Passports With Purpose

Text & Photos: Julie Schwietert Collazo

Francisco and I are always interested in people who are able to transform an amazing idea into an even more amazing project that makes a tangible, positive difference in people’s lives.

So we’re proud to be participating in Passports With Purpose, which starts today and runs through the end of December.

Passports with Purpose is the idea of four travel bloggers who got together for coffee and a chat about how they wanted to use the blogging platform to support a cause they all cared about.

A few hours later, they’d mapped out a plan: they’d contact their readers, fellow bloggers, former employers, and other people in their vast networks, and engage them to participate in a raffle, with all proceeds going to the organization, Heifer International.

Heifer International is a cause we’re happy to get behind, as the organization is committed to ending hunger through sustainable, poverty-fighting practices.

All the prizes in the Passports with Purpose raffle are donated, all raffle tickets cost $10, and all transactions take place online through the site First Giving.

Right now, 49 different prize packs, ranging in value from $20 to more than $400, are up for grabs; raffle winners will be drawn on December 29 and notified on December 30.

To support the project, Francisco is offering a cooking class and dinner for four to raffle participants from New York City!

If you didn’t already know this, Francisco is a private chef. This year alone he has cooked his way around Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and New York, teaching cooking classes or making amazing meals in kitchens as diverse as the Whole Foods Culinary Center, Villa Sevilla, Casa Amarilla , and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

To win, just visit this page and look for the code that matches Francisco’s prize pack. Then, make your donation through First Giving, and be sure to enter that code!

Questions? Leave a note in the comments below!

NYC Job-Hunting: 10 Quick Cash Careers for Free Spirits

So you’ve recently moved to NYC or you’re soon planning to join the other 8 million people who call this little patch of land home.

The only problem?

You have no job.

This top 10 list offers jobs that are are plentiful, pay well (and often in cash), and require minimal professional (and often, academic) experience. They’re not Wall-Street grade, but they’re perfect for the free spirit who’s interested in making a little cash while still preserving his or her freedom from the corporate grind.

10. Flyering: New York City businesses are in a constant, desperate fight to get themselves noticed and to stand out from the competition. Practically every corner is commandeered by flyer folks, paid by the hour or by the day to hand out papers or postcards announcing the latest gym membership deal, manicure/pedicure/brow wax combo, or parking garage offer. Though certainly not the most prestigious of jobs, it’s one that plenty of immigrants, college students, and folks in a pinch have successfully used to scrape up the rent money.

9. Promo Rep: Like flyering, but with a twist (which is sometimes good & sometimes not), promo reps hustle on street corners, but are paid by bigger companies and non-profits to peddle products or solicit donations. These gigs range considerably in terms of their fun factor and their rates of compensation, but the good news is, these jobs are always available and most of them are short-term.

8. Bike messenger: Love your bike? Don’t mind rushing all day? Then a bike messenger job, also in plentiful supply, is right up your alley. It pays well and satisfies the need for speed. If you’re not a master of two wheels (see video), though, bypass this job, for NYC is no place for the amateur bike messenger.

7. Mover/Errand Person: Don’t listen to the gripes people have about cars in NYC: If you have a car, it’s your golden egg in this city, and if you have a truck, well, you’ll have more work than you can handle. This is a particularly lucrative job at the beginning and end of the month, the times when people move. Even if you’re not up for some heavy lifting, you can easily gain work as an errand person. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to pay perfect strangers to drive them to the airport, to IKEA out in New Jersey or, now, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, or just to the grocery store. One reason is the fact that most NYC car rental agencies do not accept debit cards; the car companies’ loss, however, is your gain.

6. Personal Assistant: Busy people from all walks of life and all types of professions are constantly seeking reliable, courteous, and able personal assistants to help them organize everything from their schedules to their finances. I’ve held two personal assistant jobs in the city–one for a Broadway producer and one for a psychiatrist–and had tasks as diverse as making bank deposits, cooking meals, arranging travel plans, and chauffering my boss in a Jaguar. The personal assistant job is great because it tends to be extremely flexible, you can negotiate the possibility of working from home on some tasks, and you can often meet people who may advance your future professional career in important ways. Perks of this job also tend to be nice; people busy making big money aren’t always busy living fun lives, so they’ll occasionally toss freebies your way. I’ve enjoyed theatre tickets, restaurant reservations, and bottles of wine as bonuses.

5. Dog walker: Sounds easy enough, right? While this job pays among the best on this list, it’s also fiercely competitive and harder than you might think. The other obvious drawback of this job is poop scooping. Don’t be tempted to leave it behind; NYC levies a $250 fine for poop and run bandits.

4. Researcher: As a hub of intellectual production and a repository of archival material on thousands of different subjects, writers and scholars from the world over are always in search of researchers who can gather on the ground information in NYC, either through interviews, document searches, or other sources. I’ve been hired to sketch the bathroom of a Brooklyn courthouse to ensure that its portrayal in a novel was accurate. And yes, I was paid for it!

3. Subway Busker: Got a musical talent? Can you wow people with your dance moves? Then join the long line of distinguished buskers of the NYC subway system, who both charm and annoy tourists and residents alike.

2. Street Busker:

Got a fear of rats and roaches? Then go above ground and try out your busking skills. NYC is famous for its unusual hustling acts. Three of the most original ones are the guy with a sign outside Yankee Stadium that says “Why lie? I need a beer”; the guy on 42nd Street who holds a sign saying “Tell me off for $2”

; and the famous Naked Guitar Guy of Times Square, who’s not only attracted lots of cash in the band of his tighty whiteys; he’s also trademarked himself and has sued M&Ms for a cowboy advertisement. If successful, he just might become the richest street busker in human history.

