Tag Archives: Astoria

LIC Arts Open to celebrate fifth year


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Junenoire Fonte

Long Island City is coming together next month to celebrate the art scene that grows every day throughout the western Queens neighborhood.

The LIC Arts Open — a five-day extravaganza where over 500 artists are expected to occupy galleries and other local spaces and open their studios to visitors — will celebrate its fifth year and hopes to work with real estate companies to help keep artists in the neighborhood.

“We’re really proud to have reached year five and I think that we did not really envision it when we first started,” said Richard Mazda, festival director. “We [started] something that even in the first year became much bigger than we thought it would.”

The festival, running from May 13 through 17, began as a two-day, open-studio event mainly showcasing visual artists. However, in its fifth year, the event now features works from visual artists, performers, musicians and so much more.

This year the festival will span 60 locations, and over 200 artists will open up their studios on Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17, from noon to 6 p.m. to share their work with visitors. For the first time, there will be a preview of open studios located in the Court Square area on Friday, May 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Sculpture by Jack Howard-Potter at last year's LIC Arts Open.

Sculpture by Jack Howard-Potter at last year’s LIC Arts Open.

“The initial inspiration for the festival was because Queens has one of the largest concentrations of artists of any borough in New York and maybe it’s the largest concentration of artists in the country. It just hasn’t been talked about much,” Mazda said. “We have a lot of the major cultural institutions in Queens so the festival was sort of inspired by the idea that it was time to shine a light on the immense talent that is here.”

Mazda also added that there is some concern surrounding the real estate boom occurring in the neighborhood, but he plans to work with real estate property companies to “remind them that artists are a valuable component when marketing the area.”

A head sculpture made from trash bags by Beth Williams.

A head sculpture made from trash bags by Beth Williams.

The festival is working with companies such as Jamestown, which owns the Falchi Building located at 31-00 47th Ave., to showcase art shows during the LIC Arts Open.

The idea of the five-day event is also to take over buildings and spaces that are not traditional gallery locations, and create pop-up art galleries and art shows introducing the community to these industrial spaces.

Another highlight of the festival includes neighborhood nights out, where each night is dedicated to a specific area of Long Island City such as Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue, Dutch Kills or Court Square.

A fundraiser will be held on May 5 at the home of LIC photographer Orestes Gonzalez. During the garden party, awards will be given to Harriet Taub, executive director of Material For the Arts, and sculptor Eliot Lable.

Map of participating venues for this year’s LIC Arts Open.

The LIC Arts Open will come to an end during a closing party at the Court Square Studios, located at 2138 44th Rd., on May 17 featuring a special concert version of the musical “Hair,” a silent auction of about 100 art pieces on 10-by-10 canvases, and performance from the Astoria band 2/3 Goat.

Every event throughout the festival is free and open to the public. For the latest updates visit licartsopen.org.

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George Clooney film scheduled to shoot scenes at Ridgewood studio Friday


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/tavernakyclades

After making the rounds in Astoria, is George Clooney heading over to Ridgewood?

TriStar Productions announced that scenes for its upcoming financial thriller “Money Monster” starring Clooney and Julia Roberts will be filmed at Broadway Stages located at 1019 Irving Ave. from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. It wasn’t known as to whether Clooney or Roberts were part of the shoot.

Directed by Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster, “Money Monster” tells the story of a television personality (Clooney) who is taken hostage while on the air.

Scenes will reportedly be filmed both inside and outside the studio, and parking on nearby streets will be prohibited as of 10 p.m. Thursday in order to accommodate production vehicles. The affected streets are Irving Avenue between Halsey and Covert streets and Covert Street between Wyckoff and Irving avenues.

Any vehicle found parked on these blocks after 10 p.m. will be towed away and relocated nearby; reportedly, there is no cost or penalty to the vehicles’ owners.

Money Monster previously filmed scenes at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Amid production, Clooney dined with Bill Murray at Taverna Kyclades, a Greek restaurant in Astoria; Murray had lunch there with director Sofia Coppola the previous day.

Exterior scenes for Money Monster were to be filmed today along Broadway in Astoria.

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‘Money Monster’ starring George Clooney to film in Astoria on Thursday


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/tavernakyclades

Astoria, get ready: you might catch a second glimpse of George Clooney, this time on set of his new movie “Money Monster.”

