Kate Graft who is homeless, doesn’t know if she would go to a shelter if this weekend weather continues to plunge. Photo by Rakeesha Wrigley
This weekend’s bone-chilling weather could be life threatening for New York City’s homeless population. Forecasters predict temperatures as low as three degrees on Sunday night. Adding snow to the icy streets, wintry weather heightens the risk of living outside.
In these weather conditions, the Department of Homeless Services (DOHS) activates its Code Blue policy. The policy is initiated when the temperature drops below 32 degrees because of the possibility of the homeless being injured or dying in the streets from hyperthermia. DOHS street outreach efforts are increased to check on the homeless and to offer them resources like shelters and drop-in centers. Still, many of the city’s street homeless choose to tough it out under sleeping bags, blankets and scaffoldings.
Kate Graft, 24, is from Maine and has been homeless since being kicked out of her parents’ house at 15.
“I would rather freeze on the streets than go into a shelter,” Graft said. “We don’t want to stay with drunk home bones (older homeless men) who piss themselves or have bugs.”
On Tuesday, the DOHS conducted its annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) in midtown Manhattan. At midnight, over 3,000 volunteers combed the five boroughs with HOPE surveys and offers of shelter for the homeless. Joshua Rodriguez, 27, who works as a multimedia director in the daytime, volunteered to give back by giving his time.
“I like the experience of trying to help and give back to people in need,” Rodriguez said. “I always have somewhere to go at night whereas a lot of people don’t.”
Rodriguez teamed up with his friend Tehura Banks, 34, a rent administrator for Common Ground to survey the areas between 50th St. and 10th Ave.
They came upon a homeless woman covering her shopping carts with plastic, and a homeless man preparing his bed on the sidewalk. Rodriguez offered them shelter for the night.
“I just want to stay here and work,” the woman said.
She had barricaded herself behind a barrage of about seven shopping carts where she served as a shopkeeper and her carts a type of thrift store. Her sale items were distributed among her carts. She had carefully covered her items in cardboard and plastic to protect them from potential snow and rain. The carts, the scaffolding from the building she was under and the well-lit gas station to her left were her security from both the weather and unwanted visitors.
“I don’t want anything from the government,” she said. “I don’t want to go into a shelter. I have everything I need right here. Last time I went I was attacked.”
There are over 268 shelters in New York City operating under the Right to Shelter mandate which provides temporary emergency shelter to eligible men, women and children in distress. Despite awareness of shelters, many of the homeless prefer the street, using the subway stations as temporary housing until removed by the police.
Studies show that the majority of the homeless living on the streets, are mentally ill, suffer from drug addiction or have serious health issues. Four out of five street homeless New Yorkers are men, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. There is no accurate count of the number of homeless in the city streets, but the coalition estimates that figure to be in the thousands. Most
live on the streets of midtown Manhattan.
Marc Clemente, 29, from Connecticut, has been on the street since he was 17. He said he only uses the subway for shelter in emergency.
“If it gets really bad we just go down to the subway and wait for the police to kick us out or arrest us,” Clemente said. “Other than that we just go to the scaffolding and layer blanks on us.”
Recently Jeff, who did not want to give his last name, a homeless man in Buffalo, New York lost both of his legs to frostbite. Luckily, someone found him before he died. Stories like this aren’t unfamiliar to Clemente.
“An acquaintance of mine passed out and urinated on himself,” he said. “The next morning he was dead, frozen to the sidewalk. They had to scrape him off.”
Nichols, who did not give his last name, 32, is from Florida. After finding syringes in his bedroom drawer, his foster family kicked him out. He’s been homeless for 15 years.
“January 17th was negative 11 degrees and we had a whole camp set up with a tent, fire pit, and a wood burning stove,” Nichols said. “We just burned everything in sight. It’s actually a pretty mild winter compared to last winter. It hasn’t got too bad yet, I don’t think it’s going to get any worse.”
Smiles and anguish as The Rise members hold a wall sit in unison. Photo Credit: Ben Shapiro
On top of the steps of the New York Public Library a group emerged through the darkness of the cold, rainy morning wearing brightly colored athletic gear. It was half past six on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it was time to work out.
