Ruth Bashinsky


Long Islander Helps Fellow Veterans With Therapeutic Cuddling

Hugging is proven to improve well-being (Shutterstock)

When Jason Ambesi is not hugging a pole for his job as a utility worker, he is hugging strangers while moonlighting as a certified cuddlist, or professional cuddler.

The six-foot-one-inch tall, 250-pound tattooed military veteran, who can easily pass for a professional linebacker, hopes his touch therapy can heal those suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

“It’s proven: One hug a day gives you four days of better healthy living,” says Ambesi, 44. “Hand-to-hand stimulation, communication, talking and just being touched by someone releases oxytocin.”

Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone also known as the “cuddle hormone,” which gives a feeling of well-being when released by the body. A Developmental Review analysis reports that hugging can lower stress, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce fear and pain, improve communication and increase self-esteem.

Ambesi, who spent eight years in the military  four years as an Army police officer and four years as an Air Force firefighter  admits he found it challenging to connect with others once he came back to civilian life.

“I was feeling empty in some scenarios,” he says. “My certification can help those soldiers coming out of the military. They have a hard time adapting to the civilian sector and my training in trusted touch therapy and awareness can help someone live a better day.”

Adam Lippin, a meditation and yoga practitioner for more than two decades, is the co-founder and CEO of Cuddlist, a service founded in 2016 that provides a safe, nonsexual, consensual touch therapy for people to connect in a society where many people are losing touch with others and themselves.

“We’re touch deprived, and most of us don’t even know it consciously,” says Lippin. “We all want love, acceptance and connection with other people. We’re social beings, and this connection with others is part of our emotional, physical and spiritual DNA.”

Before a session is booked there is a vetting process. All cuddlists establish ground rules during the meeting and, if either party feels uncomfortable at any point, they can end the session at any time.

Ambesi offers 30- and 60-minute sessions in his Plainview home. For those who need a hug right away and cannot travel, Ambesi makes house calls.

“I feel the therapy I give to someone else is actually therapy for me, too.”

For more information visit

Lord & Taylor Touts Manhasset Store Upgrades

The atrium at Lord & Taylor in Manhasset welcomes shoppers.
After a three-year renovation Lord & Taylor in Manhasset will be celebrating its grand reopening on Dec. 7 offering an array of services that will make the shopping experience more personal.
Lord & Taylor President Vanessa LeFebvre shared her enthusiasm about some of these exciting new developments taking place and her vision for the retail giant.
“We are really focused on communicating with our communities and with our customer to make sure they understand some of the of the things we offer,” LeFebvre told the Press. “Personal shopping is a great example of something we offer. I think people think it is something you have to pay money for.
“It is a service we provide on your budget,” she continued. “It doesn’t mean we are going to push you to pay more money. It is about providing a service to you and help making it easier to help find what you are looking for and we can tailor that to any budget.” 
Some of these services include assistance in finding a special occasion dress for that party;  finding the right bra size or foundation for a customer’s skin tone.
“I think it is 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size,” said LeFebvre. “You can come any day and get assistance with your bra fitting.
“Our services in beauty are everything from being able to get a consultation on your skin care and not just walking up to the counter, but finding out what is the best brand for you,” she added.
The Manhasset Lord & Taylor is one of four stores on Long Island. Their other locations include Garden City, Bay Shore, and the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington. 
And, all the stores and distinctive in the clients they serve, said LeFebvre.
“They are all distinctive based on the communities they serve,” said LeFebvre. “Garden City is just next door, but the experiences are different. What we want to do is make ourselves more focused on who is the customer that is coming into the store, what problems do they have and how can we help them solve those problems.”
That being said, with the holiday shopping season in full swing, LeFebvre invites everyone to stop in all day every day.

“We are excited to be open for the holidays,” she says, “You can shop with confidence. And we are going to be here in the New Year.”

The staff at Lord & Taylor in Manhasset has been hard at work renovating the store.
The glass atrium at the Lord Taylor in Manhasset creates a sunny shopping experience.

Volunteers Renovated A Long Island Home, A Nonprofit Will Give It To A Veteran For Veterans Day

Donors will give a Purple Heart recipient this newly renovated Mastic home on Veterans Day.

