New York

Kiwanis Aktion Clubs Converge on Rochester

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Volunteers from across New York descended on Rochester to share their ideas at the Kiwanis Aktion Club statewide conference this October.  Lifestyles’ own Kiwanians were among the groups represented who talked about leadership, their club activities, and why they give their time.

“Kiwanis Aktion Club members serve their communities,” explained Eric Schwacke.  “We’re here to serve. What can I can say – it’s a family.”

“With all that the Aktion Club members do, it’s a great feeling,” said Dennis Gable, advisor to the Staten Island contingent. “I’m very happy to be a part of it and to be involved with Lifestyles Aktion Club.”

Lifestyles was represented by Eric Schwacke, William Bush, Michael Cilmi and new member Kenneth Tobin, along with staff advisors Paula and Edward Gregory.  

This year, the Lifestyles group collected toys for children, raised money at a 60’s dance to send people to Kamp Kiwanis, and gave clothes and holiday gifts to residents of Project Hospitality. Other Aktion Clubs at the conference included Ontario County, Newark, Waterloo, Brighton, Brockport, and Gates.  The state clubs also conducted bake sales, clothing drives, arts and craft supply collections, car washes, disaster relief packages, and more.

The Gregorys made the most of crossing 300-plus miles of the state. They guided the four young men to some of the highlights of Central New York, taking in Lake Ontario, the Rochester Museum of Science and the Corning Museum of Glass.

The Aktion Clubs are Kiwanis groups of people with disabilities volunteering to support others.  There are more than 500 Aktion Clubs with more than 12,000 members worldwide.

  • Article by Eddy Gregory with Eric Schwacke and Meredith Arout.
  • Photography: Eric Schwacke
  • Video: Michael Cilmi, reporter, Eddy Gregory, producer.

Mount Loretto Trails Open to All

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Ribbon cutting. Photo: Michael Cilmi for Life-Wire News Service.

On a clear and warm first day of Autumn, Joseph Padalino cut the ribbon to new accessible

trails at Mount Loretto Unique Area. Flanked by the politicians and officials who made it all possible, Padalino let out a whoop of delight.  

“I think it’s a very good park for people with disabilities like me,” observed Padalino, who uses a wheelchair. “It’s a very tranquil place to meditate. People feel at peace in that park.”

Padalino attended with a contingent of participants and staff from Lifestyles for the Disabled, one of a number of organizations represented, including Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and the Independent Living Center.

“When we build a trail to be accessible, it’s for everyone,” Carole Fraser, Universal Access Coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), told Padalino. “It isn’t only for people with disabilities, it’s for people with small children in strollers. It’s for older adults and everyone to come and enjoy these spaces together.  Everyone can come and be more accepting of each other.”

Steve Zahn, Regional Director for the DEC, thanked State Assemblymen Ron Castorina, Jr. and Michael Cusick; Ed Burke, Staten Island Deputy Borough President; and NYC Parks officials for their efforts to improve the Pleasant Plains park.

Ed Burke, Deputy Borough President. Photo: Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service.

The festivities took place on a long, wide gravel path flanked by mowed grass and goldenrod.  The program was followed by a walk down the path to a deck on a bucolic pond where everyone can enjoy the ducks and, when there is more water, some fishing.

“Did you know that Staten Island has 12,000 acres of parks and natural areas,” Burke told reporter Anthony Pabon. “That’s a third of Staten Island.  So we’ve done a great job of protecting parkland and natural areas like this.”

In addition to the trail at Mount Loretto, improvements in access at New York State parks in the area also include amenities at Butler Manor Woods, North Mt Loretto State Forest and Lemon Creek.

Rachel Chernock, Lifestyles for the Disabled. Photo: Joseph Padalino for Life-Wire News Service.

”We have everything here, deer, raccoon, woodchuck, skunk,” Ray Matarazzo of the Protectors of the Pine Oak Woods told reporter Rachel Chernock. “The big thrill of the day was the bald eagle.  They’re always soaring overhead.”

