Kevin Gallagher '13

Having now finished my time at Part of the Solution, I’ve used the past day or two to reflect on my experience there. To say that POTS is a simple organization would be a lie, but not far from the truth. What I’ve seen happen at POTS is an extraordinary effort to simplify the complicated aspects of the different operations that go on there. Some of the stories and situations I’ve encountered while being at POTS have been eye openers, but most importantly have taught me to practice my patience and really focus on my listening skills. Amidst the poverty present in POTS’s neighborhood, the organization shines through the clouds that you will, without a doubt, encounter if you ever visit the area. The positive nature of the organization turned out to be extremely contagious. After sleepily making the hour-long commute to POTS every morning, I was constantly and effortlessly greeted by a room full of smiles, which ended up serving as a substitute for a morning coffee to wake me up.

Line outside of POTS

My supervisors turned out to be more than I could ever ask for. As time went on, they threw increasingly challenging tasks at me, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. They motivated me to come to work every day, and besides the work, we got along extremely well. One of the things that will always stand out in my mind was when an older woman in a wheelchair took a visit to our office and requested some help from us. She was a sub-tenant in an apartment and the main person on the lease hadn’t been seen in around three weeks. During those three weeks, her electricity and gas were turned off due to her inability to pay the bill since she wasn’t listed on the bill. To make a long story short, my supervisors handed me the task and with some help we ended up getting her electricity turned back on the next day. She expressed sincere thankfulness when we told her the news; the look on her face was something I’ll never forget.

As I start up the last week of my internship, I find it hard to believe we’re at this point. I’m not sure whether or not this is part of getting old and growing up or just how this city works; it’s like time is playing a game of hide and go seek with me. As I wrote in a previous blog entry, I lived in Spain with an amazing host family for the past year leading up to this summer. My Spanish ‘sister’ and I had spoken about her making a possible visit to New York by while we were living together, but nothing was set in stone. One day after we were eating back in the springtime, she burst into our apartment with a huge grin and said (in Spanish obviously) “See you in August”. Well, August finally came and ended up bringing my Spanish sister along for the ride!  She spent the past 5 days here and it turned out to be one of the best parts of the summer. It was interesting to see how a foreigner reacted to being in NYC (she had been here once before). The colossal buildings and stifling summer air gave way to her excitement, which remained at the same level from day one until she left.

In addition to being happy to see her, watching her enthusiasm and genuine delight while being here sparked a little bit of excitement in myself. Aside from having a great friend with me, one of the most important things I took from her visit was that I now looked at NYC from a different perspective. This new perspective wasn’t one where I was tied down to a limited amount of time here, but rather one that allowed me to truly appreciate what makes the city such an amazing place.

The one word I could use to describe this week would be, in its simplest sense, French. I experienced first hand the overflowing influence of French nightlife in New York City. Saying that this past week turned out to be exhaustingly action-packed would be a serious understatement. After some extensive exploring and games of trial and error, it seems that I’ve finally discovered places that I truly enjoy being at.

In short, we refreshingly overdosed on the recently imported Parisian nightclub, Le Baron, located in a quiet Chinatown neighborhood. From the outside it doesn’t seem like much; only a black awning covering a red door, but if the planets are aligned just right you might get lucky enough to get a taste of what’s behind the velvet ropes. We went twice.

As an adamant Twitter fiend, I learned that one of my favorite producer/DJ groups happened to be coming to New York for some shows. The coed duo from Paris had a show scheduled at a venue in Brooklyn and I knew I wouldn’t be able to pass it up. It was a Friday night so I knew that it would end up being a late night. I sometimes forget that Europeans really do have a later time schedule for, well… pretty much everything, but was quickly reminded when they started their set at around 2:30. Between the fun and energetic crowd, great mixing from Jupiter and music that I can dance all night to (nu disco), the night turned out to be one of my favorites in New York so far.

After finishing my sixth week working at Part of the Solution I’ve come to realize that if the different parts that make up the organization didn’t have the same ideas, ways of finding solutions to problems, work ethic, and general outlook on most things, then there wouldn’t be much of an organization. After doing a group exercise one morning at POTS, it was interesting to see the amount of similar thoughts, approaches, and backgrounds a lot of the people shared in the particular group I was working with. One of the most important traits that I see in all of my co-workers is selflessness, which is one of the many words that I could easily use to describe the general attitude of the organization as a whole.

