Write me: rjn@richardjnewman.com
A Poem of Mine About Jackson Heights was Broadcast on <span class="caps">WNYC</span>!

In hon­or of Nation­al Poet­ry Month, WNYC chal­lenged lis­ten­ers to write tweet-length, orig­i­nal poems about the five bor­oughs. It makes me hap­py that my poem was among those cho­sen to appear on the air:

Here’s the spot that was broad­cast on WNYC this morn­ing:

There is some per­son­al his­to­ry behind the poem. When I was a boy, my grand­par­ents lived in Jack­son Heights and we went reg­u­lar­ly to the Jack­son Heights Jew­ish Cen­ter, which was a large two or three sto­ry build­ing about three blocks from where I live now (which is, actu­al­ly, in the build­ing next door to where my grand­par­ents lived and where my moth­er did a lot of her grow­ing up). At that time, there was still a large Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in the area, and my grand­par­ents were very involved in the Center’s activ­i­ties, tak­ing lead­ing roles in var­i­ous com­mit­tees and orga­ni­za­tion. Over the years, the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty shrank and there were just not enough peo­ple to sup­port the Cen­ter being in that large a build­ing, and so they sold it to New York City’s Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and it’s now a pub­lic school.

After the sale, the Cen­ter relo­cat­ed to the build­ing where it is now, which for as far back as I can remem­ber was a Siz­zlers Steak­house. The Cen­ter rents out space to var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ty groups, among which was, for a while, the Bible Bap­tist Church. When they start­ed hold­ing ser­vices in the Cen­ter, I thought “only in Jack­son Heights” would you see a pro­found­ly homo­pho­bic Chris­t­ian church—their web­site talked about them being right in the heart of Sodom—holding ser­vices in a Jew­ish cen­ter that also rent­ed out space to one of the local LGBTQ groups, along with oth­er pro­gres­sive groups that I am sure the Church did not sup­port.

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