Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Where Did All the Truckers Go?
March 16, 2008

THE NEW YORK TIMES — March 16, 2008

“They’re going to call Gowanus ‘West Park Slope’ or ‘East Carroll Gardens,’ ” a local potter said.

“They’re going to call Gowanus ‘West Park Slope’ or ‘East Carroll Gardens,’ ” a local potter said.

TEN years ago, when a Bay Ridge businessman named Emmanuel Maropakis bought a former metal fabrication factory on a desolate strip of Third Avenue at Sixth Street in Gowanus, he thought he could make a few dollars renting the place out for storage.

The immediate surroundings were not promising: Local commerce included the South Brooklyn Casket Company, a pasta factory and a fairly active drug trade.

“It was all empty, empty, empty, except for the prostitutes,” Mr. Maropakis recalled one day recently as he stood in his building and wiped his hands on his paint-spattered pants.

But when he heard last year that a luxury condominium and a boutique hotel were planned for this stretch of Third Avenue, he got a better idea.

Just before Christmas, he started transforming the old factory into a sprawling pizza and barbecue restaurant, with nearly 300 seats. Mr. Maropakis’s most recent addition is a brick oven he built, which can cook 1,000 pounds of meat at a time. (more…)

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The Matzo Show on Rivington Street
January 6, 2008

THE NEW YORK TIMES — January 6, 2008

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Through the window of Streit’s matzo factory, some watch and others ask for free samples.

ALL day long, people ask Leonides Negron if he is Jewish.

Mr. Negron, a 46-year-old Puerto Rican, works at the venerable Streit’s matzo factory on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, handling the stacks of steaming flat breads as they emerge from the 900-degree, 72-foot-long oven. While bearded rabbis upstairs bless the dough, Mr. Negron stands near the first-floor window, listening to merengue on the radio and moving matzo from a conveyor belt onto wire cooling racks.

The bakery has operated in the same four red brick tenements since 1925, and because its oven is on the first floor, passers-by often gaze through the barred windows to watch the action inside. Some ask what is being made; others request a taste. A man who strolls by every morning asks for a piece of matzo for his dog.

Mr. Negron is happy to chat.

“I tell them it’s Jewish bread,” he said of the matzo in the familiar red and blue box. “But to Spanish people, we just tell them it’s crackers.” (more…)

Practicing Different Religions (but United on the Issue of Pork)
November 16, 2007

THE NEW YORK TIMES —November 16, 2007

Sam Habib, a Muslim, and Cindy Gluck, who is Jewish, on the job.

Sam Habib, a Muslim, and Cindy Gluck, who is Jewish, on the job.

ON the morning in August 2005 when Sam Habib and Cindy Gluck opened their first Dunkin’ Donuts, they awoke at dawn to make sure that the glazed fritters and French crullers were out on the counter. Then Mr. Habib sneaked off to the neighboring mosque to pray, and Ms. Gluck, panicky about the prospects of their new venture, went to the back of the store to cry.

Mr. Habib, a bearish 47-year-old with a warm smile, is a Muslim immigrant from Egypt, and Ms. Gluck, 34, is a slim, petite Orthodox Jew from Borough Park, Brooklyn. Both had sunk their entire savings into buying the franchise, on a busy stretch of Church Avenue at East 17th Street in Flatbush.

It was a terrifying gamble. The two had known each other only a few months when Mr. Habib, who says he dreamed for decades of running a Dunkin’ Donuts, asked Ms. Gluck, a real estate broker he had met while looking for a location, to join him in business. He knew she was an Orthodox Jew but said he didn’t care.

Technically, Ms. Gluck is a silent partner, owner of just 49 percent of the business, but as Mr. Habib is quick to point out, there is nothing silent about her.

“I let him make all the decisions,” Ms. Gluck said.

“Really?” Mr. Habib replied, with raised eyebrows. (more…)

‘Cheap-Chic’ Chain Spreads Gospel
August 18, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — August 18, 2006

What would Jesus say about that backless halter minidress?

Forever 21, a popular chain of cheap-chic clothes with stores throughout New York, is literally spreading the Gospel with every sale. When customers leave the shopping emporium with bags full of red cocktail dresses and panties emblazoned with phrases like “Y is for Yummy,” few realize that they are also walking away with a bit of religion.

The owners of the company are devout Christians who print in small type on the bottom of the company’s iconic yellow shopping bags the words: “John 3:16.”

One of the most frequently referenced passages of the Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

It is frequently hung on banners at football games and prominently displayed at the goal line. (more…)

From Queens, Revolution Sweeps the World of Yogurt
August 14, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — August 14, 2006

Antonios Maridakis says that when one of the world’s most famous and well-chiseled actors headed to Mexico recently to shoot a movie, he first placed a call to Queens with a special request — for a case of yogurt.

