Tag Archives: Lower East Side

Credit Crunch Leaves Charities in Cash Crisis

The God's Love We Deliver sought to generated much needed money for the beleaguered charity.

The God's Love We Deliver sought to generated much needed money for the beleaguered charity.

Gregory M. White

November 24, 2008

The leaves crunched beneath the runners’ feet as the first chilly winds of winter blew past the starting line. They had come from across New York City to queue for the 15th annual God’s Love We Deliver charity run on that November Sunday morning. They were not a moment too soon for those most in need.

As Wall Street’s wintertime chestnuts continue to roast under the flames of an ever-declining economy, New York City’s local charities are being burdened with a financial failure that will make their ability to fulfill their goals that much more difficult. The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s fall from heights of over 14,000 just over a year ago to lows around 7,500 points this month has symbolized an economic collapse compared to the Great Depression. But the struggle for charities to meet the needs of many Americans left impoverished by the crisis may soon become more an emblem of the times.

God’s Love We Deliver seeks to provide meals for people homebound by illness. Her 17 years as a volunteer have left Roz Gilbert adamant about the importance of this organization. But this year she has seen a cash drought.

“I couldn’t believe how many checks I didn’t get this year,” she said.

Gilbert said that God’s Love We Deliver provides more than 1,600 meals per day and that she was concerned the loss of funds could impact the organization’s ability to meet the needs of the community.

The race, with its goal of raising money for the year’s expenditures, has not been immune. “Even my group, I’m not going to get to $10,000 this year,” she said about her own running team.

The falls of Bear Stearns in March and Lehman Brothers in September have made the finances of New York’s charities particularly precarious. Both organizations donated heavily to charities, often doubling workers’ gifts as well as providing generous corporate grants.

God’s Love We Deliver received $1,865,799 in charity donations from corporations and foundations last year. This amounted to 19.7 percent of donations and nearly the same amount of yearly costs, much of which may be at risk from the financial crisis

There were no financial services corporations on the list of 2008 sponsors for God’s Love’s charity run, except for Bloomberg, the information services firm. Other sponsors included retail brands Nike and MAC Cosmetics.

Institutions like Meals on Wheels are also suffering through the crisis. Beth Shapiro, director of marketing and communications, described the decrease in funding as sizable. It includes a $500,000 loss in donations from the fall of Bear Stearns alone.

“Who anticipated the fall of Bear Stearns? For us to make up $500,000 it’s not going to happen this year,” she said.

Meals on Wheels lost both the Lehman Brothers and AIG corporate matching programs in just one week, Shapiro said, part of a $225,000 loss just from firms in the financial sector. With an annual budget of $20 million, this amounts to a sizable loss. The Bear Stearns loss alone equals 90,000 fewer meals for clients, Shapiro said. She hopes that holiday fundraising can overcome this deficit.

“If we don’t meet our demands now we will be in jeopardy, meals will be in jeopardy,” she said.

While Meals on Wheels is restructuring to streamline and make services more efficient, Shapiro is still fearful.

“We don’t want to not deliver meals to people who can’t get out,” she said.

The global economic collapse has brought down some of Wall Street’s largest banks, and the deep devaluations of stocks, bonds and other investments affects charities as well. Lehman Brothers alone donated $30.8 million to charities in fiscal year 2007, a number that will not be made up this year. But even for the survivors, their ability to donate has been decreased by plummeting stock values and advancing debt on the weakness of their balance sheets.

Some have even cancelled Christmas parties, including UBS, the Swiss investment bank caught in a tax-evasion scandal. Last year UBS donated $38.1 million to charity to groups such as the Children’s Aid Society of New York. UBS representatives were unable to comment on how a decline in profits would impact charitable giving or the employee-matching program.

Citigroup donated $145 million to charities last year globally. Citi refused to comment on donation plans for the year, though the recent government bailout for the group may suggest difficulties in meeting all charitable commitments.

