Tag Archives: NYC

Content about living, working in, and exploring NYC.

LET’S GET READY TO ROLL

I became interested in Mixed Martial Arts over 10 years ago when I was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A few of the guys I went to high school with were really into it and UFC was extremely popular since wrestling was big in Oklahoma. My favorite fighter was Forrest Griffin. I wasn’t really aware of any gyms in Tulsa that would train teenage girls but I did go to a few Jiu-Jitsu tournaments that a friend entered, as a spectator. I really enjoyed attending the tournaments and wanted to try but was too scared.

Fast forward to 2018 in NYC and I became friends with a guy who was a member of a kickboxing and grappling gym and another guy who trained Jiu-Jitsu regularly. They both convinced me (along with a few other friends online) that I could do it and that it wouldn’t be as bad as I was imagining. I was a super small kid and when I took Judo for a few months in Hawaii I remember even the warmups before every practice being so hard. I was scared I would show up to one of these gyms and embarrass myself, not to mention the gyms in Midtown Manhattan are crazy expensive.

I put it off again and then the pandemic hit in March of 2020. Fast forward about a year and I joined several neighborhood Facebook groups in my area. One day another female posted in one of the groups inquiring about Jiu-Jitsu classes in our neighborhood and someone responded telling us to check out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu of Washington Heights. I decided to face my fears and anxieties and sign up for a trial–after 12 years of debating and being too scared to try, I finally bit the bullet!

I don’t regret it at all! The coach trains under Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro in his Times Square facility and is a Purple belt. He offers kids classes too. NONE of the hundreds of things I was scared of happened–all of the anxieties I had were pointless. I haven’t embarrassed myself, I wasn’t too out of shape, and even though I am the smallest person in the class, everyone has been really supportive, kind, and helpful while teaching me. Tonight I have my first class as a full member of the gym!

One great thing I love about this gym is that it isn’t cost-prohibitive like the Gracie schools in lower Manhattan. This is the cost of my investment so far:

If you are looking for a new sport to try, I can’t recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enough. Leave a comment below if you have any questions!

Un Duplice Omicidio: Murder, Politics, and Immigration in the Bronx

Early one Monday morning, less than half a mile from his apartment, a 38-year-old Army veteran named Joseph is stabbed to death in the Bronx. A 22-year-old man, identified as Nicholas, comes to his rescue and is stabbed 8 times in the back. They were both part of a group which had been invited by the American Legion to march in the annual Memorial Day parade downtown. All of this takes place within yards of one of the oldest hospitals in New York City, yet they both perish. Their deaths make it into the New York Times and a world-renowned attorney agrees to defend their accused murderers. He succeeds and no one is ever imprisoned for their deaths. Their funerals draw 10,000 mourners and newspapers as far as Texas and Kentucky publish their obituaries…

So, Anna, here we go again with those weeks-long gaps in writing. Why you’re absolutely right, but I have a good excuse this time: I was researching for this next piece. Now, this one is not going to be an opinion piece and there is going to be no resolution at the end, but if you are interested in history, then I think this might grab your attention. Also, it does have a tangential connection to Donald Trump (just hold your horses-it isn’t commentary on current politics…that’s for another time) and there will be lots of pictures and a few mysteries! Now, let’s get down to it.

Back in the Spring of 2015 I took a required class at NYU and the final assignment was a primary source research paper. Well, if you’ll remember, even my first M.A. thesis was based mostly on secondary sources. So, I had very little experience working with primary sources, outside of some transcription I did for a professor one year. For this paper, I went to two research libraries and a courthouse archive here in the Bronx. The result was a 20+ page primary source research paper about two murders in the Bronx and Italian political history in New York City. A few posts ago I mentioned that I “spider-webbed” a lot of my work in graduate school so that I could expand upon the same topic and do more research on one subject. That semester it was Fascism. I was also enrolled in a Nazi Germany/Fascist Italy dual-taught course. Instead of working on two separate things I wrote this seminar paper for one course and a historiography over a similar topic for the Fascism+Nazism class. I am terrible at writing historiographies so that one didn’t turn out great, but my seminar paper was much better. I got a B on the paper and I was really upset about it, but a few months later a click-bait article from BoingBoing about Donald Trump’s dad being arrested as part of a KKK brawl came across my Facebook timeline.boing-boing I didn’t plan to click, but then I saw the funeral announcement for the two men who were murdered! I clicked and realized their deaths had been a much bigger deal than I initially thought and I also picked up on some inconsistencies from my paper.

