Noah Rosenberg

journalist | entrepreneur | storyteller

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Narratively: Reinventing the Oldest Profession

February 10th, 2013 · Article

Through business consultancies, political rallies and poetry readings, sex workers of all stripes have stepped out of the shadows.

“When I got raped,” Jodi S. Doff says plainly, as if talking about a mild bout of stomach flu, “I went to work that afternoon. I’d been kept in the house for six hours and raped and tortured and I just called in late.”

Friends and colleagues of Doff’s had been murdered, kidnapped, beaten, slapped, spit on. This was early ‘80s New York, and these were strippers, “hoochy-coochy gals,” as Doff calls her former self, working the poles at places like Robbie’s Mardi Gras and the Lollipop.

“Really,” she remembers, “you looked at it like it was part of the package: you play with snakes, you’re gonna get bit.”

Doff’s rapist, a pimp who hung out in the club she worked in at the time, came in for a drink hours after he attacked her. She was battered and bruised, he was clinking a cup of ice and liquor. Doff’s bosses simply shrugged, ultimately kicking the guy out of the bar at Doff’s insistence, but welcoming him back two weeks later.

Doff knows now that she needed an exit, but she saw none.

“Had there been some place to go, or someone to talk to, or outreach done, I think it would’ve been a point that I would’ve been ready to hear it,” she says. “But I did not leave at that point. I did not clean up my act.”

Doff counted several friends among the strippers she worked with, but the camaraderie of the job extended only so far beyond the mirrored walls and the besuited men of Midtown. So she continued stripping.

“Looking back with sober eyes,” she says of the superficiality of the job, of the self-preservation that it forced upon young women like herself, “it was the kind of community you make, and the friendships you make, when you’re in a war zone.”

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New York Times: 100 Years of Staying Put

May 2nd, 2012 · Article

WHEN Lillian Jacobs was 2, in 1911 or ’12, her family moved from the Lower East Side into a tenement building on East 84th Street, just off York Avenue, then known as Avenue A. Her parents ran a candy store on the building’s ground floor, catering to the newly arrived immigrants from Germany, Hungary, Austria and Ireland.

People came and went over the years; apartment houses were built and tradesmen’s shops disappeared, along with the family candy store. But the character of the area, and specifically this part of East 84th Street, has largely remained the same. The brownstones, built at the turn of the 20th century and flanked by trees planted in more recent years, have stayed true to the block.

So has Ms. Jacobs…
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New York Times: The Intrepid Prepares for the Enterprise

April 19th, 2012 · Video

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum of New York City removed three planes from its deck in preparation for the arrival of the Enterprise, the prototype for space shuttles.

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New York Times: Catskill Town, Slow to Rebound, Shows Signs of Energy

December 30th, 2011 · Article & Photography

PRATTSVILLE, N.Y. — More than two months after flood waters that engulfed this remote Catskill Mountains town knocked Dave Rikard’s Victorian house off its foundation, it remains frozen in a bow — as if bidding farewell to Main Street after a 100-year performance.

Its yellow, blue and white facade has become a canvas for the swirling and sometimes overlapping array of emotions, rendered in black spray paint, that have coursed through Prattsville since late August, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials labeled it the place hit hardest by Tropical Storm Irene: “God Save Prattsville”; “Tx FEMA …4 nutt’n”; “God bless America.”

Lately, hope has started to enter that mixture, as a long-term plan for a flood-resistant Prattsville has begun to take shape…
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New York Times: And Now, Fresh Clams and Salty Air

December 30th, 2011 · Article

HAMPTONS-BOUND traffic in the summer is a sweaty, hectic, BMW-infested mess. But that’s not your problem. As you soar down the Long Island Expressway, past the long line of frustrated New Yorkers waiting to disembark at Exit 70, grin and wave, because you’re not going to the Hamptons, pal. You’re headed for the North Fork — and straight to Claudio’s Clam Bar.

