Nyack Sketch Log: Cafe La Talaye

by Bill Batson

Every week, Michelle Timothee puts on a virtual cooking clinic at the Nyack Farmer’s Market. With produce purchased just steps away from her booth, Chef Michelle creates fusion meals that combine the cuisine of her childhood in Haiti and the skills acquired at Rockland Community College and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Her recipes, complete with a list of locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients are often published in the farmers market weekly newsletter.

When Timothee first arrived in Nyack in 1998, she was reminded of the hilly landscape of Petion-Ville, Haiti, where she opened her first restaurant. Entranced by the landscape and the warm embrace of a significant Haitian population that began arriving in Nyack in the 1960s, Timothee is now expanding her culinary enterprise. If you haven’t yet tasted her Caribbean-infused fare, visit Nyack’s Indoor Farmer’s Market that meets at the Nyack Center every Thursday from 8a – 2p until March 5!

Nyack Sketch Log managed to put down the fork long enough to conduct this interview.

What does La Talaye mean?

The proper name is Saint-Michel-de-Attalaye. It’s located on the Central Plateau of Haiti. It’s very beautiful with farmlands and mountain in the distance. It’s where my parents and grandparents are from.

Now a cover story

 

You can meet Chef Michelle Timothee and sample the cuisine from the Cafe La Talaye kitchen every Thursday from 8a – 5p in Nyack at the indoor Farmer’s Market at the Nyack Center until  March 5.

Cher Timothee’s flagship restaurant, Cafe La Talaye, is located at 3 Main Street, Haverstraw. Call (845) 304-2998 for reservations. The cafe is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Where did you learn how to cook?

Inspired by watching my grandmother cook with seasonal ingredients, I add in my own touches of ginger, garlic, lime, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, scotch bonnet peppers and curry.

I studied Hospitality Management and Tourism /Culinary Arts at Rockland Community College and also honed her skills at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I have travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean, Europe and the U.S. to cultivate and diversify my craft, but honestly, watching my grandmother cook for years with seasonal ingredients was the best training I ever could have gotten,”

Did you have a restaurant in Haiti?

Yes, I had a restaurant in Haiti at the time of the invasion 1993, (NSL: when the United States overthrew the government of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide) where I had to meet people from all over the world from organizations, embassies, humanitarians… little babies to dogs and so on.

When did you immigrate?

I came in 1998.

Why?

I needed better health care for my son.

Why Nyack?

My best friend came here when she was 14. She was always writing letters. I saw the name Nyack on the envelope. It was unlike any French or Creole word I’d seen before. My brother moved here first to Spring Valley. I used to come and visit. One day, my brother said ‘I am going to take you to a special place and you are going to love it.’ He drove me to Nyack. Where I had my restaurant in Haiti is similar to Nyack. We have a mountain like Hook Mountain. It had restaurant s and boutiques. You don’t need a car, you can walk. When I saw Nyack I said ‘wow I love.’

When Did you Join the Nyack Farmers’ Market?

Six years ago, I came to the farmers market and was so excited. I talked to Pam right away. All my vegetables come from the market, my honey. I also go to Rockland Alliance. I’ve picked some produce right out the ground. Between Bloooming Hill and Madura, and Taliaferro is where all vegetable.

What has been the greatest challenge in launching a restaurant?

Time.

When did you become the Chef at the Marian Shrine?

I became a chef at the Marion Shrine in 2011 I make holy dinner for the priests and brothers.F or the past 6 years, I have been volunteering  my time with my son cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for the community at the retreat center at the Marion Shrine.

How would you describe your cuisine?

My cuisine is unique… delicious fresh, colorful and healthy creative choices -a fusion of contemporary and innovative dishes and more favorites. I season everything I cook with love!

Who helped with the decor and design of the restaurant?

The decor is a vivid imagination of my home land, special touches from my parents house in Haiti where I grew up , my old apt in the states, the farmers markets (women in Power) and my Cousin Gary helped me with the design.

How do you stay in contact with the Haitian community in Rockland?

Attending community events, churches and support their businesses.

Chef Timothee in Haiti with a bashful friend

What are some of the more interesting catering jobs you’ve had?

Colleges, Commanding general retirement party at West Point military academy.

When were you home last? What’s going on in Haiti today?

I was home in 2009 to feed some kids in St. Michel De L’attalaye for Christmas literally 2 weeks before the earthquake.

Haiti today is still striving for success, warm and the beauty in everyone heart keeps the county alive regardless of challenges the country has encountered within the past 10 years. With faith and hope every goal is achievable.

What’s next?

I’m going to become a herbalist.  I am studying at the Herbal Academy.

To learn more about Chef Michelle visit latayale.com.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “La Talaye Cafe” © 2020 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 

Timothee Photo at Farmer’s Market by Luis Bruno. Find Luis on Instagram at lbfoto318


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Nyack Sketch Log: Congregation Sons of Israel

NSL159_CSI_Featured_Final revisedby Bill Batson

During the last days of this decade, attacks and threats against the Jewish community in our region have escalated to levels not witnessed since World War II. This coincides with continued shootings at churches and mosques around the world. An approaching new year should resemble a threshold, leading to a promising future. These hate crimes make the end of 2019 feel like the edge of a precipice.

