Readers Eye on NYC

August 29, 2007

I saw the notice in Time Out New York magazine.

Issue 618 : August 1, 2007 – August 7, 2007
Readers’ Eye on NYC

We want to see a version of this city we’ve never seen before—yours.

Send us recent photos of how New York appears through your eyes, whether it’s your favorite forgotten landmark, your undiscovered ’hood or a photo diary of your night on the town. (In other words, keep the Brooklyn Bridge postcard photos to yourself. )

The photos you submit could be published in an upcoming issue—maybe even on the cover! Plus, you could score a little cash.

Before you send, please make sure you do the following:

  •  *Check that the photo is recent (i.e. taken within the past two years).
  •  *Check that the file size of your image is between 1MB and 3MB (preferably in JPEG format). Especially large files will be bounced back by our email program.
  •  *Include your name, a descriptive caption and the date the photo was taken
  •  *Make sure that we receive your images no later than Friday, August 17.

Got that? Cool.

So, I sent in some photos and out of “nearly 1,000 submissions, including 91 street shots, 58 landscapes, 50 reflection photos, 47 parades, 44 shots of Coney Island, 42 pics of grafitti and four candids of some chick’s boyfriend,” Time Out New York selected one of mine for publication in the August 30 issue.

Today, the magazine with my photo in it came out. Even though I subscribe, I couldn’t wait for this week’s issue to arrive in the mail. I went to a newsstand, grabbed a copy, flipped through until I found the image and exclaimed, “Look, my picture is in the magazine!”

I turned it around so that the man behind the counter could see the page.

He studied the photo for a moment, looked at me and solemnly said, “It doesn’t look like you.”

“No,” I replied. “It isn’t a picture OF me, it is a picture BY me. I took the photo.”

He gave me a puzzled smile and nodded. “Yes, of course,” he replied, averting his eyes.

I paid for the magazine and headed towards home but when I saw a friend on the sidewalk I had to stop and show her the picture.

“Look, look, my photo is in this magazine!”

“Wow, let me see!”

I handed it over. She peered closely at the page, looked back up and said, “That doesn’t look anything like you.”

Argh. Never mind, I’m happy.

08-30-2007 12;34;32PM.BMP
The magazine cover

Burkhas & Rugrats
My photo

Announcement of Readers’ Eye on NYC

The J&R Music Fest

August 24, 2007

J&R is a large electronics store located in lower Manhattan, directly across from City Hall. Founded more than 30 years ago as a record shop (“Mommy, what’s a record?”), music remains an important part of the store’s business and, for more than a decade, it has sponsored a small annual music festival in City Hall Park.

This evening’s program featured three performers: Javier, a new singer/songwriter with his roots in R&B music, J. Holiday, a sleepy-eyed heartthrob with a hip-hop edge and Suzanne Vega, who writes and sings of city life and is best known for “Luka,” her 1987 hit about a battered child.

Each singer attracted such a different audience that the park emptied out — and was refilled by a new crowd, ready for the next artist — at the end of each set. And, of course, each performance was followed by an autograph-signing session at the J&R store.

J. Holiday onstage

J. Holiday singing a Stevie Wonder song

Javier with his guitar

Javier singing

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega sings Tom’s Diner

J&R Music Fest
MySpace: J. Holiday
The Official Community of Suzanne Vega

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story

August 22, 2007

Tonight I attended a special screening of Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story at the ImaginAsian Theater. The documentary tells the story of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese schoolgirl who disappeared in 1977, and of her family’s long, heartbreaking struggle to find her.

Decades after she vanished, a North Korean defector revealed that Kim Jong Il’s henchmen had abducted more than one dozen innocent Japanese citizens. They were transported across the Sea of Japan and forced to teach North Korean spies how to speak, look and “act” Japanese. Taken at the age of 13, Megumi was their youngest kidnapping victim.

While the abductions have made headlines and caused governmental upheavals in Asia, they are little known in the rest of the world. In fact, I wasn’t aware of them until I saw this award-winning film.

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story is the first effort from husband and wife directing team Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim. They appeared onstage for a question and answer session and described how reading a small article in the Washington Post inspired them to put Megumi’s story on film.

Also present was Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of the legendary folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, who performed his Song for Megumi. He explained that he wrote the song because folk music traditionally tells stories of struggle and injustice. 

He sang, “Return to me, Megumi, across the waves of the sea. Send me your spirit. My heart will hear it. And lead you home to me.”

Noel Paul Stookey, Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim

Noel Paul Stookey

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story
Rescuing Abductees Center for Hope
Abduction Blog
Noel Paul Stookey
World Politics Watch: American Folk Singer Pens ‘Song for Megumi’
ImaginAsian Theater

Un Concierto Gratis en Coffey Park

August 19, 2007

The notice said:

Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez Te Invita A…
Futuray Sentimieto
Un Concierto Gratis en Red Hook
Live Performances: TITO NIEVES, OCHO Y MAS
Coffey Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Para mas informacion: (718) 809-7952 ~ (917) 309-6838

Translation: there’s a free party in Coffey Park!

Coffey Park is an 8-acre patch of green surrounded by vast public housing projects. It’s a rough neighborhood, in an often-overlooked corner of Brooklyn, where many of the residents are more fluent in Spanish than English.

The day was hot and the sky threatened rain, but the when the music started people flocked to the park, crowding around the stage, dancing on the grass and curved walkways, and catching up with old friends.

I beat a hasty retreat when the downpour began, but the locals stayed on, not yet ready to stop partying and go home. A little rain wouldn’t scare them off; they grow ’em tough in Coffey Park.

