Portraiture & The Community
A collaboration between The Chocolate Factory Theater and Bard High School Early College Queens
A collaboration between The Chocolate Factory Theater and Bard High School Early College Queens
In partnership with Bard High School Early College Queens, The Chocolate Factory presents new work by student artists commissioned to create portraits of local community members.
Adam Lomasney – Assistant VP at NYC Economic Development Corporation
Artist: Li Chun Berkowitz
Adam Lomasney is an Assistant Vice President at New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), who focuses on transportation logistics and economic competitiveness. His job involves maintaining shipping networks—of which has a major impact on other businesses and local jobs—and finding solutions to problems that may include location, business, and perhaps the most challenging, financial expenses. Communication is also a prominent part of Mr. Lomasney’s job. Through many conferences, Mr. Lomasney has to ensure that both the transportation industry and the city’s community are satisfied. There are also many different agencies such as Port Authority, MTA, DOT, that coordinate with each other. That being said, between legal complications and making sure everyone is appeased, it can be extremely difficult to find one solution. No one likes having a highway or a warehouse next to where their home is, understandably. On the other hand, this makes it challenging to locate an area that fulfills both the community’s and industries’ expectations. To ensure efficiency, many sets of data are needed, which the majority are provided by the government. Sometimes however, this is not enough. By developing an intricate networking of different industries, not only can data be attained, but it also increases communication between companies. Though a very difficult job, it also is very rewarding. One of Mr. Lomasney’s favorite parts of his job is being able to visit sites all around NYC, and sometimes even around the country. He also enjoys meeting new people who work in the same, or a different, industry as he does. Further, Mr. Lomasney has played a significant role in the FreightNYC Plan. He explains how it is a plan to improve NYC’s maritime and rail access, reduce vehicle emissions, decrease the amount of trucks and diesel used, and more. Though it can take up to several years to finish, he believes that the outcome is well worth the wait. In the future, Mr. Lomasney hopes to have admissions raised, increase the amount of cars rather than trucks, and to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases. When interviewed, it was especially surprising to hear that one can purchase a single train ticket to go from Los Angeles to New Jersey, but must purchase three tickets to go from New Jersey to Long Island. During this time, the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought into light just how important transportation planning is. Mr. Lomasney attests, “transportation planning is more than just street geometry or pedestrian safety—it’s essential to maintaining and growing a healthy economy by ensuring that communities have equitable access to transit….” More now than ever, it has been shown how essential transportation and the supply chain influence our lives—something Mr. Lomasney proudly takes a part of.
Adrienne Verrilli – VP of Communication & Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Greater NY
Artist: Anita Rampersad
Adrienne Verrilli is the Vice President of Communication and Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. She is very passionate about women’s rights to choose what they can do with their bodies and so they can freely determine if they want to become a parent or not. She has learned about how institutional racism affects colored people and immigrants. She makes it her goal to ensure that everyone has access to affordable healthcare. Some highlights of her career is when President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act and millions gained access to health insurance. Another highlight is when a buffer zone was secured against anti-abortion protesters in San Francisco to protect patients’ ability to get into healthcare facilities and the Supreme Court striking-down a Texas law seeking to deny access to abortion in 2016. These events have drastically helped many women gain control over their bodies and give them a choice. Adrianne works in communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood. Her daily routine includes scrolling through twitter to see any news stories about sexual health. The marketing aspect of her job includes looking at patient numbers and a lot of video ads. This part of her job is a little chaotic because there is a lot of social media feedback on editing. This part of Planned Parenthood is very important because without ads most people do not know the resources available for them. During the pandemic Adrianne is tirelessly trying to make sure patients and staff are always safe. The use of technology during this difficult time is very important because it’s the way to make sure everyone is okay. Also during the crisis, her job is to help make sure that people know they still have access to healthcare and they are always a priority. Adrienne did not work at Planned Parenthood her entire life. She spent ten years after college working at a bank because she wanted to fit in and be normal. She later got laid off and decided she would never step foot into the banking business again and started her career in Planned Parenthood. She secured a full time position in 1998 and she uses her experience to encourage young people to be their “authentic selves, always, and to pursue a career that they are passionate about”. Outside her life at Planned Parenthood, Adrienne’s favorite spot in Long Island City is along the East River near Anable Basin. She likes to imagine how all the nooks along the river were used to create New York City. One of Adrienne’s favorite spots to dine and have fun in Long Island City is ‘Domaine bar a vins.’ Her favorite part about this place is that they play jazz music and she knows everyone there. Adrienne has two cats who she loves a lot. She likes to explore the city and try new restaurants. At home she and her husband Micheal love to have dance parties and they are really into politics.
