Christmas Eve caroling in Gramercy Park

GPBA President Arlene Harrison and trustee Rev. Tom Pike (center) with officers from the 13th precinct. (Photos by Ira Fox)

Nearly 2,000 people crowded into Gramercy Park for the annual Christmas Caroling sponsored by the Park Trustees and organized once again by the Gramercy Park Block Association. The caroling was led by GPBA president Arlene Harrison and trustee Rev. Tom Pike, with music led by Calvary church music director Kamel Boutros.

“This year, mostly due to media attention, the event was attended by nearly 2,000 people from around the world who were visiting New York for the holidays,” Harrison said.

Harrison thanked the officers of the 13th precinct for policing the event saying, “Thanks to their outstanding police presence, in particular Chief Hughes, Chief Comodo the 13th Precinct and the Neighborhood Coordination Officers the Rodriguez brothers, our caroling event was the best and safest ever.”

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Town & Village drive collects 450 toys, baby items

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator for children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, will help distribute the toys throughout the hospital systems’ 10 clinics. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Town & Village readers once again helped bring some holiday cheer to families who use the outpatient clinics run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel by donating approximately 450 toys and items for new babies to the annual drive this year, overwhelmingly topping last year’s donations of around 250.

Bonnie Robbins, PhD, is the coordinator for children and family services at MSBI and said that the marked increase in donations can be attributed to residents who also donated boxes of diapers, pampers and gently-used baby clothing, which in past years are not items that the drive has received.

Robbins said that some donors use the drive as an opportunity to “declutter” and donations have include used items in poor condition, which the clinics would never give the patients for their children, but most of the clothing was freshly laundered and in great condition, so Robbins said that she was fine with including those in the drive because baby clothing is often “passed down” anyway. Food items like formula were also donated, but unfortunately had to be discarded because Robbins said that the clinics can’t distribute food items that they haven’t purchased themselves because it’s too difficult to tell if the items have been tampered with.

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Christmas trees lighting up throughout the neighborhood

Stuyvesant Town celebrated their tree lighting on the Oval last Wednesday night. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Christmas season is in full swing throughout the neighborhood this month, with a number of areas celebrating the holiday with Christmas tree lightings, including Stuyvesant Town’s tree on the Oval and Madison Square Park, which holds the title of oldest tree lighting in the country.

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk lead the annual reading of “Twas The Night Before a StuyTown Christmas” at the tree lighting on the Oval last Wednesday night, with a local twist on the Christmas classic, and Lucy & the Goossettes performed Christmas favorites throughout the evening while hot chocolate was served to the hundreds of residents who attended.

Santa Claus made an appearance at the lighting before the main event, when residents flipped the switch for the occasion.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera was on hand in Madison Square Park the following night last Thursday to help kick off the holidays for NoMad. The park has been celebrating the tree lighting for more than 100 years.

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T&V holding holiday toy drive

Dr. Bonnie Robbins of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, pictured with donations from the 2018 drive, says this drive has become more crucial to the families the hospital serves. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Town & Village is holding a toy drive to help make the holidays brighter for children undergoing medical treatment during the holiday season as well as the children of families in outpatient programs run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

Gifts will be accepted for children of all ages as long as they are new. Items for older boys are especially in high demand. No toy weapons, please.

Partnering with Town & Village on this effort is:

Stuyvesant Town Property Services, accepting toys at Resident Services, 276 First Avenue on the First Avenue Loop Road, and at AppleSeeds, 6 Stuyvesant Oval off of the Avenue C loop

Waterside Plaza management, accepting toys at the management office, 30 Waterside Plaza, and the Swim & Health Club, 35 Waterside Plaza

M&T Bank, accepting toys at the branch at 397 First Avenue and East 23rd Street.

Toys can also be dropped off at Town & Village’s office, 20 West 22nd Street, Suite 1503 (or left with the doorperson at the lobby).

The deadline to donate is Monday, December 16. Toys should be unwrapped. Gifts will still be accepted after the deadline at Town & Village’s office but won’t be delivered until after New Year’s.

Flatiron BID debuts new winter installation

“Ziggy” will be on view until January. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership debuted new public art installation “Ziggy” on Tuesday during a preview of its eighth-annual “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” season. The glowing, kaleidoscopic installation, which is on view on the North Public Plaza across from the Flatiron building, was selected through the sixth-annual Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design Competition with the Van Alen Institute and DOT Art.

The Partnership’s “23 Days” officially begins on December 1, running through December 23, and offers free performances, holiday recipes, hot beverage giveaways, fitness classes and prizes.

