Tag Archives: Astoria

Reward offered for help in finding serial Queens bank robber

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the FBI New York office

Federal agents and the NYPD are offering “a significant reward” for the public’s help in finding the man responsible for at least a dozen bank robberies in Queens dating back to last year — including several armed heists.

Authorities said the suspect last struck in Middle Village on Dec. 9, 2014, robbing cash from the Chase bank at 74-04 Eliot Ave. Many of the other robberies occurred in Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Maspeth, Sunnyside and Ridgewood.

During each incident, the suspect reportedly passed demand notes to a teller and walked away with various sums of money. In five capers, the perpetrator displayed a handgun in his waistband to bank employees, the FBI said.

Law enforcement agents describe the crook as a black or Hispanic male with a medium to light complexion standing 6 feet tall, and weighing between 200 and 250 pounds. He is usually seen on camera wearing glasses and a baseball cap with the logo of a sports team such as the New York Yankees or New England Patriots. The public should consider the suspect armed and dangerous.

Among the heists in the robbery pattern are the following incidents:

  • June 7, 2014, robbery of a Chase bank located at 77-01 31st Ave. in East Elmhurst;
  • July 22, 2014, attempted robbery of a Santander bank located at 89-01 Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights;
  • July 25, 2014, heist at a Chase bank located at 47-11 Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside;
  • Aug. 30, 2014, incident at a Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh located at 75-23 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights;
  • Oct. 4, 2014, robbery of a Chase bank located at 69-55 Grand Ave. in Maspeth; and
  •  Dec. 6, 2014, heist at a Chase bank located at 60-67 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood.

The FBI-NYPD Violent Crime Task Force is investigating the pattern.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is urged to call the Task Force at 212-384-1000; all calls will be kept confidential.


Rents in two Queens nabes rose faster than city average: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre. Charts courtesy Community Service Society

Maybe “the rent is too damn high” in New York City.

Rents throughout the five boroughs rose 32 percent between 2002 and 2014, according to a report released Monday by the Community Service Society, an organization that tackles the issue of poverty in New York.

The study is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and was created to “shed light on the important housing issues facing the New York State Legislature this year,” the report said.

Namely those issues are the expiring laws for rent regulation and the 421-a tax abatement, which currently fosters some affordable housing by giving developers tax breaks for 20 percent of low-income units in their projects. The state has a deadline until June 15 to renew the laws and make reforms.

The analysis of the past dozen years shows that two Queens neighborhoods surpassed the citywide average. Rents jumped 36 percent in Astoria and 35 percent in Jamaica in 12 years, the study said.

Surprisingly, Long Island City and Ridgewood weren’t over the citywide average although rent rates have changed dramatically in those areas as well.

The rental information for different neighborhoods was collected from tenants who have recently moved.

“In order to sensitively assess the changing state of the housing market in different neighborhoods, CSS focused on the rents being paid by tenants who have recently moved,” the report said. “This eliminates the tendency of lower rents paid by longtime tenants to smooth out market changes and mask the changes that affect tenants who are looking for a place to live.”

During the 12-year period, rents in Central Harlem rose 90 percent and those in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn rose 63 percent, making them the neighborhoods where rent rose the most citywide, according to the report.


Husband and wife duo brings ‘anti-tourist’ tours to LIC

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of BQE Tours

One couple with roots in Queens is looking to provide visitors to Long Island City with a one-of-a-kind experience through the booming neighborhood.

John and Elissa Garay are the husband-and-wife team behind BQE Tours: The Brooklyn Queens Experience, a group providing walking tours in both Brooklyn and Queens that cater to what the duo calls “anti-tourists.”

Going away from taking visitors to “obvious” attractions and “spewing facts and figures,” BQE Tours introduce people to local artists, businesses and artisans and show “anti-tourists” how real New Yorkers go about their days.

BQE Tours officially launched in April and started with tours offered in DUMBO and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, but recently also started offering tours through Long Island City.

