Industry City's Newest Tenant Dedicated to "Seriously Delicious" Living

Serious Eats, a cooking and culinary culture website, will take over 9,000 square feet in Industry City this September. 

SUNSET PARK, BROOKLYN, NY — Industry City has a new tenant dedicated to the art of eating well, as reported last week by the Sunset Park VoiceSerious Eats, a website which describes itself as providing "definitive recipes, hard-core food science, trailblazing techniques, and innovative guides to essential food and drink anywhere and everywhere," will move into the complex in September.

In Brooklyn, a Forum Focuses the Fight Against Displacement

The road that led to last week’s Brooklyn Community Forum on Anti-Gentrification and Displacement at the Brooklyn Museum was long and winding, but its starting point is very clear. It began in early November of last year, when the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) published a petition demanding that the Brooklyn Museum, then newly under the leadership of Anne Pasternak, cancel its agreement to host the sixth annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit.

Salsa Dancing in Industry City? Protesters Say It's a Ploy for Community Support

Uprose led its second protest in two months objecting to a weekend event at the redeveloped site. 

SUNSET PARK, BROOKLYN — For the second time in two months, a group of protesters in Sunset Park picketed a weekend activity taking place inside Industry City, seeing in something seemingly innocuous a harbinger of community disruption down the road.

Activism Pays Off, as Brooklyn Museum Embraces Anti-Gentrification Forum

It's a testament to lengthy negotiations between the museum and activists.

Last November, anti-gentrification activists and artists protested the Brooklyn Museum as it played host to the 6th Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, which many observers—myself included—thought looked tone-deaf given the hurricane-force gentrification hitting the communities the institution claims to serve. This coming weekend, some of those same activists and artists will be inside the museum for an event of their own: The Brooklyn Community Forum on Anti-Gentrification and Displacement, set for Sunday, July 10.


 

BQX Has Sunset Park Residents Worried About Displacement

Officials from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) met with Sunset Park residents on Tuesday to discuss plans and opinions regarding the proposed Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX), a $2.5 billion streetcar that would run through Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront, reports Gothamist.

Some residents voiced their concern over being displaced due to the streetcar raising property values around its route from Sunset Park to Astoria, Queens.

Sunset Park Residents Call De Blasio's $2.5 Billion Streetcar "An Insult To Our Intelligence"

Crowding around a harried Economic Development Corporation volunteer on Tuesday, Sunset Park residents accused the city of insulting them with a $2.5 billion streetcar proposal they fear will cut through their manufacturing-dependent waterfront, accelerating displacement in a historically blue-collar neighborhood. 

"To come up with this offer that's going to solve all of our problems because it's pretty, that's an insult to our intelligence," said Maria Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park and a lifelong resident.

Are plastic-bag bans good for the climate?

Like cigarettes, plastic bags have recently gone from a tolerated nuisance to a widely despised and discouraged vice.

Last month, the New York City Council passed a 5-cent-per-bag fee on single-use bags handed out by most retailers. Last week, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a measure that would ban plastic bags from being dispensed by many retail businesses and require a charge of 10 cents or more for a recycled paper or reusable bag. The Massachusetts proposal may not become law this year, but it’s the latest sign that the plastic bag industry is losing this war. Already in Massachusetts, 32 towns and cities have passed bag bans or fees. So have at least 88 localities in California, including the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, plus cities and towns in more than a dozen other states and more than a dozen other countries.


Brilliant Youth Leadership: Interview with Elizabeth Yeampierre of UPROSE, part 2

Part two of two – Check out the first part of my interview with Elizabeth Yeampierre here.

UPROSE is a community organization in Brooklyn, New York working for climate justice. I’m lucky to be part of a youth-led organization in North Carolina (NC FIELD), so when Elizabeth started talking about how UPROSE supports youth (and elder!) leadership, I got excited. Here’s her take on how organizations can be nurturing inter-generational leadership:

EY: Leadership has to be inter-generational – we must stop dividing people up by age.  We define community by having everyone at the table. Our culture is not to send elders off to the nursing home – we love, respect and listen to them, and we love, respect and listen to young people too.  As people of African and Indigenous ancestry, being inter-generational is part of our cultural grounding, it is what makes us leaderful.

