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November 2nd, 2012

Chris Owens: Volunteer in Red Hook!

Today on Facebook Chris Owens, Democratic State Committeeman, 52nd Assembly District, urged friends and neighbors to volunteer in Red Hook, which is walking distance from Brownstone Brooklyn. He is suggesting that people send Carlos Menchaca a message on Facebook.

My good friend Carlos Menchaca will be the lead organizer for volunteers for the Office of Emergency Management's relief efforts in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you have some time in the next few days or weeks, send him a message and he'll hook you up with a task. A lot of people and businesses in Red Hook were devastated by the hurricane and need our help.

For those of us who live right up the hill in the Park Slope area, which was fortunately spared by the storm, this is a volunteer opportunity that is within walking distance.

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November 2nd, 2012

A Synagogue Pitches In: 600 Sandwiches, 3000 Eggs, Dry Goods

Volunteers at Congregation Beth Elohim pitched in yesterday to prepare food for the Park Slope Armory, which is housing evacuated elderly patients from flooded nursing homes in South Brooklyn.

600 sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly and turkey) were prepared in the kitchen of the synagogue.

On his blog Water Over Rocks Rabbi Andy Bachman reflects on the day, which also included an event with esteemed authors Paul Auster and Don DeLillo. Writing at 5AM this morning, volunteers have already prepared breakfast.

 Hundreds of pounds of dry goods, batteries, flashlights and candles sent over to Red Hook in several shifts, continuing through the weekend; the gym, social hall, pool and basketball court open for restless kids and families; placing orders for food to prep for hundreds more throughout the weekend; Jonathan Safran Foer introducing Paul Auster and Don DeLillo at the end of the night. But then a call for volunteers with eggs--800 eggs that became 3000 eggs. And then someone from the Department of Homeless Services asked if we could be a drop-off center for clothes for the now homeless residents of Breezy Point (yes, of course.) And then at around 8:30 pm a truck from Masbia showed up with hundreds of pounds of carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, green beans, bread, eggs (more eggs), and sliced kosher turkey...

Today breakfast is already served--dozens showed up at 5:15 am to prepare bagels, cream cheese, butter and yes, eggs.

Today lunch for 600 again. And then Saturday lunch and Saturday night dinner...

The human capacity to love, to work together, to draw meaning from the seemingly inexplicable, is truly an awesome power.


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November 2nd, 2012

News Helicopters Overhead

You probably heard them, too.

News helicopters are flying over Park Slope this morning as they circle over the Atlantic Center capturing aerial images of the morning commute on the second day of minimal subway service in New York City.

Yesterday, commuters waited on extremely long lines to catch buses at the Atlantic Center and Fulton Street to ride across the Manhattan Bridge to working subways in Manhattan. So the Brooklyn commute is this morning's news.

Those news helicopters have been circling since five or six in the morning (or earlier) which seems awfully early. It certainly woke me up earlier than I wanted to be.

A friend writes on Facebook: "Relentless helicopters overhead...reminiscent of another apocalyptic event." I know what she means.

Helicopters hovering overhead.


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November 1st, 2012

Help Victims of Sandy: Donate to Red Cross

You can do it on your cell phone:

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.

Or you can go to the Red Cross website.

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November 1st, 2012

Red Hook Houses Without Water: Bring Donations to PS 32

The Red Hook Houses are without power and running water. Donations are being accepted at PS 32, on Hoyt Street between Union and President.

Donations of bottled water, paper towels, and toilet paper. are needed.


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November 1st, 2012


We've learned during the after-Sandy that New York is a shadow of itself without our magnificent subway system. We've also learned that cars are not the answer. What with gas shortages and gridlock insanity.

Will Sandy be a wake-up call about bikes and limited access to NYC by cars? I think that would be a good thing.

When Bloomberg said three to a car on bridges and tunnels, I remembered  CONGESTION PRICING.

A lot of people I know are taking a good long look at their bikes. Suddenly bikes are the solution to getting around in a city with a limited subway system. Sure, it's not for everyone, not everyone can ride a bike. But those who can should do so.

Remember the transit strike?

Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors wrote in today about the morning commute: "There are lots of people riding bikes today who have happy stories about their commutes."

And Kerry, an OTBKB reader wrote: "I decided to bike from Williamsburg to Mid-town. I had a ton of company and it was actually kind of nice to commute among fellow bikers and walkers. Everyone was kind to each other and we all got a little sunshine on our faces. Hang in there everyone!"

Ah, what we know now. Going forward, we'll have D-cells and flashlights, our Go Bags will be poised at the front door, and our bikes will be ready for action (tires full, well-maintained, keys for the locks).

Our bikes can get us where we need to be.


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November 1st, 2012

The Difficulties Set In

Oh Superstorm Sandy.

First we were curious with a dash of anticipatory anxiety. There was panic, of course, but also excitement  as we obssesively prepared for the hurricane (it was  a hurricane then) on Saturday, Sunday and much of Monday.

Bottled water. Go bags. Batteries. Flashlights.

We didn't know what to expect. Denial led some people not to heed evacuation orders. Memories of Irene made  some dubious about dire warnings.