Anthony Perez – restaurant owner of ‘Blend LIC’
Artist: Julia Chrzanowski
Anthony Perez is a restaurant owner who has been living in Long Island City for about 14 years and he loves the culture of the area. He is attached to LIC because of the fact that he has been here since before all of the skyscrapers were raised. The new buildings went up right before his eyes. He says it is really cool to have been able to see the area develop. Anthony was in the nightclub business before he went into the restaurant business and was doing really well. One day when he was around 23 years old, he had a meeting with another nightclub owner who had also owned a restaurant. He had told him that young people like them who are promoters are better restaurant owners than regular people because they bring life to the restaurants. That really resonated with him and after taking some time to think about it, he decided that restaurant ownership would be better in the long run. He tried to find a restaurant space in Long Island City without any experience, but when that didn’t work out he found another spot, which is where his restaurant stands today. ‘Blend LIC’ is a Latin fusion restaurant which he is deeply rooted in because his parents are from the Dominican Republic, and he grew up in Queens experiencing all different types of Latin food. Coronavirus has forced him to make some serious adjustments. When the pandemic began his restaurant was forced to close. Currently they are selling takeout, and interestingly, are even selling drinks to go.
Carolina Peñafiel – Executive Director at the Local Project & artist
Artist: Sarvia Sayed
Carolina Peñafiel runs the Local Project, an art space in LIC that brings artists together. Her favorite thing about work is meeting new artists almost everyday in a safe space that welcomes people of all backgrounds. She spends a day at work opening and cleaning up, mostly sitting at a desk space and answering emails. Running the gallery, she identifies with the actual space more than the art that they show but she values the artists that surround the space. While Carolina doesn’t involve herself with the artistry showcased in the Local Project, she makes her own personal artworks separate from work. Personally, Carolina started as an artist with photography documenting wherever she is. She then discovered sewing from her mom who was a seamstress in Chile. She then started an art project of her own using sewing and visuals where she has message boards such as “resilience” and “confidence” and sews into denim, creating jackets for sale. Carolina rarely shows her own art in the Local Project. Her mission at the Local Project is to be more administrative and make sure things run smoothly as a leader whereas her mission with her own art is to be personal for herself. A lot of her denim jacket projects involve plants, nature, fruits, and such. Carolina really enjoys tropical sceneries, has her own garden at home, and has a huge collection of plants in her studios in LIC. She has a love for nature and reflects that in the spaces she works, her home, and her own artwork. Regardless of how separate her personal connection to art is from her work life in an art space, in both ways art helps Caroline feel a sense of strength. She likes having control over her personal art and feels empowered and creative from seeing other artists at work. She feels inspired from the Local Project and the hard work that goes into the exhibitions and artistry. From the 20 years she spent in LIC working in LP, one important quality of work is how collaborative it is. The art space brings people to work together whether they’re creating the art that gets exhibited, curating, or running the space like her. The Local Project is a way for community art to represent projects in a center that unites and inspires, and Carolina, as a member, finds herself strengthened by this.
Daphne Always – performance artist
Artist: Ruby Gonzales
Daphne Overbeck is a New York based cabaret performer and the host of Monday night Drag Bingo at Bierocracy in Long Island City. She has hosted shows at performance spaces such as Joe’s Pub, and has won a Brooklyn Nightlife Award for best vocalist. Despite the fact that she doesn’t live in LIC, she considers herself a part of the community in part because of the connections that her weekly show has allowed her to make with other members of the community who, as she describes it, are “quite removed from […] the ‘drag scene'”. Her show allows people to connect with others who they would never have met otherwise, because of the shared experience of playing bingo together on a Monday night in LIC.
