The thumping of the bass could be heard outside the car as a man in his early twenties came to a stop at a red light. After a short drag he cracked open his window a little bit more and blew out the smoke from his cigarette, letting out a sigh. It was your average two in the afternoon weekday and the packed traffic was already coming to a halt.
A current construction project in Flushing Queens has claimed a quarter of a large parking lot for a commercial and residential building. With the diminishing parking spaces available, more and more traffic has piled up on the streets, leading to additional congestion of pedestrians on the sidewalks. There are those who favor the new establishment and others whom resent it but, whatever side you are on, the lack of parking space has become a big issue in Flushing.
“I’m just here to buy some groceries and having to wait through this traffic and finding a parking space makes me want to bang my head against a wall,” said Kevin, the twenty or so year-old in his car.
Aside from the current construction going on, another commercial building, completed a while back, now houses stores such as BJ’s, AppleBees, Best Buy, Target, and even a Chuck E Cheese’s. This new building has attracted customers from all over Queens and even other places due to the ease of accessibility through the Number 7 train. While this mall has its own parking spaces available, it is located a bit further out from Main Street Flushing but that doesn’t stop the shoppers.
“It used to be fine driving to Flushing and finding a parking space. With all these new buildings, shops, people, and traffic signs, it’s much easier and time efficient to take the bus or even walk,” said Ling, an elderly woman who sat next to me on the bus.
The streets, sidewalks, trains, and even buses are crowded. A few years back, Flushing was never this popular and finding an empty seat on public transportation was easy. John,a local resident who doesn’t own a car calls the Golden Horse Taxi Service when he needs a ride, even if it’s to buy groceries. A recent interview with a dispatcher at the Golden Horse Taxi service revealed that there has been an influx of customers within the Flushing area. The dispatcher agreed that part of the increase is due to the decrease of parking spaces.
Other residents, ess concerned about the parking dilemma, welcome the new commercial buildings. Jackie a student attending NYU who currently lives in Flushing said, “I don’t mind these new buildings. Eventually Flushing may become like a small Manhattan and I’d be happy to be in my natural habitat again.”
The current construction project that will replace 100 or so parking spaces is slowly making progress with an estimated completion date of 2014. Whether or not there will ultimately be parking spaces provided within the establishment is still unknown, but right now many residents and commuters see it as an inconvenience.
This semester, Baruch College’s Sidney Harman Writer-In-Residence Program, welcomed Katherine Vaz, author of Our Lady of The Artichokes and Other Portugese-American Stories. For the duration of the semester, Vaz taught a select group of CUNY students interested in creative writing.
On October 25, 2012, however, Vaz made the time to visit our very own Features Writing class to talk about her writing experience in greater detail. Vaz, who has an impressive resume under her belt, including fellowships, an array of published stories, and awards, always wanted to be a writer. Since the age of 12 years old, she practiced her craft and eventually worked towards where she is today – a successful author.
Getting to where she is today was not easy, however. Vaz describe how much work and practice she put into her writing. In fact, she would set time aside from her schedule just to write.
“I got up every morning and sat at a desk from 9 to noon. I don’t think I have saved one word from all those hours and hours and hours I did, but I was learning how to make sentences, I was learning what words matched,” she said.
Her persistent practice writing soon became the start of her career. Life experiences also added to her talent. Vaz has been married and divorced, lived on both ends of the country, and worked with several companies. She studied in California and was part of fellowships in different universities.
“I started teaching, writing, freelancing,” said Vaz. “I did a lot of, I guess you can call it, woman magazine type journalism.”
For a long time, Vaz lived on freelance work, which was enough to support herself at the time. But she admitted that she would never go back to that type of living. Instead, she worked on her fiction writing to earn a living.
“I started selling short stories to literary magazines,” said Vaz. “I never had a sense of being downcast by a rejection note. I would just turn right around and send it back somewhere else.”
Her strong will to become a published writer paid off. Before getting to this point, Vaz would be very savvy with her money.
“Instead of going out to eat or to the movies, I would buy literary magazines,” said Vaz. “It was as an act of faith. I bought them because I wanted people to read my articles too.”
“That was my world and I wanted to be part of it,” said Vaz.
In order to get where you want in life, you need to work for it. Katherine Vaz properly displays this notion. If it was not for her dedication, Vaz would not be as notable as she is today in the literary world.
New Yorkers are known for being independent people. Those who are native to Manhattan strut with purpose and brim with pride in their respective nooks. For those coming from elsewhere, the first few months on the metropolis are very similar: hometown ties are cut, needy exteriors are quickly shed, and slowly enough, self-sufficiency becomes a learned art. In a city with some of the brightest lights, biggest opportunities, and longest life expectancies, it’s easy to believe yourself invincible. That is unless you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness that reminds you on a daily basis that you’re not. Suddenly bright lights equate to hospital fluorescents, your biggest opportunity is recovery, and loneliness is an unavoidable reality. When New York suddenly turns into the coldest place imaginable, where can an independent New Yorker turn? For many, the answer lies in The Creative Center.
