I always wanted to be comfortable enough with my business to do a tour for charity. It's in my nature to give back when I can. After all, the intention behind Made in Brooklyn Tours is to benefit creative people and small businesses. And I always do my best to represent Brooklyn as a good neighbor. Well, the time is right for something like this.
Being from Bensonhurst is a matter of pride for me. It was and still is a densely populated working class neighborhood relatively unscathed by the unfettered development affecting the rest of NYC. It's a classic Brooklyn neighborhood that remains attractive to immigrants. When I lived there it was predominantly an Italian neighborhood populated by emigres arriving to the United States after World War II. Long before then other ethnic groups made their home there too like the Irish and Germans.
For Bensonhurst is also the place from where I left for one brief, but significant moment when I was a teenager. During an especially tumultuous period when life at home became unbearable, I found my way to Covenant House - all the way in the wilds of 1980s Manhattan. Covenant House gave me food and shelter and, what I needed most of all back then, a warm welcome. I returned to Bensonhurst in less than a week, but the experience remains with me today.
A lot has changed since the 1980s and Bensonhurst is more of a memory to me now. Today, it's predominantly Chinese with pockets of Latino, Polish and other ethnic groups. But the spirit of Bensonhurst is alive and well. In fact, denizens of other neighborhoods like Bath Beach and Gravesend sometimes count themselves as Bensonhurstians too! To those who willingly make the trek to South Brooklyn, I'm happy to show off my old neighborhood. My Made in Bensonhurst Tour is a food tour that captures the flavor of the 1970s and '80s and features panini, heroes, mozzarella and ravioli.
Covenant House is also changing. Last year the Covenant House building where I stayed was demolished. It will be replaced by a new supportive housing development on West 41st Street and 10th Avenue. "The Cov," founded in NYC in the early 1970s, has expanded and now offers housing and support services to young people in other states, Canada, Mexico and Latin America.
Over the years, I have stayed connected to Covenant House with donations of clothing and household goods. Last year, I even joined their Sleep Out at Yankee Stadium to help raise funds and bring awareness to youth homelessness. And next month, on Saturday, March 14th, the Made in Bensonhurst Tour will be for their benefit - 100%. Bensonhurst has earned a tough guy reputation, but, take it from me, there's a lot of generosity there too. The businesses that we'll visit will contribute the food we'll eat - not taste, EAT! - at the end of the tour and we'll dine at a historic place that has graciously offered their space.