Residents demand inclusion in new DoBro tenants coalition

03/29/2011
Daniel Bush
Brooklyn Downtown Star

The closed-door meeting of a new tenants' group in Downtown Brooklyn sparked protest from longtime residents who fear they're being left behind as the neighborhood expands.

Members of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) rallied outside of the Sheraton Brooklyn on Duffield Street last week, as stakeholders gathered inside to lay the groundwork for a new coalition to reflect the area's booming population.

Organizers said it would be a broad-based group devoted to the concerns of tenants in the neighborhood's new upscale towers and those of public housing residents alike.

“It's not just for new residents of the neighborhood,” said Mike Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, adding that the smaller, invitation-only meeting was designed to facilitate discussion, not exclude anyone.

“We felt that a larger meeting would” have hampered dialogue, he said.

The planning session was attended by tenant association leaders from the Ingersoll, Farragut and Whitman houses, Weiss noted. Neverthless protesters worried the needs of low-income residents could still fall by the wayside.

The greater Downtown Brooklyn area has lost a supermarket and small businesses since it was rezoned to make way for the large-scale development that has brought thousands of new residents to the area.

Much of the affordable housing promised in the 2004 rezoning has yet to materialize, while housing advocates warn that displacement has become a growing problem.

“The big developers are trying to run us out of town,” said Arnetha Singleton, who's lived at 5 Fleet Walk for the past 33 years.

“This is our community and we're here to stay,” said FUREE member Lillian Green. “As our new wealthy neighbors get organized, we insist that the voice of low-income families are included.”

Councilman Steve Levin said that's the plan.

“This coalition needs to be as broad as possible and that includes residents of NYCHA and the broader Downtown Brooklyn community,” he said. “It's in everyone's interests to work together.”