GATEKEEPERS: Bloomfield Street Block Party Celebrates 40 Years of Neighborhood Tradition
Since 1976, the Gate Sale and Block Party on the 1200 Block of Bloomfield Street has taken place every autumn—in the face of rain, shine and tragedy.
“We don’t have garages or yards, but we have gates—so we called it a ‘Gate Sale,'” says Barbara Korman. “That first year, everyone sort of came out, sat around drinking coffee and had a great time.”
“The next year we managed to get the street closed off and have a party,” says Barbara’s husband, Robert Korman. “Then we were able to move the cars out and it just went on from there.”
Barbara and Robert’s daughter Irene Sobolov essentially grew up in the block party tradition.
“To me, one of the best things about Hoboken is the feeling of ‘small town’ community,” says Sobolov. “Nothing shows this better than all the wonderful block parties that pop up all over Hoboken in September and October. Neighbors come out of their homes for food and conversation as others wander in and out from surrounding neighborhoods to visit with folks they may not have seen all summer.”
Says Barbara, “This is such a cohesive block. You see people throughout the year and they all look forward to this day.”
If you ask Robert, the key to a successful block party is logistics. “We keep it simple—hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken on the grill, and food made by all the neighbors,” he says. “You don’t want to make it too complicated. The ones that stick around keep it simple.”
Neighbor Dave Kalmus concurs. “We did horse rides once, but there was crap all over the street… so we opted not to do that again.”
In contemporary urban life, the neighborhood aspect can often be a distant concept. Yet there are times when groups of people who live in such proximity feel the need to commune and share their lives together.
One such occasion was the neighborhood gathering in 2001, just days after the attacks on the World Trade Center, in which 56 Hobokenites and thousands more lost their lives.
“We considered cancelling it,” says Dave, “but we had a meeting and decided to hold it anyway. Meanwhile one of our neighbors was lost in the attack. There were friends gathered at the apartment still waiting for any news.”
“It wasn’t so much of a ‘block party’ that year, as it was just a gathering,” says Barbara.
“It was a tough decision for the group,” says Irene, “but they rightly decided that the community needed to come together to grieve and connect.”
That was also the year Michael Iwanski came to the neighborhood and took up the Block Party mantle.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Michael. “You have to go out and get the food, and the soda and the beer, loading and unloading—then there’s the grilling.”
With the event typically running until 10 p.m., the block party ends up serving hundreds of neighbors, friends and guests. Politicians, police, firemen all show up, pitch in and pay their dues, to share a great night out with people who call Hoboken home.
“We do what we’ve always done—we keep it simple, with burgers hot dogs, chicken and dishes prepared by the neighbors,” says Michael. “And we get a lot of great food from the neighbors—especially Barbara’s sauerkraut.”