Tag Archives: Astoria

Community expresses concerns about Astoria Cove development

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

The process to bring an approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development to the Astoria waterfront got off to a bumpy start as developers presented their proposal to the local community board.

Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the proposed development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1 Tuesday night as the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for the project.

“Today this waterfront is not accessible,” Valgora said. “It’s really not an amenity or asset for the community and we would like to tie that back in and create a wonderful extension to the community.”

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building and 456-seat public elementary school.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, featuring a waterfront esplanade, children’s playground for various ages and streetscape design through the site.

“We think it’s just going to bring life and activity to this neighborhood,” Valgora said.

However the project was met with concerns from community board members who brought up issues of safety, handicap accessibility, affordable housing, parking, a medical center at the site, and construction and permanent jobs.

Along with the board members, more than 50 people signed up to speak on the project including members of Build Up NYC, an alliance of construction and building service workers. The alliance called on the community board to recommend Alma Realty ensure good and safe jobs with fair wages and benefits, protect workers and the community by removing asbestos and other toxins, create opportunities for local residents and much more.

“Alma Realty has an opportunity to create good, safe jobs with priority hiring for local residents and opportunities for local businesses,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC. “But they haven’t made a commitment to do so. We need good jobs and affordable housing to keep the middle class strong.”

One of the main concerns shared by speakers was the number of affordable housing units at Astoria Cove. The site is expected to have 295 affordable housing units throughout the entire site, down from initially reported 340 units.

“We might be middle class but we’re not idiots and we can see the writing on the wall; we are not wanted at Astoria Cove,” said Astoria resident Tyler Ocon. “The community board is the first line of defense now against these underhanded tactics. Without the originally promised affordable housing units and a guarantee that these units will remain forever affordable, this project will be the first gust of wind that ships Astoria’s middle and working class up the East River.”

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said developers are in talks with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of units but will not have the number in time for the community board’s decision.

Residents also said they are concerned the development would increase rents, pushing out those currently living in the community.

On the other end, some speakers expressed excitement on the idea of the economic benefits and opportunities of the development. Both Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Brian McCabe, COO of New York Water Taxi, spoke on the possibility of a ferry terminal being located at the site.

After the last speaker took the podium, CB 1 Chair Vinicio Donato said the board’s land use committee would vote on the proposal the following week. If the board approves it, the proposal will head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

“Remember, the key word is recommendation. We have no authority to force anyone to do anything,” Donato said.



Queens: Your best destination for the World Cup

| editorial@queenscourier.com



Soccer, or football as it’s known everywhere but in the U.S., is the world’s favorite sport — and every four years the planet is transfixed as the top national teams from around the world gather to crown a champion at soccer’s World Cup. 2014 is a World Cup year, and this year the month-long, 32-team competition will take place in Brazil starting Thursday.

With major network and cable operators looking to cash in on global soccer’s booming popularity here, television coverage will be ubiquitous, and you’ll be able to watch every game from the comfort of your own home (or at any bar, restaurant or hair salon with a TV, for that matter). But with the diversity and sheer size of New York’s international communities, the city offers even the most casual soccer fan a lot more than just a slew of accessible places to watch games. In fact, if you’re looking to get the full global flavor of the competition there is probably no better place in the world to watch the Cup, outside of the stadiums themselves in Brazil, than right here. And nowhere in New York City will you find better home-cooked soccer fever than in Queens, the diversity capital of the world.

Neighborhoods like Astoria, Corona and Jackson Heights, home to communities with some of the richest soccer traditions on the planet, will be a sea of national shirts and a global street party during the World Cup. And throughout the borough there will be any number of bars and restaurants filled with folks from every country in the competition, and those who love them, faithfully recreating the particular soccer mania of wherever “home” is.

In addition, Queens is also home to the oldest, biggest and some of the best soccer-watching spots the entire City has to offer — including beach bars that if you squint hard enough, just might make you think you’re actually in Rio itself. So buy your flag-capes, check out the list of teams and places here, and draw up your itinerary for where in Queens you’re going to watch the games you most want to see.

The eastern part of Steinway Boulevard in Astoria has a large and vibrant North African population that includes one of the largest Algerian communities in the country — and soccer fans who come out in droves for big games. Tiny Caffe Borbone (25-07 Steinway/718-777-1023) is one spot many Algerian fans traditionally gather.

As one of the tournament favorites, Argentina’s games and their star Lionel Messi will be closely watched everywhere. For the full-bore Argentine experience, however, head to La Esquina Criolla (94-67 Corona Ave./718-699-5579) or El Gauchito (94-60 Corona Ave./718-271-8198), two traditional Argentine steakhouses across the street from each other in this Argentina/Uruguay section of Corona, and Boca Juniors (81-08 Queens Blvd./718-429-2077) in Elmhurst — another steakhouse dedicated to all things related to Boca, one of Argentina’s biggest soccer clubs, and Maradona, Boca’s most famous player.

