Tall trees to be in Shady Park by spring

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  1. Nice

    Lets face it the park will never be the same. But this is a start. So good job. Thanks

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Comedy group to raise funds for urban farmers, hosts show in LIC Friday
Smiling HogsHead Ranch

Smiling HogsHead Ranch

March 26, By Michael Florio

A western Queens comedy group is hosting an event to raise funds for an urban farming group that operates out of Long Island City.

Sunnyside Comedy, a local organization that hosts comedy shows in the neighborhood, is putting on the ‘All-Star Comedy Show’ at The Flux Factory, located at 39-31 29th Street, this Friday at 8 pm.

The proceeds will go to the Smiling Hogshead Ranch, a community farm located at 26 Davis Court in Long Island City. The urban farmers will use the funds for infrastructure improvements, insurance and to provide free programming.

Lindsay Goldwert and Colin Samuel, co-founders of Sunnyside Comedy, said they wanted to do a benefit for a local non-profit.

“The ranch is a really cool thing and they want to expand their program and Colin is a big fan of their work,” Goldwert said. “He believes in urban farming so we wanted to support it.”

Goldwert said that a lot of people living in western Queens may not know about urban farming. The event is a great way to inform people what it is.

“Smiling Hogshead Ranch helps cultivate community by gathering people around shared interests,” said Gil Lopez, co-founder of the Smiling Hogshead Ranch. “Many of these interests are outside of gardening and this comedy show is a perfect example.

The Flux Factory venue can seat about 70 people. Tickets to the event cost $20 online and $25 at the door.

Each ticket will be entered into a raffle, with the prizes provided by local businesses. There will also be beer specials, Goldwert said.

Many of the performing comics are based in Queens.

Joyelle Johnson, who has opened for Dave Chapelle and Maria Bamford, lives in Sunnyside. The show’s host, Liz Magee, lives in Astoria and often performs at Q.E.D. 

The show’s headlining act will be performed by Ted Alexandro, a western Queens resident who has appeared on “Conan” and “Late Night With David Letterman.”

“In everything we do we try to highlight Queens,” Goldwert said. “It is the best place to perform because the local businesses support small shows.”

Sunnyside Comedy has put on two shows a month at varying Sunnyside venues since last summer, with every show featuring new comedians.

Goldwert said the group is looking for a permanent space to host venues.

To purchase tickets online go to funnybynature.brownpapertickets.com

sunnyside comedy

Previous coverage: Guerilla farmers leggaly allowed to put down roots i

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Greek restaurant to open on 50th Ave., by owners of Shi and Skinny’s Cantina
Location

Kavala

March 25, By Christian Murray

The owners of Shi Restaurant and Skinny’s Cantina are opening a Greek restaurant this summer.

The restaurant, called Kavala Estiatorio, will be located at 10-55 50th Avenue.

Skinny and Shih Lee are opening their third restaurant in the neighborhood and will be partners with Joseph Lucil, who is also a co-owner of Skinny’s Cantina. The Lee brothers also have an ownership stake in Pink Canary, the bakery located on Jackson Avenue.

“Skinny and Shih are known for sushi and Mexican [food]… but we wanted to bring another type of cuisine to the neighborhood,” Lucil said. “We speak to customers all the time and they tell us they want more options.”

Lucil, who lives in Hunters Point, said that the restaurant will offer traditional Greek food, with a couple of items that have a modern twist. He said that they plan to make sure it offers all the traditional favorites since it will be the only Greek restaurant in the neighborhood at this time.

The menu will consist of items such as: Souvlaki, tzatziki sauce, chickpeas, eggplant, grilled and crispy calamari, Saganaki, Spanakopita, crispy zucchini eggplant chips, grilled octopus, Branzino, Greek salad with feta cheese, and lemon potatoes.

The owners do have a chef, although they did not want to name him just yet.

The restaurant, which is expected to have a full liquor license, will feature a bar and an extensive wine list.

It will seat about 50 people, including the bar area. There is a 900 square foot patio area. However, Lucil said that they don’t plan to use it since the community is currently opposed to backyard use.

Lucil said that the timing is right to open the restaurant on 50th Avenue with the two Hunters Point South buildings about to come on line.

For previous coverage: Owners of Shi and Skinny’s Cantina plan to open bakery

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Van Bramer wants Clock Tower landmarked, expects it to be done by June

Bank1-475x356March 24, By Christian Murray

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer wants to save the Clock Tower and is confident that it will landmarked by the end of June.

Van Bramer said that he wrote a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in November calling for it to be landmarked. He said that he met with the chairwoman of the LPC last week who said she supports preserving it.

“It is incredibly important that we preserve some of the history of Long Island City and Queens,” Van Bramer said. “Development is happening every day and it was definitely under threat of being torn down.”

Van Bramer said that the building’s landmark status will be a big victory for preservationists who started a grass roots campaign about a year ago to save it. An online petition was formed that has generated about 1,500 signatures.

The building, which has towered over Queens Plaza since 1927, is deemed by its advocates to be one of the most significant landmarks in Queens. The building, historically known as the Bank of Manhattan Building, was the tallest building in the borough until the construction of the Citigroup building in 1990.

The steps toward landmarking the building are viewed as mere formalities at this stage.

The LPC determined this morning that a public hearing should be held, which is the second stage of the landmarking process.  The public are open to testify at that meeting. The  LPC has not yet set a date as to when it will take place.

The LPC will then review the testimony and is expected to approve it at a later date. The City Planning Commission will provide an opinion on it and it will then go to the city council for a vote.

