Greeter for a Day

 The Greeter for a Day Program, launched in 2008, matches New York elected officials, corporate leaders and celebrities with global visitors to experience New York though the eyes of a New Yorker.



Council Member Daniel Garodnick

Greeter Laurie Norris, German visitors Jan and Christina, and Council Member Daniel Garodnick's Chief of Staff Ilona Kramer

Greeter Laurie Norris, German visitors Jan and Christina, and Council Member Daniel Garodnick’s Chief of Staff Ilona Kramer


In late October, visitors from Germany, Jan and Christina, met Greeter Laurie on the steps of City Hall. Council Member Daniel Garodnick was to join them as Greeter for a Day.

Ilona Kramer, his Chief of Staff, showed up instead. She apologized since the Council Member was in a voting session. She would take his place, and he would meet us later.

The City Hall Building, with a French-Renaissance exterior and an American-Georgian interior, was magnificent. The City Council is on one side and The Mayor’s Office on the other. It is the country’s oldest City Hall – built in 1803 – and today it is being restored, section by section, to keep it functional.

Ilona took us to The Council Chambers where meetings are held. With towering wooden doors, ornate gold-plated balconies, and a massive ceiling mural, it was breathtaking.

Council Member Garodnick's Chief of Staff Ilona Kramer with German visitors

Council Member Garodnick’s Chief of Staff Ilona Kramer with German Jan and Christina visitors in Council Chambers

There are 51 council members, each representing about 170,000 constituents. Council Member Garodnick’s district is Manhattan’s East side, from 14th to 97th Street. He is also Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee.

We stopped at the City Hall newsroom where Stan Brooks, WINS News Reporter and husband of our founder Lynn Brooks, shared some wonderful City Hall lore with us.

He talked about two paintings of George Washington in the building: one with George near his horse’s head; one with George near his horse’s rear. The second painter evidently wasn’t too fond of George!

Council Member Garodnick joined us at 250 Broadway, the Council Members’ offices. He took Christina and Jan to a large window, showing them neighboring buildings of interest.

Council Member Garodnick with German visitors Jan and Christina

Council Member Garodnick with German visitors Jan and Christina

As we sat and talked for a while, he explained the City Council passes all local laws, with an annual budget of $68 billion dollars!

He graciously recommended some unusual sites for our visitors: the Coney Island Halloween Parade, the Farmer’s Market at Union Square, the East River Ferry to the Brooklyn Bridge, and the statue of Christopher Columbus, which is temporarily encased in a real living room as part of an art project.

As we said “goodbye,” Jan and Christina confessed they loved the “inside view” of our government. We all agreed that Ilona and Council Member Garodnick were smart, funny, and warm – the perfect ambassadors for New York City!

Story by Bobbie Kaplan

Photos by Sabrina Petrovicki

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Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo

l. to r. Big Apple Greeter Bobbie Kaplan, Greeter Cindy Riley, Greeter for a Day Council Member Arroyo and German visitors   Sabine and Adrian at Yankee Stadium


On a drizzly, gray day in October, five stalwart souls stood across from the majestic Yankee Stadium. The group included visitors Sabine and Adrian from Germany, as well as Greeter Cindy Riley.

As they huddled under their umbrellas, little did they know that sunshine would soon appear – in the form of Council Member Arroyo, who couldn’t have been warmer or more gracious.

She started by telling the German visitors that being with Big Apple Greeter was a really smart move, since “you’ll get to see the good stuff – the things real New Yorkers know about.” She explained that in 2006, the city agreed to build a new Yankee Stadium, as long as a new parkland would also be built in the area.

The stadium and parkland took three years to construct, but it was worth the wait. The park is expansive and beautiful – with well-designed playgrounds for children and areas for skateboarders and inline skaters. Along the borders of the park, they saw historic plaques about the old stadium, concerts, and even the Pope! The lights come on at night, making it a luminous wonderland.

When the new stadium opened in 2009, the Council Member was thrilled to have her picture taken with Yogi Berra.

She ended on a poignant note about her own life. She dropped out of high school to help support her single working mother and 6 siblings! Later on in life, she graduated from Lehman College, received a Master’s degree from NYU, and became a City Council Member – all while being married and raising a family.

Just as she has been able to achieve so much, her husband, a career policeman, has now become a lawyer. She firmly believes the way to transform the poorest district in the country is to better yourself as an individual. “There is no greater feeling than to accomplish something for yourself. It is that accomplishment that can change your whole life.”