Designers, contractors, businesses, educational institutions, entertainers, organizations, and volunteers from across Long Island banded together to rebuild a mortgage-free turnkey Mastic home that will soon be donated to a veteran in need.

The veteran will not be just any American armed service member, but one who was honorably discharged, has local ties, is a Purple Heart recipient, and served after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Those are the rules of the nonprofit Fairway Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which raised money over a four-year period to acquire the three-bedroom ranch.

“We are looking for a veteran with the greatest need for a home, not the greatest injury,” says Rosemarie Kluepfel of Fairway, a leading lender to veterans. “A veteran who may be struggling to pay his or her rent or someone who may have a special needs child or a veteran who is suffering from PTSD.”

The need is great. LI has one of the highest populations of veterans in New York State and has the third highest concentration of vets nationwide.

Those involved in the project include the Interior Design Society (IDS) Long Island chapter’s Pay It Forward charitable division, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), plus tradesman and retailers.

“When it came to do this project and to serve a purple heart veteran, our excitement and desire to be part of it was even greater because many of our members have served in the military,” says NARI Board Vice President Laurence Carolan.

Though the house was structurally sound, it was in need of renovations that included adding a new kitchen, new bathrooms and the addition of a shower in the second bathroom. An electrician donated his time and rewired the entire house including the installation of recessed lighting. The team refinished wood floors, installed new doors, tiled the bathrooms, and is currently in the process of painting the interior and restoring the exterior porch.

The project is set to be completed over the next month. The winner will be announced on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

“The home will be completely furnished with new furnishings, drapery, blinds, artwork,” says Dee Manicone, lead designer for the IDS charitable committee. “All that is necessary to allow the awarded family to move into a comfortable, casual, transitional-style home.”

To nominate a veteran or apply, visit

Lux To Mod: Inspirational Kitchen Renovation Designs


When stepping into the kitchen of this Port Washington home, the chic vibe feels like the perfect place to throw a dinner party.

That feeling is what interior designer Marlene Friedberg was going for and she pulled it off seamlessly. Friedberg worked alongside her team of contractors and architects to transform her traditional-style kitchen into a transitional design that embodies her aesthetic for luxury and glam. Before the renovation project began, she was mindful of using every inch of the space.

Removing walls was a game changer that opened up the kitchen to the rest of her house, specifically the den and great room, creating a spacious area for family gatherings and entertaining.

CONTEMPORARY STYLEImpressed with the kitchen reno by Friedberg’s company, Marlene Interiors & Design, the neighbors decided not to wait and moved forward on their dream kitchen design that went from tired and traditional to a more up-to-the-minute contemporary style that suited their active lifestyle.

The new design moved away from the dark colors, heavy wood, and trims and columns left by the previous owner that the couple described as “obtrusive” since it blocked their view. Friedberg and her team brought their kitchen into the 21st century with a sleek, streamlined design that features minimalist cabinetry, neutral color palettes, metallic accents, and an open floor plan that highlights this light-filled space as the elegant kitchen they had always envisioned.

For more information about Marlene Interiors & Design, visit

The Beacon At Garvies Point: Luxury Living On Glen Cove Coast

The Beacon at Garvies Point in Glen Cove is becoming one of the North Shore’s most desirable locations to live, work and play, according to its developers, RXR Realty.

In the last 13 months, more than 65 of the 167 waterfront condominiums built have been sold ahead of the development’s scheduled opening in late 2019. The Beacon offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences ranging in size from 900 to 2,850 square feet. Residents can also enjoy a number of outdoor spaces including rooftop terraces at the penthouse level, courtyard terraces, and balconies on nearly every home, along with a
fitness center and yoga studio, club lounge, game room, party room, movie theater and an outdoor pool.

Demand has been so high that prices have gone up three times. The cost of a condo now starts at $700,0000, originally $575,000, and goes up to $2.95 million.

“We’ve increased the prices because the validation is there,” says Joseph Graziose, executive vice president of residential development and construction at RXR Realty, which developed the Ritz-Carlton Residences at North Hills. “When I talk validation, obviously our buyers have validated that this is a great project in a great location with a great developer and they are anxiously awaiting their move-ins.”

