On Tuesday night, I attended my first Crow Hill Community Association meeting (I'm ashamed to admit that it took me nearly two years). Held at LaunchPad instead of CHCA's usual location at the Haitian-American Day School on Bedford and St. John's, the meeting drew a sizeable crowd (standing room only if you got in the door) and provided a wealth of information about the Association's efforts to promote and improve the neighborhood.
Members of Community Board 8 and the 77th Precinct Community Council were on hand to explain their responsibilities, answer questions (everything from cleaning up after dogs to notifying neighbors when group homes are created), and encourage people to get involved. A representative from the US Census also spoke, urging residents to complete the 2010 Census forms that are arriving at homes this month. As she told us, New York City's median participation rate (by neighborhood) in the Census is typically around 60%, with Central Brooklyn well under that. Census data is used allocate funding and services (schools, precincts, and sanitation are all affected), as well as to determine districts for political representation, so please, FILL OUT YOUR CENSUS FORM. Crown Heights in particular contains two groups that have notoriously low rates of response -- immigrant communities that include undocumented individuals, and transient young people new to the area -- and for every person not counted, approximately $30,000 of cumulative funding and services are lost per year (and they aren't counting again until 2020).
After providing a forum for these speakers, the CHCA team offered up a bit of their own history and current activities. Founded 25 years ago as an umbrella organization for local block groups that have since withered, the CHCA is the primary neighborhood association for Franklin and Bedford between Eastern and at Atlantic. They've spent their quarter-century working as advocates for the area, doing everything from placing planters and trees on Franklin to improving local sewers and curb cuts to convincing the NYPD to put the Skywatch next to Nam's and make Franklin an "impact zone." They're currently working on a series of new campaigns for their 25th Anniversary, which include sponsoring the Crown Heights Oral History Project, helping facilitate the creation of a Franklin Avenue Merchants Association (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info), talking with the Bedford Avenue Chase branch about funding local entrepreneurs, and planning a big spring clean-up that will bring more planters and trees to Franklin.
The overall vibe was great on Tuesday night, with pastries and coffee provided by both Pulp & Bean and Breukelen Coffee House (who says we can't all get along?) and the art from LaunchPad's silent auction smiling down on us (those of us who missed the Pencil Party also got our drawing-on-the-walls fix). Still, talk is cheap -- what cemented my support of the Crow Hill Community Association was waking up this morning to the smell of fresh mulch and the sight of new trees going up at Franklin and St. Marks. I don't know if they planned it this way, but they promised new trees, and they delivered two days later!
To learn more about CHCA, visit their website and consider becoming a member (dues are $30 per year, $20 for students and seniors). They meet every third Tuesday of the month.