Ridgewood group brings community together in crisis
by Sara Krevoy
Mar 27, 2020 | 4536 views | 0 0 comments | 316 316 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Started by a group of friends in 2014 as an experimental hub for the community, Woodbine is entering its seventh year of operation in Ridgewood.

To mark the occasion, Woodbine re-launched its website with an archive of hundreds of workshops, discussions, lectures, poetry readings, classes assemblies, clothing swaps, and screenings organized at the center.

The site also features links to Woodbine’s collection of videos and writings.

“To look back on the last six years and think about the legacy of all that work, it helps us reflect on and project what we can do next,” said co-founder Matt Peterson.

“For us to last this long in New York City with a non-commercial product,” he continued, “that speaks volumes.”

Remaining a neighborhood cultural and political space, Woodbine serves as a home base where residents can work toward developing the practices, skills and tools necessary for autonomy.

The volunteer-run organization’s mission of self-sufficiency takes on an even greater urgency as New York becomes an epicenter of the current global pandemic.

Since a fundraising drive back in fall of 2018, Woodbine was able to expand its efforts, becoming a voice against the proposed Amazon HQ2 in Long Island City, as well as the expansion of policing in the city’s subways.

The hub has also been busy hosting meet-ups with leaders of the climate movement, in addition to connecting with allies organizing other movements around the globe.

Woodbine recently helped start a sailing club and community mapping group in Ridgewood, while continuing to promote autonomous mental health through programs like addiction recovery meetings, game nights, mediation workshops, screenings, reading groups and even a knitting circle.

In the spring, the versatile space opened its doors for those interested in a shared co-working membership, which increased regular use of the center.

But amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, Woodbine has changed course in order to meet the ongoing needs of a community facing crisis.

All upcoming events and public programming have been canceled, including weekly Sunday dinners that have been bringing neighbors together since Woodbine’s inception.

The team is hoping to be able run this year’s Summer Farm Share, a seasonal partnership with the Rock Steady cooperative farm upstate that brings fresh produce to the neighborhood on Saturdays from June through October.

“It’s tricky,” said Peterson. “Nobody has experienced something like this before.”

The group’s last public event was held on March 12, the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in NYC due to coronavirus.

It was a presentation by Woodbine members who had been in China during the initial outbreak, and those who felt uncomfortable attending in person were given the option of joining a Google Hangout, a format Peterson says is being considered for future programming.

He explained that as Woodbine reimagines its role during this turbulent time, the group is using neighborhood text-threads, email chains and a large social media network to keep residents in communication with both the organization and each other.

The Woodbine website added a new “Mutual Aid” section, highlighting local information and resources that will help Ridgewood residents get aid and resources. Peterson says the team is also considering how the space could be used as a physical center for coordinating aid if the need arises, in addition to how members can advocate for political action to protect residents.

“I think for a lot of people this is revealing as to the extent to which our political and economic system is not equipped to face a moment like this,” Peterson said. “And that reveals the need for communities to be able to support each other because there isn’t the capacity from the government to do so.”

Facilitating the interactions that build a more connected and resilient community support system was one of the pillars of Woodbine, which was created partially as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Woodbine maintains a sustainer drive through two fundraising apps, WithFriends (withfriends.co/woodbine/join) and Patreon (patreon.com/woodbine), in order to cover the space’s expenses and, now, to potentially fund any aid efforts the organization undertakes.
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