Story by Bobbie Kaplan

Photo by Sabrina Petrovicki

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Council Member Daniel Dromm

Councilman Dromm with visitors Esther and Mario Van Houton from The Netherlands
Photo by Karen Bell

On a sunny Friday in March, Esther and Mario Van Houton from The Netherlands visited Jackson Heights in Queens. Councilman Daniel Dromm was their Greeter for a Day. Joining them was Greeter Sam Weiss.

The Councilman could not have been more knowledgeable or passionate about his district neighborhoods, which include Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, LeFrak City, Corona, Rego Park, and Woodside. For this walk he focused on Jackson Heights with its lively shopping area, where it seemed each store had a different nationality.

He explained the community is 68% immigrant – with people from South Asia such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and from South America such as Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. “You can visit many countries here in one subway ride,” the Councilman said with pride.

He also shared some personal information: he is the first openly gay elected official from the borough. He started a Gay Pride Parade that takes place every June. He also pointed out that Queens was influential in getting the gay marriage law passed.

Walking through Little India and Little Bangladesh, the Councilman noted that all the different ethnic groups were kind and welcoming to each other. They came to America for freedom and they wanted acceptance for everyone, no matter what their nationality or sexual preference. Even the Jewish Center has Muslim Services! This tolerant, progressive attitude permeates the neighborhood.

On to the historic district, where beautiful Tudor homes and apartments were built in the 20’s and 30’s and are all landmarked today. Peacefulness exists in the district since no stores are allowed there.

Almost everyone knew the Councilman and wanted to say “Hi.” He explained that Jackson Heights is a “small town in the big city.” Esther and Mario felt they were “standing in the middle of real American life, not what tourists see.”

A perfect end to a perfect day was a tiny Bangladesh bakery where the Councilman treated everyone to hot tea, cocoa or cappuccino. He also bought Esther and Mario a book about Jackson Heights. His generosity, warmth and enthusiasm made it a very special day, or as Esther said succinctly, “It was really cool.”

Story by Bobbie Kaplan
Photos by Karen Bell

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Council Member Gale Brewer

December 22, 2011

Greeter for a Day Council Member Brewer

Photo left to right: visitor Michael Zell, Greeter Coreen Bourke
visitor Juergen Schramm, Council Member Gale Brewer
Big Apple Greeter Founder Lynn Brooks and volunteer Phyllis Hoffman

On a surprisingly warm winter’s day, Juergen Schramm and Michael Zell, two visitors from Hamburg, Germany, had an intimate, insider’s view of one of New York’s most engaging neighborhoods–the Upper West Side– when they met Big Apple Greeter for a Day, New York City Council Member Gale Brewer in her district office on Columbus Avenue. Joining them were Greeter Coreen Bourke and Big Apple Greeter’s Founder, Lynn Brooks.

Council Member Brewer briefed them on the important issues in her district, especially urban renewal, and with many historic buildings all around, she jokingly said, “I’d landmark the whole city if they left it up to me!” Walking down 89th Street, she pointed out the landmarked Public School 166, The Richard Rodgers School, whose architecture reminded Juergen Schramm of “something out of the latest Harry Potter movie!” Across the street was the West Side Community Garden, developed in the ‘70s and completely maintained by volunteers. “Community gardens” the council member explained, “were important in stabilizing an area and making people feel they had an investment in their own neighborhoods.”

Greeter for a Day Council Member Brewer in community garden
Greeter for a Day Council Member Brewer with visitors in a community garden

A few paces down the street were two landmarked buildings, the Ballet Hispanico, where “JLO” (Jennifer Lopez) got her start and the Claremont Riding Academy, the last active stable on the Upper West Side (now a new, private school).

On 90th street, Council Member Brewer’s husband, Cal Snyder, gave a talk on urban development and pointed out the beautiful row houses (many of them brownstones that the Upper West Side is known for) built in the 1880s, and then led everyone on a walk on Central Park West to see the grand old apartment buildings (such as the El Dorado) built from 1880 to 1930s. The greet ended with a surprise treat when everyone was ushered into the council member’s brownstone to see the beautiful, wood paneled interior of her intact Victorian home!

Visitors Juergen Schramm and Michael Zell were delighted to “see more than just the outside” and get a glimpse of New York history as well as a peek inside a real New Yorker’s home!

