Nyack Sketch Log: Strawberry Place


strawberry place_featured imageby Bill Batson

This sign, promising a sweet destination, has hung at 72 South Broadway for over 40 years. Despite a devastating fire that struck the week of the Brinks robbery in 1981, a succession of owners, and the vicissitudes of an economy that is not kind to small business, Strawberry Place is forever. This kingdom built on ice cream and flapjacks elevated by a succulent red berry with white seeds and a green leafy crown has reached iconic status, evidenced by the lines that form every weekend for brunch.

I can’t remember my first serving of strawberry ice cream, but I can remember my first Strawberry Place ice cream cone. It was the summer of 1976 and my father brought me and my friends Danny and Dean to the curbside window. The size of the strawberries and the richness of the cream were a revelation. That is now the taste I chase whenever I sample a serving of strawberry ice cream. The bottom tip of the cone was consumed before we made it to the Post Office, barely one block away.

Strawberry Place_78The first Strawberry Place opened in the late 1960s as one of three franchises, according to Vinnie Cuccia, the owner, chef and scion of the family that has owned the business, on and off, for decades. The other two Strawberry Places were in Florida and Connecticut according to Cuccia. In 1974, his parents, Vinnie and Cecelia Cuccia, bought the building and the popular ice cream parlor. Cecelia Cuccia was a fixture, holding court from behind a 1904 cash register that was used by a restaurant that once operated from the location. Her daughters Renee and Jody worked at her side. This building was erected by Tunis Depew in 1889 as the Depew Place block.

In 1980, the Cuccias sold the restaurant. Five years after I had my first Strawberry Place ice cream cone and a year after the Cuccia’s sale, the building was gutted by a fire. The blaze started on Sunday, October 26 in the ground floor kitchen and spread to the upstairs apartments. Earlier that week, on Strawberry Place InteriorTuesday, October 21, two local police officers, Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady along with a Brink’s armored car guard Peter Paige were murdered during a bank robbery. On the same day of the fire, an elderly woman was killed by a car while crossing Route 59, a quarter mile from the scene of the shootout. The first responders who subdued the flames at Strawberry Place must have been battle-weary after a week of senseless violence that shook Rockland County.

After the fire, the Cuccias re-acquired their beloved Strawberry Place. In 1990, Vinnie’s parents called him with an offer,“You always wanted to run a restaurant. How about you start a few months from now.” Vinnie was studying Small Business Management at Quinnipiac College. “I learned more from working with my mother and father in my first six months than I did in four years of college,” Vinnie said. During this period, the interior of the restaurant was renovated with custom woodwork including tables and finishes by Joseph Capasso.

Strawberry Place Owner Vinny

Vinnie Cuccia

“When I came back, I became Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” Vinnie remembers. But until her death in 2006, Cecelia Cuccia continued to maintain her post at the century old register. Vinnie now plays that role. Having grown up in the restaurant, he has quickly assumed the role of presiding elder. “This has always been a family place. You watch kids being born and you follow them up. There are customers who come that I remember as kids. Now they are bringing their kids here.”

The future of the Strawberry Place as a family business seems secure. Joining Vinnie to staff the operation are his sister, Jody, his brother-in-law, Karl, and his nieces, Alaina, Jennifer, Taylor, Dominique, and long-time employees who feel like family. Vinnie’s children Gianna and Vinny Jr. are often around, adding to the restaurant’s family-friendly ambiance. Apparently Vinnie’s son is also taking notes. “The other day, Vinnie Jr. was talking about the new items that he wants to put on the menu when he takes over,” the proud father reported.

Vinnie Sr. is also putting new touches on the classic Strawberry Place menu. What started out as an ice cream parlor is now a breakfast and brunch restaurant and catering business. “We just added vegan waffles and pancakes because people have been asking for them.” According to Vinnie the most popular item on the menu is the Nutella Stuffed French Toast topped with bananas and strawberries.

But I think there is something else that Strawberry Place offers that keeps people coming through the door. Everything in this modern world is in a constant state of flux. Aspects of our lives that once remained unchanged for decades, like the landscape, careers, and relationships are now temporary at best. As the pace of change accelerates, there are some appetites that people wish to sate that are as important as sustenance. When an eatery endures, familiarity becomes the most satisfying item on the unprinted menu.

Visit Strawberry Place on Facebook.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Strawberry Place is one of the fifty-five sketches and short essays in this new volume. Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Strawberry Place“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com


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by Bill Batson

This sign, promising a sweet destination, has hung at 72 South Broadway for over 40 years. Despite a devastating fire that struck the week of the Brinks robbery in 1981, a succession of owners, and the vicissitudes of an economy that is not kind to small business, Strawberry Place is forever. This kingdom built on ice cream and flapjacks elevated by a succulent red berry with white seeds and a green leafy crown has reached iconic status, evidenced by the lines that form every weekend for brunch.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Strawberry Place is one of the fifty-five sketches and short essays in this new volume. Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

The Nyack Sketch Log is sponsored each week by Creative Financial Planning and Weld Realty.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Grace’s Thrift Shop

by Bill Batson

“We have a solid base from the neighborhood,” said Theresa Bergen, co-manager of Grace’s Thrift Shop. “People need the kind of prices that we have.” At almost every season in a life, a thrift shop trip comes in handy. Bergen cites moving, cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate. A new apartment, looking for savings, or the guilty pleasure of browsing through bric-a brac might inspire a visit to 10 South Broadway.

