In under three hours, Mayor Bill de Blasio managed to promise Sheepshead Bay residents everything from new bus shelters and $20 million for updated/expanded sewer infrastructure to free adult literacy classes and a twice-per-year deployment of “skimmer vessels” to clean floating trash from the bay’s inlet. Whether any of these things come to fruition remains to be seen, but residents left hopeful and pleased that they’d been heard.
City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay) co-hosted the Town hall, which featured dozens of leaders from various city agencies like sanitation, transportation, and schools. It is the latest in City Hall’s ongoing events in different neighborhoods. Over 250 people attended the overflow event in PS 811’s cafeteria and auditorium.
“It is important to tackle the nitty gritty quality of life issues, whether that’s a blocked driveway or marijuana smoking,” Deutsch told the crowd before touting some recent achievements of his own — $200,000 for extra trash pickups, over $15 million for renovations and improvements to local parks and playgrounds, and an increased income threshold for eligibility to receive certain senior and homeowner discounts.
Located on Brooklyn’s southeastern coast, the 48th Council District is home to a diverse range of immigrant communities, senior citizens, city workers, and multi-generational families. Its distance from most subway lines leads to quality of life and affordability issues to take precedence for many residents.
Among the local elected officials that attended the event included State Sen. Roxanne Persaud, Assemblymembers Steve Cymbrowitz and Helene Weinstein, District Attorney Eric Gonzales and Democratic District Leader Ari Kagan.
Quality of life issues did indeed dominate the line of questioning that ensued: Can the city provide training in trades, family ESL programs, and after-school programs? Why aren’t voting pamphlets not translated into Russian? Cars are making illegal U-turns and hitting people. Can you fix the broken curbs so seniors don’t trip and fall? Can you add more bus shelters and bus stops? When will our schools get air conditioners? Why aren’t bikes allowed on the Coney Island Boardwalk after 10 a.m.? Will there be more affordable and senior housing coming? Why, after Hurricane Sandy, do we still not have an evacuation plan or a resiliency plan?
Yes, more Select Bus Service (aka express buses) buses would be coming to Kings Highway starting in the summer of 2018, said de Blasio, noting that an additional $20 million in upgrades would bring street medians between East 23rd and 27th Streets “by the end of November.”
In addition, the mayor and commissioners assured people that the aforementioned ESL classes would be coming “soon,” hosted by the city’s We Are New York project, broken sidewalk tree pits will be fixed, a “graffiti-free blitz” would be coming to Sheepshead Bay Road and Coney Island Avenue, election flyers would be translated and translators dispatched to poll sites, and air conditioners are on their way once electrical systems are updated. Bicycles would also be allowed on the boardwalk after 10 a.m. between Columbus Day and Memorial Day weekends.
Transportation Department Commissioner Polly Trottenberg added that she’s “working on” getting more disability-accessible services for Brooklynites, and made appointments with local residents to “talk a walk” with them to observe sidewalk and curb damage for herself ahead of having them fixed.
Regarding public safety, 61st Precinct Commanding Officer James King said police would do “more enforcement starting tomorrow” at dangerous intersections, and the mayor announced that the 61st Precinct would also be joining the list of NYPD precincts with a Neighborhood Community Officer program in January, 2018. The program is touted as a way to improve police-community relations by having specific officers assigned to specific streets, where they interact with residents and build trust on a regular basis.
For a neighborhood hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the community is still struggling to get back on its feet, and de Blasio’s assertion that $20 million would be funneled into updating the area’s sewer infrastructure was met with cheers, as was Deutsch’s announcement that “check valves” for individual home sewer lines — to prevent flooding — would be available for free through his office. De Blasio also promised that all the houses at Lake Avenue Courts would have their raised foundations fixed by spring.