CSA at 14th Street Y starting up for the season

A few of the offerings through the volunteer-run CSA at the 14th Street Y

A few of the offerings through the volunteer-run CSA at the 14th Street Y

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The 14th Street Y and sustainability organization Just Food are again partnering with Mountain View Farms to bring locally grown, organic produce to CSA members every week from June to October.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership where community members purchase shares of the season’s harvest directly from the farmer and the 14th Street Y has been offering the program since 2008.
Frances Anderson, a member of the 14th Street Y, has been a volunteer organizer for the program since it began. The CSA originally partnered with a different farm located in upstate New York but Anderson said that Hurricane Irene devastated their farmland in 2011, bringing a sad end to the partnership.
“They weren’t able to continue doing CSAs in the city after that because their losses were so huge,” she said. “It wasn’t uncommon that year for a lot of farms in that corridor, unfortunately. The destruction of farmland was really quite significant. It was kind of a shock to us and we never really thought about what a catastrophic year would mean.”
Many of the farms upstate were scaling back after Irene but Just Food helped the CSA at the Y to connect with Mountain View Farm, which was a little more sheltered from flooding due to its location in Western Massachusetts, and so far the partnership has been working well. “We really appreciate the consistency in the quality and quantity of the vegetables we get from them, and because of the way in which they operate, with 90 percent of their clientele being CSAs as opposed to farmer’s markets, they just have a really consistent supply,” Anderson said.
While the 14th Street Y provides infrastructure support for the CSA, Anderson said that it’s primarily a volunteer-driven program. Some volunteers dedicate more time than others but anyone who signs up for a CSA membership is required to work one shift throughout the season. This just means helping out with distribution for a couple of hours and the policy isn’t particularly strict.
“People work crazy hours, so sometimes people need help from family because they can’t be there themselves and that’s fine,” Anderson said. “Teenagers have done shifts for their parents. It’s not onerous work; it’s just to help it run smoothly.”
Summer and fall shares include carrots, bok choy, lettuce, beets, cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach, fennel, Swiss chard, cantaloupe, a variety of squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, onions, scallions, eggplants, peppers and others. Mountain View Farm has partnered with nearby farms and orchards this year to add a fruit share, which will include strawberries, blueberries, apples and pears.
Full shares, $600, are available for weekly pick-up and and half shares, $310, are collected bi-weekly. The shares are available to pick up on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Y. A normal week’s share averages about $27. Anderson said that a full share every week is good for a family of four that eats a lot of vegetables.
“My family of three gets a weekly distribution but for some families that’s way too much,” she said.
She added that while half-shares come out every other week, it can involve a lot of planning to make sure certain things are eaten before they go bad and if there are individuals who want to participate, volunteers with the CSA can connect those people with each other to split a half share. Even with the most meticulous planning, CSA members are sometimes still overloaded with vegetables they are pressured to eat before they start rotting and Anderson said that they are hoping to offer some additional programming at the Y this year to help alleviate that problem.
“We’re trying to have a couple of canning demonstrations,” she said. “Learning how to can or how to pickle vegetables that you have in crazy abundance are great skills to learn and not ones that we tend to pick up when living in the city, so we want to teach people how to preserve their share for the rest of the season.”
Anderson noted that even though there are some vegetables that don’t get claimed every week, none of it goes to waste.
“Everything left over that isn’t picked up by CSA members gets donated to the Sirovich Center and they love it,” she said. “It adds fresh vegetables to what they make there. Nothing gets thrown wholesale into the compost.”
CSA membership is open to everyone, not just 14th Street Y members, and the deadline to register is May 30. For more information or to register, visit Mountain View Farm CSA’s website.

Police release photos of Immaculate Conception burglary suspect

Immaculate Conception Church burglary suspect

Immaculate Conception Church burglary suspect

By Sabina Mollot
Police have released surveillance photos of the man who coolly strode into Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday, prowled various rooms and then left with $11,000 in cash from a rectory bedroom on Sunday.

Based on the photos and video that was taken, the church’s pastor, Monsignor Kevin Nelan said he believes the man is Hispanic, and in his 20s, brushing 30. Based on his actions, he added, police are looking into the possibility that someone gave him information about where to look for the money.

