Tag Archives: Astoria

VIDEO & PHOTOS: George Clinton gets funky at Queensbridge Park performance


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

With the Queensboro Bridge as the backdrop, the “godfather of funk” took the stage at Queensbridge Park Wednesday during a night filled with laughter and dancing.

About a thousand people flocked to the Long Island City waterfront park, located along Vernon Boulevard, to catch George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic during a free performance as part of SummerStage’s 30th anniversary summer festival.

The group, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, performed classics such as “Give Up The Funk,” “Not Just Knee Deep,” “Maggot Brain,” “One Nation Under A Groove,” “Flashlight,” “Aquaboogie,” “P.Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” and many more.

Fans danced and sang along with the songs as Clinton jumped on stage with other group members.

Clinton has been referred to as one of the trendsetters of funk music and known for revolutionizing R&B during the ’70s. Parliament Funkadelic recorded three platinum albums and had over 40 R&B hit singles. Through the ’80s the group recorded as the P-Funk All Stars.


Wednesday night’s concert is part of a six-day festival taking place at eight local parks. The night before, Queensbridge Park presented the musical group Chi-Lites and on Thursday night it will host Large Professor (LP), a hip-hop songwriter, producer and DJ from Flushing, together with Marley Mark.

The performance was not Clinton’s first visit to Queens, as he came to the borough last October during a discussion and book signing event, for his memoir “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? : A Memoir,” at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.


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Astoria multifamily building on sale for $1.5M


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

A three-story, six-unit building near Astoria Park and the new Astoria Cove development site has hit the market, according to real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

The multifamily building located at 429 27th Ave. in Astoria is being exclusively sold by Cushman & Wakefield and has an asking price $1,500,000.

The site contains about 4,080 square feet on a 20-foot-by-100-foot lot and the building consists of two two-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units. All are rent stabilized.

“The way Astoria’s waterfront is being developed will have such a positive impact on the properties in the near vicinity, so we are seeing a lot of interest in that part of the neighborhood,” said David Chkheidze of Cushman & Wakefield, who is exclusively marketing this property with Ilya Tolmasov.

“This building offers tremendous upside potential in an area that is rapidly emerging,” Tolmasov added.

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Councilman starts petition for traffic safety improvements surrounding Astoria Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Katrina Medoff

After the life of a 21-year-old woman was cut short last month on her way home, one local politician is putting his foot down and asking Astoria residents to join the fight to bring safety improvements in and around Astoria Park.

Councilman Costa Constantinides started a petition Monday calling for improvements to be made on streets such as Shore Boulevard, Ditmars Boulevard, 19th Street and Hoyt Avenue South.

“The streets surrounding Astoria Park are a dangerous stretch for pedestrians. The corridor is used by many families and children on the way to the park. All the while, many motorists race to and from the park at high rates of speed. A recent hit-and-run death that occurred in the area shows that we need better traffic safety,” Constantinides said. “We have made great strides recently in calming traffic in Astoria through safety improvements on 21st Street south of Hoyt Avenue and through the upcoming slow zone south of Astoria Boulevard. That’s why I have started a petition to support traffic improvements on the streets in and around Astoria Park. I look forward to working with DOT to make Astoria a safer place to live.”

The petition comes after Betty DiBiasio was struck on June 28 by a car as she was crossing a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, just blocks from her home.

The car, which was being driven by 24-year-old Astoria resident Nicholas Colleran, drove through a stop sign and then struck DiBiasio, according to officials.

Colleran allegedly called 911 about an hour after the accident to report that his car had been stolen and in his vehicle theft investigation report claimed it had been taken from a parking lot in the back of his residence. The vehicle was discovered in another location in Astoria with a broken windshield and driver’s side-view mirror, and a damaged driver’s side front fender.

There also appeared to be blood and hair in the driver’s side windshield, where it was broken, and, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, was consistent with a vehicle striking a pedestrian and the pedestrian hitting the windshield.

Colleran then turned himself into the police where he admitted that he had two beers before driving and striking DiBiasio and then leaving the scene.

He was charged with leaving the scene of an incident without reporting a death, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, failure to stop for a stop sign, driving by an unlicensed operator, failure to exercise due care and a violation of the city’s administrative code.

To sign Constantinides’ petition, click here.

