Category Archives: New York City

WNYC Covers Belle Harbor Manor Story About LOOTING (With Photos and Audio)

(Special thanks to WNYC’s Fred Mogul for speaking to residents about their return home, and for the wonderful reporting and piece!)

The “looting” at the facility was the type that took a lot of meticulous snooping and sifting; I was there with Fred Mogul when residents discovered they were victimized.  Envelopes inside of envelopes emptied of cash and vital documents, then neatly returned to their original positions.  Not a messy rifling through of drawers and such, which makes me think it was someone who had a LOT of time to sift though every locked cabinet and drawer.

Listen to the story by clicking this link (written transcript below):
News story audio: WNYC’s Fred Mogul Speaks to Belle Harbor Residents On Their Return Home, 2/16/13

Fred Mogul/WNYC

Adult home residents are relatively independent, but they typically have physical disabilities or mental illness.

Fred Mogul/WNYC
(My note: Here I am in my favorite coat talking to Karen Turnbull as residents step off the bus and return home for the first time in 107 days.)

 

Fred Mogul/WNYC

Bob Rosenberg was among several residents pleased to be back — but nervous about possible losses to looters and cleanup workers.

Fred Mogul/WNYC

Jagdesh Trivedi believes his Green Card and Social Security card were stolen, along with more than $200 and two pairs of shoes. (My note: Two pairs of brand new Timberland boots, that is.)

Fred Mogul/WNYC

Howard Kucine unwinds after a tense return. He says many things are missing from his room. (My note: Howie is amazing and a US Navy Veteran.)
News Staff: Fred Mogul (Cropped)

Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.

FULL STORY FROM WNYC.ORG
Exiles Return: Months after Sandy, Adult Home Residents Go Back to the Rockaways

Residents of Belle Harbor Manor return home for the first time since Sandy. (Fred Mogul)

TRANSCRIPT: More than three months after Sandy forced them to evacuate, the residents of Belle Harbor Manor in the Rockaways returned to their home on Thursday. It’s the last of 22 evacuated adult residences to get its occupants back home (though three other residences remain closed indefinitely, as do three nursing homes, according to the state Health Department). And while the Belle Harbor Manor residents appreciated the shiny new linoleum floors and freshly painted walls, they also found some unwelcome surprises.

After festive welcome-home dinner, the residents, who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses and physical disabilities but are generally independent, were allowed to go to their rooms. Complaints about missing possessions quickly began filtering into the hallways.

“I opened the door and I saw this lock is broken,” said resident Jagdesh Trivedi.  “Shoes are gone — two boxes of shoes — sunglasses are missing, and my Green Card and Social Security card are missing.”

A spokesman for Belle Harbor, Jonathan Greenspun, from the Mercury public relations and lobbying firm, said that all allegations of theft will be investigated, and residents will be compensated if they can prove possessions or cash are actually missing. But he also said that looting was widely reported throughout the Rockaways after Sandy, and that the operators of the home had worked tirelessly to repair facilities, so they could bring the residents back.

To listen to the full story, click the blue link above.

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The Best Valentine

On Valentine’s Day, “Miriam” gets a hand and a smile exiting the bus that brought her home after living in shelter for over three months.

Having a moniker like “Kiki Valentine” makes every February 14th especially poignant since it’s the day that best represents – despite its deeply-based roots in what I like to call “Catholic gore” – love and all that it means. This year, I have the gift of reflecting on the wedding ceremonies I wrote and officiated, the bringing together of two lives in a sense and ceremony of traditional love. I’m so glad I have had those experiences. What can I say? I love love.

Another great personal love story is the sordid tale of a population of just over 100 elderly and disabled Hurricane Sandy evacuees from Belle Harbor Manor in Far Rockaway, Queens whom I met while volunteering at the Park Slope Armory’s temporary medical shelter last October. The first overnight I volunteered, I planned on being there for four hours but instead I stayed until eight the following morning. I just couldn’t leave if I knew I could help a few more people; most volunteers would leave each night after midnight, leaving a true skeleton crew to assist, walking the rows, flashlight in hand, to see if anyone was awake and had any needs. In the days that followed, I spent hours in the dark sorting, organizing and distributing clothing donations. That was a really great way to connect with people, they would come up to the fenced-in area, tell me what they needed, and I was, basically, a “personal shopper” for them, since I knew best what colors and sizes were available. I cut the fingernails of patients (because the nurses weren’t allowed to). In fact, out of all of the supplies and medical support in the shelter, there were no nail clippers anywhere. During the Nor’Easter following Sandy, I set out in the snowstorm to find some. The man whose nails I cut that night, Eddie, is a resident of Belle Harbor Manor and it turned out we have a mutual friend in common from the ‘old neighborhood”, Red Hook.

