InSitu: Choreographed Communal Catharsis
InSitu Dance Festival Brings Dancing Dument to Waterfront
It was a warm summer day as I made my way down to the Long Island City waterfront parks to witness the possibility of the dawning of a new age of dance along the East River waterfront. There were 24 local choreographers who had organized 75 performances to be given at four Queens parks along the East River waterfronts of Long Island City and Astoria.
InSitu Dance Time: Gantry State Park
I arrived at Gantry State Park in the late afternoon and made my way to the North Basin at the north end of the park. There was an audience gathered, watching the performance of Timepiece, Or: Another Imperfect Measurement by Melissa Riker and the Kinesis Project Dance Theater. The dance explores the measurement of time through the metaphor of sand being released through motion. And the soundtrack reverberates with the constant acoustics and vocal reminders of how trapped in time we have made ourselves.
InSitu Dance Gender: Queensbridge Park LIC
As the performance wound down, I hopped aboard my bike and made my way north along Vernon Blvd in search of the next InSitu dance performance in Queensbridge Park. I arrived early for this performance, which was scheduled to begin shortly after I arrived. Fragile, a piece choreographed and performed by Red House / Project 44 began with the dancers making their way up the park walkway, in some measure like small children clumsily learning how to walk. The piece explores male gender identity and how to enable masculinity and tenderness to coexist in the same man.
InSitu Founder & 'The Great Dictator' in Socrates Sculpture Park
My next and last stop was Socrates Sculpture Park and Hallets Cove. There I met Svea Schneider, the driving force behind InSitu, as well as her urban dance company, Kinematik Dance. Svea was excited at how well the weekend had turned out both weather-wise and performance-wise. The first performance in Socrates Sculpture Park was underway, so I hurried over.
The performance was by the Blue Bus Project + Tyler Gilstrap, performing a piece entitled The Great Dictator. The piece references an old movie made in 1940 as WWII was breaking. It's satire about a Jewish boy who replaces the Great Dictator who is persecuting the Jews. Charlie Chaplin, who had a mustache cut similarly to Hitler's and representative of the times, played the star role and made a famous plea to humanity at the end of the film. The performance used the music of the time and the speech as the soundtracks which accompanied the dance.
InSitu Dance Ecology: Modern Dance at Hallets Cove & East River
The next piece was performed along the Hallets Cove shore along the East River. This performance was by violetsound who did a piece they named Terroroir. In this piece they fabricate an allegorical exploration of who to blame for the earth's troubles, while unearthing underlying currents of human wonderment. People lined the rail along Vernon Blvd to watch the InSitu spectacle ... which would be the final performance of the day and weekend.
I departed the East River waterfront dance performances with plenty to contemplate. It was an interesting late afternoon, early evening of human sculptured art forms in motion. I shot some video along the way and hope to post it when I get the time to do it right.
InSitu was performed on Saturday and Sunday, July 8th & 9th, at Hunters Point South Park, Gantry State Plaza Park, Queensbridge Park and Socrates Sculpture Park. InSitu was a collaboration between the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement and Kinematik Dance Theater.
Free Concerts In Queens 2017 - Free Things to do in Queens
Free Summer Concerts in Queens Parks
This report is part of a series of reports about some of the free things to do in Queens this summer. This report includes a schedule of the mostly free music and free summer concerts in the parks in Queens.
Click here to view our listing of free summer concerts Queens- free things to do in Queens.
5 Boro Bike Tour Rides On ...
The 5 Boro Bike Ride has Become an NYC Cultural Institution
The 5 Boro Bike Tour pedaled through the five boroughs on Sunday, for its 40th year. I have been covering the event for nearly a decade, enjoying conversations with the riders as they make their way through the streets of New York City, without having to contend with hostile traffic. It's a family-friendly event and helps fund bike safety and repair programs designed to teach children and adults how to enjoying bicycling in an urban environment.
Brief History of the 5 Boro Bike Tour NYC
The following is a summary of the 5 Boro Bike Tour history, gleaned from the Bike New York website at www.bike.nyc.
The event began in 1977, starting with a conversation between Sal Cirami of the American Youth Hostels bicycle committee and Eric Prager of the NYC Board of Education. Sal was interested in creating more bicycle-friendly streets, while Prager had been asked to develop a bicyle safety program for NYC school children.
The program started with bicycle safety and repair, and the 5 Boro Bike Ride was to be the culminating event for the participants. Thus on June 10, 1977 Sal, Eric and 250 entrants - most of which also came from bicycle clubs - made their way from Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, down through Brooklyn, over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Staten Island, ferrying back over to Manhattan, and traversing up through Manhattan to the Bronx, before crossing over the Throggs Neck Bridge back to Queens, terminating at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The streets weren't closed, but the riders were provided with an NYC police escort.
The next year, the newly-elected Mayor Koch, supported the idea of a 5 Boro Bike Tour with city resources. The ride was shortened to 40 miles and the NYPD shut down a moving 40 block long section of streets to pave the way for the cyclists to pass. That year the cyclist count rose to 3,000. Two years later, in 1980, the MTA subway workers went on strike and the 5 Boro Bike Tour participation swelled to 12,000 and then grew to 32,000 before the city capped the ride at that number where it has remained ever since.
5 Boro Bike Tour: Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn & Staten Island
According to Bike New York, this year the 5 Boro Bike Tour attracted 32,000 participants from all 50 states and 65 countries. It was a cool, cloudy day with temperatures in the 50's and 60's. In the mid / late afternoon came a bit of drizzle, but by then I believe most - if not all - had completed the ride. I made my way up to the Astoria rest stop where vast crowds of cyclists converge beginning at between 8 and 9 am and which then continues for a couple of hours, before tapering down by around noon.
I arrived on the tail end of the ride, where I could watch the bicyclists who preferred to take the ride slowly, were streaming along northward along the eastern perimeter of Astoria Park. I made my way down to the rest stop, located in the parking lot just under the RFK / Triborough Bridge, where there were toilets, food and bike repair services available to the riders on their 40 mile journey.
One of the riders I conversed with later that afternoon told me it was exhiliarating to see New York City on bike and to be joined by so many other bicycle enthusiasts from around the city, nation and planet. The entrance fees [$100 for a standard ticket / packet] from the 5 Boro Bike Tour go to Bike New York which is a non-profit dedicated to teaching cyclists about bike repairs and bike safety. Registration generally starts the second week of January and closes out fairly quickly as the 5 Boro Bike Tour is limited to 32,000 cyclists. TD Bank was the sponsor this year as it has been for a number of years.
Update: LaGuardia Airport Development Project
First Phase Moving Along with Second & Third Phases About to Begin
I attended a Community Board One meeting at the Astoria World Manor on Wednesday, April 19th. People representing the LaGuardia Airport development project were scheduled to provide the community with an update regarding several of the multi-billion dollar renovation projects associated with LaGuardia Airport, that are either currently in the works or nearing the end of the planning process.
The presentation was split into three parts: 1) LaGuardia Airport development project construction updates, 2) traffic mitigation efforts and 3) community outreach including job opportunities related to the projects.
Click here to read our report on the LaGuardia Airport development project & expansion, related job opportunities, its possible impact on travel times to the airport and the public hearing details on May 3rd, 2017 in Flushing. We have also included a small bit of history about the airport and the fight over the property and development in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The graphic at right was created as part of the LaGuardia Airport development project.
Queens World Film Festival 2017
Labor of Love on a Queens Corner
I attended the 7th annual Queens World Film Festival on Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. I chose to view the Queens Corner block of films, which showcased some of the films made in Queens and / or by Queens filmmakers.
Queens World Film Festival Opening Night
I had missed opening night, but so did most others, as the snowstorm shut down the Museum of the Moving Image that night. Don and Katha Cato, Founders of the Queens World Film Festival, improvised and held opening night at Armando’s Restaurant in Jackson Heights. They showed the films on a screen at the bar and read subtitles, which were too small for the audience to read. Katha told me that it wasn’t perfect, but with the food and wine served at Armando’s – it was fun.
The Queens World Festival includes a mix of locally made films, as well as films made around the world. Don and Katha solicit the films via exchanges dedicated to facilitating film festivals and submissions – including using some websites from other parts of the world. Katha mentioned that people flew in from as far away as Nepal, Germany, Italy, England, Canada and other states such as California to participate in the festival.
