Open City: Blogging Urban Change
¡Basta Ya!
By Peggy Lee

 

In March 2007, Bloomberg announced Sunset Park was going to be rezoned.

In March 2008, the re-zoning plan for Sunset Park was announced.

¡Basta Ya!, or Rise Up! is a 34-minute educational documentary that brings together the perspectives and insights of community members, academics, and activists about encroaching gentrification and the challenges of resisting it in Sunset Park. It captures community board meeting brawls and pleas, breaks down the language of re-zoning, and the political power structure of how these processes are moved along, as well as their stakeholders. It is collaborative in every sense of the word: from storyboard planning by local youth to special beats by Optiks. The production began in early 2008 and was finalized in 2010. The video, available on vimeo, is an educational tool, and screenings are encouraged at your block parties, churches, neighborhood events, and schools to provide folks with the knowledge to take localized action.

One of the leading organizers of the project is 26 year old, active community member, lida Shao. She has lived and worked in Sunset Park for close to three years. She moved to the neighborhood because she felt comfortable with the Chinese speaking demographic and it was affordable; she desired to establish conscious roots. When I asked about her personal definition of home, she replied, “[Home, for me is…]being grounded, local, and understanding geography for the first time by living in Sunset and staying in Sunset; so something I’m trying out, but something I know doesn’t have to be a very simple answer to a very complex history.”

lida Shao standing next to her shero, Grace Lee Boggs

A “red-diaper baby,” lida Shao was raised by parents who were diehard Maoists. Politics were an everyday topic at dinner and family get-togethers. Her father, for instance, devoted much of his life’s work demanding reparations from the Japanese for the Nanjing Massacre of World War II in his organization Alliance in Memory of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre (AMVNM). Born in Manhattan, lida migrated to the burbs of Westchester, New York at an early age and returned to attend high school in lower Manhattan. After university in Providence, she returned to New York City and became involved with a creative collective called Paper Tiger Television where the idea for a documentary about the re-zoning talks in Sunset Park surfaced.

At the end of our conversation, lida expressed how good it felt to talk about the collaborative documentary that came from a group of folks who after the momentum of the re-zoning struggle have since gone in different directions. Regarding the trajectory of ¡Basta Ya!, she states, “It’s up to community to continue and hold the torch for creative projects like these. There are moments when the creative person loses faith in the project, and it’s so helpful to have other people to remind you how powerful a process could be and once was.”

If you’d like to show ¡Basta Ya! as an educational tool, please go right ahead!  It is a Creative Commons (NC-ND-BY) piece.  Questions and comments highly welcome!  You can reach lida Shao at lidaShao <at> gmail <dot> com.

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

Read more.

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