During the course of November, I bought so many pairs of mens and womens underwear I lost count. I spent overnights armed with latex gloves and a flashlight sorting donations and taking blind people to the bathroom in the dark, amazed that my usually fragile sense of smell had somehow strengthened to be able to keep on going. Only one night did someone’s “accident” cause me to uncontrollably gag, and that was when I was reminded of how amazing nurses are. I learned about the magnificent glory of “chucks”, which are basically giant blue absorbent pads placed onto wheelchairs in the event adult diapers leaked. There were a lot of pathogens involved with volunteering, and odors – especially when the shelter was operating at full capacity with 500 patients. Since the Armory is a gymnasium, all of the cots were arranged within the indoor track, so my slapstick wheeling of patients along the track allowed for some comic relief. Later I moved, in the rain, with residents from shelter to shelter, transporting them with Zipcars, in times of need, and staying with them past visiting hours if they asked me to. I fed them, clothed them, secretly brought them donuts and coffee and have spent countless hours on the phone with the OEM, Department of Health and FEMA on their behalf,sometimes speaking high school Spanish, or attempting, as I needed so desperately at times, to channel the ability to speak Chinese to help them file their claims (it didn’t happen). I made a lot of calls to friends in very high (and very low) places to lend a hand, and as a result small amenities like a daily newspaper delivery ended up changing a lot of people’s lives. Throughout, I have been forced to consider the way that we, as Americans – and as New Yorkers – treat our aging population. And during my journey what I discovered incensed me.

ICL Milestone at Creedmor Psychiatric Campus, Queens, NY

ICL Milestone at Creedmor Psychiatric Campus, Queens, NY. Looks spooky, because it is spooky.

After the first three weeks, when 350 other residents were discharged from the Armory, I knew that I was making an invisible commitment to make sure they were “okay”. Little did I know they would need a lot more help then I or anyone could ever imagine. After the first six weeks, they had lived in three separate shelters which, each time, meant that several garbage bags full of belongings (donations obtained from myself and others) would be lost. Seven weeks after the storm they were still sleeping on “Army cots”, and a ramshackle team of volunteers, advocates, and caring humans did all they could, called everyone they knew might be able to help, and change eventually started to occur. A check from the Attorney General was signed, beds were delivered (just in time for a quasi-outbreak of bedbugs).

On the heels of the shooting back home in Sandy Hook and a truly cheerless holiday, on Christmas Day I decided to advocate full time for Belle Harbor Manor’s residents, and, for the past 106 days of our lives, I have been part of one of the greatest love stories I have ever known. Full of hope, optimism, and scandal – as any good love story is – in the end, after all of the dead ends that I somehow bulldozed through, after getting lost in Queens in the dark and the drives home in tears calling anyone I could think of who might help (thank you Allen Salkin), I have to laugh about the fact that I was not once but twice kicked out of the psychiatric hospital residents were sheltered in.

The first day residents were transferred to the Creedmor Psychiatric Campus, I was told that I had to be credentialed and complete a background check in order to be on the property, of which I attempted to initiate while stalling on the phone with ICL Senior management. I didn’t want to lose access to them in this institution. It was more ike a prison than a hospital, and it felt like there was much dark energy throughout. The VP of Bologna eventually told me, with security standing over me trying to get me out, that she couldn’t do anything about the site administrator’s decision. Leaving there that day, I asked the receptionist for a pen, to which she began reaching for each pen on the counter to move it from my reach. Sadistic, sociopathic. I didn’t want to imagine how these residents would be treated. For the first time in my life I uttered the words, “You don’t know who you’re fucking with” and think I lived up to it.

