Saturday, May 31, 2008

The (relative) silence about the long-delayed Ingersoll Community Center and the breadth of blogs

When, earlier this month, I covered (for the Brooklyn Downtown Star) the annual convention of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which advocates for low-income women of color, many in the housing projects of Fort Greene, I was surprised to learn that the Ingersoll Community Center, under construction for more than six years, still isn't open, in stark contrast to the steadily rising condos nearby. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), whose web site says not-so-clearly that the center has been "rebuilt," now promises it will open in the fall.

(Photo from New York Daily News. Graphic below from NYCHA site.)

It's a story of promises unfulfilled, one that deserves far more scrutiny, but the media coverage has been scant. I found an 8/31/01 Daily News article indicating that the contract had been awarded. A 4/16/04 Brooklyn Eagle article reported that completion was anticipated by December 2004. A May/June 2005 City Limits article noted that the community center had been "rendered unusable for years." Last August, the Brooklyn Paper quoted a NYCHA spokesman as saying the center was complete and in the "sign-off phase."

On Tuesday, following up on the mention in my Brooklyn Downtown Star article, the Daily News covered the story, under the headline Fort Greene's Ingersoll Center still not open after seven years.

Getting the word out

Some advocates have made Ingersoll an issue. FUREE's Downtown Brooklyn Accountable Development Campaign explains, "The Ingersoll Community Center, rebuilt and beautiful, remains unopened."

Still, it makes me wonder: if Ingersoll residents and their advocates had gotten the word out more, or started--hmm--a blog, wouldn't this have generated more notice?

What about a countdown clock, like the one NoLandGrab mounted regarding the long-delayed Atlantic Yards ombudsman?

Given the paucity of press coverage of Brooklyn in general, I've said publicly that I'm less disturbed by the disproportionate number of bloggers--some good, some not--in Brownstone Brooklyn than by the fact that the Brooklyn bureaus of the city's dailies each have only a handful of people.

I still am. Then again, if online journalism does influence print coverage--and I know some online journalists/bloggers who regularly see their work lifted--then that also impacts subjects like the Ingersoll Community Center.

Perhaps online journalists/bloggers, as with the press in general, should cast a wider net. But there should be ways to encourage and train a broader spectrum of Brooklynites on how to get the word out on their communities.

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