Archive for the 'Volunteers' Category

Recap: Exploring Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture, Aug 11

On August 11, OHNY joined Harlem One Stop for a walking tour, “Exploring Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture.”  OHNY Volunteer Council member Leah Strigler came and helped out on the tour. She recaps the sites and history that was explored during our evening in Harlem.

Over forty participants followed tour guide John Reddick for a walk in central Harlem, starting at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

the group gathers around tour guide John Reddick

John shared samples from his extensive collection of sheet music to illustrate the rich musical life that was prevalent in Harlem in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when music was sampled in clubs and theaters and enjoyed at home via sheet music.  The Apollo Theater, which opened as the 125th Street Apollo in 1934, was a later institution in this mold and stands on the site of an earlier theater, Hurtig and Seamon’s.  The Apollo later merged with the Harlem Opera House, which had been located up the street.

the Apollo Theater

Another major site was the Hotel Theresa, which opened in 1913 at the corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.  Years ago, the hotel was a focal point for the vibrant Harlem neighborhood. Guest included Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker and Lena Horne. Malcolm X also heald an office there. The Hotel also receive a lot of publicity when Fidel Castro famously stormed out of the Shelburne Hotel and took his entourage with him to Harlem, occupying 40 rooms in the top floor of Hotel Theresa during his 1960 visit to the U.N.

Hotel Theresa

Another stop on the tour included the old studio of James Van der Zee, the Harlem photographer whose is famous for his portraits and documentation of the Harlem Renaissance. Van Der Zee’s work was first exposed to a larger audience during the controversial exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harlem on My Mind in 1969.

the photography studio of James Van Der Zee, a prominant figure in the Harlem Renaissance

The tour’s last stop was at Tian, a restaurant in Riverbank State Park on 145th Street, with Panoramic views of the Hudson, live Swing Dance and Big Band Music performed by the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra. John Reddick’s exhibition on this era will be showing this fall at the Casa Frela Gallery, a site that will be featured during the upcoming Open House New York Weekend.


Recap: OHNY Hidden Harbor Tour – Aug 16th, 2011

OHNY Volunteer Council member, Bob Moore, joined our volunteer crew last month for the Hidden Harbor Tour that was organized in partnership with the Working Harbor Committee. He recaps the evening and gives details about the harbor, landscapes and vistas that were seen during the two hour tour.

Despite the fact that the day dawned overcast and rainy, the clouds rolled back as the afternoon wore on an we were more than happy to see the sun begin to shine just in time for the OHNY/Hidden Harbor Boat Tour that took place on August 16th.  OHNY staff and passengers assembled at the Pier 16 dock at the South Street Seaport, all keenly waiting to board the Zephyr, a large three-deck tour boat.  We made it smoothly on board; all of us, that is, with the exception of one passenger who was seen making a mad dash down the pier and crossing the gangway just as it was about to be withdrawn!

passengers aboard the Zephyr

The ship backed out of the pier and proceeded a short distance up the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our “hosts” for the evening were Captain Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee and Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association.  Both provided us with a continuously fascinating commentary on each site we passed in addition to a number of nautical and maritime facts.

Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association

The Zephyr then set course southwards towards Buttermilk Channel, a narrow stretch of water bordered by Governor’s Island to the west and Red Hook to the east.  Apparently Buttermilk Channel received it’s name in the early 19th century, when farmers were able to drive their cattle across when the channel dried out at low tide.

a full ship

We sailed onwards past the Brooklyn Passenger Terminal to the end of the Red Hook peninsula, where a Fairway supermarket and some art studios are now housed in the old brick warehouses.  Zephyr then entered the Erie Basin ,which has been transformed by the advent of IKEA. The once thriving shipyard has now been closed and our captains called our attention to the remnants of the old graving dock.  The basin is occupied by a large fleet of barges which operate short distances up and down the coast carrying oil fuel, cement and other commodities. These are important links on the transport chain.

colorful tugboat

We then proceeded out into the Red Hook Channel, past the Gowanus waterfront and the immense Brooklyn Army Terminal, the site of Elvis Presley’s  (the anniversary of whose death this day was) departure for Germany to carry out his military service. The Terminal is an enormous building which provided a gateway for much military equipment to be transported overseas to the war efforts in Europe.

making our way into the Kill van Kull

Heading westward, Zephyr passed the Statue of Liberty on its starboard side and proceeded towards the entrance of the Kill van Kull, another narrow strip of water which separates Staten Island from New Jersey.  Zephyr then passed under the Bayonne Bridge, a very picturesque bridge redolent of the Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia.  It is listed a s a National Historic Monument.  However, the distinctive bridge, with its parabolic arch and lower road bed, is now unfortunately causing a botttleneck in the port.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise the bridge by raising the height of the roadbed by 60 feet,  a very difficult job that  is not due to be completed for several years.  This could have a severe economic impact on the port.