Elders get excited to see 14 and 15 year-olds facilitate a meeting. And young people get excited to hear their elders’ stories of struggle and resistance. Leaderful means there is enough room for all of us. Seeing everyone roll in together is much more powerful than having one or two people speak for everyone. Being inter-generationally leaderful also generates the best ideas and solutions.

FP: Many organizations would like to build more youth leadership, but don’t know how to get them involved or support their leadership. How do youth take leadership in UPROSE?

EY: Young people are on staff and on our board and are an integral part of decision-making. It’s really important to not minoritize youth by putting them into “youth programs.” They have to be integrated into leadership. Too often folks talk about young people in a way that infantilizes them, or patronize them by acting surprised when a young person has something brilliant to say. It’s just like the dynamic when white people say that a person of color is “so articulate” as if it’s something unusual. Like people of color, young people do have a unique lens and perspective that is necessary in any community setting. Inter-generational community building yields better local solutions.

Unfortunately , we often see that when there is a diverse group of young people together, that white youth committed to justice sometimes fail to check their privilege. Young people of color can and must speak for themselves and white youth committed to anti-racism really need to figure out whether they can be comfortable with stepping back. Climate change is urgent, and young people of color from frontline communities can no longer be used as poster children for a mainstream agenda. Climate change presents us with the opportunity to engage in transformation and build just relationships.

Sometimes people say they are leaders, but they don’t really know what that means. Leadership is about accountability. We are responsible for each other and to each other. We’re not leaders just because we say we are.  Community organizing is about accountability and lifting the collective, not self – it requires humility and often stepping back. Our relationships are going to be key to our survival as we take on the biggest crises in history.

FP: What advice do you have for youth who want to make a difference in their communities?

EY: Understand who went before you – our ancestors literally died so that you could walk through those doors. They died in the Trans-Atlantic Passage, in the Civil Rights era, and sacrificed everything so that we could use our skills and education to build and strengthen our communities. Honor your ancestors every day. Understanding who you came from helps you know that you are powerful. 

Whenever young people feel powerless, just look at the Black Lives Matter or the civil rights movement or divestment from South Africa – all have been led by young people. Every choice you make shows your power. That includes choices about how you live your life, consumer choices, everything. Young people have tremendous economic power- they set trends, and rarely use that power to change how corporations operate or what they consume.

This country pits generations against each other- from a young age we learn to compete instead of collaborate. Younger people want to push older people out and older people want to hold on to power. We must build and learn across generations. If we accepted the fact that each generation has much to learn and teach each other , we would be able to move faster to build a just society.

We need each other. Climate change is real and it’s here. We need to do this together, and we can do it lovingly, but we have to do it inter-generationally.

Find out more about UPROSE and its leaderful work for climate justice:  www.uprose.org

Interivew: Elizabeth Yeampierre and UPROSE’s struggle for climate justice

Recently I had the incredible good fortune to be able to interview Elizabeth Yeampierre, who is the Executive Director of UPROSE, a 50 year-old community organization in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York that has been working for climate justice since 2007. We met at a Climate Justice summit where she spoke about organizing in affected communities, and totally blew my mind. 

This is the first in a two-part interview; next week I’ll publish her thoughts and strategies for multi-generational organizing. 

FP: How did you first get involved with UPROSE? 

EY: I came on in 1996 when the organization was out of money and about to close its doors. I couldn’t let that happen – this was the only Puerto Rican-led organization in the community and it was something that was badly needed. We grew from no money or staff in 1996 to an organization that is a nationally known community-led environmental justice group.

FP: What led you to advocacy and justice work as a career?

EY:I experienced racism and discrimination first-hand growing up. I saw how my mom struggled. I wanted to use my education to keep those things from happening to others who were like me. I was lucky, my mom always told me that I would go to college, from the time I was a little girl. My family really celebrated its Afro-Caribbean heritage, and I grew up understanding that we came from a spiritual place of struggle. I took that feeling with me to law school. I didn’t really like law school, but as a woman of color I have been able to use my law degree to fight for justice. Growing up I had no idea of what opportunities might be available to me. We had such concrete ideas of what jobs we could have – teacher, lawyer, doctor, nurse – so I pursued a degree that I thought would let me have a career like that. Today I don’t think of what I do as a career – I think of it as a life.

