Tag Archives: Astoria

Museum of Moving Image to celebrate Jim Henson’s birthday with puppet-inspired activities

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Mark Zimmerman/Flickr

The creator of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and many other beloved “Muppets” will be honored later this month in Astoria.

Jim Henson, the beloved puppeteer who produced “The Muppet Show,” will receive a special birthday celebration at the Museum of Moving Image with a number of educational activities for children.

The museum will host Family Fall Day on Sept. 26 and families will get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create puppets, along with screenings of two shows produced by The Jim Henson Company.

From 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., kids will be able to build paper-bag puppets using several materials, design Henson-inspired characters and perform puppet karaoke at the museum’s Digital Learning Suite.

Scenes from episodes of “Dinosaur Train” and “Sid the Science Kid,” two children’s shows produced by The Jim Henson Company, will screen several times throughout the day and the 40-minute compilation will also include a behind-the-scenes clip about digital puppetry techniques used in “Sid the Science Kid.”

Adults and children 10 and up can also purchase tickets to a conversation with Rollie Krewson, a longtime Henson Creature Shop puppet designer and builder.

Henson began designing puppets in high school and created a five-minute sketch comedy puppet show while in college called “Sam and Friends.” He joined “Sesame Street” in 1970 and was responsible for developing characters for the show during his 20-year tenure. He also created puppets for movies like “Fraggle Rock,” “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”

Henson, who died in 1990, would have been 78 on Sept. 24.

Museum admission for children 12 and under is free. The museum is located at 36-01 35th Ave. Click here for more information.


Welcome fall with Astoria Flea Night Market and LIC Flea

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jill Lotenberg of Jill Photography

Summer has unofficially bid us adieu, but there is still time to enjoy some outdoor fun in both Long Island City and Astoria.

This Saturday, Sept. 12, visitors from near and far can take a trip to Astoria to celebrate the opening of the Astoria Flea & Food Night Market at Kaufman Astoria Studios, which announced it will be launching its all-Queens Beer and Wine Garden – which visitors have come to love at the LIC Flea & Food.

The night market will be open for three consecutive Saturdays in September including Sept. 12, 19 and 26. from 6 to 11 p.m. and will include the best in food and flea vendors, and live music.

This weekend also marks the start of fall at the popular LIC Flea & Food, located at Fifth Street and 46th Avenue. There are only eight weekends left of the outdoor season so don’t wait to visit the market and meet some of the new vendors, while also enjoying favorites from the 2015 season.

Visitors can enjoy treats such as delicious fries from Bulldog Burgery and Crafty Cue BBQ’s pastrami Ruben. Pick up some fall duds from Dutch Kills Klothing, SM Designs and baubles from Scripted by Design.

Guests can also cool off at the LIC Flea Beer Garden, the only venue exclusively serving beers brewed in Queens from local breweries including Rockaway Brewery, Queens Brewery, Finback and SingleCut.

LIC Flea & Food runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the end of October.

For updates follow on Facebook.com/LICFlea, Instagram.com/LICFlea and @LICFlea on Twitter.


Suspects sought for Woodside hit-and-run robbery

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Police released images on Friday of two men wanted for striking a man with a car, then taking his property near a Woodside nightclub last month.

The hit-and-run robbery occurred at 2 a.m. on Aug. 15 outside the Medusa Lounge located at 25-18 50th St.

According to authorities, the perpetrators – described as black males – chased the 29-year-old man out of the lounge, entered a nearby black vehicle and then struck the victim.

Once the victim was on the ground, police said, the suspects exited the vehicle and removed the man’s necklace, money and cellphone, then got back in the car and sped away.

Officers from the 114th Precinct responded to the incident; the victim was taken to Lincoln Hospital in stable condition.

Anyone with information regarding the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.


Mother and son arrested after her boyfriend found shot, set on fire in Astoria

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 1, 4:18 p.m. 

An Astoria woman enlisted the help of her children this weekend to get rid of the body of her boyfriend, whom she shot twice after a dispute over infidelity and money, according to authorities.

Dawn McIntosh, 46, has been charged with murder, criminal possession of a weapon, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a child alongside her 21-year-old son Donte Watkins, who has been charged with tampering with physical evidence, in connection to the death of 43-year-old Shron McWhorter.

If convicted, McIntosh, who was ordered held without bail at her arraignment on Tuesday, faces up to 25 years to life in prison and her son, held on $5,000 bail, faces up to four years in prison. Both were ordered to return to court on Sept. 15.

