Friday, July 25, 2008

There goes the neighborhood

Last night I attended a meeting at Queen of All Saints Church in my neighborhood, intended for community members and parishioners to air grievances about Brooklyn Flea. Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler, founders of the Flea, were in attendance for the first time, after being told for the first three meetings that they should not attend.

Legitimate complaints were raised:
* The public had been using the church's restrooms. (To which the Flea founders responded that they had rented two port-a-potties for the Flea)
* There is not enough street parking, both for the church and the elderly home on Clermont. (NO PARKING ON SUNDAY fliers have been posted but people tear them down in protest of the Flea. Also, they suggested blocking of Clermont to residential parking only)
* There is a huge amount of trash on the street and overflowing from garbage cans (More garbage cans will be put out)
* People lock their bikes to the church's scaffolding. (More bike racks proposed, as well as bike valets. Signs have been put up but people ignore these.)

Unreasonable solutions proposed:
* Having the Flea start and end at a later hour, essentially dictating Demby's and Butler's business hours.
* Having the Flea in another location. The Flea is held in the playground at Bishop-Laughlin, a privately owned school. A part of the proceeds goes to the school to spend money on programs and equipment for the children. True a public school would be better, but at least the money is going towards a good cause.
* Have the Flea on a Saturday instead. The school has year-round events on Saturdays. They've considered double-booking the day but have yet to come to a solution. Also, don't think it would make much difference because it would be a case of same noise, different day.

It was interesting to hear both sides of the story. While the community had some very legitimate complaints, they were also stubborn and un-budged. Many were throwing out crazy generalities like "My whole life is changed!" The Flea founders stated that they couldn't help if some people simply didn't like the idea of the Flea, but if people stated specific, solvable problems they would do their best to comply and come to a neutral solution. They are at the Flea every Sunday, all day and are very approachable should any problem occur.

I hope they are able to come to some sort of compromise. You can only fault the Flea for so much - they are trying very hard to be good neighbors. People who attend should be respectful and responsible as well.

Read more about the meeting here on Racked.

And here at the NY Times.

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