Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Adele Sarno

 

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Adele Sarno, 85, in her Manhattan apartment, where she has lived since the 1960s. Her landlord, the Italian American Museum, wants to evict her. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Adele Sarno

In Japan, Adele Sarno would be considered a Living National Treasure but in New York she’s being evicted. An 85 years old Italian-American woman is in the way of the expansion plans of the Italian-American Museum. How’s that for irony?

Two quotes for yesterday’s New York Times that sum up the issue:  (the complete article is below)

 “You’re fighting a museum that purports to exhibit Italian-American culture and then proceeds to evict a living artifact,” said Victor J. Papa, director of the  Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.

 “So the museum should be running a charity or providing residences at discount rates?” Joe Carella, the spokesman, asked. “That doesn’t match the mission.”

 

New York Times – 3/25/15

Museum in Little Italy Seeks to Evict a Living Link to the Past

By MIREYA NAVARRO

Adele Sarno’s father, a longshoreman, emigrated from Naples, and she grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy. As a child, she served as princess for the annual Feast of San Gennaro, she said, and one year was even crowned the queen.

Ms. Sarno eventually owned a candy shop and, later, an Italian products store below her family’s apartment on Grand Street until Sept. 11, when business dried up.

The number of people of Italian ancestry who live in Little Italy is shrinking by the year, and may soon drop by one more: Ms. Sarno, 85, is being evicted from her apartment after losing a fight to keep her $820-a-month rent from skyrocketing. But what has gotten tenant advocates’ attention is not just her age, but also the identity of the landlord: the Italian American Museum, which is in the building next door.

“You’re fighting a museum that purports to exhibit Italian-American culture and then proceeds to evict a living artifact,” said Victor J. Papa, director of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, an affordable housing group that has helped Ms. Sarno in her effort to stay. “That’s absolute hypocrisy.”

A spokesman for the museum said ethnicity had nothing to do with it. The museum owns a total of six apartments, including Ms. Sarno’s, in three contiguous tenement buildings at Mulberry and Grand Streets, and relies on the rental income to help pay expenses.

“So the museum should be running a charity or providing residences at discount rates?” Joe Carella, the spokesman, asked. “That doesn’t match the mission.”

Founded in 2001, the Italian American Museum is “dedicated to the struggles of Italian-Americans and their achievements and contributions to American culture and society,” according to the mission statement posted on its website. Ms. Sarno said she was indeed struggling, with a notice from the city marshal giving her only days to leave. She filed a request in housing court this week to halt the eviction.

“How could you throw old people out?” she said on Wednesday, sitting in her apartment, a mini-museum itself furnished with lamps, marble tables and ceramics from the old country. “I’m not going to be here that many more years. Let me die in my home.”

The players in the dispute have added a cultural element to one of the thousands of eviction cases in New York each year. In this case, Ms. Sarno’s two-bedroom unit could fetch five times the current rent in an area that, like many in the city, has become lucrative territory.

Ms. Sarno, whose only child, a daughter, lives in Wisconsin, wants to stay in the neighborhood where she was born by midwife. Her family, including two brothers, a sister and her parents, who eventually separated, all lived in Little Italy. She said she had moved to her current second-floor apartment, where her father was living, after her divorce in the 1960s.

Not much is left of Ms. Sarno’s Little Italy, now mostly a tourist magnet of a few blocks that has been overwhelmed by Chinatown’s sprawl. The 2010 census recorded not one neighborhood resident who had been born in Italy.

“My good friends all passed away,” she said. “I’ve got my television.”

She still counts on a few friends: the owner of the gun shop next door who takes out her garbage; the young couple upstairs who have a baby and pay $4,500 a month; an old boyfriend who drives her to a ShopRite on Staten Island to save on groceries.

Her doctors and the parish where she was baptized, Church of Most Precious Blood, founded in the late 1800s, remain within walking distance.

The museum moved to Little Italy from Midtown Manhattan in 2008, buying the three buildings for $9 million in order to expand. The recession halted those plans, Mr. Carella said, and the goal now is to find a developer to buy the buildings while allowing the museum to remain rent-free.

