Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Thanksgiving Story

The Thanksgiving Story
Most stories of Thanksgiving history start with the harvest celebration of the pilgrims and the Indians that took place in the autumn of 1621. Although they did have a three-day feast in celebration of a good harvest, and the local Indians did participate, this "first Thanksgiving" was not a holiday, simply a gathering. There is little evidence that this feast of thanks led directly to our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday. Thanksgiving can, however, be traced back to 1863 when Pres. Lincoln became the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving Day. The holiday has been a fixture of late November ever since.
However, since most school children are taught that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 with the pilgrims and Indians, let us take a closer look at just what took place leading up to that event, and then what happened in the centuries afterward that finally gave us our modern Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect). They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religious persecution. There, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, thinking it ungodly. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Most of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, but were hired to protect the company's interests. Only about one-third of the original colonists were Separatists.
The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. At the beginning of the following fall, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast -- including 91 Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true "thanksgiving" observance. It lasted three days.
Governor William Bradford sent "four men fowling" after wild ducks and geese. It is not certain that wild turkey was part of their feast. However, it is certain that they had venison. The term "turkey" was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl.
Another modern staple at almost every Thanksgiving table is pumpkin pie. But it is unlikely that the first feast included that treat. The supply of flour had been long diminished, so there was no bread or pastries of any kind. However, they did eat boiled pumpkin, and they produced a type of fried bread from their corn crop. There was also no milk, cider, potatoes, or butter. There was no domestic cattle for dairy products, and the newly-discovered potato was still considered by many Europeans to be poisonous. But the feast did include fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison, and plums.
This "thanksgiving" feast was not repeated the following year. Many years passed before the event was repeated. It wasn't until June of 1676 that another Day of thanksgiving was proclaimed. On June 20 of that year the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving. It is notable that this thanksgiving celebration probably did not include the Indians, as the celebration was meant partly to be in recognition of the colonists' recent victory over the "heathen natives," (see the proclamation).

A hundred years later, in October of 1777 all 13 colonies joined in a thanksgiving celebration. It also commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. But it was a one-time affair.
George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, although some were opposed to it. There was discord among the colonies, many feeling the hardships of a few pilgrims did not warrant a national holiday. And later, President Thomas Jefferson opposed the idea of having a day of thanksgiving.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies' Magazine, and later, in Godey's Lady's Book. Finally, after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's obsession became a reality when, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was proclaimed by every president after Lincoln. The date was changed a couple of times, most recently by Franklin Roosevelt, who set it up one week to the next-to-last Thursday in order to create a longer Christmas shopping season. Public uproar against this decision caused the president to move Thanksgiving back to its original date two years later. And in 1941, Thanksgiving was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, as the fourth Thursday in November.

This comes from our friend Joe McManus 80th A.D. State Committeeman


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chanukah Menorah Lighting

  The largest Chanukah menorah in the Bronx was lit in the Riverdale section by Rabbi Levi Shemtov tonight. The menorah which stands in front of the Riverdale Bell Tower (West 239th Street & Riverdale Avenue) is lit with help from Con Ediison who provides a bucket truck to lift the Rabbi to the top of the menorah. This coming Sunday is the official public lighting with one of the local elected officials going up in the bucket truck with the Rabbi to light the menorah. Last year Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. had the honor of lighting the Riverdale menorah. This year while Mayor Elect Bill deBlasio has been invited to light the menorah Rabbi Shemtov said the back up menorah lighter would be Senator Jeff Klein or Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Dinowitz has lit the menorah in the past while Senator Klein has not. Below are photos of the menorah being put up, in the afternoon before sundown, and after being lit by Rabbi Shemtov. 

Left - Workers secure the base of the largest menorah in the Bronx.
Right - The menorah base is complete.


Left - The Con Edison bucket truck waits to lift Rabbi Shemtov to light the first light on the Riverdale Chanukah Menorah.
Right - People dance in glee as the start of Chanukah is minutes away.

Left - A side photo of the menorah.
Right - A front view of the menorah. The middle light is lit first then also one light from the right. On each of the next seven nights remaining of Chanukah another light is lit next to the one that was lit the night before.

Kingsbridge Road 1st Annual Holiday Tree Lighting ~ Sat. 11/23

Holiday Tree Lighting
Saturday, November 23rd  

Happy Thanksgiving From the Bronx Chamber of Commerce!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

State Labor Department Releases Preliminary October 2013 Area Unemployment Rates

  The State Labor Department today released preliminary local area unemployment rates for October 2013, which are calculated following procedures prescribed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s unemployment rate relies in part on the results of a telephone survey of 3,100 households (out of more than 7 million) in New York State.