“When it comes to the council I will support it 1,000 percent,” Van Bramer said, who holds sway over the vote since the building is in his district.

“I am confident that it will be landmarked,” Van Bramer said, adding that the Landmarks Preservation Commissioner supports it too.

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Owners of Packard Square face criticism, failing to pay prevailing wage
View 59, Packard Square, Crescent Club

View 59, Packard Square, Crescent Club

March 24, By Michael Florio

Workers at a new high-rise residential building were surprised when they opened their paychecks at the end of last week—and discovered they got a big raise.

Several employees who work at the Packard Square complexes, a series of buildings located by Crescent and 24th Streets, have been fighting for higher wages and the right to unionize for months.

The workers, with the support of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and a local union leader, spoke out against their employer Ciampa Organization at the monthly Community Board 1 meeting last week.

They said that that Ciampa was failing to comply with the agreement it struck when it was approved for a 421a tax abatement, which essentially gave the company a $7 million tax break.

The developer, as a result of the abatement, is required to pay workers a prevailing wage of $17.58 per hour, as well as benefits such as affordable health care, said Rachel Cohen, the communications manager for 32BJ, a service employees international union.

However, Cohen said that the workers were being paid minimum wage, $8.75 an hour, with no health benefits.

“If the developers are getting multi-million dollar tax breaks, at the very least they should be paying good wages,” Van Bramer said at the board meeting. “They should make sure their workers have the benefits that everyone needs.”

Jonathan Par, a doorman who has worked for minimum wage at the Packard Building North, spoke at the community board meeting and claimed that the way the workers were treated was unfair.

“I want to go to school, but I cannot afford it,” he said.

Just days after the community board meeting, the workers received word that they would be getting a raise. They were not told how much—but when they opened their pay packages they noticed it had been increased to $17.58 per hour.

“This is a huge boost for these workers,” Cohen said. “Doubling their wages will change their lives.”

The $17.58 is the introductory rate for new workers, which jumps to $21.98 after 30 months of employment.  Cohen said that the 30-month clock begins once an employee is hired.

Despite the raise, workers are still fighting for back pay, arguing that Ciampa owes them lost wages, which they should have been paid from the beginning, Cohen said.

She added that the workers want to unionize and have reached out to join 32BJ.

Ciampa did not respond to calls for comment.

There are three Packard Square buildings comprised of 315 units and 16 workers. Most of the workers are supporting the campaign for to join the union, Cohen said.

Cohen said that two workers who had been leading the campaign, Kevin and Andre Galarza, were fired in January, which they believe was due to their efforts to unionize. The two filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in February.

“We believe they were unjustly let go,” Van Bramer said.

The workers will continue to fight to get these two workers reinstated, Cohen said.

Ciampa is in the process of adding another building—its fourth–to Packard Square.

Cohen and the workers are urging Community Board 1 to oppose Ciampa’s application for a 421-a tax abatement concerning that building unless it treats its workers more fairly.

The fourth building, according to department of buildings records, will be 10 stories and contains 126 units and be located at 41-29 24th Street.

Par at CB1 meeting

Jonathon Par at CB1 meeting

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Exclusive: Residents have 27 choices on how to spend $1 million, voting begins April 11
Meeting

Participatory budget meeting last fall

March 23, By Christian Murray

Long Island City, Woodside and Sunnyside residents will get to vote next month on how $1 million in city funds should be spent.

Residents will be able to choose up to 3 projects from a list of 27 proposals that they believe are worth funding. The project that receives the most votes following the election will be funded—followed by other popular items- until the $1 million is exhausted.

The proposals (see sample ballot for full list below) include funding a bike lane network in Long Island City; adding trees between 49th and 69th Streets in Woodside; renovating playgrounds and parks; upgrading school equipment; beefing up library security; as well as funding a pedestrian safety project in Dutch Kills.

The vote, which is scheduled to take place between April 11 and 19, is part of what’s known as the participatory budgeting process. The program, introduced to the 26th City Council district for the first time this year, allows all residents 16 years and older to determine those projects they want funded.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he was not surprised by the items that are being put up for a vote, since they involve improving schools, parks, libraries and traffic safety.

“Good neighborhoods are ones that have good schools, well cared for parks, well funded libraries and good clean safe streets,” Van Bramer said. “That is what people care about the most and these are the items we see.”

Nine meetings were held throughout Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City last fall, and hundreds of attendees put forward an array of ideas. These ideas were whittled down by about 140 budget delegates to 27 in concert with Van Bramer and various city agencies.

“I think the process has been successful so far,” Van Bramer said, who is urging people to go out and vote.  There are 10 locations scattered throughout the district where residents will be able to cast their ballots (see list below).

“A lot of people have got more involved in the community in a meaningful way as a result of the process,” Van Bramer said. “It has encouraged people to come out and present their ideas.”

The 27 items will be presented to the community early next month, where residents will be able to take a closer look at what they involve.

A meeting is scheduled for April 6, from 7 pm to 9pm, at the Sunnyside Community Service Center [43-31 39th Street], where all the proposals will be discussed and debated on their merits.

.

Final Ballot by sunnysidepost


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voting locations
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Vote-presentation

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Construction of dedicated bike lane on Pulaski Bridge starts tomorrow
Rendering of dedicated bike lane from Brooklyn

Rendering of dedicated bike lane from Brooklyn

March 23, By Christian Murray

The Department of Transportation starts construction Tuesday on the two-way protected bike lane spanning the Pulaski Bridge.

The dedicated bike lanes, which were expected to be completed in 2014, will bring an end to the tense relationships between cyclists and pedestrians who currently share a lane.

