Tag Archives: Astoria

Astoria mixed-use residential complex sold for $51M


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark 

A large Astoria mixed-use residential portfolio was sold for $51 million on Thursday, according to a published report.

Kushner Companies bought the 143-unit, four-building complex, which also has 11 commercial spaces. The four buildings are located at 21-81 and 21-80 38th St., and 23-15 and 23-05 30th Ave.

Seller RockFarmer Capital bought the buildings for $32 million just two years ago and reached a deal with Kushner in just a handful of weeks, according to The Real Deal.

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Two women wanted in Astoria street robbery


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are searching for two women who they say robbed a 44-year-old woman last month in Astoria.

On Dec. 2 at 12 p.m., the victim was walking near 44th Street and 31st Avenue when the two suspects came up from behind the woman and pushed her to the ground, cops said. They then snatched her purse, containing the woman’s credit cards and keys, and took off.

The victim was transported to Elmhurst Hospital for cuts on her head.

Police described the suspects as Hispanic.

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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Online fundraisers set up to help Astoria roommates after fire destroys home


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Duncan Pflaster

In less than half an hour Andrew Rothkin, Kim Jones and Duncan Pflaster lost the place they have called home for more than five years after a fire ripped through their Astoria apartment early Wednesday afternoon.

Pflaster, an administrative assistant and also a playwright and photographer, said he received a call from Jones at around 1 p.m. Wednesday telling him he needed to come home because as she was out running errands their 35th Street apartment had been engulfed in flames.

Their roommate, Rothkin, had been home alone and his space heater caught on fire, Pflaster said. Rothkin was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with severe second- and third-degree burns and smoke inhalation, but was released Friday and will recuperate with his family in Baltimore.

According to the FDNY, a call for the fire was received at 10:48 a.m. and about 60 firefighters arrived at the two-story home with the fire at the rear of the first floor. The blaze was under control at 11:20 a.m. One firefighter sustained minor injuries.

“When I saw the mess, the state of everything, it was just this horrible sinking feeling. When I was allowed to go up and see, it was just terrible,” Pflaster said about what he saw once he got home.

According to Pflaster, the apartment is destroyed, and every window had to be broken by the FDNY. There are holes in the ceilings and walls, and Rothkin’s room was “gutted,” causing him to lose everything — even his cat, Pepper.

“I think I was in shock for a bit. A lot of it was strangely beautiful: holes in the ceiling give a lovely light,” Pflaster said. “There was a lot of just standing around not knowing how to even begin to clean up.”

Yet, even in these tough times a light has shone through the darkness for the three roommates from online fundraisers, started by friends, that have raised thousands in just one day.

Three separate accounts have been created on gofundme.com for Rothkin, Jones and Pflaster to help them recover from the fire and also raise enough money to sign a lease on a new apartment. In total the fundraisers have raised more than $25,000 since Friday.

“It is just wonderful. People have been so generous. People I haven’t seen in years, people I think didn’t really like me, everyone has done what they can,” Pflaster said. “It’s incredibly moving and I keep tearing up when I think of so many people who have helped out.”

Pflaster, who was able to recover some clothes and other items, is staying with friends in Astoria until he finds a new place. He also said he has had offers of furniture, clothes and gift cards.

When asked what he would tell all those who have been helping them out during this time, Pflater said, “Thank you so much. It’s been such a relief in this horrifying time. We all appreciate your support so much.”

To donate to the gofundme campaigns, visit www.gofundme.com/andrewrothkin, www.gofundme.com/jvt5oc or www.gofundme.com/jwpczs. A Facebook page has also been created for the friends.

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Vote to see Astoria man’s commercial air during Super Bowl


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Doritos

An Astoria actor is trying to “crash” one of the most watched television events of the year.

Alex Pepper could see his commercial, filmed at his Astoria home, air during this year’s Super Bowl, but he needs your vote.

The 25-year-old is one of 10 finalists in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest. Two finalists’ commercials, one chosen by fan votes and the second by Doritos, will be shown during the Big Game. The commercial that receives the most fan votes will win $1 million and a chance to work as a contractor for a year at Universal Pictures in Hollywood.

