Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hindu Temple Welcomes Worshipers Of All Varieties

By Joseph Kellard

Each Sunday morning, several minivans and SUVs are parked around the median outside 610 Laurelton Blvd. The unassuming two-story white house there is a Hindu temple, where sitar sounds from a Casio keyboard may be foreign to those of other faiths, but not the Hindu priest’s altruistic ethics.

“Rise to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves,” said Rory Ram, the 40-something priest who sat on the floor lotus-style at a service in March. That day, some 45 worshipers sat shoeless on white linen sheets that covered the living room-turned-sanctuary’s carpet, as the smell of curry from the kitchen permeated the house.

Later, during the standard two-hour Sunday service, a pre-teen boy who sat beside Ram echoed his message: “Service to others is service to God.”

Founded in 1989, the Maha Shiva Mandir — Temple of Great Lord Shiva — is one of only a few Hindu temples in Nassau County. Its congregants live mostly in Long Beach, but many come from throughout Long Island and as far away as the Bronx and New Jersey.

Jennifer Harricharran, an accountant and the temple’s secretary, lived and worshiped in Queens before she moved to Long Beach 19 years ago and helped found the temple. “It’s the only one for a few miles around, so it’s a little community,” she said. “In Queens they have about 30 and anyone can go to any of them. Here you basically have one place, so you have to be a family.”

Harricharran, the other founders and many worshipers are native to Guyana, South America, and they practice Sanatan Bharma, which means “an eternal way of life” and that their temple is open to all comers. “Because of the tolerance that we preach,” Ram said, “we’re able to accommodate everybody.”

As proof, he mentioned the temple-goers who come from many walks of life — lawyers, doctors, teachers, sales reps, the unemployed — and explained that some are of difference races.

Katrina Meyer of Oyster Bay first attended services at Maha Shiva Mandir last year with her boyfriend, and was made to feel very welcomed, she said. Meyer has since visited other temples in Nassau and Queens, some of them much larger. “It’s very intimate, the Long Beach gathering,” she said, “and I think it’s beautiful like that, and I really enjoy it because you really are coming together and you feel part of it.”

On Sunday, March 15, the temple emptied out early, because congregants were headed to a parade in Queens that celebrates Phagwah, the festival of colors, a holiday that ushers in spring and the Hindu New Year, and highlights the tolerance that is a central tenet of Hinduism.

“We cannot say there are certain hard and fast rules, that this is what you have to follow and do as an individual to be a part of this group,” Ram said as he prepared to leave. “It’s like many different colors: You have to appreciate each color for what it is, and you cannot say because I like red that red is the best color or higher than anyone else.”

Yet Ram indicated that courage, truth and helping others were attributes that makes followers more devout Hindus. And the temple’s elder priest, Ramnarine Tiwari, 78, suggested that Hindus face judgment days. As he described reincarnation, perhaps the religion’s most widely known belief, he said that at death, before a believer’s soul can live on in another body, the lord Shiva analyzes and assesses his actions on earth.

“Based on your merits, you may come back as a human being, the highest order of animal,” Tiwari explained. “... So you have to do your best to carry the right deeds — if you don’t, you will not be able to come back as a human being, but as a lower creature.”
Against a wall in the temple stand statuettes of several gods. Worshipers pray to them through another major god, Shiva, who represents peace and tranquility, said Ramcharran Harricharran, a co-founder of the temple. “Shiva shows you that you can control everything by controlling the mind,” he said. “If your mind is out of control, your life is out of whack.”

When regular temple-goer Ramrattie Persaud, a Long Beach resident and a phlebotomist at Nassau University Medical Center, was going through tumultuous times, she prayed to Durga Mata, the matriarchal power behind Shiva. “I was devoting more time to Durga Mata because I believe she is the destroyer of all evil,” Persaud said.

The temple’s services are filled with music. Congregants young and old play an array of instruments, from the dholak (a drum) and the dhantal (a medal rod that sounds like a triangle) to the mandolin and dish-sized gongs.

