Editor’s Note: Welcome to Inside Out, our weekly roundup of stories about Staten Islanders making waves, being seen, supporting our community and just making our borough a special place to live. Have a story for Inside Out? Email Carol Ann Benanti at email@example.com.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Just a few years back, at the time of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic when the world was shuttered in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Stephen J. Babsky was already retired as an executive from the New York City Transit Authority for more than two years.
So the Graniteville resident decided that was the time to write about the events that unraveled and the pandemic that would have a profound effect on the world in a multitude of ways.
After extensive research and careful consideration, Babsky penned “The Invisible Enemy,” a book that follows pretty closely with the actual events that took place during that horrific time frame.
But since his work is a fictional account, he did take liberties in suggesting some of the events as he deemed appropriate.
Babsky describes the book as a story about China’s quest for power and world domination using a weaponized virus (COVID-19) to achieve its goals.
And he describes himself as another Staten Island author who wrote a fictional conspiracy novel during the COVID-19 lockdown when the world seemed to stand still and lives were shattered the world over.
He writes: “The origin of COVID has become so politicized and polarized that we may never find out to everyone’s satisfaction the true story of the virus’ origin, especially without the cooperation of the Chinese government.”
In his overview Babsky comments:
“In the dynamic urban center of China, beneath the shadow of towering research facilities, two American agents are entrusted with a covert mission with global implications. Dr. Jimmy Ji Wong and Dr. Hui Chang, undercover operatives in cutting-edge virology, stumble upon a secret that would create a worldwide upheaval.Privy to only a few, a deadly virus is silently evolving.”
A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn to parents who survived World War II in Europe, Babsy’s emigrated to the United States during the late 40′s from Ukraine.
His dad was imprisoned in a Dachau concentration camp and was freed by the American Army in 1945. His mom was taken by force by the Nazis who came to her village and abducted her and her younger sister and transported them by rail car to Germany to work as slave laborers in the German factories.
“My mother would never see her sister or her family in Ukraine again,” he stated.
And Babsky’s dad, who was a concentration camp survivor, didn’t need a sponsor to come to America. “He got here first then he sponsored his mom to come to America,” he added.
Babsky said it was difficult for his parents to get acclimated to their new homeland, since neither of them spoke English.
He would attend public schools and didn’t speak or understand English himself since both my parents spoke Ukrainian at home.
But as a young child, he picked up the English language quickly. He attended Ukrainian evening school in the basement of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church which still stands to this day and has active parishioners both young and old.
He was accepted as a SP student to Junior High School 126 and then spent the eighth grade at the new building directly across from the McCarren Park swimming pool, where he would spend some time during the hot summer days with friends.
After taking an entrance exam and being accepted, he became student at Brooklyn Tech High School.
He attended City College’s School of Engineering, but dropped out during his freshman year when his dad passed away.
Babsky’s mom wasn’t able to work any longer and since there wasn’t an income, he had to look for job to support the family.
At the same time the draft board sent him a notice that his student classification was changed to a 1A classification, meaning that he was draft material.
The Vietnam War was still raging and he was reclassified as 1A – fit for duty — the draft board had a lottery that selected a number.
“If you got a low number (below 150) you were usually called to serve. My number was 37. I took a battery of aptitude tests at Whitehall (Manhattan), then more tests at Fort Hamilton (Brooklyn). I knew I would be called to serve very soon. I wasn’t a draft dodger as many in college were,” he added.
One day, an Army jeep pulled up to my house, he noted.
“My mother became hysterical and started to cry. She thought that they came to take me away. I tried to calm her down.”
Two army Sergeants, who drove up in the jeep, told Babsky that he needed to go to the draft board ASAP and petition for a hardship deferment.
“So, I went the next day and sat in front of six strangers who asked me a ton of questions, and after they were satisfied, they told me they would let me know the results. Well about a week later, I got a letter from the draft board. This was the make-or-break letter. If you were called to service, a (train) token would be in the letter. I felt around the letter to see if I could feel the token. I didn’t feel anything, so I opened the letter and to my surprise, I was granted a hardship deferment as the sole male survivor of the family.”