Bosnia-Herzegovina put up the best record in its World Cup qualifying group and featured two of the top four scorers in all of European qualifying — all while qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in its history as a country. No doubt their fans gathering at cozy Sheher Restaurant (28-51 42nd St./347-484-4045) and tiny Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave./718-752-9528) will likely be among the happiest and angst-free of any you’ll see all month.

Astoria/Long Island City is also home to the City’s large Brazilian community and fan base for the most famous national team on the planet: no other country has been in every World Cup, no one’s won more World Cups and no country has produced as many great players. The rustic and homey Favela Grill (33-18 28th Ave./718-545-8250) in Astoria and the Rio Grande Churrascaria (39-05 29th St./718-361-1707) in the Long Island City Holiday Inn will be top spots among many in the neighborhood for the Brazil faithful to gather. With the Cup at “home” this year, much popular unhappiness over government handling of the economy, and with Brazil being one of the favorites to take the championship, fan intensity will be enormous.

See Ghana listing.

Though New York does not have a large Chilean population, supporters of one of South America’s top qualifiers this year regularly gather to take in Chile soccer games at the San Antonio Bakery (36-20 Astoria Blvd./718-777-8733) — one of the few Chilean food outposts in the City.

Jackson Heights is the traditional home of the City’s huge Colombian community and the scene of raucous street celebrations when the team is playing well — as it is now. All of the many Colombian bars and restaurants along Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard such as Boulevard Restaurante (82-22 Northern Blvd./718-651-2797) will be filled with fans for Colombia’s games, but you can also check out Basurero (32-17 Steinway/718-545-7077) in polyglot Astoria for its spacious interior and wild, soccer- and flea market-themed décor.

Despite the country’s small size, a number of Europe’s top players always seem to be Croatian, and this World Cup year is no exception, with top Croatian players for Champions League winners Real Madrid and Bayern Munich leading the national team charge. You can join the vibrant fans of the decidedly sports-centric nation, well-represented in Astoria and Woodside, at both stylish Veslo restaurant (32-11 Broadway/718-728-0549) and at bare-bones Scorpio Café (35-15 Broadway/956-8233) as they cheer on their team.

Eleventh-ranked England displayed excellent form in qualifying for the World Cup, topping their group. They are now however faced with the unlovely necessity of beating sixth-ranked Uruguay and ninth-ranked Italy in order to ensure they advance to the next stage in Brazil. Head over to top sports venue Bar 43 (43-06 43rd St./718-361-3090) in Sunnyside to connect with the many supporters here who will be working overtime to will England through this minefield alive.

Any number of Ecuadoran spots also line Roosevelt and 37th avenues in Jackson Heights, and they, too, will be packed with hopeful fans from the neighborhood’s substantial Ecuadoran population. One place sure to draw a crowd is spacious, upscale-rustic Barzola restaurant (92-12 37th Ave./718-205-6900).

The folks at 1682 French Louisiana restaurant (48-19 Vernon Blvd./347-738-4921), a French/Creole spot in Long Island City, will be looking to draw fans of “Les Bleus,” as the French national team is called, from the French eating establishments and other small businesses nearby as the team tries to capitalize on the talent of the many top European players in their squad and to erase the memory of the French team’s miserable 2010 World Cup performance.

Queens’ old and well-established German community has plenty to cheer about this year as the traditional powerhouse has also been tapped by many to win it all. Hordes of Germany fans always gather at Zum Stammtisch (69-46 Myrtle Ave./718-386-3014), a full-on Bavarian hunting lodge-style restaurant serving top traditional German fare in Glendale, a neighborhood with sizable German, Eastern European and generally soccer-centric populations. Recently opened Max Bratwurst und Bier (47-02 30th Ave./718-777-1635) in Astoria offers another Germany alternative. Loyalty conflicts will likely be severe at these venues, though, with Germany and the U.S. in the same playoff group.

Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon
The Jamaica neighborhood is home to a sizable African community, and Mataheko (144-07 Jamaica Ave./718-739-3980) is a popular pan-African eatery, party place, and game-watching locale — particularly for soccer fans from the first three countries listed here. All four countries’ teams are led by stars for big-name European club teams, so fans will undoubtedly be out in force. Another reason interest should run high at Mataheko is that Ghana knocked the US out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups — and the two teams are in the same playoff group and facing each other again in their first games in Brazil on Monday, June 16. Hold on to your hat…

Astoria is also home to the City’s large Greek population, and all the many Greek restaurants in the area will be hosting the Greek team’s traditional crowds of raucous supporters. One location favored by fans for its spaciousness and extensive outdoor seating is the Athens Café (32-07 30th Ave./718-626-2164).

