By Michael Florio
Residents will be able to catch a nostalgia train from Queens Plaza every Sunday this December.
The trains are comprised of old subway cars that ran between the 1930s and early 1970s.
This year the nostalgia trains will run along the Sixth Avenue M-line on Sundays (November 30th, December 7th, 14, 21, 28) between 10 am and 5 pm. Western Queens residents can catch these trains at Queens Plaza.
“Holiday shoppers, tourists and those who just remember a bygone era will have the opportunity to experience a ride on a subway train from yesteryear, “said MTA New York City President Carmen Bianco in a statement.
Each car will be equipped with ceiling fans, padded seats and incandescent light bulbs.
The MTA released information on each of the old train cars:
Car No. 100 — Manufactured by American Car and Foundry, this 1932 R1-type car was the first car in the initial order of 300 cars placed in service for the opening of the IND subway.
Car No. 484 — Part of a 500-car order of R4 cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry. In 1946, this car received a retrofit of bulls-eye lighting and a public address system.
Car No. 1575 – Originally manufactured as an R7, this car was involved in a wreck in 1946. Sent to the American Car & Foundry factory, the car, which is equipped with fluorescent lighting and smooth sides, was rebuilt as the prototype of the next generation R10 subway car.
In addition to the subways, the MTA will be running a nostalgia bus.
The crosstown route will run Monday through Friday from December 1st to the 19th. According to the MTA, everything on the vintage bus will be original, except the fare.
Many of the buses are pre-1959.
“These buses are a living, breathing part of the city’s history and each has a unique story to tell about the era in which it operated,” says Darryl Irick, Senior VP of NYC Transit Department of Buses and President of MTA Bus and a former Bus Operator himself.
Dec. 19, By Christian Murray
Several Long Island City restaurants are trying to bring the community together by collecting presents for needy children this Christmas.
The restaurants, which are part of the group LIC Eats, aim to distribute presents to 64 children living in a temporary Long Island City shelter. The children range in age from 6 months to 18 years.
Six establishments are participating and they are looking for community support to help get those presents. The restaurants are: The Creek and The Cave, Alobar, Woodbines, Manducatis Rustica, Sage General Store and Alewife.
Each restaurant has hung up about 10 paper ornaments, with each ornament containing details of each particular child, such as his/her age, gender, shoe size, clothing size, hobbies, favorite color and favorite TV show.
The restaurants are hoping that their customers will take an ornament and buy a gift for a given child.
Some of the restaurants will be offering rewards to those customers who pledge to drop off unwrapped presents by Sunday, Dec. 21. For instance, Jeff Blath the owner of Alobar, said he is offering a free entree.
The presents will be wrapped at The Creek and The Cave and will be delivered to the children on Christmas Eve.
Dec. 18, By Michael Florio
Long Island City renters just can’t get a break.
The neighborhood is home to the highest average rental prices in Queens–whether it’s for studios, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments, according to the latest MNS Real Estate report.
Ed Cho, a real estate broker with Space Marketing Shop, said the average prices are so high because Long Island City has so many luxury apartments.
Cho said many of the luxury buildings come with high-rent amenities such as a fitness center, club room, a terrace, a swimming pool or even a yoga room.
“You will not find these features in any other neighborhood in Queens,” he said.
Long Island City rental prices have continued to rise despite the onset of winter. Typically, prices dip as the winter months approach since demand wanes.
“There is greater demand in summer since there are new students and new hires moving into the neighborhood,” he said.
In fall/winter, the market typically softens. For instance, in Astoria the average rent has dipped in the past couple of months.
However, in LIC the market keeps chugging along.
One-bedroom apartments don’t seem to be getting any cheaper. One-bedrooms went for $2,960 in November compared to $2,894 in October, an increase of 2.3 percent. Six months ago, in June, that number was $2,875
The rental figures for two bedroom apartments were largely unchanged between October and November, with the latest number coming in at $3,816. In June, however, the average rent was lower, at $3,747.
The report noted that the average rental price for a studio in Long Island City was $2,406 in November, up from $2,266 in October. The November number, however, was lower than $2,599 in June.
Cho said that rental prices in LIC were largely flat over the summer—which might account for the recent uptick of one and two bedroom apartments.