QW Film Festival Attendance & Locales
This year the Queens World Film Festival aka QWFF consolidated its viewing locations to the Museum of the Moving Image and the Zucker Theater in Kaufman Astoria Studios, which helped give the event more of a consolidated feel versus prior years when screenings were spread throughout Astoria, LIC and Jackson Heights. Both the Museum of the Moving Image and the Zucker Theater are within a block of one another. And the Astor Room, a restaurant located in a subterranean portion of Kaufman Astoria Studios, was used to host the awards ceremony and became an interim gathering space.
The festival attracted in the neighborhood of 5,000 visitors in 2016, and while the figures were not yet in, Katha thought they might not match the prior year due to inclement weather and the consolidation of screening rooms and locations this year.
QWFF Films Curated by Don Cato
The Queens World Film Festival is curated by Don, who is aided by Jennifer Griffith. They received about 500 films this year and narrowed the submissions down to 135. Of the 135 about 26 were made in or by Queens filmmakers. A number of the submissions also came from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island, so New York City is well represented.
The film viewing blocks are arranged in an intuitive fashion. Don takes notes while reviewing the submissions and over time similarities, differences, subjects and themes emerge. Katha adds her two cents to the emerging categories while the couple is consolidating the choices and organizing the films into viewing blocks.
Don & Katha Cato Founders Queens World Film Fest
Don and Katha are pursuing a labor of love … literally … as the couple met while collaborating on a film / theater project many years ago. The couple continues to pursue their passion outside of the Queens World Film Festival as Katha is an actress and Don produces films. Don currently teaches at the Digital Film Academy in Manhattan.
Click here for the rest of our story including brief reviews and photos of some of the films I saw at the Queens World Film Festival in 2017.
Over a Century of Railroad History in Sunnyside Yards
Railroad Historian Dave Morrison Brings Back to Life the Glorious Past of the Queens Rail Yard & the Hell Gate Bridge at the Greater Astoria Historical Society
On Saturday afternoon I attended a lecture and book signing event at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in the Quinn Building, only blocks from the Museum of the Moving Image. The book is entitled Sunnyside Yards and the Hell Gate Bridge and it was written by Railroad Historian Dave Morrison of Plainview, New York. The Greater Astoria Historical Society hosted the event as part of its Hell Gate Centennial commemoration efforts.
It didn’t take Dave long to convince those of us in attendance that he was not only an expert in the subject, but also a passionate railroad history aficionado. Dave’s presentation included photos from the book, as well as many other photos he’d collected which didn’t make it into the book. In the photo at right, Dave Morrison signed a number of copies of his new book, Sunnyside Yards & the Hell Gate Bridge, following his presentation of excerpts from it at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
Dave began his story in Brooklyn, in the mid 1800’s, when the residents of Brooklyn protested building a train rail yard in the borough because of all the noise, dirty coal steam and traffic it would bring to the fast growing, bustling borough.
Click here to read the rest of the story, including a photos, of the presentation made by Dave Morrison about the history of Sunnyside Yards and the Hell Gate Bridge.
Shaving the Stache & Making the World a Better Place, One Human at a Time
Benefit for Quality Services for Autism Community [QSAC] at the Redken Saloon Salon in Astoria, featuring Art 4 Healing
It was the first weekend night of the New Year, which after the relaxing holidays generally tends to be fairly low key. The streets were quiet on a clear, cold January evening as I made my way up 30th Avenue toward Steinway Street. I didn’t really know what to expect at the Shave the Stache benefit at the Redken Saloon Salon, where the event has been hosted for the past five years.
Unlike the silent streets, the Redken Saloon Salon was bustling with life when I arrived. I was warmly greeted by members of the Quality Services for Autism Community [aka QSAC], as I made my way into the salon.
William Balash: Man About Town
One of the first people I met was William Balash. He’s a big man, who at the time, was sporting a hearty crop of whiskers, which he told me he’d been growing since October. He introduced me to Patricio Barrientos, External Affairs Coordinator of QSAC, who provided me with a bit of background information about the group, including that it was founded in 1978 by Queens parents of children with autism who were searching for more productive ways to raise autistic children, than were currently available at the time. Today QSAC serves 2,100 people with autism in NYC and on Long Island.
In the photo at right are the men who had their whiskers shaved, alongside those who shaved them. Back row from left to right are: Mike Christoforotos, Spiro Aganastopoulous, Janos Kanta, Nicholas Halvatzis, Jerry Crisafis, Joe Vaccaro, Sofia [hair stylist], Ken Marzocco, and Paul Halvatzis. The two men kneeling are Nicholas Zikos and Bill Balash, while the two men seated are Steve Sirgiovanni and Larry Litwack, with Redken Saloon Salon owner Frank Arcabascio standing between them. Last, but not least, is Jim Halvatzis standing far right.
Art 4 Healing Obtains Art Donations for Benefit Auctions
William and Patricio introduced me to Katrizyna [aka Katrina] Kozena, of Art for Healing NYC. Katrina told me that the group was founded circa 2001 and gets artists to donate works which are auctioned off at fundraising benefits to help those in need. The proceeds from the auctioned art are shared by both non-profits and the artist receives free publicity. Art for Healing doesn’t provide art therapy, which oftentimes includes interpretation of artworks after they’ve been completed; but rather Art 4 Healing uses art as a means of enabling people to emotionally connect with themselves in ways that may not be available in daily life.
Katrina showed me the work being auctioned off this evening, which was a wood painting by a Latin American artist. The artist’s name is Angelo Romano who currently lives and works in NYC, but is a Spanish artist immigrant from Latin America. The work was a hand painted wooden totem pole – acrylic on wood. In the photo at right is Katrizyna Kozena of Art4Healing.org.
Click here a bit later today for the rest of the story including more photos and video about Shave the Stache benefit for QSAC in NYC.
Santa vs Trump: Who's the Better Businessman?
SPECIAL REPORT: Santa in Astoria & Queens
December 21, 2016 / Astoria Neighborhood / Fiction / Queens Buzz. The following video report continues our investigation to continued sitings of Santa in Astoria and Queens. This report looks into the business practices of Santa in six categories and compares them to those of billionaire businessman and president-elect Donald Trump. At the end of the video we announce the winner.
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Columbus Day - Parades in Astoria
Beautiful Day to Enjoy a Parade Along Steinway & 30th Streets
The 39th Annual Columbus Day Parade returned to Astoria last weekend. People lined the streets of Astoria to watch the parade which included a number of local Italian organizations including soccer groups, Italian clubs, school groups and floats.
A number of local government representatives also marched in the parade including NYC Councilman Constantinides, Assemblywoman Simotas and Senator Gianaris.
The weather cooperated, as it was in the 60's and sunny and dry. The parade commemorates Italian Christopher Columbus' discovery of America in 1492. And the parade was organized by the Astoria Chapter of the Federation of Italian Americans.
The photo above was taken in a prior year. Click here to view reports of prior parades in Astoria including photos.
HORROR on Ditmars ends Ghoulishly in Astoria Park
The Astoria Family Halloween Parade Marches Down Ditmars to Astoria Park Halloween Celebration
It was ghoulish, it was hairy and in fact it was just plain, downright SCARY. There’s just no other way to describe the Astoria Family Halloween Parade.
There were ghosts, goblins, witches, monsters and people back from the dead. They came by the hundreds and in all sizes. They were tall, small and everything in between. There were likely over one thousand people who came to participate in the tenth annual Astoria Family Halloween Parade.
Yet, even though I was surrounded by all of these frightening monsters, I felt a certain calm. Why? Why so calm amidst all of this horror?
IT WAS SCARY, BUT ... thankfully there were plenty of Super Heroes Around
Because there were possibly even more superheroes in the crowd. Wonder Woman, Superman, Batwoman, Batman and how about those Ninja Turtles?
The ghouls, goblins and their parents congregated at Ditmars & 31st Street beginning at 11.30 am filling all four corners and then some with plenty of people decked out in full Halloween garb. The weather was amply cooperative climbing well into the 70’s and I heard some of the monsters complain that they were overheating … but not the devils … they seemed to feel right at home – if not a bit chilly.
The police cordoned off one lane of Ditmars between 31st Street and Astoria Park and at noon, the families packed up and marched down to Astoria Park along the East River. The families came streaming down the Great Lawn and started taking their places on the grass in front of the stage erected by the Central Astoria Local Development Corporation also known as CALDC.