The change will result in a two-way protected bike lane that will span the bridge for cyclists. Meanwhile, an existing 8 ½ foot wide lane—that is currently used by both cyclists and pedestrians—will be for the exclusive use of pedestrians.

“We have needed this for some time,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “The pathway was too narrow—and this is a great addition for the bike lane network.”

Van Bramer said that it is especially timely with Citibike expected to come to Long Island City within a few months.

The decision to add the lane comes after years of friction between cyclists and pedestrians.

In 2009, when the community sought a solution to the problem of bike/pedestrian congestion, the DOT added markings and signage to help organize traffic and increase safety on the bridge.

“Since then, the pedestrian volumes have increased almost 50% and the bicycle volumes have more than doubled, which is huge growth particular in the bicycle mode,” said Nick Carey, Project Manager at NYCDOT Bicycle Program, last year.

However, the creation of the dedicated bike lane will bring some changes to Brooklyn-bound motorists.

The three lanes on the bridge going from Queens into Brooklyn will be cut to two, to make room for the dedicated bicycle lane.

New design

New design

 

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Landmarks Commission to evaluate whether to save Clock Tower; public meeting tomorrow

Bank1-475x356

March 23, By Christian Murray

The first formal step to landmark the Clock Tower will take place tomorrow when the Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet to evaluate whether a public hearing should be held as part of the process to landmark the famous building.

The public meeting tomorrow is significant since it indicates that the Chairperson of the Commission has already reviewed the application and has determined that it has merit and the formal process of whether to landmark it or not should begin.

The Clock Tower, located at 29-29 Queens Blvd., was built in 1927 and was the tallest building in Queens until the construction of the Citigroup building in Court Square. Advocates for the designation argue that it is one of the most significant architectural landmarks in the borough.

Tomorrow, the full commission—comprised of up to 11 Commissioners– will be briefed by LPC’s research group and will vote to determine whether a public hearing should take place—another significant step in the process.

If the majority of Commissioners agree, then a hearing will be scheduled.

At this point, if the owner of the property files a demolition permit with the Department of Buildings, LPC will be notified and it would most likely speed up the review/application process, according to a LPC spokeswoman.

Queens Plaza Park Development, the owner of the clock tower building, purchased it for $31 million in November. The same company owns the adjacent site at 29-37 41st Avenue, where it filed earlier this month to build a 70 story building at that site.

After a public hearing is held by LPC, a report will be produced and the commission will review it. They will then vote whether to landmark or not– or schedule another meeting. If they vote to landmark it, it will go to the City Planning Commission to provide feedback and the city council for a vote.

Click for landmark process

Public Hearing by sunnysidepost

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Weekend bus service along Vernon Boulevard becomes permanent

Q103-queens-bus

Q 103

Q 103

March 21, By Christian Murray

The bus that serves the western Queens waterfront between Astoria and Long Island City—via Vernon Blvd—will be available on weekends on a permanent basis, according to the MTA.

The expanded Q 103 bus service, which began offering weekend service on a trial basis in June 2014,  has now been incorporated as part of the MTA’s permanent schedule.

The service will be available on Saturdays and Sundays from approximately 8 am to 7 pm, the MTA said.

The permanent change will also increase weeknight hours—from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. These expanded hours were also part of the June 2014 trial.

The Q103 local route runs along Vernon Boulevard, through areas that have recently experienced tremendous population growth amid new residential developments and expanded cultural attractions such as the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, according to the MTA.

The Q103 route is the only public transportation option along the Vernon Boulevard corridor serving those neighborhoods and connects those areas to the 21 St-Queensbridge and Vernon Blvd-Jackson Avenue stop.

A public hearing was held in December to discuss the added Q 103 service and the community turned out in big numbers to support it.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris had been a strong advocate for the increased service from the get-go, noting that the Astoria/LIC link is essential given the cultural institutions and rising population.

During the trial period, the MTA said that ridership levels increased on weekdays by 6.8 percent compared to the five-month period before the pilot program’s implementation, and by 30 percent compared to the average weekday average in 2013.

Current weekday ridership is 1,100 customers; average Saturday ridership is approximately 300 customers, and 250 customers on Sundays.

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Residents ask questions about selection process of pink sculpture, artists discuss affordable studio/apartment space

culturaltownhall1

March 20, By Michael Florio

The Cultural Town Hall meeting that took place in Long Island City Wednesday night did not address the artistic merit of a controversial sculpture that is coming to the neighborhood—but how the artwork was selected.

Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of the Dept. of Cultural Affairs, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, spoke before a packed audience at MoMA PS 1 where there was standing room only. They tackled a number of issues such as the selection of public art, affordable studio space for artists as well as new arts-related legislation.

The meeting was organized following the public outcry concerning The Sunbather, a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture planned to be placed at 43rd Ave and Jackson Ave. There was little criticism about the artwork itself, with questions focused more on how it was selected and how a location was chosen.

Lisa Deller, Chairwoman of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, said the community should have more input into these decisions.

“I would love to see more engagement on potential sites, way before the artist is even selected,” she said. “There should be a discussion with the community.”

Several attendees also called for greater community input before a piece of art is selected—and so too did Van Bramer.

The Sunbather

The Sunbather

Finkelpearl said the current selection process has been effective for the past 30 years. He said that a three-person panel comprised of art professionals make the selections.

Richard Khuzami, who is the chairman of Community Board 1’s Consumer Affairs committee, said the community should have a representative on the panel. “You need the input of the non-artists within the community because they have to live with it.”

Finkelpearl, however, said that it would be hard to fully gauge the opinion of the community, since the negative voices–which could be in the minority–often speak the loudest.