I’m not going to summarize 20 pages of writing in this blog, I just want to talk about the two guys who were murdered. If you want to know more about the Italian diaspora just read this. I was researching Fascism in the Italian-American communities in NYC and how Italian’s organized their Fascist groups abroad. In Italian Fascist Activities in North America by Gaetano Salvemini, he mentions the case of two men who were murdered in the Bronx in 1927. Clarence freakin’ Darrow defended the men accused of their murders pro bono and got them off (here is his correspondence from the trial). Despite this, the murders were only discussed in a page or two and the discrepancies regarding the accused and the victims were never addressed. I have been researching for a year and a half now, on and off, and I have yet to find another book or historian who has delved into this case. I obviously can’t travel to Italy and I can’t go back in time to know what really happened, but I will present you with the evidence I’ve found. I have used ancestry.com, the Bronx Country Courthouse, familysearch.org, and a few archival websites in Italy.

Here is the profile I’ve put together of the two victims:

Michele Ambrosoli was born on 9 September 1906 in Rionero in Volture, Potenza, Italy.birth-record His father was a farmer named Giovanni Ambrosoli. He was born at #13 Via Processione. In my research, I found a Via Ambrosoli in Melfi, nearby. When you search the street on Google it’s called Via Michele Ambrosoli, but Google maps only lists it as Via Ambrosoli. I know the Fascist government renamed many streets in Italy, so it would be interesting to know if they named this street after this Michele Ambrosoli, when, and who took Michele off of Google maps and why.

Also, Via Processione no longer exists in Rionero, but I know it existed before because other people traced their relatives to the same street on some genealogy blogs. I have searched and searched for an old map of Rionero with no success, but I will keep trying. Michele immigrated to the United States in July 1920 aboard the S.S.Patria. He was 14, traveled alone, gave no destination, and no relatives back in Italy. He was held by immigration at Ellis Island for 2 days and ultimately released on 2 August around 3:45 PM. Michele Ship.jpgI haven’t been able to track him any further until 7 years later when he is killed on the corner of 183rd and 3rd in the Bronx around 8 AM. He is then misidentified in every newspaper that reports on his death. The court records also misidentify him and the accused are tried for the death of Michele. The Fascists hold a funeral for him in the Bronx and 10,000 people attend. A new Fascist club was created in his honor in Brooklyn under the name Michele Ambrosoli.

While this information may seem trivial, we need to talk about naming and name changes. Initially, Michele Ambrosoli was identified by the New York Times as Nicola Amoroso, then Nicholas Amoruzo, Nicola, Amorosso, then Nicholas Amoruzo D’Ambrosoli. The Ambrosoli was only mentioned in one of the last stories about their funeral in Naples. His death certificate is listed on Ancestry under Michael Ramibrose. I have yet to figure out how or why he was identified as Nichola(s) Amoroso. A new Fascio was commemorated in his honor in Brooklyn and it was called Fascio Michele Ambrosoli, so the Italian community knew his real name. He was also listed as a Fascist martyr as both Michele Ambrosoli and Michele D’Ambrosoli. I am currently trying to get ahold of a funeral announcement from Mt. Carmel Church, but all evidence points to the fact that he was not going by an alias. I believe he lived in Brooklyn and was only visiting the Bronx, but I have no evidence so far. I don’t know where he worked, where he lived, if he ever traveled back to Italy, nothing. The list of Fascist martyrs says that he died trying to help a comrade who had been attacked by “subversives” and I can only assume that was the first victim that day: Giuseppe Carisi.

Now, for the other guy. I’ve had a LOT of success finding information about him. Similarly, his name is listed in various forms: His birth name is Giuseppe Carisi but he signed his name and is listed as George Carisi, Joseph Carisie, Joseph Carrisi, Joseph Carisy, etc.

Giuseppe Carisi was born on 10 February 1889 in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Pietro Carisi was his father. An unnumbered house on Via Santa Caterina is listed and Vittoria Mesiano is also listed on his birth certificate.