The Garvies Point development that started more than a decade ago will soon feature a wide array of amenities that include waterfront parks, esplanades, playgrounds, retail, restaurants and a ferry terminal. The Beacon is phase one of the project that also includes Harbor Landing, a 385-unit, two-building rental complex offering a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom residences.

Construction is also underway on 28 acres of public open space, which includes an educational ecology pier and restored wetlands. Before the project began, the 50-acre site on Cove Creek and adjacent to the Long Island Sound was blighted land, Graziose notes.

“It was the location of factories many, many years ago, and the property sat there for decades underdeveloped and undernourished,” he says. “We came along and put together a program. When we are all done we will end up with a 56-acre site of which over 50 percent is going to be open space with promenades, parks, walkways, dog areas.”

Graziose has a fondness for Glen Cove. He grew up there and remained there to raise his family.

“When my children were young we used to spend our days at Battery Park City and the World Trade Center area to rollerblade and picnic,” he recalls. “It gave us the environment that was water’s edge, public amenities, and a communal feel. If this existed when I was building I would have saved a lot of gas and stayed in Glen Cove…I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

The entire Garvies Point project is set to be completed over the next three to five years, says Graziose, but The Beacon will open in December 2019.

“When we are all done we will have 1,100 units where 50 percent will be for rentals and 50 percent will be for sale, and then there will be a portion of commercial and retail space,” he adds.

Buyer Rona Tison, a public relations executive, and her husband, an executive with Northwell Health, purchased a two-bedroom condo with a rooftop at The Beacon. They recently relocated from the West Coast, and what sold them after house hunting for several months, were the lifestyle amenities that “other properties did not have,” she explains.

Some of these include the waterfront, views, acres of protected preserve, ferry convenience — Tison works in Manhattan — the reputation of the developers RXR, amenities of the pool, gym, parking, storage, concierge, the design and concept of Garvies Point, and the price for the value.

“We decided it was worth the wait,” says Tison, who lived 18 years in Manhattan and 15 years in Sonoma, Calif. “Garvies Point will be a nice balance of urban living in a scenic environment that also has a sense of community.”

For more information on The Beacon at Garvies Point, visit or Debra Quinn Petkanas, Associate Real Estate Broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 516-674-2000 x 140; or 516-359-3204.

En-Toto Couture: Say Yes To The Dress

From left to right: Beaded and sequin dress in three-quarter length with stunning fringed detail, Elegant midnight blue gown with intricate beading and sequin detail on chiffon, Zardosi embroidered dress with mesh and tulle design, and a Glamorous silver and gold beaded dress with trumpet bottom. Photos by Ralph DePas.

After 50 years in business, En-Toto Couture continues its tradition of bringing stunning one-of-a-kind customized special occasion gowns to the community.

“People might come in and show us a picture of a dress or something they saw on social media, and we can make it from scratch for them,” says Sunny Merker of En-Toto Couture.

Patty, the dressmaker and salesperson who has been creating custom-made designs that are very much in demand since 1908, is an integral part of the En-Toto Couture design team.

“It is not only beaded dresses we create,” says Merker, “but any type of funky-looking dress, lace dress, or something made of chiffon.”

Floor-length dresses are classic and always popular, but Merker has been seeing the high-low style and cocktail dresses as some of the latest trends.  

Some of the designers’ creations they carry include Paula Varsalona, Tina di Martina, Fouy Chov, Jovani, Mon Cheri, and Ideas by Barbara, in addition to their, Enhances collection, a line that showcases their intricate beading.

“Every bead on our dresses is sewn by hand,” says Merker, who uses a centuries-old hand embroidered technique called, Zardosi, popular in India, Iran, and Pakistan. The ornate designs use gold and silver thread, pearls, and precious stones.

“You may think that designing a dress takes only five hours when it really takes 50 hours,” says Merker. “It’s very labor intensive, but all worth when I see how happy my client is.”