Greeter for a Day visitors

Greeter for a Day visitors

Story by Phyllis Hoffman

Photos By Paul Katcher

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Council Member Robert Jackson

  July 28, 2011

Council Member Robert Jackson with visitors Olivia Scott, Lorna Allett and Gillian Allett by P. Hoffman

Council Member Robert Jackson with visitors Olivia Scott, Lorna Allett and Gillian Allett by P. Hoffman

On a simmering summer day, 3 generations of visitors from Gloucestershire, UK, grandmother Olivia Scott, her daughter Gillian Allett, and her granddaughter Lorna Allett – all first time visitors to New York City and the USA – had a remember-for-the-rest-of-their-lives experience when they met exuberant New York City Council Member Robert Jackson who was Big Apple Greeter’s Greeter for a Day.

Photo by Ruth Nordenbrook

After a warm welcome, Council Member Jackson, the visitors and volunteer Greeter Ruth Nordenbrook, headed off to the steps of City Hall, where he joined Council Member Margaret Chin in her press conference on health-related issues important to all New Yorkers. Afterwards, he took everyone on a behind-the-scenes peak at City Hall, built in 1803 and currently undergoing restoration.

Photo by Phyllis Hoffman

Heading to his office at 250 Broadway, Council Member Jackson greeted everyone passing by, and jokingly said to the visitors, “I know 8 million people!”

Photo by Phyllis Hoffman

With the beautiful view from his 17th floor corner office behind him, Council Member Jackson chatted with his visitors about the workings of the New York City Council and the many wonderful projects he has sponsored for the benefit of his constituents in District #7, comprising the northern Manhattan neighborhoods of Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights, West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. While there, Council Member Jackson introduced his visitors to Council Member Vincent Gentile and Council Member Stephen Levin.

The highlight of the day was fast approaching as everyone headed over to the old Emigrant Savings Bank building on Chambers Street, where the City Council, the law-making body of New York City, is temporarily holding its meetings. During the City Council Meeting, Big Apple Greeter was presented with a Proclamation in honor of its contribution to life in New York City! Olivia, Gillian and Lorna were introduced to the entire Council and asked to join Big Apple Greeter Founder Lynn Brooks and the Council Members who had signed the proclamation, while Lynn accepted the Proclamation! Prior to the Council meeting, Council Member Jackson ushered his visitors into the private office of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn where they had the opportunity to meet the Speaker herself.

The proclamation was signed by the following Council Members: Christine C. Quinn, Speaker for the Entire Council; Council Member Robert Jackson, 7th District Manhattan; Council Member Gale A. Brewer, 6th District Manhattan; Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, 17th District Bronx; Council Member Mark Weprin, 23rd District Queens; Council Member Daniel Dromm, 25 District Queens; Council Member David G. Greenfield, 44th District Brooklyn; Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., 47th District Brooklyn.

Photo by Ruth Nordenbrook

Photo by Phyllis Hoffman

At the end of their visit, Council Member Jackson expressed his complete joy in being a Greeter for a Day for Big Apple Greeter, and his pleasure in showing visitors a little bit of how our City government works. Visitors Olivia, Gillian, and Lorna were elated with their whirlwind visit and said Council Member Jackson made their spectacular day in New York City memorable beyond their wildest dreams!

By Phyllis Hoffman and Gail Morse

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Comptroller John Liu

 June 7th, 2011

Greeter for a Day NYC Comptroller John Liu

l. to r., Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
NYC Comptroller John Liu, Obie Bing Community Board 12
German visitors Andrea Kern, Martina Leuschner
Annette Bachhofer and Kathrin Bachhofer

On a warm spring morning, Kathrin Bachhofer, her sister Annette Bachhofer, and two of their friends, Andrea Kern and Martina Leuschner—all of whom hail from Nuremberg, Germany—met with Big Apple Greeter for a Day, New York City Comptroller John Liu to visit a nugget of New York history- Jumel Terrace Historic District in Washington Heights.

The young women, visiting New York for the first time, met their Big Apple Greeter Chafin Elliott at their hotel then hopped on the C train up to 161 Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to meet Comptroller Liu and the many people who welcomed them to the neighborhood. Among them were Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Kenneth Moss, director of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Raybblin Vargas and Obie Bing from Community Board 12, Maria Luna, a district leader, and Yvonne Stennent, a community organizer from CLOTH.