Dorothy Morehead – environmentalist & real estate broker
Artist: Matthew Au
Dorothy Morehead is a real estate broker and an environmentalist. Although she never really had a dream growing up due to lack of job opportunities for women, she does enjoy her job in real estate and is particularly fond of her volunteer work with the Environmental Committee of Community Board 2. In addition to her committee work, she also helps manage a garden in Astoria. During this COVID-19 shutdown, she hasn’t had much to do as long as real estate is concerned. However, as chair of the Environmental Committee of Community Board 2, she’s had several conference calls on issues pertaining to Newtown Creek. Her two different positions become apparent when you look at her clothing, as she dresses very casually when working with the creek, but has to dress up professionally when working in real estate. Her main issue with Newtown Creek or nature in general is regarding pollution, as she strives to help provide different areas with working waterfronts and a good use of water systems. Growing up, Dorothy Morehead was raised by parents who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves environmentalists, but were very much outdoor people. They were a scouting family and went camping every year, so as she says, “It’s kind of in my blood.” With her parents as scout leaders, she and her brothers would often tag along with them and participate in scouting camp cleanups. She credits her volunteering role a lot when talking about her role in saving the environment, but believes that everyone can play their part as well. She believes that individually people can’t really make an impact by themselves but collectively, they are responsible for global warming which contributes to wildfires, drought and other environmental problems such as ocean warming, which strengthens the intensity of hurricanes. Overall, Dorothy Morehead is a really interesting person who cares a lot about the environment and other people.
Eddie Cadiz – Community Board 1 member & artist
Artist: Paloma Simonneaux Lanoix
Eddie Cadiz was born and raised in New York City and currently lives in Astoria Queens. He received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and a Masters in Science of Education from Queens College. Eddie is a member of the Flushing Town Hall Arts Center and of Queens Council on the Arts. He taught art for 22 years to adults and children. In addition to teaching art, he travels around the world for photography and inspiration for his art. His favorite place he has travelled for work is Italy because he was inspired by the beautiful architecture and gardens. Eddie plays a big role in his community and has received several Outstanding Community Awards. Over the years he has served on many committees and represented his community with civic organizations. It is always his intention to improve the quality of life in his community through actively disseminating information on resources for marginalized groups and vulnerable individuals. His community continues to face issues of displacement and a lack of affordability. The area is being gentrified and inundated with hotels that quickly become homeless shelters rather than permanent housing for families and individuals. He and his wife continue to work to bring awareness to the needs of local residents among local representatives and city government. Schools, libraries, art and music in the schools and other important cultural institutions need to be fully funded to serve their diverse community. Eddie explained that during COVID-19, the distribution of safety items such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer initially did not reach a lot of people in Ravenswood. However, Eddie made it possible for there to be more distribution in his community.
Ellen Day – owner of BrickHouse Ceramic Art Center & craftsman
Artist: Anna Dudzinski
Ellen E. Day founded BrickHouse Ceramic Art Center in 2007. Before she was a small business owner, she was the Director of the Ceramic Department at the Craft Students League-YWCA/NYC. When YWCA/NYC closed down, she purchased the equipment and set out to look for a space of her own. She finally settled on a 4,000 square foot facility in Long Island City after searching for 18 months; Ellen named her space ‘BrickHouse’. Ellen is a trained ceramic artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from SUNY at New Paltz and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from CUNY The City College. She is a member of Long Island City Artists and participates in the Long Island City Arts Open. Ellen has also organized NYC ClayFest as well as two handmade bowl hunger-relief events, “LIC Empty Bowls” with Here’s Life Inner City and Manducatis Rustica. Ellen created BrickHouse to serve as a space for adults to relax and create art; the studio offers year round pottery classes and rents space to 65. Ellen was recognized by the LIC Partnership and named one of the Great Women Leaders of LIC in April 2019. She is currently on the board of the LIC Business Improvement District (BID) and involved with the LIC Partnership on the Retail Committee. Ellen feels that LIC has changed a lot since BrickHouse first opened in 2007. There were only 3 high rise buildings at the time; however, now there are many more. Rents have also gone up which makes it harder for artists to find spaces to create art. She also feels that LIC has grown as it now has more restaurants, apartments, and businesses. This, however, also resulted in an increase of traffic and made it harder to find parking. She also mentions that Long Island City Artists has grown and has a large gallery that was just a dream years ago. When Ellen first decided to open her studio, she was not taken seriously and found that men were not always supportive. She surrounded herself by other women with businesses as well as other people who her friends referred to her. She also joined the LIC Partnership and found that it was supportive and played a role in helping her find a space for her studio. Ellen also joined LIC Business Women which allowed her to be surrounded by other women with their own businesses. Ellen claims that “owning a business is hard work” but “if you are willing to put in the work, you can be successful.” Ellen also feels that owning a business is three times as difficult as having a regular job as she constantly has to think about how to make things better and how to make more money. Ellen’s favorite part of LIC is that although it has changed over the years, it continues to try to remain a friendly, local neighborhood. Another favorite of hers is the vibrant arts community in LIC. In addition to this, Ellen feels that people in Queens are much nicer than people in Manhattan. She likes that there are a lot of artistic events in the area and how the artists in the area work together to bring art to the community with street festivals, exhibitions and art walks. If Ellen could change one thing about LIC, she would change the way LIC plans development as she feels that building more apartments without thinking about the need for schools and public transportation, the effect on the environment, and the needs of the community does not have a positive impact on the LIC community.
