Campaign, don't complain
by Emily Gallagher
May 10, 2017 | 1777 views | 0 0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have a unique situation as a neighbor and friend, in that I have a platform here in the Greenpoint Star to share my thoughts weekly. But with recent events, I've been noticing how important it is to tell one's story publicly and what a major impact it can have.

Funnily enough, while there is so much noise on social media, it seems that announcing problems or grievances on social media in an organized, thought out and effective manner is the route to governmental and neighborhood change. Let me share some recent examples.

Of course, personally I have experienced the power of the social network with the Banker Street rape case. Because upset neighbors posted their account of what they saw on social media, other neighbors with knowledge and experience were able to start advocating for the woman.

Journalists who follow social media picked up the story, and soon there was pressure on the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to reopen the case, which it did.

Additionally, a case I am watching unfold right now is the effort of a few core people at the amazing organization 596 Acres, run by lawyer Paula Segal, who is passionate about land use for the public good.

She discovered through her research that in 2011 a bill was passed requiring that nonprofits, including churches and other religious institutions, need to refile for tax-exempt status annually or they would be considered tax delinquent, meaning that they would have eventual liens placed on their properties and have the establishments taken from them.

Right now, over 300 community-based institutions serving neighborhoods are about to become "delinquent," meaning that communities are about to lose precious organizations that serve their neighborhood's life.

Segal is a whip-smart and savvy lawyer, but through disseminating this information through her social and collegiate networks, within a day, 12 City Council members signed on to halt the process and, hopefully, eventually change the policy to be more friendly to these often understaffed and overworked vital neighborhood organizations.

East River State Park is another example. It is a public park run by the state, and yet there was no open bidding process on vendors that should or could use the space.

Somehow the state allowed both Smorgusburg and the Brooklyn Flea to commercially use an enormous piece of the park for their incredibly popular endeavors.

Many neighbors and park users felt pushed out of the park and unable to use what is meant to be a public amenity. After some vitriolic complaining from a group of neighbors on Facebook, journalists picked up the story, and within days the organizers of Brooklyn Flea announced they would be using another location.

Social media can be an incredible tool if you shape a campaign on it, rather than a complaint.

Research your complaint and find out the root of the problem and where the injustice lies. Then promote a reasonable argument on a social media platform, tweet it or post it to local press, and watch it take flight.

When you have actual demands, it can work. If you're just angry, take a minute and think about what a long term policy solution should be. People are more than happy to say, "I want so-and-so fired," but if the problem is with a policy or a system, that's not your final answer.

Collaborate with your neighbors, publicize, and make a change.
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