Hear the thunderclap? That’s Brooklyn mourning the passing of Ed Eisenberg.
The longtime Manhattan Beach activist, who died on March 1 at the age of 79, lived and breathed Brooklyn. Ed belonged to just about every local group in the community, and he traipsed its streets as if he owned the joint.
Chances are that you ran into Ed if you walked along Sheepshead Bay Road, Emmons Avenue, or Oriental Boulevard, his lanky frame, smiling eyes and unmistakable gait — part amble, part clop, but all swashbuckle — a march to his own beat.
My memories of Ed go back to the first week I started working at the Courier, 25 years ago. I was having a fag outside our former office on Sheepshead Bay Road, when he walked up to me, whisked off a joke, and waltzed away as if on a mission, which I would come to learn he was usually on.
The gag’s gist escapes me now, but I am certain that like most of the other elbow-ticklers Ed regaled me in the same spot over the decades, it began with, “There was this rabbi who...”
When I finally discovered that the disarming gent who ignited my smoke breaks was renegade grassroots gladiator Ed Eisenberg, it confirmed my belief that the humblest folk are usually the most impressive.
Ed was the best of all worlds — opinionated, committed to advancing a clean community, not above a tussle, and man enough to wear bunny ears to a public Chinese “Year of the Rabbit” party.
“I think it’s stupid!” he hollered in 2009, when the Manhattan Beach Community Group wanted to turn a local bathhouse into a high-tech solar electric station.
“You gotta be a genius to throw your garbage out!” he roared in 2008, when the city surfaced with clumsy new rules to dispose of household trash.
“It was a tummy bump heard ’round Manhattan Beach,” he insisted in 2011, after coming belly-to-belly with a member of a rival group at a neighborhood safety meeting.
My own favorite Ed moment happened in the mid-1990s at Gracie Mansion during a community press breakfast with then-mayor Rudy Giuliani on the day news broke of Hizzoner’s alleged affair with a staffer.
Rudy was clearly dazed by the day’s distressing headlines, including ours, which featured a chummy photo of the pair and screamed, “Whaddaya think?” I was more interested in why Rudy offered a $10,000 reward for the killer of Florida-based designer Gianni Versace, but none for Gothamites who were killed.
“Do you think murdered New Yorkers are chopped liver, sir?” I inquired, upending Rudy who dumped his angst on me like a bowel movement after a long constipation.
Just when I thought I should have listened to my mum and become a florist, soft laughter filtered in from the rear like sunlight through a storm — it was Ed having a chuckle.
“Well done, kiddo,” he later told me outside, giving me the courage to continue my own clog dance through the Fourth Estate.
Hear the applause? That’s him being installed into the biggest civic group of all. Go get ’em, Ed.