Long Island City Post

Long Island City NY news

Il Mulino alumni open high-end Italian restaurant in LIC

August 20, By Christian Murray

Two long-serving chefs from the up-market Manhattan restaurant Il Mulino opened an Italian restaurant in Long Island City last week.

The restaurant, called Il Falco, opened at 21-50 44th Drive and serves high-end northern and southern Italian food. It offers all the traditional Italian dishes from pasta to chicken sautéed in a variety of sauces.

The chef is Segundo Tinishanay, who rose through the ranks to become the chef at Il Mulino, where he served U.S. presidents and captains of industry—such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Gates.

Tinishanay, an immigrant from Ecuador, started working at Il Mulino in 1986 in the salad station, before being promoted to the pasta station, then the grill and ultimately the chef. He was just 17 when he started.

“I didn’t feel ready to be chef at the time…but my boss Gino Masci said he would help me,” Tinishanay said. “He taught me everything about the kitchen… and I worked very hard and learned so much.”

Tinishanay later went on to train the kitchen staff at other Il Mulino restaurants that subsequently opened in Miami and Las Vegas.

Tinishanay hired Bolivar Perez, his brother-in-law, more than 20 years ago as a line cook. Perez, who is a partner at Il Falco, worked his way up to become sous-chef.

Today, both men have hired their adult children to work at Il Falco—with Tinishanay’s daughter as cashier and son a bus boy—while Perez’ daughter is the host and a son as bus boy.

Meanwhile, Perez’ cousin Albino Sanchez, who worked at Il Mulino for 16 years, is a waiter at Il Falco.

Tinishanay, Perez and Sanchez all come from a small town in Ecuador called Chunchi, which has a population of less than 10,000 people.

“We have all worked in the restaurant business a long time–since we were very young,” Tinishanay said. “We wanted to open a place of our own and we feel Long Island City is a good place to do that…with all these big buildings.”

The restaurant has an upstairs space for private functions that can seat about 35 people. The main dining room has space for about 40 seats.

Secret Theatre–in danger of closing–starts online fundraiser

August 19, By Christian Murray

The secret is out.

Richard Mazda, the founder of the Secret Theatre, is looking for donations in order to save his theater from closing.

Mazda, who operates the off-Broadway theater at 44-02 23rd Street, said his theater company got into a financial hole after the Department of Buildings discovered his building was not up to code—and he was stung with fines, architecture fees and other costs.

Mazda, who said the theater runs on a very slim margin, had not budgeted for such hefty expenses.

With his back against the wall, Mazda is hoping to raise $10,000 by the first week of September via a fund-raising campaign on the website Indiegogo. He is asking for donations for as little as $10. To date, he has received about $400.

The theater relies for the most part on ticket sales. It does not receive many donations and is not eligible to receive taxpayer funded grants.

Furthermore, he said, good shows don’t always bring in much in the way of profit. “We often do a show that is well received… with full audiences… and only still break even or make such a small profit,” he said on his fundraising video.

The theater puts on plays, musicals and children’s shows. The venue offers space that is rented out for rehearsals, parties, art exhibits and film screenings.

Mazda, who was the founder of the LIC Arts Open, said if he had to close “it would be a disaster for me, personally, and for the off-off Broadway community in New York City.”

To donate, click here


LIC Concert Series kicks off today at Gantry Plaza State Park

LIC Concert SeriesAugust 17, By Michael Florio

The third annual LIC Concert Series, a five-week free series at Gantry Plaza State Park, is kicking off today.

The concert series will run every Sunday through September 14. Each event starts at 5pm.

The concert series has grown significantly since its first year—when there was just one concert, consisting of two bands. About 140 people attended that event.

Last year, the organizers held three concerts at the park and were able to get the support of four sponsors.

“There were about 400 to 700 people at each performance [last year],” said Jason Sagebiel, founder of Sage Music, a local music school, which has organized the series with The Compact Disc Jockeys, a local firm that provides DJ services for parties.