I also somehow narrowly escaped the risk of contracting both bed bugs and scabies, two events which sent other volunteers directly to the pharmacist and into an alarmed spin that included some medication, a lotion, that you slather on and sleep in. The point of this rather unpoetic stream of consciousness is that these residents, in all of their shining diversity, have made me reevaluate who I am as a person and what my purpose as a human in this life at this time really means. They have encouraged me to think outside the box, ignore stereotypes, exercise patience, to not fear mental illness, to overcome a weak sense of smell, to continue to stand up for what is right, to keep on asking questions, to be a better cold caller, to overcome insurmountable obstacles (any dealings with politicians excluded) and challenges, to connect with other like-minded people who also really care about others, and to develop a sense of strength I had long forgotten that the seed of was within me. All of this motivation and impetus wasn’t always direct or painless, and it certainly was not planned. After the overwhelming experience of being in the Park Slope Armory that first night, I kept going back. I could not leave these suffering strangers. Besides, I didn’t have electricity or heat at home, we had an eight-foot storm surge. People – especially my family – have asked why I had gotten myself so involved, and I didn’t have an answer; I simply followed my heart.

It was anguishing to know that this aging and disabled population, most with no family or support, were left to suffer and be the pawns in a struggle between the City of New York and the State of New York’s Department of Health, and that they were paying upwards of $1900 in rent each month to live on the campus of a remote psychiatric hospital in Queens. I often found myself wondering,”If not for us, who will help them?” Certainly not the long list of “burned out” professional case workers I encountered, fighting their own fights against what was right (humanism) vs. what they were being told to do (red tape). There was anger and strife throughout, for the residents, for the volunteers, for the staff, for the journalists. And yet from all of this, compassion, friendship and love were born. To me, the strange but beautiful part of the story is that of all the shelters residents found themselves in, if given the choice to return to the setting the Armory provided, every single one of them says they would rather be there than, shockingly, back home at Belle Harbor Manor.

There are so many people I wish to thank, and I will attempt to do so in the event they are, like me, set up with Google Alerts for themselves. In the meantime, I plan on writing more about this. The harsh reality is that my relationship to these people isn’t over once they return home. They still have needs. Many are the victims of looting. Their belongings and cash, thought to be safely locked, needing replacement. Social security cards, passports, green cards, and more. I am set to look at the long-term disaster relief and planning required for others like them. I will again need to make those calls and send email to others who might be able to help me be of better service to others. For now, however, I will sleep tonight, relieved for the first time in 107 days. This what love looks like to me this Valentine’s Day. Home. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about how many people have touched my life since this storm washed away all of my fear. Thank you.

“If your name is Kiki then I’m changing my name to ‘Voodoo'”, she said. And from then it was clear that despite our differences, we would be friends. Today was our goodbye to shelter #3, Creedmor (although she did like the free use of computers, stating, “There is so much information on the Internet! I need to get a computer of my own!”

To my left, Tom Fortune, who, while at the Armory on my overnight rounds, never asked me for anything. I went on this wild portable radio shopping obsession because I felt it was critical that while in shelter, people should be able listen to the news, or most importantly, to music, to feel connected with what we would later refer to as “the outside”. When I brought the radio to him, he in his wheelchair on the four lane track amongst a population of 500, he said “Give it to someone who needs it.” I replied, “But I got this for you.” Here we are 106 days later and he says, “Of course we’ll stay in touch. I’ll call you every time my radio runs out of batteries.” To my right, the sweet and caring Donna Rubin.

After the donation sorting and organizing at The Armory (an enormous undertaking every night), the library at Milestone Residence at Creedmor Psychiatric Hospital is transformed into a donation center. Now, the shelves are bare and belonging, transported in black garbage bags similar to those the residents were living out of, have returned “home”.

When I received this card and opened it, I felt that the hours of sacrifice and hard work were somehow able to culminate into this one simple and unexpected thank you. Just touching to the 1,000,000th degree.

