• World Trade Center Performing Arts Center Aims to Lead NYC’s Cultural Revitalization

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center is the last piece to the recovery and revitalization of the World Trade Center site after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It will also aid in New York’s pandemic recovery when it opens in 2023 – delayed because of COVID-19.

    “The performing arts sector is the last to come back, but it’s coming back roaring,” said Leslie Koch, president of the Perelman Performing Arts Center.

    On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, Koch pointed out to Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso some parallels between the 9/11 and pandemic recovery efforts.

    “The planning back in 2003 that resulted in the master plan said we need to have culture on the 16 acres because New York needs to not only memorialize what was lost here on 9/11 and rebuild the offices that were destroyed, but this site needs to be a living, breathing part of New York,” she said. “We’re that symbol again.”

    She believes that people are suffering “creative loss” by working remotely because New York City offers a vibrant experience of arts and entertainment, which attracts many people to the city in the first place.

    When the Perelman Performing Arts Center opens, it will be a public place where arts and entertainment intersect with New York’s restaurants and financial industry.

    Koch describes it as the “living room of the World Trade Center” where it will host free performances on a small stage on the first floor and a variety of theater, dance, film, opera and more music upstairs.

    “The Perelman Arts Center at the World Trade Center is a critical piece not just for the revitalization and return of Lower Manhattan, which is an office district and also a place where thousands of people live and millions of people visit, but also for New York broadly that New York is always investing again,” Koch said.

    She sees culture as the vehicle to get New Yorkers to participate in the economic recovery.

    Before leading the World Trade Center’s arts project beginning in 2019, Koch oversaw the redevelopment and rejuvenation of Governor’s Island from a military base to a park and thriving business and recreation center. She served as president and chief executive officer of the Trust for Governor’s Island from 2006-2016.

    Connolly asked her what advice she has for young artists looking to make it to the big time. Koch responded by saying, “Follow your passion and know your numbers.” She noted that’s applicable to people in any industry.

    “One of the great things about when artists follow our passion is that that’s something that the rest of us get to experience and enjoy,” she added.

    The pandemic shut down impacted businesses and workers across the hospitality industry. Entertainers were among those who struggled to survive when performances were canceled. Koch told WCBS 880 many artists discovered new creative ways to reach audiences virtually.

    “You put a performance on the screen, and all of a sudden, you have audience members in Tanzania, and Singapore, and Utah. New York is the capital of the arts for the world and I think that digital is helping make that even stronger,” she said.

    Get an inside look at the development of the Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center and see how performances are helping the city emerge from the pandemic on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Ken Burns Explores Life and Legacy of Muhammad Ali in New Documentary Series

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    By Steve Scott, WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest athletes of all time.

    His exuberance and brash personality outside of the boxing ring sparked controversy and conversation unlike any other Black athlete of his generation.

    Ali captivated people from all over the world and inspired athletes with his activism during the Civil Rights movement and his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, which resulted in a draft evasion conviction and a suspension of his boxing license.

    Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns – who has told the stories of the first African American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier – will now explore Ali’s life in a new four-part documentary series that has been in development for six years.

    “We focus on a lot of the fights, but also his faith, his conversion to Islam, his joining of a sect called the Nation of Islam, his fight with the United States government, his personal life, the many wives he had, the children, they’re all represented here,” Burns tells WCBS 880 anchor Steve Scott. “This is in every regard a hero’s journey. We just are so drawn to him. In all the biographies I’ve done, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a character that was so powerful and moved me so emotionally as Muhammad Ali.”

    Muhammad Ali
    American boxer Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) training with a speed bag ahead of his fight against Britain’s Brian London, in London, England, 3rd August 1966. Photo credit R McPhedran/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    In addition to the three-time heavyweight champion’s boxing feats, the documentary also explores Ali’s profound impact during the Civil Rights movement.

