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.
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.
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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.
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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.
- CLICK for a report about the Hell Gate Horror show in Astoria in October 2015.
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.
- CLICK for the Legend of Hell Gate Horror in Astoria.
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.
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.
- CLICK for story about independent film production in Queens NYC.
- CLICK to view a report about the 5 Boro Bike Ride in Queens / Astoria rest stop.
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