CALDC had organized a Halloween event, which they called the First Annual Batty Over Halloween Celebration. The free event included face painting, balloon twisting, a children's Halloween sing along, cotton candy and munchkin pumpkins giveaway.
All in all it made for a fun outing for the kids and parents of the neighborhood who embraced both the parade and the Halloween after party. The parade was started around 2006 and continues to be organized by the Astoria Moms Meetup Group and Queens Mamas.
Click here to view the Astoria Family Halloween Parade 2016 slide show.
Update on the Steinway Mansion in Astoria Queens
Visionary Investor Makes Good on Development but Still no Announcement of his Plans for the Steinway Mansion
On May 3rd, 2014 the Halberian Family sold the Steinway Mansion to Steinway Mansion LLC for $2.65 million. In the two and a half years since, the new Steinway Mansion owner parceled the property into a eleven additional smaller lots and built eleven two story commercial buildings on each. We watched as the owner quietly developed the property, likely in line with his plans while making the investment.
Just over a year ago I visited the site and took some photos, which momentarily revealed the resplendent glory of the old mansion, overlooking the East River and distant Rikers Island and Bronx shores. The new owner had cut away most of what remained of the Steinway Mansion yard to make way for the new buildings at a height on a level with 42nd and 41st Streets. The construction site seemed well maintained and the historic mansion structure appeared to be treated respectfully both last year, and as I learned in my most recent trip, also since.
The photo above was taken in August of 2015.
Northern Ditmars Neighborhood Real Estate Development
Last weekend I returned to the site to shoot photos and see what was happening. I came in along 42nd Street, and for a moment I wondered if I had gotten my coordinates wrong, as the street had been transformed. The emptiness on the street of the construction site of a year ago had been filled in with a number of spanking new buildings lined along the street with what appeared an exacting precision. The photo to your right shows roughly the same space in September 2016 as was shown in the August 2015 photo above.
A year ago, 42nd Street was an empty, slightly soiled, commercial industrial hub. But on my visit this year the street took on a wholly different appearance with the new buildings / storefronts. There were eight new buildings along 42nd Street, with red brick exteriors complemented by black trim and large floor-to-ceiling paned storefront windows, which I believe could also serve as garage doors. It almost seemed like these new edifices could as easily become art galleries, as manufacturing locales and / or storage facilities.
Click here to read the rest of our report about the Steinway Mansion real estate development in Northern Ditmars, Astoria.
Panorama Music Fest on Randalls Island
Three Day Musical Festival Strikes a Grammy Chord
I attended the Panorama Music Festival on Randall's Island this past weekend. The music festival featured dozens of top and second tier bands and musicians with the event starting Friday and ending Sunday night. Some of the music festival headliners included award winning groups like Kendrick, Alabama Shakes and the return of LCD after a ten year hiatus. Panorama also featured a number of other highly regarded, well known groups - many of which are likely to continue gaining recognition.
In the photo at right, vocalist Sza, is performing in the Pavilion at the Panorama Music Festival on Randalls Island on Sunday.
The weather over weekend was a very seasonal hot, with temperatures hitting nearly 100 on Saturday [high 98], before descending into the low 90's on Sunday. But the island breeze coming across the East River on Randall's Island and not-too-high humidity, made strolling around the event campus not only doable, but enjoyable. There was also a public water station where you could refill your water bottle [free] and there was ample shade within the tree filled park.
The crowd dressed for Panorama to beat the heat, more than anything else. This translated into a near beach-like scene for people-watching, with many youthful men and women enjoying the glow of their Adonis-like years. In 1992 there was a gender equality lawsuit, which contested women's right to go topless without being arrested - a right men enjoyed in this country since its founding. More than a decade later, in 2015, panhandlers in Times Square began asserting that right by painting their bare breasts with American flags and other designs, while soliciting tips from resident and tourist passers-by, for the pleasure of viewing them. These 'performance artists' were nicknamed the 'Desnudas'.
NYS and NYC Government officials found a way to reign in this practice - as it was creating quite a stir - by confining the solicitations to specified areas within the Times Square Plaza. Fast forward to 2016 and things continue to evolve, with women now wearing swimsuit / lingerie-like tops as fashion statements, some of which were on display at the Panorama Music Festival.
In the photo at right, a woman sports a fashionable swimsuit / lingerie-like top, at the Panorama Music Festival on Randall's Island.
We'll have a bit more later this summer, including video and a discussion of some of the art on exhibit at the Panorama Music Festival on Randall's Island in NYC.
Astoria International Cultural Festival
On Saturday May 21st from 1.30 until past 6 pm, there was a series of cultural performances held on the Great Lawn of Astoria Park. The event was hosted by the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition [CALDC] to showcase the multi-ethnicity of tne neighborhood.
Nearly a dozen local cultural groups performed, including Ballet Los Pampas representing Argentina, KUD Halaturko representing Bosnia, Croatian Franciscan Fathers Youth Club, Ayazamana Cultural Center representing Ecuador, Cretan Association representing Greece, NYC Bhangra representing India, McManus School of Irish Dance, The Braata Folk Singers representing the Caribbean / Jamaica, and the Korean Traditional Music and Dance Center.
There was a crowd that numbered in the hundreds over the course of the afternoon. Many brought lawn chairs and blankets to sit upon while they watched the show. The weather cooperated as the temperature was in the 60's and while at times cloudy, it was dry.
Several food vendors came out to augment the cultural celebration, now in its second year. As I came late in the afternoon, I had missed the prime time of that part of the event. In the photo at right you can see one of the performers walking up the Astoria Park Great Lawn after her performance.
Click here for a brief video of some of the 2016 International Culture Festival in Astoria Park.
Person of Interest
'Irrelevant' Person Dead, 'Relevant' Person Still at Large
On Wednesday, April 6th shortly before 11 pm an unidentified motorist traveling south on 21st Street hit a pedestrian near 30th Road.
According to PIX11 News,
“The driver traveled a half a block with the victim on the hood of the car, slammed on the brakes, leaving the victim to fall on the roadway before fleeing the scene, according to a police source.”
PIX11 News also noted that the car may have been a Toyota [guess for yourself by watching the video], of a dark or red color, and that there was glass on the road, indicating that the car may have been damaged in the fatal hit & run. As of Monday noon, police had still not released the name of the dead man, pending family notification. The man was crossing 21st Street outside of the painted crosswalk lines.
This was a real homicide, but not pre-meditated murder, like the crimes that Harold Finch, John Reese and Detective Lionel Fusco attempt to solve before they happen in the CBS television series Person of Interest. But like the crimes pursued by the citizen heroes of the CBS television miniseries, there’s some reasonable probability that this hit and run homicide along 21st Street could have been prevented. In fact we documented the members of TA Queens trying to stop this fatality before it happened, wherein they assumed roles with moral parallels to the leading characters in the show Person of Interest.
Let’s examine the evidence. Click here to read the rest of our report about the hit and run fatality on 21st Street in Astoria / LIC at 30th Road including a graphic NYPD video of the collision.
Two Guys From Astoria: Astoria in the 1980's
Greater Astoria Historical Society Hosts a Contemporary History
I attended a program presented by Joseph Cicchelli and Steven Fella entitled Two Guys From Astoria, which was hosted by the Greater Astoria Historical Society. The program was in essence a contemporary history of Astoria presented by 'two guys from Astoria'.
The two guys, Joseph Cicchelli and Steven Fella, were neighbors in the Astoria section of Queens during the 1980's at a time when Astoria, Queens was in the midst of a much different kind of transition than ithe neighborhood is going through today. It was a time when an earlier wave of the Queens melting pot had become 'Americanized' while the next wave of immigration was in full bloom. Queens has a history of welcoming immigrants from around the globe, whose children grow up together culturally, as fellow Americans and fellow human beings.
But the story told by Cicchelli and Fella is a nostalgic look back at Americana as seen through the youthful eyes of two young Astorians who still are old neighborhood friends. The narrative takes place on the streets of Astoria numbered in the 40's around 30th Avenue. The Two Guys From Astoria presentation was delivered first-person, blog-style, bringing back to life many of the local and national icons of the time. Suped up cars, Pink Floyd, leather jackets and 'broken' fire hydrants, during the long hot summer days - were all a part of the narrative.
Click here to read the rest of a contemporary history of Astoria presented by Joseph Cicchelli and Steven Fella at the Greater Astoria Historical Society on January 11, 2016.
