Rallying to Save the Wetlands

Residents in the Richmondtown neighborhood of Staten Island gathered on a recent Saturday to protest the development of 13 houses on a patch of wetlands. Despite enormous public opposition to the plan, the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation cleared the way for Brooklyn-based developer Max Gurvitch to build on the site, which includes protected land, according to DEC documents.

Since the DEC bended its traditional building regulations to allow the developer Island Realty Associates, to build right up to the property line in some cases, residents worry that the development would have a negative impact on the value of their homes, according to local news reports. They also worry that the development will disrupt the drainage system and inevitably cause flooding, the report said.

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A Concert In Your Living Room — D.I.Y. House Shows

Matt Kozial, a singer-songwriter from Linden, N.J. wasn’t sure what to do. Even though he was scheduled to perform that night in Brooklyn, he couldn’t get in the venue – someone forgot to give him the apartment number.

Kozial wasn’t playing just any show that night; he was playing in someone’s living room. These concerts – called “house shows” by those who book and attend them – are part of a resurging music scene called “D.I.Y.,” characterized by a “do-it-yourself” mentality. The concerts aren’t just held in apartments. According to Barrie Cohen, who books D.I.Y. shows with a partner using the name City Lights NYC, any non-traditional venue will do. This includes lofts, warehouses, churches and community centers.

“It’s pretty big,” she said. Brooklyn has a number of D.I.Y. spaces, she said, as does Philadelphia and New Brunswick, N.J. There are also some in Connecticut.

“Every show I’ve played in Brooklyn was a house show,” said Evan Weiss, who also performed that night under the stage name Into It Over It. He said the D.I.Y. scene was fading until about two years ago, when a new generation discovered it. He said that every major city in the country had its own version of this environment.

Learn more about this music scene and get a glimpse of what a house show looks like by checking out the pictures in the slideshow below:

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Youths Flock to New Skate Park in Astoria

Kids flew around on skateboards, roller blades, bikes, and scooters on a sunny autumn afternoon in the new skate park in Astoria Park.  The $1.6 million dollar park has attracted youths from all over New York City.  “I’m from Astoria, but I see kids coming from all over the place to skate here”, said Chris Nadziejko, a local 24-year-old skateboarder, “you can just tell it’s really well designed.”  Here’s some photos of kids enjoying the new park:

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Madoff’s Pricy Property

There were more traditional ways to buy underwear. But last Saturday, all of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s property, including his boxer shorts were sold off to bidders.

The auction was New Yorkers’ final chance to see and potentially take home Madoff’s personal possessions. To pay back victims of his Ponzi scheme, the government sold some of the last of thousands of items seized from his Manhattan Co-Op and Montauk beach house. Serious bidders and gawkers were shoulder-to-shoulder to see artifacts behind one of the biggest financial scams in history.

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A ride on the C Train: The Worst Rated Subway in New York City

Daily riders of the C Train, which runs from Euclid Avenue to 168th Street in Manhattan, can enjoy the worst subway ride in New York City, according to the annual “State of the Subway” report released by the NYPIRG’s Straphanger Campaign in August.

The train scored below average in five of the six categories used to rate the trains by the Straphangers: amounted of scheduled service, delays caused by mechanical breakdowns, clarity of announcements, regularity of service and cleanliness.
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Goodbye Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Coney Island – “Still I’m Gonna Miss You”

Citywide, gentrification is becoming a dirty word. From Harlem to Coney Island, long-time residents feel they are being rubbed out by higher rents and new business developments. For the past couple of weeks, folks have been savoring the last of the year’s mild temperatures at Coney Island, in what is looking like an end of an era. Ruby’s Bar and Grill, a boardwalk landmark has been evicted and now has about a week to vacate the premises. It along with nine other businesses have been evicted with only Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand and Lola Star Boutique allowed to stay.

Regulars and fans gathered on November 6th and the following weekend to reminisce about the good old days of Ruby’s, the family-owned business that has been open since 1934. To date over 3152 signatures have been collected in an online petition aimed at Mayor Bloomberg, city officials and the latest Coney Island developers, made up of Zamperla Amusements, and Coney Island Development Corporation. According to the New York Daily News, the Ruby’s owners may even pursue legal action against Zamperla in landlord-tenant court.

