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Hunters Point South application assistance

HPS Town Halls Flyer 091714-1

First movie at LIC park a big hit

Source: Rob Basch

Source: Rob Basch

Sept. 22, By Christian Murray

More than 200 people attended the first movie screening at Hunters Point South Park on Saturday night.

The film, Julie & Julia, was displayed on a 26 x 24 foot screen, on what was a clear night offering unblemished views of Manhattan.

The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, which organized the event, selected the movie since a good portion of it was shot in Long Island City. The film contrasts the life of Chef Julia Child with the experiences of Long Island City resident Julie Powell, who wrote a popular blog about cooking all of Child’s recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within a year.

Julie Powell and Rob Basch

Julie Powell and Rob Basch

Powell, who has seen the film 13 times, had many supporters at the event, particularly her friends from the Murray Park dog run. They were there to “support me and make fun of me,” she said.

Powell spoke before the movie and discussed showcasing Long Island City to the late Nora Ephron, who directed the movie. She also talked about Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, which she said captured the soul of Child’s French cook book.

“The weather was perfect and a lot of people came with blankets, pillows and picnics,” said Robert Basch, who organized the event with the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy. He said LIC Landing had a pop corn machine going and was selling its regular food.

Basch said he was not sure when the next movie will be screened.“We don’t want our sponsors to pay $2,000 if the weather’s terrible.”

The film was sponsored by real estate firm Nest Seekers International.

For future events, click on Hunters Point Parks Conservancy Facebook page.

No. 7 train to be closed from Times Square to 74th Street this weekend

7subway1Sept. 19, By Michael Florio

Getting around New York City is going to be a lot tougher for many Long Island City residents this weekend.

Number 7 train service between Times Square-42nd Street and 74th Street/Roosevelt Ave will be suspended from 2 am Saturday through 4:30 am Monday, according to the MTA.

In lieu of the closures, the MTA will be providing two free shuttle services this weekend. One will run from Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Ave, 45th Road/Court House Square, and Queens Plaza.

The other will run between Queensboro Plaza and 74th Street/Broadway, stopping at 33rd Street, 40th Street, 46th Street, 52nd Street, 61st Street/Woodside, and 69th Street.

The service disruptions are due to ongoing construction taking place along the 7 line and are expected to continue until 2017.


Saga over back yard use continues, as Community Board 2 works on guidelines

Backyard at L'

Backyard at L’inizio

Sept. 18, By Christian Murray

Despite the weather cooling down, the advocates for rear yard dining along Vernon Boulevard are continuing to put the heat on Community Board 2.

Renee Katsaitis, who is spearheading the movement, called on the board earlier this month to produce guidelines so bars/restaurants on Vernon Blvd know where they stand when they apply for rear yard space.

In its quest for guidelines, Patrick O’Brien, the head of Community Board 2’s public safety committee, invited Ken Lazar, a representative from the Department of Buildings, to last Wednesday’s meeting to discuss what restaurant owners must do in order to use their backyard space.

Lazar said that in most cases a restaurant/bar must obtain a certificate of occupancy that expressly states “rear yard use.”

The process to get a certificate of occupancy for rear yard use is considered expensive and time consuming.

“This involves hiring an architect or an engineer to do a zoning analysis,” Lazar said. The applicant must provide proof that the establishment meets fire safety standards, has proper egress and complies with zoning, he said.

Restaurant owners, however, who operate out of a building that was constructed before 1938 do not need a certificate of occupancy if the backyard space was used by a bar/restaurant back then.

“These are the rules,” Lazar said. “I’ve read a lot of the press and blogs bashing your community board,” he said. “To be blunt your community board has nothing to do with it.” He said the restaurant owners just have to comply with the rules or advocate changing them.

The outspoken owners of Alobar and L’inizio, who both seek backyard use, said in separate interviews that they do not have a certificate of occupancy expressly stating rear yard use.

However, they said that the costs are onerous and it is too risky to spend all that money to get one if the board is going to say no.

“The board is using this certificate of occupancy issue as a distraction—a red herring,” said Jeff Blath, the owner of Alobar.

Blath said that the certificate of occupancy should not be all that relevant to the community board’s decision. After all, there is no reason, he said, why the board can’t approve a restaurant’s application for rear yard use and make it subject to obtaining a certificate of occupancy.

