At a time when the economy is struggling and the impact ripples throughout each local community, a small area of Brooklyn showed its tough cohesion one week in September. Ditmas Park is a small residential community just south of Prospect Park, famous for its landmark Victorian Homes, interspersed with coop and rental apartments, sheltering a vast mix of cultures.
On the 10th anniversary of 9-11, Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church on Ocean Avenue held an Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Healing that brought together community members from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths and combined liturgical readings and music from each tradition. The church gathering included two rows of uniformed police officers from the local 70th precinct. The clergy told stories of how the events of 9-11 transformed New York and Brooklyn into a small village where everyone helped each other. I was in living in San Francisco when the towers fell and watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded on the Today Show – then frantically called and e-mailed friends in NY to make sure they were safe. I had lived in this neighborhood before marrying and relocating to California. That service helped me feel more intimately what it was like to be here that day and share the emotion that still felt strong after ten years.
The following weekend was the Flatbush Frolic, a country fair on Cortelyou Road where local businesses and non-profits showcased “more than socks and sausages,” according to the organizer, the Flatbush Development Corporation. There were live bands, and scores of food, merchandise and arts and crafts vendors exhibiting their wares and games for the kids. I’m on the Board of the Flatbush Food Co-op, one of the event’s sponsors – and also one of the vendors cooking up hot sausage, in our case the organic kind. The Co-op’s booth also featured an organic smoothie made in a juicer powered by the Sustainable Flatbush SunBike, a mobile solar-electric system that gets around on a retrofitted cargo bike.
Despite the difficult economy, it seemed like thousands of neighbors came out during the beautiful afternoon to sample a stew of cultural dishes in a zip code that has been called the most diverse in the country. We may be experiencing hard times, but for one week Ditmas Park showed its small village touch and neighbors whose ancestors came from all areas of the globe hugged and danced. I find that’s a sign a hope!