THANK YOU (in no order and I am hoping I haven’t forgotten any/many):

The residents and staff of Belle Harbor Manor
RI-1 DMAT
Ali Hodin-Baier, Aging in New York Fund
Amy Parsons, The American Red Cross (and now, a friend)
Jake from the Washington Conservation Corps
Caron Atlas http://www.artsanddemocracy.org
AmeriCorps team members
The Amory volunteers
The Kings Hotel volunteers
The Creedmor volunteers
Casey Shea
Nicholas Verburgt (Express Men’s sock donations)
Maria Provenzano and the CenterLight staff at Kings Hotel
Amy Glosser, CERT & online volunteer infrastructure developer
Meryl Blackman
Justin the FEMA inspector
David Caruso, The Associated Press
Doug Kuntz (do gooder, photographer, rabble rouser)
Brett Cotter http://www.stressbegone.org
Laura Black, NYC OEM
JK Canepa, CIAD
Geoff Lieberman, CIAD
Amanda Bickerstaff, UWS Loves
Suzanne Windland, SNAP & all that she has done and continues to do!
Christina Komploris, NY Post/WSJ donations
Richard Shults Jr., NY Post/WSJ donations
Andy McCallihan, NY Post/WSJ donations
Jill Cornell, donations and all of her work in the Rockaways
JC Hopkins, volunteer and transportation!
Pam Koner, mobile phones for residents
Jerry Probst, FEMA inspector and encouraging, awesome soul
Felice Steele, The American Red Cross (and also a diligent do-gooder!)
Maureen Italiano, ICL Milestone staffer who challenged me
Larissa, ICL Milestone staffer who really cares about people
Brad Lander, City Councilman & Staff
Joseph Ger Ph.D, BCBA-D
Brad Harrelson, The American Red Cross, Texas (helped connect family members)
Nannearl Blackshear, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office
Lynda Lowe, FEMA
Peggy Mott, FEMA
Krystal Reyes
Oswald Ramsammy, NY Times donations
Justin Silverman, connections to newspaper donations
Christine Kessler (helped us find a lost resident)
Marina Tsamplina, NY Helps NY
Megan Byrn
Parker Tracey and Dave Escovitz at Char No. 4 who covered shifts for me so I could help
AND TO EVERYONE who donated!
Dave Ankers
Dennis and Jeni Espantman
Lael @ FIND Home Furnishings, Brooklyn
Duben Canales & Jasmine Heikura
Keara Driscoll
Maria Esther Hammck
William Groner
Kristina Kroger
Selma Kalousek
Beezlebabe Siren
Margaret Welch
Karen Cowdell
Annie Chambliss
Jay Christensen
Simon Durkin
Farzin Lofti-Jam

The Horrific Murder of a Child, Social Networking and a 32-Year-Old Cold Case

(UPDATES BELOW)

July 13th, 2011 – Brooklyn, NY – Last night after dinner I received a text message from Notify NYC, a service provided by the New York City Office of Emergency Management alerting that there was a missing child in Brooklyn. An Orthodox Jewish boy named Leiby Kletzky, initially reported to be nine, begged his mother to allow him to walk the seven blocks from his day camp to meet her at a doctor’s office and vanished. I emailed myself the link and immediately shared it on Facebook. I, like most, have a love/hate relationship with social networking but can’t deny its success rate regarding the expedient delivery of news and information. Example: I had found out about the death of Michael Jackson while ankle-deep in brackish and volunteering with the Red Hook Boaters when a tween intern picked up his phone and read it as someone’s status on AIM.

Leiby Kletzky was kidnapped walking to meet his mother and found dead two days later, in the early morning hours of July 13th, 2011.

But social networking did not bring a resolution to eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky’s disappearance, it was good old-fashioned detective work that quickly solved the case. Deftly carried out by the NYPD’s top ranking officials and with the help of surveillance cameras in the area where the child was last seen on Monday. Had those cameras not been there, the suspect, Levi Aron – who turns 35 today and has implicated himself in the crime – would likely have avoided capture. And once Aron was seen with the boy, who looked to be asking for directions, footage from other cameras in the area was reviewed and the suspect was seen exiting a nearby dentist office. After determining which of the five dentists whose offices were in the shared suite had a transaction with the suspect, and the vehicle was found and plates were identified, both the person who paid a bill with a credit card at the dentist and the owner of the 1990 gold Honda Accord were consistent – and pointed at Levi Aron, pictured below.

An unfortunate foible is that the family waited so long to call 911 after the child went missing, instead calling the Shomrim, a volunteer civilian patrol sanctioned by the NYPD’s Community Affairs. The Jewish community seems to have a historically mistrusting and fragile relationship with authorities in general, especially the NYPD. So this community had formed their own police to support the NYPD and provide additional safety. That the local authorities were not immediately notified and thus unable to appear on the scene to begin a thorough investigation until nearly three hours after the boy was taken, to me, is a waste of valuable time that may have changed the outcome. Sadly, we will never know. The Shomrim did provide the license plate number for police, which was essential in “connecting the dots” and finding Aron along with this surveillance where the boy is seen walking and another where the boy can be seen waiting seven minutes for Aron while he goes into the dentist office to pay the bill. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly seemed frustrated by the Shomrim handling the disappearance before the NYPD in his press conference earlier today, and perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, added, “We have no record of this man being reported [as a pedophile].”

