Word on the Street from the 300 West Block Association
November 6, 2017
By Zazel Loven
On the balmy evening of October 18, the star-studded annual meeting of the 300 West Block Association — a citizens group active in Chelsea since 1959 — was called to order. New arrivals in the neighborhood joined us at St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church (315 W. 22nd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), our longtime host location for this event. And welcome they were, especially when “Just what is a block association?” was asked by newcomers.
Anyone who has ever thought that New Yorkers are not friendly ought to drop by a neighborhood block association meeting. We start off the evening with refreshments, and that half hour of socializing gives everyone a chance to say hello to old friends and shake hands with people they might only have read about in this paper. Though not all public meetings are smooth sailing, we try to maintain the peace by giving a platform to anyone who has general questions for our elected officials and their representatives, our guest speakers, and the always popular 10th Precinct officers. Rather than air personal grievances and complaints about specific issues, we see the role of the 300 West Block Association as a conduit to the agencies that might help with whatever is on the minds of the ever-vigilant New Yorkers — and we see the roles of this annual meeting as a way to connect everyone (a Community Resource contact list was emailed to our members shortly after the meeting).
In keeping with the recycling theme of this year’s meeting, guest speaker Andrew Hoyles — Program Manager, Organics, at the NYC Department of Sanitation — brought along a gift for each attendee: a handy, Zero Waste reusable bag, courtesy of his organization (get more info at nyc.gov/dsny). Into each bag went a handful of spring-blooming daffodil bulbs, donated by New Yorkers For Parks (ny4p.org). We hand them out at this fall meeting so they can be planted in our street tree beds, bike lane beds, and front gardens before the ground freezes. What has become a unique Chelsea happening, and a partnership activity between the 300 and 400 Block Associations, the annual Pumpkin Smash was highlighted by guest speaker Lia Lucero of The Lower East Side Ecology Center (lesecologycenter.org). The Saturday following Halloween is a great opportunity to get out all of your frustrations by chopping up pumpkins brought by their owners to W. 22nd St.’s Clement Clarke Moore Park. Over the years, thousands of pounds of pumpkins have been diverted from landfills, finding a second life as compost added to the soil to nurture our trees and park spaces (the compost also goes on bike lane gardens tended by the Chelsea Garden Club; chelseagardenclub.blogspot.com).
No neighborhood meeting would be complete without Detective Mike Petrillo of the 10th Precinct. He introduced us to two officers from the Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) program. While crime statistics are always of interest (watch those packages delivered to your lobbies), the NCO looks to form partnerships between shop and business owners, neighborhood residents, and local officers, to promote community building for the benefit of us all. Following the police, the crowd listened to brief reports on topics relevant to Chelsea by Matt Green from Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office, Eli Szenes-Strauss from State Senator Brad Hoylman’s office, and Lucille Songhai from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s staff.
Looking to the future, we plan to keep on our mission of forging connections and hosting community events. Caroling around the neighborhood in December draws a crowd of all ages, people passing by, and members of the Precinct, accompanied by the stellar musicians from the Chelsea Symphony (chelseasymphony.org). Together, we brave the cold with the promise of hot chocolate and cookies as the evening wraps up. In May, our annual Stoop Sale is multi-faceted — items no longer wanted are exhibited for sale on stoops and tables, while interactions between neighbors and shoppers gives the event its lively tone. At this year’s event, two fellows hosted a table with loads of houseplants they potted up and gave away! And keeping our street trees strong by cleaning out tree beds, planting daffodil bulbs, and digging compost into the soil is yet another activity that brings out neighbors to work together.
When people ask “What is a block association and what does it do?,” we encourage them to watch “Chelsea Then and Now” — a slide show (https://vimeo.com/20312192) highlighting the history of the neighborhood and this organization. State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried summed it up when he spoke to those of us at the annual meeting about the importance of block associations and how they work with elected officials to improve community involvement in local affairs.
Want to get involved? Reach out and join an event, get on our mailing list by sending your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.