1. Extra of All Trades: Businesses in the city are always looking for last-minute pinch hitters, people who can step up to the plate quickly to fill in for someone who didn’t show up for a job. Caterers are especially good for this type of job, though there are many others as well.

Listings for these jobs, and many other unusual gigs, can be found on the NYC craigslist page.

Beer Photo: alan(ator) (creative commons)
Tell Me Off Photo: kasia.kazmierska

Discover Lovely Long Island City!

First things first: Long Island City is NOT–I repeat, NOT–part of Long Island.*

One other detail that we need to get out of the way: You CAN cross the river. Really, you can.

I promise.

It doesn’t hurt and you can go home again. (This point is directed to Manhattanites who swear they’ll melt or turn into some sort of country hick if they cross the East River, and to unsuspecting city visitors they try to corrupt with this odious opinion).

Long Island City, home to CollazoProjects for the past five years, is “is one of the most vibrant areas in Queens and all of New York City,” according to About.com’s John Roleke.

We agree.

Though LIC’s suddenly become the next “IT” neighborhood in NYC, many New Yorkers still haven’t made the trip across the river (we’re one stop from Midtown Manhattan!), which is their loss, really.

Here’s what they’re missing!

*Gantry Park: You won’t find a better place for photos in all of NYC. Gantry has four piers that jut out into the East River and a local development plan has the park extending considerably each year. The gantries, which have been preserved, were lifts that loaded and unloaded cargo brought into LIC back in the days when the area was predominantly industrial. Picnic on the piers or in the nearby grassy area during the day, but be sure to stay for sunset, which is often spectacular. The park is just a few blocks west of the Vernon/Jackson subway station on the 7 line.

*Water Taxi Beach: Personally, I’m not about to sit in traffic for five hours to get to the Hamptons, which in my humble opinion, don’t exactly qualify as ideal beachfront in any case. If I feel like getting sand in my shoes, I’ll take the train to Vernon/Jackson and walk to Water Taxi Beach. Open every day except Tuesday and open til 2 AM on Saturdays, WTB is a fun urban oasis. There’s no swimming, but who cares? There’s food, music, movies, beer, and cool people. Better than riding home in a wet bathing suit anyway.

*Chocolate Factory: The Chocolate Factory doesn’t pump out my favorite sweet temptation, but it does serve forth some seriously good art by emerging creatives in theater, dance, music, multimedia and the visual arts, and the organization is all about community building. For a schedule of events, click here.

*Socrates Sculpture Park: A bit of a stone’s throw from our picks so far, Socrates is worth the detour. A sculpture park located alongside the East River, Socrates is great to visit any time of the year, but especially during the summer, when the park hosts an outdoor film fest in July and August. This is a great alternative to the Bryant Park Film Series, where people sit on top of each other to see cheesy films they don’t really like anyway.

*Steinway Piano Factory: Ok, so the Steinway factory isn’t in LIC, technically speaking, but if you’ve made it over to Socrates, go the extra mile for this fabulous free tour of the famous piano factory. Led by docents from the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the Steinway tour is interesting and… I’ll say it again… free. It’s also incredibly popular, so call a couple weeks in advance to make a reservation.

Hungry?

Visit our favorite neighborhood restaurants: Bella Via, which has been rated by Zagat as one of the top 50 pizzas in the entire city, and Tuk Tuk, a newer restaurant serving Thai food.

*For a concise but comprehensive overview of LIC history, check out this summary provided by the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

Photos: CollazoProjects

Too Darn Hot!

Ah, New York in the summer!

Though always a time when the persistent stench of the subway borders on the utterly unbearable, the stultifying heat wave predicted for this week–today, temps topped 100^ F– can’t keep New Yorkers inside.

Even though it’s too darn hot, there’s always something going on here. If you’re visiting our city this summer, check out our list of favorite activities and the fun places and events that you’re not likely to find in a guidebook.

*Murray’s Cheese Cave Tour: Conde Nast Traveler named Murray’s cheese caves one of the 50 coolest places in the world. We agree. For $10, you can enjoy a guided tour of the “caves” (really just temperature controlled walk-ins) where cheese is aged in NYC’s favorite cheese shop. Besides being really interesting, the cheese cave is literally cool. Plus, you get to enjoy samples of different cheeses. The tours take place at the Bleecker Street store, so if your appetite isn’t satiated, you can enjoy a slice from the famous John’s Pizza or a pastry at Amy’s Bread.

*Governor’s Island Events: Just off the southeastern tip of Manhattan is Governor’s Island, which for almost 200 years served as a Army and Coast Guard base. After closing the Island’s military operations in 1996, the Island was largely abandoned for almost 10 years. Today, the Island is poised for eventual mixed use development; in the meantime, the city is using the 172 acre Governor’s Island as a summer and fall recreational area. Each weekend, the Island serves as the site for arts and music events, the schedule for which can be found here. The Island is just a short (and free!) ferry ride from lower Manhattan, and makes a great half- or full-day trip.

*Tourists often complain that the summer arts scene in NYC doesn’t live up to its reputation and in some ways, that’s true. Many galleries close or scale back their hours and museums tend to save up their heavy-hitter exhibits for the fall. But tourists often aren’t aware that some of the city’s best arts and cultural events are sponsored by organizations that maintain a full summer schedule. Some of our favorites include The Korea Society, The Japan Society, Scandinavia House, and the French Institute, all of which host lectures, art exhibits, and films.

What are your favorite summer activities? Leave us a note in the Comments section below, and stay cool!

Photo: Luis Manuel Guaida (creative commons)