Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio, first lady Chirlane McCray and Cardinal Timothy Dolan leave St. Patrick’s Cathedral this morning. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen)
For a mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral just days before Christmas, it was a solemn one.
The morning after two police officers were gunned down execution-style in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Cardinal Timothy Dolan delivered a moving sermon as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton sat in the front pew.
As he took to the pulpit, Mr. Dolan spoke about the good news the church is set to deliver on Christmas.
“Now, some days that’s tough to give, this good news. This is sure one of them. Because we mourn the brutal and irrational execution of two young, promising, devoted police officers, Rafael Ramon and Wenjian Liu,” Mr. Dolan said to a packed crowd of worshippers, tourists and media.
The two officers were shot—”assassinated,” as the mayor and police commissioner put it—through the window of their patrol car by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who posted on social media that he was out for revenge for the police-related deaths of unarmed black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The killing comes at a time of already heightened tensions between community, police and City Hall, amid days of protests after a grand jury opted not to indict an officer in Garner’s death. Police officers turned their backs on the mayor last night at Woodhull Medical Center; the police union has blamed the rhetoric of the protesters, and the mayor, for the deaths.
Mr. Dolan—to whom Mr. de Blasio has turned before, including shortly after Garner’s death in search of unity with the community—made brief mention of that rising division in the city.
“As we tear up thinking about their heartbroken families, as we are in solidarity with our police officers, who themselves experienced a death in the family. And yes, as we worry about a city tempted to tension and division, good news this morning might seem distant, difficult, even somewhat indiscreet,” Mr. Dolan said. “Here we are anticipating the joy of Christmas, and we feel like we’re nearer to Good Friday.”
But even as he referenced the crucifixion of Christ, the darkest day of the church’s year, Mr. Dolan said the good news of God is never erased, “for a believer.”
“So I propose to you this morning, more than ever, we need a little Christmas right this very moment,” he said.
The spiritual leader of New York’s Catholics delivered his remarks just as another, more controversial preacher, Rev. Al Sharpton, addressed the media this morning. But while Mr. de Blasio has been attacked by police unions for his relationship with Mr. Sharpton, seen by many as divisive, it was Mr. Dolan with whom the mayor chose to appear. Mr. de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray rose during communion, walked to the altar and knelt, where they received a blessing. He made no comments to the media after the mass.
In his sermon, Mr. Dolan made note of today, December 21, being the darkest of the year—and said that, for years, civilizations feared what would follow, only to find the sun would rise again. He said those people learned trust is necessary, just as those who believe in Jesus are taught to trust that light will conquer darkness.
“And when we’re tempted to question that as stupid and silly, he whispers, ‘Be not afraid.’ Fear is useless. What is needed is trust,” Mr. Dolan said.
Mr. Dolan has spoken out about the ongoing tensions in the city before, penning an editorial in the Daily News urging unity and decrying both protesters using anti-police rhetoric and police unions who called on the mayor not to attend police funerals just days before these deaths.
He spoke personally about how he learned of the death of the officers: from police officers assigned to provide security on a visit he was making to a Bronx church yesterday.
“Instead of their characteristically buoyant greeting to me, I found them somber and downcast. And I went over to them and said, ‘Fellas, what’s wrong?’ And they told me, the first I had heard of it—the chilling news of the execution of their two members,” Mr. Dolan said.
The cardinal asked the officers to take him over to the 46th Precinct across the street. There, he said, he met with officers, praying with them and embracing them, trying to console them.
“As you observed so well yesterday, Mayor de Blasio, for them it was indeed a death in the family,” Mr. Dolan said.
Mr. Dolan went on, “stumbling through mass in Spanish he said,” but caught out of the corner of his eyes two police officers on bended knee, hats on the floor, praying.
“And I silently prayed that they would hear those words that Mary heard, deep down: ‘Be not afraid. I am with you,’” he said.
The cardinal turned to Mr. Bratton and Chief of Department James O’Neill, seated next to the commissioner.
“Commissioner Bratton and Chief O’Neill, would you tell your officers that God’s people gathered in St. Patrick’s Cathedral this morning thundered with prayer with and for them, that we love them very much, we mourn with them, we need them, we respect them, and we’re proud of them and we thank them? Would you tell them that, Commissioner Bratton and Chief O’Neill?” Mr. Dolan asked, before turning to the congregation. “Am I correct in thinking that that’s your sentiment everyone?”
The cavernous church filled with thunderous applause.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
Laura Dawn and her brother, Jay.