This year, with five events, attendance is expected to continue to grow. Twenty-four businesses/organizations have sponsored this year’s series.

“I am very proud of this growth and the way that it is bringing the residents, businesses, and musicians/artists of Queens together,” Sagebiel said. “It’s a real community and I am very happy to be a part of it.”


August 17: Jeneen Terrana and Shelly Bhushan (see clips below)

August 24, Sol Liebeskind

August 31, Wishes and Thieves

September 7, The Yoga Room will conduct a yoga-in-the-park class while classical music will be performed by musicians to accompany the practice.

September 14, a family day that will feature a children’s musical, along with entertainment and face painting.



LIC Contortionist in quarter final of America’s Got Talent

Nina Burri

Nina Burri

August 15, By Christian Murray

This Long Island City resident has talent.

Nina Burri, a contortionist who lives in the LINC building in Court Square, is in the quarter finals of the popular TV show America’s Got Talent.

Burri,36, will be performing live at the Radio City Music Hall next Tuesday, August 19, in her pursuit to win the top prize. The show will be broadcast live at 9pm on NBC and she is hoping that her fellow Long Island City residents will vote for her.

Burri, who is a recent immigrant from Switzerland, is a former ballerina who worked at various ballet companies throughout Europe until she was 30. When she retired, she went to China for six months and learned contortion.

“When I got back to Switzerland, I continued my training and got better and better,” Burri said.

Burri then worked for Swiss National Circus before deciding to move to the United States with her husband, a personal trainer.

“Switzerland is a beautiful country but it is small, while America is so big and has so many opportunities,” she said.

Her talents are very much in demand.

“I am artist and acrobat and people hire me for shows, circuses and gala events,” she said.

Concession stand opens at Gantry Plaza State Park–called the Ice Box

IceboxAugust 14, By Michael Florio

The concession stand at Gantry Plaza State Park opened for the season this weekend—with a new operator who is focusing heavily on selling smoothies and juices.

The kiosk, called the Ice Box, is being run by COFFEED, the same company that opened LIC Landing at Hunters Point South Park in May.

The Ice Box is selling a range of items—from iced coffee to iced tea—as well as sandwiches, salads, wraps, ice cream and freshly baked pastries that will be delivered each morning from other COFFEED locations.

The Ice Box will have particular appeal to residents who like smoothies & juices. It offers a menu that includes flavors such as strawberry, banana, blueberry, pineapple and orange.

Frank Raffaele, the owner, said that the Ice Box will have a larger focus on smoothies and juices than his other seven COFFEED locations, including the flagship cafe at 37-18 Northern Boulevard.

“There is a big need for juicing in the LIC area,” Raffaele said. “A lot of people are part of the juice culture.”

A commercial size juicer is currently being installed at the Ice Box so fresh juice can be produced on location.

Raffaele, who has been open just a few days, said the community’s reaction to the Ice Box has been very encouraging.

“People were very eager to have a food provider here…and they are glad we are here.”

Raffaele said he has created a menu that appeals to parents and children.

“LIC is becoming very kid friendly,” he said. “We will be servicing all the families that come to the park as well as dog walkers.”

The concession stand was built by Queens West—next to the playground–during the initial development of the park about 10 years ago, Raffaele said.

When the previous concessionaire left, it went up for bid. Raffaele said he was very interested and applied for the spot.

“We were lucky that we got picked and are very happy to be here,” he said.

Bill Bylewski (left), President of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, with Frank Raffaele and colleagues

(L-F) Bill Bylewski, President of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, with Frank Raffaele of COFFEED and colleagues (photo: Hunters Point Park Conservancy)






Station LIC on track to open early September

Station LIC

Station LIC

August 13, By Michael Florio

The railroad-themed bar/restaurant that is coming to Hunters Point is on track to open early September.

