The group of 70 or so people inside the nondescript, red brick church sits at the corner of St. Nicholas and Himrod streets in Bushwickline up for ahome-cooked buffet.
The diners — predominately in their 20s and 30s —sat inside space for a monthly potluck to "give thanks." And although no one ever said the word "Thanksgiving" outright, the nontraditional group did have one at least thing in common, organizer Lucas Shapiro said.
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"It's really about the community," said Shapiro, one of the founding members of the Mayday Collective.
Many of those who ate stuck around after the mealto help clean upwhat members described as an underutilized, three-story space with classroom and a massive event hall.
Founded in 2014, theMayday Collective hopes to be the home for anything from film screenings to policy discussions that engage locals on the issues that affect them – including labor, housing and social justice.
To do so, Mayday plans to operate two locations: one inside the building currently hosting two local Episcopal congregations off the Dekalb L train stop and a fully stocked bar and cafe on Starr Street at the nearby Jefferson L train stop.
With help from volunteers within and outside Bushwick, organizers hope the bar will help offset costs for the broader programming in a community as it deals in an ongoing debate about gentrification and displacement.
Josh Carrera, 25, said he grew up in Bushwick off the Wilson L train, at least until his family was evicted not once but twice in the face of increasing rents. His family eventually found a place in Jamaica, Queens in 2014, though they don't plan on staying too long.
In October, realty group MNS reported annual rents in Bushwick increased by 1.1 percent since the year before.
"We want to come back home," he said. "We're looking."
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Across the table, Pati Rodriguez nodded her head.
"That's why it's so important to involve not just building owners but also tenants," the 31-year-old said.
Like Carrera, Rodriguez was raised in the neighborhood. Her mother owns the building Rodriguez grew up in, but she said they are constantly receiving letters from developers seeking to buy them out of their home.
"This our house, our home," she said. "Land is power, especially in Bushwick right now. And it's in 'la boca del monstruo' [mouth of the beast] where there resistance should play out."
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Both Carrera and Rodriguez are collaborating on a Mayday-sponsored project to light up building facades across Bushwick of signs made with strings of holiday lights with messages against the displacement of the neighborhoods' working-class residents.
Part of engaging the largely Latino and immigrant community that settled down in Bushwick long before the waves of recent transplants, said Ana Nogueira of Mayday, is communicating clearly with the whole community and its leaders.
That includes clear conversations about Mayday's plan to open up a bar at 214 Starr St. Members are building out the location up themselves, and hope to open it before spring 2016.
DNAinfohaswidely reported on the local community board's resistance and opaqueness to how it handles liquor license requests, but Nogueira said the group was able to convince the board of Mayday's mission.
Community board District Manager Nadine Whitted was not available for immediate comment, but a spokeswoman for Councilman Antonio Reynoso — who represents the area where the bar will be located — supported Mayday's goals.
"We're always happy when a new group in the neighborhood make ties with the community they're in," spokeswoman Lacey Tauber told Metro New York.
"Everybody wants a space," Nogueira said, noting the excitement she's heard from her neighbors. "And that's the thing about New York — there's a premium on space. Our real mission here is to offer that space."