“All [the neighborhoods] have the same history. Before, [in] old New York, the waterfront wasn’t the place to go,” Elissa said. “These neighborhoods have completely reinvented themselves.”

Although they currently live in Brooklyn, both John and Elissa were born and raised in Queens, and since they have South American and Greek backgrounds they knew they had to give their native and culture-enriched borough a place on the tour list.

“We wanted to give a little love to [Queens],“ Elissa said. “I feel that this year is Queens’ year to shine. I just feel that Queens is starting to come in its own. It’s more of an authentic experience that isn’t overrun with travelers.”

During the LIC tours, which last three hours and span about 2 and a half miles, participants stop at an artist’s studio to get an understanding of what it is to be an artist in LIC before making their way to a gallery and heading to a local microbrewery. As part of the “food and drinks component” of the tour, participants then stop at the LIC Flea & Food where they interact with vendors who “speak to the experience of what Queens is so famous for.” Afterward the group ventures out to local restaurants before ending the tour on the rooftop at the Z Hotel.

Z NYC Rooftop Lounge_LIC Tour (c) BQE Tours

“That has been a great grand finale. You can’t beat the perspective from up there,” Elissa said about ending the tours at the hotel rooftop.

She also added that the goal is to keep each group at a maximum of 12 people in order to allow participants to really enjoy the experience of each tour.

“We definitely want to keep the tours intimate. We want participants to engage with locals that they typically wouldn’t,” Elissa said.

For now the tours, which take place on Sundays, are centered in Long Island City, but as time goes by the duo would like to expand tours to Astoria and Flushing. They would also like to provide more tours in LIC.

“I think Queens right now has a lot of food tours but they don’t have the cultural component we offer,” she said.

For more information or to schedule a tour, visit bqetours.com.


Astoria couple starts nonprofit to bring together international LGBTQ human rights activists

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Hugo Fernandes

One Astoria-based nonprofit is looking to unite and provide support for LGBTQ human rights activists from around the world.

Husband and husband duo Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes founded the organization the Global Partnership for Emerging Leaders (GPEL) earlier this year with the goal of helping empower emerging leaders within the LGBTQ global community.

The idea of the group was born after Davidoff, who has a background in nonprofit/fundraising and LGBTQ rights, attended numerous conferences which brought the LGBTQ community together and he wondered what happened to the connections made after the events were over.

“It’s this amazing thing, you have these three to four days where everyone is charged and all together but then after it’s like what’s next?” Davidoff said.

Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes

Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes

The Astoria resident always had the idea of forming the group as a passion project on the side but then decided to make it a reality after sitting down and speaking with his husband.

GPEL is based out of Astoria, which the couple has called home since 2008, and the couple plans to use the neighborhood as the location where LGTBQ activists from around the world will come together for the group’s first conference in July 2016.

Although the location of the conference is still being determined, the group would like participants to stay at hotels in either Astoria or Long Island City.

“I think there’s something nice to staying in the community and having the organization exist from here because from my viewpoint Astoria and Long Island City is right for startup culture,” Davidoff said. “Just for us in the eight years we’ve been here, Astoria and LIC have really changed and transformed and I think Astoria has always had this international fare. It’s something that stood out to me and I think that’s something that’s really novel of Astoria particularly and to me it would be interesting to be based here.”

Those who participate in the conference will be able to use the tools provided by GPEL and other LGBTQ activists to “use in the fight” back in their home countries. The group also plans to be a network where members can communicate and share experiences even after the conference is over.

To help with starting out, GPEL also began an Indiegogo online campaign with the goal of raising $2,000 which will go toward activities for the LGBTQ human rights activists and also help provide funds for participants making the trip to the city for next year’s conference.

An official launch party for GPEL, which has already created a leadership team in New York and is forming a team with members throughout the world, is expected to take place in September.

To donate to the campaign, click here. For more information on GPEL visit gpel.org or facebook.com/TheGPEL.