Station LIC, located at 10-37 Jackson Ave, was initially going to open in July but owner Greg Okshteyn decided to push back the date to ensure that he had enough time to train his staff and meet his distributors/suppliers.

Furthermore, he wanted to take his time completing the 2 ½ year renovation.

“We spent so much time on the renovations we didn’t want to rush the final stages,” he said. “We’re perfectionists and we wanted to make sure that everything was done perfectly.”

The restaurant has now been completely renovated and a brand new kitchen has been installed.

The restaurant is located inside a triangular-shaped building, which looks like a station house, which has been empty for more than a decade. Okshteyn has already placed a railroad light on the exterior of the building—indicating where the front door is.

Business partner Christoper Ferrante, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and ran Bar 89 in Manhattan, has designed the menu, food and bar program.

The bar/restaurant will feature American bistro-style food, featuring snack items 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.

Main dishes will cost anywhere from $12 to $18 dollars. Cocktails will cost $11.

Okshteyn said that the bar/restaurant will cater to 71 people, with 44 restaurant goers seated upstairs, 11 at the bar and 16 downstairs in the cellar.

While empty for the past decade, the location has a rich history. It was the home of a successful saloon called Blessinger’s and was also featured in the 1980’s Tom Cruise film ‘Cocktail.’

The restaurant has garnered a lot of attention from the community, as Okshteyn, a LIC resident, said he can’t walk around the neighborhood without being asked when it will open.

“Everyone knows we are going to have a lot of fun,” he said.

Cafe/bar coming to Court Square, complete with church pews and chandelier

BeastNextDoorAugust 12, By Michael Florio

A new neighborhood café and bar is expected to open in the Court Square section of Long Island City this fall.

John Veenema, the owner, has taken an old garage space and spent the past year converting it into a café/bar called The Beast Next Door, which will be located at 42-51 27th Street.

The establishment will be essentially be a European cafe by day and a bar at night.

Veenema, who has a background in visual arts, has gone to great length in designing the cafe/bar. Inside, hangs an old chandelier and placed alongside the walls are old church pews, which will be used as benches. Meanwhile, the tables are made out of salvaged pallets and even a prison door.

The café/bar also features a raised area toward the back of the establishment, which will serve as a seating area at times and as an area for live music.

Along the back wall there is a woodcut Turkish design mural, which Veenema made himself.

“It will be elegant and have a romantic feel,” he said. “I want people to feel comfortable here, to have a conversation, and for people to get to know one another better.”

The café/bar has room for about 74 people, and while there will not be outdoor seating it has French style doors, which open up to the street.

“It will feel like you are outside on nice days,” Veenema said.

This is Veenema’s first bar, but he has experience in the industry as he previously worked at Block Star, a Manhattan bar that has since closed.

Veenema, who is originally from Canada, has lived in LIC for the past five years. Prior to that, he spent 15 years living in Manhattan.

“This neighborhood is always growing,” he said. “The neighbors are excited. There are so few things in this part of the neighborhood and we will be a welcoming option.”

He knew he wanted to open his business in Long Island City, but landed on this location once he was able to obtain the lease–as most property owners were looking to sell, not rent.

Originally, he hoped to open in June, but was delayed due to plumbing issues, which have now been resolved.

Doggie day care center, pizzeria open in Court Square/Queens Plaza area


August 11, By Christian Murray

Dog Island City, which announced in April that it was moving from Hunters Point to Court Square, completed its relocation earlier this month.

The doggie day care center, which had been located at 5-29 50th Avenue for the past five years, opened its new digs at 27-18 44th Drive on August 1.

Lidia Lozovsky, the owner, said the new location is significantly larger. “It’s 1,000 square feet, compared to the 600 square feet we had before,” she said.

She is now able to provide larger pens– one for the big dogs and a separate pen for the little dogs.

Former location

Former location

Lozovsky said that many of her clients have come with her to Court Square—although not all. “Some bring their dogs by cars; some we pick up their dogs; and others just can’t get over here,” she said.

