Covering Battery Park City

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Angels in Africa clothing drive: From now through April 15, six Battery Park City buildings owned by Milstein Properties are collecting clothing for people in rural Kenya that will be distributed via a charity called Angels in Africa that was started by Janet Martin, Milstein’s chief administrative officer.

Martin was in Kenya 25 years ago working on a photography assignment for the Kenyan government when she saw a woman and two children “walking where nobody is supposed to walk.” She asked why and was told that they had been thrown out of their village and “were going to die.” Horrified, Martin vowed that she would try to do something for women in that situation. She leased some property in the Kichwa Tembo region of the Masai Mara and built a hut there. Now there are 40 huts with 50 women living in the village and around a hundred children. Martin initially provided them with five cows (now there are 70 cows in the herd), taught them how to garden and supplied them with beehives. Recently, she got chickens for the village.

“They were the best thing,” said Martin. The women of the village are able to earn some money by selling vegetables, honey and chickens to the tented camps of the region, whose occupants are slightly more affluent.

Martin also started a school for the children. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, it now goes from kindergarten through the eighth grade. There are currently 350 students and 13 teachers, who are supplied by the Kenyan government. All 15 students in the most recent graduating class were accepted into high schools.

“I’m not going to be able to solve all the problems in Kenya,” Martin said. “I am trying to make a difference where I can.”

During the clothing drive, Angels in Africa is collecting clothing of all sizes and from all seasons for men, women and children. Coats, sweaters and shoes are most needed. To donate, contact the Milford management office at (212) 842-7310.

Participating B.P.C. buildings include Liberty Luxe, Liberty Green, Liberty Court, Liberty View, Liberty House and Liberty Terrace.

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Manchurian azalea (Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’) is blooming in Battery Park City’s South Cove.

Volunteers needed:B.P.C.’s gardens are in glorious, springtime bloom, with legions of crocuses, daffodils, hellebores and other flowers adorning B.P.C.’s nearly 36 acres of parks. This is also the time of year when the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy puts out its annual S.O.S. for volunteers to help with the gardening.

“No experience is necessary, but willingness to commit the time is essential,” said Eileen Calvanese, horticultural foreperson. Volunteers are needed on Wednesday mornings from 7:30 a.m. to noon. The season begins on May 2 and runs through Oct. 31.

“We provide training and tools,” said Calvanese, “and an opportunity to work alongside Parks Conservancy horticulturists to learn about our organic gardening methods.”

The volunteers, who must be 18 years old or older, do tasks such as weeding, grooming and deadheading. To volunteer, call (212) 267-9700 or email info@bpcparks.org.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Place is also looking for volunteers to work in its Pickman Museum Shop. The shop is stocked with a variety of interesting merchandise for adults and children from books and CDs to jewelry, Judaica, games and other toys. Much of what is on sale is related to the Museum’s exhibition and program schedule.

Volunteers work in four-hour shifts on days and at times of their choice. The museum is usually open Sundays through Fridays. (It will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 6 and will be closed on Sunday, April 8 and Friday, April 13 in observance of Passover.)

Volunteers are entitled to a 25 percent discount in the shop, as well as free admission to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and other museums. For more information, call Tammy Chiu at (646) 437-4367.

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Ben Vokits, 36, took advantage of the nice weather on St. Patrick’s Day to practice his tuba-playing in Rector Park, attracting the attention of another B.P.C. resident, Elijah Bartner, 6.

Music in Rector Park: Rector Place residents heard unusual, un-birdlike sounds emanating from Rector Park on St. Patrick’s Day. It turned out that B.P.C. resident Ben Vokits, 36, was taking advantage of the nice weather to sit in the park and practice Brahms’ cello sonata, Opus 38 in E minor on his tuba.

“The tuba has only been around for 200 years,” Vokits explained, “so there’s not a lot of solo music written for the tuba.” That’s why, he said, he was playing a cello sonata.

Vokits, whose day job is research chemistry for Bristol Myers Squibb, graduated from Oberlin College where he studied chemistry, biochemistry and tuba performance. He plays with a number of musical groups including the TriBattery Pops, the Greenwich Village Orchestra, the Manhattan Symphonie and a few others. He owns four tubas and a helicon — “an ancient, marching tuba.”

Elijah Bartner, 6, and his mother, Lynn, paused in the park on their way home. Elijah wanted to know how a tuba worked. Vokits showed him that he could make all the notes with the mouthpiece, and explained that the horn itself was just a resonator. Elijah said he was taking piano lessons. “He loves music,” his mother said. A discussion of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals” ensued during which Elijah correctly stated that there was no tuba in that 19th-century work.

Vokits recalled that he was just a little older than Elijah — maybe 7 or 8 — when he started studying piano. As for why he switched to tuba, “The sound has a low pitch when it mixes with the strings,” said Vokits. “It creates a beautiful, understated resonance.”

Benvenuti changes hours: Benvenuti, which sells pizzas and Italian specialties at 235 South End Ave., is now open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Tuesdays, the store is offering a spaghetti and meatball special for $5 (cash). With the pleasant spring weather, there’s now outdoor seating. Benvenuti also delivers. Call (212) 945-2100.

To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb@mac.com

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5 Responses to Covering Battery Park City

  1. The conference I was at this weneked really shook me in this exact same way. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we CAN choose to be content (chemical imbalances aside). It seems like such an obvious fact, but is all too often an afterthought as opposed to a forethought.The speaker’s name was Jan Silveous and she has a couple of books out one is called Big Girls Don’t Whine. She’s working on another one right now called Same Life, New Story which is basically what the theme of our conference was. Not sure if it’s anything you’d be interested in

  2. with the amount they pay their employees I would think they should donate some of these clothes to them!!

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