Cho said that several new buildings opened in the spring and summer months, which increased supply and stabilized prices.
“Every time one building would fill up, a new development would open,” he said.
Dec. 17, By Christian Murray
Get ready for the latest round of No. 7 train weekend service cuts.
The MTA released its schedule for the first five months of 2015 and the No. 7 train will be out of service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for nine weekends.
In addition, there will be weekend service cuts between Willets Point and Flushing-Main Street on three other weekends.
The first weekend of the Times Square/Queensboro Plaza cuts is scheduled to take place January 17-19, which will be the first of four weekends in a row that it will be down.
The MTA says that the cuts are in order for it to install a new Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signal system; replace elevated tracks; and for the reconstruction and fortification of the Steinway Tubes (which connects Queens to Manhattan).
The MTA, which is a state-run agency, claims that majority of this work has been scheduled over weekends when ridership is lower than normal.
However, Long Island City businesses and cultural groups did not get to weigh in on when those cuts would be and received little notice about the dates.
“The MTA still isn’t engaging the community or responding to the community in a meaningful way,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been in talks with the agency. “I am very disappointed.”
Van Bramer said that it was unacceptable that the MTA would close service for several weekends in a row in January and February—during the coldest month of the year.
He said that residents might be a little more forgiving about the closures if they had seen improved No. 7 train service as promised. However, “the truth is that over the past few months No. 7 train regular service has been poor and there have been lots of delays.”
He said that on December 11 the delays were so bad that the overcrowded subway platforms put commuters at risk.
Dec. 17, By Michael Florio
The beast is finally here.
The Beast Next Door, a neighborhood café and bar located in Court Square, is set to open its doors this Friday.
John Veenema, the owner, had hoped to open in August but it took him much longer to transform what was an old garage space into the café/bar.
The conversion of the 42-51 27th Street location was more complicated than he anticipated. He had to replace rusty beams, change the plumbing system, put in new wiring and install a new heating system.
He said the space had to be completely overhauled.
Veenema, who has a background in visual arts, also went to great length when he designed the interior of the café/bar.
Inside hangs an old chandelier and placed alongside the walls are old church pews–which are to be used as benches. Meanwhile, the tables are made out of salvaged pallets and timber from an old wooden prison door.
The café/bar also features a raised area toward the back of the establishment that serves as a seating area at times and as an area for live music.
Along the back wall there is a woodcut Turkish-design mural that Veenema made himself.
“The bar will be elegant and have a romantic feel,” Veenema said. “I want people to feel comfortable here, to have a conversation, and for people to get to know one another.”
The Court Square café/bar has room for about 75 people, and while there won’t be sidewalk seating there will be French-style doors that will open up to the street.
“It will feel like you are outside on nice days,” Veenema said.
Veenema is expecting about 50 people to attend the grand opening party at 7pm this Friday. He has hired a band for the occasion that plays ‘80s style rock music.
Veenema hosted a soft opening last Saturday that was attended by friends, family and neighbors.
“We had a great turnout,” he said. “People really enjoyed the environment and liked the lighting and furniture. They felt it was a comfortable and nice place to hang out.”
The menu will consist of combination plates, which will include Italian cured meats and French cheeses–served with bread, slices of fruit and nuts. There will also be sandwiches, salads and pastries.
“We want to serve high quality food items,” Veenema said. “There will be no fried food served here.”
To drink, Veenema said he will be offering four beers on tap, which will consist of Rockaway Brewing Company’s Original ESB, Allagash White, Sixpoint Brewery’s The Crisp, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.
There will also be wine and liquor.
This is Veenema’s first bar. However, he has industry experience having worked at Block Star, a Manhattan bar that has since closed.
Veenema, who is originally from Canada, has lived in Court Square for the past five years—after living in Manhattan for more than a decade.
Veenema has long wanted to open a café/bar in Long Island City and initially checked out the Hunters Point area.
However, he said Court Square was a better option.
He said that the Court Square section of Long Island City is undergoing a great deal of development, yet still offers limited options for residents.
He said that it was difficult finding a location in the area since most property owners are looking to sell their property or develop it.
“We want to be a place in Court Square where residents can come and have a conversation,” he said. “It will be a place to hang out and relax.”
