Tag Archives: Astoria

Another Astoria waterfront warehouse for sale, likely to become condos

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal

The owner of another Astoria waterfront site with potential for a large development could sell the property for four times its last selling price as the neighborhood continues its hot streak.

The property at 30-55 Vernon Blvd., which Eastone 26 Ave LLC bought for $8.2 million last year, is now up for sale again and there have been offers of around $35 million, said Stephen Preuss of real estate firm Massey Knakal, which is marketing the site.

At that price, the property would trade for nearly $230 per buildable square foot, which would rank among the top land prices in Astoria. This would mean that prospective owners would most likely focus on a residential development to cover the purchase price and maximize profits, Preuss said.

Currently, a warehouse and parking lot occupy the 37,116-square-foot site, enough to erect a structure with 140,665 buildable square feet.

If air rights from the adjacent residential properties were purchased or a rezoning occurred, the property could have up to 220,000 buildable square feet, Preuss said.

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

30-55 Vernon Blvd. Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Preuss imagined the best use for the site would be a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail, an office or event space on the second floor, and condos on the remaining floors.

“This area is quickly emerging, and the site holds immediate value with its waterfront location along with the benefit of several local mega-projects underway,” Preuss said.

The Astoria waterfront has been scorching hot recently with planned projects like the enormous Astoria Cove, which received the green light from the City Council last month, and the Durst Organization’s Hallets Point project.

Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

Astoria Cove. Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

In addition to those projects, construction is planned next year for a glassy 77-condo building by developer New York Lions Group not far from the waterfront.

Also, in October, developer Shibber Khan paid $57 million for a waterfront site at 11-12 30th Dr., which has 460,000 buildable square feet. It is located just a block south of the Eastone 26 Ave LLC property.

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group


Astoria face and body painter brings out inner child with colorful designs

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Cheeky Chipmunk

For one Astoria artist, your face is her canvas.

Lenore Koppelman, 39, is the owner and artist behind The Cheeky Chipmunk, where she has turned face and body painting into living, breathing art.

Born in Queens and raised in New Orleans, La., Koppelman recalls that it was a tradition for her and her family to go to the French Quarter every Sunday after breakfast and get their faces painted. Koppelman said that every Sunday morning she would talk about what she would get painted on her face that day.

As she grew up, she went to college for interior design, and her inner knack for art and creativity followed her throughout the years.

Having lived in Forest Hills from when she was 3 to 6 years old, Koppelman decided to return to Queens eight years ago, and she made the move to Astoria. But her decision to make a career change did not happen until just last year.

While on a walk by Astoria Park with one of her best friends, Pamela Bob, Koppelman pondered over what her true calling was. Realizing that she loved art and loved working with people, she put the two together.

“We both realized at that moment [the face painting business] was going to happen. So I just felt this wave of calm come over me, like I had finally figured out what I was here to do,” Koppelman said. “I got goosebumps and said, ‘I am going to be a face painter.’”

She began painting her friend’s children’s faces for free and realized that something was missing.

“I was terrible. I was really bad. I had no idea how difficult face painting was. I think a lot of parents think, ‘How hard can it be?’” she said. “I then said, if I’m going to really do this, I’m going to have to learn how to do this.”

She began practicing, on herself and others, and reached out to the face painting industry. Koppelman said she was surprised to see the unity in the face and body painting community and she began attending workshops, and meeting other face painters at “jams.”

Koppelman also signed up for an online community called FABA (Face and Body Art) TV, where instructors from around the world share tutorials and tricks on design ideas. She also attended a workshop called Face Painting University and got to learn from professionals in the industry who had appeared in shows such as Skin Wars and Face Off.

“It really took wanting this so badly in order for me to really commit to learning it. This was a whole other level of passion and want. And aside from my little boy and husband, I couldn’t think of anything else I’m more passionate about,” Koppelman said.

Since taking the classes and becoming involved in the community, Koppelman said she felt an increase in confidence. Since September, she has been starting to book more gigs painting faces and bodies, and she even dabbles in maternity belly paintings.

The decision to name the business The Cheeky Chipmunk came from a childhood nickname given to her by her parents and her love for alliteration. She’s now busy offering face and body painting for almost any occasion, from birthdays to corporate events.