Comptroller Liu led the group up a set of almost hidden stairs. When everyone stepped onto Jumel Terrace, they were transported back 140 years in time! Before them was Sylvan Terrace, a street lined with wooden framed row houses, dating back to the 1880’s and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house and headquarters to General Washington in September and October of 1776. Flanking the mansion on one side were limestones buildings -one of which at one time housed the singer/actor Paul Robeson. On the other side of the street was 555 Edgecomb Avenue, a famous building in which Duke Ellington and Etta James lived during the Harlem Renaissance. The visitors expressed their excitement at seeing a unique piece of “Old New York” in a city they thought of as filled with skyscrapers! They loved getting to know a small part of the city through the eyes of the locals and were so pleased that Greeter Chafin Elliott and Greeter for a Day Comptroller Liu were local people with different perspectives on the city.

Comptroller Liu said “being a Greeter for a Day enables you to hold New York City in the palm of your hand, as well as in your heart. It is a special opportunity to give a different perspective to visitors who come from far and wide by showing them a district that is a page out of history.”

Story by Phyllis Hoffman

Photo  by Paul Margolis

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Council Member Mark Weprin

December 6, 2010

From right to left: Council Member Mark Weprin with visitors Lisa and Andy Oxbororough from England

Lisa Oxbororough, a financial advisor, and her husband Andy, a postman, arrived in New York on Sunday, December 5 for their first visit to the City. On Monday – also Andrew’s birthday – the young couple from St. Neots, in Cambridgeshire, England met with Greeter Barbara Tomanelli at their hotel and then traveled downtown for a walk through lower Manhattan with New York City Council Member Mark S. Weprin, Big Apple Greeter’s newest Greeter for a Day.

Coming from his office near City Hall, Council Member Weprin met the group at the 9/11 Memorial Visitor Preview Site on Vesey Street, where he explained what it was like to be in New York City on and soon after the events of September 11, 2001. He then escorted the Oxboros across Vesey Street to St. Paul’s Chapel, which opened in 1766 and is the oldest building in continuous use in New York City. The church building played an important role in the aftermath of September 11, serving as the site of a very active relief ministry for rescue workers.

Leading the group further south, Weprin explained to the Oxboroughs how the part of Broadway known as the Canyon of Heroes has been the site of many parades, and pointed out sidewalk markers commemorating the many famous people – including Queen Elizabeth II, President John F. Kennedy, the New Yankees, and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, who participated in the parades. Along the way he pointed out the Equitable Bank Building which, when built in 1916, spurred the beginning of the City’s zoning regulations.

The visit also included a stroll over to Wall Street, which was bustling with lunch-hour pedestrians despite the biting wind. There, the Oxboroughs learned about the Federal Building, where George Washington took the oath of office, and the New York Stock Exchange. Coming back up Broadway, they saw the site of the Fulton Street Transit Center hub, now under construction, and conversed a bit about sports.

The excursion ended at City Hall Park, where Weprin explained the structure of the City Council and how its 51 members each represent 150,000 city residents.

Weprin is from Queens and represents the 23rd City Council District, encompassing Hollis, Queens Village, Little Neck, New Hyde Park and other nearby communities. He was motivated to become a Greeter for a Day because of his own experiences traveling abroad. “Everywhere we went, people were so nice,” he said. “New Yorkers have an unfair image that they are not friendly and hospitable,” he added. “I wanted to do my own myth-busting and Big Apple Greeter seemed like a great way to do my own part.”

Story by Melissa Weisstuch

Photo by Karen Bell

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American Ballet Theatre Soloist Craig Salstein

May 3, 2010

Visitors Marie-Cecile van Boxtel and Marliene Pille, Greeter Bobbie Gold and American Ballet Theatre Soloist Craig Salstein

Visitors Marie-Cecile van Boxtel and Marliene Pille,
Greeter Bobbie Gold and American Ballet Theatre Soloist Craig Salstein

On May 3, 2010, Marie-Cecile van Boxtel and Marliene Pille, who were visiting New York City from the Netherlands, were given a behind-the-scenes tour of two of New York City’s most important cultural institutions, The Metropolitan Opera and the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). American Ballet Theatre Soloist Craig Salstein, who joined ABT in 2000 and became a Soloist in March 2007, hosted this special Greeter for a Day event. Greeter Bobbie Gold, volunteer photographer Paul Margolis, and ABT Press Associate Rebecca Kim accompanied them.

The visit began at Lincoln Center, home of The Metropolitan Opera House since 1966. The visitors were welcomed by Big Apple Greeter Founder Lynn Brooks at the Lincoln Center Fountain and then Mr. Salstein escorted them through the opera house, which has been a vibrant residence for the most creative and talented artists, including singers, conductors, composers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers, and dancers from around the world. After viewing the opera’s majestic auditorium and stage complex, the visitors had an opportunity to see backstage production areas not usually open to the public, where the opera’s mammoth sets and ornate costumes are crafted.

