Tag Archives: Astoria

Astoria residents vie for win in national music competition


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Regret the Hour

Two brothers, who now call Astoria home, are hoping their band wins the grand prize in the national “Get Out of the Garage” competition in Brooklyn this weekend — and they’ll be carrying with them the memory of a bandmate who lost his life to cancer.

Nate and Ben McCarthy, originally from Nyack, started the band Regret the Hour in 2011 after years of being surrounded by music in their home and wanting to start their own group.

The brothers, who sing and play guitar, formed the band while in high school with drummer and vocalist Anders Fleming and bassist Jesse Yanko.

While finishing up the recording of their first album in 2012 called “Better Days,” which Ben calls a “DIY project,” 16-year-old Yanko died after a long battle with cancer. The album was later released in 2013.

“I think it just feels gratifying to be here right now and done all of this after that. I know that’s something that [Yanko] would have wanted,” Ben said about the band’s decision to move forward after questioning what to do next. “I think [the album] is a big part of the history of the band and you can hear it in the songs.”

The group later started playing at bars in Nyack and didn’t make the move to bigger venues, such as the Mercury Lounge and Knitting Factory, until Nate and Ben decided to head to Astoria as they attended Hunter College.

Regret the Hour, which has released three EPs along with their first album, will now take the stage on Feb. 28 with four other independent bands for the second annual Get Out of the Garage competition finals, presented by Guitar Center and Converse.

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

The artist discovery program, which started in October and includes bands from across the country, offers an opportunity for musicians to launch their careers.

Out of more than 8,000 submissions, five bands were chosen – including Regret the Hour. Part of the process to choose the finalists was based on how many people watched a music video on the Get Out of the Garage official website for each band.

“It feels pretty awesome,” Ben said about being chosen. “We couldn’t have done it without all the people that helped us out, that watched the video and shared it.”

The grand prize winner of the competition will earn a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, studio recording time, a music video, $25,000 in cash, new gear and more.

Regret the Hour plans to perform two songs during the finale, one from the album they recorded with Yanko and another from their new album, which is in the process of being completed.

Ben added that although they are nervous about the big performance, they are excited about getting as far as they have on their own. They are not backed by a record label and they don’t even have a manager, so they’ve had to book every performance themselves.

After the competition, the band plans to continue working on their new album and they hope to have it released by late summer.

“We are definitely pretty excited for this new album we are working on. It really represents the band,” Ben said. “We’re just really excited to get it finished and get it out there.”

For more information on Get Out of the Garage, visit getoutofthegarage.revimage.com, and for information on Regret the Hour, visit regretthehourmusic.com or www.facebook.com/regretthehour.

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Daughter still hopeful as search for missing Astoria man enters second week


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Poster via Findphil Facebook page

Heather Arabadjis hasn’t given up hope as the search for her missing 63-year-old father, who suffers from various mental disorders, reaches its second week without any leads.

Philip Arabadjis, who is about 5 feet 11 inches tall, 290 pounds, and has brown and grey hair, was last seen leaving his apartment complex on 20th Avenue and 20th Street in Astoria on Feb. 12 at around 10 p.m., according to his daughter. He was wearing a flannel shirt with black sweatpants and was without shoes or a jacket.

Arabadjis has a medical history of schizophrenia, diabetes, related symptoms of dementia, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), making it hard for him to breathe.

Since he went missing, Heather has set up Facebook page called “Findphil” where she posts updates on the search for her dad.

Feeling like the response from police is slow, she has conducted two organized searches and visited hospitals in Queens and other boroughs, as well as homeless shelters. She plans to continue searching subway and train stations such as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station.

Philip Arabadjis (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

Philip Arabadjis (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

She is currently waiting to hear back from the NYPD’s Missing Persons Unit on video feeds in the area that could have caught her father walking away from his home. The Alzheimer’s Association also has their own detective on the case as well.

