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Fulton Street Community Visioning Project Sees Resistance From Locals

By Janet Upadhye | June 13, 2012 1:03pm | Updated on June 13, 2012 1:23pm

FORT GREENE — On Tuesday night, Fulton Area Business Alliance hosted its first community visioning meeting encouraging local groups and residents to give input into the future design ideas for Fulton Street between Flatbush and Classon Avenues.

But what the FAB Alliance got from some participants was more like a poke in the eye.

“We didn’t ask you to change our neighborhood,” shouted one resident before opening remarks came to an end.

From its inception, the FAB Alliance has faced opposition, according to The Local. Residents have felt left out of the Fulton Street business development process, but even more so, some felt that the FAB Alliance was doing more bad than good in the community.

“FAB Alliance meetings are private and they don’t talk to people living in the neighborhood,” said 30-year Fort Greene resident Schellie Hagan. “Worse, they have changed our neighborhood into one big party,” she added, referring to FAB-sponsored Friday events, block parties and concerts.

Hagan is a member of Fulton Area Coming Together, an organization formed to challenge the FAB Alliance.  Hagan said that the FAB Alliance has done nothing to save 45 small stores who have gone out of business under their charge.

In preparation for the envisioning meeting, the group put out a document alleging that the FAB Alliance “wants to control the look and feel of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill- and they want the neighborhoods to cede to them.”

Still, the envisioning process moved stubbornly forward under the red industrial arches at the BAM Café.

More than 60 people participated in the process in some way, whether it was to air grievances or brainstorm ideas.

Participants were divided into eight tables. Each table had a large printed map of Fulton Street where people could use markers to jot down ideas, or place colored stickers on areas of the street they liked, hated or thought needed a change.

Laurie Cumbo, Director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, drew pictures of ice skating rinks and envisioned public sculpture gardens along Fulton Street. At another table, Hagan wrote, “Why don’t you leave us alone?” on her Fulton Street map.

The FAB Alliance was recently paired with Pro Bono Design companies, ABArchitekten and Mapos as part of a program created by non-profit, desigNYC called Recharging Communities.

Designers sat at the tables to work with community members to, according to the event description, “gather valuable ideas, observations, and recommendations for possible public space, street scape, greening, way-finding, and place making projects and initiatives along Fulton Street.”

At the end of the event, designers planned to gather all of the maps, drawings, and writing created by residents during the meeting and post it to a Facebook page.  Locals, whether they attended the meeting or not, are encouraged to comment and discuss on that page.

Phillip Kellogg, Manager of the FAB Alliance and Fort Greene resident is excited about the end result.

“The designers will look at community input and start to recognize trends and priorities,” he said. “Using that newfound knowledge they will create a document laying out a design for the street.”

The FAB alliance plans to unveil the document to the community in September and will again seek community opinion.

Michael Courton, who has some criticisms of The FAB Alliance, believes that they will be responsive to the design ideas of the community. “This is a well organized event and I think useful information will come from it,” he said. “I have concerns too, but I don’t think this was the place to air my grievances.”

But some participants felt they had no choice. “They asked for our input.” said Sandy who has lived on Elliot Place in Fort Greene for 22 years. She declined to give her last name. “The FAB Alliance changed the feel of the neighborhood in a negative way with no regard for our concerns.”

Roslyn Huebener, a Fort Greene resident since 1985, agreed.

“This is too little too late,” she said.