Tag Archives: Astoria

Queens World Film Festival to kick off fifth year


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy Jamil Lahham

Along with recent celebrity sightings, including Oscar winner George Clooney, Astoria is ready to continue shining with this year’s Queens World Film Festival — bringing over a hundred unique local and international films to the booming borough.

The festival, celebrating its fifth year running, will take place from March 17 through March 22 and feature 117 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include short and feature narrative, documentaries, animation and LGBT pieces.

“It will be a week of something for everyone,” said festival director Katha Cato, who arranges the event along with her husband Don and a group of volunteers. “I’m so excited about the caliber of what we are about to expose Queens to.”

This year the six-day festival, which officially received a nonprofit status this year, brought in over 400 submissions from across the nation and around the world.

“Five [years] just feels like I can breathe a little bit. We made it to year five and that’s important,” Cato said. “We are experiencing and feeling it.”

The festival begins on March 17 at 8 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria. The evening will feature a block of six films, including two from Queens filmmakers.

“You can do any kind of shot and any type you want in Queens, to represent any nation or any demographic. You can find it somewhere, somehow in this borough,” Cato said. “You can create a lot of different worlds here and with these studios starting to understand that and with a film festival, this could be a huge industry here in this borough.”

The short narrative "Short Steps" by Queens filmmaker Laura Aguinaga is one of 19 Queens films at the film festival.

The short narrative “Short Steps” by Queens filmmaker Laura Aguinaga is one of 19 Queens films at the film festival.

Opening night will also recognize director Leon Ichaso, known for movies such as “El Cantante” starring Jennifer Lopez, as a “Spirit of Queens” honoree. The festival will also present Ichaso’s film “Bitter Sugar” on March 18 at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Throughout the festival, the independent films will be divided into different blocks based on subject and shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, and, for the first time, daily showings at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“It’s about pairing [the films] together to create the proper context so they all look, sound and feel the way the filmmaker wanted it,” Cato said. “And we are creating community within these filmmakers who are perhaps on the same journey and might perhaps work together [in the future].”

Closing night of the festival will feature a screening of the film “Dukhtar (Daughter)” by Afia Nathaniel and be followed by an award ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“I just hope everyone knows that a lot of love went into this festival and we’re going to fix any mistakes we encounter, but we want you to really experience the films,” Cato added. “Just experience them, don’t judge them. It’s a different medium, there aren’t studio films.”

Tickets for opening night and the rest of the festival are still available at www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.

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George Clooney, Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola stop by Astoria’s Taverna Kyclades


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos via Instagram/tavernakyclades

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO 

Updated 2:55 p.m.

Astoria is becoming the next Hollywood hot spot.

Bill Murray brought some of his famous friends to Astoria’s Taverna Kyclades restaurant this week, including George Clooney, who was just spotted filming his latest movie in the neighborhood.

Murray must be a fan of the eatery, located at 33-07 Ditmars Blvd. and known for its fresh fish and Greek fare, because he stopped in twice with his film buddies.

On Monday, he came by during lunchtime with Sofia Coppola, who directed Murray in “Lost in Translation.” They were also accompanied by a man who appeared to be her brother — writer, director and producer Roman Coppola — and a group of four to five people. They stayed for about 30 minutes, according to waiter Nikolaos Tsarouhas.

He said the staff was surprised when Murray walked in and so were the customers.

“I saw him and I remembered him from the movie ‘Ghostbusters,’” he said. “He was really nice, very kind and quiet.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The following day, during lunchtime again, according to the restaurant’s Twitter, Murray “loved [Taverna] so much he brought a friend.” And that friend was Clooney, who is in town to shoot “Money Monster,” co-starring Julia Roberts, Page Six reported.

Clooney is filming scenes for the Jodi Foster-directed thriller at the nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios, according to the Daily Mail.

The Oscar winner recently directed and acted with Murray in the 2014 WWII drama “The Monuments Men.” Murray even gave a toast at Clooney’s wedding to Amal Alamuddin last fall.

This is the first time that any of the actors have been to the restaurant, Tsarouhas said.

But star sightings in Astoria and other areas of Queens are becoming increasingly common as more TV and movie producers are choosing to film on local streets and at area studios such as Kaufman Astoria and Silvercup.

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Astoria Boulevard development site sold, will become new residential building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Modern Spaces

An Astoria development site was sold for $4.8 million and will be transformed into a residential building, according to real estate firm Modern Spaces.

The lot at 8-25 Astoria Blvd. offers up to 33,751 buildable square feet, the real estate firm said.

A Modern Spaces team of Evan Daniel, Edward DiTomasso and Alice Chan represented the buyer and seller. Daniel said the new owner has the intent to use the site for residential development.