GPEL's Leadership Team

GPEL’s Leadership Team


‘Rocky Horror’ celebrates 40 Years at Museum of the Moving Image

| rmackay@queensny.org

Photo courtesy of Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site

It’s a comedy, musical, sci-fi thriller and unrivaled cult movie. Released in 1975, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” quickly began a weekend midnight run at the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village, where audiences dressed up as the film’s characters, talked back to the screen, threw rice during a wedding scene and danced in their seats.

By 1979, this carnivalesque tale of a wild-and-crazy group celebrating a transsexual, Transylvanian convention was playing in more than 230 cinemas around the world, mostly at midnight. There were “Rocky Horror” conventions, newsletters, international fan clubs and The Transylvanian magazine. Susan Sarandon, who played the curious-but-scared Janet, shot to stardom.

To celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary, Future of StoryTelling will present a special Rocky Horror event at the Museum of the Moving Image on Friday, June 12.

Featuring a live reenactment by the New York City Shadow Cast, the screening/performance will end with a Q&A with founders of the “Rocky Horror” fan club that sparked the worldwide aficionado movement.

Attendees are also encouraged to come dressed as their favorite characters, but certain items that are frequently used during showings, such as water guns and cigarette lighters, are prohibited.

The one-time celebration coincides with Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences, a showcase on virtual reality experiences and interactive film which the museum is displaying in its Amphitheater Gallery until July 26. Conceived and organized by Future of StoryTelling, Sensory Stories gets visitors to engage new immersive technologies that influence sight, hearing, touch and smell.


Plans for future Astoria ferry dock revealed

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre /Renderings and charts courtesy NYCEDC

City officials revealed renderings and information about the planned Astoria ferry dock in Hallets Cove at a meeting Thursday to hear residents’ concerns about the landing, which is expected to be complete in 2017.

The new dock will be located off the promenade across from the Astoria Houses complex and will consist of an approximately 3,000-square-foot floating pier with two slots for ferries. The floating pier will have an attached, sloped walkway that connects to the promenade.

Astoria’s ferry dock will be included as part of a new citywide ferry service that Mayor Bill de Blasio first introduced during his State of the City address earlier this year, and seeks to ease public transportation issues for current and future residents of the neighborhood. More than 600 people are expected to ride the Astoria ferry each day by 2025, according to stats from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

“Ferry service is going to provide a reinvigoration of our waterfront, but more importantly a vital transportation option,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said at the meeting. “This is not to be a luxury; we are not here tonight to talk about pleasure boating.”

The proposed ferry dock is about a 20-minute walk from the nearest train station, the N and Q at Astoria Blvd., and often residents in the western Astoria area need to ride a bus to the train. Economic Development Corp. representatives said the ferry will cut commute times down for those that live in the most western part of the community and want to travel to Manhattan quickly.

To alleviate residents’ concerns about security, gates to the dock will be locked when ferry service is closed.

Parking, which some residents believe could become a possible issue, may not be drastically affected by the addition of the ferry, according to results of an Economic Development Corp. survey.

The data shows that 90 percent of people will walk, bike or take the bus to the ferry, while only about 30 people would park in the neighborhood to use the water vessel.

Not everyone was convinced. Some believe it may give an option for residents who live further east to use Astoria as a parking lot and take the ferry when going to Manhattan.

“If they’re interviewing ferry riders in Manhattan, yes, no one is driving to ferries in Manhattan, but it’s a little quieter around here,” said Astoria resident Jonathan Corbin. “There is parking available, although minimal. There is some concern that it’s going to be very disruptive for residents.”

Another possible issue brought up was the potential clash between ferries and kayaking in Hallets Cove.

Constantinides said they are looking very closely at this situation and want a lively waterfront with a variety of uses, although little information was given at the event about how kayaking would be affected by ferry routes as well as what protections might be put in place for kayakers.