    “Here’s Muhammad Ali kind of cut from a different mold. Brash and confident and different from the fighters that we’d seen before. He was not Sonny Liston in any way, shape or form and so he struts across his stage and begins to animate a new generation of African Americans, some of them impatient with the slow progress of the non-violent civil rights movement, some of them opposed to Vietnam, not wanting their kids to be the cannon fodder that African Americans were early on in the war. All of these different things he’s in intersection of it and as we begin to in a post-Vietnam era kind of blossom into a media culture in which celebrity becomes everything he becomes in a way bigger than life itself. And then the tragedy is, of course, absorbing all of those millions of blows is going to provoke this terribly restricting disease. It’s going to silence a loud and brash man, and yet, in that journey he finds a kind of inner peace and begins to sort of atone for all the things he’s done. I can’t begin to tell you, it’s so exciting to have worked on this.”

    Ali died in 2016 at the age of 74 from Parkinson’s-related complications.

    Muhammad Ali
    Muhammad Ali in London on May 27, 1963. Photo credit Len Trievnor/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    While largely celebrated today as an icon of American sports and culture, Ali was not always widely embraced.

    But Burns notes that at the end of his life, Ali became “the most beloved person on the planet.”

    “This is a life that is beset by a terrible disease that sort of encases him and yet at the same time it’s this extraordinary arc and there was not a continent where people did not adore him,” Burns said. “And even Americans, some Americans who had grown to dislike him for his brashness, for his bragging, for whatever it might be and then obviously for his political and religious stances, came around to sort of respecting him and as America realized Vietnam had been a mistake, they began to forgive him, as he lost fights and then worked to come back and reclaim the heavyweight championship it’s one of the great, great stories of all time.”

    The documentary titled “Muhammad Ali” premieres on PBS on Sept. 19.

    It features interviews with his daughters Hana Ali and Rasheda Ali, his second wife Khalilah Ali, his third wife Veronica Porche, and his brother and confidant Rahaman Ali.

    Others appearing in the film include activist and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, boxing promoter Bob Arum, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, boxing promoter Don King and more.

    Leading up to the broadcast, Burns will join PBS and The Undefeated to host a series of virtual events this summer called “Conversations on Muhammad Ali” that will examine Ali’s life and career in the context of America and the world today.

    People can register for the events at: pbs.org/ali.

    Produced by Neil A. Carousso

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  • FourBlock Spring 2021 Celebration: Inspiring Veteran Career Success Stories

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso, Carousso Enterprises, LLC

    NEW YORKFourBlock, a non-profit organization preparing U.S. veterans for careers after service, is celebrating the graduates of their Spring 2021 Career Readiness Program and commemorating their 10th anniversary in a live virtual event produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.

    The event features a keynote fireside chat with former U.S. Army Officer and Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick, facilitated by retired U.S. Army Colonel and Citigroup Managing Director John Tien.

    The one-hour FourBlock Spring 2021 Celebration will stream live on FourBlock’s LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages on Thursday, May 13 at 7 PM. All FourBlock students, alumni, military spouses, staff and volunteers, partners and the broader military and veteran-connected community are invited.

    Carousso Enterprises specializes in producing corporate and sponsored videos, premier in-person and virtual events and multi-media content.

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  • Pete Alonso Introduces ‘Polar Burger’ at Citi Field

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Get ready for Pete Alonso’s Polar Burger.

    The Mets slugger has teamed up with Chef Jason Eksterowicz to create a tasty new treat that’s sure to become a ballpark favorite at Citi Field.

    The Polar Burger, which makes its debut Friday at Alonso’s Arctic grill behind Section 102, features Pat LaFrieda’s black truffle blended burger patty, New York maple-spiced caramelized onions, smoked gouda cheese, lettuce, tomato, and claw sauce all on a fresh-baked brioche bun. Fans can get it with a side of Arctic Onions — polar-spiced shaved Vidalia onions and claw sauce.

    The burgers cost $16.50.

    During Friday night’s game, our Mets booth culinary experts, Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo, had a chance to taste test the new ballpark menu item.

    During a pre-game Zoom call Friday, the first baseman said anyone who chows down on the burger will know that they’re eating something that has his stamp of approval.