According to rumors swirling on social media and alternative news sites, Aron is also known to be in the center of past allegations of child molestation that the Orthodox community “covered up” and “never acted upon”. Listen to NYPD Commisioner Kelly’s entire news conference and Q&A here by clicking on the grey tab. Below, we see Kelly fielding questions from reporters including, “How often does a stranger kidnapping take place in the city?” to which Kelly answers, “Very, very, very rarely…this is obviously every parent’s nightmare.”

And for many New Yorkers, Leiby’s story sounds eerily similar to another child’s disappearance, that of six-year-old Etan Patz– the first to be put on a milk carton. On May 25, 1979 Etan left for school from his SoHo home two blocks away from the bus stop for the first time, never to return or be seen alive again. In the Patz case one suspect, Jose Antonio Ramos, was identified but never charged. Ramos has been incarcerated since 1990 in Pennsylvania for molesting two boys and is slated for release in November 2012. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had reopened the investigation in May 2010, and perhaps the evolution of technology can somehow aid in a future conviction of that offender, who has taunted investigators since 1982 when he became a suspect yet left behind zero trace evidence and had eluded to destroying Etan’s body but has never completely confessed to the crime.

Missing child Etan Patz at the time of his disappearance in 1979 in New York City. He was legally declared dead in 2001.

The news of the throngs of community members who traveled from the Catskills, Monsey and other areas to search for little Leiby was touching but seems to have ultimately caused the kidnapper to panic. It was then Aron killed the child. The autopsy started at 9:30am on Wednesday and cause of death has not yet been published, and Aron, in a 450-word handwritten confession, later admitted to suffocating the boy with a towel and dismembering the child with a knife, then bringing half of his remains – in a garbage bag within a red suitcase – to a dumpster about two miles away from the attic apartment he lived in above his parents. The rest of the young victim, including the child’s feet, remained at the Aron’s home, in his freezer.

Assemblymen Dov Hikind and Peter Abbate, along with the Shomrim and other religious and community leaders had put out a reward of $100,000 for information about the child’s disappearance. Hikind, who often speaks on behalf of the community, says that the boy’s death is “a tragedy today for everyone in New York.” Of course those commenting about it on Facebook are saddened, outraged and disgusted. Sentiments such as ” I am heartbroken by this news”, “unfathomable tragedy” and many questioning the idea of allowing an almost-nine-year-old to walk seven blocks alone are expressed. In a thread I was a part of, I said:

“A big part of me thinks that a kid should be able to go meet his mother without being coerced into a vehicle by a stranger. It’s a terrible fate for this boy, and I do not think blaming the parents is the right position to take. I have cared for many little ones in my life and think NYC is too dangerous and limiting for the natural curiosities that kids deserve to safely explore. The diversity and culture is important, but those natural aspects of development are scientifically more important to me. Those things shouldn’t only happen on a fenced-in playground or safe in their bedrooms. We haven’t evolved from that.”

Has the city we live in become so unsafe that we must guard ourselves and our children from so much as setting foot outside alone? Does this mean the “helicopter parents” are right in their absurd constant monitoring of and attention to their children? Is the “surveillance state” in which we live somehow justified since the videos were so important in apprehending the perpetrator? And could Leiby Kletzky’s murder have been prevented if his mother did not allow him to walk seven blocks to meet her, even though he was to turn nine this month? Considering the whispers of ignored allegations, how many community members knew of what Aron was capable of before this crime took place? If those people exist, they should be most ashamed today.

This isn’t the story of prostitutes using Craigslist and putting themselves in danger, or of terrorists embarking on a mission to destroy America by way of the Big Apple. This is an example that even within a safe and protected community, even much more than what we are accustomed to, a monster can lurk. And statistically, are the chances of this type of heinous murder happening so low that there is in fact no way to prevent or defend against this sort of crime, shy of never letting anyone you love out of your sight ever again? And perhaps this ghoulish act reinforces that the concept of community police is not effective in all cases, and that the Orthodox community needs to realize that they can’t totally secede from the society they exist within and around when they NYPD is clearly more equipped to handle these cases with special task forces.