“That river belongs to everybody,” said local kayaker Jean Cawley. “Kayaks are often called speed bumps by ferry operators. I don’t want there to be a Vision Zero in 20 years for the river.”


Queens Comfort owner to open burger joint featuring arcade games in Astoria

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks


Stroll by 30th Avenue and 41st Street on any given weekend, and you will undoubtedly witness the hoards of hungry brunchers gathered on the sidewalk in front of Queens Comfort, rain or shine. Whether you enjoy Chef Hernan’s whimsical empanadas, Montana and Nick’s delectable doughnuts, the selection of comic books, the vintage toys strewn along the walls, or simply the decadent takes on comfort cuisine, any fan of the famous Astoria brunch spot can attest to owner Donnie D’Alessio’s affinity for a creative burger.

“For me, New York cuisine has always been Italian American, Chinese takeout, and fast food burgers,” D’Alessio says.

While his poetic patties have steadily maintained their own corner of the menu, Donnie recently shared with BORO that he plans to open a new location devoted to these gourmet griddle gems, called Flattopp Burgers.

He recently debuted a few of his brawny beef burgers with a pop-up on Queens Comfort’s night off to showcase the new concept.

Click here for the full story



Astoria group turns to community to raise money for film project

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Astoria Stand Up

One Astoria organization is turning to the diverse community it calls home to help release a film and soundtrack addressing the issue of social inequality in today’s world.

Astoria Stand Up was formed a little over a year ago and was born out of the idea of a short film called “Astoria Park,” written and directed by Paras Chaudhari and Chrysovalantis Stamelos.

Chaudhari and Stamelos, now Astoria residents, came up with the concept of the film in 2003 while they were students at Syracuse University and had the idea of creating a movie set in a basketball court, where opposing sides clashed heads.

However the “purpose” of the film wasn’t discovered until Chaudhari and Stamelos moved to Astoria and, as a South Asian American and Greek American, they decided to focus the script on examining the hatred and inequalities faced in a neighborhood as diverse as Astoria.

“As soon as the concept of the film happened we knew it would be a New York City film,” Chaudhari said. “Astoria Park represents this one big place in the neighborhood that no matter who you are and where you come from, you come to this place to relax and be with the community.”

What began as a four-minute music video turned into a half-hour short film following two enemies divided by their cultures and desires to own the right to a local basketball court. These two characters come into contact with other characters who also struggle with issues in sexuality, racism, identity, faith and how the problems are dealt with on and off the court.

“We weren’t seeing fair and accurate representation of ourselves in the mainstream media. Not only was it not fair, it was also dangerous representation,” Chaudhari said. “We wanted to take a gritty look at the socio-cultural shift that is continuing to happen and pick up especially in this neighborhood.”

The short film has since been featured at film festivals and has made headlines throughout the world.

However, for the writers, there was still more to do and after having spent some time trying to find private investors to fund the film they decided to instead turn to the community they represent – which is where Astoria Stand Up was born.

The group has since become a platform for underrepresented perspectives and communities and movement of artists fighting social inequalities simply by coming together and representing the change they want to see, according to Chaudhari.

“Astoria Stand Up has become its own entity and will continue to be a platform for underrepresented perspectives,” he said.

The group started a Kickstarter campaign last month to fund their project called “Harmony & Dissonance,” which looks to make “Astoria Park” into a feature film and also put together a soundtrack for the movie. The campaign has a goal set at $300,000 and ends on June 21.

The soundtrack, which will be called “Harmony Session” and includes ten tracks, will bring together poets and musicians of diverse backgrounds to collaborate on tracks that each will represent an act of social change.

A percentage of each track sold will then go toward an organization that is “making a difference in the world.”

Chaudhari added that he wants anyone interested in making a donation or anyone who has questions to reach out to the group because the main goal throughout the process has been to involve the community.

“For anyone that participates in this they are more than participants,” he said. “The people who contribute to this will be the ones that say, ‘Hey, I made this happen.’”

