The Brooklyn Museum has taken back its promise to host a "People's Summit on Displacement and Anti-Gentrification"
On November 17, 2015, The Brooklyn Museum hosted the Brooklyn 6th Annual Real Estate Summit. In response the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network – BAN staged a demonstration to protest, which included a large group of community activist from all over New York City including MTOPP. They were later joined by the Artists in the community and from the Agitprop! Show.
In response to the pressure, Ann Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum, met with the Activists/Artists to discuss demands that had been created of the Brooklyn Museum. At this meeting it was agreed that the Brooklyn Museum would provide a space on the wall at the Agitprop! show that was dedicated to the current struggles of displacement and gentrification of people in Brooklyn and that the Museum would also hold a “People’s Summit on Displacement and Gentrification” organized and created by the Activists/Artists.
The Collaborative work and agreements with the Museum
Since that time MTOPP and members of the Artist groups have been collaborating on this Wall and People Summit. There has been at least one meeting a week that either covered the creation of the wall and/or the People Summit. MTOPP has been at all of these meeting to ensure that the voices and perspective of the people most affected by displacement and gentrification are heard and represented.
On March 11, 2016, the Activists/Artists group gave a preliminary overview to the Brooklyn Museum of what was to be the programming and the participants at the People’s Summit. The main focus was centered on displacement and gentrification which included the effects of displacement and rezonings.
On March 18, 2016, the Brooklyn Museum met with MTOPP and the Artists and approved the focus and participants for the day and agreed not to place any other participants on the program, without express permission of the Activists/Artists. The Museum promised the use of three places the Auditorium, the Forum Room and the large Beauz Court for Sunday, July 10, 2016 from 12-5 pm along with funding for the participants.
It was agreed that the group would narrow down the scope of the People’s Summit and design how the use the three different spaces based upon their capacity and quality. At this meeting there was no deadline placed on the group, and the Museum promised to give the group a summary of the funding that would be given to the participants of the Summit.
The group decided to focus on the completion of the Wall which was had to be accomplished by the first week in April and reconvene the following week to narrow down the programming for the Summit. On April 9, 2016, MTOPP leader Alicia Boyd was featured on the front page of the New York Times, Art and Design page, which was discussing the “Monument to Anti-Displacement”, which had been created by the Artist of Color, Artists from the Agitprop! show and MTOPP. The article focused on Ann Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum, “brave” stance in allowing this piece to be up on the wall, despite the entire Agitprop! being about how Artists depict societies’ struggles.
The Brooklyn Museum Take Over
On April 22, 2016, The Brooklyn Museum sent an email to the group, which contains a complete takeover of the People’s Summit. They indicated the theme, which is not going to discuss issues of “displacement and gentrification” but will be about “preservation and diversity” and the focus “must be through the lens of Artists”, not the people. They gave a list of names of participants to be focused on and reduced the Activists/Artists role to “possibly leading some workshops”.
On April 27, 2016, an open letter had been sent to Ann Pasternak, signed by Activists, organizing groups, and Agitprop show Artists, demanding that the Brooklyn Museum adhere to its promised to the people. Ann Pasternak, however has refused to meet with the Activists/Artists group to discuss this serious breach of the Brooklyn Museum’s agreement and the ploy of a divide and conquer strategy by focusing on Artists during the Summit and not the people.
Instead Ann Pasternak, has stated that the Museum is not backing out of its agreement, but can’t meet with the group because she is just too busy. However, because time is of essence, the Brooklyn Museum’s plans must move forward or there might not be a summit.
The Activists/Artists and MTOPP are demanding that The Brooklyn Museum adhere to it agreement and allow a People’s Summit to occur at the Museum that focuses on Gentrification and Displacement. If the Museum wanted to host a day where they focus on Artists and their perspectives on “diversity and Preservation” then they should do so, but to now to completely high jack our work and our voices is not okay. Just the mere fact that Ann Pasternak has refused to meet with us until sometime late May shows the level of disrespect she has to our community and the people who are most affected by Gentrification and the Real Estate development in our communities!