In 2014, when researching the history of a synagogue in Nyack, NY, I came across two examples of solidarity across race and religion, a century apart, that have the power to inspire. In both 1863 and 1963, members of the Congregations Sons of Israel led by example during periods of national racial conflagration. These instances are only a part of the Nyack Sketch Log that follows, but as we move closer to the abyss of intolerance, I hope these enlightened episodes, and the rich history of this Jewish house of worship, can help people of good will find a way to move forward, together.

NSL159_Nyack in the early 20th century

Nyack at the turn of the 20th Century

This column is informed by “From Generation to Generation, One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in Nyack.” The splendid and sweeping volume, edited by Myra Dembrow, offers a glimpse into the formation of  the congregation that now worships on North Broadway in Upper Nyack. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, the centennial journal explores the evolution of the congregation and their interaction with the surrounding community from 1891 to 1991.

NSL159_CSI Rabbi Lehrman

Rabbi Abraham Lehrman escaped the pogroms in Poland to become the congregation’s first salaried spiritual leader

Dembrow describes the late 19th century village that attracted itinerant Jewish peddlers from New York City as “a bustling center of commerce, lying as it does at one of the Hudson River’s premier harbors and the intersection of the only two roads that completely cross Rockland County, the roads that are now known as Route 9W and Route 59.”

One of these early arrivals was founding member of Congregation Sons of Israel, Abraham Meyer Brown, who opened a tailor shop in Piermont. In March of 1870, a space in Brown’s shop, which had relocated to Main St. in Nyack because of a fire, became the meeting place for the Jewish Society of Nyack. On August 22, 1891, that group incorporated as the Congregation of Nyack, B’nai Israel.

NSL159_CSI_The GoldsteinsAs the congregation grew, services were held in rented spaces and homes. The Sifrei Torah (the sacred scroll on which the first five books of the Bible are written) was carefully transported to the various venues each week. In 1907, Jewish women of Nyack established the Ladies Hebrew Aid Society of Beth Israel.” One of their early projects was to engage a teacher to teach children how to read Hebrew.

NSL159_CSI_Hudson Ave

Drawing by A. Bretschneider

Gert Goldstein Mages recalled being the only Jewish girl at Liberty School in 1914. When prayers were read, Goldstein was sent to stand in the hall.

By 1917, the nascent congregation invited a shochet (ritual slaughterer), Hyman Schwartz, to help the community observe Kosher dietary codes. Around this time, Gert Goldstein’s parents brought a family to America that was fleeing the pogroms in Poland. The father of that family, Abraham Lehrman, was an ordained rabbi and became the first salaried spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Nyack.

NSL159_CSI_Bar Mitzvah

Marvin Waldman’s Bar Mitzvah, November 1945

On March 2, 1920 the congregation acquired a parcel of land next to the library from Tunis Depew for $100. After four years of fundraising, a corner stone was laid at the corner of Hudson Avenue and South Broadway. The building was completed in 1925.

NSL159_CSI_Berea

A Star of David can be seen from the rear of the building that now houses Berea Seventh Day Adventist church.

When the congregation changed their name to Sons of Israel in 1936, the Jewish community in Rockland County was still so small, congregant Charles Barracks claimed that he knew every member. The entire social and professional lives of many of the families who belonged to Congregation Sons of Israel revolved around downtown Nyack. “Everyone lived, worked and played together. There was no other social life, there didn’t need to be. The women would work all day in the family store, then spend the evenings at the synagogue, cooking, planning and meeting about one thing or another,” Kenie Mittleman remembered.

During World War II, Rockland County hosted Camp Shanks, the embarkation point for troops in route to fight in Europe. Camp Shanks did not have a Chaplain for Jewish personnel, so Jewish soldiers were brought to Nyack by truck to observe their faith.

Meet Rabbi Russo

NSL159_CSI_Rabbi Russo
Rabbi Ariel Russo came to Congregation Sons of Israel in July, 2014.

“I love Nyack. It’s an idyllic place. There’s breathtaking natural beauty with many nearby parks for hiking and a charming downtown that has an urban feeling to it. I have been completely welcomed and embraced by the synagogue community and the community at large,” said Rabbi Russo.

Rabbi Russo shared her excitement about programs at CSI that support mothers and families. “We have a  mom-to-mom support group, run by a congregant who is a doula, social worker and perinatal specialist.”

And we also have a vibrant pre-school, Hebrew school and an adult education program with many different options for learning.”

Rabbi Russo hails from Cherry Hill, NJ. She moved to New York City for college and graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Double Degree Program at Barnard College and List College, with degrees in Psychology and Talmud.

Rabbi Russo received her rabbinic ordination, master’s degree in education, and certificate in pastoral counseling from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

When Erica Rubin became Cantor in 2019, Congregation Sons of Israel became the first all women led clergy team in a synagog in Rockland county.

The post-World War II economic boom and the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge brought a period of growth to the region and the synagogue. The congregation now had about 100 families. This was also the moment when seeds of dissension were planted in the congregation. In 1955, traditionalists held separate Yom Kippur services at a nearby church hall. Even though the rancor died down, a fault line that would eventually become a full blown schism had emerged.

