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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where have all of the "4"s gone?

Check out the interesting post by Eduwokette "Are New York City Schools Shortchanging High Achieving Students? The View from 2003-2008
Savvy New York City parents have long suspected that high achieving kids are losing out in the push to boost the achievement of the lowest performing students. But those suspicions are often cast aside by public officials as helicopter parent whining or muted class warfare."

So the big question is "why?". Is it that teaching to the test is blunting the high achievers initiative? Is so much emphasis being placed on teaching the at risk kids that the high achievers are left on their own? Have the families of high achievers just voted with their feet? Or is it just the general philosophy that smart kids will do whatever it takes to achieve, so their budgets can be slashed by 6%? ( Remember to call your City Council Person and say "NO!" to the budget cuts)

What do you think?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Take Action

Important from Park Slope Parents:
Tonight, Monday June 23
Martin Luther King, Jr., High School
122 Amsterdam Avenue, at 65th Street
6:00 PM

The Panel for Educational Policy, which includes Chancellor Klein, will
vote on next year's executive budget. Go to this meeting and protest
school budget cuts! There will be an opportunity for public comment.

June 26, 3:30 PM, rally at City Hall to take a stand against school
overcrowding and to urge the DOE to take action in planning and building
more school seats.

Little activists and their families will meet in Battery Park City's
Teardrop Park after school to make signs.

And from me,
We don't have much time left to fight the budget cuts. Call your City Council Person TODAY and register your displeasure with the cuts. They vote on the budget this week.

I will have more on the school capacity issue in a couple of days, but this is very serious, especially if you have toddlers and preschoolers in Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope, Sunset Park and Williamsburg this is YOUR issue. It means very overcrowded classes especially in elementary school where they need to be smallest. It means that some of your children will probably have to leave your zone to find a public school, perhaps very far from your neighborhood. The DOE needs to see this issue for what it is. The Comptroller spelled it out in his "Growing Pains" report in May. The information that the DOE is working with is thoroughly flawed. There are not nearly enough seats in these neighborhoods for the incoming families. It is time to organize.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why Do I Grind My Teeth When I Read What Joel Klein Says?

Read Brownstoner's interview with School's Chancellor Joel Klein with a #2 pencil in your teeth to prevent dental abrasion.
Joel says, "The current Five-Year Capital Plan, which allocates funding for school construction projects, does not currently include new building construction in district 13 because district 13 overall is enrolled below the total district-wide capacity, even taking into account additional planned residential units. That said, there are some individual district 13 schools whose enrollment is over capacity. In the next Five-Year Plan, which we will put out in November and which begins in July 2009, we plan to look at the potential need for school construction based on demographic patterns within districts and the accessibility of existing schools. This will be a first: we haven’t previously drilled down below the district level."
More teeth references! Drill Joel, DRILL. The whole story is in the demographic patterns not within the weirdly shaped District numbers as a whole. Being in a school where the DOE determined "capacity" was like watching an exercise in Alice in Wonderland logic. They go by the "Blue Book" instead of by the reality. From the Comptrollers Report, "In addition, the current Blue Book target capacity for middle schools assumes that standard classrooms (i.e., not art rooms, computer rooms, and the like) are in use for seven periods a day. However, teachers are required to teach for only five periods a day. Using each room for all seven periods thus would require an extremely complex scheduling process. It also means that teachers would have to use the teachers’ lounge for preparation, if one exists. In reality, therefore, it seems likely that many middle school classrooms are actually in use for only five periods a day, which means that the utilization figures reported in the Blue Book for middle schools are understated as a result of this factor as well. "