The launch event on Tuesday included a music performance by Kengchakaj & Niall Cade from The Jazz Gallery, pizza from Eataly, hot chocolate from Shake Shack and a prize wheel with a line spreading down the plaza, despite the misting rain and raw temperatures throughout the event.

Ziggy, which will be on view through New Year’s Day, was designed by New York-based architecture studio Hou de Sousa. The installation is composed of painted rebar and 27,000 feet of iridescent cord lit from the bottom by black light. The structure creates a winding form of 30-inch see-through walls and bench structures that passersby are encouraged to use.

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City honors vets at 100th anniversary of Veterans Day

Scouts marched in the Veterans Day Parade on Fifth Avenue on Monday, representing “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive,” a nonprofit movement that recognizes veterans who served during World War II. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New York City honored the country’s veterans during the 100th Veterans Day parade, which originated adjacent to the Eternal Light Monument flagstaff in Madison Square Park, this past Monday. President Donald Trump spoke at the opening ceremony of the parade, making him the first sitting president to attend the event.

The president was greeted by groups of supporters rallying on the South Flatiron Plaza, while a large group of protesters gathered next to Worth Square outside Madison Square Park, including veterans with signs criticizing Trump’s own lack of military service. A glass tower near the park where Trump spoke also spelled out “impeach” in the windows and “convict” on a higher floor.

Trump’s 18-minute speech in the park prior to the parade focused on the sacrifice of the nation’s veterans.

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Halloween events in the neighborhood

Howl-O-Ween will take place in Madison Square Park this Saturday.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Halloween is still a week away but many local businesses and organizations are already getting in the holiday spirit with events this month. Town & Village has compiled a list of some of the free and/or unique events available in the neighborhood.

Annual Halloween Fall Festival in Stuy Town

StuyTown Property Services is hosting an annual Halloween Fall Festival on Saturday, October 26 from 2 to 5 p.m. on the Oval. This year will include multiple bounce houses for all ages and live music from Ramblin’ Dan’s Freewheelin’ Band. There will also be seasonal crafts, including mini pumpkin painting and scarecrow making, as well as a hay maze and hay rides around the Oval. Popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and complimentary lemonade and cookies will be available. The rain date for this event is on Sunday, October 27.

Mad. Sq. Dogs: Howl-O-Ween

UPDATE: This event will be held on Saturday, October 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. because of expected rain on Sunday.

The famous Tompkins Square Park dog parade and StuyTown’s costume Dog Days both occurred last weekend, but dog owners have one more chance for a festive Halloween night out in the neighborhood at Madison Square Park on Sunday, October 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for Howl-o-ween, a festive event for local dogs and their owners. Festivities include trick-or-treat giveaways, family portraits at the photobooth, hydration station and paws-on activities presented by local partners. The event will culminate with a costume paw-rade around the Oval Lawn.

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Middle Collegiate combines Juneteenth and Pride celebration

Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Jacqui Lewis with Shan Gilani, husband of late activist Gary Ranker and Ranker’s son Kevin (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Middle Collegiate Church combined civil rights and Pride for an all-inclusive Juneteenth celebration last week. Senior minister Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis said that the event for Pride month was consciously held on Juneteenth. The holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the emancipation of all slaves from the former Confederate states in 1865.

“We wanted to do something Juneteenth-related because it doesn’t get nearly enough recognition,” Lewis said. “We’ve been celebrating Pride 24/7/365 at Middle for decades and we’re super excited to combine these two liberation movements. This was a way to celebrate these two things together.”

The event, which honored civil rights activist Ruby Sales and gay rights activist Gary Ranker, who died earlier this year, also served as the launch of the photo exhibit, “Queer Faith,” which was also featured at the Union Theological Seminary in East Harlem.

Sales was at the event and spoke about realizing that she was a lesbian, coming out and joining the gay rights movement while fighting for civil rights.

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Easter egg hunt in Stuyvesant Town

Due to an April shower on Saturday, the traditional Easter activities for children in Stuyvesant Town, an egg hunt and visit from the Easter Bunny, were postponed by a day. However, children and their families still turned up en masse on Easter Sunday and an egg-citing time seemed to be had by all. (Photos by Steven Noveck)

By Stephen Noveck

Despite a rain-related delay of one day, the annual Stuyvesant Town Easter egg hunt had a massive turnout for children of all age groups on Sunday.

Countless pastel colored eggs were laid out for the taking in the middle of Playground 10, and the Easter Bunny also showed, drawing a long line for pictures at the end of the age 2-4 egg hunt. Each group took about two minutes to clear out the playground of eggs, which were quickly delved into for the treats inside. Stuy Town was recycling the egg shells and it didn’t take long for the bag to fill up.

