Meet The Team
In addition to dogs and cats, the variety of exotic animals that Shapiro has rescued have been featured on National Geographic, Animal Planet, and The Discovery Channel, and he was a guest on TV’s “To Tell the Truth” as the Urban Animal Rescuer in 1999. During the 90’s he was also an animal safety advisor for major motions pictures. Although the shelter is still going strong, Shapiro is retired.
Shapiro is an active writer, and articles he’s penned have appeared in major outlets in recent years including The Huffington Post (“For the Love of Dog, Put Us Out of Business” 2014) an essay about the pet trade, Scholastic’s Parent & Child Magazine (“Enough is Enough” 2012) featuring a topic from this book, and is an ongoing contributor to the Hudson Almanac, which chronicles wildlife along the Hudson River. He was featured in an article in Experience Life Magazine in 2017, about the joy and liberation of having ENOUGH.
Current projects include an article about the incredible diversity of flora and fauna that goes unnoticed by rush-hour commuters on his daily bicycle ride around lower Manhattan; a series of children’s books about nature; a compilation of essays about extraordinary experiences he’s had rescuing animals; a series of A to Z cards about animal care, bicycling, education and more; a video about the most misunderstood animals in the pet industry entitled A Reptile Disfunction, a daily app calendar “365 Ways to Get Rich While You Save the Earth, based on excerpts from his book; a show called “The Price Isn’t Right”, that he calls the only TV show that will make the viewer rich; and a documentary and audio book based on his upcoming book for both the home and classroom.
A neighborhood celebrity because of his work with animal rescue, he regularly pops up in local media. He was interviewed by East Village Radio and by E.V. Grieve in 2015. Both appearances of which received tremendous positive feedback from the community. Shapiro was quoted on Humans of New York on July 7, 2015, and his words, which echo the theme of his book, garnered 428,000 reactions, 71,440 shares, and 8,900 comments, the biggest response ever from an interview on this blog.
Shapiro is active in community organizing outside of animal rescue. He gives free tennis, cycling, and bicycle maintenance lessons. He organizes “urban nature walks” and bike rides where he identifies and discusses the myriad birds, mammals, trees, plants, wild flowers, weeds, butterflies and other insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish and crustaceans that thrive in and around the metropolitan area. He also gives a tour of Central Park. He hosts donation drives through which he collects a variety of goods to distribute to local pantries and churches.
Shapiro is passionate about education and has ample experience in the field. After graduating college, he taught at the A to Z School, a private nursery school in the West Village. He was a itinerant science teacher for the New York City Board of Education, giving talks to children about the planet, animals, and the proper care of pets. He has also spoken about racism to many audiences over the years at schools and churches. He conducts a free workshop for parents, their children or any individuals interested in learning proper animal husbandry, and is excited to host future workshops in conjunction with the publication of his book.
Practicing what he preaches, Shapiro gave up a lucrative job offer in the 80’s in order to live a more fulfilling life. After working as a bicycle mechanic by day and bar tender at the famous nightspot “Area”, he landed a job as the head bartender and eventually manager of the decadent, world-renowned Palladium, the largest nightclub in the history of New York City and the backdrop for the movie, “Bright Lights, Big City.” Because of his work ethic, he was offered a job running a new hotel for the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schraeger during the explosive real estate boom in South Beach Miami, Florida, but he turned down the position because he instinctively felt that it would have steered him in the wrong direction. He said, “The ability to read, write, and take a bike ride whenever I want makes me truly wealthy.” He started Social Tees in 1991 as a platform to share his opinions on various social issues, and it eventually got incredible support from schools, and other institutions in every state of the union.
Through his friendship with filmmaker Rebecca Miller, Shapiro became friends with his hero, playwright Arthur Miller and had an ongoing invitation to the family’s Connecticut home. The American icon was impressed with Shapiro’s thoughts on the many artificial pressures and stress associated with the American Dream. Miller said it was the very same inspiration behind his famously tragic character Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. He generously encouraged Shapiro to continue to write, but passed away before he could read his manuscript. Shapiro regrets not being able to show his friend that the authentic American Dream is only beginning.
Some of Shapiro’s early accomplishments include writing a book on animal husbandry, encompassing 1000’s of species of reptiles, focusing on those that suffer from the pet trade entitled “Are you Killing Your Reptile?” which he completed at the age of 19 (T.F.H. Publications); illustrating a book of the entire collection of Faberge Eggs for Forbes Magazine also at age 19 (Doubleday) while attending Parson’s School of Design (the eggs he drew from life from the Forbes collection were placed one at a time in a room with an armed guard at the door); taking two trans-continental bicycle rides across America and Europe in the 80’s, awarded a citation for courage from the New York City Police Department for saving a woman from being raped in 1996; was a nationally ranked handball champion in the 80’s and was honored with a Player of Distinction Award by the New York Handball Hall of Fame in 2017. Throughout the 1970’s he organized an annual handball tournament for the kids in his hometown, Howard Beach, Queens. He is also a master at Pro Kadima, “the only sport with no opponents.”
Boundless energy and optimism is behind the long list of projects Shapiro is currently working on. (He often jokes that even his blood type is B Positive) He holds U.S. patent #5,483,956 for a fire safety device and is developing a new type of tree-guard that is mandatory around construction sites, a Modular Atrophy-Prevention Apparatus for rehabilitating bed-ridden hospital patients as well as a device that prevents drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. Among the other projects on the list are: turning discarded vintage doors into one-of-a-kind tables (Evolving Doors), establishing a non-profit that runs educational programs based on the ideas in his book; a handbook for parents of attractive or otherwise gifted children that helps them to avoid becoming self-entitled, difficult or troubled adults called Model Citizen; a chain of dispensary stores that forgo packaging; a shop that sells motor-less appliances called No Charge and another that sells only foldable items called Origami, a black cat rescue called the 13th Floor, and many more. Shapiro never studied, zoology or horticulture, but became a naturalist and an expert in trees, birds and herpetology, never studied business but founded a nationwide company, didn’t play sports as a child but became a national champion, never took tennis lessons but teaches tennis, did study art but gave it up to devote his time to writing. In November 2005, Shapiro was the New Yorker of the Week on NY1 television. When asked why he walked away from his successful fundraising company he said, “Too much business can distract you from your true calling.” When asked why he says writing is more important than animal rescue, he said, “Without a healthy planet and better educated children, there are no animals.”
Shapiro lives in the West Village of New York City.
Robert Shapiro, who introduces himself as the only Robert Shapiro who isn’t a lawyer, is a modern-day Renaissance Man. He is a writer, inventor, athlete, artist, entrepreneur, naturalist, wildlife rehabilitator, arborist, lyricist and member of the Audubon and Linnaeus Societies. He is a popular figure in his community, perhaps best known to have founded Social Tees Animal Rescue (socialteesnyc.org) which turned 28 this year. It began as Social Tees Fundraisers, a company that sold tee shirts featuring messages that raise awareness about social issues like race, ecology, and education. He had an enormous following nationwide, and most tees were sold via fundraisers that supported schools, churches, human rights organizations, environmental groups, and many more. Social Tees also sold its unique line through retail stores and organizations across the country. Some of his clients were the National Organization for Women, the United Nations, Planned Parenthood, MTV and Spike Lee’s “Spike’s Joint.” Since Social Tees is now a shelter from which Shapiro has retired, he has renamed his T shirt line Blackboard Tees (blackboardtees.net), since they appear as messages scrawled on a chalkboard.
Dr. Lyle Cleary, DVM - Vet
Elan A. Ginzberg, Esq. - Vice President