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. John’s 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.”
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:
“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.”
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.
“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.”
Jones helped keep the tradition of grilling alive during the block party.
Residents also gathered books to give away.
Future community leader Keith Brady Jr. sat ready to help.
Phillip Antoniades, who’s juggling raising two children, working in IT and helping his neighbors, was glad to attend the party.
“[At] one point I was caring for four different [families] in my building, for people who were really quarantining because they have live-in parents,” he said.
Trina Fowler helped organize Black Lives Matter solidarity demonstrations on St. John’s 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.”