Opportunities to root for Italy’s national team, the “Azzuri,” are everywhere given the number of pizza parlors and Italian restaurants in every neighborhood. In addition, every “favorite’s” fans will be watching them and their games carefully: Italy’s won the second most championships after Brazil because they usually manage to marshal their talent to emerge as one of the most dangerous teams at any World Cup. Head over to Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001), described in detail in The Beer Gardens section below, to see if they can emerge from the “group of death” they’re in with England and Uruguay.

Ivory Coast
See Ghana listing.

This is Korea’s eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, and you’ll find the immensely proud Korean community in Flushing and Bayside out in numbers at any of the myriad Korean sports bars and restaurants throughout the area. You also may want to head to the massive Kum Gang San restaurant (138-28 Northern Blvd./718-461-0909), which will be featuring Korea games on a giant screen in one of their banquet halls.

With Mexican restaurants and stores everywhere, it will be easy to connect with fans of the national team, “El Tri.” For a more comprehensive experience, however, head to Corona or Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where Coatzingo (79-11 Roosevelt Ave./718-424-7272) or Pico de Gallo (82-12 Roosevelt Ave./639-0808) among others are sure to draw crowds for games. You might also want to try Casa Enrique (5-48 49th Ave./347-448-6040), a refined, mod cantina in Long Island City, where the focus will also be on willing the Mexican team out of its recent mediocre form.

See Ghana listing.

Newark and Mineola aren’t the only places in the metro area with Portuguese communities and their serious soccer fans. Jamaica has them both, too — and Portugal fans from all around will rally at O Lavrador (138-40 101st Ave./718-526-1526) and A Churrasceira (95-29 Sutphin Blvd./718-523-5293) for top-notch Portuguese home cooking and to watch Europe’s 2014 top player, award-winner Christiano Ronaldo, lead Portugal to hoped-for glory. O Lavrador is also hosting a series of traditional St. John’s Festival events the weekend that Portugal plays the U.S. (Sunday, June 22), so this place could be a tough environment if you’re conflicted about your loyalties! Also note that A Churrasceira has a convenient parking lot across the street from the restaurant.

Though the Russian team doesn’t feature any immediately recognizable stars, this group is no joke: they finished on top of their qualifying group — above Portugal, the world’s third-ranked team — while allowing one of the least number of goals scored against them throughout the entire qualification round in Europe. Bear (12-14 31st Ave./917-396-4939), a newish and sparkling bar/restaurant featuring locavore renditions of classic and new wave Russian food, draws a crowd of Russian nationals and others who will be gathering in force and rooting that the team can continue their good form and give them something bigger than a solid first round performance to celebrate.

A large Spanish population also has roots in Astoria. As winners of the 2010 World Cup and the current top-ranked team in the world, expectations for the Spanish team are also huge. If you don’t have any friends who can get you into Casa Galicia, a private social club that’s also a great place to watch Spanish games, head to La Rioja (33-05 Broadway/718-932-0101) for excellent tapas and a good crowd of Spain supporters.

Uruguay finished in fourth place at the last World Cup, led by the top goal-scorer in the English Premier League, Luis Suarez, and by some measures they have only gotten stronger since then. On the other hand, they are also in the nightmare “group of death” with England and Italy here in 2014. You can join the crowd of Jackson Heights-based Uruguay fans at La Gran Uruguaya (85-06 37th Ave./718-505-0404) and Chivito d’Oro (84-02 37th Ave./718-424-0600), both excellent Uruguayan takes on the South American steakhouse.

United States
U.S. supporters will be out at any venue not specifically tied to another national team — and there will likely be plenty even at these spots. Top venues will likely be sports cafés Bar 43 (43-06 43rd St./718-361-3090) in Sunnyside, Twist and Smash’d (34-02 Steinway/718-806-1542), along with Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001), described in detail below.

Other noteworthy venues — only in Queens

The Beer Gardens
In addition to the venues described above oriented toward specific teams, Queens boasts some of the best “non-denominational” World Cup viewing options in the City. If the Czech Republic or Slovakia were at the World Cup this year then Bohemian Hall (29-19 24th Ave./718-274-4925) would not be in this list — but they’re not, so it is. This beautiful and massive outdoor elm-shaded beer garden, once one of hundreds here, is the City’s oldest and the inspiration for the recent rediscovery of the beer garden tradition in the City. With burgers, wurst and other classic beer garden fare on the menu, this is also a great place to watch the World Cup.

One of the new venues inspired by Bohemian Hall is Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001) — an even more massive modern open-air beer garden specifically conceived with major event viewing in mind: there’s a 160-square-foot LED screen in the main courtyard, multiple screens on the surrounding open-air mezzanine and in the interior spaces, and seating for 1,200 with overall capacity for over 2,000. It’s like being at a World Cup fan-fest with picnic tables. The atmosphere is unequalled, and it’s a favorite destination for every team’s fans from across the City.