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Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
Holiday Tree Lighting & Celebration in Astoria
On Friday night the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria celebrated the advent of Christmas with its traditional Christmas Party. The holiday event was favored with unusually warm weather, somewhere in the high 50’s.
As I approached the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden I could easily see it from a distance, as it was festively adorned with hundreds of lights. There was a holiday market along the beer garden wall, which among other things, had Christmas trees of all sizes for sale.
Outside the gate there was a very large snowman and inside the beer garden a big jolly Santa riding high in his big wooden sleigh, behind a tall wooden reindeer. Santa was taking the kids for an imaginary ride into the wild blue yonder … "Ho, Ho, Ho ... Merry Christmas" bellowed the Big Man. The attending parents were provided with plenty of opportunities to take photos of Santa with their children and / or themselves.
A bit further into the beer garden there was a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, which had just been lit for the first time by Bohemian Hall and local government officials who had come to join the celebration. I arrived about a half hour after the official starting time, so while there was still a good sized crowd present, many of the local officials had departed. I spotted NYC City Councilmember Costa Constantinides relaxing with his family, and I later heard that NYS Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas had also been there.
The Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden had done nothing less than a marvelous job of providing the perfect holiday playground for young and old alike. Of course, this isn’t usually possible in Astoria in early December, because the temperatures are generally about 20 to 30 degrees cooler. But it was warm this year, so the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden took advantage of the weather, and the visiting crowd was quick to adapt to enjoying the warmer clime of the great outdoors.
Click here to read the rest of our report, including a video, of the holiday celebration and tree lighting at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden - one of the leading beer gardens in Queens.
DanceWorks New York City
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria Hosts DanceWorks
I just returned from one of the most exciting dance performances I’ve seen in a long, long while. The dances were performed at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria on Saturday night. Unfortunately, DanceWorks performances may only be seen twice a year and the next one isn't until May 21st 2016 at this same location.
The show opened with a short introduction by DanceWorks Founder Lisa Mara, and DanceWorks New York City Director Jackie Arcy. Their introduction was followed by a dance video. And then the show began.
The show presented about two dozen original works and literally included a cast of about 140 dancers and choreographers. All of the dancers and choreographers had auditioned to participate in the show and then practiced and rehearsed for 16 straight weeks. The show lasted two hours, but the time flew by.
The photo above shows one of the dance performances at DanceWorks New York City at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Click here to read the rest of our report about the semi-annual performance entitled DanceWorks New York City NYC at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria.
Hell Gate Horror was ... well ... horrifying ..
Neighborhood Halloween House Includes Plenty of Theater & Imagination
It was a hauntingly calm evening as I dared to return to the haunted Hell Gate Horror of Astoria. It was a century ago that the Hell Gate Bridge was nearing completion over the East River and the thought of what happened last year had raised the hair on my back as I approached.
This year I decided to take along a video camera so that what I might miss with my own eyes might be captured in the video. But alas, it was so dark, that even the camera couldn't keep pace with the spirits and ghosts hovering under the Hell Gate Bridge on this haunted horrifying evening.
They say a picture says a thousand words, so with that I'll let you take the journey into the Hell Gate Horror of Astoria yourself. If you click into the story we did last year and compare it to the video this year, you'll see they freshen it up with new themes, back drops and costumes. Boo.
Click here to see the video of the Hell Gate Horror Halloween House of Astoria.
Astoria Music Now
Astoria Arts & Music Hosts 7th Annual Astoria Musical Festival
On Saturday, August 29th I headed over to Astoria Park to attend the 7th Annual Astoria Music Now music festival. It was a near perfect day with the temperatures in the 80's, plenty of sun and not too much humidity.
There were three stages on the Great Lawn - one at the top of the hill, a second one near the foot of one of the towers of Hell Gate Bridge and the third along the East River along the western perimter of the Great Lawn. In this manner one could choose from three performances, and once chosen, listen out of earshot of the other two stages.
Before I settled in to listen to the music I decided to take a walk along the waterfront there were a number of art galleries / exhibits in tents lining the waterfront.
Click here to read the rest of the story, view photos and a video of Astoria Music Now.
Century Bike Ride Runs & Rests In Queens
September 14, 2015 / Astoria Neighborhood / Biking Queens / Queens Buzz. The Sunday forecast included a high probability of scattered thunderstorms, but fortunately for the Century bike riders the weather appeared to favor them.
The Century Bike Ride is organized by Transportation Alternatives, an environmentally-friendly group that promotes non-carbon and low carbon 'transportation alternatives' to NYC residents. This is the bike ride they sponsor and the receipts go toward their efforts to ensure the various levels of government do what they can to help promote a safe and regenerative urban transportation environment.
The Century Bike Ride offers four biking alternatives that individuals and / or groups can pursue on their own during the most-of-the-day event. The first start time was at 5.30 am in Central Park [Manhattan] and at 6 am for a Prospect Park [Brooklyn] start and the last rest stops at the two parks closed at 6 pm.
The four bike routes included a 35 mile, 55 mile, 75 mile and 100 mile [hence the name century] loop.The 35 mile loop is called the East River Ride, which runs along the East River primarily in Brooklyn and Queens. The ride started at 7.30 am and was expected to last between 3.5 and 7.5 hours. The 55 mile loop is called the Waterfront Ride which includes the East River loop, but also the Verrazzanno Bridge, Coney Island and part of the Brooklyn Greenway. This ride started at 7 am / 7.30 am and was expected to take about 3.5 to 8.5 hours. The 75 mile loop is called the Rockaways Ride and it excludes the north / south run along the East River in Brooklyn / Queens in exchange for a haul out to the Fort Tilden Beach in the Rockaways then north through a number of Queens Greenways [parks] before turning westward back toward Manhattan. The Century Bike Ride, the 100 miler, starts at 6 am / 6.30 am and is expected to take between six and twelve hours.
The Century Bike Ride started in 1989 and is celebrating its 26th year.
City of Water Day in Queens
The following are City of Water Day events in Queens. This information was taken from www.cityofwaterday.org website. They are organizers of the event.
- Long Island Community Boathouse - Location: Hallets Cove, 31st Ave. at Vernon Blvd - Time: 11am-2pm - Public walkup kayaking at Hallets Cove
- Urban Park Rangers - Location: Hallets Cove, 31st Ave. at Vernon Blvd - Time: 10am-2pm - Catch & release fishing
- NYC DEP - Location: Hallets Cove, 31st Ave. at Vernon Blvd - Time: 10am-2pm
- Long Island Community Boathouse - Location: Gantry State Park, 48th Ave. and Center Blvd - Time: 2:30pm-4pm - Free public walkup kayaking
- Long Island Community Gardens Inc. - Location: Gantry State Park, 48th Ave. and Center Blvd - Time: 12pm-4pm - Family festival at Gantry State Park
- Hunters Point Parks Conservancy - Location: Gantry State Park, 48th Ave. and Center Blvd - Time: 12pm-4pm - Morning: Gardening in the park, Afternoon: Narrated tour around Gantry State Park; Commemoration for Bill Bilyeski
- Friends of Queens Library at Hunters Point - Location: Gantry State Park, 48th Ave. and Center Blvd - Time: 12pm-4pm - Mobile library & story telling
- Green Shores NYC - Location: Gantry State Park, 48th Ave. and Center Blvd - Time: 12pm-4pm - Yoga, catch & release fishing off of pier, family friendly events
- Long Island Community Boathouse - Location: Anable Basin, 46th Ave. and North Basin Rd - Time: 2pm-6pm - Free public walkup kayaking
Tour de Queens
Transportation Alternatives Hosts 8th Annual Tour de Queens
The first Tour de Queens took place in 2008. The event was organized by Transportation Alternatives to encourage people to get on their bikes to see their neighborhoods. The idea is once people reaquaint themselves with the ease and joy of bicycle travel, they'll be more apt to get on their bicycle again.
The Tour de Queens route changes every year, and sometimes that includes the starting and end point. This year the event began in Astoria Park again and traveled south through Long Island City, east to Middle Village and north to Jackson Heights before returning to Astoria Park.
Sign up began at 8 am and the tour began promptly at 9.30 am. About 11,000 cyclists signed up for the Tour de Queens which cost $22.50 and $17.50 to register. The Tour de Queens is an escorted ride where the police temporarily set up barricades clearing the route as the bicyclists pass. This differs from both the 5 Boro Bike Ride and the Century Bike Ride where the route is cordoned off for a great deal of the day.
