2016 OHNY Weekend Volunteers

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! 

 

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 Tiffanie Green, one of district coordinators, and David Roder, an international volunteer!

 

THE DISTRICT COORDINATOR

District Coordinators are a special team of individuals who volunteer their entire weekend to make sure everything runs smoothly across the city. They are assigned specific neighborhoods and help manage all volunteers and sites in the area.

TiffanieGreen

Name: Tiffanie Green
Occupation: Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Mount Sinai Health System
Neighborhood: Teaneck, NJ

Favorite spot in New York City?
Incredibly cliche, but I love Central Park. Taking a walk along the paths never fails to cheer me up.

Best Open House New York memory?
Last year, volunteers were invited to an incredible lecture by the NYC Department of Sanitation’s anthropologist-in-residence Robin Nagle. Not only did I not know NYC Sanitation had its own anthropologist, I also was clueless about the amazing role that trash has played in the shaping of the city. Besides opening the doors of incredible spaces to the masses, I enjoy OHNY’s imaginative and informative lectures. I have learned so much about the city through them.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I started volunteering immediately after graduating college when I was broke and underemployed. As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve always admired the city’s rich architecture. Volunteering presented a free means of taking a backstage tour of these amazing spaces… plus it was a great way to take my mind off being broke and underemployed. : )

Why did you decide to be a District Coordinator this year?
I jumped at the opportunity to take a more active role in the Weekend. I have lived and/or worked in New York City for my entire life and yet there is always some part of the city that is newly amazing and inspiring. Being a District Coordinator seemed a great way to take an intimate tour of a neighborhood.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
Central Park is my favorite spot in New York City. Bethesda Fountain is my favorite piece of public art within the park. I’ve visited the fountain in the early mornings, before tourists descend, and I can find such a sense of calm. It’s a piece of serenity in this hectic city. I’d like to think I am too!

Fun fact?
My first word was Batman. I’m pretty sure this had something to do with Prince’s Batdance.

 

THE INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER

People from across the city and around the world travel to New York to give back to Open House New York and participate as volunteers each year.

DavidRoder

Name: David Roder
Occupation: Architect working as the city engineer of a rural regional municipality near Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
Neighborhood: Nesher, a town next to Haifa, in the northern part of Israel

Favorite spot in New York City?
Sadly, it’s only a memory of something that is no longer there…the twin towers. For many reasons. I like very much Central Park as a public oasis for all. It’s been awhile since my last visit to New York, but I do remember very well all the fantastic museums and exhibitions I saw – that had a great impact on me for years.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
These Open House Weekends are important and interesting. They are held in major cities where we can learn and get to see those sometimes small projects which make our cities what they are, year after year. I have volunteered for the past five or six Open House Weekends in Tel Aviv and once in Jerusalem as well. Since I am planning on coming to New York during OHNY Weekend, I am very excited to volunteer. I want to take part in something I find not only important, but a big celebration of the energy of a city that is free for all.

What is your favorite site during Open House Tel Aviv?
It was an old Telephone Exchange building that was renovated and now it’s a hostel/hotel.

 

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

 

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 Julia Xiao, one of our volunteer photographers, and Iván Huerta, a first time Open House New York volunteer!

 

THE VOLUNTEER PHOTOGRAPHER

A special team of photographers volunteer their time and expertise during OHNY Weekend to help us document the festival each year. 

JuliaXiao

Name: Julia Xiao
Occupation: Architect
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Favorite spot in New York City?
I love stumbling upon hidden gems like the Elizabeth Street Garden. It’s a quiet green space in the middle of a bustling downtown that instantly transports one to a place of tranquility and peace. I love coming here on a weekend afternoon to read or just enjoy a respite from Soho.

Best OHNY memory?
​I recently participated in the OHNY zoning scavenger hunt and though my team did not win, we visited so many sites in four boroughs in one whirlwind day!

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I love photographing buildings and wanted to put my photography passion to good use. Excited to see new interiors I would otherwise never be able to access and the tours led by industry experts are always super educational.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
I would want to be the Flatiron Building because it is timeless.​

Fun fact?
I ran my first Brooklyn half marathon this May!

What was your favorite photograph that you took during last year’s OHNY Weekend and why?
​I enjoyed photographing for OHNY. Last year, I had the pleasure of photographing Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. It reminded me of Père Lachaise in Paris.

 

THE FIRST TIME VOLUNTEER

All volunteers play a pivotal role at participating sites around the city. Volunteers are assigned to one site during OHNY Weekend, typically for a four hour shift, and are tasked with welcoming visitors, assisting with check-in, managing lines, and representing Open House New York. 

IvanHuerta

Name: Iván Huerta
Occupation: Art Director
Neighborhood: Harlem

Favorite spot in New York City?
Central Park. It’s right across my building! I love all the nature, the gardens, lakes and how peaceful it can be. It’s my sanctuary when I seek relaxation. I also go jogging regularly. Everyday in Central Park is different and it can certainly be an adventure! Sledding on its hills during winter is so much fun too!

