Thursday, May 15, 2008

New York City's IMAGE, peeled like an onion, in its fifth issue, shows how New York City is obsessed with image - both personal and public.

ur reporters uncovered the places where perception and reality conflict. We probed the boundary between where a person's image ends and where his or her identity begins.

We caught New Yorkers stealing glances at themselves in plate glass windows and half-empty subway cars. We watched them pluck the most healthful-looking products from grocery shelves and apply makeup before begging for a job. We listened to they way they cheered for presidential hopefuls and examined foreign lands and unfamiliar cultures.

In 11 stories, our reporters uncovered the places where perception and reality conflict. We probed the boundary between where a person's image ends and where his or her identity begins.

As the issue unfolded over the last month, we began to see the world as a series of images cascading, one behind the other, layers of an infinitely complex onion that as reporters, we had pledged to peel.

We canvassed Staten Island, lost tapes of DMC of Run DMC rapping against domestic violence and for NYC24, gawked at hot pants, flirted with getting a Mohawk, learned how to scrum and nearly fainted while filming eye surgery.

We hope you enjoy digging beneath the image of NYC.

Lisa Biagiotti
, Executive Editor & Lizzie Stark, Managing Editor

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Slant on Asian Eyelid Surgery Debate

Asian Eyelid surgery is the most popular and fastest-growing cosmetic surgery in northeast Asia — and among Asian-Americans. The surgery adds a crease and makes the eyes look bigger by slicing the eyelid open and fusing the muscle with the skin.

But the procedure has been sensationalized in the media. For example, a Dr. Phil's episode, "Change My Face, Change My Race," claims that Asians are trying to “erase” their ethnic identity.

Almost half of all northeast Asians are born with an eyelid fold, which has long been considered more beautiful in Asia, according to Dr. Edward Kwak, a plastic surgeon.

Doctors and patients say they’re simply improving physical appearances, and that many Americans don’t understand a surgery that is commonplace among young women in South Korea and growing in China and Japan. If done well, meaning that the eye looks proportional to the patient’s face, the surgery is no more extreme than nose jobs or breast implants, some said.

"Asian Eyelid Surgery Sparks Debate" by Karen Zraick is a multimedia story that appears in the Image issue of The story also goes into the operating room to document the 30-minute procedure with Dr. Edmund Kwan, who has offices in Manhattan and Flushing. (Warning: Graphic content)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Felipe Ramirez, Citizen of Mexico and Clinton Supporter

Felipe Ramirez is a Mexican citizen and lives in Corona, Queens. Although he cannot vote in the U.S., he is an enthusiastic Clinton supporter and has volunteered for the campaign by distributing fliers and speaking to parents of Hispanic children in area schools. He is one of a sizable number of people who are ineligible to vote but who this year have been motivated to support presidential candidates in the 2008 election. See the full story at

Felipe Ramirez from Channtal Fleischfresser on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clowns don't goof around on environment

The Green Circus is coming to Astoria this weekend!

Through skits and tricks, the Green Circus, a troupe of clowns, artists and teachers, aims to help create a new generation of environmentalists who will value renewable and recyclable resources, and detest power plants and other polluters.

Their motto is “saving the planet one clown at a time.” Like similar acts, the group seeks to perform in every bit of open space, hoping their pro-green acts will tickle children pink.

“It’s not like we do this Power Point presentation that Al Gore is standing in front of,” said Ezra Silverman, one of the members of the Green Circus troupe, referring to Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

This brand of clowning provides a comic counterpoint to the environmental doomsday books and documentaries with laughter.

Green Circus Shows:

Saturday, April 26
12 to 4 p.m.
Dope Swan and The Green Circus Present
“How to Build a Community”
Earth Day in Rainey Park
33-01 Vernon Boulevard, Astoria Waterfront

Saturday, May 3
1 to 4 p.m.
“Green Circus Rock it in Rockaway”
Beach 29th Street @ the Boardwalk
Far Rockaway

Clowns tackle environmental causes, tickle audiences
is a multimedia story produced by Sydney Beveridge, Dave Burdick, Tom Davis and Matthew P. Moll for the Hijinks issue of

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nerdy Games Rock Bars

If you're longing to re-do the time you were ousted in that grade-school spelling bee, pulverized in debate class, or left in outer orbit in Solarquest (my childhood favorite). Now is your second chance. And you can play games while sipping cocktails in bars!

Board games, spelling bees, debates and quiz nights are already standard fare during off-peak nights in New York City bars, but attendance to bar games has become more popular with the rise of online game playing. Web sites like and Yahoo Games, which feature online versions of classic board games and new online gaming applications like Scrabulous, have revitalized interest in playing games in real life, or at least made them cool enough to headline nights at local city bars.