4th of July Fireworks Queens
Astoria Park Fireworks Celebration
Tonight there's an independence fireworks celebration in Astoria Park beginning at 7.30 pm. It's a near perfect night for them as the highs today will be around 80 and the lows in the mid 60's, with scant chance of any rain.
The festivities will begin with a concert on the Great Lawn. The West Point Band of the U.S. Military Academy will be performing a number of classical American tunes along with 19th century classical music.
Around dusk which has generally been around 9.30 pm, but is sometimes sooner because of cloud cover, the fireworks by the Grucci Brothers begins.
The fireworks are some of the best 4th of July fireworks in the city and generally last about a half hour. And then ... it's over. The community event is organized by the Central Astoria Local Development Corporation [aka CALDC].
On July 4th Queens will have a second opportunity to watch the fireworks, sponsored by Macy's, which are on the East River. Enjoy.
Art imitates life ... and ...
television brings back 1960's style & culture
Mad Men Exhibit At The Museum Of The Moving Image In Astoria
Mad Men is the creation of writer Matthew Weiner who previously worked as a contributor on the HBO series, The Sopranos. Weiner enlisted Lionsgate Television to collaborate with him in producing the show, which was aired on cable channel AMC TV beginning in 2007.
The first pilot episode was filmed at SilverCup Studios in Queens, with subsequent episodes being produced in Los Angeles. The last show of the series aired on April 5, 2015.
Hence the Mad Men exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria was perfectly timed, and it will be on display until June of this year. In the photo at right is Don Draper, the proverbial star of the show, in his New York City advertising office on AMC TV's Mad Men.
Sophocles Arrives In Athens Square Park
A History Of Athens Square Park In Astoria
March 30, 2015 / Astoria Neighborhood / Ethnic & Religious Culture In Queens / Queens Buzz. A new statue of Sophocles arrived in Athens Square Park on Saturday. The statue was erected as part of the Greek Independence celebration festivities in Astoria last weekend.
But for some it was a day to bear witness to the completion of a thirty-one year community effort to complete the vision of the park as first set forth by former Athens Square Park Dennis Syntilas over three decades ago.
And it was a bittersweet day, as Dennis Syntilas passed away only three prior to this event, in January of 2015.
Standing in the photo at right [from left to right] is Captain Dennis Mullany of the 114 Precinct, George Alexiou former President of the Greek Homeowners Association, George Delis current President of Athens Square Park, Sophocles [statue], George Stamatiades a longtime supporter and Community Board Member, and the woman standing at street level with the wavy auburn hair is Rita Syntilas who is the widow of Dennis Syntilias the former President of Athens Square Park.
Click here to read our full report regarding the history of Athens Square Park in Astoria, and the erection of the Sophocles statue during the Greek Independence celebrations in NYC in March of 2015.
Museum of the Moving Image Hosts Indie Cade
Indie Cade East Celebrates Third Year At MoMI
Indie Cade East came to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria last weekend. I believe it was the third or fourth year that the event was held at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC. Indie Cade is an interactive expo about all things pertaining to video and gaming, and it attracts a decidedly youthful crowd.
In the photo at right a young man tries on a pair of video goggles to 'get in the game'.
We'll have more about Indie Cade at a later date.
QNS Collective: We Will Still Be Here
Local Artist Photographs Dutch Kills Real Estate Development For Posterity
January 19, 2015 / Astoria & Dutch Kills LIC / Art Exhibits in Queens / Queens Buzz. It’s not often one gets to see a bit of history in the making. But last Saturday evening I made my way to the QNS Collective in Astoria / LIC to see a bit of it.
The event was the opening reception of We Will Be Here, a photographic exhibit by Salvador Espinoza about the changes taking place in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of Long Island City. The exhibit included 13 framed photos hanging on the walls of the second floor of the QNS Collective, a modern new office space in Astoria / LIC. Another twelve will be rotated into the exhibit during the course of its showing which runs through February 6th.
Dutch Kills Neighborhood Changing Fast
The photos are a recent look at the changes taking place in the Dutch Kills neighborhood. The photos were shot in black and white over the past year, and provide a personal glimpse of the development of the Dutch Kills neighborhood by someone who grew up in it and has spent the better part of his life living there. The photo above shows Salvador standing in front of one of his photos where his brother held up a photo of a vista one would previously encounter while standing at the Queensboro Plaza subway station, which is now hidden behind a number of shiny new highrises.
Salvador told me that he moved out of the neighborhood for a few years [to Sunnyside] and he frequently returned to visit family and friends. He started noticing significant changes to the neighborhood occurring between each visit. He thought that someone should start recording the changes, because the neighborhood he grew up in, would soon vanish into the past. After giving the idea some thought, he concluded that perhaps he was the one to do it. So he reached out to the Queens Council on the Arts and they provided him with a small grant to pursue the project.
Salvador Espinoza Photographer, Director & Collaborator
Many years ago Salvador had been an amateur photographer, and when he took up this project, he began anew. Over the course of the past year he started taking photos of the neighborhood including some of the everyday houses that likely will soon be demolished and replaced by apartment buildings, as the value of Dutch Kills real estate has skyrocketed in recent years.
Some of his photos include his neighborhood friends. I met Chris of EQ Lyrics, who is included in one of the photos of the exhibit. Chris had just completed a music video and tonight - as part of the exhibit opening - we were to witness the first public showing of Chris’s music video. Salvador directed it and Chris plays the leading male role.
The lights dimmed, the crowd gathered around in a sort of amphitheater configuration, and the video began. The video is called A Beautiful Day and it’s shot entirely in the LIC / Dutch Kills / Astoria neighborhood. The video takes us into Chris's life of getting drunk and banging chicks in the city [video still to your right]. We've embedded the video at the end of this story.
Click here to read the rest of our story about the photo exhibit We Will Still Be Here, about the changing face of Dutch Kills real estate, at the QNS Collective through February 6.
The Legend Of Hell Gate Horror
Hell Gate Horror Myth May Have Real Origins
October 19, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Culture / Queens Buzz. It’s not often one stumbles upon a legend and then finds himself riddled in its mysteries. But so it was last Saturday evening, while biking through Astoria Park that I encountered an older gentleman who called to me asking for help. It was near dusk as the sun began setting behind the skyline and the shadows grew longer.
He was sitting on a park bench overlooking the Hell Gate Bridge and dressed in clothing of years gone by. He had not shaved in several days and his hair was a bit disheveled. I sized him up as I approached and determined that he was probably ok.
“Hi. What’s up?” I asked.
“I need help.” He replied. I looked at him inquisitively as he didn’t appear to be in any immediate predicament, near as I could tell.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“I see by your bag that you work for a [web] magazine. Are you a reporter?” I nodded affirmatively. He pulled some photos from his coat and handed them to me.
I started thumbing through them, seeing what seemed to be photos of ghosts flying through the Astoria neighborhood. The photos weren’t that clear and mostly in black and white. I didn’t really know what to make of them.
The man looked at me intently, as if to measure my interest. “I’m trying to get back in.” He said. I looked at him stupefied. “What?” He repeated, “I’m trying to get back in.”
“I heard you the first time, but I don’t understand what you mean.” I replied.
He went onto explain. “The Hell Gate Bridge began construction over one hundred years ago. The construction went on between 1912 and 1918. I was one of the construction workers and every year right around Halloween we’d throw a party in this neighborhood, near a cemetery.”
“Nobody believed it at the time, but there were rumors that the cemetery was haunted and that those who walked through it around Halloween time, risked losing their body to one of the ghostly spirits. It seemed like pure nonsense, even at the time, one hundred years ago, as new scientific breakthroughs were being made all the time. Trains, autos, light bulbs and bridges like Hell Gate were examples of the huge changes we were seeing. Nobody really believed it, and certainly not me … but I was wrong.”
Click here to read the rest of the story about the Legend Of Hell Gate Horror.
Where For Art Thou?
Hip To Hip Theatre In The Park Keeps Wisdom Of Old Bard Alive In Queens
August 4, 2014 / Sunnyside Neighborhood & LIC Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. I attended one of the four Shakespeare in the Park performances this past weekend in Queens. Two Gentlemen of Verona was performed in Cunningham Park on Thursday and in Gantry State Park on Saturday and Cymbeline was performed in Sunnyside Gardens Park Friday evening and in Socrates Sculpture Park in LIC on Sunday evening.
