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Christmas Fan Lights Up Bayside

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

For Robert Sibrizzi, of Bayside, Christmas begins in April. That’s when he starts work on his holiday decorating extravaganza, which spills over next door, onto his mother-in-law’s lawn, along 205th Street.

This year’s effort includes 500 decorations and 70,000 lights that blink in time to whatever music he’s playing, via his new computerized synchronization system. Sibrizzi also has added a surprise feature: a bubble machine.

“So when I see people walking by the house, I turn it on and the whole driveway fills up with bubbles,” said Sibrizzi, 46.

Kids – and Moms – Write to Santa

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Nicole is a 12-year-old girl from Gildersleave Avenue in the Bronx who wants a pink sweater and a pink pair of pants, size five, for Christmas.  She also would like toys for her little brother Kevin, 6, and her 2-year-old sister, Gabriella.

“Dear Santa,” Nicole wrote on paper decorated with small houses with roofs covered in snow. “Even though Christmas is about having your family together and spending quality time together, I’d really like presents.”

“I truly love Christmas with all my heart, but sadly my parents are short on money, my dad just lost his job,” she wrote in blue ink. “And I don’t know if they can buy us anything this year.”

Nicole’s is one the 200,000 letters to Santa Claus that found their way to the James A. Farley Main Post Office in Manhattan, and were made available to the public through the annual Operation Santa Claus program.

Temporary Suspension

The nationwide program was halted for three days after a Maryland postal clerk recognized a sex offender as a would-be do-gooder. Under new rules, volunteers who answer children’s letters to Santa can no longer deliver gifts in person, and no longer have access to any personal information.

The controversy and the poor economy, though, have not stopped New Yorkers from helping the needy.

“This year’s response to Operation Santa Claus indicates that the generosity of New Yorkers remains unaffected by the current economic downturn,” said U.S. Postal Service spokesman George Flood.

What has changed is that more mothers than usual wrote to Santa this year, according to one postal employee who opened and separated the letters by geographical location. The postal employee did not want to give her name, identifying herself only as “Santa’s Helper.”

“Dear Santa,” wrote a mom who lives on Hughes Avenue in the Bronx. “My name is Jose… I am 7 months, this year is my first Christmas and my mum don’t have the money to buy me toys and clothes.”

“Dear Santa,” another mom wrote, “I am a single mother of 3. Things have been extremely difficult for us this year. With the increasing cost of food, and all other items of necessity, things get harder everyday. My income seems to evaporate. I am a faithful hard working individual who’s goal is to provide my children with a better future.

“I am seeking your assistance, Santa and the kindness of your heart to make this a memorable Christmas for my children.”

Helping Hands

New Yorkers who responded to the letters said that while they’ve been hit by the economic turmoil, they realize their help is more needed than ever.

“I do this for the needy children,” said Michelle Meyer, of the Bronx. “I want to be able to give back.”

“I have kids, and I pick the kids who are the same age as mine,” said Long Island resident Maureen Denley. “But I’m going to give what they [the letter writers] need, rather than what they want such as toys or games.”

Merchants Share Space, Save Money

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

It’s a Saturday afternoon at the Great American Laundromat in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, where Hawa Sidibe has spent the better part of her day.

But she’s not impatiently awaiting the rinse cycle — she’s busy braiding a woman’s hair into neat rows in a makeshift salon the size of a walk-in closet.

Brushes and a hair dryer fill modest shelf space, as do items for sale: socks, gold-colored belts, knockoff designer bags and DVDs of African movies.

“An outside store is expensive for me, that’s why I have it inside a Laundromat,” said Sidibe, a 26-year-old immigrant from Mali.

At a time when the profit margins of countless small businesses are shrinking, shops-within-a-shop like Sidibe’s are multiplying throughout the city.

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Low-Income Housing With High Hopes

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

With it’s stately exterior, well-lit hallways and backyard sculpture garden, Morris Manor easily could be mistaken for a new luxury condominium. But the 46-unit apartment building in Flatbush represents the latest strides in low-income housing.

Operated by CAMBA and designed by Harden + Van Arnam Architects, the goal of Morris Manor is to combine comfortable surrounding and social services for its formerly homeless tenants.

Buckley Got FBI's Kudos – and Wrath

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Gridiron Blackout For Some Fans

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Mobile Clinics Help City’s Pet Cause

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Brighton Beach Rezoning On Tap

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Bikers Give Seniors a Wild Ride

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008