Nov. 20, Associated Press with Christian Murray
Barack Obama’s 94-year-old step grandmother Sara Obama paid a special visit to the children of PS/IS 78Q Tuesday.
Sara Obama, who was married to the president’s late grandfather and lives in Kenya, is in the United States to help develop a better healthcare and education system for her western Kenyan Village where the president’s father was raised and is buried.
The event at PS/IS 78 was kept hush-hush to ensure that it didn’t turn into a media event.
“This was the only school in New York that she went to [while here],” PS/IS 78 Principal Louis Pavone said. “I think she is going to one in Washington.”
Nov. 20, By Christian Murray
A new commanding officer has been appointed to the 108 Police Precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.
Captain John Travaglia, who has spent a significant portion of his career in Queens, will be taking over the command following the departure of Capt. Brian Hennessy.
This will be Travaglia’s first time as a commanding officer. He was most recently the executive officer at the 114th Precinct that covers Astoria. Prior to that, he was an executive officer of the 104th Precinct that covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood.
Travaglia takes the top job at a time when there has been an uptick in burglaries and other property-related crime in the precinct. However, Astoria too has seen a jump in burglaries and other property-related crime.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he has scheduled a meeting with Travaglia and has heard good things about him. “We look forward to meeting him as we all work to keep the neighborhood safe.”
There is no shortage of residents looking for a hearty meal these days and one organization is looking to provide the hungry with some relief this winter.
City Harvest, a food rescue organization, will host its second annual 24-Hour Repackathon tomorrow in Long Island City, with the mission of delivering food to the hungry during the holiday season.
The event will take place at 55-02 2nd Street where hundreds of volunteers will aim to package more than 225,000 pounds of donated food—which will then be distributed to families and shelters across the city.
The volunteers will be given 24-hours to pack the food and will work in 3-hour shifts.
The event started last year as a way for City Harvest to package the donated food and increase awareness of poverty. Last year, 215,000 pounds of food was packaged in 24 hours.
The food will be delivered to more than 500 soup kitchens and food pantries, and will be enough to feed more than 2,100 families.
Samantha Park, the communications manager at City Harvest, said that the majority of the end recipients are from working families.
“There is usually at least one person in the family working full time,” she said. “With the expensive cost of living and other expenses, it is really difficult.”
Park said that one-in-five New Yorkers now live in poverty.
Park said that City Harvest tries to focus on gathering fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. The organization also receives a large supply of canned/sealed food, such as peanut butter and tuna fish, which has a long shelf life.
“This food is very nutritious,” she said.
Park said that the group has enough volunteers for tomorrow’s event.
Nov. 19, By Michael Florio
The president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association has abruptly left the organization.
Dominic Stiller, who became president of the civic association in January 2013, alerted the organization of his resignation last Monday with a letter to the board.
Stiller’s resignation was based on differing views toward bicycles.
The organization recently held a vote where its members agreed to oppose the placement of bicycle corrals in the Dutch Kills neighborhood if they led to the removal of parking spaces.
Earlier this year, Stiller called for a bicycle corral to be placed in front of his restaurant–Dutch Kills Centraal–located at 38-40 29th Street. His proposal, which he presented to full Community Board 1 in October, would have created room for up to eight bicycles–as well as two planters– but would have removed one parking space.
Community Board 1 voted against the proposal, stating that Stiller didn’t have enough community support.
Stiller said it was not Community Board 1’s denial of his bicycle corral that led him to resign. Instead, it was the vote held by the Dutch Kills Civic Association to kill the concept.
Stiller said the association is more concerned about keeping all the street spaces exclusively for car owners. In his letter he called this view “short sighted and unsustainable,” claiming that it is not working for the greater good.
“There is a recent awareness in the city and country about the importance of providing livable streets… and encouraging alternative forms of green commuting and transport,” Stiller wrote in his departure letter.
“I wish the Dutch Kills Civic had an interest and awareness and open mind to lead or at least support this cultural change locally; it doesn’t,” he wrote.
The new president Thea Romano said the Dutch Kills Civic Association is not opposed to bicycles and noted that the organization has supported bicycle lanes in the past. However, she said, the members are interested in preserving parking spaces.
“We have been fighting for parking for many years,” Romano said. “Whenever there is new construction project, we always request that there is a parking plan put in place.”
“There is a very limited amount of parking space in this community,” Romano said. Therefore, “when he came forward [in April] and said he wanted to take a space away, the board let him know that we weren’t with him.”
Stiller’s term as president was up on December 31st, but he had initially planned on maintaining a position on the board. Now, he said, he will find other ways to improve Dutch Kills.
