Category Archives: New York City

sketch of seating at a Quaker Meeting

Why am I a Quaker?

Start with why. That’s the wisdom of Simon Sinek–asking people to sharpen their thinking but his question makes me wonder if he might be a Friend. 

Almost 25 years ago, young and fresh to New York City, I had the good fortune to meet Scott–an attender from Brooklyn Monthly Meeting. After my umpteenth question, and many patient answers, Scott just said, “you know, why don’t you come to meeting sometime?” His  casual invitation changed my life. 


I was seeking–a place to fit in, a place to be myself, a place to connect with others. I found it.


Well, the idea of “that of God in everyone” seemed right. The stern Catholic tradition of my youth framed it differently. We are all made in God’s image. We have fallen. If we are good, we’ll get into heaven and live forever. The Friendly framing spoke to me–a spark of the divine in me? In everyone? Well, what an animating and useful principle. It spoke, and speaks, to my heard and mind.  


Because if we believe that there’s something of the divine in everyone then I am on equal footing with you.  Another pithy message from Bono–another latent friend?  “We are one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.” 


We believe in “continuing revelation,” in other words, we favor questions over answers–and the answers that we find are provisional, until we find better answers–together. Not one text. All texts. All people. All voices. 


Because we seek in silence–and everyone can be a source of truth–a messenger. We just have to be still and listen. Being still is not easy in today’s modern world of digital tethers, where distractions are a screen away. A Quaker meeting dedicates a time and place for us to sit, and listen–for our own inner voice, and for a message from a friend that might speak to us. 


Because I am weary of promises of the next world. I am certain that this one needs our attention–in a way that is consistent with us being  stewards for the generations that will follow us. 


Because the problems are bigger than us, but solvable by us. Together we can figure it out. 


Because I think that if we all treated one another as though there were something of the divine, then  we’d listen more–we’d care more. This is also a wish for me–I am seeking, and need reminders. 


Because I am inspired by what our beliefs have led us to do–whether it was an early renunciation of slavery, or providing relief to those harmed by war–regardless of what side they were on. Because there’s still a vast gap between what we believe and what exists. The Jacksonville shootings of three Black people are a reminder that white supremacy is alive and well. 


Because together, Friends, we can work to close that gap, to love one another and build a stronger community. 

Are you a friend? Thinking about it? Why? 

I’m listening. 

Ted Bongiovanni is a member of Brooklyn Monthly Meeting and the Executive Directory of the New York Quarterly Meeting.  This post originally appeared on Spark, the newsletter of the New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. 

Bike Snob Visits Consumer Reports

It’s not every day that a world renown bike blogger shows up at the office, but this week, Eben Weiss, a/k/a Bike Snob, visited Consumer Reports where I am lucky enough to work.

I’ve been following Eben’s blog for years to gain insight on any manner of things, to learn new words about bad habits I have like salmoning and shoaling, and gawk at the bikes people send him to test, like this wood frame Renovo, or a 100 year old steel steed. More and more, Eben’s been an impassioned and thoughtful advocate for all of us who tend to travel on bikes, our feet or just about anything but a car.

Alex and Eben in CR's TV Lab.

Alex and Eben in CR’s TV Lab.

Alex and Eben examine the helmet testing machine.

Just how does Consumer Reports test bike helmets? Bike Snob finds out.

Eben Weiss in CR's Anechoic chamber. Where we test all kinds of speakers.

Eben in CR’s Anechoic chamber. Where we test all kinds of speakers.

If you ever ride on two wheels, or traverse your town in anything other than a car, you would do well to read Bike Snob.



The Long, Slow Road to Work

May is bike month in New York City.  Though I commute every fair weather day with my trusty Brompton SL-2  with a serious assist from New Jersey Transit, I have been wanting to ride all the way from home to work since moving out here just over four years ago.  With the help of John Feinberg’s excellent cue sheet,  my GPS-enabled smartphone and some tired legs, I made it from Glen Ridge to Cooper Square in about two hours and forty five minutes.  (This sounds more like a marathon personal record dream time to me, than a bike ride, but I digress.)  

The route primarily traverses residential,  industrial areas and the occasional patch of nature.  Highlights include the now-defunct New York and Greenwood Lake  Short Rail, and the New Jersey Naval Museum, which is home to the USS Ling, a World War II Submarine.  I was surprised to see a loon diving for food in Leonia, and to learn that the south side of the GWB is closed to pedestrian traffic.  The north side is open, but involves what seemed like an interminable number of stairs after the 2 mile climb through Fort Lee.  I don’t think I was ever so happy to see the Hudson.  I thought of hopping on the subway at 181 Street, but savored the decline all the way down the West Side, which was all dressed up for Fleet Week

For those contemplating the trip from Glen Ridge, here’s a link to the modified cue sheet

And the Google Map.

Happy riding! 

One Twisted Path to the NYC Marathon

The legend goes that in 450 B.C., Pheidippides ran from Marathon to
Athens, a distance of about 26 miles, to bring news of Greece’s victory
over Persia in the eponymous battle of Marathon.  Upon arrival in
Athens, Pheidippides cried "Victory!" collapsed and died.  Last
November, along with 39,265 others, I ran from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island
to Central Park in the New York City Marathon.    Pheidippides had some important news to
deliver and was under orders.  Why would anyone else run 26.2 miles? 

