Just to take a minute to do something important: I want to thank my editor Alyse Marion for her time and effort expended reading each post and pointing out where it can be improved. Being a parent of adults who are helpful and supportive, as all three of my children are, is icing on the cake. Thank you Rachel, Alyse and Seth.
Walking the Amsterdam Avenue Street fair recently, brought back memories of the West 83rd Street Block Association which produced a different kind of street fair and so many other wonderful things.
The kiosk we erected still stands, revitalized a bit, but still clearly the one we built, a marvelous achievement of fund raising, team work and fun.
I grew into the job of vice-president of the West 83rd Street Block Association but never ascended to the presidency. In those days I did not understand why I was passed over; there were no doubt many reasons. Today I think it was my age and my social standing. It really doesn’t matter.
We were an amazing amalgam. The majority, I believe, were Jews but we annually spent a winter evening which started with a warm up at Nancy’s (an advertising executive who lived in a beautiful Riverside Drive apartment) and ended with Christmas carols sung all along Riverside Drive. It was always amusing to hear “King of Israel” sung by this group with a volume increase on “Israel”.
We took up local issues at our meetings but much of the year was about planning the block party. I don’t recall people of color in the core group (which doesn’t mean they weren’t there) but the association welcomed everyone to our annual block party and other events.
Our annual block party was widely known and very well attended. We had everything. Crafts and games lined the block between Riverside and West End. One year I even tried to sell some of my photographs. I don’t remember having much success. I would like to think that helping to plan and carry out this event prepared me for my years as Director of Public Affairs and Community Education at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center where I planned and carried out many big events.
That western most block on 83rd Street led directly into Riverside Park. The entrance was a steep hill, playground to the left, the massive promenade around to the right. Under the promenade ran the railroad. The smell of trains when I stood over the grill that covered the tunnel was a delight to the senses of a young boy and teenager.
At the southern end of the promenade just past the entrance was a stone marking the location as the intended site of the United States memorial to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was never built. In those days I do not believe that there was even a fence, as there is today. We played around it. Never on it. In fact, never paid it much attention. Today, I pay my respects whenever I am in the old neighborhood.
The Block Association was a wonderful way to celebrate the West Side community. I truly loved the things we did.