“We don’t really know where he is. We’re not sure if he stayed in Astoria or Long Island City,” Heather said. “I’m just trying to do everything on my end to see what we can do to find him. Whatever anyone says I’m doing, I’m searching on any tips, still putting up flyers and contacting hospitals. Volunteers are contacting hospitals daily and recording notes.”

Heather describes her father as a homebody who likes to keep to himself and did not have friends. He has no identification on him, is not aware of where he lives or his name and may be unresponsive to questions and look lost.

“He was kind of scared of people. I believe he didn’t feel accepted. He didn’t like to take trains and buses because of other people,” she said. “Growing up, people were scared of him – that’s how it is in society when you don’t know what something is, you are afraid of it.”

Heather added that her mother is staring to lose hope after these two weeks have brought no leads. She added that she hopes to bring her father home soon so she can help provide a better future for her parents.

Heather said she has felt a large amount of support and love from people volunteering to help in the search during what has become a dark time of not knowing what has come of her dad.

“I’m so thankful knowing that there are so many kind-hearted people out there,” she said. “To all the people that are helping me, I always say God bless them. It makes me warm inside during such dark moments. That’s what keeps me not depressed. It keeps me going, because there is so much positive energy and you need that in a time of sadness.”

A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to finding Arabadjis.

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George Onorato, former Queens state senator, dies


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

Updated 5:00 p.m.

Lifelong Queens resident and former state Senator George Onorato, who served the 12th Senate District in western Queens for over two decades, died on Saturday. He was 86.

Onorato began serving the district, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside and Maspeth, in 1983 until he announced his retirement in 2010. He was succeeded by state Senator Michael Gianaris, who currently holds the position.

“George Onorato will always be part of the fabric of western Queens,” Gianaris said. “He dedicated his long and happy life to serving others and making the communities he represented better places to live. George Onorato served our country, our state and our neighborhoods in a way that made a positive difference in people’s lives. I will miss him. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. May his memory be eternal.”

Onorato graduated from Long Island City High School and served in the United States Army from 1950 to 1952.

Former state Senator Serphin Maltese, who served with Onorato in the state senate for many years, remembered him as a ” true man of the people.”

“He gave a special view on things,” Maltese said. “I’m sorry to lose him.”

Onorato was married to Athena Georgakakos and had three children, Joanne, George and Janice.

Visitation is scheduled at the Joseph Farenga & Sons Funeral Home at 38-08 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

A funeral mass is scheduled to be held on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church at 22-17 45th St., followed by burial at St. Michael’s Cemetery at 72-02 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst.

With additional reporting by Robert Pozarycki

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Dining: Stuck on Stix


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

Just over a month ago, the team behind Stix bravely opened its third location in the space formerly occupied by La Bottega, and prior to that, Mix Cafe + Lounge. This time around, the look is completely new. Call it contemporary Aegean. Comfort Greek. Mediterranean Meze.

The interior, designed by A2 Interiors Studio, is clean, fresh and white, with mirrors adding the illusion of vast space, and navy webs of woven ropes like nautical sprigs of seaweed dropped from the ceiling. Photographs of Astoria taken by a restaurant manager are displayed on the walls.

The concept is simple. Nearly everything comes skewered with a wooden stick.

Shisito peppers. Lamb. Mac and cheese balls. Quinoa balls. Tuna. Meatballs. Shrimp. Baby potatoes.

Think Mediterranean dishes — gorgeously executed — and prepared for sharing.

We were lucky enough to stop in and sample a wide portion of the menu. We also spoke with the owner and creator, Stathis Antonakopoulos.

LobsterBaconMacAndCheese

“I grew up inside the kitchen of a hotel in Greece,” explains Antonakopoulos, “and I love to cook, create and eat.” Prior to opening Stix, he served as director of operations for the Kellari Hospitality Group in Manhattan for seven years. And that’s when everything changed over a burger and milkshake at Shake Shack.