I have been able to track him to a home at 124-126 Thompson street in Manhattan in 1910. He was boarding with a Carmelo (twenty years his senior) and Philomena Mesiano, who I can only assume were relatives of Vittoria from back in Calabria. Carlo was making watches in his home and Giuseppe said he was an operator at a coat shop.

652In 1913, Giuseppe moved to the Bronx and according to the 1920 census Carmelo and Giuseppe were living 500 feet from one another at 502 and 552 East 187th Street. Carlo now owned a jewelry store and Giuseppe was a tailor at a factory. Giuseppe was now living with his younger brother Pietro. As of 1918, he was working at Eclipse Cloth(es) Company on 328 Church Street (which now appears to be a Post Office). In 1890 this factory had 22 employees and is listed as specializing in foodstuffs, leather, and general merchandise. During World War I, Joseph (he was signing this name now) was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Hancock, Georgia for six months.

He became a naturalized citizen there. Upon his return from the Army, he applied for a passport in 1919 and traveled back and forth to Italy at least two times in the early 20s. It appears he intended to bring his family back to the United States.

While his brother appears to have been here with him in 1920, his assets were probated in 1928 and all of his family is listed as resident aliens in Staiti, Calabria-including his brother Pietro Jr. I am unsure as of yet if he was able to bring his family back from Italy. Tragically, his father died just 18 days after he was killed. Giuseppe had over $2000 in assets which appear to have been given to his family, although it appears the legal proceedings took over a year to complete.

One of the most interesting things to note is that Carmelo Mesiano moved from 124-126 Thomson street to 502 East 187th street sometime between 1910 and 1920. I do not know when or if any of these men became full-fledged Fascists, nor what that process entailed, but he was living next door to 506 East 187th street which was the headquarters for Fascists in this area and the location of the Fascio Mario Sozini. fascist-meeting-houseThis Fascio is featured in Carlo Tresca’s memoirs as an especially active Fascio and most of the accounts I read said that the men gathered there that morning before leaving to go to the parade. Perhaps Pietro joined the Fascists first, maybe Carmelo invited Giuseppe to join for economic or social reasons. Maybe Giuseppe wasn’t Fascist at all and just hung out with his friend and neighbors regularly. People shifting their identities is nothing new, so it is important that we realize these shifts in the political and national identity of immigrants have existed for centuries.

The two men were murdered here (the train station has since been demolished)

One reason history is so fascinating to me is because we are often able to pin down the exact time and date certain things happened, but other than the occasional diary it is impossible to know how people felt. I will never know how a World War I veteran that died with a $2000 estate in 1927 became a Fascist. I will never know why a 14-year-old boy traveled to a new continent alone, became a Fascist, was murdered while trying to aide Giuseppe, was misidentified by the national media, and doesn’t show up in any extant records. But one thing is for sure, two men who were able to gain the attention of national and international media and drew 10,000 people to the Bronx for their funerals are worth talking a look at.

I think this case is incredibly relevant to current political discourse. Veterans, immigration, Fascism, identity, diaspora, allegiance, and the importance of documentation are all as important today as they were on Memorial Day 1927.

So, this is where I leave it for now. I will probably continue to research this for years to come and hopefully one day I will be able to visit Southern Italy armed with these records. I don’t know what I can do with all this stuff since I’m not in academia anymore, but I’d love to make a vlog of the significant locations, write a biography, or even a historical novel.

**I am in the process of ordering the two men’s death certificates (they are sequentially numbered which really helped with making sure I was researching the right guys) and will update this when/if I find out anything new!

Until next time, y’all!

Moving in a New York Minute aka Three Weeks of Hell: Part 2

I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that nothing in New York City is simple.

What I thought was a 4 day search that ended in 3 possible apartments, quickly turned in to a 3 week saga and many angry phone calls.

After my awesome day of seeing 7 apartments and applying for 3, I hit a brick wall. I can’t say why, but I do believe that the agent I was passed off to in Riverdale was not a proactive as he could have been.

With $1200 cash in his pocket and all of the required paperwork from my cosigner/guarantor and I, I don’t understand why all 7 apartments fell through.

