East New York is definitely rough around the edges. It’s rough around the edges, but it's one of those places where there’s so many hidden gems, and you have to just look past a little bit of the obvious to know that. The purpose of this exhibit, “East New York: Not the New Frontier,” is really to inspire people and to just showcase what’s already existing here, the voice of the people here. So these were from a market, the farmers market, which is in East New York, which is not too far from here. And these two photos are actually of his daughters.
What inspired me to do this exhibition was an ad, I'm sorry, an article that I saw The Observer about an ad that advertised the East New York community as the new frontier, and it literally said, you know, we’re attracting hipsters, etc., to this community. And it just hit you kind of hit you in the gut, you know, like wow. I know what new frontier means, it means barren land, and there’s nothing was barren about East New York . This is a very vibrant and, you know, forward-moving community and so, it was an insult to all of the work that people have done in this neighborhood.
The impact of this exhibit is to not just educate people outside of this neighborhood about the beauty, but really inform the community members who exist and who live here already about the changes that are coming in. The map of the rezone when you come in just really introduces you to that entire concept as you sometimes talk to people about the rezoning of the neighborhood—and that it seems very far off. So it seems like something that does not affect them, but there will be of a displacement in this community because of the rezoning plan. There will be lots of people who will no longer be able to live in this community.
If you even just walk around East New York, you see these signs. They’re almost everywhere, where people are trying to buy people's houses. And they take these offers and they're not giving them that much for it. We did a demonstration in December with the community called Dissent for Cyprus Hill and East New York because an office opened on Atlantic Avenue called Quick Evict. It helps landlords quickly evict their tenants. We did a march to tear down the signs that they have posted all over the neighborhood. A lot of people here in this neighborhood ,they work every day, and have no time to come to meetings. They have families when they come home. It's a lot for them. But if we put up, you know, a beautiful exhibition, a public art exhibition that spells out, in your face when you’re going to the train, what’s going on, that’s the way to really engage the public. That’s the way to get the message out.
Art—it’ a good way to bring people together, to tell stories, to share stories, and share experiences. Some pieces are a little bit more literal than others, some are more abstract, but I think it creates space for conversation.
The show is very important. It’s a another act of preservation of our culture and showing how beautiful this neighborhood is. If you look at the news, if you look at East New York, Brownsville, anywhere in East Brooklyn, as they call it now, there’s nothing positive that’s ever put out there about it. It’s very important for me to be in this show. I get really emotional talking about it because it is important for me to show in East New York. This is home for me, and, you know, this show is community, this show is home, this show is our culture. And it just feels nice to show that to other people.
Land is power, land is a valuable resource, and people are giving up their power. And they're not saying anything. And that's just not good for humanity, it's not good for community. You just have to take care of the places that mean something to us.