Today’s news:

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Bowie is new president of Heights Association

The Brooklyn Paper

She’s under pressure.

Alexandra Bowie — a freelance grant writer, fiction writer, blogger, mother, and wife — is now the new president of the neighborhood watchdog group the Brooklyn Heights Association.

The newly elected neighborhood activist will replace Jane McGroarty as the association rallies to oppose the likely shutdown of Long Island College Hospital, prepares to host a mayoral forum, and tries to influence the direction of the Brooklyn Public Library’s new planned Brooklyn Heights branch and the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

In other words, she has gotten rather busy lately.

If all of that wasn’t enough, Bowie is also trying to garner neighborhood support to make Brooklyn Heights a “slow zone” — reducing the speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour.

It’s this last initiative that may be closest to Bowie’s heart — she was friends with fellow Heights Association executive board member Martha Atwater, who was killed by a truck jumped the curb at the intersection of Clinton and Atlantic avenues in February.

But to get the city to make the community a slow zone, Bowie needs to prove that there is neighborhood support for such a move, which might be the hardest part of her new job.

“I’d like to improve our communications,” said Bowie, who joined the organization’s board in 2004.

“I’d like to see our membership increase.”

To that end, Bowie is decentralizing the association’s communication efforts, focusing on social media like Facebook and Twitter to “get the short word out an what we’re doing.”

She used those tools to organize community meet-ups at hangouts like Vineapple Cafe.

No one showed up to the first meeting at the end of March, but she is hoping that changes.

“I know some people think we’re about the buildings, but Brooklyn Heights Association is about the people,” she said.

“We try to look at what the city is doing and nudge or push them toward what is better,” she added.

The Bloomington, Ind., native has lived in Brooklyn since 1986 and Brooklyn Heights since 1988.

She got involved with the Brooklyn Heights Association until 15 years ago when she became annoyed by a Home Depot shopping cart chained nearby her home. After calling police, the fire department, and sanitation — these were the days before 311 — Bowie finally phoned Brooklyn Heights Association executive director extraordinaire Judy Stanton.

Stanton didn’t remove the cart (it disappeared a while later), but her dry sense of humor and verve made an impression on Bowie.

“She’s such an asset,” Bowie said about Stanton. “She knows everyone and everything.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at

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Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Maybe the most important Cha-cha-cha-changes to observe at the BHA is how the BHA is passively standing by and implicitly endorsing the Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching, of the developer deal selling off and shrinking of the Brooklyn Heights library, and thereby endorsing such sale and shrinkage of other libraries around the city, in deals structured to benefit private developers, not the public. The Brooklyn Heights deal is being rushed for an inking with a developer (the BPL says the developer may, indeed, be Forest City Ratner) before December 31, 2013, a fire sale before that end date of Mayor Bloomberg's term. This contract with a developer (involving a design specifying shrinkage) would be put in place long before any of the required public reviews. BPL spokesman Josh Nachowitz has already communicated that it is too late to change aspects of what has already been negotiated because there was no prior public input into what was being secretively arranged.

It should be noted that Ms. Bowie has been the BHA’s designated representative with respect to these library matters. In that capacity she chose to oppose allowing the participation of Brooklyn Heights based Citizens Defending Libraries in the ad-hoc (somewhat farcical) meetings that have been structured as the only meetings to provide public input on the sale of the Brooklyn Heights libraries. More than 9,000 individuals have signed the Citizens Defending Libraries petition that is part of a campaign that opposes the sale of the libraries, shrinkage of the system as well as the deliberate underfunding of the libraries beforehand that is being used as a manipulation to force their sale. Bowie’s opposition to any participation by Citizens Defending Libraries leaves at the table to represent the community only the BHA and the small “Friends” of the library group which share identical positions that specifically and fixedly allow for this rushed sale-for-shrinkage of the Heights library before the end of Bloomberg’s term.