The contest was started nine years ago, and after seeing the commercials on past Super Bowls, Pepper decided he wanted to enter.

“I am more of an actor/artist than a sports fan so to see what people bring to commercials is incredible,” he said.


With only a couple weeks to go until the deadline, and the help of his girlfriend and pals, he shot the commercial inside his Astoria apartment and on the building’s roof.

The concept came from his performance experience — the actor, who has done a national tour of “South Pacific” and background work for television, is also a dancer.

“Being a male dancer, it’s your worst nightmare to drop your partner. So I took that idea and raised the stakes a little bit,” he said.

The commercial, called “What Could Go Wrong?” features Pepper in his apartment talking to a friend who is eating a bag of Doritos. His friend convinces him to talk to “the hottie from 3B,” who is on the roof, by telling him to bring the bag of chips and saying, “What could go wrong?”

But something does go wrong. He entices the hottie (played by his friend’s girlfriend) with the Doritos and she asks Pepper to dance with her. Then, after lifting her in the air “Dirty Dancing” style, he slips on the bag and the girl falls off the roof.

She seems to have survived, shouting out, “Really? ” at him. But before sneaking off the roof, Pepper makes sure to grab his Doritos.

Though he dropped the girl in the commercial, Pepper insists he’s never dropped a dance partner in real life.

The commercial cost only about $80 to make and was shot on point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras. Though he has edited videos before, Pepper was still somewhat of a novice before tackling the Doritos ad.

PepperHeadshot copy

Photo by Sarah Linn Reedy

“I was not expecting anything to come from this,” he said about being a finalist in a contest, which he said includes filmmakers with more experience than he has.

Out of almost 4,900 submissions, 29 semifinalists were selected, which were then narrowed down by a panel of judges consisting of Doritos executives, advertising professionals and actress Elizabeth Banks, to 10 from around the world. Six are from the U.S., and Pepper is the only finalist from New York City.

When Pepper found out he was a finalist, he got a personal call from Banks. He will also get to sit with her at the Super Bowl in a private suite. All the finalists won a trip to the Feb. 1 game in Arizona, and a guaranteed $25,000. The commercial chosen to run by Doritos receives $50,000.

The winner will not be announced until the commercial airs.

If he gets the big bucks, Pepper hopes to give back to the arts organizations that have supported him, including his hometown dance studio, Dee Buchanan Studio of Dance, which is helping him get votes through YouTube. He would also like to upgrade his camera equipment.

But Pepper isn’t focused on the million dollar prize.

“I think the job and having people see your work is more exciting than the money.”

To vote for Pepper’s commercial, visit www.doritos.com. Voting is open through Jan. 28.

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Woodside man beautifies neighborhood one fire alarm box at a time


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Call him the anti-graffiti artist.

Woodside resident John S. Colgan has turned outdoor walls, fire boxes, lampposts and hydrants into his canvas — not in an illegal effort at self-expression but to battle the defacing of his beloved neighborhood by graffiti.

Colgan got tired of waiting around for someone to clean up his community from the work of graffiti vandals, so instead he picked up a paintbrush and took matters into his own hands.

For the past three and a half years, Colgan, who goes by “Fire Alarm Guy” on Twitter, has been going around the western Queens neighborhood he calls home and fighting the problem of graffiti, along with bringing fire alarm boxes back to life.

“I wanted to do something nice for the neighborhood,” he said. “When I was a kid in the ’80s everything was pristine. People took care of things themselves back then. If you want to get rid of graffiti in the neighborhood, you have to do it yourself.”

After deciding to give back to community after attending church one morning, the 39-year-old security guard began to repaint lampposts, fire hydrants and fire alarm boxes in Woodside.

He has also taken the time to paint murals underneath bridges in the neighborhood, including a large American Flag, paid for by American Legion Post #1836, located on 32nd Avenue between 56th and 58th street. He plans to update the mural and add more detail to it during the summer. 

“That’s how it all started: I decided to give back, and now I’m addicted to it,” he said. 

