Hester Street Collective - The Advance Troops of Gentrification and Displacement!

Follow the Money.

When it comes to determining where loyalties and motives lie regarding non-profits involved in rezonings and development the answer is always - follow the money.

Essential Role of Non-Profits in Rezonings

Non-profits are essential in pushing rezoning of communities, because their primary interest is suppose to be hearing what the local residents have to say and to empower them to be able to articulate what they want as they “sit at the table” during a rezoning.


They also are indispensable in a rezoning for they provide the necessary cover for the political or private entity to say that community residents have been engaged and their voices are included within the design.  However, their funding sources say differently.

Hester Street Collaborative Funding and Actions

*Hester Street Collaborative “Hester” gets its funding from Neighborhood First Fund.  Neighborhood First gets it money from Banks and Private Foundations, i.e. Deutsche, and M&T Banks; Ford, Altman, Mertz and Scherman Foundations; and New York Community Trust. These funders are big time Developers and Banks who have invested Billions of dollars in real estate and who’s primary job is to get rezoning to happen.

Hester is one out of five non-profits who are instructed to go into neighbors of color and engage in the organizing of the community before, during and after a rezoning.  They have helped to support rezonings in East Harlem, Bushwich and Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island.


However, as can be shown in the East Harlem Rezonings, the decisions have already been made, regarding design, area and development.  When this happens, Hestor appears to be as “hurt” as the residents, by the final results which are nothing that the community wanted, but then they simply move on to the next rezoning, in the next community, doing the same process.

The Prospect Park Development Plan

The Prospect Park Alliance “PPA” is a non-profit organization empowered to oversee the maintenance of the Prospect Park.  It is clear that additional park land is going to be removed to create another economic venue, such as the Lafrac skating rink which is producing a 2.4 million dollar profit annually, and to which 95% of the children who reside in the community connected to this rink are unable to afford to attend.

PPA, hired Hestor to do community outreach for the Rose Garden section of Prospect Park, which resides along Flatbush Ave between the Zoo and Grand Armory Plaza.  Hestor was just reaching out to the white upper class community, but found resistance regarding yet another area being turned over for development (residents are still upset about the boat house children’s museum being closed to make it into a private venue space). Now they pose to reach the Caribbean population, by bringing Spanish material into a predominately Haitian community!


The rose garden is proposed to be “open up”, as if there should be no parts of the park that are quiet and intimate.  The idea, is to make more accessible this side of the park as development is planned via rezoning, where Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo will be supporting if she is given the opportunity to be re-elected.


How Hestor is Obtaining Community Input

The measures Hester plan to use will not be group like presentations, where it is clear what people are thinking but to do outreach at cultural venues where the data that can be obtained will be in their hands exclusively, to be manipulated and then presented as the thoughts of the community.


In the end there will be some type of physical venue, which contains a money making enterprise, bathrooms, etc.., The prices of food, admission etc.., will be way above the existing population means.  Just like all of the other venues and “private spaces” being used in the park. 

Future Work of Hestor In Crown Heights and Flatbush Area

At the same time Hestor is helping to organize and engage the community of color residents, they can declare themselves, “stake holders” or representatives of stake holders in the community.  They can site their accomplishments in engaging and empowering local residents regarding the Prospect Park renovation of the Rose Garden and then proceed to “engage” with the community again in a rezoning.


Hestor Street Collective has done enough damage in communities of color.  Their presence in our community screams displacement and rezonings.  They are the advance troops in rezonings who are funded by the real estate industry.  They should not be here, attempting yet another “bate and switch” scenario where all of the designs are already in place, and they are simply here to bring cover to a deal already done.

Prospect Park Development a Displacement and Gentrification Tool

What is clear is that the new emphasis on the “Black” side of the park, is to prepare the area for gentrification and displacement.  This side of the park has been neglected for decades and now all of a sudden millions of dollars are being poured here, when at the same time major development and rezonings are being planned!


This is not a coincidence!  This is a deliberate action upon the part of developers and our politicians, who themselves are giving vast sums of money for Prospect Park development on the Black side.


The idea that park development supports gentrification and displacement has been demonstrated not only here but in Fort Green Park as well.


Reducing Park Land

The Park is one of our last natural resources it space should not be taken to create yet another upper middle class venue, which removes more park land.  Prospect Park Alliance should not be in the business of selling off our Park land to developers to make money.


We have already lost the Children’s Museum at the lake house. In fact all existing structures except for the administrative buildings are being used for private venue spaces, which are unavailable to residents who live along the perimeter of the park, in the Crown Heights/Flatbush Ave area.


This eroding of our park lands needs to stop!  We need to preserve every inch of park land and not simply have it “developed”, because a quiet and intimate space is looked as “under utilized”, classic words that are constantly used during rezoning of communities of color.


*Based Fernando Cantellie de Castro graduate thesis research.