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Swingtime Big Band to perform as part of Astoria Park concert series


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES file photo

BY KIRSTEN E. PAULSON

Swingtime Big Band will be performing swing-era music in Astoria Park on July 16 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the annual Central Astoria Local Development Coalition’s 2015 Waterfront Concert Series, which offers free weekly concerts through mid-August.

This 20-piece group, directed by Steven Shaiman, will play authentic recreations of the timeless swing music of Big Band leaders such as Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington and more.

According to the band’s website, the ensemble specializes in performing original arrangements of classic Big Band music, and bringing the style and spirit of the genre to life for 21st-century audiences. In 2007, the Big Band Hall of Fame recognized Swingtime as ambassadors of big band music for their efforts in “perpetuating, promoting and performing with integrity the sounds of the Big Band Era.”

Swingtime Big Band has performed in notable venues such as the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, the Plaza Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria and Tavern on the Green.

The event is free and will take place on the Great Lawn of Astoria Park on Shore Boulevard, between the Hell Gate Bridge and the Astoria Pool. Attendees are advised to bring their own chairs or blankets.

Performances will continue on Thursday evenings from July 23 through August 13 and will feature Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band, Time Was, Dancin’ Machine and Spitfire.

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Free summer festival featuring more than 60 performers coming to Astoria Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Astoria Music & Arts

Astoria Park will shine bright next month during a day-long festival featuring more than 60 live performers, visual artists and activities for all ages.

The nonprofit Astoria Music & Arts, which is committed to supporting the diverse artistic community throughout Astoria and Long Island City, will be holding the New World Queens Festival on Aug. 29 at Astoria Park.

From noon to 9 p.m., visitors will be able to enjoy the free event that will feature live music, visual arts, dancers, performance artists and interactive children’s events.

Music during the festival will include bossa nova, reggae, ska, R&B, rock, psychedelic, Americana, indie, funk, blue grass and Afro-Cuban.

“For over seven years, AM&A has brought music, art, dance, theater, comedy and film to the Astoria community, and this summer at Astoria Park we will be throwing the greatest music and arts festival in Astoria,” said Doris Cellar, director of operations for Astoria Music and Arts.

The festival, which is pet-friendly and will focus on eco-awareness, is also expected to feature a pie-eating contest by Astor Bake Shop, and a family fun dance party experience, sponsored by Little Club Heads, for children ages 1 to 12 and their parents.

Visitors will also be able to find a dance tent featuring Sol Dance Center, a puppet show by Wonder Spark from Raising Astoria, a giant Kaiju Big Battel monster and more.

For more information, email astoriamusicarts@gmail.com or visit www.astoriamusicandarts.org or www.facebook.com/Astoriamusicandarts.

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Costly corruption at Queens Library ran deep: comptroller’s audit


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Executives at the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL) spent millions of dollars on themselves while claiming the library was in debt and reducing both staff and services, according to an audit that City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed during a press conference Wednesday morning outside the Astoria public library.

The investigation revealed that Thomas Galante, former QBPL CEO and president as well as other library executives — including current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey — spent over $300,000 on prohibited, extravagant items such as meals, alcohol, concert tickets and airline upgrades. The spending occurred all while library officials claimed the system was running a deficit, according to the audit.

“For years … Galante and his executive team used the library as their personal piggy banks,” Stringer said. “Today, that era is coming to a definitive close.”

Prior to this investigation, a stipulation put in place by a previous administration blocked the comptroller’s office from looking at any QBPL financial records, except for two funds that the library claimed had city money. This roadblock allowed library staff to spend money with impunity. In December 2014, a newly formed QBPL board of trustees fired Galante and voted to give Stringer’s office full access to library financial records.

Carl S. Koerner, chair of the Queens Library board of trustees, said in a statement Wednesday that Queens Library was working to reform the system from top to bottom.

“Like other investigations into the library’s finances over the past year, today’s audit confirms many disturbing practices of the library’s prior director and its complacent former trustees —which is why the current board reversed an earlier decision and unanimously voted to give the comptroller’s office full access to all of the library’s bank accounts,” Koerner said.

But Stringer pointed out that Galante’s interim replacement, Quinn-Carey, was also involved in unscrupulous spending of city funds, as noted in the audit.

“Former COO and interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey also made a number of prohibited purchases totaling more than $48,000, including $11,500 for food and booze, 70 gift cards and 22 charges worth $4,000 with no explanation at all,” Stringer said.