The Beach
Pretend you’re at a bar in Ipanema watching the games at the beach in Rockaway. Rockaway is a first-class beach, and great new concessions have appeared on the boardwalk as Rockaway has become an increasingly hip destination over the last several years. With the concessions rebuilt post-Sandy, the food spots at Beach 97th and Beach 106th are now also getting big new flat-screen TVs in anticipation of the World Cup. The games will also be on at the venerable Bungalow Bar and Restaurant (377 Beach 92nd/718-945-2100), which features a big backyard and deck, and an outdoor bar right on the sparkling waters of Jamaica Bay. World Cup on the beach and the bay? Now that sounds like a great way to spend a summer day in the City!

The Views
Everyone also knows that the best views of the Manhattan skyline are in Queens — and if it’s spectacular views you want as a backdrop to your World Cup soccer, you even have great up-close and panoramic options to choose from. Rooftop restaurant and lounge Penthouse 808 at Ravel Hotel (8-08 Queens Plaza South/718-289-6118), right on the East River next to the Queensboro Bridge, is serving up additional TVs for the World Cup to complement its pan-Asian cuisine. And for that panoramic Emerald City/Wizard of Oz look, be sure to check out the hyper-slick bar and lounge atop the brand-new Flushing hotel The One (137-72 Northern Blvd./718-886-3555). Both venues are planning special World Cup events as well.



Man charged with attempted rape in Astoria elevator attack

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man wanted in the attempted sexual assault of a 53-year-old woman in an Astoria elevator has been charged in the attack, officials said.

Elvis McKenzie, 27, who police have been seeking since last week, was arrested Sunday and arraigned Monday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of attempted rape, assault and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, according to the NYPD and prosecutors.

McKenzie, a Flushing resident, is accused of following the victim into her building’s elevator at about 11:30 a.m. on June 2, where he put his hand in his pants and rubbed his genitals before punching her in the face several times and choking the woman, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

He then allegedly exposed himself to the victim and attempted to pull down her pants. At that point, the elevator doors opened on one of the floors, and the victim was able to use her leg to prevent the doors from closing, according to the district attorney. She then began screaming for help and McKenzie fled.

“The defendant is accused of following his victim like a predator and waiting until she was isolated and trapped inside an elevator before attempting to sexually assault her. The fact that the alleged attack took place in her own residence must have only added to the victim’s frightening ordeal,” Brown said.

McKenzie served three years in state prison after being convicted in 2007 for sexually abusing a 26-year-old woman in White Plains, according to state public records and published reports.

He also has several other prior arrests for assault, gang assault, robbery, theft of service, criminal possession of stolen property and attempted robbery, ABC New York reported.

McKenzie faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He was ordered held on $200,000 bail and to return to court on June 23.



Jackson Heights student, muralists color LIC

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Edward Fernbach

It has been 22 years since muralists and friends Alex Cook and Pasqualina Azzarello collaborated on a piece, and now with the help of Jackson Heights resident Sunny Hossain, they are adding color to Long Island City.

The artists have come together to replace a fading mural located on a former meatpacking plant located at 46-01 Fifth St. The building is now home to Rockaway Brewing Company, the LIC Community Boathouse and the nonprofit Recycle-A-Bicycle, which provides environmental education and job training through youth education programs.

Photo by Alex Cook

The group not only revamped the mural on 46th Avenue but also stretched it around the corner of the building so that it can been seen down on Fifth Street.

Photo by Pasqualina Azzarello

The original mural was completed in 2006 by Azzarello while she worked with summer youth employment participants as a freelance teaching artist for Recycle-A-Bicycle. However, she always felt the mural needed more.

The Brooklyn resident then went on to become executive director for the nonprofit in 2009 and after leaving in early 2013, she kept the mural on her to-do list as she continues to be involved with Recycle-A-Bicycle.

“For the last number of years, while that mural had become a mini-landmark in the neighborhood, we always had the feeling that it wasn’t as complete as it could be,” said Azzarello. “We wanted to create a new mural that more accurately reflected the new sense of vibrancy in that part of town.”

About two months ago, Cook, who lives in Boston, Mass., reached out to her with interest to work on a collaborative mural in New York and Azzarello contacted Karen Overton, founder of Recycle-A-Bicycle and current executive director, with the idea of revamping the mural.

To Azzarello’s surprise, Overton was also looking to revitalize the mural after being contacted by Edward Fernbach, a teacher at P.S. 993, a District 75 school located within the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. Fernbach wanted to know if his student Sunny Hossain could help to fix the peeling mural,to receive school credit as part of an internship program. District 75 schools are designed to teach and support students with various learning challenges.

“Sunny happens to be a phenomenal artist and I wanted to emphasize his strength rather than the place he has challenges,” Fernbach said. “He is going to be in the art world, no question about it. He has his foot in the door and he isn’t going to let it close behind him and he is going to keep on going forward.”

