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Just a Kid from Washington Heights
When the United States entered World War II, the US government turned to ordinary Americans and asked of them extraordinary service, sacrifice and heroism. Sixteen million Americans met those high expectations and following the war returned home to resume civilian life. Their military service records were not widely known outside their families or communities. For many, the war represented the most selfless, noble and dangerous experience of their lives. They were proud of what they had accomplished but rarely discussed their wartime experiences with others. They resumed their routine pre-war jobs or prepared for a new career under the GI Bill and became the kind of people who have always been the foundation of our American way of life.
The Final Mission
A pilot of a B-24 Liberator recalls his military career, including his stateside pilot training and the perilous missions he flew over Nazi occupied Europe from November 1943 through his final mission on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 87-year old veteran is clear-headed, unpretentious and straightforward and typical of his generation. The film is narrated only to complement this personal story and includes a multitude of relevant historical film footages and magnificently clear still photos – all extensively researched and verified at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. Many photos place the pilot himself on site in England and lend authenticity to the story. These last mentioned photos were made available to me by the pilot’s extensive family collection.
Once Upon a Time
Following the curious summertime adventures of a typical 12-year old of 1951, this unique 59-minute film evokes memories of Staten Island’s rural past at mid-20th century. It is essentially a nostalgic, looking-back piece but also historical, environmental, documentary and cultural. Nevertheless during its final 20 minutes the film poses critical questions about the dubious benefits of redundant urban sprawl with its attendant crowding and congestion and the traditional rural qualities of life we have traded for it. You needn’t have been a resident of Staten Island during the mid-20th century to empathize with the film’s message. The theme is virtually universal. Almost 4,000 copies have already been sold locally and nationally. A civic-minded Florida resident recently ordered six copies to distribute to his local town planning board. This film is a perfect poster boy for the consequences of urban sprawl.
Parcelizing the Catskills
In the late 1960s, Bert Robbin is a recently appointed English teacher at P. Piper Hamelin JHS located in a suburb of New York City. At the ripe old age of 27, still searching for his first romance, Bert finds a barely affordable apartment of Lilliputian dimensions on the “swinging,” fashionable upper east side of Manhattan — where singles mingle and hopefully become doubles. Unable to rise to his parents’ expectations of a career in law or medicine, Bert is determined to succeed as a public school teacher. But the New York City Board of Education and P. Piper Hamelin JHS are having difficulties of their own — challenging even for the most seasoned of pedagogues. The system is buffeted and befuddled by frequent teacher union walkouts, minority unrest and a rising tide of disruptive and violent students. In the meanwhile, an overarching racial and social conflict arising from the frustrating, unwinnable war in Vietnam, tears at the fraying fabric of American society. Bert is naive, often diffident and indecisive in this time of convulsive change. But he is intelligent and determined. Bert emerges Phoenix-like from the turmoil of his times with a new confident perception of himself and his mission.
Escape from the Holocaust
On September 1, 1939, Jacob Goldfarb and Rachel Aidelsztain, recently betrothed to each other, must choose between the devil and the deep blue sea – between Nazi occupied western Poland or Russian occupated Poland east of the Bug River.
For Jacob and Rachel, the safest path was clearly visible. Why did these Polish Jews choose to cast themselves onto the turbulent deep blue Stalinist Russian sea? What did these courageous young people and hundreds of thousands of other Polish Jews know that the remaining 3 million Polish Jews failed to comprehend or choose to disregard?
Why did Stalinist Soviet Russia admit more than 300,000 Polish Jews during WW II when U.S. Great Depression Era immigration law, in 1939, provided a meager 6,000 entry visas for Polish citizens of all ethnic groups? Was the Soviet motive attributable to altruism, administrative expediency, or national self-interest? Why is this peculiar historical Jewish odyssey so little known?
Jacob and Rachel will provide some illuminating insights to these intriguing questions. Their clear recollections and plain talk of a perilous immigrant journey across thousands of miles on three continents, their involuntary separation spanning six years of heart-rending loneliness, personal deprivations and their indomitable will to survive will surprise you. And their ultimate reunion, repatriation and triumph will warm your heart.
Staten Island, Then and Now
Stand alongside professional photographers of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, poised on the thresholds of Staten Island's starkly changing landscapes.
Witness sensitively and prophetically recorded images of Staten Island's vanishing bucolic landscapes.
View more than 50 scenes of Staten Island's current built environment emerge from a rural/suburban past in a matter of a few moments, beckoning fond memories and posing disturbing quality of life questions about the hidden costs of a rapidly expanding built environment, emotionally and environmentally.
No Requiem for Mt. Manresa
Mt. Manresa was, until April, 2014, a 15.4 acre Catholic retreat house, the old institution of its kind in the United States of America. It was sold by its owners of 100 years, the Society of Jesuits of the Province of New York for $15 million in 2012. Mt. Manresa was located, quite literally, in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge, the gateway to Staten Island.
It was the Catholic Mecca for many thousands of New York City residents for an entire century. Its Gothic style dormitories and chapel and its isolated trails, shaded by towering stands of ancient oaks, yellow tulip and maples, offered rare opportunities for silent meditation and reflection in a frenetically encroaching urban environment. Mt. Manresa's rare bucolic setting, undisturbed glacially formed hills and centuries-old trees had survived many decades of thoughtless, rapacious development of relentlessly shrinking open spaces which until recent decades completely embraced it. A water tower built of stone and brick in 1860, one of only two such structures in the City of New York, complemented the Gothic dormitories, gargoyles and chapel. A thirty ft. tall grotto, constructed of huge field stones laid up by hand one hundred fifty years ago, enshrined sacred statuary.
Sixty percent of Staten Island's population is Catholic. Every one of Staten Island's relevant elected officials and the NYC public advocate vowed to save it. The Staten Island Advance and local TV comprehensively and steadily reported the issue. Yet today the Mt.Manresa property is a barren, treeless wasteland soon to be occupied by as many as 400 townhouses. City officials fail to explain how vitally required municipal services like schools, fire and police protection, transportation and sewers, in an already underserved community, will be provided to thousands of new residents.
Find out how a highly suspicious series of social and political failures led to the destruction of Mt. Manresa in spite of timely, courageous, relentless and self-sacrificing efforts of the committee organized to rescue it from imminent destruction.