The operative word in this shop’s name, however, is Grace. Theologically, the word is defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Founded in 1968 by a group of parishioners from Grace Episcopal Church to support initiatives for child care in Nyack, the blessings have also come from a legion of volunteers and donors who for decades have made this store a place where one can unload clutter and be thrifty and fabulous at the same time.

Garret Hopper, Father of America’s Preeminent Realist Painter Edward

In the 1890’s, the revenue from this storefront helped nurture one of America’s greatest realist painters, Edward Hopper. Hopper’s father, Garret (1852-1913), owned a dry goods store at this address. The younger Hopper (1882 – 1967) worked here after school. According to Anya Berg, Adult Services Librarian at
Palisades Free Library and author, “while often defined by his occupation, Garrett’s personal interests centered around literature, an affection for which he passed on to his son. But sympathetic to, and encouraging of Edward’s preference for art over business, Garrett did not pressure Edward to take over the family store.”

The Hoppers are just one of an infinite number of families whose lives flow through this storefront. Each object for sale has some mysterious intrinsic meaning, and may soon be imbued with the aura of a new owner. For tourists, young families, hipsters, and bargain hunters, the prices deliver on the promise of thrift, and the money spent bestows grace on the recipients of programs funded by the purchase.

Father Owen Thompson, (middle), Theresa Bergen (2nd from right) and Kickie Fulmor presenting a $2,200 to “Rockland Homes For Heroes”

Today, more than 30 organizations benefit from contributions generated by sales at Grace’s Thrift Shop. Contributions help send water to Flint, Michigan, serve meals to the hungry through Soup Angels and help children attend after-school programs at Nyack Center, among many others.

If you want to pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in your pocket?  This thrift shop is frankly awesome.

To learn more about the people who volunteer their time here, and those who donate and shop here, and the programs they support, Nyack Sketch Log asked Theresa and her co-manager, Kickie Fulmor, a few questions.

Groups that benefit from Grace Thrift Shop

  1. Amazing Grace Circus
  2. ARC
  3. Cell Phones for Military
  4. Center for Safety and Change
  5. Grace Episcopal Church
  6. Grace’s Kitchen Monthly Pledge
  7. Head Start Nyack
  8. Habitat for Humanity Rockland Co.
  9. Helping Hands
  10. Hi Tor
  11. Homes for Heroes, Camp Shanks
  12. Hospice
  13. Living Museum Rockland
  14. Mazzeppa Fire Company
  15. Meals on Wheels
  16. Midnight Run
  17. Murphy House
  18. Nam Knights
  19. Nyack Center
  20. Nyack Homeless Project (Coat Drive)
  21. Nyack Senior Center
  22. People to People
  23. Pizza with a Purpose
  24. Rockland Hospital Guild
  25. St. Anne’s Pantry
  26. St. Dominic’s Home
  27. St. Zita’s
  28. Soup Angels
  29. Sunday Supper
  30. The Fellowship Community
  31. Venture Inn
  32. Water to Flint, Michigan
  33. YMCA Nyack Child Care
  34. Youth Service Mission

Grace Episcopal Church 
130 1st Ave, Nyack

Grace Kitchen 
Grace Kitchen serves a free, healthy and delicious breakfast every Thursday, from 7a-8:30a, 52 weeks a year to anyone in the community in need at Grace Church.

Breakfast is served by volunteers on china with silverware and table linens.

8:00am  Holy Eucharist (Rite I)
9:30am Holy Eucharist
(Family service, followed by Church School)
11:00am Holy Eucharist (Rite II, Grace Choir)
4:00pm Choral Evensong
(First Sunday of the month, October-May)

I understand you are having an anniversary. Congratulations. When did Grace Thrift Shop first open?

November 1968 at 58 S. Broadway and was named Grace’s Corner Thrift Shop. In Sept. ’69 it was renamed Grace’s Thrift Shop and moved to 10 S Broadway. So we’re turning 50!

Who were some of the founding members?

The shop was formed by the Episcopal Church Women of Grace Church, Nyack. (ECW) The first board included Bartie Leber, President of ECW; Margie Davids, Shop Chairman/Manager; Herrietta Conlin, Publicity Chairman; Jane Chaffe, Vice President;  Helen Cook, Secretary; and Margaret Gilhuley, Treasurer. It is my belief that there are no women alive today who among the founding members. Faith Harvie was the last.

Why did Grace church start a thrift?

Child Care, then and now was largely unfunded. A decision was made to support a day care center opening at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in South Nyack and to support other community and church programs.

What are some of the community groups that you currently support?

People can visit the Grace Church website to see the list. Most gifts range between $300 to $1000. In recent years 1 or 2 groups have shared the December gift,  the amount of which is decided after the books close on December 31st. Last year that gift went to Nyack Head Start. While our gifts are given with no strings attached, we understand that a number of Smart boards grace the classrooms.

We also have a number of downstream charities that we can help by passing along things we can not use. One is in Nicaragua, and a local group picks up from us and does the shipping. We also supply Midnight Run with winter garments. Things which we cannot use at all go to the Boy Scout Donation Boxes on Church Street.

Are all the management and staff volunteers?

All are volunteers. We do have an Executive Board to help with decisions, but all are referred to as Volunteers. Most people work a 3 hour shift each.

Who is your longest volunteer?