Earlier this month, En-Toto Couture had a trunk show showcasing its latest custom-beaded gowns and other collections, which they plan on doing monthly.

En-Toto Couture is located at 13 Glen Cove Rd., Greenvale. They can be reached at or 516-829-8503.

Cultural Arts Playhouse: For The Love of Theatre

Cultural Arts Playhouse performs their production of Hair.

“Quiet on the set” is a rare occurrence for those teaching children theatre, but for Bruce Grossman, founder/president of the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset, that is par for the course.

His theater and acting academy has been training children, teens and young adults in musical theater, acting, and dance for the last quarter century.

“We offer a noncompetitive environment where all of our kids have the opportunity to shine and participate,” says Grossman, adding that the company has a zero tolerance for bullying. “Our approach is to develop confidence and self-esteem centered around positive reinforcement.”

“Being part of a theater group teaches acceptance and tolerance and being patient of others,” he says. “We have an incredible team of directors, teachers, music teachers, choreographers, artists and builders.”

Students at CAP may participate in a show or take part in the class curriculum that gives them training in speech, diction, exercises, dance, improvisation, monologues, audition techniques, scene study, and voice.

“We have had thousands of children of all ages participate in our classes or our shows,” he says.

Many have landed roles on Broadway, and in national tours, regional theater, movies, HBO specials, commercials, and voice-overs, says Grossman.

One Long Islander who is a CAP alumnus is actress Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano on the popular HBO drama, The Sopranos.

“Jamie was our first famous student,” he says. “She was with us since she was a little girl.”

The spacious state-of-the-art theater is home to all their mainstage productions. Playing in October is All Shook Up; November is Next To Normal and December is The Nutcracker. The academy also has a satellite location in Wantagh.

During some productions, it isn’t unusual to see Grossman onstage and in character. Earlier this month, he played the Reverend Shaw Moore in the academy’s sold-out performance of Footloose. And in January 2019 he will return to the stage playing Daddy Warbucks in the musical Annie.  

“I like to set an example for the kids,” says Grossman. “Our goal is to entertain Long Island with professional quality entertainment 52 weeks a year, and we love doing it.”

Cultural Arts Playhouse is located at 170 Michael Dr. in Syosset. They can be reached at or 516-694-3330. Tickets range from $20-$27. Group rates and fundraising available.

A World of Pink: Nonprofit Donates Prosthetics to Breast Cancer Survivors

Christine Guarino, founder of A World of Pink, hugs a survivor, who walked in their annual fashion show. photo by Rob Rich/ © 2016 516-676-3939

In 2016, Shawand Marquez’s world fell apart. First, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then her mother passed away a day before Marquez’s double mastectomy. Marquez’s wedding was a month later.

Marquez’s doctor recommended A World of Pink, a Long Island health facility that helps women recovering from breast cancer get the help they need. Christine Guarino, its lead mastectomy fitter, met with Marquez and fitted her with a prosthetic and a bra to wear at Marquez’s wedding.

“Christine was there for me every step of the way,” says Marquez, 38. “I wore the prosthetics and the bra, and it felt so good. I was able to walk down the aisle feeling confident.”

Marquez, who had all her expenses taken care of, is one of the 5,000 women that the nonprofit has supported since Guarino a former dental hygienist who became a certified mastectomy fitter purchased All Island Prosthetics and invested $1 million of her own money into the organization. She  founded the group in 2016.

“I had an amazing dream … that I could help women all over the world,” says Guarino. “If you come in my door and your insurance company doesn’t cover something and you need it, you are getting it through my [nonprofit]. That is why people donate and give to the World of Pink Foundation and help raise money, because they see the results.”

Most insurance companies cover at least part of the cost of breast prosthesis, a specially designed artificial breast form that fits into a bra pocket. If a woman does not have insurance or only a percentage is covered and it is still a hardship for them to pay the difference, the World of Pink Foundation steps in.

This fall, Guarino is launching a new first-of-its-kind prosthetic. And this month brings the grand opening of her new 2,000-square-foot Melville location that will offer educational seminars, fundraising events and personalized fittings by appointment.