passing under the Bayonne Bridge

After passing under the bridge, Zephyr rounded Bergen Point and swung up to the north-right to enter Newark Bay, home to the huge Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container ports.  We passed the large ‘Arthur Maersk’ container vessel, owned by the largest container shipping company in the world, AP Moller of Denmark.  Much has changed in the shipping industry over the last 30 years or so.  So many of the goods which we take for granted stocked in local stores come from overseas, and Ed Kelly pointed out that were an accident to occur in the Kill van Kull, blocking entry to the port, dramatic consequences would quickly impact the tri-State area.

the "Arthur Maersk" container vessel

As Zephyr turned and headed for home, the sun was setting over New Jersey, casting the Bayonne Bridge into a beautiful silhouette.  Swinging leftwards down the harbor, we passed Robbins Reef light house, in which legendary lighthouse keeper Kate Walker once lived (rowing her children to school everyday in a row boat to Staten Island).  We passed the Statue of Liberty just as the sun was making its final exit.  Once we made our way back to South Street Seaport the reaction from all who disembarked Zephyr was universally positive.

gorgeous sunset at the end of the tour

(Images courtesy of Mitch Waxman)

Meet Megan Elevado, our Volunteer Coordinator

Megan pumpkin picking and looking forward to the Fall!

We would like to introduce Megan Elevado, our Volunteer Coordinator for the 2011 OHNY Weekend.

Megan is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. After graduating from NYU, she worked as an event planner and fundraiser for non-profit cultural institutions in New York including the American Museum of Natural History and New York City Opera.  Megan is now in her second year of coursework at Parsons, pursuing a Masters in the History of Decorative Art and Design.

A Few Fun Facts About Megan:

– loves period films based in the 18th and 19th centuries

– favorite pizza is from L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn

– collects all things with elephants (pillows with elephant prints, elephant statues… if it’s elephant themed, Megan probably has it!)

– prefers British tabloid magazines to American ones

– is from the same part of Brooklyn as Larry David

You can contact Megan at for more information on volunteering for the 9th Annual OHNY Weekend, October 15 & 16.

The 2011 OHNY Weekend volunteer registration is now live! Sign up now!

Five Year Volunteer Appreciation Event Re-Cap

By Robert Moore, Volunteer Council member

It was a dark and stormy night…well, it was one of those steamy summer nights when unexpected, evening thunderstorms hurl themselves upon unsuspecting commuters. However, on this Tuesday evening the rain relented just too late to allow the open roof to be used for the festivities for the presentation of the special OHNY pins to the volunteers who have assisted with the October OHNY weekend for five or more years.

2011 five year volunteers

Nevertheless, our honorees together with OHNY staff and Volunteer Council members gathered in the gallery of the Central Park Armory, just adjacent to the zoo. A wonderful old building, the Arsenal outdates the Park itself by some years and started off– as its name implies– as an Armory for the City militia. In subsequent incarnations it became the Museum of Natural History and finally, its present role as the headquarters of the New York City Parks Department.

2011 OHNY Volunteer Council

Parts of the building are open to the public and house rotating art exhibits. Presently in the gallery there are photos associated with the recreation by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei of the animals which formed a famous fountain clock in the European-style gardens of the Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, near Beijing in China. Unfortunately the fountain clock was destroyed and looted in the 19th Century. Some of the originals have been found but Ai Weiwei has recreated all the Chinese Zodiac animals which can now be seen in the plaza opposite the Plaza Hotel (see below).

Ai Weiwei artwork

Shortly after everyone arrived and had fortified themselves with some wine and delicious finger food the presentation of the pins took place and the volunteers received their special OHNY 5-year pins from Andrew Watanabe and Leah Strigler, co-leaders of the Volunteer Council.

pin ceremony

After the presentation, we were lucky enough to have a short talk by Jonathan Kuhn, the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Director of Antiquities. Jonathan is one of those New Yorkers who just oozes enthusiasm for the city and its hidden gems. He was full of interesting stories including the fact that the reservoir in Central Park, which once supplied water to the city, could now only supply a matter of hours-worth of water–so greatly has the city expanded.

Leah and volunteers

We were then conducted on a tour of the Armory building by Gary Rozman, Cultural Affairs Liaison at the Department of Parks and Recreation. This took in the Boardroom, formerly Robert Moses’ office which contains the original drawing of the Park as it was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Their design won a competition and was far ahead of its time, as much of the area around the Park at that time was not developed. The Boardroom also, curiously, has a clock which is counting down until the end of the present City Administration. Before ascending to the roof areas, male and female members were permitted to see the gentlemen’s toilet also known as the ‘Septagon’ due to its unique shape!

view from the top of the Arsenal

From here we ascended to the various roof decks from which, even on a cloudy, drizzly night gave wonderful views out over Central Park. Despite being ill-shod for it, we all managed to climb the vertical ladder to the very top of the building where a register of visitors is kept in a waterproof case and everyone signed this as a record of their visit. We were very lucky to have been given this opportunity and everyone was most grateful to Gary and Jonathan for their generosity and very informative commentary.

