Tag Archive | "New York City"

NYC Goes Green for Earth Day

By Jim Flood, Jessica Simeone, Michael Preston, and Kate Nocera

Click on the image to learn more about the volunteers and activities at the Green Apple Festival

On a beautiful spring day in Manhattan’s East Village, volunteers came out as part of the three-day Green Apple Festival, a yearly Earth Day event that spans 10 U.S. cities.

Mike Lytle, the head gardener at Tompkins Square Park, put teams of volunteers to work aerating, composting and mulching the park’s flowerbeds. They were there not just to work, but also to learn.

“This is what builds the Earth, this is what improves everything and makes everything easier to do,” Lytle said as he explained the role of composting in the circle of life. “I’m trying to show everyone that the soil is alive,” he added.

This year New York’s Lower East Side hosted three Green Apple Festival events, organized by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the Lower Eastside Girls Club and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

The festival, now in its fourth year, was a little different than in previous incarnations.  This year the festival is putting a huge emphasis on volunteerism.  In the past there were street festivals going on in conjunction with the volunteer efforts.  Due to economic constraints this year that aspect of the festival was dropped from the list.  A free concert for the volunteers was added in place of the street fairs, said Lily, a communications person for the Green Apple Festival.

The Green Apple Festival is not the only one seeing the economic pinch.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had to make quite a few cuts to the budget, among those cuts are composting. Lytle noted that the parks still have the compost created from last Fall’s leaves, but once that runs out he’s not sure what they’ll do.

Bloomberg may be skimping on the environment in office, but his company, Bloomberg L.P., is listed as a generous supporter of International Compost Awareness Week being held this May.

Compost is just what volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were getting their hands dirty with on Saturday.   A pitchfork-wielding Annie Levy said she wanted to do her part this Earth Day and had found the Green Apple Festival and its list of opportunities online.

“I killed a lot of trees through scripts and I definitely needed to do something,” said the 29-year-old Levy, who works in the theater industry. She picked this event because of its proximity to her apartment in the financial district.

While the volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were preparing the ground for planting real flowers, members of the Lower Eastside Girls Club were creating a different kind of flower in another environmentally friendly pursuit.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

“We are teaching them how to make paper flowers,” said Lyn Pentecost. Bowls of a watery glue mixture and old newspapers rested on each table as volunteers meticulously constructed the flowers. The goal for the project is to make 300 paper flowers that will be displayed in the club’s “flower garden” before being presented to community mothers on Mother’s Day. The flowers are also sold at the club’s booth at the Essex Street Market.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center hosted a composting workshop on Friday evening. Carey Pulverman, who runs the compost education program, said that trained volunteers called the “Worm Corps” hosted the event. The group gave city dwellers a first-hand lesson in indoor composting and a tutorial for setting up and maintaining a worm bin inside their apartments.

This workshop is part of the Manhattan Compost Project, a subsidiary of the New York City Compost Project, and is offered on a continual basis.

The fourth annual Green Apple Festival included events in all five boroughs ranging from educational opportunities to gardening to arts and crafts.

Events filled up quickly with volunteers and organizations were happy for the help. Lytle welcomed the opportunity to teach the community about the life going on inside of the soil. He said there are 40,000 creatures inhabiting every square foot of soil and he happily pointed out the most interesting ones.

To see Mike talk about the park and show some interesting soil critters, watch the video below.

Mike Lytle discusses soil on Earth Day from Kate Nocera on Vimeo.

Posted in Earth Day

Real Estate Fears in NYC

By Lois DeSocio, Jacqueline Linge, Maureen Sullivan, and Brian Winkowski.

The New York City real estate market is no longer immune to the real estate drop that is hitting the rest of the country. Home values and sales have decreased throughout the metropolitan area, according to the Real Estate Board of New York. As a result, there is increasing anxiety among buyers and sellers, who are forced to navigate through news about plunging financial markets and shady mortgage lenders.

Jenny Laden is one of those sellers who is feeling the collective anxiety. She’s a single mom and an artist in Brooklyn who has lived in a Park Slope co-op in for ten years.

“All bets are off in this market and that’s very destabilizing and nerve-wrecking,” says Laden, whose home has been on the market for months. She has lowered the price twice already, and expects to have to lower it even more.

Home sales in Park Slope have decreased by 2.9 percent in the last year, with the average price per square foot for a co-op decreasing by 5.1 percent. And as noted above, it’s not just Park Slope that’s being hit with lower sales and home values – all of New York is feeling the effects of a declining real estate market, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

Okay – so while the reasons for fear and anxiety among sellers is real and palpable, what about the buyers? How could they possibly have anxiety when the market is in their favor?

“The anxiety with the buyer right now is very different than it used to be,” says Michael Palka, the president and COO of White Cat Media, an online media company which owns SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com. Palka owns an apartment in Manhattan and is currently looking for a bigger place.