Land of fried-clam-cold-beer-live-music-and-raw-oyster gloriousness, Claudio’s Clam Bar sits at the edge of vast expanses of farmland, past sweeping vineyards. Eight miles from the tip of Long Island’s North Fork, the Clam Bar is nestled on a wharf that juts 400 feet into Peconic Bay, in quaint Greenport. The village, founded in 1640, was recently listed as one of America’s “prettiest towns” by Forbes magazine…
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New York Times: Shopping for Presents While Most Are Asleep

December 29th, 2011 · Article

The tourists had long vacated Times Square, leaving the streets there and to the south nearly empty; even the halal food vendors on 34th Street had packed up their kebabs for the night. Yet there it was: The sound of Christmas carols emanating from outdoor speakers at Herald Square, an aural enticement for the faithful to come to shop, regardless of the hour.

In the hours before dawn on Thursday, it appeared business was as usual at Macy’s. Window shoppers were transfixed by the store’s scenes of miniature Christmas glee; New Yorkers just off the graveyard shift got in their holiday shopping without the holiday crowds.

Then there were the inebriated post-graduates, drawn by Macy’s new “24-hour” signs on its doors and strolling the store’s empty aisles. A few of New York City’s homeless took advantage, too, washing their faces at a skin-care kiosk. And some sales clerks, indulging in the emptiness, played dress-up in clothing that carried price tags normally out of reach for hourly workers…
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New York Times: Guilty Verdict for Russian in Arms Trial

December 14th, 2011 · Article

Viktor Bout, a former Soviet Air Force officer who became known as the “Merchant of Death” for running what American officials have described as an international arms-trafficking network, was found guilty on Wednesday of conspiring to sell antiaircraft missiles and other weapons to men he believed were Colombian terrorists intent on killing Americans.

The verdict, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, was a rather prosaic end to nearly two decades spent in the margins of international terrorism and espionage…
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New York Times: 36 Hours in Quebec City

October 19th, 2011 · Article

QUEBEC is a city of delightfully stark, yet virtually seamless contrasts; centuries-old fortification walls lead to chic open-kitchen restaurants, and cobblestone streets give way to bike paths and innovative art institutions. The enchanting Francophone capital of Quebec province, and one of the oldest cities in North America, Quebec City received a major face lift before its 400th anniversary in 2008. Perhaps more significant than the new boutique hotels, revitalized parks and gleaming cultural centers was the overdue attention the city finally received, which continues to propel it forward. Quebec City, a historic, cultural and culinary center beside the St. Lawrence River, has emerged from the long shadow cast by its ever popular neighbor, Montreal.
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New York Times: Storm’s Push North Leaves Punishing Inland Floods

September 6th, 2011 · Photography

Anastasia Rikard was inside her house in Prattsville, N.Y., when, weakened by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, it tipped over on its side. Front-page photo, August 30, 2011.
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New York Times: In Catskill Communities, Survivors Are Left With Little but Their Lives

September 6th, 2011 · Article, Photography

PRATTSVILLE, N.Y. — It chewed up Moore’s Trailer Park, sweeping up homes and discarding them in devastating piles of wood, plastic, orphaned automobile wheels and broken children’s toys. It tore apart painstakingly maintained Victorians, their pastel-colored and gingerbread-style exteriors cracked and caved-in, their front lawns, porches and sidewalks replaced by muddy lagoons.

Even the town cemetery, where Prattsville’s founder, Zadock Pratt, was buried in 1871, was littered with fallen trees and cracked tombstones from Tropical Storm Irene’s wind and water as it ripped through the Catskills…
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New York Times: Through Plexiglas Barriers, a Noirish New York

August 5th, 2011 · Article

In some New York neighborhoods, business after dark still takes on an altogether noirish hue, even though citywide violent crime has fallen by nearly 30 percent over the last decade. At night, the handshakes and fist-bumps are gone — the cheerful banter between friendly clerks and customers replaced by strained conversations conducted through Plexiglas.
For store owners and overnight clerks, transaction windows in varying styles and degrees of security are an essential safeguard; for customers in still-dangerous neighborhoods, they are a way of life, a grim reminder that progress takes time…
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New York Times: Ice Cold, 42 Flavors of Nostalgia

August 5th, 2011 · Article

RIFFLE back through your memories, and you’re bound to recall an old friend who has been there through all the milestones, whose very name is synonymous with simpler times. Russell Irushalmi has that kind of dear pal, whom he muscles through Queens traffic to see as often as possible: the Lemon Ice King of Corona.

