A sign of our times

A sign of our times
The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

As President Bush prepares to leave office, Osama Bin Laden remains a free man — and one Red Hook woman won’t let the lame duck president, or her neighbors, forget it.

Cheryl Stewart turned the front yard of her Coffey Street house into a marquee against Bush shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, partially on the claim that Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein was linked to the bin Laden-led terrorist attack on 9-11.

“The Bush Administration is using 9-11 as a pretext to wage war against a country that never attacked us,” Stewart fumed. “Three thousand of my neighbors, including local firefighters, have been murdered and the person who’s responsible has not been apprehended.”

The count increases each morning before many of her neighbors rise. Before riding to work on one of her three operable motorcycles, Stewart, in Red Hook since 1999, ticks off another day of freedom for the Saudi terrorist.

“He [bin Laden] is laughing his ass off at us,” the sculptor for theater, television and movie sets said.

The running tally is par for the course in Red Hook where stunts (like the maiden voyage of a homemade submarine last year) and spunk endow the isolated neighborhood with a disproportionate amount of charisma.

“It’s nice to see that someone is taking the homeland security issue seriously, said Mark Ward (wink wink). “Nothing gives a neighborhood character like a staunch supporter of America, right?” (nudge nudge).

Sarcasm aside, Stewart is not merely taunting President Bush, she also wants Bin Laden brought to justice — and she hopes that President-elect Obama will carry it out.

“Obama has said he’s interested in capturing Osama Bin Laden.”

In interviews, Stewart’s criticism of the Bush Administration couldn’t be clearer, but the message is delivered so dryly that some neighbors didn’t know how to interpret the homeowner’s political views.

“I don’t know who lives in that house, so I don’t know if the sign is meant as an anti-government sign or a pro-American sign,” said Paul Najera.

For Najera at least, it upholds Red Hook’s individuality rather than the arrival of big box retail, which came approximately six years and 10 months after horrific airplane attack on the World Trade Center.

“It’s certainly less offensive to the neighborhood than the arrival of the Ikea.”

— with Emily Lavin

Cheryl Stewart keeps a running tally of America’s failure to capture Osama bin Laden in front of her house on Coffey Street between Dwight and Richards streets.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan