Tenant rallies, subway safety, and seasonal celebrations: Brooklyn Paper’s top stories from March 2024

tenant protest crown heights
Dozens of tenants protested evictions and rent deregulation at a rally in Crown Heights this month.
File photo by Oscar Fock

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but it’s not really clear if the news cycle in Brooklyn follows that trend.

This past month saw plenty of good — Coney Island’s iconic amusement parks opened for the season, officials landed on a name for a new Bay Ridge elementary school that honors a local hero, and the historic Brooklyn Paramount reopened after a years-long restoration, bringing live music and art back to the building.

The borough also faced some difficulty — a Park Slope stabbing left one young woman dead and her twin sister injured, a beloved synagogue was demolished, and a shooting rattled Brooklyn’s straphangers.

From the good to the heartbreaking, here are some of Brooklyn Paper’s top and most important stories from March.

Brooklynites rallied against evictions in Crown Heights

Martina Meijera, member of the Tenant Union Flatbush, at the protest in solidarity with the building’s tenants. Photo by Oscar Frock

On a cold, wet day, residents from 12 unionized buildings in Crown Heights came together to support neighbors facing eviction — and to fight back against the deregulation of rent-stabilized apartments at large.

Last summer, the owners of 285 Eastern Parkway told tenants they intended to demolish the building, which is fulled with rent-regulated units — likely as a way to deregulate those units and start charging market rate. Since then, tenants have been fighting back — their case is currently being reviewed by the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be allowed to stay. 

Tenants and supporters said the situation at 285 Eastern Parkway is just the tip of the iceberg, and that many tenants are facing eviction as their landlords attempt to deregulate their buildings to make some more money, leaving tenants homeless as housing prices continue to rise. 

Police blamed a subway shooting on fare evasion

The day after a man was shot in the head with his own gun at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station after he allegedly started a fight with his fellow passenger, leaving straphangers terrified, cops said the gun-owner had evaded the fare when he entered the subway system at Nostrand Avenue.

The shooting came weeks after Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed hundreds of National Guard members to New York City subways to help with bag checks after subway crimes spiked in the beginning of the year. Days later — after two more commuters were stabbed in separate incidents on Brooklyn’s subways — the NYPD announced it would send 800 more cops into the subway system to deter fare evaders. Though many criticized the NYPD’s focus on fare evasion in relation to violent crime, at a March 15 press conference about the Hoyt-Schermerhorn shooting, cops said they “are seeing a small group of individuals that we catch during these fare evasion operations that are recidivists, that have warrants, that have guns, that have knives and they don’t pay the fare.”

Borough Park’s oldest synagogue was demolished without permits

The 122-year-old Chevra Anshei Lubawitz was reduced to rubble March 17.Photo by Adam Daly

On March 17, after years of dispute, Chevra Anshei Lubawitz — Borough Park’s oldest and longest-surviving synagogue – was demolished without permits. 

The property was sold to developers in 2017, and community members have been fighting to save the synagogue since then, arguing that a demolition was not kosher and that the deal had not been fairly negotiated. But, to the horror of community members, the developers went ahead with a demolition anyway. Department of Buildings inspectors found contractors had acted without a demolition permit and had not taken the adequate steps to protect neighbors during the demolition — and slapped them with a full Stop Work order. 

“The synagogue was definitely not just destroyed,” said Jewish Future Alliance president Yaacov Behrman. “It was desecrated the way it was ripped down.”

Neighbors came together to raise funds after a tragic stabbing

Community members left flowers and candles where the 19-year-old was stabbed to death. Gabriele Holtermann

Early on the morning of March 17, 19-year-old Samiya Spain was stabbed and killed outside a Park Slope bodega after allegedly rejecting a man’s advances. Her twin sister was badly injured in the stabbing, and the incident left the community reeling.

Days later, Spain’s other sister, Danasha Goodson, launched a GoFundMe to raise money for a memorial ceremony for Spain and to start a non-profit foundation dedicated to fighting violence against women.

“Samyia lost her life protecting her sister. Samyia lost her life to senseless violence, to the fragile male ego, because violence against women has been normalized and condoned,” Goodson wrote on the fundraising page. “Samyia deserves to be here, she deserves to be celebrated.”

