Today’s news:

Public disrespected at CB 7 hearing on Flushing Commons

An open letter to Community Board 7:

I had the misfortune to attend the CB 7 hearing March 22 regarding the proposed Flushing Commons project. I arrived at 7 p.m. when the hearing began, but I did not get to say my piece until the early hours of the next day — more than five hours later. The preparation for and organization of the hearing was inadequate and disrespectful to the people who attended.

First, the board leaders should have realized this project would bring out a large segment of the community, both in favor of and against the project. The room at the site of the hearing was too small to handle the hundreds who showed up. Of course, there were not enough seats and people had to stand for hours in the aisles. The room was hot and uncomfortable. It was difficult to hear the speakers and see the rendition pictures of the project in the front of the room. Building security had a hard time managing the crowd.

My church, the Macedonia AME Church of Flushing, attended in full force to support the affordable housing aspect of the project, known as Macedonia Plaza. But instead of dealing with that part of the project in a timely manner, we were the last to be heard. It was like we were told to sit in the back of a bus.

Sitting there, I thought back to the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, which held that a free black man does not have rights that a white man is bound to respect. That sentiment is still alive today.

It was also infuriating because that land where the project is to be built — Municipal Parking Lot No. 1 — was once a predominantly African-American community of homes and businesses. Back in 1954, New York City callously took by eminent domain all of that property to make the parking lot.

It paid the people little for their land and homes. Macedonia AME, located on the lot, escaped being swallowed up at that time. But many of the church’s members had their property taken away from them. And some of their descendents were present at the board hearing.

And here we sat at this hearing waiting for our turn to be heard. Many of my sisters and brothers could not wait to speak. They were tired from a hard day’s work and had to get their sleep for the next day’s labors. Many church members attending were senior citizens like myself, but we were made to stay for hours, biding our time while others debated about parking and traffic.

Yes, they are important issues, but the board should have showed the proper respect to my people.

Construction workers and others present at the hearing got to have their say before my people. My people, many of whose ancestors had connections to that land, had to wait into the early morning hours.

I believe those who run CB 7 could have done better. They need to get their act together and, in general, show more consideration and respect for the people who come out to the board’s hearings. The board is there to serve the residents of the community. It is an arm of our democracy, where it operates for and by the people.

Unfortunately, on the night of March 22, it did not serve my people well and a public apology is in order for what happened to the people of Macedonia AME at that hearing.

Mandingo Tshaka


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