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Price hike! Activists host gentrification walking tour of Williamsburg

Price hike! Activists host gentrification walking tour of Williamsburg
Take a hike: Grad students and tour guides Larissa Begault and Julia Borowicz are using a walking tour to teach residents about the history of development and public spaces in Williamsburg.
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is a tour of snooty!

An activist group is hoping to recruit new members with a walking tour of gentrification and development in Williamsburg on May 2. The two-hour trek along the neighborhood’s waterfront and surrounding streets will highlight the area’s changing face and will hopefully inspire participants to fight for a future visage that features more green space and fewer condominiums, said an organizer.

“We are hoping that long-term residents can become aware of the history so they can feel engaged and work to protect it,” said Rita Pasarell, board chair of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, which is sponsoring the free expeditions.

The tour steps off near Bushwick Inlet Park, where the guides will explain how local activists have been pushing the city to make good on its decade-old pledge to buy a neighboring plot and supersize the parkland. The city promised to buy the land — which was the site of a huge warehouse fire earlier this year — as part of a 2005 rezoning that allowed developers to build towering luxury apartment buildings along the waterfront. Neighbors Allied for Good Growth said it is hoping to draft residents from the walking tour’s ranks in the fight to finally get the city to purchase the lot.

“The most important thing we can do is get people informed so they can pass it on and get their neighbors informed,” said Pasarell.

The guides will also shepherd their charges to luxury lodging the Wythe Hotel on Wythe Avenue and N. 11th Street, which used to be a barrel making factory, and the now bougie-boutique-laden Bedford Avenue, which was once a working-class area.

But it isn’t all hipster horror stories. The docents of development will also take participants to East River Park, where they will note that the area was once a huge trash lot. The idea is to explain how change and development — both good and bad — comes about, said one of the guides.

“We try to give them a basic historical overview and point out the economic and political processes that are taking place,” said guide Julia Borowicz,

Borowicz and her co-guide Larissa Begault, who are both graduate students at Parsons School of Design Strategies, have been leading the tours throughout April, and the May 2 jaunt will be the final leg. In May, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth will start a new series focused on industrial buildings in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and how their toxic histories still impact residents today, including strolls to a radioactive waste station and the so-called “Roebling Oil Field” at Roebling Street and N. 11th Street, where oil has oozed from the ground as recently as 2007. As with the development tours, the goal is to inspire locals to fight for a cleaner, greener future for the neighborhoods, not to bum the them out, the tour’s guide said.

“I am trying to engage people in the history and not just scare them,” said Jennie Romer, who is working on a map of all the toxic hotspots in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Walking Workshop tour starting at the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth office (110 Kent St. at N. Eighth Street in Williamsburg,, www.nag-brooklyn.org]. May 2 at 1 pm. Free, but RSVP at walking.workshops@gmail.com.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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