  It is a county by county look at unemployment numbers by the Department of Labor, Tompkins County once again has the lowest unemployment in the state, with a rate of just 4.8 percent, while The Bronx has the highest, 12.2 percent. Brooklyn was the second highest borough in the city at 9.6 percent. New York City as a whole it is said has fallen from 9 percent to 8.9 percent, surrounding areas outside of New York City fared much better going from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent unemployment. The New York State unemployment rate was listed at 7.5 percent. 
  • The counties in New York State with the lowest unemployment rates include:
    • Tompkins County (4.8%)
    • Yates County (5.2%)
    • Hamilton County (5.3%)
    • Putnam County (5.5%)
    • Saratoga County (5.5%)
  • The counties in New York State with the highest unemployment rates include:
    • Bronx County (12.2%)
    • Kings County (9.6%)
    • Jefferson County (8.7%)
    • Orleans County (8.5%)
    • St. Lawrence County (8.3%)

Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, for New York and every other state are based on statistical regression models specified by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are the most up-to-date estimates of persons employed and unemployed by place of residence. Estimates are available for New York State, labor market regions, metropolitan areas, counties, and municipalities of at least 25,000.


Wave Hill Events December 13–December 20

Ornament fragrant pine boughs with shiny foil, glittery beads and natural objects like cones, dried herbs and spices. Tie up a small sachet to create your own glowing, deliciously scented decoration. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon.

Quiet like a mountain, moving like a river, Tai Chi is a sequence of gentle movements based on images found in nature. In this beginner-level class, Irving Yee, a member of the William CC Chen Tai Chi School, introduces students to the internal martial arts and promotes an awareness of its benefits. Session fee: $23/Wave Hill Member $15. Registration online only at

The versatile conifers (pines, spruces, junipers and their kin) enhance our winter landscape and provide flavorful accents for seasonal dishes. With the Conifer Slope as a backdrop, Horticultural Interpreter Charles Day and a chef from Wave Hill exclusive caterer Great Performances reveal the origin and history of some of our edible conifers. Sample delicious coniferous recipes featuring juniper berries and pine nuts. Free with admission to the grounds.

Ornament fragrant pine boughs with shiny foil, glittery beads and natural objects like cones, dried herbs and spices. Tie up a small sachet to create your own glowing, deliciously scented decoration. Free with admission to the grounds.

Find refuge from city life by practicing seasonal yoga. Decrease stress and increase your energy by focusing on your posture, your breath and your mind/body/spirit. Classes are led by Neem Dewji, certified in Hatha and Therapeutic Yoga from The Yoga for Health Foundation, England, and The Integral Yoga Institute, NYC. All levels welcome. Session fee: $23/Wave Hill Member $15. Registration online only at

This fall, take a moment to release stress and reconnect with your inner self while practicing meditation. Each session includes instruction in simple techniques followed by 20 to 30 minutes of meditation. Led by Yoga for Bliss director Neem Dewji and other qualified instructors. All levels welcome. Session fee: $23/Wave Hill Member $15. Registration online only at

Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the grounds.

Closed to the public.

A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River  and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscape, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS  Open all year, Tuesday through Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM—4:30PM. Closes 5:30PM, March 15—October 31.  
ADMISSION  $8 adults, $4 students and seniors 65+, $2 children 6—18. Free Saturday mornings until noon. Free all day on Tuesdays in December. Free to Wave Hill Members and children under 6.

PROGRAM FEES  Programs are free with admission to the grounds unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Wave Hill can take advantage of Metro-North’s one-day getaway offer. Purchase a discount round-trip rail far and discount admission to the gardens. More at

DIRECTIONS – Getting here is easy! Located only 3o minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from our front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, as well as the 242nd Street stop on the #1 subway line. Limited onsite parking is available for $8 per vehicle. Free offsite parking is available nearby with continuous, complimentary shuttle service to and from the offsite lot and our front gate. Complete directions and shuttle bus schedule at

Information at 718.549.3200. On the web at

Monday, November 25, 2013

Community Board 8 Land Use Meeting Dec. 9.

 The Community Board 8 Land Use Committee will be meeting on Monday December 9th starting at 7:30 PM at the Conservative Synagogue located 475 West 250th Street off the Henry Hudson Parkway service road north. On the agenda are two items.

  1 - An enclosed sidewalk cafe for the Dale Restaurant located at 189 West 231st Street.

  2 - A presentation by Simone Management of demolition, construction, and development plans of property located 3741 & 3735 Riverdale Avenue, and 3644 Oxford Avenue for a proposed 11 story medical facility with parking.

UPDATE Con Edison "Dig They Must"

  Here is an update with new photos of Con Edison's Gas Conversion work in Community Board 8. If you live on Cruger and Lydig Avenues, Creston Avenue by East 196th Street, and almost anywhere else there are apartment buildings that are converting from oil to gas for heating fuel Con Edison will be ripping up the streets in or around those new gas customers. 
  Note on the first two long photos there are still no notices anywhere.
 This was Con Ed during last week at the corner of West 238th Street and Fieldston Road.
 Here you can see that the Con Edison contractor has set up a tent because the construction area is so large on the corner of West 238th Street and Greystone Avenue. The stores on the street are down from 10% - 40%, as one owner says "The people can't get to my store".
  This photo shows the rock that is below this street that has to be removed.
The same section with the new high pressure gas pipe.

This is the scene at a different location started after the Community Board 8 Traffic & Transportation meeting with Con Edison. Note that there are plenty of signs warning of the upcoming construction. 
Here once construction has started metal plates are put over the opening in the roadway as soon as the work moves on.