Posts by gbelmaker

Award-winning journalist, travel writer and photographer.

Finding your inner ‘do list’

Journalists in 2019 are totally overburdened by the pressure-cooker of this industry. It’s beyond just being a tough job – the pressures can take a toll. Add to that the increasing pressures of adult life that everyone faces, and it can be too much. 

As a precaution against spiraling and a protection against despair, over the last year I developed something I call my “do list.” It started out as a “Do and Do Not” list, complete with admonishments and warnings to myself about all of the things I should not do.

I have been reading the list, adding to it, editing and refining it – on a near-daily basis since May 2018. It has a place of prominence in my home office as part of my (also always-evolving) vision board.

My goal in reading it is singular: positive reinforcement.

Then a couple of months ago, I realized the horrendous and totally unnecessary psychological pressure of telling myself what not to do all the time. So I changed the title to my “Do List,” and now it’s a psychological joy to read. I highly recommend making your own Do List. Here’s mine for a bit of inspiration:

Genevieve’s “Do List”

  • A daily act that’s for me
  • Allow space
  • Laugh
  • Speak truth
  • Be you
  • One thing at a time
  • Dance
  • Step steady
  • Dream huge
  • Work small
  • Sing 
  • Save your “sorries”
  • Love what you’re doing
  • Choose life
  • Let yourself be happy
  • Lead by example
  • Respect boundaries
  • Communicate
  • Cultivate silence
  • Let things pass
  • Value every moment
  • Keep the faith in yourself, and in others
  • Give the benefit of the doubt
  • Listen
  • Hear people
  • Ride fear
  • Be there, wherever you wake up
  • Your thing
  • Right
  • Say “no”
  • Give yourself credit
  • Strive for balance
  • Contribute
  • Advocate
  • Help others
  • Believe
  • Recognize magic
  • Practice chivalry


The liberating power of saying “no”

Reporters ask me all the time for advice on how to get assignments and pitch. There is typical advice that gets doled out: keep it short and sweet and don’t be a jerk to your editors, and you’ll go far.

That’s all fine and well, but what about saying no?

It is rare that I hear the word “no” from a reporter. Interestingly, the ones who do say it are often on a more high-powered track in their careers. It’s not that they have an easier time with the challenges of being a reporter. It’s that they regularly exercise control over decisions that will impact their finite supply of time and energy. They know that saying “no” is a key ingredient in success, no matter what your rubric for measuring that happens to be.

Observing a reporter say “no” to a crap assignment, a prison-level pay rate, or anything couched in coded language as “a great opportunity” is inspiring. Saying no to those things demonstrates a self-awareness and a recognition on the part of the journalist of their intrinsic value.

Journalists who know their value as a professional and a human being, and who ware unafraid to assert themselves with the word “no” will always get the better assignments, higher pay, more significant opportunities, and greater accolades for their work. That’s because they leave space for success. What’s more, there’s a greater chance they will make it to the end of that 45-year career with their mental and physical health intact and a significant legacy of published work.

Why Cops Sometimes End up Shooting

Police Criticized for Use of Force Often Have No Other Choice

Originally published in The Epoch Times

An officer directs traffic for the funeral of slain New York City Police Officer Rafael Ramos, one of two officers murdered while sitting in their patrol car in an ambush in Brooklyn last Saturday afternoon on December 27, 2014 in New York City. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

An officer directs traffic for the funeral of slain New York City Police Officer Rafael Ramos, one of two officers murdered while sitting in their patrol car in an ambush in Brooklyn last Saturday afternoon on December 27, 2014 in New York City. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)


Police officer John Cardillo was responding to a call in a restaurant in the Bronx in the 1990’s with three other police when they encountered their suspect. At five-foot-nine he was only about 135 pounds, but so high on a cocktail of hard drugs that he could use his body as a weapon.

“His eyes were completely dilated—he looked like a zombie,” said Cardillo, who retired from the NYPD after a decade and went on to do consulting work with police forces around the country and work as an on-air media analyst.

Years later, though, when asked to recall some of his experiences with suspects on mind- and physiology-altering drugs, that night in the Bronx comes to mind. When the man stole a baseball bat from the restaurant owner, it took four extremely strong male cops to subdue him. They later marveled at the insanity they’d witnessed and the fact that nobody had been injured.

“We could not pry the guy’s fingers off the bat,” recalled Cardillo. “We pepper-sprayed this guy, we used our baton on this guy. Later on we found out he was on a mix of crazy drugs—crack, heroin, PCP.”

Read the rest of the article here.


The Broken Build It Back Program

Read the full story at Epoch Times

NEW YORK—The city’s flailing Superstorm Sandy housing recovery program has gone through almost $10 million in federal disaster aid, but not one home has been rebuilt to show for it. Eight months after its launch, Build It Back is still little more than a behemoth of administration, paperwork, and federal rules that both the city and program applicants find extraordinarily difficult to navigate.

Though it was launched in June 2013, the most significant progress seems to have come in 2014—after months of work to retool the program under Build It Back Director Kathryn Mallon. Mallon temporarily took over from Brad Gair in October to, in her words, “get the program up and running.” Mallon, who is also deputy commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection, resigned as director last week. Her last day will be Feb. 28.