I have a confession to make. I have occasionally given way to imagining horrible scenarios, such as my mother or father dying and how I might react to the news. I’d be on the subway back in the late ’90s when I was in my 20s, zooming underground toward the at-that-moment-uncool-yet-extremely-cheap Greenpoint artist collective I lived in, and I’d imagine standing in the kitchen of my temp job. While making a hot green tea, I’d receive the news that my mother or father had died in a car accident. I’d faint into the saving arms of a cute co-worker, sobbing. I would always feel terribly ashamed of these fantasies. I once confessed them to a shrink, who assured me that we all fantasize about calamity, and that visualization prepares us for eventual loss. So if one of those dark thoughts ever crept up again, I’d shake it off and tell myself: it’s just your brain preparing for something inevitable and terrible that’s far, far into the future.
Unfortunately, I recently learned that no amount of fantasy role-playing actually prepares you for unexpected tragedy. When I received the call last year that my 73-year-old mother had dropped dead of a heart attack, all I know is that I pounded the kitchen counter screaming “No” at the top of my lungs until my husband held my arms down. I stopped screaming only when I had exhausted myself, red-faced, shaking, vision blurry and having trouble breathing. I didn’t faint prettily into anyone’s arms. There was no way to save me in that moment.
It was ugly, terrifying, as alone as I’ve ever been, and so very, very final.
“How well do you really know your parents? Their passions, their disappointments, what drugs they actually did or how many people they slept with?”
On May 3 of this year we buried my mother next to her parents in her hometown of Prairie City, Iowa. I love Iowa in the spring. I miss its green flatness, how clean and sharp the air can be before the suffocating summer humidity hits. I always feel slightly overwhelmed in NYC, a feeling that left me inspired for the last 20 years but now a bit tired as I navigate my professional 40s with our new baby daughter, Mona. She is 18 months old now. She will never know her Iowa Grandmother.
After the burial, my two older brothers and I went to my mother’s house to continue clearing out her personal stuff—papers, jewelry, mementos, photos and some sentimental folksy art pieces that none of us quite knew what to do with yet. I was inside with Mona when my brother Jim motioned for me to join him outside on the stoop, which I did. He silently handed me a letter and said, “I think you’d better read this.”
My name is Jay Sweet, or birth name Larry Duane Schlosser. I was born Jan 21st 1960 at Broadlawns Hospital in Des Moines. If all the information is correct you are my birth mother. I have been searching for you on and off for nearly 30 years.
I read the rest of the letter, which she had received in 2012. It detailed how he had found her, that he had found my brothers and myself on Facebook and how much he wanted to just meet her. He told her about his family, how he was raised by loving, adoptive parents who were now deceased. He told her about his wife of 22 years and his three great kids. He was raised in Iowa and lived there still. He left his number and asked her to reach out if she wanted to honor his request for a meeting. Immediately, I knew it was true.
I picked up my phone. My hands were shaking. And I called the brother who had been lost to us.
Thus began a whole new chapter of my mother’s death, one I might entitle: Here’s a Whole Bunch of Shit Your Mother Who You Thought You Were Very Close To Never Told You.
How well do you really know your parents? Their passions, their disappointments, what drugs they actually did or how many people they slept with? I thought I knew my mother very well. My mom was what some people might describe as “a character” or “a pistol.” She had this incredible, relentless energy. She was a born talker, an avid socializer, the first to jump up and dance and then yell in your face until you, too, joined her on the dance floor. She had a hatful of ridiculous sayings, a constant habit of twirling her hair (I don’t think she ever stopped moving except for when she slept, and even then she had a bit of a restless leg thing going on), and was my friends’ Favorite Mom Ever. “Your mom is so cool!” they’d say, “your mom is so much fun!” gorging on Oreos with her as she taught them to jitterbug in our living room.
She was also a survivor—the abused child of a cold, domineering and neglectful mother—who tried so very hard to not hand down that abuse to her own kids. She didn’t always succeed. But she tried. She kissed us and hugged us (while letting us know that her own mother never touched or hugged her). She made everything fun for us, she drove me to dance classes and pushed me to have all the opportunities life had not given her. But she also had a darkness—a self-loathing that would emerge and a hair-trigger temper, an immediate way of taking someone down verbally that occasionally tipped into violence when I was younger. She worked her whole life on controlling that snap, and on regaining a bit of self-esteem. She watched a lot of Oprah and took her advice so seriously. Gradually, the backhand out of nowhere I feared as a child slowly ceased, the yelling and unreasonable reactions to tiny stresses got better, and each decade I saw her grow, deepen, and our relationship reflected that (thanks, Oprah!). In her last years I loved her totally and unconditionally, with less and less of the hurt and blame I had always nursed.