Koppelman has also spent her time volunteering for different organizations and events, most recently at a fundraiser held at an Astoria bar called The Quays for a local boy suffering from a rare blood disorder.

She said her favorite moment is the reveal—the moment when a child or adult opens their eyes after sitting patiently through the painting process just trusting her.

Although she is constantly learning and changing designs to meet the latest fads, Koppelman said she still can’t believe she is finally doing what she loves as a career. She hopes to one day publish a book with all her paintings done on her own face and start doing paintings on things in New York she would like to celebrate.

“It’s all about having fun and getting in touch with something inside of you that is magical and youthful and free,” Koppelman said. “Nothing horrible will come of it; it’s paint, it washes off, and it’s a good time. I would love to see more people find that kid inside that just wants to be free. Let the glitter fly free.”


Western Queens gets greener: park officials

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Valerie Medoff

Western Queens has gotten greener these past four years with a project that has planted more than 1,000 new trees — and the program will just keep growing.

Partnerships for Parks, a joint program between the nonprofit City Parks Foundation and the city’s Parks Department, celebrated on Dec. 12 the planting of trees and tree care events in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside over the past few years.

Key project representatives, elected officials and local organizations, such as New York Restoration Project (NYRP), Trees New York, City Parks Foundation and NYC Parks/Forestry, gathered at the celebration ceremony where the “torch was passed” to community volunteers, who will now lead the program and continue to green the neighborhoods.

Since 2011, the Greening Western Queens (GWQ) Urban Forestry and Community Stewardship Program has brought more than 1,100 new trees and over 100 community-enriching tree care projects to the western Queens neighborhoods.

The four-year, grant-funded project was part of a $7.9 million initiative of The North Star Fund to invest in energy efficiency and environmental projects in the community, which was affected by a 2006 electric power outage.

The GWQ program was created in the summer of 2011, when honey locusts and Japanese pagodas were planted. Since then, the project has planted 1,127 trees, including 598 new street trees on sidewalks, 528 trees in publicly accessible private spaces, such as schools, churches and public housing sites, and a storm water mitigation bioswale on the site of the Steinway & Sons piano factory in Astoria.

Other works include training over 400 people in tree care best practices with Trees New York and supporting more than 1,600 people at over 128 volunteer tree care and greening events.

An existing tree inventory was also conducted, and 455 blocks were digitally mapped in the project area in collaboration with TreeKIT and 54 local volunteers during 27 citizen mapping events.

The program also installed 400 custom-designed, GWQ-branded tree guards in order to protect the young street trees and planted more than 1,800 native perennials in 117 tree beds.


Astoria rental prices drop in November: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Chart courtesy of MNS Real Estate 

Astoria residents have at least one more thing to smile about — lower rents.

While the overall average rates of rents in Queens increased for a second consecutive month, prices in Astoria saw a decline in November for various sizes of apartments, according to MNS Real Estate’s monthly Queens Rental Market Report.

Residents were likely to pay $1,719 for a studio, $2,017 for a one-bedroom and about $2,468 for a two-bedroom apartment in November, which results in an overall average rent decline of 4.45 percent, the report said.

The decrease in price for two-bedroom apartments was eclipsed by Forest Hills, which recorded average rents of two-bedroom apartments for $2,599 in November.

Astoria, a burgeoning neighborhood that has begun to see an influx in major developments such as Astoria Cove, also had a bump in inventory, and the report praised the neighborhood’s growth.

“An increase in Astoria inventory and an average of 13.6 days in market imply a steady rate of growth and popularity in rental market,” the report said.

While Astoria saw declining rents, studios in nearby Long Island City had the highest percent increases throughout the borough. Renters were likely to pay $2,406, which is a 6.16 percent jump from the previous month.


Bringing down rents can raise income for landlords

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Modern Spaces


Fall marks a time when everyone enjoys the changes in the surrounding foliage — everyone except homeowners with pending apartment vacancies. For them, fall and winter is a time when rental inventory builds and rental prospects thin out. Even the most luxurious of apartments loses the ability to attract a substantial amount of interest from the constantly diminishing renter base during the months of November, December, January, February and March.