Joel says, "It takes about 18-24 months to build a new school, depending on the scope of work; this doesn’t include identifying a site and designing the building. The timing for construction is established by criteria in the Capital Plan. We don’t “wait” to build until schools are overcrowded, at any rate." Hello, "321"! When are the families that bought into high rises on 4th Ave. in the 321 zone going to find out whether there is room for them? I suspect it will be on the first day of kindergarten. Yes, there are seats in District 15, but not in the schools that people paid dearly to be in.
From the Comptroller, "Much of the new residential construction is on the up-zoned Fourth Avenue. Among the Fourth Avenue projects that will impact PS 39, PS 321, and PS 124:
PS 39 will serve students from the 54-unit Argyle Park Slope, now under construction between 6th and 7th Streets. Inside Schools observers wrote: “Another space challenge: there is no gym or auditorium. PS 39 was using facilities at a community center across the street, but that was in the process of being sold at the time of our visit. Gym teachers teach lessons in the classrooms. The building was constructed without a cafeteria.” PS 321 will serve children from the 68-unit Crest condominiums at 2nd Street; the 41-unit building at Carroll Street; the 151-unit Novo Park Slope at 5th Street, and the 113-unit residential building at 343 Fourth Avenue. Observers from Inside Schools called PS 321 a “large, overcrowded school.” Yet,
applying the housing unit-to-public school student ratios in the CEQR Manual for high-income
Brooklyn units, these developments can be expected to generate an additional 100 students for PS 321. PS 124 will be impacted by the completion of 500 Fourth Avenue, a 133-unit building under construction between 12th and 13th Streets, and The Vue, a 45-unit condominium at East 16th Street. Inside Schools observers noted, regarding PS 124: “While the school is pleasant and well-maintained, it has a cramped cafeteria and a small room that barely makes do as the gym and auditorium.” Given the excellent academic reputations of most Park Slope schools, these new buildings could attract a significant number of families with at least one elementary school-age child. The proposed 630-seat elementary school, which a SCA official told Comptroller staff will be sited in the “northwestern Park Slope area,” should provide some much-needed new capacity. However, design work for the new school is not
expected to start until June 2008 and the school is not expected to be completed until November 2010, according to the February 2008 proposed Capital Plan Amendment."

Joel says, "families enroll their children in charter schools entirely by choice — in other words, students are never “zoned” to attend a charter school. This means that charter schools must compete with other schools for students and must educate students well in order to continue operating." This is true, but the families that go out of their way to seek out and apply for the lottery in a Charter School are also self selecting. They have to be informed and actively invested in their children's education. If they had the option of a quality zoned school I wonder if the Charter Schools would be so popular.
Check out Brownstoners report on new Charter schools opening in Brooklyn.

NYC Comptroller, William Thompson's Policy Report "Growing Pains" is fascinating reading (No, REALLY, and not just in a Dentist's Office - to stay with the metaphor) It was actually so thrilling for me to read the truth coming from a government agency that I wanted to get it printed and hand it out on street corners. Please, please take a look at it.
"A number of rapidly expanding communities now—or in the next few years—will suffer from
overcrowded elementary and middle schools, notwithstanding the school capacity expansion projects in the 2005-09 Capital Plan. Among these communities are:
Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO. The 2005-09 Capital Plan provides for no new capacity in Brooklyn’s CSD 13, even though over 3,000 housing units are under construction or were recently completed in the PS 287 school zone alone; PS 287 had space for only 89 additional students in October 2006. PS 8 serves DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, where hundreds of residential units were recently completed or are under construction. According to the DOE Blue Book, PS 8 was at 118 percent of capacity in October 2006.
There are neighborhoods where, although population is growing more slowly, elementary and
middle schools are overcrowded, DOE projects that the CSD’s enrollment will increase, and the
2005-09 Capital Plan provides too few seats or none at all. Among these are:
Sunset Park. Although four Sunset Park elementary schools exceeded capacity and the fifth was at 95 percent, no new elementary school seats have been proposed for this community. Sunset Park is in CSD 15, which is one of only four CSDs that the Grier Partnership projects will gain enrollment by 2015.

I could keep quoting from it all day long. This report was issued in May and yet the Chancellor has the audacity to tell Brownstoner's readers that there are enough seats because the DOE is counting by Districts. This is fraud. Read it and then call your City Council person and Betsy Gotbaum's office and demand answers.

While you are at fight the budget cuts.

There is More Than One Path to Brilliance

Whoa! Wait until you see what Eduwonkette has to say about elite colleges and what happens to kids on the high end of the scale with "No Child Left Befind". She references Yale English Professor, William Deresiewicz and his essay in The American Scholar It makes sense in light of the current administration. And for everyone who is wondering if the Gifted Class is the right class. Put this NY Magazine article into the mix "How Not to Talk to Your Kids".

From Eduwonkette:
Elite Colleges, "1) Teach students to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class."