More than 30 people woke up before dawn to take part in a boot camp class run by The Rise. The organization runs free outdoor group fitness classes throughout New York City, adding their name to the many crossfit type programs emerging across the city and the nation. These classes offer quick, high intensity workouts that both double as a means to get into shape and an environment to form new friendships.
“I would say that a lot of people would show up initially because they probably think they’re going to get a good workout,” said Dave Johnson, one of the leaders of The Rise. “They end up staying for the friendships, for the social scene, and then they end up getting fit over time, it’s a byproduct of hanging out with your friends.”
Johnson, 33, started The Rise a little over two years ago with friends Anthony Burdi and Joseph Mullins as a way to work out with one another and hold each other accountable. What started as a way for three friends to stay in shape has grown to 30 plus people gathering at least three times a week to motivate one another to be the best they can be. Social media has helped the group increase in numbers, but Johnson admits that the key to becoming more popular has been simply showing up.
“It was just the three of us, with other people here and there for a while,” said Johnson, a native of Colorado. “Then word started spreading that we were doing this… and eventually people found out that we were serious, that we were going to be there rain or shine, we were going to be there every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”
Similar to other bootcamp or crossfit related classes, The Rise workouts vary each session but usually include staple exercises such as pushups, crunches, burpees and other body weight moves that work multiple muscle groups. The Rise is unique in that outside training equipment is never used during a session, as it is common to see resistance bands or TRX ropes integrated into the routine of other bootcamp classes. According to Johnson, the abundance of group training classes is part of an emerging fitness movement that is seeing more and more people turn away from traditional exercising that does not involve a social aspect to it. Whether it is the inclusive environment or the fast paced regiment, these types of workouts are proving to be effective.
“I don’t know if I have been in better shape in my life, so I think the results speak for themselves,” said Johnson, who has been involved with free fitness groups for almost eight years. “It’s partly that, but it’s also the community. People pushing each other, and having other people to see. That guy is not quitting, I don’t want to quit.”
There are many other similar classes being taught throughout New York City, but most are led by full time physical trainers and therefore cost a fee. The leaders of The Rise are workout enthusiasts that feed off the camaraderie and energy of training with other people. The trio, led by Johnson who is studying to become an economics professor, enjoys positively impacting the lives of others. All they require to take part in a class is an early wakeup and an optimistic attitude. Also, just like many of the people that join The Rise, they enjoy making new friends as well.
“There are no better people to be friends with than the people you are working out with,” said Johnson. “My best friends are here, and I’ve made them through this group.”
The community factor helps push people during these workouts, but it also is the reason they are drawn to them in the first place. The Big Apple can be lonely at times, and especially for people who are new to the city. Group fitness classes contain members who immediately share a common interest and hobby to bond over.
Arie Smith, 24, has been a regular with The Rise for almost a year now, and a native of Great Neck, Long Island, Smith said he understands the social value the class brings to certain individuals.
“I grew up in New York, but I think for a lot of people who have just moved here, or are even here from another country, this is like their main social group,” said Smith, who works as a software developer in Manhattan. “I mean, I’ve met a ton of friends here, we have outings and stuff. I don’t know, I think it’s an amazing place to meet people.”
One of those people not originally from the area is Danielle Brining, who has made The Rise a regular part of her weekly schedule. Brining, 25, is originally from Bermuda, and is now at medical school in Texas, but she has been on assignment to do research in New York for the past six months. Not knowing many people in the city, Brining needed a way to make new friends, and found the program on a website promoting free activities taking place in New York. Despite not previously enjoying early morning workouts, she found The Rise’s positive energy and unity contagious, and has been going back ever since.
“I have never been a morning workout person before, but once I started coming here, everyone was so awesome, I thought they would hold me accountable, but it’s not accountability, it’s that you want to see them,” said Brining, who hopes to return to New York City for her residency. “They are just great people, we hang out together, we had like a friendsgiving. It just kind of keeps me coming in the morning even though I am the opposite of a morning person.”
Aside from the social aspect, Brining is one of many former college and high school athletes that participate in these types of workouts. Brining played rugby in college and missed the structured workouts and gameplay that college athletics provides. She compared the jovial atmosphere of group fitness to that of being part of a team, where she doesn’t feel as if she is working out until she experiences soreness the following morning.