Colgan said before he worked in the shadows, because he thought he would get into trouble for painting, but now he goes around talking to people about the issues, in hopes of getting more people involved. 

Taking things further, for the past two years, Colgan has teamed up with the Woodside Neighborhood Association and also begun going around covering up graffiti during a nightly patrol, which at first was just out of habit. Every night he drives around the neighborhood and finds fresh graffiti tags on walls and covers them up with paint he keeps at the ready in his car. He uses whatever color he has on hand. 

Members of the Woodside Neighborhood Association then come back to the site and paint over with a “battleship gray” color so that the new paint looks uniform with the rest. 

Photo courtesy of John S. Colgan

Photo courtesy of John S. Colgan

“The point is if you cover [the graffiti] within 24 hours, the taggers talk to each other and tell each other not to tag there,” he said. “The bottom line is people have to do it themselves. If they don’t fix it then they just get used to seeing it.”

Mostly all the paint used for the projects is purchased from a local shop called Gleason Paint, located at 65-01 Roosevelt Ave. Colgan said that at times the store donates paints and helps with any questions he might have. 

In the past couple of weeks, Colgan said he had noticed less graffiti in his neighborhood and has been able to move his cleanup project to Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights. He also helps paint hydrants, lampposts and fire alarm boxes found in the perimeter of local police precincts such as the 114th and 108th precincts. 

As the weather gets warmer, Colgan plans to move further into the borough and help cover up graffiti in other areas such as Astoria and Corona. 

“The original goal was just to make it look nice and when I was painting people were stopping,” Colgan said. “The neighborhood is behind me now. They’re taking pride in the neighborhood.”

To see Colgan’s works and get updated information follow @firealarmguy75 on Twitter or @thewoodsideavenger on Instagram.

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Rego Park studio rents soaring: report


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

ContourLR1

Fueled by hot luxury listings, studio apartment rents in Rego Park are going through the roof after another huge monthly increase in December.

Rego Park renters were likely to pay $184, or about 12 percent, more on average for a studio apartment in December than November, according to MNS Real Estate’s monthly Queens Rental Market Report, which was released Thursday.

The change in rates was quite drastic over a relatively short period of time. Studio renters in Rego Park were likely to pay an average of just $1,325 per month in August, instead of the current $1,717, according to MNS.

The real estate firm highlighted the neighborhood in the report and called its monthly increase “surprising.” That’s probably how future renters will feel when they realize the popular neighborhood of Astoria currently has an average asking rent of about $127 less per studio.

But the top rates in Rego Park were caused by the change in inventory, according to the report.

“Rego Park saw a decrease in studio inventory with various lower price rentals coming off the market, leaving a small number of higher priced units, namely at The Contour on 97-45 Queens Boulevard,” the report said.

In Jackson Heights there was a similar trend in two-bedroom rates over the month, which rose $230 to an average price of $2,317 per month. Jackson Heights, which has an inventory problem, has the lowest availability of two-bedroom apartments in the borough with just six, the report said. The neighborhood also has the highest demand for two-bedroom apartments as units have an average of 19 days on the market.

Long Island City led the pack again with the highest rental prices for studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments in December, according to the report.

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Queens hookah bars caught putting tobacco in water pipes face closure


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The smoke is out.

Following an undercover investigation, the city’s Health Department announced it found 13 hookah bars in the city, including four in Queens, selling a pipe mix that included tobacco for their patrons to smoke on premises, violating the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act.

At hookah bars patrons smoke a substance called shisha, composed of herbs, molasses and, in some cases, tobacco. Serving shisha with tobacco violates the city’s 2002 law that prohibits smoking tobacco in a workplace, including restaurants and bars.

“These 13 hookah bars are knowingly flouting the law by serving tobacco-based shisha,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. “Tobacco smoke is dangerous for the health of the smoker, patrons and those who work in these establishments.”

On Nov. 14, Health Department inspectors, working together with New York University students, went to the 13 bars and “discretely” took samples of the shisha being served. After being sent to be tested, it was found that all the shisha samples tested positive for nicotine.

