Thursday, August 6, 2020

Day 150 Nat’l Emergency: Neighborhood Watch

Most evenings after the oppressive daytime heat and humidity have dissipated to a tolerable level Gilda and I do a circular walk around the streets of our housing development. Each rotation is half a mile. Our goal is six revolutions, though we often have to compromise because the air remains heavy and dank. 

Tropical Storm Isiais breezed through our neighborhood Tuesday toppling Gilda’s tomato plants in our back yard and scoring a direct hit with a broken off tree limb on the sign she put up on our front lawn. Score 1 for Injustice. 

The branch had bent the sign frame back as if it were a yoga enthusiast doing a King Pigeon Pose. Gilda easily bent the frame back into shape (score 1 for Justice). We jointly lifted the urns holding the tomato plants. It had already been a less than appetizing crop. Isiais did not help. The fickleness and randomness of nature was not lost on us. 

Wind shorn branches were strewn across the neighborhood. We didn’t lose power but we did lose Internet, cable and Internet-enabled landline phone service. One doesn't realize how dependent life has become to technology until connectivity is severed. We’re grateful we saw the last episode of “Money Heist” on Netflix before Isiais hit. 

Built in 1966 the subdivision went up on land that was an apple orchard. The manor house is one of 34 in the development, distinguished by its size and architecture from the four or five different models the builders employed in the subdivision.

The builders—it was the first residential project by Robert Martin Associates. They named the streets after family members. Romar Avenue for the two partners Robert F. Weinberg and Martin S. Berger. Teramar Way for Terry and Martin Berger. Brad Lane for their son. 

In 1990 as our family flew on a UJA  mission to Israel we sat next to Brad Berger, a tall, handsome man with curly, prematurely grey hair. He was amused to hear we lived on the street his parents had named for him. 

After several more single family housing developments Robert Martin Associates evolved into commercial real estate. It became prime builders of office complexes in Westchester County. 

We’ve lived in our house for 36 years. The day we moved in I took a break from unpacking to make some use of the basketball hoop the prior owners erected next to the driveway. A neighbor and young son ambled by and joined five-year-old Dan and me. The man hardly missed a shot. He introduced himself as Jim McMillan. Was he the same Jim McMillan who played for Columbia University and professionally for several teams including the New York Knicks?, I asked. He was. 

I envisioned honing my poor basketball skills at the hand of a retired pro, but the McMillans moved a short time later. They eventually relocated to his birth state of North Carolina. He died of heart failure four years ago. He was 68. 

One of the byproducts of the pandemic’s limitations on freedom of movement is a renewed interest in the comings and goings inside our subdivision. From the outset diversity has been a hallmark of our neighborhood. Two of the remaining three original homeowners are a Black family and an interracial couple. Among the 34 current homeowners there are, by my informal count, five Afro-American families, three Indian, five Jewish, two Eastern European,  four German, one Canadian, and three Italian.  

Almost every family has at least one SUV among their two or more vehicles. I feel almost unAmerican not owning a gas guzzler. At least one of our cars, however, is a domestic brand. Within the subdivision there are fewer than 15 U.S. models. One home has three Teslas, though I believe only two drivers live there. 

Obviously environmentally conscious, that family is, like us, one of three with solar panels installed. 

Within the last three to five years a new wave of owners has descended on our neighborhood, bringing a passel of kids under 10 years old. It is not uncommon to observe parents and grandparents pushing strollers while older children ride circles around them on their bikes. A few middle aged couples no longer are empty-nesters as their single or married children have fled Manhattan for the relative safety of suburban life and remote ties to work. 

New ownership has also meant a surge of home improvement projects. 

One of the quirkier aspects of life in the burbs is the divergent belief in the most appropriate time to water a lawn. After sunset or before sunrise are the options most preferred. Gilda is a morning advocate. If you’ve seen her garden you would be hard pressed to disagree with her.