The 1960s’ were a period of social activism around issues of racial justice in America. A bond was built between Congregation Sons of Israel  and the African American community in Nyack during the 19th century. Founding members Abraham Brown and Moses Oppenheimer were active in the underground railroad in the 1860s. One hundred years later, in February 1963, 70 members of St. Philip’s AME Zion Church worshiped at CSI in a race relations sabbath. Rabbi Krantz and his congregation were invited to a service on a following Sunday at St. Philip’s by Reverend McKinney.

Like much of the country, the 1960s were a time of tumultuous change, with trends sometimes going in contradictory directions. For CSI, plans to obtain a new building reopened an old rift.

In June 1964, having outgrown their aging temple on South Broadway and Hudson Ave, CSI sold the building to Berea Seventh Day Adventist Church for $70,000. A property on North Broadway was acquired, a colonial style mansion was demolished and new construction undertaken.

By March 1965, the congregation broke in two. Here is how Temple Beth Torah, the new synagogue that was created from the breach, described the moment of separation in a document published in 1990 commemorating their 25th anniversary: “13 families gathered in a south Nyack basement to organize Nyack’s second Jewish congregation…The first Friday evening services were held in Eugene and Evelyn Levine’s basement, led by a part-time Rabbi and Cantor. Later, services were moved to the Bobin Bungalow Colony. As to a permanent home, plans were soon afoot for the purchase of a wooded track on Route 9W and the original building opened in 1966.”

Fundraising for the Congregation Sons of Israel’s new synagogue on North Broadway continued despite the balkanization. Hyman Schwartz, the shochet who had arrived in Nyack before there were any synagogues in the village was among the first donors.

The stone sculpture that makes the Congregation Sons of Israel one of the most distinctive structures in the region was designed by Connecticut artist James Hennessy. Hennessy was commissioned to create a work of art depicting the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved. The firm of Marchese and Hamersma of Clifton, New Jersey created the massive wall that tells the story of the tribes of Israel in stain glass.

While construction was being completed, services were held in a carriage house on the property that was converted into a house of worship by congregation member and owner of Rockland County’s largest construction firm, Harry Degenshein. At noon on December 19, 1965, after a traditional Chanukah candle was lit, a motorcade brought the sacred Torah scroll from Hudson Avenue to 300 North Broadway.

In keeping with ancient tradition, a procession of elder members of the congregation carried the scrolls around the makeshift chapel seven times before placing the Torah into a ceremonial ark.

Special thanks to Alan Englander for lending me his copy of Generation to Generation, One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in Nyack.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: Congregation Sons of Israel ©2019 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com



Nyack Sketch Log: Roaring Into 2020

by Bill Batson

There is a word that describes a decade that began with a President Obama and ended with a President Trump: schizophrenic. Typically locally focused, on occasion, Nyack Sketch Log has documented national policy mood swings, weighing in on issues of broader impact like school shootings, health care, unionized labor, climate change and the loss of giants like Nelson Mandela and our own Toni Morrison.

I hope this round-up of the 2010s provides some winter break reading as we prepare to roar into the 2020s.

Thank you for following my illustrated column over these tumultuous years. It is always an honor to share words and images with you each week.

Have a safe holiday season. Looking forward to another year of Nyack Sketch Log!

Nyack Sketch Log: A “Dirty Rat” on Route 59
November 8, 2011

Earlier this month, a super-sized rat was seen near the corner of Main Street and Midland Avenue in Nyack, NY. No doubt, some motorists were startled. And others maybe mystified or just amused. Some even honked their horns at the sight of a 12 ft. tall inflatable rat keeping an eerie vigil at the gate of the construction site of a new Walgreens.

Nyack Sketch Log: Brand New Normal
November 6, 2012

On a recent phone call with President Barack Obama, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo observed that we seem to have a one hundred year storm every year now. Fortunately for us, the senior levels of government are providing more than gallows humor in the aftermath of the super storm Sandy. As a resident of a county declared a disaster area, I feel well represented by the federal, state, regional and local governments that are overseeing this natural catastrophe. But are we ready for the next storm, like the one that is coming literally and figuratively tomorrow?

Nyack Sketch Log: 25 Days Since the Newtown Massacre
January 8, 2013

For the first 17 days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the flag at the Soft Cloth Car Wash on Route 59 flew at half-mast. The massive flag dominates the view from my kitchen window. The custom of flying a banner at half-mast is to allow the invisible flag of death to ceremonially occupy the top spot. The flag returned to full mast on the first of January, but I detect a specter of despair that still hovers around the summit like a fog, dimming the stars and blurring the stripes. I wish that flags in our country could remain at half-mast until something concrete is done to restore domestic tranquility.

Nyack Sketch Log: Hail to Health Care Reform
January 22, 2013

I spent four nights at my 91 year old father’s bedside last week. Before his hospitalization, I had already decided that I was going to sketch log about the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s singular achievement from his first term, as he took his second oath of office. When my  father was admitted to Nyack Hospital on the morning of January 10 with pneumonia, he became the subject of my column and the involuntary model for this drawing. That he was discharged five days later, smiling and on the mend, is a minor medical miracle and made my interest in the issue of health care more than just academic.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013: Full House of Kings, Queens and Presidents to Attend Funeral
December 7, 2013

According to a somber South African President Jacob Zuma, Mandela will receive a state funeral. Mandela’s service will be on the scale of the late British statesman Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul.  As many as five kings, six queens, over 70 presidents and prime ministers and over 2 million faithful are expected to bid the internationally respected leader farewell. President Barack Obama and all living American Presidents that are healthy enough to attend will join the US delegation. This global full house of heads of state is a fitting tribute for a person of Nelson Mandela’s impact and stature.

