The Staff

ZoomNYC is the work of students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the Reporting and Writing 1 class of Profs. Lenny Bourin and Dody Tsiantar with special guidance by Prof. Rebecca Leung. Thanks also to adjunct professors Lars Hoel, Martin Phillips and Mary Wojcik.
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Ann ChangAnn Chang

Ann Chang is an ABC (American-born Chinese).  A child of Taiwanese-Chinese immigrants, she grew up in New Jersey in a small suburban town thirty minutes from New York City.  The close proximity to New York City meant monthly trips with her family to Chinatown for cheap groceries, dim sum, and haircuts.   Her constant visits allowed her to witness Chinatown’s slow but steady gentrification and growth since the mid-80’s.  She is excited to be covering Flushing and its melting pots of immigrant communities as her beat.

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James de MellowJames de Mellow

James de Mellow is covering the Woodside neighborhood in Queens for Zoom NYC. Woodside is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of New York, with large South American, Asian, Filipino and Irish communities. The area is undergoing a considerable amount of change, as other ethnic groups dominate what was once the main Irish community in New York. Small businesses are by far the largest employers, and the main street buzzes with life from a wide variety of shops and restaurants. De Mellow, a broadcast major, comes to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism from the UK.
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Dan FastenbergDan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg is the South Bronx beat chief for Zoom NYC. With the days of both Mickey Mantle and burned-out lots long gone, the area known as the last frontier of New York City has become a haven for artists, real estate developers, entrepreneurs and young professionals. A native New Yorker and 2005 graduate of Columbia College, Fastenberg wrote a sports column, “Fast Times,” for The Columbia Daily Spectator. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and worked as a journalist in Argentina for the English-language publication Buenos Aires Herald, Latin America’s oldest English daily, and the Thomson Reuters News Service. As a reporter, he covered the 2007 war crimes trial of Father Cristian Federico von Wernich, of the 1976-1983 Argentine Dirty War, and was hired as a correspondent for the BBC World Service during the trial. He also worked for Newsweek, the Council on Foreign Relations, Haaretz and The Argentimes. He is currently a regular Spanish-language columnist for the Buenos Aires-based Boca de Urna radio program. Fastenberg has interviewed former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and President George W. Bush’s Senior Adviser Karl Rove, in addition to the first cumbia opera singers in musical history. While living in Argentina, Fastenberg had a bit part in Francis Ford Coppola’s 2009 feature film, “Tetro.”
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Yasmine GuerdaYasmine Guerda

Webmaster. Yasmine Guerda is the Williamsburg specialist for Zoom NYC. This Brooklyn neighborhood is home to the biggest New York Hassidic community, a growing Hispanic population, and has become a huge art incubator with dozens of galleries, colorful graffiti on every wall, street art and major music venues. Before attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Guerda graduated from Sorbonne University in Paris and the French Centre de Formation des Journalistes (CFJ). She worked for Libération, La Voix du Nord, RTL and France Inter.
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Kelly KoopmansKelly Koopmans

Kelly Koopmans, born and raised in Seattle, covers East New York, Brooklyn for Zoom NYC. This eastern Brooklyn community of 90,000 residents is plagued by low income and high crime. In her reporting, Koopmans plans to highlight these issues in her stories and talk to residents and leaders in the community. Koopmans spent a year working in Shanghai for a multinational media company and taught English in Hanoi, Vietnam, before attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. An avid sports fan and lifelong athlete, Koopmans is interested in sports and health/fitness journalism. In addition to reporting, she enjoys running and reading. She graduated from Washington State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. As an undergraduate student, she spent a year abroad at Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain.
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Rory KressRory Kress

Rory Kress covers the Brooklyn communities of Boerum Hill and Fort Greene for Zoom NYC, specializing in immigration, Muslim-American issues and the arts. Before joining Zoom NYC, Kress worked for the Jerusalem Bureau of the Associated Press and the Jerusalem Post covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the environment and the arts. She reported from all across Israel and the West Bank. Her work has appeared on CNN.com, the Drudge Report, ABC.com and in the International Herald Tribune. Kress is currently studying broadcast journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After graduation, Rory hopes to report from the Middle East again. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing.
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Aaron LeeAaron Lee

Aaron Griffin Lee is a 2007 graduate of the University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism. He is a self-professed journalist, songwriter/musician, actor, state champion football player, beer aficionado, and amateur late-night philosopher. From 2005-2008, he played bass guitar and sang in the (marginally) legendary Athens-based rock band Recycled Shotguns. Now in New York City as a correspondent for Zoom NYC, Aaron is covering parts of the 1st and 2nd Community Districts of Queens – particularly Long Island City (LIC). LIC is a vibrant and growing neighborhood that is home to many artists and musicians. A waterfront park is bordered on one side by spectacular views of Manhattan, and on the other side by a bustling city center gathered around the towering Citibank Building. LIC is also home to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing project in New York City. Built in 1939, these buildings are now home to over 6,900 people. Prominent former residents of Queensbridge include NBA star Ron Artest as well as Nas (AKA God’s Son), who is, according to Lee, the most impressive rapper of all time.
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Dan LiebermanDan Lieberman

