Friday, August 26, 2016

Arlene Schulman: The First 100 Years - Photography Exhibit - Update!

Arlene Schulman.
Photographer. Writer. Editor. Filmmaker. Teacher.

Hater of lima beans and olives.
Arlene Schulman started photographing the people of New York City when she was an eight year old living in Brooklyn. Using an Agfa 35mm camera handed down to her by her father who taught her how to shoot, develop, and print black and white film, she acquired her sharp eye for detail and an uncanny ability to demolish the wall between subject and camera to reveal the truth of who we are.

Ms. Schulman’s extraordinary body of work—immortalized in books of majestic photographs and in films and photographic essays—illuminates facets of New York City that the majority of us never see: gritty city living, boxing gyms, baseball dugouts, police officers on the beat. Capturing the heroes, colleagues, and neighbors among us in gritty, straightforward, large format images that celebrate and ennoble the human condition, Ms. Schulman brings her life’s work together for the very first time. 

“Arlene Schulman: The First 100 Years” is a unique vision of life in New York City as she has lived it and a foreshadowing of what she—and we—may see during the next “100.”

Reception sponsored by Schnipper's Quality Kitchen and the Manhattan Borough President's Office.

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Sunday, June 05, 2016

22 Artists, 22 Views of Uptown

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Inwood

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the brilliant creator and star of Broadway's Hamilton and In the Heights, chats about Inwood, the neighborhood in northern Manhattan where he grew up.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: A Conversation with Milagros Martich

MEET Milagros Martich of Inwood. She is 80 years old and first arrived in New York from the Dominican Republic in her early twenties. Her vision of the city was based on black and white movies, where glamorous men and women wore trench coats and hats and smoked cigarettes and became entangled in romantic and sinister plots. Well, it wasn't exactly that. Milagros talks about her first experiences in this country, moving to Inwood 40-something years ago, how the neighborhood has changed, and how she never - ever - misses an opportunity to vote in local and national elections.

Listen to the conversation here:

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: A Conversation with Richard Allman

GETTING TO KNOW: Richard Allman of Washington Heights through the New York Public Library's Oral History Project, Bridging Our Stories.

Richard is a Chicago transplant whose family once owned the famed Valois Restaurant, a favorite of President Barack Obama. In this conversation, Richard talks about how the restaurant and the interplay between customers helped shaped his all encompassing style of communication so and what he loves about New York. 

Richard currently serves as a vice president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC and as chair of the newly formed LGBTQ Task Force of Community Board 12. What's interesting about this interview are the silences between the questions and answers. Richard is a most thoughtful speaker who weighs every word in a very measured style. In this photo, he's holding a photograph of his partner and a brick from Chicago's old Comiskey Park.

Listen to the conversation here

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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Great Elm

If this tree could talk. . ..

This magnificent English Elm on the corner of 163rd and St. Nicholas Avenue on the island of Manhattan stands as a witness to history and our changing times.

George Washington stood underneath the tree on the night of September 28, 1776, watching a fire destroy much of New York City.

This spectacular example of endurance has survived hurricanes and record snowstorms (and George Washington's ax) and stood stubbornly and unyielding in the one of the country's most drug and crime infested neighborhoods during the 1980s and 1990s.

New York City has changed a bit following Peter Minuit's purchase of the island for $24 worth of tzachkes back in 1626. Our tree, also known as Ulmus Procera, has silently observed the evolution of our city and an endless diaspora of newcomers uprooted in search of a better life and in search of their own history in Washington Heights.

Unlike its brothers and sisters who have been cultivated into paper and pencil, our tree is a symbol of perseverance. 

The holiday wreath was created for the New York City Parks Department Annual Wreath Interpretations Exhibit at Central Park's Arsenal Gallery.  The wreath will be on display from December 4, 2015 through January 7, 2016.

This short video features an encounter between The Great Elm and George Washington and includes a rap version. Featuring voices of Peter Walsh, Martin Collins, and Arlene Schulman.