“I’ve been coming here since I’m a baby,” Mr. Irushalmi, 41, said last Sunday evening as the sinking sun cast a warm glow over the Lemon Ice King, a temple to Italian ice that Peter Benfaremo built 67 years ago after returning from World War II and taking over his father’s small ice stand.

Mr. Benfaremo, the King in the store’s name, died in 2008. But Mr. Irushalmi still drives from Bayside to 108th Street in Corona to take part in what is arguably the defining summer ritual for anyone with even a remote connection to Central Queens: A smiling customer exchanges a few words, and a couple of dollars, with a polite teenager working a worn stainless steel counter, and a paper cup overflowing with smooth, perfectly sweet Italian ice is proffered with the care accorded a sacramental wafer…
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New York Times: For Dogs, Entrees From Same Butchers Who Feed Their Masters

July 26th, 2011 · Article

From the moment Mookie tasted his new dog food, he was a forever-changed Jack Russell terrier. He devoured that first meal, his tongue lapping even the underside of the bowl, desperately searching for more. And then Mookie, who is 9, started barking — at the refrigerator.

“It was like an affirmation,” said Mookie’s owner, Liz Wiseman, whose other Jack Russell, Melanie, had a similar reaction to the new food. “They liked it and it was good for them; I knew we were on the right track.”

Mookie and Melanie are beneficiaries of one of the latest trends for New Yorkers with pockets deep enough to ensure their dogs get only the best. To pet owners like Ms. Wiseman, who lives in the East Village, premium dog food is not good enough. Instead, they are opting for freshly made cuisine from high-end local butchers who already supply the choicest cuts for upscale restaurants.
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New York Times: Engineers Gather, Asking What Makes the City Tick

May 13th, 2011 · Article

It was the last Tuesday of the month, and, like clockwork, the geeks arrived in droves. Dozens of engineers, computer programmers and physicists — most of them grayed and balding, dressed in what might best be described as retro-nerd — crammed into an upper-floor conference room near Union Square.

“I bet you’ve never seen this many engineers in your life!” exclaimed Arnold Wong, a mischievous smile creeping across his face.

He was right.

Twelve evenings a year, members and guests of one of the local chapters of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or I.E.E.E., the largest technical society in the world, convene in a borrowed space on the 19th floor of Consolidated Edison’s headquarters on Irving Place.

Over pizza, soft drinks and sweeping Manhattan views, they engage on topics concerning the engineering infrastructure that keeps New York City running…
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New York Times: Driving Buses to Casinos, With Long Hours and Little Rest

April 7th, 2011 · Article

Far from the plush gambling rooms of the Mohegan Sun casino is a lounge that few gamblers will ever see.

The space is small, drab and windowless, sparsely furnished with snack machines and worn khaki chairs, a far cry from cocktail waitresses and gleaming slot machines.

Yet for the dozens of chartered bus drivers who trek daily to the casino in Uncasville, Conn., the lounge offers rare relief on a tedious, exhausting journey that can last 12 hours or more. And those assigned the Mohegan Sun route count themselves lucky — they say that most casinos offer drivers no place to rest at all.

The low-cost tour-bus industry, where drivers often work long hours for little pay, has come under renewed scrutiny since a crash in the Bronx on Saturday killed 15 passengers on a return trip from Mohegan Sun…
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CBS/Channel One News: The Impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

April 6th, 2011 · On-Camera Reporting, Video

A look at what the 2010 FIFA World Cup meant to South Africa, the first African nation to host the prestigious sporting event.

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The New York Times: Something About Me Makes People Want to Marry

April 5th, 2011 · Article

INSTANTLY, I “earned a title worthy of admiration and respect.”

At least according to the Universal Life Church, I did. Boasting “over 20 million ordained worldwide,” the organization is a bit like the McDonald’s of the wedding industry. Instead of burgers, the nondenominational church churns out ministers online, many for the sole purpose of officiating at marriages. Like me, I imagine, most have little inclination for years of religious study and devotion, let alone celibacy.

