The February 15th meeting of Community Board 18 (CB18) centered around a disapproving letter from the board to the mayor over his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget and a heated debate over the co-naming of a stretch of Utica Avenue to “Guyana Avenue.”
Held at the board office in Georgetown at 1097 Bergen Avenue, this month’s meeting started out with a public hearing on the preliminary FY2024 budget’s community board request, to which there was a unanimous response in opposition. A letter to the mayor was written to reflect this.
“This letter of comment reflects another futile effort to direct adequate goods and services from the city toward our struggling middle class community and crumbling infrastructure,” CB18 District Manager Sue Ann Partnow read from the letter out loud. “The board members and the community at large share their reactions with a unanimous vote to reject the canned responses received from the agencies to our FY2024 register of community board requests.”
Several of the requests made by the board on behalf of the community were denied, with the city saying they either required further inspection or would be tabled until a later budget.
One such request was made of the Department of Transportation to reconstruct streets and repair and expand storm sewers. According to the letter, the landfill that much of the community district was built atop is crumbling, resulting in sinkholes, flooding, damaged streets and sewer backup.
“The responses we received varied from, ‘The location needs to be investigated’ or ‘This request requires further study’ or ‘This request cannot be funded in FY2024, resubmit for reconsideration in FY2025,’” Partnow read from the letter.
The board had also requested that the 63rd Precinct stationhouse, which serves the western side of the district, be relocated or receive repairs to its old building.
There have been some talks of moving the precinct to a location behind the Sam Ash music store on Flatbush Avenue, Bylaws Committee Chairperson Frank Seddio said. However, there had not been a strong effort to give the precinct a new home, according to the letter.
“Modern, adequately equipped and sized police precincts are essential to good policing,” Partnow continued to read.
The board passed a motion to approve the letter and submit it to the city.
Following this discussion, CB18 Chairperson Michael Ien introduced a report about a proposed co-naming of a section of Utica Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Avenue H to “Guyana Avenue.”
This stretch also runs through Community Boards 9 and 17, both of which already agreed to the plan. Two of the organizers who are trying to get the street co-named, Derrick Arjune and James Richmond, were present to make their case.
“This initiative is designed to celebrate the achievements of the Guyanese community in Brooklyn and also to celebrate its strong affinity to this wonderful Brooklyn community,” Arjune said.
He went on to discuss some of the achievements of the local Guyanese community, including the late Shirley Chisholm, who was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and Leslie MacDonald-Holder, who was prominent in Brooklyn politics.
What the two expected to be a quick approval, however, turned into a heated debate when CB18 Youth Committee Chairperson Terri Cadet-Donald pointed out that several other countries live along that stretch and would essentially be erased by the co-naming.
“To me, personally, personally, that’s a very long stretch and there’s more countries other than Guyana that are represented along that stretch,” Cadet-Donald said. “So, while I love the idea, I just think that that’s too long of a stretch.”
She went on to ask the organizers if they would consider co-naming a shorter portion of Utica Avenue, much to the support of fellow board members. The two said they would not be willing to reduce their ask, as they were trying to celebrate Guyanese success in the community, which they said is concentrated along that street.
As a result, the board voted 16-15 in favor of tabling the co-naming vote until the next meeting to give people more time to discuss and come up with solutions.