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A Brooklyn Seal's Trick: Surviving the Gowanus
NY Times ^ | July 2, 2003 | PATRICK HEALY

Posted on 07/07/2003 8:10:46 AM PDT by presidio9

Pretty soon, a 1-year-old harp seal that became the talk of Red Hook is expected to paddle onto Long Island Sound, leaving behind its celebrity in Brooklyn for a life of anonymity in open waters.

For years, runners and fishermen have reported glimpsing just such a seal sliding through the Gowanus Canal and its nearby bay. Many scoffed at the sightings, saying the water was too polluted to support anything but sea gulls and a few hardy fish, but the sightings and stories persisted.

One woman even offered a cash reward for proof — $100 for the first photograph of the seal.

That proof came on April 8, when. John Quadrozzi Jr., president of Gowanus Industrial Park, walked in the shadows of a defunct grain terminal that looms beside the Henry Street Basin in Brooklyn. Mr. Quadrozzi and a contractor were examining recent renovations to the pier when they noticed a bruise on the calm water.

They paid the ripples little heed until a whiskered head emerged. It paddled through the water as Mr. Quadrozzi and his companion stared into the bay, amazed.

"It's surprising enough to find fish here," Mr. Quadrozzi said. "The last thing you'd expect to see is a seal."

Word spread quickly.

David Sharps, president of the Waterfront Museum in Red Hook, said he had only seen herons, ducks and other bird species on the canal. So when he heard the seal had been found, he called his two daughters and brought them to see.

"They didn't believe me at first," Mr. Sharps said. "They said: `What? You're kidding!' We were certainly intrigued, you know, just in its unusualness."

In fact, harp seals have become a more common sight on Long Island during the past decade, said Rob DiGiovanni, senior biologist of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, where the seal was taken. It is being treated for dehydration and a nasty case of worms.

Such seals are natives of the North Atlantic and Arctic, but scientists believe a growing population — and shifts in climate and food sources — have pushed populations farther south.

Of the 57 stranded animals that were reported to the Riverhead Foundation this year, 26 have been harp seals. But the 80 percent of those are found on the eastern portion of the island, away from New York City, Mr. DiGiovanni said.

"They have a reputation for popping up in all sorts of strange places," said Greg Early, a marine biologist who has worked extensively with seal populations in the Northeast.

Few places seem less accommodating to a seal than the Gowanus Canal, one of the last vestiges of New York's industrial waterfront. The Gowanus waterway is lined with a cement terminal, oil storage tanks and construction barges. Yesterday afternoon, algae clouded the water, whiffs of garbage floated on the breeze, and backhoes dipped their necks into the bay, like herons looking for dinner.

"It's pretty disgusting," Mr. Quadrozzi said.

Biologists said they would probably never know whether conditions in the Gowanus contributed to the seal's malnutrition, dehydration and parasites.

Shortly after it surfaced, the seal clambered out of the water and made its way over broken asphalt and glass. Mr. Quadrozzi said he could tell the seal was hurt. Blood was smeared across the seal's muzzle, and it lay on its side in the snow, with steam streaming off its skin. It munched a little snow and languidly waved a flipper that was tattooed with lesions.

But after more than two months recuperating at the Riverhead Foundation, the seal has gained weight and swims around its tank with renewed energy. It will be released in the next two weeks, Mr. DiGiovanni said.

The community has grown attached. Before the seal is turned loose, the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation will adopt it and name it Gowanda, despite the objections of Mr. Quadrozzi, who said Gowanda is a ludicrous name for a seal. He prefers Henry.

Theo Christodoulides, who operates the nearby Court Cafe, wants to post a picture of the seal on his restaurant's walls, and he is planning a seafood special featuring "whatever the seal would eat" named after the seal.

There have even been stories of a second seal swimming around the canal, but Mr. Christodoulides is skeptical.

"Maybe it's a fisherman's story," he said.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: New York
KEYWORDS: nyc; seals; wildlife

1 posted on 07/07/2003 8:10:46 AM PDT by presidio9
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To: presidio9
I'm shocked anything can live in the Gowanus Canal, let alone a seal, it's a disgusting mess- yuck!
2 posted on 07/07/2003 8:21:48 AM PDT by Vesuvian
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To: Vesuvian
Such seals are natives of the North Atlantic and Arctic, but scientists believe a growing population — and shifts in climate and food sources — have pushed populations farther south.

Hey wait a minute: As global warming continues to reek havoc on our enviornment, shouldn't cold weather animals be headed farther north?