Gil Lopez – community organizer & urban farmer
Artist: Shahed Chowdhury
Gil Lopez was born and raised in Florida. He has been interested in nature ever since he was 3 years old. At the tender age of 3 he watched an episode of Mr.Rogers which inspired him to tell his mom that he wanted to be a tree doctor when he grows up. This spark led to him to graduating college with a degree in landscape architecture and practicing for a few years. But then the 2008 housing bubble burst and changed his world. He started growing a garden in his front yard in Florida. This inspired his neighbors to also take to gardening. He had gotten involved with organic growers, permaculture and slow food/money folks in Orlando. But then he decided to move to NYC. His move was a spur of the moment, and he never really intended to stay in NYC for long. But one thing led to another and he decided to stay and co-founded Smiling Hogshead Ranch. Hanging up his hammock at the Smiling Hogshead Ranch is his favorite spot in LIC. He started a guerrilla garden, a non-profit, hosted field trips and community events in NYC, etc. He was a very different person when he moved to NYC back in 2010, and the Ranch had a lot to do with it. He provides the LIC community with a space for people to connect with others and the Earth. His Ranch’s slogan is “reclaim the commons and cultivate community”. The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society. This slogan represents Gil Lopez’s desire to bring about a change and beautify the commons that have become the bane of a community, to turn the park filled with junk where people go to deal drugs into a beautiful area filled with nature where families can come and enjoy. He wants to change the community in his own way by improving the commons that have been desolated not just for people but for the environment, animals, insects, microbes, etc. However, this ongoing pandemic has led to some unforeseen circumstances, as he was laid off from work. This gave him more time to contemplate life. In the LIC community, he feels that there isn’t a good conversation, much less solid actions being taken right now that would lead us to this pandemic being nothing more than an inconvenience towards the total exploitation of the Earth. But locally, he has seen some people continue to figure out how to deal with this pandemic through learning how to compost, visiting green spaces, going for walks, etc. While others are overwhelmed with the stress of this dramatic shift in their lifestyle. He sees his friends volunteering at soup kitchens, food and medicine delivery to elderly and vulnerable, mask making for neighbors and even recalibrating world class manufacturing facilities to rapidly prototype and start making a new kind of super efficient respirator at a fraction of the cost of normal ones. Gil and other members of the community have also worked double time to take food scraps from their neighbors for composting. This pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, but using this time, like Gil and many others have, to help the community, no matter how small the impact, is what makes a community a community. This sense of togetherness needs to help those less fortunate during this time. Though it may be hard to start up a conversation and take serious action in terms of the community, small steps lead to big changes. At a time where we are generally stuck at home, why not try new things to better help our environment?
Hans Baang – pastry artist at Bartleby and Sage
Artist: Sophia Schupp
Hans Baang lives and works in Long Island City. He is a pastry artist at Bartleby and Sage, a restaurant in Long Island City. He is an artist and believes that his work as a pastry chef allows him to express himself and be creative. His job provides “an outlet to explore and expand [his] creative skills through and by way of making cakes and pastries.” He truly loves his job and this is why he is so motivated and creative. When he creates pastries or other food he is creating art, as food is a form of art. It requires thought, care, and a creative, innovative mind to create food. Baang has a particular interest in baking and he enjoys the challenge that this form of cooking provides. He is interested in the precision and science behind baking. Another reason why he loves his job is the ever-changing aspect of it. Because he often has to cater to many clients’ needs, he is also thinking about how to satisfy their expectations which is not as straightforward as simply baking a preset recipe. Baang is passionate about food and the senses that others feel when they experience it. But to Baang, food is not only an art form but a “universal language”. Baang believes that food can create communities and bring families closer, and this is paramount to Baang who believes that the love he has for his family gives a sense of purpose to his life. In addition, his family gatherings growing up introduced him to the joy of cooking. Providing food is a way to show love, care, and support. In difficult times, as these are, food can have a profound impact. At Baang’s restaurant, they are providing meals to the community as a way of showing their gratitude for the support the community shows them. The community that Bartleby and Sage resides in, Long Island City, is an ever-changing place, with people from all backgrounds occupying it. Having lived in LIC for 7 years, Baang has seen vacant lots turn into apartments, and restaurants have come and go. In this constant movement and the exciting diverse place is a sense of peace and community that Hans has grown to love to work and live in.
