<BVF Home> <Race Reports>


Residents Help Themselves and One Another

by Thomas J. Lueck

February 14, 2006

Alex Walborn, a Brooklyn mailman, had one foot in the slush and the other in the snow.

"People just don't shovel the corners," he grumbled, lifting a fully loaded letter carrier's cart as he waded gingerly through a crosswalk on Prospect Park West, the main shopping artery of Windsor Terrace.

"The corners are the worst of it," Mr. Walborn said. "But what can you do?"

His determination was shared yesterday by people across New York City, as the rhythms of city life returned largely to normal after the weekend snowstorm. Windsor Terrace, a neighborhood of about 50 Brooklyn blocks sandwiched between Prospect Park and the Green-Wood Cemetery, was an especially good place to observe how one archetypal New York City neighborhood, and its various institutions, recovered.

"We're doing O.K.," said Louise O'Connor, the parish secretary at Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church, a neighborhood anchor for more than 120 years. Yesterday, it canceled classes at its primary school because of the snow, but not its 7 a.m. Mass.

Ms. O'Connor said that about 20 people attended the early service, as usual, and that by early afternoon, although the church stood ready to help shut-ins or elderly people unable to cope with the record snowfall, no one had called.

"This is a neighborly kind of neighborhood," she said. "People can rely on help from down the block, so why call the church?"

So it seemed along the Windsor Terrace side streets, many of them lined with the rounded facades of three-story brick row houses, where many families have been rooted for generations. Like much of Brooklyn, the neighborhood has experienced a rapid influx of affluent new residents from Manhattan and beyond, but it retains a large population of municipal workers — police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers — and a long tradition of self-sufficiency.

On Windsor Place near Howard Place, James Dolan, a 69-year-old retired sanitation worker, teamed up with his daughter, Ann Vasquez, 43, to shovel out their cars. Both live nearby, in houses a block apart.

"We're just fooling around," said Mr. Dolan, who had taken to the task with little sense of urgency, seeming more intent on spending time with his daughter

The snow, which by midafternoon still clogged some sidewalks, produced strange neighborhood vignettes. Deliverymen with grocery carts and mothers with strollers crossed paths in the middle of side streets. A normally popular Prospect Park playground at the foot of Seeley Street was all but abandoned, with snow piled high against its swing set and benches.

But Joe Gallo, manager of the United Meat Market on Prospect Park West, said the storm had done little to interfere with business.

"We got lucky this time," said Mr. Gallo, who drove from his home in Bay Ridge and opened the store at 8 a.m. By 9 a.m., he said, trucks had arrived with an unusually large delivery of poultry and meats that he had ordered on Friday after his customers, anticipating the storm, emptied his coolers and shelves.

At Prospect Park West and 15th Street, where Windsor Terrace meets a main entrance to Prospect Park, customers filled the Connecticut Muffin coffee shop by 11 a.m.

Redovane Kerroume, the manager, said that business had been slow after he opened at 6 a.m. "It was about 9 a.m. when the winter sun came out," he said. "People decided they needed their coffee."

Two customers, Peter Baiamonte, 33, and Julie Benedetto, 27, drank their coffee outdoors, sitting next to off-road bicycles that they had already given a brisk workout in Prospect Park, Both are freelance photographers and cycling enthusiasts, and they said they decided to ride in the park because of the heavy snow, not despite it.

They rode for an hour in the park, pedaling for five miles along narrow footpaths that had been trampled by people, not plows. "We did fall down a lot," Ms. Benedetto said. "But it is only snow."

< >