Tag Archive | "Staten Island"

Staten Island Resident Swims During Sandy Surge to Save His Life

by Shaukat Hamdani

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Arrochar and South Beach neighborhoods of Staten Island assessed the damage, both in property and human life, but they also had their share of miraculous escapes and survivors.  Roy Millington, 53, was the talk of Father Capadanno Blvd.  after he swam from his house to the home of his friends a couple of houses down to escape the surge of water coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

Millington had just gotten back from work around 5:30 Monday evening when he started to notice that the water around his house was rising fast. He lived in a basement apartment and hurried to the first floor. Millington said that he could see the waves coming and did not want to risk being stuck in the house so he swam to his friends home which was higher up. Despite having impressed his neighbors, Millington was humble about his feat.

“I love to swim, I am from Guyana, that’s my hobby,” joked Millington.

While Millington escaped on his own, many who were trapped during the storm were saved by New York City police and fire officers.  Logan Amos, 25, was evacuated by the police from his home on Doty Avenue, just off Father Capadanno Blvd. Amos recalls that around 8:30 p.m. Monday night he began to notice that the water was rising fast and he realized that he was in trouble. Amos and his family began gathering important objects to salvage and also started dialing 911. Amos said that while it took several hours for him to get in touch with the 911 operators he is glad that help eventually came by 1:30 a.m. “I thought I would drown in my home,” Amos said.

Despite being in a mandatory evacuation zone Amos said he does not regret not heeding the evacuation warning because he was able to salvage a lot of important stuff by staying back. However he does admit that he and his family had underestimated Sandy and almost paid the price for it. “Everyone thought it was going to be like Irene,” Amos said, “boy were we wrong.”


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Soccer: More than just a game for Liberians

The winner’s trophy on display

by Shaukat Hamdani, Liberian Beat Reporter —

Staten Island’s Liberian community is abuzz over the upcoming rematch of its soccer league’s championship match. But the game represents far more than a typical finale, several Liberians said. The league is the glue that unites this community scarred by an ethnic civil war.

The Staten Island Liberian County League has come a long way since it was founded in 1997. While eight teams are from Staten Island, the league now also has one team from Newark, New Jersey and one from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sulaiman Tunis, the founder of the Staten Island Liberian County League, said he began the league after kids from the community came to him in the summer of 1997 and said that they were getting bored and needed a soccer league.

However this league is not just about keeping teenagers and young adults out of boredom in the summers, but it also plays two very important social roles according to several members of the Liberian community. It keeps kids off the streets, which also reduces the crime rate, and it also unites the Liberian community.

“Kids are always in the streets selling drugs, but at this particular time they will suspend whatever they are doing and concentrate on the soccer league,” Tunis said.

He also mentions that gun violence has been an issue in the community, with kids shooting one another.

“But while we (are) doing this, they will stop all of that and concentrate on the game. Then a period of time will pass, without no crime report to the police force,” Tunis added.

Spectators enjoying the game

Many of the members of the Liberian community left their homeland because of two ethnic civil wars back home. Several members of the Liberian community agree that soccer is doing a good job in uniting the Liberian community and defusing tension between people.

Teah Jackson, who graduated from college in 2008 with a college degree in accounting and is a member of the Staten Island Liberian Community Association, plays in the league, and he emphasized the importance of soccer in the community.

“Soccer is a big help to our community, to our people, our country,” said Jackson. “Soccer eases your problem, because when you come on the field, you put all that stress on the soccer ball, instead of putting it on somebody. So we use soccer to create peace, we use soccer to create family.”But soccer serving a role as a unifying source is not something exclusive to the Liberian community of Staten Island.“Even when the civil war went on in Liberia, this is one of the sources that were used to bring them together, to unite them,” said Tunis, speaking of the importance of soccer.

Tunis also added that the soccer field is a place where friendships between members of the Staten Island Liberian community begin and continue.

A festive atmosphere surrounded the original championship match on September 3rd. Music blared from the sidelines at the Stapleton playground as a crowd of over 200 Liberians from different ethnic backgrounds gathered to watch the match, a sign that soccer transcends the conflicts at home. The game pitted Staten Island’s Grand Gedeh against Lofa, of Newark. The crowd exuded passion, shouting at the refs and giving informal play-by-play commentary.

