Long Island City Post

Long Island City NY news

Former owner of Vernon Blvd salon opens hair studio on Jackson

Enrique Elwart

Enrique Elwart

April 1, By Christian Murray

A Long Island City resident who once owned a hair salon on Vernon Boulevard is about to open a similar establishment on Jackson Avenue.

Enrique Elwart, who owned New York Looks at 47-14 Vernon Blvd until it closed a little over a year ago, plans to open another salon next week.

The salon will be called Phoenix Hair Studio and will be located at 10- 87 Jackson Avenue.

pricelistPhoenix Hair Studio will have 3 hair stylists where customers will be able to get haircuts and chemical services.

Elwart, who has lived in Long Island City for 10 years, said that he has a client base that dates back from his old business.

“I know a lot of people so I decided to open another salon,” Elwart said. He said he sold New York Looks last year since he was ill at the time.

Manetta’s undergoes a small makeover


April 1, Staff Report

The exterior of Manetta’s Ristorante underwent a small makeover today.

The Italian restaurant, located at 10-76 Jackson Avenue, erected a new front awning, the first time it was changed since it opened in 1992, according to a worker.

The restaurant, which serves informal Pan-Italian fare, is well known for its brick-oven pizza, house-made pastas and Mediterranean seafood dishes.

Court Square: Construction of Planned Parenthood Center scheduled to begin next month


21-45 45th Road, Court Square

March 31, By Michael Florio

Court Square, NY: Planned Parenthood of New York is scheduled to start construction on a new health care center, representing its first center in Queens.

The center will be located in Court Square, at 21-45 45th Road, and is expected to open in 2015.

Planned Parenthood is opening the Court Square facility since many women who live in Queens often have to travel to other boroughs to receive treatment. Queens is the only borough in New York without a Planned Parenthood facility at present.

Planned Parenthood anticipates that it will serve 17,500 patients a year at its Court Square facility. The center, like all others, will provide breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, abortions and routine gynecological care.

“The new health center will strengthen our ability to provide Queens residents with the essential reproductive health care services they need,” said Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood in a statement.

Planned Parenthood estimates that one in five women in Queens do not have health insurance, based on the latest census figures.

“I’m thrilled that Planned Parenthood of New York City is opening a health center in the borough,” said Sheila Lewandowski of The Chocolate Factory Theater and LIC Business Women. “The success of too many women—and families—in our community is hampered by a lack of affordable, quality health care.”


MTA President tells LIC residents that shuttle bus to Grand Central is unnecessary

Richard Mazda speaking at the MTA town hall meeting

Richard Mazda speaking at the MTA town hall meeting

March 29, By Christian Murray

The MTA heard the message loud and clear at a special meeting Thursday that the Long Island City community wants a shuttle bus that goes directly to Grand Central on weekends when the No. 7 train between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square is closed.

However, MTA President Carmen Bianco told the 200 attendees at PS 78Q that a shuttle bus to Grand Central was unnecessary, claiming that many residents don’t want to go there and that it would not save much in the way of time.

“We know a lot of riders are not going to Grand Central but other places,” Bianco said.  “It would benefit a limited number of people with only a limited gain in time.”

However, political leaders and residents were dumbfounded by these claims.

“Are you making that up?” asked State Sen. Mike Gianaris, referring to Bianco’s claim that the shuttle to Grand Central wouldn’t save much in the way of time–as opposed to the existing route where passengers have to take a shuttle to Queensboro Plaza and then a train. “Is this anecdotal?” Gianaris asked.

Bianco said that he had data to support his case and the MTA’s decision was based on that. However, Gianaris said he found it difficult to believe and wanted Bianco to share that data with the community.

A skeptical Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the data would make for some fascinating reading. He also polled the attendees whether they thought a shuttle bus was needed. The audience overwhelmingly replied yes.

The MTA executives spent most of the 2 ½ hour meeting explaining why the work—which will be completed in 2017– was necessary.

Bianco said that the MTA had to install a new communication system (called the Communications-Based Train Control), so it could increase the number of trains it could run per hour as well as enhance safety and reliability.

Bianco said the new system would increase the No. 7 train’s capacity by about 10%—or by about 2 trains per hour. Currently, there are 500,000 riders who use the No. 7 train each business day, with 27 trains running per hour at its peak.

