Urban Beekeeping with Tim O’Neil

Bees may be a nuisance for city dwellers but for beekeeper Tim O’Neil, what’s an annoyance to many is his livelihood and lifelong passion. O’Neil started beekeeping at the age of 13. Now 14 years late he is managing hives and heading a beekeeper apprenticeship program at Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop garden in the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

O’Neil also manages bees at Borough Bees and several hives at different locations throughout Brooklyn. A pair of hives at the Added Value Community Farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, died over the winter. O’Neil and Alex Brown, photographer and volunteer at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, are introducing new bees to the abandoned hives in Red Hook.

Beekeeping was illegal until 2010. Legal beekeepers must register their hives with the city. But the legalization, urban beekeeping is a growing hobby in the city. Beekeepers like Tim O’Neil, whose grandfather also kept bees, are also passing on the trade to others.


Toddlers Interact with Animals at Alley Pond Park in Bayside, Queens


Just before 11 AM on a Saturday morning, Christine Schnurr finds herself surrounded by marsh and mud in a rather unlikely place. The early education specialist is flanked by three students, each of whom are no more than three years old. As the tide slowly trickles in, Schnurr points out a flock of Canada geese preparing to migrate south for the winter. But Jordan, age 3, is taking more interest in a long twig he just found. He and the twig are about the same height, but Jordan quickly loses interest, tosses the twig into the bay and rejoins his classmates of about the same age, Elaina and Freddie.

This is a typical morning at the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC), in Bayside, Queens, which hosts its Toddler Time program every Saturday morning. The center sits at the entrance to the 635 acres of forests, meadows, ponds, and fresh and salt water marshes that make up Alley Pond Park. The park is divided by a narrow inlet from Little Neck Bay, and on this brisk morning our pint-size explorers have ventured out onto the long, winding walkway that curves out into the bay. Their parents, not far behind, seem to appreciate that their kids are walking above the muddy marsh instead of walking through it.

Their expedition above the marsh was preceded by about 15 minutes of playtime and 10 minutes of story time. The group also fueled-up with brief snack consisting of classic combination of carbohydrates and protein that has kept generations of kindergarteners in peak physical shape: chocolate chip cookies and milk.

The theme of the day’s class is migration and hibernation, and as Schnurr pointed out, most of the animals that usually fill Alley Pond Park have already headed south or to sleep. However, the animal room at APEC is stocked year-round with a myriad of animals, putting it in a category somewhere between a large pet store and a small petting zoo.

Among the favorites are the 6 different rabbits, with their floppy ears and fuzzy coats. Some of the braver toddlers venture up to the snake tank with a four foot Ball Python inside, or the neighboring Corn Snake, who name is Bernie.

Today, however, the birds steal the show. Schnurr brings out Henry, a ring-necked dove, who momentarily escapes Schnurr’s gentle grip, and finds his way to Sasha, a small green parrot who has been sitting on top of its cage all morning, occasionally belting out a few lyrics to Rockin’ Robin. After Henry is recaptured, Elaina and Jordan move in to pet their winged friend. Freddie, however, has yet to forgive Henry, after the bird landed on his head during class a few weeks ago.

     Toddler Time is a weekly program run at the APEC, usually on Saturdays at 10:30. Check the calendar on APEC’s website for more details.


Cyclocross Pushes the Limits

Cyclocross 2011 from Vimeo.

Cyclocross is a fringe cycling phenomenon with deep roots in modern cycling culture. The sport began as  a favorite off-season training activity for Tour de France riders nearly 100 years ago, and has since become a national pastime in several European countries.

In the United States, the rough-and-tumble world of cyclocross racing has remained a sport on the margins, with races organized in city parks, woodlands, and homemade courses across America.

There is no question that this is a dangerous sport. Avid racers are no stranger to blood and mayhem. There are few accolades and minimal opportunity for glory.

On November 20th, racers gathered from all over the Northeast to compete in the annual Supercross Cup.