Admittedly a fan of Danny Meyer, Antonakopoulos explains, “He took the oldest concept — a burger and a shake — and gave it good quality and good branding. And he created an empire. So I thought, I’m Greek and Mediterranean. How can I do something similar? That’s when I realized no one has taken food on sticks, and make it gourmet at a low cost.”

The first skewer-centric restaurant opened its doors just two years ago on 23rd Street. “We opened one more restaurant in Chelsea, and this is our third restaurant,” smiles Antonakopoulos, who has now been in the U.S. for 16 years. “I came for my bachelor’s and master’s, and now I have lived in Astoria 11 years, so this is my home. My first job in the United States was at Christos Steakhouse, and so Astoria is a part of who I am.”

Enjoy these images of their decadent lobster bacon mac and cheese, fluffy pillows of homemade pita, and assorted skewers of sausage, braised meatballs, peppers, octopus and fried quinoa balls served with jalapeño hummus.

HomemadePitaAndTzatziki

Then get yourself to Stix. It isn’t just good — it’s awesome. And much more than just another souvlaki stand. Dine in for the full experience, or you can order directly from their website. They are open all day, every day, and even offer a special brunch menu on the weekends, which includes pancake lollipops and lobster omelettes. And yes, they have a full bar, as well as a cautiously edited wine list so you can choose from specialty cocktails and European wines. Their sidewalk permit is in the works for the summertime, too.

Save room for a little nest of Paradise — a crisp, shredded angel hair kataifi sandwich filled with hazelnuts, chantilly cream and rose water honey. It’s a dessert you will not soon forget.

Stix is located at 40-17 30th Ave., on the corner of 30th Avenue and 41st Street just east of Steinway.

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Astoria man with signs of Alzheimer’s missing for over a week


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police and family members are searching for a 63-year-old man who suffers from various mental disorders after he went missing from near his Astoria home last week without shoes or a jacket.

Philip Arabadjis, who is about 5 feet 11 inches tall, 290 pounds, and has brown and grey hair, was last seen near his home on 20th Avenue and 20th Street on Feb. 12 wearing a blue flannel shirt with black sweatpants, according to police. He has a medical history of schizophrenia, diabetes and signs of Alzheimer’s.

According to a missing poster, Arabadjis, who has no identification on him, is not aware of where he lives or his name and may be unresponsive to questions and look lost.

People are asked to check buildings, alleyways, or other possible places that can serve as hiding spots. He also enjoys walking in Astoria Park. 

Arabadjis’ daughter, Heather, has set up a Facebook page for her father called “Findphil” where she posts updates on the search for her dad. 

Poster via Findphil Facebook page

Poster via Findphil Facebook page

On Thursday, she posted that she has checked homeless shelters and hospitals. She also added that if her father is not found by Friday, she plans to organize a search for him on Saturday.

“I can’t say this enough, but I feel warm inside because of all the help and support I am getting from my friends and new people I have been meeting,” she wrote on Facebook. 

A $10,000 reward is been offered for any information that leads to finding Arabadjis. 

If you have any information call 911 or the 114th Precinct at 718-626-9335 with case #2015-349 or complaint report #2015-114-01280.

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Developer unveils rendering of huge mixed-use Astoria building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of MNS Real Estate 

Developers of a large mixed-use residential and commercial project in Astoria unveiled the first rendering of what the project will look like once it is completed.

The parking lot at 31-57 31st St., which was recently purchased for $17.35 million, will become a seven-story, 114-apartment building designed by SLCE Architects. The building is set to open in 2016.

The construction plans include nearly 23,000 square feet for retail and more than 130 parking spots, according to a published report.

The new development, which will be marketed by MNS Real Estate, will contain a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

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‘Mad Men’ exhibit at Museum of the Moving Image to coincide with show’s final episodes


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of AMC

Madison Avenue is coming to Astoria.

A “Mad Men” exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image featuring large-scale sets, costumes, props, advertising art and video clips from the hit AMC series is opening on March 14.

The show’s creator, writer and executive producer, Matthew Weiner, will also be at the Museum of the Moving Image next month to discuss the series, just weeks before the final episode.

