‘She was extraordinary:’ New Yorkers pay tribute to RBG at pop-up memorials

Dozens of people gathered and created a memorial to United States Supreme Court Justice and Brooklyn-native Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Grand Army Plaza on Sept. 19.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

An illustration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg surrounded by four candles on the fountain at Grand Army Plaza became the site of a growing memorial service for the fallen Supreme Court justice Saturday afternoon.

Ginsburg, who was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and grew up in the Midwood area, died Friday, Sept. 18 at the age of 87. Her death sent shockwaves through the country — and prompted city and state leaders to quickly call for memorials, one of which is now being eyed for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Ginsburg, the second female justice on the court, died after a 27-year tenure on the nation’s high court.

Mourners gather at Grand Army Plaza to remember RBG.Photo by Paul Frangipane

On Saturday, a makeshift memorial for Ginsburg at Grand Army Plaza drew crowds of mourners, many of whom said their own work was inspired by that of the native Brooklynite.

“When I found out about the news last night, I just had this overwhelming fear and I just realized I couldn’t sit there in my sadness and in my grief, I had to do something and I had to organize,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a civil rights lawyer who organized the Sept. 19 memorial service.

“Icons like RBG don’t come around every day and she’s Brooklyn-made and I think it’s really important to honor her,” she said. “Her legacy is going to be felt for years.”

Candles and cards were left in memory of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Caraballo’s memorial drew mourners from across the five boroughs, including 21-year-old Skylar Moore of Queens, who said she was nervous about the upcoming nomination process.

“But we can’t just play into that fear, we can’t just dwell on what may happen,” she said. “This weekend we need to take time to mourn the loss of a true American hero, and then Monday we gotta start packing the Senate’s halls, we gotta write every single senator, I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican, and we gotta make sure that our voices are heard.”

Caraballo agreed, predicting the next few months in the nation’s capital would be marred by a bruising effort by Senate Republicans to confirm a successor before the upcoming nationwide election.

“I think it’s important that we all share this moment together and have this collective moment of grief, because tomorrow we’re going to have to start fighting,” Caraballo said.

The next day, admirers of Ginsburg continued to make the pilgrimage to her former home in Midwood, where some laid flowers, others left messages and some just came to see where she lived so many years ago.

She lived at 1584 E. 9th St. for much of her childhood — and even though she hadn’t lived at the address since about 1950, residents of the block expressed pride that the “notorious RBG,” as she was affectionately called, had roots in the quiet community.

Jean Marotta holds a children’s book about RBG outside her Midwood home.Photo by Todd Maisel

“Everyone in the country was rooting for her,” said Jean Marotta, a first grade teacher at P.S. 104 in Bay Ridge who held a children’s book titled, “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.”

“I’m here because I had to come,” she sighed. “I just pray that we can wait for another election before someone could be nominated and appointed to fill her position.”

Mazie Isay, 9, laid flowers at the base of a tree where RGB memorabilia was left in her honor.

Beth Saidel, of Soho, came to the house with her husband Joe and son Oliver. She said her aunt Lois and Ginsburg had been writing letters to each other for 17 years

Beth Saidel, of Soho held a letter from RGB as she paid tribute to her memory Sunday at her former home on E. 9th Street in Midwood.Photo by Todd Maisel

“They had a lovely back and forth all these years, and so now we have a box full of notes,” Saidel said.

“She was a great woman and to die right before the high holiday is very honorable,” said a neighbor, who preferred not to give his name but who arrived home after Rosh Hashanah services at his synagogue.  “She was extraordinary.”

Ginsburg died on the first night of the Jewish new year.

ruth bader ginsburg
Memorabilia left outside RBG’s old Midwood home.Photo by Todd Maisel