According to signs taped along Broadway in Astoria, the film, starring Clooney and Julia Roberts, will be shooting scenes on Thursday in the neighborhood.

“Money Monster,” directed by Jodie Foster, is a thriller that follows television personality Lee Gates who stars in his show “Money Monster” giving Wall Street tips to viewers, according to published reports. However, things go south when one discontented viewer take Gates hostage while on air, and the whole scenario takes place as the cameras continue to roll.

It is not clear if the scenes filming on Thursday will include Clooney, but the award-winning actor had previously been filming at Kaufman Astoria Studios. The production of “Money Monster” has since left that location, according to sources.

Last month, Clooney was spotted enjoying some Greek food at Astoria’s Taverna Kyclades restaurant with Bill Murray, who the day before had lunch at the same eatery with Sofia Coppola, who directed “Lost in Translation.”

Photo via Twitter/@AstoriaBaker

Photo via Twitter/@AstoriaBaker

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Community project ideas on display at Sunnyside participatory budgeting expo


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Residents in the 26th City Council District got the chance to view project proposals that will be put to a public vote later this month during Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s participatory budgeting (PB) project expo Monday night at Sunnyside Community Services.

“This is a chance for residents of this district to really get a visual of the projects that are going to be on the ballot a week from now,” explained Amanda Nasner, PB delegate and Special Projects representative from Van Bramer’s office. “This is just a good visual to help people get excited about participatory budgeting.”

Van Bramer is one of 24 City Council members who have each allocated $1 million in discretionary funds for public improvement projects aimed at helping the community. Budget delegates from District 26—which encompasses all or parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside—showcased their project ideas through vibrant displays and posters.

Many of the project proposals called for improvements to the district’s schools. Jennifer Munoz, a sophomore at the Academy of American Studies, advocated for much-needed auditorium repairs at Newcomers High School in Dutch Kills. At 15, Munoz is one of the youngest budget delegates in the district.

According to Munoz, the Academy of American Studies and Newcomers High School share the same auditorium. The project would replace the auditorium seating and upgrade the sound system at a projected cost of $250,000.

“Basically, the auditorium is being used a lot, so we need to fix it up,” Munoz explained. “They have broken chairs, so we’re trying to get them fixed.”

Other proposed school improvement projects include the installation of security cameras outside Bryant High School, resurfacing the P.S. 112 playground, and a series of technology upgrades at P.S./I.S. 78, P.S. 11, I.S. 204, P.S. 166, P.S. 12 and Aviation High School.

Woodside resident Tom Ryan and his daughter Katherine spoke in favor of the Woodside Reforestry project, which would fund the planting of Parks Department-approved trees along both sides of Broadway, from 48th Street to 69th Street, at a cost of $200,000.

“There are no trees there. It’s barren,” Ryan said. According to Ryan, both he and his fellow Northern Woodside Coalition members would assume the responsibility of watering and caring for the trees.

Miki Bairstow, a delegate from the Housing Committee, was on hand to advocate for six project ideas, including the installation of security cameras and playground upgrades at the Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Woodside Houses.

Kenny Medrano presented four project proposals on behalf of the Library Committee, including the installation of ADA-compliant push-button access for handicapped and wheelchair-bound patrons at both the Sunnyside and Woodside public library branches.

Several delegates proposed transportation improvements throughout the district. Nancy Silverman spoke in favor of a $55,000 proposal to provide seniors at the Jacob Riis Settlement House in Queensbridge with a 10-passenger van for day trips and various group outings. Ray Johnson and his fellow Transportation Committee delegates advocated for the $500,000 LIC Bikeway, the installation of bus bulbs at 31st Street and five real-time passenger information countdown clocks at bus stops district-wide.

Residents will vote for their favorite projects between April 11 to 19 at various locations throughout the district. Click here for details.

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Man killed in Astoria shooting


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Police are investigating a deadly shooting in Astoria Sunday evening.

Sean Overton, 42, was gunned down just after 5 p.m. outside the Astoria Houses at 2-10 Astoria Blvd., authorities said.

Officers found Overton, who lived at the NYCHA complex, lying on his back with one gunshot wound to his neck and another to his torso, police said.

He was taken to Mount Sinai Queens, where he was pronounced dead.

There have been no arrests.