The sale equates to about $142 per buildable square feet, which is much less than land values in nearby Long Island City.

Partly because of the lower land prices, Astoria has become a hot neighborhood for development. Not far from the site, the Hallets Point and Astoria Cove mega projects will bring about 4,000 units, and hundreds of other apartments are planned around the area.

“Northwest Astoria remains relatively undeveloped but with several major projects in the pipeline, this area contains some hidden jewels for developers both local and abroad,” said Daniel, executive vice president of the real estate firm’s commercial division. “With land values in neighboring Long Island City hovering around $250 per buildable square foot, some may actually view the price point of this property, and several around it, as a ‘bargain.’”

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Dining: The Don of a new day


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

It feels like the tiny entrance to a tiny home. Tiny plants and miniature statues crowd the front window. Paper ornaments hang from one wall, with a chalkboard displayed on the other. There are only four stools, and one of them is pulled in front of the counter to hold a stack of menus — menus that have been modified, with several items covered in thin strips of paper to conceal menu items that have been abandoned or reworked.

“It’s a work in progress,” smiles the chef from around the corner.

IMG_9227

This peculiar little space is the home of Don Korean Cuisine, and it’s one of several new Korean kitchens appearing on the scene in western Queens. The place may be small, and the consulting chef may be perpetually tweaking the menu, but in the month since they have opened that have drawn quite a crowd — especially in deliveries.

On one visit, I started with Ddeokbokki — Korean rice cakes that look and taste like wonderfully chubby pieces of spaghetti the length and width of a baby carrot. These chewy little cylinders come swimming in a spicy hot pepper sauce. Though I avoid the actual glistening, fiery peppers, the heat is intense, yet wonderfully enjoyable. Mixed with crumbles of pork sausage and thin shavings of roasted garlic, it reminds me of a spicy take on a Bolognese with astonishingly portly noodles. I devour the entire bowl, and extinguish the fire on my tongue with a $1.50 box of banana milk.

“I am from Korea, and the bibimbap here is fantastic,” boasts the cashier on my next visit, “but you should try the bibim burger, I think.” I take her advice, and am giddy over the rustic garlic baguette stacked with a beef patty, thin ribbons of carrots and cucumber, those same garlic crisps, bean sprouts, and gorgeous fried egg — all of which are zigzagged with a blend of hot sauce and something much like a homemade ranch.

IMG_9193

Kimchi arrives in spicy variations of cabbage, cucumber and even mango. I order the classic version on a pile of French fries, and the result is addictive.

Kimbap arrives like Korean sushi, and the rice is exceptional. Sweet grains are wrapped around swirls of pickled daikon, burdock, cucumber, carrots, jalapeno and cream cheese. Korean tacos are filled with honey-marinated chicken, and shredded pork is hand-pulled over rice. Glistening whole chicken wings are dressed in lemongrass or roasted garlic honey sauce. Rice is piled with BBQ pork ribs or grilled, sliced ribeye. And you simply can’t miss the brisket soup with broth rendered from beef bones, swirling around tiny rice noodles, cilantro, scallion and sprouts.
It is an admittedly teeny, tiny space. You might pass it if you blink. But then again, sometimes the best things come in small packages.

IMG_9141

Don Korean
42-06 30th Ave., Astoria
718-777-8838

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Mount Sinai Queens opens new cancer treatment center in Astoria


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Eric Jankiewicz

A new medical facility that will specialize in cancer treatment  is opening in Astoria as part of a $125 million expansion by Mount Sinai Queens.

Known as the Mount Sinai Queens Infusion Center, the facility is across the street from the main hospital. The state-of-the-art facility will be used to treat cancer patients, according to hospital officials, that were previously unavailable to Mount Sinai’s patients in Queens.

“Many treatment options were not available in Queens,” said Howard Greenberg, assistant professor of medicine for the hospital. “Now we’re bringing world-class cancer care in the comfort of your neighborhood.”

The new center aims to provide cancer treatments in a quiet and comfortable environment, something that couldn’t be done in their main facility on 30th Avenue. Along with providing treatment like chemotherapy, the hospital will also perform various blood transfusions and provide care for patients with blood disorders.

“We tried to create a space that was comforting to our patients and also deliver high-quality care,” said Caryn Schwab, executive director of Mount Sinai Queens.

Mount Sinai, with its main medical center on the East Side in Manhattan, is looking to expand into western Queens. The area has a limited choice of emergency medical centers with Elmhurst Hospital the closest alternative.

“Mount Sinai Queens is on the move,” Schwab said. “Queens is our backyard.”

The bulk of the Mount Sinai expansion project is taking place in a new 130,000-square-foot building that is rising across the street from the cancer center.

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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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