In addition to inappropriately spending, the comptroller noted, the library’s senior staff increased their salaries by seven percent and cut library operating hours during Galante’s tenure.

“As they were scaling back access to books, Internet and vital programs and services, they were lining their own pockets,” Stringer charged.

The audit found that during fiscal years 2008 to 2013, the library staff charged all of its operating expenses to the library’s “city fund” account, which is subject to review by the comptroller’s office. This led to the library to appear to be running a deficit that ranged from $5.7 to $6.9 million, which enabled Galante to ask the City Council for more funds, all while the library had between $17 to $27 million in unrestricted funds.

Library executives may also owe personal income tax on purchases made, and they may have made fraudulent purchases. Galante failed to disclose the three businesses that he owns on city integrity forms, only divulging the information when he learned of the audit.

The audit has been submitted to law enforcement agencies for further investigation and action, Stringer said.

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Astoria woman starts social media campaign to find beloved travel dinosaur ‘Walter’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Tori Piper

One Astoria woman has turned to social media to find something that seems worthless but according to her has sentimental value.

The moment the sky over the Long Island City lit up with fireworks this weekend, Tori Piper’s heart sunk as she realized Walter, a dinosaur figurine that has been her travel companion for the past four years, was no longer with her.

Walter is a 3- to 4-inch-tall T. rex figure that was given to Piper as a present from a friend who knew of her love for dinosaurs. The Astoria resident has been collecting anything related to dinosaurs since she was a child.

During her first trip abroad to Russia during the winter Olympics, she decided to take Walter with her because he was small enough to travel with and helped her feel calm during the trip.

“It was my first time out of the country and I was really nervous. It was a whole new experience and I kind of needed a calming totem, something that I loved and could be with me. He was a little piece of home that was with me no matter what,” Piper said.

Since then, Walter and Piper have been inseparable, and Piper has even started an Instagram account documenting everywhere Walter has traveled. They have traveled to Russia, Ireland, and other parts of the United States, and the figurine even travels with Piper during her job in television and film.

“I can’t imagine traveling without him; I haven’t since I’ve had him,” Piper said. “When you travel you think, ‘Do I have my passport, the money that I need and my dinosaur?’ He is right there next to my passport.”

She even decided to take Walter along with her on July 4 to catch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks on the Long Island City waterfront. The last time she saw her beloved friend was at the LIC Flea & Food.

Once the fireworks started, Piper said she knew she had to get a photo with Walter, but she couldn’t find him. She tried to find him that day and even searched the area days after but still has had no success .

“I would have rather lost my phone or wallet,” Piper said. “You can’t replace him; he’s my little buddy.”

Piper added that a lot of people know how much Walter means to her and friends have started to spread the news on social media in hopes of finding the dinosaur. They have also been using the hashtag “#WheresWalter.” Piper said she hopes somebody picked Walter up and she is willing to trade another of her dinosaurs for him.

Walter is described as being light brown in color, 3 to 4 inches tall and the tip of his tail is broken off. Piper plans to head to the LIC Flea this weekend and also hand out fliers asking for help in finding him.

“Hopefully I’ll find him before that. I’m not stopping until he comes back,” she said.

If you have any information, email Piper at tori.piper@yahoo.com.

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Cops arrest man who robbed Astoria bank in wheelchair


| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police have found the perpetrator who stole more than $1,000 in cash from an Astoria Bank before fleeing in a wheelchair last week.

Astoria resident Kelvin Dennison, 23, has been charged with robbery after entering the Santander Bank at 37-10 Broadway around 2:10 p.m. on June 29 and passing a note to the teller demanding money, authorities said. Dennison took $1,212 in cash and fled westbound on Broadway in a wheelchair.

According to published reports, Dennison was arrested on Wednesday after a citizen recognized him at a local hospital and made a 911 call in which officers from the 114th Precinct responded. Authorities are still not clear why Dennison was at the hospital.

Dennison was charged with third-degree robbery and held on $15,000 cash bail following his arraignment on Thursday.

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PHOTOS: An early Independence Day fireworks show on the Astoria waterfront


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dominick Totino Photography

The Astoria waterfront shined bright Tuesday night, as the neighborhood celebrated the nation’s birthday a few days early.

Thousands gathered at Astoria Park, between the RFK-Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, to take part in the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition’s Annual Independence Day Celebration.

The celebration included patriotic and Big Band music from the United States Military Academy’s West Point Band.