The unidentified man first entered the church at 414 East 14th Street at 1:15 p.m. as a group of parishioners was entering the building. He then tried to access a few rooms including — twice — Nelan’s locked bedroom in the rectory. “That’s what made me think someone gave him information,” Nelan said. The man also didn’t bother searching anywhere in a community room he went into. The bedroom broken into was on the third floor, which doesn’t have cameras, and the priest who was victimized didn’t even realize the money had been taken from his nightstand until Tuesday.

Based on security footage, the man was in the church building for around 25 minutes before he was finally confronted by employees and escorted out. This was when the parish’s music director immediately realized he shouldn’t be there and asked what he was doing, Nelan said. In response, the man mumbled that he was looking for someone named Maria, but he still didn’t leave until confronted by two other employees, one of whom followed him through the stairs out the door.
“He was either very confident or very stupid,” said Nelan. “He didn’t know or didn’t care that he was being filmed.”

Since the incident, detectives from the 9th Precinct have been interviewing church employees who worked on Sunday about the prowler. “They’re going after any lead they can find,” said Nelan, who said at this time there is still no suspect in mind. However, he added, “We’re going to put his picture everywhere.”

The man was able to access the building when a church employee opened the door for a group of people heading to a meeting room. Though initially the burglar was thought to be in the middle of the group, he was actually at the end, possibly waiting for someone to open the door. “As it was closing, he stepped inside,” said Nelan, who added that since the incident, church employees have been spoken to about being more vigilant about keeping track of the entrances. Still, he stressed he didn’t think it was the fault of the woman who let him in. “It’s like at a building when someone waits for an old lady to come in and puts his foot in the door. We all have to be more vigilant. Thank God no one was hurt. Thank God he wasn’t violent.”

The burglary suspect is a light skinned man who was wearing a black baseball hat, brown shorts, white sneakers and a red t-shirt. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637(CRIMES).

‘CAPE’ crusade aims to fight predatory equity

Council Member Dan Garodnick, with other elected officials at City Hall, discusses the “CAPE” coalition. (Photo by Ilona Kramer)

Council Member Dan Garodnick, with other elected officials at City Hall, discusses the “CAPE” coalition. (Photo by Ilona Kramer)

By Sabina Mollot
On Wednesday, Council Members Dan Garodnick, Jumaane Williams and Ritchie Torres announced the formation of a coalition of over 40 elected officials who are committed to keeping affordable housing from turning into overleveraged housing.
Specifically, the Coalition Against Predatory Equity (CAPE) was organized in an effort to avoid the type of massive debt deals that have led to the loss of affordable housing like at Stuyvesant Town.
“We have a wide-ranging, diverse group and together we have some powerful principles,” said Garodnick, adding that the coalition is “strength in numbers.”

The four goals of the group are:
To get Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to commit to not lending to any owner in a deal that puts affordable housing at risk.
Avoid investment of city and state pension funds in deals that harm tenants.
Stop offering tax abatements or subsidies to development deals that would lead to the loss of affordable units.
Come up with legislation aimed at limiting “the abuses of predatory equity, and assists tenants in over-leveraged buildings.”

Garodnick, who released a report about the dangers of predatory equity in April, said the coalition is also concerned about the Stuyvesant Town foreclosure and the reports of a bid by CWCapital’s parent company Fortress.
“We are looking into the appropriateness of all that activity,” said Garodnick, adding that all of the coalition’s four principles are relevant to a post-predatory equity Stuyvesant Town.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who’s previously authored legislation that if passed, would ensure more responsible lending by Fannie and Freddie, said she’d reintroduce that bill this week.
“Nothing was more shocking about the Tishman Speyer/Stuy Town/Peter Cooper transaction than finding out that the federally-chartered Government-Sponsored-Enterprises tasked with expanding affordable housing were actually investing in a deal that could only succeed by converting as many affordable units as possible into luxury rent apartments,” said Maloney. The congresswoman said she hoped the bill would “send a message that these GSEs cannot game the system and fail to comply with their affordable housing responsibilities.”

Along with politicians, over a dozen organizations, including the ST-PCV Tenants Association, Tenants and Neighbors and the Urban Justice Center, have joined the coalition.