Community Access tenants pose for a photo during their bike ride on Governors Island. Photo by Lauren Garry
The first day of fall in New York City was today and it was marked by quintessential autumnal weather. The sun was in the sky, accompanied by low humidity and a crisp breeze. It was the perfect day for Community Access, a mental health and supportive housing nonprofit, to host a tenant bike ride on Governors Island.
“I haven’t been on a bike in over 30 years,” said Antoinette Whiting, 51, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “I spent a lot of my youth doing things that weren’t too good, so I’ve never been here. I didn’t even know (Governors Island) existed, and it’s just really awesome.”
Whiting is one of the thousands of people Community Access has served in New York City. The nonprofit’s mission is to expand opportunities for people living with mental health concerns to recover from trauma and discrimination.
“I was in the shelter and I was going through a pretty dark area in my life,” said Timothy Davis, 28, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “Community Access definitely helped me. They helped my self-esteem, they helped me job wise and most of all they got me a place I could call home.”
Through the Housing as Healthcare model, health and wellness activities were integrated into Community Access tenants’ everyday lives. The bike rides began two years ago.
Community Access’ partnership with Citi Bike helped to make this bike-share event possible. Through the partnership, Community Access received 30 Citi Bike keys to use wherever bikes are available for staff members to lead group rides.
“This is not something that our tenants may have gotten to do otherwise,” said Rica Bryan, 31, Community Access’ Health and Wellness Coordinator. “People can choose to use the Citi Bikes, or explore the island on foot.”
While this was the first year of the partnership between Community Access and Citi Bike, today’s event was not the first tenant bike ride they’ve hosted on Governors Island.
“The first time I was overcome with enjoyment,” said Davis. “I’m super stoked. This is a great day to be out here. It’s beautiful. “
Davis’ excitement was palpable. He smiled, skipped and ran around with enthusiasm, and even tried some tricks on his Citi Bike.
“This is special because there’s a whole lot of negative things going on right now and for us to come together as different people from Community Access, to come together and share this excellent experience is totally awesome,” said Davis.
Bryan described the part of the day she most looked forward to as “sharing in the joy of being together, being in a really beautiful place, and gathering our Community Access community.”
Eugene Smith, 61, of Morris Heights in the Bronx was happy to be out in the fresh air and having stability in his life.
“I’ve been with Community Access now for nine years, and until now, I’ve never lived in a place for nine years in my entire life consistently,” he said
Tenants and employees worked like a family. They helped each other put on helmets, adjust bike seats, and even to balance on the bikes.
“We’re all in this together, to figure out how to support each other,” said Bryan. “I’m getting connected to some really wonderful people who haven’t always had opportunities to thrive or live to their full potential, so I feel great to be with them today.”
Actor and writer Chazz Palminteri was the Grand Marshal of the 91st Annual Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Photo By Lauren Garry
Among the sea of people and through billowing clouds of smoke from hot griddles, a familiar face smiled and waved to passersby. Tony Danza, actor and co-owner of Alleva Dairy, served Italian specialties to customers in front of his store on the corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets, one of the many restaurants that participated in the 91st Annual Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
“No one understands the amount of effort that goes into putting on the festival,” said Danza, clad in an Alleva t-shirt and disposable vinyl gloves. “Everyone puts in so much time and so much effort for the 11 days, and four days of setup before, so 15 days!”
Alleva Cheese had no need to shout to gain people’s attention, as visitors flocked to the street stand to get a glimpse of Danza, 66, at work. The “Who’s the Boss?” and “Taxi” star said he was going to work the stand each day during the festival. Danza can often be found working the cash register at the little cheese shop which calls itself “the oldest cheese shop in the nation.”
Meanwhile a photo with Danza was a bigger draw than the cheese. Danza, a native New Yorker, paused to take photos with fans in between serving pasta, meat and cheese.
Days before the Feast, Danza posted a photo to Instagram of himself serving sausage and peppers at the Alleva Cheese stand in 2016. He became a co-owner of the cheese shop four years ago.
Danza wasn’t the only celebrity sighting at the Feast. Chazz Palminteri, writer and Academy Award-nominated actor, was this year’s Grand Marshal.
“Now yous can’t leave!” Many spectators shouted at Palminteri who rode on the Figli Di San Gennaro, Inc. float, which led the parade yesterday. The line was uttered by, Sonny, a character made famous in the film he wrote and starred in, “A Bronx Tale.”
Palminteri laughed and waved back as the float carried him down Mulberry Street.
After the parade, Palminteri took a photo with NYPD officers that he tweeted to his 55.9 thousand followers, captioned, “With NYPD at the Saint Genaro feast on Mulberry Street – may God Bless them.”
Smells of Italian cuisine permeated the area as visitors enjoyed the copious amounts of food and browsed stands full of gold jewelry, clothing and collectibles. The 11-day feast hosted hundred of vendors and honored the patron saint of Naples.
“For some, they make a whole year’s salary during the Feast,” said Rob Cervoni, 29, from Roslyn, Long Island. This was the first year the New Yorker parked his 16 Handles mobile trailer in the row of vendors at the festival. “This is one of the greatest feasts in the world, and one of the biggest,” he said pouring frozen lemonade for a customer through the trailer’s serving window.