We know Ann Pasternak is engaging in stone walling our efforts to have our voices heard and our perspective be at the forefront of the movement. Too often more compromised groups are wanted so that they can water down the resistance and not focus on the real issues of gentrification and displacement.
Strategies of Dis empowerment
Such as groups like the Crown Heights Tenant Union, which is a white Lead group that is the arm of UHAB, which was placed on Public Advocate Leticia James worst landlord list in 2015! They push up a few black folks to speak at the press conferences along with allowing the local politicians the opportunity to do photo opt, but if you attend their leadership meetings most of the leaders are white, and the meetings are run by UHAB and not by the tenants or even tenant leaders!
CHTU strategy is to focus on the tenant rights as they advocate rezonings in communities of color, in the name of creating "affordable" housing. This is the same strategy that groups like this have employed all over NYC, when it comes to rezoning and the end results is a few bits of “affordable” housing and the lost of thousands of affordable units, regardless of the regulations or tenants rights! Just like in East New York! The end results is the developers, that they are working for, get the community rezoned and they are toted as heros because they got the community "affordable" housing! While everyone completely ignores the fact the community residents will be displaced an a once affordable community will now be completely unaffordable!
Additionally the Activists/Artists and MTOPP, feels the reason the Brooklyn Museum is backing out of its agreement, is because the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Museum is made up of Real Estate Developers. As a result this group is also demanding that all Real Estate Developers be removed from the Board!
It is clear that the Brooklyn Museum and Ann Pasternak have no respect for the community and feels it can back out of its agreement, because they are not beholden to the community but to their board of directors. So MTOPP decided to engage in action, which is what organizers do!
Our Plan of Resistance
We joined forces, on May 7, 2016, with other groups who too have a beef against the Brooklyn Museum that also focuses on displacement of people out of their communities and homelands and the role the Brooklyn Museum is playing in supporting these crimes against humanity!
The Brooklyn community is in a crisis along with NYC. The homeless population is now reaching up to over 70,000 people with another 20,000 in the streets. Half of those numbers belong to children of color! We are losing 100 small mom and pop shops every week from NYC! We are in a crisis and the only solution that is given by our elected officials is the creation of more luxury buildings!
The Current Political Climate
Our Mayor is under five investigations for his administration stance on supporting every Real Estate project regardless of its negative effects or even the law involving the protection of the people. In response to these allegations the Mayor has hired one of the best and well known criminal defense attorneys and Corp. Council has hired two of the most expensive law firms in the city to protect itself, all paid for by NYC tax payers.
MTOPP sees these moves as a sinking ship, as Deblasio has allowed his inner most circle to be comprised of Real Estate advisors and not political allies that could have allowed him to circumvent the direction that his administration is going.
Yes it is true that so many other political entities have used the same tactics to circumvent the law, but there is always the final straw that broke the camel's back and it looks like Deblasio is it! The massive corruption that has overtaken New York City and New York State at the hands of the Real Estate Industry is just too blatant! And its ill effects are being felt not just by the poor, but the working class and the middle class. Communities everywhere are under attack for massive development and no where is The City supporting or protecting the people!
In a climate such as this it is clear that something will have to give and now Deblasio's head is on the chopping block, and it appears the NYC political machinery is willing to allow his head to roll! Also I'm sure the Real Estate Industry is going to support this position because now that the focus is on Deblasio they won't be able to get anything else from the City, making him now a liability instead of an asset!
The faster he is gone, the faster a new corrupt politician can take his place and continue with the back room deals, a new set of a non-profit organization where again donations will be had etc... However, what they don't realize is that change is in the air and the people are awake as they have never been before. The old way of doing business is going to end and new laws will be implemented because the people will demand it.
This is the lesson that history has taught us. Corrupt policies, practices and procedures all have their final day and then they are destroyed! NYC's political system is about to make some major shifts and changes and I'm sure some will continue to protect the Real Estate but some will also protect the people!