Eye on the Diamond
The Riveras were pulled to Grand Street by their community service commitments and love of the game
by Frances Madeson
One’s a Mets fan, the other roots for the Yankees, but Anthony and Yvette Rivera are undivided in their love of the game of baseball. Raised in Brooklyn, Tony played avidly as a kid. “My position was usually second base. I had a strong arm, good for double-plays.” Both are actively passing on their passion for the sport.
In fact, baseball is the reason they love their first-floor two-bedroom apartment, overlooking the East River Park bright green diamonds. “We wanted a higher floor,” says Tony Rivera, “but now we really enjoy the eye-level view.”
Tony manages the OLS Knights, a boys’ 13-15 age-group team in the co-ed youth league organized by Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Pitt Street; Yvette is the administrative director and coach. Their view of the illuminated ball fields at night is so ravishing, Tony jokes with the kids on his team that “with binoculars and a walkie-talkie, I can umpire the games right from my living room couch!”
They both serve on the 8-member volunteer board that oversees the league and its ancillary activities like a recent family dinner dance held in the church cafeteria. “It was a Luau theme,” Yvette explained, smiling, “and everybody pitched in—parents, volunteers, even the kids. We decorated with glitter, colored straws, fish lights, pineapples, and hula dancers.”
“It was a collaborative effort,” Tony agrees. “The focus was on the kids, and they had a great time. We all did the limbo and played musical chairs.”
Tony works at ING in wholesale banking. His division focuses on the financing needs of transportation companies, primarily in the aviation industry. “The continuing rise in oil prices is taking its toll. We’re dealing with bankruptcies, and some very challenging restructurings.”
Yvette works in Human Resources at JP Morgan, specializing in Recruitment and Development. She manages diversity recruitment and technology for her department. In her spare time, Yvette also serves as Coordinator of Religious Education at Our Lady of Sorrows. She is responsible for a program of 200 K-12 students. “I organize the sacraments, baptisms and confirmations. I’ve been worshipping at the Church since 1990.” She began as a student, then a volunteer, a catechist and then the coordinator. It was also the site of their wedding 14 years ago.
With so many ties to this community, the Riveras were already spending so much of their non-work time in the neighborhood, that they found themselves mostly sleeping and doing household upkeep in their four-bedroom Scotch Plains, New Jersey home. When league director Theresa Falcon of LoHo Realty suggested they attend some open houses in this neighborhood, they were intrigued.
“The commute was really getting to us,” Tony admits, “but after the freedom and privacy of living in a big house on a tree-lined half acre, we weren’t sure how we would adjust to apartment dwelling. It’s been exhilarating. This past weekend I rode my bike up to 80th Street along the West Side highway.” Clearly he is delighted that someone else is now responsible for yard work, with a quality that, he says, “rivals any in Manhattan.”
The grass lawn in front of their building is another reason they enjoy living on the first floor. “We love the flowers here,” says Yvette. “We can see the topiary dog from our window. Though with the no dog policy in East River, it is somewhat surprising that it’s out front…”
They moved in last December, after an extensive renovation. “Our neighbors welcomed us with a bottle of wine. It was our first Christmas in our new home, and it really meant a lot to us,” Tony recalls. “Walking from here to the subway in the morning, we probably wave to four or five folks every day.”