"2) Inculcate a false sense of self-worth ('Getting to an elite college, being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college—all involve numerical rankings: SAT, GPA, GRE. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers. They come to signify not only your fate, but your identity; not only your identity, but your value.')"

"3) Initiate the winners into a club that's almost impossible to get booted out of once you're in ('Here, too, college reflects the way things work in the adult world (unless it’s the other way around). For the elite, there’s always another extension—a bailout, a pardon, a stint in rehab—always plenty of contacts and special stipends—the country club, the conference, the year-end bonus, the dividend.')."

"But if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual. This will seem counterintuitive. Aren’t kids at elite schools the smartest ones around, at least in the narrow academic sense? Don’t they work harder than anyone else—indeed, harder than any previous generation? They are. They do. But being an intellectual is not the same as being smart. Being an intellectual means more than doing your homework."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Up in the Park?

I just got my weekend update from the Park's Department . I'm only listing the stuff I want to do, there is plenty more in all boroughs. Check out their website.

Met Summer Concert: Live in Prospect Park

Friday, Jun 20, 2008

8:00 p.m., by the ball fields in the Long Meadow

The Met's summertime tradition of free outdoor performances returns with a special one-night only event in Prospect Park. Celebrate the start of summer with two of opera's biggest stars - Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna- singing popular arias and duets. Ion Marin conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus in the operatic event of the summer, sponsored by Bank of America.

River To River Festival: BPC Parks' Swedish Midsummer Festival

Friday, Jun 20, 2008

5:00 p.m.


Reviving its decade-old music festival, the Battery will be transformed into a musical haven, showcasing multi-genre guitar-oriented performances--from jazz, classical, and flamenco to old fashioned rhythm & blues--local guitarists will display their talents for the general public.
Price: Free
Wagner Park

7th Annual Summer Solstice Celebration

Saturday, Jun 21, 2008
5:00 p.m.
Bring your friends and family to Socrates Sculpture Park to welcome the summer and celebrate the longest day of the year! Participate in art workshops with artists from Materials for the Arts, The Noguchi Museum, The Queens Museum of Art, and Socrates Sculpture Park; have fun with Free Style Arts Association; get your face painted by Agostino Arts and Transformation! Face Painting; participate in a special solstice ritual performed by Urban Shaman Mama Donna; join free103point9 and Electronic Arts Intermix for Cinema On Air; watch a performance by My Barbarian; sample foods from local restaurants; have a picnic and enjoy the view as the sun sets over the Manhattan skyline!

Location: Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City (32-01 Vernon Boulevard)

Explore the Marsh Hike

Sunday, Jun 22, 2008
10:00 a.m.
Discover the beauty and rich diversity of this unique ecosystem as we discuss the importance of protecting the plants and wildlife that call the marsh home.

Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center, Marine Park (East 33rd Street and Avenue U)

Scandia Symphony Concerts in Fort Tryon Park

Sunday, Jun 22, 2008
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Bring your blanket to Billing's Lawn, overlooking the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades, and experience the music and culture of Scandinavia performed by the musicians of the New York Scandia Symphony and guests.
For three Sundays in June, Scandia Symphony will provide entrancing music in a spectacular setting - and all for free!

Celebrate Brooklyn: Salif Keita & Haale

Sunday, Jun 22, 2008
6:00 p.m.

Celebrate Brooklyn presents Salif Keita & Haale.

Known as the “Golden Voice of Africa”, KEITA blends the traditional griot music of his own Mali with sounds from Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal, along with influences from Cuba, Spain, and Portugal. “Keita’s voice leaps out of every song with tender urgency.” (NY Times) Persian rock goddess HAALE’s enchanting vocals soar over her band’s amplified rumble, which serves “as a reminder of the extent to which rock bands like the Doors and the Velvet Underground turned to the East for their hypnotic efforts.” (NY Times)

***Celebrate Brooklyn is one of New York City's longest running, free, outdoor performing arts festivals.Location: Bandshell, Prospect Park

Astronomy Club

Sunday, Jun 22, 2008
7:30 p.m.
Join us for this monthly gathering of star gazers, as we explore the heavens with our Dobsonian telescope. All ages welcomed.

