Stuy Town teen blows competition out of the water in 17-mile swim

By Maria Rocha-Buschel


Simona Dwass at the finish line in Coney Island (photo by Agnus McIntyre)

Simona Dwass at the finish line in Coney Island (photo by Agnus McIntyre)

Four intrepid swimmers took a dip in the East River last Saturday morning to participate in the annual Rose Pitonof Swim, traveling 17 miles in the chilly water to Coney Island. Stuyvesant Town resident Simona Dwass was attempting the feat as the swim’s youngest participant in the five years since it started, and not only did she finish, she also set a course record, reaching Coney Island in four hours and 24 minutes.

The 17-year-old Hunter College High School student has been swimming in open water since she was 12 and although she also competes in swimming events in a pool, she said that she prefers the open water.

“There are no boundaries so you don’t have to flip-turn to keep going,” she said. “You can just swim forever. And there are so many courses you can do and I like just playing with the currents in the open water.”

The swim, first organized by Urban Swim founder Deanne Draeger, starts in the East River at 26th Street because that’s where its namesake started out in 1911. The swimmers all boarded their boats from the pier at East 23rd Street and headed up the river three blocks for the race’s 8 a.m. start time.

The other three swimmers this year were Kathryn Mason, who got a head start on the race because she was attempting to do butterfly (and succeeded), Kenn Lichtenwalter and Kathleen Jaeger. Mason was also the swim’s first international participant, flying over from England just for the event. Alan Morrison, who swam breaststroke in the race last year, was on Mason’s safety boat and had helped her mentally prepare for choosing a slower, more unconventional stroke.

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14th Street Y is home to ‘Fringe Jr.’

By Sabina Mollot

By now, most theater buffs in New York City are familiar with “The New York International Fringe Festival,” the mega-festival of plays put on by over 200 companies in 16 days each summer for the past 18 years. However, what’s less known is that there’s also “Fringe Jr.,” a selection of plays in the festival that are geared towards kids. Each show is around an hour and put on by local as well as overseas companies.

The Fringe Jr. show “Vagabond$”

The Fringe Jr. show “Vagabond$”

The venue this year for Fringe Jr., which kicked off August 8 and will run through August 24, is the 14th Street Y. There are four plays to choose from, each one suitable for families with kids ages 5-12, and tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for kids.

This is the second time Fringe is showing children’s plays exclusively at the Y’s LABA theater.

Previously, Fringe Jr. plays had been shown at more than one venue each year.

“The 14th Street Y has been a very good friend to us,” said Ben Cohen, an associate producer for Fringe’s community and social marketing. The venue, he said, was ideal due to the fact there are already other activities for kids going on, making it convenient for parents who want to introduce their kids to theater.

“All of us at Fringe definitely feel that theater is so important for kids,” Cohen said. “I know it had an impact on me growing up.”

This year, there were over 1,000 applications for Fringe Festival plays, although the Fringe Jr. plays have a separate application process. But like with the other plays, Fringe looks for stories that are “current, present and topical.”

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