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Astoria library to temporarily close for self-service book return installment


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

The Queens Library at Steinway will temporarily close starting Thursday to install a new service that will make returning books easier.

From April 2 through April 7, the library located at 21-45 31st St. in Astoria will be closed temporarily as self-service book returns are installed inside the library.

Already located in most Queens libraries, this self-service option allows book returns to be processed even when the library is closed. Once a book is slipped through the slot, the same technology used for E-ZPass scans the chips located inside the library materials and automatically returns the book, printing a receipt of return for the customer.

This service is important to the customers because it allows the returned books to appear automatically on the customer’s account and also gets materials back on the shelves more quickly.

While the Queens Library at Steinway is closed for the six days, customers can visit nearby libraries at 14-01 Astoria Blvd. or 40-20 Broadway. They can also renew material on the library’s website, www.queenslibrary.org/myaccount or by phone at 718-990-8508.

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An overview: Multi-family buildings in Astoria and Long Island City


| sweiner@gmipny.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY SWAIN WEINER 

For a long time, Queens has had the reputation of being the go-to borough if you want to buy tires or surround yourself with the elderly.

That being said, this generalization is quickly becoming antiquated as neighborhoods in Queens are experiencing revitalization through the renovation of 1950s and pre-war era apartment buildings as well as the addition of new, modern buildings that have attracted the attention of young families.

Combine these new living spaces with sites like MoMA PS1, four restaurants that were just granted a Michelin star rating, and reasonable rates, and the stage is set for Queens to become a primary option for families looking to make an investment in themselves.

Though this trend is throughout the borough, the areas most impacted and evident of this change are Astoria and Long Island City. The New York Times reports that over 10,000 apartments are being planned over the next three years, ranging from “amenity-laden rentals to family-sized condos.” These condos are especially attractive to younger, up-and-coming families.

Last summer, I listed a 32-unit building in Long Island City. The asking price was just over $6 million, average rents for each unit were around $1,300 a month and 28 of the 32 units were one-bedrooms. This location was not more than a 90-second stroll from Queensboro Plaza.

Consider that the same station has stops for the N, Q and 7 trains, as well as the E, M and R a block away. That’s six trains with accessibility to almost every area in the city. For people looking for a chance to have the space and extra cash to expand their families, the location alone is reason enough to invest in properties like those 32 units. From its rooftop, a very large portion of visible real estate is in some kind of development, just further evidence of the opportunity provided in this part of town. It’s buildings like these that already have provoked the attention of potential investors and residents who have pushed along the progress of Astoria and LIC.

Families see a place where they can have their cake and eat it, too. The amenities offered in a luxury rental are not exclusive to the condos, as the Times reports these buildings will often have gyms, play areas for children, cafes and green roofs. All of these offerings, plus the space required to house a family, plus accessibility to other areas of New York City have bred a common mindset among this demographic.

The New York Times quotes one recent resident as saying that the amount of new people “asking directions and taking photographs” of what was once a very untouched area in the city feels very “cosmopolitan,” a word that would never have been used in reference to Queens until recently.

The question remains: where will the occupants come from? As Bloomberg reported, Cornell University has just been granted 12 acres on Roosevelt Island to build a graduate and applied sciences campus.

The people who populate that campus will populate Long Island City and Astoria. Not only is Roosevelt Island next door to these neighborhoods, but Queens is by far the most affordable of all the areas surrounding it. People feel that the low price they are paying is not reflective of some lack of character the neighborhood has; instead, they feel like they’re getting in at the ground floor of an exciting new investment.

The families that move in, like those that will attend the future Cornell Campus, will bring others similar, and what was once simply a reasonable place to live will remain reasonable with the added benefit of camaraderie and popularity. The new, “cosmopolitan” view of this area is now the generalized view.

What Williamsburg was to hipsters is what Astoria will become for young families, and the discrepancy between low prices and quality of the areas and residents absolutely screams investment opportunities. The allure of Astoria and LIC will only become greater, increasing the already high demand for renovated multi-family housing.

Astoria might still have some of the highest rent prices in the borough, though families moving in feel they are still getting a bargain. A New York Times piece on the area references a couple who recently moved to Astoria who pay $3,720 a month for a two-bed, two-bath with use of a “two-story gym, squash and basketball courts, a coffee lounge, three roof decks with barbecues and wet bars, and a children’s playroom.”

