The front window of Charlotte Patisserie is spotless. The sidewalk is well swept, and not a single squiggle of graffiti stains the Manhattan Avenue bakery or the pavement. And the shop’s owners intend to keep it that way.
Charlotte Patisserie has just joined “Clean Greenpoint”, an initiative to beautify the neighborhood, organized by Councilmember Stephen Levin and the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, along with help from community partners like the Greenpoint Youth Court and the Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design (WHSAD). On Tuesday, Levin and Greenpoint Chamber Executive Director Jeff Mann announced the initiative’s goals in Charlotte’s spacious patio: Working with neighborhood merchants, groups and residents to keep the streets clean.
The announcement comes at a critical time for the community. As Greenpoint’s popularity continues to grow, so do complaints about its quality of life. Last month, Fast Company reported that a recent study utilizing Google Street View found that Greenpoint was perceived to be the worst neighborhood in Brooklyn. (Users were shown different Google Street View images, and asked questions like, “Which place looks wealthier?”) The New York Times even published an article about Greenpoint’s graffiti epidemic, calling the problem “as stubborn as unchecked mold.”
“The perception of Greenpoint as the worst neighborhood is sadly not a huge surprise,” declared Mann, who also publishes the Greenpoint Gazette. “Graffiti and litter hide what we know is a great neighborhood. Our community is home to the finest restaurants, galleries and small businesses, and its appearance needs to bear that out!”
“When we work together, great things can happen,” Levin added. “By teaming with local businesses, community groups and residents, we can improve the quality of life and take pride in keeping our neighborhood clean.”
Local business owners who join “Clean Greenpoint” will sign a pledge to sweep their storefronts once a day, pick up litter along the sidewalk, adopt a street tree and report graffiti. In return, participants will be acknowledged as a “Chamber Partner” and receive a “Clean Greenpoint” sign for their storefronts. All businesses bearing this “Stamp of Approval” will be notified of potential money saving incentives, such as free energy audits and infrastructure tax incentives. Another benefit will be an environmentally friendly “planter box” hand-crafted by WHSAD students and distributed by members of the Greenpoint Youth Court, a restorative justice program for troubled youths.
Additionally, any business that signs up for “Clean Greenpoint” will enroll in Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ Safe Stop program. According to a statement from Levin’s office, “Safe Stop provides a safe place for people to go if they need help in case of an emergency. Store owners will display decals in their store windows identifying them as [Safe Stop locations].”
“Clean Greenpoint” is also just one of several assistance initiatives being rolled out by the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce. Originally formed in 1930, the organization has been working nonstop to stimulate the local economy since its relaunch in October 2012. Now with over 100 members, the Chamber continues to improve neighborhood businesses by providing a platform to network, promoting local products and services, presenting entrepreneurial advice and addressing issues of mutual concern. Since November, the Chamber has raised and spent $2,500 worth of paint and eco-friendly cleaners to remove graffiti from the streets, working with WHSAD students.
During Tuesday’s announcement, Mann thanked Levin for his leadership in developing “Clean Greenpoint.” He also sent praises to community partners, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who has crucial to the rebirth of the Chamber; the Greenpoint Youth Court; WHSAD; the Greenpoint YMCA; missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and the Chamber’s corporate sponsors CitiStorage, Broadway Stages and ExxonMobil.
The partners, in turn, were eager to begin the project. “[We’re] excited to be a part of this dynamic and proactive initiative,” said Dana Rachlin, a program coordinator at the Greenpoint Youth Court. “We really appreciate the opportunity.”
“The cleaner the streets, the better it is for the economy,” explained Assemblyman Lentol. “It’s more of an incentive for the people who live here to shop here. That’s the goal of the Chamber, and that’s what the initiative is all about.”
Elder Kellon Izatt said the Latter-day Saints reached out to Mann after coming across the New York Times article. “He was a little surprised that we were so willing,” Izatt admitted. “But that makes it more fun. We love to serve in any way possible.”
Michael Lechowicz, co-owner of Charlotte Patisserie, was proud to be among the first to take the pledge.
“A cleaner Greenpoint will help attract more visitors to sample our great restaurants,” he said, “including Charlotte, of course!”
For more information about “Clean Greenpoint” and the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, contact Jeff Mann at info@greenpointChamber.com.