    “Every little aspect of this burger, I enjoy myself,” Alonso said. “For me, I wanted to have a big twist of myself in this burger. I love truffle, I love caramelized onions, I love a nice tasty burger.”

    He describes his creation as a simple yet elegant burger.

    “My biggest philosophy is I want something that has simple ingredients, but also a complexity and depth of flavor — this burger hits the nail on the head,” Alonso said.

    He said he’s most excited about the sustainability of the burger because all of the ingredients are New York-based products.

    “Because they are local, it means you get the freshest and best ingredients,” Alonso said, adding that it was also important for him to be able to give back to local business, especially amid the pandemic.

    Chef Eksterowicz said it was a “real blast” to work with Alonso on creating the burger, which he described as “awesome and just damn good.”

    Neil A. Carousso produces and edits special mulit-media content for the WCBS Mets Radio Network.

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  • Global Citizen CEO talks ‘VAX LIVE: The Concert To Reunite The World’

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    By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The first large-scale concert for a COVID-compliant audience will be televised on Saturday night.

    VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World” aims to improve equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

    The COVID-19 vaccines have given a shot of hope for millions after an arduous year, but some nations are still far behind in the global fight.

    The event will call on world leaders to step up for equitable distribution of the vaccines.

    International advocacy organization Global Citizen, which is presenting the event, says more than $53 million has been raised so far in charitable and corporate commitments.

    “When we set out on this initiative we partnered with the Ad Council and there was really two objectives. First thing was overcoming vaccine hesitancy by showing the power of science, showing that the vaccine is safe and effective, but the second thing we want to focus on was really ensuring vaccine equity,” Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans told WCBS 880’s Lynda Lopez. “So we’ve been calling on companies, calling on governments to step up in support of vaccine equity and donate dollars for doses or doses directly and I’m proud to tell you that through this campaign already, over 10 million doses have been committed to those who need it most.”

    While watching the concert, fans who want to help the effort can visit GlobalCitizen.org/take-action.

    “There’s two things they can do right now. They can actually donate doses directly, so for every $5 you contribute that’s one vaccine dose donated through COVAX which has also worked in partnership with UNICEF to get this vaccine to everyone on the planet,” Evans said. “But the second thing you can do is you can actually take action you can call on governments, call on the pharmaceutical companies to really step up and be more generous at this time because as French President Macron said every G7 nation should be donating right now at least 5% of their total vaccine dose to support those who need it most so we want to call on the G7 to step up.”

    The U.S. government, for example, recently vowed to donate 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to countries in need.

    VAX LIVE is part of Global Citizen’s year-long campaign to “end COVID-19 for all, end the hunger crisis, resume learning everywhere, protect the planet, and advance equity for all.”

    “This has really been a yearlong effort for the organization focused not just on PPE, but then on vaccine development and now vaccine deployment and it’s been a whole-hearted commitment to make sure that the world can get back on track to eradicating extreme poverty within our lifetime,” Evans said.

    VAX LIVE will be hosted by Selena Gomez and feature musical performances by Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, J Balvin and H.E.R.

    “When J. Lo agreed to headline VAX LIVE she immediately said, ‘I’ve been passionate working with UNICEF for a long time and I want to see vaccine equity on the planet. I want to see that the Latinx community have access to the vaccine not just here in the United States, but in Latin America.’ So the only way we could do that is actually calling on governments to step up funding and so that partnership became critical to this advocacy effort,” Evans said.

    Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are serving as Campaign Chairs of VAX LIVE and will deliver an important global message for vaccine equity during the event.

    President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also make a special appearance.

    YouTube will stream an extended version of VAX LIVE on the Global Citizen channel for a full run-time of 90 minutes.

    It will also air and livestream on on ABC, ABC News Live, CBS, YouTube, iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations and the iHeartRadio App, at 8:00 PM ET/PT, 7:00 PM CT. The concert will also air on FOX at 11:00 PM ET/PT.

    Evans also promises there will be a Global Citizen Festival in Central Park this summer.

    Produced by Neil A. Carousso for The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez. Listen to this week’s full show on the media player above.

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