ENY, Brownsville Discuss Economic Empowerment


Economic empowerment was the subject of the first Brownsville and East New York Economic Summit.

Lawmakers, community leaders and citizens gathered at Greater New Beginning Baptist Church in Brownsville to discuss ways to allow community members to become more involved in business and home ownership in their neighborhoods.

The Homeowners Association Inc. and Churches United for Worldwide Action Inc. hosted the event, which included economic, education and empowerment panels to encourage economic activity in East   New York residents and the community at-large.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Electeds from all levels of government attended the summit including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Brownsville, East New York, Coney Island), who spoke about the bi-partisan government spending bill. He spoke with optimism about what can be accomplished in Washington, despite describing the times “challenging.”

The congressman described the Democrats as “playing defense” in Washington. He compared the situation in Washington to the situation facing the residents of Brownsville and East New York who are being priced out of the neighborhoods.

Jeffries said bringing the community together is what will lead to success.

“We did a good job,” Jeffries said, “At the end of the day, as long as we continue to work together, I am confident we are going to get through this mess.”

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker
City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

Other government officials that attended were Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville) and City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brownsville, parts of East Flabush, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant). Both stressed the importance of economic involvement in their communities, as well as giving East New York residents a way of contacting their local government.

Walker said that the summit wasn’t the first time the community gathered to discuss economics and that it certainly wouldn’t be the last time.

“I always appreciate us being at the forefront, and that our eyes are always on the prize,” Walker said.

Albert Scott, the President of the Homeowners Association, said the event was inspired by Martin Luther King’s two-phase movement.

“The first phase was clearly voting rights and civil rights,” Scott said, “But the second phase was the economic justice phase in which he initiated the Poor People’s Campaign.”

Albert Scott leads a discussion on economic empowerment. Photo by RJ Sonbeek.

Scott said Brownsville and East New York share a common situation, which is cause for unification between the two areas of Brooklyn.

“We realize we have identical things going on, one we have a lot of attention, a lot of investment and a lot of new resident coming into our communities,” he said, “With that we see there’s some economic opportunities.”

Balancing social challenges with the economic opportunities is something Scott hoped was emphasized at the summit.

Reverend Earl Chester, the President of Churches United, said he felt it was important to partner with the Homeowners Association because of the importance of staying on top of issues facing communities.

Chester said he thought the summit was a way of bringing a divided community together.

“If we come together and reason and talk about the issue then we might be able to make things better,” he said.

He acknowledged that not all of the issues can be solved in one day, but that organizing is the best way to get a movement started.

According to Chester, better funding for the community would be the best way to lead an economic charge.

“I would like to see more funds put into the community,” he said, “It’s important that we start new businesses.”

Chester recalled a couple that would sell food on the street. He said those are the kind of people that need to be starting businesses in the community.

“If they and others could go to another level, things would improve,” he said.