3 posted on 07/07/2003 8:31:00 AM PDT by presidio9 (RUN AL, RUN!!!)
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To: Vesuvian
You talk the words right out of my keyboard. And the Gowanus has been that was for as long as I can remember, and I haven't lived in Brooklyn in more than 20 years.

My dad was a cop in Redhook in the 60s and 70s and always talked about what a mess it was.
4 posted on 07/07/2003 8:36:10 AM PDT by Gabz (anti-smokers = personification of everything wrong in this country)
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To: Gabz
A few years ago, the city actually repaired a pumping station that exchanges water in the Gowanus. It's starting to clean itself up! I play guitar with a bunch of people from The Red Hook/Brooklyn Heights area, and Red Hook is the newest "hip" area these days. If you're ever down in the area, check out Sunny's bar, or the Liberty Heights taproom.
5 posted on 07/07/2003 8:45:35 AM PDT by LoneConservative
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To: Vesuvian
The water in the Gowanus canal still has a flourescent glow, and the smell of sulpher. I wonder how many bodies are in there?

I used to work on DeGraw street off the canal. I hear that one day it will be developed into a "river front park".
6 posted on 07/07/2003 8:49:38 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: LoneConservative
Surprising, glad to hear it.

I'm supposed to be back in Brooklyn for the first time in 5 years if I come for my 25th HS reunion come the fall.

I went to school in Park slope, which back then was the "hip" area of the day!!!
7 posted on 07/07/2003 8:55:03 AM PDT by Gabz (anti-smokers = personification of everything wrong in this country)
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To: LoneConservative
Do you know Max, John (and Sophie the Dog) amd Pria? They are carpenters who have a shop/loft in Red Hook behind the Tunnel. I haven't spoke to them in a few years.
8 posted on 07/07/2003 8:59:55 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: LoneConservative; ffusco
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0627/p03s01-usgn.htm

Gritty waterway: a model for renewal?

Christian Science Monitor June 27, 2003

By Sara B. Miller

Legend has it that if you scour the fetid depths of the Gowanus Canal, you will find clues to Mafia disappearances from the past century.

Too bad most Brooklynites aren't willing to step near the channel, let alone suit up and plunge in.

Once the world's most important industrial waterway, the Gowanus quickly became a dumping ground for raw sewage and industrial waste - not to mention empty bottles, old tires and, apparently, dead bodies.

But today, thanks to grass-roots community activism and a growing trend in environmental rehabilitation, the canal, and the neighborhood through which it snakes, are showing signs of life.

First came a repaired flushing tunnel in 1999, to help move the stagnant water along. Then oysters were reintroduced, and a harbor seal was spotted. Now, because of cheap rents and low interest rates, everyone from artists to restaurateurs have appeared on the canal's banks, helping the working-class community in its 40-year struggle to turn the decaying canal into a mini-Venice.

Indeed, the Gowanus shows how blighted urban spaces can become not just viable, but desirable places to live and work. In this sense, the canal provides a blueprint for renewal - as well as revenue - for some of the country's estimated 400,000 brownfield sites, which include industrial properties, abandoned factories, and vacant warehouses.

"If there is an area that represents hope, it is this one," says Maureen Brennan, director of "Peripheral City: Rediscovering the Gowanus Canal," the multimedia art project that took passengers on a 16-seater pontoon down the canal. "There are all kinds of possibilities there."

Many of the nation's brownfields were developed in the 1920s and, like many parts of the Gowanus community, were abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s.

"In the 1960s, everyone wanted to get out," says Buddy Scotto, a local funeral director and lifelong champion of the canal, who formed a neighborhood association in 1963 to revitalize the 1.8-mile-long waterway.

Forty years later, and now in his early 70s, he still dreams of creating a commercial, residential, and natural walkway similar to San Antonio's River Walk. It has been a heart-wrenching battle, he says, but "the oysters are surviving."

The Gowanus Canal was once a creek, inhabited by the Canarsie Indians who centered their lives on its teeming wildlife. The Dutch later purchased the land and turned it into a barge canal. A flushing tunnel, built in 1911, was meant to purify the water, but it broke down in 1963.

That's when the stench began to infiltrate every nook of the neighborhood. Old Italian immigrants said the malodorous waters could alleviate head colds. But don't fall in, they'd warn: That greenish liquid can kill you.

Today, the Army Corps of Engineers is midway through a $5 million project identifying the degree of contamination in the area. The results will figure in to future environmental restoration, says Tom Shea, the team's project manager.

