Brooklyn Block Party Pivots to Socially Distanced, Socially Conscious Gathering

Residents gather food to give away during a socially distanced block party on St. Johns Place in Prospect Heights on Saturday. Photo by Peter Senzamici


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This story was originally published on August 10 by THE CITY. Sign up here to get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning.

By Peter Senzamici

Mike Jones, the president of his local block association in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, has helped organize a summer street party on his stretch of St. Johns Place for more than 15 years.

As the coronavirus ravaged the city, followed by anti-racism protests, the community leader became determined to keep the block party tradition alive — but with more of an emphasis on mutual aid and solidarity.

“We all need to know each other. This helps prevent violence and unhealthy situations,” Jones, known by locals as “Mayor Mike,” told THE CITY during the event on Saturday.

This year, he said, party organizers set out to foster an atmosphere of “togetherness, community, respect.”

Mike Jones. Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Some more images from a socially distanced gathering show how neighborhood residents have adjusted to a summer disrupted by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic:

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

“I grew up where everyone knows everyone,” said longtime neighborhood resident Selina Jones, 72.

Jones is caring for her 91-year-old mother and rarely gets to leave her apartment: “I can feel like a prisoner this summer.”

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Residents on the diverse block between Underhill and Washington avenues have been holding solidarity protests since people in New York and beyond took to the streets after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

“We started attending the nightly protests and got a sense of community from that,” said Arati Menon, a recipe-sharing site editor who moved onto the block in March. “We were blown away by the generous spirit of the neighborhood.”

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Jones helped keep the tradition of grilling alive during the block party.

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Residents also gathered books to give away.

PPhoto by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Future community leader Keith Brady Jr. sat ready to help.

Photo by Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Trina Fowler helped organize Black Lives Matter solidarity demonstrations on St. Johns Place.

“I wanted to go to protests, but was worried about COVID, so we brought the protest to our block,” she said.

“Since the pandemic, we got to know our neighbors a lot better,” Fowler added. “Funny thing is, some of them already knew each other from somewhere outside of the neighborhood and then laughed when they discovered that they were neighbors.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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