Residents in High-Rise Buildings Get Organized

A few leaders are preparing to make the voices of as many as 15,000 residents heard.

Meet Fort Greene’s new powerhouse constituency: the residents of the high-rise condos that dominate the Brooklyn skyline.

They number as much as 15,000 — including the towers in Downtown Brooklyn — and their new drive to get organized is already resulting in meetings with local politicians and representatives from city agencies.

A shooting at the that shattered several windows of the Oro on Gold Street led to an “emergency meeting” with Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene, and top cops at the 84th Precinct.

Residents of the BellTel Lofts secured a meeting with the Department of Education after their outcry over a dearth of schools near the building.

And on March 24 representatives from nine condos will convene with at least six local pols — including state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Fort Greene, and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, D-Bedford-Stuyvesant — in the first major step towards organizing the thousands of new residents living in new buildings like the Avalon, the Toren, 1 Hanson Place, DKLB BKLN and the Brooklyner.

New schools, better lighting, supermarkets, safety, and even a dog run are expected to be on the agenda.

“Given the number of people, we should definitely have a council of residents with representatives from each building,” said Mike Weiss, the executive director of the MetroTech business improvement district and one of the principle organizers of the new residents. “They’ll be involved in community planning, networking, and some concerted action.”

And the number of people living in the towers on the edge of Fort Greene and in Downtown is increasing at a remarkable pace. The population of Downtown has increased to 12,000 from just 400 in 2000, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Several public officials interviewed said that the movement to organize picked up steam after the mid-January shooting that resulted in bullet holes through the windows of two vacant apartments at the Oro, as well as a garage window.

“The issue of security wasn’t at the forefront of their minds — obviously, now it is,” said James.

But Francesca Sorenti, who, along with Weiss, is spearheading the movement to organize residents of the assorted condos, said that the plan had been in the works since she moved into the Belltel Lofts in 2008. Still, she noted the need to bridge the gap between the well-heeled residents of the new towers — a one-bedroom at the Toren sells for around $400,000  — and the mostly poor or working-class residents of the public houses mere blocks away.

“We have to break down the barriers, we have to find some common denominator that starts to melt down the hate,” said Sorrenti. “It’s about people helping people — call me an idealist!”

James and Sorrenti both said that there is frustration among some of the residents of the high-rises because they were told by brokers fanciful tales about changes coming to the neighborhood — and some residents apparently believed them.

“One broker told me Donald Trump was thinking of buying the Ingersol Houses and knocking them down — are you kidding me?” said Sorrenti.

James said this type of story is not uncommon.

“They were sold a bill of goods, and all of the things that were put forth have not been delivered,” she said. “They were promised library, schools, safety and more — it appears none of those tangibles have been delivered to those residents.”

But this month’s meeting could mark the moment when the residents begin to make their voices heard.

“Elected officials need to be called upon to recognize new people,” Weiss said. “We all need to understand what their needs are.”

Ellen Silbermann March 08, 2011 at 11:34 AM
As a resident of one of these buildings I would like to know how these reps are being selected. I have returned to the neighborhood after moving into Manhattan in the 70's. I returned because I love it - and while I am part of a new wave of gentrification, I don't want to lose the diversity that makes it vibrant. Good schools and supermarkets are needed to serve everyone.
Joe Gonzalez March 08, 2011 at 04:44 PM
It's too damn bad that it took a shooting to jog these new residents to action. The fact of the matter is that many of these folks were lied to in an effort to get them to relocate to this area. Many were told falsely that the area housing projects were going to be torn down thereby creating more space for these newly arrived people to spread out . Since that has not happened they are now very angry and they do not want to sent their kids to local schools either. So maybe their sudden interest in civic affairs might be a good thing. We will have to wait and see just what is on their agenda. Stay tuned.
Mister A March 08, 2011 at 05:16 PM
This is absolutely sickening. "Catering to the rich" doesn't even begin to cover it. Really disgusting
gate27 March 09, 2011 at 07:57 PM
i encourage residents of the new buildings to come to http://www.commoncharges.com and to sign up and be heard. the site is a new downtown brooklyn discussion forum meant to enable residents of these new buildings to come together and discuss common, neighborhood issues.
Raul March 12, 2011 at 04:49 AM
Our elected representatives are mostly chosen in Democratic primaries that have extremely low turnout. Our Assemblyman, Hakeem Jeffries, got into office after challenging Roger Green, an entrenched incumbent who eventually left after being convicted of corruption. After Green left, Jeffries won decisively in an open primary. He has quickly gained a reputation for succeeding to pass some important legislation. He has faced no strong electoral challengers since his first victory in 2006. Tish James got into office after the previous Council rep was murdered in City Hall. Tish beat his brother, and has been a forceful personality ever since.
Maisha Morales March 25, 2011 at 05:34 AM


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