Nyack Sketch Log: Earth Day Edition
March 31, 2015

Each April, Earth Day gives us a chance to add environmental healing to our spring cleaning. To inspire you, here is the story of a local climate scientist, Robin Bell, who travels to Antarctica to monitor global sea levels; and a local merchant, Maria Luisa Whittingham, whose campaign to reduce waste has become a formal resolution adopted by the Rockland County Legislature. Once motivated, you will find a list of upcoming clean-up dates and sites from Keep Rockland Beautiful so that you can engage in a day when local activities are globally beneficial.

Nyack Sketch Log: GW Bridgegate
February 11, 2014

Having grown up within walking distance of the George Washington Bridge, namesake of our country’s most recent scandal large enough to warrant the suffix “gate,” I was already intrigued when I read the first headlines. Then it got personal. Governor Chris Christie rudely rebuffed an inquiry into the matter by New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the mother of a dear high school friend. Driven by umbrage, I began dredging through the reporting to see what was at the bottom of the traffic-themed political pile up

Nyack Sketch Log: National Student Walkout Tomorrow
March 13, 2018

The last time a wave of student protest reshaped the political landscape of a country, Nyack High School students attended  classes in a building with a clock tower. After the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, (17 dead, 14 injured) the nation has witnessed a cadre of student activists who are making progress where adults have failed for decades. In the wake of shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 (15 dead, 24 injured) and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 (28 dead), a Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired and no major gun control measures have passed.

Nyack Sketch Log: Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed
May 21, 2019

I have lent this space to my friend Ray Wright, a passionate naturalist, who wants to put his opposition to a proposal by the Suez Water Company to build a new headquarters near Lake DeForest on the record. This Nyack Sketch Log will be submitted as testimony at a public hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall on Wed May 22 at 7:30p. We are hoping to others will attend and share their concerns.

Nyack Sketch Log: Toni Morrison’s Full Measure
August 13, 2019

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” These words, uttered by Toni Morrison when she received the Nobel Prize for Literature have gone viral since her death on August 5, 2019. Not only do they capture the blunt style of her prose, they boldly invite us to judge her by her own high standard. In a verdict delivered by countless voices, as an editor, educator, novelist, scholar and public historian, Toni Morrison gave her full measure.

Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Roaring Into 2020” © 2019 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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Nyack Sketch Log: Thirsty for Local History?

by Bill Batson

Are you thirsty for history? Have a person on your holiday gift list with an appetite for art and culture? Nyack Sketch Log has produced a second local history mug that celebrates iconic buildings in Rockland County.

Every sketch log image that adorns a hat, shirt or mug originally illustrated a column the explores the history of our village and our county.  The drawings on my recent mug originally helped tell the stories of four structures:

  • a building in Haverstraw that inspired both Edward Hopper and Alfred Hitchcock,
  • a train station in Piermont that now houses a museum,
  • a South Nyack mansion once owned by a colleague of Thomas Edison,
  • a barn in Pomona operated by the oldest family run business in New York State.

If you’d like to share some Nyack Sketch Log-inspired gear with friends and family this holiday season, you can find me at the Nyack Farmer’s Market on this Thursday, December 19, our last outdoor session from 8a – 2p, or Sat., Dec. 21 , noon – 7p at Casa del Sol, 104 Main St. Or visit nyackgift.com!

Here are the Nyack Sketch Log entries where the images on my Rockland Mug first appeared:

Nyack Sketch Log: Edward Hopper Mania
February 7, 2012

The building in Haverstraw that was the subject of Edward Hopper’s 1925 painting “House by the Railroad” still stands proud. The haunting depiction of the three story house by Hopper came to the attention of the cast and crew of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie classic, Psycho. Hopper’s painting inspired not only the design of the Bates Mansion in the 1960 production, but the mood of the film as well. “Psycho might be the most Hopperesque of Hitchcock’s films,” says Joel Gunz from AlfredHitchcockGeek.com. From Nyack to Haverstraw to Hollywood, Hoppermania is contagious.

Nyack Sketch Log: Will The History of Piermont Leave This Station?
April 14, 2014

According to Piermont Historical Society President Richard Esnard, the exhibition train has not left this historic railroad station. “Village of Piermont Trustees want to lease the interior of the station for commercial or residential use,” Esnard said. On May 1, the Piermont Historical Society is holding a benefit to secure the funds to derail the plan to rent the station. Esnard believes that with community support, the future of this local history resource will stay on track.