The bars in Queens included two in Astoria: Fayrooz Hookah Lounge and Bar on 28-08 Steinway St. and Melody Lounge on 25-95 Steinway St.; and two in Fresh Meadows, just blocks from St. John’s University: Layla Hookah Lounge on 181-34 Union Turnpike and Cloud 9 on 179-22 Union Turnpike.

The Health Department is now beginning to take measures to revoke the permits of all 13 bars and restaurants.

“The American Heart Association is concerned about the evidence of illegal tobacco sales in hookah bars,” said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the Mount Sinai Roosevelt and St. Luke’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program & Lipid Clinic and a member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee. “At a time when more adults are smoking at higher rates and there are fewer services available for smokers who want to quit, we must protect New Yorkers from tobacco addiction in all settings.”

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Astoria bakery gets burglarized twice within one week: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

In less than one week, a burglar targeted the same Astoria bakery twice, stealing nearly $2,000, authorities said.

The business, Parisi Bakery, at 30-17 Broadway, was first hit at 2:40 a.m. on Dec. 27. It was burglarized again at 12:40 a.m. on Jan. 1, according to police.

During both burglaries, the suspect broke into the bakery, went behind the counter and took money from the cash register. In total, $1,900 was taken, authorities said.

Police have released a video of the suspect.


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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Open houses this weekend: Astoria, Bayside, Forest Hills


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of StreetEasy and Douglas Elliman 

112-01 Queens Boulevard #23B, Forest Hills — $890,000

This two-bedroom unit has 1,135 square feet of space, two bathrooms and two balconies. The apartment features views overlooking Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The building offers a doorman and full-time concierge, as well as a pool, a sauna, a steam room, and Jacuzzis. An E and F subway station is a short walk away.

The open house is on Saturday, Jan 3. Contact broker Karen DeMeco of Douglas Elliman for more information.

 

43-12 214 Place #5B, Bayside — $799,000

This two-bedroom apartment has two bathrooms and a total of 1,055 square feet. Rooms have hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows. The Bayside building also features a gym and parking spaces and is pet-friendly. It is blocks away from the LIRR train station.

The open house is on Saturday, Jan. 3, and Sunday, Jan. 4. Contact Maria Carr, Larry Falabella and Lawrence Falabella of Douglas Elliman for more information.

 

26-20 21st Street #301, Astoria — $549,000

This apartment has 690 square feet and five total rooms with one bedroom and one bathroom. The unit has a balcony and features a washer and dryer, central air conditioning, a dishwasher and a hot tub. Pets are allowed in the building, and the N and Q trains are just a half-mile away.

The open house is on Saturday, Jan 3. Contact broker Samantha Freire for more information.

 

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Catching ‘ACCOLD’ from your real estate agent


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Minas Styponias

BY MINAS STYPONIAS

The job of a real estate professional, in my opinion, is to give a cold to his clients. This isn’t to say that a real estate agent will infect his clients with viruses and infections. This is an entirely different type of a cold.

ACCOLD is the acronym for the fiduciary responsibilities that a real estate professional is obligated to provide their clients, from first substantive contact.

ACCOLD can be broken down into accounting, care, confidentiality, obedience, loyalty and disclosure. These fiduciary duties are the backbone to choosing a long-term relationship with a real estate professional.

Each are equally important to receive and each are equally important to produce. However, my personal opinion is that “care” is the most all-encompassing and powerful component of all these duties.

All too often individuals get into the real estate business in the hopes of becoming the next Fredrik Eklund or the next Ryan Serhant from TV’s Million Dollar Listing New York, all the while focusing on the income potential rather than the passion, effort and care that it takes to get there. They want the money to roll in but often lack the caring personality to create that potential for themselves.

As a property owner or renter you are entitled to receive the utmost in care from your selected real estate agent.

It is my opinion that the care a real estate professional provides to their client will transcend all the other fiduciary responsibilities and provide a true barometer of what they think of you as a client and of your property as a product.