Babsky took a job with New York Telephone, spent 25 years there, and left on an early buyout package as a middle manager.
He completed credits for his engineering degree in the evening and completed an MBA program at St. John’s University.
“I have lived on the Island since 1978,” he notes. “It was much quieter then. But I still love my New York. I have traveled all over Europe and the United States — including Alaska and Hawaii — and I can honestly say ‘There is no place like home’ on Staten Island.”
“The Invisible Enemy” is available on Amazon in three different formats; Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover and it’s also available at Barnes & Noble.
UP LATE WITH JOHNNY POTENZA
Johnny Potenza, the well-known host on Community Media of Staten Island Television — formerly CTV — will tape the next episode of his show, “Up Late with Johnny Potenza” on Thursday, Dec. 7.
Celebs will include crooner/musical arranger and business entrepreneur, Al Lambert, actress/writer, Renee Wood, Alexa Nicole Moley, Miss Staten Island 2024 and Gabriella Marinelli, Miss Richmond County 2024.
Potenza developed the former “Late Night with Johnny P” and now the current “Up Late with Johnny Potenza” and continues to tape new shows once a month.
HOLIDAY TOY DRIVE
Since it’s the time of year to spread holiday cheer, Ivan Santiago is heading up a Holiday Toy Drive for children of all ages.
Santiago, who owns Vicious Fitness, a personal fitness studio in Stapleton that’s opened for more than a year, asks that heartfelt Staten Islanders drop off unwrapped toy at his business located at 681 Bay St. from the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What’s more, Santiago is willing to pick up toys from any location.
He adds every donation gets you a raffle for a free training session session at Vicious Fitness and a T-shirt.
Toys will be donated to a nearby women’s and children’s center, as well as to underprivileged children in the community of Stapleton.
Toys are being accepted through Wednesday, Dec. 20.
For further information phone Santiago at 646-404-2736.
CELEBRATIONS – DEC. 3 TO DEC. 9
Happy birthday Sunday to Liana and Christopher Calabro who are now 12, Patty Driscoll, Kacey Semler, Joe Hicks II, Jonathan Rodriguez, Claire Bisignano Chesnoff, Laura Lorentzen, Terry Naeder and Lorraine Coppola. ¶
Sunday is birthday time for Allen Cappelli, Staten Island attorney and MTA board member and Transit and Anti-Toll advocate.
Birthday greetings Monday go to Michele Valente, Katie Fleming, Jeanine Koesel, Christian Trischitta, Deborah Bocchiaro, Michael Forlenza, Lisa Marie Madalone and Jordan Anthony J. Ferrer who turns 16.
Tuesday is birthday time for Matthew Albert Neuman, John DiMaggio, Dolly Marrocco, and Elaine Verna.
The happiest of birthdays Wednesday to Michael Pittelli Jr., Steven Leahy, Parker Hayes Lorentzen, who turns 13, Gerard Loesch, William J. Slaven Sr., Grade Decker and Lindsay SanFilippo.
Happy wedding anniversary Wednesday to Terri and Mike Boyle.
Thursday is birthday time for Jim Canfield, Jenna Cauldwell, Harvey Urbach, Rich Dimaio, Cory Torjesen, Tracey Currenti and Hayley Augustyne.
Happy birthday Friday to Kristen Long, Artie Fernandez, Sal Troia, Sylvia Lara, Barbara Pizzo, Dana Walker, Kathleen Marie Bozzo who turns 18, Keri-Lynn Flagello, Andy LaChance, Aiden Kelly, Cathy Mione, Mike Fiducia and Martha Falcone.
The best of birthdays Friday to Christopher Castore who’s now 47 years-old.
Saturday is birthday time for George Fries, Michael McWeeney and Artie Waldhelm.