Firms like Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac, whose donations to charities were sizable, were unable to say what changes they are making as a result of being under conservatorship.  Spokesmen for both said all programs were under review.

Charities that cater to less than immediate needs are also being affected by the crisis. The Henry Street Settlement, which supports cultural works and community development on the Lower East Side, has also seen the impact of the financial collapse. Susan LaRosa, director of marketing and communications, said that the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers was the underwriter for the group’s annual gala art show, its largest fundraiser of the year. According to Lehman Brothers records, this underwriting amounted to $175,000 in 2007.

“We are not going to makes as much money from this show,” she said. “We’re not going to make that $1.4 million.”

LaRosa was also concerned about individual donations.

“These individual funders don’t have as much to give,” because they have lost their jobs or their wealth, she said.

While a loss in funding was evident, LaRosa didn’t anticipate any funding cutbacks.

“We are going to become a much more efficient machine,” she said.

The Food Bank of New York is also under threat from the encroaching financial crush. Brian Pham, while working a table at a university event intending to encourage students to volunteer, seemed less than hopeful about his charity’s current economic position.

“We’ve seen drops in some of our corporate donations,” he said. “It’s a hard time.”

The Food Bank receives the majority of its donations in  food donated by individuals and firms. Patrick Mooney, director of philanthropy, said the decrease in food donations has been alarming, with a loss of 10 million pounds this year.

“With financial firms we’ve definitely seen a decrease,” including a loss of a $10,000 donation for Lehman Brothers alone, he said. HSBC and Washington Mutual, which had its profitable divisions absorbed by JPMorgan Chase in September, have also made cutbacks in contributions.

Mooney said financial firms aren’t the only ony lost source. He said  Kraft and Nabisco, which previously donated large amounts of food, are now selling it in foreign markets because of  the global food shortage.

Mooney described a dire situation. He said that demand has increased from 1 million people in 2004 to 1.3 million in 2007. This rise in demand has already resulted in food shortages, where shelves are now bare in Food Bank warehouses. He said cutbacks are planned in the delivery program and less food is being provided. Even so, he said, “We’re solvent.”

Charities that otherwise may seem independent of the current financial crisis are being affected indirectly. Father Neil Connolly of St. Mary’s Church on the Lower East Side has seen demand for his church’s charity work start to rise as the economic crisis begins to affect more low-income workers.

Father Connolly said the city’s efforts to cut spending froma lack of taxable income would impact his church,  harming “the homeless and hungry.”

“Will we have a shelter, will we have a pantry? A lot of that depends on the city,” he said.

St. Mary’s has several programs that require funding from both the City of New York and the Catholic Archdiocese. This includes the shelter and pantry, but also counseling and support services. Those programs are largely funded by the Archdiocese, but also rely on community and private donations from firms. Father Connolly was concerned about the long-term health of those donations.

“We haven’t seen a big decline yet, but I think we’ll see one,” he said.

Father Connolly described the impact of the crisis on New York’s poorest as being exacerbated by the housing bubble.

“I think the real estate industry has become untethered,” he said, describing rising housing costs in the Lower East Side and other low-income communities.

St. Mary’s still plans to go through with its annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and its Christmas Day festivities that include a meal for the homeless and lonely. But Father Connolly has little faith in what’s to come next.“After this, who knows,” he said.

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Asthma Free LES Goal for New Initiative

by Gregory M. White

Winter upon its city streets, the Lower East Side’s air breathes with a crispness of cold encouraging its citizens to scarf wearing. But as children huddle and hurry to school something much more sinister than sub-freezing temperatures or icicle crystals is lurking in their lungs.

Asthma, the upper-respiratory ailment, is being brought to the Lower East Side’s attention. The Asthma Free School Zone initiative, which has been active in New York City since 2002, is beginning to take root in the schools of the LES. The goals of the organization are broad, but they are seeking to change the city’s views on air cleanliness. Lori Bukiewicz, of Asthma Free School Zone, said their plans for the Lower East Side are simple.