However, Lozovsky said that the Court Square neighborhood is continuing to grow and that she expects many residents in the area to start using her service.

Lozovsky said she offers more services than doggie day care such as dog training, cat sitting,dog walking and pet supplies.

Meanwhile, in Queens Plaza, Lucky Pizzeria at 27-10 Queens Plaza South will be holding its grand opening Tuesday from 3:00pm-4:30 pm. The pizzeria will be offering 20% off all orders and will be providing samples.

DOE wants school to start at 8:00am, PS/IS 78 parents push back

PS 78

PS 78

August 8, By Christian Murray

Many parents with children at PS/IS 78 are upset that the Department of Education plans to change the time school starts to 8:00 am

The Department of Education notified parents that school will start 40 minutes earlier this fall than it is now—and that school will end at 2:20 pm instead of 3:00 pm.

While the policy affects parents at PS 78, it is part of a city wide decision that changes the start time at about 450 schools across the city.

The decision was included as part of the teachers’ union contract the city agreed to earlier this year.

The parents at PS/IS 78 have already started a petition and are looking to work with the school to amend the school hours.

The parents’ main concern is that it would provide them with less quality time with their children; potentially increase childcare expenses; and may affect their children’s ability to learn.

Louis Pavone, the principal at PS/IS 78, could not be reached for comment. However, parents at other schools who have voiced similar concerns have been able to alter the hours.

For a copy of the petition, click here

Community Board 2 makes push for affordable housing, in effort to combat soaring rental prices

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2

August 8, By Christian Murray

The cost to rent an apartment in Western Queens has become so pricey that Community Board 2 is calling for the city to offer incentives to developers to build more affordable housing.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley has proposed four sections—scattered among Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City—that the city should look to rezone in order to increase the number of low and moderate income housing units.

The developers would, in essence, be offered the ability to build larger buildings in return for creating a greater number of below market-rate units.

The areas selected include a triangular section of Woodside—bound by Northern Boulevard, Broadway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; an area in Sunnyside bordered by 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard from 43rd Street to 48th Street; and a number of parcels adjacent to Queens Plaza.

Furthermore, Conley is suggesting that the city review the Queens Boulevard area on the border of Sunnyside/Woodside from Calvary Cemetery to 49th Street to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Other sites include building on top of the LIRR on Woodside Ave. between 63rd and 65th Streets—as well as on the Phipps site along the Sunnyside rail line.

Conley said that all the new development in the past decade in Long Island City—where there was no requirement for affordable housing in the zoning code—has created a “gold coast’ where over 10,000 new market rate units have been built with less than 1,000 affordable units.

This week, Modern Spaces, a Long Island City-based real estate firm, released it second quarter report that reported that the average cost to rent a luxury 1 bedroom apartment in Long Island City was about $3,200.

The Long Island City boom has also put pressure, Conley said, on rental prices in Sunnyside and Woodside, where rents have also skyrocketed.

For instance, the average asking price for a one bedroom in Sunnyside is somewhere between $1650 and $1,800, according to local real estate agents.

Conley said that the boom is forcing some people out of the district—since when their lease gets renewed the rent becomes too expensive.

Potential Rezoning Study Sites

Old-school pizzeria L’inizio opens on Vernon Blvd

August 7, By Christian Murray

L’inizio, an old-school pizzeria located at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard, opened today.

The owner, Tom Blaze, said that the pizzeria offers simplicity—from a casual, homey atmosphere to food cooked with the freshest of ingredients.

Blaze said the pizza is made each day, on site from scratch. All the produce is locally produced and even the mozzarella cheese is made in house.

“We aim to keep all our products as local and organic as possible,” he said.

For now, Blaze is keeping the menu fairly simple—offering items such as pizza by the slice, meatballs, garlic knots, cured meats, salads, and a range of different pies. He said over time he will expand the menu further but his focus is on getting the basics right.