But what option does an owner have? What can be done to combat this dip in interest and prospects? Their first step is to get involved with a real estate professional, who not only knows the immediate area but is also familiar with the ever-changing seasons and how they affect prospective renters. Their selection should be someone who knows how to market their property so that they combat these changes effectively and prevent their property from sitting unnecessarily during these slower months.

My normal strategy in the fall and winter months is to encourage landlords to accept a monthly rent at a lower rate than their current asking price so that they increase their opportunities among the diminished renter pool, and also limit their financial loss over the course of the year.

For example, if a landlord has a property that is marketed at $2,400 per month on Nov. 1, their apartment is limited to an ever-diminishing pool of individuals willing to pay high market prices during a slower market. If their apartment does not rent as of Dec. 1, this landlord has effectively lost $2,400 in yearly net rental income. Should that apartment now suffer another month or two of vacancy they will continue to lose the entire $2,400 per month for every month it remains vacant.

If a similar landlord with an identical apartment markets their apartment for $2,200 per month on Nov. 1, their apartment will show up in a larger array of searches, and they will have an increased customer pool based on the lower amounts renters are willing to pay in a down market. If their apartment is rented for occupancy on Dec. 1, their net effective loss by marketing their property for $200 less in rent is $2,400 for the year. Their willingness to adapt to the slower market demand has permitted them to minimize their loss on their annual net rental income and prevented them from having an apartment sit for a longer period of time.

Landlords can also adjust their vacancy period during these slower months by offering their units for short-term leases of 3, 6 or 9 months, so that at the point of renewal their apartment will now be vacated during a much more lively and competitive marketplace. This also affords them the opportunity to renew with that tenant at a rate more in tune with what their apartment should normally be comparable to.

Minas Styponias is a licensed real estate broker for BuySell Real Estate in Astoria, where he was born and raised. He has had a career as a luxury rental property manager in New Jersey and Manhattan. Styponias speaks English, and is conversational in Greek and Spanish.


Astoria bar to host “butt ugly” Christmas sweater party

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano / Flyer courtesy of The POP BAR

‘Tis the season to dig into your closet and find that Christmas sweater grandma gave you and get ready to party in Astoria.

The POP BAR, located at 12-21 Astoria Blvd., will be teaming up this Sunday with the blog Give Me Astoria and Toys for Tots to host The Butt Ugly Xmas Sweater Party.

Starting at 7 p.m. patrons are asked to come dressed in their best “butt ugly” Christmas sweaters. Whoever has the ugliest sweater will receive $50 in a cash prize. The second ugliest sweater will get a $20 bar tab.

Throughout the night there will be drink specials, for those donning their ugly sweaters, on $5 drinks, draft beers and spiked egg nog.

There will also be a raffle and patrons will get a free ticket for the raffle at the door. Whoever brings a new unwrapped toy donation for Toys for Tots will receive another raffle ticket.

For more information visit The POP Bar’s Facebook page.


Social darts league comes to Astoria

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Astoria Plays Darts

An Astoria social and sports organization has pinpointed a new way to bring people together when it’s too cold to play softball by swapping bats for darts.

Astoria Plays Darts kicked off its first season this October with eight teams, representing seven neighborhood bars.

The league was formed by the organizers of Astoria Plays Ball, a co-ed sports group that acts like a social club for locals to meet each other. The softball league began in spring 2013 and has had a spring, summer and fall 2014 season since that time.

Following softball games, teams head to a local bar for drink specials and hot dogs. The winners get free beers.

In addition to growing the softball league’s numbers, its organizers have been seeking new ways to bring Astorians together.

Darts was a hobby that Warren Sheinwald, one of the founders of Astoria Plays Ball, said he has enjoyed playing in the past.

Its role as a classic bar game made it the ideal second sport for the organization.

News of the dart league quickly spread by word of mouth and through Astoria Plays’ social media channels. About 70 people participated in the first season, including many members from its softball teams.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, games are played at one of seven Astoria bars—Blackbird’s, Doyle’s Corner, Olde Prague Tavern, Raven’s Head Public House, Sissy McGinty’s, O’Hanlon’s Bar and Rocky McBride’s. Each team is named after a bar, with Olde Prague representing two teams. The bars provide food and discounted drinks during the evening.