The project has been daunting. The canal has been "treated worse than we treat our toilet bowls," he says.

Yet cleanup can pay big dividends for cities. According to a survey recently released by the US Conference of Mayors, 153 cities have already successfully redeveloped 10,594 acres of brownfields, bringing in $90 million in revenue.

But not everyone is in favor of economic revival. Unions, for one, are fighting against residential development in the midst of the Gowanus's heavily industrialized landscape. Others fear what will happen when the canal becomes the next hip place to live: old neighbors pushed out, strange faces moving in, jobs lost, rents on the rise.

"The neighborhood is getting richer. It's not as diverse as it used to be," says Lenny Thomas, who operates the 100-foot-wide canal's three drawbridges. "There are still a lot of old-timers, with everyone knowing everyone, but there are a lot of those yuppies now too."

Mr. Thomas, however, isn't entirely against change. "We used to have to burn incense all day long in the bridge house," he says. Now the canal is really unbearable, he says, only after a big rainfall, when there is runoff from the sewage.

To be sure, the Gowanus is still gritty. You can still hear the hum of local industry. Although the water moves now, it's not without empty bottles bobbing along. It still has a greenish hue, and its banks are still laden with trash.

It's gritty enough that many can't imagine it will ever be anything but muck, despite all the talk.

"Oysters? Yeah right," says one Brooklynite, with a smirk on his face. "Next they'll want to farm pearls in the canal."

But Mr. Scotto will not let go of his dream. He knows the initial signs of revitalization have caused tension, but he says the transition holds something for everyone: For all the new restaurants that open, ma-and-pa shops still survive; for all the newcomers, the old stories remain firmly anchored.

Just like those dead bodies? "Oh, they are still in there," Scotto says. "There is no question about it."

9 posted on 07/07/2003 9:03:01 AM PDT by presidio9 (RUN AL, RUN!!!)
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To: Gabz
I lived in Park Slope from 87-90, and go back every year. Park Slope is still a hip neighborhood. Brooklyn has improved- there are new shopping centers near the LIRR station at Flatbush Ave, Home Depots and Starbucks, too.
10 posted on 07/07/2003 9:03:28 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco
I don't doubt the Slope is still a hip area. I was born there and lived their until 65, then went back when I was in HS across the street from the hospital I was born in!!!

I'm glad to hear Brooklyn has improved, although Home Depot and Starbucks are not exactly what I consider something to brag about ;).....Over rated and over priced. I prefer a cup of coffee from the local bakery and home improvement needs from the local hardware store and lumber yards!!!

Call me old fashioned, but I'm a neighborhood kind of gal and prefer to support local businesses as opposed to a lot of the major chains that put mom & pop places out of business.
11 posted on 07/07/2003 9:15:00 AM PDT by Gabz (anti-smokers = personification of everything wrong in this country)
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To: Gabz
Sure, Starbucks and Home Depot and Barnes and Noble aren't the end all, but Brooklyn had a definate lack of suburban chainstores, so many of us had to drive to the Island to go shopping.
12 posted on 07/07/2003 9:21:55 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: Gabz
John Jay HS on 7th Ave?
13 posted on 07/07/2003 9:22:17 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco
Nope, St. Saviour on 8th.
14 posted on 07/07/2003 9:53:33 AM PDT by Gabz (anti-smokers = personification of everything wrong in this country)
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To: Cacique; Clemenza
The Gowanus Canal is not deadly on cantact, at least for seals. Who knew? I always figured that the city should just set it on fire to get the EPA funding.
15 posted on 07/07/2003 10:05:06 AM PDT by rmlew ("Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.")
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To: ffusco
Tell me about it- I work in Brooklyn Heights, and they turned the area by the Manhattan Bridge into DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.)