Police found McWhorter’s body on fire after receiving a 911 call regarding an unconscious man in the rear of a location on 14th Street in Astoria at about 6:57 a.m. Saturday. After the FDNY extinguished the flames, the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Investigators also discovered that McWhorter had been shot two times, once in the chest and the other  in the torso.

The victim’s body was also so badly burned that investigators could only identify McWhorter by a “Sugar Sha” tattoo on his left arm, according to published reports.

McWhorter, who is from Brooklyn, and McIntosh were in a relationship and had been arguing over problems of infidelity and money prior to the shooting, police said.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, after shooting the victim McIntosh asked her children — 15-year-old Zanasia McIntosh and 21-year-old Watkins – for help in disposing of McWhorter’s body. Watkins is charged for trying to lift the body into his mother’s Jeep after she asked him to do it.

“The defendant is accused of a particularly heinous crime in which she fatally shot her boyfriend and  then tampered with evidence by, among other things, setting the deceased’s body on fire. At the same time, it is alleged that she enlisted the aid of her teenage daughter and adult son in an attempt to cover up her involvement in the crime,” Brown said.

McIntosh allegedly then lit McWhorter’s body on fire, disposed of the firearm used to shoot him, washed the bloody clothes she had been wearing during the shooting, and moved McWhorter’s car from the crime scene to the street.

According to published reports, upon investigating the scene, authorities found a fingernail on the victim’s body and during questioning an investigator noticed McIntosh had only nine out of 10 fingernails.

McIntosh later provided information admitting to shooting McWhorter, police sources said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version, based on information provided by the NYPD, incorrectly identified Dawn McIntosh and Donte Watkins as siblings instead of mother and son, and also initially had the victim’s name as Shawn instead of Shron. We regret any confusion that may have resulted. 


Star of Queens: Debra Toscano, actress, singer and voice teacher

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Debra Toscano

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Debra Toscano is originally from Long Island but has resided in Bayside for about 15 years. She comes from a musical background with a father who worked as a music teacher and she had a lot of early exposure to the music industry. She has one older sister, who is also in the music industry as a piano player and drummer.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND CAREER: Toscano is a professional singer and actress who works as a music teacher in Frank Toscano Music School in Astoria, which is owned by her father. He has owned the school for over 50 years, and Toscano currently teaches there as a vocal coach. She is also working on movie called “Bohemia,” which will feature her own original screenplay and begins filming in January.

CONTRIBUTION TO THE COMMUNITY: Toscano brightens the day of hospital patients by visiting with the cast of her last film project, a crime drama dubbed “Snitches.” They created a program called Snitches Give Back to visit both children and adults in local hospitals, talking with patients, signing autographs, and giving out headshots to bring cheer into the lives of patients.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Toscano says her biggest challenge as an actress is getting consistent work and locking in a gig. While acting has a glamorous image to those outside the profession, finding good acting parts and doing good work can be difficult for performers.
“When you’re in one gig you’re always looking to secure the next one,” she said. “Booking the work is always the biggest challenge to keep yourself motivated.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: Toscano is most proud of singing the national anthem for major sporting events including games for the New York Jets and Giants, and the U.S. Open.
“That’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done because it’s a huge honor to sing the national anthem.”


Man found shot, set on fire in Astoria

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Updated Sunday, Aug. 30, 10:28 a.m.

A man was found shot and engulfed in flames behind an Astoria building Saturday morning, according to officials.

The FDNY responded to a 911 call at 6:57 a.m. on 12th Street near 27th Avenue and found the victim, who has not been identified, engulfed in flames.

After extinguishing the fire, authorities found the man had also suffered from a gun injury on the left side of his chest, police said. EMS pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

There are no suspects and police are still investigating.

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.


Astoria lumberyard site on sale for possible residential, commercial development

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Image via Google Maps

With a prime location, an Astoria site recently put up for sale could be an attractive opportunity for buyers looking to invest in the area.

The development site located at 69-15 Astoria Blvd. is currently on the market and is considered a “versatile property” available for potential residential or commercial development, according to GFI Realty Services Inc., which has been named the exclusive sales agent for the property.

“69-15 Astoria Blvd. has a great deal of versatility, and we expect to draw the interest of investors looking to convert it to commercial or residential use,” said Gavin Bolsom from GFI Realty who will oversee the marketing of the site with Sasha Berg. “New York is experiencing an influx of young professionals, and opportunistic buyers will be drawn to the potential of constructing 14 residential units in prime Astoria.”