Two types of games are played between teams and individuals. In cricket the goal is to “close” all your numbers and end up with more or equal points to your opponent. You must hit three of that number to close it. The “01″ dart game begins with a score of 301, 501 or 701 and the object is to get to zero by throwing rounds of three darts and subtracting the sum of those darts from the current score.

Though points are scored and teams try to win, there has never been any fighting and everyone has remained civil, according to Sheinwald.

“We have reshaped the image of darts players from those of the traditional competitive leagues to a fun, learning, mildly competitive experience,” he said.

The fall season’s championship will be held on Monday between Old Prague 1 and Sissy McGinty’s. Plaques are awarded to individual players based on all star points and team plaques are given to bars that succeed in the playoffs.

A winter season is already planned, starting Jan. 5. A Thanksgiving winter signup event where the league collected cans for City Harvest at Sissy McGinty’s garnered 60 participants. Spots are still open on several teams, which will expand to include at least 10 bars. Each player that signs up pays a $15 fee for the season.

“It’s a great way to get out there and meet new Astorians, especially for people who have just moved to the area,” Sheinwald said.

As with its softball league, darts players are finding other ways to get together. Recently members started playing football in Astoria Park.

Astoria Plays wants to expand their offerings to kickball and a trivia night, which it hopes to launch by this February.

“One of our goals is to keep promoting the area and keep exploring it together,” Sheinwald said. “We are always looking to do more things, it’s just a matter of time.”



Hundreds show support for Astoria boy with rare disorder

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Dana Naughton

Hundreds of people flocked to an Astoria bar this past weekend to show 6-year-old Gabriel Santini Naughton and his family that they’re not alone in his battle with a blood disorder.

On Sunday, friends of the Santini Naughton family held a fundraiser at The Quays, located at 45-02 30th Ave., to raise money for Gabriel, who was diagnosed in September with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare, life-threatening autoimmune blood disorder.

Although Dana Naughton, Gabriel’s mom, prefers not to say how much was raised, she said over 400 people came by to the corner pub throughout the course of the day.

“It was so successful. It’s definitely going to make Christmas comfortable,” Naughton said. “The emotional support of having the community come together was amazing. It looked like a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.”

Before Gabriel’s diagnosis, his mother had given birth to his second sister and was on maternity leave from her job as an attorney for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. In order to continue to care for Gabriel, Naughton is still on leave. Her husband,  Jaime Santini, who is a professional chef, has also had to hold back from working full time.

Even through these difficult times, the family has felt continuous support from the surrounding Astoria neighbors.

During Sunday’s fundraiser, neighbors donated items ranging from theater tickets to a beer cooler that were used as prizes in a raffle. Entertainment for the day was also all donated, including face painting by The Cheeky Chipmunk and a show by magician Dave Cremin.

There were also musical performances by Sean Wiggins, Roylurr, Sam Rasiotis, John Keegan, Jimmy Artache, Lauren Hunt and Lisa Marie Hunt.

(left to right) Rafael Salinas, Jaime Santini, Dana Naughton, James Kane, and Dee Flattery, co-owner of The Quays.

(left to right) Rafael Salinas, Jaime Santini, Dana Naughton, James Kane and Dee Flattery, co-owner of The Quays.

Other local businesses that donated their time, products and food included Avenue Chemists, Pronto Pizza, Off the Vine, Ovelia, Dilingers, Brooklyn Bagel, Phoenix Beer, Manhattan Beer, Mama Carmelo’s, William Hallett, Lauren Biniaris Yoga, Lost Sock, and Sorriso’s.

“The community has been awesome from the get-go. But to see all these people in one space was incredibly overwhelming but in a good way,” Naughton said. “Gabriel loved it.”

According to the 6-year-old, his favorite part of the fundraiser was the music and singing, and he felt “really happy” to have the party done for him.


“It really is an example that human kindness is really alive,” Naughton said.

A few days before the fundraiser, Naughton and her husband, found out that Gabriel’s disorder was environmental and not genetic. That means that it could be treated with medication and he will not necessarily need to go through a bone marrow transplant. Gabriel has also stopped chemotherapy.

“We are incredibly relieved and optimistic to try another treatment,” Naughton said. “It’s a day by day-by-day thing.”