16 posted on 07/07/2003 10:20:35 AM PDT by Vesuvian
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To: Vesuvian
It's been a while since I've been down Montague Steet. Is Juniors still there? And that Chinese Restarant on the corner of Joralemon? and Montague?
17 posted on 07/07/2003 11:02:49 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco
Yep, Junior's is still there going strong. In fact there is now an Applebee's diagonally across the street. I'm not sure about the Chinese resturant, I don't go down that way much. Ever been to Sahadi's?
18 posted on 07/07/2003 12:31:05 PM PDT by Vesuvian
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To: ffusco
Hope you don't mind if I jump in...Chinese restaurant is still there on the corner of Montague and Clinton (Joralemon is parallel to Montague--2 blocks south). I live in the Fort Gtreene Clinton Hill area but have worked in the Brooklyn Heights area and continue to shop on Montague. (I taught at St. Charles Borromeo on Aiken Place right off Joralemon). You should see Court Street--from the Heights straight through Carroll Gardens--very much improved--lots of bookstores, restaurants, and cute little shops. Even Smith Street is now very hip.
19 posted on 07/07/2003 1:00:41 PM PDT by foreshadowed at waco
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To: Vesuvian
I don't think so, Falafal and 'kabob joint? My dad had a place on State Street a block off Atlantic. I know there are a lot of Middle Eastern merchants up and down Atlantic.

20 posted on 07/07/2003 1:01:03 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: foreshadowed at waco
I heard Smith was hip now. When I was living in NYC in the mid 90's I was surprised at the pace of change. I used to go to Ludlow's when it was the only bar on the street, now the bars go all the way to Broadway? Near the ramp to The Manhattan Bridge.

I also lived in Fort Green, in my days at Pratt, on Willoughby Ave and Vanderbuilt. Ever been to the Alibi Bar on Myrtle? I alsi lived in Park Slope on 12th and the park. Ever been to Two Boots or Pincthics paint on Atlantic ave?
21 posted on 07/07/2003 1:07:58 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco
It's a store that sells all kinds of spices, foods, dried fruits and nuts, you name it, they sell it. I haven't been down that way in awhile, but I used to go there and buy lots of things. Now I just keep walking past Atlantic to this great pastry shop.
22 posted on 07/07/2003 2:53:28 PM PDT by Vesuvian
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To: presidio9; Cacique; rmlew
The Gowanus Canal doesn't frighten me as much as the Gowanus Expressway. Robert Moses's great gift to Brooklyn looks like its going to fall down anyday now on top of Third Avenue.
23 posted on 07/08/2003 4:17:42 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: ffusco; Vesuvian
know there are a lot of Middle Eastern merchants up and down Atlantic.

90% of the Arabs in New York are now in Bay Ridge. Fifth Avenue from 65th Street to Bay Ridge Parkway/75th Street has now become the main Arab shopping district for the Tristate area. Take a walk around 'da Ridge and you will see women dressed in the latest in 15th Century fashions.

24 posted on 07/08/2003 4:19:49 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: ffusco
I go to Manhattan to shop. The Island was where the Guidos went in the 1980s since they had something against Manhattan. Now they all go to Jersey.
25 posted on 07/08/2003 4:21:17 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: Clemenza
The Gowanus Canal doesn't frighten me as much as the Gowanus Expressway.

I have always HATED that road. And it looked like it was going to fall down back in the 60s and 70s.

26 posted on 07/08/2003 4:22:29 PM PDT by Gabz (anti-smokers = personification of everything wrong in this country)
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To: Clemenza
The Gowanus isn't going anywhere. The problem isn't in the undertructure which is still sound. It's in the patching and the cheap cement they used to pave the road. They need the Roman engineers who paved the Apian way to teach them how to make cement.



27 posted on 07/08/2003 4:47:48 PM PDT by Cacique
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To: Clemenza
Wow, just like Flushing is all Korean now! Archie Bunker moved away after Edith passed away, and now that Meathead and Gloria split up, and Joey is in Grad school.............

28 posted on 07/08/2003 6:51:13 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: Clemenza
Everywhere Moses ordained to build the BQE, he bulldozed entire neighborhoods and slums (on the wrong side of the highway)
29 posted on 07/08/2003 6:54:03 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco
...and created slums on the wrong side.....
30 posted on 07/08/2003 6:54:51 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: presidio9
It's not a seal. It's a chupacabra that's been mutated by the chemicals.
31 posted on 07/08/2003 6:56:37 PM PDT by Redcloak (All work and no FReep makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no FReep make s Jack a dul boy. Allwork an)
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To: harpseal
Ping!
32 posted on 07/08/2003 7:40:12 PM PDT by dighton (NLC™)
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To: ffusco
This is really hilarious...I live on Vanderbilt between Park and Myrtle...just 3 blocks from Pratt...also I lived on 12th Street 2 buildings in from Prospect Park West in the Slope until 1981 when I bought my building in Fort Greene...I'm probably old enough to be your mother (my daughter is 25) but we seem to have similar housing instincts. I have been to the Alibi as well as Cino's on DeKalb. We now have 2 very upscale Middle Eastern restaurants, 3 coffee shops (not Starbucks), 3 French restaurants that attract people from Manhattan as well as 2 Thai restaurants. All these changes in just the last 5-6 years. We will soon be enjoying an Indian restaurant just several doors down from Cino's as well.