“I always had leagues in college and stuff, but once you get out of college, you don’t really have groups that are as easy to can get involved in,” said Brining. “I have tried them at gyms but when you don’t know anyone at the gym… but here everyone is so awesome, and with the high fives and everything, it doesn’t feel like a workout.”
While former athletes look to group fitness classes for the structured training and sense of teamwork it provides, workout classes such as The Rise serve non-athletes wanting to fill physical and emotional needs as well. Tiffany Judkins has been attending The Rise workout classes since the summer of 2013 after previously not prioritizing physical fitness. Judkins wanted to get into shape, but more importantly needed something to commit to, and people she could count on. After going through what she described as traumatic experiences, Judkins, 33, found the perfect escape.
“I was looking for something that would help me refocus my life on something positive. To commit to it, not look back, to not second guess myself,” said Judkins, who has lived in Manhattan for nine years. “Before this group I had a big life transition, I was looking for something to fill that space, and this community helped me grow from that. If I miss a workout, I miss my friends.”
On a typical morning, Erica Jones wakes up, eats a hearty breakfast, puts on her running gear and heads for the door.
Along the way she will pick up running partners, but not the typical type. Her cohorts aren’t people, they’re dogs.
Jones, 32, of Harlem, N.Y., is a professional dog runner for Happy Pants NYC one of the numerous dog walking services that don’t just walk dogs, they run them.
“You come in and they’re just knocking stuff over they’re so happy to see you” Jones said of the dogs she runs.
With over 1.5 million dogs living in the city, many being large breeds in small living spaces, many dogs are left with little room to release pent up energy.
But companies like Happy Pants NYC, provide a rigorous work out. Athletes are hired to take dogs on a vigorous 30-45 minute run during the day, a time when they might otherwise sit idle while their owners are at work.
Jones recently moved to the city from California after quitting a desk job in finance, because she really wanted a change of pace, she said.
“This is my full-time job now,” she said with a smile.
Jones said for her, it’s the best of both worlds. She has run in seven marathons, and combining her love of dogs and passion for running seems to suit her well.
“It’s totally perfect, I love running, I love the dogs,” Jones said. “I love being outside, running is easy and fun for me.”
She heard about dog running while still in California, and even tried putting up ads to seek out people who might be interested in having their dogs exercised, but she said it was difficult to find clientele in an area where open spaces were readily available and many people had their own yards for pups to run in.
So immediately after picking up her two dogs and moving across country, she went online and applied for a running position with David Haber’s company, Happy Pants NYC.
“I think the ad said something like, ‘Do you love to run? Do you want to get paid to run? Do you love dogs?” she said.
Checking yes to all those things, she met with Haber and was approved to proceed to the running test.
“He wanted to see if I could run basically,” she said laughing. Not a problem for Jones, who held her own during the 45-minute trial run around Central Park with Haber and one of the dogs.
Haber, 39, from the West Village, worked in marketing for years before starting Happy Pants NYC.
He wanted to try and do something on his own, less structured than his previous corporate jobs, and when he saw dog walkers around the city he’d wonder if it was something he could make a living out of doing.
Then, about four years ago, he began working as a runner for a company that specialized in dog running and did odd jobs on the side to make ends meet.
“After my commitment to them was finished, I basically went off on my own and tried to do something similar,” he said.
Haber combined his long-time love of dogs and his desire to run a business into Happy Pants NYC (“pants” as in the panting a dog makes when it’s happy after a long run).
At first Haber was the only runner, and with clients emerging in areas scattered around Manhattan, he was literally running all over the city.
Now he’s got multiple runners and clients all over the city. His business is doing well, he said. Prices start at $32 for a 30-minute run and clients choose how many visits per week they’d like, ranging up to five 30-minute visits for $115 per week.
“In the beginning it was just me and I was running sometimes up to six or seven times a day,” he said. “I think I was logging like 15 or so miles.”
Haber’s legs were so sore at night, he could barely sleep, he said.
Soon after he began to build a larger clientele, he started hiring runners to help take the load off, he said.
“The key criteria is definitely someone who loves dogs and has a great temperament to them” he said.
