In NYC, homeowners and businesses are legally responsible for the sidewalks in front of their buildings. This includes shoveling snow, cleaning up garbage, sweeping regularly, repairing sidewalk cracks, and maintaining the tree pit (if there is one). This also includes maintaining tree guards.

Why Tree Guards: Tree guards help protect our essential street trees by providing a physical barrier between a tree and our harsh urban environment. Guards shield the trunk from physical damage and prevent pet waste from entering the tree pit. Tree guards extend the longevity of trees and provide a protected planting bed for residential gardening. Street trees are a vital part of making our city cleaner and greener. They beautify neighborhoods, reduce energy costs (cooling the block in summer by providing shade) and clean our air. They make the block and the neighborhood more livable and attractive to all its residents.

Most of the 70-odd tree guards on the two blocks of South Oxford Street (from DeKalb to Fulton) were acquired by the block association - through private residential contributions, a 2008 grant from the Brooklyn Block Beautifcation program (a Marty Markowitz initiative), and through donations from the many film and photo productions using our blocks. Each tree guard costs approximately $800. Homeowners and the block association are responsible for the maintainance, repair and replacement of the tree guards.

Bicycles and their metal locks damage tree guards, causing rust and erosion. Take a close look at the tree guards on our blocks. Many are already in need of repairs and repainting. Besides obstructing the sidewalks, chained bikes are frequently abandoned and left to rust for years, along with numerous orphaned locks and chains. This is why we encourage residents to NOT chain their bicycles to our tree guards.

Street parking of bikes is a recent trend, not an entitlement. In the not-too-distant-past, bike riders typically carried their bikes into their apartments so they would not be stolen. If you must park your bike on the sidewalk and feel it is your right, contact the Department of Transportation to request proper NYC bike racks like those in front of the Griffin (101 Lafayette). Or ask your landlord to install bike racks for tenants in their front yards.

Please refrain from locking your bikes to our tree guards - and consider making a donation to buy additional tree guards and repair and repaint the ones we are fortunate to have.


Does your block still endure robberies, muggings, or car break-ins?
An inexpensive web camera placed in your window pointed at the street may be your best protection against crime. And, if everyone on your street had a webcam, criminals would soon avoid your block. The South Oxford Street Block Association is hoping to get homeowners to install home security webcams across the borough.

With new wireless video surveillance options now available, one can quickly and easily set up a home webcam to protect you, your family, your block, and your neighbors. You do not need an expensive system, or a costly installation by a security company, or even wires drilled into your walls.


How easy is it to install a webcam?

Very easy. All you need is a wi-fi network with an active internet connection, a computer or mobile device, and an electrical outlet near where you placethe camera - such as in your front window. Not only could you see what is going on on the sidewalk in front of your apartment, you could also see who is at your front door. And you can also access specific recorded footage when you want (even of your cats and dogs).

After being robbed a few times, the president of the South Oxford Street Block Association in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, did a lot of research and found two low cost solutions. One solution uses a wi-fi webcam made by Dropcam (now owned by Nest/Google) in concert with their website. The second method utilizes a new free app called Presense by People Power which turns your old Apple (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) and Android-based devices into wi-fi webcams on your home network. Both models feature motion detection and have custom apps for your mobile "cameras" which allow viewing of your footage remotely. Presence sends short motion detection clips right to your smartphone, tablet or computer via email when something happens, and gives you face-to-face audio and video so you can talk back to your pets or relatives while you're on-the-go. Dopcam allows you to set up mobile motion-based alerts. Because of its ease of use, Dropcam is so popular that Google bought the company last year as part of their NEST brand of "smart home" wi-fi enabled thermostats and smoke detectors.

How much does it cost

A mountable, color HD Dropcam costs $150 (or less) and allows you to view your password-protected double-encrypted footage on their website for free – as well as on your mobile devices and tablets. Dropcam recently released a new higher resolution camera called Dropcam Pro which sells for $199. Their most important feature, Dropcam offers a web-based DVR option which records and stores time-coded video for a full week for an additional $9 a month. The Presence system uses a free mobile phone app which controls your iPhone or Android devices. The Presense company also offers a paid Presense Pro option at $5 a month which will include web browser support so you can view and control multiple cameras simultaneously from your computers and mobile devices. Presence does not continuosly record video. It records only motion-detected video clips which are stored on theoir cloud server.

The main benefits of both these products are: super easy install, no wiring, inexpensive cost, remote viewing, and the optional ability to access recordings. In the 2 years since installing his Dropcam webcams, the association’s president has been asked to provide access to the recorded footage three times – for a robbery next door, a car break-in on the block, a mugging two doors down, and most recently, a plant theif. Plus, you can use your webcams in numerous other ways; like as a baby monitor or a pet-cam. And even if someone stole your webcam, the recording of that theft would already be up on the password-protected cloud-based website, not in your home.

If you are worried about our society’s lack of privacy, when was the last time you went into Manhattan? There are cameras everywhere, on most businesses, buildings, hallways and street corners. This is the future. If the government can do it, so can you. Protect your home now.

To download a PDF of this article as a flyer, click here. To contact the block associaition, email
Note: This is not an endorsement of any one brand. Do your own research before making any purchase. To find out more about these solutions, go to (for Dropcam) and (for Presense).

This initiative recommends the use of webcams as personal home security devices only. The cam’s video footage is for private use only. If you plan to install a home webcam pointed towards a public area, we recommend you check with your landlord first and put up a sign indicating that the premises are under video surveillance.

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Photo composition by A. Weissman, Fall 2012. All rights reserved
HERE WE GO AGAIN! Same dust and mud, different year.
People complaining, yet nothing.
Read the NYT Local editorials from 2009 vs. 2013.