The location, which is within walking distance of the N and Q trains, is currently home to a family-owned lumberyard whose owner is looking to retire and close up shop. The site has a maximum buildable area of 9,500 square feet.

With a high demand for residential spaces in the Astoria area, Bolsom added that the location – which faces both Astoria Boulevard and Hazen Street — would be great for future residents as it is found in close proximity to various cafes, restaurants, lounges and cultural institutions such as Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria Park and more.

“One of the attractive components of this property is its frontage on both Astoria Boulevard and Hazen Street,” Bolsom said. “With this unique setup, the property is well positioned for a drive-through commercial enterprise. With its visibility from the Grand Central Parkway, there also exists the potential for significant advertising revenue.”


Two sought after shots fired outside Astoria housing complex

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for two men in connection to a shooting incident in Astoria Tuesday afternoon.

At about 2:15 p.m. one of the suspects was in front of the Astoria Houses at 2-10 27th Ave. when he took out a gun and fired shots, authorities said. He then fled with a second man in a blue four-door sedan.

No injuries were reported.

The NYPD has released a photo of the vehicle and describe the suspects as black males in their early to mid-20s who were wearing white T-shirts.

Tuesday’s shooting incident comes after a similar report of shots fired outside the same housing complex the previous night. No one was found injured.

Anyone with information on the suspects 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 by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


New program to restore rent-regulated apartments to buildings in western Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office

A group of state and city officials are getting together to crack down on landlords throughout the five boroughs — including a handful in western Queens — who they say could be breaking the law.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development Commissioner Vicki Been announced Wednesday that notices were sent out to 194 building owners throughout the city who accepted “lucrative” tax breaks under the state’s 421-a program without complying with the law’s rent regulation requirements by registering their apartments as rent-regulated.

The state passed Section 421-a of the Real Property Tax Law in 1971 as a way to motivate the construction of rent-regulated housing and condominiums in New York City. The law gives a partial exemption from city property taxes for the owners of these newly constructed residential multi-family buildings for at least 10 years.

The owners of these buildings, found throughout the five boroughs and most of whom own one building of less than 50 units, provide housing to more than 2,400 families and individuals who are entitled to rent-regulated leases under the law.

A high concentration of these buildings are found in Brooklyn and Queens, with neighborhoods that include Astoria, Long Island City, Corona and Elmhurst.

“Landlords of rental buildings who accept these tax incentives must follow through on their end of the bargain and offer rent-regulated leases to their tenants,” Schneiderman said. “The Real Estate Tax Compliance Program we are announcing today will safeguard tenants’ rights, protect more than 2,000 units of New York City’s rent-regulated housing stock, and ensure that our important and limited tax dollars are properly spent.”

The notices, which were sent out Tuesday, alert building owners to the possible legal consequences they face, including revocation of the tax breaks, if they do not register the apartments as rent-regulated and give tenants rent-regulated leases.

In the letter, the owners are also given details on the one-time, non-negotiable chance they have to “cure the violations” and “avoid further enforcement action.”

The governor’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) will monitor the registrations filed by the owners. If the owner fails to register properly, TPU could then look into putting an administrative order freezing current rents, along with pursuing overcharge actions against the owners for collecting improper rents. TPU will also seek damages on behalf of tenants.

“We will not tolerate landlords who break the law and deny their tenants rent-regulated leases, plain and simple,” Cuomo said. “This partnership will help ensure that building owners who benefit from the 421-a program are living up to their responsibilities. Owners who are not currently in compliance should get their act together immediately or face the real possibility of having the TPU freeze rents, pursue overcharges and seek damages.”


Kaufman Arts District’s first luxury condominium hits market

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Modern Spaces

A luxury condominium — the first of its kind in the newly designated Kaufman Arts District —has hit the market and seen instant success in just one week.

Real estate firm Modern Spaces has began sales for The Marx, located at 34-32 35th St. in Astoria, and in the first week 20 percent of the building has already been sold.

The Marx offers 33 one- and two-bedroom units at prices starting in the $600,000s and two-bedroom apartments priced under $1 million.

“The Kaufman Arts District is an established, dynamic neighborhood that gives people access to the best creative institutions the city had to offer. Living at The Marx presents a unique opportunity to move into a vibrant Astoria neighborhood that is rich with amenities, dining and service retail to serve the families that have long called the area home,” said Eric Benaim, CEO of Modern Spaces.

The building features homes with open layouts and hardwood floors, and many of the apartments have private terraces. Kitchens feature custom cabinetry, a breakfast bar and high-quality appliances. Master bathrooms include rainhead and hand-held glass-enclosed showers and heated towel bars.