A seven-year-old named Camila won the grand prize of a $25 gift card to the Ibiza Kids toy store on 1st Avenue in the age 5-8 group. Hundreds of children participated.

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Police presence increased at local churches after Easter Sri Lanka bombing

Calvary Church in Gramercy

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD announced heightened security measures at houses of worship throughout the city over the Easter weekend in light of bombings in Colombo, Sri Lanka over the holiday and while some local churches noticed an increase in officers during the weekend, parishioners mainly celebrated the holidays in good spirits.

“I don’t think people knew why (the officers) were there and no one expressed any concern, but we did pray for the people of Sri Lanka during the mass,” said Father Jim Mayzik of Epiphany Church, noting that officers stood outside the church on the plaza during the services. “It was a nice day and we had a giant number of people come to celebrate the holiday.”

Karin Rosner, a spokesperson for Calvary-St. George’s, said that she had actually requested the presence of auxiliary officers during the church’s Palm Sunday Procession in Gramercy and the Maundy Thursday Procession from Stuyvesant Square up to Gramercy with the violence in Pittsburgh in mind, but there was also a noticeable police presence at Calvary on Easter Sunday, with at least two officers at the church for the 11 a.m. service.

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Caroling at Stuyvesant Square Park

Carolers in Stuyvesant Square Park (Photos by Irina Island Images)

On Christmas Eve, an evening of caroling was hosted by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. Reverend Ben DeHart from Calvary-St. George’s said a few words about Rosalee Isaly, SPNA’s longtime president who died in July from cancer. Isaly had begun the tradition if caroling at Stuyvesant Square Park, where on Tuesday, at least 100 people were in attendance. Music was provided by Alex Nguyen and Friends who are behind him. Hot chocolate was donated by Veselka.

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Caroling at Gramercy Park

Carolers in Gramercy Park (Photos by Ira Fox Photography)

On Christmas Eve, the trustees of Gramercy Park and the Gramercy Park Block Association hosted an evening of caroling, an annual tradition that draws thousands from around the city to the normally private park. The event was hosted by Arlene Harrison, president of the GPBA; Calvary Rector Rev. Jacob Smith and Rector Emeritus Rev. Dr. Thomas Pike. Caroling was led Kamel Boutros, music director at Calvary-St. George’s, with music by Alex Nguyen and Friends.

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THANK YOU: Nearly 250 toys donated to Town & Village holiday drive

Dr. Bonnie Robbins of Mount Sinai Beth Israel says this drive has become more crucial to the families the hospital serves. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Readers of Town & Village have once again made the holidays a little brighter for children stuck in hospital rooms as well as the families utilizing the outpatient clinics run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel by donating nearly 250 toys to this newspaper’s annual drive.

Gifts for kids of all ages were donated this year including instruments, jewelry making kits, board games, action figures and fashion dolls.

Town & Village’s partners on this longstanding community tradition are Stuy Town Property Services, the management of Waterside Plaza and M&T Bank on First Avenue and 23rd Street, who all provided convenient toy dropoff sites.

Bonnie Robbins, PhD, coordinator of children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, has said in recent years it has been more challenging to get enough toys to meet the needs of patients. This has been, she suspects, in part due to the economy but also competition from other drives for donations from individuals and toy retailers.

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13th Pct. Community Council holds holiday dinner at Hane

Event guests, including, in the back, Frank Scala, Community Council president; Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct; and another guest (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The 13th Precinct Community Council held its annual holiday dinner for members at Hane Sushi in Stuyvesant Town on Monday evening.

About 30 regular attendees of the monthly community council meetings were at the dinner, including the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, Executive Officer Ernesto Castro and community affairs officers John Considine and Detective Vincent Arlotta. Community Council President Frank Scala thanked the officers for their work in the community throughout the year and Hellman said that he was looking forward to continuing the work in the neighborhood next year.

“It’s been a tough year but we’re making progress,” Hellman said. “We’ll be focusing on connecting more with the community in the upcoming months.”

Last minute gifts for less than $50 found at Union Sq. Holiday Market

One-of-a-kind leather-bound journals (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With Christmas now days away, those who have yet to finish their gift shopping — or start — needn’t panic.

Quality gifts aplenty can be found at The Union Square Holiday Market, which, each year, features goods from around 150 vendors at the southern end of the park. Town & Village recently wandered around in search of last-minute gift ideas and found a bunch, all for $50 or less.

Journals with covers made of leather or wood

New company Bora Ninova (created by one of the three brothers behind Bora Jewelry, a longtime market vendor) makes one-of-a-kind journals, manufactured in Turkey. The covers are made from either wrought leather in rich colors or thin wooden panels with etched drawings and are all priced between $20-$45.

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