The work I have been doing has been going extremely well and I have been really enjoying the assignments my supervisors have been giving me. One of the coolest things that I’ve been able to do was making a trip to an apartment of a group of clients. When I walked into the main lobby, I was shocked: it honestly looked like a run-down version of a lobby in a luxury hotel. The size was large enough to hear an echo of yourself if you spoke; yet the entire place had a quirky, solemn ambiance that replaced my initial feeling of ‘wow’ with a more down to earth reality. We spoke briefly (all in Spanish) with the family in the lobby, but then to my surprise, they took us upstairs to talk more in their apartment. Essentially the tenant-landlord relationship had been on its way downhill; the guilt was on the landlord’s shoulders. In my opinion the landlord had made some shady claims about repairs, payments, and charges without much concrete evidence to back anything up. The tenants didn’t want to be cut short by a miscommunication.

We ended up helping the clients out, but the thing that was great to see was their hospitality. The atmosphere was inviting, warm (literally too), and fun despite the urgent housing matter that was being discussed. They even offered us a few things to drink, and I couldn’t say no to the mango flavored one. What I’m getting to is that the effort we made to help this specific family with their problem didn’t go without  acknowledgement. The family was more than appreciative, which reflected on their decision to reciprocate the kindness. It’s good to know that when you go the extra mile for somebody, they’ll go an extra one for you as well.

Last week we were walking down the street looking for a spot to hang out at. It was pretty late for a weeknight and the streets were a little bit quiet. I saw a man casually standing next to a building along with a few others that were casually dressed yet had a trendy twist. Aside from some mysterious background music, there weren’t any signs or windows that gave any kind of indication that there was anything going on where they were standing. The guy looked at us and said, “You want to check it out?” Being the curious type, I shrugged my shoulders and figured why not. We opened the door and were immediately met by a set of stairs. Not knowing to expect, I assumed the venue would be on par with a dark, slimy cave and didn’t have high hopes. What we walked into threw my previous thoughts into the garbage and replaced them with a surreal sensation that left me wondering if I was in the United States or was sent directly to Paris for the night. The only way to describe it would be a modern speakeasy with an 80’s disco vibe. It was a nice change to see a place like that, and it ended up being very enjoyable. It always seems that the best things in life come unexpectedly.

It’s safe to say that New York really has everything to offer, and then some. When it comes to food, music and art events, people, unique shops, fashion, nightlife, and then everything in between, there will always be something waiting for any kind of person if they have the willingness to venture out and find it. I feel that the most important (and most exciting) part about New York is the necessary exploring that needs to be done in order to discover your true preferences. Sure, it’s easy to tag along and do the same things as the masses if that’s what you’re into, but the essence of New York screams individuality. In my opinion, with the huge amount of easily accessible activities, venues, and events, there couldn’t be a better place to help you find out who you really are.

My time at Part of the Solution has been absolutely flying by. My supervisors keep me busy, but at the same time keep things exciting throughout the day and prevent any amount of work from becoming monotonous or dull. As time has progressed, (along with my supervisors confidence in me) the team of attorneys at POTS have allowed me to dive into more challenging tasks, which have involved less actual supervision and a more hands-on experience. The way I have always looked at life is that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. One of the best feelings I’ve gotten has come from speaking face-to-face with clients for whom I had written documents that aided the prevention of them being evicted from their apartments. It’s nice to know that the work that we do in the office helps these clients sleep better at night. When they can sleep better at night, we can sleep better at night.

I don’t think I can ever remember time passing this quickly, but I’d rather have it pass this quickly than at a painstakingly slow pace. I’ve been in New York for just about a month and have been able to explore many of the different neighborhoods that make up the city during both the day and night. Out of the places I’ve managed to see in Manhattan so far, the Nolita and the Greenwich Village areas have been my favorites in terms of the style of the buildings and the general atmosphere that exists there.

Missing the Mediterranean!

I’ll be the first to admit that I happen to be a night owl and as soon as the sun goes down, a little light bulb flickers on in my head and gets me started up. One thing that I’ve absolutely loved is the feeling of the streets of Manhattan at nighttime. The only way I can describe it is that it seems like there is some sort of electricity present; the air feels alive at night.

