New York – Week Six

I am officially more than half way through with my stay in New York! I am astounded at how fast the time has passed! Someone asked me recently if I have been spending much time prepping for my departure for my study abroad and my answer was “no, I haven’t”, simply because I have been so busy here. I work for 8 hours every day, plus approximately 90 minutes for my round trip commute, as well as attempting to go to the gym every morning which means needing to go to bed fairly early, and between all of that, I barely have time to relax in the evenings.

Because my time here is quickly decreasing, and I want to explore and learn as much as possible about the city while I am here, I have dedicated my spare mental energy to reflecting on what I want to accomplish during my remaining time here. I still want to visit Red Hook, a rapidly gentrifying industrial district along the waterfront in Brooklyn, go to the Cloisters, an old European fortress in Northern Manhattan which has been adopted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and used to store artwork, and of course, return to Little Italy in the Bronx and get a real slice of New York pizza.

One of my observations about my time in New York is that, as the weeks pass, I am enjoying work more and more. I am becoming closer with my fellow interns, as well as the staff members. Despite the fact that people come and go almost every week, the office still feels like a big, mismatched family that somehow manages to coexist in relative harmony. When you account for the roughly 35 people we have working in the office over the course of the week (though we have two offices and people sort of float back and forth) and the fact that our office is fairly compact (three rooms, 10 computers, 10 desks, 2 tables), I am surprised with how cooperative and efficient everyone.

Before this week, we had 5 staff members with “their own” desks, which means that they use them when they are in the office, and other people use them when they are out, with two other desks that are generally reserved for our council member and his chief of staff who are in the district office periodically throughout the week. (Not to mention, the room in which those two desks are in is also used for constituents to have a private location to have confidential meetings with our pro-bono housing and immigration lawyers.) The rest of the desks usually went to whichever interns (there were roughly 7 before this week) showed up first and didn’t bring their own laptops. However, this week we got 10-12 new interns at the district office (I can’t keep track!), though they are not all working every day. We are miraculously managing this massive space crunch. The people who work at our office are nothing if not resourceful. We often squeeze two people at the same desk and up to five around a table if possible.

Taking into account the lack of free space around the office, there are otherwise very few drawbacks to having extra people around. With so many new interns this week, staff members and more senior interns have been able to delegate tasks that need extra eyes or hands, and we are accomplishing our tasks at a much faster rate. All of sudden, there are triple the number of people making phone calls, answering emails, and filing documents. It’s really great to have the extra help. Because we have so few staff members at the district office (5- 3 full time, 2 part time), the more senior interns have been “nominated” to help get the new interns up to speed on all of the daily happenings in the office. And because I am the only one of the 5 remaining  more senior interns from before this week, I have adopted a large role in the education of the new interns. Almost all of them are in high school, but they are the most mature, competent high schoolers I have ever met. They have faced each challenge with an optimistic attitude, and take criticism with a grace I have never witnessed from young adults of their age group.

On Thursday one of the staffers was out of the office (she works Monday, Wednesday, Friday), and because she is in charge of the most immediately pressing projects happening in our office right now (other than general constituent services), and she is who I refer to as my “direct supervisor” (meaning I help her the most with her projects), I was the one to teach the new interns how to use the various office resources for our projects. I have never been so exhausted (or so happy)! I barely got a chance to rest all day, as I was having a few interns making outreach calls to generate interest in some budgeting assemblies we are having, a few others handing out flyers around the neighborhood for the same events, and a few others entering data into one of our online databases for future reference. At the same time, I am also assisting my “direct supervisor staffer” put together an end-of-summer family fair our office is hosting for the community at the end of the summer, and I have delegating the various organizational tasks for this event to the more senior interns. Even though it sounds like I was having everyone else do the heavy lifting for me, being pseudo “in charge” is not easy, and the frequency with which everyone around the office were asking me questions (and trying to get me to fix their technology challenges) definitely added a bit of extra stress on Thursday, as well as throughout the week. Despite everything, I am learning so much, and I feel very proud of all I am doing.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. Admission in the evening was free, and I thought it was the perfect day to make the trip down there. It had been cloudy throughout the day, even raining a little bit, but cleared up just as I was getting off the subway. I walked from the Civic Center near City Hall, past Wall Street and the Raging Bull (I didn’t get a picture, it was too crowded with tourists), down to the intersection of the East River and the Hudson River. On the way to the museum, I stopped for a classic New York hotdog from one of the street carts. It’s not the finest food you will ever eat (they are only two dollars, and they don’t call them ‘dirty-water dogs’ for no reason), but they are definitely delicious! I didn’t get to have a hot dog over Fourth of July weekend, and was really craving one. I am attempting to make sure I try each famous New York food at least once (in some cases, once is enough). The museum was very well done. I didn’t get to see all of it, but I made it to the exhibits which seemed most interesting to me- on the persecution of homosexuals in Germany during World War II, and on the history of the city of Auschwitz and what its current state is. After I left the museum, I sat along the waterfront at Battery Park and watched the sunset over the Hoboken skyline. It was simply spectacular.