The communications work has been taking place in the Steinway Tube, a narrow space that connects Queens to Manhattan. The tunnel doesn’t have room for workers while the trains are operating so it needs to be closed when repairs and upgrades are made.

Also, while the communications system is being put in place, the MTA said it is repairing the tunnel which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Furthermore, it is replacing the elevated tracks, since many are past their 25 year life expectancy.

Despite the comprehensiveness of the MTA’s plan, some residents viewed it as too short sited. They wondered how long the upgraded system would be able to accommodate the increased ridership—given all the new development in Long Island City and elsewhere in the borough.

Several residents said that the 10% increase in capacity– or 2 trains per hour– is not much and were fearful that the MTA would put them through further cuts in years to come when it had to cater to a larger population.

Meanwhile, Richard Mazda, who runs the LIC Arts Open, asked Bianco a direct question: “Can you please promise the community not to close between May 13th and 17th next year?” Mazda explained the significance of the LIC Arts Open festival—which features music, dance, visual art and theater —and the economic benefit to community.

Bianco reportedly told Mazda ‘You got it.’

But Mazda, a long-time critic of the MTA, didn’t let Bianco off the hook. “Maybe tonight’s meeting would have been better being a consultancy meeting in November,” he said. “When you announced the cuts [in December] it angered people by what was perceived as a cynical late announcement that didn’t give us a change to have a voice.”

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the Long Island City Partnership, called on Bianco to change the schedule for the weekend of May 17,  which is when the partnership is having its inaugural Vernon Blvd block party and when the 2014 LIC Arts Open takes place. The LIC Flea will also be open.

The number 7 train on that weekend will be down between Times Square and 74th Street—a more severe closure than the typical Times Square to Queensboro Plaza shut down.

“It’s one weekend, one day when Long Island City is all coming together,” Lusskin said. She said “it’s a body blow.”

Bianco did apologize to the community for the service outage. “We know this isn’t easy, I know this is disruptive…Let me apologize for the inconvenience to you.”

Carmen Bianco, MTA President

Carmen Bianco, MTA President

The Cliffs at LIC finally reopens, as owner’s battle with Buildings Dept. looks over

Mike Wolfert

Mike Wolfert

March 26, By Christian Murray

He’s on the top of the world.

The owner of the Cliffs at LIC, a gigantic indoor rock-climbing center located on 44th Drive, reopened today after being shut down by the Building Dept. in October for not having a valid Certificate of Occupancy.

“I feel the world has come off my shoulders,” said Mike Wolfert, the owner of the Cliffs. “They put us through an intensive audit.”

The Cliffs had its grand opening last October, but was shut down just three weeks later. Therefore, Wolfert said, when he reopened today it felt like a grand opening once again– especially after the climbers began to scale the walls.

The Cliffs, located at 11-11 44th Drive, features more than 30,000 square feet of climbing space—including walls that tower up to 60-feet high. The center also has a gym, which is fully equipped with strength-training equipment and cardiovascular machines.

Wolfert said he will start offering fitness and climbing programs in about two weeks—such as after-school programs, fitness camps and climbing classes.

He is also about to launch an after-school program for at-risk youth called “Climb Up.” The program will be free of charge to those children who qualify.

Wolfert said that he is planning on holding a re-opening celebration in about two weeks, although it won’t be quite as lavish as his grand opening when 1,000 people attended.

However, the past year has certainly been no party for Wolfert.

He had planned to open in May but complications with the building department—including his arrest for allegedly bribing a building inspector– delayed the opening.

However, when he did open in October an anonymous complaint was filed that alleged the Cliffs had violated city zoning laws. While that complaint was unfounded and dismissed, it led to a building inspector coming to the facility and reporting that he did not have a valid Certificate of Occupancy.

All of the delays—from May through March—have cost Wolfert about $500,000, he said.

Wolfert said he was able to retain his full time employees during the period—despite the loss in revenue. However, the delays did lead to some members canceling– even though they were not charged for the months the facility was closed. However, he said that was a small minority.

“It was pretty amazing the support I got from the climbing community,” he said. “They really reached out to me.”


LIC Partnership to host Vernon Blvd block party

Bay Ridge version

Bay Ridge version

March 24, By Christian Murray

Vernon Boulevard will play host to a massive block party this spring.

The Long Island City Partnership will be closing off traffic between 50th Avenue and 46th Avenue in order to hold a community festival. The event is scheduled to take place on the afternoon of Saturday, May 17.