And if Aron had not provided a full and detailed confession of the crime, at least in 2011 we have the power of forensics to determine the time frame surrounding the homicide. Unfortunately for Etan Putz, in 1979 cameras were not a large part of New York City’s streets, there were no witnesses to his abduction and his body was never recovered. Along with technology and law enforcement, that this similar tragedy shows the power of community support on a local level, which is a very important to me, is also a double-edged sword: as compassionate people we are inclined to do all we can to help find a child, but it is not impossible that had Aron not seen the missing posters and panicked, he may not have killed. No matter the reasons, even if the last time something this horrible took place was over three decades ago, it is indeed a sad day for New York City.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE

Here is the list of registered New York State registered sex offenders, searchable by name, address OR zip code:
http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/SomsSUBDirectory/search_index.jsp

Here is the national sex offender registry, also searchable by name, address or zip code:
http://www.familywatchdog.us/

And here are all of the children in New York State who are missing: http://www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/missing/alpha1.htm

Watch the NYPD’s statement here:

UPDATE 7/20/11:
From Reuters:
“The New York City Medical Examiner’s office said that Kletzky was drugged with antipsychotic pills, a muscle relaxant, pain relievers and Tylenol before he was smothered.
Prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn but declined to speculate on when an indictment might be returned. Aron has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and first-degree murder and was held without bail and placed on suicide watch.”

From Gothamist.com:

“Levi Aron, the man who confessed to killing and dismembering 8-year-old Hasidic boy Leiby Kletzky last week, was handed down an eight-count indictmentincluding two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and one count of second-degree kidnapping – by a grand jury today.”

UPDATE 7/15/11: ARON LEVI IS ARRAIGNED, DEFENSE CLAIMS HE ‘HEARS VOICES’ AND REQUESTS A ‘730 EXAM’ (PENAL CODE BELOW), JUDGE DEEMS HE SHOULD BE ON SUICIDE WATCH

§ 730.10 Fitness to proceed; definitions. As used in this article, the following terms have the following meanings:
1. “Incapacitated person” means a defendant who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.
2. “Order of examination” means an order issued to an appropriate director by a criminal court wherein a criminal action is pending against a defendant, or by a family court pursuant to section 322.1 of the family court act wherein a juvenile delinquency proceeding is pending against a juvenile, directing that such person be examined for the purpose of determining if he is an incapacitated person.

UPDATE 7/14/11: NYPD RELEASES LEVI ARON’S CONFESSION, EDITED TO REMOVE PARTS OF AN EXTREMELY GRAPHIC NATURE (THE UNEDITED CONFESSION WILL LIKELY NEVER BE RELEASED BUT IF IT IS, I WILL POST)

Farming in Brooklyn Part One: Community Outreach with Cornell University

Red Hook Brooklyn's Added Value Farm Is Open For 2011 Season

Thursday, July 7th 2011 – Brooklyn, NY – Last Saturday I spent my first weekend of the season with Linda Marie Ameroso and Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension focusing on community outreach for Red Hook’s CSA, a supportive arm of Added Value. My involvement with Added Value began early in 2010 as a CSA member, buying in and getting a half share in 2010 (locally grown and sourced organic produce, herbs, eggs and fruit). Last fall, I was approached by the CSA core group to with the hopes of bolstering their community outreach. Added Value Farm fills CSA orders and provides nutritious foods to families in the 11231 zip code. The CSA Core Group consists of about a half a dozen people, each with a specific role who executes all of the needs of the CSA while interacting with and reporting directly to Added Value’s Ian Marvy and Kristen Shafenacker.

Our learning station, overseen by Brooklyn Food Coalition‘s David Buckel and Cornell University provides information about our “Vegetable of the Week” (available for purchase and locally grown), nutrition, diet, how to properly wash and prepare fruit and vegetables to avoid bacterial contamination, portions, steps to take to reduce sodium and easy recipes – in English and Spanish – featuring the vegetable of the week.

The Learning Station sign with market and CSA in background.