From his small office in an industrial strip on the border of the Woodside and Astoria sections of Queens, Mr. Maridakis controls a small dairy empire, importing 40 million cups of Total yogurt a year from his native Greece to be shipped to 38 American states.

Creamier and less caloric than most of its American counterparts, Total has captured the attention and taste buds of the kind of New Yorkers who don’t mind spending upward of $2.50 on a small cup of plain yogurt.

Homemaking guru Martha Stewart loves the stuff. So does celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Author Jana Klauer included it in her new diet primer, “How the Rich Get Thin: Park Avenue’s Top Diet Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Losing Weight and Feeling Great.”

Produced by an 80-year-old company in Greece called Fage (pronounced “fah-yeh”), the yogurt first started appearing on American shelves six years ago.The family-owned business found Mr. Maridakis to head its American operations through a small ad it placed in local newspapers. (more…)

‘Miracle Child’ of Public Drinker Earns a Full Scholarship to MIT
July 16, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN—July 17, 2006

OFF TO COLLEGE Cristen Blair Chinea, 18, and her mother, Belinda Chinea

OFF TO COLLEGE Cristen Blair Chinea, 18, and her mother, Belinda Chinea

If you’ve ever walked through Union Square Park, you probably noticed Belinda and Joey. On most days, you could find them there getting drunk. Not the falling down kind of drunk, but drunk enough. Belinda started the day with a bottle of vodka, Joey a bottle of something else. On some days the cops would ask them to keep it down. On others, Joey took a trip to the emergency room with a case of the shakes.
At 50, Belinda, who wears her black hair tied back tight, lives with her mother in the same apartment where she grew up, in the Bernard Baruch housing projects on the Lower East Side. (more…)

City Adds Funds For Catholic, Jewish Schools
July 10, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — July 10, 2006

[Brian Leher at WNYC did a segment based on this exclusive story]

The New York City government is starting quietly to fund local parochial schools.

The City Council is allocating $1 million of taxpayer money in this year’s budget to purchase school buses for Jewish schools. Last year, the City Council paid $2.5 million to put computers in Jewish and Catholic schools.

Because the money is tucked into the council’s thick budget, and because the amounts are small relative to the $15 billion a year spent on the city’s public schools, most public school advocates and education experts said that they had not heard about the funding.

Critics call the money pork-barrel spending and argue that any available dollars should go to the public schools, which a New York judge, Leland DeGrasse, has ruled are $23 billion short of the funding they need to provide a sound basic education. Religious school officials argue that they are saving the state money by keeping children out of the public school system, and that it is to the city’s benefit to ensure that that the religious schools continue to operate. Jewish schools have long complained that because their school day starts earlier and finishes later than public schools they need additional transportation. (more…)

Tweed Courthouse’s Math Problem: Graduation Rate Actually Increases
June 30, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — June 30, 2006

If the city’s Department of Education received a report card, it would get an “F” in math.

The schools chancellor, Joel Klein, said yesterday that his staff had drastically miscalculated the city’s high school graduation rate – a disclosure that, had it been made months earlier, could have saved Mayor Bloomberg serious embarrassment.

Rather than decreasing slightly, as the city previously reported, the percentage of students graduating on time actually soared to 58% – the highest graduation rate since the department started tracking the number 20 years ago, Mr. Klein said. (more…)

N.Y.’s ‘Survivor’: Getting Into Private Schools
June 19, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — June 19, 2006

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before television producers and documentary filmmakers aimed their cameras at what some New York City parents consider a real life version of “Survivor” – getting their children into private schools.

While there are no indigenous bugs or barbecued rats on the path to victory, parents on the island of Manhattan do go to extremes while trying to insure their children get spots at the city’s top schools.

Competing film crews are swooping in to document such extremes in a world where some parents pay advisers thousands of dollars to write essays to get their 3-year-olds into preschool – and then pay upward of $30,000 a year in tuition to keep them there. (more…)

Ichan Quietly Emerges as Force for Improved Education in City
May 30, 2006

THE NEW YORK SUN — May 30, 2006

The billionaire investor and famed corporate raider Carl Icahn, best known recently for his attempt to shake up Time Warner, has quietly opened one of the most successful charter schools in the city and plans to open several more.

Nestled into a quiet street in the South Bronx, the Carl C. Icahn Charter School serves 252 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Inside, the building is peppered with inspirational signs reminding students that college is a requirement, not an option, and that students are expected to attend a top city high school.

“Success doesn’t just happen, it happens one day at a time. Read every night,” a sign posted in the school hallway reminds students. (more…)