We do have people working whose mother or mother-in-law also worked here. I believe  Martha Graham and Betsy Growney are our present longest working volunteers. Jeanne Duryea worked at the shop until her final year – (age 104).

How many volunteers do you currently have?

45 About half are from Grace Church and the other half are from the community at large.

What is the most valuable thing donated (I’ve heard about an 1899 flag that probably draped over the casket of President McKinley in NYC)? Anything more or nearly as spectacular?

I may be the wrong one to ask as I tend to focus on the bottom line, but a service for 12 of Limoges china may have been the highest priced item to sell, at $750.

Bandit Bear (Raggedy Ann is looking suspicious)

What are some of the questions you would like people to ask themselves before they donate?

Would you give this to a friend or family member?

Would you use this yourself?

Is the item in good repair and sparkly clean?

If you answered no to any of these questions then Grace’s will not be able to sell the item.

Bonnie Timm is rumored to want this jacket

What kind of items do you have for sale?

Clothing: Men’s, Women’s, Children’s

Dishes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, tools, games

Linens, lamps, bedding

Easier to say what we don’t sell. No furniture or tvs. No plants. Nothing too big. No out-dated electronics. No books

What kind of items are you looking for?

It’s winter, so coats are needed. After that we trust to what come in the door to provide  a great mix.

Family Open House

at the Hopper House

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper

Families that are fans of Edward Hopper are welcome to attend a Family Open House at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center on November 11, from noon – 1p.

photo by Ray Wright

Nyack Sketch Log artist and author Bill Batson will draw urban landscapes with you.

$10 per family. Members Free.

The Hopper House is located at 82 North Broadway.

Who are your customers?

We have a solid base from the neighborhood. People need the kind of prices that we have.

Who donates?

Everyone. People moving, or cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate.

Is there any solidarity between the thrift shops?

We regularly tell people about the Montefiore Hospital thrift. We also refer people to Nyack merchants and restaurants who might have what people are looking for. And we keep a list of free meals and where to get them.

Do you sell any antiques?

We like to be accurate. We research many items. We are absolutely sure when we say an item is an antique. If we are not sure, and cannot find the item on line, we prefer to call it vintage.

Does anyone come in and ask about the Hopper Dry Goods Store?

Very few ask but for those who do we like to tell them about it

What are your plans for the future?

Deep in our hearts we believe that our work is feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, caring for children, aiding the mentally ill, providing all manner of things at prices people can afford and generally helping those in need. We might be very happy if our world put us out of business. We don’t so much plan for the future as trust that we will be given interesting things to sell, and encourage each other to keep on keeping on. If you ask our volunteers why they work, they will say they are here to “give back.”

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Fifty-five more sketches and short essays! Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

For reading all the way to the end, here’s a bonus, Macklemore’s internationally embraced thrift shop anthem with  over 1 billion views of Youtube. Warning: the lyrics are not safe for work, but it’s frankly awesome.

Read also:

Breakfast Is Served! Each Thursday at Grace’s Kitchen by Kim Cross October 14, 2016

Nyack Sketch Log: Reverend Owen C. Thompson of Grace Church by Bill Batson, January 23, 2018

Special thanks to Rev. Owen Thompson, Caran Pullen, Judy Martin and Betty Perry.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Grace’s Thrift Shop“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


Nyack Sketch Log: Adam’s Chocolate

by Bill Batson

Adam Berrios has converted his Burd Street chocolate factory into Nyack’s newest espresso bar. In the cacao bean business since 2015, the drummer for the band Impossible Colors had previously vended his artisanal chocolate from a tent at the Nyack Farmer’s Market. Nyack Sketch Log dropped by Adam’s new spot for some organic dark chocolate recently, digging the sound track filling the modest ground floor storefront. Adam serves flavor notes of toffee and raspberry for the taste buds, and some butter and oak for the ears.

Why Chocolate?

It just happened. I’ve always been fond of coffee and thought I would pursue it. I went to Costa Rica after college and was introduced to cacao by the indigenous people I met there. The more time I spent around cacao, the more I grew fascinated with it. Adam Berrios

Why a coffee shop? or are you an espresso bar?

I don’t know really. It’s like a chocolate and coffee kitchen where you can hangout.

How did you find this place?

I was praying for one. I had been making chocolate in this same building for a number of years.

When I came in, what music were you playing?

A song by my band Impossible Colors, Like Blades.

Who are Impossible Colors?

Ben, Scott, Chris, and myself

Give me some lyrics?

“They want us numb and contained, numbered, not named” Impossible Colors

Are there impossible flavors?

Umami is half flavor and half your glutamate receptor being happy. Maybe that. I think Jelly Belly would make an impossible flavor. Maybe then we will know for sure.

Will you have events where you combine music and chocolate?

Sure Bill, you can bring your bass guitar.

What’s next?

A sign!

I heard that you jam at Living Christ Church?

The whole place jams really. Gotta check it out.

Do you like gospel music?

Oh yes, they are some of the best musicians in the world. They are on fire.

What’s your favorite gospel song?

The one with the dancing pastor.

Can you hear the choir from St. Philip’s on Sunday?


Health Benefits of Cacao

1. 40 Times the Antioxidants of Blueberries2. Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron3. Full of Magnesium for a Healthy Heart & Brain4. More Calcium Than Cow’s Milk5. A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-DepressantSource: begoodorganics.comAdam’s Chocolate is made from organic cacao from Bolivia. The bars have flavor notes of smoke, toffee, raspberry, butter, and oak.