After the performance, the sky lit up with a fireworks display presented by the Grucci Family.

The annual Independence Day Celebration is part of Central Astoria’s 33rd Annual Waterfront Concert Series at Astoria Park which accompanies the summer season of events there, including the Carnival and the Movies on the Waterfront Series.

The show was sponsored by Central Astoria LDC with the support of Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer, the city Department of Cultural Affairs and corporate sponsors including NRG and Kaufman Astoria Studios.


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Cop convicted of patronizing a prostitute while on duty in Astoria


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

An NYPD officer could face up to a year in jail after he was caught while on duty in Astoria soliciting sex for money from a woman who was actually an undercover detective, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Luis Gutierrez, 39, of Queens, was convicted on Monday by a jury of official misconduct, patronizing a prostitute and conspiracy after being caught in an undercover sting operation in February 2013, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

“The defendant was a trusted member of the New York City Police Department. He was supposed to uphold the law, but instead was caught — while on duty — offering money to a woman for sexual favors,” Brown said.

On Feb. 27, 2013, while on duty, Gutierrez allegedly approached a dancer, an undercover cop, at Astoria Boulevard and 8th Street and offered her cash in exchange for sex. According to prosecutors, the following day, Gutierrez offered money over the phone for sex with another undercover detective, who posing as a 16-year-old girl.

Gutierrez’s sentencing is set for September 21.

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Arrest in deadly Astoria hit-and-run


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Image via Google Maps

An unlicensed driver has been arrested for blowing through a stop sign before fatally striking a young woman in Astoria Saturday and fleeing the scene, prosecutors announced.

Nicholas Colleran, 24, of Astoria, was charged with leaving the scene of an incident without reporting a death, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, failure to stop for a stop sign, driving by an unlicensed operator, failure to exercise due care and a violation of the city’s administrative code – right of way, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

The victim, Betty DiBiasio, 21, was crossing a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, just blocks from her home, at about 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, when Colleran drove through a stop sign in his 2002 Chevy Impala without stopping and struck DiBiasio, according to officials.

Witnesses allegedly said that DiBiasio hit the driver’s side windshield before falling to the ground and the car drove off without stopping. She was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Meanwhile, Colleran allegedly called 911 about an hour after the accident to report his Chevy stolen and in a vehicle theft investigation report claimed it had been taken from a parking lot in the back of his residence. But later that morning, it was discovered in another location in Astoria with a broken windshield and driver’s side-view mirror, and a damaged driver’s side front fender.

There also appeared to be blood and hair in the driver’s side windshield, where it was broken, and, according to the district attorney’s office, was consistent with a vehicle striking a pedestrian and the pedestrian hitting the windshield.

On Sunday, Colleran turned himself in at the 114th Precinct in Astoria, where he allegedly admitted to police that he had two beers before driving and had struck DiBiasio. Colleran, who was unable to produce a valid driver’s license, also said that he panicked after hitting DiBiasio and fled the scene. He then called the police and falsely reported his vehicle stolen.

If convicted Colleran faces up to seven years in prison.

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Cops looking for Astoria bank robber who fled in wheelchair


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a man in a wheelchair who stole more than $1,000 in cash from an Astoria bank Monday afternoon.

The robbery happened just after 2 p.m. at the Santander Bank located at 37-10 Broadway, according to authorities.

After entering the bank, the suspect — described as a black male, 25 to 30 years old, about 160 pounds, clean-shaven and wearing a gray hoodie — passed a note to the teller demanding money, police said. He then took $1,212 in cash and fled westbound on Broadway in a black wheelchair.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

1544-15 Bank Robbery 114 pct 6-29-15 (1)

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Astoria woman killed in hit-and-run on Ditmars Boulevard


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

An Astoria woman was struck and killed by a vehicle Saturday in an early morning collision.

The woman, identified by police as 21-year-old Betty Jean Dibiasio, was crossing Ditmars Boulevard near 19th Street when a car going westbound smacked into her, knocking her onto the ground and causing a serious head injury, cops said. The driver then fled the area, authorities said.

Officers responded to the scene around 12:30 a.m. and found Dibiasio unconscious with a severe head injury. She was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where officials pronounced her dead.

No arrests have been made and an investigation on the incident is ongoing.

The accident comes a day after local Astoria leaders unveiled safety improvements for 21st Street between Hoyt Avenue South and Queens Plaza. The two-mile stretch has had five fatalities and seven severe injuries between 2009 and 2013.

