by Bill Batson
Imagine the stories that would be told if houses wrote autobiographies.
This stately structure on South Highland Avenue could tell us if slaves were hidden here during the abolition movement. We would know about the political maneuverings and legal strategies of the successive generations of lawyers who called this place home. Or learn the downside of having a neighbor who owns a private zoo. The garden could share the secrets of what makes her bloom. But alas, buildings and garden beds don’t write books.
Fortunately for us, this house has a biographer, and her name is Judy Martin.
1855 – 1967
by Judy Martin
- 1855 – John W. (atty) and Susan Towt and children Elizabeth, Mary and Charles move into this house on South Highland
- 1856 c. – Non-owning Tenant: Marcena Menson Dickinson (atty) Orangetown Supervisor 1856, 1857; Rockland County District Attorney 1862-1868 and 1875-1878
- 1873 – 1927 Elizabeth A. Towt Robbins and Louis Leland Robbins (atty) and children Nathaniel, Louise Robbins Ward and Louis Leland Robbins Jr. are occupants, with ownership going to Elizabeth in 1892 on the death of her father, John W. Towt
- 1927 – Louis Leland Robbins (Jr.)(atty) and wife Sarah Gesner Robbins (no children) inherit from his mother, Elizabeth Robbins
- 1934 – Sarah Gesner Robbins purchases from husband for $1
- 1942 – John H and Anna H Fruauf purchase the Towt home from the Robbins estate
- 1946 – Peter and Edna M. McVicar
- 1948 – Daniel T. (atty) and Mildred G. Brucker. Daniel was a founder of Rockland Community College, a benefactor and on its board and many other Boards in Rockland County. The Bruckers left here to move to a new house on Deer Track Lane in Valley Cottage, with fewer stairs.
- 1957- Newsmaker Productions, Inc. rents the house to Jerome (atty) and Lee Johnson. Jerome was Chairman of Nyack Hospital Board and a noted benefactor
- 1958 – Henry F and Rafaela Blazek and son
- 1967 – Malcolm E. (atty) and Judith H. Martin and children Jennifer, Elizabeth Christina and Katherine
Judy has served Grace Church as treasurer and vestryman; the village as the manager of the Housing Authority, and is currently a dedicated volunteer at Grace’s Thrift Shop. She and her husband, Mac moved into the Towt house in 1967.
If someone wanted to create a biography of their house, where would they start?
I think you start with the land; its earliest ownership records, and historical maps. I went to the county clerk’s office and researched the deeds as far as I could go. Deeds follow the actual ownership of the land and show changes, liens and court records.
If it’s a recent building, then the municipal building department has pertinent records. And once you have the deeds, then you can check the names to see who those people were.
The earliest owner that you documented was John Towt, who helped establish St. Philip’s AME Zion Church in Nyack. Towt was rumored to have been active in the Underground Railroad. Did you find any evidence of cavities in the home where escaping slaves could have hidden?
There were several places to hide a runaway slave in the old house, and there may have been more that were lost when spaces were taken for the indoor plumbing installation.
On the 4th floor there was a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe and a walk-in cedar closet. On the 3rd floor there was a three-part bay window seat that opened, and a hallway between rooms with doors opening out on each side.
Connecting the 2nd floor and the bottom floor kitchen there was a dumbwaiter, controlled entirely by ropes and pulleys inside the shaft, and located right next to an exit door on the second floor. And on the bottom floor there was a closet/exit door leading to the coal bin and a highly unusual small window leading from the underground root/fruit cellar to the space under the porch.
If it were my choice, I’d have chosen only the 2nd or 1st floor spaces, since all of them were within inches of the outside if a dash to escape were needed.
Have you ever seen a picture of John Towt?
I’ve never seen a picture of John Towt; and I’m not sure there is one. But when we worked on the master bedroom, we found a picture that had fallen down behind that fireplace mantel. It was labeled “first trousers.” It turned out to be Louis Leland Robbins, Jr., one of John Towt’s grandsons.
Who are some of the other families that have lived under this roof?
As is seen in the 1870 census, Elizabeth was the eldest child of John W Towt (1803-1891) and Susan Towt. The Towt land is delineated on the 1876 Atlas of Rockland County, showing two residential homes. The parcel extended all the way to what is now Route 303 and included Buttermilk falls.
In 1821, as a 19 year old, John Towt was exposed to the cruel perversion of slavery while traveling through the American south. Towt settled in Nyack in 1855 after a successful career in New York City where he amassed a fortune.
Towt would help establish St. Philip’s, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church that is still located at the corner of North Mill and Burd Street. The A.M.E. Zion Church was founded in New York in 1796. From its inception the church was an active participant in the Underground Railroad and counted Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth as members.
Although Towt played many roles in the congregation in Nyack, including superintendent of the Sunday School, the day to day operation and religious activities of the church were led by pastors of African descent.
According to Dr. F.B Green’s contemporaneous history of Rockland County written in 1886, “Towt was called upon to lend personal assistance to a fugitive negro. On that occasion, he concealed the runaway in his house, until he was able to travel further, and then saw him safely off, on his way to freedom.”
The 1876 Atlas of Rockland County shows that Towt owned a parcel of land to the south of where the Nyack Brook meets the Hudson River. Nyack is widely considered to have been the mid-point between Underground Railroad locations in Jersey City, NJ and Newburgh, NY. The Nyack Brook is thought to have been a navigation landmark leading escaping slaves to the Hudson, a natural conduit to Canada.
Towt’s neighboring land owner was Cynthia Hesdra. An African American, Hesdra (1808-1879) was enslaved at one point, yet died a wealthy woman, accumulating properties and businesses in New York City and Nyack.
Cynthia Hesdra is listed in Mary Ellen’s Snodgrass’ Underground Railroad Encyclopedia as a conductor.
One of the homes is identified on that map as the residence of M. M. Dickinson. Although the Dickinson family later owned the land north of the Towt land, and, in fact, sold a piece of it to Elizabeth in 1892, the Dickinson referred to here is Marcena Menson Dickinson, (1823-1890) who served as Orangetown Supervisor in 1856 and 1857, and two terms as Rockland County District Attorney, 1862-1868 and 1875-1878.