What are your hours?

Seems to be all day and night at the moment 10am-1030pm

Do you exhibit any artists other than Vinny Raffa

It’s an exhibit?

What the best thing about having you own business?

Skipping songs on the spotify, youtube, pandora phone.

What is the hardest thing?

Going to bed early.

What’s the significance of the coin wrapper by the counter?

We are never above counting coins to make it happen.

Who’s is (are) your inspiration(s)?


Is there such a thing as chocolate soup?

There is now.

Adam’s Chocolate is located at 150 Burd Street, Nyack, NY. Hot Chocolate anyone?

Props to the late Craig Mack for the last sentence in the first paragraph!

Read also:

Nyack People & Places: Adam Berrios, Chocolate Maker  by Micke Hayes, May 17, 2017

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Fifty-five more sketches and short essays! Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Adam’s Chocolate“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 



Nyack Sketch Log: Ed Simons, A Century of Music

by Bill Batson

As a musician, educator and conductor, Ed Simons is the stuff of legend. He was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest working conductor in when he led an orchestra through Barber’s Adagio at the Remembrance Concert for 9/11 at Grace Church in Nyack in 2017. Before passing away this summer, Simons was more expansive about his longevity during a History Channel interview. “I’ve been playing the violin for 91 years,” he proudly proclaimed. But his exposure to music, he suggested,  occurred before his first birthday. From “my mommy’s belly… I responded to the music my father was playing on his record player and it made me move.” Ed Simons lived a full century of music!

Ed Simons and Jeff Crowther at Grace Church

As a result of teaching hundreds of students and conducting before audiences of countless thousands, Simon’s legacy will continue through the centuries. On October 28 at 4p, the Rockland Symphony Orchestra will hold their annual Young People’s Concert at Rockland Community College. The concert will be renamed for Simons to honor their beloved music director and founder. As a student who later performed under Ed’s baton, Jacqui Drechsler shared some of her memories about the man and his century (plus) of music with the Nyack Sketch Log.

When did you meet Ed Simons?

Jacqui Drechsler

I met Ed when I went to a Young People’s Concert when I was 13 years old. That year, Robbie and Nina Gross from Nyack, Bill Bauer from Tappan and I founded the Palisades Chamber Players – a summer orchestra for youth, and Ed was one of our guest conductors.
He conducted for several summers.

Eventually, I was asked to join the Rockland Symphony Orchestra. Originally, it was called the Suburban Symphony (before my time) and rehearsed at the Rockland Center for the Arts.

What are some of the highlights of his musical career?

Ed started out conducting at the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra. He also conducted at least eight Broadway shows between 1948 and 1964, including “My Fair Lady’’ and “Camelot.”

Last year, at 100 years old, he conducted Barber’s Adagio at the Remembrance Concert for 9/11 at Grace Church in Nyack. This is an orchestra of local musicians as well as chair players from  the New York Philharmonic, the  New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. They are led by Avi Nagan, as concert master, who is truly a prime example of Ed’s lifetime approach to teaching. Avi studied with Ed as a young person and was mentored by Ed throughout his career.

The History Channel did a documentary on him regarding this concert – and his life, of course, and two or three years ago Suzanne Mitchell produced a movie called “Ed’ about him. His daughter Jo wrote a book about him and he deserved all of the accolades he received!

First Annual Ed Simons Memorial Young People’s Concert

Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4pm

Presented by The Rockland Symphony Orchestra

Guest conductor, Maestro Murray Colosimo. The program includes Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and the Nimrod variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Featured performances by Wynnum Sabile, who will perform a movement of the Greig Piano Concerto. Mr. Sabile started playing the piano at the Rockland Conservatory of Music at age eight and has been inspired to be a musician. He is currently a student of Jan Deats of Nyack. Wynnum was one of ten students selected to receive the Edward Hopper House Scholarship for Artists Curiosity.

Also performing, Mr. Laurence Lu who will perform his winning Concerto movement from the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor. Mr. Lu has been studying the piano since the age of eight as well, with Mr. and Mrs. Zhao of Pearl River.

To honor Halloween’s arrival, the orchestra will play Danse Macabre by St. Saens and the program will conclude with Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.4

Rockland Community College Cultural Center, 145 College Road, Suffern. Tickets at http://www.rocklandsymphony.org

Ed often played for the Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge and in the last few years of his life also played with Annamae Goldstein, a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra at The Fountainview, an Assisted Living Home in Suffern.

It wouldn’t be misstating anything to say that he touched thousands of lives, between his teaching of violin students, teaching at RCC, playing and conducting. All positive.

What was he like to work with?

Ed was a very exacting conductor. He always had a vision of what he wanted from the musicians in order to bring out the music. He had a dry sense of humor. However, he was quite charming with the young musicians who played in the Young People’s Concerts. These were winners of a concerto competition of the Rockland County Music Teacher’s Guild.

He expected them to be great performers – they were the winners after all! He always gave them a sense of comfort in what must have been the challenging situation of being presented as a soloist with an orchestra.

When did Ed start the Community Music School?

I think Ed and Janet, his wife (who was a violist) wanted to bring the joy of music to everyone, anyone who had an interest. Music education needs to start at a young age and so about 50 years ago they started the Community Music School, which is now know as the Rockland Conservatory of Music.

All of the classes were as little as a dollar, and if you didn’t have your dollar, you still got a class.

