Diving Into NYWC’s Archives: The 14th Street Y

NY Writers Coalition is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and we’re excited to share photos from our archives and the stories behind them over the next several weeks. We couldn’t celebrate our 20 years without mentioning our longest-running creative writing workshop at The 14 Street Y for seniors. NYWC has conducted workshops, published books, and held events there since 2003—and it’s still going strong, even through the global pandemic.
A number of our current workshop members have attended these workshops since the early- to mid-2000s. We have published around 10 chapbooks featuring these writers’ poetry and prose, including a 2008 book, The Green & Gold Project: Writing Across Generations, which featured writing by participants alongside writing from NYC elementary school students. One of our workshop members, Antoinette Carone, has even published several books of her own including stories that originated in workshops at The 14th Street Y. 

The dedication of longtime workshop leaders Deborah Clearman, Rhonda Zangwill, Elena Schwolsky, and others has been invaluable to building this strong community over the years. For many participants, attending these sessions regularly has not only provided an opportunity to write but a place to make lifetime friends. As workshop member Elizabeth said in a 2019 evaluation, “For me, this workshop has […] given me a safe space to share my writing with others. After all, writers do need readers! It’s also exposed me to other participants’ writing styles and I’ve learned from listening to their work as well as the comments of participants on the readings. The regulars have gotten to know each other well. On our best days together, it’s fun!”

We couldn’t be happier knowing how fulfilled our participants are from attending our workshops—even virtually, as they have throughout the pandemic. Our workshops over the last two years have been a lifeline, keeping workshop members connected to a community at a critical time. Below, you can read a piece from our 2017 14th Street Y chapbook, Echoes of Our Time. If you share our commitment to the power of community and creativity, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation. Your support will help ensure that our work is able to continue.

I Used to be Young, but Now I am Young at Heart.
By Sandy Lee Lofaso

I used to be young, but now I am said to be old, by some, but I like to feel I am just young at heart.


Sometimes in the quiet of the night, when I rise from a deep slumber I realize I have been dreaming of the bygone times of my youthful enthusiasm. These memories flash through the recesses of my mind like thunder and lightning, clapping, bravo, bravo!

Because you see, they were good memories and they helped me to form, I hope, though some would disagree, a healthy persona. Yes, I know a persona is like a mask from a Greek tragedy, but I cannot think of my youth as being tragic in the least.

Egoistic, you might ask, no, just the luck of the draw. I was not born into a rich family, per se, but I had two of the most loving, fair, honest parents, God rest their souls that a boy could hope for.

Their parenting style was very simple, just yes or no, and when they said no, boy they meant it.

My sisters and I were showered in love, respect and encouragement, yet we were taught to put the needs of others first. My mom’s heroes were Mahatma Gandhi, and such, so from her I received my love of things of the spirit, and a concern for good citizenship and a yearning for things ephemeral.
Mom helped everyone and was always bringing people home, no matter what religion or ethnicity, to protect, aid and care for them.

Dad taught me by “ the example.” He was strong, but gentle.  When he helped someone he never let anyone know about it. And you never heard him gossip, and he rarely said a bad word about anyone. He was a hard worker but loved to play, and he loved my mother with all his heart, the whole sixty years they were married. 

Mom and Dad were childhood sweethearts, and if you did not know better, you felt they were still on their honeymoon all the years they were together. And boy, could they cut a rug together on the dance floor. In fact, my dad was so crazy about mom, that when he commuted from Manhattan to Long Island, where we moved from Brooklyn in later years, he would pass up relative after relative through Queens, even in a snowstorm to get home to his beloved wife, each and every night, no matter what!

To my mom, Dad was her shining knight, and her hero, as he was for my two sisters and me.

Mom was all about values, and doing the right thing. Once when I was eight years old, I complained that my mother had bought a more expensive birthday gift for the young neighbor who lived next door, than she had for my birthday. He was a boy who had a hearing difficulty and was made fun of and ridiculed by all the neighborhood children. I remember how much it hurt when she told me how ashamed she was that I felt that way.

So if I have retained just an inkling of the wisdom and love that my parents selflessly gave to me, to share with my sons, how lucky and blessed they would be!

So, when I wake at night to these dreams of old, I feel so young at heart, like when I was eight years old playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn, waiting for mom to call out from our front stoop, “ dinner time, son, time to come home!"
If you share our commitment to the power of community and creativity, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation. Your support will help ensure that our work can continue creating opportunities for writers from under-resourced communities. Here’s to the next 20 years of NY Writers Coalition!