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Responsibility and Entrepreneurship

On June 4th there was a clash between peaceful marchers and the NYPD in Mott Haven. After marching for blocks marchers were trapped on 136 Street. This was the culmination of an anxiety filled day. Since the protest was announced I feared that there would be injuries, but what we saw was traumatizing. In a community that still hasn’t recovered from when we burned in the 1970’s the abundance of police triggered memories many thought they had recovered from.

 



One video was specially heartbreaking as a black mother shared with folks what was happening live. Through her panic we saw the severity of the situation. We also listened as her 17 year old daughter had a nervous breakdown. She shared with us that she peed her pants. I watched this video while communicating with friends that had been at the march, and tried to be supportive and helpful from a distance.

On June 5th Third Avenue Business Improvement District Director Michael Brady put out an announcement updating folks on 149, and thanking the NYPD for their presence last night. It made no mention of the trauma caused by the response to the protest from the NYPD.

But should we have expected one? if not, why is that the case. What is the role of businesses in communities most affected by police brutality? and of those that represent them?

Why do these questions matter?

In communities like Mott Haven business owners carry an extraordinary amount of clout. In the vacuum created by poverty, racism, aggressive policing, and disinvestment, business owners are seen as exceptional. Organizations usually fill these voids, organizations like the BID. As a result they have more access and influence on the decisions made by local law enforcement, and politicians .

Naturally, the BID works with the NYPD to secure property and ensure that the metrics of success which they have defined are met. So when yesterday's protest was announced, via marketing that frightened folks, the BID rang that alarm. But in ringing that alarm, and in doing so with such clout, there is a danger. We find warnings of this “danger” throughout the BID’s history.

I would argue that the BID/ its leadership has repeatedly failed to create an inclusive environment. While I am glad one of their employees is now tasked with diversity and inclusion. BUT the fact that organization located in the South Bronx needs to fill that role is part of the problem.

The BID has created opportunities, resources and access. BUT who benefits from this?

I have personally asked them via public mediums about:
~ community access to their space on Bruckner and Lincoln Avenue (also asked about the funding sources for this space) South Bronx Business Lab.
~ diversity in membership

I haven't received responses. Now, I don't want to be a member. Well, I'm not eligible to be a member. I also don't want to spend time in their club house. But I will be fucking dammed if there are opportunities being created in MY community and I as a social entrepreneur am not given the option to participate. More recently the BID provided more ammunition to its critics by coordinating with Michael Blake the launch of The Bronx Community Relief Effort.

The Bronx Community Relief Effort was born in the South Bronx immediately after the Coronavirus hit New York City. The Effort aims to raise $10 million to support effective, on-the-ground operations that are focused on meeting the most essential needs of the Bronx community. This includes filling gaps in public financing and broader grant programs. Donations collected are distributed in real-time within the community to those in critical need.
 
Awesome right? pump your breaks. Imagine a table surrounded by folks trying to bring resources to the Bronx. These people at the table will shape how those resources will be distributed. So who has seats here? Reps from all sectors of society. Makes sense right? but let’s focus on business since that is what we’re talking about.

Junior Martinez, Owner of Bronx Drafthouse, Hoodspitality Group
Alfredo Angueira, Owner of Beatstro, Hoodspitality Group
Jasmine Garcia, General Manager of Bricks & Hops Beer Garden, Hoodspitality Group

Nice right? yes, it is nice to have three folks from the same organization hold three seats that could and should be held by other “small” businesses from the South Bronx. We have dozens of restaurants in this neighborhood. Shops. Shit, food stands. So when we talk about access, and the usage of one’s clout this is where it gets foggy.

To be clear Michael Brady didn’t call 911 on protestors. There was no need to so. The threat against the BID, the cooperation between the BID and the NYPD 40th Precinct ensured that a call wasn’t necessary. We’ve discussed social responsibility and entrepreneurship before. Now we are seeing the risk presented by leadership formed in a vacuum.

So where do we go from here? We seek truth.

Residents of Mott Haven not only deserve answers to the following questions. We demand them.
1. The NYPD planning officer must clarify what was asked for, and from what precincts.
2. Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr. must explain what he knew of the response plan, and if he made recommendations to adjust it.
3. The 40th Precinct Community Council must make clear what their role was, where they part of the decision making process?
FTP4 protest flyer4. The NYPD leadership that was present last night must explain why marchers were met with such force on 136 St when they had peacefully gathered on 149, and traveled ALL the way to 136. Yes their marketing was scary BUT the march was peaceful. Video time stamps prove that by 7:57pm officers were corralling marchers. None had given officers a reason to hold them. All were moving peacefully, albeit loudly.
5. The BID and South Bronx business community must commence a dialogue one that asks these questions, and seeks to ask a final one. Is the BID’s current leadership adequate, for this community, and time?


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