The Morris Park Community Association is starting to fight back against falling donations and declining participation from the community.
During the next door-to-door donation campaign, the association will begin posting signs on the businesses that donate to the group. They will also be asking shoppers to favor the businesses that donate.
“What we’re asking people to do is if you don’t see that sign in the window, don’t go to that business just so they feel the financial pinch of not donating,” association president Al D’Angelo said. “Somebody has to pay for the parades, somebody has to pay for the lights.”
Years ago the association had about 2,500 dues-paying members, and nearly all businesses gave whatever they could to help the association pay for holiday decorations, and to run the senior and neighborhood watch programs, D’Angelo said.
Today, only 20 percent of businesses in the Morris Park community regularly donate to the association, and membership has fallen to about 1,000.
“What happens is businesses have become very apathetic, and their attitude is to let the other guy do it,” he said. “But if the community wants a better neighborhood then it has to step up. They can’t sit back on their haunches. Shoppers have to support the neighborhood and not support those merchants that don’t.”
To run the senior programs, the night watch patrols, parades, holiday decorations and to keep the lights and heat on at the association headquarters on Bronxdale Avenue, the group spends about $70,000 annually, D’Angelo said. With membership fees at $20 a year, donations are an important part of keeping things running smoothly.
Although elected officials typically provide a significant chunk of money for the programs, D’Angelo said if donations and membership continues to decrease, services might be affected.
“What happens is when the association doesn’t have funds, the patrols are cut back because you have to upkeep the cars, and when that happens the community suffers because patrols are a big crime deterrent,” he said. On the flip side, “the more money that is brought in, the more we can do for the community.”
The lack of parking in the area and the ever-increasing cost of rent have forced many of the old-time businesses, run by Morris Park residents, to close and most are being replaced by pizza shops, bodegas and nail-salons whose owners have little to no ties to the community, D’Angelo said.
Community association members have stepped up efforts to get these businesses interested in the association by passing out literature and going to local school and business meetings. However, with little money and participation, D’Angelo said there just isn’t enough man-power to get everyone on board.
“Money is important, but the bodies are just as important,” he said. “People talk about how the neighborhood used to be, and we want our kids to be able to enjoy that in the future. Instead of fighting for it, a lot of people are giving up.”