Building A Better Tomorrow?

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by Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks

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Jamaica Bay Machhua

she slang her dress over her knee

tightly bundled 

tucks her carefully pinned dupatta into her sweater

already damp and heavy

from leaning into the water all afternoon

squatting into scaly run off 

legs and back bent like a frog’s

As the sun runs 

from the docks 

she scrapes peanut bunker into a bucket

from the tarp 

spread across their commandeered

section of the pier

Warning the ladkis not to play

near the railings

she spies the looming quiet

amongst the overhead planes passing

the quarreling chess players

brightening bachata music 

and distant rumbling of cars on the Belt Parkway

that surrounds her family 

Serenity seeps into every fisher face

gazing into the bay

the darkness soon come

as they say

Time to get home for dinner

Solar Power Prepares Southern Brooklyn For the Future

The realization that clean energy, namely solar, can save the city in a crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, is sweeping through neighborhoods. Solar, which is renewable, efficient, and off-the-grid, provides energy which was needed throughout the damaged areas of the boroughs lacking in emergency preparation.

A press release in November 2016 announced that the Office of Storm Recovery, funded by Governor Cuomo, appointed 26 facilities and 19 service providers under the New York Rising Community Center Program to create a network of neighborhood-based recovery centers for extreme weather events.

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Caesar Nash, a Solar One employee from Yonkers, pulls apart the summer stage in preparation for fall.

In 2014 the reconstruction plan for Canarsie was set in motion, which was directly inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Two of the hubs are in the Canarsie area, having been identified by the community center program committee as necessary. They will be fitted with solar power and sustainable batteries.

The Canarsie planning committee members include established local organizations such as the Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition, Flatlands 108th Block Association, Fresh Creek Civic Association, and the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie. Major non-profits, such as Solar One, the largest weatherization organization in New York State, help connect these local residents with the program’s renewable services.

Kristin Devoe of the Division of Emergency Services for New York City said, “Through our stockpiles, we can provide generators, light towers, etc. to local emergency managers for local use to power essential buildings such as gathering centers, warming centers, critical infrastructure public buildings. However, none of these items are fueled by renewable energy.”

Solar energy is a powerful resource. The lithium ion batteries, its non-toxic counterpart device, stay charged with the sun’s energy for when it is needed, while the excess is sent back into the city’s electrical grid. The Energy Association reports that, “Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Power outages cost as much as $130 billion annually, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.”

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The rebuilt Stuyvesant park nature trail behind the Solar One facility at sunset.

The Solar One site at Stuyvesant Park Cove on The East River was pummeled when Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. According to their program report that year, they were able to quickly adapt their solar panel system into a crucial charging station for people nearby during the city’s recovery. Without alternative methods for powering electronics, and in one case a child’s nebulizer for asthma, people’s communications and safety would have suffered.

“You have to be prepared,” said Elba O. Melendez and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer from Canarsie.

Melendez and the committee have dedicated their time to readying their neighborhoods for natural disasters. The idea is to transfer Solar One’s adapted crisis methods into full-blown emergency and environmental education centers. “Many sources encourage the use of solar chargers by the general public in the event of a power outage for small items such as personal cell phones, rechargeable or crank operated lanterns, flashlights, and weather radios and these are considered effective in these instances,” said Devoe.

The organizations determined that solar powered devices, panels, and storage batteries would be the most helpful to maintain communications and basic comforts during a crisis recovery in Canarsie. Even suggesting in the reconstruction plan that resilient street lights powered by solar energy would improve safety during an emergency.

Angelica Ramdhari, Solar One Project Director of NYRCR Solar and Battery Backup Program for Community Facilities, hopes to create backup power for neighborhoods in need with elderly or local residents that have less access to charging, resources, and transportation.

 

 

 

Minister Mama

no stabbing demons

or slaying dragons for me

I didn’t save your legs from breaking

or solve the world’s aching

heroics aren’t really my thing

no mountain of lies did I chip away at

or speak great truths to be had

I lack luster and deservedness

less than special

but I did get through this day

Doggedly rode out the pain

in between bad caffeine shots

and propped eyelids and bandaged hearts

because the mission mandates 

that I just

I just 

make it to tomorrow 

The Month After September

It’s cold out as tourists snap pictures of the gaping hole in the center of the 9/11 Memorial site. People are unfazed by the rain as it mixes into the constantly churning waters. The sound of the giant, cubic waterfall drowns out the rest of the city in this congested part of lower Manhattan. In the distance, the museum gleams, packed with even more people.  

Officers wielding large weapons appear every few minutes or so, scanning the area instead of taking it in. Some people march by, dressed in suits or business attire, barely glancing at the memorial as they file by in herds towards the rebuilt train station. Others stare down into the gushing rapids, or carefully run their hands over the hundreds of names engraved in the black stone surrounding the water. Everyone is trying to take the best picture to bring home in commemoration. They have to bend in awkward angles because the memorial sites for both buildings are vast in depth and size, and hard to fit into frame.   

The blown out windows in all of the bordering buildings are all fixed. Dust in the streets has been replaced by sturdy, dark concrete that stretches in every direction. A new Starbucks is bustling, while the destroyed corner church’s construction is still underway. It’s walls will have vines, green patches, and an observation deck overlooking both of the tower memorials. In the background, the freedom tower is tall and brightly lit in the onslaught of night. The first few floors flicker on and off in a subtle pattern. From the plaza there is no bottom in sight to the waterfall. It seems to go on forever into the ground.