Nyack Sketch Log: The Ross-Hand Mansion
August 14, 2018

Since the 1850s, only four families have called 122 South Franklin Street home. The first two families built and expanded what is in many ways a monument to American architectural and scientific innovation. A third and fourth family, who sought to restore and preserve this significant piece of local and national history had shorter tenures

Nyack Sketch Log: The Orchards Of Concklin
July 17, 2012

When you buy your fresh fruit and baked goods from one of the booths at the Nyack Farmer’s Market, you are rubbing shoulders with American history. Within the span of 300 years of family farming in Rockland County, the Concklins have witnessed the birth of this nation and its darkest hour.  During the Revolutionary War, the family produced dairy products in the path of advancing armies. On 9/11 a Concklin was setting up for the farmer’s market at the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers were destroyed.  The Concklins’ story speaks volumes about the resilience of a family and the depth of the community support they enjoy.

You can find me at the Nyack Farmer’s Market on this Thursday, December 19, our last outdoor session from 8a – 2p, or Sat., Dec. 21 , noon – 7p at Casa del Sol, 104 Main St.
Nyack Sketch Log Vol. 1&2
Tote Bags
Long Sleeve Tees
Hats
Baseball Caps
Mugs
Magnetic Decals
Blank Note Cards

Local orders on nyackgift.com before midnight December 22 will be delivered by December 23rd.

Read also:

Nyack People & Places: Bill Batson, Artist & Columnist

Mug photo by Luis Bruno

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “A Cup of History” © 2019 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more. Weld-Sponsor-Graphic_Final


Nyack Sketch Log: Squash Blossom

squash blossomby Bill Batson

Squash Blossom is the last store standing from the crafts and antique renaissance that restored the economic fortunes of the Village of Nyack in the 1970s. Situated at 49 Burd Street, a few steps down from South Broadway since 1973,  the Native American crafts store is operated by nonagenarian Trudi Feiner.

The family that launched the venture, however, is equally recognized for the zeal of their progressive politics, personified by Trudi’s late husband, Irving Feiner. Irving and Trudi Feiner met at a self-proclaimed interracial resort called Camp Unity in 1948. A year after they met, Irving Feiner became embroiled in a legal case that tested the boundaries of political speech and transformed both of their lives, Feiner v. New York.

Irv and Trudi

Trudi and Irving Feiner

As a student on the GI Bill at Syracuse University, Feiner mounted a soap box one afternoon to urge local residents to attend a rally. The gathering was to protest the verdict in the trial of the “Trenton Six,” a group of black men given the death penalty for killing an elderly white shopkeeper based on a confession that was later impeached. Former United States Assistant Attorney General, O. John Rogge, a member of the defense team, was on the program. A permit to hold the event in a local high school had been revoked by the Mayor of Syracuse. Subsequent accounts reported that Feiner gave a contentious speech that disparaged elected officials. When a member of the crowd threatened to “get him down” from his improvised platform if the police didn’t, Feiner was arrested.  The case made it to the Supreme Court where a 6-3 majority ruled against Feiner, requiring him to serve a one month sentence for the misdemeanor. He was also expelled from the university.

Hugo Black

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black

“I understand that people in totalitarian countries must obey arbitrary orders,” wrote Justice Hugo Black in his dissent. “I had hoped that there was no such duty in the United States.” According to Irv Feiner’s obituary in The New York Times “the legal principle involved came to be know as the heckler’s veto, meaning that a disruptive listener could effectively stop a controversial speaker by threatening havoc.” The Feiners moved to Rockland County in the late 1950s and joined a group of young couples that included Betty and Carl Friedan (Betty would later write The Feminine Mystique) and Herb and Edith Kurz (Herb, who passed away on November 24, 2014 founded Presidential Life and was a prolific philanthropist.) The goal of the families was to start a progressive interracial community.

Screenshot 2014-12-14 19.19.11

Epaminondas from “Epaminondas and His Auntie”

When they were unable to acquire the land they sought for their utopian enclave, the Feiners bought a home in nearby Blauvelt. They quickly regretted the decision. One of their three daughters, Rachael, brought home a book from school entitled “Epaminondas and His Auntie,” a work of unreconstructed Jim Crow era racism.  They moved to Nyack in 1963 because of the village’s diverse demographics.

Screenshot 2014-12-14 19.26.34

(l-r) Susan, Irving, Emily, Rachael and Trudi Feiner

In Nyack, the Feiners worked with a group that included Joan Bodger and Win and Betty Perry and Gerry and Eddie Dahlberg to create Nyack Head Start. Irving began a successful career in New York City as a lithographer. The tragic death of Rachael in a car accident in 1971 came six weeks before the Feiners planned to leave Nyack. The family’s relocation to Santa Fe, New Mexico seemed to exacerbate their pain, so after two years they returned. Packed into their station wagon was the inventory for the first Squash Blossom that was located on the corner of Main Street and Broadway.

Screenshot 2014-12-14 19.30.23

Herb Kurz visits Irving and Trudi at Squash Blossom

In 1974, Trudi and two partners bought their current location from the estate of a member of the Blauvelt family.  The structure once served as the hay loft for the horse stables used by the St. George Hotel. Irving continued his outspoken exploits, running for Rockland County Executive, New York State Assembly, and Mayor of Nyack.  As the local organizer for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976, Feiner successfully changed New York State election law to allow voters to know which candidate convention delegates in Democratic presidential primaries were supporting.