The land where the Nyack Middle School now stands was once owned by Pierre Bernard and operated as an Ashram called the Clarkstown Country Club. Apparently some of the guests in his menagerie made an impromptu house call once?
From 1942 – 1949, this home was owned and occupied by John and Anna Fruauf, and their daughter Doris Fruauf Rose. Their granddaughter, Tracey Rose Cummings, remembers that one afternoon, the monkeys belonging to Oom the Omnipotent (next door to the south) got loose, came down the hill, climbed the rose trellis and went into Doris’ third floor bedroom.
What drew you to this house?
We grew up outside Buffalo, NY, and wanted to live in a small community, not just a commuters’ suburb. When we walked on Main Street in Nyack, people we did not know greeted us, just as in our upstate village.
The first time we saw the house was on a foggy evening. We put in an offer and it was accepted, without ever knowing the house had a 12 month Hudson River view. The house was one of a kind, which appealed to us, and finally, we could afford it. It had 12 rooms, and every one of those and every inch outside needed help!
Today it would be called a handyman’s special. But we were young, energetic, and willing to learn whether the paste went on the wall or on the wallpaper!
What’s your favorite room in the house?
I love to cook and I love to eat, so of course, the kitchen is my favorite place, but for a quiet time with a good book, the house has lots of cozy corners and window seats and bay windows, and if it’s a really good thunder and lightning storm, you’ll find us outside on the porch, loving it!
It seems that you put as much effort into the grounds as you do the building. What is your favorite feature in your garden?
Up by the house, the hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons create lovely living walls against which annuals smile at the house. And we are continually planting forsythia to create anti-deer fencing, and fruit trees to replace the tall maples as they topple.
But the private place is the terrace – totally surrounded by green, and supporting perennials changing with the seasons.
What is your current garden project?
I’ve just finished harvesting the mint to make mint jelly for lamb and curry dinners all winter.
- Nyack Sketch Log: St. Philip’s AME Zion
- Nyack Sketch Log: Scholar Puts Local History on the Map
- Nyack Sketch Log: Underground Railroad
- Nyack Sketch Log: Yoga Reborn Here
Special thanks to Myra Starr
Judy Martin portrait photo by Dr. Arnold Roufa.
by Bill Batson
Through marriage, barbers Diane and Steve Zuccato combine two families with over 170 years of hair cutting history. For three months, a sign announcing the opening of D.S.Z. Barbers and brown paper have shrouded activity behind the picture windows at the corner of Franklin Street and Main Street. In a joint interview, Diane and Steve describe the evolution of a family business as they prepare to plant their barber pole in Nyack.
Families with Deep Roots in Hair Care
Diane’s father, Adrian Wood, owns Paul Mole, the oldest barbershop in Manhattan. The illustrious men’s grooming establishment is located at 73rd and Lexington Avenue and was established in 1913. Wood used his scissor skills to travel the world cutting hair in London, NYC, New Zealand, and Bermuda. Since he acquired Paul Mole in 1970, the barbershop has consistently been ranked one of the best in New York City.
Like Diane, Wood’s daughter Kim and his son Michael are Master Barbers. A fourth sibling, Christine, is a Special Education teacher but worked weekends at Paul Mole as a receptionist. So all 4 of the Wood children have been in the barber business.
Steve’s great grandfather, Lelio Fioravanti, came from northern Italy and opened a barbershop on 8th Street in Union City in the 1930s with his brother August.
Steve’s maternal aunt, Anna Casalaspro, spent 40 years styling hair. Casalaspro worked at a salon, but also turned her basement into an at-home hair dressing venue. She provided this accommodation for her older clients who could not travel far and for people who had busy schedules and needed late night appointments.
Aunt Anna taught her three sons how to cut hair. Steve learned from his cousins and was soon cutting hair for his friends. Every Friday afternoon before kick-off at Don Bosco Prep, Steve would cut his football teammates’ hair. Steve continued to cut hair in college at Towson University, where he graduated with a degree in Communications.
Why did you decide to start your joint careers in Nyack?
We felt it would be a great place to start a family and the perfect place to start a family business. When we were looking for a new location we just fell in love with Nyack and the surrounding area.
We looked at other available storefronts in New Jersey, Yonkers, White Plains and Tarrytown and nothing felt right. When we walked into 140 Main Street we knew we’d found the right location. The feel of the space was nostalgic – perfect for a true classic gentlemen’s barbershop.
We do love New York City, but having a family there isn’t what we wanted. Diane’s sisters, who have a total of 4 kids, live in Orangeburg and Westwood. Since Nyack is close to those towns we thought it would be nice to live and work here so when we do have kids of our own they can all see their cousins on a regular basis.
Diane’s mom is also close by in Leonia and Steve’s family is from Waldwick, which isn’t far either.
What is the biggest challenge of starting a small business?
Time management has been difficult. On top of building out the space, which has taken over 3 months, Steve worked full-time for my father at Paul Mole, until August 1. We spent a lot of nights, early mornings and weekends managing the construction of D.S.Z. Barbers Inc..
Diane also has a full-time job in commercial real estate, which she will keep, and will only work weekends and nights at D.S.Z. Barbers.
Not only did we have to build out the actual space but we also had to build our online presence, which takes a lot of time. You can now find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and more! Our informative website will be up in September which features monthly “tips and tricks” from our Master Barbers, which has taken a lot of time to get together and personally design.
Oh and funding hasn’t been easy either! As a new business, we didn’t qualify for small business loans. We have put our entire life’s savings into this project. Yikes!
Did your father want you to follow in his footsteps?
Diane: My father made all three of his barber children attend college before pursuing a career in the barbering business. He’s happy I was able to use my college degree (William Paterson Graduate – Communications major with a concentration in Marketing and PR) and barbering background to obtain a position with King of Shaves as their Marketing Director and official Master Barber. Before KoS, I worked in London for a PR company representing another British shaving line called Edwin Jagger.
What are the traditional tools of the trade that you are preserving in your grooming methods?
