Things To Do - Sunnyside & Woodside
Passover Celebrated in Queens
Millennial Old Tradition Continues at Sunnyside Synagogue
On Friday morning, the first day of Passover, I visited the The Young Israel of Sunnyside Synagogue, located along 43rd Avenue at 46th Street. There I met Stephen Weiner, a former president and longtime member, with whom I spent some time reviewing the importance and significance of the Passover tradition in Jewish culture.
Passover Commemorates Jewish Flight From Slavery in Egypt 3,500 Years Ago
Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt about 3,500 years ago. The exodus was easily one of the most defining chapters in the Hebrew tradition, as it marks the Jews flight to freedom, which ended with them settling at the base of Mount Sinai after traveling 44 days through the desert. We’ll return to the Jews settling at the base of Mount Sinai later in this report, as that happened 44 days after the period of the Jews escape from Egypt which is remembered in the Passover celebration.
Young Israel of Sunnyside – An Orthodox Synagogue
Stephen told me that the Young Israel of Sunnyside Synagogue was an Orthodox Synagogue. Generally speaking orthodox branches of any religion hold more firmly to time tested traditions, while reform movements generally take some liberties in modifying some of the religious practices, ostensibly to modernize them. The Christian religion has an Orthodox branch, a Roman Catholic branch and a Protestant branch. The relationship of the Protestant branch of Christianity vis a vis Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians is similar to the relationship of Reform Jews are to Orthodox Judaism.
Origins of the Jewish Cultural Narrative About 4,000 Years Ago
The Jewish tribes began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph, who as the story goes, was left for dead by his brothers in a well. He was saved and rose to become something like the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Following his death, the reigning Pharaoh became concerned that the Jews would eventually take over the kingdom, or side with the Egyptians’ enemies to overthrow them. So the Pharaoh made slaves of the Jews and eventually decided to start drowning the first-born males in the Nile River. Moses, as the story goes, was saved by being placed in a basket and floated down the Nile, where he was saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter.
St Patricks Day Parade 2016
St Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside Enters a New Era
I attended the St Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside on Sunday. I came very, very late for the speeches, but one of the announcements made was that the Mayor will be marching in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan on March 17th as the dispute regarding LGBT marchers has ended. The Sunnyside / Woodside St. Pat's For All Parade began in protest to the ban of LGBT Irish to fully participate [free expression / come out] in the parade.
Conservative Catholics, including the Conservative Irish, believe it's against the Christian Church teachings to permit / tolerate LGBT behavior, based on interpretations of Biblical teachings. The Bible is a collection of religious writings created about 2,000 years ago, the first half of which includes stories handed down through oral traditions dating back centuries prior to the time of Christ - if not longer. Hence the Irish in charge of the St. Pat's Parade in Manhattan embraced the Conservative Catholic point of view, and up until this year, banned LGBT people from full participation in the parade.
In 2015 Manhattan St Pat's Day Parade sponsors, including Guinness which is a not only an Irish beer-like drink, but also a defacto Irish institution - pulled out of the parade in protest of the LGBT ban. Just one year earlier, in 2014, Mayor de Blasio declined an invitation to march in the parade because of the LGBT ban. In 2013, in spite of the LGBT ban, Mayor Bloomberg continued the mayoral practice of marching in the Manhattan St Patrick's Day Parade.
Pope Francis, the Catholic Pope since March 2013, has taken a less dogmatic and less conservative approach to the issue of LGBT sexuality than his predecessors. Instead of embracing intolerance and exclusion, he has cited other Christian Church teachings which advocate love and respect for your fellow human beings, and hence has ushered in a more tolerant - if not accepting - position by the Catholic Church. On the Manhattan St Patricks Day Parade website we found the following statement,
"When asked about his stand on gay priests, Pope Francis did not stray from the Church’s doctrine, but told reporters,
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” "
We researched the LGBT topic back in 2010 and posted this report regarding the science and history of gay rights in NYC.
