Listen up: Ridgites’ podcast tackles nabe’s complicated past — and present

Listen up: Ridgites’ podcast tackles nabe’s complicated past — and present
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Four Bay Ridgites have created a podcast focusing on Bay Ridge’s past and present after last year’s divisive Council race fueled discussions about what — and who — made up the “old neighborhood.”

The founders of Radio Free Bay Ridge were inspired to highlight the neighborhood’s rich history and analyze its complex, modern-day conundrums, according to one of the hosts.

“It’s about dismantling the idea that there’s any single ‘old neighborhood.’ Bay Ridge is way more complex than people think,” said Dan Hetteix, who hosts and edits most of the episodes. “It’s definitely worthy of in-depth podcasting — we have years of material.”

Hetteix puts the podcast together every couple of weeks with his wife Mary — who is also the show’s production manager — plus producer Rachel Brody and Erik Shell, in the guestroom-turned-studio in the Hetteix home.

Many episodes zero in on hyperlocal manifestations of national concerns: one episode focuses on nativism in the neighborhood and includes discussions with Ridgites new and old about how it has always been a bastion of immigrants, while another considers the crisis in Yemen and its impacts on the area’s Yemeni community with activist Rabyaah Althaibani, who also lives in the neighborhood.

But others focus on the particularities of the neighborhood, including discussing the role of Community Board 10 in maintaining civic life, dissecting a heated Council debate, and debating a failed Council candidate’s controversial surveillance proposal. Hetteix said analyzing issues through a mix of hyperlocal and national lenses helps connect locals and listeners with each other — and people beyond the Belt Parkway.

“We’ve had weird moments in the podcast where everyone’s just like, ‘This is a weird microcosm of the U.S. at this point,’ ” he said. “Sometimes it can get too heated when the rhetoric turns national, but you pull the rhetoric back to the local, and you can really connect with people on an issue.”

The show has also featured interviews with the Democratic congressional contenders, and the hosts have also posted uncut recordings of Council candidate debates from last fall, plus a November town hall with Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge).

But the group insists that even though they’re committed to journalistic ethics, they’re not journalists, because the show skews left.

Brody has worked for current Democratic candidates for Congress and the state Senate, and currently holds a paid position as the volunteer coordinator for the campaign of Max Rose, one of the Dems trying to unseat Donovan. And the Hetteixes volunteered for the Council campaign of second-place Democratic candidate Khader El-Yateem. Dan Hetteix also writes a satirical hyperlocal political blog called the Ambrose Light, where he pokes fun at local candidates and elected officials.

Hetteix said show is an entirely separate endeavor from his satirical blog, and claims he tones down his political views while on air.

“The podcast is more moderate than the positions we privately hold, but we don’t hide who we are,” he said. “I definitely give people a fairer shot on the podcast [than the blog] because it’s more serious — it’s not designed to be funny or entertaining.”

The hosts said they plan to do future episodes on small businesses, senior centers, and transportation, adding that they would also like to see similar hyperlocal shows pop up in other neighborhoods — like the one that recently launched in the South Bronx.

Radio Free Bay Ridge can be heard at www.radiofreebayridge.org.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.