A true professional, in my opinion, will relieve their client of all the mundane and tedious portions of their real estate transactions and provide them with the necessary care to keep them informed, educated and enlightened throughout the process.

As a lessor, it is my belief that your real estate agent should be photographing your property, marketing your property, conducting weekly site visits of your property, providing suggestions on increasing income potential on your property and providing you with constant communication on their prospects or lack thereof. As a lessee, it is my belief that your real estate agent should be conducting all the searching of prospective properties, all the inspections of prospective properties and constantly communicating to you with their findings or lack thereof.

The agent who performs these duties, in my opinion, is not only demonstrating their passion for their respective career but also demonstrating their professionalism and care for you as a client.

In closing, if you’re not catching ACCOLD from your real estate agent then I suggest you give them a cold shoulder and seek alternative representation. Remember no one cares for your property as much as you do, but a good realtor will come in a close second and leave you feeling like they were more a part of your endeavor than another roadblock in the road to completing your real estate goals.

Gazuntite!

Minas Styponias is a licensed real estate broker for BuySell Real Estate in Astoria, where he was born and raised. He has had a career as a luxury rental property manager in New Jersey and Manhattan. Styponias speaks English, and is conversational in Greek and Spanish.

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Developing Queens: A wave of new retail coming


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

CBRE is a global real estate services company, which has offices in Queens and Long Island that service the borough. The firm focuses on commercial real estate. CBRE First Vice President Dean Rosenzweig and Associate Jeremy Scholder talked with Real Estate Editor Liam La Guerre about the changing landscape of the Queens retail market.

La Guerre: Queens has been having a big residential boom in certain markets over the past couple of years. Have you seen a pickup in retail with this boom?

Rosenzweig: The smaller businesses, the moms and pops, when we have a listing or when we are on the search for a client for a site—the smaller guys have definitely been seeking out those areas, like Long Island City. The nationals are starting to poke around. We are doing tours with our national clients in Long Island City, for example, but the nationals aren’t there yet. They’re coming and that will take retail in those areas to the next level.

La Guerre: So if you wanted to go shopping to big-box retailers you wouldn’t be able to in LIC yet, but very soon.

Rosenzweig: Or even smaller footprint national retailers, like you don’t see Starbucks there yet. Are they coming? Yeah. Are they looking around? Absolutely. Will they be there? Probably in a year or a year and a half from now. You don’t even see the national banks on Vernon [Boulevard] right? That’s all coming. The first stage was the developers taking advantage of the rezoning and building the huge amount of residential that’s already built and the huge amount of residential that are in the works. Those units are going to fill up, and people that they are going to bring are going to need services.

Scholder: They are still waiting for the area to hit critical mass. They are waiting for all these new buildings to come to fruition at the same time so they can really feel the impact.

Rosenzweig: You learn over time that retailers have a herd mentality. When one national retailer comes in and then a second one — it doesn’t even necessarily have to be all in the same category— but when a couple of nationals come in, that’s when the rest will take the plunge. And it hasn’t hit that point yet.

La Guerre: So you’re saying eventually the nationals will be popping up all over and together?

Rosenzweig: They are going to realize what the residential developers and the residents that have moved into their projects have — great proximity to Manhattan, incredible mass transit, and the people that are coming in have a lot of disposable income.

La Guerre: Is Queens a destination for trendy stores now, like Manhattan or Brooklyn?

Scholder: Obviously, there is a growing young demographic in some neighborhoods. That’s absolutely the case in Long Island City. Astoria has been another growing market. There is this tremendous basis of nightlife, restaurant scene, arts in Astoria, and some of these trendier places are starting to move in as well.

La Guerre: What are some areas that you expect retail to transform that haven’t been talked about as much? Where are your sleeper neighborhoods?

Rosenzweig: Archer Avenue in Jamaica. You’re going to see some opportunities get created for larger big-box retailers, so it’s not going to just be Sutphin [Boulevard] as it has been or Jamaica Avenue. I think Archer is going to evolve as well. Another area is Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood. The infrastructure has always been there — mass transit, buses, surrounding residential — but I think you are going to see as leases come up and expire a lot of the current tenants may not be quite right for the area anymore. I think it’s going to come on pretty strong, pretty soon.