Hence the Sunnyside / Woodside St Pat's For All Parade enters a new era, as it's no longer a protest parade per se, but rather a Queens St Pat's Parade embracing the American philosophy of inclusion, respecting all people, as stated in the American Pledge of Allegiance which states,
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We may not all be Irish, but we are all Americans.
So this year I video recorded the parade, with a focus on the musical, dance & cultural performances by the groups participating in the parade. The recording includes a number of bagpipers, the names of which I didn't catch because they don't really market their names, the Brian Fleming Band playing fiddling Irish music, the McManus Irish Dance Company practicing a little marching number while they were waiting, but it's best done while marching which you'll see after the parade resumed moving, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra playing a jazzy tune and PS123 Sapphire Dance Line & the Marching Cobras from Harlem doing a great dance and music routine.
I cannot think of a better place for an Irish-hosted, multi-cultural parade than Queens, which may be what the St Pat's For All begins to evolve into, having successfully protested the former, excusionary practices of the St Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan.
Click here to watch the St Pat's For All Parade 2016 Sunnyside Queens video. Happy St Patrick's month.
The photo above shows the speakers on the podium [front row left to right] which include Public Advocate Letitia James, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, CCM Daniel Dromm, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brendan Faye, a parade co-Founder [back turned to us], and to the far right Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy also one of the parade co-Founders of the event. Behind them you can find [but you have to look hard / left to right] NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, CCM Jimmy Van Bramer, Congressman Crowley and NYC Mayor de Blasio.
Flicks N' Jazz in Sunnyside Gardens Park
Flicks N’ Jazz In The Garden Attracts Crowd of Nearly 800
I attended the fifth annual Flicks N' Jazz in the Garden in Sunnyside Gardens Park. In prior years I had written several stories about the film portion of the program, so this year I decided to focus on the new addition to the event moniker … jazz.
Sunnyside is home to quite a number of jazz musicians, and the neighborhood periodically gets to enjoy listening to these talented performers for free or only a few dollars. The Bix Biederbecke concert in August is one such occasion, and the Flicks N’ Jazz in the Garden is another.
In the first year of Flicks in the Garden , Sunnyside Gardens Park had set up the screen in an area near the park entrance. Phil Valenti and the Broken Hearted Blues Band was the first band to play for the Flicks event. They were, in a sense, the warm up band or the preamble for the Flicks in the Garden event. Their bluesy tunes were a big hit with the crowd. Phil Valenti runs Go Natural Health Foods and Juice Bar on Queens Blvd between 45th and 46th Streets.
Click here to read more about Flicks N' Jazz in the Garden & see video of Wake Up! including members of the Street Beat Brass Band.
Memorial Day With Chief Joseph
A Conversation in First Calvary Cemetery in Queens
On Memorial Day, I decided to make a trip to the First Calvary Cemetery to visit the graves of those who gave their lives defending this nation where the founding charters promise all [wo]men the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They fought for a noble cause I thought as I made my way, on a beautiful day, to the Calvary cemetery in Queens.
The First Calvary cemetery opened in the late 1840’s [circa 1847 – 1848] and was located only a short ferry ride away from Manhattan, up Newtown Creek. A couple more cemeteries were opened as the 19th century wore on, as most of Queens was still rural farmlands and woodlands. Many of the burials of the first century of operation were of Catholic Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants - including many children. And many soldiers had been buried here as well, most of whom were from the Civil War era.
As I was viewing a collection of the tombstones, reflecting on the lives sacrificed in the war over slavery, as well as the more recent wars that pulled nearly the entire planet into battle, a human figure in the distance caught my attention. A man appeared to be making his way toward me, in this lonely empty section of the cemetery. I pulled out of my musings, and began to focus on his emerging presence as he made his way up the hill.
He was an old man, of medium height, with long black and grey hair and a weathered, leathery skin. He was wearing an old work shirt and dark trousers and beaten leather shoes. No, they were mocassins.
His countenance resembled that of a legendary Indian: Chief Joseph. Chief Joseph was a tribal leader of the Nez Perce tribe in the Wallowa Valley in northeast Oregon. Chief Joseph was born in 1840, only years before this cemetery was founded. And he had visited New York City in 1897 to march alongside Buffalo Bill in a Wild West Parade.
