The Community-Minded Pastor

Plunk, plunk, plunk; plink-plink-plink-plink. Someone is playing, let’s make that pounding, a toy piano. Thia Reggio, pastor of the Astoria First Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) takes no note of it. She’s had a lot of practice screening out its astringent strains. Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Thia’s the pastor of Astoria First Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This is, after all, New York City: Even churches as old as Astoria First, which started holding services nearly 170 years ago, have to have roommates to make the rent. In this case, the dissonant roommate at 23-35 Broadway is …

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The Woman Who Plays the Toy Piano

There’s a baby grand in the living room, but when Phyllis Chen sits down to play, it’s at the child-size cherry-red toy piano. Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Phyllis, who plays a baby grand and a toy piano. Her knees almost touch her hands, which fly across the kiddie keys, creating cascades of catchy, chiming melodies. “Toy pianos don’t have strings, they have metal rods,” she says, explaining the bell-like sounds that are floating through the air. “They’re percussive.” Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Phyllis grew …

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The Juice Guy

It’s breakfast time, and John Sung Park is at the front door with a big grin on his face. He’s been up since 4, and he still has a lifetime to go before he closes his juice bar, Paris Health New Direction, at 7 p.m. Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling John’s from Seoul, South Korea. Early rising aside, Paris — and John — have always been ahead of the times. Paris, which started out as a doughnut shop nearly three decades ago, swapped the sweets for healthy treats 14 years ago. “Nobody else was doing this here,” he says. He…

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The Life Listener

There are parts of his past that are sad, so William Javier Velazquez does what he has been doing his entire life to ease the pain. He puts a record on the turntable. Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Javi’s the owner of HiFi Records & Cafe. The soul-soothing sound of Leon Bridges’ Coming Home is what people hear when they walk into HiFi Records & Café, which he opened earlier this year for fellow vinyl aficionados. The first ears it reaches are those of his wife, Ülkü Aybar-Velazquez, and their year-old daughter, Maya, who have come to bring him a…

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