Michael Rosen

PRess //

Michael Rosen

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From Projects to Penthouse, It's One Family

And today, as families of all types across the city and the country sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, the Rosen Family Extended will give thanks to that serendipitous meeting on a blacktop ball field.

In the Rosen penthouse, in a neighborhood much changed from 1998, they will be celebrating a milestone: those five boys were able to surpass the stumbling blocks of street life and land in college, with the assistance of baseball and of the Rosens, who became, essentially, their adoptive parents.

"When we started going to the penthouse, it was like a dream," said one of the boys, Kindu Jones, now 21. "They had everything you needed, boxes of cereal, snacks, milk and juice, always there in the fridge. My mom raised nine kids, and things weren't like that for us."

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The Accidental Family

"I don't think I would have become the man I am becoming if I wasn't in the Rosen family," says Phil. "It's not just Mike and Leslie and Ripton and Morgan. It's the others too; it's having the same friends for so long. I have a black brother and a white brother, and I tell everybody I'm half-Jewish. People do a double take, and I say, 'It's a long story.' It's a beautiful situation. We all just click."

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Youth League Misses and Major League Dreams

...as a teenager, Carlos moved to the Lower East Side with his family and would play baseball on the blacktop in Tompkins Square Park with friends.

One day, two young players, who were white, showed up with their parents and asked to join the game with these older players, who were black and Hispanic. They white players were allowed to play, and this touched the parents, Michael Rosen and Leslie Gruss, who then invited everybody back to their five-level penthouse in an upscale building on Avenue B overlooking both the park and the projects where the boys lived.

The couple basically opened their home to them over the ensuing weeks, months and years, turning this group into the unlikeliest of extended families, one that grew tighter over the years and went through some good, bad, painful, joyous, heartbreaking and hilarious times together. This reporter wrote about this family a few years back, and that was when I met Carlos.

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