The family states that anywhere in Manhattan the same environment would cost more than $5,000 a month. This is the case with much of Astoria. Prices are comparatively higher than the rest of Queens, though lower than anywhere else in the city. But what the cost does not show is the value for these families’ purchases — the list just goes on and on for recreation and opportunities that these condos will provide to their families.

Last year, a developer in Astoria had a goal of selling 23 of 58 available condos in six months; every condo of the 58 was spoken for within four months. Another development group has followed suit and started 33-unit and 77-unit condos that will likely be taken in a similar amount of time. Though these are just two groups, they are not the only ones. These are the types of living spaces that will start popping up all over the neighborhood — condos tailored for families, complete with skyline views of Manhattan.

The growth of Astoria and LIC will be characterized by the addition of more than just the 10,000 apartments the New York Times mentioned. These additions will be tailored to suit the needs of families, spreading the popularity of multi-family housing by creating an environment where people raising children can have the best cost-benefit ratio offered anywhere in the city.

The 32-unit I listed last summer is far from the last time I dealt with a multi-family building in Astoria and LIC. In fact, I suspect that in the near future many more buildings cut from the same cloth will come out of the woodwork, primed for investment. Queens is in high demand, Queens is up-and-coming, and Queens is affordable. This new possibility of having enough room and means for families will continue to be a driving force in how these neighborhoods flourish.

Swain Weiner is president, partner and founder of Greiner Maltz Investment Properties, which specializes in all types of commercial investment sales throughout the five boroughs and Long Island. Before Greiner Maltz Investment Properties, Weiner sold more than $215,000,000 in aggregate sales with more than 1,300 residential units.

Swain Official Headshot

Swain Weiner

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Homeless Queens woman sentenced for 2010 Astoria Park beating, strangulation


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


A 33-year-old homeless woman has been sentenced to 17 years to life in prison for her role in the 2010 fatal beating and strangulation of a 32-year-old man in Astoria Park, according to the Queens district attorney.

Kelly Harnett, whose last known address was in Astoria, was convicted of second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and sentenced on Thursday at the Queens Supreme Court.

“The defendant, along with a male co-defendant, brutally attacked a 32-year-old man in the park. The victim was robbed of his wallet and viciously beaten and choked to death,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “This willful act of violence warranted a lengthy prison term.”

According to Brown, on July 7, 2010, at about 4 a.m. Harnett, together with Thomas Donovan, attacked the victim, Ruben Angel Vargas, by choking him manually and also with a shoelace from Harnett’s sneaker. Vargas was then kicked repeatedly in the head and torso and his wallet was taken while he lay motionless on the ground.

Donovan pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree manslaughter and is currently serving 15 years in prison.

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Astoria band wants to rock Queens with first EP


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Susan DiBello

Some things are just meant to be and are destined to come together — and in the case of Megan DiBello and Colin Clough, one encounter over a bummed cigarette has transformed into a perfect musical match.

DiBello and Clough are the creative minds behind the Astoria-based band Rocco & Lizzie, which is set to release its first EP titled “#SOMETHINGFOREVERYONE” on April 1 at the LIC Bar.

The two Astoria residents and poets met three years ago in Manhattan when DiBello asked for a cigarette from Clough. This led to a next-day brunch invite and a 7-hour phone call, and although Clough returned to his home in Virginia, by mid-2014 he made the move to New York.

Since then, the two have come together to create music. DiBello is the main lyricist of the duo and Clough composes the music on various instruments.

The name of the band comes from DiBello’s middle name, Elizabeth (“Lizzie”), which she said is the “sweet and nice” part of the group, while the name “Rocco” represents Clough and his more intense nature.

“They’re our personalities,” DiBello said of the names. “They are the driving forces of this album.”

Although their Facebook page categorizes them in the post-punk and rock genres, DiBello added that their music differs from song to song.

With the band’s heavy community involvement – writing the music in Queens, recording the EP at the Continental Recording Studio in Long Island City and constantly supporting the local music and literary community – she said she would call their music “Queens Rock.”

“I never heard of it, but I think it would be really cool,” she said of the new genre. “We’re a rock band but there are so many different levels, every song is very different.”

