Lennon, Oko grace Townsend Harris expo

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Jessica Schmidt and Emily Rivlin-Nadler spent last Friday at Townsend Harris High School not in class but sitting in the hallway dressed as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, blasting music on their stereo.

But the two were not cutting class, nor were they trying to make a fashion statement. Instead, they were part of an exhibit to illustrate the history of the Dakota, the Upper West Side landmark apartment building in which Lennon lived.

“We saw ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ and we like the building,” said Rivlin-Nadler, speaking of the 1969 horror film that was shot in the Dakota.

The 17-year-old friends, both from Jackson Heights and seniors at Townsend Harris, studied the building for their class on New York City history and literature. On Friday, the two sections of the class presented interactive exhibits to the public in what they called New York City Day, raising money for the World Trade Center fund.

“It’s wonderful,” said Myron Moskowitz as he hopped back and forth between the exhibits. Moskowitz teaches the class along with Assistant Principal of Humanities Lynne Greenfield. “These are the nicest kids you’ll find anywhere,” he said.

Students at the school sold cookies and T-shirts to raise money. Although few people from outside the school came to the exhibit, scores of students not in the class came to participate in the show.

Megan Fendt and Evan Preponis, 17-year-old seniors from Bayside, designed a “Chrysler Building Ring Toss.”

“We wanted to make it fun and exciting,” said Fendt.

The model of the Chrysler Building was surrounded by a poster describing the facts and the general history of the building, which was constructed in 1930 and was briefly the tallest building in the world before the construction of the Empire State Building.

After tossing rings around the model, Preponis explained the fight between the builders of the Chrysler Building and the Manhattan Bank Building, both of whom sought to make their structure the tallest in the world.

“It was the sky wars,” said Preponis.

Adrianna Sierra, a 17-year-old senior from Brooklyn, and Jenna Sangastiano, a 17-year-old senior from Douglaston, chose a restaurant rather than architecture as their project. They visited the Russian Tea Room, taking pictures of everything from the decorations to the desserts at the famous Midtown Manhattan eatery near Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street.

“We went out to lunch,” said Sangastiano. “It was delicious, but it was expensive.”

The two paid $114 for a full meal. The bill, however, was covered by their parents, not the school.

Although most of the exhibits featured Manhattan attractions, others focused on Queens. Thanasi Magoutas, a 17-year-old senior from Astoria, and John Emanuel, a 17-year-old senior from Fresh Meadows, presented a display on Silvercup Studios, a Long Island City bakery that became a film, commercial and television studio in 1983. It now is home to the filming of television shows such, as “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos.”

Biagio Nocerino, a 15-year-old sophomore from the Bronx, presented a project on Shea Stadium.

After studying the stadium, Nocerino said he was not in favor of recent plans to build a new stadium.

“I think they should renovate it, but I don’t see the point in another one,” he said.

Most of the exhibits contained elements bringing them beyond a traditional poster presentation. Schmidt and Rivlin-Nadler made an offer to their viewers: study their exhibit, answer three questions about the Dakota correctly, and earn the distinction of having a picture taken with them.

The two teenagers said they learned a lot from their project. They spoke of a group of people who spend time in front of the Dakota, offering conspiracy theories to passersby as to the cause of Lennon’s murder in 1980.

“It’s the John Lennon conspiracy,” said Schmidt. She spoke of Mark David Chapman, the deranged Lennon fan convicted of his murder. “People hang out in front of the Dakota, saying the government brainwashed David Chapman to kill him.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 7:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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