CARIBBEAT: Get a taste of Jamaica with The Island Discovery Box of gourmet Caribbean products

Jamaican cuisine is coming to kitchen tables through the Island Discovery Box, a scrumptious sampling of gourmet Caribbean-inspired food products from the producers of the “Taste the Islands” public television cooking series. The discovery box is a curated holiday offering of brand-name products, including Wicked Jack’s Tavern Butter Rum Cake, Xaymaca’s Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee blend, Belcour’s Sorrel Chutney, Cornelia Confections Coconut Ginger Brittle and spicy Tobago Pepper pineapple sauce. This food collection — for home or gifts — are $50 each. There are also bulk orders available as corporate gifts. The boxes, which ship free throughout the continental United States through the end of 2015, are available at The "Taste the Islands" food show, a popular, Jamaican-produced by Calibe Thompson's Blondie Ras Productions, debuted in April on public television stations in the U.S., hosted by culinary consultant Hugh (Chef Irie). Caribbean cuisine, culture and celebrities are featured in the TV series, which is funded by the Jamaica Tourist Board. For more on the Taste of the Islands television show, visit BUSINESSES & THE NYPD It’s not all just about serving as a police officer; there are loads of opportunities and contracts with the NYPD for city-certified minority- and female-owned businesses, which will be discussed at a New American Chamber of Commerce event on Friday . There will be a Q&A session and networking for participants. Call (718) 722-9217 or register at — and visit at for more information. DOMINICA ‘OPEN’ AFTER STORM Shaking off the damaging effects of August’s Tropical Storm Erika, Dominica last week announced that the island nation is “open for business and ready to welcome Continue Reading

Retired executive working to find & place volunteers for Community Service Society’s ‘RSVP’ program

James Dyer visited the Community Service Society's Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) looking to donate his time and considerable expertise to a worthy cause. So, they kept him. Now the 72-year-old Washington Heights resident vets the volunteers for the program, which puts hundreds of retired workers and their skills and experiences at the service of more than 500 agencies across the five boroughs. "We get quite a range of people," Dyer said. "I find it very satisfying because of the interesting people you meet who find themselves doing interesting things after we talk." "Jim downplays what he does, but it's not an easy task to help people find a placement," said Meredith Gemeiner, RSVP's project director. "We have people come in with no idea what they want to do. Placement is about narrowing down their interests and skills. We have teachers who come in who never want to step foot in a school again. They want to do something totally different. Then we get people who want to work with kids just as they always have." About the only common factor of the 5,000 RSVP volunteers working gratis around the city is that they're 55 or older - the oldest is over 100, Gemeiner said - and want to share their skills. "We had a dean of a university come in, and a judge," she said. "We've had retired physicians, retired business people. Right now, the baby boomer generation is retiring so we're seeing a lot of them. But we also have people who did homemaking their entire life and never worked. We have a lot of teachers who come in, social workers, engineers. It really runs the gamut." Volunteers fill positions as wide-ranging as their talents: staffing mentoring programs for nonprofit groups, teaching literacy programs at public libraries, acting as museum docents - including at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum - and performing various functions at area hospitals and cultural institutions. "They could mentor a child whose parent is incarcerated, could Continue Reading

Project to aid kids traumatized by last year’s violent Jamaican military-police search hailed

An intiative that aided youngsters traumatized by last year's violent Jamaican military-police search for suspected drug suspect Christopher (Dudus) Coke will be recognized Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. in Manhattan by the Jamaica Consulate. The search for Coke and the effects of the subsequent weeks-long occupation of Kingston's Tivoli Gardens area led to the creation of the Tivoli Resolution Project, a photographic arts and individual therapy project. Undertaken last year, the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation-sponsored project was run by clinical psychologist Tamika Haynes Robinson, photographer/videographer Max Earle, art therapist Rozi Chung and educator/organizer Rebecca Tortello. In the project, 10 young male participants who were taught photography began to express their feelings about the massive law enforcement presence through their pictures. The effort culminated with an exhibition of photographs and narratives last fall in a Kingston art gallery. Last month, the project began offering arts therapy to all area residents. "What we hope is to start the beginning of healing," said Haynes Robinson in an online video about the therapy initiative. "I'm very happy to find that most of them can already say that project is working because they can express themselves; they can put certain very painful issues behind them, which is really what this project was aiming [to do]," said Haynes Robinson last year after a tour of the devastated, bullet-riddled neighborhood with project participants. The Jamaica Consulate is at 767 Third Ave. (near 48th St.) To RSVP, call (212) 935-9000, extension 21. Aristide gets Haiti passport As nationals wait to see what his intentions are, former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was issued a passport by his homeland last week, The Associated Press reported. The "passport is ready, and Ira Kurzban, [Aristide's lawyer] is on his way to pick it up," said Alice Blanchet, a special adviser to Prime Minister Continue Reading