They then made their way downtown to American Ballet Theater’s headquarters, located at 890 Broadway, for a unique opportunity to view ABT’s offices and see ballet students practice in the rehearsal studios. Founded in 1940, American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world and it annually tours the United States, performing for more than 600,000 people.

When asked what they enjoyed about the Greeter for a Day event, Greeter Bobbie Gold said, “We all enjoyed Mr. Salstein’s humor, warmth and great knowledge of the opera world. How fortunate we were to be able to be backstage during a rehearsal. Visiting the ABT office and rehearsal rooms, physical therapy room was also a treat for us.”

Story by Elizabeth Holmes

Photo by Paul Margolis

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Jean-Claude Baker

February 27, 2010
Photo from left to right: Jean Claude, Greeter Chantal Lawrence,
visitors Gwenaelle Lardenois and David Regis – Photo by Paul Margolis

On the snowy morning of Saturday, February 27, 2010, David Regis and Gwenaelle Lardenois, who were visiting New York City from Paris, France, were treated to a unique walk through the life of the famous Josephine Baker, who took Paris by storm in the 1920s. This special Greeter for a Day event was hosted by Josephine’s son, Jean-Claude Baker, owner of Chez Josephine, a restaurant in the Theatre District that celebrates the life of his mother, and the author of Josephine Baker: The Hungry Heart. Greeter Chantal Lawrence and Paul Margolis, a volunteer photographer, accompanied them.

Mr. Baker met his visitors in front of 232 W.138th Street. The basement of the brownstone was the location where Josephine Baker would rehearse her role in “La Revue Negre,” the show in which she made her debut in Paris in 1925. Mr. Baker spoke of the history of Harlem and that although many African-Americans were victims of discrimination and prejudice in Harlem they were able to blossom financially and artistically. It was Josephine’s work during the Harlem Renaissance that led to her success in France. The visitors stopped by the Apollo Theatre and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, where, they were surprised to learn, former President Bill Clinton has his office.

Jean-Claude invited everyone for lunch at his restaurant, Chez Josephine, and they were joined by Board Member Barbara Tomanelli. Our visitors commented on the beautifully decorated restaurant, and enjoyed learning about its history and Jean-Claude’s life as a restaurant owner. What Jean-Claude loves most about his work is having the chance to meet new people and making them feel like they are home.

After lunch, everyone walked over to the Winter Garden and the Palace Theatres in Times Square where Josephine enjoyed successful theatre runs in the 1920’s and 1970’s.

At the end of the Greeter for a Day, the visitors chatted over coffee and asked Jean-Claude what he loved about being a greeter. He replied “I love it and I am proud to show the New York I love!” As for David and Gwenaelle, they were very impressed with their Big Apple Greeter experience. David commented that Big Apple Greeter is “a wonderful experience to meet real New Yorkers from different backgrounds” and to “see New York as a New Yorker and not as a tourist.”

Story by Chantal Lawrence

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Affinia Shelburne General Manager David McManus

December 7, 2009

Photo from left to right:  Big Apple Greeter Dan Abatelli, Affinia Shelburne General Manager David McManus<br /> Affinia Shelburne Assistant General Manager Jennifer Baldwin<br /> Visitors Perri Applegate and Jack Phillips – Photo by Lynn Brooks
Photo from left to right: Big Apple Greeter Dan Abatelli, Affinia Shelburne General Manager David McManus
Affinia Shelburne Assistant General Manager Jennifer Baldwin
Visitors Perri Applegate and Jack Phillips – Photo by Lynn Brooks

On a beautiful, clear early December day, our most recent Greeter for a Day, David McManus, General Manager of the Affinia Shelburne, met two visitors from Oklahoma as well as Dan Abatelli, one of Big Apple Greeter’s volunteers. Perri Applegate and Jack Phillips definitely got more than they had anticipated when they sent in their Visit Request Form to Big Apple Greeter. David treated them to a unique experience with a private showing of this beautiful Murray Hill hotel. After seeing the newly refurbished space, the group took in the amazing rooftop views that impressed the visitors and volunteers alike. David explained that “connecting with guests while touring the Murray Hill neighborhood provided a level of customization that is unique to the hospitality industry,” which parallels the Big Apple Greeter philosophy to treat each visitor as if they were a long lost friend.

