The Talk of the Town: The Watchdog of Ocean Parkway

By Mnookin, Seth | The New Yorker, March 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Talk of the Town: The Watchdog of Ocean Parkway


Mnookin, Seth, The New Yorker


It was question-and-answer time at the Barnes & Noble on Broadway at Eighty-second Street on a recent Friday night. Frank Bruni, a reporter for the Times, had just finished reading from "Ambling Into History," his account of George W. Bush's Presidential campaign and first year in the White House. A pale woman in the third row spoke up: "Many media outlets, including the Village Voice, Salon, and The New Republic, have accused you, for lack of a better word, of being a major suckup," she said, her voice reflecting a half century's tenure in Brooklyn. As the woman spoke, Bruni's eyes widened behind his green-rimmed glasses. "Are you Reba Shimansky?" he asked, cutting her off. "From Ocean Parkway?"

Indeed she was. Bruni's guess wasn't as wild as it might sound; Shimansky spends a couple of hours each night at the computer in her kitchen, reading articles and writing angry letters to political reporters around the country. "I started writing letters in the early part of the Clinton Administration," she said the other day, sitting in her living room. "I felt there was a right-wing spin machine that protects Republicans. And I just wanted to try and correct that." Shimansky, who describes herself as a "single woman who happens to have time on her hands," said that she spent two and a half hours travelling to Bruni's readingshe works in Staten Islandbut that she'd never waste her time reading his book. "What for?"

"There's a lot of things that anger me," she said. "I can't help it. This is a hobby, a passion. But I don't want people to feel my life is dominated by this. I guess I would call myself more of a party Democrat than an issues person. They always say there's a liberal bias out there. I don't see it. I think the Democrats can be wimps. We don't have a Rush Limbaugh."

Shimansky is a sturdy woman who favors outfits that are almost monochromatic, like a crimson turtleneck with a red sweater and a maroon skirt. She has lived her whole life in the apartment she was born in; she shared it with her parents until they died, and she still sleeps in a bed in the living room. She reads six newspapers a daythe Times, the New York Post, the News, Newsday, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Todayand as many magazines each week. She has worked for the state's Office of Mental Health for more than three decades, and hopes to retire to the Upper West Side.

Until then, she goes to Broadway shows with her friends, watches her share of movies, and writes a lot of letters. …

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