Blaze said that by the end of the month he plans to be offering wine and beer.

Despite the focus on getting back to basics, Blaze has gone to great lengths to create the simple, traditional feel.

The restaurant is noteworthy for its exposed brick walls (adorned by artwork), timber floors and granite counter tops.

There is a large 1950s-style mural on the wall of a woman holding a pizza. Blaze said he had it painted to add to the old-school atmosphere.

The backyard, while ready, cannot be used. Community Board 2 made him pledge not to use it as a condition of getting his liquor license.

Blaze grew up and has lived in Long Island City for most of his life. He is also a broker for Modern Spaces, which is about a block away from his new pizzeria.

The pizzeria is currently open every day except Monday–from lunchtime until late evening. The hours are still being finalized.

Western Queens residents can buy groceries online via new App

Instacart1August 7, By Michael Florio

An online grocery delivery service has just begun serving Western Queens and is looking to take away business from Fresh Direct.

InstaCart, an online grocery delivery service that has been in operation for two years, has branched out into Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.

The company offers an app that allows its users to purchase items from Key Food and Costco and have them delivered to their door.

The company operates very much like Uber, where the company outsources an order to a so-called “personal shopper” who will scurry around through the store, pick up the items and then deliver them to a customer’s door.

The charge for the service depends on the value of the total order, as well as how soon the purchaser wants them.

The company charges consumers with orders totaling $35 or less a delivery fee of $7.99. If the order is needed within an hour, the fee is raised to $9.99

For orders over $35, the standard delivery fee is $3.99. However, if the groceries are needed within an hour, the fee is raised to $5.99.

Originally launched in San Francisco in May 2012, InstaCart began offering its service in Manhattan (below 110th street) in April, and rolled it out in Brooklyn in May.

The company claims that it decided to enter Queens after receiving requests from Astoria and Long Island City residents for the service. However, it noted that surrounding neighborhoods were interested too.

“We’ve heard from many Queens residents…busy parents, young professionals, office managers, among others – so we’re excited to meet growing customer demand.” said Will Nichols, the manager of the New York operation.

“We will initially do deliveries from Key Food and Costco, but we will add other local favorites [supermarkets] to our offerings in the near future,” Nichols said.

Nichols would not comment as to what stores are likely to be added.

The company elected to partner up with Key Food and Costco as part of its Queens launch since it already has existing relationships with these stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“These stores also have a large clientele,” Nichols said.

For more information, please click here


After long delays, Jora finally opens

Jora, May 2013

Jora erects it sign, May 2013

August 6, By Christian Murray

It took more than 18 months but it has finally arrived.

Jora, which offers traditional Peruvian food, opened two weeks ago on the corner of 48th Avenue and 11th .

The restaurant is owned and operated by 26-year-old Alejandro Rojas, who comes to the neighborhood with pedigree.

Rojas’s father owns one of the oldest Peruvian restaurants in New York, which was established in Jackson Heights in 1976. That restaurant was initially called Inti raymi, but the name was later changed to Urubama.

Roja said he learned to cook working alongside his father and has also been to cooking school. This is his first restaurant.

Roja said the delay in opening was largely the result of some personal issues as opposed to city bureaucracy.

“We spent too much time at our other [Jackson Heights] place and then some other issues came up,” he said.

The restaurant is currently open from 5:30 pm through 11 pm and is serving entrees such as grilled skirt steak, Peruvian style seafood paella, braised lamb shank and pan roasted chicken breast.

In two weeks, Roja said that the restaurant will open at about 12:00pm to cater to the lunch crowd. In time, it will serve brunch on weekends.

Roja said that business has been good so far. “People have seen our [Jora] sign up for a long time and then when they saw the lights on they realized we had opened and came on it.”

The restaurant has a liquor license and has room for about 90 diners.

The restaurant replaces the long-vacant Crossroads Diner.


Alejandro Rojas