Thursday, January 31st, 2013
It’s a frigid morning on Staten Island’s South Shore, with the temperature struggling to crack 20 degrees as a stiff wind buffets the Eltingville neighborhood. The elementary school students showing up at P.S. 55 are cocooned in puffy jackets, gloves and hats as they jump out of warm cars and onto the sidewalk towing large backpacks, some adorned with the face of Justin Bieber, others with the logo of the New York Giants.
Amidst an ongoing school bus strike, it’s a fairly orderly scene on this Tuesday. Parents drive up to the curb, let their children out and move on to the rest of the day. Directing traffic, and gently scolding the occasional parent who pulls a U-turn on Koch Boulevard, is Mike Reilly, a former New York City police lieutenant who is a few days shy of his 40th birthday.
Reilly is outside the school each morning mostly to mitigate traffic. But, as the co-author of a controversial school safety plan that calls for the Department of Education to use retired cops armed with guns to protect city schools, he’s also found himself in the middle of the contentious debate over gun control and student safety that has erupted in the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
Ali El Sayed is an artist.
His canvas is a plate and his brush ranges from an eggplant to a beef shank.
El Sayed has owned and operated Kabab Café on Steinway Street in Queens for over 25 years. He believes that food, not diplomacy, is the key to attaining world peace. Despite mounting conflict in the Middle East, El Sayed, a self-proclaimed pacifist, remains hopeful about peace prospects.
“People are not going to solve their problems sitting in a court or at the U.N.” the Egyptian-born chef said. “I think they’ll solve their problems sitting in a restaurant and talking over food.”
Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Upon meeting Shadi Batal, it is hard not to be impressed. Only 25 years old, Batal has been running his hair salon on 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for five years. He is happily married and drives a shiny BMW around the streets of his vibrant Arab-American neighborhood. His life is almost storybook in its personification of immigrant success in the U.S.
But as a native of Syria, Batal’s life is much more complicated than it appears.
Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Dimitris Velitsianos couldn’t find work in his Greek homeland, so he left to seek a better life in Queens.
“I don’t think things are going to get better in Greece soon,” said Velitsianos, 20, a full-time student at John Jay College and a part-time waiter at Agnanti. “I don’t see any future in Greece.”
Four decades ago, a political coup brought thousands of Greeks to Astoria. Now, a failing economy that’s more than $400 billion in debt is fueling a recent wave of immigration.