FP: Why did UPROSE get involved in Climate Justice work?

EY: Superstorm Sandy was a real wakeup call for our community that climate change is here. UPROSE’s latest climate justice work came out of a community meeting after Superstorm Sandy – folks in the neighborhood wanted a block-by-block response to climate change – so that’s what we did. 

Our community was suffering from asthma and all sorts of chronic diseases as a result of living near power plants and other toxic pollution sources. We started fighting because of the health disparities. We live in a “Significant Maritime Industrial Area” – that means that there are hazardous toxic chemicals that have been put there since before there was an EPA. We realized that an extreme weather event could mobilize all this toxic material and put our community at risk. Climate change is here now. Waterfront communities like ours are extremely vulnerable. We have a lot of businesses on the waterfront and we want them here because people need places to work, but we want safe places to work. We don’t chase out businesses – we want to retain businesses and help them prepare for and adapt to climate change.

FP: People are so busy just trying to survive. How do folks in your community make time for meetings? How do you get them involved?

EY: This is a largely immigrant community – folks from Latin America, the Caribbean, from China. They all work long hours, some work 2 or 3 jobs. When they come home they have kids to care for, they have to cook. Getting community engagement here is much more challenging than in a privileged community. The nannies live here who take care of the kids from white neighborhoodsso that their parents can go out and be civic-minded. Folks sometimes criticize poor people or people of color and say they don’t want to be involved in climate change. Absolutely they want to be involved! Our challenge is, how do you engage them in ways that work? 

You have to have creativity, flexibility – meetings in the evenings and on weekends when people can make it. We provide translators. We go to them – we hold meetings in people’s basements and living rooms, in their churches. Children can’t be left out – we engage the children. It’s so cool for small children to see their parents involved in community leadership. 

Mostly it’s about listening to what the community wants, and asking lots of questions. We don’t ever come in and say “We’re going to solve your problem.” We are here as a facilitator. We pay attention to what is going on while folks are busy at work and school, so that they can use their power. We make a lot of phone calls, we provide a lot of training. We are not the ones who make change happen, we facilitate the process so that folks can make change for themselves.

FP: Making positive change takes such a long time. How do you keep people engaged and energized over the long haul?

EY: There is nothing more addictive than success. Civic leadership does translate into success – they have to see that their engagement does result in positive change in their lifetime. People get exhausted and check out when there aren’t both short-term and long-term goals. Time and sacrifice have to result in something positive. So often people get involved in something and they work and work for years and say, ‘what was the point? Nothing happened!’ So you have to have short-term goals that show positive outcomes for the effort.

FP: Justice work can be very draining, especially over the long term. What are your strategies for caring for yourself and staying excited about your work?

EY: One year – I almost died three times in one year. People say I exaggerate but unfortunately this is not an exaggeration. I got very sick. You know, I live and breathe EJ work every day. I live in an EJ community, and when I travel I’m often traveling to EJ communities. I lost my father to asthma, so it’s personal. It’s very stressful – and in this work I’m always stressed about money, stressed about the next campaign. You don’t eat right, you don’t get enough rest, you just don’t take care of yourself. EJ work is very personal, because it’s about the survival of your own family and your own community. 

After that health scare I got on a path to wellness. I promised my son that I would start taking care of myself. It’s hard. So I joined a community of other women who are committed to wellness, and that has been very powerful. My mom sends me a message every day reminding me to love myself, and I depend on that. 

We need each other. Climate change is real and it’s here. We need to do this together, and we can do it lovingly. 

UPROSE Wins Small Business Grant To Strengthen “Economic And Environmental Resiliency”

Small businesses are often touted as the backbone of any community economy, particularly here in Brooklyn, where big business and mom-and-pop shops continue to fight for space. That’s why the city Department of Small Business Services (SBS) distribute grants every year to “promote grassroots economic development in historically underserved commercial corridors.”

Clinton’s new environmental justice plan is missing something: People of color

By Aura Bogado

This week, Hillary Clinton released her plan to tackle environmental justice. It contains some good talking points, but many activists who have been working on these issues for decades shared a similar reaction to the news: Welcome to the environmental justice club, Hillary Clinton. Now please sit down.

