Last weekend, Bronx Community College held their Diversity in Public Art event which celebrated artistic contributions made by and reflecting a multitude of cultural backgrounds, and above all to honor the historic first Hall of Fame in the United States.
Opened to the public, this event began on September 21st and will run through October 25th displaying a mix of exhibitions that include paintings, sculptures, films, digital art and various mixed media, with the focal point being to reexamine the Hall of Fame and focus on the importance of cultural diversity in public monuments.
Kicking off the commencement last Saturday in the Gould Memorial Library were some opening remarks by Luis Montenegro, BCC Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. A musical performance followed by the Hondurian Bodoma Garifuna Culture band to get the “party” started featuring inspiring rhythmic drum compositions and harmonized singing, which included colorfully dressed traditional dancers performing in time with the music.
Film screenings, poetry readings and performances filled the day culminating with an award ceremony and closing remarks.
For many in attendance, (and I count myself among this group) the tour of the Hall of Fame of Great Americans was the prominent highlight of the day. Considering the fact that the weather could not have been more cooperative and one of the most beautiful Fall days ever, our group tour was conducted by the esteemed Bronx Historian, Lloyd Ultan.
Both a Bronx native and a graduate of Hunter College and Columbia University respectively, Mr. Ultan has been the borough’s historian since 1996, having an illustrious career as a professor of history at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies and a member of the adjunct faculty at Lehman College. Needless to say, the tour was very illuminating!
Sharing both historical facts and pertinent pop culture information about the Hall of Fame itself and the individuals honored, Mr. Ultan’s charm and knowledge were matched only by his ability to sprinkle humor throughout the tour, making it captivating and entertaining.
The outdoor sculpture gallery that comprises The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is of course located on the grounds of Bronx Community College, but what many may not realize is that it is the first ever such hall of fame in the country.
Conceived by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, the Hall of Fame was intended as a way to honor Americans who made a significant contribution to our society. According to The American Monthly Review of Reviews published in 1900, Chancellor MacCracken acknowledged that his inspiration was derived from the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) in Munich, Germany.
And while fame has come to mean more of “celebrity” these days, over a century ago, the meaning was more akin to that of “renown” which is ever apparent from the 96 (formerly 98) portrait busts that line the 630 foot open-air Colonnade of the Hall of Fame.
Originally built on the grounds of what was New York University’s University Heights campus, the school was forced to sell the campus to the City University of New York in 1973 when it then became Bronx Community College. What a lovely inheritance for BCC – an architectural masterpiece which had previously been designated a New York City Landmark on February 15, 1966 and would be added to the National Register of Historical Placed on September 7, 1979.
Mr. Ultan delighted our mesmerized group with fundamental facts about those individuals honored and a few tidbits of trivia which included how the Munchkins of Munchkinland mentioned the Hall of Fame in the 1939 feature film, The Wizard of Oz when they were honoring Dorothy.
The Beaux Arts structure was designed by the architect Stanford White (who, incidentally also designed the BCC Gould Memorial Library), was named for its donor Helen Gould and dedicated on May 30, 1901.
If you are curious like me, you may be wondering how it came to be decided who would be featured in the Hall of Fame. Well, as Mr. Ultan explained, there was a procedure and a number of requirements to the process. Each state was allowed to nominate notable persons for consideration, regardless of gender or race, however, individuals were required to be native born or naturalized (since 1914) citizens of the United States.
To avoid the prospect of self promotion, it was required that nominees be dead for 10 years from 1900 to 1920 and then it was increased to 25 years deceased in 1922. Lastly, a nominee must have made a major contribution to the economic, political, or cultural life of the nation.
I decided to embark on a little research myself about the election process and came upon a wonderful article written by Richard Rubin of The Atlantic Monthly, written in 1997, entitled “The Mall of Fame” which explains the election process beautifully:
“MacCracken wanted to make sure that the people enshrined in his Hall of Fame were truly famous, not just memorable. So he established a board of electors, composed of men and women who were themselves possessed of some measure of renown, ostensibly people of great character and sound judgment. Over the years that body would include the most respected writers, historians, and educators of their day, along with scores of congressmen, a dozen Supreme Court justices, and six Presidents…It was a truly democratic institution — anyone could nominate a candidate, admission would be free, and although NYU served as a
steward, raising funds and running the elections, the whole thing was technically the property of the American people.”
The Colonnade is well-designed and broken into categorized marked sections, that comprise fifteen classes and our delightful tour guide highlighted several individuals from each one, providing insight into their accomplishments and contributions. These classes include authors and editors, businessmen, inventors, missionaries and explorers, philanthropists and reformers, clergymen and theologians, scientists, engineers and architects, lawyers and judges, musicians, painters, and sculptors, physicians and surgeons, politicians and statesmen, soldiers and sailors, teachers and distinguished men and women outside of these classes.
Equally relevant are the sculptures who created the busts, who were as diversified in their backgrounds and native countries as the elected individuals whose likenesses fill the hall. Upon entering from the grounds of the campus, the first category featured are inventors and scientists, which was a great way to kick off the tour!
Here is a short list of those individuals featured on our tour. See how many you know!
In the case of Robert E. Lee, he is disliked today because he was a commander of the Confederate States Army, however, he was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and military engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. He also distinguished himself during the Mexican–American War, and served as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy.
As for Stonewall Jackson, he was also a Confederate general during the American Civil War and his military strategies are still studied today.
With my college years as a student at Fordham University decades behind me, I’m once again focusing in on institutions of higher learning with two teenage daughters who are becoming increasingly aware of the many options they will have to consider during the next few years.
In many ways, I took for granted just how amazing a school Fordham was when attending. However, now that I am beginning the college investigative process with my teenage kids with objectivity, it is no wonder Fordham is a much desired college to attend by kids around the country and the world!
Here are ten lesser known facts that you might not be aware of about this prestigious Bronx university.
1. Fordham ranks in Top 100 college and universities in 2019
In a ranking of all national universities, Fordham, private and co-ed, ranked #70. The university has some of the highest-ranked graduate programs in New York and the Northeast, from business and law to education and social work. The Gabelli School of Business, in particular, is recognized as one of the top business schools in the nation.