“At what point do you say there is enough negative input?” he asked.

Van Bramer said he is drafting legislation that would provide the public with the opportunity to express their views on a proposal, and make the process more transparent.

For instance, many attendees said that they had no idea about the sculpture until after the plans were revealed.

Van Bramer said his legislation calls for greater public notification, and that the Department of Cultural Affairs would be required to provide at least one public hearing, with advance notification.

“This allows the department to hear the public,” he said.

The legislation would also require that the selection process would take place in the community where the artwork would be located.

The evening veered off toward the hot-button issues of affordable studio space and apartments.

One resident said that there is a lack of affordable studio space in Long Island City. She said that many dance and art studios as well as costume shops have already been priced out of both Manhattan and now Queens, and the remaining ones will soon be gone.

“If things don’t change fast, there won’t be any studios left in five years,” she said.

She said that artists need to have the security that they won’t be priced out down the road. She said in the past few months the rent has risen nearly 40 percent in some buildings and that many artist can’t afford the increase.

“We cannot live like that, not knowing what we are going to be doing down the road [when a lease ends],” she said

“We need an arts district in this neighborhood,” she exclaimed.

Van Bramer agreed with her.

“We have to create something different to ensure these art spaces continue to exist,” Van Bramer said. “We share common goals.”

Artists also expressed concern about affordable housing.

Van Bramer said that the de Blasio administration has recently announced a housing plan to create 1,500 affordable units for artist, as well as 500 units of affordable work studios, over the next 10 years.

“We have to make sure artists can live, create and make some money in New York City,” Van Bramer said.

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More Headlines

Landmarks Commission to evaluate whether to save Clock Tower; public meeting tomorrow
Bank1-475x356 March 23, By Christian Murray The first formal step to landmark the Clock Tower will take place tomorrow when the Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet to evaluate whether a public hearing should be held as part of the process to landmark the famous building. The public meeting tomorrow is significant since it indicates that the Chairperson of the Commission has already reviewed the application and has determined that it has merit and the formal process of whether to landmark it or not should begin. The Clock Tower, located at 29-29 Queens Blvd., was built in 1927 and was the tallest building in Queens until the construction of the Citigroup building in Court Square. Advocates for the designation argue that it is one of the most significant architectural landmarks in the borough. Tomorrow, the full commission—comprised of up to 11 Commissioners-- will be briefed by LPC’s research group and will vote to determine whether a public hearing should take place—another significant step in the process. If the majority of Commissioners agree, then a hearing will be scheduled. At this point, if the owner of the property files a demolition permit with the Department of Buildings, LPC will be notified and it would most likely speed up the review/application process, according to a LPC spokeswoman. Queens Plaza Park Development, the owner of the clock tower building, purchased it for $31 million in November. The same company owns the adjacent site at 29-37 41st Avenue, where it filed earlier this month to build a 70 story building at that site. After a public hearing is held by LPC, a report will be produced and the commission will review it. They will then vote whether to landmark or not-- or schedule another meeting. If they vote to landmark it, it will go to the City Planning Commission to provide feedback and the city council for a vote. Click for landmark process

Public Hearing by sunnysidepost

Weekend bus service along Vernon Boulevard becomes permanent
Q103-queens-bus
Q 103

Q 103

March 21, By Christian Murray The bus that serves the western Queens waterfront between Astoria and Long Island City—via Vernon Blvd—will be available on weekends on a permanent basis, according to the MTA. The expanded Q 103 bus service, which began offering weekend service on a trial basis in June 2014,  has now been incorporated as part of the MTA's permanent schedule. The service will be available on Saturdays and Sundays from approximately 8 am to 7 pm, the MTA said. The permanent change will also increase weeknight hours—from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. These expanded hours were also part of the June 2014 trial. The Q103 local route runs along Vernon Boulevard, through areas that have recently experienced tremendous population growth amid new residential developments and expanded cultural attractions such as the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, according to the MTA. The Q103 route is the only public transportation option along the Vernon Boulevard corridor serving those neighborhoods and connects those areas to the 21 St-Queensbridge and Vernon Blvd-Jackson Avenue stop. A public hearing was held in December to discuss the added Q 103 service and the community turned out in big numbers to support it. State Sen. Mike Gianaris had been a strong advocate for the increased service from the get-go, noting that the Astoria/LIC link is essential given the cultural institutions and rising population. During the trial period, the MTA said that ridership levels increased on weekdays by 6.8 percent compared to the five-month period before the pilot program’s implementation, and by 30 percent compared to the average weekday average in 2013. Current weekday ridership is 1,100 customers; average Saturday ridership is approximately 300 customers, and 250 customers on Sundays.
Residents ask questions about selection process of pink sculpture, artists discuss affordable studio/apartment space
culturaltownhall1 March 20, By Michael Florio The Cultural Town Hall meeting that took place in Long Island City Wednesday night did not address the artistic merit of a controversial sculpture that is coming to the neighborhood—but how the artwork was selected. Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of the Dept. of Cultural Affairs, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, spoke before a packed audience at MoMA PS 1 where there was standing room only. They tackled a number of issues such as the selection of public art, affordable studio space for artists as well as new arts-related legislation. The meeting was organized following the public outcry concerning The Sunbather, a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture planned to be placed at 43rd Ave and Jackson Ave. There was little criticism about the artwork itself, with questions focused more on how it was selected and how a location was chosen. Lisa Deller, Chairwoman of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, said the community should have more input into these decisions. “I would love to see more engagement on potential sites, way before the artist is even selected,” she said. “There should be a discussion with the community.” Several attendees also called for greater community input before a piece of art is selected—and so too did Van Bramer.
The Sunbather

