Tag Archives: Astoria

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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Queens World Film Festival celebrates fifth year’s opening night


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

With the luck of the Irish, the Queens World Film Festival kicked off its fifth year of helping bring independent films to the big screen.

The six-day festival, which gives international and local filmmakers the opportunity to screen their films in Queens, celebrated its opening night on St. Patrick’s Day at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured five films, including two from local Queens filmmakers Jamil Lahham and Lisa Melodia. The films ranged from animation to short narratives. The night also included a bonus screening of Sundance Film Festival-winning film “World of Tomorrow,” which filled the room with laughter.

“I love this film festival because I love Queens, and everything and anything that is good starts right here in my home borough of Queens County. We do it right,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I admire and respect and really have come to love Don and Katha Cato because you can tell they pour everything, their heart and soul, into this festival.”

The Queens World Film Festival, which will run through March 22, is organized by husband-and-wife duo of Don and Katha Cato, and this year will feature a total of 117 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include feature narratives, documentaries and LGBT pieces.

Through the week, the films will be sorted out into different blocks based on subject and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights and the Museum of the Moving Image.

“[Katha and Don] have literally catapulted this festival to heights that not many folks could have foreseen when they first started this,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “Katha and Don and all the folks that are involved in the arts have truly been using the diversity that we bring to this borough to catapult us in tourism.”

Opening night also recognized director Leon Ichaso, known for movies such as “El Cantante,” “Ali” and “Hendrix,” as a “Spirit of Queens” honoree. Don Cato said Ichaso, who has been called the “poet of Latin New York,” was receiving the awards for his artistry, integrity and humanity.

The festival will also present Ichaso’s film “Bitter Sugar” on Wednesday at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“To all the filmmakers that are here please don’t lose the hope, it’s a hard world making movies,[but] it’s worth it,” Ichaso said. “It is festivals like this that in that journey we can take a rest, we can show what we do, we can meet each other and thank God they exist and thank God for the Queens World Film Festival.”

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

“Experience these films during our festival, talk about them,” said Don at the end of the night. “The films are the stars of this festival.”

For a full schedule of the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.

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Suspect arrested in string of LIC, Astoria restaurant break-ins


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via NYPD

One man’s burglary spree has come to an end, as officers of the 114th and 108th precincts worked together to arrest him for allegedly breaking into businesses overnight in Long Island City and Astoria dating back to last June.

According to court records, each time 40-year-old Shameek Dunbar would break into the establishments through either a door or window, and once inside would take money, ranging from $20 to $1,000, from cash registers.

Dunbar was arrested on Feb. 25 at his home in Queensbridge when forensics evidence linked him to one of four burglaries in the confines of the 114th Precinct, a police source said.

Subsequent investigation linked him to seven more burglaries, these in the confines of the 108th Precinct.

“This was fantastic detective work,” said Capt. John Travaglia, commanding officer of the 108th Precinct. “It was good working together from both precincts.”

Criminal complaints detailed nine of the 11 incidents:

  • Between June 10, 2014, at 9 p.m. and June 11 at 9:30 a.m., Dunbar broke into Andres Pizza located at 25-19 40th Ave. through a glass door. He is observed through surveillance footage cutting wires on a cash register, worth about $450. The store owner alleges that $20 was taken from the register.
  • On Oct. 24, 2014, Dunbar broke into Tequila Sunrise located at 40-01 Northern Blvd. through a side window. The owner alleged $350 was taken from a cash register.
  • Between Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 3:12 a.m., the suspect entered Barista at 11-11 44th Rd. through a front glass door. Surveillance footage shows Dunbar throwing a rock at the door. He later took money.
  • On Jan. 2 between 3:04 and 4:18 a.m. Dunbar entered Hu Department Store located at 47-09 Northern Blvd. through the front door. Although the store owner alleged $1,000 was missing from the register, Dunbar said he tried to open the register but couldn’t and then left.
  • Between Jan. 18 at 11 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 4 a.m. Dunbar entered a business at 47-29 Vernon Blvd. through a window and surveillance shows him trying to pry open a register.
  • On Jan. 24 between 3:35 a.m. and 4:05 a.m. Dunbar broke into Pachanga Patterson located at 33-17 31st Ave. The store owner alleges $200 was missing from a cash register.
  • Between Jan. 31 at 10 p.m. and Feb. 1 at 3:17 a.m. the suspect broke into Petey’s Burger at 46-46 Vernon Blvd. through a side window. Surveillance footage shows him prying open a register and taking money.
  • Between Feb. 12 at 8:30 a.m. and Feb. 13 at 11:45 a.m., the suspect entered Breadbox Café at 47-11 11th St. through a door. He the used a screwdriver to pry open a register and took $300.
  • Between Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 22 at 3:45 a.m. the suspect entered Mix Nail Salon at 44-68 21st St. through the glass front door. Surveillance video shows the suspect entering the location, prying open a register and taking money.