It is important that his runners are able to withstand running long distances, which is why he typically hires experienced athletes, but more important to Haber than athletic ability being able to trust them with the dogs.
“We develop such a close bond and relationship with the owners, and their dogs,” he said. “They’re affording us a lot of opportunities and sort of trust to be in their home and take care of their dogs that people value sort of at the same level as their kids,” he said.
One such client who entrusts her pooch about three times a week in the care Haber’s company is Dr. Nina Mohr, a veterinarian at City Veterinary Care in the Upper West Side.
Mohr, 41, from the Flatiron District, owns a yellow mix-breed named Banana. She said he had some behavioral issues before exercise was introduced into his routine. Mohr started running him years ago, but doesn’t have the time to do it as often as she’d like, so about three times a week, one of Haber’s runners at Happy Pants take’s Banana out to run.
She said dog running is a great alternative to dog parks and dog walking, which don’t offer the energy release that running does, especially for working breeds like retrievers and schnauzers, whose natural instincts are to be moving and working.
“They’re in an apartment, they sleep when we’re gone, they don’t do anything,” she said.
As a result, dogs do sometimes develop behavioral and even medical issues like arthritis and weight problems, but those who can get enough exercise, usually see improvement in these areas, she said.
“I think there are tremendous benefits, cardiac benefits, orthopedic, all kind of things,” she said.
Mohr believes strongly in exercise for dogs. Not only does she recommend running and other forms of exercise to patients, she also swears by it with her own pooch.
At 11 years old, Banana is still in great health and has the spirit of a young pup, Mohr said.
“Before I started running with him, he was sort of more destructive, “ she said. “He had separation anxiety.”
But the running has mellowed him out, she said.
Thousands of Giants’ fans traveled from all over the New York metro region to attend today’s Super Bowl victory parade in Lower Manhattan, but one boisterous group of supporters on Cortlandt Street only had to walk a few blocks to catch the action.
“We do whatever we want, we’re stock brokers!” said Dave Cutolo, 44, oozing with bravado.
Cutolo, of Murray Hill, was standing with a group of work associates who all worked “down the street,” he said, without identifying the company they worked for. Wearing a black coat over his brown suit and patterned yellow tie, he held a plastic red horn that he bought from a street vendor in one hand, a coffee cup half-filled with beer in the other.
Cutolo and pals all wore suits and overcoats, standing out in a sea of people clad in Giants’ blue. But their attire didn’t prevent them from mixing in with the crowd: they hooted, hollered, laughed and screamed at passerby, passing the horn around and joining in the various “Let’s Go Giants!” chants that arose out of the massive crowd bordering Broadway.
Ron McClintock, 32, a member of this stock-broking entourage, brushed off the idea that they were sacrificing time at work for a day of partying, saying that they could easily enjoy themselves while being productive.
“We’ll go back and forth,” he said, confidence dripping out of his pores. “We’ll go back (to the office), make some calls, make some money, and then come back.”
And the celebration would last all night, he said.
“See all these women?” he said, motioning to the enormous crowd. “I’m going to be like a fish net, scooping up everything.”
McClintock and Elvin Lopez, 31, were eager to express their love of this season’s Giants’ team, and Lopez said the way the team fought through the playoffs was representative of the city’s attitude.
“It’s such a New York story,” he said. “Everyone’s walking a little taller today, a little prouder.”
“It’s the greatest thing,” McClintock said. “No one stops (the Patriots) but New York.”
But Cutolo, despite being a Giants fan, wasn’t totally thrilled with the game’s outcome.
“I had money on the game,” he said, explaining that he needed the final score to end with the numbers five and three in order to take home the cash.
He wasn’t letting his lost wager depress him too much, though: while he and his friends attempted to whip the surrounding crowd into a frenzy, he cast an optimistic lens on the rest of his afternoon.
“I’ve got to go inside and make $2,000,” he said with a smile. “Then we can go back (here) and have fun.”
From mouthwatering sausage and pepperoni pies to blazing garlic parmesan chicken wings, New York City bars and restaurants are prepping to satisfy the thirst and appetites of hungry football fans this Sunday when the New York Giants take on the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl XLVI.
