Author Archives: sophiaterzulli

What Does Ellis Island Mean to You?

Ellis Island is a very interesting landmark. Ellis Island was the deciding factor if a passenger from another country would be able to pass through and come to America. The passengers aboard these ships all had their own stories, and own reasons for wanting to come to America. Ellis Island is important to me because both sides of my family have passed through in hopes of having a better life in New York.

Ellis Island was able to preserve the records of some of my family members that came to New York from Italy. When I first logged onto the Ellis Island website I was shocked. There was a list of seventeen people that passed through sharing the name Terzulli. The interesting thing is that there is only one family tree for Terzullis, so all people sharing that last name are related.I was really surprised by the large number of Terzullis that had emigrated from Italy to America. My father is an Italian-American immigrant. He came to America about forty years ago. When he traveled here he came with his parents and five siblings. In America he already had some cousins and family members. When I called my dad to tell him that there were seventeen Terzullis listed on the Ellis Island passenger record website, he was shocked. He knew that there had been a few people from our family tree that came to America and laid roots, but that number is very high. I am amazed by the way that Ellis Island was able to store records of my distant family members. The earliest Terzulli to come immigrate through Ellis Island was Ettore Terzulli. Ettore came to America on November 9, 1904 from Lucera, Italy. Ettore was just twenty-three years old when he left through the port of Naples on a ship named the Gerty. I cannot even imagine the journey that Ettore went on to come to America. I wonder how long it took him to save money for the journey. I think about what kind of work he was agreeing to do when he came here. How was his journey aboard the Gerty? I would love a chance to ask Ettore what kind of feelings he got when he saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. It saddens me that I will most likely never know the story of Ettore, however I am thankful that Ellis Island was able to preserve some of my family history.I find it amazing that forty four years ago my father at the age of eight was able to take a plane with his family and arrive in America with hopes of having a better life in New York. Ettore, one hundred and eight years ago most likely shared the same dream. Although I was unable to attend the Ellis Island trip I will definitely make a point of visiting. I never knew that Ellis Island could be so interesting. I am excited to take my father with me to Ellis Island that way we both can explore where his distant relatives passed through years ago. I think it will be a great bonding experience, and will also give me a chance to not only get to know my father more, but understand more about my Italian heritage.

I am thankful that Ellis Island was able to preserve the records of my father’s distant family members. I unfortunately was unable to find information on my Great Grandmother that immigrated to America from Poland because the people at Ellis Island severely misspelled her last name. My family is unsure of what the name originally was, or what the exact misspelling had been listed as. I have been researching on the Ellis Island website, but it is unusually hard to find because they list most Polish passengers as Russian. My grandmother, who was born in America, had her name legally changed along with several of her family members is regards to their disliking of Ellis Island’s negligence. Most of my mother’s relatives are deceased and therefore researching this topic is a very large struggle. After finding out so much detailed information about my father’s side I am determined to give my mother the same satisfaction by knowing more about her own family tree.

Ellis Island is a very special research tool in our society. I am amazed by the opportunities that Ellis Island can offer by listing information about passengers that have passed through. Ellis Island is interesting as it holds so many stories of hope, struggle, and perseverance. I cannot wait to visit Ellis Island, and I will definitely encourage my family members to visit the records with me.

-Sophia Terzulli


Negotiating Public Space: Academic Service Learning

 Over Thanksgiving break I completed my Academic Service Learning hours. I completed my community service at the Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim. The Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim is a Jewish religious center that is involved in several activities for benefitting the community. The center offers counseling, visits to elderly and disabled, food delivery and a food pantry. All of the food in the pantry is kosher to help those in the community to keep kosher in hard times. The center advertises that the pantry hands out 7000 food packages per month. This number is surprisingly high to me considering the fact that the center is located right by St. John’s in Queens.  I am surprised that there are so many people in need this close to our school. The pantry claims to serve food to 1,200 families three days a week. I’m impressed at the center’s ability to help so many people. I am excited to see how they manage to store and package such a high quantity of food.

I arrived at the center on Wednesday, November 21 at nine in the morning. I was following the map on my cell phone and as I looked up I saw a bustling scene. There was a crowd of at least fifteen people in a line standing outside a back door near something that almost resembled a shed. I noticed men speaking in Russian and unloading vans. I saw people pushing carts that were stacked with food. I noticed two young kids, one girl and one boy, trying to help move people’s shopping carts. To sum up the scene, it was hectic. I walked faster around the corner looking for an entrance to the center. A small Hispanic man pushing a cart of food directed me to a door and I entered the building. The center on the inside was peculiar for a place of worship. When I think of a place of worship I imagine a place with pews and an altar, similar to a church. The center looked like a home. There were several tables set up and plenty of seating. The only thing that hinted that there might be religious activity occurring in the room was that the walls were lined with prayer books. As I walked through the room I approached a small door and was met by a receptionist. I stepped into her cramped work place and looked around. There were file cabinets in every inch of unused space. There was three desks crowding the room and each desk was over flooded with paperwork. I explained to the woman that I was here to volunteer and she instructed me to go outside and ask someone what I could help with. I found this set of directions to be unusually short and unspecific.

I went through the backdoor and into the food pantry. The food pantry was nothing like I had pictured. It was an outdoor space with a tin roof over it. Against the walls were enormous cardboard boxes filled with pounds of produce. There were boxes for potatoes, carrots and onions. Near the back was a large stack of canned food. There was also minimal working space for preparing to bag the produce into separate bags. It was so cramped in the pantry that it became unbearable. I was working in there with four other people, but when someone would come by that had to pass through it was a very tight squeeze. I found myself climbing up on the boxes of produce to avoid being pushed by the workers who never excused themselves. There was a small door in the back of the pantry that led to something similar to a closet. It was a room with low ceilings and filled with shelves. Inside there were four elderly women preparing food packages for the poor. I was surprised how they were able to work in the tiny space. The food pantry became a mess by the end of the day. There was slime from the produce covering the shed’s floor. The trash on the sidewalk had accumulated to an ungodly amount. When the sanitation trucks came to pick up garbage, workers from the center had to help load the trucks.