The partnership aims to create a carnival-like atmosphere, where Vernon Boulevard will be filled with dancers, musicians, face painters, sculpture-makers and even lego builders. There will also be a stage area.

Meanwhile, 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.

“This will be a community celebration and a great way to show off the neighborhood,” said Dana Frankel, Director of Economic Development, at the Long Island City Partnership. “There will be a lot happening that weekend such as the LIC Flea and the LIC Arts Open.”

The event, which is currently being called LIC Spring Stroll, is free.

The partnership is still ironing out some of the details and is holding a meeting on Thursday, March 27, at 10 am at Manducatis Rustica (46-33 Vernon Boulevard). The public is invited to attend.

Event Details

Saturday, May 17
1 – 6 PM
Vernon Boulevard between 50th Ave. and 46th Ave.

Owner of Vernon Blvd pizzeria–who failed to attend Community board meeting–faces long-odds in opening garden space

Tom Blaze, outside his pizzeria

Tom Blaze, outside his pizzeria at 47-23 Vernon Blvd (File photo)

March 22, By Christian Murray

Several budding Long Island City restaurant owners failed to show up to a community board hearing Wednesday that dealt with their liquor license applications.

There were five restaurant applications and representatives from just two appeared at the hearing, which was held at the new high school at 1-50 51st Avenue.

Of the three no-shows, two didn’t attend since they decided not to go ahead with their plans. Daniel Shifteh withdrew his plans to open a Mediterranean restaurant at 10-17 Jackson Avenue, while the applicant for a liquor license at 11-18 46th Road no longer plans to open.

But the most notable absence was of Tom Blaze, the owner of a new pizzeria (L’inizio), which is scheduled to open at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard in May.

Blaze seeks a beer and wine license for the establishment, which includes a large rear yard. Many Long Island City residents showed up Wednesday solely to oppose Blaze’s application and his use of garden. His application remains the most controversial and opponents of it have called on public officials to oppose it.

But Blaze said Friday that he did not make the hearing since he nor his attorney were notified.

“I would have loved to have gone and told people what I want to do and how I am proud part of the community,” he said.

Blaze said he wants the use of the yard for children’s events. “The rear yard is large and is ideal for children’s pizza parties,” Blaze said. “This is what attracted me to opening the pizzeria.”

The use of rear gardens by restaurants has become a contentious issue along Vernon Boulevard in recent years—as neighboring residents have complained about noise.  The community board has been able to sway several restaurants to keep their rear yards shut, by pledging not to oppose the issuance of their liquor license if they oblige.

Blaze said that he doesn’t want to create problems. “I just want to open a nice place for the community.”

However, his application has stirred up many in the neighborhood.

Even Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan has stepped into the fray.  David Aglialoro, a representative of her office, read a letter at the community board hearing that Nolan had written to the State Liquor Authority in opposition to it.

“I am concerned about this development since there are many residential areas around this restaurant,” Aglialoro said, as he was reading Nolan’s letter. “The approval of this application would break the precedent and could lead to many other establishments along Vernon Blvd to reapply and change their status,” Nolan’s representative said.

Beth Garrett, who was in attendance with her husband William Garrett, told the board that she had a petition with more than 200 names on it opposed to the use of the backyard space. Several others members complained that the noise would carry down the street.

While the board did not render a decision on the matter Wednesday, the prospects that Blaze will be able to get a liquor license and get to use his backyard at the same time seemed dim.

The board pointed out inconsistencies in what Blaze had said in a past meeting with paper work he filed with the SLA.

However, Blaze said Friday that there must have been some sort of miscommunication.

But two owners did show up on Wednesday.

Heidy Smookler, who co-owns Mu Ramen with her husband, outlined her plans for the opening of the popular Japanese eatery at 12-09 Jackson Avenue—where Malu, the ice cream shop was located.

She told the board that the restaurant would consist of 22 seats—16 seats would be part of a large communal table, while the remaining 6 seats would be located next to the chef.

Smookler is applying for a full liquor license. She said she plans to sell wine, beer and Sake. She requested for her hours to be from noon to 4 am.

Pat O’Brien, who oversees liquor licenses on behalf of Community Board 2, was concerned about the 4 am closing and said he would speak to Smookler about it further. The next meeting on the matter is on April 9 in Woodside.

Meanwhile the owner of Beans, Grapes and Leaves—which will be located at 50-01 2nd Street– was there as part of his application for a wine and beer license.

