A whirlwind week of celebrations


| vschneps@queenscourier.com |

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The season of celebrations of community leaders is in full swing and I had the privilege of a “front row” seat at many this past week.

It began with the mayor coming to the Queens Museum, where I serve on the board that is led by Peter Meyer, to announce that our executive director Tom Finkelpearl has been appointed Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, an enormous responsibility that Tom is uniquely prepared to handle.

He will lead the city as he has the Queens Museum — with a sensitivity to the international communities of the city and the importance of programs for schoolchildren.

Tom has lived and breathed this mission and I wish him much success in now serving all the arts in our great city.

The board has a tough job ahead to find a worthy leader to follow Tom.

That morning. I also was delighted to welcome to my office our new public advocate Tish James.

She is a passionate person who has her eye on making a difference in the city and using her office to advocate for those in need. I wish her great success because we need someone to focus on issues that often fall below the radar. I shared with her the continuous needs and rights of children with disabilities to receive their appropriate schooling without parents having to fight endlessly for them. I also hope she zeroes in on domestic violence and the horrible repercussions that befall families in that battle.

On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of having dinner at the spectacularly located newly reopened River Cafe, built on a barge under the Brooklyn Bridge. Buzzy O’Rourke the proud proprietor, had to completely rebuild his restaurant after the destruction of it by superstorm Sandy — taking a year to do it! But it was back better than ever.

We had a tables sitting over the water and watched the sun go down and the lights of the city go on and sparkle like so many stars — a show that was almost as good as the food and flowers on the tables.

But what was the real treat was to enjoy the company of former BP of Brooklyn Marty Markowitz and his beautiful, stunning wife, Jami, and dear friends Peter Meyer and Denise Arbesu. We started the evening with a glass of champagne to toast Marty, who was just appointed as a Vice President of NYC & Co., in charge of tourism in the boroughs outside Manhattan. Or, as the mayor said the day before, in the most populous boroughs. It’s a job that was created just for Marty whose brilliance put Brooklyn on the world map.

Then on Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending the gala for the Long Island City’s Museum of the Moving Image, honoring the great and supremely talented Oscar-winning actor, director, screenwriter and producer Kevin Spacey.

I loved Spacey’s message after he accepted the award from museum director Carl Goodman. Speaking to the star-studded audience of theatre people and business and cultural leaders and philanthropists including our beloved former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Spacey said, “When we achieve great success it is our responsibility to give back and I’m proud of being the artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London training many young artists.”

He’s now starring in the Netflix series House of Cards, which has a huge cult following. It was a star-studded night that once again made the museum the biggest star of the night!

Then on Thursday the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) celebrated community leaders who support and enhance the center’s important work, teaching people of all ages about respecting our environment. I was delighted to be there to support one of the honorees, my dear friend Alex Rosa, who has devoted decades of public service as the chief of staff for former BP Claire Shulman then in the same role for twelve more years for former BP Helen Marshall.

And to top off the week I was so happy to support the talented leader of the Queens Council on the Arts, Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, who did a reading of her charming children’s book, “Ghost Dumplings.”

She and her family, living in the Rockaways, were devastated by superstorm Sandy, as were her neighbors. But they found solace in each other getting through the destruction by a sense of community.

Hoong Yee captured that in her book which will be available on Amazon in a few months. Buy it and you, too, will charmed by its story and illustrations. We all got to bid on the water colors she created for the book, which were auctioned to raise scholarships for young people.

The grand finale of an extraordinary week was that I couldn’t stay away from the LIC Flea. So on Saturday, with the sun shining on us, my children and grandchildren took a waterside table by the Anable basin and enjoyed an international feast with the Manhattan skyline in the background. I felt like I was on a movie set! Try it. You, too, will love being there.

Public Advocate Letitia James at my office

Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) celebrated community leader Alex Rosa
(Photo courtesy Alley Pond Environmental Center)

My grandchildren Jonah and Morgan ate facing the Anable basin at the LIC Flea