This photo series shows highlights of the November 6th rally to Save Ruby’s, which started in the early afternoon and lasted well into the evening. Continue reading

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For second and third generations, losing old world customs can be a real pest.

It was one week ago today that Hindus around the world celebrated one of the holiest days in their entire calendar, Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, also known as Hindu New Year.

As a first generation Hindu I was lucky to have my parents and grandparents around to teach me the traditional way to celebrate Diwali, complete with authentic prayers, foods, sweets and songs.

But as I pass these traditions down to my daughters I struggled to remember exactly how my mom taught us about our past and our traditions. It took me a while to remember how the prayer alter was set up. I wondered which steps during the prayers go first. I wasn’t even able to create the same dishes that my grandmother used to make on this very auspicious day.

In an attempt to keep our traditions alive for future generations of NRI’s, Non-Resident Indians, moms like me turn to the technology of the internet, quick references like IPhone Apps and the advice of our older family members to teach our children about our rich Hindu religion and to hopefully keep a bit of India alive within them.

On Diwali first generation moms tapped into several resources, (including long distance phone calls to grandmas, moms and mother-in-laws,) scoured the internet for Hindu prayers and rush to their local Indian grocery stores to buy  mitai, (sweets,);  the same sweets our moms used to take hours to make in our kitchens.

Here are a few pictures of a first generation mom, Gunjan Rekhi and he son Zyan, during their evening Diwali prayers. As you will see, keeping traditions alive, requires a lot more help with each new generation.

Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated by lighting candles and diyas (fire based lights) around the house, calling in the Gods from all over to wish our families with luck, proseperity and happiness

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Ice Skating Season Returns in Manhattan

As the holiday season kicks off in New York City, some of the Manhattan’s most popular ice skating rinks have already opened. One rink, however, will remain closed this winter.

Battery Park City on Ice, which debuted last winter on the ball fields at Warren and West Streets, will not operate because The Battery Park City Authority was unable to find a new vendor to run the outdoor rink.

Still, tourists and New Yorkers alike are finding their way to their favorite rinks.

Popular ice skating destinations in Manhattan include:

  • Citi Pond at Bryant Park
  • Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
  • Wollman Rink in Central Park
  • Chelsea Piers Sky Rink
  • Lasker Pool and Rink
  • The Polar Rink in Theodore Roosevelt Park at The Museum of Natural History
  • South Street Seaport Ice Skating Rink

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All Hail the Falafel King

For eight and a half years, Fares “Freddy” Zeidais was the self-proclaimed Falafel King, but now he’s the real thing.

On September 25th, the Astoria food vendor won the coveted Vendy Award, which chef Mario Batali called “the Oscars of food for the real New York.” Since the win, Zeidais has prominently displayed his trophy next to his cart, even finding a marble stand to place it on.

Of course anyone who’s walked past the corner of Broadway and 30th Street already knew about the The King of Falafel & Shawarma cart and its Middle Eastern eats.
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A Walking Tour Through New York City’s Historic Lower East Side

If you have a few free hours and perhaps some calories to burn, consider embarking on one of New York City’s guided walking tours. Many are inexpensive or even free and some of them offer interactive history lessons on specific New York City neighborhoods.

I went on a guided tour of the Lower East Side entitled Immigrant New York this past Wednesday. The tour offered a unique glimpse into the history of the area: information that would have been impossible to uncover during a casual, uninformed stroll through the neighborhood.

The tour began in what historians refer to as the “Civic District,” home to the Tweed Courthouse, and from there we passed through Chinatown and Little Italy.

The photos below depict some of the visual highlights from the tour and for each one I’ve included a snippet of the historical background I learned along the way. Click on any of the photos to view them as a slide show:

The Tweed Courthouse is named after William M. Tweed, the Tammany Hall boss who more or less was the embodiment of political corruption in the late 1800’s. “Boss” Tweed embezzled large sums of money associated with the construction of the courthouse. He was convicted and jailed in 1873.

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