“We want to find out what people are breathing on the streets,” she said.

The initiative plans to do this by installing censors that test air quality in area schools and public housing. The censors will be deployed 4 weeks at a time every season to detect the polluting chemicals PM 2.5, black carbon, and ozone that cause and increase the risk of asthma.

The program is being instituted in PS 2, 137, and 142 on the Lower East Side. It is already functioning in 210 schools throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Asthma Free School Zone focuses on elementary programs because of the unique threat of pollution in early age onset of the chronic condition. Bukiewicz felt the Lower East Side had a very real need for the program’s attention.

“There are a lot of schools there and a lot of people living in public housing,” she said.

The area is also full of pollutants, according to Bukiewicz. This is due largely to traffic in the area, as well as power plants that produce smoke further polluting the neighborhood. Bukiewicz hopes the initiative can help to reduce these emissions and that results of testing could lead to changes.

“Maybe it means tighter regulation on power plants…certainly traffic is a concern,” she said.

Bukiewicz said that their work detecting pollutants could be, “just the tip of the iceberg.”

The seriousness of asthma is something doctors are seeing in their daily work. Dr. Teresa Smith-Ball has found that the ailment is often a collection of symptoms as much as a chronic disease in need of diagnosis. In her 20 years of family practice, Dr. Smith-Ball has found exercised induced asthma her most common form of the condition. She cites the prescription of inhalers as a high sign of people exhibiting a form of the condition.

Of all her patients, “a full fifty percent, at some point, I’ve given inhalers to,” she said.

Asthma affects about 20 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Asthma comes in two key forms, non-allergic and allergic. The pollutants found in car exhaust and poorly ventilated buildings often trigger allergic asthma. The Asthma Free School Zone initiative seeks to find these sources of allergic asthma and construct ways to influence communities to change policies to confront them.

Since its initiation, Asthma Free School Zone has garnered several awards including the US EPA Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award in 2005.

Idling is also an important aspect of the campaign. Cars often wait while still running outside schools across the city, and the Asthma Free School Zone would like to encourage parents to stop the habit to cut back on air pollution. The organization holds an Idle-Free NYC day yearly, and will be doing so in May of 2009.

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Rental Rates Down as Demand Crippled by Economic Crisis

by Eric Eagan

Oct. 29, 2008

The apartment is tiny.  None of its three bedrooms holds a bed bigger than a twin.  But it’s renovated, clean, and it’s in the middle of the fast-moving Lower East Side – the perfect place for three newly-minted Yale graduates to make their first mark on the city. Apartment hunters Andrew Cedotal, Allison Guy and Danielle La Rocco are on the fence, however.  For almost $3,300 a month, they expect more space.

“It’s a great apartment, but it’s a little smaller than we’re looking for,” La Rocco says to the agent showing the place.

What happens next is something that would have been unheard of even a year ago, but that real estate experts say is becoming more common: the agent offers to broker a better deal if the three will take the apartment today.  Within minutes, the trio has reduced their rent by a few hundred dollars a month, and La Rocco is dispatched to get a money order while the other two fill out applications.  The deal is done.

Do episodes like this mean Manhattan’s notoriously bullish rental market is softening?  Daniel Baum, a broker who runs the Real Estate Group, an industry organization that puts out an analysis of Manhattan rental prices each month, says yes.

“This past year, 2008, is the first year we’ve seen rental prices come down from the year prior,” he said.  “There’s a lot more inventory on the market now.”

According to the group’s latest report, the average rent for a non-doorman, two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan (the report does not look at three-bedrooms) decreased 3.82 percent from 2007, from $4,151 to $3,992.  Last week, the brokerage Citi Habitats reported that Manhattan rents from July to September were down over rents from the same period a year ago, for every category except one-bedrooms.