State unemployment office adds to despair of Bronx’s jobless as bedbugs, rats invade shanty building

Locusts are about the only thing the state unemployment office in the South Bronx hasn't had this year. It had floods in the spring, bedbugs in the summer, and rats in the fall - in a two-story building for which the state pays landlord Jay Schwamm $1.3 million a year. The turquoise walls inside 358 E. 149th St. look like they haven't been painted since "Miami Vice" was on TV. If they could speak, they'd say "Get Out." That's exactly what city workers who had long shared the space are doing. "The rats eating through the walls on Halloween were the last straw," said city Small Business Commissioner Rob Walsh. "We've moved out and we'll open a new space nearby." If only the state workers - and the unemployed filing into the place - had that option. "All they did in there was hand me a piece of paper," said Daniel de Sanchez, who got laid off last week from his warehouse job after 11 years. "It says to call this number: (888) 209-8124. I did and you get a voicemail. I don't like to talk to a computer; I like to talk to someBODY." So did the 20 others who spent more than an hour yesterday in the waiting room, which should be named the "Waiting, Waiting and Still Waiting" room. It's not a fun place for people who've seen the recession rip away their jobs and tear up their families. The dinginess just adds insult to the injury of being out of work. Landlord Schwamm says he's had the bedbugs and rats removed. The other problems, he said, are the state's fault because it's responsible for maintenance. Kennetha Felder, who came with her fellow unemployed friend Charlotte Watson, braved freezing temperatures outside near a Pay-O-Matic and Prestamos Pawn Shop to talk about how things had changed for them over the years. "They found me a job here in 2004," said Felder, a former teacher's aide. "Now, we've gotten some calls after they put our résumés online, but no job offers. "We're going to take minimum-wage jobs at a shipping company in Continue Reading

Haiti needs stronger state institutions in order to rebuild the devastated nation: RAND Corp. study

Strengthening Haiti's state institutions is the key to rebuilding the earthquake-ravaged nation, says a new study from the RAND Corp. According to the study, the Haitian state and the many international donors should put a focus on public administration, justice, security, economic policy, infrastructure, education and health care in their reconstruction efforts. "Many studies have identified Haiti's most-pressing problems, but what haven't been focused on are the state institutions themselves: how to make them stronger and more resilient," said James Dobbins, a co-author of the study and a senior fellow at the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization. "State-building may not have the same appeal to international donors as erecting new buildings, but it's got to be done if Haiti is to successfully rebuild itself," noted Keith Crane, a study co-author and a senior economist at RAND, noting that roads and power plants have been built, but some of these projects are failing because the weakened government is unable to maintain them. See the entire "Building a More Resilient Haitian State" study and its recommendations online at Mowatt to lead show Judy Mowatt, reggae star and former member of Bob Marley's I-Threes backup singers, is the headliner of the big stage show at the Marcus Garvey Cultural and Family Fun Day today in Queens. The daylong affair, which includes a soccer tournament, cultural activities and children's events, will be held at Springfield Gardens High School, 143-10 Springfield Blvd. The "7 vs.7 Soccer Tournament" kicks off the day at 10 a.m. Family and children's events will be held throughout the day and the concert runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition to Mowatt, performers will include Shango Trex, Scepta, Empress Idama, I-Joe, Eric Smith, Cherry Rock, Keisha Martin, Marcia Davis, Princess Amirah, Ed Robinson, Mr. Easy and Asher Visionaire. RTN Production and Artganic are presenting the event and Continue Reading

Longest continuously operating movie theater in the nation, Ridgewood Theatre, becomes city landmark