Dunbar is facing charges of burglary, criminal mischief, possession of burglar tools, petit larceny, and for one of the incidents a charge of grand larceny.

He is due back in Queens Criminal Court on April 9. 

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Astoria community farm brings fresh, organic produce to backyards and roofs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Anna Poaster/Rob McGrath

What in front looks like a regular apartment building off 21st Street in Astoria is actually home to a backyard community farm looking to grow beyond its original space and help educate others about growing their own food.

Hellgate Farm started in 2011 after Rob McGarth, an engineer by trade, purchased a building with a very large backyard. Once he started to grow his own food, he realized he was growing more than he could use.

For the first couple of seasons, McGarth managed the farm on his own and later teamed up with The Queens Kickshaw, located at 40-17 Broadway, to set up a pop-up farm stand in front of the store. 

What began as a side project for him then turned into something he wanted to focus more attention on and, by the fall of 2012, Anna Poaster came in as manager of the farm with a focus on growing vegetables. 

HellgateFood

The following year, a neighbor allowed the farm to expand into his yard. This got the team thinking about finding landowners in the Astoria and Long Island City area willing to allow them to go in and use backyard space to grow produce. In 2014, another neighbor around the block from the farm offered their space.

Now, Hellgate Farm has a total of four sites, including the original in McGrath’s backyard. One is on a rooftop of a Long Island City business. The growing of the sites then pushed the team to become a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), meaning landowners or “members” who offer their land to grow a farm/garden would receive a share of produce every week.

In its first year as a CSA, Hellgate Farm will work with landowners to grow organic vegetables and fruits and turn their underutilized backyards and rooftops into valuable garden space. In exchange for the work and care of the spaces, Hellgate Farm just asks landowners to pay for materials such as soil.

“I think people are really removed from their food, people don’t know what broccoli looks like when it grows,” Poaster said. “People are really into local foods. We are able to engage all these building owners who maybe have an interest in food, green space, and just making their space better for tenants and they really end up gaining a lot of education of what it is like to grow a garden.”

This year, Hellgate Farm plans to expand to two or three more gardens, with an emphasis on continuing to have open and personal communication with landowners.

Together with growing vegetables at the original site, Hellgate Farm also raises chickens, houses bees on the rooftop working with local beekeeper Tom Wilk, and has a garden on the roof as well. They have also partnered with local shops such as Astor Bake Shop and Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar to provide them with local fresh produce.

Manager Anna Poaster, Hellgate Farm Founder Rob McGrath, and intern Eric Dittmore. (Photo by Paul Miller)

Manager Anna Poaster, Hellgate Farm Founder Rob McGrath, and intern Eric Dittmore. (Photo by Paul Miller)

As the Hellgate Farm team, now consisting of volunteers and a live-in intern, gets ready for the 2015 season they have also turned to Kickstarter in hopes of raising a goal of $1,500 to purchase an electric wood chipper. The campaign has raised $420 since Monday.

The wood chipper would be used to turn the leaves and branches they remove during trimming and pruning the spaces into mulch that would be used on all the sites.

“It feels awesome. It really has been humbling to see how many people care about this thing,” Poaster said. “To see a lot of supporters is really touching.”

A lot goes into finding a site to convert into a farm or garden, according to Poaster, but they are open to finding more locations in the Astoria and LIC area. Hellgate Farm’s season goes from the beginning of June until the last week of October.

For more information visit hellgatefarm.com or email eric@hellgatefarm.com. To donate to the Kickstarter campaign, click here.

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Career criminal busted for stealing airbags, hybrid battery pack in Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Shoreline

A 48-year-old man, with more than 20 arrests in about two decades on his record, is now being charged with breaking into several cars and stealing airbags, and in one case a hybrid vehicle battery pack, according to authorities.

Peter C. Ali, an Astoria resident, was arraigned on March 5 and charged with third-degree grand larceny, third-degree criminal mischief, third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle, fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, petit larceny and resisting arrest.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, on Dec. 28, 2014, Ali broke into a late model Toyota Camry yellow taxi parked on Queens Boulevard and 52nd Street in Woodside and removed the car’s hybrid battery pack, valued at about $4,000.