On Friday I witnessed the inner workings of political bureaucracy. I made many calls to local organizations to get donations for an event my office is holding next month, and was transferred between employees and repeated my spiel about looking for donations so many times that my head was spinning by the time I finished all my calls. I couldn’t believe how many people either didn’t want to give me their email address, or just continued denying that their manager was present, in order to avoid me. I also witnessed one of our staffers attempting to provide another one of our newer staffers with an official title to put on her business cards. I always thought that an employee’s title is selected from a pre-existing list of jobs which have pre-determined titles, and that the labeling of each employee’s role around the office was strictly adhered to. I was surprised when two of our staffers stood around and brainstormed which words to use that would sound both the most official and the most representative of what the staffer did around the office. I am quickly learning that despite the formality presented in public by government officials and their staff members, most offices and their employee interactions are far more casual than what one would assume.

Also on Friday at work, my “direct supervisor” staff was in the office, and we resumed working on our current projects. As I am her primary intern (because I help her anytime she has a project), I am the point of reference in the office regarding those projects for the others interns as well as staff members when she is out of the office. In the afternoon we sat down together to do some brainstorming on how much more outreach we need to do to generate community interest in contributing to our current budget season, as well as securing attendance and vendor donations for our office fair next month. We made a long checklist of everything we want to accomplish just in the next two weeks before our first two budgeting assemblies. Since I have already been telling the other interns what needs to get done with these projects, as well as helping the newer interns learn how to use the various office technological resources and delegating tasks to them when they run out of things to, my “direct supervisor” staff decided to officially give me “training” responsibilities, as I had requested. I am really interested in assuming more positions of leadership around the office, and both she and our chief of staff seem to have noticed, because they keep assigning me more important projects to work on.

On Saturday I had plans to have dinner with my Dad’s girlfriend Julie and her son in the early afternoon. I intended to sleep in, but ended up waking up at 8 and not being able to fall back asleep. Instead, I got up and went grocery shopping, and on the way home, I stopped at the food stalls that set up on 23rd Street between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue every Saturday to get spelt bread from Orwasher’s Bakery and fruit and vegetables from the farm table (I don’t know what it’s called). I got back to my building with plenty of time to put my produce away and still have time left to walk to the Upper East Side to meet Julie for brunch. We took her son’s son to a playground in Central Park to swing for a bit, before meeting her son Jamie and strolling over to the boat pond to wait for our reservations. We ate at East Pole, and I indulged in some delicious berry waffles. Since it was a beautiful day, we walked around the Upper East Side and got some cereal milk-flavored frozen yogurt at Momofuku Milk Bar. It was very unique, and though it’s not what flavor I would reach for when I’m craving frozen yogurt or ice cream (I’d much prefer mint chip or cookie dough), it was something different that I really enjoyed in the moment.

I stopped at the library on the way back to my building to pick up a new book, and popped past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center as well. I rested for about half an hour before heading back out to go to the Queens International Night Market. It is a food festival similar to Schmorgasburg in DUMBO, except this one has more ethnically diverse food and is held in Corona Park in Queens. I have heard that it’s notoriously really popular, but I arrived early and only stayed for the first hour of the event in order to avoid the crowds. I only tried two food items while I was there, because I wasn’t overly hungry and I’m trying not to blow all of my money on fried food. A lot of the food there was fried- the fried ice cream booth was very popular. Fortunately for my wallet, I’m not over fond of fried food. What I did try was pretty good. I liked the curried fish balls from the ‘Hong Kong Street Food’ booth, but I don’t think I would get them again. Owing to my sweet tooth, I really enjoyed the Filipino rice cake with coconut on top, a traditional dessert called a Bibingka. I would absolutely buy an entire tin of these, they were fantastic. I returned home exhausted.