2. Top Ranking for Best Undergraduate Teaching
Based on a survey conducted in the spring of 2018, Fordham was ranked among the most prestigious universities for putting a particular emphasis on undergraduate teaching. The ranking were tallied from the most votes given by top college administrators and Fordham came in at #52 along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University.
3. Fordham University is the Oldest Catholic College in the Northeast
Fordham University was founded by the Catholic Diocese of New York in 1841 as St. John’s College, making it the oldest Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the northeastern United States. The vision began in 1840 when The Most Reverend John J. Hughes purchased the bulk of Rose Hill Manor, a private farm in the village of Fordham, now part of The Bronx. The administrators brought in Jesuit educators to run the college in 1845, establishing Fordham as New York City’s only Jesuit institution. The school is also the third-oldest university in the state of New York, after New York University and Columbia University.
4. Tuition at Fordham University is Slightly Higher Than Average
The undergraduate tuition and fees at Fordham University are slightly higher than the average amount of similar schools’ tuition. The 2019 undergraduate tuition & fees of Fordham University are $52,687 for their students and approximately an additional $17,969 for room and board.
Graduate school tuition & fees for 2019 are $34,363. On average, annual tuition for private 4-Year not-for-profit colleges and universities total about $50,900 for annual tuition and fees.
Incidentally, this is a far cry from what it cost when I was an undergraduate student back in the day at $10,000 with room and board!
5. Students Enjoy the Experience of Urban Living and Inter-Campus Travel
The school motto says it best with “New York is my campus. Fordham is my school.” In the heart of The Bronx, the Rose Hill Campus offers both its outdoor gardenesque grounds and the ultimate urban setting outside its gates. With its second residential campus at Lincoln Center, in the cultural heart of Manhattan near Central Park, transportation between the two is easy and accessible via the school’s Ram Van shuttle that runs every half hour. The college’s third campus in Westchester’s Harrison can also be reached by means of the Ram Van.
6. Campus Life versus City Apartment Living
Fordham University offers resident students the chance to select their preference for living quarters all four years. Even Freshmen do not have to live on campus, if they choose, taking advantage of the Bronx apartment life. However, any student who is promised housing upon admittance to the school is guaranteed a room for four consecutive years.
7. Fashion Law Anyone?
Fordham School of Law, is home to the first Fashion Law Institute in the country. With the help of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, it’s the world’s first center dedicated to the law and business of fashion teaching the four pillars of this specialty which include Intellectual property, Business and finance, International trade and government regulation, including sustainability, privacy, and issues related to wearable technology and Consumer culture and civil rights.
8. The Opportunity to Live on a Biological Field Station
Ever imagine what it would be like to reside in a log cabin and study your natural surroundings? Each year, this becomes a reality for twelve lucky graduate students who are able to live in log cabins allowing them to be closer to their research. Graduates and undergraduates alike may take advantage of the Louis Calder Center, a biological field station where environmental studies courses and research are conducted.
9. It’s Not Greek to Me
Although co-ed with many activities, clubs and academic studies, this Jesuit university does not offer a Greek life (fraternities or sororities).
10. Students Love Fordham
It’s a good sign that students love their school when retention and graduation rates are high. At Fordham University, the rate of student retention is very high at 91%, which is well above New York average. The graduation rate at Fordham University is very good too at 81%.
11. A Fordham Education is Mark of Distinction
According to recent government data, 42,811 applications were submitted to Fordham University by students wanting to attend and 20,366 were accepted, so it is pretty difficult to be accepted at this school. On the flip side, if you or your loved ones are lucky enough to be accepted and earn a degree from this prestigious Bronx college, then you should be very proud.
Till next time,
This year marks the thirty-ninth year of World Tourism Day with the theme “Tourism and Jobs, A Better Future for All.”
Beginning in 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization began the annual celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27 with the purpose of raising awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
Each year, a new theme is chosen and as per the UNWTO General Assembly decision at its Twelfth Session in Istanbul, Turkey in 1997, a host country is designated each year to act as the Organization’s partner, and this year, excitement abounds in India, this year’s World Tourism Day host!
Getting down to brass tacks, what does this year’s theme really mean in practical terms. Well, it would appear that there are three basic components to successfully launch initiatives moving forward. These include Education, Skills and Jobs, regardless of geographic area.
From a global standpoint, international travel has never been bigger and it continues to grow. In essence, the world has gotten smaller because of technology, social media and overall growth socio-economically during the last half century. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950. Just 68 years later, in 2018, this number has increased to 1.4 billion international arrivals per year. This is a 56-fold increase.*
People have become more interested in the far-reaching corners of the globe - which is relative depending on where they live - and with the growth in the international tourism industry, travel has never been more accessible. However, with this increase in demand comes the need for better educated tourism professionals, with honed skills that include not only knowledge of the places to which they are either assisting people to visit, but also an appreciation and respect for the communities within which they are creating tours and travel opportunities.
The skills required for travel professionals are increasingly under the global microscope with the need to be more sophisticated as a result of the plethora of online rating sites that can make or break a business’ reputation.
The Bronx, New York, is an example of a New York City destination which is becoming increasingly recognized as an important tourist focal point. Through growing internet exposure and word of mouth, curiosity is on the rise for this outer borough which is home to national historical sites and unique cultural neighborhoods and nuances and joins the ranks of many other formerly less visited places around the world.
As a result, the necessity for qualified local tour guides with a keen knowledge of the area, relationships with local business owners and a commitment to sustainable tourism has never been more critical.
Whether it is The Bronx or any international locality, a vital aspect of being a well educated and skilled tourism professional is the incorporation of sustainable business practices which show a greater respect for the local residents, the community at large and the native culture and social components that make up the area. The result is that it impresses a sense of consideration and local awareness on their visiting clientele.