Naughton continues to keep an online blog at posthope.org/gabriels-fight with updates on Gabriel. Donations can also be made on the website.


LIC Flea vendor to open natural tea shop in Astoria

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Tea and Milk

After looking around for the perfect spot to open their first shop, the owners of LIC Flea & Food vendor Tea and Milk have chosen Astoria, where they plan on opening their doors in January.

The decision to open shop in the western Queens neighborhood came after experiencing positive customer input during the LIC Flea & Food and Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios, according to Mathew Wong, one of the co-owners of Tea and Milk.

“This is it, we’re ready and we’re going to do it,” said Wong, who co-owns Tea and Milk with Wilson Ng and Kendy Ng. “Customers have been asking if we are going to open a storefront. We hear that and feel very proud and people have actually been pushing for it.”

On Dec. 2, Wong, along with his partners, signed the lease for a 400-square-foot shop on 34th Avenue, within the Kaufman Arts District.

The exact address is still being kept secret until construction is complete; however the group plans to hold a soft opening by the end of January.

“It feels amazing,” Wong said. “It’s good to be able to add to what Astoria already has. The variety is great and we want to contribute to it.”

At the shop, Tea and Milk plans to serve its customers artisan teas with a menu consisting of a wide range of unconventional teas that include aromatic flowers, fruits and bubbles. Wong emphasized that their teas are made with natural ingredients such a real fruits, chia seeds and real taro.

The shop, which will have seating for about 10 people, will also include coffee and pastries, and may have food from other chefs and vendors.

“The design won’t look like a typical tea shop,” Wong said. “We want people to stay.”

Between the soft opening and the grand opening, the group plans to test hours of operation, looking to open at 7 a.m. and close around 8 or 9 p.m.

According to Wong, in the next five years they would like to expand to have two or three more shops.


81-year-old Astoria woman scammed out of $3K: cops

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

An Astoria senior citizen was the victim of a money scam last Monday after a pair of thieves tricked her into giving them $3,000 in cash, police said.

The 81-year-old victim was in front of her 21st Street apartment about 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 1 when she was approached by a man and woman, both 35, cops said. The suspects then told her they had found a large amount of money and that she would be able to have $70,000 of it, as along as she proved to the bank that she had $3,000 in cash.

The victim brought the female suspect to her apartment building and gave her the $3,000, with the suspect promising they would return with her $70,000, police said. But they never came back.

The female suspect is described as 5 foot 5 inches tall and 160 pounds, and the male suspect is 5 feet tall and 200 pounds.

Police have released a surveillance video of the female suspect.

Anyone with information in regards to this grand larceny 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.


Astoria church hosts monthly community potluck

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Asha Mahadevan

One Astoria church is hoping to bring a community together over good food and a warm environment.

For over a year, members of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 31-18 37th St., have been hosting a Community Supper Potluck on the second Friday of every month.

During these dinners, which go on for about two hours, church parishioners and residents from the neighborhood are welcome to bring a dish to share and just hang out, according Elizabeth Lacks, one of the organizers.

According to Lacks, you do not need to bring food in order to participate. The dinners are open to those who just want to get together with neighbors and also those who might need a hot, nutritious meal.

“The potluck aspect of the supper has been a lot of fun, especially in such an ethnically diverse neighborhood as Astoria,” Lacks said. “And it’s a great way to get to know some of your neighbors; we encourage people to sit with others even if they come alone, and I have met some fascinating people.”

The community potlucks began after members of the congregation, including Lacks, came together to discuss ways to reach out to more residents in the community.

“Of course in any community there are people in need of food and friendship, and ours is no different,” Lacks said. “These dinners were the result, and they’ve grown considerably since we started.”

The goal of the dinners, which now see about 40 participants, is to provide a place where parishioners and neighbors can “find good food and fellowship,” Lacks said. Organizers hope those who attend will feel like they belong to a community.

Although the church asks for volunteers to help serve, set up and clean up, and appreciates any support it gets, the group does not distinguish between volunteers and others at the dinners. When it comes to dinner time, everyone eats together.

“As many people live New York, it’s very easy to be lonely in this city, and we hope that these dinners are a place where neighbors can meet and engage with each other in a warm and welcoming environment,” Lacks said.