But as a child, I loved her madly and fearfully. “Anxious attachment,” I believe they now call it. I slept on the floor next to her side of my parents’ bed until I was 12, and then when my parents divorced at 14, she gave up and let me simply sleep next to her in our post-divorce home in Pleasantville, Iowa. She had taken a second job to help us make ends meet and she’d get home late, crawl into bed, and we’d sleep back to back, each of us twirling our respective hair (a legacy I am now bequeathing to my own daughter), and we’d catch up and talk ourselves to sleep. She’s the one who taught me the tenacity to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. Because of her, I had the moxie (and stupidity) to pack up and head for New York City with all of $300 in my pocket.
In short: I thought I knew her. Really knew her. But in the weeks and months that followed our finding Jay’s letter, I learned that one of the most pivotal and painful episodes of her life had been kept secret from all of us, including my father, for our entire lives.
After months of sleuthing, calls with relatives and her old high school friends, we pieced together the story. Her senior year of high school, my mom was dumped by her longtime high school boyfriend Gene Lust. No, I did not make that up. His name was Gene Lust for real. She had hoped to marry him, and was heartbroken they were through.
She began dating a new fella, mostly to make Gene jealous (according to her sister)—a 24-year old high school dropout and full-time, gainfully employed plumber named Harlan. Her strict, well-to-do for Prairie City parents did not approve. So my mom had decided to break it off, but things got out of control during their last make-out session and whoops, they did it.
Getting pregnant in 1959 in rural Iowa generally meant one thing: Congratulations! You’re also getting married. Harlan the young plumber, mindful of doing the right thing, offered to marry her. But my mom’s parents rejected this offer. They forced her to carry the child in secret, and to give him up for adoption. My grandmother, who could at best be described as cold and judgmental, was furious at my mother, forcing her to hide inside for months and admonishing her daily with the directive to Never Speak a Word of This Awful Shame You Have Brought Upon Us. So it’s not a huge surprise that my mom met my dad six months after giving birth, married him six months later, and was pregnant with their first child two months after that. She wanted out. And she did want a family, but she wanted it on her own terms.
She never told a soul. Plenty of people in Prairie City, Iowa, knew. It’s small-town rural Iowa—something like that isn’t going to stay quiet for long. But no one in her new life with my father knew. She had moved all of 45 minutes away to a small town called Pleasantville, but it was far enough. No one knew, no one asked—she was Judi Galpin, no longer Schlosser, and the three kids she had with my father Norman (myself the youngest) were her own family now.
But she had done one weird, telling thing. She had named him Larry Duane Schlosser and put it on his birth certificate. She had given him her last name, and with that, a way of finding her. I don’t know why she did that, because in the end, she never answered Jay’s letter. He never got his chance to meet her, and then she died.
I know this because last August, my husband and I flew to Iowa and met Jay and his wife Renae. We met at a local sports bar, because although Iowa is beautiful, it’s also the land of breaded and fried everything with a side of blaring flat-screen TV. I was shaking in the car on the drive—my heart pounding. I was afraid to meet them, of what I can’t say. But when I saw Jay I burst into tears and we hugged each other immediately. He looks so much like my brother Jim and so also like me. He had the same jittery energy as my mother—some kind of manic gene handed down to all four of her children. He had questions. He had beautiful baby pictures of himself to share, plus pictures of his expanding family now that he’s a grandpa. He also had a sadness and anger he couldn’t quite hide. Why wouldn’t she meet him? Why?
This is the question that haunts us all. My mother loved her family—caring for her elderly aunts until their deaths, and even caring for her own mother, painfully but dutifully, until her death at 96, one year prior to the heart attack that would take her own life. She was ecstatic at becoming a grandmother, completely in love with my little girl Mona, and when she came for a two-week visit in the fall of 2013, I honestly didn’t want her to leave.
But she was already a grandmother—and a great-grandmother. A fact that she knew in 2012.
My brother Jim is still angry with her. He mostly just misses her, but is still having trouble processing why she wouldn’t have trusted us enough to tell us. How could someone as big hearted as she, someone who organized charity drives and was so involved with her family and friends … How could you not have answered him, Mom? How could you have lied to us for all those years?
