GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: District 42

District 42 - East New York, Brownsville



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District 42 - Charles Barron
421 New Lots Avenue, Brooklyn 11207
City Hall: (212) 788-6957
District: (718)649-9495
Fax: (212) 676- 8595
Email: barron@council.nyc.ny.us

Committee Assignments:
Education, Chair
Consumer Affairs, member
Land Use, member
Women's Issues, member
Landmarks, Public Siting & Maritime, member of Land Use Subcommittee


This Land Is Our Land

By Charles Barron

East New York and Brownsville have an advantage over almost any other neighborhoods in New York City - and the reason, ironically, is precisely because they were neglected for decades. The landlords burned many of the buildings down when the neighborhoods changed from white to black, and so East New York and Brownsville are now among the few places in the city that have a lot of empty land.

This land is our strength, the way of getting our youth off the corners and into some meaningful employment and business ownership.

That is not the way it has been used. In the last few years, big corporations have come in, bought up the land, and built Junior Food supermarkets, a Cineplex movie theater and a mall with stores like Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond. To outsiders, this might seem like progress. All these new stores have people working in them, and that means jobs.

But what kind of jobs? These are entry-level minimum wage jobs, not living wage jobs. So there are some 85 popcorn-selling concession-stand jobs or whatever, and Sumner Redstone, the multibillionaire head of Viacom, walks off with the profits.

It is the same with Pathmark, Rite Aid, Bed Bath and Beyond. We get cash register jobs. And the millions of dollars we spend on pharmaceuticals and food and movies go out of the neighborhood.

The people who live near Junior Foods didn't want it. I live two blocks away, and I certainly didn't want it. We didn't want the traffic, the odors, the rodents. Western Beef came in, purchased the land at auction, and built what they wanted to build. There are other things that could have happened. The community could have purchased that land, using public sector, private sector and personal funds, as well as bank loans. There could have been a bunch of small retail stores owned and operated by people from the neighborhood. What should have happened is we could have had neighborhood people building and owning a cultural center, a cleaners, two movie theaters, a restaurant, and an "East New York Supermarket." That way, the money would circulate in the neighborhood -- the owner of the supermarket would put his dollar into the local cleaners, the owner of the local cleaners would put his dollar into the local restaurant. There would be a multiplier factor, and we would all be better off.

What is happening in East New York is not the way it happens in white communities. In a white community, Trump will build a park or something in exchange for the right to develop something. Little Italy is run by Italians, Chinatown is run by Chinese. Then you look at our community, and it looks like some form of domestic colonialism. We own very little.

The reason why we get exploited in black communities is because we are always just focused on getting jobs for people, on survival. We should be trying for real economic development - for economic empowerment. We should be developing a community-based economic plan, an economic incubator.

That is part of what I hope to do on the City Council. I will have a big say-so on how land is used and developed in my neighborhood. That is what I mean by power.

White politicians are into power and policies. Black politicians are just into jobs and programs. But power and policies bring you jobs and programs. That is what we need to get into.

The biggest challenge for me in the City Council besides the power over land use will be to make sure that they do not balance the budget off the backs of poor people who need vital city services. Giuliani has come up with nothing more creative than slashing every agency by 15 percent. But, just like the wealth of the city has not been equitably distributed, so the pain of these budget cuts should not be equitably distributed. We cannot withstand more pain.

We need to find some money, get back our fair share from the federal government. The city gives $49 billion to the federal government, and the federal government only gives $41 billion back.

As for taxation, you cannot just say we will not raise taxes anytime, any way. That is just stupid. You have to consider there are taxes somewhere, perhaps on alcohol and tobacco, that you might have to raise. It doesn't have to be property taxes.

My entry into the white power structure doesn't mean I have to change who I am. I remain a black revolutionary Christian socialist. I grew up in a housing project on the Lower East Side. When I was a teenager, I joined the Black Panther Party because it represented education, children, clothing, survival programs - the same values that the City Council is supposed to want for its people. The City Council is going to have to change, not me. The first thing I am going to do is work with the Fresh Democracy Council to change the rules of the council so that more diverse voices can be heard. Then I am going to lobby the City Council Speaker and the Public Advocate to make sure some more diverse faces can be seen on the walls of City Hall. There are not enough people of color. We should commission an artist to put Malcolm X's portrait up there.

--updated December 17, 2001


Community Boards for District 42
Community Board No. 5
127 Pennsylvania Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11207
(718) 498-5711
Mr. Earl Williams, Chair
Mr. Walter Campbell, District Manager
Community Board No. 16
444 Thomas Boyland St., Rm. 103, Brooklyn, NY 11212
(718) 385-0323/4/5
Mr. James A. Bowen, Chair
Ms. Viola D. Greene, District Manager
Community Board No. 17
39 Remsen Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11212
(718) 467-3536
Mr. Albert Payne, Chair
Mr. Willie Scott, District Manager


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.

  • 73rd Precinct (Covers Ocean Hill in district 41, Brownsville in district 42, and a few blocks in district 37 )
  • 75th Precinct (Mostly covers neighborhoods in district 37, but also spills over into a small part pf district 42)

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



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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.