“Thank you for working with me as president of the DKCA, I hope my resignation from the presidency and the board provides certain awareness to my commitment to alternative progressive methods of urban quality of life improvements. As Dutch Kills moves into the 21st century, these changes will be inevitable,” Stiller concluded the letter.
Romano claims that the association’s vote was not against Stiller’s bicycle corral but to preserve parking. However, she believes Stiller took the matter too personally.
“A lot of the stuff that he has been putting out there is just not true. He is putting such an awful light on the Dutch Kills Civic Association,” she said. “He took it very personally, that’s what it comes down too. One hundred percent.”
Nov. 18, By Christian Murray
The business body count is continuing to mount on Vernon Blvd—as two commercial tenants are getting ready to leave.
The Institute for Face & Body Solutions and LIC Chiropractic will be moving out of 47-12 Vernon Blvd in upcoming months. The building is about to be sold and they have been told that they should be prepared to leave.
The owner, who runs the beauty shop, said that she is a middle of negotiating a new space nearby. Meanwhile, Dr. Angelo Ippolito, the owner of LIC Chiropractic, has already found space on 47th Avenue, just around the corner.
The owner of the beauty shop said that the combined rent (of both the beauty shop and LIC Chiropractic) will most likely double to $9,000 per month.
The loss of the two businesses adds to the carnage on Vernon Blvd in the past 18 months—with the closure of Cranky’s Cafe/1682 French Louisiana, Communitea, Papo Fried Chicken, Mario’s Deli and the impending closure of the Chinese restaurant New City Kitchen Express.
“The rents are very high and it is very difficult for your typical business to make money,” said Rick Rosa, the managing director for Douglas Elliman’s Long Island City office. “Unless a business is filling a niche it can be very tough.”
Meanwhile, at 47-12 Vernon, two of the four apartments upstairs have already been vacated.
Nov. 17, By Christian Murray
Fancy a winter coffee with waterfront views.
LIC Landing by Coffeed, which is located by the water at Hunters Point South Park, plans to enclose its space this winter providing its patrons with protection from the elements.
“We want to make the park more of a destination—a draw for both tourists and residents throughout the year,” said Frank ‘Turtle’ Raffaele, the chief executive of Coffeed. “After all, this is the Central Park of Queens.”
Raffaele is currently receiving quotes for the enclosure—which would be constructed of glass or Plexiglass. He hasn’t decided whether it will be a 400 sqft. enclosure placed directly in front of the pick-up window (catering to about 40 people) or whether it will be 1,200 sqft. and cover the entire canopy area (catering to as many as 200 people).
LIC Landing will be serving its full menu—which includes coffee, tea, wine, beer, pastries, burgers and salads—over the winter months and there will be waiter service for those who request it.
Raffaele aims to have the enclosure up by Christmas, once the New York City Parks Department has signed off on it. In future years, he would put it up in October and then take it down in mid March.
“We want to be open 365 days where we can serve customers as well as the ferry traffic,” Raffaele said. “This is a big win for Long Island City,” he said.
The Long Island City community has been a large driver behind Raffaele’s decision to stay open.
He said that the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, a group that plans events and oversees neighborhood parks, as well as the Hunters Point Civic Association wanted him to do it, as well as several of his customers.
“Even if I break even or lose a bit of money that’s OK,” Raffaele said. “We are serving our customers.”
Furthermore, he said, many of his employees will be able to work all year round.
Nov. 14, By Christian Murray
Hunters Point’s second supermarket—Urban Market– opened on 50 Avenue today with the promise of providing residents the lowest prices in the neighborhood.
Sam Mujalli, the owner of the 8,000 square foot store, said that his supermarket will provide Foodcellar (which has been the only supermarket in the area since it opened in 2008) with some stiff competition.
Mujalli claims that his prices will be between 15% and 18% cheaper than Foodcellar’s. He said that he can provide these low prices since he has 11 supermarkets scattered throughout New York City and can buy in bulk. Furthermore, he said, his family has deep roots– and connections– in the industry.
“My family has been in the supermarket business for 45 years,” Mujalli said. “We didn’t just open a store overnight. My grandfather started it and then it went to my father and then me,” he said.
Mujalli said that his grandfather opened a tiny store in Detroit before moving to New York and setting up a small store in Brooklyn. The family’s first big store was a Met Food in a tough section of the Bronx, he said.
“Every two weeks people would come in to the store and take our money,” Mujalli said, as he rolled up his fingers into the shape of a gun. The family no longer owns that store.