This mural project is the first for the 16-year-old, who is a student at P.S. 993. Hossain said he loves to be creative, and working with Azzarello and Cook has helped him develop his artistic skill. He said he felt very proud after seeing the piece come together.

Photo by Edward Fernbach

“We had a lot of fun. I never had an experience like that,” said Hossain, who will next work on a mural at the Broadway branch of the Queens Library in Long Island City. “I never knew I could do so many things with art. It gives me inspiration to continue my art.”

The theme of the colorful and celebratory mural, which took about 10 days spanned over a few weeks to complete, surrounds the “joy of riding a bicycle,” according to Azzarello.

“It has meant so much to Alex and me to support Sunny in this way,” Azzarello said. “We are reminded of how many people supported us as young artists. The fact that we are now in a position in our lives to work together and help support a young artist with incredible talent and vision is very meaningful.”

Sunny Hossain and Alex Cook (Photo by Pasqualina Azzarello)

The brand-new mural will be unveiled at 46-01 Fifth St. on Friday, June 13 at 4 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.



Fatty’s 2.0

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks


When Fatty’s announced it was moving almost a year ago, Astorians — and New Yorkers in general — were devastated, and also worried that a reopening would not, in fact, happen. Last month, however, Suzanne Furbota and Fernando Peña proved everyone wrong when they opened the doors to their new location.

The new space maintains all of the chill island vibe of the former, with just a little more panache. Stereo speakers form a wall separating the front bar from the main dining room, which is lined with funky pieces of art. A patio is expected to open soon, where guests can be transported to an island getaway.

Contrary to the misleading name, the website describes Fatty’s as a healthy grill … a place to chill. Apparently the name was derived from a term of endearment between Suzanne and Fernando. Though a Latin-driven menu, Fernando explains that if he sees a recipe he likes, it will probably appear on the menu. If he likes it, he makes it. Because he’s built a menu around recipes he loves, you most definitely taste that in the food, and feel it in the air.

A trio of empanadas (chicken, beef and cheese) were some of the best around … crispy with a moist interior, with deliciously seasoned, juicy fillings.

Someone at your table simply has to order the contraband chicken. Tender breasts of poultry are stuffed with pico de gallo and cheddar, wrapped in crispy bacon, blanketed with cheese and a mole barbecue sauce. Hands down, the most delicious, sweet, yet savory mole I have ever enjoyed. With the fusion of barbecue sauce, it was chocolaty, tangy and smoky. The caramelized plantains were crisp to the bite, yet beautifully tender and sweet inside.

The chocolate tres leches was an absolute slice of sweetened milk heaven. My lunch date laughed when I likened it to a gourmet twist on Count Chocula cereal, but it was like a childhood memory soaked up into a cake with a glistening ruby cherry on top. Everything at Fatty’s made us smile and feel like kids on holiday, from the food to the jovial atmosphere.

Any time I can’t afford a trip to the Caribbean but am craving a relaxed vacation meal, you can certainly bet I will be walking a few blocks out of the way to stop by Fatty’s Cafe. If it were any closer to my apartment, I would absolutely be a regular. While we miss the talented staff of Stove, the former tenant, we know they have passed it on to some wonderful new owners who have made it their own, and will welcome you as if it is yours also.

Whatever you do, try the mojito or add on one of the drunken sticks of fruit to your beverage. Those drinks are a vacation all by themselves.

45-17 28th Ave., Astoria
Open weekdays at 2 p.m.
Open weekends at 11 a.m.




Police looking for suspect who tried to sexually assault woman in Astoria elevator

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man punched and choked a 53-year-old woman before trying to sexually assault her in the elevator of her Astoria apartment building Monday morning, police said.

The incident happened about 11:30 a.m. after the suspect followed the woman into the building, police said.

The victim was taken to a local hospital where she was treated and released.

Police have identified the suspect, who fled after the attack, as 27-year-old Elvis McKenzie. He is described as 6 feet 4 inches tall and 200 pounds.

McKenzie served three years in state prison after being convicted in 2007 for sexually abusing a 26-year-old woman in White Plains, according to state public records and published reports.

He also has several other prior arrests for assault, gang assault, robbery, theft of service, criminal possession of stolen property and attempted robbery, ABC New York reported.

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.


HGTV coming to LIC Flea this Saturday

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

Cameras will be rolling into the LIC Flea & Food this Saturday, so don’t miss out.

HGTV’s “Flea Market Flip” will be filming an episode at the popular Long Island City flea market with host Lara Spencer, co-anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Each week on the show, contestants, who participate in teams, are given $500 to explore items at different flea markets. The participants search for objects they can buy, fix and then “flip” for a higher selling price. By the end of each show, the contestants display their transformations and battle it out to win all the profits earned.

The LIC Flea is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at the outdoor lot by the western Queens waterfront at the corner of Fifth Street and 46th Avenue.