Location: Fort Totten Ranger Park. Enter the park at fort entrance, north of intersection of 212 Street and Cross Island Parkway.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Babes in Tweedland

On Friday afternoon with the golden angel atop the Municipal Building shining down on 30 or so of the City's best and brightest from Stuyvesant and Edward R. Murrow High Schools, Chambers St. was an avenue of solidarity against the school budget cuts. Students read from their 100 letters in protest of the cuts. City buses, SUVs, school buses and motorcyles honked their encouragement. Bicycles bells tinkled and FDNY ambulances played their sirens as the students let out a cheer and did the wave. It was a tremendously positive experience for the protesters and the supporters who were encouraged by the optimism and energy of the crowd. If your school would like to participate in this very worthy protest contact the Kids Protest Project. The students only worry was that their letters wouldn't be read. So I have included a few more excerpts here.
Celia from Murrow ..." I am a part of the first screened theater program at Murrow and am very dedicated to the arts. Not only do I spend a period everyday in school but I also take part in our school productions. For three months, every single afternoon, from 3pm to about 6:30, I spent working on a show. We all put so much effort in to it and it came out wonderful. I made more than half my friends there and also gained a love of my school that I never thought I would.
I feel at home at Murrow and exceptional in the theater department. To lose this would be horrible for not only me but also the 200 other kids who help put our shows on."

Melissa from Murrow...
"Perhaps the Department of Education can consider using money to fund classes that actually educate students, rather than giving it to them in form of cellular phones in order to entice them to pass tests. Frankly, throwing money at our city’s youth does not seem like the best way to instill within them work ethic and integrity. I can see no better use of money than to create programs and classes that might interest students (such as photography and astronomy, just to name a few that my school will no longer be able to provide), so that they have a desire to learn. Instead, this money is being used for standardized testing. It seems counterintuitive that we are losing the option to be taught subjects, so that we can be evaluated on how much we have learned."
Tamara from Murrow..."I am writing to beg you to re-think the school budget cuts. I am an 11th grade resource room student at Edward R. Murrow High School. I have held an 84 average with the help of my resource room teacher. If there are budget cuts another student may not get the same opportunity that I have gotten. Also I am in an after school program “The Jewish Heritage Club.” I am very interested in my club and therefore my friends and I are not with peer groups that hang around the streets and get into trouble."
Andrew from Stuy..."I go to Stuyvesant High School and I am an aspiring musician and journalist. I play piano for the jazz band, write for the school newspaper and am planning to take an extra writing class next year to help me become a better and more confident writer. With the proposed budget cuts looming, it is possible that all three of these things will be cut."
Elizabeth from Stuy..."I am a member of the JV Volleyball team (captain next year) and on the Varsity Fencing Team. I know that doesn't seem like a lot but that's just a start. Both of those teams were undefeated this year. Undefeated Volleyball team because we had nets and balls available to practice. Undefeated Fencing because body chords, foils, and strips were all available. Not to say that all of this was just given to us. I can easily list numerous days that I got home at 9 or 9:30 because of a late practice or a game in Bronx. I can also show anyone who asks 10 or 20 scars on my ankles, scars that I received from sliding across the gymnasium floor.
Those stories come with hundreds of others. Thousands of public school kids with a hundred stories each. The only reason that we have those stories are because our coaches were able to teach us new skills.