He didn’t contact me for days and despite many texts and calls from me, I didn’t find out until the middle of the following week that I hadn’t gotten my dream apartment and the 3rd apartment in my queue was already rented. By the end of the second week, I thought I was only waiting on the second apartment. One of the other apartments I saw was still available, but it was my last-ditch option. I saw the second apartment I was waiting on listed online and I got my mom to call and ask about it and it turns out it was rented. So, after all of that previous work, two weeks later and I was literally at square one.

I panicked and started cruising site after site to find anything and everything.

I applied to a Christian dorm at the NYSUM in Queens (I highly suggest applying if you are moving to NYC-it’s only $5000 a year). I never heard back from them, but I do think it’s a good option, so check it out!

I looked on ACME Listings and found several other listings and my mom found a guy online that was renting out a room in his apartment. I called my agent at Rapid Riverdale and told him that my cosigner and I were coming back to the city and we were ready to look at as many apartments as possible and sign leases ASAP.

My mother and I rented a car, packed it up, and drove to New Jersey.

IMG_7047 IMG_7073

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and took the train in to New York. I had set up an appointment with another real estate agent, but the train to New York was stuck on the track for over an hour and I missed my appointment. We made our way to Rapid Riverdale and my agent took us to see an apartment. It was in Riverdale, but far from the train and $100 over my new budget and $300 to $400 over my original budget. We went back to the office to wait for another agent to take us to a few other viewings and there were signs on the front of the office advertising one bedrooms for under $1200 a month. I asked my agent and he acted as though he knew nothing about it, but asked another agent named Serin!

Serin rocked! He came into the room where my mother and I were waiting. By this time I was pissed that my agent had let 7 places slip away and that I had to find listings for us to go see, when I was paying HIM a broker fee. So, I just spoke up and told Serin that I would take anything under $1200 that I could move into immediately. Serin took my mother and I to look at a huge place in the Bronx. It was a one bedroom that could be two, in a Dominican neighborhood, and was $1175 a month. We went to see two others and I told them to put my application in for 3 of the 4 apartments we saw (we saw a janky one near Yankee Stadium). My mom was NOT happy with any of them, except the one in Riverdale, and was especially not happy about me living in the Bronx alone.

Continue reading Moving in a New York Minute aka Three Weeks of Hell: Part 2

Moving in a New York Minute aka Three Weeks of Hell: Part 1

Hey everyone! How have you all been? I am sure you are all wondering why I never started my New York blog series. I know it has been almost 3 weeks since I made the announcement and I have yet to post the first installment. Well, long story short, it is a major pain in the ass to move to New York City. Ignorantly, I had these ideas about 19 year olds from the Midwest that just up and move to New York and automatically find a one room studio for $800 a month and just work day and night to move up to a one bedroom whenever they’ve saved enough money.

Let me just say, if you are thinking about this little fantasy too, THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS.

Reality smacked me in the face quite quickly. About a month ago, I went up to Massachusetts with my boyfriend. He has a timeshare up there and we figured we could just take the train into the city everyday and find something quickly. I had been looking on Zillow.com and Trulia.com for a few weeks, but everyone that I called or emailed said to call them when I got to the city because the listings that were available would be gone by the time I got there. I later found out that the average listing is only available for 48 hours, so you have to jump on them immediately and submit an application.

I found one realtor online that worked in Brooklyn (from what I understand the real estate licenses in the city are only good for one borough, so most agents stick to one borough). She called me about a week before I was due to arrive and I gave her my budget and the areas I wanted to live. At this time, I had this fantasy in my mind that I would be able to find a studio for $900, so I said that my budget was $1000 a month. I did not have any other requirements. As I am not moving my furniture, I did not care about square footage or anything. This agent told me to contact her when I got to New York, so on the ride up to Massachusetts I called her and we talked for about 45 minutes. She said she would look and call me back the next morning.

I found out through research that if you are not employed in New York City, you have to have a cosigner from the tri-state area. If you call people and tell them you are a student and you have cash for the lease (which I did), they still won’t show you the listing because most places require you to have a minimum income of 40 times the rent. i.e. A studio for $1000 a month means you have to make $40,000 at a job in New York.

Continue reading Moving in a New York Minute aka Three Weeks of Hell: Part 1