Tag Archives: Astoria

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.


Rego Park studio rents soaring: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com


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.


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.”


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.


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.



Catching ‘ACCOLD’ from your real estate agent

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of 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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


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.


Bringing down rents can raise income for landlords

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Modern Spaces


Fall marks a time when everyone enjoys the changes in the surrounding foliage — everyone except homeowners with pending apartment vacancies. For them, fall and winter is a time when rental inventory builds and rental prospects thin out. Even the most luxurious of apartments loses the ability to attract a substantial amount of interest from the constantly diminishing renter base during the months of November, December, January, February and March.

But what option does an owner have? What can be done to combat this dip in interest and prospects? Their first step is to get involved with a real estate professional, who not only knows the immediate area but is also familiar with the ever-changing seasons and how they affect prospective renters. Their selection should be someone who knows how to market their property so that they combat these changes effectively and prevent their property from sitting unnecessarily during these slower months.

My normal strategy in the fall and winter months is to encourage landlords to accept a monthly rent at a lower rate than their current asking price so that they increase their opportunities among the diminished renter pool, and also limit their financial loss over the course of the year.

For example, if a landlord has a property that is marketed at $2,400 per month on Nov. 1, their apartment is limited to an ever-diminishing pool of individuals willing to pay high market prices during a slower market. If their apartment does not rent as of Dec. 1, this landlord has effectively lost $2,400 in yearly net rental income. Should that apartment now suffer another month or two of vacancy they will continue to lose the entire $2,400 per month for every month it remains vacant.

If a similar landlord with an identical apartment markets their apartment for $2,200 per month on Nov. 1, their apartment will show up in a larger array of searches, and they will have an increased customer pool based on the lower amounts renters are willing to pay in a down market. If their apartment is rented for occupancy on Dec. 1, their net effective loss by marketing their property for $200 less in rent is $2,400 for the year. Their willingness to adapt to the slower market demand has permitted them to minimize their loss on their annual net rental income and prevented them from having an apartment sit for a longer period of time.

Landlords can also adjust their vacancy period during these slower months by offering their units for short-term leases of 3, 6 or 9 months, so that at the point of renewal their apartment will now be vacated during a much more lively and competitive marketplace. This also affords them the opportunity to renew with that tenant at a rate more in tune with what their apartment should normally be comparable to.

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.


Astoria bar to host “butt ugly” Christmas sweater party

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano / Flyer courtesy of The POP BAR

‘Tis the season to dig into your closet and find that Christmas sweater grandma gave you and get ready to party in Astoria.

The POP BAR, located at 12-21 Astoria Blvd., will be teaming up this Sunday with the blog Give Me Astoria and Toys for Tots to host The Butt Ugly Xmas Sweater Party.

Starting at 7 p.m. patrons are asked to come dressed in their best “butt ugly” Christmas sweaters. Whoever has the ugliest sweater will receive $50 in a cash prize. The second ugliest sweater will get a $20 bar tab.

Throughout the night there will be drink specials, for those donning their ugly sweaters, on $5 drinks, draft beers and spiked egg nog.

There will also be a raffle and patrons will get a free ticket for the raffle at the door. Whoever brings a new unwrapped toy donation for Toys for Tots will receive another raffle ticket.

For more information visit The POP Bar’s Facebook page.


Social darts league comes to Astoria

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Astoria Plays Darts

An Astoria social and sports organization has pinpointed a new way to bring people together when it’s too cold to play softball by swapping bats for darts.

Astoria Plays Darts kicked off its first season this October with eight teams, representing seven neighborhood bars.

The league was formed by the organizers of Astoria Plays Ball, a co-ed sports group that acts like a social club for locals to meet each other. The softball league began in spring 2013 and has had a spring, summer and fall 2014 season since that time.

Following softball games, teams head to a local bar for drink specials and hot dogs. The winners get free beers.

In addition to growing the softball league’s numbers, its organizers have been seeking new ways to bring Astorians together.

Darts was a hobby that Warren Sheinwald, one of the founders of Astoria Plays Ball, said he has enjoyed playing in the past.

Its role as a classic bar game made it the ideal second sport for the organization.

News of the dart league quickly spread by word of mouth and through Astoria Plays’ social media channels. About 70 people participated in the first season, including many members from its softball teams.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, games are played at one of seven Astoria bars—Blackbird’s, Doyle’s Corner, Olde Prague Tavern, Raven’s Head Public House, Sissy McGinty’s, O’Hanlon’s Bar and Rocky McBride’s. Each team is named after a bar, with Olde Prague representing two teams. The bars provide food and discounted drinks during the evening.