Learning station set up and ready for "Red Hook Walks The Talk" walking tours to stop by. Beyond the green beds, IKEA is visible in the background.

My favorite motto: “Make half of your plate plants!”

www.choosemyplate.gov

Do you want to save money – and be sure your food is safe – with your own homemade veggie wash spray? Get a spare spray bottle with a mix of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, 1 part lemon juice and a bit of salt or baking soda.  Then include a spritz when following the directions below.  Please note: it is not good to cut vegetable stems and then soak them in water as bacteria can travel into the vegetable and contaminate it from within.  A bowl of cold water and the repeated “dip” is a great way to be sure gravel on spinach and other greens doesn’t make it to your dinner plate.

Simple instructions. For example, cantaloupe needs a good scrub as it is typically houses bacteria on its skin. When you cut it and it isn't scrubbed, the knife "drags" the bacteria through the flesh of the fruit. A vegetable brush can be purchased anywhere from Crate & Barrel to a dollar store. To clean it when it gets funky, soak in a bleach and water solution. You can also do this when your sponge starts to smell or for dishes with tough stains.

My first veggie of the week: Bok Choy!

Also called Chinese cabbage, bok choy is an excellent source of calcium.

And with Added Value, which also provides vital work opportunities for teens including the green jobs of tomorrow (they learn about growing food, recycling, greenhouses and organic composting systems), I hope to make an impact in 2011 and build relationships with our healthy counterparts, as different from me as they may be, to strengthen our community’s health, diversity, sustainability, communication and education.

Why? According to the National Poverty Center and a 2008 University of Michigan’s findings, 19% of American youth lives in poverty (or 14.1 million individuals). The population of Red Hook is 11,000.  A large number – 8,000 –  live in the Red Hook houses (East and West combined).  The average annual salary for this population is $15,200.  According to the American Community Survey, “the 2009 nationwide poverty rate was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent, and that was the second statistically-significant annual increase since 2004”.  With 44 million people living in poverty, that’s about one in every seven Americans.  According to Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, “the official poverty definition is an income of $10,800 for a single adult, or $22,000 for a family of four.  In New York City the threshold for two adults and two children is $21,000.” He continues, “One of the interesting things about the poverty rate in New York City is if it had not been for food stamps, probably another 250 thousand New Yorkers would have been officially in poverty in 2009.”

And our challenge in 2011: how to get information “into” the Red Hook Houses to educate and inform its 8,000 residents about healthier eating, diet related disease and illness prevention and encourage them to shop at the farm market.  And if eligible, use SNAP, EBT and Food Stamp benefits to purchase good, affordable food locally.  Added Value’s Ian Marvy has said, “It’s driving home the idea of fresher food for less money, right down the block.”  Both the farm and CSA (although closed to new members until 2012) both accept food stamp benefits.  Interested parties should refer to www.snaptomarket.com and search by zip code to find nearby farm markets in their community that currently accept benefits.

For me, all of my notes taken and research begins here, as we see on July 2nd when our group engaged two community members who – animated as they are – are on the right track to good health and wellness.  What you’ll also see is an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the Learning Station’s goals in action.  Also, if you’re over the age of 51 or have anyone in your family with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure or kidney disease, please be sure to share this video with them.  Besides, the women are hilarious and worth watching.  (Notably,”I ain’t dying.”)

A mother entertains her son with bubbles at the Children's Station. A scavenger hunt is also available for kids, with the prize being a lovely plant to take home and watch grow.

He caught me taking his picture.

Sylvie and Michael Shannon enjoy the Children's Station and do some drawing.

A patron of the farm market stocks up on locally sourced, organic produce and looks to be contemplating her next ingredient.

A community member weeds the vegetable beds at Red Hook, Brooklyn's Added Value Farm.

Visit the farm (map and location here) by taking the free IKEA ferry from Pier 17 in Manhattan.  Since IKEA is across the street from the farm, you can follow any of these directions to get there.  The farm is open from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays.  Compost welcome! I’ll be there on Saturday, July 9th from 9am until 1pm or so.  And the vegetable of the week: celery! Learn how to skillfully remove the string and pick up some produce for your own culinary experiments.  And remember, enjoy your food!

ARCHIVED: A Happening For…You

Tsunami.

Bus Accident.

War.

Hunger.

Poverty.