Late-Night Baking with Jules Skloot

“There is, like, a moment, there is a shift, and it occurs to me, and I’m like, ‘Yes!’’

That’s Jules Skloot talking about the moment when inspiration strikes for late-night baking.

The Brooklyn dancer, performer, and sometimes banjo player is known to make cookies, pies, and other treats past well past midnight, when the kitchen in his communal home is quiet and the demands of the day are through.

It’s a meditation, and an act of love. “I don’t bake for people I don’t like,” Skloot says. Luckily, he likes the five roommates with whom he shares a rental brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Pies demand recipe books and several hours of work. But chocolate-chip cookies take just half an hour, and they can be made whenever the mood strikes. Skloot has the recipe memorized, and the work becomes a meditation. “I enjoy the unknown moments, you know, and the messiness,” he says. “I like to take my time.”

Skloot says the ideal cookie — and the ones in the accompanying video, above, come pretty close — should have plenty of what he calls “loft”:

So they’re not like super-thin, like crackery? And they’re not, like, super tall and fluffy, like cakey? I don’t really like that either. They’re like a really good mix… around the edges they’re gonna be really crisp, but in the middle they’ll still be really pliant.

Late-night baking comes and goes. It’s dependent on busyness, work schedules, other demands — but more importantly, on Skloot’s mood, on the emotional temperature of the house, and the unpredictable strike of whimsy. Sometimes Skloot’s roommates are lucky enough to wake up twice in a week to a pile of chocolate-chip cookies or a pecan pie set on a glass plate. Other times life flows by, weeks pass, and they wait and hope.


Keeping the magic alive at the Quidditch World Cup

Quidditch World Cup V from Katie Chow on Vimeo.

On November 12th and 13th, Harry Potter fans flocked to Randall’s Island to celebrate the boy wizard’s favorite sport at the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup. The tournament was presented by the International Quidditch Association, which was founded in 2007 by Alex Benepe while he was a student at Middlebury College. Quidditch for Muggles, or non-magical people, was first developed at the Vermont school in 2005. In the Harry Potter series, Quidditch is a sport played by witches and wizards flying on brooms, competing to score points through hoops fixed high in the air. This is easy enough to adapt to the ground, but players are also in pursuit of the Golden Snitch. In the books, this is a winged ball that flies wherever it pleases. In Muggle Quidditch, the Snitch is a person who hides from the teams’ Seekers.

On that Saturday alone, 10,000 spectators visited the Quidditch World Cup. Additionally, there were about a thousand Quidditch players from close to 100 different teams, including one group that traveled from the University of Vaasa in Finland.

For more information, visit InternationalQuidditch.org.

A Hiroshima bombing survivor recounts her experience

Setsuko Thurlow’s experience on August 6, 1945 remains vivid. The bombing of Hiroshima happened when Thurlow, then 13, was at an army base decoding secret messages. Her family was scattered across the city. Her mother was at home. Her father was out of the town fishing. Her sister and her 4-year-old nephew were near the center of the blast. Thurlow’s sister didn’t live past a week.

Some memories fade with time. But for Thurlow, now 79, the harrowing images of death and destruction have marked her permanently. Now she shares her painful memories with high school students, government officials and activists as a part of Hibakusha Stories.

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Vado Diomande: Dancer, Choreographer, and Drummer from the Ivory Coast

Vado Diomande, 50, has established a reputation as a distinguished performer and teacher of traditional dances from West Africa.  Five years ago, however, Diomande’s career was interrupted when he suddenly became ill with a life threatening disease.

In February 2006, Diomande, founder of the Kotchenga Dance Company, collapsed in a restaurant he went to after a performance in Pennsylvania.  An ambulance was called and he was rushed to a hospital.

“They check everything and they said that my heart no good, and everything no good,” Diomande said.

Diomande’s condition later became critical.  What followed was worry and confusion as doctors tried to find a diagnosis.