“Flea Market Flip” was at the Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios last weekend.

The Astoria Flea is continuing strong at the outdoor backlot located at 36th Street and 35th Avenue on Sundays, bringing the best of vendors to the Astoria community.

Applications to be a vendor are still being accepted by registering online at www.licflea.com.



Queens native writing and co-starring in new movie with Doris Roberts

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Andrew Koss

Actor Andrew Koss wants to know, “Who is your Zizi?”

Koss, who grew up in Bayside, is writing the script for and co-starring in an upcoming movie entitled “Zizi and Honeyboy” based on a 2002 autobiographical book by controversial trend forecaster Gerald Celente. The film will star five-time Emmy award winner Doris Roberts, who is best known for her role as Marie Barone on the hit sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

The movie will portray Celente’s — played by Koss — fall from grace, when he was blackballed as a forecaster, and how talking with his elderly, oracle-like aunt Zizi — played by Doris Roberts — helped turn his life around and open his eyes.

“You would go consult with this guy, yet here he is consulting with this old woman,” Koss said. “She was able to touch him in a way that sparked something and got him to get back into life again.”

Part 1 of the Doris Roberts EXCLUSIVE interview from Andrew Koss on Vimeo.

The movie will be directed by Brett Donowho. Also, longtime Bayside resident Elizabeth Liberatore and Astoria resident Dominick Ciardello are co-producers.

The film will begin shooting in July in Glen Cove, Long Island and also in Manhattan. Koss said the crew is trying to raise $37,000 from crowdfunding site indiegogo.com to help with costs of making the film.

The initial movie will be about 17 minutes long and debut in film festivals later this year, Koss said. He added, depending on excitement and feedback, they plan to expand it to a full-length feature film.

Koss believes that the movie will resonate with the audience because of the emotion behind the story, and since most people have a “Zizi” in their lives.

“I love that the story can be told and can be interesting and there doesn’t need to be explosions going off,” Koss said. “I feel like this subject matter addresses that human element. This guy was on top of his game, and all of a sudden there was nobody there.”



Astoria resident creates social platform to connect fans in time for World Cup

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy Fanspectrum

Next week fans won’t have to make the trip down to Brazil in order to cheer on their favorite teams in the FIFA World Cup; instead, their support will just be one click away.

Sports fan, former athlete and Astoria resident Vibor Cilic is expected to launch a new social platform called Fanspectrum, which will allow fans to show their support, regardless of their location, during the big games and also interact with other soccer enthusiasts.

“I would watch sports, I would watch my favorite team – Barcelona – and I would always ask myself, how do I connect with other fans?” said Cilic, who came up with the idea for Fanspectrum while watching games at Scorpio Cafe & Bar in Astoria. “How do you expand that real stadium into a global stadium?”

Fanspectrum, which will be available for free on the iPhone, Android and at www.fanspectrum.com, will have four features fans can access once they create an account and choose their favorite team.

The first core feature is called a “Fan Battle” where supporters of one team go against those of another and see which has the largest support. In this feature, the user will be able to enter a stream of social media posts for that specific match in which they have entered. The user will be able to post comments, videos and pictures, answer polls, create questions and comment.

In regards to the World Cup, fans will be able to access this feature during specific matches.

“Not everybody can make it to Brazil,” Cilic said. “We offer them a solution, for every fan’s voice to be heard, no matter where they are and what they do.”

Another feature is called a “Fan Map” where users will be able to pinpoint the locations of fans. According to Cilic, this will allow users to see where the larger groups of fans are coming from.

Fanspectrum will also have a Leaderboard which ranks the best fans for a specific team and time period. In this feature, the more fans a user invites, the higher they reach on the board.

The last feature is known as a “Fan Army,” which Cilic says works like a Facebook group but beyond just hitting the “like” button, allowing more user interaction.

“What we want to provide is that real-time engagement and real fans supporting their teams,” said Cilic, who hopes as the social platform becomes more known, fans will be able to receive physical rewards. “The whole point is for fans to be recognized as leaders and for us in the longer term to reward the fans.”

Once it officially launches, Fanspectrum will start with soccer fans, mainly focusing on the World Cup games. However, Cilic hopes to move the social platform forward in order for it to be available for fans of all different sports.




Free lunches for kids to be distributed at Queens libraries this summer

| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre


Twenty-two Queens Library locations, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education (DOE), will be distributing free summer meals to children and teens 18 years and under starting June 27 to August 29.

Bagged lunches will be served every Monday through Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and each will generally include a fresh sandwich, fruit, milk and sometimes a salad, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.

“The library is an open public space and we want to attract people to come to the library,” King said. “While they’re here they can have free access to other programs. The Queens Library also has a very robust summer reading program and we want to encourage people to get involved with that so they can be better prepared for the academic program in the fall.”

