We Want To Hear From You, Here . . .

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Dramaturg Jocelyn Clark
Photo: Michael Premo

Brooklyn, USA is a proud layered tangle of diverse communities, united by – if nothing else – a love for the borough.  Over the past couple months The Civilians have been intently listening to people passionately sharing stories about their neighborhoods and the development reshaping our communities.  New York City is in a constant state of change.  The process and powers represented – or not represented – in how it occurs is an important theme running through every chapter of the cities history.   As students in one of our Community Labs discussed, many of the issues in the contemporary story of NYC development are not new.  Change is, arguably, a vital force in the kinetic energy that electrifies the city.  With such a richly layered history rooted deeply in the fabric of our city, change that threatens to dig up that history and build anew  has the potential for seismic reverberations.

Countless hours of interviews were recorded with people across the political, social, and class spectrum from tenants to homeowners, developers, business owners, business patrons, politicians, community organizers, the dispossessed, the displaced, the old, the new, the elderly, the youth, and on through the spectrum.  Our ears were wide open to all as we traversed the borough block-by-block, listening to people in their homes, and around their neighborhood at cafe’s, bars, restaurants, bodegas, community gardens, barber shops, church basements and community centers.  Some were more forthcoming then others, all had something to say.

This part of The Civilians process is called the investigation phase.  It is just the first step in our process as we explore the complicated layers of community and community change.  Take a moment to peruse through some of the excerpts posted here.  They represent just a fraction of the stories  and opinions we heard.  Some of the stories here represent a voice often visibly absent from popular media.

Today our work-in-progress presentation of Brooklyn At Eye Level opens at the Brooklyn Lyceum.  As a part of The Civilians Investigation phase we invite you to share your own stories or reflections on the performance, by posting a comment below.  Please use this space to share your own neighborhood stories, or thoughts on your community and the dynamics of change you’ve experienced.  We are also interested to hear reactions to stories in our presentation, keeping in mind that this is the first iteration of a series of outcomes.  Were there stories you hadn’t heard before or pieces you felt were missing, for example? I ask that you reserve comments about the specifics and details of the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yard’s Project to other blogs.  If  you would like to make comments privately please email us at projects (at) thecivilians.org.

- Michael Premo, Project Coordinator

Brooklyn at Eye Level
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

2 Responses to “We Want To Hear From You, Here . . .”

  1. Bob Says:

    I attended the performance on Saturday afternoon December 6 and was impressed with the entire production. I’m not from Brooklyn but Upstate New York, Albany to be exact. I grew up in Troy New York about seven miles east of Albany and could relate to how land development can hurt communities. The performance reminded me of several instances in my own life where developers, politicians and community leaders can change vital neighborhoods and not always for the better. There are two instances that come to mind that I want to share with you.

    First, my god-parents who were of Italian descent were asked to move from their ethnic neighborhood in Troy New York to make room for the new highway the New York State Transportation Department was going to put through their neighborhood. To make a long story short, after purchasing most all of the properties the State demolished most of the homes surrounding my god-parents. My god-parents refused to sell and stayed in their modest home. After a very long time the State gave up on the project and deemed it too costly and unnecessary. Meanwhile a neighborhood is no longer.

    Second, when I was in high school we frequented the local pool hall, a local restaurant that was a hang-out for teenagers, watched movies in one of several movie houses in town and/or shopped in many owner-operated stores in downtown Troy New York. Well, our governmental and community leaders who also participated in the decisions about that unneeded highway decided we needed an urban mall. All of the local business and social establishments were demolished to make room for progress in our community. Today those places we frequented in our youth and were part of a vibrant community are nothing more than a memory for to me and my friends. Meanwhile, the community lost its economic center.

    Thank you for your social and community activism as our communities need to be nurtured and cared just like children who live in them.

  2. Judi Says:

    You guys rock! How about doing a piece on the 20 year effort to get a park for Brooklyn (that has sadly turned into a private luxury condo “project”). “Brooklyn Bridge Park” – a sly appropriation of the word “park”. Call or write: judi@parkdefense.org