Ms. Sarno said she got a letter from the museum about five years ago saying that the rent was being raised to $3,500. With Social Security payments and help from relatives as her only sources of income, she said, she could not possibly pay that much.

With the help of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, she sought a determination from state housing officials about whether her apartment was subject to rent-regulation laws that would protect her. She learned it was not, and after several years of appeals and legal back-and-forth, the museum was allowed to the pursue eviction in November. The notice to vacate followed this month.

Described by neighbors as an independent woman who goes to bed early, wakes up in the middle of the night and cooks pasta in the wee hours, Ms. Sarno said that if she was forced out, her most viable option would be to join her daughter in Wisconsin, taking along her 19-year-old cat, Tosha.

“I don’t want to go there,” she said. “I don’t drive. I’d be stuck in the house 24/7.”

In an interview, Joseph V. Scelsa, founder and director of the museum, rejected the idea that the eviction was at odds with the institution’s mission.

Little Italy, he said, “is not a community of Italian-Americans any longer.” He said at some point the population that gave the area its name would disappear entirely, but that “the legacy would still remain because we have an institution that does that.”

Other promoters of Italian-American culture saw the irony in the situation.

“I would hope they can find some sort of solution for her,” said Anthony Tamburri, dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College, where Dr. Scelsa once served as director. “The thought of an 85-year-old having to move to Wisconsin is unsettling to be sure.”

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Ms. Sarno was queen of the Feast of San Gennaro in 1945.

Link to New York Times article – click here

Cast Iron

20150220_103805 Cast Iron

Cast iron is one of the oldest and best materials for cooking. If seasoned properly it’s as non-stick as any of the modern coated pans. It holds heat well and spreads it evenly and can be used both on the stove or in the oven. If you get a new one that’s not pre-seasoned, it’s simple enough to season it yourself. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat the cooking surface of the pan with a thin layer of Crisco and put it in the oven, upside down, for 1 hour. Put a foil covered baking sheet under it to catch any drippings. Let it cool in the oven for about another hour and it’s done. If it’s sticky, heat it for another ½ hour. If it’s not an even coat, do the whole process again. Sound like a lot of work? Don’t worry because you’ll only have to do it once.

To clean it after use you usually have to just wipe it with a wet sponge (no soap) and if anything sticks, simply fill it with hot water and let it soak for a while then clean it with a brush, never steel wool. Dry it and it’s ready for its next use.


 

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ten inch pie pans with handles

My daughter, Kristina recently gave me a new pan. At first I thought it was just a decorative cast iron serving platter and although it’s attractive, it turns out that it’s also very utilitarian. It’s creator calls it a “ten inch pie pans with handles.” I don’t often bake pies but so far I’ve used it for chops, omelets and skillet corn bread. It’s lighter than my standard 10 inch cast iron pan, it makes a better serving presentation and it came pre-seasoned – a big plus. It’s made by Marsha Trattner, an artist-blacksmith in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  She makes other things in addition to pans. Take a look at her web site:  She-Weld.com skillet corn bread


One last cast iron utensil… I got it at a flea market for $20.  A Dutch oven old enough to probably have been used in a fire place. Not very pretty and extremely heavy, it’s still the greatest for stews.

Dominic

Liguria poster

My grandfather Dominic came to America in 1905. He traveled from Reggio di Calabria to Naples where he boarded the Liguria which brought him to New York. The voyage took two weeks and the ship held 1050 passengers. 50 1st and 2nd class on the upper decks and 1000 immigrants in steerage class on a deck just below the water line. I found this picture of his ship on the Ellis Island database .

Liguria
Liguria

I also got to see the page of the ship’s manifest that he was listed on. It indicates that he had $30.00 when he arrived in the USA. The minimum an immigrant had to have to enter the country at that time was $25.00. He sold Italian groceries and fruit. My mother grew up living over the grocery store at 282 Mott Street in New York’s Little Italy.

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Dominic Lofaro