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Another Astoria waterfront warehouse for sale, likely to become condos


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal

The owner of another Astoria waterfront site with potential for a large development could sell the property for four times its last selling price as the neighborhood continues its hot streak.

The property at 30-55 Vernon Blvd., which Eastone 26 Ave LLC bought for $8.2 million last year, is now up for sale again and there have been offers of around $35 million, said Stephen Preuss of real estate firm Massey Knakal, which is marketing the site.

At that price, the property would trade for nearly $230 per buildable square foot, which would rank among the top land prices in Astoria. This would mean that prospective owners would most likely focus on a residential development to cover the purchase price and maximize profits, Preuss said.

Currently, a warehouse and parking lot occupy the 37,116-square-foot site, enough to erect a structure with 140,665 buildable square feet.

If air rights from the adjacent residential properties were purchased or a rezoning occurred, the property could have up to 220,000 buildable square feet, Preuss said.

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

30-55 Vernon Blvd. Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Preuss imagined the best use for the site would be a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail, an office or event space on the second floor, and condos on the remaining floors.

“This area is quickly emerging, and the site holds immediate value with its waterfront location along with the benefit of several local mega-projects underway,” Preuss said.

The Astoria waterfront has been scorching hot recently with planned projects like the enormous Astoria Cove, which received the green light from the City Council last month, and the Durst Organization’s Hallets Point project.

Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

Astoria Cove. Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

In addition to those projects, construction is planned next year for a glassy 77-condo building by developer New York Lions Group not far from the waterfront.

Also, in October, developer Shibber Khan paid $57 million for a waterfront site at 11-12 30th Dr., which has 460,000 buildable square feet. It is located just a block south of the Eastone 26 Ave LLC property.

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group

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Astoria face and body painter brings out inner child with colorful designs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Cheeky Chipmunk

For one Astoria artist, your face is her canvas.

Lenore Koppelman, 39, is the owner and artist behind The Cheeky Chipmunk, where she has turned face and body painting into living, breathing art.

Born in Queens and raised in New Orleans, La., Koppelman recalls that it was a tradition for her and her family to go to the French Quarter every Sunday after breakfast and get their faces painted. Koppelman said that every Sunday morning she would talk about what she would get painted on her face that day.

As she grew up, she went to college for interior design, and her inner knack for art and creativity followed her throughout the years.

Having lived in Forest Hills from when she was 3 to 6 years old, Koppelman decided to return to Queens eight years ago, and she made the move to Astoria. But her decision to make a career change did not happen until just last year.

While on a walk by Astoria Park with one of her best friends, Pamela Bob, Koppelman pondered over what her true calling was. Realizing that she loved art and loved working with people, she put the two together.

“We both realized at that moment [the face painting business] was going to happen. So I just felt this wave of calm come over me, like I had finally figured out what I was here to do,” Koppelman said. “I got goosebumps and said, ‘I am going to be a face painter.’”

She began painting her friend’s children’s faces for free and realized that something was missing.

“I was terrible. I was really bad. I had no idea how difficult face painting was. I think a lot of parents think, ‘How hard can it be?’” she said. “I then said, if I’m going to really do this, I’m going to have to learn how to do this.”

She began practicing, on herself and others, and reached out to the face painting industry. Koppelman said she was surprised to see the unity in the face and body painting community and she began attending workshops, and meeting other face painters at “jams.”

Koppelman also signed up for an online community called FABA (Face and Body Art) TV, where instructors from around the world share tutorials and tricks on design ideas. She also attended a workshop called Face Painting University and got to learn from professionals in the industry who had appeared in shows such as Skin Wars and Face Off.

“It really took wanting this so badly in order for me to really commit to learning it. This was a whole other level of passion and want. And aside from my little boy and husband, I couldn’t think of anything else I’m more passionate about,” Koppelman said.