At the moment, the band consists of primarily DiBello and Clough, with contributions on the EP by guitarist and bassist Shako and drummer Tony Shing Siu Sze. However, the duo hopes to soon find a permanent bassist and drummer. 

DiBello added that the music on the EP, which will consist of five tracks, shares their personal stories. For example, a song called “Jonsey Boy” talks about the transition of a boy making a move, just like Clough made the move from Virginia to New York. 

“If you want people to buy it, you have to give them the reason why,” DiBello said. “We’re really living the story. [The music] is unique and completely community driven. And for myself, it’s some of the best poetry I’ve written in my life. They’re all stories about how we live.”

After the debut of their EP, plans are to release 14 more tracks by the end of the summer while also trying to play a lot of shows. They hope to perform during musical festivals and even have ideas of potentially starting their own music label to help others share their passion.

“We have a message. We want to show people that you can overcome any adversity in life as long as you’re passionate,” DiBello added.

Rocco & Lizzie’s EP release show will be at the LIC Bar, located at 45-58 Vernon Blvd., on April 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

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Queens native starts campaign to fund Dennis Hopper’s final film


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of "The Last Film Festival"

One filmmaker is turning to Kickstarter and the Queens community she grew up in to help put the finishing touches on what will be known as the late Dennis Hopper’s last movie, filmed completely in the “World’s Borough.”

Linda Yellen is one of the creative minds behind the comedy “The Last Film Festival,” which began filming in 2009 with a cast including Hopper, known for the classic film “Easy Rider,” Golden Globe-winner Jacqueline Bisset, JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, Donnell Rawlings, Katrina Bowden, Joseph Cross and Leelee Sobieski.

The film, written by Yellen and Michael Leeds, follows a Hollywood producer, played by Hopper, whose recent film was rejected by every film festival except a small town festival named the O’Hi Film Festival.

Although the movie surrounds a small town, it was actually filmed in Queens, some parts in Astoria and others in Forest Hills, the neighborhood Yellen grew up in.

“I loved growing up in Queens. It was so accessible to Manhattan but it also had the feeling of small town and community. It was always so friendly,” Yellen said. “It was a wonderful thing to sort of return home.”

The majority of the film was shot in Forest Hills, with scenes taking place at Forest Hills High School, where Yellen attended school. During the 2009 spring break, the actors were housed in the high school classrooms, which replaced the use of dressing rooms and trailers.

“There was always a great appreciation for the arts and culture in Forest Hills,” Yellen said. “I learned about the art of filming and directing in Forest Hills.”

The cast of "The Last Film Festival."

The cast of “The Last Film Festival.”

Although Yellen no longer lives in the borough, she said she is constantly traveling back to visit her mother, who still lives in the same building Yellen grew up in and who had a small part in the film as a “biker chick.”

During the filming, Yellen recalls walking the streets of Forest Hills during lunch with Hopper, who would take pictures of everywhere he went in the borough.

“A lot of those early experiences helped shape my identity and it gave a special pleasure to Dennis Hopper. He got to learn a lot about me as we took a lot of those walks,” Yellen said. “He loved [Queens].”

Tragedy then struck when, just a few scenes short of finishing the film, Hopper became ill and later died of cancer at the age of 74 in May of 2010.

“He was a picture of health and vitality and he just gives a multilevel comedic act [in the film],” Yellen said. “He had no idea he was sick; we had no idea he was sick.”

Hopper’s passing left a hole in the hearts of the cast and crew, and the film was set aside for a while until Yellen decided to pick it back up this year, which will mark the fifth anniversary of Hopper’s death.

However, in order to finish the film, Yellen made the decision to turn to Kickstarter, with a goal of $90,000, because she felt it was a way to get to the fans directly. The crowdfunding site also followed Hopper’s idea of “always looking for ways to go around the system.” As of March 25, $64,174 had been pledged.

The funds raised by the campaign will go toward all post-production aspects that are required to finish the film, including using movie clips to replace Hopper in scenes.

“This is a way of [the fans] saying we want this and we want to say we support this film and this comedy,” Yellen said. “This picture was made as a labor of love. Just the pleasure of doing good work and wanting it out there and wanting people to laugh a lot.”

The Kickstarter’s deadline is on April 9. To donate click here.