Scissors! We use a traditional technique called “Scissor-over -comb” and try to stay away from basic clipper cuts. We also take pride in our straight razor shaves, which is a time-honored service within the barbering industry.
What are some of the modern innovation that you are incorporating?
Steve: To me, innovations means trendy. That really short on the sides style accomplished with a machine and then drastically doing a long or short fade into a 2 to 5 inch difference in hair length. That’s what you are seeing on TV with rock stars and some actors. It’s the same thing you would find in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I can do that very well, but that’s not who we are.
We specialize in traditional men and children’s haircuts in a welcoming location that feels like home. We do not cut women’s hair. We do not do blowouts. We believe that men belong in a barbershop and women belong in salons. We play classic music and will even have an antique record player set up so our clients can BYOR (Bring your own record).
Our barbershop is filled with classic barbershop antiques – our 6 chairs and 2 barber poles are from the early 1900’s. We want people to walk into our shop and feel like they are taking a step back in time.
We take appointments for men who have busy schedules and cannot sit and wait 30 minutes for a haircut (walk-ins are always welcomed though!). We value our client’s time. We book appointments on the half hour. If you have an appointment you will never have to wait for a haircut. Period.
Our barbers will have a strict dress code to follow and must always act in a professional manner. Our clients can always expect freshly laundered towels and barber capes. Every client is welcome to a complimentary espresso while he gets his haircut.
I saw a clip of Diane on YouTube shaving David Letterman on national television. What was that like?
Footage of Diane Shaving David Letterman
Diane: VERY nerve-wracking! It was the first time I was on live television. My hands were shaking, the set was cold and being face to face with Dave was very intimidating… But it went very well! Being on Letterman opened a lot of doors for me. After my appearance, I was featured in major publications worldwide such as CRAINS, OK!, Cosmopolitan, Daily News, Marketing Week, First, Ladies Home Journal, Seventeen, Fitness, Men’s Health, and Men’s Fitness as a shaving/grooming expert.
Diane, how does your dad feel about the familial competition?
Diane: I was so nervous to tell him we wanted to open our own barbershop. Steve has been the manager at Paul Mole for 4 years, which means he opened and closed the shop 6 days a week for my father (6am open – 8:30pm close). We were worried how he would handle it considering we were the last of his kids to leave his business.
He handled it perfectly and is extremely happy for us. Out of his 4 kids, I will be the first to open my own shop.
Did he have any advice?
Build something special. Somewhere people would enjoy going to. Stay traditional. Find good barbers you can trust.
Who shaves Steve?
Steve shaves Steve. He likes to do it himself.
Who gives the better shave?
Ahhh. Really?? You have to know this is a tough one for us to answer!
Both are better in different ways. Diane gives a great facial massage after a shave while Steve is very talented at shaping beards and goatees.
Do you either of you have a dream client?
Steve: REX RYAN! Hey Rex, if you’re reading this come on by! Any service you want is always on the house for you.
D.S.Z. Barbers will open soon at 140 Main Street, the corner of Franklin Avenue and Main Street. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.
Today’s sketch is a depiction of an antique Emil J. Paider barber’s chair.
by Bill Batson
On June 26, 2014, Nyack Hospital and Montefiore Health System issued a joint press release announcing a merger. When the process is complete, Nyack will have a medical institution informed by over two centuries of history in health care. Will the philanthropic and progressive impulses that characterized the creation of nonprofit hospitals in nineteenth-century America endure? Will the services that we receive be enhanced or diminished?
“We see great opportunity in working with Nyack Hospital and enhancing its rich history of providing excellent care in the community,” said Steven M. Safyer, M.D., president and CEO, of Montefiore. In the same statement, his counterpart, David H. Freed, DHA, President & CEO, of Nyack Hospital said, “Montefiore has a long history of both clinical excellence and innovative care delivery. It will be an exemplary partner in developing the advanced models of care management and regional collaboration required to serve the Rockland community well under healthcare reform.”
Since the word “history” appears in the remarks of each of the CEOs that are party to the agreement, a moment of reflection seems to be in order. Here’s a snap shot of the origins and early days of each health care institution that may provide some prologue and set expectations for what will follow.
Nyack Hospital was incorporated in 1895. Initial funds were raised by an initiative called “Kirmess,” that drew inspiration from medieval festivals that used merrymaking to accomplish good.
The original edifice, depicted in this week’s sketch, was designed by Marshall B. Emery and erected in 1900. The structure still stands as one of the complex of buildings that occupy the land between Midland, Highland, Fifth and Sickles Avenues. The original building now houses physicians’ offices.
The first Nyack Hospital ambulance was a horse-drawn conyevance that was purchased in 1903 for $550. The carriage was described in press accounts as a “shiny new vehicle,” when the first patient was transported from West Haverstraw with acute appendicitis. Before this new “ambulance,” patients were “jolted to the institution on the floors of delivery wagons.”
In the 1920s, a county-wide effort raised $400,000 to build a new addition and a nurses residence. A photo from the 1930s shows elephant’s from Pierre Bernard’s Clarkstown Country Club entertaining patient in the hospitals Children Ward.
Nyack Branch NAACP President Frances Pratt began working at Nyack Hospital in 1959 after obtaining a degree in Nursing from Rockland Community College. During her 53 year career she held titles holding including Head Nurse of the Emergency Room and in the Office of Employee Health. This picture of her induction as a nurse includes George Celentano, center, the first male nurse at that institution.
The five story main hospital building was constructed in 1955. A sixth floor was added in 1983. The Union Bank Cancer Center was designed by local architect Jan Degeshien and built in 2000.
In April 2014, Nyack Hospital announced the creation of a Behavioral Health Center. The unit has 26 beds, that are bolted to the floor, recessed shelves and covered lighting to ensure the safety of patients on the locked-down ward.
What is now Montefiore Health System was founded in 1884 by Jewish philanthropists as a home for chronically ill members of their community that were excluded from other facilities. By 1890, Montefiore was among the first to test tuberculin for the diagnosis of tuberculosis and by 1901, Montefiore was the site of one of the earliest clinical uses of adrenalin, – asthma patients were treated with adrenalin chloride.