Since taking the classes and becoming involved in the community, Koppelman said she felt an increase in confidence. Since September, she has been starting to book more gigs painting faces and bodies, and she even dabbles in maternity belly paintings.

The decision to name the business The Cheeky Chipmunk came from a childhood nickname given to her by her parents and her love for alliteration. She’s now busy offering face and body painting for almost any occasion, from birthdays to corporate events.

Koppelman has also spent her time volunteering for different organizations and events, most recently at a fundraiser held at an Astoria bar called The Quays for a local boy suffering from a rare blood disorder.

She said her favorite moment is the reveal—the moment when a child or adult opens their eyes after sitting patiently through the painting process just trusting her.

Although she is constantly learning and changing designs to meet the latest fads, Koppelman said she still can’t believe she is finally doing what she loves as a career. She hopes to one day publish a book with all her paintings done on her own face and start doing paintings on things in New York she would like to celebrate.

“It’s all about having fun and getting in touch with something inside of you that is magical and youthful and free,” Koppelman said. “Nothing horrible will come of it; it’s paint, it washes off, and it’s a good time. I would love to see more people find that kid inside that just wants to be free. Let the glitter fly free.”


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Western Queens gets greener: park officials


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Valerie Medoff

Western Queens has gotten greener these past four years with a project that has planted more than 1,000 new trees — and the program will just keep growing.

Partnerships for Parks, a joint program between the nonprofit City Parks Foundation and the city’s Parks Department, celebrated on Dec. 12 the planting of trees and tree care events in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside over the past few years.

Key project representatives, elected officials and local organizations, such as New York Restoration Project (NYRP), Trees New York, City Parks Foundation and NYC Parks/Forestry, gathered at the celebration ceremony where the “torch was passed” to community volunteers, who will now lead the program and continue to green the neighborhoods.

Since 2011, the Greening Western Queens (GWQ) Urban Forestry and Community Stewardship Program has brought more than 1,100 new trees and over 100 community-enriching tree care projects to the western Queens neighborhoods.

The four-year, grant-funded project was part of a $7.9 million initiative of The North Star Fund to invest in energy efficiency and environmental projects in the community, which was affected by a 2006 electric power outage.

The GWQ program was created in the summer of 2011, when honey locusts and Japanese pagodas were planted. Since then, the project has planted 1,127 trees, including 598 new street trees on sidewalks, 528 trees in publicly accessible private spaces, such as schools, churches and public housing sites, and a storm water mitigation bioswale on the site of the Steinway & Sons piano factory in Astoria.

Other works include training over 400 people in tree care best practices with Trees New York and supporting more than 1,600 people at over 128 volunteer tree care and greening events.

An existing tree inventory was also conducted, and 455 blocks were digitally mapped in the project area in collaboration with TreeKIT and 54 local volunteers during 27 citizen mapping events.

The program also installed 400 custom-designed, GWQ-branded tree guards in order to protect the young street trees and planted more than 1,800 native perennials in 117 tree beds.

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Astoria rental prices drop in November: report


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Chart courtesy of MNS Real Estate 

Astoria residents have at least one more thing to smile about — lower rents.

While the overall average rates of rents in Queens increased for a second consecutive month, prices in Astoria saw a decline in November for various sizes of apartments, according to MNS Real Estate’s monthly Queens Rental Market Report.

Residents were likely to pay $1,719 for a studio, $2,017 for a one-bedroom and about $2,468 for a two-bedroom apartment in November, which results in an overall average rent decline of 4.45 percent, the report said.

The decrease in price for two-bedroom apartments was eclipsed by Forest Hills, which recorded average rents of two-bedroom apartments for $2,599 in November.

Astoria, a burgeoning neighborhood that has begun to see an influx in major developments such as Astoria Cove, also had a bump in inventory, and the report praised the neighborhood’s growth.

“An increase in Astoria inventory and an average of 13.6 days in market imply a steady rate of growth and popularity in rental market,” the report said.

While Astoria saw declining rents, studios in nearby Long Island City had the highest percent increases throughout the borough. Renters were likely to pay $2,406, which is a 6.16 percent jump from the previous month.

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