These sustainable businesses practices include using public transportation and walking through neighborhoods and villages, keeping tour group sizes small and manageable, supporting small businesses and local vendors (which brings economic growth to individual neighborhoods) an insistence on respect and polite interaction with community inhabitants and a commitment to preserving the culture and strong sense of history for the tourist area.
New York City is taking action by creating a pathway to promote sustainable practices. The Big Apple aims to make the city carbon-neutral by 2050 and buildings more energy efficient.
When it comes to jobs, consider the fact that travel and tourism provide employment to nearly 300 million people in the world either directly or indirectly. This number equates to 1 out of 10 jobs in the world being provided by the Tourism sector. In fact, when it comes to small nations like Bhutan, Maldives and Cambodia, to name a few, 40% of the people earn their livelihoods from the travel and tourism Sector.
What’s more, this sector of the jobs market affords equal opportunities for both men and women with relatively accessible skills unlike other professions that may require advanced degrees and technological knowledge. Tourism jobs are quite diverse as well, considering the comprehensive nature of the travel industry. Building a career can range from becoming a travel agent and planner, to hotel industry professional, tour operators, event planner, tour guide and even fringe craftspeople such as chefs, public relations executives writers and online critics and webinar teachers.
It would seem obvious that this could become a growing field of study for institutions of higher learning around the globe and a career choice worth considering.
Till next time,
By Diego Robayo
The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD) was founded in 1998 and started out as an association to promote artists that belonged to minority groups whose rights at that time were still unrecognized by many in society by dancer Arthur Aviles and writer Charles Rice-Gonzalez, two LGBT rights advocates, and artists that leverage art to prompt societal development.
Although their professions are different, they both use art to promote inclusion of groups that have traditionally been excluded from society.
In 2013, BAAD left the South Bronx and settled down in the Westchester Square neighborhood of the East Bronx in a historic landmark building that was built between 1882 and 1883.
Queer artists and artists of color have been able to express their ideas and feelings in the welcoming atmosphere of BAAD. This was an extraordinary social advancement at the time the organization was founded, considering that in 1998 the foundations of gay rights were still fragile.
However, several events that occurred that year strengthened them. For instance, the first open lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, was elected to federal office in 1998.
Aviles is a world-known performer who has been awarded with the highest distinctions in dance. In 1996, he established his own dance company in Paris, called Arthur Aviles Typical theatre, and one year later, he moved it to the South Bronx, the place where he was raised. He then teamed up with Charles Rice-Gonzalez to create BAAD.
Rice-Gonzalez’s writings highlights the humanity of the South Bronx, which has been largely overshadowed by the neighborhood’s “messed-up reputation.” His debut novel, El Chulito (2011), was deemed as the first queer Puerto Rican novel set in the U.S.
Although they both focus on different forms of art, they posses the common passion of advocating for gay rights, and this inclusion has been the core foundation of BAAD, which today presents empowering work of women, people of color and LGBT community.
The Bronx has been an incubator for many cultural movements, setting models to follow for new artists. For instance, in the 1970s, the borough was credited for conceiving what ultimately became known as Hip Hop.
This cultural efflorescence in The Bronx allowed BAAD to advance its cultural initiatives, despite how irreverent they were considered by some people.
Despite being a borough that has been a cradle of progressive cultural movements it is also home of religious communities that may perceive BAAD’s presence with scorn. Compared to other ethnic groups, Latinos have one of the highest rates of affiliation to Christianity, and their connection to Christianity tends to come with derision towards ideas or movements that challenge their values.
One of BAAD’s most recent arts initiatives is called Trasnvisionaries and it features cabaret dancers, poets, musicians, dancers and performers who identify themselves as Transgender. It is a courageous process that has brought about expressions of ostracism from community members that disapprove BAAD’s progressive and liberal thinking.
However, the overall acceptance from the public has been favorable, even among traditional and conservative groups.
When BAAD moved to its current location in 2013, it organized a welcoming event, inviting community representatives that included a sister from the Episcopal Church which owns the building where they are located.
The event included a performance of half naked men with hefty bodies kissing each other and by the end of the show the sister thanked BAAD for the evening after having enjoyed the show.
BAAD’s relation with the Episcopal Church illustrates how art unites people of contrasting ideas, in a way that other forms of expression cannot. Arthur Aviles is a widely acclaimed dancer whose performances transmit such beauty that other aspects of him, which are more controversial, are faded into the background of puritan minds.
In 2003 The New York Times wrote: “If you don’t know Mr. Aviles, you haven’t seen one of the great modern dancers of the last 15 years.”
By Diego Robayo
Encouraged by subsidy programs that offered zero-down mortgage payments on houses in other counties, most of the middle-class had left The Bronx by the 1970’s. The borough became an enclave for working- class immigrants, African Americans and Puerto Ricans, many from East Harlem or El Barrio.
Unfortunately, an unwanted visitor was also making its debut.
An almost invisible visitor in the form of a white powder that filled people’s lungs with an acrid smoke, crack, called by some the “fast food” of drugs, brought with it an epidemic of additional poverty and crime.
In the midst of this gloomy time, Mike Amadeo found the perfect conditions to start a business. He established a store that would maintain the spirit of Latino culture in the same place where another Latino music store, called Casa Hernandez, had been functioning since 1941, before Mike took over the place. Mike named his new store Casa Amadeo, and since the 1960s until today, it has been in the same place in the South Bronx. It remains the oldest Latino music store in New York City, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Mike Amadeo’s affinity for music began when he was a little boy. He made a living out of this passion when he arrived to New York City from Puerto Rico. As a member of a salsa music group called Los Tres Reyes, he recorded his music with a company called Compañía Alegre (The Happy Company), which was located in the same building as Casa Amadeo. In his lifetime, Mike has composed over 200 songs.
Mike moved to the South Bronx in 1969 when he rented a shop at 786 Prospect Avenue (also known as 850 Longwood Avenue) for a price much lower than the average rent of the city. At the time, many of the longtime residents were fleeing the area, which was starting to feel more like a war zone than a neighborhood, but Mike was lured by the cheap rent and the increasing Latino community.