Amenities at The Marx include a rooftop terrace with gas Weber grills, a private bike room, a fitness room, a virtual doorman security system and laundry facilities.

“We are very excited that The Marx has appealed to so many buyers. It’s the first luxury development that has opened since the area has been designated the Kaufman Arts District and shares the same streets where popular shows such as ‘Orange is the New Black,’ ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘Sesame Street’ are filmed. We think the building — like its entertainment neighbors — will be a big hit for many different types of buyers,” Benaim said.

The seven-story condominium, which is being developed by a joint venture between Kaufman Astoria Studios and Procida Companies, gets its name from the property’s history located on the site where the Marx Brothers filmed movies such as “Animal Crackers” and “Coconauts.”

The Kaufman Arts District, designated in 2014, includes institutions such as Kaufman Astoria Studios, Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Council on the Arts.

“We’re thrilled to bring even more life to this thriving and historic neighborhood. Hundreds of professionals visit and work in our studios, and many have fallen in love with Astoria and all it offers,” said Hal Rosenbluth, CEO of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “We’re delighted to offer the homes at The Marx to our regular constituents and newcomers alike.”


Two wanted for questioning after shots fired in Astoria

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Cops are trying to find two persons of interest after shots were fired in an Astoria parking lot Monday night.

The incident happened at about 10 p.m. in front of the Astoria Houses, located at 1-04 Astoria Blvd., authorities said.

Responding officers did not find any injuries.

Police have released video footage of two men they would like to question in connection to the shooting. The first individual is described as a black male who was last seen wearing jeans, black sneakers and a white tank top. The second man is black, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 140 pounds. He was last seen wearing black denim shorts, black sneakers and a blue hooded sweatshirt.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


The Queen’s Cartoonists bring swing-era music, written for classic cartoons, to listeners

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Irina Fateycheva

A new band made up of Astoria and Jackson Heights residents is bringing a fresh, yet vintage, sound to the ears of audiences throughout the city.

The Queen’s Cartoonists, made up of six Queens musicians, was formed when pianist Joel Pierson made the move from Washington, D.C., to Jackson Heights after getting married to a Queens resident.

Pierson, who has been playing the piano for over 20 years and has performed on all seven continents, was looking for a job and said he wanted to do something innovative that would attract audiences — which is how the idea of the band came about.

“I was trying to think of something that would have the band stand out in New York, that would be interesting to people,” Pierson said. “I saw it as a different twist of what people are doing up here.”

The group performs music they call the “zaniest and most creative” out of the swing era and many of which was written and adapted for classic cartoons from Warner Bros. and Disney, such as the Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.

The band is made up of Pierson and Astoria residents Mark Phillips on clarinet and soprano sax; Drew Pitcher on tenor sax; Greg Hammontree on trumpet; Rossen Nedelchev on percussion; and Ian Hutchison on bass.

“We’re all very Queens-centric people. We all just really like Queens. Everybody is rubbing elbows from all over the world,” Pierson said. “We all live here for a reason.”

The name of the band, which was created before there was a group and Pierson believes helped attract the members, has been written in many ways – some including the apostrophe, others placing it after the S — however Pierson said it all goes back to highlighting their home borough.

“[Queens] feels like a really authentic place to live and so many jazz people have lived here,” Pierson said. “It fits with the kind of music we want to play.”

What differs The Queen’s Cartoonists from all other jazz musicians and groups in the city, Pierson said, is that the group does not perform out of spontaneity. Due to the classic music’s short and fast performances, it is crucial that the members spend extensive time practicing every tune and be organized when performing.

Each song can go about 2 to 3 minutes long and performances tend to last about 20 to 25 minutes.

“Everything has to be really set up ahead of time because if we’re not on it 100 percent then it can be really hard for us,” Pierson said.

Although the band performs what Pierson calls “cartoony and silly” music, he adds that he still wants to maintain a formal feel in the performances — much like how it was down back in the 1930s and ’40s.

“We want people to experience a formal experience even if the music is cartoony and silly,” Pierson said. “We want it to be a concert in a way because it is hard to play and we want to give some credibility to this music.”

For now, the “novelty” band is still testing the waters to figure out the best venues to perform in and Pierson hopes to one day see themselves live at performing art centers, festivals and any other venues where audience know they will be. They have also participated in the MTA’s Music Under New York Program.