Devoid of solid action strategies, Clinton’s plan fails to mention those who’ve made her analysis possible: People of color who have spent years fighting against (and sometimes dying from) environmental contamination and climate injustice. If Clinton wants to confront environmental racism, they say, she would do better to start by acknowledging and supporting the work already happening on this front.

Clinton’s plan — which is the most detailed statement on environmental justice issued by a candidate in the current race — includes eight major points to combat environmental racism. Top on the agenda is eliminating lead. A lofty goal, but one that people in Flint, Mich., a mostly black city, have been raising for a while. Elevating the conversation about environmental and climate justice to a federal level may sound good at first, and the plan does suggest that some laws and rules need to be more stringent, but some of Clinton’s proposals largely hinge on complying with what’s already on the books.

That doesn’t go far enough, says Angelo Logan, campaign director for the Moving Forward Network. “Uphold[ing] the law,” he points out, “is the least that should be done.” Logan adds that Clinton’s suggestion of creating an environmental justice task force doesn’t count for much either; there’s already a National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in place, and the current administration hasn’t followed its recommendations.

Clinton’s plan also outlines the need to modernize water systems, pointing out some places have little to no access to water. One of those places is the Navajo Nation, home to Jihan Gearon, who runs the Black Mesa Water Coalition. Gearon thinks Clinton is missing a very basic understanding of what it means to work with the people most affected by environmental racism. “When [Clinton refers] to indigenous communities,” she says, “the basic principles of sovereignty and of free, prior, and informed consent — which should and could include the right to say no to certain kinds of energy developments — are missing from this plan.” (Clinton does outline her stance on tribal sovereignty on a separate factsheet, but neglects to mention it in her environmental justice plan.)

Gearon’s comment gets at an important point. If you want to combat environmental racism, you’ve got to figure out how to support the communities you claim solidarity with; that includes allowing them to take the lead. By seemingly ignoring the fighters around her as she enters this arena, Clinton runs the risk of alienating the very people she says she wants to fight for. “We’re not just the poster children of why things are bad,” explains Gearon. “We need to be the decision-makers about the ways these things are addressed in our communities, and I don’t see that laid out in this [plan].”

Asked by Grist to comment on the criticism being leveled at Clinton, her deputy national press secretary Jesse Ferguson responded that Clinton “has been fighting for environmental justice for decades.” He cited the fact that she has worked with the EPA on air pollution and child asthma; was the first senator to ever hold an environmental justice hearing; and was “the first presidential candidate to call attention to the crisis in Flint.” But simply bringing up what people of color already know isn’t necessarily fighting for justice.

The inability to really acknowledge the people who are most affected by environmental racism and climate change was evident this past weekend when Clinton made a campaign stop at Industry City, a contentious symbol of gentrification in Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Sunset Park neighborhood. The chic warehouse complex stands a few blocks away from UPROSE‘s Climate Justice Community Resiliency Center, which was created in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Elizabeth Yeampierre, who runs UPROSE, helped organize a protest against the venue while Clinton was there. One of the key points in Clinton’s plan is to “[p]rotect communities from the impacts of climate change by investing in resilient infrastructure” — precisely the kind of work UPROSE is already taking on.

“I don’t think [Clinton’s plan] goes far enough or has an understanding of how these core, densely populated urban areas can actually use these spaces to build for a climate adaptable future,” says Yeampierre.

Clinton isn’t alone in facing such scrutiny. While the leading GOP candidates have been largely silent on the topic of environmental justice, Bernie Sanders has incorporated it into both his climate and racial justice plans. Reactions by activists to his platform have been mixed: He’s been touted by some allies as the best candidate on environmental justice, but the recent resurfacing of a decades-old effort to export Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor, Latino town in Texas inspired criticism from activists who fear that underneath the populist rhetoric there’s a whole lot of business-as-usual.

