Dean Street Party
The Dean Street Block Association Has a Party
A few days before March 23 I got an e-mail form Gail Mohammed inviting me to a party of people who are members of the Dean Street Block Association. It was to be held at King Tai on Bergen Street right off of Nostrand Avenue and was to run from 3pm to 7pm. I was delighted to accept for several reasons. First the invitation was sent to me and Robyn Berland, President of the Friends of Brower Park, someone whom I like and with whom I have had business to do. The Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association ran a piece about the killing of her dog Ralphie by an off leash dog coming out of Brower Park. Then later we covered a meeting called at the Brooklyn Children's Museum to talk about what response to make to the killing, if any. That meeting involved a lot of shouting and disagreement but sadly accomplished nothing. Also Gail told me that it was Jerome Michaux who recommended I be invited to the party, and Jerome is also someone I like. He is director of Little Brothers, a wonderful organization that sets up monthly visits to the elderly who are in danger of isolation. I went on these visits three times and wrote something about them twice. I twice went with Alisha, yet another person I like a lot, and then a third time with Methinee someone I know from church. I also wrote about Little Brothers' new edition of its resource booklet, a slim volume filled with useful information. I also discovered during the day of March 23 that Shirley Mondesir would be at the party. I met her at Diana Richardson's Civic Minded meeting earlier in the afternoon. She is president of the St. Marks Independent Block Association, and I got to know her by visiting one of the meetings of her association. She came to my photography show at Black Lady Theatre, which is where we first connected.
However, the most important reason I wanted to go was because I have been sitting on the By Laws committee of the Lincoln Civic Block and I have been wondering what goes on at other block associations in Crown Heights. A party is not the same thing as a meeting of the association but in terms of the spirit of the organization, a party can reveal a lot. And in this case it did just that. When I found King Tai, I was no more than a step inside the door when a man arose and welcomed me. He figured out who I was, and we talked a while and then he saw to it that I met several other people. First he put me together with Gail Mohammed and I had a good talk with her at the bar. She has been involved in the association for a long time and had a good idea of its history going back thirty or forty years. She introduced me to someone who she said was the “Historian” of the association. Both of them talked well about the past, but what impressed me even more was their easy comraderie with the many younger people at the party. On Lincoln Place there is a good deal of tension between some of the older residents and the younger ones though of course it is not as simple as that. However, I can't imagine a party in which there is easy back and forth between the two groups. At King Tai the atmosphere seemed friendly and relaxed. I wondered if this atmosphere transferred to the block meetings. I asked the man who had greeted me at the door about this, and he told me yes. I asked about the rules for voting and running for office and attendance. He seemed to be a bit vague about these. His version was whoever shows up decides what is to be done. I asked about voting and he said there are not that many votes. The meetings usually come to a consensus and, once people have agreed, they act. At LCBA agreement is hard to come by, and action is even more rare. What has the LCBA decided to do this year? Revise the By Laws but it may be there will not be much revision. Fight against the renovation of a building at 615 Eastern Parkway? It seems we may have loss that one. After that the accomplishments are pretty minor. An award to various women who have contributed to the association in honor of women's month, and then what? I am racking my brains.
Another thing I like about Dean Street was its openness to outsiders. I was invited but I soon met a young woman who lives on St. Johns Place, and unlike the people who live on Dean Street, she can vote for my Trees Proposal because she lives in Laurie Cumbo's 35th District. She is a food writer and moved in only last November. She asked for contact information for the St. Johns Block Association, which I supplied, but what I liked is that she is new to Crown Heights but is rapidly finding her way. No one is telling her to wait her turn. The neighborhood is wide open to her, and she is delighted to be finding out about it, whether on St. John or with her friend on Dean Street or at the coffee shop Colina Cuervo, which both she and I simultaneously declared to be our office.
What I liked about what I found out about Dean Street was that the people liked each other, they were not legalistic, they wanted to do things and as soon as they decided what should be done, they did it. Not bad, not bad at all. What a great definition of community!
– John DeWind