People's Climate Arts

Landlord and Longtime Activist Give Bushwick A Sparkling New Community Space

Just around the corner from the booming Jefferson stop — amidst the cocktail bars, organic grocery, and vintage stores — another new establishment has grown out of the dirt. But unlike some of what has started to clog up Troutman, the Mayday Space isn’t simply for the Catey Shaws of the neighborhood.

The massive, freshly renovated space (about 5,500 square feet) will be open to community activists and social justice causes that might not otherwise be able to afford a space of their own. In addition to welcoming smaller groups, Mayday is also teaming up with Make the Road, an activist organization dedicated to protecting the rights of immigrants that got its start in Bushwick and has grown into a nationwide network. Make the Road already has a facility close by, but it’ll be moving into a spot at Mayday, where it will host adult literacy programs and ESL classes.

EcoStation NY will also have a space of its own in the Mayday Space. About 3,500 square feet of terrace and rooftop will be dedicated to the organization’s “Farm-In-The-Sky” project that will recruit Bushwick youth to tend to an urban farm and learn about sustainability and healthy eating a long the way.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

Ana Nogueira is co-founder of the Mayday project, which is split into two separate entities– the community space and a bar. Nogueira explained that proceeds from the latter will be used to subsidize the former. “Basically it’s a bar, with a really great event space that community groups, grassroots groups, activist groups, could use as fundraising space– which is sorely needed in NYC, because everything is so expensive.” Space for rent will be priced on a sliding scale.

“It’s just a place to gather,” she said.  “A very active space where people can plug into their community, plug into social justice issues, things like climate change, all that stuff.”

The project is miles away from what the rest of Bushwick development looks like these days. The community space, Nogueira said, is intentionally framed to address gentrification, which is progressing at a lightning-fast speed in the neighborhood. “We recognize that the split is there, and everyone wants to change it and bridge it, and we hope this space can be a conduit to that,” she explained. “Groups like Make the Road say that they want to make connections with the incoming population, they want to collaborate on things. It’s everybody’s community now, so it’s definitely an explicit goal of Mayday.”

Ana, who has worked as a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and activist, has certainly been around the neighborhood for long enough to see it change. “I’ve lived on the block for 13 years,” she said.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

Though Mayday seems like a logical culmination of Ana’s work over the years and her longstanding commitment to the neighborhood. That, and some serious luck were at play– Ana happens to know a good landlord, which is something of an oxymoron in New York City, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas. “I have a good relationship with my landlord, and a couple of years ago he came to my apartment and was like, ‘I’m building a new building on that empty lot across the street, help me do something with it.’”

Ana explained that she recruited some neighbors and friends to think about the best way to utilize the space. “We helped to transform the zoning of this building, which was a church, to community use, with some commercial use and light manufacturing,” she said. Then came the idea for the bar.

“The community board is not very excited about more and more bars coming in to the neighborhood at all,” Ana explained. “But they really support Mayday because they see that we have a different kind of mission, and the bar is more of a financial engine and a cultural space to bring different communities together.”

Something about this story seemed too good to be true. A landlord wants to give something back to the community? We just had to phone this guy.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

Turns out Iona Sita is the mystery landlord. He also owns the building that houses the Bushwick Starr just down the block. He’s not a resident of Bushwick, but he said he’s worked in the neighborhood since 1985. Though he had very little to say about the actual happenings in the space– in fact, he insisted he was not involved– Sita said he supports the Mayday project. “I work with my tenants to support them,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’ve known Ana for a long time.”

Mayday still has a ways to go until it’s fully functional, and the bar is still a few months off, but parts of the building are already buzzing with activity. One activist group, 350.org, is renting out some of the space for art production in preparation for actions related to the approaching United Nations Climate Summit.

Walking around the space, Ana was in her element– she described exactly how the center would work, and painted a palpable image of what things would look like once Mayday was fully functional. As for the bar, Ana admitted she’s never run a bar of her own before, but said she’s been getting help from some “extremely supportive” local bar owners. “I’ll learn as I go along,” she said.

Upcoming: Special Climate March Issue!

Issue #199

The Indypendent will celebrate its 200th issue on Sept. 9 with a special edition providing full coverage of the People’s Climate March and the grassroots movements fighting for a sustainable future. We plan on printing a minimum of 50,000 copies and hopefully more with your support. Every $50 you give helps us print another 500 copies.