He slowly raised his right arm, palm open and fingers standing straight up like a Boy Scout, and in a deep full voice he said,
I stood a bit at attention as I returned the greeting.
“Hi. How are you doing?”
He spoke again, this time in a language I did not understand.
“Mumba goycha tay.”
I looked at him and shook my head back and forth indicating that I did not understand what he’d just said.
Click here to read the rest of our Memorial Day fiction in Calvary Cemetery in Queens.
African American History Revisited
African American Film Makers Explore Their Predecessors' Experience With Fresh Lens
Film Event In Sunnyside
February 17, 2014 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. On Saturday evening, February 22nd, the East Coast premiere of Freedom Summer is being hosted at the Sunnyside Reformed Church. Emmy Award winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, will be on hand to discuss the making of the new film which premiered at the Sundance 2014 Film Festival in January.
I spoke with Stanley via telephone about the documentary, which covers the summer of 1964 when Mississippi was burning. White Mississipians expected African Americans to bow their heads in deference and to step aside on sidewalks as white folks passed. Mississippi had a whole host of laws and customs set in place which denied African Americans their full rights as American citizens, and as fellow human beings. And anyone - white or black - who tried to question the norms; felt the wrath of the white supremisists who embraced the culture.
About seven hundred students from around the nation [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] went down to Mississippi to help African Americans exercise their rights. Three of them - Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Early Chaney - went missing. After intense media / television coverage and national outrage, the FBI began a manhunt. The victims' bodies turned up 44 days later. All three had been shot at close range. The photo above is a still from the film Freedom Summer.
The documentary incorporates historical photos and media coverage and a little heard recorded telephone conversation between LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover. This report also includes background on film maker Stanley Nelson who runs a film making company / incubator in Harlem as he will be present to discuss film making at the event. Click here to read the rest of our report about Freedom Summer - premiere of an independent film in Queens or click here to rsvp a ticket to the free East Coast film premiere in Queens.
Bike Paths & Bike Lanes In Queens - Forum
Bicyclists & Others Meet To Discuss Bike Paths & Bike Lanes In Queens
Spring / Sunnyside / Biking in Queens / Queens Buzz. I attended a bike forum at the Sunnyside Community Services Center on a warm, wet Saturday in March. I noticed quite a few bikes locked to signs and poles outside the center as I entered. Inside there were between 50 – 75 people in attendance, most of who were bicycle enthusiasts, although I was informed that a few of the attendees were not.
The forum had been organized as a collaboration of Community Board Two [hereafter referred to as CB2], City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and the Queens Department of Transportation [hereafter referred to as QDOT]. Evan O’Neil and Emelia Crotty of CB2 moderated the session, outlining the history of bike lanes in western Queens, and the current state of bike lanes and bike parking. This helped put things in context, so that in the bike forum breakout sessions, participants could spend their time planning for the future.
Click here to read our report about the bike forum about adding bike lanes & bike paths in Queens. We've included a bit of NYC bike lane history and some info on what's going on in other parts of the world. There's also a slide show of the bike forum presentation and participants. Click here to view maps of bike lanes in Queens as of the end of 2011.
Thalia Theatre Bridges Cultural Divide
Sunnyside / Fall & Winter. I enjoyed a dance performance by the Mestizo Dance Company last Friday evening at the Thalia Theatre in Sunnyside. The show, which runs weekends through December 6th, is a panoply of colorful costumes, music by an accomplished eight piece band, all in support of an impressive performance by a full troupe of talented dancers. All tolled they performed nearly twenty dances from various parts of Latin America which the audience seemed to greatly enjoy.
Click here to view a story about the Best Of The Mestizos at Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside Queens.
Queens The Home Of Jazz
Bix Beiderbecke Concert in Sunnyside
August 19, 2012 / Sunnyside / Live Music in Queens / Queens Buzz. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Queens became known as the home of jazz because so many great jazz and blues musicians lived here. Some of the greats such Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald all had homes in Queens.