A Queens moviehouse that was once the longest continuously operated in the nation jumped the last major hurdle to becoming a city landmark Tuesday, as officials credited the Daily News for alerting them to its storied past.The designation of the Ridgewood Theatre, profiled in The News' "History in Peril" series in 2008, will assure its protection from demolition or alterations.Boasting 2,500 seats upon its unveiling in 1916, the Myrtle Ave. mainstay survived the advent of the TV, VCR and DVD before its 91-plus-year run ended in 2008."Queens is very lucky the Ridgewood survived that long," said preservationist Michael Perlman, who spearheaded efforts to landmark the structure.Besides its cultural value, the movie palace touts Beaux-Arts design by renowned architect Thomas Lamb, such as a pair of heavily encrusted shields in terra cotta.Robert Tierney, chairman of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, hailed The News' "crusading" reports and "persistence" that "helped bring [the Ridgewood] to our attention."Marisa Berman of the Queens Historical Society, which ran a "History in Peril" exhibit last year based on The News' series, said she was glad "something so positive came out of it."The move still requires nods from the City Planning Department and then the City Council.But the commission's vote was considered the last major hurdle for landmarking because the local City Council member, Elizabeth Crowley, has vowed to guide the designation through.Before Tuesday's vote, Crowley (D-Middle Village) heralded the predicted landmarking as a "long-awaited victory for many of the people I represent."Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Margery Perlmutter said she hoped the designation would spare the Ridgewood the fate of other moviehouses that have been demolished."We have to protect them," she said.Perlman said the Ridgewood's owners, who did not attend the vote, hope to eventually reopen with retail on the ground floor and movies on the second.Joining the Ridgewood Continue Reading

Vacant Jamaica Bay property originally tabbed for private developments set to become waterfront park

A vacant Jamaica Bay property originally tabbed for private developments is slated to be transformed into the borough's newest waterfront park. The 1.2-acre site along Beach 88 St. near the Cross Bay Bridge, will offer a range of activities to the public such as picnicking, fishing and boating. The property was snapped up by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit group that specializes in land conservation, for $1.925 million, more than $1 million less than its market price, according to the owners. "We basically purchased and donated the property within five minutes," says Matt Shaffer, assistant director of marketing services for the nonprofit group. Funding by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey allowed the Trust to give the property to the city for the park's construction set to begin in Spring 2010. "(The Trust for Public Land) is proud to continue supporting both the needs of New York neighborhoods in gaining new, much-needed park space, and our city harbor and estuaries in maintaining sound ecological balance. This does both," said Leslie Wright, the state director of the Trust. Hudson Companies LLC, the original owners, planned to build 20 single-family homes on the waterfront property sometime in the next year, said Alan Ball, an owner of Hudson Companies. "We had no debt on the property, and we could have held on to it pretty easily, so we said we might as well cut bait and move on," he said. "Moving this project to the Trust for Public Land was a very good thing to do. The addition of the waterside park would bring much-needed parkland and open space to the Jamaica Bay area, which some environmental activists say is being overdeveloped. "The more public access we have in the area, the better. We have too much development in the area," says Daniel Mundy Jr. of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. Don Riepe, director of the Northeast chapter of the American Littoral Society noted that "Any park of any size is welcome... every Continue Reading

Raising funds for scholarships & Smiles

Coinciding with World AIDS Day and benefiting an organization to help Jamaican children with HIV, the Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) charity will hold its annual Scholarship Gala in Queens at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near LaGuardia Airport. The fund-raiser will help Project Smiles, a Jamaica AIDS Support for Life program that assists children affected by HIV, said COJO founder and chairman Gary Williams. JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Sandals Resorts International are among the supporters of the event. For tickets, call (888) 275-0121 toll free, or visit for information and sponsorship opportunities. Online donations are also being accepted for the event. Joey Lewis Orchestra arrives Dec. 6 There's some very good news for area fans of the popular Trinidad and Tobago-based Joey Lewis Orchestra - the band is finally on its way to New York. A problem in travel arrangements, which postponed a planned November appearance by the group, has been solved, and the orchestra is scheduled to perform on Dec. 6 in Brooklyn at the new Tropical Paradise Ballroom, at 363 Utica Ave. (between Foster Ave. and Farragut Road). The show is being presented by Unique Caribbean Promotions and Tropical Paradise. Tickets, priced at $45, are available at Brooklyn's Tropical Paradise Restaurant, at Utica Ave. and Avenue D, and other neighborhood outlets. Tickets purchased for the original November date will be honored. For information, call (917) 447-2323, or contact Tropical Paradise Restaurant at (718) 629-3500. Millions to help storm-hit Haiti The World Bank last week approved a $20 million grant to help storm-ravaged Haiti rebuild and make emergency repairs to bridges, roads and other key infrastructure impacted by Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike. Visit online for more information on the World Bank's work in Haiti. Sweeten the holidays Add some Guyanese flavor to your holiday season by giving Continue Reading