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

We are Inwood

CHECK OUT this affectionate look at the neighborhood and its residents in a-just-under 12 minute film, which features an appearance by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton) who grew up on Payson Ave.
Thanks to all of our wonderful neighbors who participate over the last two years or so. From a botanica to baseball and basketball, from drums to trombone and a bagpiper piping Hava Nagila, Little League baseball players, richly voiced singers, swing dancing in the park, a talking cat, auto mechanics, this documentary short invites you to come on up to the tip of the island called Manhattan. There lives a community of people in a hamlet called Inwood, not to be confused with Washington Heights and certainly not the Bronx. 
Peter Minuit, you may remember him as our founding father of gentrification, discovered the island about 400 years ago while looking - as so many others do - for someplace else. A plaque in Inwood Hill Park marks the spot where the greatest real estate transaction of all time took place – Minuit traded 24 dollars worth of trinkets and beads for a narrow spit of land almost thirteen and a half miles long. 
Walking through the neighborhood today, Minuit and fellow explorer Henry Hudson would see much of the same landscape unchanged. Well, maybe with a few small changes. 
They would meet the peoples of Inwood, a friendly, sometimes quarrelsome bunch at times, but who stand as a proud reminder of neighborhood identity in this hustling, bustling city. Let’s take a look at them in their natural habitat. 
Two neighbors, sadly, passed away while the film was in production. As a tribute to artist Will Teez and Renee Mancino of Carrot Top Pastries, they have been included.
Produced, directed, and edited by Arlene Schulman
(no ads!)
Thank you, all! And enjoy!

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: Elizabeth Lorris Ritter

GETTING TO KNOW: Elizabeth Lorris Ritter through the New York Public Library's Oral History Project, Bridging Our Stories.
Liz, an avid crocheter, wears many scarves, from serving as president of Inwood's very own talented UP Theater Company to founding and serving as president of the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition and president of Beth-Am, the People's Temple; to serving as chair of Community Board 12's Park Committee and she's been long time board member. She served as community liaison to New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat and continues to be involved with many community based organations and events. 
In short, Liz knows where the bodies are buried. And in this lively interview, Liz offers a glimpse into living in Washington Heights, the importance of community involvement, where she sees the neighborhood heading, and quite possibly, if you make it to the end of the interview, a revelation (but no map) where you may find that answer. The ghost of Hamlett lives on. 
(And a typo is included so that Liz may correct)

Carry on! And enjoy the interview.

Listen to it hear:

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Friday, October 23, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: Rob Snyder

Meet Rob Snyder, the popular author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City. He chronicles the rise and fall and then rise again of the neighborhood, always filled (and refilled) with immigrants: German Jews, Irish, Cubans, Russians, Dominicans, Mexicans, and other newcomers to the community. 

In this candid conversation, Rob recounts his parents' stories about the uptown neighborhood they lived in before migrating to New Jersey; his journeys to Manhattan as a teenager and what led him back into the neighborhood to write the book; how writing the book has changed him; and where he sees the neighborhood going in terms of gentrification.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: NYPD Sergeant Johnny Moynihan

Meet Johnny Moynihan, a sergeant with the New York City Police Department and president of the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek Little League. Michael Buczek was a police officer, in this third year of duty, with the 34th Precinct which covers Washington Heights and Inwood, when he died on October 18, 1988, shot killed in the line of duty. He was 24 years old.

In this candid and moving conversation, Johnny Moynihan talks about his colleague and friend, the impact of the Little League on the community, Michael's legacy, and how much he is missed.

Listen to it here at

Sgt. Moynihan and his son, John. Photo courtesy of the Moynihans

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: Arlene Stringer Cuevas

MEET Arlene Stringer Cuevas, who raised her two sons - one of whom is New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer - on Bogardus Place in Inwood (or is it Washington Heights?). 
Her interview, part of the New York Public Library's Oral History Project Bridging Our Stories, includes stories about being ostracized by friends and neighbors because she was a single mother raising two children in the 1970s; her election to City Council as Washington Heights/Inwood first and still only female City Council representative and what it was like to be one of four women relegated to the back of the room; her local community involvement; and how much the neighborhood means to her. Will son Scott run for Mayor? His mother knows!