Mount Loretto Unique Area is at 6450 Hylan Blvd. on Staten Island.  Call 718.482.4942 for information.

  • Rachel Chernock, Anthony DiCostanzo, Anthony DiFato, Kareem Ellison, Steven Filoramo, Anthony Kefalinos, Andrew Moszenberg, Anthony Pabon, Joseph Padalino, Dolores Palermo, and Gregory Perosi with Kathryn Carse and Edward Gregory.

Read “A facelift for state lands: More accessible trails, walkways, parking” at

Watch “Department of Environmental Conservation Improves Access to Parks on Staten Island” on


10 Parks That Changed Staten Island

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Gas Works Park credit Matt Hagan 4 (1)
Gas Works Park, Seattle, WA. PBS Photo. Credit: Courtesy of Matt Hagan

From Savannah to Seattle, PBS explores 10 Parks That Changed America, premiering Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 8:00 p.m. ET.  A panel of viewers previewed the show and discussed which parks in Staten Island were influenced by the 10 green spaces featured in the program.  Here are their thoughts:

  • Colonial Squares in Savannah, GA – Veterans Park, Port Richmond

Veterans Park is resembles Savannah’s Colonial Squares because has town buildings around a public square.  It is not as old as the colonial parks, but it is Staten Island’s oldest, built in 1836.

Silver Lake is part of our water supply.  Staten Island’s first New York City park, opened in 1917, with water from the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, NY.  Like Fairmount Park, water is pumped up hill to the park and it feeds the Island from there.

You can walk around nature.  It’s a good place to think about how the people buried in the cemetery are in a better place.  You can get away from your sadness and enjoy the park, just like Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Staten Islander Frederick Law Olmstead built both Central and Clove Lakes parks in the English landscape tradition where everybody could come together and enjoy views that open up like landscape paintings.

  • Chicago Park System, Chicago, IL – Walker Park, Livingston

Walker Park is part of the New York City Parks and Recreation system.  The park was previously home to the Staten Island Cricket and Tennis Association before it was transferred to the parks department.  The field house is like the ones that originated in Chicago so people could enjoy the parks and activities all year round.

  • Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX – The Bluebelt, various south shore wetlands
    (Shown: Lemon Creek)

Like Texas’ Riverwalk, The Bluebelt helps keep flooding to a minimum.  It is different from Riverwalk because it uses the natural environment helps redirect and absorb water away from homes.

Lemon Creek Park is part of the Staten Island Bluebelt system. Photo: Andrew Moszenberg for Life-Wire News Service, 2015.
  • Overton Park, Memphis, TN – The Greenbelt, various contiguous mid-island green spaces

You can get away from the congestion of Staten Island. Like Overton Park, local activists saved the green spaces that became The Greenbelt from highway development.

  • Freeway Park, Seattle, WA – Staten Island Expressway

There is no existing park to compare to Freeway Park in Seattle.  There is an opportunity to build a park behind Petrides School in Todt Hill that would connect the Greenbelt to Clove Lakes Park.  People of all abilities would be able to use the paths to get from the North Shore of Staten Island as far as Great Kills in a system of connected parks.

Fresh Kills was a natural marsh and wetlands before it was turned into a landfill in 1948, ultimately becoming the world’s largest dump. With the remains of the World Trade Center, Fresh Kills is sacred ground. The new Fresh Kills Park has bicycle paths, a September 11 memorial, and even restored oyster beds.

  • The High Line, New York, NY – The North Shore Branch
    (Shown: Heritage Park, West New Brighton)

The North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railroad ran from Arlington to St. George but is now abandoned.  It could be made into a duel function park and rail system.  If extended, it could connect to the old Nassau Smelting facility on Staten Island’s south shore, combining rails and trails together with views of the industrial waterfront and the harbor as part of the North Shore Waterfront Greenway.