Dec. 15, By Christian Murray
Legislation is being introduced to ensure that the community has more of a say before bright pink sculptures–or any other pieces of art–are erected via the city’s Percent for Art program.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the Cultural Affairs Committee, is sponsoring legislation that will provide the public with a greater voice when it comes to the selection of artwork.
“We are going to take a good comprehensive look at the Percent for Art Law to strengthen and bolster the community engagement process,” Van Bramer said.
The catalyst for Van Bramer’s legislation stemmed from the Percent for Art’s selection of an 8 ½ foot tall pink sculpture that is likely to be placed at 43rd/Jackson Avenue. The public had virtually no input into the decision, which was left to a panel consisting of representatives from a variety of city agencies and three local arts experts.
The artwork the panel selected—called the ‘Sunbather’—has been universally panned ever since a rendering of it was posted online.
Van Bramer said that the selection process needs to be changed and that the public must be able to weigh in on it early in the process.
“I want to make sure that there are public meetings–including town hall meetings–as part of the process,” he said. At the moment, he added, “there are a select few on a private panel who make these decisions… and then they consult the community board when it is almost a done deal.”
Van Bramer, a strong advocate for the program and the arts community, said “the panel should come to the public early in the process and discuss what the plans are.” Then the panel should incorporate that feedback and proceed further.
The Percent for Art program became law in 1982 and requires a portion of funds that are raised for city construction projects to be set aside for public art. Van Bramer said the law needs to be revised to ensure that all city residents will be heard whenever a piece of artwork is going through the selection process.
Van Bramer said that he spoke to Dept. of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl yesterday about the legislation and asked him to come to Long Island City for a town hall meeting to discuss the ‘Sunbather’ as well as the Percent for Art program in general.
Finkelpearl is scheduled to speak in Long Island City in January—and Van Bramer said that it is not a done-deal that the ‘Sunbather’ will go up until the public is heard.
Furthermore, Van Bramer said that the administration cares about transparency and that the renderings should be online and available at request going forward.
Ten days ago, when this publication asked for the rendering, a spokesman for the program said: “They [the renderings] are not made publicly available until the proposal has been reviewed and is approved.”
State Sen. Mike Gianaris described the Percent for Arts selection process as “very bureaucratic” when he was interviewed Saturday.
“This decision was too much top down without consultation with local civic groups or the community board,” he said. “Yet we are the people who live here and have to see it every day when they drop this thing in.”
Several people have taken to comment boards and social media to voice their dislike of the sculpture—with one critic referring to it as the ‘Pink Panther’ and another saying that Stevie Wonder must have selected it.
Meanwhile, Hunt Rodriguez, who placed his own sculpture on Jackson Avenue last week in protest, said today that the whole project upsets him.
His biggest beef is that it comes at a cost of $515,000. “We are spending all that money on this nonsense, while the city falls apart.”
Dec. 13, By Christian Murray
Two Long Island City civic leaders stepped into action recently when they heard that a greater number of New Yorkers are likely to go hungry this Holiday Season.
Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, and John Dallaire, who represents the LIC/Astoria Lions Club, put together a food drive and gathered more than 3,300 lbs of food—equating to about 60 boxes.
The two organizations teamed up with local grocery stores (such as Food Cellar, Urban Market in LIC and Associated in Sunnyside), which put out collection boxes. Furthermore, donation boxes were placed in several high-rise apartment buildings throughout the city.
On Thursday, O’Leary– aided by a group of volunteers–sorted through the boxes, hired a van and delivered them to Bread of Life Food Pantry in Queensbridge, The Hour Children Food Pantry in Long Island City and the St Rafael’s Food Pantry in Sunnyside.
“The generosity of the area is amazing,” O’Leary said, adding that their initial goal was 2,000 lbs. “I’m proud to be a part of a loving neighborhood that supports each other.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, members of the 108 Police Precinct Community Council were handing out toys to children from a Queens Blvd. temporary homeless shelter.
Diane Ballek, president of the community council, said that the group had gathered more than 250 toys—with many paid for via donations from local businesses.
Furthermore, Ballek said, Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, the owner of Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City, collected dozens of toys for the event—as she was able to get plenty of people in Hunters Point to contribute.