Ramcharran Harricharran chiefly plays the harmonium, an accordion-like organ, but during one service he handed it over to a young girl. Giving children the opportunity to take part is seen as a form of passing the Hindu culture from one generation to the next, said Ram, who added that music is among the most effective ways for people to understand the concepts he preaches.

“It is through participation, not through lectures, that one learns best,” he said. “The first form of devotion that a person can have is the ability to listen, and Hinduism provides this ritual of listening through music.”

When the temple was first established, the services were held in the basement of another home on Laurelton. Tiwari, a retired sugar chemist who arrived in Long Beach from Guyana 30 years ago, bought the house the worshippers now use with donations from congregants, and took out a mortgage with another founder.

“We had a handful of Indians living in Long Beach, so we thought of mobilizing ourselves together in order to offer prayers at large and to keep the community together so that they can remember where they came from,” he said.
The temple’s president, Mahadeo Persaud, said that the number of worshippers has never been higher, estimating that there are 150 in all.

“Right now,” he offered as an explanation, “people enjoy our priests.”

Meyer, who was raised a Lutheran but was also exposed to Judaism and Catholicism, said she believes that because people are taught from an early age to hold to one faith, they fear exploring other religions, but she likes to attend services of different beliefs. “When you go in there,” she said of the temple, “it feels very exotic, and it’s like you’ve entered into another country or realm.”

The Piano Is An Afterthought

Local church organists love their instrument

By Joseph Kellard

One wears worn, special dance-like shoes so he can shift his feet on the pedals more easily. The other, nearly six decades his junior, doffs his dress shoes to play in his socks. But while Dr. Denis Nicholson, 77, and Andrew Clavin, 19, prefer different footwear, they share a passion for the organ.

Nicholson has been the head organist at St. Ignatius Church, on West Broadway, since the Kennedy administration. Clavin earned the same title at St. Mary of the Isle Church across town last September. While the two men do not know each other, both said they prefer the organ to the piano, and both offered the same explanation why.

“The organ is a much more colorful instrument,” Nicholson said after playing at a recent Sunday Mass. “With all the different possible combinations of sound, you can more or less orchestrate the music.”

Calling the organ “the king of instruments,” Clavin said, “There’s just so many sounds and registrations to it.”

Nicholson plays a three-keyboard electric Rogers organ that overlooks the St. Ignatius sanctuary from its perch in the choir loft. He presses large buttons, called stops, that light up as they feed the organ’s mix of sounds, from flutes to violins to oboes. The console of his instrument bespeaks a musician at home in his element, with stacks of well-thumbed sheet music, a dusty lamp and a strategically placed mirror that he uses to get his cues from Msgr. Donald Beckmann on the altar below.

When Nicholson, a still-practicing internist in his West Penn Street home office, sets his stethoscope aside, he’s likely at St. Ignatius, whether practicing with the choir on Friday evenings, accompanying the choir at Sunday masses or preparing for the church’s seasonal concerts, such as Handel’s “Messiah” at Christmastime.

At a recent Sunday noon Mass, as always, Nicholson played his favorite Renaissance and Baroque pieces. “Those composers knew how to write for the human voice,” he said.
As worshipers filled the main aisle below, receiving Communion, he led the choir through “Prayer for Jesus.” Later, as the service ended and as congregants filed out of the church, Nicholson and the choir began “Take Up Your Cross.”

The music he plays, Nicholson said, is tied to his spirituality. He fondly quoted St. Augustine: “He said, ‘He who sings prays twice.’”

Across town at St. Mary’s, Clavin plays a two-keyboard Allen electric that stands beside the altar. In contrast to Nicholson’s clutter, Clavin’s instrument bears just a bottle of Poland Spring and a few song books he used during a recent Sunday noon service. At one point, his cell phone vibrated, and he padded off in his socks to a back room to take the call.

The cantor was absent that day, and Clavin has no choir, so he led the hymns himself, summoning his best baritone. He played “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” a hymn based on Psalm 90, and, being that it was Lent, his recessional hymn was “Lord, Who Throughout These 40 days.”