Hip to Hip Theatre Company of Woodside was the theater company performing the 400 year old works which contain themes of love, friendship, greed, envy and (dis)trust that remain relevant to this day.
The actors wear microphones connected wirelessly to speakers, so that the audience is now able to hear every word they utter. In the early years of outdoor theater this wasn't possible. Thus technology has made watching outdoor theater far more enjoyable, not to mention easier on the actors' and actresses' vocal chords so that this weekend four performances were possible without so much as hearing one hoarse voice.
The free Shakespeare in Queens parks continues through the coming two weeks.
Summer Stage In Queens This Week
July 14, 2014 / Long Island City Neighborhood / Music In Queens / Things To Do Queens / Queens Buzz. There are so many things to do in Queens this summer that it's challenging to keep up with them. But this week, almost all week, Summer Stage comes to Queens at QueensBridge Park in Long Island City.
Last weekend there was a free Summer Stage concerts in Manhattan given by Cibo Matto. They performed to a near capacity crowd in Central Park likely because of the location, their popularity and fairly good weather [see photo at right].
This week, beginning Tuesday, July 15 Ismael Miranda, Rebel Tumbao & Joe Clausell will be on stage at QueensBridge Park beginning at 7 pm. On Wednesday, J Holiday & Jon B perform beginning at 7 pm.
On Thursday, Mobb Deep & Lyricist Lounge will begin performance at 7 pm. Friday Harambee Dance Company will be there beginning at 7 pm. And on Sunday beginning at 4 pm it's Queens Family Day with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College. All are free and the public is welcome to attend.
July 4th Fireworks Queens & Weekend
4th of July Fireworks Return To East River
July 4th, 2014 / Things To Do Queens / Queens Buzz.
Weather. Not ideal for fireworks. Friday it will be in the high 70's with about 65% humidity all day. Rain will hit between 3 & 4 pm and thereafter - until about 10 pm - there's a 50% chance of it. So for the fireworks display it's a 50 / 50% chance you may get wet.
For the rest of the weekend, the highs will climb to the mid 80's and it will be sunny and dry Saturday, with humidity climbing back to 50 - 65% Sunday.
Macy's 4th of July fireworks in Manhattan NYC. The Macy's 4th of July fireworks will likely begin around 9.30 pm which is when it gets dark enough to support a good show. But that said, you should probably get to where you're going to watch them no later than 9 pm, because the cloudy skies may allow them to get off to an early start.
Best Locations to view Macy's 4th of July fireworks in Queens NYC. There will be three barges in the East River from where the fireworks will be launched - two just south of the Brooklyn Bridge and one just north of it. The best viewing locations would be in and around the bridge including the South Street Seaport. But spots along the East River should allow for a pretty fair view, including Gantry State Park and Hunters Point South.
We'll post weekend events later today and Saturday.
Summer Solstice & Great Weekend
June 23, 2014 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Buzz. It was one of the near perfect weekends. The sun was shining, but not too hot and the air was warm and dry during the day and cool at night.
It was also the summer solstice - the longest day of the year - that point in the calendar from which the amount of daylight will begin to shrink. This was not lost on the general population as folks were out and about enjoying the weather.
There were sunbathers along the East River at Astoria Park and Gantry Park. And lots of sun worshippers in between. Make Music NY organized about 1,000 performances throughout the city, including quite a number of them in Queens. I hope you had a nice weekend and wish you the best in the coming week.
Relaxing Rooftop Repast On The Grange
Edible Queens Hosts Farm Fresh Dining Days @ Brooklyn Grange
FYI - STILL A WORK IN PROCESS
May 25, 2014 / Astoria LIC & Sunnyside / Food, Beer & Wine In Queens / Queens Buzz. I just returned from a very relaxing Memorial Day Weekend afternoon, spent out in the country, on a farm, enjoying a farm fresh dinner with a very laid back Queens crowd from many different walks of life.
I didn’t leave the city. I didn’t even leave Queens. And in fact, I barely left Sunnyside. But I felt like I had gone many, many miles away; into the rolling green farmlands and golden sunshine of … well … rooftop Queens.
I took the elevator up to the Brooklyn Grange, high atop the Standard Motor Lofts Building along Northern Blvd in LIC. It was like entering a tele-porter, that took me up and away from the city into Queens farm country.
Edible Queens, a quarterly magazine about dining & culture, organized the dinner which is one of a series they’ve entitled Butcher Paper Dinners. They have planned and scheduled five more of these afternoon / evening dinners between now and October so you’d best rsvp if you’re interested because once word gets out about these dinners, tickets are likely to go fast.
The afternoon consisted of sipping unique blends of local beers made in LIC and crisp golden Reisling wines grown and made in upstate New York; while sampling freshly cooked tasso beignets and boiled crawfish by one of NYC’s celebrated chefs.
Click here to read more about the Edible Queens dinners at the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm in Queens.
Randall's Island Bike Ride
Weekend Day Ride Feels Miles Away
May 12, 2014 / Astoria / Queens Bike Paths / Queens Buzz. I decided to attend the Frieze Art Fair on Randall's Island this past weekend. There are three ways to travel to Randall's Island: the ferry service from LIC, driving a car along the Grand Central Parkway part way over the RFK / Triborough Bridge or walking / biking on the pedestrian / bike path over the RFK / Triborough Bridge. I decided to take the latter and bike to Randall's Island.
Randall's Island is located in the middle of the East River, just across from Astoria Park. It is home to Icahn Stadium, an important NY Fire Department complex, a police station and a psychiatric hospital. There are also a number athletic fields which on this particular weekend seemed to be put to good use by a number of soccer leagues.
I started my journey at 27th Street on the north end of Hoyt Avenue which runs alongside the Grand Central Parkway leading to the RFK / Triborough Bridge. The entrance is inconspicuous and you have to carry your bike up a healthy set of stairs. For a while you'll be biking in a partitioned bike lane alongside the incessant flow of speeding traffic of the Grand Central Parkway, before you're taken above the din, up into the lofty heights of the Triborough Bridge. If you have a great fear of heights, this is not the journey for you.
We'll post more about the bike path to Randall's Island, including a photo slide show, at a later date.
Greek Orthodox Easter Tradition In Astoria
St. Demetrios Cathedral Holy Friday Procession With Epitaphios In Astoria
April 21, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Ethnic Culture In Queens / Queens Buzz. Friday night I made my way into Astoria to watch the St Demetrios Cathedral Holy Friday procession with the epitaphios. I arrived a bit after 9 pm, and they had just left the cathedral. The service began at 7 pm and it's followed by the public procession into the Astorian streets to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, some 2014 years ago.
A contingent leads the parade, including a man carrying a crucifix, symbolizing the cross that Jesus was nailed to, when he was executed as a threat to the Roman Empire. Following behind the first contingent is another group of men who carry the epitaphios. The epitaphios is a floral covered structure that looks a bit like a carriage and coffin. And following the epitaphios are the parishoners, which in the case of the St. Demetrios Cathedral procession likely numbered in the low single digit thousand(s).
In the photo to your right you can see the epitaphios at left and the St. Demetrios parishoners on Holy Friday night in Astoria. We'll post a photo slide show later this day or week.
World's Fairs 1939 & 1964 Redux
Those Crazy Middletons Return To Queens
March 25, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens History / Queens Buzz. I attended the first film of a Greater Astoria Historical Society month long program featuring films, lectures and a walking tour of the fairgrounds of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs in NYC. Both fairs were hosted in Flushing Meadows Corona Park just south of CitiField Stadium.
There was a great deal of promotion surrounding the 1939 World's Fair as NYC rolled out the red carpet for travelers from around the nation and around the world. Robert Moses, the NYC Parks Commissioner, had chosen the site as he planned to use development funds to continue his efforts to convert the old ashpile into the beautiful park it is today [although it could use a bigger maintenance budget].
The Middletons returned to Queens via celluloid, as shown in the film still above right. In this photo the Middletons are at the 1939 World's Fair in the Westinghouse area, which they never left since Westinghouse had produced the film.
The theme was the World of Tomorrow, and the 1939 World's Fair showcased science and consumerism in a utopian vision of the future. But WWII was around the corner, and helped contribute to the fair financial woes.
