On Tuesday, November 2nd, we joined Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services (BACDYS) on a tour of City Line, Brooklyn. In partnership with the Asian American Federation (AAFederation), BACDYS invited city officials, community organizers, partner organizations, and local residents to get a glimpse of the neighborhood’s character and history. Ultimately, BACDYS and AAFederation hoped to raise awareness of ways neighborhood officials and residents alike can support the community’s youth, families, and local businesses.
One of the city’s largest concentrations of Bangladeshis lives in City Line, a neighborhood in East New York named for its proximity to Queens County and dating from a time when Brooklyn was a city of its own. Located in the triangle formed by Cross Bay Boulevard, South Conduit Avenue, and Atlantic Avenue, it’s a neighborhood of low-rise one- and two-family row houses, warehouses, and small industrial spaces. City Line is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Originally settled by German, Italian, and Irish families, today the area has seen an increase of immigrants from Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guyana. Though a significant number of Bangladeshis have settled in East New York, they are isolated by geography, language, and economic status.
The founders of Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services seek to help Bangladeshi New Yorkers attain educational and economic success, lead healthy lives, secure affordable housing, and develop leadership skills. In 2015, BACDYS volunteers helped residents obtain government benefits, health insurance, and housing; prepare tax returns; take ESL courses; develop skills; and find employment. BACDYS also provides after-school programming and tutoring for local youth. The group’s most recent annual multicultural festival attracted more than 7,000 residents. Working with the Department of Transportation, BACDYS transformed an underused road into a pedestrian plaza that serves as a multipurpose community destination. Volunteers also reclaimed a vacant lot to establish a community garden now designated as an official New York City park. The group also aims to build the capacity of residents to be civically engaged by incorporating civic engagement workshops into ESL classes, community-wide events with local elected officials, and internships for young people to develop their leadership skills.