In the past four years, Clavin has played at a number of congregations in and around his native New Hyde Park and beyond. He carries a business card and isn’t shy about handing it out. Last year, through a recommendation, St. Mary’s asked him to play at a funeral. He was later invited to play at all of the church’s funerals, weddings, and weekend services.

Nicholson, too, got off to an unusually early start as an organist, playing for the first time at St. Ignatius when he was 17. He grew up in Manhattan, visited Long Beach with his family each summer and sang in the St. Ignatius choir before playing the parish’s original pipe organ at Sunday Masses.

From 1957 to 1960, Nicholson served in the U.S. Public Health Service and was stationed in Boston, but he drove to Long Beach each weekend to perform at St. Ignatius. “This is where I used to come and worship, but I also love the acoustics in this church — they’re tremendous,” he said. “I’ve sung in many other places, but the acoustics here are unreal.”

The day after he finished his medical residency at a Bronx VA hospital in 1963, Nicholson moved to Long Beach, opened a practice and has been working — and playing at St. Ignatius — ever since. Among his most memorable performances with the choir was a 9/11 ceremony a few years after the attacks, when they performed Brahams’s “Requiem.”

Clavin’s experience is measured not in years, but in the many places of worship he has played. What distinguishes St. Mary’s? “It’s a very homey parish,” he said.

His parents bought him a keyboard when he was 9, and he taught himself to play after Sunday church services. Now he’s learning piano as well, but not because he is switching allegiance. A sophomore liberal arts major at Nassau Community College, he is studying piano to help him with his music-reading skills.

And while not settled on a career just yet, he is certain where he wants to go musically. “I definitely want to see myself playing organ for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Businesses must court the Millennials

Marketing instructor stresses embracing interactive media

By Joseph Kellard

Leone Baum has problems with the way younger people are communicating, with text and instant messages, MySpace postings and Twitter updates. “I don’t think it’s helping our social situation by never looking at or touching people,” said Baum, vice president of the Hempstead Chamber of Commerce.

While some sociologists may agree with Baum, Mitch Tobol, a partner in the Amityville-based marketing firm CGT Marketing, sees that attitude toward interactive media as bad for business. “Instead of trying to push it away, embrace it,” Tobol stressed to Baum and some 70 other businessmen and women at a seminar on March 12, titled “Successful Marketing in Challenging Times,” at Hofstra.

Tobol’s oft-repeated theme is that there are always business opportunities, regardless of the economic conditions, and one of the places to find them is the rapidly expanding world of blogs, iPhones and Google alerts.

“It’s not just about the economy,” he said. “If you want to market successfully, you need to understand the environment you’re in.”

While Tobol’s PowerPoint presentation touched on everything from branding to pricing to purchasing patterns, he tied it all to what has become the marketing world’s major focus: the Internet and youth. As the relevance of the baby boom generation and traditional marketing methods — particularly advertising — wanes, interactive technology, and the new generation of “millennials,” are on the rise. By 2015, this generation, generally acknowledge to have begun in 1977, will become the U.S.’s largest demographic segment.

This has already caused seismic shifts in marketing, with tech-savvy consumers who can instantly find competitive services and products, Tobol explained. “The marketing message is now in the hands of the consumers,” he said. “They are all-powerful.

Technology allows them to send and receive messages in seconds, and they tell everybody — everybody — what they are thinking. This is a totally new dynamic in marketing. If you are not aware of it, you need to be.”

Today, consumers can register their evaluations of businesses and their products and services on, which offers “unbiased reviews by real people,” and similar Web sites. “When someone writes something bad about your business, engage that person,” Tobol said, noting that complaints are a window into a company’s weaknesses.

He talked about how CEOs of major companies, including General Motors, keep daily blogs, making it possible for consumers to write to them — access those consumers have never had.

Tobol stressed that in the age of the Internet, it is critical for businesses not only to have a Web site, but make it distinct from those of their competitors. “It’s where more and more people, every single day, will experience your firm for the very first time,” he said.

Gary Curley, a plumber from Suffolk County who attended the seminar, said he is “old school” when it comes to his Web site. “He mentioned constantly updating your site and being interactive with it,” Curley said. “That kind of put the light on me a little bit there.”