Argilio Rodriguez, an attorney who represents restaurants seeking liquor licenses, said that the State Liquor Authority requires bars/restaurants to have a certificate of occupancy before they can open their rear yards in any case. Therefore, he said, this is not an issue that the community board needs to dig into too deeply.

There is no reason, he added, why the community board can’t approve an application and make it “subject to getting DOB’s approval” like it often does with hours of operation.

He said it is unreasonable to expect businesses to spend thousands of dollars without any assurances.

“It’s a catch 22,” said Tom Blaze, the owner of L’inizio. “If we spend thousands of dollars to seek a certificate of occupancy—and they say no we are out a lot of money.”

Jeff Blath in his rear patio area

Jeff Blath in his rear patio area

5-story building going up on Vernon Blvd

Vernon Blvd construction

Sept. 16, Staff Report

Construction has started on a 5-story, 15-unit residential building on Vernon Boulevard, according to Department of Building records.

In the past week, a construction fence has gone up around the periphery of the 49-18 Vernon Blvd property, which is currently a vacant lot door next to Butcher Gourmet Deli.

The owner of Butcher Gourmet Deli has a large ownership interest in the new development. However, he did not want to elaborate.

The Dept. of Building filing states that it will be a mixed use property, indicating that it will include ground-floor retail space.

Outdoor flea market to open in Court Square this Saturday

Location of Court Square Flea

Location of Court Square Flea

Sept. 16, By Michael Florio

A new flea market is opening in Court Square—for two Saturdays this month.

The Court Square Flea, an outdoor market, is set to debut this Saturday in the parking lot of the Teamsters Local 808 building at 22-43 Jackson Avenue, across the street from MoMA PS1.

More than 30 vendors are expected to show up selling items such as clothing, art, jewelry, antiques, house ware and gourmet food, according to founder Diane Modric.

Modric said some of this region’s better-known vendors–such as Mel’s Melting Pot, Lezzetli Ice Cream, New Yawk Baking Crew and Rachel Carbonell Art– will be participating. She said there is still space for additional vendors.

The flea market will be open just two Saturdays this season—Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, from 12 pm until 6 pm. However, Modric said she aims to make the Court Square Flea a monthly event.

Modric founded the Astoria Market, which has operated out of the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden on Sundays since 2010.

Modric, who used to sell her own handmade jewelry, started the Astoria Market after being frustrated that there were no local venues where she could sell her products.

Since starting that market, she has been looking to open one in Long Island City. However, she said that it has been difficult finding a site of sufficient size.

“Once I saw this lot I thought it would be a great location,” she said. “I reached out to the Teamsters and they were very welcoming.”

For more information, visit http://www.courtsquareflea.com

Bareburger to open on Vernon Blvd

Long Island City, Crankys closes

Sept 15, By Christian Murray

Bareburger–best known for its exotic patties and organic ingredients—is opening a restaurant in Long Island City, in the location that was once Cranky’s.

The restaurant is expected to open at 49-19 Vernon Boulevard in late December and is part of a major expansion the burger chain is currently undergoing, said Euripides Pelekanos, the chief executive and co-founder.

Bareburger, which opened its first restaurant on 31st Avenue in Astoria five years ago, has 20 restaurants open today—with eight more planned in the next five months.

The Vernon Boulevard location will be comprised of 42 seats, with plans to open a sidewalk café.

While many Bareburger restaurants are franchise operations, the Long Island City operation will be owned and run by the company, Pelekanos said.

“Long Island City and Astoria is like home territory to me and I have always felt embarrassed not having one here,” Pelekanos said.

“I’ve been looking for locations in Long Island City for 3 years and then I got a lead on this space and I couldn’t been happier.”

Pelekanos, who grew up in Astoria, opened his first restaurant just blocks away from where he lived.

The restaurant will be the fifth location in Queens—with 2 restaurants in Astoria, one in Forest Hills and another in Bayside, where Pelekanos currently resides.

Pelekanos attributes the success of the company to the people who work for it. “We have been blessed to have good people…people who really care about Bareburger and are proud of it.”

The new menu is now available in its Hoboken and Philadelphia operations and is being rolled out location by location.

It features elk, goat, bison, turkey and wild boar burgers—in addition to the all natural, organic beef product. (click for menu)

There is also a duck-bacon sandwich.

LIC Flea opens its beer garden for the first time Saturday

LIC Flea

LIC Flea

Sept. 12, By Christian Murray

After several months of planning, the operators of the LIC Flea & Food market will be opening their beer garden for the first time this weekend.