I knew next to nothing about leading a wedding when, last spring, I was asked by two of my best friends to do just that…
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The New York Times: Armed and Ready to ‘Paint’

April 3rd, 2011 · Article

JOE GIORDANO should have seen it coming. He should have noticed the evil glint in the young woman’s eyes. She was fixated on her ex-boyfriend’s smart tuxedo and innocent smile.

But there was no time. She picked up her weapon and “all of a sudden she started unloading on this guy,” Mr. Giordano recalled, his eyes wide as he recounted what had unfolded several weeks ago in his shop in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn.

Then Mr. Giordano laughed. The unbridled young woman had merely shot at a photograph of her former lover. She was but one of the dozens of customers at the Paint Spot, Mr. Giordano’s paintball supply store, on Gerritsen Avenue near Everett Avenue.
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The New York Times: Keeping a Watchful Eye on a Part of the Bronx

February 22nd, 2011 · Article

Maybe it was the sudden screech of the bus’s brakes or the orange flash of its hazard lights. But something caught Sidney Flores’s attention on a recent Friday night. Something was not right. Mr. Flores quickly made a U-turn and came to a stop behind the bus on East Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Mr. Flores dialed 911 and, as if on cue, the bus’s electronic sign suddenly displayed a disturbing plea: “Call Cops.”

Mr. Flores is not a police officer. He is a handyman and a painter in his 24th year of working at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.

But the episode with the bus, which turned out to have only mechanical problems, was typical. In the Mount Eden section of the Bronx, Mr. Flores, 52, seems to have taken the role of unofficial neighborhood “mayor” to a different and perhaps obsessive level.
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The New York Times: Where Football Takes a Back Seat, Even in Winter

January 31st, 2011 · Article

On Sunday night the big game was on nearly all the wall-mounted televisions at one Manhattan restaurant, and the eyes of many beer-drinking patrons never left them.

Athletes in green were running across the screens, but not a single chant of “J-E-T-S” could be heard.

That is because the restaurant, El Nuevo Caridad in Washington Heights, lies in the heart of Dominican baseball country, and the big game was to decide which team would advance to the Caribbean World Series…
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The New York Times: In This Journey, Every Sunday Is Moving Day

December 14th, 2010 · Article

Real estate stories, of claustrophobic kitchens, tyrannical landlords and rodent-size roaches, are a New York rite of passage. Stories of misery, unexpected good fortune or strange living arrangements — surely every New Yorker has one.

Ed Casabian has a few.

There was the time he hunkered down in a one-bedroom, the size of a shoe box, that was filled with three roommates, two of whom were romantically involved, along with two yapping dogs. There was an unforgettably luxurious apartment on Central Park South where dapper doormen hailed cabs with the flick of a brass-buttoned wrist. And there was the time a hard-partying roommate almost reneged on an offer to share his place because he had sworn off alcohol on a bet and worried that Mr. Casabian would be bored by his sober company.

Plenty of New Yorkers would yawn at these stories. But Mr. Casabian’s come with a twist: They all happened in the last six months.
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The New York Times: Clerk’s Killing Adds to History of Violence at a Queens Deli

October 24th, 2010 · Article

Beneath the awning of the Lucky Grocery & Deli in Laurelton, Queens, on Sunday, the steel gate was drawn down, a cold backdrop for the various items of mournful remembrance: two handwritten notes, flowers, a stuffed red bear and numerous votive candles.

Yet those and other offerings of sympathy had a horribly familiar ring to the family and close friends of Juan Arcadio Torres, who was fatally shot during a robbery at the store on Saturday night. A close family friend was killed there in 2002, and a few years before that, one of Mr. Torres’s brothers was killed while working at a Brooklyn deli…
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The New York Times: Stabbed in Rampage, Brooklyn Cabdriver Is Then Put in Jail

October 23rd, 2010 · Article

He sat in the emergency room at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, thankful he was alive after being ambushed by a stranger who seemed set on killing him.

The unprovoked knife attack left Fitz Fullerton with gashes to his face, hand and neck, requiring dozens of stitches. He did not know then that his attacker was believed to be Maksim Gelman, a man in the midst of a 28-hour rampage that had already left four people dead.

