District 33

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District 33 - David Yassky
114 Court Street, Brooklyn 11241
City Hall: (212) 788-7348
District: (718) 875-5200
Fax: (718) 643-6620

Committee Assignments:
Waterfront, Chair of Select Committee
Contracts, member
Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services, member
Public Safety, member
Sanitation & Solid Waste Management, member

Filling the Abandoned Spaces

By Joanna Sufin

Robert Huempfner, 70, looks at the Manhattan skyline, as he stands behind a cracked cement barricade that marks the waterfront. He used to fish here on Huron Street in Greenpoint. But he stopped a few years ago when the nearby pier collapsed. There is nothing left but decaying logs protruding from the river and tufts of withered grass covering the shore. Huempfner finds it hard to imagine that he will again cast his line into the East River from the Greenpoint waterfront, but the people who worked on drafting a community plan for this Brooklyn neighborhood think differently.

Their proposal was approved by the City Council on January 30, a set of suggestions to improve Greenpoint, a working class community with a largely Polish and Latino population, and a rich history. The area remained a vibrant manufacturing center up until World War II and was famous for its shipbuilding industry. The U.S.S. Monitor, the ironclad ship that fought in the Civil War, was constructed in Greenpoint.

In the last few decades Greenpoint has changed tremendously. Most of the industries and manufacturing businesses no longer exist, and many buildings are vacant.

"It is a community that deserves to be preserved," Gail Suchman, senior counsel for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said at a recent community\ planning forum at the Urban Center in Manhattan.

Among other projects, the plan calls for rebuilding and refurbishing piers on the East River. Right now, the waterfront is fenced off, a lure to movie directors seeking an abandoned and particularly unappealing place to film. But if the proposals become reality, people will be able to enjoy evening walks along the river shore.

According to Christine Holowacz, president of Greenpoint Property Owners Association, the Economic Development Corporation has already agreed to fund the rebuilding of the pier between Kent and Java Streets, and the project should be completed in July of next year. Also under consideration is a promenade that would run from Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (a manufacturing center at the end of Manhattan Avenue) to the Pulaski Bridge, which connects Brooklyn with Queens.

Julie Lawrence, chair of the Waterfront Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 1, said the plan also calls for improvements in housing, land use, recreation, transportation and the environment. Even before the City Council approved the plan, some of its suggested changes were already being implemented. The reconstruction of Manhattan Avenue, the main commercial strip in Greenpoint, began about two years ago.

"One of the objectives of the plan is to force some rezoning," said Joseph Vance, co-chair of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. The zoning would be aimed at encouraging commercial activities and converting vacant properties into housing.

Many of these ideas were first proposed in 1996, when over 150 residents of Greenpoint gathered in the Polish and Slavic Center to discuss the future of their neighborhood. Some of the suggestions for improvement, however, go back as far as 1987, when a group of people with the help of the Pratt Institute began considering the challenges facing Greenpoint.

All these ideas are spelled out in an official plan. But that does not necessarily mean that they will become a reality. "There is nothing legally binding in the plan," said Bill Chambers, a mystery writer who also helped draft it. "But it's a blueprint respected by politicians."

Those who worked on the plan hope that community activism will continue. Last year, residents "stopped Con Ed and Keyspan from constructing two power plants," said Vance. "The community has shown what it's capable of."

Environmental issues are particularly vital in Greenpoint, and the plan reflects this. It calls for a cleanup of Newtown Creek, reducing the number of waste transfer stations and other environmental improvements. "When I first moved here, there were a lot of environmental problems," said Holowacz. "Some of the issues have been successfully dealt with. For example, the medical waste incinerator was shut down in 1994."

Currently TransGas Energy wants to construct a 1,100 megawatt power plant in the Bushwick Inlet. The plan does not make any specific provisions regarding such projects, but states that power plants are not on the "wish list" of the people of Greenpoint.

If the recommendations get implemented, Vance said, Greenpoint should become a more desirable place, for business owners as well as residents.

Holowacz, believes the plan will make a great impact on the community. "We know we have direction," she said. "We know which way we are going."
Navigating Brooklyn's Waterfront, Education, and Crime

By David Yassky

The waterfront has played an invaluable role in the history of New York City. In the past, it was shipping and manufacturing industries that thrived along the bay and rivers. Today, there is a move toward creating housing and recreation. As the city moves forward, New York's new waterfront must be an asset that everyone, both industries and the public, can share and enjoy. We must revitalize what has been and will remain the heart of the city.

That is why I am excited to be spearheading the Select Committee on Waterfronts, which was created for the first time this year. It is our mission to envision what the next phase of the waterfront is going to look like.

The Brooklyn City Council district I represent, which includes neighborhoods like Greenpoint, the Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry, and Brooklyn Heights, has acres of waterfront that has fallen into great disuse. There is potential for recreational spaces, housing, and manufacturing. In Brooklyn Heights, we have the opportunity to build a world-class park on the shoreline where people can have full access to the riverbank. Green space is painfully rare in Brooklyn, which has less park space per capita than any other major urban area in the nation. I am making it a priority to see this project through to completion.

In neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, there is no public access to the water whatsoever. The potential is there to build houses and parkways. But we have to deal with private developers who want to build a gigantic power plant along the neighborhood's shoreline. This plan would shut off entirely the potential to create desirable uses for the waterfront. Too often developers see working-class neighborhood like Greenpoint or Williamsburg and think the residents do not have the political strength or concern to prevent heavy industry from going up outside their front doors. I do not want to see that occurring in our district.

The Power Authority's plan to place under-regulated power plants in our already over-burdened communities also stinks, quite literally. I will push the state and city to develop a long-term energy plan that combines rigorous environmental review, fair placement of new plants and new money for alternative energy and conservation.

In addition to the waterfront, the main priority for our district is to make sure every child has access to a good public education.

We have a mix of schools in our district, some that are terrific and others that are struggling. Many parents feel that their children are being denied a first-rate public education. As a result, there is a flight from Brooklyn's public schools; parents are moving out or sending their kids to private schools or to public schools in Manhattan.

There is a popular motion in the city council to decentralize the Board of Education--a move that I support. But doing this is not a cure-all panacea to the problems of public education. A lot more needs to be done.

First, we need to spend more money, and spend it a lot smarter. When you compare our education budget to those of other large cities, you find that a disproportionate amount of the budget gets lost in funding the school's central administration. The whole issue of education becomes a question of simple arithmetic. Every dollar needs to make it to the classroom. We need teacher salaries that are competitive with those in school districts of Nassau, Westchester, and Suffolk to secure and draw the best teachers to the urban schools.

Secondly, the principals and superintendents should be allowed greater authority to recruit teachers for their own school districts. The school's principals should be given the ability to pay teachers more, and given the authority to put each teacher in a classroom where they would work the best. The central board, given such responsibility, is more likely to send the best teachers to the better school districts. Principals know the individual needs of their school, and the task rests upon them to make sure they get the right teachers. A principal's job is to manage the school. They must be held accountable.

I also believe that government's first responsibility is to keep people safe from crime. To do that, we need tough and certain punishment for violent criminals, we need prevention programs to keep young people away from drugs and gangs, and we need to choke off the flow of illegal guns to our streets.

I have spent much of my professional life fighting for these goals. Working under Congressman Charles Schumer, I served as Chief Counsel to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime and helped write and enact the Brady Handgun Control Law, the federal assault weapons ban, and the "100,000 Cops on the Beat" program. I am proud of these initiatives, but we cannot rest here.

As a council member, I pledge to work for more community-oriented policing. It is not enough for police officers to respond to 911 calls -- we need cops walking the beat, preventing crime. When police work with the community to identify "hot spots," we prevent crimes rather than just respond to them after the fact. I want to make sure the New York Police Department continues its commitment to community policing, so that these officers will be as effective as possible in protecting us, and our neighborhoods, from crime.

David Yassky is City Council Member-Elect from District 33.

Community Boards for District 33
Community Board No. 1
435 Graham Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 389-0009
Mr. Vincent V. Abate, Chair
Mr. Gerald A. Esposito, District Manager
Community Board No. 2
350 Jay St., 8th Fl., Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 596-5410
Acting Ms. Shirley McRae, Chair
Ms. Olanike Alabi, District Manager
Community Board No. 6
250 Baltic St., Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 643-3027
Ms. Irene LoRe, Chair
Mr. Craig Hammerman, District Manager

Community Plans for District 33 (PDF format)
197-a (Brooklyn Community Board 1 - Williamsburg)

197-a (Brooklyn Community Board 1 - Greenpoint)

Housing Development Plan (5th Avenue Committee and Brooklyn Community Board 6)

Old Brooklyn District Plan [197-a] (Brooklyn Community Board 2)

Water Revitalization and Access Plan (Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation)

Transportation Plan - The Harbor Loop: Proposed Harbor Loop Ferry System for the Upper New York Bay (Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance)

Ethnic Makeup and Political Registration

Ethnic Makeup

Political Registration

Public Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

High Schools

To find out what school district you live in, call the Board of Education at 718-935-2000 or link to Public School Reports

Police Precincts

Although many precincts cover areas solely within one City Council district, there are many which overlap with other districts. In most cases the overlap of precincts among districts is no more than a few blocks. Wherever there is overlap, we have made sure to alert you.

City Parks
Click thumbnail for larger image of parks in this district

Learn more about the condition of the city parks in your district at the New Yorkers for Parks (PDF file).

Community Gardens

Click for larger image
Find out more about community gardens from
the Council on the Environment of New York City

Historic Districts and Landmarks
Learn more about the historic districts and landmarks in this area.

The Waterfront

map listing suggestions for use and improvement of the waterfront in this district from the Metropolitan Waterfront
Alliance. (pdf format only)