Rock the Block brings medical screenings, political candidates to western Bay Ridge
Artisans of Medicine & the Arab American Association of NY Sponsor First Ever Bay Ridge Avenue Street Fair
Republican Liam McCabe and Democrat Rev. Khader El-Yateem, both vying to fill Vincent Gentile’s soon-to-be-vacant 43rd District City Council seat, found themselves working on the same side of the street — in this instance Bay Ridge Avenue — when they took advantage of Artisans of Medicine and the Arab American Association of New York’s first annual Rock the Block to meet and greet potential constituents.
“When you consider the current political situation,” El-Yateem said, “it’s more important than ever to bring people in the community together.”
“People have been great, friendly [and] interested,” McCabe said while posing with his son Rory for photos from passersby.
Although it was perfectly understandable that candidates would find such a gathering appealing, Rock the Block was conceived as an event to promote early and effective screenings for potential health issues.
“We’ve been working on it for about six months,” said Dr. Ramsey Joudeh of Artisans of Medicine, a multi-specialty practice and urgent care center set smack in the middle of Bay Ridge Avenue between Fourth and Fifth avenues. “It’s important that people get screened so little problems don’t develop into major ones.”
Close to the Fourth Avenue end of Bay Ridge Avenue, Dr. Nada, also of Artisans of Medicine, presided over blood pressure screenings. “I’ve had a few out of range,” she recounted, “but not many. People seem to be taking better care of their health.”
At the far end of the street, near the Fifth Avenue intersection, Dr. Abderahman Salem screened attendees for blood oxygen levels using a tiny pulse oximeter that clips on to the tip of the forefinger. “As they get older,” Salem explained, “people sometimes just develop bad breathing habits. Because of gravity, blood fills the lower parts of the lungs while fresh air remains near to the top, so their blood isn’t sufficiently enriched.” Salem stressed the importance of performing oximeter readings during periods of mild exercise, such as walking, rather than just having the patient recline or sit. “Everyone’s oxygen level is good when he isn’t doing anything,” Salem added. “So, an event like this is a great way to test people while they’re moving around.”
Although a festive, congenial mood prevailed on most of the street, not everyone was happy with the fair’s presence. Bay Ridge Avenue homeowner Katherine Avdelis confronted a pair of McCabe campaign workers, demanding to know why no advance warning had been given that the street would be taken over for the entire day. “My husband works nights,” Avdelis said. “How’s he supposed to sleep with all of this going on?” Gesturing toward a passing family wearing traditional chador and veils, she went on: “I don’t have anything against them, you know, but it’s clear who has the influence here now … and the rest of us don’t matter at all!”
“We had it on Facebook and other social media for more than week now,” Joudeh said when asked about Avdelis’ contention that no prior notice had been given. “We had signs on the street for at least a couple of days, too.”
Outside the Artisans of Medicine offices, a band started to play Middle Eastern tunes. Children with faces painted and temporary tattoos on their arms started to dance, the glitter on their faces and limbs flashing in the sunlit afternoon.
El-Yateem was deep in conversation with potential constituents while McCabe and company patrolled the packed street, pausing every few moments to chat with attendees.
“We need events like these,” El-Yateem said. “They bring people together, and we find out that we have more in common than not.”
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