Island appeal: Pol stages weekend of events supporting her bid to create a ‘Little Haiti’ district

Island appeal: Pol stages weekend of events supporting her bid to create a ‘Little Haiti’ district
Photo by Caroline Ourso

A Brooklyn state pol is ramping up her campaign to designate an area spanning several neighborhoods as Little Haiti with a weekend’s worth of events in the heart of the proposed district.

Haitian-American Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D–Flatbush), who proposes christening parts of East Flatbush, Flatbush, Ditmas Park, and Midwood as the “Little Haiti Cultural and Business District,” will kick off the festivities in the area on May 18 — an annual Haitian holiday celebrating the nation’s flag — and continue them for two days in an effort to draw attention to her initiative and those Brooklynites it honors, she said.

“For a very long time, this community has been concentrated by Haitians, and it’s a place where people can come find the cultural resources other areas lack,” the pol said. “We have the people, businesses, language, and institutions here.”

Bichotte — an East Flatbush native and the first Haitian-American elected to represent the city in the Assembly — will begin the events with a gathering at the corner of Nostrand and Newkirk Avenues, where she will reiterate her plan to form a Little Haiti before unveiling a sign for the recently designated Toussaint L’Ouverture Boulevard — named for a leader of the Haitian revolution — on Nostrand Avenue between Newkirk and Flatbush avenues.

The newly co-named stretch of Nostrand Avenue would sit within Bichotte’s proposed cultural district, which would be generally bounded by E. 16th Street, Parkside Avenue, Brooklyn Avenue, and Avenue H — and also include Church Avenue between Brooklyn and Albany avenues — if created.

The pro-Little Haiti programming will continue with a Haitian Flag Day celebration that evening, followed by a showing of paintings by Haitian artist Patricia Brintle at Bichotte’s Flatbush Avenue district office on May 19, and a May 20 street fair on Nostrand Avenue between Clarendon Road and Avenue D — all of which the assemblywoman will host along with local Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) and state Sen. Kevin Parker (D–Flatbush).

Last year, Bichotte boycotted the city’s official designation of the nearby “Little Caribbean” cultural district, arguing officials should first get behind her proposed enclave, plans for which have been in the works for a long time and are modeled after Miami’s historic Little Haiti quarter, according to the assemblywoman.

“I went there to get a sense of the neighborhood and what they did,” she said. “I saw a cultural center, a marketplace, and public murals, and we want to mimic that.”

Many in the borough’s Haitian and Caribbean communities endorse her proposal, Bichotte said, and the woman who spearheaded the Little Caribbean designation said she backs the idea, too. The designation also received the support of Community Board 14, whose district incorporates Flatbush and Midwood, as well as local pols including Williams, Haitian-born Flatbush Councilman Mathieu Eugene, and Mayor DeBlasio.

She likened the designation she seeks to that establishing Little Caribbean — which did not name the area as a historic district under the protection of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, but rather as a cultural district in name only that can lure more investment and tourism dollars to the area by championing its heritage, she said.

“It’s more of an economic opportunity for our community recognizing the contributions we’ve made,” Bichotte said. “We’ve been living here for decades, and now that it’s being gentrified, we don’t want that history to go unknown.”

Council will vote to officiate Little Haiti at its next legislative meeting sometime in late May, according to the pol, who said she hopes the local lawmakers will also consider her proposal to co-name Rogers Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Farragut Road after Haitian forefather Jean-Jacques Dessalines at the meeting.

And after decades of Haitians settling in Brooklyn, the immigrants and their descendants deserve an official district showcasing and celebrating their contributions to the borough’s culture, according to Bichotte.

“We want to bring awareness and invite people to come and see the neighborhoods we live in, what kind of businesses we frequent, the churches we go to, and the language we speak,” she said. “And sometimes in order to do that, we need to promote who we are.”

Little Haiti announcement (Nostrand and Newkirk avenues in Flatbush, www.littlehaitibk.org) on May 18 at 11 am. Free.

Haitian Flag Day “Selebrayson” at Bklyn Commons (495 Flatbush Ave. between Empire Boulevard and Lefferts Avenue in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, www.haiticulturalx.org/selebrasyon) on May 18 at 6 pm. Free.

Patricia Brintle art show at Assemblywoman Bichotte’s district office [1312 Flatbush Ave. between Foster Avenue and Farragut Road in Flatbush, (718) 940–0428] on May 19, 6–9 pm. RSVP required by e-mailing derrickl@nyassembly.gov. Free.

Haitian Flag Day street fair (Nostrand Avenue between Clarendon Road and Avenue D in Flatbush) on May 20, 11 am–6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.