The Creative Center is a non-profit organization that specializes in “creative aging,” the concept that where there is artistic self-expression, there are health benefits. The center has brought art to those with chronic illnesses such as cancer or AIDS, since 1994. “We wanted to give those with cancer a home,” said Robin Glazer, director and co-founder of the Creative Center. What began as a series of workshops for women with cancer has blossomed into a program for those of all ages, genders, and stages of treatment. The Creative Center now has daily workshops, artists-in-residence hospital programs, an online gallery, and a training program that works to bring their philosophy and proven approach to arts to hospitals around the country.
As a cancer survivor herself, Glazer knew the painful process that inevitably follows cancer diagnosis. She wanted to create a haven away from the drabness of hospitals and the painful reality of treatment, a place where self-expression was not only encouraged but expanded on and improved. “I didn’t want it to just be ‘arts and crafts for sick people’, I wanted people to improve and become proud of their art,” Glazer said. With this idea in mind, Glazer constructed a program with a school-like structure. Students can take two workshops per semester, with a year at the center consisting of three semesters in total. Some of the courses available include creative writing, watercolor painting, knitting, as well as courses in ceramic and jewelry making. Classes are available to those who have had a diagnosis, are in treatment, or have recovered from a terminal illness. While these workshops do not get students actual credit, they do get the invaluable experience of creating as they recover in a non-judgmental and non-competitive environment. Best of all, the workshops are free-of-charge.
With funding from multiple organizations, The Creative Center also offers programs to hospitals at little to no cost. With guidance from the center, artists are trained to work closely with patients that unfortunately are bedridden due to their illness. Equipped with paints, beads, yarn and a plethora of other crafty things, artists-in-residence spend hours with patients who might have otherwise been alone. “The artists-in-residence program not only provides art for these patients, but friendship, and friendship is exactly what these guys need,” Glazer explained. The program has garnered such positive responses from hospitals and patients alike, that the center now offers training to senior centers and nursing home administrators. Positive responses have also led more organizations to hop on the center’s bandwagon. Such organizations include: Livestrong, National Endowment for the Arts, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
The Creative Center’s most important partner however, is University Settlement, a social program that has actually absorbed The Creative Center this past year. University Settlement’s ideology is deeply rooted in the idea that low-income families deserve basic services at an affordable price to enable them a chance at the American Dream so proudly advertised by this country. With such similar goals, the merger is hardly a surprise. In fact, Glazer had dreamt of the day that such a program would back the center. “I was nervous for a long while of what might happen to the center if I should die,” Glazer shared, “After all, it was only three of us coordinators running the entire program. Once we got absorbed, I was ecstastic. University Settlement has secured a place for The Creative Center in the future.”
It is a crisp winter morning as a young man uses crutches to maneuver up a wheelchair accessible ramp past the jewish menorah that decorates the front of the building. He hobbles along to the security desk and is greeted by a sign that says, “WELCOME” in six different languages. As he signs into the a building a young woman walks up to the front desk and begins to talk into an intercom, “Good morning, today is December 4th 2012, and we have a count of 451 residents. Today, we will be showing a movie at 1:30 in the auditorium, and having arts and crafts in the…” She concludes the announcements and then hands over the intercom to another woman who delivers the same message, only this time in Spanish.
This is a normal morning in Beth Abraham Center Light Health System, a facility that provides rehabilitation for long-term and short-term residents. It’s conception stems all the way back to 1920; when a socially conscious woman named Bertha Alperstein opened the simple brick building to provide services for the poor and elderly Jewish community.
Beth Abraham has come a long way since opening its doors in 1920. Located at 612 Allerton Avenue in the Bronx, the facility serves the diverse demographic of the Morris Park neighborhood. Vincent Bonadies, the director of therapeutic recreation, has been working for Beth Abraham for over two years. He said, “Beth Abraham provides service for everyone, whether you are an elderly person who needs care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or maybe someone who needs rehab to recover from an injury.” Also, he made it clear that Beth Abraham is not a hospice. “We do have a few hospice beds, but people do not come here because they are ‘end-of-life’ patients, they come here to receive care, and to get better,” he said.
One of the major problems in the healthcare industry is funding; however, Beth Abraham avoids this difficulty by accepting multiple methods of payment. “Most of the funding is provided through medicaid, which is state funding. Residents will apply for medicaid or medicare and the state will reimburse us for their stay and our services, and some have private insurance. It’s really a combination of those three, but a majority of it comes from medicaid, said Bonadies. With a majority of the cost covered by the state, one can see the benefits it has on the residents, who enjoy multiple activities throughout the day as well as state-of-the-art equipment and a virtual rehabilitation system.
