District 1 shown in orange, illustration courtesy of luventicus.org
Brooklyn’s community district 1 encompasses Williamsburg and Greenpoint, two neighborhoods in the middle of tumultuous changes. The area, which has been the frontier of New York’s gentrification in the last couple of decades, had 142,942 residents in 1980 and 160,338 in 2000. The latter was the latest reported number, leaving one to wonder exactly how many new residents have arrived within the last eleven years. The area has served as a jumping ground to local artists for decades but has lately made headlines when residents complain the neighborhood is losing its originality.
The community board for district 1 meets monthly to discuss plans, ideas and problems concerning the area. The fairly young average age of the district’s residents – 30 percent of them are between the ages of 25 and 44 - is reflected on the issues brought up in the meetings. In April’s meeting, for example, over forty bars and restaurant applied for liquor licenses and renewals. Other issues included requests to open a martial arts club, a sidewalk café and a taxi service. The latter was presented to the board by David Yassky, chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, who claimed that getting a yellow cab in Brooklyn is difficult and forces about 150,000 people a day to hail down unlicensed “gypsy cabs”. The solution to the problem, according to Yassky, would be a legitimate taxi service that would provide the neighborhood with marked cars that could be stopped on the go.
Community board 1 has influenced a bigger project as well. In 2005, mayor Bloomberg’s administration approved a rezoning plan concerning the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. This plan will eventually result in 50 acres of new parkland along the East River, including a 1.6-mile long public esplanade. The community board has had its share of complaints about the changing neighborhoods, and hopes are high for the new waterfront plans. According to the waterfront master plan, the changes are intended to “create a balance between active and passive recreation opportunities to serve the diverse recreation needs of the community.” The vision, which was developed with the help of the community board 1 and is a significant step in the ongoing gentrification of the area, will undoubtedly prove to be a much-discussed topic in the years to come.
Illustration of the upcoming Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront, by Donna Walcavage