Are there any explanations for why a once grandly heroic organization like the BHA and Bowie would essentially be endorsing such sacrifice of the neighborhood library? One thing to note is that the sale-for-shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights library replicates nearly exactly the sale-for-shrinkage of the Manhattan’s Donnell library, once a beloved main library at 53rd Street across from MOMA. The man who was largely responsible for the secretive arrangement of that much-reviled deal announced suddenly (and without professional staff input) in 2007 was, according to the NYPL’s own documents, David Offensend, a Heights resident and a predecessor to Bowie as president of the BHA.

And yes, people would be right to speculate about other unflattering reasons why the BHA is taking a position that so substantially aids in ramming through this rushed sell-off of public assets. I could inflame such speculation by quoting Bowie’s own words and although these will ultimately be important matters for public discussion I won’t do that here or now.

You can find and sign the Citizens Defending Libraries online, joining the campaign to oppose the sale, shrinkage and deliberate underfunding of libraries by googling up the Citizens Defending Libraries web pages.
April 9, 2013, 9:59 am
Marsha Rimler from Brooklyn says:
Clearly the community reps that the BHA supports (only itself with 1200 or so members and Friends of the library with 200 or so members) is not representative of Library users. The library is on the edge of Brooklyn Heights (outside of the Historic District) . Other groups need to be included. Brooklyn Heights is only one library user and in fact may not be the primary user. This is unfair and discriminates against other adjacent neighborhoods. The point is that if this is purposeful it has been discovered and needs to be fixed. The other question is why the Brooklyn PUBLIC Library which should provide equal access to all is doing this?
April 9, 2013, 11:29 am
Marsha Rimler from brooklyn says:
How could someone who grew up in Bloomington Ind. have any idea about what the public library
system means to the people of New York City. Those of us who are natives know. Those of us who have immigrant parents or grandparents know. Perhaps this is one reason for the BHA's position- so many of their
governors grew up elsewhere and just do not get it.. I always thought this was one of Mayor Bloomberg's major shortcomings. He is not a native New Yorker and has spent all of his time as a financial services guy.
April 9, 2013, 12:22 pm
Transplant from Here to Stay says:
What the hell does being born here have to do with it? Geez, this lady has been here for almost 30 years. How long does it take? Should Bill "the Butcher" Cutting be in charge?
April 9, 2013, 2:01 pm
marsha rimler from brooklyn says:
I do not know who Bill the Butcher is but growing up in nyc and spending hours in the library as a child and student gives you a great appreciation for our library system. . What happened at the Donnell is a disgrace and we need to make sure the same thing does not happen here
April 9, 2013, 3:28 pm
Samantha Gravanoli from Fulton Ferry says:
Q: how many black people have EVER been part of the Brooklyn Heights Association?

Q: what would happen if, since it's tax time, someone checked on all the illegally paid brownskinn nannies and other laborers of Brooklyn Heights gentry?
April 10, 2013, 1:39 am
Justine Swartz from Brooklyn Heights says:
There is no guarantee that there will be any library
installed in the new luxury residential building to be built in the footprint of our beloved Cadman Plaza Library. Developers lie and promise jobs, low income housing, and don't deliver, and there is no retribution, has been none. Just look at the Barclay Center. The people are displaced, run out of their homes and the wealthy Forest City Ratner makes more money, more money, more money. BHA was supposed to be the watchdog for our Community Needs but instead Brooklyn Heights association has rolled over and played dead.
April 11, 2013, 5:25 pm
Peter Louie from Brooklyn Heights says:
I do not know the specifics of the deal with the developer but I would suggest that the City of New York "lease" the valuable land under the library instead of a outright sale with a provision that space be allocated on the ground floor for a library.

Leasing will provide an annual revenue stream to the city.
April 12, 2013, 9:17 am
Peter Louie from Brooklyn Heights says:
I do not know the specifics of the deal with the developer but I would suggest that the City of New York "lease" the valuable land under the library instead of a outright sale with a provision that space be allocated on the ground floor for a library.

Leasing will provide an annual revenue stream to the city.
April 12, 2013, 9:17 am

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