After listening to Tobol, Curley said, he understood that he needed to make better use of social and business networking sites to promote himself as an extension of his company. “He really opened my eyes to the fact that using them could be a good marketing strategy,” he said.

Tobol described Facebook, MySpace and other networking sites as the “new frontier” in marketing. He cautioned that while some people successfully use Facebook for business, the site focuses primarily on social networking. “If you go full force in business on it,” he said, “a lot of people are bound to turn you off.”

Many merchants fail to take advantage of the business-to-business sites LinkedIn and Plaxo, Tobol said. Another attendee, Carine Ulano-Firestone, who sells jewelry, gifts and accessories online from her Bellmore home, said she was in the dark about these sites until she attended Tobol’s marketing courses at Hofstra’s Entrepreneurial Assistance Program.

Another member of the audience, Pat Savella, who owns a decorating business, said she plans to take Tobol’s advice to nurture existing clients — the people most likely to do business, who he termed “low-hanging fruit” — because they are the best return on any company’s marketing dollar. “I’m going to try go back to those customers instead of trying to deal with the ones who are always trying to lowball everything,” Savella said. “I’ve learned to appreciate the clients I have and work with them more.”

Baum, who regularly attends business-related seminars and relays what she learns to the Hempstead Chamber, said that Tobol had impressed on her the importance of business Web sites and interlinking them. “A lot of our businesses in our chamber already do have Web sites,” she said, “but some are terrible, and I do think that they should be linking their sites with our Chamber and other Chambers.”

Home Sweet First Home

Rookie buyers crowd Long Beach housing market

By Joseph Kellard

In January, Ray Sackman closed on his first home, a one-bedroom, one-bath condo on West Broadway. The 28-year-old mortgage trader — who has an apartment in Rego Park and splits time between the two —is part of a nationwide trend that has not escaped Long Beach.

That is, a growing number of home buyers are first-timers, many of them 20- and 30-somethings capitalizing on lower prices and interest rates in the wake of the mortgage and banking crisis. According to the National Association of Realtors, 41 percent of buyers in 2008 were first-timers, up from 36 percent in 2006.

Although local real estate agents have no precise data on this trend in the city, some of them said that over the past six to nine months, first-timers have mostly snatched up condos or co-ops at prices ranging between $250,000 and $400,000 with interest rates at around 5 percent, down from the pre-crisis 6 to 6 1/4 percent rates.

“People who have something to sell must wait until they’ve freed up their cash before they do something,” said Miriam Gold, owner of Paul Gold Real Estate. “So the first-time home buyer is really in a good position.”

Sackman said that in addition to the favorable market, he wanted to buy in the community where he has been surfing for many years. “I just decided that it was time to get a place of my own and that I also get a place where I can escape,” he said. He looked at many homes on the Internet before contacting a broker, and viewed six condos in Long Beach before deciding on his new home. He took out a loan on the $340,000, 700-square-foot unit and put down 40 percent.

Joyce Coletti, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, said that most new buyers are taking out loans, but banks now want to see anywhere from 20 to 40 percent down, when a few years ago the average was 10 percent or less — even zero. Coletti said that business has picked up considerably with the federal stimulus package offering home buyers an $8,000 credit.

Gold said that new buyers are moving in all around town, and Coletti said that at the Windward condos on West Broadway, where Sackman lives, 14 out of the 28 units have been sold to first-time owners at prices ranging from $199,000 to $399,000. Teachers, firefighters and police officers, she said, are buying one-bedroom, studio and Junior 4 units, the last having a separate dining area that can be converted into a second bedroom.

One New York City police officer, Lou Casto, said he didn’t need a loan, and put 23 percent down on a $220,000 oceanfront studio with a terrace at 250 Shore Road. Single, living in Bayridge and prepared to close on his new unit by next week, Casto, 39, had already rented two other places in Long Beach. After much research, he decided to buy in the city, and took the first place Coletti showed him.

“I like the beach, I like that it has the railroad with direct access to the city, and I like the gyms and movie theater,” Casto said of Long Beach. “It’s like a Bayridge on the ocean.”