The group then walked north to Grand Central Terminal and along the way, they all shared knowledge of New York City. Not only did Perri and Jack see the Main Concourse of this landmark building, but also the Whispering Gallery, Transit Museum Annex, and Food Court. Dan also pointed out architectural details such as an original sculpted eagle on the Lexington Avenue façade. The visitors were able to see past the apparent transportation usages of this structure in order to view the space for its true architectural greatness.

Dan explained that what is so wonderful about the Greeter for a Day visits is that it is a reciprocal process; he and David McManus were able to learn from each other while showing their new friends from Oklahoma the sites. And it is truly a treat for native New Yorkers to look more deeply into the history of an area they often visit, while sharing the city they love with new visitors.

Story by Alison Brooks

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Deputy Mayor Lieber

Greet Spans 200 Years of City History

October 27, 2009

Patrick and Joan Godfrey, who live just outside London, England, never expected to have a top city official show them around lower Manhattan on their most recent visit to New York. But, sure enough, when they arrived at Seven World Trade Center with their assigned Greeter, Karen Brueckner, on a rainy Tuesday morning in late October, they found Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber and Big Apple Greeter Founder Lynn Brooks standing by to give them an extra special greet.

Mr. Lieber, New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, is the organization’s latest celebrity Greeter for a Day, and this decidedly 21st century building was the starting point for their time together. The architecturally distinctive 52 story structure, completed in 2006 by Silverstein Properties, was the first New York skyscraper of the new century. It stands on the site of the third World Trade Center building to collapse on September 11, 2001, after being badly damaged by debris from the falling North Tower.

From the 21st century, the group walked a short way through the steady rain to City Hall, built just two hundred years earlier, making it the oldest city hall in the country still being used for its original function. Here the Godfreys enjoyed seeing the keystone-cantilevered staircase that encircles the rotunda, recently restored 18th and 19th century portraits in the Governor’s Room, the ornate City Council Chamber — and the high tech accoutrements of the 311 call center.

Asked why he chose to participate in the Greeter for a Day program Mr. Lieber responded, “This wonderful organization makes a unique contribution to New York’s economy because of the special access it provides for so many visitors to the city’s neighborhoods, history and attractions.” Evidently the Godfreys agree. In an e-mail following their visit to New York Mrs. Godfrey wrote, “After two and a half weeks full of new activities Patrick and I both agree that the best day of our whole trip was the one we spent with our Big Apple Greeters. Please pass that on if you can.”

Story by Jack Olive

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Daily Newser plays Big Apple ‘greeter’

to adventurous tourists in Queens

By Lisa L. Colangelo

September 6th 2009

© New York Daily News, L.P.; reproduced with permission.
Photo by: NY Daily News photographer Enid Alvarez

Newser Lisa Colangelo (leaning on fence) shows Netherlands tourists (l. to r.) Pascual and Roelyke Gallego the sights at Gantry Plaza State Park, aided by Big Apple Greeter Suzanne Paliotta.

The assignment seemed simple enough – the Daily News wanted me to serve as a Big Apple Greeter for a day and take some visitors off the beaten tourism path.

I was a natural for at least part of the task. I’m a native New Yorker, having lived, worked and gone to school here for all but 10 years of my life.

The tour guide part? Not so much.

Gail Morse of Big Apple Greeter set me straight. They are not, she repeated, not a tour company.

“A greeter shows a visitor around the way a friend or a family member would show someone around,” said Morse.

Founder Lynn Brooks started the program in 1992, matching up volunteer greeters with visitors to show them that New York can indeed be friendly and manageable.

After digging through some requests, Morse paired me up with Pascual and Roelyke Gallego, a couple from Leeuwarden, Netherlands. The easygoing pair spoke English and were excited to explore Queens.

Seasoned greeter Suzanne Paliotta came along for moral support. She suggested we start in Forest Hills Gardens.

I was a little skeptical. Was there anything there they would want to see? Most of my school-aged years were spent in that area. It seemed a tad too familiar – even boring.

But I was wrong. Roelyke, a 35-year-old teacher, and Pascual, a 35-year-old tax inspector, soaked in everything from the busy Austin St. shopping strip to the manicured gardens and mansions a few blocks away.

“People don’t think they will see architecture like this in New York City,” said Paliotta.

After checking out the West Side Tennis Club – former site of the U.S. Open – we walked carefully across Queens Blvd., explaining the “Boulevard of Death” moniker, and hopped a bus into the heart of Corona.