Following in her parents footsteps, Emily Feiner ran for Village of Nyack Trustee in 1985, winning by two votes. Feiner contends the margin of her victory came from “my mom and my dad.” Emily is now an Outreach Manager at the New Jersey VA for programs for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Emily’s sister, Susan, is a Professor of Economics and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine, where she is also the president of her union. Feiner at Tully CenterIn 2006, Irv Feiner, who later completed his degree at Syracuse, was invited to give the lecture at the dedication of the Tully Center for Free Speech. Irving Feiner passed away in January 2009, but not before seeing Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first African American President of the United States. He watched the watershed event on a large screen TV he purchased just for the occasion. It was his last waking day.

trudi Feiner Featured

Trudi Feiner with photo of President Obama and White House Intern Laurie Roberts hanging proudly on the wall at Squash Blossom

All of the objects that are assembled on the shelves of Squash Blossom have sacred meaning. Trudi can tell you about the significance of each Zuni fetish animal or the rituals surrounding wedding vases. She can tell you about how dreamcatchers serve to ensure that when the sun rises, all your bad dreams just disappear.

Yet, as incomprehensible as some of the losses the Feiners have weathered are, a photo behind the counter demonstrates that their grandchildren are dream catchers made real. In the picture, Laurie Roberts, Trudi and Irving Feiner’s granddaughter, is standing with President Obama, during her White House internship. Another granddaughter, Rebecca Blair, completed an internship at in the Obama White House as well.For two life-long advocates for racial equality and political empowerment, the image, in substance and symbolism, represents the progress that they fought to secure.

If you want to learn more about Native American culture, or talk politics with an old-school progressive who tells it like it is, visit Squash Blossom.

Looking for a unique, hand made gift, consider the aboriginal artistry available at Squash Blossom. Open Thursday through Saturday from 11a to 5p and Sundays from noon to 5p.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Squash Blossom” © 2019 Bill Batson.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Skypunch Creative

by Bill Batson

Smitten with Nyack after several forays to meet a client, Brooklyn-based Skypunch Creative opened a satellite office on South Broadway in 2017.  Since then, the branded merchandise company, with an affinity for projects related to the  environmental, has brought their expertise to several local small businesses. Meet founder Joshua Wolfe, who is about to answer the question, what is a skypunch?

What is a Skypunch?

When an airplane flies through some clouds, ice crystals on their wings can trigger supercooled water droplets to freeze and fall, creating a skypunch. As someone who works at the intersection of environmental issues and the creation of corporate branded merchandise, it represents how our actions can leave a mark on the environment. It’s a reminder that we should be thoughtful about how we make things.

How did you start making promotional material?

It was really by chance. We started as a design and creative firm. As we started taking on more and more complicated production projects, clients started to ask if we could handle all the things that involved printing (pens, apparel, bottles, welcome kits, those sorts of things) and we found what we were really great at was creating products and managing the production/fulfillment aspects of creative projects.

It’s why we love working with artists like Bill Batson. He has wonderful sketches of Nyack and we can navigate the design/production process to create compelling products from them. So while our background is design, we found through years of client work, we really excel at designing for physical objects and delivering them to clients.

About seven years ago, we decided to stop offering contract design services and focus on promotional products and branded merchandise full time. It’s the best
decision we’ve made as a company. Now we only help companies with the things we are the best at.

What are some of your more interesting clients and projects?

We’ve been really grateful to have a range of clients from solo-entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies. One of our recent favorites was a beauty and wellness kit we created with three Rockland based businesses: Lucky Chick Cosmetics, Soap and Paper Factory and Mata USA. The proceeds from the kits went to the Center for Safety & Change.

Our contribution was working with Nyack based artist Marisol Diaz to design a bag for the items. She created a really powerful painting and we had it printed and sewn into custom bags.

What brought Skypunch to Nyack?

We were doing a lot of work at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and the scientists there introduced us to Nyack. We stayed because its a wonderful place to run a business.

Nyack Gift 2019

Three Nyack artisans, Bill Batson, Lisa Chang and Preston Powell, brought together by Joshua Wolfe of Skypunch Creative, have created two more Nyack gift sets.

The Rockland County gift set consists of a NEW Nyack Sketch Log inspired a 15 oz mug by Batson, 1.5 oz bag of loose Organic Assam tea from Powell’s Teagevity and two mini chocolate covered Oreos and two pieces of almond orange nougat by Chang’s Nyack Sweets. ($35)

The deluxe set includes a Rockland County mug AND the classic Nyack mug, Assam tea AND a steep and two full size chocolate covered Oreos and 4 pieces of nougat. ($50)

Supplies are limited. Order TODAY at Nyackgift.com.

Photo at Hartell’s by Raymond Wright.

I understand we both went to Pratt Institute. What did you study?

I was a photography major, but never graduated. I later got a degree in History from Hunter College. Aaron, our senior designer/illustrator, studied 2D animation…he actually graduated.

Tell us about your time documenting the environment..-and reggaeton artists?

I did have an eclectic career before Skypunch. In my early twenties, I was a photographer. I’m probably best known for my work on climate change. I co-authored Climate Change: Picturing the Science (W.W. Norton and Company, 2006) with Gavin Schmidt, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Lots of traveling to glaciers, forest fires, floods, melting permafrost, etc.