Coletti noted that a comparable unit in Casto’s building sold for $260,500 in April 2006. She said the market began to fall in Long Beach around September 2007, and since then prices are down on condos and co-ops by 15 percent, and on houses by 20 percent.

According to sales data collected by the New York State Association of Realtors, the median sales price of single-family homes in Nassau County in the fourth quarter of 2006 was $480,000, and for the same quarter of 2008 it was $425,000, an 11.5 percent drop.

Josephine Lobel owns a home in Island Park that her husband, Adam, rebuilt when they bought it three years ago, but they recently bought their first home on the barrier island. The couple moved quickly to buy another fixer-upper, a split ranch with four bedrooms and two baths on Regent Drive in Lido Beach, and is still trying to sell their Island Park home. They paid $460,000, putting 20 percent down on their new home, which, Coletti said, would have sold for $500,000 just a couple of years ago.

“This house really was a no-brainer for us,” said Josephine. “It’s a big corner lot at a really good price for Lido Beach. We jumped on it because whatever condition a house is in, my husband can fix it up.”

Josephine, who grew up in the close quarters of Long Beach’s West End but wanted to raise her family in a home with more property, said she looked at many homes on the Internet before visiting about five.

Gold and Coletti said that in the recent past they would only have to show three to six homes to prospective buyers, but these days they show as many as 15 to 25 before customers make decisions. “People are being cautious and just being certain about what they want,” said Gold, adding that she has seen two buyers’ markets in her 45 years in Long Beach real estate. “A lot of people don’t know exactly if they want a home, a condo or a co-op, so it’s been a little bit of an educational process.”

Coletti, who is recognized for selling the most homes on the barrier island each year for the past decade, said today’s buyers are showing considerably more discretion, especially when it comes to price. “In 2006, if you showed them a nice apartment, they bit on it right then and there,” she said “Now they want to see 15 other one-bedrooms before they make up their mind because they need the lowest price possible.”

Coletti noted that what’s also new is that some potential buyers are bidding on two or three units at a time. “It doesn’t matter if they like a place a lot or not,” she said. “They’re all looking for the best deal first.”

Spin Drills Replace Depositions

Point Lookout attorney closes law books to train triathletes

By Joseph Kellard

Kerry Simmons grew tired of figuratively banging her head against the wall as a civil defense attorney. So now her energetic voice bounces off the walls of the Hofstra swim center, where she trains triathletes full-time.

With stopwatch in hand, in sneakers and an oversized T-shirt, Simmons trotted back and forth along the length of the pool on a recent Tuesday evening, instructing and encouraging 13 triathletes in the water below her. Simmons directed the mix of men and woman to swim at full speed while crowded together, to simulate the chaotic start of a triathlon.

“Ready, go!” she yelled repeatedly, and as her charges churned through the water, she counted the seconds aloud: “... 34, 35, 36, 37…”

Meanwhile, her husband of three years, Kevin, an attorney, a triathlete and her business partner, worked poolside with a quickly winded newcomer, Joe DeSimone, demonstrating proper freestyle stroke technique. “The quick drills were just too fast for me,” said DeSimone, a Williston Park resident training for his first triathlon this summer.

Kevin Simmons explained that the drills he and his wife use on their trainees are designed to fatigue the swimmers from the start. “The race starts fast, you get tired and then you have to learn how to relax and change your pace for the middle of the race,” he said.

The Point Lookout couple started their new business, First Wave Tri, in January with six triathletes. Since then they have recruited some 40 more students of varying skills, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s. Kerry Simmons’s success in the sport has been a major draw: She is well known in the rapidly growing triathlon community in the metropolitan area and beyond, a three-time USA Triathlon All-American and a three-time Team USA national and world team member. She is ranked among the top 10 triathletes in the nation in her age group, 40 to 44.

Kevin, 57, a 25-year veteran of the sport, is ranked No. 1 in his age group in the Northeast. He is also the senior attorney at a practice in Syosset whose clients include Fortune 500 companies --- and where Kerry worked briefly after a 10-year stint as a prosecutor for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

Most recently, she spent four years working for a civil law office, and that experience was the springboard to her new life as a triathlete trainer. “With civil law, it was just two opposite ends always butting heads,” Simmons said. “It just got difficult to spend your days fighting all the time.”