The GoFundMe has raised more than $30,000, almost reaching its $35,000 goal

Officials named a new Bay Ridge school after a local hero

A 300-seat elementary school set to open in Bay Ridge this fall will be named P.S. 413 The Joanne Seminara School of Law & Medicine in honor of the late Seminara, a local advocate and lawyer. Seminara spent decades serving on the local Community Board 10, and was an engaged and dedicated citizen, officials said.

“Joanne Seminara was the real deal,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “Her compass unfailingly led her toward equity, fairness, and integrity. She was simply a good and decent person, who lived to leave our community and our world a little bit better than how she found it.”

The school is one of six new schools set to open in Bay Ridge in coming years to deal with overcrowded classrooms.

Coney Island reopened for the season

opening day of coney island amusement parks
The People’s Playground is officially open for spring following the blessing of the rides and the ceremonial ribbon cutting on March 24.Photo by Erica Price

Different people mark the start of spring in different ways – when spring break begins, or on the equinox – but in Brooklyn, spring began on March 24, when Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park opened with much fanfare. 

“In Brooklyn, we don’t care about groundhogs, they don’t tell us when spring starts,” said Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “In Brooklyn, we got to Coney Island and when the Wonder Wheel starts spinning, we know spring has started.”

Hundreds of Brooklynites flocked to Coney Island for the season’s first ride on the iconic Cyclone rollercoaster – and one rider even worked up the courage to propose to his longtime girlfriend on the boardwalk.

Locals lauded the reopening of the Brooklyn Paramount

Brooklyn Paramount Theater reopened to the public on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Decades after its last curtain call, the Brooklyn Paramount theater reopened as a live music venue on March 27. Fully-restored in ornate 1920s splendor, the historic theater is ready to welcome a long list of musicians to the stage over the next few months.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Congress Member Yvette D. Clarke took the opportunity to highlight the groundbreaking space that is the Brooklyn Paramount.

“Decades ago this theater broke down barriers, giving Black artists a platform from the earliest days of Rock n’ Roll on stage in front of desegregated audiences,” she said.

The restored venue also features an exclusive jazz lounge that houses actual bottled spirits from the 1920s and a menu of Ella Fitzgerald-themed cocktails. 

Brooklyn Paper honored Emily Warren Roebling during Women’s History Month

As Women’s History Month drew to a close, Brooklyn Paper looked back on the history of one of the borough’s most notable women — Emily Warren Roebling, who secretively ensured the success of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband, the project’s lead engineer, fell ill.

While caring for her husband, Roebling passed messages back and forth from construction crews and even presented plans to engineers herself — convincing them to allow her husband to continue working on the project.

“Back then they weren’t taking women seriously, but she had such a commanding presence and got so much respect when she went out and spoke to them about why he should continue doing the work that they listened to her and they kept him on the project, essentially keeping both of them,” explained Assistant Director for Collections and Public Services at the Center for Brooklyn History, Natiba Guy-Clement.

Her contributions were largely secretive — some worried that if the public knew a woman had been so crucial in construction, they would refuse to cross the bridge at all. It was only much later that Roebling’s work was largely acknowledged and celebrated.

A man was arrested in connection with a fatal fire

One week after a fire at a Bath Beach home left two men dead, cops arrested a 33-year-old man who allegedly started the fire. 

As he was marched out of the 62nd Precinct, the suspect, local resident Alex Alive, insisted he was innocent. The identities of the two men who died in the fire have not been released, and it was reported that the two victims were found with a stab wound and severe head trauma — though cops have not yet confirmed their cause of death. 

Alive is being charged with two counts of homicide. 

Two people were struck by subway trains in the same day in Brooklyn

q subway train
Two people were fatally struck by trains in separate incidents on March 26. Photo courtesy of kidfly182/Wikimedia Commons

At the end of a dangerous month for the MTA, two Brooklynites were hit and killed by trains in the same day on March 26. The first, 26-year-old Flatbush resident Travis McIntyre, died in an apparent suicide when he was struck by a Q train at the Beverley Road station. Hours later, 16-year-old Neisa Herod-Cross was found dead on the tracks at the 9th Avenue-4th Street station after she was hit by a G train. The teen was reportedly walking on the tracks with friends when she was hit by the train.

MTA officials told Brooklyn Paper they are piloting a number of technologies to keep riders from accessing the tracks, whether on purpose or by accident. The agency has installed platform barriers at a handful of stations across the city, and said they are testing additional tech that would alert officials when someone enters the tracks or is acting dangerously.