The Queen’s Cartoonists will perform on Aug. 29 at The Shops at SkyView Center in Flushing from 1 to 3 p.m. and on Sept. 17 will play at the Long Beach Jazz Festival at 7 p.m.

For more information, visit www.thequeenscartoonists.com.


Burglar wanted for stealing smokes and cash from Astoria food shop

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via NYPD

Police released on Thursday video footage of a man wanted for grabbing cash and cigarettes from an Astoria grocery store during a recent burglary.

Authorities said the break-in occurred at about 5:50 a.m. on Aug. 16 at the iKraveIt food store located at 34-02 30th St.

The business was closed when the suspect, whom police described as a male wearing a hooded sweatshirt, gloves, pants, a hat and sneakers while carrying a backpack, entered through the front door.

Once inside, the crook removed $250 from the cash register as well as nine packs of cigarettes kept from behind the counter, police said. After taking the loot, he fled in an unknown direction.

Workers at the store later reported the break-in to the 114th Precinct. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.


WATCH: Astoria puppet visits Queens and vies for votes in America’s Got Talent live round

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via nbc.com

Along with wowing audiences for a third time on America’s Got Talent — with an act fit for Las Vegas — one unique contestant made his return to the place he says will always be in his heart: Astoria.

Besides his soulful voice, the thing that makes 32-year-old Ira, an Astoria native, stand out from all the other singers and competitors is that he is a puppet. During his performances, the audience never sees or meets the puppeteer.

Before taking the stage at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday night for the popular NBC reality competition show’s round two of live shows, Ira hopped on the subway — with his mom Miriam, also a puppet – and took a trip to Astoria, a neighborhood he called home for about 29 years.

During their visit to Queens, both puppets stopped for some pancakes at the Bel Aire Restaurant & Diner, located at 31-91 21st St., and then walked around the streets and were stopped by a cop — also a puppet — who said Ira was stealing America’s heart. They also visited an old landlord, who asked for some rent they owed him, before walking off into the sunset thinking of what they could spend $1 million on.

According to Ira, he grew up in Astoria and then decided to make the move to Los Angeles with his mother, who wanted to chase her dreams of being a singer. However, the dream then became Ira’s and after just singing as a favorite pastime, he decided to take it to the big stage.

For his performance on the live show, Ira stepped it up a notch and took the stage not only with his mother, who played a saxophone and was whisked away inside a clam by a group of muscular men, but with an ensemble of puppet dancers and musicians all to the tune of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.”

The act featured a nautical theme with Ira singing on top of a ship surrounded by waves, dolphins and mist.

His performance was met with praise from judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B — the former Spice Girl who melted Ira’s heart since day one, when he dedicated his audition performance to her.

“These guys are fun and we want to have fun on a show like ‘America’s Got Talent,’” Stern said. “You took a guy like me and made me like what essentially looks like an old smelly sock and I’m in love with an old smelly sock.”

Mel B, who during Ira’s first performance didn’t see the potential in the puppet, couldn’t hold back her love for the act on Tuesday night.

“The smile on my face did not leave my face one single bit for one second. You’re entertaining and you’re adorable and you’re winning me over all the time more and more,” Mel B said right before winking at Ira.

Although the judges loved Ira and his performance, it is now America’s turn to decide if the beloved puppet and his mom will hit the stage again.

Watch to see if Ira makes it through Wednesday night on NBC at 8 p.m.


Astoria groups celebrate 50 years since The Beatles played at Shea Stadium

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Greater Astoria Historical Society

The 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ visit to Queens is being celebrated Wednesday night with a little help from some Astoria friends.

As part of the Greater Astoria Historical Society’s (GAHS) monthly lecture series at Q.E.D., located at 27-16 23rd Ave., the group will hold a tribute on Aug. 19 honoring the 50th anniversary of the Fab Five’s performance at Shea Stadium.

Richard Melnick, vice president of GAHS, will be joined by friends to give a retrospective of The Beatles and “that memorable Sunday night on Aug. 15, 1965, when 55,600 [people] got a big taste of Beatlemania.”

The lecture, which will be followed by a Q&A, invites guests to come and relive the performance, share their memories and listen to the music again.

“Our mission is to promote the history of our community. Our commemorative programming will delight and engage folks who attended these extraordinary events and educate and inspire those who did not,” said Rosalie Kenny, lecturer and GAHS trustee.

Tickets for the lecture are $10 for non-GAHS members and can be purchased here. GAHS members get in for FREE with an RSVP by noon on Wednesday. To reserve a spot email QEDAstoria@gmail.com.