To donate to the Kickstarter, click here. For more information on Astoria Stand Up, visit www.astoriastandup.com.


Forest Hills-based group brings together beer and Jewish New Yorkers

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Dauer

A Forest Hills couple has founded a group that looks to bring together Jewish New Yorkers and their love for a cold glass of beer.

Rebecca Dauer and Michael Israel are the founders behind the group Jews and Brews NYC, which was started through Meetup.com over a year ago.

Jews and Brews NYC aims to bring Jewish New Yorkers closer together through creating friendships, romances and professional networking by having members engage in fun events and activities.

“There isn’t an agenda so people don’t feel like this is a religious event or dating event,” Dauer said. “It’s a group of Jewish people getting together that want to have a good time.”

The idea of the group came up when Dauer made the move to New York from Boston more than four years ago and found it was hard to find outlets in her new city that would connect her with other Jewish people without having to go on dating sites or dating meetups.

Dauer and her fiancé then started the group about a year ago and what first started as a small gathering has blown up to having close to 600 members from throughout the city.

“We’re really looking to build a community and have like-minded individuals come together,” she said. “When I started Jews and Brews, I was looking to make friends and I accomplished that while bringing people together.”

For the meetups, which take place once or twice per month and usually on Thursday nights, Dauer finds bars, beer halls and breweries throughout New York City where group members can sample draft and bottled beers.

The group plans to organize future events including festivals, Shabbat dinners, wine tastings and baseball games.

Although most events have taken place outside of Queens, Dauer plans to hosts more meetups in the borough she calls home. The group recently met up in Forest Hills and Dauer hopes to have an event scheduled for June in Astoria.

“Queens has so much to offer and because the group now is so close knit, if we do it in Queens people will absolutely make the trek over here,” Dauer said.

For more information or to sign up for Jews and Brews NYC visit www.meetup.com/Jews-and-Brews-NYC.


Astoria puppet makes it to next round of ‘America’s Got Talent’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

One unique Astoria native wowed three out of four judges with more than just his voice on the season premiere of “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday night.

Ira, a 32-year-old singer, was one of the contestants to take the stage on the reality competition show which kicked off its 10th anniversary season on NBC.

Along with his tunes, one thing makes Ira stands out from other competitors – he’s a puppet.

According to Ira, he grew up in Astoria and lived there for about 29 years before deciding to make the move to Los Angeles with his mother, who wanted to chase her dreams of being a singer. However, the dream then became Ira’s and after just singing as a favorite pastime, he decided to take it to the big stage.

“I thought it would be a great platform to not only share my singing with the world but also profess my love for Mel B,” Ira said about the decision to audition for “America’s Got Talent.” “I think she’s the most beautiful thing.”

During his performance, in which you never see the puppeteer who gives the puppet life, Ira chose to sing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” specifically for the former Spice Girl Mel B, who judges the show together with Howard Stern, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel.

His performance received a standing ovation from audience members and smiles from all four judges. His mother, a lavender-colored puppet, was also present watching her son perform while standing backstage with host Nick Cannon.

Mandel told Ira that although he wasn’t the best singer in the world he did move him and the audience with his performance.

Fellow judge Stern also agreed that Ira’s performance moved everyone listening to him sing and even gave him an idea on what to do if he won the $1 million at the end of the show.

“Like Howie said you might not be the best singer but you know some people move us. I’d love to see you win a million dollars and move out of that apartment with your mother and stop rubbing her big feet,” Stern said. “You provided us with something that we love here on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and that is romance. Mel B was loving it.”

Although the former Spice Girl got out of her seat and took the stage to give Ira a kiss, she was the only judge of the four to give the singer a no when it came down to making the decision of moving him to the next round.

“Ira, it was a lovely kiss, but I’m going to have to say no,” she said.

Her no was met with boos from the audience and made Ira look down in disappointment. However, although Ira said he was heartbroken that “the love of his life” didn’t give him the answer that he wanted, he walked off the stage hoping he has the chance to change Mel B’s mind in the next round.

