2016-12-21 / Front Page

Justice for All Coalition Gathers For Last Meeting Of 2016

By Thomas Cogan

The December meeting of the Justice for All Coalition was held in a community room at the Ravenswood Houses, a few blocks south of the Community Church of Astoria, 14-42 Broadway, where the previous month’s meeting was held.  That signaled the determination of the organization’s leader to make monthly meetings a traveling show, held in places throughout the surroundings of the church’s location on Broadway near 21st Street. 

This is especially the case since J4A is intent on growing and looks forward to handling what might be called the fortunate problem of having large enough meeting space for those turned out to hear its message about the peril of real estate development and related issues of neighborhood security.  During the meeting, an action timeline for the first half of 2017 was presented and explained, and there were discussions about the best ways of generating a body of citizens concerned with social stability and how they can retain it.

The need to move meetings around was emphasized early in the Ravenswood meeting by Kimberley Hutchinson.  She shared the front of the room with Yvette Kemp, who brought up the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), which was reviewed unfavorably at the November meeting and probably did worse at December’s.  She had more favorable regard for Edward Acton, an attorney who offered his services in November.  Though he was not present in December, his contact information was available:  telephone 347-697-5357 and email address, edwardjactonesq.@gmail.com

The action groups formed at the November meeting were given the task of creating committees that would work to enlarge J4A.  A woman who said she and her fellows from one committee that was formed have been gathering developers’ websites to discover evidence of their plans and activities.  Another woman, Sharon Cádiz, said developers are so rapacious they do things like trying to seize Roosevelt Park, close to

the Museum of Natural History, to put a residential tower in its place.  She remembered the crowded November meeting enthusiastically, but noticed that many were not at this meeting in December, which had a smaller turnout. 

Pat Dorfman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce said she was a useful ally in the effort to grow J4A because she can “wear people down” and get them to join.  Having attended promotional meetings for the BQX last spring, she found BQX to be a dubious scheme that to boot would probably compile the usual gamut of cost overruns.  She called it “transit for rich people of the future.”  She insisted it’s not a done deal, even if there are those who want to create the impression it is.  If it’s a threat to break up neighborhoods and church groups, let those neighborhoods and church groups get angry and fight it, she said.

The outreach action group from the November meeting had about a half-dozen members present in December.  Its leader was compiling a list of contacts that might overlap with the diversity group.  Ray Normandeau, charged with setting up domain names, said that Justice for All and J4A names abound on the Internet, and thus a domain name that is unique is needed.  To general approval, he proposed j4ac.us and said he would register it immediately online.  He was unsure about navigating his way through Facebook and Twitter, however, saying he needs a “Twitter expert” to show him the way.  Yvette Kemp said Parent-Teacher Associations should be a source of contact and their meetings attended because there’s a lot going on in school politics that J4A should be aware of.

Dr. Brown presented her timeline for the coming year, though for the meeting she concentrated on 2017’s first half.  One great goal is to develop a community plan, which would require her own research and public input.  Following community

visioning and education sessions in March and May, she needs it to have it ready to present to the public and politicians in June.  She said she has to identify sites for affordable housing before developers with different plans seize them.  She was particularly agitated about a lot across from Queensbridge Houses on 21st Street, where a developer has already arrived.  She said he should be approached and told he must build affordable housing there.  If that demand is rejected he should be marched upon and picketed, though in the style of Martin Luther King, without violence or disruption.

 As for politicians, she is thus far dissatisfied by what she sees as City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s inadequate attention to the matter, but intends to have a meeting with him and report on what she hopes is progress.  And Kimberly Hutchinson had a point of contention with the term affordable housing, finding it slippery, whereas low income housing is more direct.  She hoped no time would be wasted in 2017, since “2016 flew by us” and the new year mustn’t be taken for granted.

A woman in the back proclaiming her youth said she saw few other young persons at the meeting.  She had got wind of this one but said that hoping others would somehow find out about J4A meetings would be foolish.  “This room should be filled,” she said, but it wasn’t, neither with young nor old attendees.  Rita Normandeau replied to her, saying that generating interest is her responsibility too.  Normandeau called herself a “town crier” where she lives in Queensbridge and suggested to the young woman that she become one herself, talking to others about this meeting and meetings to come.  When another woman said that she has been spreading the information but with poor responses thus far, she was told that she and everyone else

must persist and make their listeners believe that these meetings and what comes out of them are in their interest.  Yvette Kemp told the young woman in the back that she should use social media to generate political interest, using Facebook or whatever sites appeal to her contemporaries.

Brown said the next meeting would be on Monday, January 23 at a location to be announced. She hoped that a NYCHA representative could be at that meeting.  Hutchinson said that flyers with information about the January 23 meeting would be ready at the Community Church, 14-42 Broadway, on Monday, January 9 between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m.  There and then they could be picked up and distributed throughout the neighborhoods.  Brown also asked for help getting out an email blast and got a few volunteers.  She needed and got phone callers too.

Sharon Cádiz brought the meeting to a close with something to remember.  “If we don’t have a plan for the future in the community,” she said, “we don’t have a future in the community.”   




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