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Monday, September 07, 2015

A Shave (but no haircut)

NOW on a digital device near you: A Shave (But No Haircut) takes you on an adventure on the New York City subway. Starring Ariel Ferreira as a very neat subway rider and featuring a cast of characters including a beautiful flamenco dancer, an enthusiastic tuba player, a talented painter and an irritated manspreader, the journey begins and ends at 168th Street in Washington Heights. 
Images of subway trains accompanied by a hypnotic score make this unusual and lively short film worth far more than the price of a subway ride.
Showcasing local talent: Every cast member lives or works in Washington Heights or Inwood. And - the most diverse cast inside and outside of Hollywood! And perhaps a final look at the old C trains, slowly being replaced by new, more modernized cars. 

Click above to watch or on this link:

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NYPL Oral History: Bridging Our Stories: Nicholas Estavillo, Retired NYPD Chief of Patrol and Former Commanding Officer of the 34th Precinct

Meet Nick Estavillo, the first Hispanic three-star chief in the history of the New York City Police Department, who talks about his time in Washington Heights and Inwood as Commanding Officer of the 34th Precinct in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In this wide ranging interview, Estavillo discusses his challenges of managing a precinct, from boosting the morale of police officers devastated by the tragic death of 24-year-old Police Officer Michael Buzcek, shot and killed in 1988 as he and his partner attempted to arrest two drugs suspects; through a time when murders and drugs in the neighborhood were at an all-time high; and through the Washington Heights riots in 1992.

Estavillo talks about his plan for splitting the 34th Precinct into two, which was implemented; how he tackled the issues of noise and quality of life concerns of neighborhood residents; advice on managing a police precinct filled with people of different personalities, educational backgrounds, skills, and values; and the importance of community support. He talks about charming Dr. Ruth who lives in Washington Heights (he does a great imitation, by the way).

Listen to the interview here:

Signing the log book at the precinct

With the current commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Chris Morello

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: Marina Torres

MEET MARINA TORRES of Washington Heights through the New York Public Library's Oral History Project, Bridging Our Stories. Marina and her late husband, Miguel Amaro, founded the Dominican Day Parade in 1982. A community leader until his untimely death in 1987, the corner of Audubon Ave and 190th Street is named in his honor. 
In this candid conversation, Marina talks about the origins of the parade and the uptown politics that eventually excluded her from participating; raising a family and running a business during the height of the drug trade; and what it means to live in the Washington Heights/Inwood community. Her daughter, Judy, is also involved in the community and serves as a leader or member of different local organizations.
Marina is camera shy so a photograph of the street named after her late husband is included rather than her portrait.
Listen to the interview here:

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

NYPL Oral History Project: Bridging Our Stories: New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat

In this latest installment of the New York Public Library's Oral History Project, Bridging Our Stories, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat talks about arriving in New York from the Dominican Republic, growing up in Washington Heights, and the influences of his parents and grandparents. This informal conversation includes his favorite uptown restaurants and will he or will he not run for Congress again? You'll have to give a listen to find out.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

What's in your bag? Inside a typical New Yorker's pocketbook

So what do you carry in your pocketbook or briefcase? Here's an exclusive look at what this New Yorker carries in her bag. Yes, all are important.

1 20 ounce bottle of water from Rite Aid
1 half empty container of peppermint Tic Tacs
1 three-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer
1 black sweater
1 small desk fan
1 unlimited MetroCard in cardholder
1 expired MetroCard

1 Riverside Oval wall calendar
1 Chinese takeout menu featuring frogs
1 laminated Save NYC sign
1 folder with image of cat that holds the calendar, Chinese food menu, and Save NYC sign

1 purple and pink polka dot Marimekko pen bag filled with 17 pens, including one Sharpie
1 cloth bag filled with sanitary napkins (okay, I said it)

1 large silver plastic Clinique cosmetic bag holding
  • a traveling toothbrush
  • a large tube of toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • Burt's Bees facial cleanser
  • paper towels to dry off face after washing with above
1 cloth bag filled with tissues

a Girl Scout pocket knife, pepper spray, and chuka stick on the keyring

1 Krispy Kreme donut, now flattened
1 half empty bag of honey cough drops from Rite Aid
1 box of dark chocolate Raisinets
Four crumpled potato chips