The reason for the slight drop in rents, Baum believes, is the recent economic downturn and the resulting layoffs. City unemployment rose 12.2 percent from August 2007 to August 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  More recently, with the collapse of the financial sector, wealthy Wall streeters are leaving their apartments, and landlords are finding it hard to replace them without lowering their rents or offering deals, like one month free.  For the first time in a long time – at least since 2001, Baum said, when 9/11 caused a brief dip in home and rental prices – renters are learning what it’s like to be wooed.

A perusal of Craigslist listings shows the modest incentives landlords are offering potential renters.  At the high end, there’s an “ULTRA LUX” studio in Midtown for $3,550 a month, but you “DON’T PAY RENT UNTIL JANUARY!” if you sign today.  A two-bedroom on the Upper East Side is going for $2,400 a month, but you get two months free, and, as with the other listing, this one is advertised as no-fee.

No-fee listings are more common on Craigslist than they were even a year ago.  Landlords are paying fees to lure renters who would otherwise be scared off by the expense, Baum said.  Broker’s fees are typically 10 or 15 percent of a year’s rent.  Cedotal, Guy and La Rocco did not pay a fee for their three-bedroom in the Lower East Side, likely saving thousands of dollars.

Of course, even with the freebies, not everyone should expect a bargain in a popular area like the Lower East Side.  The softening trend is affecting neighborhoods to varying degrees.  Non-doorman two-bedrooms in the Lower East Side averaged $3,588 a month in September, actually a slight increase over the year before.

“Rents are still a good deal higher than they were a few years ago,” said Baum, so it’s best to be flexible.  The Upper East Side near First and York avenues, is a good place to look for deals, he said.  A non-doorman, two-bedroom that rented in that neighborhood  for $3,496 a year ago would go for $3,309 today.

As for where these rents will go, the forecast is not certain.  Baum believes a glut of empty apartments will send prices lower, and keep them there.

“It doesn’t appear that there’s enough demand to push rental prices up to where they were,” he said.

So, at least for now, renters are in the catbird seat, and landlords are sweating.

“They’re certainly concerned that they’re not getting the rents they used to,” Baum said.

That’s music to the ears of tenant advocate Sondra Rutherford, 76, who has been fighting landlords ever since she organized a rent strike in 1978 to force her landlord to make much-needed repairs to her East Village building.  She now assists rent-regulated tenants who believe they’re being overcharged.  Rutherford said she has not seen evidence that the market is softening, but she’d be happy if landlords were at the mercy of tenants for a change.

“The landlords are insatiable,” she said.  “They just go overboard with how much they can get.”

Just as high-flying investment bankers and hedge fund managers have had their wings clipped by a down market, Rutherford said, so should landlords who, she thinks, are driven by nothing but recklessness and greed.

“You have to see that kind of moderation come into play,” she said.

Baum said he could not predict how long the downward trend would continue, and that the Manhattan rental market usually defies neat analysis.

“This market never ceases to amaze me,” he said.

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Lopez Lifts LES with Life Lesson Lyrics

Gregory M. White

October 9, 2008

Rene Lopez strikes an unassuming pose on stage. He wears brown plimsolls, Levi’s, and a feathered fedora. He strums and stares, conjured up couplets that flow naturally. They aren’t forced onto his audience.

“You feel naked out there,” Lopez said.

In person he plays with all the innocence of a college-aged boy, perched in his dorm room frame. There is a bedside manner to his solo gigs that evokes the sweet nothings of a cuddle session with your significant other. He still finds the environment intimidating, even after years in music.

“Its hard going up there by myself,” he said

His lyrics flow with hearty, almost simple, earnestness in ‘Nothing’s Left,’ “When I fell from grace all I saw was your face. Stood against the wall as the stones broke my bones.”

“The majority of them come from my relationship with my wife and myself,” he said.

