Two blocks on the corner

How do we know if a building fits the aesthetic and culture of a neighborhood? Who's to say?  Seems like it's up to the people of the neighborhood. Not some developer who trumpets hollow talking points about abstract cultural influences. Not the new arrivals for whom the building was built and who, yeah, might think a building fits the area's aesthetic because it fits the only aesthetic they've ever known – they didn't experience the brick townhouses before the introduction of glassy prefab slabs. They have no memory and little stake.

In neighborhoods choked and sabotaged by derelict governments and ignored by private investors, we hail modern, somewhat radical buildings that serve the community – for example, some of the funkier supportive housing developments for formerly homeless adults and families like Breaking Ground's Boston Road. The new apartments feature foreign colors and materials or tower above the old, but people tend to consider them progressive and as indicators of investment (which they are).

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A Tale of Two Shootings on Social Media

Someone got shot in the face around the corner from my apartment around 5:15 pm on Wednesday. I walked outside a few minutes later and encountered thirty cops who had shut down the street to collect evidence, like the empty shell casings nearby.

Twitter serves as the best source for breaking news citizen journalism, but only two people had Tweeted about the shooting. Neither provided much info. @PremierPolitics got the details wrong (according to brief news reports, only one person got shot – not three) and @DignaUrena posted a few photos of police on the scene.   

Five days later, these two tweets remain the only human-generated posts about the shooting, which occurred during evening rush hour on a crowded block (there were a few tweets from bots that post police scanner activity). On Friday, NYPD returned to shut down the street - this time to film the show Bull. Life goes on. Events, even really shocking ones, are wiped away and papered over.

Contrast the social media indifference to the public response to a shooting two days earlier near the corner of Greenpoint Ave. and McGuiness Blvd. in Greenpoint. Well before police and the media determined that the shooter was an ex-cop (a detail that definitely does make for a juicy story), Brooklyn Twitter lit up with photos and information. Here's a sample:

While trying to research the Greenpoint shooting immediately afterward, a friend who lives nearby encountered several other killings that received very little attention aside from a two-paragraph blurb on the News12 Brooklyn. What makes some shootings grab our attention while others fade away – disregarded or, unfortunately, accepted as a fact of life in poor urban neighborhoods of color? 

The amount of attention paid to a specific gun violence episode in New York City seems directly correlated to the amount of gentrification in the area surrounding the shooting. Greenpoint is white, hipster and thoroughly gentrified. Rampant redevelopment and displacement have hit Bushwick hard, but the eastern part still maintains much of its past identity as a neighborhood populated by low-income people of color. Gunshots out here still seem to be shrugged off as a "same old Bushwick" phenomenon, but gun violence is not a natural occurrence and we shouldn't accept it anywhere. 

"We Never Had A Choice"

In 2015, the owner of CABS Nursing Home -- a 157-unit facility on the corner of DeKalb Avenue and Kosciuszko Street in Bed-Stuy -- sold the property to a developer who drafted plans for a seven-story condo. 

This past summer, WNYC investigated the sale of CABS as well as the conversion of a Lower East Side nursing home into a luxury housing complex. The sales reflect true Monty Burns-level scheming: residents were hastily discharged or moved to other locations without a discharge plan. Families were not notified. At least one person died. 

From the story:

At CABS nursing home in Brookyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, some family members said they were rushed into leaving before a closure plan was approved by the state in February. Rafaela Rodriguez's husband died shortly after leaving the facility. She said an investigation into her husband's discharge is a good thing. Rodriguez was the head of the nursing home's family council and said several family members with loved ones at CABS called her to complain about having to leave the facility.

CABS is pretty eery now. The four-story nursing home still stands, but the lobby is dark. As though frozen in time, signs, posters and a trophy remain as artifacts. Light construction materials lay scattered in a patch of topsoil in front of the building. 

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A handwritten message above the door reads "WE NEVER HAD A CHOICE."

cabs nursing home