I wholeheartedly support the Irish Cultural Center, and I’ve been dismayed to read recent letters containing misinformation as to the “true” goals of the planners of the ICC. As a person of Irish descent, I have also been offended at the not-so-thinly veiled stereotypes of the “drunken Irish” that some writers warn would roam the Rondout after visiting the wicked ICC pub. But the most recent accusation that the ICC organizers committed actions that proved they would be bad neighbors was utterly false. Nothing could be further from the truth.
ICC members did not cut down sycamore branches on The Company Path. That was Mr. Mike Piazza when he was laying drainage pipes for his building. But I’m happy to tell you what ICC volunteers (including me) have done going back several years: we cut down poison sumac trees, massive brambles and brush that had grown so tall on the hillsides that there was no view at the top of the Company Path. Volunteers chopped and weed-whacked, and hauled away years of garbage that had been hidden in the undergrowth. The amazing and tireless Joyce Carey led the ICC Garden Committee to restore the Pocket Park and hillsides. Volunteers got rid of swaths of poison ivy, hauled heavy buckets of plants and good soil from their own gardens and spent their own money to plant and beautify the area. For months we picked up crack vials, drug paraphernalia and smashed beer bottles left by those who preferred the area to remain overgrown. One letter writer said they moved into their apartment in the old Bridgewater because of the nice view and the pretty park. That’s a wonderful compliment to the dedicated ICC folks who clearly made such a difference that it made the writer want to live there. That sure sounds like a good neighbor to me. Every time ICC volunteers were out working in force, not one neighbor stopped to complain while we endeavored to restore this historic and neglected part of Kingston. They did however stop to give us praise, thank you’s, and smiles.
And a word about Irish pubs — the Irish public house historically and today has always functioned as a community gathering place even in the smallest towns. They were never considered a “bar” like English pubs, Irish pubs are a place for music, storytelling, light meals, and fellowship. I visit relatives in Ireland every summer — and I can tell you that even today, entire families come to pubs with their children and even their pets. It’s a social, cultural gathering place — and it is this true definition of a pub (not the offensive stereotype) that the ICC will bring — a true gathering place for neighbors and visitors to share stories, eat food prepared by those taking the cooking classes, and listen to music performed by those taking lessons at the Irish Cultural Center.
The ICC planners are primarily lifelong Kingston residents who have a deep love of Kingston’s history, and who are committed to creating a true cultural center so that the role of Irish immigrants and Irish culture in Kingston will be preserved for future generations. They are committed to Kingston, its history and its future. And that’s a pretty fine neighbor to have.
Rose Bonczek, Kingston