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.”