by Bill Batson
After December 31, we should agree that, like Voldemort, 2020 shall never be mentioned by name. COVID arrived, and did not miraculously go away as predicted by a president who will soon–but not soon enough–be gone. Quarantine tested relationships, supply chains, and our ability to run home offices, schools, and restaurants. The meteorological coding system ran out of alphabet letters to name storms. We ran out of coins and toilet paper. And apparently now there’s a Pepperidge Farm shortage. Sadly, there was no short supply of wrongful killings of black people by police, rebranded white supremacist groups, COVID deniers, and truth decay. We lost John Lewis and found Stacey Abrams. Did I forget murder hornets?
From teaming up with 600 neighbors to launch Nyack Mask Makers and, more recently, preserving an endangered negro burial ground and setting up a group to oversee local law enforcement, I tried put the Nyack Sketch Log to good use in a year that demanded both collective effort and social distancing. Thank you for reading columns, attending zoom forums, sewing masks, donating support, and being part of a community that rises to every occasion and challenge.
Next year will be my 10th anniversary of sketch logging. And August 24, 2021 will be my 500th column. Here is a review of the last year, with a link to one column per month, serving as my Nyack Sketch Log Year In Review. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and good riddance to the year that shall not be named.
A hearing to consider a provocative proposal from Suez Water, that includes a parking lot for its fleet next to Lake DeForest reservoir will be held on Wednesday, January 15 at 7:30p at Clarkstown Town Hall. The hearing occurs as a facebook group “Suez Stinks,” has gathered 985 members, all worried about the cause of malodorous tap water and a case against a 18.6% rate hike request by Suez makes its way through the courts.
I am honored to receive an acknowledgement this evening from the Rockland County Legislature at their Black History Month celebration, thanks to my nomination by Legislator, Toney L. Earl. I accept this recognition on behalf of my family, and in memory of my grandmother. Here is the story of how she endured and overcame the indignity of urban renewal in Nyack, passing on a legacy of tenacity and perseverance and a chair.
Organized by Donna Davies Timm and Bill Batson, Nyack Mask Makers is a community project providing masks to doctors, nurses and staff at Montefiore Nyack Hospital, as they serve Rockland County, New York, during the increased patient activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic until national resources (the cavalry) arrive.
Advocates from the Center for Safety & Change have witnessed a tsunami of domestic violence following the public health earthquake that shook the world in March, 2020. Chief Development Officer Tracie McLee reached out to the Nyack Mask Makers, requesting 500 cloth face coverings to protect their growing number of clients from the viral contagion, the third largest request in Rockland County. Massive institutions like Montefiore Nyack Hospital and Rockland Psychiatric Center came in first and second. “Demand for our services increased by 50% in one month,” McLee alarmingly reports.
Although his death was not caused by COVID-19, the complications of our nation-wide shutdown contributed to the demise of Air Force veteran and artist Micheal Rogozik. If you spent much time in Nyack over the last few decades, you know of Michael. His warmth and gentlemanly manner drew you in.
During a rally of more than 1,000 residents of all races and ages held on June 1 outside the Nyack Center, the crowd took a silent knee for 9 minutes. They were rounding up by 14 seconds the time that Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the neck of an unarmed, handcuffed George Floyd, ultimately killing him.
The light of a life lived to its fullest is never extinguished. From February 21, 1940 until July 17, 2020, Congressman John Lewis dedicated virtually every step he took to the moral advancement of the United States. At our darkest hours, he march into the most perilous places, armed only with the philosophy of nonviolence and a fierce determination to make America honor the creeds enshrined in our founding documents. In death, the legacy of John Lewis becomes one of our nation’s brightest beacons of hope.
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” These words were apportioned by Toni Morrison when she received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. One year after her death, the scale of Morrison’s personal achievement and cultural impact is still being calibrated.
You could eat your heart out at the Culinary Institute of America. But why leave Nyack? We now have our own culinary & hospitality school thanks to Rockland Community College. Harnessing the energy of a restaurant scene in Nyack that had reached over 50 sit-down establishments prior to the pandemic-induced economic slow down, RCC offers those eager to enter the food service industry a chance to “stay near” and “go far!”
For all of its resplendent beauty, there is one thing that the Village of Upper Nyack lacks: a place for residents to gather. Hook Mountain State Park is certainly an impressive attraction, but one that is shared regionally, and controlled by the State of New York. Now, thanks to the foresight of the village and a group of residents, a 12-acre parcel known as River Hook, the Hester Haring Cason Preserve, is being cultivated as a public amenity.
Those of us able to vote today have had our franchise handed to us on a silver platter. Some of those that bequeathed that gift were born slaves, never voted, but still fought heroically so some unknown progeny might be able to. Men of this caliber lie in marked and unmarked graves near the Palisades Mall in Mount Moor Cemetery.
On November 18th, I helped launch the Rockland People’s Panel on Policing as a steering committee member along with Nelcy Garcia MSW, Nikki Hines, Hon. Michael Lockett, Rev. Everett Newton, Sherry McGill, and Fr. Owen C. Thompson. Our first public hearing will be tomorrow, Wednesday, December 9 at 7p via zoom
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Year In Review” © 2020 Bill Batson.