I am OHNY is a campaign we began in 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters. Bahij Chancey is an NYC Civic Corps Member at the Department of Parks and Recreation. A regular OHNY volunteer, Bahij volunteered as an OHNY Weekend District Coordinator for the first time this year in Red Hook. During OHNY Weekend, Bahij was responsible for managing all of our Red Hook volunteers and making sure that everything was running smoothly at a wide variety of sites in the neighborhood including Bike New York’s Coastal Resiliency Bike Tour; the GBX Gowanus Bay Terminal; and the Coffey Street Residence.
“I’m totally obsessed with New York’s built environment: the streets and structures that we inhabit each day, and the hidden infrastructure that keeps the city ticking,” says Bahij. “I was lured by OHNY’s commitment to showcase the city’s greatest architectural treasures, and reveal its hidden gems. The decision to volunteer was easy for me. I wanted to support your program, and I have time but not so much money. Volunteering has allowed me to take advantage of so many great OHNY offerings.”
Thanks Bahij, for supporting us as a volunteer, which is just as meaningful to us as any other form of support!
What do you love most about New York City?
I love learning how it functions. It’s a wonder to me that New York City exists at all. I’m constantly amazed at the diversity of people from every culture who coexist in frenetic harmony. Every day, we each do our own part, but rarely do we take a second and really think about the gargantuan task we accomplish just keeping this city running. When I walk through this city’s streets I see a web of intersecting infrastructural networks all performing vital functions. Some are obvious and constantly present in our lives, like our streets and our subways. Some are more discrete, tucked away on the roofs of buildings or below our feet. I question how our food got here, and where our trash goes when it’s picked up from the curb. What pipes, wires, train lines, sewers, and building cellars did that tree’s roots have to circumvent in order to thrive? Finding the answers is satisfying, but the more I learn, the more there is to know.
What is your most memorable Open House New York experience?
The OHNY experience that had the greatest impact on me wasn’t actually a visit to a structure. It was Robin Nagle’s lecture* about picking up trash in NYC. My mind was whirring after her fantastic talk. The Department of Sanitation usually exists in people’s peripheral, but that night she celebrated the monumental task entrusted to New York’s Strongest. Each step along our trash’s journey from the curb to the state border holds its own marvels.
If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go and why?
Assuming that all-access includes time travel, I would love to see the Brooklyn Bridge when it first opened. It’s hard to imagine New York at a time when the bridge’s majestic stone gateways towered over every building in the city. When all that had ever crossed the East River were vessels, the sight of the suspension bridge effortlessly draped over the water must have been unbelievable. It’s aged beautifully as the city grows around it.
OHNY is important to New York City because…
It opens doors. You can pass by the same door twice a day and never wonder what it hides, but once you get a peek there’s so much more to see.
From the Annual OHNY Weekend to its year-round public programs, OHNY offers you opportunities to see the city like you’ve never seen it. With your support, OHNY can continue to open the city to tens of thousands of people throughout the five boroughs, tying us closer to the places, people and stories that make New York the most extraordinary city in the world. Together, we are OHNY.
*OHNY volunteers are invited to special enrichment lectures over the course of the year, which are organized to recognize and celebrate the volunteers who help make the Annual OHNY Weekend–and OHNY’s year-round programs–possible. Want to attend? Become a volunteer!