The Greater Astoria Historical Society continues its journey into the past with a second film to be shown Saturday at 1.30 pm at their Astoria location. The film on Saturday will be about the 1964 World's Fair. Lectures and walking tour to follow later in March and April.
Click here to read a report we filed last year about the 1939 World's Fair in NYC.
My Father My Don - Hollywood East
A Son's Journey From Organized Crime To Sobriety
On The Scene At Halvatzis Astoria Studio
January 14, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. I had an opportunity to watch the filming of a new indie in the making. The film is based on the book, My Father My Don, by Tony ['Tony Nap'] Napoli.
The story is an autobiographical account of Tony Napoli's life which began in 1935. But the book reaches back into the 1880's in recounting how Tony's father 'Jimmy Nap' began his life of crime. Jimmy Nap ran one of the biggest illegal gambling operations in America in the 1970's and 1980's. Jimmy Nap's gambling operations, which he ran for the Genovese Crime Family, is believed to have grossed many, many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tony was the son of this infamous Brooklyn mobster, who among other things, did bootleg runs for Al Capone in his early years. Tony's story is one of redemption, as he used to be a mob enforcer, making sure people paid up on their numbers and other gambling debts. He worked for his father, his don [don means boss]; and eventually took to the bottle to numb the pain.
In the photo above we see the film crew in action at the offices of Halvatzis Realty on Ditmars Blvd in Astoria [aka Halvatzis Astoria Studio]. In this scene Tony's father, Jimmy, is called into Al Capone's office after finishing a bootleg run.
Producer Hussain Ahmed wrote and is directing the 20 minute short film in Queens. Click here to read the rest of our report, including a photo slide show of the production of the independent film, My Father, My Don in Queens NYC, and a brief interview with Tony Napoli, the author and resident of Forest Hills in Queens.
Affordable Care / Obamacare Comes To Queens
Queens Prepares For The Affordable Healthcare Act
November 13, 2013. Update - Over 197,000 New Yorkers Have Completed Applications of which over 48,000 have already selected and enrolled in a plan. Over 142,000 people were helped by the New York State of Health which runs the health plan marketplace for New York State. Note that open enrollment for the tax year 2014 ends on March 31, 2014.
November 7, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Healthcare in Queens / Queens Buzz. I just returned from the United Civic Community Association [UCCA] sponsored forum on Obamacare at the Museum of the Moving Image. The forum did a nice job of providing what appeared to be a good summary look into what the federal government’s Affordable Healthcare Act [also known as Obamacare] is really all about.
The forum was moderated by Rose Marie Poveromo, President of the United Community Civic Association of Astoria and included a panel of experts. The panel included U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, Rebecca Jackson, a NY State of Health Project Coordinator, Caryn Schwab Executive Director of Mount Sinai Queens, Judy Trilivas Chief Operating Officer of Mount Sinai Queens and Minna Elias Congresswoman Maloney’s Chief of Staff. They are shown seated from left to right in the photo above, at the UCCA hosted Obamacare Forum at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.
Click here to read more about Affordable Care / Obamacare comes to Queens.
Queens Next Great Museum?
Friends of Steinway Mansion Begin Their Journey
October 8, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens History / Queens Buzz. They reminded me a bit of George Washington's rag tag band, scurrying from pitched battle to pitched battle, never really winning ... until the end ... because of their unyielding will and their relentless pursuit of the greater good. This is a story about the Friends of the Steinway Mansion.
In 2010 Michael Halberian, the longest living inhabitant of the Steinway Mansion, put it on the market, likely knowing at the age of 83, that his time here on the planet was limited. After a flurry of publicity and verbal support for preserving the Steinway Mansion by Queens government officials, interest in it died down shortly after Michael's death in December of 2010.
But not everyone lost interst ... click here to read our report on an effort to preserve the Steinway Mansion by its Friends and transform it into a world class museum.
Offer Made For Steinway & Sons Piano
Kohlberg & Co Bids For Steinway Musical Instruments
July 23, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Business / News & Opinion / Queens Buzz. Kohlberg & Company offerred $438 million for the Steinway Musical Instruments Company, owner of Steinway & Sons Piano in Astoria. The 160 year old company, Steinway & Sons Piano, was founded in Manhattan in 1853.
Kohlberg & Co Offer
The Steinway & Piano Company has changed hands a couple of times over the past 160 years, once being acquired by CBS Television, and later being acquired by Selmer Musical Instruments.
Click here to read more about the Kohlberg & Company Offer to buy Steinway Musical Instruments in Queens.
32,000 Bikers Pass Thru Queens: 5 Boro Bike Tour
May 5, 2013 / Long Island City & Astoria / Biking Queens / Queens Buzz. This Sunday some 32,000 bicyclists rode through Astoria and LIC on their way to completing a 40 mile bike ride through all five boroughs of NYC. Photographer Abdel Berrera caught up with them at the Astoria Park rest station where many took a moment to catch their breath.
Many of the cyclists come from other countries and other states. The bikers see this as a nice way to see all of New York City, not just Manhattan.
There are two 5 Boro Bike Tour rest stops: the first in Astoria Park and the second at the Con Ed rest station along the East River. Many took some time out to make adjustments to their bikes, gear and selves; and consumed a bit of food before resuming the relaxing trip and heading on to Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Click here to read a brief report and to see a photo slide show of the 5 Boro Bike Ride in Queens shot by Astoria photographer Abdel Berraha.
Astoria Moms Defend Children’s Rights
Madmen: Bloomberg Dept of Education Does A Don Draper
March 19, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz. Editorial / Report. We attended a Community Board One Meeting Tuesday evening, following up on the concerns of Astoria parents, regarding the proposed changes to PS 122, which were recently announced by the Department of Education [DOE].
Having spent a week in pursuit of information from the DOE about the proposed changes – statements regarding the difficulty in obtaining information from them - rang true.
In the photo above, Anastasia Cunningham and her son talk about how the Dept of Ed hasn't put anything in writing, hasn't conducted any impact study, and she talked about how the changes could possibly destroy the learning environment that contributes to the success of PS 122 in Astoria.
Click here to read the rest of our Editorial / Report on the Community Board One Meeting regarding Department of Education proposed changes to PS 122 Astoria. Story & photos by Michael Wood.
Battle For Control Of PS 122 Astoria
Dept of Ed Announces Big Changes & Few Details
Public Education Could Be Defining Issue Of NYC Mayoral Race
March 17, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz. The Department of Education announced its intention to make sweeping changes to PS 122 on February 28, 2013 to the PTA of the school. We were told of the general gist of these changes by PS 122 PTA members and parents. We then followed up with the Department of Education, to be sure we understood the Department of Education’s announcement correctly.
Before we discuss the general gist of the Department of Education plans for PS 122, it helps to have a bit of background to better understand what appears to be happening.
There are several important elements that seem to be at the core of the issue: 1) the Department of Education’s plans to reconfigure one of the most successful public elementary / intermediate schools in Queens and the NYC school system, 2) the Department of Education’s sudden interest in providing the school children of PS 122 grades K through 5 with the opportunity to continue matriculation within the same school [building] throughout all eight grades [6 – 8], and 3) Success Academy Charter Schools announcement that they plan to open a new charter school in Queens school district 30 in August of 2014.
Click here to read the beginning of our DRAFT report about the Department of Education Plans to reconfigure PS 122 in Astoria. Be advised that there is a Community Board One Meeting March 19, Tuesday evening beginning at 6.30 pm at the Astoria World Manor and a PEP Meeting on March 20th in Brooklyn. The large top photo above was published with permission by Nigel McKenna and the second photo was taken by Queens Buzz of NYC Comptroller and possible Mayoral candidate John Liu listening to concerned PS 122 parents at a United Community Civic Association meeting in Astoria.
Poletti Power Plant Deconstruction
NY Power Authority Works To Safely Remove Materials
March 11, 2013 / Astoria / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Buzz. I attended a meeting on Thursday evening about the de-construction of the Poletti Power Plant, which is situated on the NY Power Authority site in the northwest section of Astoria. The meeting was sponsored by the United Community Civic Association [aka UCCA] and the event was held at the Augustana Lutheran Church on Ditmars Blvd in Astoria Heights.
The bottom line is that current plans call for the de-construction of the old Poletti Power plan to be completed by December 31, 2014. Current planning is underway to figure out how to approach the removal of the old plant materials. Some of the issues include routing of them via trucks through Astoria or via barge on the East River.