Attendees will be able to buy wine and beer at the market for the rest of the season—which is expected to continue through the end of the year.

The market will be selling artisanal beer brewed by the local breweries—which include SingleCut Beersmiths, Queens Brewery, Finback Brewery and Rockaway Brewing Company. The owners of many of the breweries will be in attendance to discuss their product.

To mark the grand opening of the garden, the LICFlea will be serving $2 beer between 4:30pm and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The beer garden is likely to be large. The owners of the LIC Flea told the community board in April that they planned on opening a garden that would be comprised of 92 seats– taking up to 1/4 of the 24,000 square foot parking lot that is used for the market.

The operators could not be reached to confirm whether they were still the plans.

The LIC Flea & Food is best known for hosting dozens of vendors each weekend who offer food, jewelry, fashion, art and crafts, antiques, collectibles and more.

It is located on an empty lot at the corner of Fifth Street and 46th Avenue, just one block behind the Pepsi-Cola sign.

The first film to be screened at Hunters Point South Park to take place Sept. 20, featuring Julie & Julia

Julie_and_juliaSept. 11, By Christian Murray

The first movie to be screened at Hunters Point South Park will take place later this month, with the presentation of Julie & Julia, a movie that was shot in Long Island City.

The movie will be shown outdoors on the oval (by LIC Landing and the ferry) on Saturday, September 20, at 7:30 pm, with the backdrop being the Manhattan skyline.

Julie & Julia is a movie that contrasts the life of chef Julia Child with the experiences of Long Island City resident Julie Powell, who attempted to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in a year, which she described on her blog.

The blog was turned into a book that inspired the movie starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci. The movie, which was released in 2009, was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Hunters Point Park Conservancy selected the movie because much of it was filmed in Long Island City and it was inspired by local resident Julie Powell who will attend the movie and be available to answer questions.

“I’ve lived in LIC for 12 years,” Powell said in a statement. “Its streets, arts, parks and especially people are my inspiration. Having Julie & Julia screened at Hunters Point is so exciting for me, and such an honor.”

This film and future films at the park are being sponsored by the real estate firm NestSeekers International. Another movie is tentatively scheduled for October.

The organizers ask attendees to bring blankets or towels to sit down– since chairs are not allowed on the oval.

Vernon Blvd Chinese restaurant to close, as owner can’t keep up with rising rent

New city

Sept. 9, By Christian Murray

Hunters Point residents are going to find it a whole lot harder to find inexpensive Chinese food.

New City Kitchen Express, located at 47-31 Vernon Boulevard, is expected to close within the next two weeks.

The restaurant’s lease expired and the business owners did not want to pay the much higher rent. The landlord is seeking $10,500 a month in rent as well as $2,250 per year to cover the real estate taxes.

Jennifer Chen, whose mother owns the restaurant, said that the family has run the establishment for the past 7 years. “We really like this neighborhood so it is a shame we are going.”

Chen said that 50% of the restaurant’s business comes through deliveries. She said that once the restaurant closes there will not be too many options for inexpensive Chinese food in the area—since similar restaurants are either Asian fusion or are higher-end.

Chen said that the family is tentatively discussing finding a new location. However, she said that she is not sure where that might be.

Jennifer Chen

Jennifer Chen

Correction: The tax figure has been changed. It was originally reported as $2,250 per month, instead of $2,250 per annum.

The Secret Theatre raises $11k, ensuring the show will go on


Sept. 8, By Christian Murray

It’s no longer going to be curtains for the Secret Theatre.

Last month, Richard Mazda, the founder of the off-off Broadway theater company, started an online fundraiser to keep the doors at his 44-02 23rd Street establishment open—after his organization’s finances were left in tatters after the Department of Building found that his landlord didn’t have an up-to-date certificate of occupancy.

Mazda launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 last month—and, despite a slow start, raised almost $11,000 by the time it was over on Sept. 4.

“The money will stop the rot and steady the ship,” Mazda said. However, he said he still plans to raise another $20,000 next year to give himself a cushion.

“I feel very lucky that so many people came to help,” Mazda said.  “There were over 130 contributors.”

He said 40 percent of the donations came from local people who knew him or the theater; 25 percent from actors, musicians or the parents of children who he teaches; and the remainder from people who didn’t know him but just wanted to help out.