The Sunbather

Finkelpearl said the current selection process has been effective for the past 30 years. He said that a three-person panel comprised of art professionals make the selections. Richard Khuzami, who is the chairman of Community Board 1’s Consumer Affairs committee, said the community should have a representative on the panel. “You need the input of the non-artists within the community because they have to live with it.” Finkelpearl, however, said that it would be hard to fully gauge the opinion of the community, since the negative voices--which could be in the minority--often speak the loudest. “At what point do you say there is enough negative input?” he asked. Van Bramer said he is drafting legislation that would provide the public with the opportunity to express their views on a proposal, and make the process more transparent. For instance, many attendees said that they had no idea about the sculpture until after the plans were revealed. Van Bramer said his legislation calls for greater public notification, and that the Department of Cultural Affairs would be required to provide at least one public hearing, with advance notification. “This allows the department to hear the public,” he said. The legislation would also require that the selection process would take place in the community where the artwork would be located. The evening veered off toward the hot-button issues of affordable studio space and apartments. One resident said that there is a lack of affordable studio space in Long Island City. She said that many dance and art studios as well as costume shops have already been priced out of both Manhattan and now Queens, and the remaining ones will soon be gone. “If things don’t change fast, there won’t be any studios left in five years,” she said. She said that artists need to have the security that they won’t be priced out down the road. She said in the past few months the rent has risen nearly 40 percent in some buildings and that many artist can’t afford the increase. “We cannot live like that, not knowing what we are going to be doing down the road [when a lease ends],” she said “We need an arts district in this neighborhood,” she exclaimed. Van Bramer agreed with her. “We have to create something different to ensure these art spaces continue to exist,” Van Bramer said. “We share common goals.” Artists also expressed concern about affordable housing. Van Bramer said that the de Blasio administration has recently announced a housing plan to create 1,500 affordable units for artist, as well as 500 units of affordable work studios, over the next 10 years. “We have to make sure artists can live, create and make some money in New York City,” Van Bramer said.
MTA subway fares to rise Sunday while 7 train is down
7subway1March 19, Staff Report The No. 7 train may be down for Long Island City residents this Sunday but it will have no effect on subway prices rising that very same day. MTA fares are scheduled to rise this Sunday, March 22, after being approved in January. Single subway rides will be increasing to $2.75—from $2.50—the MTA said, while monthly passes will be raised to $116.50—from $112. Weekly passes will be $31. Meanwhile, this weekend there will be no service between Times Square and Hunters Point Avenue. Additionally, Flushing bound service will skip 33rd, 40th, 46th, 52nd and 69th Streets.
LIC Bar to pay tribute to ‘The Who’, raise funds for band’s charity while rock legends are in town
Rob Basch, Gus Rod and Roger Daltry

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez (LICBar) and Roger Daltrey

March 18, By Christian Murray A Long Island City bar with strong ties to British rock legends ‘The Who’ is organizing a fundraiser to help support the band’s main charity—Teen Cancer America. LIC Bar, located at 45-58 Vernon Blvd., was helped by The Who shortly after Superstorm Sandy wrecked its sound system when its basement was flooded. When the band heard about LIC Bar’s plight it donated equipment to help the popular music venue get back on its feet. The bar decided to repay The Who months later by holding a fundraiser on behalf of the band’s primary charity--Teen Cancer America. At the time, the bar hosted the group ‘Who’s Next’, a tribute band, and raised $7,000. Hundreds attended and the venue was sold out. The bar is holding a similar event on May 29 on behalf of Teen Cancer America, the night before The Who plays at the historic Forest Hills Stadium. The last time The Who played Forest Hills was in 1971 when they promoted the release of their classic album "Who's Next." “We always planned to do another event and now the timing is right,” said Rob Basch, the president of the Hunters Point Parks Conversancy, who is organizing it. Furthermore, members of the band are in New York City to discuss the funding of a teenage cancer facility at Memorial Sloan Kettering, which is being built. After the 2013 fundraiser, Roger Daltrey, the lead singer, personally met with the organizers of the LIC Bar event and expressed his gratitude. "Roger Daltrey was incredible. He told me how pleased he was that a small local venue similar to where they played in the early days was able to make such an impact for his cause,” Basch said. “He said it had been his pleasure to help us out in our time of need and he was touched by what we had done for Teen Cancer America.” LICBarThe Teen Cancer charity began in the UK where it has helped transform the UK health system by building specialist facilities and programs for teenagers with cancer in every major cancer center. Teen Cancer America aims to replicate the British success and create these specialist centers across the United States. LIC Bar’s May 29 event will feature ‘Who’s Next’ and the band will be performing the same set The Who played at Forest Hills Stadium in 1971 and some other favorites. In addition to Who’s Next there will be special guests plus raffles of The Who memorabilia. Last time, a Gibson SG guitar autographed by Pete Townshend was raffled off. Members of the band have not made a commitment as to whether they will attend. However, they will be in New York the night of the event. Tickets: $20. Date: May 29 Time: 7 pm Tickets are about to go on sale at LICBAR.com  
Subway advocacy group takes aim at Cuomo over poor train service
subwayhorrorstoriesqns-2-e1426691030575 March 18, By Christian Murray A New York City subway advocacy group is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to provide the funding needed to fix the decaying No. 7, N and Q lines. The group, the Riders Alliance, is collecting subway riders' horror stories this week—and will present them to Cuomo and the state legislature who will be deciding whether to fund the MTA’s proposed $32 billion five-year-capital plan in upcoming months. “It’s easy to blame the MTA for all of these breakdowns and malfunctions, but the real culprits are Governor Cuomo and members of the state legislature, who have not stepped up to provide the funds that would fix and upgrade our subways,” said John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said. “If Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers don’t fund the next MTA capital program, riders are going to see a lot more of these signal malfunctions and train breakdowns in the future, he said. On Tuesday, members of the Riders Alliance were at Queensboro Plaza and asked N,Q and 7 riders to share their experiences. The move to collect riders’ “horror stories” has been prompted by a sharp increase in complaints about signal malfunctions, unexplained train delays and generally deteriorating service in recent weeks, according to the Riders Alliance. The group argues that the aging system can only be repaired if lawmakers decide to fund the next capital program. Carol Crump, a 7 train rider, shared here horror story Tuesday: "I rely on the 7 train to get me from Queens to work on the Upper West Side. But lately—weekend and late night service on the 7 train has been a joke! Sometimes I have to resort to taking the bus or car service and that’s not sustainable or affordable!" The Riders Alliance is collecting stories of similar experiences online at http://www.ridersny.org/2015/03/13/has-your-subway-gotten-worse/ through Friday, March 20th.
LIC Partnership starts planning for Vernon Blvd block party
2014 LIC Springs

2014 LIC Springs

March 17, By Michael Florio Vernon Boulevard will play host to a massive block party this spring. The Long Island City Partnership will once again be closing off traffic between 50th Avenue and 46th Avenue in order to hold the second annual community festival called LIC Springs. The event will take place on May 9th, from 12 pm to 5 pm. Last year more than 5,000 people turned out for the free festival and there are expectations that it will be larger this year. “More people will know to look out for it,” said Jenna Petok, the director of marketing for the LIC Partnership. “It could be much larger than last year.” Last year the partnership created a carnival-like atmosphere, by filling Vernon Boulevard with dancers, musicians, face painters, sculpture-makers, lego builders and an event-stage area. The LIC Partnershp hopes to do the same this year, but programming for the event is still in the planning stages. So far, the YMCA and PNT Fitness will host fitness classes for adults, teenagers and children. Manducatis Rustica will be hosting a spaghetti eating contest. There will be on-stage performances and space for attendees to dance, set up by the events producer, Jason Sagebiel from Sage Music. “We want to unite LIC and are excited to do so,” Petok said. The restaurants located on Vernon Boulevard will be able to put out tables and chairs on the sidewalk– and serve food without having to worry about city permits. Retailers will be able to use the sidewalk to put their products out, too. The LIC Partnership is seeking interest from any local business or organization that wants to participate. Businesses have until April 3rd to sign up. “This event showcases the entire community,” Petok said. “Businesses do not just have to be from Vernon [Blvd] to participate.” The No. 7 train will be running on the weekend of the event. For more information go to http://licpartnership.org/events/lic-springs.  
LIC Springs 2014

LIC Springs 2014

Queens World Film Festival kicks off Tuesday, with 30 countries represented
opening night 2014

opening night 2014

March 16, By Michael Florio The Queens World Film Festival (QWFF), which will screen more than 100 independent films, kicks off tomorrow night at the Museum of Moving Image. The festival, which runs from March 17 through 22nd, will feature 117 films from 30 nations. The films will be screened at three venues—The Secret Theater in LIC, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights and MoMI. The event begins with the screening of six films at MoMI tomorrow night, starting at 8:00pm. The opening-night screening will then be followed by a party at Studio Square that begins at 10 pm. The festival will include about 50 films from the United States, with the remainder coming from countries such as England, Greece, Switzerland, Ukraine, Dominican Republic and China, according to festival director Katha Cato. “These filmmakers around the world are attracted to this festival since it brings an American audience to see their film,” Cato said. The year’s festival will also include 19 films that were made by Queens residents. Their work will be screened at P.S. 69—the largest of the three venues with 400 seats. It will provide them with the greatest exposure, Kato said. One film was made in Sunnyside. E.J. McLeavey-Fisher created a short documentary film about the cantankerous 81 year old Joe Leisner, who was the owner of Comic Book Heaven in Sunnyside for many years before it closed down in 2013. This year’s festival will include a special screening of ‘Bitter Sugar,’ by Cuban-American Leon Ichaso. It will be screened at MoMI at 7:30pm Wednesday. Ichaso, who is an internationally recognized filmmaker, will be honored at the festival for his work, which captures the human struggle of immigrating to the US. “We are honoring his integrity, humanity and dedication to do good work and continue to create independent films,” Cato said. “His work endures the test of time.” For the full listing of movies, please click here.  

Comic Book Heaven from E.J. McLeavey-Fisher on Vimeo.

