Friday, December 18, 2009

A Quick Holiday Travel Spot on ABC News

While I was at the Newark Airport in New Jersey, reporter Phil Lipof from the ABC affiliate in New York City interviewed me for a package he put together about holiday travel. It was interesting for me to be the one answering the questions instead of asking them.

Here is the story that was on the news that night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pet Owners Known in Parks by the Names of Their Dogs

Brownie, DJ, and Rosie are the names of dogs that Sarah Wessler knows by heart, but she couldn’t tell you the names of any of their owners, even though she sees them at least once a week at the dog run. She says this is all part of the experience of going to the dog run.

“You just call people by their dog’s names,” Wessler said. “Being here is all about the dogs.”

Wessler lives in the Bronx but usually takes her dog, Mancha, to Jemmy’s Run since it is closer to her boyfriend’s apartment and Mancha has made friends there. Wessler says that she runs into people on the train that she has met at the dog park and often talks with some of the regular visitors, but doesn’t make a point of it to meet up with them outside of the park.

“What happens at the dog park stays at the dog park.”

While some parks don’t allow dogs at all, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has designated three different types of dog parks in the city—leashed areas, designated off-leash areas, and dog runs. Dog runs are large fenced in areas within larger parks where dogs are free to run around unleashed. Jemmy’s Run at Madison Square Park is a dog run where all types of relationships are developed between people and dogs.

Sometimes the freedom of all the different dogs together can cause problems. Jay Fortunato, who lives in the Flatiron District, says his dog Linus enjoys coming to get exercise at the dog park but since Linus is a small dog, he has had encounters with large dogs that haven’t gone well.

“A few weeks ago a larger dog bit Linus on the back of the neck and sat on him,” Fortunato said. “I had to fight the big dog off.”

Taylor Defelice, of Murray Hill, brings her two dogs Hershey and Ruby to Jemmy’s Run for them to interact with other dogs. Ruby is a therapy dog and spends time in hospitals with children who are sick, so Defelice likes to get her out to get exercise. The only challenge Defelice has faced with bringing her dogs to the park is having their toys stolen by other dogs, but says the overall experience is a positive one.

“Dog parks are good for the dogs and good for people,” Defelice said. “They help promote dog ownership.”

Coming to see the dogs at the park is the closest Nuttika Mahamontre can get to having a dog. Her apartment complex doesn’t allow pets, so at least once or twice a week Mahamontre comes to Madison Square Park to see the dogs. For her, it is a type of therapy.

“I feel more relaxed seeing these dogs play,” Mahamontre, of Manhattan, said. “This is what makes me feel better.”

“Dogs are the one thing we all have in common here,” Wessler said, and Mahanmontre agreed.

“Even if they don’t have one of their own, everyone here has a love for dogs.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review of the Book "Prayer for the City"

In his book A Prayer for the City, author Buzz Bissinger initially describes Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell as “one of those people who seemed destined for one of two things in life—early success or an early heart attack.”

All signs point to early success.

Rendell is now 65-years-old, current governor of Pennsylvania, and has yet to have a heart attack. Before his time as governor, Rendell was the mayor of Philadelphia and Bissinger was given the journalist/author all-access pass to witness and document Rendell’s first term in the mayoral office.

Rendell may have accomplished a lot, but it wasn’t an easy journey. When he was sworn into office, he took on the challenge of getting the entire city out of a financial crisis, which we have seen is no easy task. He also had to work to keep the people of the city happy, including union and helping to keep people in work. Reading about the day-to-day life of Mayor Rendell gives a new appreciation for the work of a politician during a crisis.

But Bissinger doesn’t just profile Rendell directly. He includes details about other people near to Rendell to capture more about what his life entails.