And although it’s uncertain at this time if the hit-and-run driver was speeding, starting this summer the Department of Transportation will implement a slow zone in Astoria to lessen fatal auto accidents.

The streets inside the boundaries of Astoria Boulevard to the north, Steinway Street to the east, 30th Avenue to the south and 21st Street to the west will all be included in the slow zone, which will be implemented later this summer. Those boundary streets (Astoria Boulevard, etc.) will not be part of the zone itself; only the local streets inside will be.

The current speed of the affected streets, which include a long section of Newtown Avenue, will be reduced from the current 25 mph to 20 mph, and 14 speed bumps and new signage will be added throughout to remind motorists to reduce their speeds.

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Safety improvements unveiled at ‘deadly’ Astoria intersection


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DOT

A two-mile-long Astoria thoroughfare that has seen five fatalities and seven severe injuries between 2009 and 2013 has just gotten safer for pedestrians.

Representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) joined local elected officials and residents Friday morning to unveil corridor safety improvements for 21st Street between Hoyt Avenue South and Queens Plaza.

“We launched Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative in Queens over a year ago and every day we see the difference these safety project have throughout the ‘World’s Borough,’ from 21st Street to Queens Boulevard and beyond,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The Astoria corridor, which is also a truck route, is made of a 60-foot-wide road with two travel lanes in each direction.

The safety improvements, which are part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, include adding a new pedestrian crossing at 29th Avenue through a new traffic signal; upgrading existing street lights to LED lights and adding more street lights on 21st Street to improve visibility; adding parking lane stripes along the street to define moving lines; and adding 12 painted curb extensions along the corridor to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians at nine intersections.

“For far too long, 21st Street has been known as a deadly speedway and the improvements we are introducing will help put an end to the reckless driving that has claimed too many lives,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.

Earlier this year, DOT also installed seven-second Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), which give pedestrian-only walk time before vehicles get a green light, at 10 intersections on 21st Street.

“This thoroughfare has long been notorious for pedestrian fatalities. Cars frequently travel above the speed limit and there have been several deaths due to car accidents on the street over the last decade,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides. “These Vision Zero improvements will make the street, home to major senior and youth developments, safer for pedestrians and drivers from across the community.”

Image courtesy of DOT

Image courtesy of DOT

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LIC and Astoria waterfront to be tested as potential sites for floating pool


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Family & PlayLab

The Long Island City or Astoria waterfront might become the home of a floating pool that will filter water from the East River to become safe and swimmable water.

The designers behind +POOL, the world’s first water-filtering, floating pool, has reached the next step into making their design into reality as they announced they will be looking at 10 locations across the city as potential homes for their pool, first reported by Curbed.

+POOL, which brings collaborators from design offices Family and PlayLab, plans a pool area “for everyone” as it brings four pools into one plus-sign-shaped complex, including a kid’s pool, sports pool, lap pool and lounge pool.

Described “like a giant strainer,” according to the +Pool official website, the floating pool will filter the river water within its walls, removing bacteria, contaminants and odors.

Dong-Ping Wong, one of the founding partners of the project, said the main key of the design is to try to filter all the water without chemicals. The reason behind this is because the filtered water will later go back into the river as there is a turn over every few hours.

Of the 10 locations being looked at, one is the Hunters Point in Long Island City, while the other is Hallets Point in Astoria.

According to a +POOL representative, they will look into the water conditions at both Queens sites to understand the depth, access points, navigable channels, 100-year flood wave heights, current speeds, tidal elevation and harbor conditions.

Water quality testing for sites that might be able to accommodate +POOL will include testing various parameters to understand how +POOL’s filtration system will support the site, the representative said.

The other sites that will be looked at include Bush Terminal Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Domino Sugar Factory, Governor’s Island, Hudson River Park, St. George and Transmitter Park.

Wong added that he understands people’s reactions into the idea of swimming in water that had been in the river but their goal is to invite people to the areas and over time desensitize their thoughts when it comes to the body of water.

“It’s not just a cesspool. It’s a pretty incredible body of water,” Wong said. “The hope is eventually people will see it as a real natural resource.”

He also said that their plan is to bring the floating pool to the neighborhoods that are in the process of developing, such as the Long Island City and Astoria waterfront, and work to have a positive impact on those communities.

The group has started to look at the potential sites and a location is hoped to be confirmed by the end of the year.

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