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Ouch! Mosquitoes Force Closure of Community Garden

IMG_0224Stephen Rex Brown The dormant construction site next to the garden that is owned by the Educational Alliance. Green thumbs say it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Alphabet City’s community gardens always feel like verdant refuges from city life, but lately Orchard Alley Community Garden has seemed downright tropical.

IMG_0229Stephen Rex Brown Check out the bites on Steven Matthews’ leg.

Yesterday swarms of mosquitoes forced members of the garden on East Fourth Street near Avenue D to close it indefinitely. The itchy green thumbs point to an adjacent stalled construction site owned by Educational Alliance as the insects’ breeding grounds.

“I was here playing catch with my son; after 10 or 15 minutes we had to go,” said Steven Matthews, whose legs were covered in bites from a recent visit.

Until the pools of water at the site are cleaned up the garden, which is open to the public whenever one of its 15 members is present, will remain closed.

Ayo Harrington, the head of the garden, won’t walk on the same side of the street as the garden, and said she’d been taking double-doses of Benadryl to keep the itching at bay. Read more…

Getting Older, But It’s Yoga, Not Bingo

DSC_0169Meredith HoffmanA new series of programs offered by the Educational Alliance for those 55 and older include lessons in ballroom dancing, tai chi and yoga. Here, Marcy Simon, who directs the program, leads a class.

There were lessons in zumba, ballroom dancing, karaoke, ceramics, and tap dance. Some people were learning tai chi and yoga. Others were taking part in poetry readings or Chinese dance sessions.

Many might assume that a place offering those programs was some ultramodern studio targeting this year’s crop of college students. In fact, these are just some of the new programs being offered by the Educational Alliance’s specifically for older adults. And no, they do not offer bingo.

The East Village Center for Balanced Living is located in the Sirovich Center on 12th Street between First and Second Avenues (similar programs are also available at the Whittaker Center on East Broadway). The center believes that just because people qualify for the breakfast special, this doesn’t mean that their health and wellness shouldn’t remain a vital aspect of their day. “It is about finding ways to challenge people as they get older, not feeding into it,” said Marcy Simon, the director and founder of the center.
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New Stage, New Spirit at the 14th St. Y

Nearly a year after the completion of their $1.2 million renovation, the 14th Street Y is putting the southwest corner of 14th and First even more firmly on the East Village cultural map. The Jewish community center (open to “all backgrounds”) is nearing completion of their brand new theater and positioning themselves to provide a community space for “puppetry, filmmaking, experimental theater, aligning Jewish texts with the arts,” according to Reva Gaur who works for the Educational Alliance, a network of social and cultural centers of which the Y is a part. Ms. Gaur says that the “new theater will serve as the only professional theater in a community space in the East Village” when completed.

There are three key players that have made such a theater possible. Stephen Hazan Arnoff, Executive Director of the 14th Street Y, David Tirosh, LABA (the Y’s community arts program) artist-in-residence and Becky Skoff, who manages the theater and the arts program for the Y.

Securing funds for the arts in a time of economic uncertainty is no easy feat. Impressively, the center’s renovation funds have now exceeded the original $1.2 million to nearly $1.5 million with the help of New York City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick. According to Mr. Arnoff, Councilman Garodnick grew up in the neighborhood and even “attended pre-school at the Y”.

Said Ms. Gaur, “We reached out to City Council members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez to think about how we could obtain the first funds needed for the project. They embraced our vision and supported our application for funds from the City Council Capital Budget. This resulted in a $250,000 from the city which we combined with other funds to make our vision a reality for the community.”

Ms. Gaur explained that “laba” is Hebrew for “lava,” signifying an ambition to delve beneath the surface of the cultural landscape to find ancient wisdom. It’s also wordplay on the English “laboratory.” The next major arts program event is “What Kind of Love Is This: Bob Dylan and the Band” a combined gallery exhibition, symposium, and concert. The theater has already announced collaboration with AMAS Musical Theater, Red Fern Theater Company and Variations Theater Group.