1 black and white Marimekko cosmetic bag filled with
  • a Clinique powder compact
  • small bottle of Advil
  • more dental floss
  • more paper towels
  • 1 Clinique high impact lipstick, never opened
  • Scope breath drops
  • 1 Maid of the Mist Niagara Falls folding hair brush
  • 1 small container of facial toner
  • Zip-loc bag filled with cleansing pads for facial toner

I.D. card on a string
1 notebook for writing
1 Netflix DVD - Land of Silence and Darkness directed by Werner Herzog
1 book - Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design
1 bookmark from the Jewish Museum that has fallen out of book

1 shades-of-brown-with-flowers Orla Kiely cosmetic bag filled with
  • Apple charging cord for iPhone
  • portable charger and cable
65 cents in loose change at the bottom of the bag
1 crumpled dollar bill
Three stray but clean tissues
1 plastic supermarket bag

1 receipt for an apple pecan salad and Diet Coke courtesy of Wendy's
1 baggie filled with eight vitamin Ds and nine multi-vitamins
1 business card holder with business cards
1 holder for discount cards
1 overstuffed wallet
1 flash drive
1 hole punch
1 credit card bill
1 oversized postcard from Uber complaining about my local council member
 2 empty wrappers from string cheese from Duane Reade

Note: The donut did not survive long enough to make it to the photo shoot.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Peek Behind the Blue Wall: The NYPD's Citizens Police Academy

The city comes alive in its streets, from the highways that Robert Moses built to roads named after veterans killed in battles many of us are too young to remember, to streets named after heroes who lost their lives on September 11th, to highways and plazas named after explorers, a baseball player, and men and women who contributed to the history and values of our city, particularly Peter Minuit who purchased a little island named Manhattan from the Lenape Indians for a mere $24 in trinkets and who really is the father of gentrification.

We live in a city where so many people have mental health issues, where so many make their homes underground that the A train is known as the homeless hotel, where so many people are looking for jobs, where heroin overdoses outnumber homicides, where people are more consumed with Facebook and Twitter than they are about the welfare of a neighbor, in a time that we are besieged by coyotes downtown and Elmos midtown, and elected officials for whom integrity is just a word.

 The participants in the NYPD’s Citizens Police Academy came from the different streets of our city: rabbis, reverends and imams; a public school principal, teachers, social workers, a forensic psychologist, an athletic trainer, and an aide to a state senator from Staten Island where Eric Garner once lived, from the Lower East Side where photographer Jacob Riis showed us how the other half lives more than a century ago to basketball courts around the city where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar perfected his skyhook, from a postal carrier named Anita who walks her beat near Gracie Mansion and celebrates two years of being cancer free, to those living near the most magnificent parks in every borough. 

Sometimes, sadly, the lives of those around uswearing the uniform of the NYPD or the uniform of color, race, gender, age, rich or poormean very little. These same streets can also take away. And that they did with deaths of four men who recently lost their lives in the line of duty. 

 The Citizens Police Academy works quietly behind the scenes to enhance communication between the NYPD and the community. A record 222 people attended this last class held at the old Police Academy on 20th Street, mostly African-Americans with a smattering of Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians, bused in by police vans from their respective precincts. Most were well past the recruitment age of 34 and they were there with the mission of connecting with and finding out how NYPD operates. Attendance was mandatory for clergy connected with local precincts.

Presentationsabbreviated versions of classes taken by recruits in the Police Academycame from detectives and police officers from the Domestic Violence, the Gang Unit, Internal Affairs, Community Affairs, School Safety, Homicide, Hostage Negotiation, and Counterterrorism units with programs on law and justice and emotionally disturbed persons presented over 14 weeks. We learned of tactics using weapons and tactics using words and how, in less than four and a half seconds, the time it takes for a violent situation to unfold, a life can change and be changed.