Other milestones include:
- 1912 – Montefiore expanded its services and built a new hospital in the Bronx.
- 1916 – first woman joined Montefiore’s house staff in 1916.
- 1930s – African American medical residents were accepted at Montefiore at a time when such integration was rare.
- 1959 – Montefiore became the first hospital to recognize a hospital workers union, 1199 SEIU. 1199 SEIU represents workers at both Nyack Hospital and Montefiore.
The tale of the tape
Monterfoire was founded in 1884.
Nyack Hospital was founded in 1895.
Montefiore Medical Center has 1,491 acute-care beds and treats the Bronx community, which has more than 1.4 million people.
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, which has 300,000 people.
Montefiore Medical Center has 17,600 employees.
Nyack Hospital has 1,600 employees.
Montefiore Medical Center had a profit of nearly $111 million with revenues of $2.3 billion in 2012, according to its most recent tax filings.
Nyack Hospital had a profit of nearly $4.5 million with revenues of $208 million during the same period.
The details of the agreement between Montefiore and Nyack, and the next chapter of health care in this village, are being written at the negotiating table. Although the final agreement between Montefiore and Nyack has to be approved by the state Department of Health, the industry trend is moving toward these mega health care systems.
In the last year, Montefiore has purchased New York Westchester Square Medical Center, and Mount Vernon Hospital and New Rochelle Hospital. Montefiore also operates 9 clinics in Westchester.
New York-Presbyterian Health, the system that Nyack Hospital had been affiliated with since 2004, has taken over Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. The North Shore-LIJ Health System is partnering with both Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow and Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco.
In January 2013, I spent a week in Nyack Hospital at my father’s bedside. His nearly $40,000 hospitalization was almost entirely covered by Medicare and his secondary insurer and he received excellent care. I counted our blessings that he had both good coverage and care and pondered whether future generations would be so fortunate.
How will this next round of consolidations affect the cost and quality of health care in Nyack? Will regional networks like New York-Presbyterian, Northshore-LIJ and Montefiore be responsive to local concerns? And in the most basic measure of the health of a hospital, will Montefiore keep all inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services at their current levels?
Sides seem to be forming in a giant game of chess in the health care industry. Let’s hope that our hospital is a castle on the side that prevails and that patients are not used as pawns by the winners or the losers.
Special thanks to Carol Weiss.
by Bill Batson
Maria Luisa Whittingham is a civic seamstress. She weaves business, social responsibility and family into a garment of retail longevity. From the durable and colorful threads of a matriarchal tradition and her own raw talent, she has created a popular business and brand: Maria Luisa.
Later this August or early September, a renovated ML by Maria Luisa boutique will open its doors at 75 South Broadway. Here is the global back story of a local fixture.
Where did you learn the merchant tradition?
My first experience with the merchant tradition was very early on in my life. My mother, Carmen Mercedes Colon de Perez, had a bazaar in Cayey, Puerto Rico. I grew up exploring the back rooms and looking under the cases of her general store.
She started the store when she was in her 20s. She had an eighth grade education. When her mother died, she had to go to work and help the family as the eldest. She worked for a department store as their bookkeeper and manager.
When she opened her own store, she carried everything from soap to thread to handbags to dresses.
So your mother was your mentor?
She was my hugest supporter. She was definitely my mentor. For someone with little opportunity, she really maximized what she had. Later in her life, as a stay-at-home mother, she sewed. She was also a great seamstress.
I would sit under her sewing machine and take her scraps and sew. No lessons. I would just get a needle and thread and sew clothes right onto my dolls.
When we moved to the states in 1967, I was in fifth grade. I started sewing my clothes and by middle school, classmates were paying me $15 dollars to embellish their jeans. There was no fashion program at Hillcrest High School in Queens, so they combined art and home economics for me. I was able to produce products as part of my program.
At the end of my senior year, one of my teachers, Mrs. Clara Steiner, was so supportive, he scheduled a fashion show with students as models. I went on to the Fashion Institute of Technology.
What was your first job in fashion?
The first job I had was with London Fog. I was doing rain coats. One of my professors, Marry Ann Ferro, worked there and recommended me. I went to work at 512 Seventh Avenue, the coat building.
The coat building?
Yes, it was the coat building, outerwear, coats and suits.
I was the first employee hired out of college. I was there for two or three years. I was the assistant designer. Two of the coats I worked on made it big in the line. One became a best seller, the Freddie. It is so cool when you are standing on the subway platform and you see the coat you designed. It is really exciting.
My next stop was an independent company that designed and produced ice skater outfits. It was interesting and fun. I met a lot of good people there.
Then I went to College Town, a company that was similar in scale to London Fog. It was a big company out of Baltimore. At around this time, I had my son Christopher, and my division at College Town folded so I started working freelance.
Around this time, I went for my physical. My doctor got very serious and he said, “I want you to go have this test, Its probably nothing at all I concerned about a lump on your ovaries. It’s probably nothing at all, but I am concerned.”
That was the first time I felt mortality, as such; not as a document that says I am going to live a long time, and I can turn in when I am old and it’s time to go. I saw that death can happen at any time. It turned out to be nothing. But it shook me to my core. I had a little baby.
So I went out and bought life insurance. I respected my parents, but I didn’t want to live their lives of always wanting more and having less than I needed. I realized I couldn’t wait.
Is this when you launched Maria Luisa?
I had been writing business plans that went nowhere. But after that appointment, I jumped at it. I saw a little spot when visiting Nyack from Monsey, where I lived at the time.
Where was you first store?
I started downstairs in the mall next to the YMCA in 1987. I started with $2k. I was 30 years old. Everything I sold, I made. I fashioned ribbons into belts, I made silk blouses, lace lingerie. It was half the size of my current back room. I had a friend who I used to ride the bus with. She had beautiful jewelry from France and fabrics that I bought to make my line.
After two moves inside of 37 the mall, I took the leap and opened on the corner of Burd and South Broadway where I stayed for 21 years, until I moved to my current locations at 77 and 75 South Broadway.
What was the business climate like in Nyack in 1987?