The other day I was having a great conversation with one of my supervisors as we got off the subway in the Bronx and I started to look around and really think about the neighborhood we were in. Over the past few weeks I’ve come to love working in the Bronx. Aside from having some rough neighborhoods, one thing that I constantly see is happiness in its simplest form. While walking in the streets, I receive tons of smiles from the people I see and make sure to shoot one right back at them.  Despite being surrounded by poverty, there seems to be a feeling of general positivity and sense of community, which is something I feel that Downtown Manhattan could improve on a little bit.

In addition to that, the food is amazing and CHEAP! (Note: I’m biased because I love any kind of Latin American food and happen to speak Spanish).

One thing that I’ve slowly realized over the past few weeks is that working here has really helped me improve in doing one thing; listening. The people that come into POTS seeking guidance with their problems all have unique characteristics and represent a diverse range of backgrounds. As soon as I became relaxed enough to really take it all in, the rewards that I got for listening were great. A few of the people that I’ve been lucky enough to listen to have some unbelievable stories that really should be told to people other than an intern at a legal clinic. The problem is that some of these people don’t think too much of their own stories and feel as if what they have to tell is just what everybody else in the world has experienced.  The great thing about the stories is that they aren’t all based on current or past struggles, but rather moments in their lives that they remember like any other day. It’s been pretty cool connecting these stories to various important events (having their family leave Poland and France during World War II, for example). For me, these experiences that were previously imagined to be small to the teller, add a bit of personality to these kinds of events that are only read about in history books.

This 4th of July in NYC turned out to be a great one spent with a few friends throughout the day. A friend from home and I took advantage of the day off from work and went around several parts of the city and terrorized them a little bit. Despite the heat and mobs of tourists everywhere (even though we were essentially just that), we ended up making it to the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, and then ate two huge cheeseburgers covered in corned beef and pastrami. The heat and the burger got the best of my friend who called it a night while I met up with some other people in order to see the firework show on the Hudson River. I can confidently say that it  ended up being the best firework show I’ve seen in my entire life and turned out to be the perfect way to finish up a long, fun day.

This weekend here in New York has been exactly what I’ve needed. All I really needed was a day and night or three without needing to be anywhere or have anything to check off on one of those “I’ll just get it done tomorrow” checklists. Despite it being extremely hot and not having a beach to cool off at, it was a great feeling to make it home on Friday afternoon with an open schedule for the weekend. That night we were able to meet up with a ton of people from Holy Cross (including my roommate and his brother) in some of the Midtown bars and even had a few unexpected encounters with some other familiar faces. The night turned out to be a pretty good one, but the next day ended up being even better. It was great to walk around the city in a more relaxed state without having to worry about getting lost or buy any necessities. I happened to stumble across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time ever (5 minute walk from my place) and made the trek across, but only half way of course. I recommend walking across the bridge to anyone that hasn’t done it yet for an extremely good view of the river and more tall buildings.

 Later on we made it out to a club in the Meatpacking District and it turned out to be pretty fun but expensive, especially since one of my best friends from home was able make it over for the night.

After eating breakfast around 3p.m. the next day we were able to make it to Central Park for the first time of the summer and my life (I kid you not). I found it amazing that despite being surrounded by all of the concrete of the city, a person really can lose themselves inside the park and even pretend they’re in a different place. At least that’s what I did.

Working at Part of the Solution has been going very well these past two weeks and I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable doing the tasks that I’m being assigned. A big part of this happens to be the people that I’m surrounded by while working. We have a great team of attorneys who I get along with very well and the workers and volunteers here are all genuinely nice people. As cliché as it sounds, it feels great to help others. Almost every time I finish helping a client, I see a remarkable amount of relief in their faces or voices as well as a feeling of pure gratitude. To me, this brings about a huge amount of satisfaction and allowed me to really understand why many of the volunteers at POTS come back time and time again.

Busy day at housing court

This week some friends from home (who I hadn’t seen in an unbearable day and a half) and I made it out to dinner at a place called Salsa y Salsa. Before that, I had some free time after getting back from work and decided to check out a photo gallery up by 23rd Street. The exhibition presented the progressiveness of the evolution of surfing and its unique culture since its beginning from the perspective of the extremely talented photographer Art Brewer. Going to the gallery gave me a pretty big itch to get back in the water since I haven’t surfed halfway decent waves since New Year’s Eve. This coming weekend will be my first full weekend in NYC and I hope to finally take advantage of the free time that we’ll have!

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Kevin Gallagher '13

  • Studies: Economics major with a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies
  • Hometown: Northfield, N.J.
  • Read more about Kevin »
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Former Blogger