A Prayer for the City introduces the story with successful lawyer David Cohen looking out over the city from his law office on January 5, 1992, the night before Rendell was inaugurated as mayor. Cohen worked towards becoming a lawyer for many years and spent the years following that practicing law with a major law firm, but resigned to go work as chief-of-staff for Rendell. Bissinger compares the lives and upbringings of Cohen and Rendell, really shaping a storyline between who they were before, who they are now, and who they become as a team. The comparison of the seemingly opposite men helps to create a better image of who they are as people, and helps the reader understand more about them.

Bissinger gives readers a first-hand insight to not just all of the technical workings of the mayor’s office running of the city, but the personal challenges and thoughts of the mayor. He reveals insider details of phone calls, press conferences, and discussions between office officials. He also illustrates the personal accounts of city residents that speak to the greater issues the mayor was faced with solving. As a journalist, Bissinger knows the power behind good details and including quotes of conversation to move the story along.

There is no denying that Rendell’s job, as mayor, was high-pressure. The reader may think the early heart attack is coming for the intensity Rendell faces when he personally lobby’s against President Clinton, but it’s just another battle that Rendell takes in stride.

Through Bissinger’s profiling of other people Rendell encounters, you see the mayor get more motivated to improve the lives of those living in the city, such as when he meets Jim Mangan, a father of six, at risk of losing his welding job, or Fifi Mazzccua, a woman raising her four great-grandchildren who visits her son in prison. Bissinger shows Rendell’s drive to fight for the greater problems these individuals represent.

Bissinger shows that Rendell had a successful first term in that he never gave up on his city. He worked to do what he felt would improve it, but even when the city was in trouble, he never stopped believing that the trouble was only temporary. Success comes in many forms and Bissinger’s account of the Philadelphia mayor is certainly one of them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine Clinics Help People Throughout New York

On a recent Saturday morning, a line of people, tracing around the block, waited to get inside Public School 290 in Manhattan. Some checked their watches, others flipped through the newspaper, but all of them waited to get protected against H1N1, better known as the swine flu, the most feared flu in a long time.

Lori Jackson was in line with her two children, Sarah, 7, and Michael, 9, but she was ready to give.

“This line is a joke,” Jackson said. “But I am happy that they are putting this together so we can try to stay not sick.”

Precautionary measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus, throughout the city by The New York City Health Department. They have set up temporary neighborhood clinics in all five boroughs, where the vaccine is offered for free.

In the beginning of November, The United States Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported almost 3,000 H1N1 flu cases and 91 deaths because of this strain of influenza, in the state of New York alone.

The swine flu has caused havoc in New York City schools because according to the CDC, children are a high risk to catch the virus. In May, 16 New York schools were closed and there have been a high number of absences this school year.

The city created a program to offer vaccinations to students at 1,342 schools. Students were given permission forms to take home to their parents in order to receive the free vaccine, which is offered as a nasal spray or injection.

The Health Department launched its public clinics on November 7, 2009. Health Department official Erin Brady said the clinic began as a way to distribute the vaccine to students from elementary schools who weren’t vaccinated by private providers or in their schools, as well as for middle and high school students wanting the vaccine.

“It’s good to get kids covered,” Jackson said. “They catch everything and pass it around.”

Teresa Martinez got her eight-year-old daughter, Rosa, vaccinated.

“We come to the park and I see the kids coughing and sneezing on each other,” Martinez said. “It is nice to know she is not going to get the swine flu from the germs.”

Brady said the community vaccination clinics did not reach capacity during the first weekend, so the Health Department decided to expand the allowed groups to more people.

Those who qualify to be vaccinated in the free clinics now include pregnant women, anyone who lives with or cares for children less than six-months-old, anyone between the ages of four and 24, and those who are 25 through 64-years of age and have underlying health conditions that increase risk of severe illness or complications.

“So many people I know have gotten sick because of this,” Nate Roberts, 33, who was in line to get the vaccine, said. “I am scared of getting super sick or dying because of the swine flu.”

Clinics will be moved around every weekend. The Health Department hopes that changing the location of the clinics each weekend will help encourage people to get vaccinated at a time when the location is closest to their neighborhood, saving time, money, and their health.