Having owned a property here for 22 years, it's good to see some attractive businesses opening to replace the endless stream of Chinese fast food take out and bodegas. You can walk along Myrtle Avenue at 9 o'clock at night and not feel too edgy.

33 posted on 07/08/2003 8:02:50 PM PDT by foreshadowed at waco
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To: ffusco
now that Meathead and Gloria split up, and Joey is in Grad school.............

Thankfully, Joey Stivik went to the University of Chicago, where he studied at the Committee on Social Thought and became an orthodox Straussian. He now writes for one of David Horowitz's money-losing websites and still has to depend on dad's weekly check from Berkeley, where his tenured father teaches Subaltern Studies. Behind his back of course, his colleagues still refer to him as "Meathead."

Isn't it funny, btw, how Rob Reiner turned out to be more of a Meathead than the character he played on TV?

34 posted on 07/08/2003 8:35:23 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: foreshadowed at waco
Having owned a property here for 22 years, it's good to see some attractive businesses opening to replace the endless stream of Chinese fast food take out and bodegas.

Consider yourself lucky. My neighborhood still has many fine restaurants, but everyday a 99 Cent Store seems to open around here.

35 posted on 07/08/2003 8:36:54 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: foreshadowed at waco; firebrand
My father is still amazed at the fact that the small frame houses in his neighborhood in Newark (!) are now going for 300K (that's nothing to New Yorkers, but this is NEWARK we're talking about!).

During the next boom, there is a good chance that the Ironbound/Downneck section of Newark will become the next Willamsburgh. The artists have already arrived and we know what that means...

36 posted on 07/08/2003 8:42:26 PM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: Clemenza
LIfe imitates art....So to speak.
37 posted on 07/08/2003 8:53:08 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: foreshadowed at waco
I can't tell you how many times I staggered home from the Alibi at 2:30 AM and walked right past your house. I walked down Vanderbuilt (following the B69 route) all the way to Park Slope. Went to Pratt from 87 to 91.
38 posted on 07/08/2003 9:08:11 PM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: firebrand; stanz
FYI
39 posted on 07/08/2003 11:02:09 PM PDT by nutmeg
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To: dighton
Hey I could have told anyone there are harp seals in the Connecticut/New York area.
40 posted on 07/09/2003 5:37:08 AM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Redcloak
We may have to get Batboy to investigate.
41 posted on 07/09/2003 6:48:32 AM PDT by presidio9 (RUN AL, RUN!!!)
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To: ffusco; foreshadowed at waco; Clemenza
I think you three need to get a room.
42 posted on 07/09/2003 6:53:51 AM PDT by presidio9 (RUN AL, RUN!!!)
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To: presidio9
....room for one more!
43 posted on 07/09/2003 9:33:24 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: ffusco; foreshadowed at waco; Clemenza
Only if Clemenza promises to bring some of his famous cannolis.
44 posted on 07/09/2003 11:21:58 AM PDT by presidio9 (RUN AL, RUN!!!)
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To: presidio9; Clemenza
Clemenza's Cannolis- You could take that 2 ways, you know!

Here's MY* famous monicotti recipe:
makes 12-16
Combine 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 3 eggs, S-P and mix.blend until smooth. In a 9" fying pan add 1/4 cup of batter and heat on a medium/low flame. Turn each shell once when bubbles form.

The filling:
Combine 2 cups ricotta cheese and half a block of grated mozzarella cheese, 1 egg, s-p and parsley. Mix well and chill.

Add 2 spoons of filling into the center of each shell. Roll each shell so the seam is down and place in a layer of suace in a casserole dish. Top with sauce, cover with foil. Bake 35 minutes at 350 F.


A quick sauce:

I big can of crushed tomatoes. 1 small can of paste, 1 small can of water, half a packet of sweet n low, a good splash of olive oil, parsley, s-p, and garlic. Simmer down to a sauce, turning frequently. (diced onions, peppers, capers, optional.) for a meat sauce add some blanched suasage or beef or a can of clams)


* Thanks to my Mom and Grandma Rosetti!
45 posted on 07/09/2003 11:44:12 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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To: foreshadowed at waco
see 45!
46 posted on 07/09/2003 11:45:47 AM PDT by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
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