“It was scary and then I saw her sitting down there, behind her unilluminated X and she was gorgeous and then it was only she and I,” Ira said. “She didn’t give me the yes that I wanted but it’s the challenge for me to win her heart and get her approval.”

The next round, which will be judge elimination, is set to air in July.


Watch Astoria puppet compete on tonight’s episode of ‘America’s Got Talent’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

A new kind of contestant representing Queens is hitting the stage tonight during the season premiere of America’s Got Talent.

Ira, a 32-year-old Astoria native and singer, is competing on the reality competition show, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary season and kicks off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Along with his tunes, one thing makes Ira stands out from other competitors: he’s a puppet.

According to Ira, he grew up in Astoria and lived there for about 29 years before deciding to make the move to Los Angeles with his mother, who wanted to chase her dreams of being a singer. However, the dream then became Ira’s and after just singing as a favorite pastime, he decided to take it to the big stage.

“I thought it would be a great platform to not only share my singing with the world but also profess my love for Mel B,” Ira said about the decision to audition for “America’s Got Talent.” “I think she’s the most beautiful thing.”

During his performance, in which you never see the puppeteer who gives the puppet life, Ira will show the audience his love for classic rock songs.

He chose a song specifically for the former Spice Girl Mel B – who judges the show together with Howard Stern, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel – and hopes it will be enough to get the yeses he needs to make it to the next round.

The Astoria native, who says he loved living in the western Queens neighborhood, said he enjoys living in Los Angeles because he doesn’t have to be outside waiting for the 7 train anymore but still is competing in honor of Queens.

“I hope all my old friends in Astoria are watching and rooting for me,” Ira said. “I’m kind of doing it for them and my mom and Mel B.”


Astoria woman takes home over $9K on Wheel of Fortune

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television, Wheel of Fortune

She wasn’t the big winner, but Astoria resident Lizzette Colon cashed in big during her appearance on Wheel of Fortune Friday night.

Colon picked up $9,350 in cash plus a $1,000 gift certificate to Omaha Steaks. She earned $4,000 in taking two toss-up puzzles, in which guests ring in as letters are revealed on the board.

She also solved the mystery round puzzle, picking up $5,350 in cash and the Omaha Steaks prize for correctly guessing “Oscar Winner Julianne Moore” in the show biz category.

“It’s still very surreal. I’ve sort have been walking around saying ‘this really happened,'” Colon said about watching the May 22 episode and reliving the experience. “I’m not on television, I sort of live an everyday life, and now I can say I was on a television show. It’s mine and no one can take that away from me and that’s what is really exciting about it.”

Colon won the first toss-up puzzle worth $1,000, then the mystery round worth $5,350 in cash and a $1,000 gift certificate to Omaha Steaks. She missed out on the prize puzzle, but picked up the $3,000 toss-up puzzle. All told, she picked up a combined $10,350 in cash and steaks.

Although she came in second, she said she feels good about what she was able to win and plans to use some of her winnings to take a trip to Costa Rica with her husband and daughter.

Colon added that it was also nice to feel so many people support her especially throughout the borough she calls home.

“What was really nice about it was representing Queens,” she said. “It was something about the fact that my school knew about it, former students knew about it, [and] it felt for a moment like a small-town vibe. It was something about feeling that I have a tons of people rooting for me. That was really cool.”


Volunteers create new classrooms for Astoria school

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos by Liam La Guerre and Dimension Data

One lucky Astoria school is benefiting with new class space from a community outreach program by an international company.

As part of its Heads, Hearts and Hands program, workers from information technology services company Dimension Data volunteered to beautify I.S. 126Q on May 21 and convert storage space into new classrooms, allowing the school to serve an additional 120 students.

Employees from the company also painted murals and classrooms, and created a teacher’s lounge in the school, named Albert Shanker School for Visual and Performing Arts at 31-51 21 St.

