CHB Interviews: Barb Kenner, Virtual Assistant

1. You've been in Clinton Hill since 1992. How did you end up on Cambridge Place? I bet your place was a steal compared to today's prices! My husband and I outgrew our rental in Park Slope with the birth of our daughter. We lucked up with a wonderful broker by the name of Shirley Jones who introduced us to Clinton-Hill. I had no idea that in 1992, our house would quadruple in price.2. Where did you live before the Hill? We lived in Park Slope.

3. You're a "virtual assistant," which sounds like you do everything a regular assistant might do, from computer work, typing reports and personal assistant stuff like booking travel and running errands. What's your background, and when did you go "virtual?" My occupation as a virtual assistant or “Jill of all Trades” came about after working in the corporate sector for over 15 years as an Office Manager in Fortune 500 companies. I became tired of the 9 to 5 grind and “master of the universe” mentalities. I decided to strike out on my own. I do everything from: computer work booking travel running errands (post-office, shoe-repair, food, dry-cleaning, etc.) house-sitting (cable, moving, etc.) catering interior designer ( Car repair appointments registered Notary working for small businesses in the neighborhood. Most small business has little to no money for full time employees, so I offer my services on a temporary basis. Some days I may file papers at the courts, Motor Vehicle registrations or any tasks associated with running a business. No job is too small or large to handle.

4. How do your clients find you? Are there a lot of high rollers in the neighborhood who use your services? Usually my clients find me by word of mouth. Lately, I have been leaving cards ( in the various business establishments. I would never divulge my client’s name – confidentiality is very important to me.

5. Does this allow you to work at home during the day? Anything special go on in the nabe while I'm at work? My work usually takes me all over the place; I may do a food run at the greenmarkets for some great organic stuff, or for one handbag designer client, find distressed leather in the Garment District. It’s very rare to find me at home.

6. Tell us about some of the changes you've seen since you moved to the neighborhood, good and bad. It’s amazing the changes I’ve seen in 14 years. There is more foot and car traffic, which brings noise. It used to be a sleepy little block, but with the opening of the Clean-Rite laundermat, you now see more people. Parking has become more difficult. The positive changes are the opening of new restaurants, which is a refreshing change from the Chinese “joints”. 7. How do you feel about all the new condo developments and gentrification? Has it affected your block specifically in any way? The recent condo developments springing up in the neighborhoods are terrible. There is no one to police these structures; they are out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. One great example of this is the monstrosity located on Fulton and Classon. I believe the architects and contractors of this building should serve time in jail. Gentrification has been two-fold. The positive changes are the new restaurants and businesses, the upgraded water and sewer systems, and new lighting along Fulton Street. The negative aspect of Clinton Hill’s gentrification has been the removal of “old-timers” who fought to upgrade the neighborhoods earlier, but were completely ignored by elected officials and community police. Now that changes are being made, they are being pushed out, financially and socially.

8. What would you most like to see come to the neighborhood, in terms of services, dining, etc? I would love to see a full-service supermarket, bakery and a Biegelow type of pharmacy in the neighborhood.

9. Favorite place to eat in Clinton Hill: My favorite places to eat in the neighborhood are Bistro Lafayette, Soule, Kush, Joloff’s and ok, ok, White Castle.

10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why? Vanilla, like me it goes with everything, works well on its own or accompanied with others. Contact: Email: Webpage: Phone: 917-902-0242