Dec. 12, By Christian Murray
The bright pink $515,000 sculpture scheduled to be placed on Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue has not only drawn fierce verbal criticism– but now protest art.
An anonymous piece of protest art appeared on Jackson Avenue on Wednesday, according to the art website hyperallergic. The art piece is in opposition to the 8 ½ foot tall pink ‘Sunbather.”
The protest art alleges that the Sunbather is a waste of public money and that the funds would be better spent elsewhere. A message attached to the artwork reads:
“This is not against the artist. It is against the misuse of our tax dollars…This money could be spent on something constructive like education.”
However, as previously reported, Sara Reisman, the director of Percent for Art, told Community Board 2 last week that a sculpture is going up and that the artist selected won’t change.
As to changing the size and color: “We aren’t in a position that we can say to an artist that you must do this?” she said.
Reisman then later claimed that the board’s feedback would be taken into consideration.
For hyperallergic story: Please click here
Dec. 12, By Christian Murray
A new pizzeria is opening on Vernon Blvd next spring moving, taking over the space that was previously occupied by Papo Fried Chicken Zacks Pizzeria.
The pizzeria, to be called sLICe, will be located at 48-11 Vernon Boulevard and will be partly owned by Anthony Perez, co-owner of Blend and Blend on the Water.
Perez said the pizzeria will sell New York Style-pizza—as well as items such as pasta, meatballs and little calzones.
Papo Fried Chicken closed in April. It was closed down by the Health Department and then never reopened.
Dec. 10, Staff report
The borough of Queens was selected as the best tourism destination in the United States for 2015 by Lonely Planet, a leading news outlet that covers the travel industry.
Queens drew praise for its eating and drinking scene (including the four microbreweries that opened over the last 18 months), amazing diversity, high-quality hotels, exciting events, and unique, enchanting neighborhoods, such as art-filled Long Island City and surfboard-friendly Rockaway.
“Nowhere is the image of New York as the global melting pot truer than Queens. Browse New York’s biggest Chinatown in Flushing, shop for brilliantly colored saris in Jackson Heights, and inhale the heady aromas of coffee and hookahs in Astoria,” reads Lonely Planet’s editorial in its Best in the US list for 2015.
“The incomparable array of world cuisines makes Queens a destination for food lovers from all parts of New York City. For your art fix, ogle the new upgrades to the Queens Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, look for the new Emerging Artists Festival (conceptionevents.com) in Long Island City, and stroll Astoria’s new 24-block arts district (kaufmanartsdistrict.org). If you prefer sand and surf to paint and canvas, head to Rockaway.”
“Don’t miss the prime eating and drinking scene that has popped up around the boardwalk — this is no cruddy carnival food: think succulent fish tacos, wood-fired pizzas, and wine bars.”
Western South Dakota came in second on Lonely Planet’s list. The other members of the top 10 were, in order, New Orleans (LA), the Colorado River, North Conway (NH), Indianapolis (IN), Greenville (SC), Oakland (CA), Duluth (MN), and the Mount Shasta Region (CA).
“I have always argued that we have the best hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations, parks, sporting events, and residents in the world and that our prices are very competitive for tourists,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, after the announcement.
“It’s simply wonderful that Lonely Planet agrees, and our hospitality industry is waiting with open arms for all visitors. Come, you’ll like it.”
The annual top 10 destinations list is determined by Lonely Planet’s authors and editorial team to help travelers add to their wish lists for the coming year. Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has the biggest market share for guidebook sales in the world, having published more than 130 million guidebooks in its history. The media company also operates an award-winning website and a suite of mobile and digital travel products.
For the write up on Queens, please click here.
- A small boat ramp for kayaks, canoes, etc. on the Long Island City waterfront
- Beautification projects and streetscape improvements—including the planting of new street trees throughout the district
- Installation of traffic calming measures throughout the district
- A pedestrian footbridge over Queens Boulevard and Thomson Avenue
- Expansion of bike lanes throughout the district
- Renovation of the tennis courts at IS 204 in Dutch Kills
- Solar powered charging stations throughout district
- A Mobile Veterinarian
- A second dog run in Sunnyside
- Handicap-accessible ramps in Queensbridge Houses.