Melvin Saah, goalkeeper for Grand Gedeh, makes a crucial save

Still, the soccer game was fiercely contested. It ended in a controversial 1-1 draw after  Grand Gedeh equalized in injury time. Lofa players complained that the game should have been over before the equalizing goal, but the result stood, forcing a rematch scheduled for Sunday.

This time the captain of Grand Gedeh, Charles Dukley, is confident of victory. “The team from Jersey had really good players, but my team wasn’t totally ready, because couple of my players were injured,” Dukley said. “But this coming game I have confidence in my team that we are going to win.”

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Cricketing across Countries

Dhiya Kuriakose, Sri Lankan beat reporter~

When Roshen Wallwattia left Sri Lanka for New York three years ago, he was carrying the typical anxieties that come with uprooting one’s life. How would he find a job? Would he make friends? Was moving to New York the right decision? Wallwattia found the answers to his questions in an unlikely place: a well-worn cricket field on Staten Island.

“I’ve played cricket with these guys since I got here. They were my first friends in New York,” said Wallwattia, a finance student at Columbia University. “They gave me my first job and they even supported me through my application to school.”

Cricket binds the Sri Lankan community in New York. Big matches regularly draw dozens of Sri Lankan cricket fans to local restaurants, giving them a taste of home. Many said that local leagues also act as a unifying force for the community.

“It’s just one time of the week we can come together to play a game we grew up with,” said Nalinda Persis, 33, who plays cricket every weekend over the summer in a park on Staten Island. “Less and less people play it but we still try to make it when we can. It takes us back to our childhood when we used to play on the streets at home. Nobody is bothered what they do as long as we can play together.”

Cricket’s popularity was on full display recently at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Manhattan. Inside Sigri on First Avenue, diners at three separate tables were passionately discussing the sport, debating their favorite players and predicting Sri Lanka’s chances at the T20 World Cup, the most prestigious tournament in the shorter version of the game.

Cricket is still a relatively unknown sport in the U.S., where it is greatly overshadowed by baseball. The two sports bear similarities but also feature striking differences. Cricket involves two teams that have batsmen, bowlers and fielders. Each team has 11 players. But unlike baseball, instead of four bases there are only two, in the center of a large round or elliptical field. The batsmen can decide when to run, and the fielding team has two bowlers, or pitchers, who operate from either end of the pitch, or infield. A run is scored when a batsmen strikes the ball and reaches the opposite end of the pitch, while his non-hitting teammate runs to his end. There are three formats that the game is played in, the shortest being around four hours and the longest running five days.

Despite its popularity back home, cricket is struggling to catch on with younger generations of Sri Lankans living in New York, who find it hard to resist getting swept up in more traditional American sports.

“My American friends don’t understand a game where the shortest time is half a day and the longest takes five days and sometimes without result,” said Chelaka Gunamuni, 29, who works at Sigri. “Even I don’t play cricket. I find it time consuming and frankly boring.”

“Did you know volleyball is our national sport? Nobody follows volleyball like this,” said Fernando, a frequent visitor to the restaurant. “When Lanka plays cricket we all play with them, we feel like we are there. Just imagine all the Sri Lankans across the world are cheering for one thing. You should know how rarely that happens.”

Still, Gunamuni, who arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago, conceded that whenever he meets Sri Lankans, their first conversation typically centers on cricket. “I know that if I meet a Sri Lankan anywhere in the world, we can discuss cricket and become friends.”

For V. Selvanathan, a 54-year old man who left Sri Lanka in 1992, cricket will always carry special meaning. He said the sport helped unite the island nation, which for 40 years endured a violent uprising by separatist rebels known as the Tamil, during its most tumultuous times.

“Every day when I opened the newspaper, the first page would talk about how Tamil terrorists were killing or being killed,” said Selvanathan. “Then I would turn to the sports sections and read about Muttiah Muralitharan who is the world’s most successful bowler. He was a Tamil and our favorite Sri Lankan player.”

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