Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Days 9 and 10 of Easter: Communists. Landmarking. Homeless.

A very quiet day. From the sanctuary, I hear Karen in deep concentration as she plays the piano, singing her own songs. She is not conscious of anything else, her voice rising, dancing with the notes flowing from her fingers.

On my way to midtown to experience Jane’s new venture, T.R.I.B.E.: Transformation, Realization, Inspiration, Belonging, Expression. (


Haven’t seen Jamie in a long time. She’s in to see Danielle with another possibility. She doesn’t give up. Even when she feels like it’s long past enough. It’s been over a month. I don’t have much time. Conversation not easy.

The Revolutionary Communists have been all over the place all day. Planning, strategizing their upcoming event. Very particular, middle aged, fastidious women. Media people come later. They’re negotiating a deal with Marc. Their program will be where we are in the Revolution. They could be a subcommittee of the Landmarks activists or the Central Park  Conservancy though they sincerely believe themselves to be the vanguard of the coming Revolution.

Clergy friends gather to meet with city council member Helen Rosenthal and enter into a dialogue around landmarking. Something downtown has necessitated her having to cancel. Some of my colleagues have a cynical response to this news.

Even though he’s been here 5 years, Father Larry from Holy Name has not heard all the stories we have about landmarking. All I was told is that councilmember Brewer made promises and you got landmarked and the money never came, he says.

Long story short. I say. Then I  tell him the long one.  Pastor K from SPSA has his story to. His journey went all the way up to the Supreme Court who finally decided not to hear the case. Their vitality and presence is both a tribute to their creativity and passion and the presence of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in their building. And Pastor Alistair and Rev. Peggy now feel themselves in the crosshairs.

Our conversation soon turns to our relationships with the homeless people of our neighborhood. West End has no issue, they are surrounded by iron fence and gates.  Holy Name has recently closed their steps after a slashing incident. There has been increasing violence. But the chains across the steps bother him deeply. Pastor K closed his steps after someone tried to set fire to the church doors.(They've left their affidavit that allows the police to move people on lapse. Must be renewed with the attorney general every six months.)  Good to know I am not alone here. We all agree that in the late years of Bloomberg’s luxury city, things got rougher. More violent and intransigent. We all, however, are boundlessly thankful for the work of Goddard’s Project Outreach and their success in getting people housed.  We couldn’t do it without them.

On the other hand, I am comforted to know that Father Larry has had his own confrontations with the Midnight  Run folks who for all their good intentions  don’t realize that they often create scenes at the churches they visit that they leave for us to deal with. Father Larry has permanently banned them from Holy Name. If only they’d consult with us, have some  dialogue, work with us, not think they know it all because they deliver clothing  and sandwiches. They don’t live here. With the homeless. We do.

Liberal romanticization of homelessness does little to change anything for the individual homeless person/object of charity or our city in its failure to respond politically. Yes, they bring a sense of cheer, of caring, of compassion. But action without reflection is ultimately an exercise in self-gratification.  

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