When I wasn’t traveling to seek out the visible effects of climate change, I worked as an editorial photographer in NYC. One of my regular clients was a magazine that covered Latin music. I got to photograph a lot of artists when they were passing through NYC. Not just reggaeton, although that was just on the verge of becoming really popular, so those artists were more open to photoshoots with a smaller magazine than they would be now.

Tell me about the environmental non profit you started?

I started the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund with Scott Mandia, a professor at SUNY Suffolk and Charles Zeller, a retired tech executive in 2011. It started because friends of ours in the climate science had growing legal bills from being attacked by well funded climate denial non-profits. We raised the money to help cover the costs of a case in Virginia. When we won that case, the three of us sat down and decided that we couldn’t keep doing this in our kitchen and raised the funds to create a non-profit with a professional staff. There are now three lawyers, whose sole job is to provide legal assistance to climate scientists. We didn’t build the organization with the Trump adminstration in mind, but are really glad we did all the work beforehand.

What can we do in our individual lives to fight climate change?

he biggest thing an individual can do is support policy changes on the local, state, national  and international level. The challenge is global in scale and we need to tackle it together. On an individual level, we can reduce our own carbon footprint. In addition, I think this is one of our greatest areas of potential impact beyond advocacy is voting with our wallets. As consumers we have the ability to push for changes in the marketplace. When I started in the field almost twenty years ago, the idea that residential solar installation would be affordable was a fantasy. Now it is cost effective. That came about by a combination of individual purchases, government policy and commercial investment. Being the early adopter matters.

How did nyackgift get started?

Bill and I were talking about how to make a project that promoted Nyack businesses and I really wanted to turn Bill’s drawings into a landscape. I’m not sure Bill really knew what he was getting into,  but he was nice enough to send me the scans and Aaron crafted a landscape that became the Nyack mug.

From there, Bill asked Preston Powell of Teagevity and I reached out to Lisa Chang of Nyack Sweets to be part of the project. Together we made kits that we pre-sold. It was really an experiment. Would the local community be interested? I think we were all really excited to see how much people liked the kits. And now are able to do it for a second year. A side note, we’re also really grateful that people were willing to pre-order. Having the orders in hand before we created the kits, removed the financial risks to the businesses and made it much easier for us to collaborate together.

What’s next for Skypunch?

We’re investing more and more in recycled and upcycled products. Going back to my answer about how individuals can fight climate, we want to encourage our business clients to use their promotional marketing dollars to encourage the development of the recycling and upcycling industries. Both are going through big changes right now and its a time where our purchases can have a big impact.

Although a lot of the company’s story is tied to my eclectic career, we have eight employees on our team split between offices in Nyack and Brooklyn.

They are absolutely wonderful to work with and none of the things we make would be possible without the talent and deep set of skills they bring to the company.

Read more:

Nyack Sketch Log: Nyack Sweets
Nyack Sketch Log: Bruce Lee of Loose Tea
Nyack People & Places: Bill Batson, Artist & Columnist

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Skypunch Creative” © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more. Weld-Sponsor-Graphic_Final


Nyack Sketch Log: The Bruce Lee of Loose Tea

NSL_Powell Teagevity_featured Imageby Bill Batson

Preston Powell is a civil rights scion, who has been a DJ, night club owner, artist rep, and sensei.  His grandfather was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.,  the first African American to be elected to Congress in the state of New York. Preston has fused his talents and early experience with tea drinking culture into a successful business and dojo. If you visit the Nyack Farmers’ Market, look for Teagevity and meet the Bruce Lee of loose tea.

Tell me about this teacup?

When I was about 19 or 20, I walked into a martial arts dojo on Lexington Ave in New York City and saw a man, who turned out to be the Sensei, holding a cup of tea. The way he held that teacup struck me. It reminded me of my childhood, when women would sit for tea after services at Abyssinian Baptist Church. When I started my martial arts training everything was about holding a cup of tea; your posture, your movement, you had to defend a teacup. Eventually, I was given this teacup. For over twenty years, I have protected this cup. It has been my introduction to Asian and other tea drinking cultures. It is a connection to the fellowship of drinking tea after church.

Family photo courtesy Preston Powell © 2014, all rights reserved.

Family photo courtesy Preston Powell © 2014, all rights reserved.

What is your connection to Abyssinian Baptist Church?

My grandfather was Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He was pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and in 1945, he was the first African American from New York State elected to Congress. My grandmother, Isabel Washington Powell, was a dancer at the Cotton Club when she met and married Adam Clayton Powell. I am in the process of donating some items from my family to The Smithsonian Institute in Washington for their new African American wing. One of the exhibits is going to be about early black residents on Martha’s Vineyard. My grandparents summered and owned a cottage there.

How did you get your start in music?

My first radio show was on WYBC “Black Spectrum” at Yale University. I did the over night Saturday Soul and R&B Radio Dance show. This was the early 70’s. From there, I DJ’d at the Snow Chicken in New Haven and would spin basement blue light parties from , Connecticut to New York City. As a mobile DJ, I traveled with an old Crown Reel to Reel and two Technic SL1200 Turntables and a Bozak Mixer. Man those were the days!

WBLS Program Director Frankie Crocker hired me to create Dance Mix shows to be aired on WBLS in New York which aired on weekends. I also did Mix shows for WKTU.