Dan Lieberman began reporting as a high school student in Philadelphia, serving as managing editor of his school’s newspaper. At the same time, he started an online magazine to bring together a diverse group of students from public and private schools in the Philadelphia region. Since then, Lieberman has worked as a writer for the Philadelphia Metro, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and as an intern at CNN in New York. As a student at McGill University in Montreal, he produced his own television series and news pieces for the university’s television network. Lieberman is a master’s candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a fellow at the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. He focuses his attention on the city of Newark, N.J., and the wide range of challenges that confront it, particularly crime and immigration issues.
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Tammy MutasaTammy Mutasa

Tammy Mutasa covers Bedford-Stuyvesant for Zoom NYC, and is interested in covering crime, HIV/AIDS, education and the arts. She is really excited about getting to know the people and the streets that make up the colorful and historic neighborhood. Before Mutasa came to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she worked as a television news reporter for KAMR NBC 4 News in Amarillo, Texas. She covered stories from Bill Clinton’s campaign visit for his wife Hillary Clinton, to wildfire disasters, to live shots in one of the worst blizzards in the Texas Panhandle. Mutasa’s work has aired on CNN and NBC and ABC affiliate stations. Mutasa is a native of Zimbabwe and has travelled throughout Africa, and specifically in Uganda where she reported on the AIDS crisis and the Ugandan Civil War. A graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, Mutasa is proud to be a Longhorn and proud to be from Texas — where everything really is bigger.
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Carmen PerezCarmen Perez

Carmen Perez reports from East Harlem for Zoom NYC, also known as El Barrio and Spanish Harlem. El Barrio, one of the largest Latino communities in New York City, includes the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans, and a growing number of Mexican immigrants. Many social issues plague this small community, which has the highest rate of people living with asthma in the city as well as one of the largest concentrations of residents living with HIV/AIDS. Because of the lack of healthy food options, obesity is also an issue facing this neighborhood. Perez spent the last two years working as teacher in Houston. She was a corps member with Teach for America and taught bilingual education. Perez is a graduate of Florida State University and interned at several local news stations around Florida. Perez is Puerto Rican and is interested in working with issues affecting the Latino community.
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Gisela Perez MauriGisela Perez Mauri

Gisela Perez Mauri covers East Harlem for Zoom NYC, a community hit with a lack of affordable housing, gentrification and an average salary that is less than half of Manhattan’s average. High diabetes and obesity rates are among health problems in this neighborhood, which also has the second highest cumulative HIV rate in Manhattan. East Harlem, however, is also rich in public and social services such as public/affordable housing, homeless shelters, day care centers, senior care centers, public schools, libraries, medical facilities and job training centers. Perez Mauri is an international graduate student from Mataro, Spain. She studied journalism in Barcelona and completed broadcast/radio internships in Catalonia. After graduating from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Perez Mauri worked for Diari d’Andorra, a national newspaper in Andorra (a tiny neighboring country between France and Spain).
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Leslie PickerLeslie Picker

Leslie Picker covers Lower Manhattan for Zoom NYC, including the Financial District, South Street Seaport, Tribeca, Battery Park City and City Hall. Since Sept. 11, Lower Manhattan has received much attention in the wake of the financial crisis – with issues such as World Trade Center reconstruction, school overcrowding and Wall Street layoffs — and many who live and work in this area say the recession has affected their livelihoods and business. Picker grew up in Kansas City, and graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009, where she majored in political science. Prior to enrolling in the master’s program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she held several internships with CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV, and local TV stations in Kansas City and Champaign, Ill. After graduating in May 2010, Picker hopes to pursue a career as a business journalist.
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Brandon WalkerBrandon Walker

Brandon Walker is a Jackson Heights-based reporter for Zoom NYC. He first walked the streets of Jackson Heights while bunking at a friend’s apartment a few years ago. From the dazzling shimmer of storefronts adorned with brightly colored saris, to the delightful aroma of arroz con pollo wafting from the doors of La Pequeña Restaurante on Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights personifies trans-cultural diffusion. Bordered by East Elmhurst (86th Street), Elmhurst, Corona (Junction Boulevard), and Woodside, more than half of Jackson Heights’s residents are immigrants, primarily from parts of Latin America (predominantly Colombia) and South Asia. The community even boasts its own Little India, spanning 74th Street between Roosevelt and 37th Avenues. And the story only begins here. Walker is a New Orleans native and a 2009 graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
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Abigail WendleAbigail Wendle

Abigail Wendle is the beat reporter for Kips Bay in midtown Manhattan where she focuses on veteran’s affairs, health and religion. Before coming to ZoomNYC, Wendle served in the AmeriCorps as a teacher and community journalism coordinator. She moved to New York City last year to write about the arts. Her film, music and theater reviews have been published on the indypendent.org, thewip.net, popmatters.com and scallywagandvagabond.com. She also worked as the multi-media intern for Sun Come Up, an independent documentary film on climate change refugees. Wendle is currently a broadcast student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated summa cum laude from Flagler College in 2007.
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Yepoka YeeboYepoka Yeebo

Webmaster. Yepoka Yeebo covers Brownsville, Brooklyn for Zoom NYC. She worked for newspapers in London and Accra before moving to New York City to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Drug dealers, 12-year-old prostitutes and factions of the Bloods and Crips operate around the Livonia Avenue elevated subway tracks. And the neighborhood’s two greatest exports are Mike Tyson and MOP’s mugging anthem “Ante Up.” But a closer look reveals a thriving local literature scene, a cast of locals who turned Brownsville from a burnt-out joke to a real neighborhood, and an incredible set of stories.

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