Voices in Focus: Continued Strife Over Nets Arena

In today’s roundup from New York’s ethnic and community press: continued dissent over the new Nets Arena in Brooklyn; an organization that promotes traditional Dominican music; a Mexican musician who fashions instruments from scrap wood; bilingual Department of Motor Vehicles documents; and the first high school in the state to offer Portuguese classes.

* Ahead of Jay-Z’s much-publicized series of concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next month, Black and Brown News offered an overview of the last few months of dissent over development at Atlantic Yards, which includes the new Brooklyn Nets Arena. The piece quotes a May letter from 17 Brooklyn church leaders to Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the project:

After observing the process throughout the years and being familiar with the history of the project, we tried to be hopeful that the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, (FCRC) and the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) would ultimately ensure that promises made to the community were delivered. Unfortunately, that is not the current situation.  We have reliable data that clearly confirms that the alleged overwhelming benefits to the community concerning jobs, affordable housing and contracts for Minority Women Business Enterprises, (MWBEs) are a fraction of what was promised.

The clergy wrote that they were not satisfied with efforts thus far to provide jobs and protect the community from rising rents. They also asked that the government provide oversight by appointing an independent compliance officer. In June, BBN reported from a rally held by the Committee for Arena Justice, which is comprised of the Brooklyn church leaders.

Rev. John Merz, of the Rector Church of the Ascension, told BBN, “These enormous development projects are profit plantations that destabilize communities by shooting up rents and housing rates.”   This sentiment echoes the concerns by clergy, community activists and small business owners who live in central Brooklyn – the area directly impacted by the AYP and Arena.

“If the one percent in our community – young Black and Brown professionals – are pushed out because they can’t afford rising rents, as a result of this project, that is not a benefit to the community,” said Rev. Monte Malik Chandler, a Pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church.  “And what about the family of four, who earns $50,000 per year. What do they do when rents are $2,500?”

(Via Manhattan Times)

* The Manhattan Times has a nice profile of GaGa P’al Pueblo, an Afro-Dominican arts organization that promotes traditional and folkloric Dominican music and dance known as ‘Palos’.

…[E]very Sunday, the members of GaGa P’al Pueblo offers all those present a rousing performance while also taking the time to share their knowledge with audience members; these can often include dance lessons.

“You’ll get your Masters’ in Palos music if you come here on Sundays,” said Ricardo Ureña, the organization’s chief coordinator.

Ureña says he has been heartened by the response from local residents.

“We feel like the community is very interested in what we do because they have been supporting us and making sure we continue this initiative,” he said.

* Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, 34-year-old Sinuhé Padilla, of Mexican descent, learned a traditional artisanal method of making instruments from scrap wood, El Diario La Prensa reported. Translated excerpts follow below:

Sinuhé Padilla, who started playing stringed instruments at age nine, said that making a jarana takes more than a month. (Zaira Cortés via El Diario)

In an improvised workshop in a corner of his apartment in the vicinity of Stanhope Street in Bushwick, Padilla uses a mix of techniques that he created himself and learned in Mexico to breathe life into percussion instruments and the jarana, a type of small guitar used in the Mexican musical genre son jarocho

Padilla, who is currently writing a comprehensive dictionary of chords for jarana jarocha, explained that the process of building jaranas starts with a cardboard template, which helps to outline the instrument’s shape in the wood. Then, Padilla cuts out a unique piece and shapes it with sandpaper and wedges. Assembling the table (the lid that goes over the body), fingerboard, sound hole, headstock (the top of the guitar), and frets is part of the final process.

* The Department of Motor Vehicles now offers driver license applications in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Bengali, the Korea Times reported. Translated excerpts follow below:

With this action, Korean users can download the Korean application through the website, fill them out and then visit the DMV or apply for a driver’s license by mail.

The DMV also helps online driver license applicants do ‘Voter Registration’ through ‘MyDMV’ to help them to register on the voters’ list.

* Mineola High School in Long Island will be the first high school in New York state to offer Portuguese language classes, LusoAmericano reported. Getting the classes approved was a joint effort by state senator Jack Martins and the vice-mayor and history teacher Paulo Pereira.

Thanks to the intervention of Jack Martins, the state of New York granted approval to allow Portuguese instruction into the curriculum at MHS. Still, the senator thinks it is possible to go further:

“Maybe in the future we can resolve the issue of Portuguese being excluded from official state curriculum. Everything depends on how other communities react now to this advancement in Mineola, following our footsteps.”

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