On Sunday I “slept in” until 9, and then hung out in my room until noon, when I left to meet my cousin Charlie at his apartment. He invited me to a soccer game that afternoon. The new New York team was playing against Toronto. I gave myself plenty of time to get there because the subway trains run slow on the weekend due to scheduled service changes. I’m glad I did, because the 1 train was running on the 2/3 track coming through Penn Station, meaning I got on the wrong train (and ended up about 7 avenues west of where I wanted to be), and then the 1 wasn’t making local stops between 96th Street and 145th Street (meaning I significantly farther north than I wanted to be). Eventually I made it to my cousin’s house and we hung out for a bit before heading off to the game. Unsurprisingly to myself or my cousin, I don’t know a thing about sports, so he had to explain the whole game to me. I was grateful that he didn’t mind. Because the New York soccer team’s terrible defensive players weaken the power of the whole team, we didn’t expect our team to win, so we left early. As we were walking to the subway stop across the street, we hear a giant cheer rise up from the stadium indicating that our team had scored a goal (we tied, but didn’t win).

I hung around with my cousin Charlie and his wife Andrea for the rest of the evening. We took their son Michael to the playground near the Harlem Meer in Central Park, and order take-out Mexican for dinner. It was perhaps the spiciest chicken enchilada I have ever had- I spent the whole dinner gulping water because I couldn’t get enough of the delicious flavor. While I was at their apartment, Andrea gave me her old backpacking pack from her study abroad trip in college- I am very grateful, because now I don’t have to buy my own. I took a lot of photos of Michael as well, who is growing up very fast. He now toddles around the apartment while holding onto furniture, has developed a taste for specific foods, and says short words like “dada” or “mama”. It is quite adorable.

Coming up this week… my mom is visiting! She arrives Thursday and leaves Sunday. Keep your eye out at the end of next weekend for another blog post with tons of photos from our tours of the city!


My first New York City dirty water hot dog.


Michael amongst his sea of toys.


Michael and Andrea.


The Hoboken skyline at sunset.


At Battery Park, overlooking the Hoboken skyline.


Michael at meal time.


Oliver really likes puppies.


To prove that New York does, in fact, have beaches.


The Hoboken skyline.


Erin and Oliver outside the East Pole on the Upper East Side.


Oliver in the sandbox at the playground in Central Park.


Beautiful trinkets for sale at the Queens International Night Market.


Me and Michael.


Oliver really enjoys swinging at the playground in Central Park.


The best bread I’ve ever had, made by Orwasher’s and sold at a stall in Chelsea.


Battery Park (on the right) and the Hoboken skyline (on the left).


The Statue of Liberty in the distance along the horizon.


Sailboats and a ferry in the East River between Staten Island and New Jersey.


The intersection of the East River and the Hudson River, at the southern tip of Manhattan.


Snoozing on the subway on the sleepy Friday.


Charlie and Michael after bath time.


Curried fish balls from a Hong Kong street food stall at the Queens International Night Market.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan.


Rockefeller Center Plaza in midtown Manhattan.


The underpass of Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan at sunset.


Jamie and Oliver in Central Park.


My first professional soccer game- NYCFC vs. Toronto FC playing at Yankee Stadium.


A stained-glass window in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


Grilled corn at the Queens International Night Market. I was very tempted to buy an ear.


Michael on one of his adventures around the apartment.


Looking out over Queens from 111th Street subway station.


The Empire State Building at night.


The sun setting between buildings over the Hudson River.


Oliver discovering sand at Central Park.


One of the most exotic stalls at the Queens International Night Market. It looked (and smelled) just a little too challenging for me to get a sandwich. Not to mention I’m morally against eating sharks.


Michael being cute.


One of my favorite pictures of the week. At Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan.


Chelsea Waterfront at sunset.


These dutch pancakes at the Queens International Night Festival looked delicious, but were might expensive for two bites.


The Freedom Tower.


Old and spare subway cars stored at the Hudson Yards.


A bibingka, a traditional Filipino cookie. It’s made of rice flour and topped with shredded coconut.


Along the Chelsea Waterfront.


The sailboat pond in Central Park.


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