Music touches the heart and soul, brings out the best intentions and feelings for people and it also teaches discipline. And shows growth; students see that they learn, grow and move into different stages of music making, which is a very positive experience for them.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Fifty-five more sketches and short essays! Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your order to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Ed Simon, A Century of Music“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


Nyack Sketch Log Book Vol. 2: Map of Our Heart

I found my heart in Nyack; its homes and history, its houses of worship and businesses, its open spaces and crowded street fairs, and its people and pets. The second volume of Nyack Sketch Log is a tour of that organ that pumps life though this community, the place where we all live. Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 is a map of our heart.

On November 27,  I’m having a book party and signing for Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 at the Hudson House at 134 Main Street. This new volume is a compilation of 55 more essays and illustrations from my weekly column. Pre-orders are discounted at $20 in advance. On November 27th, the price is $25. If you would like to reserve a copy at the advance sale rate, send me an email at wrbatson@gmail.com or you can catch me on Thursdays at the Nyack Farmer’s Market, which just happens to be where the journey of volume 2 begins.

Dedicated to

James F. Hershberger, Jr.


My second volume is dedicated to the late James F. Hershberger, Jr. Without Jim, there would be no Nyack Sketch Log books. Jim mentored, cajoled, and when necessary field marshaled me through self-publishing my first book. He brought all the skills of his extensive career in business to bear on helping individuals and organizations preserve local history. The benefits of his efforts impacted many during his life and will be of value to countless others for many generations to come.

I also dedicate this book to his widow and my friend, Mary Hershberger. Blessings to her and the entire Hershberger family and thank you all for sharing Jim with us.

Special thanks to the Nyack Sketch Log book production team:
Loraine Machlin, Designer
Patricia Jarden, Copy Editor
Judy Martin, Proofreader, Content Consultant
Bonnie Timm, Production Assistant, Social Media Coordinator and Researcher
Nancy Sailor Philips, Troubleshooting, Marketing
Ray Wright, Photographer

For their kind words that appear on the back cover and pages of my second book, I am eternally grateful to: Ross Benjamin, Dr. Don Hammond, Dr. Lori Martin, Dr. Jennifer Patton, Dr. Frances Pratt, Dr. Craig Stutman, and Win Perry.

And for their support, I thank my sponsors Lisa Hayes of Creative Financial Planning and Sabrina Weld of Weld Realty.

When I selected the essays for my second book, my challenge to find the best 55 essays and sketches that I had not yet published. When I stepped back and looked at what I had assembled, I was startled. More than half of the essays are about small businesses. The biggest category of entries is about vendors (and a musician) at the Nyack Farmers’ Market.

It is true that for the last six years I have worked closely with the Nyack Chamber of Commerce, as a marketing manager and artist-in residence at the Nyack Farmers’ Market that the Chamber sponsors, but my personal concerns are usually governed more by social justice than commercial imperatives and concerns. What then am I to make of this mental map having so many merchants on it?

Maybe it’s not so odd. We spend most of our lives hunting or gathering the stuff of life; our food, clothing, furnishings and diversions. These businesses that we frequent, what they sell, why they sell it, who owns them, who works there, how long they endure, if they’re “local” or “corporate” have a powerful influence over the character and quality of a community’s life.

The first section of this book can almost serve as a self-guided walking tour of downtown Nyack. I am proud to know and introduce you to each person whom you will meet on these pages; the knife sharpener and the musician, the pastry chef and the antique dealer, the barber, the builder and the beeswax candle maker. These brick and mortar and farmers’ market merchants are defying the trend that has relocated shopping and office work inside the home. Their survival is a testament to their creativity and perseverance and a deep well of community support that keeps their doors and tent flaps open.

Some of the businesses that I chronicle are an expression of advocacy, like the natural burial boutique (Dying to Bloom). There’s a salon that heals, as well as dresses your hair by advocating the internal and external introduction of organic foods (Candice Robins).  As anywhere, the landscape is completed by houses of worship and charities, clubs and a YMCA. But what I hope you find here is what Google can’t expose; the soul of the Nyackers that animates each enterprise.

The second section of the book consists of essays that map my heart. These are the concerns that reveal what matters most to me and keeps me moving forward. Foremost is the need to commemorate and build monuments for hard-won civil rights and public policy achievements, because these can be easily reversed if not consistently advanced (see Black Parents v. Hillburn). And there are essays that record my encounters with social service programs that feed the hungry and ease the anguish of those final moments of living (see Soup Angels and United Hospice.)

The last section includes essays that connect this local map to the globe.  The essay on John Perry is the story of one of the special people, a dear friend, who was lost on 9/11 in New York City, but it resonates throughout Nyack, which lost so many family members and friends.  And from one the last of these essays, The World Needs More Mandelas. Sam Harps, founder and director of the Shades Repertory Theater in Garnerville, discovered, that one of his heroes, Nelson Mandela, was a member of the fraternity of the stage. I am honored to be producing his play, Antigone on Robben Island, Mandela takes the stage inspired by my essay, will be staged at the Nyack Center in February of 2019.

From Bluefield Farm in Blauvelt to Robben Island in South Africa, these essays honor the efforts of individuals who work not only for themselves, but for the betterment of others. I hope that you will find them edifying. But perhaps more important would be for YOU to keep a diary and make mental maps of your community, because there are too many stories, and not enough storytellers!