I started at the bottom of a business cycle, right after a market crash. I had no major money to lose. I still had a job. At the time, I was freelancing for Putumayo. I was doing all of their technical specifications for India.
Talk the talk
Walk the walk
Bag the bag
Maria Whittingham serves on the boards of Nyack Center, Rockland Country Day School, Arts, Crafts and Antique Dealers Association, the Nyack Marketing Association, and has co-chaired the annual dinner for the Nyack Branch of the NAACP for the last 8 years.
When it comes to social responsibility, Maria not only walks the talk, she also engages her customers, employees and fellow merchants in collaborative action.
Last year, Maria stated the “Say No To The Bag Campaign.”
Here is the pledge she invites us to join:
If you agree with me about the need to reduce our disposable-bag consumption, will you join me to “Say No to the Bag”? By choosing to, as a consumer to bring a bag with you not just when at the food market but when heading out for supplies, take-out food or fashion shopping. Please go to our ‘SAY NO TO THE BAG’ and take the pledge.
-As a merchant, employee or volunteer in a retail setting, I pledge that I will always ask “Did you bring your own bag today?” If the answer is no, I will then ask “Will you need a bag today?”
-As a consumer, I pledge to bring a bag when shopping.
Since I started at the bottom, I have always enjoyed growth. I had growth through a good number of years. Then came 9/11. It was a wake up call.
How did things change?
After that tragedy, I had to become smarter about how I bought, how I did business. When things are good you can afford to do a little of this, and a little of that. Today, there is no margin of error. You are already leaning on the negative. You can’t make mistakes.
In the business climate of the last five years, you have to be constantly on the go, on the move. It’s like being on an obstacle course. Everything is in flux.
I hear that you are participating in trade delegations to other countries.
I went to Peru last year for the first time. A representative of the Peruvian govermnet walked into the store and invited me to join a trade delegation.
There have been two trips to Peru. My work is with communities in Lima and Ayacucho. I will be going back again soon. I have developed a group of bags that were well received that will be in September. They look like pillows, but are interpreted as bags. I use one all of the time.
Tell me about Maria Luisa Global/Local?
ML G/L is something that has been stirring in my mind for a few years. It has always been important for me to maintain a commitment to trade fairness and to the environment.
Through ML G/L we provide merchandise that empowers globally and locally. I purchase items that empower women in a village in Africa, or Latin America, or Asia, or a community here in the United States. If you ask us about an item, we should be able to tell you everything about it. Not just what it’s made from and where it was made, but also about the integrity of the labor and the materials that went into it.
Some of my vendors are not-for-profit companies like Malia Designs, that use the profits from their sales to reduce human trafficking around the world. The products that they make use already existing materials that are made by communities that are getting empowered also by crafting the product. One example is a bag made from recycled cement bags made in Cambodia.
Eventually, when you purchase a product from ML G/L on our website, you will be abe to direct a portion of the proceeds to a local non-profit like Nyack Center or the Martin Luther King Center. Collaborative. ML G/L is a way to give back locally, while supporting communities globally.
For the last two years, you have sponsored the weekly Local Arts Index column on NyackNewsAndViews. How important are the visual arts to your business?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been arranging colors and textures. I remember my older sister was teaching religions instruction and she had this package of religious images that fascinated me. My mother was so ecstatic because she thought I was going to be a nun. But I didn’t see them as religious images, I just saw them as incredible works of art.
Visual arts and aesthetic are critical to everything I do. They are the air I breathe and the substance of who I am.
What is next for Maria Luisa?
We are fine tuning and simplifying. We have an opening coming soon. In late August or early September, when 75 South Broadway is unveiled, it will be an invitation for the community to share their ideas about design and their ideals about commerce. I want to secure a sustainable global importing business that promotes an approach to local philanthropy that is supported by an engaged community.
Maria Luisa Boutique and ML by Maria Luisa are located at 77 and 75 South Broadway in Nyack. You can learn more by visiting marialuisaboutique.com
Each Saturday, Marai Luisa sponsors Local Arts Index on NyackNewsAndViews.
by Bill Batson
Twelve million bees and 1,500 trees keep Richard and Debbie Focht busy 365 days a year. Business at Hummingbird Ranch is sweet, but it can also sting. And when you add tapping trees for syrup to the equation, you have a good living tied to the rhythms and realities of our delicate ecosystem.
In this interview, Richard presents a “colorful” idea about combatting bee colony collapse disorder. Nyack is fortunate to be one of the five Farmers’ Markets where Hummingbird Ranch share the products and wisdom they carefully coax from nature.
Meet beekeeper, tree tapper, and, wait for it, …dance instructor, Richard Focht.
When did you meet your first bee?
Even though I only started beekeeping 10 ago, I have always been fascinated by insects. When I was two-years-old, I went to the Ulster County Fair and saw a beekeeper in a screened in gazebo demonstrating basic beekeeping functions.
I tried to persuade him to let me. He said it was not allowed, citing insurance requirements. I never forgot it. When I moved into the house I live in now, I read some books on beekeeping and then ordered 2 hive packages.
When the packaged bees came in the mail, it was time to man-up and put the bees in the hives. I didn’t know what to expect, so I had my wife, Debbie, sit in my truck with the window open and the cell phone in one hand, set to call 911. She yelled out the instructions step-by-step from the book “Beekeeping for Dummies.”
All went well, even the part where, after I shook the package of 10,000 bees into the hive, I put my hand in and “smoothed out” the pile of bees so I could put the frames back in over them.
What kind of hives do you use?
Many forms of hives have been used by those who want to collect and harvest honey. Among them are the Skep hives (typically a bell shaped structure usually associated with honey bee hives) and many designed through the 1700 & 1800s. The big difference came in the form of the Langstroth hive, designed and patented by Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth in 1852. The overwhelming advantage of this hive is the ability it gives you to access the comb without destroying the hive. Prior to this you had to disassemble, or destroy the hive and squeeze the comb to collect the honey.
Langstroth took the discoveries of other famous Apiarists (Beekeepers) and added his discoveries to produce a hive that was re-usable. This allowed the hives to be inspected, managed and the honey harvested without destroying the hives. This is still the most widely used hive today.