To make a donation, please send a check or money order to The Indypendent/388 Atlantic Ave., 2nd Fl./Brooklyn, NY11217 or go to independent.org/donate.

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We know the corporate media will never adequately cover mass mobilizations like the one around the People’s Climate March. But with your help, we can tell a very different story to many tens of thousands of our fellow New Yorkers.

In Solidarity,

The Indypendent

6 Ways to Raise a Ruckus at the People's Climate March

Issue #199

Participants in the People’s Climate March will use art and creativity to give expression to the myriad reasons why it’s important to take action on climate change. Here are six groups already preparing for the big day.

Kids Bloc

Children are the least responsible for climate change but will feel the most severe impacts if nothing is done to change course. At the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March, children ages 3–13 will bring their signs, messages and voices to the street — marching against climate change and its disastrous consequences as members of Kids Bloc alongside their adult caregivers.

In the run-up to the march, Kids Bloc organizers will be holding educational workshops about climate change. Each workshop will offer age-appropriate information about climate change and the opportunity for kids to make something to carry or wear at the march.

Workshops will be held on Sept. 6–7 at the Mayday Space and on Sept. 13–14 at a site to be determined. Workshop times on both weekends are 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm with workshops at 10am and 2pm geared toward children ages 3–7 and 12pm and 4pm aimed at ages 8–13. All workshops will be free of charge and last less than two hours. No need to attend more than one. For more information, contact Donna Oblongata at donna@whamcity.com or Patrick Costello at ptack.costello@gmail.com.

Workers Art Coalition

The Workers Art Coalition is a group made up primarily of rank-and-file tradespeople, many of whom are students at the Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies and in the building trades, who collaborate on art and movement building projects with allied artists. Working out of the Mayday Space, they will be developing creative means to show what a green building future could look like. For more information, contact barrieallisoncline@gmail.com.

Boat Bloc

We all live downstream. That’s the message of the Seachange Flotilla, which will travel down the Hudson River from Troy, NY, to New York City over two weeks starting Aug. 30. Members of the flotilla will make the trip in papier mâché vessels they recently built (see photo caption below). Along the way, they will visit sites of current and planned fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as sustainability projects. For more, see seachange2014.tumblr.com. For ongoing coverage of the Seachange Flotilla’s journey down the Hudson River, follow indypendent.org.

Bike Bloc

Expect to see a large contingent of bicyclists at the People’s Climate March. In the run-up to the big event, members of the New York City Cargo Bike Collective are planning to build a couple of specially modified bikes. One of the them will be designed to pull around a platform for musicians to perform on. A second one will be a 30- to 50- foot long “caterpillar bike” with two sets of seats side by side from front to back. If you like to build or ride crazy, two-wheeled contraptions, see cargobikecollective.tumblr.com or call 347-762-4534.

Scientists Bloc

Scientists have warned of the perils of climate change for the past quarter-century with limited success, thanks to an oil industry-financed disinformation campaign. On Sept. 21, scientists will take to the streets in white lab coats to make their point once again. The Scientists Bloc is currently seeking hundreds of lab coats for the march. For more information, see sciencestands.org. If you are a scientist, science educator or science journalist who wants to sign up to join the Scientists Bloc, see bit.ly/scimarch.

Inflatables

Large inflatable objects are hard to ignore. Tools for Action plans to produce lots of them for the People’s Climate March and other spin-off protests. The group’s repertoire will include 6- to 20-foot-wide “carbon bubbles” that will be bounced in the air like giant beach balls to call attention to the actions of large banks and other financial industry players. They have bet so heavily on future profits from fossil fuel extraction projects that a transition to renewable energy sources could lead to the kind of economic meltdown last seen with the 2007-08 collapse of the housing bubble. The group will also make smaller carbon bubbles for members of the Scientists Bloc. Tools for action will host a workshop on how to make inflatables Aug. 23 from 12 to 6pm at Mayday Space. For more information, contact info@toolsforaction.net.

Many other climate arts-related initiatives are getting under way. For more, see peoplesclimatearts.tumblr.com. The next mass meeting of people doing artistic production for the climate march will be on August 21, at 7pm, and will be held at the Mayday Space at 214 Starr St. in Brooklyn.