If you would like to volunteer for a dinner, email Lacks at elizabeth.lacks@gmail.com. The next Community Supper Potluck is scheduled for Dec. 12 at 6 p.m.


High school students record holiday songs at Kaufman Astoria Studios

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

The holidays arrived early in Astoria this year for a group of high schools students with dreams of becoming professional musicians.

Members of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts a cappella concert choir were invited on Monday to record two holiday songs at one of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ recording studios and one of the largest in the city, KAS Music & Sound.

The invitation came through Kaufman Astoria Studios and the nonprofit Exploring the Arts, which was founded by Tony Bennett, who also founded the high school.

The group of about 55 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, recorded “Silver Bells” and an arrangement of “Deck the Halls.”

Joe Castellon, executive director of KAS Music & Sound, oversaw the recording and gave his tips to the young aspiring singers. Once he has finished editing the two songs, Castellon will give the music back to the school, which will then decide what will be done with it.


“We’ve done it twice before and it gets better every time,” said Castellon. “It’s great because you are seeing them just right at the beginning and their first exposure to it.”

He said that the students’ excitement is palpable: “With the students it’s great because you get to feel that.”

The high school’s concert choir teacher and one of the founding members of the school, Heidi Best, led the group during the recording and hopes this experience gave the students a taste  of what it really means to record their music at a professional studio.

“[Recording] is a very different animal,” Best said. “’[The students] are thrilled because they know this is a big deal, and it’s really good for them because they get to hear themselves and the things they don’t really think about and it gives them a keener sense of performing.”

For some of the students who participated last year it was a chance to return to the studio, but for others it was the first time they had walked into a studio and shared the same equipment that has been used by musicians such as Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

“It was exciting because it’s something most of us haven’t done,” said 17-year-old Feyjon Cobos, a senior at the high school who first stepped into the studio two years ago with another choir at the school.

“It’s nostalgic but very thrilling,” said Bruce Jimenez, 16, a junior who has also recorded before. “It was very fun. I wish I could do it again.”

This was 17-year-old Paola Solis’ first time recording in a studio, and she said it was exciting to get the opportunity.

“I’ve recorded, but like on an iPod,” Solis said smiling. “It’s really amazing to be here in an actual studio.”

The group of students will be performing the songs at the MetLife Building in Manhattan next Monday and at the school’s winter concert on Dec. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m.


Construction of 12-story Astoria residential building set to begin

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Development of a new 12-story residential building in Astoria is moving on to the construction phase.

HD Management LLC filed an application recently with the Buildings Department to begin excavation and structural work on the new 52-unit residential tower to be built on a site stretching from 27-13 through 27-17 21st St.

Purcell Architects will design the building, which will have 38,547 square feet of space for residential use. There will also be 31 enclosed parking spaces.

Currently a three-story building that was originally constructed in 1922 sits on part of the site. Demolition of a one-story auto shop, which sits on another section of the site, began earlier this year.



Community comes together for Astoria boy with rare blood disorder

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Dana Naughton

What Dana Naughton and Jaime Santini first thought was just a virus in their son became every parent’s worst nightmare — a rare, life-threatening blood disorder. But, with the support of their local Astoria community, the parents have been able to find hope amid their grief.

Six-year-old Gabriel Santini Naughton was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare, life-threatening autoimmune blood disorder, in September after going through days of high fevers that started on his first day of school.

Early this year, Gabriel had also been sick but because he got better, his parents thought it was just a virus going around.

After being tested, doctors found that Gabriel had HLH and started him on chemotherapy. His body has been receptive to the treatment; however, doctors are waiting on results to see if the disorder is genetic or environmental.

If the disorder is environmental, then it could continue to be treated with chemotherapy or medication, but if it is genetic, Gabriel would need to receive a bone marrow transplant. Starting this week, doctors will begin to start looking for a match for Gabriel.

“He’s responding well. He’s just been amazing,” Naughton said about Gabriel’s energy through the treatment. “He’s been a trooper. He’s not crying about it, he has just been amazing.”

Before Gabriel’s diagnosis, his mother had given birth to his second sister and was on maternity leave from her job as an attorney for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. In order to continue to care for Gabriel, Naughton is still on leave. Her husband, who is a professional chef, has also had to hold back from working full time.