Did you know that "hijinks" is the only word in the English language with three consecutive dotted letters? Super nerdy. For more, check out Nerdy Games Rock Bars, a multimedia story produced by Lisa Biagiotti and Lauren Feeney for the Hijinks issue of

Most of the nerdy bars we found are in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Are there any intellectual games in Queens' bars?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Mayor of Strawberry Fields

Ayrton dos Santos, Jr., is known by many as Gary and by some as the Mayor of Strawberry Fields. He has been decorating the memorial to John Lennon in Central Park on and off for the last 15 years, and steady for the last six years, he says. He grew up both in Manhattan and Queens, briefly attending Forest Hills High School. Today, he creates peace signs out of flowers, which he places on the circular memorial at 72nd Street and Central Park West. He frequently shares his knowledge of the site with visiting tour groups, which gather in a circle around the memorial site. Last week, he received a ticket from the Central Park police for public assembly. Watch the video, produced by Channtal Fleischfresser:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Flux Factory Flaunts Final Show in LIC

Last night, Flux Factory, an artist collective in Long Island City, unveiled its final exhibition,"Everything Must Go." Art installations spread out across bathrooms, bedrooms, and even the laundry room of this 7,500 square-foot space, which is set to be demolished to make way for MTA expansion.

Lisa Biagiotti and Kenan Davis produced and edited the following video on Flux Factory's opening night, which marks a month-long goodbye to 38-38 43rd Street.

Flux Factory began as an art community in Williamsburg in 1994. The community moved to Long Island City in 2002 and currently has 18 artists-in-residence. The building will be demolished to make way for the MTA's East Side Access Project. While this is the last exhibition, artists are scheduled to move out sometime during the summer.

Friday, April 4, 2008

City Picklers revive local food, one pickle at a time

City Picklers: Reviving local food, one pickle at a time, has launched its multimedia website.

In the age of pre-packaged, processed food, who would bother to take the time to pickle? But in New York City, mason jars bubble over on home counter tops, hand-crafted pickles line the aisles of gourmet grocery stores and fermentation newbies are raising glasses to salute the pickle. is a website devoted to New York pickles--in all varieties, including vinegar, lacto-fermented, Jewish, Indian, Chinese, and so on. Every culture has its pickle, and we found that pickling still thrives in the historic pickle district on the Lower East Side, in ethnic enclaves of the outer boroughs, in farmer's markets and in pickling classes.

Through multimedia and text, tells the story of:
  • new pickling businesses and the local food culture surrounding home and artisinal pickling, including interviews with Rick Field of Rick's Picks, and Al Kaufman of the Pickle Guys
  • the benefits of pickling and ancient traditions of lacto-fermentation, including interviews with fermentation expert, Sandor Ellix Katz
  • how-to make the crunchers, with instruction by hipster pickler Bob McClure of McClure's Pickles and Inside Park chef Matt Weingarten
The site is best viewed in the Firefox browser.

We'd like to thank the more than 70 chefs, cookbook authors, historians, purveyors and picklers we interviewed over the last six months.

Happy pickling!

Lisa Biagiotti and Lizzie Stark

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who are the women behind the wheel?

Johanna Gomez, Humera Mian, and Maria Helena Hormaza have two things in common. They all live in Queens. And they all drive N.Y.C. yellow cabs.

Johanna holds a degree in Digital Filmmaking and is driving to pay off her loans. Humera is a single mom from Pakistan who drives in order to support her five children. Maria Helena left an international merchandising business to be closer to her family in New York and now drives a cab.

Female drivers make up 155, or 0.3 percent, of the 45,900 licensed drivers in the city. Most women would shy away from such a stressful line of work in such a male-dominated industry. What is it about these women that led them to decide to drive cabs?

"Women in Transit," seeks to answer that question, focusing on Johanna, Humera, and Maria Helena. Meet these women at

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gay Immigrants Find Safe Space in New York

Gay immigrants who come to the United States often do not know they have an option to apply for asylum based on persecution from sexual orientation.

One resource for many of these immigrants is the Aids Center of Queens County, or ACQC, which serves 5,000 people infected with HIV in eight locations throughout Queens.

ACQC's services and food and clothing pantries are not limited to those infected with HIV, but are open to all in need, including gay asylum seekers, according to executive director, Phil Glotzer.

Today, immigrants fleeing persecution are applying for asylum in fewer numbers as deportation rates are increasing. Heightened immigration controls have made it harder for immigrants to obtain visas, and many who are eligible do not apply for asylum because they fear being deported if their application is rejected.