Ex-military Taekwondo master opens school in LIC
Mr. Ok

Jung Ju OK

March 16, By Michael Florio A former South Korean Army trainer plans to whip Long Island City into shape. Jung Ju Ok, a fifth generation black belt, has opened a taekwondo school in the Power House (50-09 2nd Street), where he plans to teach students self-defense and discipline. Tiger J Taekwondo, which opened January, is the only taekwondo school in Hunters Point, according to Ok. Ok, who is the school’s head master, taught taekwondo for the South Korean Army from 2005 to 2007, where he taught 50 soldiers to be black belts. He then immigrated to the US in 2011 to be a taekwondo head master for World Champion Taekwondo, a school in Atlanta. Ok practiced taekwondo for 20 years in Korea and graduated from the Korea National Sports University in South Korea, where he trained with gold medalist taekwondo students. Ok lived in Atlanta until moving to LIC in 2014. “We wanted to take our lives and careers to a bigger city,” Ok said. He said he picked LIC because his wife had friends in the neighborhood. Seulki Kim, co-owner and Ok’s wife, said the two noticed that there wasn’t a school in the neighborhood after moving here from Atlanta a year ago. “Those who have signed up with us say they were looking all over for taekwondo classes,” she said. Tiger J Taekwondo offers classes to adults, families, teenagers, kids in grade school—as well as little tiger classes for kids from 3-to-5-years old. He said his classes differ from other martial arts schools—since many others have instructors who work under a head master to teach the classes. He said at his school, he is the instructor. “I interact with students physically and mentally. I run, play, teach and train with the students in the class and my members really appreciate it.” The school is open Monday through Saturday. So far, a little over 40 members have signed up for classes. However, Kim said she expects business to pick up when the weather gets better. “Those who have signed up enjoy themselves,” she said. “They are very excited.” Ok said it typically takes three years for a student to qualify for a black belt test. There are 11 belts prior to reaching black belt, he said. After one year a student will usually reach the green belt, the fifth belt, Ok said. Each belt has a different philosophy, starting with the white belt that teaches focus, all the way to black, which teaches leadership. Any student of Tiger J Taekwondo who reaches the black belt level will receive a certificate from Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters. “The certificate will be recognized all over the world,” Ok said. Ok said taekwondo can benefit both adults and particularly children, since it teaches them self-defense as well as etiquette and respect. “There are a lot of young children in the community that can benefit from this,” he said.
Ok

Jung Ju Ok

Gastropub to move into former Communitea location, although subject to a hearing in LIC
Gantry LIC March 13, By Christian Murray A gastropub is expected to open in the space that was previously occupied by Communitea—although the proprietors will be subject to a hearing in Long Island City following concerns about potential noise and bar saturation. The establishment will be called The Gantry LIC, located at 47-02 Vernon Blvd, and will be owned by the proprietors of LIC Bar, which is located at 45-58 Vernon Blvd. Phil Carroll and Brian Porter went before Community Board 2 Wednesday in their quest to get a liquor license. They said that the establishment will place a heavy emphasis on food and that they had no intention to use the existing backyard space. Furthermore, they said there would no live music. Despite this, William and Beth Garrett, two Vernon Blvd residents, attended the meeting and asked the committee in charge of reviewing liquor applications to hold a special hearing in Hunters Point where residents would be able to learn more about the establishment. Garrett said the venue would be two doors down from his house and he was concerned about it since he could hear noise through his walls from Blend, a restaurant located next door.  He also noted that there were 13 bars/restaurants within 500 ft. of the proposed location. Porter said the establishment would be a small space with room for 12 seats at the bar and about 20 in the main area. He said that he would be looking into establishing a sidewalk café in the future, although not this year. The menu that Porter presented to the board was extensive, offering a range of items such as mussels, lobster bisque, calamari, salmon, cod, burgers and Irish favorites such as Shepherd’s pie. The hearing in Long Island City will focus soley on The Gantry LIC. This is rare since most hearings in the past have dealt with several establishments at the same time. This hearing is likely to take place in April. Carol Terrano, who sits on the board, said “how fair is it for a new business to have to wait [until then]. Something about this doesn’t seem right to me.”
Another tower to go up near Queensboro Plaza, according to buildings dept. filing
930 apartments

29-37 41st Ave.

March 12, By Michael Florio Another large tower is about to go up near Queensboro Plaza. Property Markets Group plans to build a 70-story tower, located at 29-37 41st Ave, according to documents filed with the Department of Buildings. The structure, which would be 772 feet tall, would include 930 apartments and six commercial units on the ground floor. A corner parking lot would also be constructed with 100 spaces. The property is located next to the clock tower building, which PMG also owns. Preservationists are trying to get the clock tower landmarked and have been trying to rally support at community board meetings and elsewhere. SLCE Architects will be designing the project, according to the application.
Van Bramer lambasts MTA over No. 7 weekday service, MTA pushes back
Tara Turtell