Then there was shock as we watched Manhattan go dark, Breezy Point burn, Lower East Side transformers explode and millions go without electricity and water. For the first hour or so we wondered if we were next. So we waited tremulously. But then the worst of it passed as gusty winds and rain continued through the night.

At dawn, we weren't sure what we would see by the light of day.

Then there was the relief. At least here in Park Slope where we dodged Sandy's bullet for the most part. We felt grateful and lucky not to be without power and water.

However, the devastation in other parts of the  City and State pained us. We stared at the TV all day taking in the scope of it.

As each day passed, we learned of losses related to Sandy and began to mourn. Jacob, a 24-year-old  son of Park Slope died during the storm with his friend, Jessie. There were more than forty deaths in NYC alone.

As we wandered around the Slope we saw trees down, long lines at the bank, queues at the grocery stores and gas stations. Seventh Avenue was crowded with children unable to go to school, adults unable to go to work.

By Thursday, as the city tried to get back to normal, subway service was extremely spotty and there was no easy way to commute to Manhattan jobs from Brooklyn. Long lines formed for Bus Bridges, available at Atlantic Center and elsewhere, a way for Brooklynites to get to a working subway in Manhattan. Crossing on bridges and tunnels is limited to those with at least three to a car.

Waking Thursday morning, news helicopters were hovering above, reporting on the morning commute. That was this morning's story. As the day  progressed the need for gas became a new narrative.

Now, the longevity of the aftermath is getting on everyone's nerves. People nearby in Red Hook, Staten Island and elsewhere are without power and water. The suffering continues.

How long will this go on? Will the gas lines get shorter, will the subway work again, will the tunnels ever dry? When oh when will our city get back to normal.


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November 1st, 2012

Halloween Without the Park Slope Parade

Despite the absence of the beloved Park Slope Halloween Parade, Halloween in Park Slope post-Sandy was actually quite charming.

Seventh Avenue was packed with trick-or-treaters and parents at 5PM or so. Parents were advised to do the bulk of the outdoor trick or treating before dark and that seems to have been the case. Everyone I saw seemed to be in a good mood, including shopkeepers who distributed candy until they ran out. As always, the Community Bookstore was the place to be. This year, a giant green puppet (alligator, dinosaur) was suspended over the front counter. At least that's what it looked like to me.

It was great to see the kids enjoying themselves after being cooped up at home for days.

Third Street, which is usually the final stretch of the Halloween Parade, was Halloween central nonetheless. Hundreds of parents and children streamed down our block for hours as candy was distributed by good-natured adults.

I must say, Halloween had a very quaint, small town feeling without the parade. The parade, I might add, started in a very casual way and has become quite a production, which takes months of planning. Yesterday was a reminder that Halloween can be just as fun without the parade. In fact, it felt like Park Slope of olde, a real back-to-basics Halloween.

That  said, the parade is a community building spectacle we're probably not willing to do without.

A benefit of no parade to parents: Halloween wasn't nearly as exhausting as it has become with hours of trick or treating followed by a parade that goes until 9PM or so.

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October 6th, 2012

A Week of Obama in Brooklyn

The week began with Baracklyn, a Monday night fundraiser at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, White House staff member Valerie Jarrett, Newark Mayor Corey Booker, Mass, Governor Deval Patrick and singer/songwriter extraordinaire Steve Earle. More than 500 Obama supporters were in attendance and the event raised $300,000 for the President's campaign.

On Wednesday at ArtObama, more than 100 artists donated their artwork to benefit the President's re-election campaign. The event on Atlantic Avenue was packed and fun. A great crowd, good wine, tasty snacks, terrific conversation. The space, a former art gallery called Metaphor and now a studio, looked stunning with its walls covered with really interesting art by the likes of David Konigsberg, Julian Jackson, Margaret Neill, Ann Agee, Tom Chambers, Hugh Crawford, Phong Bui (print of Obama above) and more.

Later that night Obama debated Mitt Romney. I listened to some of the debate in the car service on the way home from ArtObama (the Internet streaming we hoped to see at the auction didn't work). Once I got the television on, it was obvious that Obama was having an off-night and Romney was, uncharacteristically, very on.

I missed Rommney's comment about Big Bird but it was all over Twitter during the debate and after.

“I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

Those were fighting words. Twitterers went wild defending Big Bird and worrying about the future of PBS. Even PBS got in on the act with a statement:

"Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation."

The Twitterverse was unanimous in its sense that Obama look tired, unprepared and even depressed. Some blamed it on the fact that it was his anniversary; others said it had to do with his strategy and staff directive to be low-key and presidential.

Letterman on Thursday night showed a hilarious fake Cymbalta ad that inserted images of Obama during the debate.

Friday night there was a cmall package in my mailbox from my 89-year-old Aunt Rhoda in White Plains. She sent me an O necklace. "O for Obama," she wrote on her business card, which said Aging in Place, an organization she is actively involved with.

Aging in Place "refers to living where you have lived for years, typically not in a health care environment, using products, services, and conveniences which allow you to remain home as circumstances change."

Thank you Aunt Rhoda for a beautiful gift and a perfect ending to my Obama week.

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