Category Archives: Reporting NYC

Sunny’s Bar: “I lurve It”

Tall, lanky and thin as a pencil, Antonio “Sunny” Balzano is the beloved owner of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Dating back to 1850s, the bar passed from his great grandfather to his grandfather to his father to his uncle and then Sunny.  After taking over in 1994, Sunny unintentionally transformed the tiny bar into something trendy.

How? He and his friends — artists, musicians — simply hung out at the bar, drinking and having a grand time.

Grand, is one of Sunny’s favorite phrases.


Gentle and sweet, Sunny speaks with an Irish accent (even though he is Italian). “I love it” sounded like “I lurve it.” He attributes his accent to his early days as an aspiring actor and love for theatricality.

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Stress-free NYC: Breathe and Carry-on

Photo Credit: (Web) Photo Credit:

Living in the city can be stressful (Stress with a capital “S“). According to ForbesNew York has “the least affordable housing, the most extreme population density and the highest cost of living.” The Global City Competitiveness Index declared New York to be the most competitive city in the world.

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Sweet and Stress-free, Let Them Eat Black Sesame
Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, soda and other highly processed or refined food. Can a girl eat her dessert and stay healthy at the same time? Most definitely, check out the best black sesame desserts in NYC.

Don’t Hug, Cuddle. Yours Truly, Cuddle Party Facilitator
Cuddle Party? For most of us who have never attended a cuddle party, it sounds like group orgy. But it is not. Jamie Garde, a 61-year-old certified Cuddle Party facilitator, participates in this Q&A to share her thoughts on touch.  Continue reading

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

Obsessive (adj): thinking about someone or something too much or in a way that is not normal (

Yayoi Kusama (1929 – present), a Japanese artist in her 80s, identifies herself as an “obsessive artist.” Having suffered nervous disorders and hallucinations as a child, she derives her artistic vision from them. Her fascinations include repeating patterns of dots, lines and other figurative elements such as eyes, profile of faces. Kusama asserts that repetition helps her ease her anxieties.

I make them [dots] and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this process “obliteration.”

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

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Alex Gabriel McKanze: music is not passion, but necessity

Alex Gabriel McKanze is not your typical tour guide. Born and raised in the Paris suburbs, he identifies himself as Italian American with French culture (the American side, since it does really exist, is German, British and Cherokee). He speaks five languages fluently, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as a little Portuguese and Latin.

As a freelance tour guide for Great New York Tours, he’s a walking encyclopedia. Even with a hangover, he can tell you that Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River in 1609 (adding snidely, “Because the Native Americans obviously never saw it before”).

A 22-year-old with great ambition, McKanze speaks of his love for the “rhythm” of the city. To him, New York is work work work, and he loves it. He doesn’t know where his music will take him, but he is more than okay with that. He just wants to play.

I love it [Jazz]. It’s always new and it’s endless combination. And it’s also because you catch a moment that’s unique. Every time it’s different. I do not play the same song twice.

You can read the Q&A here or on Bedford & Bowery (This French-Born NYC Tour Guide Will Serenade You With Gypsy Jazz Tonight)

Alex McKanzie, NYC tour guide and Gypsy jazz musician

Alex McKanzie, NYC tour guide and Gypsy jazz musician

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Church of the Holy Trinity: Blessing of the Animals (stuff-animals too!)

Oct. 6, 2013 — Constructed in French Gothic style of the 13th century and adorned in rich terra-cotta sculptures, the church stood magnificently against a backdrop of grey, post-rained sky. Its soaring towers reached upward, as if pining for Heavenly Father. It was a beautiful Sunday.

My revelry, however, was short lasting and was interrupted by staccato barking — Woof, woof, woof. Dogs of all sizes — Rottweilers, Labradors, Boxers, Yorkies, Corgis, to name a few,  eagerly ran up the church steps. Before entering, owners grabbed bone-shaped dog treats from a basket. The atmosphere was cheerful and intimate, as people exchange greetings and compliments (for their dogs of course).

Every Autumn, the Church of the Holy Trinity[1], a neighborhood Episcopal parish in the Upper East Side, celebrates St. Francis’ day[2] with the Blessing of the Animals.

Puppy Love.Still002

(image credit: John Zongmin Chow)

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It’s more than “Baby Hope,” An Observation of Criminal Court

Oct. 22, 2013 – The pavement outside the Criminal Court of New York City was strewn with tripods and reporter microphones – CNN, Bix, Telemundo, FiOS 1. The catch phrase of the day was “Baby Hope.” Today a Grand Jury had indicted Conrado Juarez for the murder of his cousin and the reporters were waiting outside to speak to his lawyer. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 21.

In 1991, the body of an unidentified girl, sodomized and smothered, was found stuffed in a cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway. Earlier this month, Juarez, 52, of the Bronx was arrested for the death of his cousin, four-year-old Anjelica Castillo. The notorious case, which had captured public attention two decades ago, remains high-profile. Michael Croce, Juarez’s defense attorney, described this case as “the New York’s folklore. For now.” In his twenty years of criminal defense, he says that he has yet to encounter a case with this much publicity. “To some,” Croce added, “This is an once-in-a-lifetime chance.” Continue reading

Finding Sandy: reporting a year after superstorm

Red Hook is Stronger After Sandy RED HOOK, Brooklyn – A year after Hurricane Sandy[1] flooded the area – the water surged and overflowed Van Brunt Street, and went up twenty blocks to Holland Tunnel – local businesses are back. Although many business owners continue to struggle with federal storm assistance and debt, they have fond memories of neighbors, volunteers who pitched in to help.

It wasn’t only what we did. It’s what other people had done to help us accomplish what we had accomplished. — Sunny Balzano, Sunny’s Bar

The community was amazing. — Ben Schneider, Good Fork

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my friends. — Carlos DeSantos, Brooklyn Motorworks

The community was strong, but we are closer now. — Susan Saunders, NYPG

They [volunteers] did in hours what would take us 4, 5 days, or weeks. — Steve Tarpin, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie

We will celebrate what we did for each other. — Billy Durney, Hometown BBQ

[1] Oct. 29, 2012.

Teacher to Nanny, A Surinamese Woman’s Love Quest (Q&A)

It is 10:30 a.m. and already the Stuyvesant Town playground is filled with children. A woman leans forward into a baby carriage and coos, “Why are you crying?” She sniffs the diaper. “No stinky,” she declares, “What are you fussing about, your teeth coming out?”


Lilian[1] is a nanny, part of an estimated 200,000 domestics employed in New York City[2]. With her smooth, chocolate-brown complexion and voluminous afro gathered in a high bun, she appears no different from any African American woman living in the city – except her accent. She speaks as she is a tropical songbird, rolling her r’s and overstretches her vowels, adding an exotic musicality to her speech. Is it because she comes from Paramaribo, Suriname? Is it because she speaks taki taki, a creole language that mixes English and Dutch, back home? Lilian laughs and explains that when she speaks taki taki, she sounds like she is speaking broken English.

Friendly and talkative, Lilian is as warm as the weather back home. As she recounts her journey – she arrived in New York in 1991, two days before Christmas – she spins a tale of love, marriage, children, and work. She has been here for over twenty years, and she misses home. One day, she vows, one day she will return to her country and climb a mango tree.

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