Judy Yeh – jewelry designer
artist: Juliana Almodovar
Judy Yeh is a jeweler who has lived in Long Island City with her family for over 10 years and loves the community. She would not change anything about it and cannot think to live anywhere else. In the beginning, before creating her company, she always had an interest in creating fashion, especially jewelry. She majored in marketing and advertising and worked for Calvin Klein for a while. As a hobby, she made jewelry for her friends and family, who soon enough encouraged her to make this her full-time job. She began a pop-up for her own jewelry and it was a success! She soon became a stay at home mom with her two children, Hudson and Stella, who eagerly helped her with her jewelry and gave her some new ideas, despite how young they actually are. Working from home gave Judy the ability to give herself a flexible schedule as well as giving her a mental break, but also a creative outlet from the stress of running one’s own business. In addition to this, she has done much for her community like local pop-ups organized around the area. She enjoys bringing many local talented artists together in order to present their work. She believes it is important while living in such a diverse and gifted community to be able to “help each other and lift each other up.”
Lisa DiClerico – educator & multimedia artist
Artist: Daniel Kusik
Lisa DiClerico is a multimedia artist that restores and conserves fine furniture and creates specialized finishes for furniture. Lisa, with all the work cut out for her, still is an active part of her community in Long Island City. With her interior design skills and practices, Lisa worked to found LIC Market, an American farm to table restaurant, with her husband Alex Schindler. The two minds worked together as Lisa set to design the interior of the space and her husband being the head chef and bandleader. In 2017, Lisa began teaching Decorative Arts at Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School in Manhattan. This is a Title 1 DOE high school that was founded in partnership with the National Park Service to focus on Historic Preservation through four aspects of the Building Arts: carpentry, masonry, landscape management, and decorative finishing. Lisa teaches Decorative Finishing and leads the Career Technical Education Department. She finds that arts and working with hands are becoming lost over time, so stepping up to teach is natural to her. This and her appreciation for looking at the world in the scope of how things were made, create the backbone of her love for art and design. Her ties to Long Island City does not end there. Lisa grew up in Staten Island and lived there until she finished high school, went to college in Manhattan in the 90s, and lived in Williamsburg during that time. She then moved to LIC in the early 2000s but then moved around a bit, living in several different neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens before settling back into LIC in 2010 after opening her first studio in LIC in 2007. Her work as in restoration along with multimedia art creates an interesting dynamic for Lisa. In restoration, she meticulously and carefully works with antiques in order to fix and leave finishes that can be undone, in hindsight making it look like she was never there. Lisa, with her relationship with LIC, has formed and become a part of its community. LIC Market has been a huge component of that connection for the last 10 years. Things like the ability to collaborate with community members on creative projects and exhibitions only make the bond and support within the community stronger. This strong relationship with the community continues with the COVID-19 outbreak. She temporarily closed LIC Market in March and have been taking the shelter in place orders very seriously. A lot of our neighborhood interactions are happening through social media, text, and video conferencing. During this pandemic, Lisa describes that neighbors are looking after each other and helping in every way they can, whether it be dropping off groceries, quick check-ins, virtual happy hours, or sharing advice on how to apply to aid, grants, and loans. Her perseverance in her work translates to her determination through these hard times. A fitting quote from Lisa ties this all together. “The root of all these pursuits is a love of art and design. A compulsion to make and to learn.” – Lisa DiClerico
Memo Salazar – community organizer & filmmaker
Artist: Iman Khan
Memo Salazar is a community organizer who currently lives in Long Island City, Queens. Along with community organizing, one of his true passions is filmmaking and he currently works filming for Sesame Street. He will soon start working for a more philanthropic department for Sesame Street that produces content geared towards children who may be in very stressful circumstances such as being displaced in refugee camps and children that are living in war torn nations. He was inspired to officially become an activist in 2006 when he saw the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which was about global warming. Since then, some of the causes he has fought for include driving Amazon out of LIC, working to elect AOC and curtailing the effects of gentrification. Memo was born in Mexico, but spent the first ten years of his life moving around and living in between Mexico, Canada and the United States