Castle Sale Seen Altering Berkshires Landscape

October 18, 2007 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK SUN — October 18, 2007

For the past 22 years, the castle at the end of Main Street in Great Barrington, Mass., has been home to an experimental school for troubled teenagers. The two-dozen students sleep in the turrets and the carriage house and play Frisbee on the lawns of the walled estate. The director’s office is housed in the drawing room with a marble fireplace flanked by five-foot statues of Hercules.

For the first time in decades, the 1888 French château, built by one of the richest women in the country, who later married her decorator, has thrown open its heavy doors to the public — the buying public, that is.

With 40 rooms, 36 fireplaces, seven turrets, and a dungeon situated on 61 acres, the Searles Castle hit the market this summer for $15 million. The sale attracted a cadre of potential buyers to the small Berkshires town known for nearby cultural institutions such as Jacobs Pillow and Tanglewood. A European engineer’s offer for more than the asking price has been accepted. Once the deal is closed, it will be the most expensive residential sale in the area’s history. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Cheap-Chic’ Chain Spreads Gospel

August 18, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

From Queens, Revolution Sweeps the World of Yogurt

August 14, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Miracle Child’ of Public Drinker Earns a Full Scholarship to MIT

July 16, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

City Adds Funds For Catholic, Jewish Schools

July 10, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Tweed Courthouse’s Math Problem: Graduation Rate Actually Increases

June 30, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

N.Y.’s ‘Survivor’: Getting Into Private Schools

June 19, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Ichan Quietly Emerges as Force for Improved Education in City

May 30, 2006 - Leave a Response

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Is This the ‘Biggest Self-Righteous Arrogant Traitor’ Ever in School?

May 19, 2006 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK SUN — May 19, 2006

[This story was the first to be published about Trees’ book. It was later quoted in a number of other newspapers including The New York Times.]

Students aren’t the only ones working on research projects at some of the city’s elite private schools.

A history teacher at Horace Mann School in Riverdale has used his intimate view of the city’s movers and shakers to pen a novel about a leafy campus in New York City where 17-year olds drive Mercedes cars, take prescription drugs to boost their academic performance, and turn to seduction and plagiarism to guarantee a slot in the Ivy League.

“Academy X” is hitting bookstores this week and some parents are calling its author, Andrew Trees, a regular Benedict Arnold.

“I think this is the biggest self-righteous, arrogant traitor walking the face of the earth,” a member of the board of trustees at the nearby Riverdale Country School, Victoria Goldman, said. “He’s sending up the entire community that he works with, and that takes nerve.” Read the rest of this entry »

Joy, Dashed Hopes At Harlem Lottery For Charter School

March 23, 2006 - Leave a Response

THE NEW YORK SUN—March 23, 2006

getimage-1When Fatou Gueye and her husband arrived in New York from their native Senegal, they possessed little education and big hopes for their children.
Yesterday, those hopes were somewhat dashed when their 6-year-old son, Abdoulaye, was shut out of a lottery for the new Harlem Success Charter School to open in the fall.
“This is the new generation, we want him to have a better life, but he has to go to a good school,” Ms. Gueye, whose husband drives a yellow taxi, said.
She was among the hundreds of hopeful parents who packed into the basement of the Salem United Methodist Church last night, where children’s names were pulled from a box to determine who would win slots for the kindergarten and first-grade classes. Read the rest of this entry »