How many bees do you have?
It is hard to say how many bees we have because it changes day to day. Generally speaking, we have around 200 hives. This time of year each hive has around 60,000 bees, so that would be around 12,000,000 bees.
How many times have you been stung?
Surprisingly, bee stings are not as prevalent as you would think. Routine inspections of hives go pretty much without stings, unless you crush a bee. If you kill a bee, it gives off a pheromone (scent) that triggers an attack from the surrounding bees. This is the way the bees protect the hive from predators.
Considering all the times we go into the hive and do not get stung (most of the time), the bees are pretty tolerant. There are hives however that are aggressive. Don’t forget all the bees in the hive have one mother, the queen. Queens do have different personalities and if one is aggressive all her children follow suit.
There have been occasions where I have been stung by many bees from a hive. I can recollect several times of 20 or more stings. The good news is, its good for my arthritis.
Really? Bee venom has medicinal qualities?
Bee venom is the poison that makes the sting painful. The venom also has medicinal attributes and is used to treat a number of medical conditions. It is not to be confused or associated with other bee products such as bee pollen, honey, royal jelly or propolis.
Bee venom is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain (neuralgia), multiple sclerosis (ms), to reduce the reaction to beestings in people who are allergic (desensitization), swollen tendons (tendonitis) and muscle conditions such as fibromyositis and enthesitis, due to its anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory properties
Bee venom can be found in many beauty products. It is believed to increase blood flow, and produce collagen. This effect aids in smoothing out lines and wrinkles.
Though not fully recognized in this country “Bee Therapy” is prevalent around the world.
How do you extract the honey?
To get the honey from the hive, we start by removing the “honey super, ” the box that holds 8 or 10 “frames,” removable structures that the bees have constructed wax comb on. The bees fill it with honey, then cover the cells with wax “cappings” sealing in the honey.
The cappings are removed, unsealing the honey. The frames are placed in a centrifuge and spun until the honey is removed from them. We then pour the honey into jars and bring them to the market.
What are some of the things you make from bee products?
A colorful plan to counter colony collapse
The following is a list of some of the flowers that are beneficial to bees:
- Butterfly bush
- Sea Holly
According to Friends of the Earth (FOE) bee killing pesticides were found in 51 percent of “bee-friendly” plants from garden centers across U.S. and Canada; Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale Club. To find safe seeds visit Friends of the Earth.
According to conservationist Dr. Reese Halter, 500 billion honeybees have been lost to colony collapse worldwide and five billion pounds of insecticides are used annually. One third of these insecticides are neonictinoids, that are not only harmful to bees, but butterflies, worms, fish and birds. In combination with climate disruption, the bees are dying even faster.
Nothing from the hive is wasted. Besides honey, we use the wax for candles. Beeswax makes the best candles- it burns longer, doesn’t drip and burns bright. It does not require adding a scent because it is naturally fragrant, so there is no reason to worry about the dangerous side effects of added scents.
We also use beeswax for skin creams, lip balms and numerous lubricating and sealing applications.
Have you noticed a change in the bee population, or signs of Colony Collapse Disorder?
The bee population is definitely in trouble. Bees are dying off and abandoning their hives at an increasing rate. Replacement bees from the large bee producers seem to be weaker and more difficult to get to accept a queen. In addition, these packages can contain diseases and parasites that can kill your bees.
The use of insecticides and herbicides threaten their every trip to collect nectar and pollen. In my opinion, products made with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have herbicides and insecticides engineered into the DNA of the plants that are transfer via the food chain into bee pollen and nectar. The bees are putting the nectar and pollen in the hives.
This can’t be good for them, and I could understand them abandoning a contaminated hive. Sounds like colony collapse syndrome, doesn’t it.
What can we do to stabilize the bee population?
Planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen for the bees is a wonderful way to help the bees survive and beautify the landscape .
It is a way that those not able to have a hive can still contribute to their welfare. If you don’t have your own yard, check with your town for any public areas that may be available for planting.
How many trees do you tap?
Presently, we have 2 major sugarbushes (a plantation of sugar maples) of around 1000 taps each and a smaller one (450 or 500) taps. We are constantly expanding and improving these areas. We use plastic tubing to get the sap to a tank at the bottom of the hill. One uses a vacuum pump to increase the volume of sap, but requires additional work and maintenance. The others require gravity to get the sap to the tank.
Debbie drives the truck and pumps the sap from the tank in the sugarbush to the tank mounted in the truck. Then she drives the truck back to the sugarhouse where we filter and pump the sap into a 1300 gallon tank mounted above the roof of the sugarhouse.
The sap is gravity fed down to the evaporator inside the sugarhouse where the water is boiled off till only the maple syrup is left. This is a daunting task considering the sap is 98 to 99 percent water. It is then sent through a high pressure filter system and then finished to exact specifications to become maple syrup.
What did you do before beekeeping and tree tapping?
Before beekeeping and maple syruping, I had many varied jobs. I spent several years on the road with a rock group back in 1965 to 68.
I have been a machinist in a metal fabrication company, a draftsman, machine designer, a mechanic,and a quality control inspector for a military contractor. I’ve worked for the Department of Defense as a quality assurance specialist managing as many as 10 to 15 military contractors. I’ve also spent several years rebuilding automatic transmissions and engines.
I’ve been certified in many categories including- missile specification soldering, mechanical, electrical, electronic and government contract law. Some of my more notable projects include fabricating parts for the space ship Columbia, The B-1 bomber, and submarine periscopes including the Level1 sub safe program.
In private industry, I worked in the quality assurance field as a manager and director of quality assurance. I have written numerous quality assurance manuals. I have published articles in technology magazines and the Fiber Optic Handbook published by Codenoll technology.
I have 2 patents: one for an aerosol valve and one for a fiber optic coupler in an optical star coupler (a light, rather then electrical operated modem)
I hear that you are also a certified dance instructor.
I teach line, ballroom and swing dancing. In the early 90’s I was one of the first line dance instructors in this area. I was certified a level 1,2 and3 line dance instructor and level 1 and 2 partners and swing dance instructor.
