The revolution began with a click. For those who believe all those stereotypes about Internet chat rooms making the world a less personal place, an abject lesson can be learned from one group of local cyber-geeks.
That’s because Internet-savvy residents of Bay Ridge are now witnessing a new form of community activism, as a group of locals on the popular chat site Bayridgetalk.com site have punched through the gray world of HTML-coded anonymity and transformed themselves into real world tool of change.
It all began like it usually does in the word of bloggers — with a complaint.
In this case the post involved a suspected crackhouse, allegedly located on 93rd Street between Third and Fourth avenues.
Like most things in the blogosphere, the allegations were long on hyperbole but short on details.
“I live two blocks down from this crackhouse,” said poster Concerned Mom. “Bay Ridge is a very nice neighborhood, and I would like to see it stay that way. Does anyone have any suggestions of things we can do?”
This post quickly became a magnet for other residents — who until that time were strangers to each other — with similar concerns about the house.
Those familiar with the Internet know what happened next: complaints, complaints, and more complaints. But instead, this time something truly revolutionary happened.
Quicker than you can type “LOL,” the fantasy relationship of the online chat room mobilized into a real world plan to push the community into action.
“Both CB10 and the 68th Precinct hold monthly public meetings,” posted one regular BRT PetShopBoy. “We need to organize a group, get on the agenda, show up and get it on the record.”
This wasn’t just a case of cyber-bluster: the plan was quickly in motion. A handful of the online complainers left their keyboards behind and showed up in the flesh at the last Community Board 10 meeting. They have also been contacting local pols and have gotten on the radar of the 68th Precinct (and the press, though I suppose that’s obvious).
In other words, they have effectively made it an issue. This isn’t to mean that the group will have success or that the crackhouse (or whatever it is) will be shut down, but it is notable in another important aspect.
Of course, there is nothing new about online activism. Blogs like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn have been mobilizing residents against hot button issues since Al Gore invented the Internet.
But what is new is that this was a group of strangers who discovered a problem, discussed it in a chat room, and got it on the community agenda.
I’ll update you down the road to see if the Community Board or the local cops fix the problem at the alleged crackhouse, but as far as this reporter is concerned, the cyber-surfers have already scored their first success:
Now, has anyone seen that crazy monkey that can bake cherry pies on YouTube? It is truly amazing.
Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.
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