Having your heart and mind constantly split between New York City and Iowa is a bit challenging sometimes. Last week I went to a birthday party for a dear, very fabulous friend held at her incredibly swanky apartment in Battery Park City. It was a pretty elite crowd even for NYC, a famous director or two, a newly elected politician, and many glamorous women of a certain age (provided that age is around 40). My friend is infamous for always throwing a party curveball, so she had a psychic/medium ensconced in a back room and we were all invited to have sessions with her. I immediately got in line for my turn. I don’t particularly believe in psychic abilities, but within five minutes of our reading, the medium was channeling my mother. The medium’s first words were “Wow. Your mom has a lot of energy … and she’s really pushy!” In that moment, I was pretty sold. So I asked her: Mom, why didn’t you tell us?
The medium said, and this is pretty close to verbatim: “Your mom wants you to know that she couldn’t tell you because it was just too painful. What happened was terrifying and painful. No one had ever told her what having the baby would be like. She had the baby in a hospital with doctors and nurses she’d never met before, who were cold and judgmental of her situation. She went into labor quickly and had no painkillers of any sort. It was painful, scary, she thought she was dying … and then he was born. She got to hold him for just a few seconds. Then they took him away and she was left in that room all by herself. Her milk came in and no one told her what to do. She was in pain, confused and she wanted to hold him but they had taken him away. She hated her parents for putting her through that. After she got home she just wanted to forget it had ever happened and wanted out from under their roof. She blocked it out; she never let herself ever think of it because it was just too painful. After she died she made sure you found the letter. She’s happy now that you’ve met and she’d like to know why you didn’t invite him to your Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday?”
So, again, I don’t really believe in psychics. Or even an after-life for that matter. But my mom had precipitous births each pregnancy, and there’s really no way the psychic could have known that—and I just held an early Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, which she also could not have known. So I wanted badly to believe that somehow it was true. That somehow, my mother got this message to me.
Because when I imagine you, Mom, still just a kid yourself, cold, alone and frightened, having just given painful birth, with your first son in your arms for just a few seconds before they took him away? I understand, Mom. How a thing could be so painful that the only way to go forward is to just make yourself believe it didn’t happen.
I forgive you. I miss you. I promise to invite Jay and his family to Thanksgiving next year.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
(Photo courtesy of JGPR)
If you haven’t noticed, the holidays are officially upon us which means it’s time to give to a worthy cause and help spread a bit of holiday cheer.
United Cerebral Palsy of NYC, is one such deserving organization as it works year-round to make a difference for the over 14,000 children, adults, and families living with Cerebral Palsy in New York City. This week, the non-profit held its 5th annual Santa Project Party at the West Village’s new haunt, Clarkson.
The event–hosted by Emmy award winning journalist Tamsen Fadal and Good Day NYC’s Mike Woods–saw a number of notable New Yorkers from the fashion, film, and music realms including Project Runway’s Camilla Barungi and People Magazine’s “Sexiest Artist of the Year” Javier Gomez. “A lot of young people get involved with this event, it’s not your typical boring NYC fund raiser.” Mr. Gomez told us.
Hand-crafted cocktails, charcuteries, and mini desserts were passed around the packed West Village restaurant as the attendees participated in a silent auction. Guests bid on a range of luxury items from Brooklyn Nets box seats to a signed jersey from soccer star, Pele.
Proceeds of last week’s benefit will provide holiday gift cards for the children attending the UCP of NYC’s educational programs and support the expansion of their existing manhattan school. The new Upper West side facility–set to open September 2015– will feature a rooftop playground designed specifically for children with disabilities. UCP of NYC’s Senior Vice President Sheila Lennon told the Observer that contributions from events like the Santa Project and donations are vital to the organization as the UCP of NYC primarily serves low income families. “Families caring for a child with disabilities have medical expenses approximately 26 times the amount of a normal child, so one of the best ways to get involved is to help relieve some of the financial burden,” said Ms. Lennon.
By the end of the evening, the event raised over 40,000 dollars in aid of the children and families the UCP of NYC serves this year.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, held a rally and oversight hearing on hiring more women in the FDNY Wednesday morning (Courtesy Office of Council Member Helen Rosenthal).
New York has been forced to accept a massive defeat against San Francisco—and almost the rest of the country—when it comes to employing female firefighters. While coastal frontrunner San Francisco’s department is currently made up of thirteen percent women, NYC’s numbers are staggering in lack: only 44 women currently serve in the 10,500-person New York City Fire Department (FDNY), a chunk that amounts to less than half of one percent of the entire force, according to a press release.