I started the line dancing group at Bear Mountain, which was the most widely attended line dance event around here. I was upstate New York director for the National Teacher’s Association of Country-Western Dance.
Beekeeping, tree tapping, and dance instructing.. is there a skill set that overlaps all three?
No, they have very little common, except they all require discipline.
You can meet Richard and Debbie at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday from 8a until 2p and on some Saturdays from 8a until 1p. The Nyack Farmers’ Market is located in the Main Municipal Parking Lot in Nyack, New York.
Visit hummingbird ranch.biz to learn more.
An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: The Bees and Trees of Hummingbird Ranch“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.
Since Nicholas Concklin sought to have the land that he farmed named Pomona after the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance, 11 generations of Concklins have tilled the soil in Rockland County. The Orchards of Concklin is the oldest family business in New York State and the eighth oldest in the country.
by Bill Batson
Nyack Farmers’ Market has doubled down. Locally produced foods and eco-friendly services are now available Thursdays and Saturdays.
Four of the veggie vendors who participate in the Saturday market travel less than 100 miles to bring their fresh farm goods to your table.
“Compare this short distance to the 2,713 miles for an avocado from Mexico, or the 4,261 miles a kiwi fruit travels from Italy,” according to Pam Moskowitz, who manages the market on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. “How much fuel is used and pollution emitted to get these non-local products to a grocery store?”
From 8a until 2p on Thursdays and from 8a until 1p on Saturdays, residents of Nyack can radically reduce their carbon footprint by shopping in the main municipal parking lot. Local musicians will serenade you, your family will applaud you for the fresh ingredients you bring home and the planet will appreciate your environmental sensitivity.
Over the last three years, Nyack Sketch Log has profiled 8 Farmers’ Market vendors. They range from a family that started cultivating the soil in Rockland before the Revolutionary War, to a recently returned Iraq veteran who raises livestock in New Jersey.
Here is a digital introduction of some of the vendors of the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Nyack. (a complete list is available below)
Deborah Tyler had 300 pie orders to fill in the Fall of 2001. The single mother of three had converted her one floor rental into a Department of Health approved commercial kitchen. A New York Times review and a Good Morning America segment were bringing in business from both sides of the Hudson River. It was at the height of her notoriety that Deborah sold her equipment and moved to Cooperstown.
Here is the story of how the popularity of their pies once imperiled the Pie Lady and now propels the Pie Lady & Son.
The Rockland Farm Alliance operates a Community Supported Agriculture program from Cropsey Farms Little Tor Road in New City. In addition to providing fresh produce weekly to almost 200 families and supporting other local farms, The RFA supplies local restaurants and health food stores and cooperatives with organic produce including Hudson House, Union Restaurant, Taste of Distinction, and Sweetpea’s Market.
During his journey from Harlem to Martha’s Vineyard to Nyack, Preston Powell has melded a teacup, Karate and a tradition of the African American church from his childhood into his holistic and locally based business, Teagevity.
Green Mountain Energy was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas. The renewable energy
company has been a presence at the Nyack Farmers’ market since the spring of 2012.
X-calibur Knife Sharpening (Thurdays only)
Utilizing a panel truck that doubles as his workshop, Scott Jennings brings knife sharpening services to several neighborhoods, including Nyack at the Thursday Farmers’ Market. A life-long metal worker, Jennings has welded boats and ultralight wheelchairs, and installed ladders that scale 180 foot grain silos. But he’s happiest when grinding the perfect bevel on a dull blade.
To paraphrase the musical “Annie,” and a report from an April 17 White House energy summit, you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be more solar power in America. From the stock market to the farmers’ market, renewable energy from the sun is gaining in popularity. From a corner storefront in Nyack, Revolusun is providing regional consumers the tools to harness the power of the sun.
Southtown Farms (Thursdays Only)
During his military service, he saw “a lot of sheepherders in Iraq” with “not very good-looking sheep.” Today, Matt is a first generation livestock farmer, who provides non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed poultry at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday.
[full][half flow="start"]Acorn Hill Farms – family farmed micro-creamery from a herd of organically raised and managed dairy goats, cheeses, yogurts, and fudge.
Aunt Vicky’s Bickys — homemade gourmet dog treats
Bill Batson Arts, LTD — Nyack cards, prints, tote bags and original art
Blue Lotus Botanicals – skin care products, including soap, whipped shea butter, muscle rub, body powder
Cactus Pete’s Homemade Jerky — Beef Jerky from grass fed beef
The Challah Fairy -fresh homemade challah made under the supervision from Rabbi Zushe Blech
Clean Ridge Soap Company — bar soap, liquid soap, shampoo, lotion, soy candles, diffusers, diffuser oil, lip balm
Cropsey Community Farm, a project of Rockland Farm Alliance — biodynamically grown produce, ground flour, dried beans
Gajeski Produce — large variety of seasonal produce
Green Meadow Waldorf School (Sponsor) – Rockland County’s only Waldorf School; located in Chestnut Ridge
Green Mountain Energy Company (Sponsor) – retailer of cleaner energy
Hummingbird Ranch — honey & related products, maple syrup, beeswax products (skin cream, lip balm, candles)[/half]
[half flow="end"]Jordan Brenner’s Sauces & Spices — maple mango sauce, strawberry sauce, garlic lime sauce, sing splash, spice blend, pretzels
Kiernan Farm — all cuts of grass fed Beef, all cuts of farm-raised pork
The Little Flower Shop of Nyack — flowers
Maria’s Gourmet Edibles, perfect for appetizers or meals, Maria’s stuffed breads are great to serve anytime
Meredith’s Country Bakery — fresh baked pies and breads, quiche, muffins, cookies, brownies, tarts, scones, biscotti
Mostly Myrtle’s Biskookys — gluten free biscotti, muffins cupcakes,graham crackers, brownies; small batch coffee
Nico’s Chimi - Authentic Argentinian Chimichurri Steak
The Orchards of Concklin — fruit, produce, eggs, pies, cookies, honey, seasonal plants
Pie Lady & Son — homemade pies and cookies
R&G Produce — farm fresh produce
Southtown Farms — Organic feed chickens and eggs
Teagevity — organic loose tea, herbs & tea gear
Warwick Valley Winery — wine, hard cider, dessert cordials, liqueur, apple jack spirits[/half] [/full]
by Bill Batson
Edward Hopper’s posthumous popularity continues to soar. In April 2014, Art Everywhere U.S. conducted a poll to see what paintings Americans wanted displayed nationally on billboards, bus shelters, and subway platforms. “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper received the most votes.
