In order to gain a microcosmic perspective on the actual opinions of New Yorkers about the upcoming election, City & State and City Limits, in partnership with MetroFocus, present a new series: “The Five Borough Ballot.”
On the front door of the 14-story building at 422 Blake Avenue in Brownsville, there is a warning for residents. Because of the rash of rapes and robberies in the area, it recommends that people keep visitors out of the hallways, lest they be stopped by the police.
Out on the sidewalk on a recent weekday morning, a man named BJ was waiting for his sister. He’s lived in the area since 1972. “It’s better, safer than how it was in the eighties, with crack and whatnot,” BJ says. He actually lives about six blocks away. He feels those six blocks make a difference. “A lot of rapes and robberies over here,” he says, indicating the block where we’re standing. As he talks, two police officers on foot step out of the building across the street. It, like 422 Blake, is part of the massive Van Dyke I public housing complex.
BJ’s mother lives about a mile away in the Plaza Residences. It was once called Noble Drew Ali Plaza, but the new owners—a company headed by former Mets slugger Mo Vaughan—changed the name to try to shed the property’s reputation as a den of drug-dealing and violence. “They done cleaned those projects up,” BJ says. “They’ve got cameras everywhere.” The cameras bother some people, but not BJ’s mother—or at least not BJ, a thickly built man in his mid-50. Neither do the “vertical patrols” that the NYPD does in his sister’s building and others, even if it means you’re not supposed to stand in the hallways of the place you live.
But he feels differently about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. “I don’t like that,” he says. “Bunch of cops jump out of the car at somebody. I’ve seen it.”
Continue reading this week’s Five Borough Ballot coverage on the Brooklyn Bureau website.