The Astoria school with 531 students was just one of 11 around the country that was selected by Dimension Data for its outreach initiative, which was partly to promote learning and giving back.

“Our corporate social responsibility program, Heads, Hearts and Hands, spans the breadth of our global business, involving 58 countries in five regions,” said Mark Slaga, CEO of Dimension Data Americas. “Our corporate values define who we are as an organization, and in 2014, more than 25,000 Dimension Data employees got involved in a variety of causes that made a tremendous difference and we are looking to do even better this year.”



Pols propose $682M education package to help alleviate overcrowding

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Elected officials in the state Senate have put forth a new plan that hopes to bring some relief to the overcrowded school districts throughout the city including western Queens.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Senate Democrats announced the proposal of a $682 million investment into an education infrastructure bank. The funds would go into helping schools deal with issues surrounding physical capacity and school construction, allowing them to rebuild and renew facilities to accommodate growing populations.

Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, Astoria and parts of Woodside, said this funding could help local western Queens schools in Districts 24 and 30, two of the most overcrowded in the city.

“School overcrowding is a crisis directly affecting the lives of teachers, students and parents in western Queens every day and it must be dealt with immediately,” Gianaris said. “Our neighborhoods are growing and more needs to be done to ensure infrastructure keeps pace.”

Gianaris added that such funding would help a school like P.S./I.S. 78 in Long Island City deal with its overcrowding issues, which have left some parents fearing for the truncation of the beloved middle school classes.

“I will never stop fighting to provide our kids with the resources they deserve, and I will work to make this education infrastructure bank a reality quickly enough to solve the problems plaguing P.S./I.S. 78 and so many other schools in western Queens,” he said.

The $682 million investment, which will be funded from the state’s projected surplus and settlement funds, is also expected to provide support for teachers, fund community schools that offer holistic social service, and also begin a study to analyze the cost-effectiveness of state testing.


Deals in Astoria for homebuyers

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy StreetEasy, Bouklis Group and MLSLI

Demand for homes in Astoria is high as more buyers are pushed away from skyrocketing prices in nearby Long Island City, and attracted by easy access to transportation, established commercial strips, and diverse restaurants and entertainment venues.

Residents can enjoy Astoria Park’s waterfront view, visit the Museum of the Moving Image or grab a drink at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, to name a few popular activities.

But the surging demand to live in Astoria has caused land values to spike there as well, resulting in rising rents and home prices.

However, prospective Astoria renters and homebuyers need not fear; the neighborhood still has some deals to be found. Recently, Astoria was named one of the top areas for recent college graduates looking to rent in the city, according to a report by real estate website StreetEasy.

StreetEasy has also put together a list of deals to beat the heated Astoria market, and indicated that there are more below market price homes waiting to be purchased.

22-60 79th St. #3B

Price: $295,000
Size: One bedroom, one bathroom
Type: Condo
Broker: Laura Copersino, Douglas Elliman

What StreetEasy said: “Astoria is known for its bucolic complexes of small apartment buildings and gardens. This one-bedroom is in one of these complexes and offers lots of closet space, a renovated kitchen and a washer-dryer.”

21-37 33rd St. #05H

Price: $475,000
Size: Three bedrooms, one bathroom
Type: Co-op
Broker: Frank Bouklis, Bouklis Group

What StreetEasy said: “Proximity to transportation is everything in Astoria. This three-bedroom is three blocks from the Ditmars N/Q stop in one of Astoria’s most residential and family-oriented pockets. Plus it’s got a new kitchen and bath.”

30-10 48th St.

Price: $849,000
Size: Five bedrooms, two bathrooms
Type: Townhouse
Broker: Nancy Suric, Laffey Fine Homes

What StreetEasy said: “The townhouse market in other parts of the city is very tiny and very pricey, but single-family homes dominate the housing stock in Astoria. This one just got a gut renovation and has its own garage.”