With funding under control at Beth Abraham, it is no surprise as to why they were able to handle the natural disaster that hit the Atlantic coast on October 29th, 2012. Hurricane Sandy was one of the most detrimental storms to hit New York City and the tri-state area; many hospitals were flooded, lost power, and had to be evacuated. Fortunately, the Morris Park community was not greatly affected and sustained minimal damage. Therefore, in this time of crisis, Beth Abraham became a safe haven. Mr. Bonadies recounts his experiences during hurricane Sandy when he said, “ We were pretty lucky here at Beth Abraham. The managers were called in, and some stayed overnight. We had good staff, the electricity was on and the residents were safe. But we felt the after-affects of the hurricane. We had to admit people who were evacuees from Queens, from Brooklyn, from other nursing homes– that’s how we were really affected.”
Usually the facility is responsible for a certain number of residents, but during this time of crisis, the resident count rose significantly. There are usually designated areas throughout the building, where residents can relax and enjoy some ‘down-time’, however with the surge of people admitted to the Center, there isn’t any free area or space in the building except for the residents’ lounge.
Going forward, Beth Abraham has decided to begin a new Social work interning program. This program will be one of the newest additions to the facility, as well as a fall prevention program. “We change stheir environment so it is more conducive to the resident; we will alter the colors of certain things such as their toilet seats, and build things closer to them,” said Bonadies.
In addition to the new programs, Beth Abraham already has great volunteering opportunities. They allow individuals as young as 16 years old to help out with the residents during recreational activities, as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals in the cafe. The facility also allows volunteers to go onto the floors and help the nurses out with the residents. “New York Peers Group does one of the biggest coat drives in the city, and they do Friday night game night with residents, and help out with bingo and other games,” said Mr. Bonadies.
Overall, it is remarkable that 95 years after a woman opened a building for the impoverished elderly Jewish community,it is flourishing as a great facility that provides for a diverse group of people. It tends to the young, the old, Jewish,Latino, black, and any other ethnicity you can think of. Although Mr. Bonadies has only been working with Beth Abraham for two years he has witnessed the growth and progression of this medical center, he said,” Beth Abraham has been a cornerstone of the community for some time now. We have these three buildings here on Allerton Avenue, and three other nursing homes. We have health aid programs and 22 locations of comprehensive care programs. We’re pretty big now. We’re in all of the five boroughs.” The expansion of Beth Abraham Center is a testament to the great work and services it provides the people of its community as well as others. The facility does not limit itself to only helping a few, but to helping many.
A forward-thinking Imam in America is certainly an intriguing subject. Mr. Shata struggles, adapts, and eventually leads a community of Muslim Americans trying to live a new way of life without disrespecting faithful religion and tradition. As an imam, Shata retains most of the values of his and his religion’s past, but he is progressive in adapting values to the way of American culture. For this, I feel that Shata is liberal. He is smart in knowing not to disrespect his religion, but he is wise for knowing that America is a different land, and this century is a much different time. He bends the slightest yet perfect amount so that his people will feel assured that they are living a new life within the lines of Muslim religion.
By: Teresa Roca
When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I had no clue how bad Staten Island got hit by Hurricane Sandy.
I looked out my window to see everything intact. With no trees on my block and everything such as tables and chairs put away or tied down, nothing seemed ruiened or out of place. I don’t live near the water, so my block and the surrounding blocks were okay. The only thing we suffered from was no power for two days.
Suffering from boredom, I drove to my friend’s house with the little gas I had left (not knowing gas would be scarce for weeks). I picked her up and we drove around my area for a fast food restaurant or diner. To our surprise, nothing was open. We then resorted to going to a grocery shop and finding food to make.
As we drove to other neighborhoods, that is when we started seeing the destruction. Fallen trees on destroyed houses, power lines in the middle of streets, traffic lights out and more. When we finally found an open super market, the lights were off and the only food being sold was non-perishable items. We waited on a long line for hours realizing that the storm was much more disastrous than we had previously thought.
Ater hearing horror stories from neighbors of massive flooding and a death toll on Staten Island rising by the hour, I decided I needed to find service to see if my loved ones were okay. I somehow got in touch with a friend who had power and I got my father to drive me to her house.
When I got there, I couldn’t help but cry when I saw the devastation that took place in New Jersey, the Rockaways and especially my home of Staten Island. Between the destruction, people pleading for help, and others crying for their missing loved ones, I couldn’t believe how naïve and selfish I had been.
When I got home, I was welcomed to power. I ignored it though, and filled bags with clothes and food to donate to people devastated by the hurricane.
When I sat down to watch the news, I learned that Staten Island waited days before receiving help from the Red Cross and FEMA. That is when I knew that I had to report about this injustice and shed light of the horrible circumstances that were happening in my borough.
I am grateful that my family, friends and myself weren’t harmed by the hurricane. I only wish I knew sooner so I could have helped sooner.