbocker Avenue and Palmetto Street, and Palmetto

Street and Wilson Avenue.

The neckdowns are designed to shorten the distance a pedestrian needs to travel to safely cross the street while simultaneously working to slow traffic.

At I.S. 383, at 1300 Greene Ave., the DOT would install extend the sidewalk across Greene Avenue at Myrtle Avenue out to a small traffic island in the center of the street.

At P.S. 116, at 515 Knickerbocker Ave., two neckdowns would be installed at Menahan Street and Knickerbocker Avenue, and at Knickerbocker Avenue and Grove Street.

Finally, at P.S. 86, located at 220 Irving Ave., neckdowns would be installed at Harman Street and Irving Avenue, and at Greene and Irving avenues.

A total of five parking spaces would be lost in Bushwick as part of the project, which would begin in summer 2013 and take several months to complete.

Yam told Board 4 that the DOT ahs run computer simulations to ensure that trucks and emergency vehicles would be able to travel through the area safely with the neckdowns installed.

Board 4 voted to endorse the parks plan.

New parks and old parks

Plans for a new park at Garden and Beaver streets are being made thanks to community input, Robert Camacho of Board 4’s Parks Committee announced.

A survey of local residents about possibilities for the land (commonly known at the “Rheingold site” as it is part of the development at the former brewery) found that they favored a children’s play area and a passive space for area residents. A dog run at the site is also a possibility.

Board 4 voted on a resolution supporting the transfer of the site from the Bureau of Housing Preservation and Development to the city Parks Department.

Turning to another park issue, Public Safety Committee Chairperson Barbara Smith told Board 4 that residents of the Hope Gardens development have been seen grilling in the outdoor gardens in violation of the rules of the site.

While there are stationary grills sprinkled throughout the area, bringing your own grill is not allowed, and Smith noted that the NYPD will issue summonses for the infraction.

Board 4 voted for a resolution calling for signs to be placed throughout the area reminding residents of the rules.

Comptroller comes to Bushwick

“My office has been focused on reducing and eliminating wasteful spending in city government,” Liu told the crowd, using the infamous CityTime contract as an example.

He announced that after an investigation, the contractor for CityTime returned approximately $500 million to the city.

In addition, if the city had not lost an additional $163 million on the contract to install an upgraded 911 system, “there would be no outcry about these closures of day care centers” that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had proposed in the city budget, according to Liu.

He also told Board 4 that a refinancing of city debt has resulted in an additional $101 million for use.

The comptroller then turned to “income disparity,” proclaiming that the top one percent of earners saw a 65-percent increase in income from 2004 to 2007.

“We want to make sure that when we recover economically,” he said, “everyone shares.”

Fighting for ‘food justice’

Sean-Michael Fleming of EcoStation: NY updated Board 4 on his efforts to spread “urban agriculture and food justice” throughout Bushwick.

The five-year-old organization runs the Bushwick Farmers’ Market, which serves residents three days a week in five Bushwick locations, selling produce that comes from farms within a 150-mile radius.

The markets are not just designed for commerce, according to Fleming.

“We’re also trying to educate [residents] on where that food comes from,” he said, “and the impact of how you spend your food dollars on the environment and the economy.”

Many supermarkets tend to stock more processed foods, he added, as well as produce from farms “that don’t support their workers.”

EcoStation has also secured a federal grant for a mobile unit that would help the area “reach further into the neighborhood.” When it is purchased, it will be retrofitted to use vegetable oil and solar power.

Finally, the group has also set up what Fleming has dubbed the “Farm In the Sky,” a 14,000-sq. ft. space on the roof of Brooklyn Fire Proof, a studio facility at 119 Ingraham St. that is currently growing herbs and “microgreens” which are being sold to area restaurants.

“That is going to be greatly expanded this season,” he told Board 4.

The Farm In The Sky is also home to bee hives being tended to by volunteer beekeepers.

Finally, EcoStation is also running the Bushwick Campus Farm, a year-old farm at the Bushwick High School Campus that invites students from all four schools in the Grand Street facility to volunteer. Currently, 10 students are employed as part of a summer program.

“The work that we’re doing with the students has exceeded, I believe any expectations I’ve ever had,” said Dee Rooney, one of the volunteers at Bushwick Campus Farm and one of the beekeepers at the Farm in The Sky. “I was overjoyed and warmed to the core with how engaging and how, it seems, some of the students are really thirsty for the experience, and they keep coming back.”

Rooney revealed that some of the greens served at Hope Gardens Senior Center prior to the Board 4 meeting was harvested at Bushwick Campus Farm “about an hour ago.”

“We are training the next generation of environmental and food justice leaders,” Fleming remarked.

Other news

District Manager Nadine Whitted announced that Board 4’s new offices at 1420 Bushwick Ave. will open on July 16.

Board 4 will next meet in September.

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