The people that came to pick up food from the center were the most interesting part of the space. They crowded together in line in a single file. They barely left any room between one another which looked uncomfortable to me. I believe that they stood this way because they are very assertive people and were anxious about being cut in line. The people on line were not shy about shoving eachother and pushing. As a native New Yorker, I cant say that I am surprised. In fact, I would be more surprised if people acted politely and gave one another personal space. I was impressed by the way that the two students who were working inside the pantry with me utilized space. Together we formed something similar to an assembly line. We would help each other bag the produce and pass along the alotted amount as needed. I was happy to see that at least we could function in a small space while still respecting each other’s personal space.

Volunteering at the Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about the community and people in need. I was however surprised by the way that the center utilized there space. I think that for a place that serves so many people they should introduce a more functioning way to serve food. I do not think that an outdoor shed can be considered a food pantry. I think that the center was unclean and unorganized. However, I was not surprised by the way that the people collecting food handled there own personal space. As a native New Yorker I have come to terms with the fact that if you live in the city, you will have your personal space violated.

-Sophia Terzulli

Encountering Strangers: 5 Pointz

On Wednesday, October 24th 2012, I visited 5 Pointz with my DNY class. 5 Pointz is located in Long Island City. It is an industrial building complex that is about one block long. It showcases aerosol designs, or graffiti, created by aerosol artists from all over the world. I had never heard of 5 Pointz before Professor Hala had mentioned it in class, so I was unsure about what to expect on the trip.

A few classmates and I drove to 5 Pointz and when we arrived I was not impressed. We parked on the side of the building where most of the artwork was not visible. The train was screeching overhead and to make matters worse there was an extremely unpleasant smell. One of the first things I noticed was a suspicious male walking up and down the sidewalk in front of 5 Pointz. He was dressed in a black hoodie and a dirty pair of blue jeans. He had messy hair and a marred face. The man was mid bite in a sandwich wrapped in a brown bag when he approached a group of my classmates. I was very confused when I saw my professor making small talk with this man. I could have sworn the man was homeless and I was shocked to see my teacher engaging in some lengthy chit-chat with him. Even more to my surprise, the “homeless man,” offered to give the group of us a tour of 5 pointz!

The man led us over to the center of 5 pointz and I was aghast by the beautiful artwork that covered nearly every inch of the building. There was colorful tags, recognizable cartoon characters, and abstract designs. The then introduced himself as Meres. I learned that my original first impression of this man was completely wrong. Meres is actually the founder of 5 pointz! Meres is his tagging name, but his real name is Johnathan Cohen. Meres gave us a tour of 5 Pointz and I was impressed about how knowledgeable he was. He shared details about several pieces of art including small stories about the artist, their inspirations, the materials used, and how long the piece has stayed up there. He was very charming and cracked many jokes as he showed us around. Meres showed us a piece that he was working on, a 3d design that would be interactive for future guests of 5 Pointz. I found this to be interesting because he wanted his artwork to engage his visitors. The piece he was working on would allow visitors to look like they are standing in the palm of a man’s hand. He even showed us some pieces in his sketchbook that he was working on. I was shocked by how much thought and emotion Meres put into his work. During the tour Meres stopped to give an interview to the Spanish TV channel, “Telemundo.” He later explained that several famous people come to visit 5 pointz and have even done video shoots in front of the building. Meres did not seem to be phased by the immense publicity 5 Pointz has been attracting. In fact, he spoke with more passion about the graffiti artists than about the musicians that he has come into contact with. I believe that this illustrates Meres passion for what he does.

Meres may be one of the most interesting strangers I have encountered since my time at St. John’s. My trip to 5 pointz truly incorporates the saying, “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Upon my first impression of meeting Meres I could have sworn he was a homeless man, and probably would have not spoken to him unless it was for Professor Hala. This experience taught me to not be so quick to judge people because I may have the opportunity to meet an extremely interesting person like Meres. I definitely will revisit 5 Pointz and I cannot wait to see the future work that Meres and other artists will have created.

Reaction to Stop & Frisk Video

       New York has often been identified as a city of disorder. Government officials take numerous steps to remedy the crime issues that plague New York. The ‘Stop and Frisk’ video raises the question, have officials gone too far to stop the disorder in the city? It was appalling in the video when the account of Alvin being harassed and bullied by the NYPD. In the video the officers stops, frisks and harasses Alvin multiple times. The police do not provide any valid reason for their actions. As the video continues the statistics of stop and frisks are shocking. Nearly 87% of the individuals stopped are Black or Latino, 9 out of 10 of these people were innocent. These statistics were surprising because in a city as diverse as New York the police should not be racial profiling. I found it to be disturbing how in the recordings the officers blatantly ridicule Alvin for being a “mutt.” Police Officers are supposed to believe in the principle of innocent till proven guilty and acknowledge that all people are entitled to justice. By racial profiling they are contradicting the basic elements of law. As the video continues, it delves into the reality that the NYPD actually imposes quotas. This is also shocking because it is proves that the NYPD may be solving crime issues the wrong way. It may indicate that officers are more concerned with numbers than actually resolving issues. The actions of police officers concerns me because it is alarming that the people that are supposed to be protecting the citizens are damaging the social system. This video is clearly an example that New York City may be returning to city of disorder.

-Sophia Terzulli