New York City has always been the home of diverse cultures and values, and this diversity created the perfect place for Mike to prevail and establish a profitable enterprise. The Hispanic population was becoming the majority in the South Bronx, and they became Mike’s most distinguished customers. He filled up the stalls of his store with Latino music.
Latinos love to dance, and all the countries that comprise South and Central America have their own original rhythms with the same festive cadence. They all are danced vividly, and give Latino countries a cheery ambience. This cultural bliss was sustained by Casa Amadeo, as Mike was providing the community with the most iconic salsa discs.
Large numbers of Latinos began to arrive to the South Bronx in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and they encountered a bleak atmosphere infested by drugs and decay. To uphold their culture, Latino nightclubs began to prosper, and they became a shelter for the joyous identity of immigrants coming from South and Central America.
Soon enough, these nightclubs became Mike’s privileged customers. Mike was supplying jukeboxes in Latino nightclubs with compact discs, and his customer base continued to grow, while at the same time he was paying a very low rent in a depressed neighborhood.
Only a few people had Mike’s determination to stay in The Bronx at that time. In the 1970’s, this borough lost one in five residents, and its population declined from 1.472 million to 1.169 million. As The Bronx continued to be neglected, the circumstances for Mike became harder, but his determination to stay remained strong. .
For more than two years, the building where his store is located was abandoned and no one was collecting the rent. Junkies constantly broke into the building, and sometimes into his store. Utilities were shut down, and Mike had to get water from the fire hydrant outside his building which he carried with a bucket into his space. He eventually convinced ConEdison to reconnect the utility supply.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited The Bronx and walked along Charlotte Street, just some blocks away from Casa Amadeo. The New York Times covered this visit by saying that the president “viewed some of the country’s worst urban blight, rubble‐strewn lots and open fire hydrants, and people shouting ‘Give us money!’”
Amongst this bleak landscape, Mike’s business was flourishing. The store became a gathering place for Latino culture and his creativity grew delightful songs written by him on the counters of the store. The entire borough was falling apart, but the interior of Mike’s store was radiating colorful beams of imagination that united the community.
Today, Mike has a deep bond with his store, even though it does not provide him with the necessary income to cover his expenses. However, the emotional reward of having overcome those dark times is ample satisfaction.
Mike blames the decline of his store on two reasons : the disruption caused by digital music and the Giuliani administration. Most traditional businesses had to reinvent themselves in the last decades due to the arrival of the digital platforms. Mike’s business was in the center of this wide-reaching turmoil.
Additionally, in the 1990’s, Mayor Giuliani’s administration required that specifically zoned “cabaret” business apply for license renewal every two years for a fee up to $1,300. This requirement got rid of many informal nightclubs that were operating without any license. Mike believed that by doing so, Giuliani criminalized the city’s nightlife.
Casual buyers of music could now access to all the music they wanted online, and many nightclubs with jukeboxes that demanded Mike’s compact discs are now on the verge of disappearing or are gone, but Mike’s determination has remained strong. From Monday to Saturday, he arrives at 11:00 in the morning to keep his store running.
At the age of 84, he is energetic enough to pull up the heavy gates of his store, answer the phone, offer interviews, and attend to his customers; most of whom are seniors that spend a great deal of time walking around the store, staring at compact discs of old salsa orchestras that trigger a sense of nostalgia.
That same nostalgia, and perhaps melancholy, is also present in Mike, as he shows an LP record that contains the music of his father, who also was a prominent musician, and abandoned Mike when he was a little child living in Puerto Rico. Mike talks of his father with both admiration and sorrow. He proudly played the music of his father, while saying “What kind of affection could I have for someone who abandoned me when I was a child?”
My first visit this past week to Wave Hill, the absolutely gorgeous Bronx public gardens, was truly breathtaking.
Although the foremost reason for our visit was to spend the evening in the Aquatic Garden within this 28-acre venue for their weeklyTwilight in the Garden, my teenage daughter, Gianna and I were mesmerized by the beauty of our surroundings upon entering and enjoyed our brief time exploring.
We could not help but take our time strolling and stopping for photos along the way to the Aquatic Garden where the evening’s events were taking place.
The onsite parking facility has been closed due to construction, so all visitors were directed to temporary off-site parking down the road. Fortunately, there were complimentary shuttle buses provided for guests as to avoid the hilly six minute walk back and forth, with friendly drivers to get one’s visit off on a positive note.
As I mentioned, this was my first visit to this garden oasis located in the Riverdale section of The Bronx. Although the estate had been either owned or leased to a number of notable people since the original Wave Hill House, a gray fieldstone mansion, was built in 1843 by lawyer William Lewis Morris, it was eventually purchased, along with the adjacent property, in 1903, as a private estate by George Walbridge Perkins, a partner of J. P. Morgan.
The estate stayed in the Perkins-Freeman family until 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York, with the development of its lush and flourishing gardens in the mid-1960’s.
As of 1983, the estate was added to the roster of the National Register of Historic Places and it’s no wonder why.
This place is absolutely gorgeous and quite a natural refuge and sanctuary in the middle of an otherwise urban setting
Although I had anticipated being blown away by the beauty and tranquility of this place from photos that I had seen and research I had done, it was everything and more than I had expected. Moreover, I was ever grateful and pleasantly surprised at Gianna’s reaction to its beauty!
She was so eager to take photos and pose with the backdrop of flowers and the view of the Hudson River in the background, that we both realized immediately, we had planned our visit to arrive a bit too late in the day.
Between the hand map and signage throughout, in conjunction with a very navigable layout, we made our way around with ease and found ourselves stopping to admire the magnificently laid out exquisite plantings as we traversed the grounds.
Our destination was the Aquatic Garden for the evening’s Twilight in the Garden event featuring Gamelan Dharma Swara.
Dharma Swara is a 25-person ensemble founded in 1989 and is one of the leading Balinese gamelan and dance ensembles in the United States.
After a rather leisurely stroll through the grounds and stopping to take numerous photos, we arrived about five minutes into the performance.