In what she calls her “aha! moment,” Simmons was working on a case in which her female client was suing a store where she injured her toe. Simmons was one of eight attorneys in a room taking her deposition while they argued among themselves. “I remember looking around the table and thinking, What are we all doing here?” she said, her voice as high-energy as her poolside demeanor. “What’s the point of this? It just seemed like an odd way to spend your life and career, fighting over a stubbed toe, on a case costing thousands and thousands of dollars that clearly could have been resolved on the first court appearance. At that moment I thought, I have to do something else. I have to do something I’m passionate about.”

In January 2008, after a long career as a competitive swimmer and seven years of competing in triathlons, Simmons earned her certification as trainer. A year later, as far as she and Kevin know, they are the only full-time triathlon team on Long Island.

“Our goal is to have a very close-knit group of athletes that get a lot of personal care and attention, that we coach on a really one-on-one basis — and that they know they’re getting from us a quality program,” Simmons said. “We’re very hands-on. We know all our athletes.”

In addition to their Tuesday swim drills, the group bikes together in a spin class on Sundays at North Shore Fitness in East Meadow, after which they run together in neighboring Eisenhower Park.

When Jennifer Morrissey of Williston Park joined First Wave Tri in January, she couldn’t finish a lap in the pool, stopping four times along the way. A runner, Morrissey was looking for a new challenge, and now she is training for her first triathlon, in Pawling this June.

“They’re great, very encouraging,” she said of the Simmonses, then added, with a laugh, “And they’re not mean.”

The couple train athletes mostly for short, sprint-style triathlons that include a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike leg and a 5K run. But others are advanced enough to compete in an Ironman, the sports’ most demanding event: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile second leg on a bike and a full 26.2-mile marathon.

Rob Kolb, a Long Beach resident and an educator in Lynbrook, is preparing for his first Ironman in Lake Placid this July. Kerry Simmons listens and leads better than anyone else he has worked with, he said. “I’ve had coaches with tons of experience, but it’s all about the person, it’s all about the character, it’s all about who you want to associate yourself with, who you want to emulate,” Kolb said. “That’s what I tell my kids: The person you want to emulate is the person who you want to coach you.”

The First Wave Tri training plan includes a detailed description of every workout, a nutrition plan, a focus on race goals, and Kerry’s high-energy, personalized feedback. “We bike, swim and run with them,” Roberta Leventhal of Roslyn, one of the elder trainees, said of the Simmonses. “They care more than anyone in the world and they’re fun. They’re a great duo.”

Leventhal has competed in a few triathlons, but didn’t fare too well. Now, under the tutelage of her new trainers, she anticipates better results, and her newfound confidence is obvious. “This year,” she said about her upcoming races, “I’m going to kick butt.”

Reviving the Walks

New civic association to address neighborhood neglect

By Joseph Kellard

Call it the second coming of the Walks Neighborhood Association. The Long Beach civic group, established in 1998 but disbanded a couple of years later, has been resurrected by a group of newer residents.

According to President Allison Kallelis and grant officer Jamie Lynch, the first association fizzled out because City Hall was unresponsive to its calls for neighborhood improvements. The new officers, however — who have recruited some original members — hope to turn the page and begin a new chapter with the city.

Kallelis and other Walks residents have met several times with City Manager Charles Theofan since last summer to discuss their concerns about the historic 10-block neighborhood that is without street access, driveways or garages. Most problems relate to parking, sewage and homes that are expanding or subdividing properties.

Kallelis said that the city’s zoning board has made some favorable decisions on development and other building issues in their neighborhood. The association leadership was scheduled to meet with Theofan again this week to discuss parking, and it has invited the City Council to its May 4 meeting.

“The meetings with the city so far have been very productive,” said Lynch, who has lived on May Walk with his family for five years.