I don't know if you attended public school, or when you did. In all honesty, I didn't even know your name until 10 minutes ago when my friend instant messaged me and asked me to write a letter. Maybe, I shouldn't be doing this, but if I don't can I guarantee that someone else will? One thing that I can assure you I learned from the teachers at Stuy is to take action. Hopefully, you will realize how much is being taken away."
Diana from Stuy..." Getting down to a personal level, such intense budget cuts would affect my education greatly. One evening my parents and I sat down and looked over every course that is currently being offered at Stuyvesant. I am a freshman, so we literally planned out all the classes I want to take in my next three years. I have high aspirations for my future in education, and I am definitely ready and able to fulfill them. Imagine the disappointment I felt upon the realization that my hopes and ambitions are wavering in the face of a petty issue called money. I am probably not the only one who is suffering from this danger. The students who will be juniors next year would not be able to take those AP and elective classes if the budget cuts are severe enough to reduce us to an eight-period day. In addition, it is not only classes, but also extracurriculars, that are at risk.
Donna from Stuy..."Here at Stuyvesant, we take advantage of all the classes offered to us. Most students use their two free periods to take electives and AP classes to further their knowledge in an area of interest. I, for example, have taken three science electives during my two years at Stuyvesant: Genetics Research, Human Genetics, and Human Disease. Through my experiences in these electives, I have found out the subject I am best at and have discovered new career options available to me. If it weren't for these electives, I would still be confused about the direction I want my life to take. To me, taking electives in high school gives me a chance to try out everything I'm interested in, so I won't have to switch majors in college and waste both my money and my life.
High school is all about trying out new experiences and experimenting to figure out your interests. If we are not given the opportunity to try out new things, we will never be able to realize our full potential."
Kathy from Stuy..."Although taking 5% from Stuyvesant's school budget may not seem like a big deal to many people, it will truly affect our school and its community. How? you may ask. At Stuy our budget isn't used for random classes such as underwater basketweaving. It is used to sponsor over 32 varsity teams; providing funding for our own Student Union (run by a group of appointed students) that manages our clubs and publications, several literary publications to inspire our students and share unknown talent such as The Caliper (the oldest high school publications in the nation). But most importantly, our budget is used to provide a well developed curriculum and supply of teachers to educate this generation.
It is possible that with these budget cuts, students will no longer be able to many electives-those that could possibly spark interests in fields such as biology when it comes to human disease, anthropology, or history- existentialism, debate etc. Also, many teachers that are retiring or leaving Stuyvesant for whatever reason, may not be replaced due to the shortage in funding for our school."
Kenny from Stuy..."The students that have been involved in school activities will suffer the most. As a dedicated member of the Stuyvesant Math Team, I may have to face the possibility that my school may no longer be able to fund this class. The Stuyvesant Math Team has a strong and very successful legacy not only in New York City but also in the nation. To cancel such a rich and academic-promoting activity because of these budget cuts is an absolute shame and a complete atrocity on the Department of Education’s behalf."
Libby from Stuy..."Speaking with others students about the budget cuts proved that this means something different to everyone. I for instance, am interested in biology, and many of the biology elective courses are being cut next year. When we were sent to sign up for electives, all but three were in jeopardy of being cut if we loose money. This included many of the intro language courses that many sophomores wanted to take. It’s important that in the melting pot that is New York, we learn about each other’s cultures and language."