First of all, it is a total fabrication that these "pickup" soccer games are a "neighborhood tradition" and have always taken place on that "field." When we first moved to Fort Greene in the 1990s there were no soccer games. The field was covered in lush grass and was available to be enjoyed by everyone -- without the toxic fecal dust getting in your nose, mouth and eyes, and the fear of being hit in the head by an errant ball (a very frequent occurence). At that time the only complaints were about off-leash dogs ripping up the grass – the damage confined to one small bare spot in front of the benches where dog owners congregated.

We used to photograph the FGP Halloween Festival every year starting in 1998. There were children's games like sack races and other events all over the entire field. Now the bare field is off limits tothe festival. We have photos that document the progress of the destruction. To see photos of the failed reseeding efforts from 2005-2008 click here.

Check out Abby Weissman's editiorial in the New York Times Local from 2009, and the follow up editiorial from 2013. For further reading go to Tom Wentworth's informative "TURF THE SLAB" blog which proposes the creation of a proper soccer field and other major upgrades at Fort Greene's underused Commodore Barry Park, which is only .6 of a mile from Fort Greene Park. A great idea, which is supported by us and numerous other community leaders and organizations. However, according to sources, the problem is that the FGP soccer players do not want a "real" NYC soccer field in the area, because they would then have to adhere to the Parks Department's system of having to sign up and reserve use of City-maintained athletic fields. They believe they should be exempt. They want to play soccer wherever they want, whenever they want. This is not how it works. The Parks' reservation system is standard practice, covering everything from the Tennis Courts in Fort Greene Park to ball fields in Central Park.

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The plan was featured on the cover of the September 2010 FGA newsletter and presented as a "done deal."


The statue of General Fowler in front of the Smoke Joint on South Elliott Place.

The NYC Department of Transportation has accepted the Fulton Area Business Alliance's application for creating a plaza at Fulton and Lafayette as part of its NYC Plaza Program. The Fulton Area Business Alliance (called F.A.B.) submitted the application along with letters of support from the FGA, Community Board 2, Tish, Marty, several businesses surrounding Fowler Square and individuals - including Howard Pitsch and Ruth Goldstein.

This proposal is a waste of time and money and will only cause more problems for our already-congested area. The Fulton Area Business Alliance wants to spin this as creating an exciting new urban space – an idyllic "Gateway to Fort Greene." To us civilians on the ground, it's just another STREET CLOSING AND LAND GRAB* – on an essential through-street. The plan must not be allowed to come to fruition.

What's in it for us? Very little – unless you are a business owner or member of FAB – the Fulton Area Business Alliance who came up with this super idea. For drivers on South Elliott Place, even less.

By removing that one small street, (which is NOT "virtually used" as a CB2 rep claims) the residents from South Elliott Place, as well as Brooklyn Tech drivers, will be very inconvenienced. And the only "benefits" for the surrounding blocks (and the rest of the community) will be more traffic, more wasted fuel, more noise from horn honking and idiling vehicles, more loitering, more street garbage, more pollution, more accidents, less parking spaces, and more wasted time.

For example: For motorists who want to drive west (down to Flatbush) from the corner of South Elliott - instead of just driving one little block and making a right on Fulton (see map on left), with this plan, they would be forced to make three additional left turns and go through additional traffic lights, driving in a huge circle around the entire block; through busy two-way South Portland Avenue, then making a left on equally-swamped DeKalb Avenue. That DeKalb corner is already very hazardous to motorists, pedestrians, dogs and bicylists; it has no traffic light and poor visibility – and because South Portland is a two-way street, drivers also access it from DeKalb.

This proposal will also create more traffic on busy South Oxford Street - which is one more block further east but is one-way to DeKalb, and has a traffic light on DeKalb. South Oxford is already a dangerous speedway, with careless drivers rushing to make the short light.

Currently, when those South Elliott drivers want to head south (to Atlantic Avenue and beyond), there are numerous routes available. With the proposed street removal, only one direct local option will remain; to go left and detour right down South Portland Avenue – to the already-super-congested three-block stretch between Lafayette and Atlantic Avenues – and wait in line. (And South Portland intersects Atlantic right next to the new Basketball Arena and Shopping Malls).

This plan is just another example of someone else deciding what is best for the residents of Fort Greene with little or no input from the real immediate neighborhood - meaning South Elliott residents and Brooklyn Tech-ers. Much too often, these types of civic projects are more about what is is best for the planners themselves.

And with the nearby Barclays Arena, with its 200+ events a year – combined with the numerous marathon Board of Education meetings at Brooklyn Tech's huge auditorium, the neighborhood's quality of life is endangered. (A few positive notes: If you are homeless, the FAB "Plaza" provides you a place to hang out, with nice chairs and tables, just like in Times Square. And if you are a dog, there is plenty of discarded food scraps, spare rib bones and garbage left on the "plaza.")

We already support the Fulton Area businesses by shopping and eating at their establishments daily. Why should we give up our street? And what's next? Are they going to want to turn our stretch of Fulton Street into a permanent pedestrian mall like they did on four Sundays last June? This is not Bourbon Street.

If we really must have a "Gateway to Fort Greene," why not liberate the larger block-sized, lush BAM Garden park, right on the opposite corner to Fowler Square? It may be the largest underutilized outdoor space in the community. Tear down those fences. Open it up for the residents, Fix it up. Put the chairs and tables there, where no one will be disturbed or detoured. That would be a much friendlier welcome mat to the world.

* The term "Land Grab " is in the eyes of the "beholder" (or "grabee.")

To All Block Residents:
The opinions and concepts expressed on this website are those of the individual author(s) and are not the official viewpoint of the organization. Reader corrections and feedback are welcomed.
All contents copyright 2015, the South Oxford Street Block Association. All rights reserved.
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