Later, on Feb. 25, Ali was allegedly seen using a flashlight to look into the interior of a silver Toyota Camry on the corner of 21st Street and 29th Avenue in Astoria before stealing the car’s airbag. The next day, Ali allegedly took another airbag from a 2010 Toyota minivan parked near Austin Street and Union Turnpike in Forest Hills.

Ali was caught on March 5 as officers of the Grand Larceny Unit witnessed him stealing an airbag from a car in Astoria , according to a police source.

The incident with the hybrid battery was one of 11 that have occurred in the confines of the 108th Precinct since November. During those incidents, car thieves walked away with the expensive batteries from the trunks of the vehicles. The investigation for the remaining 10 cases is ongoing.

Ali is currently being held on $100,000 bail and his next court date is scheduled for March 18. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

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Five sought in Astoria nightclub fight


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A fight at an Astoria nightclub Friday sent three stabbing victims to the hospital, and police continue to seek five men for questioning, authorities said.

The violence began about 3 a.m. inside Purlieu on 34th Street near 36th Avenue, during a party for the rapper Chedda Da Connect, according to the Daily News.

During the brawl, a 29-year-old man was stabbed in the abdomen and chest, a 20-year-old man was stabbed in his chest and a 28-year-old male was stabbed in his shoulder, police said. The three men were also robbed of their cellphones and jewelry as the fight was happening.

EMS took the victims to area hospitals in stable condition.

Police have released photos of five men wanted for questioning in the assault. It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the fight.

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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Police looking for suspect in string of NYC cellphone store thefts


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A cellphone thief has been swiping high-priced devices from stores around the city — including three businesses in Queens — for more than a year, police said.

Each time the male suspect steals a phone by cutting the security wires and grabbing the item before fleeing on foot, according to authorities.

Police say the crime spree started as far back as December 8, 2013, at an AT&T store located at 39-15 Main St. in Flushing, where the suspect took a Samsung Galaxy Note II.

The same man didn’t strike again until August 4, 2014, when he allegedly took a Samsung Galaxy S4 from another AT&T store, located at 30-67 Steinway St. in Astoria.

He returned to the same Main Street AT&T store on August 16 and February 4, stealing a Samsung Galaxy S5 both times.

The suspect is also accused of taking an iPhone and iPad from a T-Mobile store at 82-19 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights on Jan. 5, along with an AT&T store on Canal Street in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach in October. Police have released photos from the Jan. 5 incident.

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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‘Law & Order: SVU,’ ‘Chicago P.D.’ crossover episode films in Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Police cars lined up on 29th Street in Astoria Monday morning as members of the elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit tried to solve another crime with the help of some friends from Chicago — all for an upcoming episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Crews were set up in a courtyard amid four buildings on 29th Street between Broadway and 31st Avenue filming a scene for the 19th episode of season 16 of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

The episode is part of NBC’s second three-way crossover of “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order: SVU.” The three dramas first came together in a November episode.

The Astoria morning scene featured leading lady of “Law & Order” Mariska Hargitay as Sergeant Olivia Benson, and Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) and Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) of “Chicago P.D.”

Also on set was “Law & Order: SVU” newcomer Peter Scanavino, who portrays Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi and just joined the cast this season.

A release date for the crossover episode is yet to be announced. Episode 17 is scheduled for March 25. Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Actress Mariska Hargitay on the set of "Law & Order: SVU" in Astoria.

Actress Mariska Hargitay on the set of “Law & Order: SVU” in Astoria.

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Queens World Film Festival to kick off fifth year


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy Jamil Lahham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos via Instagram/tavernakyclades

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO 

Updated 2:55 p.m.

Astoria is becoming the next Hollywood hot spot.

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

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

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

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

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

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

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

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

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

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

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

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Astoria Boulevard development site sold, will become new residential building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Modern Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dining: The Don of a new day


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

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

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

IMG_9227

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

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

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

IMG_9193

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

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

IMG_9141

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

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Mount Sinai Queens opens new cancer treatment center in Astoria


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Eric Jankiewicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Astoria residents vie for win in national music competition


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Regret the Hour

Two brothers, who now call Astoria home, are hoping their band wins the grand prize in the national “Get Out of the Garage” competition in Brooklyn this weekend — and they’ll be carrying with them the memory of a bandmate who lost his life to cancer.

Nate and Ben McCarthy, originally from Nyack, started the band Regret the Hour in 2011 after years of being surrounded by music in their home and wanting to start their own group.

The brothers, who sing and play guitar, formed the band while in high school with drummer and vocalist Anders Fleming and bassist Jesse Yanko.