At the March 17 City Council meeting, Lynch, Kallelis and some 25 fellow Walks Association members joined other city residents seeking to obtain funds through the city’s community development program. The Walks Association wants the city to install new decorative street signs and light posts. They have planned fundraisers to pay for other beautification projects.

The neighborhood is bounded by West Park Avenue to the north and West Beech Street to the south. A total of 10 walks run north-south, paralleling Lindell Avenue, the eastern border, and New York Avenue to the west. There are about 28 houses per walk, and 300 in all.

Kallelis, who moved from Yonkers to September Walk with her husband, Alex, eight years ago, said that residents began building new, larger homes or expanding existing ones about four years ago, during the housing boom. But the neighborhood had no representation on the zoning board.

“Some of the neighbors and I were talking and we were saying, ‘This is ridiculous, we have no power. If we had a bigger voice, maybe we could get some things changed here,” Kallelis recalled.

Last year she talked with Jim Hennessy, a former City Council president who grew up and still lives in the Walks, and other long-time residents. They organized a meeting last fall, and Kallelis estimated that about 10 percent of the neighborhood attended. In December the group elected a five-member board, and they have been holding periodic meetings since.

“There were a lot of people eager to be involved,” Kallelis said, adding that there are some 50 association members who participate to varying degrees.

Bob Reed, a board member who has lived on September Walk for a year, said he believes that a key to the association’s success is to generate good will among neighbors. “It’s important for residents to get to know each other, and the best way to do that is through courteousness,” said Reed, who lends a hand in shoveling snow from the narrow sidewalk. “From this, you’re likely to get more participation and representation.”

Focusing first on beautification projects, the group would like to replace the 50 street signs that are bent, rusted or have been vandalized, at a cost of about $35,000. Members also want to install light posts, but Theofan said that project may not materialize for another year or longer.

Each year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides grants to Long Beach’s Community Development program, a portion of which can go to nonprofits like the Walks Association to fund improvements.

“The Walks have been a much-neglected neighborhood in our community,” Theofan said. “It’s about time we give them the attention that they deserve.”

Beyond beautification, the neighborhood faces some large-scale infrastructure issues attributable to long-term neglect. The aging sewage system needs to be replaced, but its pipes run through residents’ yards because of the absence of streets. Further complicating matters in a neighborhood known for its tight quarters are state health regulations that require sewer pipes be a certain distance from water pipes.

“So you have to figure out the practical problems of where you’re going to put things,” Theofan said. “These items need to be tended to, and it’s just a matter of when. But we’re starting the process of seeing what needs to be done, accessing it and looking at the cost and trying to put it into the capital improvement plan.”

Lynch said he understands that some projects may take some time to get under way, particularly in a struggling economy. If the city is not responsive, however, as some walks residents have complained in the past, “Then we’ll have to make monthly visits up to City Hall,” Lynch said. “Maybe even weekly, if need be.”

The Walks’ military beginnings

The historic Walks neighborhood was first developed in 1917 and 1918, when the U.S. military took over the Nassau Hotel (now the Ocean Club condos) and Long Beach was turned into a military settlement.

The original uninsulated, prefabricated bungalows were built for $2,500 by Milton Kolb, who also developed the first three blocks on the West End: New York, California and Pennsylvania. The prefabs were installed on property owned by Brooklyn developer and former State Sen. William Reynolds. The homes were meant for summer use, so they
came with front porches and faced either east or west so they could capture the breezes from the ocean and the bay to the south and north.

“The whole design of the walks was to build houses without street access, but an aside was the breezes,” said Roberta Fiore, a Long Beach historian, who noted that for $500 more than the selling price, a chimney could be built for winter use.

In 1928, single-level bungalows were built alongside the original homes by Louis Bossert, a Brooklyn lumber producer who developed the future city’s second wave of homes after World War I. St. Ignatius Church on West Broadway was built for the Walks community in 1926.

In the mid-1950s tenants began living in the Walks year-round, and by the 1970s, by most accounts, a majority of residents did so. “When the Walks became an all-year-round community, the expression then was, ‘Throw some heat in the bungalows,’” Fiore said. — JK