Living in Greenwich Village with his wife Susie and two children, Lopez leads the life of a caring father. The hurried voice of a busy Dad was evident during the phone conversation. He spent the summer on vacation with his family in Los Angeles, where he got back to recording.

“I think being in L.A really refueled me again,” he said.

It was in L.A. that Lopez tried out some new recording techniques that he found “liberating.” Every day he woke up and got to work.

“I’m gonna go in there and write a song and finish it,” he said

He is now tempted to record a stripped down album.

“Let’s make it like when were teenagers in our bedrooms on our four track,” he said.

Lopez has not always been so motivated. He’s been able to play music all his life without holding another job because he has, “some Angels on my side.”

This financial support was not something Lopez wanted to speak about, but he was willing to say he sometimes felt lazy because of it. He felt he wasn’t proactive enough in his career when he was younger and that he was taking advantage of his situation in the wrong way.

“I was living the life of a rock star without being a rock star,” he said.

Lopez has been in several bands in several roles. He started out playing drums then moved to lead vocals, a la Prince, one of his idols. He has played in a soul review and brings all this experience to his current music.

There is an undeniable influence of funk and Motown to the music that Lopez now makes. Its as if you have plucked the earnestness of a songwriter like Marvin Gaye, and stripped the politics off of it, leaving a household charm that evokes Depression Era simplicity. Those artists have a particular feel Lopez prefers.

“I love the way they feel the music,” Lopez said. “I love the way they sing the song.”

Lopez also felt for their ability to convey emotion.

“I love that the songs can be happy about sad things.”

That sort of raw emotion is something Lopez strives for in his acoustic sets.  He said he picked up the guitar to write songs for himself and that he never bothered learning anyone else’s. There is nothing private on stage, where every chord and chorus comes with a crooner’s commitment.

Lopez has been performing at The Living Room in the Lower East Side for the past few weeks and will take the stage there again Mondays in November. He has a show at the Dactyl Foundation, 64 Grand St. on Oct. 17.

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Box in Late Bid for Booze License Survival

by Gregory M. White

Sept. 24, 2008

The Box, made famous by Lindsey Lohan’s table dancing exploits and its appearance on Gossip Girl, beat back its booze closure Tuesday night.

Community Board 3 left the Chrystie St. establishment with space to act after area residents signed an adjournment delaying decision on the bar’s liquor license until next month’s meeting.

At last Monday’s committee meeting on alcohol licensing, The Box seemed doomed as residents of the neighboring 187 Chrystie St. called for its closure. Several neighbors cited prolonged complaints against The Box including noise violations attributed to an internal atmosphere that is more cabaret than bar.

But after a unanimous decision by the board last week to deny The Box its liquor license renewal, the bar and its neighbors negotiated an adjournment that allows the nightclub another month to reform, or face losing its liquor license.

Randy Weiner, part of The Box’s ownership team along with Broadway heir Simon Hammerstein, was asked after the meeting last week to negotiate by the neighboring 187 Chrystie St. owner, Charles Cohen.

Cohen said that Weiner was “the only rational, negotiable one,” and that “he has a conversation and honors his word.”

Cohen, who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s, said he initiated the negotiations in the spirit of fairness citing improvements The Box has made since it was confronted over noise and environment violations in 2006. Cohen also said that the neighborhood, while much different than when he moved there, still had a reputation for rowdiness and that his residents had to take this into consideration.

Cohen said by applying legal action against The Box, his residents have a greater chance of achieving their goal of a more peaceful living environment.

“If the liquor authority rejected the community board’s decision and granted their license, we would have no bargaining chip,” Cohen said.

Weiner said that the community board acted as a mediator in the process and that Susan Stetzer, district manager, was involved in the negotiations. He said he was pleased with the adjournment and his neighbors’ willingness to negotiate.

Marc Ciolli, a resident at 187 Chrystie St. and attendee at last week’s meeting, spoke in favor of the adjournment.