Continue reading

Knowing When To Fold

What’s the fastest and most fun way to get to work? I’ve been commuting in New York City for over 8 years–from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn (6 out of 8 in Brooklyn) and can say hands down that cycling is the fastest and definitely the most fun. However, it presents its own challenges–where do you lock your bike? What if you work up a sweat on the way in? How do you avoid injury?

My new commute from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, to SoHo is anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes on the F Train. However, I noticed that I missed starting my day by riding into the office. Bromptonstypeblack

My previous job was very bike commute friendly–I had a place where I could leave my bike indoors, a gym on the premises for showers and a dedicated bike lane for 7 miles of the route. My new gig at MOUSE presents different challenges–it’s much closer but there’s no bike parking and also no easy place to shower. Moreover, as of May, we’re also going to be in Glen Ridge, NJ–though only 13 miles from Lower Manhattan, the best bike route would take me over the George Washington Bridge, bringing the daily milage to 60–and rendering it very unlikely on all but the longest of summer days. So I needed a bike that I could easily stow on the train–enter the Brompton.

I hadn’t heard of them until Eddie Rubeiz, a former Columbia colleague raved about his folder. After taking one for a test ride and seeing that it does in fact fold and unfold in seconds, I was sold.

As a test, yesterday I rode the bike from Cobble Hill to the Puck Building and back . The trip, one-way, door to door took 15 minutes, plus a minute, thirty seconds for the fold. The ride over the Brooklyn Bridge was swift–the Brompton has a 54 tooth front front chain ring and a mini-2 speed derailleur which makes it easy to get up to speed, cruise as well as crank uphill. I was pleasantly surprised by how stable the Brompton feels and how easy it is to balance at traffic lights. The bike is also easy to handle when one’s not riding it–whether it’s picking it up when it’s folded, or moving it around in while it’s on its real wheel and “parked.” The bike is well-designed and well-built. It’s sound engineering has made an alternative morning commute possible.

Perhaps the most appealing aspects of commuting by bike is how independent I feel. I am not waiting on a subway train, stuck in traffic or thinking that I should have gone to the gym. I’m out and about, riding–which is just a ton of fun.

Transit Strike Day 2

While the ride in was peaceful and quiet, last night on the way home I had a minor accident–I, and the person I hit are OK, but here’s what happened: a pedestrian decided he was going to jaywalk through the cars on Canal street.  He cut from in front of an SUV and jumped right in front of your humble cyclist who was moving at a decent clip through traffic. I managed to scream "HEH, WATCHOUT!!!" and  I was able to slow down, but my shoulder slammed into his torso.  He said "sorry," and hobbled along.  Other than mashing my ankle into the crank, and a bruise, I’m none the worse for the wear.  Day one was fun, and I started to think that heh, I could be commuting by bike all through the winter, but the real reason I ride indoors is not the temperature–sure it’s cold, but I’m not outside that long and get pretty warm once moving–the reason not to ride is that it gets dark early and it’s harder to see and be seen.  I am having second thoughts about riding in today–both the pedestrian and I got pretty lucky.  I understand that folks get impatient but, we would all do well to allow a little extra time and slow down.  I am saying that for me as much as my fellow New Yorkers.  Be safe out there.

Biking Through the Strike

Rode my bike in this AM to avery the chaos of the NYC transit strike.  Wore extra layers and lobster claw gloves to cope with the cold.  Here are a few observations:

* Lots of traffic over Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges–especially pedestrian foot traffic.
* Lower manhattan was eerily quiet–like an early Sunday morning.
* Serious congestion around New York Penn Station. 
* Cabbies are picking up multiple fares–be careful of pedestrians!
* Bike lanes were well marked.
* There were lots of fellow cyclists out there, skateboarders, and folks on scooters.
* Serious traffic coming down broadway–seemed like gridlock. 

Commute photos

The Gates and a 15 K

orange gate in central parkFor the last few weeks the New York Road Runners have been saying that the race routes may be altered to accomodate Christo and Jean-Claude’s "Gates" project.  I’ve been watching the pieces be put into place over the last few weeks, but today, the Gates and their saffron banners waved at runners all along the 9.3 mile race route.  The Gates made me realize just how many miles of path there are in the park; the saffron banners were just low enough so that I could jump and touch them. Gorgeous!

World Trade Center Station

Img_1685jpgThough I’ve been to the World Trade Center Site many times, until yesterday, I had not taken the Path train. Past trips to the site flood me with memories from that day. I remember the fear, the burning smell, the plume of dust, and the sirens. I know that this suffering is not unique in the world, but 9/11 was closest that I’ve ever been to it. So coincidentally, on the same day that Osama Bin Laden released his video message to the American people, I visited the site he ordered to be destroyed. Remote control violence–give an order on one continent, bombs drop on another. It’s easier to forget about humanity when one frames the debate in terms of objectives and platitudes. (Jonathan Glover’s Humanity, A Moral History of the 20th Century illuminates this grim topic and offers solutions.) But now the World Trade Center site has been scrubbed clean, turned into a bit of a memorial and an efficient construction site. I still felt the site’s power, but felt it less keenly than on previous visits. I don’t know if I was overwhelmed, numb, or if I’ve grown so used to the sensation that it’s no longer the same. Going down into the station took me closer than I’ve ever been and yet 9/11 never felt further away. Go figure.