With Hopper’s childhood home converted to an arts center on North Broadway in Nyack, and his final resting place around the corner at Oak Hill cemetery, it’s time to roll out the welcome mat for the world to visit the village that nurtured the talent of our country’s favorite visual artist.
Other municipalities are seeking to mine the gold that is in the pigment of Hopper’s paintings. “Chicago is a world-class city with phenomenal cultural institutions that house iconic works of art,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I am proud that the Art Institute of Chicago…is providing 12 paintings [to the Art Everywhere outdoor exhibit] from its renowned collection, including the most popular painting ‘Nighthawks.'” If the mayor of the nation’s third largest city is dropping Edward Hopper’s name to attract tourists, maybe Nyack should stake a larger claim to our hometown hero.
Kris Burns presents “Chasing Edward Hopper”
A reception for Edward Hopper House Art Center Artist-in-Residence Kris Burns will be held on July 11. Her exhibit, Chasing Edward Hopper, is a selection of photographs and videos capturing Hopper Happens, her multi-media celebration of Edward Hopper’s lasting influence. In addition to images and videos of the flash mobs, pop-up projections and performances Burns staged on the streets of Nyack during Hopper Happens, she will present the entire series of original short films she created for her QR coded digital walking tour.
Homage To Hopper
Nyack Art Collective Celebrates First Anniversary on July 11
Also on Fri., July 11, from 5-8p, the Nyack Art Collective will celebrate their one year anniversary at the Edward Hopper House Art Center. “Homage to Hopper” is an evening of Hopper-inspired art, food and entertainment in the backyard of the Hopper House at 82 N. Broadway featuring High 5 Vocal Works and High Standards with special guest Sam Waymon.
Music in the Garden
The Edward Hopper House Art Center’s annual Music in the Garden jazz series begins July 10, at 7:30p.
- July 10 – Dick Voigt and the Big Apple Jazz Band
- July 17 – Mark Patterson Quintet
- July 24 – Scott Reeves Jazz Big Band – Nyack Jazz Week
- July 31 – Shirley Crabbe and Friends
- August 7th – The Jeremy Wall Group
As interest in the artist grows, Nyack has the backstory to meet the unquenchable thirst for Hopper. International art pilgrims make up an increasing segment of visitors to the Edward Hopper House Art Center at 82 North Broadway, according to Hopper House Director, Victoria Hertz. “I would say 75% of our daily visitors are from outside Rockland and half of those are from outside the United States. Just last week we had visitors from Germany and Australia,” Hertz said.
This significant cultural landmark was saved from destruction in the early 1970s by an ad-hoc coalition that included neighbors, Rotarians, labor unions, students and artists. Not many causes can assemble such a vast cross section of humanity; fewer can inspire the kind of contributions that were necessary to restore a structure that was literally a few signatures away from condemnation.
Born in Nyack in 1882, Hopper graduated from Liberty when it was a k-12 school. He lived here into the 1920s, but would return to visit his sister, Marion, wwho occupied the house he grew up in until her death in 1965. The artist died on May 15, 1967 and his wife of over 40 years, artist Josephine Verstille Nivison, passed away a year later. The demise of this entire cohort of the Hopper family over such a short span put the future of the family home in jeopardy. After Marion’s death, the house became an abandoned eyesore inhabited by squatters.
When Jeffrey and Barbara Arnold intervened to save the house of their late neighbor Marion in 1970, a real estate investor with plans to demolish the home and build apartments had already purchased the property from the Hopper Estate. The Arnolds were able to raise $15,000 from gifts and interest free loans from concerned citizens to buy back Hopper’s house.
That was just the beginning of what local architect and Chair of the Historical Society of the Nyacks Win Perry calls the greatest and most exciting adventure of his life. Perry volunteered to coordinate the restoration project. The steady stream of individuals and organizations that answered the call to save Hopper’s house and appeared at the work site to lend a hand must have resembled an Amish barn raising. This community-based volunteer initiative preserved a tourist destination of growing national and global interest.
There are two measures of status in the art world; the price an artist’s paintings fetch at auction and attendance at major exhibitions.In both arenas, Edward Hopper is an enduring heavy weight cultural champion:
- In 2006, comedian Steve Martin sold Hopper’s painting “Hotel Window” for $26 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
- In December, 2013 “East Wind Over Weehawken,” sold for $40.5 million at Christie’s sale of American art.
- In 2004, 420,000 people visited the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Tate Gallery in London, England in only three months.
From July to Oct. 2011, a Hopper exhibit at Bowdoin College Museum, broke attendance records.
- From Oct. 2012 – Feb. 2013, Hopper’s retrospective at the Grand Palais, in Paris France had 780,000 visitors. The exhibit was so popular that the last few days the museum stayed open around the clock.
- In the summer of 2012, Middlebury College, had 10,000 visit their Hopper exhibit. The population of Middlebury is 8,000.
The benefits of co-branding the Village of Nyack and one of the most popular painters on the planet, Edward Hopper, are compelling. Many towns have scenic views of the Hudson River, are convenient to transportation routes and have quaint downtowns that tempt travelers and tourists alike to stop to spend some time and money. But only Nyack has Edward Hopper.
Hopper’s legacy is an asset that continues to rise in value. Three cheers for the artist whose talent is a gift that keeps on giving: Hip Hopper Hooray!
For more information about exhibitions and upcoming special events visit edwardhopperhouse.org.
The 58 works of art that were selected by the public in the Art Everywhere U.S. survey will “pop-up” on billboards, bus shelters and subway platforms around the country starting August 4.