Ciolli said that the list of grievances was long including overwhelming noise invading his apartment, cars and cabs stacked two deep on four-lane Chrystie St., and the frequent appearance of vomit in front of his building.

“If they can fix it, hallelujah,” he said.

While a majority of the attendees at last week’s meeting signed the adjournment, Mary Anne Inouye, also a resident of 187 Chrystie St, disagreed with the decision. She said at Tuesday’s meeting that the site was, “impossible to fix because of the building’s age,” and that the noise pollution could not be stopped. She also noted the appearance of vomit in front of her building last Friday evening.

Inouye said the decision by her fellow residents was strange.

“I think it’s some kind of polite gesture,” Inouye said, skeptical of the agreement and the parties involved.  “If it was a political thing, I would say follow the money,”

According to the adjournment, The Box has one month to comply with the residents’ demands for reforms. The two parties have “begun working productively together to create a mutually agreeable stipulation to resolve [our] differences,” according to the adjournment. The matter is scheduled for settlement at the October meeting of the full board.

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Box Beaten Back by Boisterous Board Meeting

A concerned citizen raises complaints against The Box.

by Gregory M. White

Sept. 18, 2008

The Box may be cornered into closing, as its liquor license renewal is now in question. Monday’s Community Board 3 State Liquor Committee decided to recommend rejection of renewal of the Lower East Side bar’s license due to ongoing complaints from community members.

The Chrystie Street establishment evoked strong complaint from audience members, many of whom were there to protest the renewal of The Box’s liquor license. With noise violations being the highest 311 complaint in the Lower East Side, with 44.52 calls per 10000 residents in June, many community residents came to the meeting to voice their concerns on The Box and other bars.

Several Chrystie Street residents cited prolonged violations of noise codes from The Box. Those residents who live in an adjoining building voiced the strongest opinions.

“Tenants have a very deep resentment for spending a year and a half with their bull (expletive),” said Charles Cohen owner of the building.

They described a venue where soundproofing was lacking and an overabundance in visitors was forcing them to lose sleep.

“If I’m going to lose sleep I want to be paid for it,” said Ken Rizzo, a contractor.

“I can actually hear the music, I can actually hear their song,” said Chris Henry, an art gallery owner.

Charles Cohen, the owner of the building neighboring The Box, spoke about his disappointment in what the establishment was meant to be and what it had become.

“Sounded like they were going to be a cultural institution,” said Cohen. “They opened it up and it was bedlam, absolute bedlam.”

Councilman David McWater, a board member who owns several bars, questioned Randy Weiner, one of The Box’s owners. McWater called the bar’s existence as a cabaret “a loophole” in laws regarding the difference between a bar and such a venue.

“There is a whole anti-bar movement in this neighborhood because of the illegal cabarets,” said McWater.

He also asked about the complaints from the community and how The Box had sought to deal with them.

Weiner said he implemented soundproofing and had reduced the audio volume thus resulting in fewer complaints. Afterward he said he was skeptical of the complaints of the residents and felt he had taken appropriate measures.

But residents of the neighboring building were not pleased with his response.

Residents felt that by giving The Box a new liquor license without additional restrictions, it would be likely to return to its former ways. Henry who carried a list of 311 complaints he had made on his cell phone, felt that any measure must be legally binding to keep the bar in check.

The committee agreed with residents, unanimously voting for non-renewal. The vote now goes to the full Community Board meeting scheduled for Sept. 23.

The ownership team of The Box includes Simon Hammerstein, son of famous musical director Oscar. The bar is partially organized by a gaggle of celebrities, including Jude Law and Rachel Weisz. It brings performers from around the world to its venue for a mix of what its Web site calls, “the excitement and energy of those concert saloons and burlesque halls.”

Cohen described the atmosphere as one of bottle service and decadent wealth that is, “looking to appeal to celebrity.”

“I think you go in and buy a bottle of Hennessey for $1,200 and that gives you a table,” said Cohen.