As we approached the lovely Aquatic Garden, we joined other visitors who were comfortably seated around the outdoor garden “stage”, forming a circle of onlookers both on the cool summer grass and comfortably seated on adjacent benches.
Gianna and I walked around, garnering numerous views, as we felt like we had been transformed to Bali with the soft, mesmerizing music that filled the air. The soft, ethereal music filled the evening air.
With the sounds of the enchanting music, we watched most of the show, but left the area a few minutes prior to its completion to continue investigating the Wave Hill grounds before the sun set. There is really just too much to take in to fully enjoy this spectacular place that one must visit often and spent several hours roaming about each time.
Me and my girl did manage to visit the Cafe and snag a few iced teas, which we sipped relaxingly on the outdoor patio before departing for the evening.
In a few words, this visit was both enchanting and invigorating. We will be returning for sure in the Fall, at which time I am looking forward to seeing the seasonal transformation throughout the gardens.
And while I was worried about whether my 15-year old would find the outing enjoyable, I was pleasantly surprised at her excited reaction from beginning to end about how beautiful it was!! The musical performance was not necessarily her thing, but she did take it in and was open to the experience and eager to return.
I highly recommend making time for Wave Hill’s Twilight in the Garden series next summer. I will leave you with a few suggestions for upcoming events this coming Labor Day weekend and beyond. Mark your calendar!
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1 at 2:00PM
Garden Highlights Walk
This public tour of the seasonal garden highlights will be led by one of Wave Hill’s knowledgeable Garden Guides.
Free with admission to the grounds.
Meet at Perkins Visitor Center
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 at 2:00PM
Labor Day Garden Highlights Walk
Open on Labor Day for visitors to join a Wave Hill Garden Guide for a public tour of seasonal garden highlights.
Free with admission to the grounds.
Meet at Perkins Visitor Center
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3 at 2pm
Tour Glyndor Gallery with Wave Hill’s Curatorial Assistant or Gallery Greeter for a view of the current exhibition Figuring the Floral features artists who apply this symbolism to their work—touching on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, aging and other facets of identity.
Free with admission to the grounds.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 8 at 9:30AM
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of diverse bird species and their behavior on these walks through the gardens and woodlands. Observe the plants, insects and habitats at Wave Hill that make it so appealing for such a wide variety of birds. Birders of all levels welcome! Ages 10 and older welcome with an adult.
Free with admission to the grounds. NYC Audubon Members enjoy two-for-one admission. (Meet at Perkins Visitor Center)
Nothing warms my heart more than the news of yet another Bronx site getting its proper and well deserved recognition for what it offers not only to the Borough or the City of New York, but to the world.
Last week, there was fun and festivities to celebrate the publication of Nature Into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, a new book from Timber Press. Written in an eloquent manner by Thomas Christopher, with exquisite photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo, this book is a testament to the beauty of one of the best public gardens in our great state and country.
Initiated by Timber Press, who has brought other public gardens around the United States to the forefront with previously published books, Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill was made possible through a collaborative effort of an enthusiastic publisher, an eager Wave Hill and two talented creative artists.
As the author of several books with Timber Press, and a horticulturist himself, Thomas Christopher was asked to pen a glorious narrative and detailed description of the history and unique features of Wave Hill and its expansive Gardens.
Having spent a great deal of time in The Bronx training as a horticulturist at The New York Botanical Gardens in the 1970’s, Mr. Christopher has always loved the beauty of Wave Hill, visiting frequently throughout the years, and was happy about being a part of this project.
He weaves an engaging story, taking the reader through history, and of course, bestowing a plethora of information about the Gardens and their seasonal transformations. From the 18th Century, when it was home to a number of successive American notables, even hosting the Queen of England, to the early 1900’s when it became the expansive 28 acre estate of financier, George W. Perkins, whose family would reside there through 1960, when it was donated to the city of New York, the book is an interesting and enjoyable read.
Complementing the delightful text are an assemblage of photographs capturing the myriad of plantings of the Wave Hill Gardens and their diversity in each of the four seasons with spectacular perspectives taken by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
One could say that the birth of the Wave Hill Gardens that exists today, came about during the 1960’s under the direction and loving care of its then-horticulturist, Marco Polo Stufano and his small staff of three gardeners. These individuals created an oasis of plantings, the likes of which this country had never seen.
According to Mr. Christopher’s text, “The country had never seen a public garden like this: intimate, personal, rich, and dynamic. And Wave Hill remains unique. The gardeners there practice a kind of classic horticultural craftsmanship unrivaled among other public gardens in the United States. The skill and commitment to detail of the Wave Hill staff is legendary.”
Marco Stufano was determined to create a garden on par with the great American and English gardens and he succeeded in his mission. Wave Hill is one of the last surviving country estates in all of New York City’s five boroughs, containing acres of glorious retreat.
Amidst the harried metropolis of The Bronx that surrounds Wave Hill, one can find peace and solace in these diverse gardens which are situated in one of the most scenic of locations in the city, overlooking the Hudson and the Palisades, offering locals and tourists alike, an opportunity to experience a totally different glimpse into The Bronx and city beyond.
The first to arrive on the scene for this creative project was Ngoc Minh Ngo, who began photographing the plantings and their surroundings eighteen months prior to the book’s author beginning his writings. Generally speaking, Ms. Ngo advised that it is the writing that precedes the photography on her projects, but in this instance, it was imperative for her to begin sooner than later since she was charged with capturing the gardens during each of the four seasons.
Having had two books published on flowers, her challenge with Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill was to capture the unique nuances of the landscape and floriculture of Wave Hill, which can literally change overnight. With a lead time of 18 months, Ms. Ngo was afforded two Springs and two Summers with which to photograph. And that’s exactly what she did. In her own words, “I photographed what I saw.”
Ms. Ngo was no stranger to Wave Hill either, having previously visited for her love of flowers and when contacted by the Wave Hill team to join this project, she remembered well the location and gardens and happily accepted. According to the photographer, “One of the nicest things was to be able to explore in-depth over time, as that’s what gardens are about – not the single moment. It’s about the seasons and they change constantly and it was wonderful to go back to the same place and see the changes.”
