The Twenty-Seventh West 104th Street Block Association Block Party: September 24, 2016
On September 24, despite clouds and raindrops at dawn, the mid-morning sun shone brightly on the West 104th Street Block Party, which had suffered rainouts for the past two years. Heartened by the fair weather, crowds of visitors gathered around some sixty curbside stalls, dug through the piles of merchandise, and uncovered the secret ingredient animating the Block Party for twenty-seven years: community spirit unsurpassed on any block in the five boroughs.
Earlier that morning, parents and children raced to unpack truckloads of recycled goods and to arrange displays of vintage clothing, costume jewelry, abandoned toys and games, retired household items, and various forsaken treasures. They watched volunteers wearing navy blue tee-shirts chasing down wind-blown sheets of poster-board, which would serve as signs marking the locations of the Bake Sale, Book Sale, Raffle, and Silent Auction.
Meanwhile, around the corner in the canyon of West End Avenue, visitors waited while volunteers at ‘What-a-Bargain’ stocked tables overflowing with pre-owned household items awaiting their next incarnations in welcoming kitchens and playrooms. At the Bake Sale on the opposite corner, hunkered-down volunteers poured hot coffee and smeared bagels with cream cheese, while stocking the tables with every variety of baked delicacy.
By 10:00 AM, the first of thousands of visitors descended the slopes from West End Avenue to inspect the items on display at stalls lining both sides of the street. Dispersing the smells from the Bake Sale, the steady breeze invited connoisseurs to admire masterpieces from neighborhood ovens. It animated delicate items on ‘What-a-Bargain tables, as well as blouses and ties hanging from the vendors’ racks. Infecting the crowd with the headiness of seasonal change, it lured gamers to the raffle table.
At the Book Sale, the wind rifled through the pages of hundreds of books that beckoned to readers. At the Silent Auction, it rattled the bid sheets and tempted neighbors to tender their offer for gently used merchandise donated by neighbors, as well as for gift certificates donated by forty-six local restaurants, stores, and institutions.
Luring residents from neighboring blocks, the breeze carried aloft live music performed by seasoned New York musicians. Foley Road turned back the clock with pop, rock, and folk hits from past decades; Jazz guitarist Joe Giglio mixed original compositions with standards; Shailah and the Shaylettes revived the greatest Motown hits, including “Stop in the Name of Love,” which inspired an ad hoc army of Diana Ross fans to recreate their idol’s memorable choreography.
As the musical program drew to a close, a crowd gathered around the stage for the raffle drawing. Hundreds held their breath and listened to the announcement of the first-prize winner, Gerald Foreman, who received $1,483, which represents half of total raffle sales. Ursula Strauss, winner of the $100 second prize, and Sophie Rifkin, winner of the $50 third prize, donate their winnings to the Block Association.
By the end of the day, the weather, the vendors, and the crowds of neighbors had raised more than $7,000 to keep our neighborhood safe, welcoming, and beautiful.
See a Photo Gallery of the 2016 Block Party.