Don Draper fans can get a look at his office, kitchen, suit and a box with “objects that reveal his true identity.”

More than 25 iconic costumes and hundreds of props will be on display — including Joan Holloway’s red dress from the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce holiday party and Megan Draper’s “Zou Bisou Bisou” dress — and some items will later be added to the museum’s permanent collection.

But the exhibit, Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men,” goes beyond what’s on screen.

Photo: Carin Baer/AMC

The Draper’s kitchen will be part of the museum’s exhibit. (Photo: Carin Baer/AMC)

Fans will also be offered insight into the origins and making of the series. There will be an installation featuring key elements of the writers’ room with story notes for the first half of its seventh and final season listed on whiteboards, and index cards, research material and other elements created and used by the writers of “Mad Men.”

The exhibit is the first time objects connected to the production of the show will be shown in public on this scale, according to the museum.

“We are grateful to AMC, Lionsgate and the extraordinarily talented team of creative professionals behind ‘Mad Men’ for giving us an unprecedented degree of access to objects that inform and define this landmark television series,” said Carl Goodman, executive director of Museum of the Moving Image.

The dress worn by Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) as she sings "Zou Bisou Bisou" at Don's birthday party will be shown in the exhibit (Photo: Ron Jaffe/AMC)

The dress worn by Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) as she sings “Zou Bisou Bisou” at Don’s birthday party will be shown in the exhibit. (Photo: Ron Jaffe/AMC)

Weiner will appear at the museum for a conversation about the creation and production of “Mad Men” on March 20. His talk kicks off Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences, a 10-film series featuring movies curated by Weiner — including “The Apartment,” “Les Bonnes Femmes,” “The Americanization of Emily” and “North by Northwest” — that inspired the show, from March 14 to April 26.

”’Mad Men’ is much more than a popular television series, it has become a cultural touchstone inspiring a renewed interest in a critical time in the country’s history,” said Barbara Miller, the museum’s Curator of the Collection and Exhibitions. “With the generous participation of Matthew Weiner and his production team, we are able to reveal how Weiner’s profound commitment to exploring cultural history and human relationships informed the production of ‘Mad Men,’ and offer unique insight into the creative process behind the series.”

Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men” runs from March 14 to June 14, at 36-01 35 Ave., and coincides with the series’ last seven episodes, which air on AMC beginning Sunday, April 5, at 10 p.m.

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78-year-old man attacked, robbed outside Astoria convenience store: NYPD


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police are on the hunt for a perp who was caught on camera tossing an elderly man to the ground outside an Astoria convenience store so he could steal his cash, authorities said.

The robbery occurred while the 78-year-old victim was buying cigarettes from the front window of the store on 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The suspect threw the man to the ground, injuring the back of his head, before grabbing more than $400 from him, police said.

EMS took the victim to Elmhurst Hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.


Police describe the suspect as a white man, about 35 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 200 pounds, with a light complexion and brown eyes. He was wearing a black jacket with white stripes on the sleeves, a white hooded jacket, blue jeans and tan boots.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Developing Queens: How investors are looking at the borough


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Berko & Associates is a 9-year-old New York City-based investment real estate brokerage firm that specializes in investment sales, structured finance and advisory. The firm focuses on the five boroughs and the surrounding Tri-State area, and closed with more than $340 million in financing and sales in 2014. Queens native Alan Simonowitz, a director in the firm and a 26-year industry veteran, spoke with real estate editor Liam La Guerre about the firm’s recent actions in the borough and how they look at the area.  

La Guerre: Looking back at the investment your firm made in financing the Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City, what do you think of what it has become?

Simonowitz: Well, it’s been a great investment. We like the hotel that we see. We arranged the financing for it but the hotel has been very successful. We financed it twice. Once, we did a bridge loan, which functioned as a construction loan for the hotel developer, and once he completed the renovation and opened up, we got him permanent financing. And the hotel is doing very well. The debt on the permanent financing is being paid every month—it’s a success story.