Best Open House New York memory?
Last year when my sister was in town we attended some OHNY events. We went to a site in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan. It was a great bonding experience since we both love architecture and New York City. She is an architect and seeing everything from her perspective was very interesting and it surely added more excitement to the tours.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I’m excited to be part of a project that promotes and celebrates the architecture of the greatest city in the world. I feel honored to be part of an organization that brings unprecedented access to historical and contemporary architectural jewels.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
I would probably be the 432 Park Avenue building. To date, this building is the tallest in Midtown East. Being that tall and in the middle of the island, the views from it must be astonishing! You can see Midtown, the Empire State Building, 1 WTC, and to the north, Central Park, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. This building is very close to the Chrysler Building, which is my favorite building, therefore I would be able to contemplate its beauty every day! Plus, I love the minimal design of 432 Park Avenue.

Fun fact?
I have watched all six seasons of Sex and the City over eight times to the point that I have memorized some of the dialogues.

Favorite architectural detail in New York City?
My favorite architectural detail would be the crown of the Chrysler Building. I love how it reflects the rays of the sun during the day, providing a beautiful spectrum of colors as the sun goes down. Also, at night, the stunning V-shaped lighting reminds me of the vibrant energy of this city.

 

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

Each year, an amazing group of more than 1,300 people from across New York and around the world volunteer to help make 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 Donna Lennon, a first time Open House New York volunteer, and John Kelly, one of our District Coordinators!

 

THE FIRST TIME VOLUNTEER

All volunteers play a pivotal role at participating sites around the city. Volunteers are assigned to one site during OHNY Weekend, typically for a four hour shift, and are tasked with welcoming visitors, assisting with check-in, managing lines, and representing Open House New York. 

DonnaLennon-crop

Name: Donna Lennon
Occupation: Elementary School Teacher
Neighborhood: Harlem

Favorite spot in New York City?
Union Square. It’s such an interesting mix of entertainment, shopping, and political expression. I can go to the movies, get a great pair of shoes, and protest police brutality all in one spot.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I registered because in both my professional and personal life, I am often asked for directions and information about New York. Maybe it’s the glasses, but for some reason random strangers often politely excuse themselves and ask me for directions, train schedules, and information about New York landmarks This is a common occurrence in my life and I’ve learned to embrace it. There are times when I’m not in a good mood and simply say “sorry, I’m not from here.” I’ve lived in New York–Queens and Harlem–for twenty years now and I have been an unofficial New York tour guide since my first year here. Lately, I’ve asked those same lost strangers why, out of all the people on the platform, or in the street or lobby, they chose to ask me. Their response is mostly “you seemed kind” or “you looked like a nice person.” Even with shades on my face and earbuds in my ears, I don’t know how they inferred that I was nice. But this led me to believe that I am a perfect match as an OHNY volunteer. I am most excited about truly representing the city I love by answering a lot of questions.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
The George Washington Bridge! Before my Dad passed away, I made frequent road trips to my hometown of Rochester, New York. This trip allowed me to listen to my favorite music (Usher), engage in one-way conversations with my favorite podcasters (Elon James White, Crissle & Kid Fury and Baratunde Thurston), and simply relax. That moment when you’re coming off Interstate 80 onto 95 and then you see the GW Bridge with the city in the background, it is simply breathtaking. It’s like a welcome home hug. It’s like the front door of your home after a long day. It’s just beautiful.

Fun fact?
I collect turtle figurines and wood carvings from all over the world! I have fourteen figurines in my collection from places like Egypt, Spain, Mexico, and Jamaica. This collection all started with the purchase of my pet turtle, Lucy. I’ve had her since 2004. She was a perfect classroom pet that now lives in a 10-gallon tank in my living room.

 

THE DISTRICT COORDINATOR

District Coordinators are a special team of individuals who volunteer their entire weekend to make sure everything runs smoothly across the city. They are assigned specific neighborhoods and help manage all volunteers and sites in the area.

JohnKelly-crop

Name: John Kelly
Occupation: Director of digital product development at American Express
Neighborhood: Court Square, Long Island City with fiancée (and OHNY volunteer) Pedro

Favorite spot in New York City?
Without a doubt Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK. I grew up in the DC area and was always so inspired traveling in and out of Dulles, another one of his master works. I thought I would never get the opportunity to see TWA up close, but I was so thrilled to have the chance to visit when it opened for OHNY Weekend in the past.Best Open House New York memory?
I took off an afternoon from work four years ago to go on a members tour of the NYC Department of Transportation’s command center in Long Island City. One of my niche interests is around the invisible systems and infrastructure upon which urban life is able to thrive – and this was an amazing experience to see all of the science and technology that goes into traffic optimization. It was another OHNY experience of getting the chance to go behind the scenes of something that I was so interested in, but never thought I would have the chance to experience.

Why are you volunteering for OHNY Weekend?
I first became aware of OHNY as a college student at St. John’s University, and had many great weekends as a participant. I observed so many people passionate about different aspects of the city, and knew that I wanted to get more involved. My first year as a volunteer was in 2009 when I was assigned to the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, and immediately fell even more in love with the organization.

If you were a New York City landmark, what would you be?
This is a stretch, but I’d be the subway system. For as much shade as gets thrown at it, it is remarkable for its scale, reach, resiliency, and for being the backbone of the the country’s largest economy.

Fun fact?
I have five younger siblings!

What is your favorite part about being a District Coordinator for OHNY Weekend?
Riding around on my bike, getting to know all of the volunteers, site sponsors, and gaining an even deeper appreciation for my neighborhood and my city.

 

There’s still time to join the team of more than 1,000 volunteers who help make Open House New York Weekend one of New York’s most exciting events! Visit our volunteer page to learn more about volunteering and click here to sign up to volunteer for the 2016 OHNY Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16!