Please join me on Tuesday, November 27, at 6:00p at the Hudson House at 134 Main Street. Get the discount the price of $2o by pre-ordering today.  If you would like to reserve a copy at the advance sale rate email at wrbatson@gmail.com or you can catch me at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log Volume 2“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


Nyack Sketch Log: Hannemann Funeral Home

by Bill Batson

NSL110_Hannemann's Funeral Home_Featured Image_revisedWhen Keith Taylor leaves his office at Hannemann Funeral Home each night, he transfers the phone lines to his house. One recent morning at 1:30a, he got a call from a family from Nyack reporting their mother had passed. Ten minutes later he got a call from a hospice nurse in Congers. “We don’t rely on an answering service. When you call Hannemann’s at night you get me.” For the past 36 years, Keith has been a comforting familiar figure that many have needed to reach out to at that darkest hour when a life has come to an end.

There has been a funeral home at the corner of Broadway and Cedar Hill Avenue since 1933. Henry Hannemann bought the business from Robert McCloskey in 1957. One afternoon in the 70s, Hannemann let an eighth grader from around the corner mow his lawn. “I grew up on Depew Avenue. My six  brothers and my sister and I were raised by a single mother. We couldn’t just go to mom and ask for money for snacks or the movies.”

NSL110_Depew and S. Broadway

Cedar Hill and South Broadway, 1909

Taylor parlayed that job into an internship, a partnership and then at age twenty-five, he purchased the funeral home from Hannemann. “Hannemann was like a father to me. When I got out of high school in 1976, he sent me to Mortuary School in Syracuse.” Keeping the name of the business as Hannemann’s is a tribute to the man who launched his career as a funeral director.

Taylor has also adopted Hannemann’s ideas about staff development. Taylor paid for the training of funeral directors Brian Knecht and Shaun Cassidy. Like Taylor, Knecht started at Hannemann’s as a landscaper,  but instead of yard work, he helped Keith shovel five tons of gravel to create the addition in 1986.

NSL110_Sam MacDonnell

Sam MacDonnell, with foot on the running board, 1917

Taylor’s approach to business that combines a professional guild and personal generosity might not be a product of Hannemann’s influence alone. A photo of Taylor’s maternal grandfather, Sam MacDonnell, hangs in a waiting area in the funeral home. In the image from 1917, MacDonnell’s foot rests on the running board of the first Telephone Company truck in the county. The prospect of employment is what brought MacDonnell to Nyack from Nova Scotia several years before the photo was taken. And it was the kindness of Taylor’s ancestors that provided him room and board, and eventually, a family.

NSL110_Keith Taylor_Portrait

Keith Taylor

When Sam MacDonnell disembarked from the ferry from Tarrytown, he walked to Gedney and Main and took his room at a boarding house that the McNulty family ran for phone company employees. MacDonnell must have impressed his landlords because he eventually married their daughter.

MacDonnell went on to become the Construction Supervisor for the phone company in Rockland County for 38 years. And his daughter and Taylor’s mother, Anna Mae MacDonnell, became an operator for the phone company, working from 99 Main Street, the old phone company building at the corner of Cedar Street.

Because of the size of his family and their length of time in Rockland, chances are that Keith knows a member of every family whose final arrangements he helps manage. But the daily communicant at St. Ann’s is proud that his funeral home attends to the needs of all faiths. “I was in Queens the other day for a Jewish service. We organize funerals for Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, anyone.”

Taylor encourages people to make pre-arrangements for all matters pertaining to funerals. “It’s better to sit down with a funeral home before the time of a death.” He also wants people to realize that just because a funeral home is nearby, it does not mean that its interests are local.

According to Taylor, 75% of the funeral homes in Rockland County are controlled by Service Corporation International (SCI), a national conglomerate based in Houston, Texas. “Independent funeral homes are more reasonable and flexible to deal with on price and other issues,” Taylor said. There have been several highly critical media accounts about the corporatization of what is referred to as the “death care” industry, including a chilling Anderson Cooper expose on 6o Minutes.

NSL110_JV_Watercolor_St. Philips

St. Philips AME Zion church by Jerre Vanderhoef

The circumstances of walking into a funeral home are always solemn, but there is a reason to visit Hannemann that has nothing to do with final arrangements.  The walls of this Victorian mansion are covered by the work of local artists and historical photos. Watercolors by Jerre Vanderhoef and Beverly Bozarth Colgan, woodcuts by Debbi Davis and historic documents that include the earliest map of Nyack made by Tunis Smith in 1825 are exhibited throughout the public rooms.

“I love my job. I am at work every morning at 5:30a,” describes Taylor of his daily ritual. “I was a kid raised as one of eight and here I am with my own business in Nyack.”

That pride is on display at Hannemann’s from the pristine lawn and manicured shrubs to the exquisite art and artifacts that adorn the interior. In the same way that cemeteries have the serene quality of a park, Hannemann has the soothing aspects of a small museum, where precious and poignant memories are honored and kept safe.

Originally published on October 1, 2013

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Hannemann Funeral Home“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


Nyack Sketch Log: Green Meadow Waldorf School

by Bill Batson

“We try to connect the head, hand and heart of our students,” said Vicki Larson, the communications director at Green Meadow Waldorf School, as we walked through their campus on Hungry Hollow Road. This organizing principal was inspired by Rudolf Steiner, who created his first school in Stuttgart, Germany 100 years ago next year. His philosophy animates everything at Green Meadow, from the unspoiled setting, to the architecture of the buildings to the organization of both classrooms and lessons.