“We had this system and it was supposed to work and this happened and it was impossible for us to have jobs, commitment when we have to take care of everyone,” Naughton said.

However, even though these past months have been tough on the family, they have felt an overwhelming support from the community that they have called home since 2001.

Gabriel with his parents and sisters.

Gabriel with his parents and sisters.

“There are times that I’ve wanted to break down and I am walking to the supermarket and I get a smile from a neighbor. It’s made me stronger to be able to take care of my son,” Naughton said. “It’s kept the ability to have some normal with the grief that comes with this.”

According to Naughton, neighbors have gone so far as to bring them food, help babysit and in one case help organize an upcoming fundraiser to help them with medical bills and other expenses.

One of the owners of The Quays, located at 45-02 30th Ave., Dee Flattery, and friends of the family, will be hosting a “Gabriel’s Fight” fundraiser on Sunday, Dec. 7, at noon with live music, a magician and face painting for children.

Naughton says she passes the corner pub on the way to the Astoria Heights Playground, and the owners have watched her children grow up through the years.


“It’s just about love and compassion and seeing a family struggling and helping out, even with the little things. That’s made the biggest difference. Sometimes that’s all you need to take another breath and keep walking,” Naughton said. “We have never felt once that we were in this alone.”

Naughton has been keeping an online blog at posthope.org/gabriels-fight with updates on Gabriel’s treatment and also sharing photos of the family, including Gabriel’s sisters Juliette and Cecilia.

The family hopes that after dealing with the treatment and getting through this together, they can give back to the community that has helped them through the difficult time and also help other families going through the same situation.

“There are children that get through this. All I can do is be optimistic that we will be one of those families, and then we will spend time volunteering and help other families get through this,” Naughton said. “When we are out of this mess we want to give back and help families with the little things.”

To make a donation, visit posthope.org/gabriels-fight.


Astoria’s The Green Gallows talk rad tunes with a side of whiskey

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Jovani Demetrie McCleary (J. Demetrie Photography)


As they sat in a Hooters an hour away from Chicago, the members of The Green Gallows opened up about the realities of touring, and their slow rise to success.

Hailing from Indiana, Michigan and Washington, Sean Ryan Donnelly, Adam Steiner and Cara Cooley, respectively, now all consider the backlands of Queens their home.

The three New York transplants joined forces in Astoria and formed the folk-rock band about two years ago, playing their first show six months later, and hitting on the road at the beginning of November for their first official tour, with singer/songwriter Meghann Wright.

Prior to joining forces, the “three musketeers” started off as two lovebirds, Cooley and Steiner, who come from a musical performing background and are currently engaged to be married.

Still, Donnelly rejects all chances of being considered a third-wheel; he claims that Cara is more of the third wheel, since he and Adam have known each other for many years. But overall, after almost a month of spending nearly every waking moment together, the band has taken things to “a whole new level,” becoming more like family, with whiskey being the fourth member.

The journey, which Cooley considers “great chaos,” has been an exhausting, yet rewarding one thus far, with only two days off since the beginning of their tour on Nov. 1.

In addition, the band has performed at the Bright Winter Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and went on a short tour last February after the release of their EP, “Wanted.” Since then, they have performed both locally and on the road, including stops in Orlando, Chicago and Pennsylvania, and have acquired a love for playing road shows because, Donnelly said, it’s “always a treat to play for someone who’s never heard you, as opposed to at home where friends and fans know what they’re getting into.”

Essentially, what guests are getting into at a typical Green Gallows show consists of everything from foot-stomping tunes to passion-filled ballads, and whiskey-drenched performances that the three describe as “very high energy.” In other words, nothing “typical.” Instead, the band takes listeners into a world they have created where “you can expect to be taken out of your life, and whatever is going on in it, to be taken away for an hour – and just have a good time,” says Cooley.

The band will be home for Thanksgiving, and is looks forward to performing locally in Spike Hill, as well as Sweet Afton in Astoria, and more. So far, the band has released one song for download, “Brave Young Soul,” and they have taken it with them on the road, introducing listeners to their sound and style, in efforts to prepare them for their first full-length album, which they plan to record in January.

For more information on their upcoming shows, visit thegreengallows.com.