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. 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 there have been eye openers to say the least, but most importantly have taught me to practice patience, humility, listening. Amidst some of the troubles around the POTS neighborhood, the organization truly is a beacon that shines through the clouds that you might 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, helping me feel more confident along the way. 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 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. 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, along with the little experiences of this summer.

It’s hard to believe we’re at this point, the last week of my internship. I’m not sure whether this is just part of getting older or just how this city works. 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 making a possible visit to New York, 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), “See you in August”. Well, August is finally here and it brought my Spanish sister along for the ride!  She spent the past 5 days here and it’s turned out to be one of the best parts of the summer. The colossal concrete buildings and stifling summer heat 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 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… French. I experienced first-hand the overflowing influence of French nightlife in New York City. It turned out to be exhaustingly action-packed, in the best way possible. 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 newish 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. Inside: the best house party you’ve ever been to (on a weeknight, nonetheless) with a room full of strangers, downtown creative types, smiles, laughs, sunrises, and music straight from Kitsuné compilations courtesy of DJs from the group Le Tigre.

Later that week, I learned that one of my favorite producer/DJ groups, Jupiter, happened to be in New York for some parties. The coed duo from Paris had one scheduled at a venue in Williamsburg, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to pass it up. 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 lots of house and disco, the night turned out to be one of my favorites in New York so far.

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.

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 we walked into the main entrance, I was shocked: it looked like a run-down version of a  luxury hotel lobby. The size was large enough to hear an echo 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 due to the landlord’s deteriorating actions. 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, but the best part of the day was their hospitality. The atmosphere was inviting, warm, and fun, despite the urgent housing matter that was being discussed. They even offered us a few bottled soft drinks (I couldn’t say no to the mango flavored one on a hot day like that). What I’m getting to is that the effort we made to help this specific family didn’t go without  acknowledgement. The family was more than appreciative, which reflected on their decision to reciprocate the kindness. It’s refreshing to see that sometimes 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 and the streets were a little bit quiet. I saw a man casually standing next to a building, along with a few others. Aside from some barely audible background music, there weren’t any signs or windows that gave any kind of indication that there was anything going on. 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 frat-bro basement and didn’t have high hopes. Curveball. What we was 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 80’s disco basement party (translation: perfect). 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.

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 if you are willing to venture out and find it. I feel that the most important (and most exciting) part about New York is the exploring you need to do to discover your true preferences. Sure, it’s easy to tag along and do the same things as the masses, but the essence of New York (to me, at least) screams individuality. The wildly creative characters that energize this city paved their own path here. 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) they’ve allowed me to dive into more challenging tasks, which have involved less actual supervision and a more hands-on experiences. The way I’ve always looked at life is: the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. One of the best feelings I’ve gotten came from speaking face-to-face the clients for whom I had written documents prevented them from being evicted from their apartments. It’s nice to know that the work that we do in the office helps our clients 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, Chinatown, 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’m naturally a night owl and as soon as the sun goes down, a little light bulb flickers on in my head and that gets me started up. One thing that I’ve absolutely loved is the feeling of the streets of Manhattan at nighttime during the summer. The only way I can describe it is that it seems like there’s electricity everywhere; the city’s 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. Rough neighborhoods included, 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 everywhere and make sure to shoot one right back. I feel welcomed. Despite being surrounded by hardship, there’s a feeling of general positivity and, more importantly, a sense of community that Downtown Manhattan lacks.

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

One thing I’ve realized over the past few weeks is that working here has really helped me improve one thing: listening. The people that come into POTS seeking guidance 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 have been great. I’ve heard some unbelievable, both inspiring and unforgettable, stories. Thy don’t think too much of their own stories, and feel as if that’s just what everybody else in the world has experienced. Maybe that’s just their humility. The great thing about the stories is that they aren’t based on current or past struggles, but rather, moments in their lives that they remember like any other day (like having to leave Poland and France during World War II, for example).

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 went around several parts of the city, 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 ten met up with some other people to see the firework show on the Hudson River. I can confidently say that it ended up being the best show I’ve seen in my entire life and was the perfect way to finish up a long, fun day.

This weekend here in New York has been exactly what I’ve needed. That is, a day and night (or three) without needing to be anywhere or have anything to check off my to-do list. Friday night we were able to meet up with a ton of people from Holy Cross (including my roommate and his brother) while bar hopping and even had a few unexpected familiar faces. The night turned out to be a pretty good one, but the next day ended up being even better. I walked around the city in a much 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 halfway across. I recommend it to anyone, just watch out for the bikers and tourists.

One of my best friends from back home made it up for Saturday night, which we spent out until sunrise in a fun club on the west side.

After eating breakfast around 3 p.m. the next day we made 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 extremely 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 on their faces or in  their voices, as well as a feeling of 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 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 progressive evolution of surfing and its unique culture since its beginning, all from the perspective of the talented photographer Art Brewer. Going to the gallery gave me a pretty big itch to get back in the water (I haven’t surfed decent waves since New Year’s Eve a few months ago).

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Kevin Gallagher '13

  • Studies: Economics major with a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies
  • Hometown: Northfield, N.J.
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