My conversation with Vicki explored outdoor classrooms, maker-space curriculums, and the universal inclusion of visual and performing arts. For those unfamiliar with Green Meadow, upcoming after-school programs open to the public and a fall crafts fair provide opportunities to visit this educational oasis in Chestnut Ridge.

Rudolf Steiner

When was Green Meadow founded?

In 1950, as a Kindergarten and a Lower School. We added a high school in 1972 and our first high-school class graduated in 1976.

What is the philosophy behind Waldorf Education?

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1919, Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner worked with factory owner Emil Molt at Molt’s request, to create the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. The goal, on the heels of the Great War, was to educate children to be clear-thinking, compassionate, and conscientious adults that could look at the world in complex ways rather than descend into world war. Steiner achieved this through creating a pedagogy that centered around reverence for, and deep observation of, how we as human beings naturally develop.

The essence of Waldorf Education is founded on the understanding that every child goes through three distinct phases of development:

Infancy and Early Childhood (0-7)
Middle Childhood (7-14)
Adolescence (14-21)

Each of these stages requires a different approach in order to meet and engage the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social needs of the growing child.

What is the significance of your location? I hear you have some very fascinating neighbors?

We are lucky to be located on Hungry Hollow Road, a beautiful, tree-lined stretch of road that still feels rural in this very suburban county. Our neighbors, all like-minded institutions working to transform the world, are the Pfeiffer Center, a biodynamic gardening institute; the Fellowship Community, an innovative intergenerational elder-care facility that also includes the historic Duryea Farm; the Fiber Craft Studio, where you can take a “Sheep to Shawl” workshop and learn traditional fiber arts; Sunbridge Institute, which trains Waldorf teachers and offers educational workshops and conferences that are open to the public; Eurythmy Spring Valley, a teacher-training program for those interested in the movement art of eurythmy (taught in most Waldorf schools); and Threefold Educational Center, which offers classes and conferences and includes the fabulous Threefold Café, also open to the public and offering fresh, delicious meals that often incorporate Pfeiffer Center produce.

Describe some curriculum content for your high-schoolers?

Waldorf Education is based on three pillars: goodness, beauty, and truth. In the High School, we help students discover truth, in the world and in themselves. Our academic curriculum in the High School is inspired by opportunities in the arts, music, drama, movement, and real-world experiences.

One of the most unique things about our High School is that each year is centered around a specific question:

The 9th grade question is “What?”

In 9th grade, students are questioning the world around them with an interest in the dynamics of change. With this in mind, the Waldorf curriculum introduces the study of historical revolutions, thermodynamics, and anatomy.

The 10th grade question is “How?”

By 10th grade, the students develop a more harmonious worldview, revealed in questions such as “How do the processes of the world bring contrasts into balance?” The 10th grade students study balance and harmony as they manifest in mechanics, poetry, and ancient cultures.

The 11th Grade Question is “Why?”

Between 10th and 11th grades, the student embarks on what will be a lifelong quest for knowledge of self and others. Students encounter the tales of Parzival and Hamlet. In the sciences, students learn about the physics of electromagnetic fields.

The 12th Grade Questions is “Who am I?”

As seniors, students explore the nature of existence through such sources as American transcendentalism, Russian literature, evolutionary theory, and modern history. Internships and independent senior projects reflect the students’ emerging individuality.

What are some practices that you would find only at Green Meadow?

Green Meadow Waldorf

After-School Program

For the first time in their nearly 70-year history, Green Meadow Waldorf School is offering after-school classes, open to the public. Through this after-school program, Green Meadow hopes to out farther into our local communities, and better serve public-school students, homeschoolers and un-schoolers, and children from other independent schools.

All classes take place on their 11-acre wooded campus in Chestnut Ridge. Courses are run by teachers, parents, and friends of our school and are designed to offer students opportunities to stretch their minds and bodies while they develop new skills and friendships. Fourteen classes this year include:

  • Activism/Civics
  • Capoeira
  • Circus Arts
  • Cooking
  • Culinary Arts
  • Fiber Craft
  • Gardening
  • Jewelry
  • KEVA Planks: The Making of an Architect!
  • Making Herbal Remedies and Products
  • Photography
  • Textile Design and Sewing
  • Theater Arts
  • Woodworking,

The deadline for Cycle 2 registration is October 24.

Fall Fair

Saturday, October 13 from 10am-4pm.

The Fall Fair is more than 40 years old and draws about 3000 visitors to our campus every October. A beloved event, it features curated vendors of handmade toys, jewelry, clothing, maple syrup, honey,  and much more; children’s activities like pumpkin carving, tree climbing, candle dipping, face painting, a hayride, and caramel apples; puppet shows and live music, and fresh, organic food on the grill.

Parking and admission are free and activity tickets are $1.

Main Lesson: Each day at Green Meadow begins with “main lesson,” a period of one hour and 40 minutes in which a given academic subject is studied intensively, in a block that last three to four weeks, allowing for an in-depth study and integration of the material.

Students are presented with concepts and skills in language arts, math, science, and social studies. The concepts introduced to the students reflect where they are in their development and grow increasingly more sophisticated and rigorous as they mature. Integrating art with all academic work develops new ways of thinking and working, as the students literally take the work into their own hands. Our students experience a deep investment in their learning as they create their main lesson books with compositions, observations, illustrations, and diagrams of their studies.

