President’s Letter: April 2021

Monthly observations and insights from MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein

April 29, 2021

I got totally addicted to the Middle Eastern grocers on Atlantic Avenue when I lived in Fort Greene. I used to get all my nuts and grains there and more than a few pieces of honey-drenched pastry. And as I reentered New York four years ago, living in Sunset Park, Sahadi’s became a tradition again. And even since moving to Jackson Heights I go every few months to restock. In the midst of the pandemic lockdown, I discovered that I could order all the things I normally schlepped to Sahadi’s for.

Since I made that discovery, I have been scooping up orders from a friend or two in the neighborhood, placing an online order that Mercato delivered. But last weekend, my husband and I ventured out to do the shopping ourselves. Such a simple thing, but it still felt like a revelation. It was one of a long string of the gorgeous spring days we have been having and I thought why go underground? So, we took the 7 train to the Hunters Point stop and walked to Hunters Point South Park. The park was full of people out walking with friends, kids playing, dogs romping, and even a small pick-up volleyball game. We were not there for the park, no matter how splendid, draped as it was in double cherry trees blossoms, daffodils, and tulips. We had come for the ferry. And once it pulled in, off we went zigzagging across the East River, to 34th Street, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Pier 11.

I love being out on the water. I feel like I have a whole new vantage point on the city. It starts with the visceral reminder that the East River is not a north-south line between the boroughs but rather a mighty tidal body of water, that swings wildly east and west as you progress. And if there is a better place to see the old city and the emergence of the new, check to jowl, I don’t know where that is. The remaining industrial waterfront is still very much in evidence and historic steeples lurk above narrow streets. And amongst those things are new architecture, some elegant and enticing, and some utilitarian. But there is a certain very New York something about the juxtaposition of the new and old fabric. I find that aesthetically interesting, sometimes jarring, sometimes wonderous. But the public spaces are what make the whole waterfront come alive. At another time we would have expected to see cargo being lifted onto ships and commerce being conducted on the working piers. Today, people enjoying the sun and the sound of the water abound. And it is good.

For me it is more than time to start rediscovering the city, having an adventure or two, no matter how simple. On Monday, we’ll kick off our annual Jane’s Walk festival, reimagined for 2021 with nearly 200 virtual and distanced activities celebrating urban life. I hope that you will participate in an activity or two next week, on screen or on the streets! The array of choices are wide and varied. It will be a great way to continue your own explorations.

At the end of our ferry ride down the East River, my husband and I transferred at Pier 11 and did the quick ferry hop back across the river to the foot of Atlantic Avenue. From there we walked uphill to purchase some of the best olives in the city. I think we will all be assessing the special mojo that has allowed some small businesses to survive over the last year while others collapsed. At the moment though, we must support those business that are surviving. Without our active patronage they won’t. In fact, I think I will go get a few of those olives out of the refrigerator right now.

Happy Friday and welcome to Jane’s Walk week!

Elizabeth Goldstein Signature

Elizabeth Goldstein
President, Municipal Art Society of New York

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