We learned how the rest of the city lives. ISIS is here and recruiting; how gangs like the Bloods, the Very Crispy Gangsters, Tomb Raiders, and Young Bosses use Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook to recruit, document, and threaten. Teen suicide has grown to epidemic proportions. Kids take online bullying seriously. And sometimes homes are so hostile that anger is the norm in those households with kids being told to “handle it” without the specifics of how exactly to handle what and how. An average of 759 calls come in a day for domestic abuse: there’s a lot of people fighting in New York City. And that policing isn’t a science because people aren’t a science. That steps are being made to connect the police with the community, from Neighborhood Policing Officers in Washington Heights and Inwood, cops back on bicycles, and through technology. Precincts are now using Twitter to report news and updates and the 34th Precinct in upper Manhattan is the first to have a Facebook page. And tablets mean that information is at fingertips and a history of an incident gives the officers responding more information for a hopefully, more measured and logical approach Fitness classes are in place in some precincts, and new and old recruits are taught to take a deep breath when the anger and animosity come their way. Additional and better trained police officers are on their way. And we learned that the average life of a police officer after retirement is only 10 years. 

Detectives and lieutenants and sergeants and police officers are not permitted to talk about cases as per NYPD policy and so they did not. They spoke about procedures, tactics ranging from how a Taser works and how and why some people are unstoppable, that there’s little or no time in an emergency situation for questions or pleasantries, and how the fundamentals of policing work and how they don’t. They didn’t change some minds but hoped to open them up a little to see how the other half lives. And there are many other halves. And have and have-nots. And in less than four and a half seconds, a life can change and be changed.

 They all recalled stories, with great joy and pride, of their mothers, who, in a long ago time, reminded them all to get home before the street lights went out or else. And one reminded us that there is another reality. As a seven-year-old growing up in the Bronx, it was he who cooked for two younger brothers. His mother didn’t come looking for him after dark. She was out on the street looking for her fix and at 10-years-old, he was the one who brought her home.

Detective Derek Wilson reminded us that there is an art to talking, to persuading, of finding the right words, asking a question: Are you all right? What do you need? Not simply talking but saying something important and worthwhile, of being in the moment.

We learned that an EDP, or as Detective Jimmy Shanahan says, “an every day person” – could be any one of us triggered by something seemingly mundane or of great consequence. Some of us, unfortunately, are born into lives where the “everydays” are every day. The unpredictability of people is the one constant thing in our city. And that is what police officers respond to.

We listened to Detective First Grade Alfred Titus of Homicide who is earning his doctorate so soon he may be Dr. Detective: do not disturb anything and everything is evidence from the cigarette in an ashtray to a footprint in the dust at a crime scene; how the direction of blood spatter can help solve a case; and the role of the medical examiner in dissecting bodies and cases. 

School Safety Agent Vernon House kept the crowd riveted with stories about bullying in public schools around the city, and how the punishment of taking away a kid’s cell phone is one of the strongest ones imaginable to them.

Lieutenant Jack Cambria of the Hostage Negotiation Unit who trained many police officers, and who is retiring this year, focused our attention on the tactics of patience and avoiding two dangerous words designed to incite the calmest person: calm down. And by the way, the next time you’re typing something in Microsoft Word, you’ll find him there. He’s the only member of the NYPD to have a font named after him. It’s called Cambria. Maybe there's an officer named Helvetica or Garamond but we haven't heard of him or her yet.

The warmest applause was given to Detective Shanahan, for whom all the world’s a stage, a bit of a ham who entertained with his good humor and approachability that underscored the seriousness of his work. He, too, stressed the importance of how cops and the rest of us should and could talk to people and that “police science” is still made up of people like us.

Hopefully, the members of our class, armed with knowledge and information of how another half works, will make our city better. We all come from the same pool of New Yorkers. We are all neighbors. We all want our streets and our homes to be safe. And we must all work together – neighbors, police officers, politicians.  This takes sacrifice, this takes courage, this takes the overcoming of prejudice in every form, and it takes recognition and respect of others. We must engage with those around us and come up with compelling alternatives as to how we live.

 We can go back to our communities and reassure others that we are here together as a city to make it better for all of us. Muhammad Ali once said,  “Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the little pebble in your shoe.”

Let’s pick out those pebbles and get to work.

This record class of 222 graduated on Tuesday, June 23rd, the largest class of citizens in NYPD history and the last class to attend training at the Police Academy building on 20th Street in Manhattan. The building, which has graduated thousands of NYPD police officers and commissioners, is being repurposed for other NYPD units. Training will take place at the new Police Academy in College Point, Queens beginning in the fall.

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