Click here for the rest of our report, including photos of the NY Power Authority & Poletti Power Plant de-construction. By Michael Wood.
Astoria Neighborhood Directory & Things To Do
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Queens Food Fusion
Nutrition & Sumptuous Cuisine in Queens
March 6, 2013 / Food in Queens / Astoria / Queens Buzz. I attended a nutritious cooking class on February 27th featuring Rocco Sacramone, head Chef and Founder, of Trattoria L’incontro of Astoria; working in tandem with Effie Nerantzis, a Registered Dietician, from Mount Sinai Queens. The event was hosted by the United Community Civic Association at the Central Sushi Bar and Lounge in Astoria. And the program was sponsored by Mount Sinai Queens as part of their community health education outreach efforts, some of which we've covered in the past [see Queens healthcare section]. This particular program was intended to demonstrate how to prepare great tasting foods that are healthy and admission was free.
I knew going into this event that it had been fully booked. So I wasn’t surprised as I entered a banquet room, which was fully seated. Rocco and Effie were conversing off stage; while Shelly Felder, Sr Director of Marketing & Communications at Mount Sinai Queens, conversed with Rose Marie Poveromo, President of the United Community Civic Association. The show was about to begin.
Click here for our report, including recipes and slide show with photos of Chef Rocco Sacramone of Trattoria L’incontro preparing heart healthy foods.
Pedestrian Malls In Queens
Meeting On Astoria Pedestrian Mall Tuesday
September 10, 2012 / Astoria / Queens Community Issues / Queens Buzz. On Tuesday evening September 11, there’s a Community Board 1 meeting at the Astoria World Manor on 25-22 Astoria Blvd. One of the topics on the agenda is which DOT [Department of Transportation] proposal to approve, regarding changing the traffic configuration in and around the intersection of Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue in Astoria.
According to the Queens DOT, this intersection is the site of numerous accidents, and is more dangerous than approximately 90% of all intersections in Queens. It’s not difficult to understand why, as it is the nexus point for five roads: east & west on 30th Avenue, north & south on 33rd Street and northwest on Newtown Avenue [see map on next page]. The photo to your left was taken on August 25th when Newtown Avenue was temporarily converted into a pedestrian plaza.
Click here to read our report on the Newtown Plaza, in which we include related reports on other pedestrian malls in Queens, NYC and NYS.
Rewired State @ MOMI
Kids Converge In Astoria To Build Apps
July 1, 2013 / Astoria / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the Museum of the Moving Image [MOMI] to view the results of a weekend long program at MOMI, entitled Rewired State. The program invited area kids in grade school and high school to spend a good part of the weekend at the museum, building software applications that leveraged datasets made available by various bodies of government.
The kids ranged from very young to ready to go to college. Many of the apps leveraged public datasets into maps, but there were several that went beyond. In the photo to your right are a brother / sister team that built an app showing where many of the graffiti spots are in NYC. Given they only had two days to complete their work, they weren't able to finish it.
We'll have more on this program later. It was a great learning experience for kids - not just in terms of learning how to build software applications - but also how to work on a team.
We'll have more on this seminar later in the quarter. In the meantime click here for other Astoria News briefs.
Astoria Maps - Overview
Click to view three maps of Astoria: 1) Map of Shopping Districts In Astoria with links to shop home pages on this site, 2) Map of Astoria Restaurants that have been reviewed on this site, and 3) Map of cultural attractions in Astoria most for which there are reports about them to be found on this site.
Click here to view Astoria Maps - Maps of Shops, Restaurants and Cultural Attractions in Astoria Queens. It's also a map of some things to do in Astoria Queens.
Restaurants In Astoria
Cafe Bar Locale Italian Restaurant In Queens
Astoria Neighborhood / Astoria Restaurants / Queens Restaurants / Queens Buzz. This is a review of Café Bar Locale, a Mediterranean style Italian restaurant located in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens NY. Cafe Bar Locale is a casual dining restaurant and offers street side tables during the warmer weather.
Cafe Bar Locale is located near the Museum Of The Moving Image, the Frank Sinatra School Of The Arts and Kaufman Astoria Studios. The restaurant is accessible by foot from Sunnyside and Astoria, and by public transit along the N line as it is just a block south of Broadway St and between Steinway and 31st Street.
We visited the restaurant one comfortable evening and here is what we found. Click here to read a full review of Cafe Bar Locale - Italian Restaurant in Astoria.
Restaurants In Astoria
Kyclades Albanian Seafood Restaurant
Astoria Neighborhood / Astoria Restaurants / Queens Restaurants / Queens Buzz. Taverna Kyclades is located on Ditmars in northern Astoris. The Albanian style seafood restaurant provides its clientele with a full Adriatic menu and is well known for its delights from the sea. One could get the feeling of being along the Adriatic on a rainy windswept evening as we dined on octopus, red snapper and lamb chops, as well as a full complement of side dishes.Kyclades is located along Ditmars Blvd and can be reached via the N Subway line. Click here to view the full review of the Taverna Kyclades - Albanian Greek restaurants in Astoria.
Furniture Stores In Queens
Furniture In Astoria
This is a story about shopping for furniture and other things in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens NY. The story includes interviews with the proprietors and managers of many stores including three furniture stores in Astoria Queens.
Click here to read more about furniture and furniture stores in Astoria, LIC & Queens.
Men's Clothing Stores In Astoria Queens
Astoria is home to one of Queen's finest men's clothing stores. I stopped in to get the word on what's going on mens' clothing styles. For the rest of the story click Men's Clothing Styles.
Clothing styles are always changing, although historically far less often for men than for women. Nonetheless, the range of colors a man can comfortably wear has changed significantly over the years. We're also seeing an increase in the use of men's hats. Part of this is a fashion statement while some of it has practical value, shading a man's head from the hot sun [we're seeing women wearing these hats too].
Click here to read our report about men's clothing in Astoria Queens.
Astoria Cove Real Estate Development
East River Waterfront Transformation Moves North
Updated December 3, 2014. The Astoria Cove development passed the NY City Council.
August 18, 2014 / Queens & Astoria Real Estate / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. Unbeknownst to at least a few of the folks who live in the far northwest corner of Astoria and Queens, big plans for changes have been taking shape over the past couple of years.
The Hallets Point development passed Community Board One in May of 2013 and the Astoria Cove development is making its way through the governmental gauntlet of real estate development approvals.
The plan calls for a large new complex along the East River which will occupy the location where the building in the photo now stands, along with several other blocks of territory which will become its footprint. The building shown above is about a block east of Build It Green.
Community Board One and the Queens Borough President had issues with the development, primarily calling for a buildout of public infrastructure to support the development as well as for the inclusion of a higher number of affordable housing units. The development will be built completely on privately purchased land, which is in contrast to the Hallets Point development which was done using NYCHA [NYC Housing Authority] property.
We'll have more about this at a later date.
Astoria Real Estate - Astoria
Real Estate, Realtors, Condos, Apartments, Prices & Market
Astoria Real Estate / Queens Real Estate / Queens Buzz. This is the Astoria Real Estate section of the site.
Click here to view reports about business and real estate in Astoria Queens.
Astoria Real Estate
Astoria / Queens / Updated August 30, 2012 / First published Dec 2009. This is a report on Astoria real estate. The report includes a discussion of supply and demand in the Astoria real estate market, as well as for apartment rentals. Financing and demographic shifts are also included in this report and we have included links to related Queens real estate reports, home pages and real estate classifieds.
Exclusive Coverage Of The Steinway Mansion & History
Updated January 2017 / March 8, 2014 / Astoria / Steinway Mansion / Queens Buzz. To date we've published three full stories and two short reports on the Steinway Mansion in Astoria Queens. The Steinway Mansion is one of the last remaining 'country estates' of 19th century Queens. It was also the home of the Steinways of Steinway & Sons Piano fame for nearly a half century.
I felt like I'd stepped through a time warp, back into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The visit connected me to one of the legendary centerpieces of Queens history - the Steinway family and the mansion they occupied during their golden years ... but the mansion's history neither starts nor ends there.
Join us on this fascinating voyage into the past and join City Council Member Peter Vallone in his fight to preserve the mansion which now stands at a crossroads of being converted into a museum and cultural center - or possibly being lost forever.
Click here to read our reports and view our photos of the Steinway Mansion in Astoria Queens.
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