OP-ED: The Bonds of Community

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:15

Some pictures are indeed worth a thousand words, in general, but also for those whose hearing is failing or gone (another story). And the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11 does bring people together in the same neighborhood who might otherwise be strangers. And it did again at this 12th annual remembrance gathering around a designated 9/11 memorial tree near 530 East 84th Street thanks to its dedicated organizers, Judith Cutler and the super at 530.

This year a survivor of this atrocity was present, and when we remembered by name a neighborhood woman whose son had perished there, Michael P. Nyberg just happened to have known him and hoped he might be of help to this bereaved mother.

And that evening, the East 79th Street Neighborhood monthly meeting was held at Temple Shaaray Tefila where Senator Liz Krueger was the guest speaker. Ah, and how we need to hear about those who physically struggle to get there, like 90 plus year-old Joe who very slowly with only a cane to help him avoid the "crimes of traffic" and uneven crosswalks. Thankfully, traffic dangers did again thankfully dominate the meeting's concerns, but again too much jaw-jaw without acting, But Joe writes letters to editor about these very valid fears believing media will keep policy-makers feet to the fire and make these concerns very public and viral.

Ah, but overall, this 26 plus year -old civic group has brought so many people together who otherwise would not have met. Some have become friends and how we need that. And the group, under the indomitable Betty Cooper Wallerstein, has helped reduce so many city problems raised there each month. Yes, some are chronic, like above all, motorists' deadly failure to yield, and two wheelers' aversion to the laws of traffic and for many, the bike lanes have made crossing more stressful. But attention is being paid. As for public transit; again I cried out for official pressure to get bus drivers to, "Please, please, pull to the curb!" A friend's hip was broken because the M31 bus did not.

So don't give up on civic groups, but rather speak up on how they could do better, like not letting some people talk endlessly and encouraging the shy to speak out. Hey, and help the less than able-boded attend these important forums.

Maybe the association should publish a directory of local businesses and resources to support as does ESNA (East Sixties Neighborhood Association) The directory would also include media contacts and also faith groups where many important civic meetings are held, such as Alcoholics and other Anonymous groups, which tell true-life stories how, for example, alcohol abuse made them do and say things they'd never do sober, and yes, committing spousal or any domestic abuse.

As for community building, Jackie, who took these 9/11 photos, said "I hope we bump into each other again." and such neighborly connections could not be more important especially to unite generations.

And remember we must, the important community lost in the East Harlem terrible gas explosion which leveled two buildings, took eight lives, and caused unspeakable mourning and many physical injuries. But, reportedly six months later, some residents are still without permanent homes and the community storefront church which enabled this supportive community is no longer.

But an accident didn't cause the drop in traditional church or temple attendance. And doesn't attention need to be paid?


By Bette Dewing