Don't let these efforts end! Go to the Hands Across NYC protest to end the school budget cuts this afternoon, Monday June 16 at City Hall Park. 4:30-6pm

Friday, June 13, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I am delivering letters from High School students to the Tweed Courthouse today for the Kid’s Protest Project. They speak eloquently about the harm the $428 million budget cuts will have on their schools and their lives. Over 100 Stuyvesant and Edward R. Murrow High School students participated. We received this flood of letters in only one week, during which the students also had exams, Regents, APs and SATs as well as final projects and performances. New York City should be proud of its children. The students organized the protest themselves and communicated the need to write letters over Facebook.

Here is a sample of a couple of letters (remember these are 14 – 17 year olds):
From Julia at Stuy:
"…In reading up on these Public School Budget Cuts through a variety of sources I have heard many explanations, excuses, and possible reasons. The one thing that strikes me, again and again, is that, regardless of who needs or who deserves or who we didn't help enough in the past, the LAST thing this city needs right now is to lessen the emphasis on quality education. It should be the frontrunner, the all important, the vital key to the very continuation of our city. Children are the future - do you want an intelligent future, or the one you are creating?..."
from Jack at Stuy:
"…. I personally believe that while the first impression a school makes upon someone will always be its academic integrity, the true soul of the school is lies within what else it has available for its students; the clubs, the teams, the government, etc. By taking away a school’s funds, you are also taking away from its soul, which, no matter what their level of involvement, is felt by each and every student to pass through the halls each day…"
from Matthew at Stuy:
"… the city is planning on cutting an additional $955,000 (from Stuyvesant’s budget). Mayor Bloomberg said that this was beneficial, as schools would have to consider what to keep and what to cut. That’s actually a smart plan in a big company or business that wants to maximize profits. However, the education system is not a business. If courses and extracurricular activities are cut, then we will have a huge loss, as would be put in business terms…"
Tasfia from Stuy:
"…Please don't take away the things that make people like me want to go to school. The things that make us want to learn, to enrich our minds, and content our thirst for knowledge. The people at Stuyvesant are exceptional. We take advantage of all we possibly can. From full period days and afterschool classes, almost everyone I know will do anything to fulfill their want of more. Almost every student in our high school is in numerous clubs or teams which they manage to stay dedicated to even with their immense workload. It can be fairly easy to slack off, to not apply yourself, but everyone at our school, and probably many people in schools all around, just want to be the most intelligent us we can possibly be. Please don't take our drive to learn away from us…"
Amal at Stuy:
"… If the education level goes down, people will be leaving New York City like crazy. No one wants to live in a city where their kids cannot get the best education possible, especially in a city like New York. Budget cuts will affect not only schools but the entire state and possibly even the whole country…"
and at Murrow, Matthew writes:
"… Programs like Murrow’s drama program, as well as its great art and music programs, gives students the chance to do something besides sitting on their couch after school watching MTV. They’re able to use their free time to not only do something productive yet they are able to do things they love, things that might not even be available for them to do if their school weren’t able to offer it.
Yet with the large budget cuts that NYC schools are receiving, programs, clubs, afterschool activities, and electives will be negatively affected if not altogether cut. While one could easily shrug this off and say there are other places where students can further pursue acting, dance, art, etc, there are many students who are unable to afford the high tuition fees of an acting studio or a dancing school. That is why free classes and programs offered by schools are such a great thing. They give every student the chance to do things they love…"
Ashley at Murrow:
... I am also a member of one of the about one hundred clubs that Murrow offers. If the budget cuts occur, clubs will not be able to have funding so we could do good things, such as the environmental corps. Who had started a school-wide recycling plan in January, which has been working successfully, if the budget cuts occur, we won't be able to do good things for the world and ourselves…"
Hannah at Murrow:
"… I love Italian. I am going to Italian III next year. When I heard that you were going to cut AP Italian, my heart broke…"

and read the full letter from Vicky, a freshman at Murrow who is 14,
“I am currently a freshman at Edward R. Murrow High School, and I am one of the many students concerned about the budget cuts that will be taking a real toll on our schools next fall.
Not only are we given fewer opportunities, but also the money that is being taken away from our education is going towards giving us standardized tests and grades for our school. Growing up in this generation, “scantron” is unfortunately part of my vocabulary. I have more boxes of number two pencils in my drawer than I do art projects. During the course of my school career I have learned one thing. My amazing teachers have taught me more than any 60-question test ever could. These people work for almost no money, but take on the largest responsibility for the future of the world. If budget cuts take away teachers in order to have enough money to give us tests I feel that is the biggest mistake that can ever be made. One of the students in our country now will be the President one day. I would feel more comfortable knowing I had a president who once ran a fundraiser in their school for an after school club or one that was in a business class and in Advanced Placement History, than a president that knows “which of the following sentences is an example of personification.” A, B, C and D is not a large enough vocabulary for a UN ambassador or scientist that will find a new eco-friendly energy source. If it’s a choice between our classes and teachers or a test? I think the answer that will benefit the students and our future is most definitely answer A –give us back our classes, clubs and sports.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tween Town, Not Just for Girls