They knew it was something very, very serious,” said Lisa Diomande, Vado’s wife.  “But they didn’t know what to do.”

Eventually, the Center for Disease Control concluded that what Diomande had was naturally occurring anthrax.  He was the first to fall ill with the disease in 30 years.

Diomande survived the rare, but deadly disease.  He doesn’t attribute his survival to any medical cure, but to his career as a dancer. “My dancing helped me a lot, that’s why I’m living today” Diomande said.

Diomande turned his near death experience into a source of motivation for his dancing. “I was strong before,” Diomande said “This is what happens in life.  I will keep going.”

by Oulimata Ba

Fort Greene Supermarket Hires Locally

The Fort Greene Clinton Hill Local reported in September that the Red Apple Supermarket at Myrtle Avenue and Ashland Place began hiring area residents. Since then, Red Apple representatives said that it hired most of its 75-person staff from local public housing.

The store opened in late October and hired more than 70 employees, most of them residents from the Ingersoll and Whitman houses, according to District Leader Lincoln Restler.

Ingersoll resident Victoria Samuel, 44, attended the fair, along with 130 of her neighbors and community members. At the time, she said that she spent more than two years looking for work in the neighborhood to with no success.

“It’s sad because we live here and there aren’t jobs,” she said. “They’re not hiring us and we’re their customers.”

The Ingersoll and Whitman houses, which have more than 9,000 residents combined, were recently found to be in Brooklyn’s poorest census tract.

Hired the week after the job fair, Samuel said that it is nice to work with her neighbors and that she hopes to see more business pursue similar hiring practices.

“If they had a lot more of that happening around here, it would be a little better for a lot of people,” Samuel said. “They would see that the people here aren’t useless.”

Bronx community rallies around post office

West Farms residents say the postal service’s threatened closure of their post office is an unfair attack on their community.

The post office is one of 17 in the Bronx — more than in New York’s four other boroughs combined — on the U.S. Postal Service’s list of some 3,200 possible post office closures nationwide as it tries to close a $9 billion budget shortfall. The postal service blames increased competition from e-mail and private shipping companies.

But residents say the post office is vital to their community. They argued that they wouldn’t have an alternative within walking distance. The next closest post offices are both across major highways.

The residents also said the area is experiencing an economic renaissance, which would be threatened by the post office’s closure. The area is already home to the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx River Art Center, which is undergoing a $7 million renovation.

At a recent town hall meeting, residents and local leaders made their frustrations known to postal officials.

Architect By Day and Performing Artist By Night

Architect By Day & Artist By Night … from Melissa Noel on Vimeo.

While completing a degree in Architecture in Washington D.C., Dwayne Smith made a decision.

He decided that he would not choose between pursuing a career in architecture and his goal of making it in the music industry as an R& B singer.  So he didn’t.

Now almost two years since Smith got his degree, he is an Architectural Draftsman at KOR architects, a leading New York City firm. He also making waves as unsigned hype performing self-written R&B songs all over NYC and Washington D.C.

Each day this 24-year-old Bronx native goes from making blue prints to writing music notes. He often goes straight from the firm to the stage.

Smith is in the process of trying to get signed to a record label. He is also lead designer of gallery for a new arts institution in Manhattan. This is something Smith says is usually reserved for older, more experienced architects.

“I will not lose, failure is not an option” is something Smith says to himself everyday.

He may not lose, but many around him think that the day will come when he will have to choose between one or the other because each is so demanding.

Smith’s family equally supports both of his ambitions.  His  two brothers help promote and produce  his  music and he  has  made his mother the  C.E.O of  his company Crow Productions. The company will feature music as well as  a clothing  line Smith recently started called Vello Apparel.

He was heavily influenced by the strict upbringing and lover’s rock reggae music in his Jamaican household.

Smith just made his first music video for his most successful single thus far, “Illustrious” and will complete the art gallery  at the start of 2012.

“At times I do feel like I have  to choose between  architecture and music , but I try to keep the  drive for both.”