Former Congresswoman and NYC Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman described the numbers as “deplorable.”
In a bid to raise that figure, Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Elizabeth Crowley, Laurie Cumbo and Ben Kallos stood on the steps of City Hall with the United Women Firefighters (UWF) and supporters Wednesday morning. They called on the FDNY for action, meeting just before a NYC Council oversight hearing that will examine existing barriers that prevent female candidates from joining the FDNY.
“Cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco have up to thirty times more women serving in their fire departments,” said Ms. Crowley, Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee and co-Chair of the NYC Council Women’s Caucus, in a press release. “The City not only needs to increase and rethink its recruitment efforts, it needs to answer serious questions regarding testing methods in the Fire Academy that may be keeping female probationary firefighters from graduating.”
Also in discussion at the hearing will be Introduction 579, a bill sponsored by Ms. Rosenthal and Ms. Crowley that would compel the FDNY to disclose to the NYC Council a report on the applicant pool, classified by race and gender, throughout each stage of the process.
Unfortunately, the city is in too deep for a quick fix—President of the UWF Sarinya Srisakul said that merely to meet the national average would require the FDNY hiring over 400 women.
Ms. Rosenthal, Chair of the Contracts Committee, made note of a puzzling discrepancy: 18% of New York police officers and 13% of U.S. combat troops are women.
“I am eager to learn from the administration at today’s hearing what is so unique about being a firefighter in NYC that excludes women,” she concluded.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
The Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights was the sight of a stabbing and shooting early Tuesday morning (Google Maps).
Early Tuesday morning, a rabbinical student was stabbed while in a Crown Heights synagogue. His assailant was later accosted by the police, and fatally shot. A video of the police interaction has been posted to YouTube by multiple sources, although police are still investigating the incident.
According to the New York Times, the victim was Levi Rosenblat, a 22 year old rabbinical student from Beitar Illit, Israel. The assailant, Calvin Peters, 49, entered the Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters and stabbed Mr. Rosenblat in the head around 1:30 am.
While the motive of the attacker is unknown, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton stated in a press conference this morning that “The Hate Crimes unit is part of the investigation and will seek help to determine if in fact this is an element of the motive of this individual.” According to several witnesses, Mr. Peters was yelling anti-Semitic comments, although Mr. Bratton remarked that the police are still corroborating these claims.
Mr. Rosenblat was taken to Kings County Hospital and is in stable condition, while Mr. Peters was shot by police and later pronounced dead at the hospital.
According to Mr. Bratton, there is a police detail located outside of the facility “twenty-four hours a day” in a command vehicle which has held its post there for nearly ten years. The Times writes that someone ran to the officer located outside to alert him of the situation.
In a widely seen YouTube video filmed by one of the witnesses, a police officer—who the Times identifies as Officer Timmy Donohue—and others in the synagogue can be heard asking Mr. Peters to put the knife down. He does initially, prompting the responding officer to put his gun away, but when the knife brandished yet again, another officer on the scene—identified by the Times as Officer Roberto Pagan—used his weapon.
Mr. Bratton fielded a question on the use of deadly force at his press conference this morning, stating that, while he had only seen the video on television at the time of the conference, the shooting “looks like it was justified” and “while unfortunate, may have been unavoidable.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the loss of life in a statement released this afternoon. “Finally, we commend the police officers who answered the call to this incident. They responded quickly to a tense and dangerous situation, and while any loss of life is tragic, we are fortunate that, thanks to the actions of our officers early this morning, more people were not injured or worse,” he said.
In solidarity with his recent push for mental health reform, Mr. de Blasio same statement also called for improvements in mental health services, since “Preliminary reports suggest the assailant in this case suffered from mental health issues.”
Mr. Bratton also stated that “We are very, very confident that its not a terrorism related act at this stage,” but emergency response vehicles have nonetheless been posted outside Jewish facilities in New York as precautionary measure.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
Discounts are available for stays of more than a month.
The “words extended stay hotel” usually call to mind the kind of bleak, highway-side accommodations for business travelers that can be found on the outskirts of most decently-sized cities—a serviceable set-up half-a-step nicer than an efficiency apartment.
Not so much a lavish Manhattan hotel suite rented by the month. And yet, there handful of $100,000-a-month-and-up options for those seeking temporary housing in the city, among them a $500,000-a-month floor-through at the Pierre that was just rented from late November through the end of December. (The Pierre has 10 suites that can be rented monthly, starting at $75,000.)