La Guerre: It kind of reflects the ability of what can be done in Queens now that the market is hot, right?

Simonowitz: Absolutely. Long Island City is one of the strong markets in Queens, but all of Queens right now is heating up.

It’s only been very recently that everybody is opening their eyes to Queens. Longtime residents like myself know this, but it’s actually a very convenient place to live. It’s a great jumping off point to go out east to Long Island, to go north to upstate, and there is easy access with public transportation into Manhattan.

La Guerre: And as people make this discovery, it attracts more investors to the borough, much like the case of the rental building called The Roosevelt in Jackson Heights, which your firm was able sell for about $20 million. Before that it was supposed to be condos, but that wasn’t working out right. So what happened?

Simonowitz: We got to the property just when the original developer had it about 98 percent built. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with it, whether he wanted to go condo or he wanted to have a rental building, but he had a 421a (tax abatement incentive) on the building. We had a very intelligent buyer come in and [see] the opportunity, especially the fact that it was by the No. 7 train. He finished the building, and took over and got $43-per-square-foot rents on average for that building, which is a record for the area.

La Guerre: In terms of the approach to Queens, how has that changed within the nine years that your firm has been investing? Is there a realization now that there are some good deals that can be made here?

Simonowitz: Absolutely. We actually brought in someone who is concentrating in Queens right now. As a broker you go where you think the inflow is and where you think the buyers are going. We are a function of what the market place is. And we clearly realized that Queens has heated up. Everyone now knows about Astoria and Long Island City, but the whole corridor through Forest Hills to Rego Park is heating up.

La Guerre: You’re marketing a building right now in Ridgewood, an area that’s seeing some change as well in the market. How do you view that neighborhood?

Simonowitz: There is a lot of demand for development opportunities, which is a little bit more difficult because Ridgewood is a little bit older area in Queens. It’s denser than some of the other areas. So whenever we are finding opportunities in Ridgewood there is very strong interest, because of its proximity to Manhattan, it’s an established neighborhood, and people like the shopping on Myrtle Avenue.

La Guerre: Is there is an area in Queens that you wouldn’t seek to invest in?

Simonowitz: There is no area that we wouldn’t look at all. All areas make sense at a given level.

A simonowitz

Photo courtesy of Alan Simonowitz

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Durst Organization buys final lot for Hallets Point mega project


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Image and renderings courtesy of Lincoln Equities  

Real estate firm Durst Organization finally has ownership of the last piece of the Hallets Point property puzzle and can now move forward with the 2.5-million-square-foot project.

The company paid $15 million for the parcel of land at 1-02 26th Ave. in Astoria, according to city records. The property is needed for the $1.5 billion Queens waterfront project.

 

Last year, Durst paid $130 million to take control of the project from Lincoln Equities, according to The Real Deal.

When completed, Hallets Point will have 2,400 market-rate and affordable apartments. Together with the nearby Astoria Cove mega project, the two developments will bring about 4,000 units into the Astoria waterfront.

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Video: Actors dressed as construction workers read ‘Fifty Shades’ to NYC subway riders


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube/Even Construction Guys

The New York City subway got “Fifty Shades” greyer this week.

A Little Neck actor and his friend, dressed as construction workers, decided to read passages from “Fifty Shades of Grey” to subway riders — while secretly filming their reactions — before the release of the movie version this Friday.

The results, a combination of laughter, annoyance and blank stares the other way, were compiled in a YouTube video posted on Wednesday

Two movie sequels are already planned for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the popularity of the book series.

Johnny Solo decided to finally see what the fuss was about when he saw a waitress who works at Grand Cafe, the Astoria restaurant he owns, reading it recently.

The actor, who rides the subway to Manhattan for auditions, often passes the time by reading, but says it’s easy to feel “vulnerable” when others see what he’s reading on the train.

Fellow riders immediately noticed the “big guy” reading the female-oriented novel, he said.

