If you had a dollar for every public official or activist who declared the need for a town hall meeting to solve this or that problem or investigate this or that issue you would not need to work.
The term "town hall" has almost, if not quite, joined the lexicon of wholesomeness enjoyed by such words as motherhood, apple pie and veterans. It smacks of democracy and transparency, two of the ideals that seem most at risk in today's hyperpartisan political culture. In New Rochelle, not only is dialogue alive and well, I dare say robust, there is no shortage of venues in which to exchange ideas—and it's a good thing—we need them.
Let's start with the beach clubs along the Sound Shore. From the out to , out and around to Glen Island Harbour Club, the city is gifted with what can now fairly be called catering halls. Where I grew up in Brooklyn, these kinds of places were where you went for the obligatory tacky wedding or the equally ornate bar mitzvah. They were glitzy, and we liked them that way.
Here, these places are more elegant and tasteful, but still hold the somewhat vestigial description of "beach club." I plead ignorance on this score, but I am dubious about exactly how many people use them for that.
Yes, they were upscale and trendy back in the day, but come on, when is the last time you saw anybody surfing on the calm bay waters of the Sound? But they are our banquet halls in the absence of the grand hotels that exist in larger cities; they are the meeting places for dinner dances that raise money for charities ranging from Haitian relief to helping orphans in Rwanda.
The Rotary meets there, and our elected officials of both parties hold their rallies and victory parties there, as well as hang their heads and lick their wounds when they are on the losing side.
I have covered the state of the city address there, and have witnessed more volunteers than I ever thought existed spend their money and give their time to help organizations such as the and United Way.
Maybe it's because I am an immigrant in this wonderfully concise city, but I hope the residents know how rare it is to have such places so handy, and moreover, that the money spent in them is money spent in town.
Then we have the American Legion Post 8. The Citizens Reform Club, Save Our Armory group and others frequently use the post's hall. They get an added boost from the Mormon Church across the street who graciously makes their parking lot available and yet who rarely get mentioned in our publications. I am glad I just did.
Then there are the other churches, too numerous to name, who allow the use of their facilities for groups ranging from the Cub Scouts to Alcoholics Anonymous. In the North End, we have seen Temple Israel hold meetings with the police to discuss crime, serve as the gathering place for intereligious discussion and welcome political candidates.
So too, sponsors all kinds of neighborhood meetings. And almost hidden at the corner of North near Quakerridge Road is the . There are of course the outliers, the City Council chambers where New Rochelle's official business is put on display and debated and private enterprises like Willow Towers, that lets the public use their rooms.
The real story, though, is about the people of New Rochelle. They are lucky to have all of these venues in which to gather in the manner and fashion of the "town hall." They are also lucky because their civic involvement requires the space. In this city, the term "town hall" is more than a nice couple words, it is a way of life that helps hold the community together.