This was the first time the board had any dealing with the establishment so it was merely an introduction to the operation.

The owner plans on opening a space comprised of 26 seats.

He said that he primarily aims to offer coffee, pastries, sandwiches, salads wine and beer.  The establishment will not have a kitchen.

However, he wants to be able to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and be open until 11 pm during the week and until 1 am on weekends.

There did not appear to be any objections from the board. However, the board will be meeting with the owner at its next meeting April 9

LIC Flea market seeks liquor licenses, needs them to remain viable, executive says

LIC Flea

LIC Flea

March 20, By Christian Murray

The operators of the LIC Flea & Food are applying for two liquor licenses– which they say are needed to keep the market viable.

Executives for the LIC Flea & Food market told Community Board 2 last night that they want to cordon off a section of the parking lot at their 46th Avenue and 5th Street location for the purposes of selling liquor. They also want a license to sell liquor from an old ferry that is adjacent to that parking lot at Anable Basin.

Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall, the company that owns the 24,000 sqf. lot and is a LIC Flea partner, said these licenses were important to the success of the market. Kirby spoke on behalf of Joshua Schneps, the founder, who was on vacation.

“They [the vendors] are telling us they are not getting enough business, and that people who buy a $13 lobster roll want to be able to buy a glass of beer,” Kirby said.

“A lot of these vendors were out summer weekends not selling anything,” Kirby said, adding that, “We may not be able to keep the flea market going if we can’t attract these vendors back… and to do that we need things like this.” He said that there is the “time clock” and that they need to get going with it.

However, the community board had a number of concerns about the licenses—such as the LIC Flea’s close proximity to the PS/IS 78Q, the lack of experience of the operators in running licensed establishments as well as noise and traffic concerns.

Patrick O’Brien, who is the head of the committee that oversees liquor licenses, said that the board was not willing to address the ferry application at this time. “It [the ferry] is in a state of rust and dilapidation and I am assuming there is a lot of work to be done,” he said. Once the plans have become more concrete, he said, then the board will review it.

The operators of the Flea market didn’t dispute that and focused on the application for a license on a portion of the lot. The license would only be for the spring/summer season and the operators pledged that they would only serve alcohol on Saturdays and Sunday when the market was open.

Kathleen Negri Stathopoulos, an attorney representing LIC Flea, said that her clients might just seek a beer and wine license (instead of a full license)–conceding the fact that the school is across the street.

The bar section would cater to as many as 60 people—on a lot that can handle 600 people at its peak.

Stathopoulos said that the license her client seeks is different that most—since it doesn’t deal with a fixed premise, such as a restaurant. She said she is required to send a proposal to Albany and she wants to be able to state that the community board has provided feedback on it.

But O’Brien said that it was premature to say that the community board had provided feedback since it didn’t really know the plans.

“We don’t know where in the lot the bar [area] is going to be,” he said. “We don’t where the entrances are –the dimensions,” he said.

“The law says the center of your entrance to the center of the school entrance has to be 200 ft or more away,” O’Brien said. “You have 210 feet. We need it clarified.”

O’Brien also said that people have lodged complaints stemming from the market. He said some people have complained about there being a lot of noise–while others have expressed concern about pedestrian and automobile traffic, as well as double parking. He said these issues have to be discussed.

O’Brien said he wanted to know whether the operators had a history of running a licensed premise—especially since the flea market caters to large crowds. While Stathopoulos said Schneps and his management team did not, Kirby said Plaxall runs hotels.

The board did not render any sort of decision last night and invited LIC Flea to come to its next committee meeting April 9.  Vicki Schneps, the publisher of the Queens Courier and the mother of Joshua Schneps, said the Flea is scheduled to reopen for the year on April 5.

“ I would pray and hope that you can do this in a timely fashion,” she said.

The board said that LIC Flea can work with the board on its proposal prior to the April 9 meeting.

MTA president to come to LIC March 27 to discuss subway disruptions

Vernon BoulevardMarch 19, By Christian Murray

MTA President Carmen Bianco will be coming to Long Island City later this month to explain to residents why the No. 7 train service is being cut between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for 22 weekends this year.

Bianco, who will be accompanied by a team of MTA officials, has agreed to be part of a town hall meeting schedule on March 27 at PS/IS 78 at 6:30 pm.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he called on Bianco to come and talk to the community about its plans for the No. 7 train, including the new signal system it is building. Furthermore, he said, he wanted the MTA to answer residents’ questions about the service cuts and the alternative modes of transportation.