Mr Christopher credits the beauty and ongoing success of the Wave Hill Gardens with the continuity of its gardening staff. Beginning with the hands-on training by Stufano, so too did he create a sense of family among the gardeners that still exists today and is one of the factors that has led to their long employ. As a result of this continuity and the development of a true craft for horticulture, the consistency has proven tremendously beneficial, according to the book’s author.
One may ask what makes Wave Hill different from say, The New York Botanical Gardens? Christopher himself, who began his horticultural training there, sings its praises, but points to a few key differences that make Wave Hill unique.
Wave Hill invokes a more “flexible” philosophy and its location lends itself to doing things a bit differently. For example, they are very clever in exploiting the micro climates at Wave Hill. That is, the features in the landscape that create their own climate. Up on the hill over the Hudson, it is breezy and dry, which allows for growing things that wouldn’t necessarily grow elsewhere at Wave Hill.
Another example of Wave Hill’s uniqueness is their allowance of volunteer seedlings, which is essentially letting the garden replant itself, not imposing as much control as many gardeners employ. Not imposing such control allows for a non-planned out garden, which adds new variety all the time and creates a avery lush feel – a very flexible approach.
“It was a wonderful assignment,” says Mr. Christopher, “having visited Wave Hill through the years and admired it, here was a chance to visit more regularly to see how it changed through the seasons and be able to follow the gardeners around, so it was a real education for me. I learned so much and they were so patient and answered all my questions “
Ms Ngo added that while she has photographed many gardens and has enjoyed meeting many gardeners from all over, she found Wave Hill’s gardeners to be some of the most talented of all with their work exhibiting “beautiful combinations and beautiful plants” making the book project a great pleasure with which to be a part.
In speaking about the collaboration between himself and Ngoc, Mr. Christopher said, “it was fun working with Ngoc. Sometimes there can be an unwritten competition between writers and photographers, however, this was far from the case. Ngoc brought out beauties and features of the gardens of Wave Hill that I had never seen from her tremendous insight and talent.”
Till next time,
For Your Reference
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue (Front Gate)
675 West 252nd Street (mailing)
Bronx, NY 10471-2899
The Fordham section of the Bronx is perhaps best known today as being the home of top-ranking college Fordham University and the handsome grounds of the school's 93-acre campus. But, there is so much more to the history to this area of the borough.
Ever wonder how Fordham got its name and from where it is derived? Or for that matter, what the changing demographics have been since it was first settled back in the 17th Century? Let's take a closer look with these 7 Facts About Fordham.
1. The Fordham community was first established by John Archer, A Dutch settler
John Archer, a Dutchman, was given approval by the English to purchase 3900 acres of land in the area, comprising 6 square miles called Fordham Manor. As "Lord of the Manor," Archer established his community at 225th Street near the Harlem River in 1666.
The Manor lasted a little less than 100 years, from 1671 to 1762, during which period sixteen families would establish farms.
2. The name Fordham means a low-lying meadow by a source of water.
Derived from the Anglo-Saxon words "ford" and "ham," which means a low-lying meadow by a source of water, when put together, the name means a ford by a settlement or a wading place, referring to the area's close proximity to the Bronx River. Fordham also happens to be a surname, and while there is no certainty, the area may have been a reference to John Fordham, a fourteenth-century English priest, according to Raymond Schroth, SJ, in Fordham: A History and Memoir.
3. Old Fordham Village dates back to the English Colonial Era.
Centered from the intersection of the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road, Old Fordham Village extends north to about 196th Street, south to about 187th Street, east to Southern Boulevard, and west to Jerome Avenue as we know it today.
However, if you can imagine back in the 1700's when the Bronx was full of large estates and farms, the land that defines Old Fordham Village was originally part of an estate owned by a Dutchman named Reyer Michaelson. In 1736, Michaelson deeded the house and the land to his daughter and her husband, Benjamin Corsa and in 1751, Fordham Manor was built, which stayed in the family until 1787.
4. Fordham University's Rose Hill Campus was once part of a large estate called "Rose Hill"
Today, the name Rose Hill is most commonly associated with the Bronx campus of Fordham University. Did you ever wonder from where the name originated? Rose Hill was the name given to the Fordham Estate on this site in 1787 by then-owner, Robert Watts, in honor of his family's ancestral home of the same name near Edinburgh in Scotland. Most of the then-estate is now part of the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University.
5. Boston Post Road was a critical Crossing point for General George Washington's Continental Army
During the time of our Revolutionary War, roads were neither modernized nor paved as we have today. One of these such roads was Kings Road, which went through the rural estates and farm area of Old Fordham Village. It linked Colonial New York and towns and villages north toward Boston.
During the American Revolution, it was a critical crossing point for General George Washington's Continental Army retreating toward White Plains to safely escape from New York while being chased by the Colonial British and Hessian Forces. There were many American Patriots that lived in this area, which helped as well. After the revolution, the Kings Road was renamed the Boston Post Road, but in the area of Fordham, Boston Post Road was renamed Fordham Road and became part of U.S. Route 1 in 1926. which it is still called today.
6. The First Belmont Stakes were held in Fordham at Jerome Park
The first Belmont Stakes, the oldest of the three U.S. Triple Crown races was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in 1867 and continued to be run there until 1890. The racetrack opened in 1866 in the northwest part of Fordham by financier Leonard W. Jerome, on the Old Bathgate Estate.
7. Fordham is a Melting Pot of Cultures and Ethnicities
Fordham began to see a huge growth in its population at the beginning of the 20th Century. Largely due to the convenience of numerous subway lines between Manhattan and the Bronx as well as the development of then-new and modern housing, particularly in the 1920's, middle-class and working-class families from Manhattan migrated north to this section of the Bronx. Predominantly white from about 1920 till 1970, community residents included Irish, Jewish, Italian and Albanian. As these groups began to move to the suburbs and out of state, the ethnic make-up of the area is now predominately Latin American and African American.