The Box has recently been in the tabloid papers and New York Magazine for table dances by celebrity Lindsey Lohan and its appearance on the television show “Gossip Girl.”

Its rich clientele may soon be looking for somewhere else to table dance.

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Speech Marks More than Democratic Acceptance for Women’s Group

The surging crowd at Skinny Bar stand in waiting for Obama's speech.

The surging crowd at Skinny Bar stand in waiting for Obama

by Gregory M. White

August 29, 2008

Expectations were high Thursday night at Skinny Bar, but not for a band or DJ’s performance.

The Lower East Side haunt played host to the NARAL Pro-Choice America event for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. It was hard to move in the concert like atmosphere.

The crowd, mostly female and younger than fifty, had high expectations for the candidate and, on occasion, a dose of cynicism.

NARAL Field Director Sabrina Shulman took an optimistic tone. “I hope that he does a blow out speech,” continuing, “He needs to be able to push and pull people along as much as he can.”

Thomas Giglio, an attendee, struck a more negative tone. “I would like to see him not be arrogant.” He continued, “I would like to see a short speech, short and concise.”

Also less than convinced beforehand was Jenny Zhang who felt that, “He needs to really make me believe this change is going to happen.”

Lalena Howard, Community Organizer for NARAL, emphasized the importance of women’s issues place in the speech. “I hope that he acknowledges his strong record as a pro-choice candidate.” She was also adamant that, “he sticks to what he believes in and doesn’t cater to the right or moderates.”

As the evening went on, the crowd grew and their cheers expanded, dotting every talking point with applause and pointed affirmations. When women’s issues were mentioned, volumes reached Madison Square Garden levels particularly with Obama’s remark, “We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.”

After the rapturous applause had subsided, and confused passers by on Orchard Street stopped filing in, there was a sense of possibility emanating throughout the Democratically dominated dive bar.

Nora Niedzielski-Eichner was particularly impressed by the bipartisanship of the speech. “I loved the talk about bridging, about bringing people together, about finding common ground.”

And while she felt the speech was a bit short on women’s rights, the national unity aspect was to Niedzielski-Eichner’s liking. “I think he pulled the rest of the country together.”

The passion of the speech was also appreciated, as Rainy White remarked, “ I think it was the first time he was speaking in an aggressive way, which was nice.’

Barney Tam was also in support of the vocal aggression saying, “Finally Democrats were on par with Republicans with that.” “He was able to verbalize what the Democratic Party stands for.”

There were some disappointed by the candidate himself. Polly Lai felt that this didn’t change much with the speech. “I think Obama is lightweight compromise.” Though, she admitted, “Even though I’m not happy about the candidates, I don’t want to vote for Nader either,” referring to Ralph Nader, independent candidate for president.

Disappointment over the speech was limited, but there were some. “Too long. Wrap it up. Enough sob stories,” said Giglio.

Most people who had their problems with the text understood, including Lila Garnett, “I do feel he has a job to do and the job involves a certain amount of marketing and it involves the avoidance of certain ambiguous positions.” Though she concluded easily, “I think he delivered.”

Still others questioned the list of policy proposals, Zhang stating, “I don’t know what his priorities are.” She continued, “What are his top three things?”

While there were complaints and conflict, a feeling of support ran strong within the room. Howard stated, “I thought he spoke really well about the economy, about the needs of the people over the needs of big business.” She concluded, “This speech was largely to woo people on the ledge.” White was in agreement, “I really felt like he was able to show what he could show after he was elected.”

Shulman wasn’t too worried about the lack of emphasis on women’s issues that others complained about.
“I think the bottom line is all these issues are women’s issues.” She concluded, “I thought it was pretty spot on.”

As the supporters, now sweaty from the cramped confines filed out the front door, the barman queued up the film Battle Royale, a timely choice for a campaign that is fast becoming one.

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