Tara Turtell

March 11, By Christian Murray Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer took off the gloves this morning and threw a volley of punches toward the MTA concerning its No. 7 train ‘weekday’ service. Van Bramer, who was joined by several disgruntled 7 train riders, held a rally at the 40th Street station this morning and said that weekday service had fallen to a new low. He said that rush-hour commuters have had to contend with trains breaking down, signal malfunctions and overcrowded platforms that have put people’s lives at risk. “Queens riders are fed up with poor 7 train service,” he said. “Riders are paying for a service that is poor, inconsistent and just plain late.” He said that the level of service was “outrageous, potentially dangerous and disgraceful.” He said that the MTA, a state-run agency, was not being held accountable and that its standard excuse that ‘it will get better one day’ was inadequate to commuters who have to get to work on time. He called on the MTA to publicly release detailed information about every disruption (during rush hour) over the last year and to respond to angry riders at a town hall meeting. But the MTA pushed back. “We will be more than happy to look at the data but what does that accomplish?” wrote Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, in an e-mail. “To confirm what we already know?” “We are already working hard to make the 7 line more reliable by installing a new signal system, thousands of feet of track panels and making Sandy-related repairs—all vital work to improve service on the line.” “We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to our customers who depend on the No. 7 line and we appreciate their patience.” But Tara Turtell, one of several angry riders, wasn’t so patient with the MTA recently when she waited in the freezing cold on the 40th Street platform for over 45 minutes. She said that 10 trains came through the station, which were too packed for anyone to board. Turtell said she got to work an hour late and that she was so cold that she was unable to E-mail her boss as to her delay. "Unfortunately that was just one of many times the 7 train has made me excessively late to work. When I complain to the MTA all I hear are halfhearted apologies and absolutely no desire to improve, which makes the situation that much more frustrating,” she said. Van Bramer said that the MTA’s response to the community has been inadequate. He said that he sent the MTA a letter on Dec. 12 following another period when his constituents were complaining about weekday service. Van Bramer said he received a response two months later where the MTA wrote that over the course of the past 12 months "there were periods where delays and incidents have spiked.” Furthermore, Van Bramer said, the MTA stated in that letter that the No. 7 train outperformed the entire subway system as a whole with fewer delays on average. Van Bramer said that the MTA had promised the community that it would receive improved weekday service—in return for the hardship caused by the weekend outages. “My question to the MTA: why then has it sunk to new lows over the last four months?’” But the MTA struck back claiming that Van Bramer was getting in the way of progress by trying to postpone No. 7 train weekend work for events such as the St. Pat’s for All parade. “It is disingenuous of the councilman to request on several occasions that we postpone work on the 7 line then hold a rally to complain about service,” Ortiz wrote. Despite the MTAs claims, Pat O’Brien, the chairman of Community Board 2, said the level of service has been unacceptable. “The MTA may call it the 7 line but for all of us it is our life line—to get to work, school and doctor’s appointments.”
Following pink sculpture outcry, Van Bramer organizes Cultural Town Hall meeting
Early rendering

Early rendering

March 11, By Christian Murray Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, will be co-hosting a town hall meeting at MoMA PS 1 next Wednesday with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. The town hall meeting was called back in December following the department’s plan to place a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture on 43rd/Jackson Avenue. The $515,000 tax-payer funded sculpture drew much criticism when the public became aware it--since they had virtually no say in the process. The decision was left to a panel consisting of representatives from a number of city agencies and three local arts experts. The artwork was described by residents shortly after the plans became public as the 'Pink Panther' and 'Gumby’s grandmother.' Many people still refer to it by those monikers than its proper name ‘The Sunbather.’ Van Bramer, who chairs the city council's Cultural Affairs committee, announced that there would be a meeting with Finkelpearl in response to the outcry. He also said that he would draft legislation that would provide greater community input as to what gets erected as part of the department’s Percent for Art program.
Protest art against the proposed sculpture

Protest art against the proposed sculpture

The Sunbather is part of the Percent for Art program, where funds are specifically set aside for public art whenever capital is raised for city construction projects. Van Bramer, however, said the town hall would not just be about the Percent for Art program. It would be a forum where the public is free to ask a wide-range of questions. “This is a great opportunity for our community,” he said. “People will be able to talk to me as chair of cultural affairs and the commissioner at the same event.” He said artists might have questions such as how to find affordable studio space or affordable housing in general. For instance, he said, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his state of the city address that he planned to provide 1,500 affordable apartments for artists and musicians over the next 10 years. Richard Mazda, the owner of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, said he was impressed that artists would be given an open forum to ask questions. He said that he would be sending representatives from his theater since he has to perform that night. However, he said he would be looking to ask questions as to how the major western Queens institutions—such as MoMA PS 1 and the SculptureCenter—could work more closely with the community and grass roots organizations. He said that could involve half-price tickets for residents—or even free entry to the major institutions during the LIC Arts Open. The major institutions do not participate in the event. Meanwhile, Sheila Lewandowski, the executive director of The Chocolate Factory, said the event was another example of Van Bramer’s willingness to hear from artists—-whether they are individual artisans, non-profit groups or companies. Topics that might come up, Lewandowski said, might pertain to an arts bill that Van Bramer and Councilman Stephen Levin are close to passing. The bill, called the Comprehensive Cultural Plan, would analyze different neighborhoods and provide funding to those communities that are underserved. The bill also aims to address the problems that artists face in getting affordable studio and rehearsal space given the city’s booming real estate market. “He [Van Bramer] recognizes how important art is to New York’s identity,” she said. Furthermore, she added, artists from all over the city will be coming to the town hall. Details: Town Hall Location: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave.) Date: Wednesday, March 18 Time: 6:30pm to 8:30 pm
No. 7 service ‘a disgrace,’ Van Bramer to hold rally Wednesday
No.7train March 9, By Christian Murray He’s bombarded with Tweets, Facebook messages and E-mails whenever the No. 7 train goes down. He hears stories of people freezing on the platforms, standing in overcrowded stairwells, as well as commuting on jam-packed trains. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the recipient of a growing number of messages, will be sharing some of these stories at 8:00 am Wednesday when he holds a rally at the 40th Street subway station. “The morning rush hour into Manhattan has gone from bad to worse and the MTA should hear about it,” Van Bramer said. Several No. 7 train riders will be providing their own accounts of how the poor service has inconvenienced them. “I am fed up and the MTA needs to hear from all of us,” Van Bramer said. He said that it didn't matter that the MTA is a state-run agency--they just need to hear from the public. Van Bramer said the delays are affecting people’s quality of life. “Many people are late to work or have to leave much earlier to ensure they arrive on time.” Van Bramer said that the MTA’s response to his complaints have been insulting: “They say the No. 7 train is one of the best in the city… and that the delays are caused by people jamming onto the train,” he said. “This is blaming the victim.” “The weekend closures are bad enough," he said, "but compounded by all these rush-hour delays—it’s a disgrace." Rally: Date: Wednesday, March 11 Time: 8:00 am Location: 40th Street Station/Plaza

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