The Class Teacher often guides students through several years, potentially remaining a cohort’s class teacher for multiple grades. This long-term relationship benefits by seeing the children through a continuity of development, creating established routines, and providing stability for the students as they develop and transform. Class Teachers are supported by a constellation of expert subject teachers who share in shepherding the class through the years. Classes of students grow together from 1st through 12th Grades and form strong, familial bonds. These threads of relationship form a social and human foundation from which the education grows.

No standardized tests or Common Core: Green Meadow believes that time in school should be a process of discovery, not time spent learning to take a test. Since GMWS is an independent school, we do not administer standardized tests or adhere to the Common Core curriculum. High School students do, however, take the SAT and/or ACT as part of the college admissions process.

Freedom from digital classrooms: Green Meadow’s media policy asks students to be media-free through age 11, and the school gradually introduces electronic media in the middle school and high school. We believe that students need to understand and have a relationship to the physical world before they enter the digital world. Rather than being a hindrance, studies of Waldorf grads show that this is actually advantage later in life, with more Waldorf grads entering the sciences than their non-Waldorf peers.

Lastly there is Eurthmy. Eurthmy movement art is unique to Waldorf schools that builds spatial awareness, flexibility, strength, and grace.

The Waldorf curriculum, infused with the arts and interpreted by us: Class plays in every grade (1-8, plus 10th and 12th), two languages beginning in 1st grade, instrument lessons required from 3rd-12th grades.

Describe the philosophy of the architecture of the buildings and classrooms?

Beauty is everywhere in a Waldorf School. Rudolf Steiner had many ideas about architecture, including rounded corners in the Early Childhood classrooms and lazured walls (lazure is a form of painting) for a soft look, with depth of color. Our buildings were designed in alignment with Steiner’s principles, by architect Walter Leicht, and are unique and beautiful. They feature lots of windows to let in natural light, and are arranged on campus to create a village-like feel that stimulates community.

What’s an outdoor classroom?

Our outdoor classroom is a platform in a wooded area by a stream, built with students’ help, with a top for shelter on rainy or snowy days, allowing students the de-stressing experience of studying outdoors.

What is a day in the life of a forest preschooler?

As in all our Early Childhood programs, the Forest Preschool students follow a morning rhythm that includes creative play, circle time, chores, and snack. They may also play in the stream, make a fire in the fire pit they helped construct (and maybe roast their food over the fire), go for a hike, or work in the garden.

What are some practices that you would find only at Green Meadow?

Nyack Sketch Log Artist and Writer

Bill Batson

Teaching Activism and Civics at Green meadow

On Wednesday, May 1, I will be joining the faculty of the after-school program at Green Meadow to share some of my experiences as a labor, community, political and cultural organizer with children interested in joining or already engaged in social justice.

I will use film, music, literature, art,  documents and social media to explore how through history, young people continue to play a leadership role in the expansion of human liberty.

Content includes the exploits of a 27 year-old who led a boycott that changed the world (Martin Luther King), students in Soweto, South Africa that brought the Apartheid government to its knees and more recent example of student activism from Ferguson to Parkland.

Contact BillBason at wrbatson@gmail.com to enroll.

Digital addiction: Our media policy helps students enter the viral world when they are mature enough to handle it, and offers them a foundation in the real world that helps them balance the complexities of life in the digital age.

Abstraction, alienation, and fear of failure: Green Meadow’s experiential, hands-on, “makerspace” curriculum helps students stay grounded, confident, curious, and joyful. By allowing them to do many things—some of which they master and some which they do not, they learn that they can “fail” and survive, they learn where their gifts are and where their challenges lie, and they learn to support and be supported by others.

Stress, anxiety, and competition: The daily and yearly rhythm of life at Green Meadow allows students to breathe, literally and metaphorically. Our outdoor classroom, wilderness trips, and campus setting on 11 wooded acres help students spend time in nature (which is a proven antidote to stress and anxiety). Our curriculum and pedagogy (way of teaching) highlight collaboration, enabling students to feel connected rather than competitive.

What are some of the challenges facing independent schools?

Independent school admissions are declining nationally, as lower birth rates in some regions and economic and political uncertainty make a commitment to tuition a difficult proposition for many families.

photo by F. Lopez

We also have a long way to go toward equity and inclusion in most independent schools. Even in schools where there are reasonably high percentages of underserved kids or kids whose families have not traditionally been in independent schools, research shows that inclusion is a goal that is still unmet.

What is the forrest school?

Our children benefit from a rich variety of outdoor spaces. Rain or shine, our students in the new Forest Preschool spend most or all of their day outdoors, developing strong, healthy bodies and expanding their sensory experiences. Depending on the time of year, children sled down snowy hills, climb rocks, follow the stream, and balance on fallen trees. Munching on autumn apples in the orchard or tasting a maple tree’s sweet water in late winter foster a lifelong respect for the earth and a deep appreciation for nature’s bounty, and build the foundation for future academic learning.

Where do your graduates go?

Our graduates are prepared to go wherever they like. They tend to seek out schools where they can continue to pursue a well-rounded education, where a balanced life will be respected and encouraged. Our Class of 2018 went to the following schools: Bard College, Bennington College, Berklee College of Music, Bucknell University,  Fashion Institute of Technology, Hampshire College, , Lafayette College, Stony Brook

Green Meadow Waldorf School
307 Hungry Hollow Rd.
Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977

ph: 845.356.2514
fax: 845.356.2921

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Meals on Wheels“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com