Thursday, May 16, 2013

Going to the candidates debate


The Candidates Debate

Bill Tripp from Portland is in to talk about his vision for our tower. Bill was part of the first public event when we came back into this building back in December 2010. His presentation on ritual space ( along with Matt Webber’s photography ( and Amanda’s music made the night. Our doors were open again. No heat. No restrooms. But it was the first step towards rebirth. 

Now he has developed a vision of a light installation that would symbolize our rebirth, reference our history as the founding congregation of the More Light Movement and be a visible beacon of hope for the community. Marsha and Stephen have joined us for the discussion. It seems reasonable. It seems doable. And Bill will stay for the evening candidate’ forum to share the idea with the community.  
The Tower Project

Cara stops in for our final clean up. But will be doing flamenco instead of politics come evening. As it should be. 

After days of absence, I see Rachelle slip into the vestibule and back out the door. I go out to see her to tell her I’ve been worried. And soon regret it. She’s got her SUV cart and numerous garbage bags and immediately begins to critique the posters for the candidates’ forum. She sees the posters for Leila and Berik’s opening last Friday and says the big word Tonight is confusing. Why not put the big TONIGHT over the forum posters? Within ten minutes, I’ve gone from compassionate to wanting to shoot myself again. She takes off on this project leaving all her things behind.

Later I see her in her black layers of clothes passing out her fliers to people about the forum. They don’t know, pastor. Nobody knows. Why don’t they know? How can I tell her she scares the hell out of people? When the women  from the West 80’s Association come into set up, she attaches herself to them and and they compassionately involve her in the set up work. 

The women remind me of those I knew back in Oklahoma in the Junior League. Organized,detailed, ready to bring their intelligence and experience and creativity for community betterment. My hope is that out of this experience a relationship can develop to build the support necessary to get the community invested in our project. 
Susan and Danielle

I return from a reception at the Serbian embassy where I got to see Dale’s daughter, from whom he’d been estranged, meet his son Keegan for the first time. The candidate’s forum is about to begin.

I do my usual architectural-social history rap. But follow it up with this:

When this building was landmarked in May 2010, this congregation had a very heavy decision to make. Our governing body advised us to sell this building and merge with another church. We decided not to do that. Because we believed that it was incumbent upon us as stewards to preserve this  place where so much important church... and social history had taken place. Not as an exterior landmark but as a beating  heart of the community at the center of the community. We have represented the best of what the Upper West Side has been. And we have  helped create that reality, helped shape what is known as the Upper West Side. We did so because we believed it would not be  right for this  building to become  a drugstore , bank or even festival  market place.   And we did so because we believed that not just the building but the church  was important to this neighborhood and that our  community would come through. We are still waiting. The future very much depends on you....
Speaking to the candidates

All the candidates spoke. Issues and concerns included the ongoing gentrification of our neighborhood, preservation of affordable housing, sale of public land to developers, pubic education, charter schools..and the effects of landmarking on places like West-Park. While almost all candidates wanted to take credit for saving West-Park, only few understood that landmarking the church building does not guarantee saving the church, or event the building. Only Helen Rosenthal had the courage to say, the community has let you down...

Later, she said to me, I’m with you. And after I’m elected, I’m going to, excuse the language, hold their fucking feet to the fire...At least she  knew what to say to me..

Our current commissioner, Gale Brewer, now running for Manhattan Borough President, flies in for a visit, gives me props, then says, Yes, Brashear, we know you need money...Stephen and Hugo look at each other, look at me...

Someone  is unaccontably whistling. Anna turns around and says,'re scaring my dog...

At the debates’conclusion, Bil Tripp and I go off for more conversation.

We did our part, gave them a good night. But it’s time to up the ante. My people are  feeling frustrated.  we live in a neighborhood where every candidate s a liberal. Maybe even progressive. One is from the Green Party. Several will cross file with the Working Families Party. But the words of Simon and Garfunkel are running through my head...

Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose......


                                              Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel

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