There is no application, qualification or ID necessary to receive a free meal. Children and teens are recommended to arrive early to get lunches, while supplies last. The Queens Library is just one of many agencies collaborating with the DOE, and interested parties could call 311 to get a full list of participating locations.

Listed below are the participating Queens Library locations:

312 Beach 54 St., Arverne

14-01 Astoria Blvd., Astoria

117-11 Sutphin Blvd., Baisley Park

218-13 Linden Blvd., Cambria Heights

1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway

41-17 Main St., Flushing

202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis

89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

134-26 225th St., Laurelton

98-30 57th Ave., Lefrak City

37-44 21st St., Long Island City

40-20 Broadway (at Steinway Street), Long Island City

92-24 Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park

158-21 Jewel Ave., Pomonok (Flushing)

103-34 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill

169-09 137th Ave., Rochdale Village

116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park

204-01 Hollis Ave., South Hollis

108-41 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

85-41 Forest Pkwy., Woodhaven

54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside



Schmear tactics

| editorial@queenscourier.com



Don’t get it twisted. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company isn’t even from Brooklyn. Instead, the moniker of this Astoria-born bagel company is a shout-out to the old-fashioned style of hand-rolling and water-boiling dough to give each bagel that extra special snap. It’s a difference you can taste, and it’s just a tiny part of what makes these bagels some of the very best in the city.

Bagels are available in several shapes, sizes and flavors, ranging from a big hand-rolled ketel-boiled bagel for $1.20 to a mini for $1.05. Or order a bialy or Kaiser for $1.20, or even a spelt bagel loaded with a schmear or one of Brooklyn Bagel’s flavored butters.

But it’s not just about the bread. New cream cheeses are developed weekly, and they’re anything but orthodox. Wasabi lox, bacon scallion, curried apple spread, peanut butter chocolate chip — an ever-changing line-up of spreads is constantly intriguing and tempting customers’ taste buds.
“You can’t hold back on innovation,” says Peter Voyiatzis, co-founder of Brooklyn Bagel.

The restaurant — the brainchild of college friends Voyiatzis and John Rocchio — first opened its doors in 2002. Originally Steinway-based civil engineers, Voyiatzis and Rocchio decided to trade in their hard hats for baker’s caps after 9/11, when public bids for construction quickly dried up — though they built each of the four bagel stores themselves, of course. Today, the two Astorians rotate between the shops, scouting out new opportunities and coming up with the company’s constantly expanding list of new flavors.

In addition, the store notably only uses unbleached and unbromated flours, avoiding popular industry processes that whiten and strengthen flour with potential carcinogens.
But the menu at Brooklyn Bagel only starts with the bagels. It continues with a broad range of coffees, teas and seasonal ciders. But the selection truly gets rich with the soups, yogurts, sandwiches and grilled goods. Cold cuts, cutlets and fresh salads are ready to crown the bagel of your choice. And if folded ribbons of lox is a little too much smoked fish for your preferences, they offer several cream cheeses with bits of smoked fish or bacon blended directly into the spread. But don’t forget the capers, juicy sliced tomato and bright onions.

The pesto chicken pasta salad is light, refreshing and full of tangy red peppers. Tortillas come stuffed with Moroccan chicken, chicken caesars, and tender sliced Boar’s Head roast beef slathered with Greek tzatziki. One of the best wraps is their teriyaki chicken laced with sweet pineapple and an orange mandarin ginger dressing.

The commitment to quality is almost tangible. The final product? An inspiring model for what great local business should aspire to be. Two neighborhood boys who refused to fall victim to the economy, defying tumultuous odds to create one of the most delicious and customer-focused businesses in Astoria — with a team that believes in their vision just as much as they do.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company
6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
36-14 30th Ave, Astoria
35-05 Broadway, Astoria
6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
35-09 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria



Astoria Flea to be featured in HGTV’s ‘Flea Market Flip’

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kaufman Astoria Studios

Visit the Astoria Flea this weekend, and you just might get on television (or at least see some filming) — HGTV’s “Flea Market Flip” will be at the flea market at the Kaufman Astoria Studios backlot this Sunday.

“Flea Market Flip” gives contestants $500 to find, buy and fix a piece of furniture at a flea market. Contestants later sell their flipped creations for a larger sum and battle to see who can make the largest profit, according to hgtv.com.

Spend some time browsing the furniture stands, and you just might see some of the action!
Visit the Astoria Flea on 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Also check out the LIC Flea & Food on Saturdays at the outdoor lot by the waterfront at the corner of Fifth Street and 46th Avenue. Items for sale include food and drinks, collectibles, antiques, arts and crafts, fashion and more.




Queens Theatre to hold 25th Anniversary Gala, honor Bareburger co-founder, CEO

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Dominick Totino

The Queens Theatre will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a gala on Monday, June 2. Join community leaders, cultural icons and many other Queens taste-makers to celebrate the theater’s contribution to the arts in the borough for a quarter century.