Preston spinning at the legendary Studio 54

This was the early defining period for what we now know as the Disco era. The next step was becoming a club DJ and Billboard Dance reporter and working all the big Clubs in Manhattan: Xenon, Club A, Magique, Leviticus, Pippin’s, Mellow Mouth in the Hamptons, and regular guest spots and famed Studio 54, the Anvil and Tea dances at the Cock Ring in the Village.

In the early 1980’s in the Hampton’s, I owned operated and DJ’d at Bay Street night club in Sag Harbor. There I mixed music during the week and produced major concerts creating The legendary Reggae on the Wharf Concert series and producing major Live concerts featuring artists such as: Bobby Short, Chuck Berry, Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner, James Brown, Billy Joel, Simply Red, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff & Steel Pulse to name a few.

How did you come to Nyack?

As a child, I spent my summers by the water in Martha’s Vineyard. I also spent a lot of time in Sag Harbor. When I came across the Tappan Zee Bridge one day around 1999, and I saw the Village of Nyack and the Hudson River, I instantly knew this would be a home for my family.

It helped that it was only 20 minutes from New York City, where I had a music business. My company, Jazzateria, managed jazz and reggae artists including Reuben Wilson, Bernard  “Pretty” Purdie, Jimmy McGriff, Miri Ben-Ari and Midnite, a reggae band from St. Croix.

When did you open your dojo?

NSL_Preston Powell_To-te Ueshiro Karate Club

Students under Sensei Powell’s watchful gaze

To-te Ueshiro Karate Club opened in 2006. It is organized as a club more than a business. We don’t advertise, we don’t have a neon sign. The focus is on training for personal growth, not for competition or trophies. In our Shorin-Ryu tradition, skills are handed down through the family. We try to prepare the father to train the daughter and the grandfather to train with the grandson. It’s an activity for the whole family. Our style of Karate was brought to Okinawa, Japan by men who were taught by Shaolin monks in China. They were in Okinawa as traders and taught their trading partners martial arts to protect themselves from the mainland Japanese. My teacup came from Japan.

When did you launch Teagevity?

Powell with Dr. Oz at Nyack Farmers Markrt

I was frustrated with the business of music, and I wanted to create something new and local that my family could be a part of. Tea had been on my mind. I loved the substance of it and the rituals around it. In the dojo, students would ask what to do when they didn’t feel well. I had become an elder dispensing wisdom about medicinal properties of different teas and herbs.

Nyack Gift 2019

Three Nyack artisans, Bill Batson, Lisa Chang and Preston Powell, have came together again to create two more Nyack gift sets.

The Rockland County gift set consists of a NEW Nyack Sketch Log inspired a 15 oz mug by Batson, 1.5 oz bag of loose Organic Assam tea from Powell’s Teagevity and two mini chocolate covered Oreos and two pieces of almond orange nougat by Chang’s Nyack Sweets. ($35)

The deluxe set includes a Rockland County mug AND the classic Nyack mug, Assam tea AND a steep and two full size chocolate covered Oreos and 4 pieces of nougat. ($50)

Pre-order before mid-nite on Dec. 2nd for a $10 discount.

Order at Nyackgift.com.

Photo at Hartell’s by Raymond Wright.

Then one day, when I was driving with my wife and saying how much I loved life, she said the word longevity, and then added the word tea. When I heard “Teagevity,” that was it. I got the domain name that day. That was two years ago.

How many varieties of teas do you offer?

I have 54 teas that I carry at any time.  With blends it can be 75 or more.

What is your most popular item?

Our most popular item is Organic Assam, which is also known as Irish Breakfast. And a South African tea called Rooibos,  with blue mallow flowers is also very popular.

Is there one tea in particular that people should know more about?

That would be Pu-erh, from the Yunnan province, China. It has beneficial properties that many in the world have known about forever. Dr Oz talks about it and all the fashion models in Europe drink it. The tea breaks down cholesterol. It’s good for your blood pressure too. It works as a detoxifier, helping with the liver,  because it helps you flush water. And if you are looking to cut weight, this is your tea.

What’s the best way to make a cup of tea?

Water :

The water you use is very important. The number one beverage in the world is water. The number two is tea.  Since a good tea is rich in anti-oxidants and minerals, the water should be pure as well. If you had a free flowing spring, that would be best. If not, use bottled or filtered water. Try not to use water from the tap.

Temperature: 

The temperature depends on the tea; for a green tea, pre-boiling or about 170-175; for black tea, herbal and botanicals bring your water to a 210 – 212 degree full boil.

Steep time:

  • Black teas should steep no longer than five minutes. At six minutes, it gets bitter, however, people may like the taste.
  • Green tea, after three minutes, it will get bitter.
  • White tea is the rarest of teas, picked before the bud comes at the beginning of spring. It should be steeped for one or two minutes.

You can peruse Teagevity’s selection of loose tea and tea gear online at teagevity.com or every Thursday from 8a-2p at the Nyack Farmers’ Market at the main municipal parking lot until December 19. Starting on January 2, 2020.

Visit to-te.com for information about martial arts classes. To-te Ueshiro Karate Club is located at 85 South Broadway, Nyack, NY

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Bruce Lee of Loose Tea” © 2018 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more. Weld-Sponsor-Graphic_Final