I got a flood of questions about where to take boys. The boys probably won’t want to do a lot of the same kind of shopping, going to tea or doing their makeup before the show, but most of the suggestions were great for all tweens.
Here are a few more ideas. Madame Toussaud’s is a lot of fun and even with a pricey entry it is freaky and fun. (there are tourist pass tickets that give you discounts at lots of places, like the Empire State Building and if you are doing a lot of the regular touristic things they may be worth it) The Top of the Rock, at Rockefeller Center is supposed to be great for a view of the city if you don’t want to go all the way to 34th St. If your guests are coming from a smaller city, run them inside a couple of Buildings that are amazing spaces that you won’t see anywhere else. In Grand Central (there are good building tours, although you need to know your kid if they would enjoy it or not) there is a spot in front of the Oyster Bar where you can stand in one corner facing the corner and whisper and if someone stands facing the opposite corner they can hear you. Also the food court downstairs is pretty good if you need a snack), and the Reading Room at the Public Library makes a good stop to have a quiet moment if you have sensory overload in Times Square.
I love roaming around the tip of Manhattan. I would wait in line for Ellis Island, and that is saying something. The museum is great and if you have any information on the year that your family member entered the country, it is the biggest thrill to find their signature on the ship’s Leger. You can spend the whole day below Chambers St. I don’t spend much time at South Street Seaport unless it is to pick up tickets at TKTS (shorter lines than uptown) The National Museum of the American Indian (because it is part of the Smithsonian, it is free, your federal tax dollars at work) in the Customs House is great. They opened a beautiful museum on the Mall in DC, but 95% of the collection remains in NY. Spend a lot of time enjoying Hudson River Park, your guests will want to move to NYC. Don’t miss the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Irish Famine Memorial (this is a particularly lovely and unusual little park north of the World Financial Center, really, it is worth looking for) Walk the whole length of Hudson River Park, it is beautifully and unusually landscaped with wonderful playgrounds for young kids and games and sports equipment at the ranger’s station for older children. When you get to the north end you can walk over the Stuyvesant pedestrian bridge and find a nice bistro in Tribeca for a bite or if you haven’t had enough walking you can completely wear out the soles of their shoes and head due east to City Hall and over The Bridge.
Once you are in Brooklyn, the Transit Museum is small and good (really great for young kids, especially on rainy days) I think that the Carousel in Prospect Park beats all others. The adorable Prospect Park Zoo (check out the Pigeon exhibit) and the southern entrance to the Botanical Garden are right across the street (Flatbush, that is). Bring your stale bagels! Maybe it sounds too low impact when there is so much to see in NY, but sitting in the Japanese Garden and feeding the giant Koi fish and turtles can be a big high-light when the kids are otherwise on overload. It is also very, very beautiful. If you are visiting the Brooklyn Museum (great kids programs and First Saturdays) have brunch at Tom’s Restaurant a couple blocks north on Washington Ave. (not open on Sundays) This neighborhood institution is very kid friendly and if you are waiting they pass out cookies. It helps your guests understand that New York is a city of neighborhoods that are really like the best small towns.

Finally the NY Times had a good article about backstage tours last weekend. I can guarantee that the backstage tour at the Met Opera is impressive, but I am interested in the Yankee Stadium tour which sounds awesome, whether you are a fan or not.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stoop Sale Diaries #1

So my husband and I are stoop sale freaks. We know all the regulars, buyers and sellers. (A shout out here to Leslie, we still have your picture frame) We have seen the demise of the taped flier, to be followed by sidewalk chalk and Craig’s listings. We can read a sale. Recent breakup – lots of the ex’s belongings going cheap and “how to buy a puppy” books. World traveler – Frommer’s, Rick Steves, Time Out wherever and lots of small wooden carvings. Out grown the quirky collection – Pez, rusty lunch boxes, ice cream scoops. Long time neighborhood resident – clothes for under a dollar, paperbacks 50 cents, haggling is a sport not an insult.

Here is the #1 rule of selling – every sale you will make is an impulse buy for your customer. It doesn’t matter that you paid too much for your item new, and then never used it. On the street it is worth $2. If you are in it for the money, you will do better on eBay. The tradition of stoop sales in my humble opinion (as a seller as well as a buyer) is to get the stuff out of your house and recycle to someone who will love it. The more you buy, the cheaper the price should be.

This is what we found on Sunday:
3 Christmas Cd's (including Paul Revere and the Raiders Christmas)
a free bottle opener/10 second digital recorder
Ultimate Outburst (in the plastic, for use at the family reunion this summer)
Glitter batons for the two little girls downstairs
A small fan for my hot head husband
A wireless router (ours just broke!)
A wooden massage roller
The Illustrated History of the British Invasion
Various necklaces
A bright pink velvet evening jacket with lots of details (great with skinny jeans and the pink ballet flats we got last spring)

Every week you will inexplicably see the same book title over and over at all of the sales. The title changes from week to week. Some randomness expert needs to write their PHD dissertation on this phenomenon. This week every sale had Time and Again by Jack Finney, a book we enjoyed and bought several copies of to give to friends. More than the usual Harry Potters were also present.

We had some great conversations too; where to camp, hitchhiking in the Pacific Northwest, the best places to eat in Sullivan County, what it is like to own an Airstream, neighborhood choirs. Whether you buy or not, it is the easiest way to make small talk with your neighbors. Stoop sales give me a reason to stroll in the beautiful weather with my sweetheart and love all my funky neighbors (except the costume jewelry guy that is at every sale 5 minutes ahead of me)
Happy shopping!