Hae-In with Tama and Sy

After our tour and some final farewells, we exited the building via the main hall which is decorated by some wonderful murals – a spectacular end to a wonderful evening, which the weather was not able to dampen in the least!

Join OHNY’s Volunteer Council

Hello, fine friends and enthusiasts of OHNY! I’m Andrew Watanabe, former volunteer coordinator and current OHNY Volunteer Council member.

Andrew at OHNY's Wrap Party 2010

As OHNY staff and VC members begin start mapping out sites and programs and lining up outreach strategies for this year’s OHNY Weekend, you may be thinking to yourself, “You’re planning for OHNY Weekend already? Yet I’ve only just finished plying my sweetheart with dinner dates and… well intended but poorly executed gifts?” And to that, I snap back, “Exactly! Excuse my mixed metaphor, but Valentine’s Day is just a cog in the whole enchilada: we’ll need that leverage to get you out of that trip to their sister’s Pomeranian’s half-birthday party in Massapequa during the Weekend.”

But I digress. Every year, we see more and more interest in our programs and volunteer opportunities, so I’m reaching out to you today to find out whom of those among us have the enthusiasm, the know-how, the gumption, and, most important, the time and energy to commit to joining the VC. You may be wondering to yourself, “What is the VC? What does it do? Is it a secret society? Can it be transmitted through casual contact, like holding hands or kissing?” And I would reply solemnly, “It’s a little bit of both? But with the House of Representatives and that game where all the tiny, different-shaped pieces pop out into your face if you’re too slow sprinkled on top.”
The VC is a hodgepodge of individuals from all over the city, and all walks of life, who commit to a minimum of two years of service. We meet the second Tuesday evening of every month to discuss strategy and assist the staff at year-round events: from recruiting and training volunteers for the annual OHNY Weekend, to filling the room with friendly, knowledgeable faces at OHNY’s year-round programs and fundraisers. We organize the recognition ceremony for five-year volunteers, and we also lend our individual talents (mine is getting other people drunk, apparently), knowledge, and connections where they are helpful. It’s really exciting to get to have a hand in planning the largest architecture & design-related event in the country!
Of course, we do have a few teeny-tiny prerequisites for VC membership that are, I swear, not onerous at all. We are looking for the following characteristics in you:
  • A genial, well-rounded personality
  • Experience volunteering for OHNY Weekend at least once in the past few years
  • A firm commitment to come to the monthly meetings
  • Willingness to sacrifice your OHNY Weekend to be a District Coordinator. Which, if I might add, is not really a sacrifice at all: you are OHNY’s eyes and ears during the Weekend, visiting a handful of sites on both days, interacting with program and site sponsors and volunteers, and being available if a site needs extra help. IN FACT, you can still see a bazillion sites in and around your district, and it introduces you to some sites and programs that you wouldn’t necessarily make a beeline for, but that end up being the highlights of your weekend.
And that’s all! If it sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, send an email to and let us know that you want to hop on for the ride.
Hope to see you at our next meeting!

Volunteer Registration Extended!

OHNY Weekend volunteers in Brooklyn

Volunteer Registration Still Open!

We have extended the deadline til Monday, September 13. You can still register to volunteer for the upcoming OHNY Weekend, October 9 & 10, 2010! Volunteer for a four hour shift and receive a signature OHNY button that allows front-of-the-line access at non-reservation sites and programs.

Already registered? Help spread the word– tell friends, family, co-workers and anyone who is interested to join in the fun!

2nd Annual Volunteer Recruitment Happy Hour

Interested in learning more about the duties and perks of a being an OHNY Weekend Volunteer? Join OHNY and the Volunteer Council for our 2nd Annual Volunteer Recruitment Happy Hour event at SideBAR on Wednesday, August 18th.  Bring family, friends and co-workers out for complimentary drinks starting at 7pm.

At the event, you will be able to speak with OHNY Staff as well as volunteers from the past in order to grasp what the Weekend is all about. Learn about volunteer opportunities for OHNY Weekend and year-round as well as how you can help OHNY raise funds to keep OHNY Weekend free!

Please RSVP by sending an email to Please include your name and how many future volunteers you are bringing!

We hope to see you there!

SideBAR is located at 120 East 15th Street and Irving Place

Sign up to be a Volunteer! Registration Deadline: September 8th, 2010.



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