Genuine and well-financed federal attention to grassroots battles that have gone on for decades would not be unwelcome, and both Clinton and Sanders say they will make environmental justice “a national priority.” But in the wake of this week’s development, the message back to Clinton is clear. Whether it’s prosecuting big polluters, cleaning up brownfields, combating air pollution, or diversifying the climate energy sector — all key points in Clinton’s plan and necessary battles to fight — people of color have already put their lives on the line for these challenges, even when it’s not an electoral year. These struggles deserve principled support. The last thing this movement needs, concerned activists say, is vague promises from politicians who will co-opt their battles and render their work invisible.

Environmental Justice Alliance says de Blasio’s OneNYC plan falls short in combating climate change

SUNSET PARK, Brooklyn -- New York City is not doing enough to protect poor vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change. That's the message from a group of environmental watchdogs.

The 30 Top Thinkers Under 30: Jonathan Ferrer

“When I was a kid, I didn’t think I’d be doing any of what I’m doing right now,” Jonathan Ferrer says.

Today, Ferrer is an accomplished environmental activist and one of New York City’s preeminent youth leaders. He helps organize the city’s annual Climate Justice Youth Summit, which educates and inspires hundreds of young people about local environmental and social issues. Ferrer also facilitates community meetings that address the environmental burdens of Sunset Park, his neighborhood in Brooklyn. He has helped his community establish a waterfront park, install an expanded median on a main thoroughfare, and recover from Hurricane Sandy.

But just six years ago, Ferrer was a “self-absorbed 14-year-old who had the attention span of a squirrel when it came to climate change and was crazy-obsessed with sneakers,” he says. His life changed when he became involved with the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park, which promotes social and environmental justice. Ferrer joined UPROSE because it offered a summer apprenticeship, and because the salary — via the New York City Summer Youth Employment Program — paid more than McDonald’s. (Ferrer was saving up for a new pair of Jordans.)

Before the apprenticeship, Ferrer simply thought of the Sunset Park neighborhood as home. “It was the farthest I ever traveled when I went somewhere special with my mom,” he says. At the time, Ferrer considered the nearby power plants to be “just these old, weird things.” Political consciousness, it turns out, was right around the corner.

It was the executive director of UPROSE, Elizabeth Yeampierre, who inspired Ferrer to think more critically about his neighborhood. One day, Yeampierre asked a room of 30 interns, “How many of you have asthma, or have a family member with asthma?” Sixteen people raised their hands, including Ferrer, who had been hospitalized twice for asthma attacks. Yeampierre explained the cause of the neighborhood’s abnormally high asthma rate by pointing to the many industrial sites in and around Sunset Park: the sludge-transfer facility, the highway that carries 200,000 vehicles per day, and the three large power plants that serve other, richer neighborhoods that don’t allow industry in their backyards.

We’ll be publishing profiles of this year’s list of the 30 top thinkers under 30throughout the month of March. Visit this page every day to read about another young person who is making an impact on the social, political, and economic issues we cover every day at Pacific Standard.

“When I found out that the little bit of smoke that I saw coming out of the power plant near my house has such an enormous effect on the health of my neighborhood, I was shocked,” Ferrer says. “I don’t want to say that it was like finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real all over again, because that’s cliché, but that is how it felt.”

Later that year, Yeampierre challenged Ferrer to present a speech to city officials at a community forum. The speech proposed a policy that ensured that underserved communities like Sunset Park wouldn’t get stuck with yet another power plant or waste facility.

Ferrer wasn’t wild about the idea of giving a speech. “I’d never done public speaking before. I never even raised my hand in school,” he says. But Ferrer respected Yeampierre too much to refuse. For 30 torturous seconds, Ferrer “choked and stuttered” through the speech, he says.

And then something amazing happened: The audience stood and clapped.

“Here was this young Puerto Rican kid from Sunset Park with such a typical background for a person of color — daddy wasn’t around, mma was working her butt off all the time — and a bunch of important people were clapping for him,” Ferrer reflects. Ferrer was used to officials looking sleepy at community forums. But after his speech, everyone appeared wide-eyed and smiley, as if they were suddenly ready for change.

That was the moment Ferrer’s life’s trajectory changed, he says. Now Ferrer is one of UPROSE’s most dedicated volunteers, and a winner of the Brower Youth Award and the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. For Ferrer, it’s Yeampierre who changed everything, and he thanks her “very, very, very much.”