Mazda, however, did receive a couple of big donations—$1,000 from a local diner and another large sum from a well-known Court Square café. Both were listed as anonymous.

The Secret Theatre opened in 2007 and produces weekly children’s theater shows. It is also known for producing its own in-house shows as well as providing acting lessons.

Mazda, who is from England, said it’s taken him a while to learn how theater companies raise funds in New York. He said that he now plans to turn an arm of the theater company into a nonprofit.

Mazda also said that he plans to establish a small non-profit organization—to be called the Queens Theater Fund– that aims to bring the Queens theater community together, in order to promote one another.

CrossFit Gantry, a LIC gym that focuses on fitness programs, relocates to bigger space

crossfitgantry2Sept. 7, By Michael Florio

CrossFit Gantry is bulking up.

The Long Island City-based gym that focuses heavily on the CrossFit training program—which helps participants build strength and endurance– moved into a much bigger space last week to keep pace with its growing membership.

The establishment is now located inside a 5,000 square foot facility at 10-19 46th Road. Prior to the move, the gym operated out of a 2,300 square foot space at 10-20 47th Road.

Jay Hachadoorian, the owner and a former triathlete, opened CrossFit Gantry about 18 months ago. He said that in the past six months his membership has grown from about 90 people to nearly 150.

“We have built up a nice membership within the community,” Hachadoorian, a Long Island City resident, said.

Hachadoorian’s training program relies heavily on pushups, sit ups, squats and lunges. CrossFit combines weight lifting with activities such as gymnastics and rowing.

The new location has allowed Hachadoorian to add dumbbells — which he did not previously have space for– as well as sandbags, additional pull-up bars, medicine balls, barbells and weight plates.

The new equipment is a big benefit to those members who are in great physical condition and are close followers of the CrossFit training program, Hachadoorian said.

The new facility also offers three Olympic weightlifting platforms, which are used for a specific workout like the snatch and the clean and jerk.

Currently, the gym offers six CrossFit classes per day, which consist of power lifting and endurance classes. Classes are offered at 6 am, 7 am, noon, 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:30 pm.

The new facility can accommodate much larger class sizes. In the past, the maximum class size was about 15 people. With the new space it is 25. Hachadoorian hopes to offer more classes in the future.

Meanwhile, Hachadoorian’s old space is now a CrossFit Kids facility, a separate business run by Michele Kelber.

Hachadoorian aims to host an event celebrating his new space at the end of September.


Applications for Hunters Point South to go out next month, as Community Board 2 gets ready to help applicants

Rendering of completion

Rendering of completion

Sept. 5, By Christian Murray

The application period for the affordable rental units at Hunters Point South is expected to begin next month and Community Board 2 leaders are in the process of setting up a number of local meetings to guide residents through the application process.

The applicants will be aiming to snag one of the 925 affordable apartments that are expected to be completed early next year.

Community Board 2 residents—who currently live in Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City—will be given priority over outside applicants on 50 percent of the units.

The income requirements are broad and tailored more toward middle income earners. For example, units have been set aside for families who make up to $191,000, based on numbers released last year by the Bloomberg administration.

The developer, Related Companies, is expected to send out marketing materials early next month, which will announce the lottery as well as the application deadline.

Once the marketing campaign begins, applicants will have a 60 day window to submit their applications through the NYC Housing Connect website. (click website)

“If the marketing period begins Oct. 1, then applicants have a 60 day window to apply from that date,” said Lisa Deller, the chairwoman of Community Board 2’s Land Use committee.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley, who helped negotiate the 50% priority for local residents with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, wants to make sure that Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City residents take advantage of their increased odds. This has been a contributing factor in why the meetings are being held.

A series of meetings have been tentatively scheduled throughout the district. For instance, a meeting has been scheduled in Sunnyside at the Sunnyside Community Services Center (43-31 39th Street) on Sept 29 at 7:00 pm.

Meanwhile, another meeting is scheduled to take place at the Woodside Library, 54-22 Skillman Avenue, on Oct. 1 (time still to be determined); and in Long Island City on Oct. 6 (time and venue yet to be confirmed).

The meetings aim to educate residents on how to apply; what the eligibility requirements are and how the housing lottery works.

“This is a great opportunity for folks who live in our community that want to live on the waterfront,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I’m proud of the role we have played with the community board in getting the set asides for local residents.”

“There is a lot of interest for this,” Van Bramer said. “We have been getting calls on it even before construction started.”