Bix Beiderbecke didn’t live long enough to become as well known as those mentioned above, but he was considered one of the great jazz musicians of his time and, over time, he’s being given greater recognition for his contributions to the art of the music.
Bix died in Sunnyside on 46th Street between Queens Blvd and 43rd Avenue where he spent his final days. And every summer since 2001, Sunnyside has celebrated his life with a musical get together.
Click here for more about the history of Bix Beiderbecke and the Bix Beiderbecke concert in Sunnyside.
American Meat - Unfinished Film
Documentary About Current State Of Food & Farming
Film Making in Queens / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Food & Wine / Queens Buzz. I managed to obtain an invitation to a screening of American Meat, which is an unfinished documentary film, at Cafe Marlene in Sunnyside. The screening was sponsored by Queens Harvest Co-op, which is an organization working to build an organic food cooperative in Queens.
The film is a rather eye opening look into how the economics of food / meat production in this country have taken us down an unsustainable path. A path which not only has significant health implications, but possibly even more dire consequences. The film provides an intelligent, behind-the-scenes look at how economics have been driving: 1) food production methods, 2) the composition of what's in the meat being sold at the grocery store, and 3) what we're feeding our children and ourselves.
The film was envisioned and began production in the spring of 2007 and the producers are hoping to finish it in 2011. Click here to view our preview of the unfinished documentary film entitled American Meat independent film at Cafe Marlene in Sunnyside and hosted by Queens Harvest Co-op.
Sunnyside Gardens Park
Membership Benefits & Dues
Private Parks in Sunnyside / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Green & Parks / Queens Buzz. This Saturday people from Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and further neighborhoods, made their way to the annual Sunnyside Gardens Pumpkin Patch and Oktoberfest. The day-long event attracted a larger crowd than I have ever seen there before.
Based on my photos and a quick and dirty head count, the event was likely attended by well over 1,000 people. We tried to photograph as many people as possible, as the slide show and photo album will attest.
Click here to view our report on Sunnyside Gardens Park including information about services, membership and dues [and the Pumpkin Patch and Oktoberfest event of 2011].
Sunnyside Shorts / Flicks In The Park
September 10, 2011 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. It was a comfortable Saturday evening as I headed into Sunnyside Gardens Park. Upon arrival I met Sherri Gamilin, one of the four producers of the event. A small crowd had already gathered and a local blues band was setting up. In the photo to your right are members of the audience who came to watch Sunnyside Shorts and Flicks In The Garden in Sunnyside Gardens Park.
Sherri talked about the changes made to the festival this year. They added live music, the Broken Hearted Blues Band, and joined forces with the organizers of the first annual ‘Flicks In The Garden’. Click here to read our full report, including synopses of the films shown and photos of the Sunnyside Shorts and Flicks In The Garden Film Festival.
Shenton, Shields, Spoletini & Wade
Perform At The Sunnyside Reformed Church
February 5, 2011 / Sunnyside / Queens Buzz. I attended one of the cultural events sponsored by the Sunnyside Reformed Church. The performance featured four accomplished musicians who gave standing ovation performances that included Italian opera, Broadway Musicals and classical jazz. In the photo above Baritone Giuseppe Spoletini is shown singing the Figaro Aria in Sunnyside.
The event sponsor, the Sunnyside Reformed Church, dates back over 400 years to the Dutch Calvinists, many of whom were early settlers of Queens during colonial times [circa 1600’s]. This report takes a look at both the musical performance and the sponsoring church, which is located at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 48th Street in Sunnyside.
Click here to read more about the jazz performance at Sunnyside Reformed Church.
Shopping Center & Map - Sunnyside & Woodside
Shops and Shopping in Sunnyside & Woodside
Sunnyside & Woodside / Queens Buzz. This is the Sunnyside & Woodside Shopping Center on Queens Buzz. This page contains home page links, contact info, maps for stores and shops located in Sunnyside & Woodside, Queens.
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