Till next time,
When my cousin and I scheduled our tour with Bronx Historical Tours to see some of the prettiest churches in The Bronx last summer, we never expected we would be paying a visit to one of the most beloved shops in Little Italy!
While making our way from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on 187th Street and Belmont Avenue, we crossed the street to take some pictures of the church. As we continued walking towards Hugh’s Avenue on our way back to the car, we came upon Borgattis Ravioli and Egg Noodle Shop.
I commented to Alexandra Maruri, owner of Bronx Historical Tours, that I had passed this shop many times and had always wanted to check it out. Encouraged by Alexandra to go in and meet the Borgatti family, I did just that!
The impromptu stop was undoubtedly one of the high points of the day and with the close relationship enjoyed between our amiable tour guide and the Borgatti family, it was a real treat!
The Belmont section of The Bronx has certainly undergone many changes throughout the last eight decades, however, there’s comfort in knowing that some things have stayed and remain the same in a neighborhood that is rooted in ethnic tradition.
As I walked into Borgatti’s I was triggered with a rush of memories from my own childhood and Italian upbringing. The only word I could think of to describe it was "old school."
Borgatti's felt like the shops I would go in with my grandmother as a child when she would do her marketing. Specialty shops for everything, owned and managed by families. No slick displays or modern retail fixtures. Just a warm feeling of times gone by when the products and services spoke for themselves.
It was clear that Alexandra was a familiar face upon entering, as she was greeted by the friendly folks behind the counter. She proceeded to introduce me and my cousin Tanya, to which we received a warm and inviting welcome.
The rest of our visit was a pure delight as Christopher Borgatti, great-grandson of founder, Lindo Borgatti, imbued us with the history of his family's pasta shop and captivated us with a first-hand glimpse into their specialty pasta making.
The store was opened in 1935 by Christopher's great-grandparents, with Lindo Borgatti, the first generation owner of the store. His son, Mario Borgatti, began working at the store at seventeen years old and became synonymous with the store, which is still thriving and going strong more than eighty years and four generations after its founding.
Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodle Shop still provides the community with quality ravioli and pasta. Moving strong into the 21st Century, the company's products are shipped around the country, via their online store, allowing for their homemade Italian specialties to be savored by pasta lovers near and far!
Christopher was amazingly friendly and knowledgable and took us on a little guided pasta making tour of their noodles. Running the sheets of pasta through the cutting machine, which is in plain view for customers to see, we witnessed varying widths cut before our eyes.
For anyone growing up in an Italian household, with an Italian grandmother, the pasta machine is easily identified in an instant! Of course, Grandma's was much smaller and fit on the table. I still remember making pasta with her I love the homemade tradition so much that I still continue it with my kids - when I can.
A feeling of reverence for the family patriarch, Mario Borgatti, as well as founder, Lindo, is palpable within the store. Old photos, including beautiful wedding images, line the walls, honoring the memories of the Borgatti men who went before Christopher and his dad, also named Christopher, who continue to run the business.
With the death of Mario Borgatti (Christopher's Grandfather) in 2014, a beloved member of the Arthur Avenue community, a tribute was paid with the renaming of the street at the southeast corner of East 187th Street and Hughes Avenue to Mario Borgatti Way. He died at the age of 97.
Fortunately, the store lives on!!
Till next time,
For Your Information:
Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles
632 E 187th Street
Bronx, NY 10458
Phone: (718) 367-3799
Sunday & Monday: Closed
There are a handful of experiences in life that leave us struggling to find the precise words to actually define them. For it is hard to actually cognize that which is felt by the heart since it bypasses all of our intellectual senses and what we are left with is essentially an indescribable feeling throughout our body and soul. Music is one of these phenomena.
How do you actually describe it? Dictionary.com describes it as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.”
Is that really what any of us conjure up when we think of music? I dare say, no way!
Funny that the word color, which has a visual connotation is used to describe that which is heard, not seen. Why? Because music is something that is felt and most often forms an indelible “picture” in our minds of memories, life circumstances and place in time from our lives.
You are probably wondering what this all has to do with The Bronx. So much! In fact, The Bronx has produced some of the best music that has ever been created, much of which has a timelessness and evoke a special nostalgia for so many.
Take for instance Doo Wop music.
Did you know that Doo Wop music was developed in African-American communities in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles back in the 1940’s?
We all have watched many movies that depict a group of guys standing on a street corner creating a vocal harmony which is the distinct aspect of the doo wop sound which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. Till today, it remains one of the most mainstream, pop-oriented R&B styles of the time.
The Bronx was home to some of the greatest doo wop artists, whose music and even specific songs have etched themselves into the memories and consciousness of so many in the Borough and around the globe.
Take a walk down memory lane and reminisce about these Top 10 Bronx Doo Wop accapella singers and groups from this bygone era of rock and roll, compiled by Alexandra Maruri of Bronx Historical Tours and what she considers some of their best music.
Top 10 Bronx Doo Wop Singers and Groups
1) Dion & The Belmonts
Perhaps the quintessential and most well known musical group from The Bronx during the era of Doo Wop, Dion and the Belmonts had a string of hits in the late ‘50’s.
Although Dion Dimucci became the most well known, he actually joined the established trio, The Belmonts in 1957, whose members included Angelo D'Aleo, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Fred Milano.
To Bronxites, it’s a well known fact that the group’s name, The Belmonts, was derived from Belmont Avenue in Little Italy, on and around which all four members originated. Dion (without The Belmonts) was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Famous songs: Where or When, A Teenager in Love
2) The Chords
Talk about old school Doo Wop and The Chords will be front and center based on their humble beginnings. The five members of this band got together in 1951 in The Bronx and the story goes that they were spotted singing in a subway station, which ultimately landed them a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
The band members, Carl Feaster, Claude Feaster, Floyd McRae, Jimmy Keyes, Rupert Branker and William Edwards had an explosive hit with “Sh-Boom” and by the end of June 1954, "Sh-Boom" had climbed up the charts nationwide to #5 on the R&B and #2 on pop charts, unprecedented for its time and simultaneously introduced the white audience to black R&B music for the first time.