Big birthday bash as Jamaica turns 45

The nation of Jamaica will be 45 years old this year, and Jamaican-Americans will mark the occasion in New York with three weeks of events starting in late July and culminating with a gala ball on Aug.18. The events begin in Queens on July 29 with a Service of Thanksgiving at the New Jerusalem Baptist Church, at Baisley Blvd. and Smith St. in Jamaica. The big independence anniversary gala will be held in Manhattan at the Hilton Hotel and Towers on Aug. 18 and it will feature Jamaica's governor general, Kenneth Hall, as guest of honor. The evening affair will include music, dancing, fashion presentations and an auction. Popular performer Dwight Pinkney and the famous Fab Five Band will provide this year's entertainment. The gala is being coordinated by the Jamaica Independence Anniversary Committee, headed by Basil Bryan, Jamaica's Consul General in New York. Bryan also is active in the planning of the other 2007 anniversary events. Tickets for the gala are $180 per person. There will be no ticket sales at the venue on the day of the event. Headline sponsors are Air Jamaica and the Jamaica Tourist Board. Other sponsors include VP Records, Grace Kennedy & Company, American Airlines, Sandals Resorts International, SuperClubs, Quality Ford of Mount Vernon, Ford Motor Credit, Ovan Clarke Construction and the Victoria Mutual Building Society, Royal Caribbean Bakery/JerkQzine, American Express, Western Union, Tower Isle's Frozen Foods, Dennis Shipping, Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery, and Round Hill Hotel & Villas. For gala tickets and information about other independence anniversary events, call the Consulate General of Jamaica at (212) 935-9000. AFTER 34 YEARS, there's no doubt that Brooklyn's International African Arts Festival (formerly known as the African Street Festival) is an official rite of summer for New Yorkers and thousands of annual visitors from outside the city. The family festival - and its lineup of music, dance, spoken word Continue Reading

CARIBBEAT: CARICOM leaders connect with President Obama in short, but fruitful pre-Summit of the Americas stopover in Jamaica

PRESIDENT OBAMA last week had a productive one-day stopover in Jamaica on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, meeting leaders of CARICOM — the Caribbean Community — and discussing initiatives to aid the countries and people of the region. “As has already been mentioned, the bonds between us are extraordinarily strong,” Obama said, addressing the CARICOM meeting Thursday. “The Caribbean is a place of extraordinary beauty, people of enormous spirit, unique talents, a wonderful culture. We are bound by friendship and shared values, and by family. And we have a great stake in each other’s success.” Obama said upholding human rights, combatting transnational crime, the effects of climate change and the production of clean, less expensive energy sources were on the table for discussion at the CARICOM meeting, in which he announced a new fund to mobilize private investment in clean energy projects for the Caribbean and Central America. Obama — the first U.S. President to visit the island nation in 30 years — was greeted enthusiastically by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and Governor General Patrick Allen, and the passion didn’t end there. Obama immediately wowed participants of a “Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative” town hall session at the University of the West Indies with his introduction in Jamaican patois: “Greetings, massive! Wa gwaan, Jamaica? The President said his administration had made significant investments to help broaden the opportunities for young leaders across the region, including $70 million for education, training and employment initiatives in the Caribbean and Latin America, and the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program to bring students to study in the U.S. and send U.S. students to learn in the region. And he used the Jamaica town hall meeting to announce the new “Young Leaders of the Americas Continue Reading