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‘Mad Men’ creator discusses show influences, exhibit at Astoria museum


| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Photo by Thanassi Karageorgiou/Museum of the Moving Image

As “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner walked around the Museum of the Moving Image’s exhibit on his show for the first time, it was “a little bit like having someone come up and pants you,” he joked.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I agreed to put all this stuff out here, like my notes and my thoughts,’ and then I had some feeling…like it all happened to someone else,” he said.

Museum members, “Mad Men” fans and movie buffs packed the Sumner M. Redstone Theater on March 20 as the showrunner of the popular TV series, which comes to a close in May, visited the museum for “Inside Mad Men: An Evening with Matthew Weiner.”

“Huge fan” of the show Mark Kramer, 26, of Astoria, snagged a front-row seat.

“I heard [Weiner] speak a lot about the show on podcasts and interviews,” he said. “It’ll be great to hear him in person.”

In a conversation on stage with host Anthony Mason of CBS News, Weiner talked about his creative process, the film series “Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences” and the exhibit, which Weiner called “the most expensive scrapbook ever made.”

Also in the audience was Andrea Basora, 50, a former resident of western Queens and a self-described “longtime movie buff,” who came to the event hoping to get an insight into the “Required Viewing” film series.

“I’m really interested in the whole series and what he has to say about how the films influenced ‘Mad Men,’” Basora said. Some of the film choices were self-explanatory to her, but “some choices, like ‘Blue Velvet,’ are interesting,” she said, and she wanted to know why Weiner chose them.

Mason guided Weiner through topics such as the inspiration behind the show, the casting of relatively unknown actors, the challenges of filming the pilot and how the creative team brought the time period to life.

Weiner also talked about the strange experience of seeing the “Mad Men” sets, costumes, props and more in a museum setting.

“I feel the sort of ghostliness going to a museum and seeing these things that are usually very old. These were recently inhabited. These chairs are still warm,” he said. “And the sets — the actors were just there.”

The exhibit, which remains open through June 14, features two large-scale sets (Draper’s office and the Draper family kitchen from their Ossining home), a recreation of the writers’ room, 33 costumes, a section contrasting the lifestyles and personalities of Megan and Betty, hundreds of props and a music listening station.

“I can’t imagine that 20 years ago when you took the first notes that would lead to this show you ever thought it would end up in a museum,” Mason said.

“No,” Weiner laughed. “I have had some lofty ambitions in my life that are completely unrelated to reality, and they’ve all been exceeded by this experience.”

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Not your average KFC


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

Yes, it is official. There is a new KFC on Broadway in Astoria. And by KFC, of course we mean Korean Fried Chicken. Specifically, fried chicken wings glazed in spicy Korean garlic sauce. But the fried chicken is such a miniscule part of what is being offered at the new Korean eatery, we focused on a whole selection of other dishes to share. The former 1-800-Flowers shop has now officially blossomed into Mokja.

“It’s a friendly way of saying, ‘Let’s Eat,’” explains one server.

Mokja is the sister to Korean Express, the more informal takeout restaurant in Manhattan. The Mokja menu features well over 50 items, covering a broader spectrum of Korea’s deliciously colorful cuisine.

While K-Pop bounces joyously overhead, don’t expect everything to follow tradition. The banchan—or side dishes—have been judiciously edited. A tandem ramekin will arrive at the table holding a delicate stack of kimchi and golden medallions of danmuji, better known as pickled daikon radish. These are intended to simply whet the palate and prepare you for the meal to come.

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So why not order something small to get the meal started? Like a pile of fries topped with kimchi, gochujang mayo and cilantro. Or perhaps Mokja’s intensely delicious version of steamed dumplings—or order them fried. In Korean, these little potstickers are called mandoo, and they make them at Mokja from scratch. A generous meatball of minced pork with vegetables and spices is wrapped in a thin pasta skin, pinched together into a half moon, and plopped in the steamer.

Soups and stews are also plentiful. One of the most robust versions is their Army Stew, a spicy bowl of kimchi, pork, tofu, spam, sausage, rice cakes and ramen noodles. Other classic dishes include versions of pajeon (scallion pancakes) and ddukboki (spicy rice cakes). And of course they serve a few tasty versions of bibimbap—the popular egg-topped Korean rice medley—which is even available in a stone bowl.

