Covering B.P.C., March 21, 2013

Gus Oranitsas, resident manager of Liberty Court and a TimeBank member, with Donna Rothkopf and a plate of spanakotiropita — spinach and feta cheese pie — that he showed TimeBank's "foodie" club how to make. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

Gus Ouranitsas, resident manager of Liberty Court and a TimeBank member, with Donna Rothkopf and a plate of spanakotiropita — spinach and feta cheese pie — that he showed TimeBank’s “foodie” club how to make. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer.


TimeBank’s “foodie” club:
Gus Ouranitsas’ face naturally breaks into a smile. And on March 17, everyone who was lucky enough to be in his Battery Park City apartment for a Greek food fest and cooking lesson was smiling with him.

Ouranitsas welcomed them with wine, cheese, olives and fruit and then spent several hours showing them how to make spanakotiropita (spinach pie with feta cheese), tztatziki (yogurt with garlic and cucumber) and other delicacies. He played the bouzouki for his guests, opened a bottle of mastic liqueur from the island of Chios, and told them about Volos, the town in central Greece where he was born. Then everyone sat around his dining table to eat the food they had helped to prepare and to drink some more wine.

Ouranitsas came to the United States when he was seven years old, and to Battery Park City in 1987, when he became resident manager of Liberty Court at 200 Rector Place — a position that he has held ever since.

He and his guests are members of TimeBank, a program sponsored and run by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Members of TimeBank give an hour of service to another member for each hour of service they receive. In addition to cooking lessons such as Ouranitsas was proffering, services might include help with moving, tutoring, home repairs, computer lessons, sewing, pet care and more.

Three months ago, TimeBank started a “foodie” club that has been meeting since then in the apartment of a different member each month. At the first session, the members learned how to make Chinese dumplings under the tutelage of Cici Hu. The following month, they had a lesson in how to make baklava.

The host teaches how to prepare a dish of his or her choice. Attendees pay the expenses for materials — so far, around $5 each — but other than that no money changes hands for this or for any other TimeBank activities.

In addition to the “foodie” club, TimeBank sponsors a tai chi class every Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. conducted by TimeBank member Mark Song. This summer, Sheldon Palgon, an ear, nose and throat doctor who is also an avid astronomer, will begin bringing his high-powered telescope to the Battery Park City esplanade on a regular basis so that TimeBank members can see the rings of Saturn and the craters of the moon.

To participate in these activities, it is necessary to be a member of TimeBank, which currently has around 75 members in Battery Park City. Joining entails completing an application, providing references and participating in an orientation session. For more information, email Mashi Blech at [email protected] or call (212) 609-7810.

Senescent cherry trees:

The cherry trees on the oval lawn between Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center) and Gateway Plaza are among the glories of a Battery Park City spring. The profusion of white blooms usually occurs in late March or early April, rivaling in beauty (though not in number) the glorious cherry trees of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.

In fact, Battery Park City’s cherry trees are of the same species — Yoshino (Prunus yedoensis) as most of those that circle the Tidal Basin in the District of Columbia. But B.P.C.’s trees are getting old. Some have gashes in their bark. Others are missing limbs.

“The cherry trees on the oval are going to be replaced and we just put the order in,” said Patricia Bertuccio, spokesperson for Brookfield Office Properties. “They were not damaged by Sandy, but have had some wear and tear. Six new trees will be planted (and one was replaced earlier this year).”

So look for the cherry blossoms this year, but perhaps fewer than in the past — at least for the time being.

Brookfield’s dining terrace:

We like to hear from our readers. One of them wrote to comment on an item in Battery Park City Beat about the eight restaurants that have already signed leases for the new dining terrace at Brookfield Place. “I hope that there is plenty of seating for eating,” this reader said. “I am confused about the dining terrace and the food marketplace — what they will look like, where they will be, and how people can eat there. Will there be a food court, or will each restaurant have discrete seating? This seems very promising. Is January realistic?”

We forwarded that question to Brookfield. Patricia Bertuccio replied, “We’ll be updating and announcing new restaurants as they open. The latest can be found here: Nothing has been added since the announcement, but more restaurants are in the process of being signed.”

Bertuccio said that there will be 600 seats at communal counters along with freestanding tables belonging to each of the restaurants. “The marketplace will be in a similar style to how Eataly is set up,” she said, “with some restaurants and areas set up where you can buy various kinds of food goods (fish, meat, wine, etc.), but of course, with flourishes from the Poulakakos family, who will be running the marketplace. The dining terrace/marketplace has been under construction since last fall so a January opening is realistic.”

Native American poetry at Poets House:

A symposium on Native American poetry and poetics in the 21st century is taking place from Thursday, March 21 through Sunday, March 24 at the National Museum of the American Indian on Bowling Green and at Poets House in Battery Park City.

Readings and conversations will illuminate native languages, traditional storytelling, formal innovation, Native American politics and more.

“This symposium explores Native American cultures and poetry, providing a forum for Native American poets who are engaged in revitalizing and revamping Native American poetic traditions often central to their communities,” said Poets House Executive Director Lee Briccetti. “This forum also presents poets who are defining new Native American poetic practices and formal innovations.”

Visiting poets are from several Native tribes and ancestry— including Abenaki, Navajo, Cherokee, Huron, Creek, Mojave and Pima — and have roots geographically from New York and Arizona to Seattle and Hawaii and elsewhere.

For a schedule of events, go to Some events are free. Others cost $10, ($7 for students and seniors and free to Poets House Members).

Poets House at 10 River Terrace has a 50,000 volume poetry library, exhibit spaces, a quiet, Wi-Fi equipped reading room overlooking the Hudson River and a children’s room. It is open free from Tuesday to Saturday.

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