“The MTA did a presentation for the elected officials a few weeks ago and I wanted to make sure the public heard the same information from the MTA as well,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer is putting on the meeting in conjunction with State Sen. Mike Gianaris, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Community Board 2.

The elected officials have held several meeting protesting the fact that service is being cut for 22 weekends. Furthermore, they have called for a shuttle bus service that goes directly from Long Island City to Grand Central Terminal. The MTA has not been willing to provide such a service.

Date: March 27

Location: PS/IS 78Q (46-08 5th Street)

Time: 6:30 pm

MTA to shut down G service to LIC for 5 weeks starting July 26

corrosionMarch 19, By Christian Murray

The MTA is shutting down the G Train for five straight weeks this summer—between Long Island City and Nassau Ave.

MTA officials told Community Board 2 members last night that the line would be down between Court Square and Nassau Ave/Manhattan Avenue from July 26 through September 1.

The MTA said that it needs to shut down service in order to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The tunnel that connects Long Island City with Greenpoint was flooded with 3 million gallons of salt water at the height of the storm, according to the MTA.

There will be shuttle service provided during the 5-week shutdown.

Last year, the G line was closed at the same stations for 12 weekends, as the MTA conducted repairs.

The MTA, however, said that there would be no weekend suspensions of the No. 7 train during the 5 week period. The MTA announced earlier this year that the No. 7 train would be closed between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square for 22 weekends  in 2014.

g train schedule

Cab driver dies in Queensboro bridge crash

Upper roadway of bridge

Upper roadway of Queensboro Bridge

March 19, By Christian Murray

A 50-year-old taxi driver died Wednesday morning after suffering from a medical condition on the Queensboro Bridge, according to police.

The driver, Vardo Kone of the Bronx, was traveling Queens-bound on the bridge’s upper level when he suffered from a medical emergency at about 12:20 am, the police said. He lost consciousness and then struck a wall while on the ramp heading toward Jackson Ave/Northern Boulevard, before going on to hit another Queens-bound cab.

Kone, who had a passenger in his vehicle at the time, was taken to Mount Sinai Queens and pronounced dead, police said.

The passenger and the other cab driver were both taken to Elmhurst General Hospital where they were listed in stable condition.

Owner transforms Cranky’s into ’1682 French Louisiana’

1682 French Louisiana (formerly Cranky's)

1682 French Louisiana (formerly Cranky’s)

March 18, By Christian Murray

The owner of a one-time Vernon Blvd coffee shop has transformed her establishment into a New Orleans restaurant.

Last month, Cranky’s Café, which was established in 2009 at 48-19 Vernon Blvd, was renamed “1682 French Louisiana,” with a focus on creating a New Orleans vibe and offering Cajun food .

The name–1682–represents the year when the French claimed Louisiana.

The owner of the restaurant, Mina Jons, who is from Paris, said that when she opened Cranky’s 4 ½ years ago her goal was to establish a coffee shop that was essentially “an extension of your living room—with games, movies and wifi.”

Initially, the cafe served coffee, salads, panini, sandwiches and pastries. Over time, however, the establishment  started to take on more of a French/New Orleans flavor and started to offer a comprehensive breakfast and brunch menu.

Jons said that as her cafe’s cuisine grew in popularity, Cranky’s was slowly beginning to morph into a restaurant. This prompted her to get a wine and beer license.

The establishment quickly developed a casual New Orleans feel to it, and Jons said she began offering a greater mix of Cajun and local food specials. Such items included: seafood gumbo soup, shrimp and andouille jambalaya, and blacken Cajun tilapia.

“We were doing a great day time business, but with the name Cranky’s some people didn’t think of us as a dinner venue,” Jons said.

The decision, she said, was made at the beginning of the year to change the name for that reason. So far, she has no regrets.

1682 French

Dutch Kills Centraal comes under fire for name

Dutch Kills Centraal

Dutch Kills Centraal

New York Post

It’s apparently Kills or be killed in the Long Island City bar scene.

A renowned cocktail maestro who opened the bar Dutch Kills in Queens is suing another watering hole less than a mile away for calling itself Dutch Kills Centraal, saying in a Brooklyn federal lawsuit filed Thursday, it rips off his name and business model.

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