For the first time ever, Bushwick’s Community Board 4 is inviting locals to voice opinions on what needs to change in the community through a series of seven surveys. The surveys give residents the chance to give input on issues of public safety and emergency, education and child welfare, and housing and economic development, among others. 

Celeste León is the district manager for Community Board 4 and is responsible for producing the Statement of Community Needs alongside budget requests, which will then be submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Management by the end of October.

León told Bushwick Daily that the surveys are a supplement to the previous options offered, such as attending the public budget meetings, making committee announcements, and providing testimony on budget priorities in public hearings.   

According to León, data collection recorded through 311 calls, Community Board 4’s complaint system and meetings is limited. “Even if I somehow found the capacity to read a lot of articles and go through statistics, I’m still not going to have a well-rounded perspective compared to what people on the ground in the community are seeing,” said León.

The surveys would increase community engagement and make for a more accurate representation of their needs, León explained.

Plaza at the intersection of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues. Image: Erik Kantar

With the help of other Board members, the surveys, available online, have recently been translated to Spanish and plans are in the works to print flyers a little later this week. The flyers will then be distributed to residents who do not have access to the internet or a computer. 

“We know that there is a large Spanish-speaking population in Bushwick, and so, we would not be able to do just the paper English forms. My goal — and also just being mindful of the staff’s capacity — I want to see if we could strike a middle ground between having the paper forms going to those who definitely cannot be in public right now, and, if possible, working with some of our community partners,” said León. 

León, with chairperson of Community Board 4 Robert Camacho, plans on visiting facilities, senior centers and residences including Riseboro Community Partnership, Duncan Genns Apartments and Ozzie Wilson Residences. 

“Engaging around budget needs is not something new. It’s a mandated responsibility of boards. I’ve been doing this since I’ve been here. What’s different are these surveys,” said León. 

The surveys are projected to provide an element of balance. Though León states there aren’t any discrepancies between the Statement of District Needs and the surrounding community’s needs, data is skewed to cater to whoever is most engaged. 

“Let’s say, for instance, the Board gets a lot of homeowners that call compared to renters. Obviously, that’s going to skew my perspective because homeowners are going to be advocating from a very different position than a renter would be, potentially, and I know for a fact, right, that this neighborhood isn’t 90 percent homeowners,” commented León. 

Survey results will be considered in conjunction with the set of priorities set forth by the Board. Though the two are not estimated to be completely aligned, the distinctions are something that will be analyzed as well. 

“Another thing we’re going to be looking at, too, is the breakdown between how residents are responding, how community-based organizations are responding and then, potentially elected officials to see if the priorities that they are putting forward are the same or different,” said León, “because the average person in the neighborhood may not understand issues that are happening beyond their part, their block, or vicinity where they spend a lot of time in. Meanwhile, the Board has to look at everything.” 

Vendors at Maria Hernandez park. Image: Erik Kantar

As of now, León is hopeful of obtaining a fellowship that would help synthesize a report. Without the fellowship, the role of sifting through the information will fall on León. 

To ensure that your voice is heard, León shared that the sooner the surveys are submitted, the better, with a rough deadline of October 25. 

“I would hope as many people as possible are able to submit their information prior to that Monday,” said León. “I think this is really an attempt to say, let’s build on what’s here or not here, and then let’s also include these voices that don’t necessarily feel like they’re always the first priority when it comes to some of these things that are happening.”

The easiest way to keep up-to-date with the Community Board is by joining its newsletter, which always includes information on what else is happening in the community. To those who are enthusiastic about volunteering to help with this project or becoming involved, León says you can always contact the office directly. 

“You call some offices and maybe you have to go through several different prompts before you reach a person. I like to think that the Community Board helps remediate some of that and provides a more personable face to government,” said León. “I don’t want you to fill out this survey one time and then we never talk again. I want you to feel more comfortable being vocal about your community needs and not in a professional or formal way, but just saying ‘Hey, my neighbor,’” she continued.

Featured image: Community Board 4’s Instagram

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