“It used to be I’m going to get priced out and shut out of the market place and I’m going to have to move somewhere that I don’t want to move to,” continued Palka. He states that now the anxiety stems from buying an apartment prematurely, before the market bottoms out.

“I’ve seen several things already that, you know, if I would seen these a year ago, I would of jumped on them. Now it feels just the opposite. We shouldn’t go for it, because we can do even better in another six months,” says Palka.

Real estate agents are well aware of buyers freezing with indecision. There’s even a new catchphrase among some realtors—analysis paralysis. Clients get lost in the numbers and can’t make a decision. This “anxiety overload,” according to a recent study published in Realtor Magazine Online, by the National Board of Realtors, has given realtors much to fret about. They have fewer clients, so their incomes are shrinking. Many clients hesitate to drop their prices, so homes don’t sell and buyers aren’t buying in the hopes that prices will drop even more.

Christopher Ressa is a sales associate for the Corcoran Group in Manhattan. He says while it took a little longer for the recession to impact real estate in New York City, the effects are now being felt. Housing prices have fallen by 20 percent and will most likely keep falling. And despite the lowering numbers, buyers are still holding out for those bottom numbers. However, Ressa sees a silver lining behind the dark real estate clouds. He believes the declining trend will not last for long, as interest rates for home mortgages are at an all time low.

“It’s never been so cheap to borrow money,” says Ressa. “People need to readjust the way they think about lending and borrowing… if you can do it now, and still get a really good deal, the housing market in NYC, I believe, will bounce back fairly quickly.”

Posted in Manhattan, Multimedia, Video

High school seniors need college cash

Reporting by: Amber Benham, Rachel Senatore, Jessica Simeone and Nicole Turso

Teenagers these days aren’t just thinking about love and movies; they’re worried about how they’ll pay for college in a recession.


For these seniors, saving money is the goal.

Ivan ColladoIvan Collado
Ivan got accepted at the University of Michigan, but there’s a nearly $15,000 gap between the financial aid he got and what he’ll owe. [audio:http://digitalstoragespace.com/09/benham/audio/IvanCollege.mp3|titles=Ivan talks about college]
He’s trying to figure out how to make prom cheaper.[audio:http://digitalstoragespace.com/09/benham/audio/IvanProm.mp3|titles=Ivan talks about prom] Emily PalkanEmily Palkan
Emily is comparing tuition costs to find the best deal. [audio:http://digitalstoragespace.com/09/benham/audio/EmilyCollege.mp3|titles=Emily talks about college]She says taking a limo to prom is more expensive than it used to be. [audio:http://digitalstoragespace.com/09/benham/audio/EmilyProm1.mp3|titles=Emily talks about prom]

Ivan Collado, a senior at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, was accepted at the University of Michigan, but the $30,000 financial aid package he was offered isn’t enough to cover the $44,797 tuition.   His dad’s income is already stretched too thin supporting a family of five, so Ivan knows he’ll have to turn the school down.

“It felt worse than a rejection,” he said.

While tuition is up at both the City University of New York and the State University of New York, private scholarships are down, said Kerry Hughes, a college adviser at Molloy.   Even at the private school where she works, students are making tough choices this year about where to apply to college.

Ivan’s classmate Sydney Umana dreamed of going to Penn State.  But all that changed when she got a full scholarship to Felician College in New Jersey.

“I kind of have to go there now. It’s not a bad school, but, you know, it’s not my first choice,” she said. “If not, my parents would have to pay for everything.”

Though senior year is a notoriously expensive time for adolescents, parents of this year’s graduating class face more than the typical financial pressures as they prepare to send their children out of the nest.  For many families, tough times mean smaller college funds than they expected.

“Parents tell kids, ‘Apply anyway. Don’t worry about cost,’ in junior year,” said Hughes. “Then senior year, when push comes to shove, they tell them they can’t afford it and the kids go bananas here in my office.”

Another expense at a bad time

But before college tuition hits, these teens have another major expense to contend with first—senior prom. The event can cost hundreds of dollars once dresses, tuxes, transportation, flowers and entrance fees are all paid for.

Megan Kerrigan, co-founder of the non-profit organization Operation Fairy Dust that provides girls with donated prom dresses and accessories, said she’s been getting more calls than usual this year. She estimates she has enough dresses to outfit 6,000 girls, but with the meager cash donations Fairy Dust receives annually– “$1000, if we’re lucky”– she can’t afford to rent a space big enough to give them all away. This year, with corporate donations smaller than usual, she expects to help 1,000 girls.

In the face of overwhelming prom expenses, many teens are bargain hunting for their outfits, shopping in groups to get discounts and checking cheaper venues. But with more serious expenses ahead, Ivan Collado can still laugh about the money he doesn’t have to pay for prom.

“Can we take out loans for prom and pay it back later?” he joked.

Megan Kerrigan of Operation Fairy Dust says the bad economy has left her organization with more girls in need, but fewer cash donations to make it happen.

Posted in Multimedia