There was no way I was taking a visitor into Queens without visiting two borough food landmarks: the Lemon Ice King of Corona and Leo’s Latticini (a.k.a. Mama’s).

Roelyke followed my lead and got a peanut butter ice, while Pascual went with sour green apple.

“We would never have known to come here if you didn’t bring us,” Pascual said. My smug smile disappeared when he looked over at the nearby bocce courts and asked me to explain the game to him.

“Something where you roll balls but it’s not bowling,” I tried, looking at Suzanne for help.

Ugh. Some Italian-American I am. Then again, my family was more likely to bowl at Hollywood Lanes than play bocce.

Recharged by the ices, we walked several blocks to Mama’s, where sisters Irene, Marie and Carmela fussed over Pascual and Roelyke as if they were family.

The couple happily wolfed down Mama’s special sandwiches: mozzarella, salami and peppered ham on semolina bread with peppers and mushrooms.

It was a welcome break from the fast food that had dominated their meals since arriving in the city.

As we walked to Roosevelt Ave. to catch the 7 train to Long Island City, Roelyke and Pascual stopped to take pictures of the trucks lined up under the el. I wasn’t sure why, but they seemed interested and happy.

We walked through Long Island City, showing them the new shiny towers that are replacing factories and warehouses.

“This is lovely,” said Roelyke, as she enjoyed the breeze at Gantry Plaza State Park. “We probably would have never gone here. We probably would have just walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and walked back.”

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Greeter for a Day Tiki Barber

July 14, 2009

On July 14, 2009, Retired NFL Pro-Bowl Running Back, NBC News Correspondent, “Football Night in America” Analyst and Chairman of Tiki Ventures, LLC Tiki Barber hosted a Greet for Judy and Steve Stazel, a couple traveling from Englewood, Colorado. Volunteer Greeter Ruth Nordenbrook accompanied them on the Greet.

The event was part of a new initiative, Greeter for a Day, which matches New York celebrities, corporate leaders and politicians with global visitors to experience New York through the eyes of real New Yorkers.

Tiki welcomed the Englewoods and Ms. Nordenbrook at the NBC studios for a personal tour. They then continued on to Koreatown, located between Broadway and Fifth Avenue on 32nd Street, for lunch in one of Tiki’s favorite Korean restaurants.

In remembering the event, Ms. Nordenbrook was quoted as saying, “Tiki Barber is one of the kindest, smartest, socially concerned people I have ever met. It was a joy meeting him.”

Story by Elizabeth Holmes

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Sopranos Star Hosts Arias and Pizza in the Bronx

The actor known as Uncle Junior on television series “The Sopranos”, Dominic Chianese, is the newest Big Apple Greeter supporter.

After participating in the July 15 press launch of Greeter for a Day, a new program matching well-known New Yorkers with visitors from around the globe who want to experience the city through the eyes of those who know it best, the Bronx-born actor hosted a Greet for Nancy Sexton and daughter Kate, two visitors from Lexington, South Carolina.

The Greet began with a subway ride to Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx. After a stroll through the neighborhood, the group had a pizza and red wine lunch at Mario’s Restaurant, a local eatery featuring Neopolitan cuisine.

Afterwards, Chianese took the visitors by the building where he was born and then onto the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, an authentic Italian marketplace featuring vendors offering a profusion of food and produce. The women sampled aged Parmesan cheese while Chianese sang a brief Aria.

“I can’t tell you how much it has meant to us to be here with him and to appreciate this community for what it is,” said visitor Nancy Sexton.

Video on our “News and Events” page

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Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

On July 30, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz hosted a Greet for Dennis and Kathy Myers, a couple traveling from California.

The event was part of Greeter for a Day, a new initiative matching well-known New Yorkers with visitors from around the globe who want to experience New York through the eyes of those who know it best-real New Yorkers. The program reflects a positive image of the city and the Big Apple Greeter way.

Marty Markowitz personally welcomed the Myers to his Brooklyn Borough Hall office where he presented them with official Brooklyn certificates. After a tour of the 1840s building, they walked down Montague Street to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a spectacular park located by the East River with unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

“You showed us a part of New York that we would never had been able to experience! We loved Brooklyn and will recommend it to our friends. On our next visit, we’re staying in Brooklyn!” said the couple of their visit in a follow-up e-mail.