Famous song: Sh-Boom
3) The Chantels
This lovely all-girls group was formed in the early 1950’s when the original five members were students attending St. Anthony of Padua School in The Bronx. In fact, a bit of trivia from HistoryofRock.com, lead singer, Arlene Smith had received classical training and performed at Carnegie Hall at age 12!
The group was not together very long, as Arlene went on to embark on a solo career, however, their second single "Maybe", released in December 1957, would sell over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc! The original five members consisted of Arlene Smith, Sonia Goring Wilson, Renée Minus White, Jackie Landry Jackson and Lois Harris, and as a group, The Chantels were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
Famous Song: Maybe
4) The Chiffons
Beginning their singing career as Bronx classmates at James Monroe High School, The Chiffons came together in 1960. Another girl group in the Doo Wop era, the original members included Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee.
Their first single, "He's So Fine" hit No. 1 in the United States, selling over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. By today’s RIAA certifications standards, the record would have qualified for platinum status.
Famous Song: He’s So Fine
5) The Demensions
No one would dare argue the fact that out of the high schools of The Bronx there have emerged so many musical talents. Included in this elite group are The Demensions. Formed as a Doo Wop group by four members of The Melody Singers, the school choral group at Christopher Columbus High School in The Bronx, the original members of The Demensions included Lenny Del Giudice, (aka Lenny Dell), Howie Margolin, Charlie Peterson and Maria Martelli.
Their career was off, thanks to the help of Cousin Brucie, a disc jockey at New York radio station WINS who gave airtime to the group’s first single - their version of "Over the Rainbow" in 1960. The only other chart hit for The Demensions was "My Foolish Heart" released in 1962 and peaked at #95 in early 1963.
Famous Song: My Foolish Heart
6. Lillian Leach & The Mellows
As the female lead of the Mellows, Lillian Leach, became the fourth member of the group in 1954. The original members were three teenage schoolmates from Morris High School in The Bronx, who included Johnny ‘Tiny’ Wilson, Harold Johnson and Norman ‘Polecat’ Brown, who met Lillian at a party and talked her into harmonizing with them.
The quartet had a striking sound and were signed to the Jay Dee label, where they released several singles in 1955 that include ‘How Sentimental Can I Be” and ‘Smoke From A Cigarette.’
Disbanding a few years later, their songs are well remembered as romantic classics.
Famous Song: Smoke From Your Cigarette
7. Larry Chance & The Earls
This Doo Wop group was one of many who could be found harmonizing on the street corners of The Bronx in the late 1950’s. In fact, Larry Chance and The Earls were discovered singing on the street corner in front of subway station and went on to enjoy international success, to this day, performing their songs from the Doo Wop era.
Original band members included Larry Chance, Bob Del Din, Eddie Harder, Larry Palombo and John Wray. Sadly, in 1961, Larry Palombo was lost in an army skydiving accident when his parachute failed to open during an exercise. Shortly after the release of their first record In 1961, "Life is But a Dream" Larry and The Earls performed with Murray the K, as well as on Dick Clark's American Bandstand show.
As Larry has been quoted, “Who would have ever thought that a bunch of kids from the streets of The Bronx, who loved to sing for the joy and love of it, our lives would have turned out the way they did.”
Famous Songs: Life is But a Dream, Remember Then
8. The Darvels
I wonder if anyone reading this article can guess where this Roosevelt High School band derived its name. Keep reading to find out! The band had its beginnings when Warren Gradus joined The Thunderbirds, a singing group from Roosevelt and became their lead singer. Along with Gregg Paravati, Richie Capala and Vinny Cea, the guys soon changed their name to the Darvels. They were joined by another band member, Mike Gervan.
With Gregg and Warren writing songs for the group, which included "I Lost My Baby"(Gregg) and "Gone" (Warren), they would record an accappella demo, leading them to re-record with music after getting the attention of a producer. Released in 1963, the two sides of their single included "I Lost My Baby" and "Gone". Oh, and the group’s name - it was derived from combining the words Dodge DART and CARVEL ice cream.
Famous Songs: I lost My Baby, Gone
9. The Excellents
For many in the Doo Wop era, it was not uncommon to have a hit or two and then not really be heard from again. This is true for The Excellents, a Bronx sextet, which originally went by the name the Premiers. Forming in 1960 the group was made up of brothers John and George Kuse, Denis Kestenbaum, Phil Sanchez, Joel Feldman, and Chuck Epstein,
Success came for The Excellents with a B-side song called “Coney Island Baby,” that ended up climbing into the Top 20 nationally in 1962. Their last official single, released in 1964 was “Sunday Kind of Love” by the original Excellents but appeared on Bobby Records under the group name the Excellons. "Coney Island Baby," has been acknowledged as a Doo Wop classic, leading to a recent touring version of the Excellents, now a quartet, and still featuring the lead vocals of original member John Kuse.
Famous Songs: Coney Island Baby, Sunday Kind of Love
10) The DeVaurs
Another Bronx girl Doo Wop group, The DeVaurs were four schoolmate singers who came togehter in 1958 with a mutual affection for The Chantels. The quartet included Estelle McEwan, Yvonne DeMunn, Paula Hutchinson and Brenda Carrow. With luck on their side, they won a local talent show, earning the chance to cut a record with the small Brooklyn label D-Tone.
Their first single, “Baby Doll” written by McEwan, with lead vocals by Hutchinson did not have much success with local radio, but, with a switch to the Moon label in 1959, The DeVaurs hit the Top 20 on local radio station WNJR with "Where Are You.”
Famous Song: Where are You
Of course, this is only a handful of the great Doo Wop singers and groups that came out of The Bronx. Others include Darnell & The Dreams (The Day Before Yesterday), Little Bobby Riviera & The Hemlocks (Cora Lee), The Dials (Young and Lovely), The Dreamers (Because of You), Robert & Johnny (We belong Together) and Norman Fox & The Rob Roys (Tell Me Why).
Stay tuned for more music stories that capture the essence of the Heart of The Bronx!
Till next time,
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.