1974-1986 Gary Crooks Center & Project OWN
Opened on May 16, 1974, Gary Crooks Memorial Center was built in honor of 8-year-old Gary Crooks who died on the city’s property. It was home to the ABCD Arts Center whose staff participated in its design, specifically for art activities. This memorial center was the home of vibrant Black cultural arts in Bridgeport with music, painting, camps, pottery, photography, and more. It was a creative, social, cultural, and political space for the entire community!
The arts community and residents of PT fought for this center in the 70s and after it was transferred to the housing authority it has been mainly used for Bridgeport Housing Authority’s administrative purposes. Residents want it back and demand that it be returned as a community center where children can thrive and grow!
The Cultural Arts Center was closed in 1986.
2014: PT Partners Founded
Launched in February 2014, PT Partners—a transformative community organizing initiative set in a public housing neighborhood—is housed at PT Barnum Apartments, a 360-unit public housing development in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The 1200+ PT residents live at or below 30 percent AMI in public housing units, with 90+ percent of the leases held by single mothers of minor children. According to housing authority data, nearly half of PT Barnum’s residents identify as Black, 60+ percent as Latina, and the balance White or “Other.” PT is surrounded on two sides by industrial/commercial corridors, on the third by a sewage treatment plant, and the fourth by a pre-K to 8th grade primary school, the census of which is at least 70 percent PT Barnum resident children.
2018 & 2019: Community Projects
Residents have run school supply drives for the children of PT Barnum, run day camps, activated the Resident Council, and run classes and activities such as a clothes closet and food pantry out of the Gary Crooks Center.
Anti-Oppression Task Force
In 2018, PTP created its Anti-Oppression Task Force, a resident-owned initiative and campaign, which was spearheaded by an effort to investigate how PCC’s policies and negligence have impacted the safety, quality of life, and voice of residents living in PT Barnum Apartments. Before the Task Force was created, residents were consistently coming to PTP with their issues, mostly related to rent calculations and the lack of information with regard to their rent and lease rules.
While attempting to capture information to aid residents, PTP discovered this information was nearly impossible to obtain from PCC. This led to a deeper dive into how HUD required resident input regarding housing authority policies and practices is obtained. PTP believes that the resident perspective, as a collective, should run in tandem with PCC and HUD regarding the development, implementation, and practice of policies for PCC and HUD.
By September 2019, Anti-Oppression Task Force members, delayed and deflected by PCC for too long, contacted the regional HUD office seeking information about bylaws and an ear for their struggles with PCC. The Task Force inquiry never received an adequate response. This has been the Task Force’s frustration for too long. In December 2019, the final blow that PTP faced was eviction from Gary Crooks (the PT Barnum Apartments community center) and all PT property, which means a loss of critical space for meetings and programming. These programs include the Food Pantry, Clothing Closet, Girl Scouts, and the resident leadership training program, among others. PTP plans to find a new space for these activities, while supporting the demand that the Gary Crooks space be returned to PT residents.