The Cro-Hill Community Assocation (or, How Music Affects Your Mood)

Geoff and I finally made it to a meeting of the local community association, which convened last night at the Hatian American Daycare Center on St. John’s and Bedford Ave in Crown Heights.

Amidst Christmas decorations and colorful posters about famous Hatians, Councilwoman Laetitia James spoke, which is actually something of a big deal. (There was a Jeopardy! question about Laetitia James because she is the first Third Party member of the city council in New York’s history; Ms. James is a member of the Working Families Party.)

Councilwoman James

She explained that the Cro-Hill assocation actually had upwards of $150,000 at its disposal, the remains of an old grant from the Dormitory Authority of New York State. From my limited experience with non-profit work, I know that “spend it or lose it” is a way of life…especially in an economy teetering on the brink of recession. So a rousing debate ensued about whether to spend the money on security cameras (to fight crime) or the general beautification of Franklin Ave (to fight ugliness). Those readers who are familiar with my apartment might know that we live close to a giant castle-like armory building, converted into a homeless shelter. Well, Ms. James is apparently spearheading the effort to turn this building into a community athletic center within the next year. If you happen to be Bill or James, this counts as news!

The lady sitting next to me remarked in a low voice that the community assocation was actually advocating for gentrification. This makes somse sense. Beautification projects, trying to attract new bussinesses, the proposed closing of the homeless shelter, the effort to get kids off the street and into a community athletic center…seems like good stuff. But this lady was suggesting that the community assocation was actually forcing itself out of existence. When rents go up, working class people will no longer be able to afford Crown Heights, hence no more community association.

On the other hand, Councilwoman James told an interesting story about how there *used* to be community centers in the neighborhood, but they had been replaced by big condo developments. In addition to its vague similarity to the plot of “Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo,” this story was also interesting because it suggested the community association was trying to work *against* the effects of gentrification.

More interesting stuff: Did you know that 3-8 IN THE AFTERNOON is when most (reported) street crimes are committed? Weird.

Anyway, during the meeting Geoff and I had the horrendous misfortune to sit next to a Christmas tree whose blaring hi-tone 8-bit Christmas melodies were overlapping upon one another to create a kind of dissonant Charles Ives effect. Imagine King’s Quest-like renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “The 12 Days of Christmas” playing at the same time and you’ll have an idea of this Christmas cacophony. Combined with an extraordinarily loud microwave beeping for attention in the distance, this soundscape had very real and very uncomfortable physical effects upon me. Something like getting my teeth drilled at the dentist.


I never knew such things existed! Geoff pointed out that his Judaism and concommitant lack of experience with Christmas trees prevented him from having the know-how to put an end to the torture.

I heard a cool episode of This American Life recently, called “Mapping”. One of the acts was about how normal devices (computers, radiators, telephones, refridgerators, etc.) usually generate a tone; the interval or chord of more than one device buzzing in the background at all times can actually have concrete effects on your mood and energy level.


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