Mr. Fullerton, a livery-cab driver, also did not know something else: The police officers at the hospital had come not merely to interview him, but to put him behind bars…
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The New York Times: Chileans in New York Cheer Miners

October 13th, 2010 · Article

It was business as usual on Restaurant Row in Manhattan on Tuesday night as the theater crowd nibbled on entrees and clinked glasses. But inside Pomaire, a Chilean restaurant on West 46th Street, toasts had an altogether different meaning as patrons gathered, transfixed by the evening’s main attraction: the daring effort to rescue 33 men trapped inside a mine in northern Chile.

Pomaire, steps away from Broadway, featured its own cast of emotional characters, most of whom have been watching the ordeal of their countrymen unfold from afar since the mine, near the city of Copiapó, collapsed 69 days ago.
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The Wall Street Journal: Soccer Flourishes Among S. Africa’s Impoverished

July 25th, 2010 · Video

Not far from South Africa’s flagship World Cup soccer venues, the game — complete with homemade balls and port-a-potties as goals — flourishes in the country’s impoverished townships, WSJ’s Noah Rosenberg reports.

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The Wall Street Journal: Africa Dispatch: In FIFA We Trust

July 25th, 2010 · Article

ALEXANDRA, South Africa—The World Cup crowds have come and gone. But this township in Johannesburg is one place that probably won’t be the same.

In Alexandra, the sun glistens atop rusty shacks. Three hundred and fifty thousand people are squeezed into an area that should house no more than 70,000, according to the Alexandra Renewal Project, or ARP. Many outsiders had likely never heard of Alex, as the locals call it, prior to the 2010 World Cup, and most wouldn’t have dared set foot inside.

But last week, there was Zube Rezaoglou, a German teenager, green beanie on her head, painting a tribute to the township on a long mural: a heart contorted into the shape of South Africa with the words “Team Germany” written beneath it…
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The New York Times: The $900 Cab Ride

July 24th, 2010 · Article

For the Emeagwali family, it was to be a Christmas vacation to remember forever, and the trip to Disney World did not disappoint. But for all the rides and attractions they came across, it was a different sort of ride that is sure to become a unique, lasting memory.

Call it the $900 cab ride to Long Island — from Buffalo, of all places.

Because of the blizzard that attacked much of the Northeast, Emilian Emeagwali and her five children found themselves in a real-life, non-comedic version of “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” taking one detour after another in an effort to get home…
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GQ magazine: Our Man in South Africa: After the Cup, a Nation Wonders, ‘Now What?’

July 13th, 2010 · Article

Tiny children waved as the mustard-yellow Metrorail rolled into town, carrying car loads of lucky fans headed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup final. As Soweto’s Soccer City Stadium came into view, they were staring and smiling, two or three deep, as if the President were on his cross-country farewell tour. This was a big moment, even for those who could only watch from the front of their tin shacks.

With the tournament now behind us, the issue here is whether, in the end, this was a boon for South Africa or just a flashy boondoggle. The morning after Spain hoisted the trophy, most of the headlines in South Africa are leaning toward thumbs up. But beyond new stadiums and some stronger infrastructure, many folks on the ground here wonder if there will be any lasting impact…
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The Wall Street Journal: Ahead of Soccer, Rugby Comes to Soweto

July 12th, 2010 · Article

SOWETO, South Africa — The spotted lights of impoverished black townships provided a modest backdrop as 36,000 mostly white fans worked their way into Orlando Stadium in Soweto Saturday night.

For many, it was their first time in the South Western Townships of Johannesburg – an overwhelmingly black area in a nation whose tumultuous past is underscored by a sports landscape marred with racial barriers. Those old tensions haven’t completely vanished, either.
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The Wall Street Journal: Some Africans Are Betting on World Cup Witchcraft

July 7th, 2010 · Video

Traditional diviners and herbalists in Johannesburg say fans of the South African soccer team have been coming to them in recent weeks for a competitive edge. WSJ’s Noah Rosenberg reports on witchcraft and the World Cup.

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