In Focus: Irish American New Yorker offers ‘free listening’ in Central Park


A psychology student, Grecco offers New Yorkers a “free listening” service where they can share their thoughts and concerns.

Tell us about your Irish roots.
“My grandparents grew up in Ireland and emigrated from there during their teenage years, my grandma from Clare and my grandfather from Leitrim. Much of my extended family still lives in Ireland.”

What does your Irish heritage mean to you?
“My Irish heritage is significant for me because it’s so close to me, and it’s something that I’ve taken part in mainly through spending time with my grandparents. My grandma’s story is particularly inspiring, originally coming here to become a nun and later leaving her convent to pursue having a family. From her and my grandfather, my Irish heritage represents a hard-working character and a loving, sacrificing attitude towards family, something that I’m very proud of.”

Where do you currently live and what do you do?
“I live currently with my mom and my brother in southern Westchester County, right outside of New York City. I’ve been a student at Manhattan College for the past two years studying psychology and philosophy. People and learning about human nature have been a passion of mine since I was little and those fields were a natural choice for me.”]

You offer a “free listening” service in Central Park. Tell us about this.
“I grab a folding chair and a poster board sign on which I’ve written “Free Listening” and bring these to a park in the city, usually Central Park, and set up what I call a free listening next to a bench in a busy area. People walk by, curious, and many stop to see what I’m doing, whether I’m really there to just listen. Without a stake in their lives, people can talk to me comfortably knowing that I’m listening to them in the moment and without an agenda.”

What inspired you to offer this service?
“The idea grew out of many, many conversations with my friends about personal interests and just the throwing around of possible things to do. I like finding avenues to apply any knowledge I’ve built up or listening skills I’ve developed, and this activity strikes a chord with most everyone who hears about it. I think pure, simple listening is something many of us, myself included, look for and this is one way to help people find it.”

What kinds of people burn your ear with their stories?
“Everyone has something interesting to share with a free listener, even people who think they’re entirely typical. Most people sit down to discuss everyday issues with friends, work, and relationships, so I’ve heard stories about friends growing distant, new friends made, possibilities of marriage, jobs that haven’t worked out, and careers almost too good to be true. It’s my job to listen to the nuance in each story and connect with the person individually.”
Interview by Molly Muldoon