What’s more, the same tenant also leased the Getty Suite on a lower floor—a 1,015-square-foot apartment with a 920-square-foot terrace “for an extended family-entourage situation” as Town broker Therese Bateman told The Journal, which first broke the news of the rental earlier today. The Getty Suite runs an additional $150,000 a month, bringing the visitors’ grand monthly total to $650,000—a princely sum that includes such regal conveniences as a chauffeur-driven Jaguar and a multi-lingual butler/concierge known as the royal attache.
And while the Presidential suite, as it is known—it’s debatable whether a 4,786-square-foot floor-through apartment can still be referred to as a suite—is available for shorter bookings via the hotel’s front desk, upscale hotels frequently engage the services of brokers to handle leases of longer than 30 days, Ms. Bateman, who shared the listing with her colleague Andreas Perea-Garzon, told the Observer. Though some prefer to be more hush-hush about their longer-stay options than others. “There are a number around town, some more public than others,” she noted.
Which may have something to do with the more favorable rates that longer-term visitors get. The Pierre’s presidential suite, for example, goes for $30,000 a night, meaning that, while it might boggle belief, $500,000 represents a significant discount over the $900,000 a month that a visitor booking at the nightly rate would pay.
Such long-term luxury suites cater to a clientele that wants to rent for a month or two, but doesn’t plan to stay for the duration of a six- of 12-month lease, according to Ms. Bateman, and, moreover, doesn’t care to jump through the board approval hoops required to rent in the city’s higher-end condos. Moreover, a fully-furnished suite, daily maid service (or in the case of the Pierre, twice daily maid service) and the robust concierge offerings of a luxury hotel (which for those who do not travel with their own butler, can prove invaluable).
Other hotels known for being particularly accommodating to longer-term visitors are the Mark, the Palace and the Waldorf Astoria, where monthly rentals can be had in the mere $100,000 to quarter-million dollar range. Though few come with terraces, dead-on Central Park views or Fifth Avenue addresses as the Pierre combo does, Ms. Bateman emphasized.
“This is really like moving into a co-op on Fifth Avenue—it’s a very, very different property and location than the Palace or the Waldorf,” she opined. “I know people say panoramic all the time, but the views from this apartment really are panoramic. Central Park is just… Central Park.”
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
Artist collective CHERYL hosted the funeral at Glasslands on Saturday. (Photo: Steve Mack/Getty Images)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Williamsburg is dead.
Or at least that is what the artist collective CHERYL–who held a funeral in remembrance of the once hip residence this weekend–would have you believe. Saturday’s “‘Nail in the Coffin’ FUNeral Dance Party” marked the official end of the neighborhood’s cool factor and a menagerie of Normcore-suited bohemians gathered to pay their respects. The event took place at Glasslands—a once beloved venue set to close with the arrival of Vice—and attendees were encouraged to bring photos of their favorite Williamsburg memory.
A funeral procession kicked off the evening, as a gang of pallbearers carried a homemade coffin–spray painted black like a set piece from a high school theater production–followed by staged mourning merkins who fell to their knees in a dramatic display of distress over the death of their beloved hipster dwelling.
Glitter was then thrown into the air as the coffin was laid to rest and the crowd began dancing to the theme song of Ghost Busters.
The invitation asked that attendees dress in ironic costumes such as a Starbucks barista or Whole Foods employees.
One could not help but wonder if the whole ordeal was entirely satirical, or if the funeral would in fact mark the end of an era. But it seemed we were not the only ones wondering. Opinions about the night’s theme were as varied as the technicolor strobe lights flashing overhead.
“Of course Williamsburg is dead, it was dead three years ago.” said a woman wearing an elaborate fascinator and glitter face paint. “It’s all about Bushwick now.” she added. Others, like the man accompanied by a furry hand puppet, told the Observer “Williamsburg is not actually dead. This is what CHERYL does, it’s just fun.”
The opposite points of view were debated by attendees and, at times, it was difficult to tell which joke various party-goers believed they were in on. Those who believe Williamsburg is alive and well celebrated the night as yet another quirky Saturday night, while some from the “Williamsburg is dead” team explained that gentrification and the emergence of sky high condos are to blame for the death of the once quaint artist residence.
“Williamsburg had its good points but now it’s like Disneyland. It’s just a cartoon version of what people think Brooklyn should be.” a purple haired woman told us.
By the end of the evening–which was marked by the rising sun– the jury was still out about Williamsburg’s relevance but we’re willing to bet no one opted for a night cap at Starbucks.
- Published in OBSERVER NEW YORK
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