Dancers at Latin Fest
Dancers ready to go onstage

Couple dancing on the grass

Dancing on the walkway

Dancing near the stage
Slow dancing near the stage

Face painting in Coffey Park
Face painting at the Latin Fest

Band onstage at Latin Fest
The band onstage

Security guards
Security guards watch the crowd

The rain came but they kept on dancing

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation: Coffey Park
City Parks Foundation: Coffey Park
Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez

NYC Campaign Finance Board: Sara M. Gonzalez

I ♥ Anderson Cooper

August 15, 2007

The graffiti about the popular newscaster was written on a construction wall near the entrance to the 66th Street-Lincoln Center subway station.

I felt a bit guilty asking the elderly man who was leaning against it to move so that I could take a photo, but he readily obliged. As he slowly moved past me, the fellow grinned, leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, “If what I’ve heard about him is true, that might have been written by a man.”

“If what I’ve heard about him is true,” I responded, “it might have been written by his mother.”

Entrance to 66th Street-Lincoln Center station

I ♥ Anderson Cooper

CNN: Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper 360°
Anderson Cooper 360° Blog
Wikipedia: Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Vanderbilt

Red Hook Ballfields

August 12, 2007

It began a few decades ago but until recently, the vendors who sell food at the Red Hook Ball Fields were known only to a select and enthusiastic crowd.

Once upon a time, a group of Latin American immigrants formed a soccer league and began playing regularly on the public sports fields in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park. Located in a swath of open space between gritty warehouses, docks and a vast public housing project, the 59-acre park featured an abundance of room to run and the isolation to make plenty of noise.

There were only two drawbacks to the location: it was a long walk from the closest subway station, and there were no shops or restaurants nearby where the players could buy refreshments. In response to the lack of available food and drink, a few of the league wives brought grills to the matches and began cooking on the spot for their hungry broods.

Soon, the women were cooking at the fields every summer weekend, selling their regional and family specialities to the enthusiastic athletes and specatators. As the league grew, and other nationalities joined the matches, the variety of dishes sold at the field also expanded. Today, the Red Hook Ball Fields offer soccer, baseball, running and the finest of South and Central American home cooking.

When artists and hipsters began to move into the empty industrial spaces of Red Hook, they also “discovered” the vendors under the tents at the Ball Fields. Word spread rapidly, and in the last two years nearly every major local magazine and newspaper has run at least one feature on what New York Magazine described as the city’s “ad hoc Latin American food court.”

In fact, there are two groups of vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields: the much-lauded, organized cooks near the soccer fields and the less noted vendors across Columbia Street near the baseball fields. Both locations offer home made Latin American specialties, but the newcomers rarely visit the baseball field vendors; as a result, the lines are much shorter there, but there is also far less likelihood of finding a printed menu or a vendor who speaks perfect English.

Lately, the vendors at the Ball Fields have run up against the bureaucrats at the Parks Department and the Department of Health. As a result, many foodies believe that this could be the last summer that the delectable Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean treats will be sold under the tarps and tents at Red Hook. Activist and organizer Cesar Fuentes is doing all he can to fight City Hall, but the outcome of his efforts won’t be known for months.

So, quick, lest they disappear, come down to the ‘Hook and dig into the Columbian empanadas, Ecuadorian ceviche, Salvadoran pupusas, Mexican huaraches, Honduran tacos, Chilean tuna stew and more, along with gallons of fruit waters and mountains of succulent, freshly-cut mango, pineapple, coconut and papaya.

You’ll run out of room in your tummy before you run short of cash; most of the delicious offerings cost less than $5.00 each. While you munch away, don’t forget to watch a game or two.

The sign at the soccer fields

Munching on a quesadilla

Waiting for papusas

Mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon
Cut mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon

Guatemalan goodies on the grill
Guatemalan goodies (including stuffed potato) on the grill

Grilling ears of corn

Preparing meat tacos

Aguas frescas (fruit waters)
Jars of aguas frescas (fruit waters)

Grilling wooden skewers of meat

Preparing corn with lime, mayonnaise, cheese & chile

Making charcoal-grilled steaks for tacos

Eating a hurrache

Soccer players

Pitcher during a baseball game

It’s My Park: Red Hook Food Vendors Video
NY Magazine: The Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?
Eater: Red Hook Vendors Have 10 Days to Address Health Dept.
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook, the Drama Continues
NY Parks Dept: Red Hook Park
NY Magazine: Tour Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
Time Out New York: On the Hook
NY Times: A Latin Fiesta, Near the B.Q.E.
NY Times: Stuffing Tortillas and Parkgoers, Dawn to Dusk
NY Magazine: Mmmm, the Red Hook Ball Fields
NY Times: A Potted Palm Grows in Brooklyn
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map
Gothamist: Soccer, Swimming Y Salsa
Gothamist: Soccer Mamacitas
Ed Levine Eats: Chuck Schumer Makes Goat Tacos Good Politics
onNYTurf: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map (w/subway lines)
NY Sun: On the Red Hook Waterfront
Village Voice: Plotzing for Masa (Not Matzo)

Drumsong African Ballet Theatre

August 11, 2007

Part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival, Drumsong African Ballet Theatre burst upon the stage at Josie Robertson Plaza with a program called “We Are Griots.”

This international troupe of performance artists, led by husband and wife team Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye and Andara Rahman Ndiaye, feature the West African drums and folk dances of Old Mali and Senegal.

The group, formerly known as Sabar Ak Ru Afriq Dance Theatre, exuberently combine drumming, dancing, singing and rhythmic chanting (griot) with the earthy humor, rituals and ceremonies of the Sabar and Senegambia peoples.  

A young dancer

Dancer with a prop

Dancer with a prop

Two dancers

Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye

A “gossip” dance

The dancers

The finale

The company in Josie Robertson Plaza

Race Matters: Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye
West African Dance Teachers in New York
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Josie Robertson Plaza

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