Barrett Gross, left, speaking at a memorial for Jessica Dworkin, said, “She reminded us of the mystery of life.” Photo by Tequila Minsky
BY TEQUILA MINSKY | There was a lot of love and a lot of tears at the northeast corner of Houston St. and Sixth Ave. on the evening of Sat., Sept. 1, at an impromptu remembrance gathering for Jessica Dworkin. It was at that corner six days earlier that friend and neighbor Dworkin, 58, also known as Jessie Blue, lost her life in a horrific, freak traffic accident.
Filling the park benches outside Passannante Playground and the sidewalk at the corner, a crowd of 65 who knew Dworkin lit candles at the makeshift memorial to her on the playground’s fence and shared anecdotes.
Celebrating her life were members of the senior center programs at Our Lady of Pompei Church on Carmine St. and Greenwich House on Barrow St., shopkeepers from Thompson St., Franciscan fathers from St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan St. and many neighbors.
One waitress at Milady’s Bar at Prince and Thompson Sts. spoke, mimicking Dworkin’s distinctive voice, recalling how the longtime Soho resident would stop in and give encouragement on slow nights.
Another told how Dworkin would say, “I’m spreading the pixie dust.”
One neighbor recounted how she was going through a personal hardship but a conversation with Dworkin helped, and led her to hug a tree. The anecdote brought smiles to the faces of many in the group.
A Thompson St. friend spoke of how being in the late artist’s presence brought forth light and reminded people to be kind.
“Be a little nice” was the message that knowing Dworkin in all her eccentricities conveyed, another said.
Through his tears, Craig Walker shared the pain of her absence and how much he missed her.
Holding a candle, Barrett Gross of Thompson St., summing up the feelings of many there, said, “She saw the world differently and reminded us of the mystery of life and that there are different ways of seeing.”
The gathering concluded after singing “Amazing Grace.”
According to the Police Department, the driver of the truck that killed Dworkin was issued two summons, one for failure to yield to a pedestrian and a second for failure to exercise due care. No information was available about witnesses to the accident.
Speaking this week, Paulette Mooney, a Sixth Ave. resident, complained, “Sometimes, three lanes of vehicles make a turn at the same time.
“We’re all terrified,” Mooney said, “especially seniors and mothers with baby carriages. It’s a free-for-all. Like they said at the memorial, it’s a three-lane highway feeding into a residential neighborhood.”
Village resident Phyllis Klein, who lives on the same block where the tragic accident occurred, described what she called the “terrible intersection.”
“People are going at the same time that cars are racing on Houston to make the turn,” she said of the chaotic crossing. “I know how to do it — you have to know how to negotiate the crossing.”
Neighborhood resident Roxanne Arena added, “There’s an elderly woman, about 85 years old, and she’s petrified to cross the street. I have to cross her. I am always looking behind me with an eye on the traffic.”
Many others who frequently cross at that intersection spoke of near misses with cars that they have had or that they have witnessed.
“It’s a speedway,” said Jerry Vaughan of 178 Bedford St., who ran a laundromat on Bedford St. for 35 years, admitting that he, too, was scared when crossing Sixth Ave. there.
Poet Steve Dalachinsky, a Spring St. resident, suggested, “No trucks should be allowed in the neighborhood except for sanitation trucks and those proving they’re making deliveries.”
Stopping at the memorial, Paulina Torrescano, 29, a Thompson St. resident, commented of the intersection, “It’s super-dangerous. I cross all the time and see that people don’t pay attention. They need a dedicated traffic light with an arrow for turning.”
Asked how the Department of Transportation is responding to concerns about this dangerous and scary crossing, a spokesperson replied in an e-mail, citing recent statistics on fatalities and injuries.
“There was one previous fatality in the last five years and one serious injury between 2006 and 2010, the most recent year for which data is available,” the spokesperson said. “Safety is the agency’s number one priority and D.O.T. will review any community requests.”
A memorial for Dworkin will be held Tues., Sept. 18, at 10 a.m. at the senior center at Our Lady of Pompei Church, at Bleecker and Carmine Sts.