Right off the bat we were re-introduced to our dedicated executive leadership by President Barbara. I'm not sure how long Barbara has been managing this group, but I'm going to guess somewhere between 40 and 55 years. She conveniently lives upstairs from our meeting room and we see her around town at cultural events every once in awhile. Her sister also attends. Together, they remind me of Aunt Mary and Aunt Dee. My favorite leader is Grace, the treasurer. She's got spunk and math skills that would make a calculus professor weep. She informed us that we have an organizational balance of $1,925.22 for our monthly postcards, stationary, rent, Verizon phone bill and electricity expenses. Not bad.
We learned that over the summer the construction company finished the exterior of the 'intermodal transportation facility' (aka parking garage) down the street and they're working to get the electricity and plumbing finished by the expected deadline this February. Barbara said she'd believe it when she sees it. In addition to general updates, we learned that the association is working to get some historic signage posted on Perry Avenue, trying to determine who is responsible for flooding issues at a common intersection, and asking for support to keep our post offices open. All this while inviting volunteers to help out with a "It's My Park" Day on October 15.
All of these announcements are terribly exciting and make me very proud to be a resident here, but I just about lost it when our special guest stood up to speak. Would you believe State Senator Gustavo Rivera came to our little gathering? Well he did and it was inspiring.
Senator Rivera had me at his first announcement: An initiative called Bronx CAN. Before answering all of our questions and addressing our concerns one-by-one, he took a few minutes to reminded us of his administration's health priority for our borough. After making sure that we were all aware that Bronx County is the most unhealthy in NY state, he shared his own experience with weight management and encouraged each of us to use the resources we have (no matter how minimal) to take care of our health. He said that each month the office will be launching different priorities to direct constituents to resources. July was Green Market promotion, August was public activity and exercise, September is access to healthcare and October will address health in our schools.
The Association was most interested in hearing Senator Rivera's position on three issues:
- Park land (near the 'intermodal transportation facility)
- Post office closings
Redistricting is a new concept to me, but an issue with deep-seeded political implications. According to Barbara our lines expired with the 2010 census and we are trying to urge state government to hire an independent commission to draw the new districts. While an independent commission is unlikely, Senator Rivera explained that if the Governor vetos the lines twice the task defaults to a judge called a 'Special Master' (I wish I had that title). The Special Master will draw new lines based on population data, legal restrictions and public opinion so we were all urged to go to a hearing to put our thoughts on the record and 'make our voices heard'. The sad thing for me is that even after the Special Master finishes his work, law suits can be brought against the lines. Hopefully everything will be worked out by the 2020 census.
There was a new guy sitting next to me last night who was silent until this point. He must have been inspired by the hearing process because all of a sudden out of no where he went off on a polite but lengthy rant about how he's a school social worker who is frustrated by violence and gangs in the Bronx and he just wants the community to work together for something good. He referred to himself as a 'young cat' who was angered by the sense of individualism people have here.
Much to Senator Rivera's credit, he waited for the new guy to finish then dropped into 'young cat' colloquial speech to build up his constituent on the idea of community. He reminded the cat that his attendance at this meeting was exactly what builds community. I have to hand it to our elected official, even I was inspired to volunteer for It's My Park day after that.
Senator Rivera left on a high note with an encouragement to all of us to visit his office in the Bronx. I just might. We were all feeling good until a debate broke out about the police report. I suppose this is what democracy means.
As I walked home talking about pooper-scooper practices with my neighbor Bri and her dog Princess and I felt great that I could be a part of this place. God bless the Bronx.