Mujalli said that 50 percent of the produce he will offer at Urban Market will be organic, with the remainder standard items. “You have to give people a choice,” he said.
The store has a large produce department as well as an extensive cheese selection and a gourmet deli.
Several elected officials came to the store to offer their support at the opening this morning—such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Gianaris said the store was needed since there has been a lack of supermarkets in the area for some time. He predicted the supermarket would do well.
Meanwhile Mujalli said that he was excited to open in Hunters Point and appreciated the buzz surrounding the opening of the supermarket.
“Lots of people have been on Facebook and Instagram in the past two months wondering when we were opening.”
Nov. 12, By Michael Florio
Singer Patti Smith will join director Darren Aronofsky at the Museum of Moving Image next week to screen his film Noah.
Smith and Aronofsky will talk about the film and their collaboration following the movie on Monday, November 17, at the museum.
Smith will perform her song “Mercy Is,” which is featured in the film.
Noah, which premiered last spring, is a based on the Old Testament story and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson.
“Noah is a remarkable cinematic accomplishment, a dazzling epic as well as a thoughtful and very timely interpretation of the biblical story,” said David Schwartz, the Museum’s Chief Curator in a statement.
“We are thrilled Darren Aronofsky and Patti Smith will be here to discuss the movie, and it will be very special to hear her live performance.”
Tickets for the event cost $25 and are currently on sale.
Nov. 11, By Christian Murray
The railroad-themed bar/restaurant that is coming to Hunters Point is on track to open next week.
Station LIC, located at 10-37 Jackson Avenue, will be opening on Monday, Nov. 17, according to its owners.
Gregory Okshteyn, a co-owner who had originally planned to open the bar/restaurant in spring, said he had to push back the date several times since he had to overcome several obstacles — such as obtaining a certificate of occupancy to getting the gas turned on.
But the main delay, he said, has been his desire for perfection. “We want to show it off in its grandeur,” Okshteyn said. “We are patient and we want to do it right.”
A few extra months is not much of a delay in the scheme of things. Okshteyn signed the lease 2 ½ years ago and has spent plenty of time on design and construction since.
Okshteyn, who designs bar/restaurants for a living, set his sights on converting the triangular shaped building into a station house from the get-go. The establishment sits directly above the Vernon/Jackson subway station.
Okshteyn, who has lived on Center Blvd for the past three years, was able to nab the location by happenstance. He was walking past the site with Rabbi Zev Wineberg, who is in charge of the JCC-Chabad LIC, and suggested to him that it would make for a great place for a bar/restaurant. Rabbi Wineberg just happened to be investigating the location in his quest to find space for a synagogue. He handed Okshteyn a copy of the lease.
The building had been empty for the 20 years—although it had been used for the movie ‘Cocktail’ starring Tom Cruise.
The location is best known among long-time residents as the home of Blessinger’s, a local watering hole that was there for 50 years (1930s through the 1980s). Okshteyn, who wanted to know about the history of the location, was able to find a Blessinger via Facebook who was able to provide him with some background information.
Construction began on the bar/restaurant in January.
Okshteyn said that during the demolition phase the first thing he got rid of was the sheet-rock. In doing so, he uncovered the wooden beams, exposed brick walls and iron columns that are now features of the establishment.
The bar/restaurant has two levels. The upstairs has capacity for 55 people—including the bar area—and the downstairs has room for 16. In the downstairs hallway, Okshteyn has photos of famous train wrecks that took place in Europe and North America in the past century.
The building’s exterior currently features a red light denoting the point of entry to the station. However, Okshteyn has plans to permit artists to paint murals on the outside walls—perhaps on a quarterly basis. He wants to create a place where artists, filmmakers and photographers all feel welcome.
The bar/restaurant is likely to offer American bistro-style food such as broccoli Parmesan fritters, fried green olives stuffed with gorgonzola, jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon along with sandwiches and salads.
Larger plates will consist of spice rub roast chicken, fried eggplant Parmesan with smoked mozzarella and its own house burger called the Station Burger that will feature grass-fed beef, maple glazed bacon and pepper jack cheese.
However, Okshteyn is looking to offer what will be known as the Ponzi burger. He said the concept is that you get your burger for free under the condition that you buy the next persons.
The idea is that you will meet the person who bought you your burger and you will also meet the person who you bought the burger for.
“I want people to get to know their neighbors,” Okshteyn said. “I even put the tables close together for this reason.”
The venue will be open at 5pm during the week and noon on weekends. The establishment is permitted to open until 2 am.
Video by Hans von Rittern (go to 4:10 minutes in)