“We did the foundational work—and I think you’re seeing the fruits of it,” said Mallon, referring to the community meetings that are now being held in Sandy-struck communities to assist and answer applicants’ questions, as well as the number of people finally being offered assistance.

Read the rest of the story at Epoch Times

Visionary Architect Trailblazing Seaport Living

read the full article on Epoch Times website here

NEW YORK—Just where Fulton and Front streets intersect in Lower Manhattan, the city transforms into the 19th-century-era, historic South Street Seaport.

Few people live in this part of town. Despite the proximity to public transportation and basic amenities, the cobblestone streets and nearby East River waterfront create the illusion of isolation.

At night, many of the empty upper story windows of the 150-year-old four- and five-floor brick buildings are dark.

The pitch-black glass eerily recalls New York’s past, when the buildings were mostly occupied by a maritime community.

The handful of businesses and restaurants that are open are nestled on the ground floors of the district’s buildings. Still smarting from the impact of Superstorm Sandy, many stores in this commercial district remain closed. Others are locked in limbo over development deals, competing interests, and changes with the South Street Seaport Museum.

Along South Street, a row of mostly sad-looking, shuttered mixed-use brick buildings that date to the early 1800’s face the East River. Metal doors are covered with graffiti and peeling paint where the rowhouses are joined. Many were once owned by people associated with the Fulton Fish Market. Today, about half of the 10 buildings have fallen into disrepair; a few are partially occupied.

To the casual observer, there is little here aside from the area’s history to draw them in, especially as a place to live.

But at 115 South Street, one man’s dream of a truly unique lifestyle led him to restore one of the rowhouse buildings, making it modern and classy.

This is where former architect Marco Pasanella, now the owner of Pasanella and Son Vintners, rescued two rowhouses that were connected in the 1880s. Built in 1839 for ship chandlers Slate, Gardiner, and Howell, the buildings were combined in 1882 into one to make space for a bar with an upstairs brothel. Later, it was used to store tens of thousands of pounds of fish in freezers.

read the rest of the article on Epoch Times website here

On the Water: Strength, Resilience and Everything in Between

my column for Epoch Times, originally published on Oct. 23 here.

New York City is a funny place. Politicians here are always talking about the city being “strong” or “tough” or “resilient.” In light of Hurricane Sandy, the mayor, city council members, and every city agency has used such phrasing ad nauseam in the last year.

As adjectives, there’s nothing overtly wrong with the words strong, tough, and resilient. It’s arguable, though, that they could be used to describe New York City at almost any point in its history. They come easily because they are inherently true.

The problem with the words strong and resilient is that they evoke a sense of power and dominance. As a metro reporter, I spend a lot of time out in the city talking with residents, and can attest to New York’s endless array of nuanced, multidimensional individuals. It would be a disservice to limit a description of them to just a few words.

Perhaps that’s why after the dust of the last two weeks of my reporting on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy settled, I realized something surprising about this city. The source of our strength has nothing to do with plowing through difficulties with brute force. It’s quite the opposite. Hard to believe as it may be, our beloved metropolis is subtler than that.

The proof for me comes from my memories of interviews with Sandy survivors, of whom I interviewed 14. Those men and women described in great detail what happened to them that dark night, the day after, and in the year since. They came from all walks of life and all parts of the city, but their retelling was lucid and articulate.

Even with so many voices to recall, though, it seems I’m largely left with the indelible image of tears. That’s because three tough, strong, grown men cried when I interviewed them.

It wasn’t until days later that I realized how special those tears were. Those men and their pain are a remnant of Sandy’s awful legacy that’s greatly undervalued: our vulnerability.

All the talk of being strong and resilient makes it seem as though the city’s mantra is “We’re tough, we can take anything.”

But perhaps New Yorkers can be more accurately defined by their capacity to express life-altering trauma with open hearts. Even when they are being interviewed by a stranger.

The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger on his New Book and Crazy Life

originally published on

Britain GuardianWhen you see Alan Rusbridger in person, there’s almost an expectation that he will be 10 feet tall and able to breathe fire. After everything he and his media outlet, the Guardian, have been through in the past few years, it seems like a reasonable expectation. WikiLeaks. The UK phone hacking scandal. Snowden.

The impression I got after hearing him speak Wednesday night at the New York Public Library is that he’s humble, witty and committed to protecting the future of reporters and the free press. Wherever they might hail from.

As if life as editor of the Guardian wasn’t enough to stay busy, in 2010 he also made an ambitious plan to take up the piano again. He set out to learn, in one year, Chopin’s Ballade No.1. The one-movement piece is considered by the world’s best pianists to be among the toughest ever composed.

Rusbridger spent 20 minutes a day, for one year, to achieve the task. The result was his book, “Play It Again.”

“The book is partly about having a crazy life,” Rusbridger said. His interview with New York Public Library’s Paul Holdengraber was part of an annual “who’s who” series that includes authors, intellectuals, and influential social figures.

Rusbridger said the additional task in an already incredibly busy life actually helped prepare him for each day’s events.

“I made it almost religious that I would find the time,” he said. “In times of great stress it helped a lot. It feels as though that 20 minutes prepares you.”