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Residents gather food to give away during a socially-distanced block party on St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020.
Residents gather food to give away during a socially-distanced block party on St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020.
Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

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Brooklyn Block Party Pivots to Socially Distanced, Socially Conscious Gathering

Residents on a stretch of St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights gave away meals and showed solidarity with Black Lives Matter demonstrators during a summer like no other.

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.”

St. John’s Place block association president Mike Jones said he wanted to organize summer party on his Brooklyn street during the coronavirus to promote “togetherness, community, respect,” Aug. 8, 2020. 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:

“I grew up where everyone knows everyone,” said Selina Jones, 72, about the importance of holding a block party on her stretch of St. John’s Place in Brooklyn during the coronavirus, Aug. 10, 2020. 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.”


Residents on a diverse stretch of St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement during a socially-distanced block party, Aug. 8, 2020. 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.


“We’ve been dying to get to connect with neighbors in a normal way,” said recent resident Arati Menon during a block party on St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020. 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.”


Block association president Mike Jones, right, helps make food during a street party on their stretch of St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020. Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

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


St. John’s Place residents in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn provided free books during a block party, Aug. 8, 2020. Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

Residents also gathered books to give away.


Keith Brady Jr. sat ready to help during a block party on St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020. Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

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


Phillip Antoniades said he helped his Brooklyn neighbors caring for elderly parents in their St. John’s Place building during the coronavirus, Aug. 8, 2020. Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

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.


“I wanted to go to protests, but was worried about COVID, so we brought the protest to our block,” said Trina Fowler about helping to organizer Black Lives matter solidarity demonstrations on St. John’s Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Aug. 8, 2020. Peter Senzamici/THE CITY

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.”

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