While finishing up the recording of their first album in 2012 called “Better Days,” which Ben calls a “DIY project,” 16-year-old Yanko died after a long battle with cancer. The album was later released in 2013.

“I think it just feels gratifying to be here right now and done all of this after that. I know that’s something that [Yanko] would have wanted,” Ben said about the band’s decision to move forward after questioning what to do next. “I think [the album] is a big part of the history of the band and you can hear it in the songs.”

The group later started playing at bars in Nyack and didn’t make the move to bigger venues, such as the Mercury Lounge and Knitting Factory, until Nate and Ben decided to head to Astoria as they attended Hunter College.

Regret the Hour, which has released three EPs along with their first album, will now take the stage on Feb. 28 with four other independent bands for the second annual Get Out of the Garage competition finals, presented by Guitar Center and Converse.

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

The artist discovery program, which started in October and includes bands from across the country, offers an opportunity for musicians to launch their careers.

Out of more than 8,000 submissions, five bands were chosen – including Regret the Hour. Part of the process to choose the finalists was based on how many people watched a music video on the Get Out of the Garage official website for each band.

“It feels pretty awesome,” Ben said about being chosen. “We couldn’t have done it without all the people that helped us out, that watched the video and shared it.”

The grand prize winner of the competition will earn a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, studio recording time, a music video, $25,000 in cash, new gear and more.

Regret the Hour plans to perform two songs during the finale, one from the album they recorded with Yanko and another from their new album, which is in the process of being completed.

Ben added that although they are nervous about the big performance, they are excited about getting as far as they have on their own. They are not backed by a record label and they don’t even have a manager, so they’ve had to book every performance themselves.

After the competition, the band plans to continue working on their new album and they hope to have it released by late summer.

“We are definitely pretty excited for this new album we are working on. It really represents the band,” Ben said. “We’re just really excited to get it finished and get it out there.”

For more information on Get Out of the Garage, visit getoutofthegarage.revimage.com, and for information on Regret the Hour, visit regretthehourmusic.com or www.facebook.com/regretthehour.

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Daughter still hopeful as search for missing Astoria man enters second week


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Poster via Findphil Facebook page

Heather Arabadjis hasn’t given up hope as the search for her missing 63-year-old father, who suffers from various mental disorders, reaches its second week without any leads.

Philip Arabadjis, who is about 5 feet 11 inches tall, 290 pounds, and has brown and grey hair, was last seen leaving his apartment complex on 20th Avenue and 20th Street in Astoria on Feb. 12 at around 10 p.m., according to his daughter. He was wearing a flannel shirt with black sweatpants and was without shoes or a jacket.

Arabadjis has a medical history of schizophrenia, diabetes, related symptoms of dementia, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), making it hard for him to breathe.

Since he went missing, Heather has set up Facebook page called “Findphil” where she posts updates on the search for her dad.

Feeling like the response from police is slow, she has conducted two organized searches and visited hospitals in Queens and other boroughs, as well as homeless shelters. She plans to continue searching subway and train stations such as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station.

Philip Arabadjis (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

Philip Arabadjis (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

She is currently waiting to hear back from the NYPD’s Missing Persons Unit on video feeds in the area that could have caught her father walking away from his home. The Alzheimer’s Association also has their own detective on the case as well.

“We don’t really know where he is. We’re not sure if he stayed in Astoria or Long Island City,” Heather said. “I’m just trying to do everything on my end to see what we can do to find him. Whatever anyone says I’m doing, I’m searching on any tips, still putting up flyers and contacting hospitals. Volunteers are contacting hospitals daily and recording notes.”

Heather describes her father as a homebody who likes to keep to himself and did not have friends. He has no identification on him, is not aware of where he lives or his name and may be unresponsive to questions and look lost.

“He was kind of scared of people. I believe he didn’t feel accepted. He didn’t like to take trains and buses because of other people,” she said. “Growing up, people were scared of him – that’s how it is in society when you don’t know what something is, you are afraid of it.”

Heather added that her mother is staring to lose hope after these two weeks have brought no leads. She added that she hopes to bring her father home soon so she can help provide a better future for her parents.

Heather said she has felt a large amount of support and love from people volunteering to help in the search during what has become a dark time of not knowing what has come of her dad.

“I’m so thankful knowing that there are so many kind-hearted people out there,” she said. “To all the people that are helping me, I always say God bless them. It makes me warm inside during such dark moments. That’s what keeps me not depressed. It keeps me going, because there is so much positive energy and you need that in a time of sadness.”

A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to finding Arabadjis.

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