“When I had the book I felt I was getting a lot of reaction without even being filmed.”

The idea of typically masculine men, like construction workers, reading the book in public then popped into his head and the video concept was born.

“The 21st-century man has changed — we are a lot more sensitive,” Solo said.

Together with Matt Flynn, who is also an actor, and Astoria resident Court Dunn, who handled the hidden cameras and editing, Solo filmed the video “Even Construction Guys Moan Over ‘Fifty Shades,’” on Monday and Tuesday.

They shot the footage on the 1, C and N trains, crossing into Queens at times, and were mostly ignored by riders.

“We got a lot more of the New York City glance,” Solo said describing the straphangers’ reactions as the two men moaned reading passages, commented on its erotic details and even got emotional at some points.

But others did react and even ran away.

“The best part was when people really laughed and enjoyed it,” Solo said.

One woman, who said Solo was “crazy” to read the book, burst into laughter when she heard the line “It’s intoxicating. I inhaled deeply.”

Despite all the time spent reading “Fifty Shades of Grey,” on the subway, Solo is still only three-quarters of the way through the novel.

“It’s kind of redundant,” he said.

Once he does finish the book, he plans on seeing the film — not because he likes the story, but because it inspired him to do something different as a performer.

“It gave me enough creative feeling to do something,” he said. “I almost feel like I owe it.”

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LIC-based grocery delivery service aimed for mom and pop stores


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of Pickup Later

One new delivery service is trying to level the playing field for local mom and pop shops battling the big, online food delivery companies by offering customers the option to have groceries delivered within hours of placing an order at neighborhood stores.

PickUpLater, a Long Island City-based online grocery service started at the end of 2014, allows customers to go on their website and order from a local store’s inventory.

As a resident of Long Island City for the past six years, owner Kodjo Hounnaké said the idea was born after he was ordering from GrubHub and he asked himself why such a service was not available for groceries from local stores. 

Although Hounnaké says he aims for the service to go nationwide, PickUpLater currently only offers customers groceries from Foodcellar & Co. Market, located at 4-85 47th Rd. The service is available for residents in Long Island City, Hunters Point, Astoria, Greenpoint, Sunnyside and Woodside. It has also started to deliver in Manhattan, below 59th Street. 

PickUpLater owner Kodjo Hounnaké

PickUpLater owner Kodjo Hounnaké

The delivery areas are expected to expand, once Foodcellar opens its second location in Court Square. 

Unlike giants like Fresh Direct, Hounnaké added that PickUpLater has groceries directly from the store, not from a warehouse. Also unlike grocery delivery service, Instacart, which delivers from large stores such as Whole Foods Market and Costco, the idea of PickUpLater is to stick to the local mom and pop shops. 

“We’re not [the grocery store’s] competitor; what we offer them is to remove that extra cost and that extra stress,” Hounnaké said. “We’ll come in and do everything for them. In a sense we are their ally not their competition.”

Once the customer places an order on www.pickuplater.com, a personal shopper then does the work of purchasing the items on the list. Keeping an emphasis on “real time interaction with customers,” the personal shopper will text or call customers with any updates or replacement options.

The groceries will then be delivered in two hours, or more, depending on the customer’s request. They also have the option to pick up the products from Foodcellar.

For orders over $35, pick up fees are $0.99. Deliveries scheduled for more than two hours, the fee is $3.99 and $5.99 for deliveries scheduled within two hours.

PickUpLater opens at 7 a.m. and deliveries are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Pickup hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Astoria residents evacuated following manhole fires: FDNY


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Ross Belsky

About two dozen Astoria residents had to be evacuated Friday morning when high carbon monoxide levels were detected following manhole fires in the area, the FDNY said.

Authorities responded to the manhole fires about 5:30 a.m.

After the high levels of carbon monoxide were discovered, residents were evacuated from a nearby building at 30-90 38th St., near 31st Avenue, reports said.

About 25 residents from eight apartments were told to leave their homes, according to the FDNY. Crews from Con Edison were also called to the scene.