eventually settling down in a suburban town in Massachusetts. Although he says he was often the only Mexican kid in most of the schools he went to, he never felt targeted because of it, but he always felt different from his peers. One memory from his childhood that really stuck with him and influenced his desires to help struggling people was when he went on summer vacation to a beach in Acapulco and he saw the stark contrast between extreme luxury and extreme poverty which coexisted with one another. His family encountered a mother with children begging for food and so his mother bought a ton of groceries and made sandwiches for them. Memo says it’s hard for him to remain indifferent and tolerate suffering, for example someone asking for money or food on the train, however he also knows this is part of a much larger, systemic issue that he plans on fighting the rest of his life. As a child he didn’t really have the typical “hero” and even as an adult he still does not have many heroes, but one person he really admires is Henry Wallace, who was President Roosevelt’s Vice President during the Great Depression. He was the closest thing to a progressive at the time (who was robbed of the nomination) and he was honest and did not cave in to the dirty tactics used in politics which is why Memo admires him so much. Memo would love to travel and temporarily live in a multitude of places, like India, Istanbul, Berlin (which he has travelled to before), however in terms of permanent residence, Queens is still his favorite place. He loves his job and says he can’t complain because he’s very lucky to be able to live comfortably and do something creative along with community organizing.
Mitch Waxman – historian
Artist: Stone Reynolds
As a local historian, Mitch Waxman has studied the very existence of this progressive neighborhood since its formation in the 1800’s. Though for Waxman, living in Hunters Point has profoundly changed his understanding of how NYC came to form. Accompanied with numerous encounters with diverse cultural groups, he has learned a lot about the development of the city as well as the people who have inhabited it. Waxman further adds how most impressed he is in the variety of ethnicities LIC has to offer. Waxman shares his views of LIC as a multicultural community that’s composed of many different subgroups. Ranging from Turkish to Bosnian descent, he finds himself introduced to culturally different people every single day. Waxman is constantly reminded of the number of families who’ve emigrated overseas to take refuge in this particular region. Its manufacturing past, as well as its period of decline in residents, compels him enough to think deeply about why so many come to inhabit this place. When asked about the changes he’s witnessed within the community, Waxman has a definitive understanding of what LIC has become today. Considering its long history as an industrial town, he understands very well it’s a historically rich and broad area that’s misunderstood as being gentrified. With the influx of new residences LIC has received over the course of 30 years, Waxman is very proud of LIC’s diversity and its bustling rich history. Although he’s unsure of where the future will lead, Waxman remains hopeful and optimistic of its resurgence as a thriving neighborhood in Queens, New York. For this portraiture, his choice of colors are sea foam green, rusty red and a heavy saturated yellow. These colors represent the very essence of what he defines LIC to be.
Tzachi Slonim – clinical psychologist
Artist: Julie Wick
Dr. Tzachi Slonim lives in Long Island City, Queens with his wife and two children. Dr. Slonim has lived there for the past decade and loves the strong sense of community in the neighborhood. He notes fondly that he will always know someone in his local coffee shop, that he loves the other stores nearby, and that the florist in the flower shop close to him knows his son. Dr. Slonim and his family really began to get to know their neighbors when they had kids and met other parents and their children, and from there, they met more members of the community. He has seen the neighborhood evolve throughout the years with the construction of new buildings and development in the city. He notes that Vernon Boulevard is a lot busier than it used to be, and a lot of businesses have had to change to accommodate this growth around them. Dr. Slonim works as a clinical psychologist in New York City. His interest in psychology began when he got a job in his late twenties working with teen inmates. Dr. Slonim was previously a computer programmer but found that he connected with the field of psychology deeply, leading him to train in group facilitation and study to become a clinical psychologist. He enjoys that his job allows him to know and treat the same patients for years, learning about them in a deeper way and helping them through different stages of their lives. He also enjoys learning from his patients and learning from his own connection to therapy, stating that “personal growth is ongoing and never ends.” During the coronavirus epidemic, his life, like everyone else’s, remains altered. While he and his family stay home, he keeps in touch with his patients, moving his therapy sessions online. He finds it valuable to continue to see people during this difficult time and enjoys the aspect of normalcy that he can maintain through working from home.