“I like the Super Bowl, it’s crazy,” said pizza maker Danny Asitimbay of Fat Sal’s Pizza on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “I have no time to watch the play because it’s busy here, but I’m working hard.”
This year, specials at Fat Sal’s include a large pie and 10 wings for $21 or, for wings only fans, a bucket of 40 wings for under $26. Asitimbay, who has been working in the pizza business for the past seven years, said Fat Sal’s usually sells up to 2,000 wings on Super Bowl weekend alone. He added that the wings served at the pizzeria are “always fresh, never frozen,” and that extra ingredients had to be bought in order to prepare for the second biggest eating day of the year, following Thanksgiving.
Chicken wings take the spotlight as the most popular game-day food. According to a report from the National Chicken Council (NCC), Americans are expected to eat 1.25 billion chicken wings – 100 million pounds – this weekend.
By noon on Saturday, Atomic Wings already had 50 pre-orders for Sunday’s game.
“We regularly sell six to eight cases of wings a day,” said owner Christopher Lyn. “But for the Super Bowl, we’ll sell around 100 cases of wings – a substantial amount.”
With around 250 wings in each case, Lyn projects around 25,000 wings will be sold and devoured by consumers during the biggest wing-eating day of the year, despite a price increase on poultry. The NCC said wing prices always surge during the year’s fourth quarter, when eateries start to prepare for the Super Bowl.
Lyn added that the Giants, being from the Empire State, would impact Sunday’s sales because “we’re in a New York market.”
But while pizza and wings may be on the minds of most Americans this year, bars are also expecting a business boost. On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg temporarily renamed Brady’s Bar in uptown Manhattan to Manning’s for the weekend, declaring it “the luckiest bar in New York City,” just as he did when the two teams battled on the gridiron in 2008.
“If I wasn’t going to be in Indianapolis, I would be spending my Sunday afternoon where I think a lot of you should spend it, and that is here at Manning’s,” Bloomberg said.
Owner Dan Brady, an avid Giants fan, said yesterday that altering the name of the bar is a fun change.
“We did it four years ago, and everybody loved it,” he said. “Everybody finds it to be a great thing. Hopefully it’ll bring the Giants good luck.”
In a sea of black and brown winter jackets, it was hard to stand out on 59th Street. and 1st Avenue, where spectators of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon waited for runners to exit the Queensboro Bridge and take their first steps into Manhattan. Amid the densely packed crowd was the red Swiss flag, emblazoned on shirts, hats and backpacks, in hopes of catching the eyes of the Swiss athletes who would run by.
“Today is a great day for my friend, and I’m excited for him,” said Brigette Beerli, who came from Switzerland with her friend Martin so he could run in the race, and she could cheer him on.
Beerli came to New York City with a travel agency in Switzerland that organizes an annual trip to the city for the marathon.
Esther Roth, a tour guide who lives in Astoria, Queens but is from Switzerland, said the company runs trips to many of the world’s biggest marathons, but New York is a popular destination.
“Some clients come almost every year, for many years, and everybody tells me that basically New York is the greatest experience of all the marathons,” said Roth.
She said that their group numbered almost 200 people, and that the Swiss clients enjoy New York because of the diversity of people participating and cheering.
The Swiss spirit could be seen throughout the crowd that surrounded the bridge, a Swiss flag popping up here and a red shirt showing up there. The Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge is the 16-mile mark, and one of the most popular cheering zones along the 26.2-mile route.
Roth said she’s picked this spot for many years, because she thinks the runners must feel excited to run out from under the bridge and into a crowd of cheering fans.
“Our Swiss participants know that we are in this corner, so they will look for us here,” said Rita Padua, who was with Roth’s tour group.
Originally from Switzerland, but currently living in Washington D.C., Padua said her sister chose to run in this marathon so that Padua would not have to travel so far to see her compete.
The crowd erupted with cheers and blow horns when the professional women runners went by. Padua, who wore an oversized top hat with the Swiss flag on it, shook the cowbell she decorated and cheered loudly.
It’s Padua’s first time at the marathon, and while she waited to catch a glimpse of her sister come off the bridge, she enjoyed the electric atmosphere.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “The weather helps a lot. I find it is very important for all the participants, and we also try to cheer everybody up.”