Restoring the Waterfront

Photo by Bill Kline

With views of the Manhattan skyline, real estate developers have always viewed the North Shore of Staten Island as the city’s next boomtown. Despite the efforts of residents to achieve that potential, much of the shoreline remains economically depressed. But now residents have some hope.

Some areas have started to spring back. One step of the process includes restoring the former Blissenbach Marina to a public park. But there is still much work to be done. Continue reading

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Preserving History

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was the original home of the US Tennis Open and hosted many of the sport’s most famous moments. The stadium’s been dormant for decades though, and has fallen into disrepair. It’s owner, the West Side Tennis Club, is in debt and the club’s board is trying to sell the stadium to solve its financial troubles. In October, however, the club’s membership voted down a plan to sell the stadium to Cord Meyer Development Company, who planned to level the stadium for condominiums. The club’s board redoubled their efforts, and they gathered proposals last month from potential buyers for the stadium. The club’s leadership seems determined to sell the stadium, but it is still reviewing the proposals it received last month. Understandably, many in the Forest Hills community don’t want to see this historic building in their neighborhood torn down. Michael Perlman, the chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, is one of those locals who would like to preserve the stadium. He is trying to get the city to landmark the stadium to keep it from getting torn down, and possibly open the door to funding for the building’s restoration. He says the Landmark’s Preservation Committee is still in the early stages of reviewing his proposal. Here is audio from interviews I did with Perlman along with photos of the stadium and the surrounding neighborhood:

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A Fig Tree Grows in Bed-Stuy

Robert and DeVanie Jackson clean-up the Bed-Stuy farm.

In December you don’t expect to be out on a farm in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, but that’s exactly where I was the chilly Sunday afternoon of December 5th. This was nothing new though for Rev. DeVanie and Rev. Robert Jackson. The founders of the Brooklyn Rescue Mission, a community-based organization that is trying to develop a solution to the fresh food woes of Bed-Stuy, are out there every day no matter how cold it is.

Urban farming is nothing new in the five boroughs now, but when the Jacksons first started six years ago it actually was.

“It was hard to sell the idea of a farm,” DeVanie said. “It wasn’t received by most people who are now saying they’re the experts on the forefront of urban farming.”
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34th Street Transitway

One of the most arterial roads in New York is 34th Street, home of Macy’s, the Empire State Building, Herald Square, and more. Earlier this year, to alleviate traffic, the city launched plans to create a dedicated transitway.

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David A. Boody Junior High School Holds Annual Art Show and Concert and Gets A Special Visit

David A. Boody Junior High School, aka I.S. 228, in Gravesend, Brooklyn, hosted its annual Winter Concert and Art Show on Thursday and was paid a visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Deputy Secretary Anthony Miller.

They dropped by to check out the “School of One,” a math program that first debuted at M.S. 31 in Chinatown in the summer of 2009.  It uses computer technology to let students work at their own pace.

But the School of One wasn’t the only thing that caught their attention, said Doug Monroe, a creative writing teacher at the school.

“Deputy Secretary Tony Miller saw our art and also heard our symphony orchestra,” Monroe said. “He said he was very impressed with the balance at this school.”

Principal Dominick D’Angelo said IS 228 is one of the most diverse schools in New York City. It supports kids from almost 50 different countries. The school is also unique in that it operates on a “magnet” system, where students can choose specific subject concentrations, such as art or music.

During a tough economic time, when many schools are cutting back on their art programs, IS 228 shows that it is possible to maintain these programs.

Watch my audio slide show below to check out the sights and sounds from the evening:

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Pushed on the Path

For many commuters from North East New Jersey, taking a short Path ride to get to work every morning is both economical and easy. But when taking a ride on the train includes almost being trampled or pushed into a train car, taking mass transit to get to work may be more hazardous than helpful.

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Protesters Support Wikileaks, Assange

On Thursday, December 9, protesters stood outside the New York Times building to show their support for Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who was arrested earlier that week for suspicion of rape. They also demonstrated against companies like Paypal and Amazon which cut their services to the website.

The protest was organized by the International Action Center, a grassroots human rights and anti-war group that has been highly supportive of Wikileaks. They have also called for the release of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked information about the Iraq and Afghan Wars, as well as a trove of diplomatic cables.

Watch the audio slideshow below to learn more about the protest

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Under the Needle: The Stories Behind the Ink

Dan Lettieri got this tattoo in honor of his close friend who passed away. (Photo by Nicholas Rizzi)

Tattoo artist Dan Lettieri said that he gets two kinds of customers at Island Tattoos. People who come in, pick something off of the board in the shop or a very common design, and only get that.

Then there are people who come in with there own designs, who he works with cleaning up for a week or so, before they go under the needle. These designs, Lettieri said, usually come with interesting stories the customer has for getting them.
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The Real Central Park Santa Claus

The man in the Santa suit greeting families in Central Park is an 82-year-old photographer from the Upper East Side, but he is no fraud. Everything from Ed Bobrow’s snow-white beard to his warm personality is real.

Bobrow is a Central Park Conservancy volunteer and every year, he transforms into the Central Park Santa Claus, taking pictures with children at Belvedere Castle and the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in the park. His dedication to his volunteer work stems from his deep love for the park. It’s where he and his wife spent so much time together and adopted a bench, and it’s where he produces some of his favorite photographs.

I spoke with Bobrow about being Santa, his photography and his wife.

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Live from the Triple Nickel – Marjorie Eliot

Live from the Triple Nickel – Marjorie Eliot

On any given Sunday, Marjorie Eliot, 66, transforms from a soft-spoken New Yorker into meditative jazz pianist performing to a loyal audience. The jazz lovers are made up of old-timers reminiscing about the good old days and tourists in search of a unique New York experience.

For 19 years, Eliot and her close-knit band has been performing free shows in the comfort of her own living room. The mother of five sons, she has been paying tribute to her son Philip who died of a kidney ailment at age 32 and Michael her eldest son who also became ill and passed away in 2006.

Recently she announced she’d be adding a Saturday matinee in her home with an admission of $20 to help offset the costs for the Sunday afternoon show. She humbly reminded her audience that she was NOT grant funded and needed more support to continue the free shows. Until now she says, “Everything has been out of pocket.”

Along with her son, Rudell Drears, 40, they perform jazz, gospel and soul standards by every one from Gershwin to Anita Baker. Rudell is the singer and pianist along with veteran bassist, Bob Cunningham, saxophonist Cedric Choukroum, and trumpeter Koichi Yoshihara. Together they enjoy the weekly matinees as much as anyone. Bob Cunningham gave two reasons why he comes back every week, “One there’s a new audience and two, the music that we play is not static. ”

Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Entertainment shows now happen every Saturday and Sunday at 4pm at the historic building known as the “Triple Nickel” or 555 Edgecombe Avenue # 3F in northern Harlem. Call 212-781-6595 for more information.

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