The event will honor Euripides Pelekanos, co-founder and CEO of Bareburger.

Pelekanos has lived and worked in Astoria his entire life. In 2009, he opened Bareburger, his organic burger restaurant, on 31st Avenue in Astoria. By the end of 2014, Pelekanos plans to have 35 Bareburger locations in two countries. Bareburger has always been supportive of local arts and education and Pelekanos is proud to be able to make donations through his success. He gives time to teach the youth and the rest of the community what he has been fortunate enough to learn during his business ownership.

(File photo)

“It’s about spreading positivity, happiness and knowledge wherever you can. Regardless of where Bareburger grows, I’m still just a little kid from Astoria,” he said.

In addition to celebrating another year of great performances on their stages, the gala will provide essential support for Queens Theatre’s productions, educational programming, new play development and special events.

The gala will include dinner and live performances from Broadway actors Douglas Lyons of the “Book of Mormon” and “Beautiful,” and Amber Iman from “Soul Doctor”, who will be singing original works from the new musical theatre team Lyons & Pakchar. Others who will perform are aerialists Bobby Hedglin-Taylor and Kimmy Aguilar, and guitar  prodigy/singer Solomon (“King Solomon”) Hicks with vocalist Elissa Goldstein.

Tickets to the gala, which will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Queens Theatre, located at 14 United Nations Avenue South in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, are $250.00 and are available on the theater’s website.




FBI seeks ‘Gatsby Bandit’ in Queens bank robberies

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of FBI

A man the FBI is calling the “Gatsby Bandit” is wanted in three bank robberies around western Queens.

The suspect, who was given his nickname because of the hat he was wearing, last robbed the Astoria Federal Savings Bank on Broadway near 73rd Street in Jackson Heights on May 16, according to authorities.

He is also accused of robbing an Investors Bank on Broadway at 31st Street in Astoria on May 13 at 4:40 p.m., and a Santander Bank, on Roosevelt Avenue near 84th Street in Jackson Heights on May 7 at 3:30 p.m., where he may have pulled out a black handgun, the FBI said.

Authorities describe the “Gatsby Bandit” as a white man, around 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 45 to 50 years old. He has gray hair, blue eyes and a skinny build, and was last seen wearing black-framed glasses, a tan Gatsby hat, a black coat and blue pants.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI  at 212-384-1000. Tipsters will remain anonymous.



Astoria flower shop forced to move after 92 years

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

After providing Astoria with flower arrangements for close to a century, Teddy’s Florist has been pruned from the place it called home.

Since 1922, Teddy’s Florist stood at 22-41 31st St. providing all kinds of floral arrangements. Originally owned by the Kostakis family, the shop was sold in 1984 to George Stelios and his sister Clare Petropoulos, who continued the business.

“You couldn’t ask for better landlords. They were very reasonable, friendly and easy to communicate with,” Stelios said. “[Peter Kostakis] actually told us we were more like family to him.”

However, three years ago property owner Peter Kostakis decided it was time to retire and looked to sell. After other potential buyers fell through, Kostakis sold the property to Botsaris Morris Realty Group.

Then, according to Stelios, Peter Botsaris of the realty group gave the family a call last Christmas Eve and asked them to vacate the shop by the first week of January. Stelios’ sister responded by asking to wait until after New Year’s Day, which Botsaris allegedly did but was in the store the day after New Year’s trying to get them out.

“He told us he didn’t need our measly monthly rent,” Stelios said.

According to the family, Botsaris raised the rent 400 percent and after taking Botsaris to court, it was decided the family had to move out of the location by the end of May. On May 17, the brother and sister vacated the location and went on to find a new home for the business.

A couple of days after, a friend told them about a vacant location at 21-75 35th St., which used to be a pastry shop, and they decided it was a perfect fit.

“It was like a blessing. It was very hard because we couldn’t find anything while we were still there [at the old location],” Stelios said.

For Stelios’ fiancée, Astoria resident Sophia Christofides, seeing the empty storefront hit close to her heart because as a young teen she would always pass by shop.

“It’s sad. Teddy’s is like a landmark, it’s like a memory as you’re growing up and being that it’s not there it’s just sad,” Christofides said.

Still, while going through some renovations and in the process of installing a refrigerator to keep the flowers fresh, the family has handed out flyers and started to spread the news of their new location. Customers have already come by and business is starting to bloom once again, according to Stelios.

“It’s bittersweet and in the beginning it was a little scary. We feel a little excited because it’s a change. A lot of people have been welcoming us here,” he said. “We become friends with our customers. We aren’t like any other florists — we have personality and with us it’s friendship,”

According to Department of Building records, an application has been submitted to turn 22-41 31st St. into a restaurant.

Calls to both the restaurant’s owners and Botsaris Morris Realty Group were not returned as of press time.