An amazing group of more than 1,400 people from across New York and around the world have signed up to volunteer and help make the 2016 Open House New York Weekend possible. They all share a love of New York City, and make up a vibrant mix of new and returning volunteers.

This week, meet Julián Leonardo Reyes Caballero, a returning volunteer and recent New York transplant, and Sascha Swanson, a first time volunteer!
 
 

THE RETURNING VOLUNTEER

Julian-Reyes 

Name: Julián Leonardo Reyes Caballero
Occupation: CPA & photography amateur
Neighborhood: I recently moved to Brooklyn, but previously lived in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Ohio. Now I live just a block away from the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Favorite spot in New York City?
Being in New York City for about ten years now, my favorite spot has changed throughout the years as I discovered the city more and more. I think nowadays my favorite spot is the National Gateway Park and Fort Tilden. I also love Bryant Park and the New York Public Library for its quaintness and the charm of the park surrounded by the public library, American Radiator, and the Bank of America buildings. Plus, it’s one of the oldest memories I have from New York, before actually visiting the city, from watching Ghostbusters. I have met great people in that park, and I enjoy going there for lunch breaks, summer concerts, and the ice skating rink.

Best Open House New York memory?
Through Open House New York, I have been able to meet great people from the organization as well as many visitors with a strong interest in discovering architecture. It gives New Yorkers the opportunity to discover the city from the other side of the façade, from the inside spaces that most people don’t get to see or that are only open to the public once a year during the OHNY Weekend. I participated in OHNY at the Scandinavia House and I liked the interior design and the concept of the place – sharing Scandinavian culture. Among other things, it has an educational area and a playground for kids. Many people come to see the architectural aspect of the place, but also many parents use it as a place where they can play and enjoy time with their little ones, which gives it a very good vibe.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I am not an architect myself, but some beloved members of my family have been architects. As a result, architecture was a frequent topic in family conversations during dinner, local trips, and traveling abroad. Most of our trips abroad had an architectural appreciation component. That passion encouraged me to sign up to volunteer for OHNY Weekend so I can be a host for people with appreciation for architecture and urban planning. I can’t leave out that my girlfriend is an architect and we both go out exploring the city every time we can. Trying to find those hidden gems out there.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
A New York City symbol, then and now, and a statement of Big Dreams becoming true: The Chrysler Building. Since the very first time I saw it, I was fascinated. The splendor, the eagles, the reflections, the Art Deco details. It is a big statement from a past and a present time.

Most interesting place you’ve traveled?
The URO islands at Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. These artificial islets made out of a reed called ‘totora’ float on a massive lake 12,000 feet above sea level. It is impressive to see such an eco-efficient process where a single lake plant, ‘totora’, is used to build the islets, the houses on top, the beds, the boats, and the lookout towers. All this impressive panorama is mingled with solar panels to provide electric power. The route to get there is somewhat surreal: you travel on the flat lands of the high Andean plateau surrounded by snow topped mountains, traditional and colorfully dressed locals, alpacas, land being worked, and a chill breeze from being at such altitude.

Fun fact?
I can’t say no to a good piece of cheese. So friends and family don’t ever ask me for help shredding cheese for making a pizza or that pizza may end up with just tomato sauce, and no cheese.

 

THE FIRST TIME VOLUNTEER

SaschaSwanson

Name: Sascha Swanson
Occupation: IBEW Local 3 Electrician
Neighborhood: Sunnyside, Queens

Favorite spot in New York City?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has everything. I’ve been a member for over twenty years and haven’t come close to seeing it all. But it’s not just the collection; the buildings are such an intrinsic part of the experience for me. The expansion and evolution of Fifth Avenue is fascinating. The Cloisters is an oasis of Medieval Europe at the tip of Manhattan – wandering through it truly transports me across the Atlantic. And the addition of the Breuer adds a masterpiece of Brutalism to the Met’s architecture “collection.”

Best Open House New York memory?
I loved the tour of the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse. I’m a Law & Order junkie, so just being able to enter that building was a thrill. Then our tour guide was very familiar with the renovations and was able to answer a lot of my construction questions.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
Last year was my first year taking advantage of OHNY and I loved it. I tried to hit as many places as possible: Federal Hall, Cunard Building, The John Randel Map display at the Municipal Building, The Four Seasons and the Austrian Cultural Forum, and I made it to Saarinen’s TWA terminal, which I’ve been trying to get inside for years. Volunteers are what makes these events possible – I wanted to help enable others to enjoy this great access to the city.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
I’ve been working on the renovation at the United Nations for a while now, so I suppose I’d be that just from osmosis.

Favorite construction site you’ve worked on?
As an apprentice, I worked in the Citicorp Center (now called 601 Lexington) and got a special tour of the counterweight at the top from the building engineers. Two pistons are poised to push a massive block of concrete on a pad of oil to counteract wind. Having read the history of the building and its weekend remedial welding sessions to storm proof it, seeing that part of the building was incredible.

Fun Fact?
I have a collection of detritus I’ve found on renovation jobs – like 40 year old cans of soda and beer – and I take pictures of matchbooks and newspapers preserved in concrete pours and other garbage left behind from long gone construction crews. It’s my own little bit of urban archaeology.

 

A huge thank you to Julian and Sascha and to the 1,400 individuals who registered to volunteer during the 2016 OHNY Weekend on October 15 and 16!