No injuries were reported.

It was not clear whether the residents were allowed to return to the building as of early that afternoon.

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Real estate investors shelled out $3.6 billion for Queens properties last year


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Queens’ relatively low land prices, access to public transportation and growing popularity has helped the borough attract a significantly larger amount of money from real estate investors in 2014 than in previous years, according to a new report.

Firms and individuals shelled out about $3.65 billion last year to buy Queens investment properties—large-scale real estate costing at least $850,000—which is a 25 percent increase from 2013, according to a report by Ariel Property Advisors.

The study pointed out that about one-third of the investment properties in Queens last year were development sites, which alone accounted for more than $1 billion, or a 191 percent gain when compared to 2012.

“Queens still presents developers with the opportunity to produce large-scale developments, and they are willing to pay a premium for prime sites,” said Daniel Wechsler, vice president of Ariel Property Advisors.

Photo courtesy of Ariel Property Advisors

Photo courtesy of Ariel Property Advisors

Wechsler pointed out that land parcels with at least 50,000 square feet of buildable rights were purchased all over “The World’s Borough,” including Astoria, Long Island City, Elmhurst, Woodside, Glendale, Jamaica, Ridgewood and Flushing, “further indicating the bullish attitude of investors on the entire borough. “

The report found that 925 properties were traded during the year, which is also a 25 percent year-over-year increase.

Some of the year’s highest profile transactions include the $110 million sale of the Standard Motors Building in Long Island City, which traded for just $70 million in 2008, and the sale of a 53-building portfolio in Kew Gardens Hills for $216 million.

There was also the $26.5 million sale of a garage near Queens Place mall in Elmhurst, which has about 227,352 buildable square feet.

Click here to read the full report.

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Astoria mom teaches baby sign language to begin communication between child and parents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Rebecca Raymond

Parents in Astoria will now be able to figure out what their babies want before they even learn how to speak.

Rebecca Raymond is the instructor behind My Smart Hands NYC, the New York City franchise of a company started by Laura Berg in Canada, which aims to teach children and parents American Sign Language to promote communication early in life.

Raymond, an Astoria resident, first heard about baby signing when her sister-in-law began signing with her nephew. With her interest in languages, majoring in Spanish and English in college, she then decided to begin teaching her then-5-month-old daughter how to sign.

Rebecca Raymond

Rebecca Raymond

“I just love languages and I thought it would be fun to teach her,” Raymond said. “Every single day seeing her sign there were new things I was learning about her.”

Her daughter took around two months to pick up the signs and realize that it was a way to communicate with her mother. Raymond taught her how to sign words such as “milk” and “light” and noticed her daughter was learning through her modeling. 

“Every time I would say a particular word I would sign it to her,” Raymond said. “It’s easier to pick up the word rather than the strain of sound.”

She later also taught her second daughter how to sign. Raymond said that teaching children how to sign at such a young age reduces the level of frustration that comes from not being able to communicate with their parents or caregivers. She added that learning ASL increases the children’s self-esteem and self-confidence because their needs are met more quickly.

“Once your baby starts to figure out what they are doing with their hands is actually helping you communicate, then they pick it up fast,” Raymond said.

One important thing that parents have to keep in mind is being consistent in teaching their children, according to Raymond. Babies usually are not able to sign until they are 6 months old and begin picking up many signs between 7 to 12 months of age.

Rebecca Raymond's daughter signing the word "bed."

Rebecca Raymond’s daughter signing the word “bed,” one of the signs she still remembers from when she was a baby.

Raymond teaches parents out of their homes in either Astoria or Long Island City, and also at local bookstores and shops. Starting in March, she will begin giving Saturday classes at Raising Astoria, located at, 26-11 23rd Ave., as part of an eight-week course. Parents who are interested in taking part in the course can register on www.mysmarthandsnyc.com. Registration comes with a book and CD.

For more information visit www.mysmarthandsnyc.com or email rebecca@mysmarthands.com.

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