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The barbecue seems to be where the chef shines, and some of the most popular dishes include the kalbi (short ribs), pork bulbogi (thinly shaved marinated pork shoulder), pork belly and baby back ribs. Fried rice reigns supreme in a variety of combos as well. But we recommend trying the bulgogi sliders. Bulgogi literally translates to “fire meat” in Korean.

If you want to stay on the healthier side, perhaps you should try some of their fantastic japchae. Glass noodles made from sweet potatoes are sautéed with a blend of vegetables and your choice of meat. Hearty mushrooms and sprouts provide contrasting textures, and a scrambled egg is playfully laid across the top.

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For the time being, desserts are minimal (mochi and crème brûlée), and the restaurant is still awaiting a liquor license. The minimalistic décor includes several lovingly decorated chalkboard menus—one of which previews coming drinks (including soju), and another which maps out the architecture of a bibimbap burger, which will soon be on the menu in a new burger section.

Apparently, there are several things still to come. But in the meantime, there is plenty already there that will make you want to say, “Mokja!”

35-19 Broadway, Astoria
718-721-0654

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Community feedback leads to permanent bus service expansion along Vernon Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

As they say, ask and you shall receive. Due to an immense amount of support from community members, it will now be easier to access the western Queens waterfront.

The MTA announced on Friday that weekend and increased weeknight service on the Q103 route, which runs down Vernon Boulevard between Astoria and Long Island City, will be permanently added after a successful pilot program started last June.

The service additions made during the experimental program include extending weeknight hours from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and adding service on Saturdays and Sundays from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During a public hearing in December on the increased service, community support was unanimous, according to the MTA.

Local leaders and business owners saw the need to expand the Q103’s service as crucial to the growing neighborhoods, which have seen a rise in new residential developments and expanded cultural attractions.

Some of the cultural spots that the bus serves include the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park.

“I am thrilled the MTA heeded my call to make Q103 service expansion permanent. Western Queens has long needed better bus service, so it is gratifying that the MTA responded to our concerns,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “There is so much happening throughout western Queens that our need for better methods of traveling between our neighborhoods has never been more pressing. This service expansion represents a hard-fought victory, but I will never stop fighting for improved transit service in our community.”

The Q103 bus line also serves as the public’s only option to connect areas to subway stations such as the F line at 21 St–Queensbridge and the 7 line at Vernon Blvd–Jackson Av.

During the pilot program, ridership levels increased by 6.8 percent on weekdays compared to the five-month period before the trial, and by 30 percent compared to average weekday use in 2012, the MTA said. Currently weekday ridership is 1,100 customers, the average Saturday ridership is about 300, and on Sundays it is about 250.

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Sussex Bank opens first NYC branch in Astoria


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Sussex Fat Cap Right picture

Sussex Bank held a grand opening on March 14 at its first New York City branch, located at 28-21 Astoria Blvd. in Astoria.

On hand for the festivities were Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, City Councilman Costa Constantinides and Vito Giannola, Sussex Bank’s executive vice president and chief retail officer.

The bank was founded in 1975 and has a strong foothold in the northern New Jersey marketplace. Sussex Bank President and CEO Tony Labozzetta said Astoria residents can expect a “high-tech, high touch” experience at the new branch, adding that “for me, the holy grail is finding that efficiency while maintaining a personal touch—combining the tools someone may need to bank anywhere, at any time—but you also have to be able to reach out to them so they know they are appreciated.”

Labozzetta is pictured with Dominick Pinto, owner of Ferrari Driving School; Joseph Giannola, local owner, developer, and real estate manager; Vito Giannola and Domenick Loccisano, Sussex vice president and business development sales manager.

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Two men wanted in series of burglaries at Astoria community center


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Two men burglarized an Astoria community center over several days, getting away with pricey electronic items, according to authorities.

The burglaries occurred at the HANAC Community Services Center at 23-16 30th Ave. starting on March 6.

At about 10:30 a.m. that day, police said, the suspects — who are both described as being in their 20s — entered an office at the center and took an iPad 2.


The same two suspects returned to the center on March 8 at about 9 a.m. and stole a Sony camera and two more iPad 2s.

The following day, just after 8 a.m., according to police, the pair then broke into the center by prying open a rear window and grabbed some gift cards and assorted tools.

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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