 

Canarsie Dog Owners Skeptical of Local Animal Shelter

The Canarsie Kennel Club meet every first Saturday in Canarsie Park at Seaview Ave. and 88th St for their monthly Meet and Greet event, at which two dogs, lost and dirty, were found wandering around and taken in by members. The dog owners in the club, as well as pet owners in the Canarsie community, are reluctant to send stray or rescue animals to the only available animal shelter that is three miles away.

The dogs, a young black female Patterdale terrier and a blonde Pitbull, were found around 8 a.m. by three of the members in the kennel club. With the help of experienced dog trainer, Marquise Berry, and pet owner, Richard Want, the dogs were coaxed out of hiding and given food and water. Their ears were fly bitten and they smelled strongly of urine. According to Berry, they were soiled enough to indicate they’d both been in cages for a long time. It is still unclear if both of the dogs had the same unknown owner.

Canarsie Kennel Club and Canarsie Improvement Association Co-Founder, Leanne Desvignes said “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t leave them here. This has never happened at a meeting before.”

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(Left) Marquise Berry, local dog trainer and owner of New Era Dog Training company, and (right) Richard Want helps rescue a blonde Pitbull and a Patterdale in Canarsie Park.

In the Canarsie neighborhood, there are currently three animal clinics but does not have its own animal shelter. The closest one is the Animal Care Center of NYC located on Linden Blvd in East New York, but pet owners are reluctant about it because of its kill policy.

“If we call that’s where she’s going to end up,” said Berry, on how to handle the dogs. The members opted to keep the dogs at their houses instead of calling the authorities or taking them to the shelter.

Dr. Peter Gusmorino of the Animal Clinic of Canarsie, that sometimes partners with the Linden Shelter, has been working in Canarsie for 30 years. He said the population has gone up in the neighborhood and there have been a few trends that he’s noticed. “I’ve seen less of the puppy mill dogs. Used to see a lot more of those. Now it’s more from shelters,” said Dr. Gusmorino. He remained neutral about the kill policy at the Linden shelter.

An Animal Care Open-Admissions Center, or commonly referred to as kill shelter, “accepts any animal that comes through its doors, no matter its medical or behavioral condition. As a result, decisions about placements are often based on resources and space availability, the health and the temperament of the animals at the given time.” It also means that there is regrettably a time limit on how long animals can stay in the shelter with overcrowding being a main issue.

Pet owners in Canarsie find the center’s policy to be understandable, but definitely an uncomfortable topic among animal lovers, many of which hoped to use the shelter as a last possible option.

“They’re a kill shelter but I can understand,” said Greg Hassett, a shopkeeper at Pete’s Pet Supplies, “There’s only one in the area. They could open one in the many abandoned buildings like on 95th and Glenwood. Been empty for I don’t know how long.”

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New blonde Pitbull found that morning

The Canarsie Kennel Club members kept the dogs in their homes for about two weeks while  advertising their photos and contact info for the strays on their Facebook page. The Patterdale was found a good home with an elderly couple who had recently lost their dog. The Pitbull is still temporarily at a member’s home until she can be placed.

11th Annual Honk NYC Music Fest Kickoff At The City Reliquary Museum

When’s the last time you heard an all brass brand play The Game of Thrones theme song and then seamlessly shift into the polka version of Britney Spears’s Toxic? No? Shame on you.

The 11th annual Honk New York City marching band festival officially kicked off with a packed yard and an explosion of music, food, and dancing, at the legendary City Reliquary Museum in Bushwick.

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The City Reliquary Museum yard and the Nevermind Orchestra starting the show at the Honk NYC festival.

Honk NYC is the gathering of street and marching bands locally and nationally, and in some cases internationally, to perform instrumental music for diversified audiences. Shows will be from October 10th to the 15th, spanning the city from Staten Island to Harlem with a guest spot in New Jersey. The bands playing at the event were The Nevermind Orchestra, The L Train Brass Band, and the New Creations Band.

According to Sara Valentine, Honk NYC Festival Steward and Co-Founder, the festival started out as an accident. It was a dinner party and a subsequent after party between rather talented friends, namely the Hungry March Band, that snowballed into three years’ worth of musical bashes before it became official. It is now the festival’s 11th year visiting the city from its original point in Boston.

“It’s accessible,” said Valentine on why she thinks marching band music in particular is so successful, “Can happen anywhere. It’s history. And it’s likely you’ve played that instrument as a kid.”

As of May 2016, the U.S Department of Labor reported that New York is the second highest employer of musicians and singers that play one or more musical instruments or sing; perform on a stage; and that perform for on-air broadcasting, or for sound or video recording.

Emily Smith, of the Seattle-based Filthy Femcorps band, said, “Marching bands, we’re a community.” She as well as several of the members of the performing bands actively participate in multiple or each other’s bands, fostering a real sense of unity among the musicians.

The bands certainly kept up the playful atmosphere among the functional tree house and bar located in the wide, ornate yard behind the museum. The New Creations Band that closed out the celebrations had a saxophonist that literally lit his instrument on fire as a final shocking note

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New Creations saxophonist that lit his instrument on fire as a final performance act.

Musical selections ranged from comical Friday the 13th songs to traditional New Orleans big band classics. There was even an original composition such as L Train Brass Band member Ryan Hall’s Bushwick, which encompasses the groove, people, and general weirdness of his favorite neighborhood.

“You see who’s here. White, Black, Asian people. Every culture has a grass band tradition,” said Valentine. More than anything she expressed that the festival’s mission is about making connections, not through social media or cell phones, but in real life with music across all backgrounds.