Story by Janet Alicea

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Tiki Barber, Dominic Chianese Kick-Off

Big Apple Greeter’s ‘Celebrity Greeter for a Day Program’

Photo by: Karen Bell

Contact: Bill O’Reilly, 212-938-0004 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Call on Other Prominent New Yorkers to Join Campaign

New York, N.Y.—July 15…Visitors to New York City could find themselves exploring New York’s most authentic, off-the-beaten path neighbourhoods, accompanied by some of the city’s best-known celebrities, business leaders, and elected representatives under a program announced today by Big Apple Greeter called the “Greeter for a Day Program.”

The Celebrity Greeter for a Day Program will match well-known New Yorkers with visitors from around the globe who want to experience New York through the eyes of those who know it best—real New Yorkers. More than 300 New Yorkers serve as Greeters for a Day throughout the year, and well-known New Yorkers will now be among them. Celebrity greeters will be matched up with city visitors in the same way others are paired, and advance notice will not be given. (Sorry: One can’t request a celebrity greeter!)

Former New York Giants superstar Tiki Barber and acting legend Dominic Chianese, who will serve as celebrity greeters, joined Big Apple Greeter representatives, elected officials, and New York business and tourism officials in announcing the program—and in calling on other prominent New Yorkers to step forward to become part of the initiative.

New York City Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber; Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; City Council Members David Weprin and Dan Garodnick; and New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Rob Walsh, all of whom have supported Big Apple Greeter, also spoke at the news conference. Two additional Greeters for a Day scheduled are David McManus, General Manager, Affinia Shelburne Hotel and Christopher Ward, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Big Apple Greeter founder Lynn Brooks thanked all those attending and added: “Big Apple Greeter is enormously grateful to Mr. Barber and Mr. Chianese for joining our greeter program. Our greeters give visitors from around the world the true flavour of New York.”

Big Apple Greeter is a non-profit founded in 1992 with a mission to enhance New York City’s worldwide image and enrich the New York experience by connecting visitors with knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers. Big Apple Greeter’s core program is its free-of-charge Greeter program, which connects visitors with New Yorkers of all ages, conversant in over 20 languages. Greeters, who are all volunteers, accompany visitors on two-four-hour informal visits to New York City’s neighbourhoods in all five boroughs.

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Mike Woods and Ines Rosales

  Television Broadcasters, WNYW (FOX 5)

December 18, 2008

  Mike and Ines

Good Day New York Reporters Participate in Greeter for a Day

Mike Woods and Ines Rosales are easily some of the most recognizable, trusted faces in New York. He serves as meteorologist delivering New Yorker’s daily dose of the latest weather and she is the traffic reporter for Good Day New York, the Emmy Award-winning daily morning news show on WNYW (Fox 5).

On December 26, New Yorkers were treated to a first-hand view of our organization’s work when the program televised a specially filmed segment featuring Mr. Woods and Ms. Rosales’ participation in Greeter for a Day, a special program created by Big Apple Greeter.

The program invites CEOs and other high profile New Yorkers to take visitors on an informal walk through their favorite neighborhood. The program reflects a positive image of the city and the Greeter for a Day serves as a goodwill ambassador for New York and the Big Apple Greeter way.

“We were asked if we’d like to participate and we eagerly agreed,” says Mr. Woods. “New York is a city like none other. It is truly a melting pot that celebrates all cultures, races, religions, and people.”

The visitors, a couple from Texas, received a guided tour of the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn by Ms. Rosales and Mr. Woods.

“We were so excited to take our visitors to our favorite place…a choice spot for a traffic reporter like me,” says Ms. Rosales.

This is the first time that our Greeter for a Day program has been broadcast on a major network. Fox 5 is the flagship television station of the News Corporation-owned Fox Broadcasting Company located in New York City.

Story by Janet Alicea

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Robert Catell

Chairman, U.S. National Grid

August 15, 2008

As Greeter for a Day, Mr. Catell accompanied Big Apple Greeter Ruth Nordenbrook and three visitors from Saskatchewan, Canada, for an informal walk in downtown Brooklyn. Beginning at the National Grid’s office in the MetroTech Center, Mr. Catell provided a tour of National Grid’s gas control and customer care centers, followed by a walk to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for a tour of this historic performing art center.

Mr. Catell welcomed this one-time opportunity to share his love and enthusiasm for New York City and its neighborhoods with appreciative visitors, and he relished his role as goodwill ambassador for New York City.

The Greeter for a Day program invites business, community, and government leaders to fill a Greeter’s shoes for a few hours. By sharing his or her love and enthusiasm for New York City and its neighborhoods with an appreciative visitor, the Greeter for a Day promotes New York City the Big Apple Greeter way.

Story by Elizabeth Holmes

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