Children, seniors, concerned local representatives, and community leaders braved a wintery chill, took a stand on New York City’s City Hall’s steps, and asked the Mayor to have a warm heart and help them save their senior and day care centers at 211 Ainslie in North Brooklyn on the morning of December 15, 2014. Assemblyman Joe Lentol led the charge to help this needed center in the community. That day he would reintroduce eminent domain legislation to put the matter into the State’s hands, still Mr. Lentol offered to Mayor de Blasio the opportunity to help directly.
“We’re here today for an early Hanukah and Christmas present. The former City Hall failed to help us,” said the assemblyman. Mr. Lentol persisted in his purpose, “We Need Eminent Domain Action Now!”
To which the crowd assembled repeated, “Now! Now! Now!”
Assemblyman Lentol then cheered on the crowd with, “We’re not going away. I’m going to reintroduce my bill!” The original bill passed in the Assembly but was halted in the State Senate. The slightly modified version of the Mr. Lentol’s bill more clearly indicates the property on 211 Ainslie Street in Brooklyn to dispel fears of potential overreach.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso took his turn on the dais to add his voice to those calling on the Mayor this day. The councilmember has submitted a finance plan that includes a commitment of funds allocated by Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams; New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito; and the councilmember himself. “The real estate climate in Williamsburg is so out of control that even City facilities are now subject to the same displacement pressure that residents have been facing for years. We need to stop this displacement and make investments to ensure that we protect needed City services for this community,” stated CM Reynoso.
District Leader Nick Rizzo took a turn to speak and asked, “Is this de Blasio’s New York?”
Phil Caponegro, President of the Conselyea Street Block Association, stood with the seniors and kids at City Hall. Afterwards he said, “We’re very hopeful that, with the unwavering support of our elected officials, we’ll succeed and get the administration’s support to purchase the building and get it back in the hands of the community — where it was always intended to be.”
The center was built in the early 1970s with public money, and since then, public money has paid all costs. This guaranteed the building’s landlords a steady stream of profits even when market conditions in Williamsburg were not lucrative. Its survival is threatened because its new landlord has drastically hiked the rent. Advocates believe the landlord did so in the hopes of forcing the centers out so he could tear down the building and replace it with luxury condos of the sort that are proliferating in North Brooklyn. Advocates believe that a building built and supported for decades with public funds should remain for the public benefit.