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Heritage Park, part of the North Shore Waterfront Greenway. Photo: Gregory Perosi, for Life-Wire News Service, 2015.

-Written as a group, including Joseph Padalino, Steven Filoramo, Dolores Palermo, Meredith Arout, Gregory Perosi, Anthony DiFato, Jonathan Chernock, Andre Fitzgerald, and others, edited by Edward Gregory.


59th New York Emmy® Awards

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The New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presented the 59th Annual New York Emmy® Awards on Saturday, March 19th at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square.   Life-Wire News Service correspondent Eric Schwacke and photographer Meredith Arout were on hand to capture the moment.

Rally for Direct Care Workers

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Across New York State direct care service providers, self-advocates, and their families gathered to support a $15 minimum wage for direct care workers at rallies organized by the Coalition of Service Providers. Outside the New York City office of Governor Andrew Cuomo supporters rallied on Friday, March 11, 2016 to have their voices heard together.  The following photos by Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service captured the event.

Watch our rally coverage:

Keeping the Promise: SIDDC Breakfast

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The Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council’s Annual Community Breakfast: “Keeping the Promise: It Matters to Us” was held February 26, 2016 at The Vanderbilt in South Beach.  NYS Senator Diane Savino and NYS Assembly Representative Nicole Malliotakis heard the concerns of advocates for and families of people with disabilities.

Life-Wire News Service’s Meredith Arout photographed the event and filed the following video report.

Next, we will post the keynote presentation at the SIDDC Breakfast:   Murray Schneps, author of “I See Your Face Before Me,” a personal account of his experience of having a child enrolled in Willowbrook State School, discusses his concern that New York State may return to the institutional system.

FTL MODA at NYFW: Fashion w/o Boundaries

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This year’s runway trends were diversity and inclusion at the February 15, 2016 FTL MODA show with models Madeline Stuart, Tiffany Tennille, Shaholly Ayers, Fausto Di Pino, Rebekah Marine, Dionne Michelle, and others. The show featured fashions by Josefa DaSilva, LuLu et GiGi, Dunyah, Adolfo Sanchez, Dear Rain, Mr. Decurtis, and FuMo Bespoke.  Life-Wire correspondents Meredith Arout and Eric Schwacke spoke with musicians Chris Reeder and Meredith O’Connor, Josefa, Dionne and Fausto for their thoughts on this extraordinary fashion event.

Madeline Stuart (left) and Fausto Di Pino (right).  Photo: Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service.



Inclusion in Fashion II: FTL MODA Runway Show

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Last night, FTL MODA presented the latest fashions in their trademark inclusive runway show for this season’s New York Fashion Week.  The show at the Lower East Side’s Angel Orsensaz Foundation.  Top models who exemplify inclusion came of for the event, including Madeline Stuart, Rebekah Marine, Shaholly Ayers, Fausto Di Pino, and others. Life-Wire’s Meredith Arout captured the show in the following photography set.


All photos by Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service.

S.I. MakerSpace: Building Dreams

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Join us behind the scenes at Staten Island MakerSpace, where dreams are built.  Co-Founders Scott Van Campen and D.B. Lampman discuss the work that is happening at their location in Stapleton.  We also talk to designer/engineer Mike Buffington about the rhytmicon he is building at MakerSpace.

Sen. Lanza Responds to SIDDC Rally

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The Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council (SIDDC) took their message to legislators across Staten Island on Friday, January 29. Here is their exchange with Senator Andrew Lanza outside his office in Eltingville. Organizing the event was Michael Wienberg, SIDDC Chair, with Barbara Devaney and Donna Long, advocacy co-chairs.
You can add your voice to their call for housing for people with developmental disabilities and increase salaries for direct care workers by sending a letter to
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Mayor Bill De Blasio
City Hall
NY, NY 10007.

Covering the story for Life-Wire News Service:

Meredith Arout

Steven Filoramo

Joseph Jones

Dolores Palermo

with Megan Welch and Edward Gregory

Produced by Joseph Maturi