“My goal was to open the first aftercare center of its kind for women everywhere,” she says.  “It’s like Victoria’s Secret on steroids. It’s beautiful.”

A World of Pink’s annual fashion gala is on Oct. 29. Tickets are $125. For more information visit or

Lloyd Harbor Locale: A Stately Victorian In All Its Splendor

The elegant house at 405 West Neck Road in Lloyd Harbor, originally a Dutch farmhouse built in 1830, was transformed into a Victorian.

Once owned by the Axe family, who also owned Tarrytown Castle, the home features exquisite details on the exterior and interior, bringing us back to a time when men wore top hats and women corsets and rode in horse-drawn carriages. Today, that very same home is on the market for $1,495,000.

Set on 2.1 acres, the 12-room house includes seven bedrooms, three full and two half baths, great room with fireplace, study, gourmet eat-in-kitchen with breakfast area, master suite with bath and partial basement. There is also a private driveway and two-car garage with brick patio and brick deck.

“It’s a romantic house with high ceilings, big rooms, plenty of natural light,” says Peggy Moriarty of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, the realtor representing the home. “It’s located in the historic district in Lloyd Harbor.”

The homeowners who have been living in the house for the last 40 years made some significant improvements over the years, says Moriarty. Within the last year,  they replaced the slate mansard roof with hand-cut Vermont slate and put a new roof on the garage. They also regraded and regraveled the bluestone on the driveway, converted from oil to a natural gas heating system and installed three-zone air conditioning.

Additional improvements include a gut renovation on three full bathrooms that all have radiant heat floors. The half bath on the ground level was also redone. A great room was also added onto the home with a fireplace that has a separate heating and air-conditioning system.

All the more room for the next owners.

For more information contact Peggy Moriarty at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty; office 631-692-6770; mobile 516-769-2843 or

Sid Jacobson JCC: A Center That Inspires

The rain couldn’t keep away hundreds who came out to support the 2017 Sid Jacobson JCC’s annual Stronger Than Cancer 5K benefiting their Nancy Marx Cancer Wellness Center. This year’s race will be held on Sunday, October 7.

The Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills epitomizes what community is all about.

The center founded in 1960 to offer early childhood and adult programs has grown to become a thriving multipurpose programming facility answering the needs of every age and population.

“We are not a religious institution,” says Executive Director David Black. “we operate out of Jewish values and are open to the entire community. Our function is to enable life to flourish. We are connecting, giving back and creating connections.”

The center has a program for young people on the autism spectrum, those recovering from opioid addiction, people with Alzheimer’s, those with young-onset dementia, an early childhood center, and a cancer wellness program that is part of a consortium of hospitals treating patients with cancer and staffed with certified trainers and social workers.

“The hospitals know that their patients don’t want to recover in a hospital setting but, want to recover in a life-affirming setting and this is what we are providing,” says Black.

The center that Black describes as “exploding with activities and members” is already growing out of its 100,000-square-foot space and is in the midst of a new capital campaign to expand its space and modernize the campus at the Bernice Jacobson Day School and Camp.

“We went from a JCC without walls at the beginning in 1960 to a JCC with walls in 1988 to a JCC beyond walls in 2018,” says Black.

The Sid Jacobson JCC has a community theater program, a cultural center that features prominent speakers and authors, and an annual film festival. There is also an aquatic and health and wellness center.

“On Sundays there is something called Shooting Stars,” he says. “Volunteers teach teens who are on the spectrum basketball, and the teens get community service. Our 4-year-olds will go sing to the seniors on Shabbat. Our teens will take the music of the ’40s and ’50s and put the tunes on iPods because people with dementia relate to the music they had in their era.”
Black adds enthusiastically, “My program guide alone is close to 60 pages.”

The center also has a vibrant volunteer community with more than 400 people volunteering through 35 partners across Long Island. It has a center for Israel, the only one that exists on Long Island, according to Black, with a staff of Israelis who work in different area synagogues, day schools, and JCCs. The five camps available include a special needs which gives those young people who might not survive in an inclusive environment an exclusive environment and a chance to thrive, explains Black, adding, “It is a beautiful thing to see.”

For more information on the Sid Jacobson JCC visit