Niasheem Bailey – barista
Artist: Aliya Macoon
For the LIC portrait project, I wanted to interview a barista since they see people who live and work in the area all day. With this, I got the chance to ask Niasheem Bailey some questions. When I asked how long he worked at the coffee shop, he said about a year and a half. He also said that he’s been working at coffee shops ever since she moved to NYC because he likes the atmosphere at most of them. I wanted to get a feel of the community so I asked what kind of people he sees throughout the day. He replied with, “It’s a mix of people. A lot of them are usually on the go since the train is a block away, but I’ve gotten to learn the area a little bit and while I don’t live in LIC, the area, and this shop, is about the community. Most of the people who come through, on the way to work or not, do generally live in this neighborhood and they do a lot of different things.” The people that are in his shop are passersby which makes sense because of how busy the area is. I figured that the orders that people get say a lot about them so I asked what drink he makes the most in a week. He said, “It depends on the day really. For obvious reasons, hot drinks in winter, opposite for summer. At Sweetleaf, we have signature drinks at our locations and signature customers. Lately with this whole virus going around, most people have been buying out whole beans and our rocket fuel cold brew but even then, most of our customers still buy a variety of our products.” This told me that people just tend to buy what the weather calls for and that people stocked up on the cold brew to get them through this quarantine. Lastly, I asked my favorite question which was “Who do you think LIC is made for (ex, families, the rich, businessmen)?” He replied with, “LIC is for the people. I love it here. We have a really dope community. There’s yoga, the comedy club is next door, 90% of the places here are locally owned and everyone is generally really good to everyone. And come to Sweetleaf. We have good coffee, great pastries, always chill music, and good vibes.” This was my favorite response and question because I like that he implies that LIC is for everyone and that there is something for everyone to do. I started our virtual interview by asking Niasheem how his life at Sweetleaf has been affected since this pandemic and he said that his customers that live in the area still come in and get coffee, so it hasn’t been affected too much. When talking to Niasheem he was telling me how his customers know he’s working from the music that he plays and that he has a great connection with them. He even said that one of his customers gave him a gift based on one of his favorite video games that he plays and shows them in the store. The community that he describes is a very warm and home-like one. I never thought that employees and customers could have a relationship other than that, but Niasheem connects with his customers and they do the same. He said that he knows his customers’ kids when they bring them in, and when I asked him if he had a favorite customer he said that he couldn’t choose one because they were all so great to him. This really showed me that Long Island City is not as busy and hectic as I thought it was and that regular customers do form bonds with workers in their area rather than a grab and go situation. One thing that I found interesting was how laid back Niasheem’s work environment is. He doesn’t have a “uniform” and he is allowed to play his music and video games while he works. I thought that was so cool because not only is it a great conversation starter for customers but it shows that Long Island City isn’t as black and white as I thought, but it can be laid back and fun. I always thought that LIC was a city for business people who are always on the run, or on the phone, or students just trying to get through the day, but I was very wrong.
Patrick Neal – painter & designer
Artist – MD Hossain
Since an early age, Patrick Neal, a graphic designer and still-life painter has always seen himself as an artist. He sees himself as an empathetic person while also being an advocate for the things he enjoys as well as having a connection with nature which he includes in his everyday art. Connecting with nature is one of the main things of his work as he collects items that he sees anywhere and everywhere and uses them as props for his paintings. Having a studio of 3 floors for 10 years back in the 90’s allowed Patrick to work on his craft since his early days. The LIC community has had an enormous impact on Patrick’s social life as some of his most favorite restaurants and bars are in this area. When Patrick was working as a graphic designer for Avon, a beauty and cosmetics company, he worked in an office. Falling in love with the movements of abstract expressionism, some of Patrick’s favorite painters include Cedric Morris, Katharine Murphy, and Chaim Soutine. Many of these artists have had an enormous impact on Patrick’s pieces as many of the movements involved in each of the pieces he created somewhat mirror some of these painters. Patrick’s favorite colors include earth tones, deep reds, permanent rose, and purple. Many of these colors seem to be profound in his work. This is Patrick Neal.