Good, now that that’s out of the way, let’s have some fun! “The MENSA of variety shows” is back.  This will be quite a happening and we all hope you will attend to share in the magic combination of complimentary absinthe, comedy and more dangerous movement than plate tectonics can shake a continent at.  Yes, there will be a hula hooper, a wonderful human with wild hair, a Goddess, a madam, a trumpet, a bass and surprise performances that promise to thrill and delight.

Featuring the music of Chet Baker, Julie London, Tom Waits, Rilo Kiley and original live music and language arts by Reggie Watts.  Attendance prizes will be drawn.  And no, we weren’t kidding about the complimentary absinthe.  It’s local, artisinal, small batch and made with home grown ingredients.  And it’s appropriately called “Meadow of Love”.

Entry for the evening is $11 and supports the participating performers.  Bios and further information about our cast can be found here.

Join us in the “Meadow of Love” on Sunday, March 27th at Ella. Doors at 8:30pm

Want To Help Out The Oil Spill? Donate Your Stockings. Really.

The pictures.  The spill trajectory debates.  The politicians.  The finger-pointing.  The witch hunt.

It all left me thinking “what can WE do to help the cleanup efforts of this, the largest not-so-natural disaster in American history?”

And then I figured it out!

The California-based organization MATTER OF TRUST collects organic fibers which are then used in oil spill containment booms.  According to their website, “We shampoo because hair collects oil. Why should millions of pounds of absorbant, natural, renewable fiber clippings go to waste every day?” Genius.  They also accept pet clippings.  However with the disaster in the Gulf, hair donations have skyrocketed and the group is now in desperate need of nylons – even if they have runs in them.  (Note: if you prefer to donate hair it will go into the group’s “reserves”.)

You can contact me as I will be taking a collection, or this link will provide you with information for registering on your own.  It’s fast and easy, and you’ll feel great making your own simple contribution to the cleanup,  its astronomical damage and the effort it will take over the next decade to remedy this catastrophe.

http://www.matteroftrust.org/programs/hairmatsinfo.html

Final Sunday Show At The Slipper Room: Videos and Thanks

For the Sunday Show’s temporary finale last night at The Slipper Room (the venue closes for renovations June 12th) host Kiki Valentine does not survive a routine surgery and instead ends up in purgatory with Satan (Joe Pepitone).  It was a great show.

The dedication of the performers since the beginning is reflected in the immense amount of support and love we receive from each and every one of you.  For example, here is Michelle St. Darling in the first half of the Finale show performing beautifully to “Flight of the Bumblebee” despite receiving a terrible concussion only two days earlier.  This is the type of allegiance that is appreciated beyond words.  Again, thank you.

This will be the third venue change for The Sunday Show until The Slipper Room returns in its charming and newly minted form.  Since our humble beginnings,  glittering in the darkest basements of the Lower East Side and upwards to the legendary stage of The Slipper Room,  unexpected change has allowed us opportunities to develop on an underground level into a completely unique live, interactive and uncensored show.  We keep the concept fresh: each monthly show –  thematically, cast-wise and elementally –  is completely unique and never repeated.  And we appreciate the support of those who have seen only one show, as well as those who have devoutly followed our collaborations.  We are delighted to reveal that the next show – date TBA – will contain even more of the allure, camaraderie, humor, talent, variety and surprises one might expect from The Sunday Show.  However in a new, larger space (and especially one with higher ceilings) we will be able to develop even more conceptually rich, collaborative pieces to keep you on the edge of your seat without breaking the bank.

If you’re interested in being notified of the next show, or in receiving a copy of the last show on DVD,  please contact sundayshownyc at gmail dot com.

Back to last night: In the second half of the show Juliet Jeske –  breaking out of her character, Princess Sunshine, for the first time on stage – sings a heartfelt surprise song to Kiki which moved many in attendance to tears.  Later in the clip, we see the entire May cast as they join Juliet in singing.  Amidst other surprises, the show in its entirety delivered a fantastic experience for the ensemble and audience members alike.   What we started in 2008 will continue to grow through Summer 2010 – and beyond – as we do our best to support uncensored expression of, sustainability for and the continuation of these unique collaborations between extraordinary performance artists living in and visiting New York City.

We’re taking the opportunity to relocate as a chance to make an even bigger and more spectacular show.  We hope you will join us for the next incarnation of Sunday night.

Thank you.