Seven years ago, Dane Solomon fled his native country of Guyana, leaving his son and family, never to return. In the years since, he suffered a stroke, beat brain cancer, and coped with HIV, poverty and the uncertainty of being undocumented in New York.

"I lived in constant fear that I would not be able to put up this facade," Solomon said. "Knowing who you are inside and pretending to be somebody else takes everything from you."

We tell Solomon's story, Dane Solomon is No Longer Afraid, in the Space Issue of The multimedia story presents videos and resources on U.S. asylum trends and the challenges facing immigrants within the LGBT community.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

People Die, Stuff Lives
Ridgewood, Queens

People die every day in New York City. But what happens to the stuff they leave behind?

In a warehouse in Ridgewood, Queens, Nick DiMola of DiMola Bros. Rubbish Removal has curated a personal museum of other people's junk. Decal signs, gold teeth, receipts from the 1930s, crutches, wedding portraits and a menagerie of pre-1970 memorabilia blanket every surface of his office.

From this junk collection to the thrift store shelves, objects take on new lives in the wake of their owners' death. They find homes in hipster living rooms, immigrant kitchens and even the developing world. These objects have also become the muse of artists, breathing some heart and soul into their creations.

People Die, Stuff Lives by Lisa Biagiotti and Kenan Davis is a multimedia story that traces the places objects go before reaching their final resting place in landfills. Below is a video profile of DiMola.

Please visit for other multimedia elements to this story. The print story was also cross-published in the Queens Tribune.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Artist Finds His Niche Teaching Kids

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...the future of America!"

The voice of teaching artist Andrew Ronan booms unexpectedly from the cavity of his wiry frame.

Ronan, 32, is working with 17 high school juniors from the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights to create a 40-minute performance addressing incoming freshman fears of hazing, sexual pressures, drugs, and gangs. The ran January 10 and 11 at Queens Theatre in the Park.

"[Teenagers] have a voice worth hearing," said Ronan, a native of Jackson Heights, who encourages teenagers to validate their thoughts and feelings through artistic expression. "We actually care about who they are and what they think.”

Students Katia Roma and Daniel Laverde summon Ronan over as they discuss a character named Ivie "Ghetto" Rivera. As he scrunches down to listen, they brainstorm about her insecure body image, why people can't pronounce her name correctly and the details of her personal history.

"We wouldn't be as far as we are right now personally and as a group [without Ronan]," said Laverde, 17, who has been working with Ronan for two years. "It's a challenge, it's more than reading. What you write comes from your heart [but] you're not afraid to express yourself."

This story was published in the Queens Tribune.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Living The Hip-Hop Life In Corona, Queens

At first glance, a high-end urban lifestyle boutique seems out of place above the Kennedy Fried Chicken on Junction Blvd. in Corona.

The wafting odor of fried chicken and the high-pitched sounds of electronic toys of the Chinese wholesaler next door could easily distract from what’s in between: a minimalist 10-foot-wide brick wall painted black.

Two brass-potted shrubs flank the glass entrance, and except for a black-and-white flag on the building’s second floor, All the Right boutique is almost invisible.

Owner George Landin said All the Right has transitioned from a record store with a recording studio and barber shop to a high-end apparel boutique in accordance with hip-hop’s four elements: DJ (disc jockey), MC (Master of Ceremonies), B-boy (break dancer), and graffiti.

Since 1998, All the Right has been a fixture in this working-class, mostly Latino neighborhood, attracting local rappers and graffiti artists and generating buzz by word of mouth as far away as Japan. Landin, who grew up in Corona, is now in the process of expanding All the Right’s vision and vibe to Los Angeles where he is scheduled to open another store in late February.

This story was published in the Queen's Tribune.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Handball: All it Takes is a Dollar and a Wall

Video by Lisa Biagiotti and Michele Wilson

It’s easy to find a ball and a wall in Elmhurst.

On any mild day at CC Moore Homestead Park on Broadway and 45th Avenue, teenagers play handball, smoke cigarettes and hang out. Because of limited park space, handball is a popular recreational sport in the neighborhood. Outdoor handball courts empty out during colder months when hands begin to sting from slapping the ball.

But serious handball players take the sport indoors and train at the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard, as part of a new Elks’ membership initiative. These players credit handball with keeping them out of trouble, and several players have become nationally ranked by the United States Handball Association (USHA), in Tuscon, Ariz., where officials recognize Elmhurst players by their first names.

This story was published in the Queens Tribune.