Two types of games are played between teams and individuals. In cricket the goal is to “close” all your numbers and end up with more or equal points to your opponent. You must hit three of that number to close it. The “01″ dart game begins with a score of 301, 501 or 701 and the object is to get to zero by throwing rounds of three darts and subtracting the sum of those darts from the current score.

Though points are scored and teams try to win, there has never been any fighting and everyone has remained civil, according to Sheinwald.

“We have reshaped the image of darts players from those of the traditional competitive leagues to a fun, learning, mildly competitive experience,” he said.

The fall season’s championship will be held on Monday between Old Prague 1 and Sissy McGinty’s. Plaques are awarded to individual players based on all star points and team plaques are given to bars that succeed in the playoffs.

A winter season is already planned, starting Jan. 5. A Thanksgiving winter signup event where the league collected cans for City Harvest at Sissy McGinty’s garnered 60 participants. Spots are still open on several teams, which will expand to include at least 10 bars. Each player that signs up pays a $15 fee for the season.

“It’s a great way to get out there and meet new Astorians, especially for people who have just moved to the area,” Sheinwald said.

As with its softball league, darts players are finding other ways to get together. Recently members started playing football in Astoria Park.

Astoria Plays wants to expand their offerings to kickball and a trivia night, which it hopes to launch by this February.

“One of our goals is to keep promoting the area and keep exploring it together,” Sheinwald said. “We are always looking to do more things, it’s just a matter of time.”



Hundreds show support for Astoria boy with rare disorder

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Dana Naughton

Hundreds of people flocked to an Astoria bar this past weekend to show 6-year-old Gabriel Santini Naughton and his family that they’re not alone in his battle with a blood disorder.

On Sunday, friends of the Santini Naughton family held a fundraiser at The Quays, located at 45-02 30th Ave., to raise money for Gabriel, who was diagnosed in September with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare, life-threatening autoimmune blood disorder.

Although Dana Naughton, Gabriel’s mom, prefers not to say how much was raised, she said over 400 people came by to the corner pub throughout the course of the day.

“It was so successful. It’s definitely going to make Christmas comfortable,” Naughton said. “The emotional support of having the community come together was amazing. It looked like a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.”

Before Gabriel’s diagnosis, his mother had given birth to his second sister and was on maternity leave from her job as an attorney for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. In order to continue to care for Gabriel, Naughton is still on leave. Her husband,  Jaime Santini, who is a professional chef, has also had to hold back from working full time.

Even through these difficult times, the family has felt continuous support from the surrounding Astoria neighbors.

During Sunday’s fundraiser, neighbors donated items ranging from theater tickets to a beer cooler that were used as prizes in a raffle. Entertainment for the day was also all donated, including face painting by The Cheeky Chipmunk and a show by magician Dave Cremin.

There were also musical performances by Sean Wiggins, Roylurr, Sam Rasiotis, John Keegan, Jimmy Artache, Lauren Hunt and Lisa Marie Hunt.

(left to right) Rafael Salinas, Jaime Santini, Dana Naughton, James Kane, and Dee Flattery, co-owner of The Quays.

(left to right) Rafael Salinas, Jaime Santini, Dana Naughton, James Kane and Dee Flattery, co-owner of The Quays.

Other local businesses that donated their time, products and food included Avenue Chemists, Pronto Pizza, Off the Vine, Ovelia, Dilingers, Brooklyn Bagel, Phoenix Beer, Manhattan Beer, Mama Carmelo’s, William Hallett, Lauren Biniaris Yoga, Lost Sock, and Sorriso’s.

“The community has been awesome from the get-go. But to see all these people in one space was incredibly overwhelming but in a good way,” Naughton said. “Gabriel loved it.”

According to the 6-year-old, his favorite part of the fundraiser was the music and singing, and he felt “really happy” to have the party done for him.


“It really is an example that human kindness is really alive,” Naughton said.

A few days before the fundraiser, Naughton and her husband, found out that Gabriel’s disorder was environmental and not genetic. That means that it could be treated with medication and he will not necessarily need to go through a bone marrow transplant. Gabriel has also stopped chemotherapy.

“We are incredibly relieved and optimistic to try another treatment,” Naughton said. “It’s a day by day-by-day thing.”

Naughton continues to keep an online blog at posthope.org/gabriels-fight with updates on Gabriel. Donations can also be made on the website.