Three new commercial buildings are coming to a section of Northern Boulevard in Bayside, bringing an influx of retail space to the neighborhood strip.
Jeewha Kim, president of 211 St. LLC, filed permits with the Buildings Department on Friday for a new three-story commercial center at 211-02 Northern Blvd.
The new building will have 19,993 square feet of space with 66 parking spaces when completed, according to city filings.
About a block away from that development site, permits were issued last year for a two-story commercial plaza at 212-14 Northern Blvd., and renderings have been posted on the construction site. However, a partial stop work order exists on the property.
This building, designed by Victor K. Han Architect, will have 12,030 square feet of space and 40 parking spaces, including some underground.
Also, 209 Northern Property LLC has almost completed its two-story commercial building at 209-35 Northern Blvd.
That development will have 24,865 square feet and 84 spaces for parking, according to city records.
The borough’s diversity is being honored in a new photography exhibition coming to Bayside.
“Cultural Canopies,” curated by Vida Sabbaghi, will be opening Oct. 9 at the Courier/Mittman Gallery, located at 38-15 Bell Blvd.
The exhibition, inspired by Steven Hoelderich’s photography book “Cultural Canopies of Queens,” features images that display characterizations of Queens, including store canopies in different languages and in an array of colors. The photos also show the diverse stores found in the borough. Six photos from Hoelderich’s book are part of the exhibition.
Along with showing the urban landscape of Queens, organizers also invited photographers to exhibit photographs from throughout the tri-state area that could apply to all New Yorkers. For example, photographer Norma Colon took a photo of a person walking a dog in Brooklyn, looking to appeal to dog owners all throughout the city.
The contributing artists to the exhibition are Steven Hoelderich, Patricia Samuel, Leah Thornton, Norma Colon, Jason Mangual, Maeen Saleh and Linda Allen.
As a way to interact readers with the exhibition, there will be a photo contest with a prize of dinner for two provided by The Queens Courier.
To participate in the contest, submit a community-inspired photo with a description of no more than 50 words to email@example.com. The deadline for submission is Oct. 31.
The opening reception for “Cultural Canopies” will take place Oct. 9 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Only 337 schools across the country were awarded a Blue Ribbon this year. This status is designated “based on the school’s overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups,” according to the Department of Education’s official website. Both the Queens schools won because of their academic excellence.
The winning schools are given a plaque and flag as recognition of their National Blue Ribbon School status. The recognition ceremony honoring 287 public schools and 50 private schools will take place on Nov. 10 and 11 in Washington D.C.
“I still get emails from people in places like Minnesota telling me that they listen to my show because they’re from Queens,” Zarian said. “And that makes sense because if you or your parents came from another country, chances are you came through Queens and then went to other parts of the country.”
The most watched and downloaded show that Zarian produces is “What The Tech,” hosted by Paul Thurott. The show brings in about 30,000 live views and downloads a week.
“What The Tech,” like many of the other shows hosted by the GFQ Network, considers various issues in one-hour segments. The cameras live-recording are trained on the hosts throughout the show, switching intermittently to either a guest or a co-host.
Other shows tackle male-centric issues like baldness, comic books and pro wrestling, giving viewers the warm feeling that they’re watching a blend of “The Howard Stern Show” and “The Man Show.”
While Zarian still prefers live recordings, the podcast has transformed into an online network that brings in enough ad revenue to allow him to pay a dozen hosts, two producers, a full-time editor and a digital marketer, Zarian said.
Most of the shows are recorded and produced in Zarian’s home and on Thursdays he has a full house of radio hosts live recording their shows throughout the day.
“My house turns into a frat house on Thursday,” he said.
Zarian started the podcast with his friend Kunall Arora five years ago when Zarian lost his job. The two began live recording themselves online for a podcast that consisted of “observational humor and just yelling at each other,” Zarian said.
“I grew up listening to Howard Stern,” Zarian said. “This all started as a hobby but we’ve gotten much bigger since then and we have viewers all over the country. But we’re still the guys from Queens.”
The Parks Department closed Oakland Lake Park in Bayside last week to begin a huge one-year construction project. The project will include the installation of stone swales (similar to bioswales), cleaning the drainage system and planting new native wetland plants, according to the Parks Department.
The $2.5 million project’s aim is to improve water quality by reducing the amount of sewage water seeping into the lake during rainstorms, but some park-goers believe that closing the whole section of the park is a drastic move and it will leave many in the community at a loss for recreational activities.
Eugene Harris, a professor at Queensborough Community College, is skeptical about how necessary the changes are. Harris maintains a Queensborough nature blog devoted to the flora and fauna of the park.
The lake, which is part of the larger Alley Pond Park, borders the college and Harris said that many students and faculty visited the lake to escape the stress of academics. But since the city fenced off the 46-acre area until next fall, the public is restricted from using any part of it.
“It’s crazy that they’re caging in the entire lake,” Harris said. “I can’t see why they couldn’t do it in portions so that the public can at least enjoy part of it.”
A Parks Department spokeswoman said it is necessary to keep the park closed for public safety and so that contractors can work unhindered. The spokeswoman noted that closing a park for major construction like this is typical procedure.
The Parks Department announced the project in 2011.
The Bayside Medical Arts Center, anchored by a division of North Shore-LIJ for decades, has been listed for $9 million.
A member of the family firm C.B.R., LLC, which owns the building at 23-19 Bell Blvd. in Bay Terrace, plans to retire and another family member no longer wants to manage the building, according to Stephen Preuss of Massey Knakal, who is marketing the property.
Preuss added that the approximately 15,000-square-foot property would be a great investment as the offices are well-attended by many patients, the building is in great condition and the “tenancy is extremely strong.”
There are 12 units throughout the building and only one vacancy. There are also 20 parking spaces for patients and staff.
Other tenants in the building range from dentists to pediatricians and other medical specialists.
The building is located directly across from the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, which is home to large chains such as The Gap, Waldbaum’s, Barnes & Nobles, an AMC Loews Theater and Applebee’s, as well as local brands.
Members of the Bayside community urged Borough President Melinda Katz to uphold Community Board 11’s decision to remove a Star Toyota and Scion dealership from the area during a hearing Thursday morning.
“For 40 years, this business has been a bad neighbor,” a community board 11 member said. “There’s excess noise in the night and in the day. Unlicensed cars constantly speed through the neighborhood, blowing every stop sign.”
Katz didn’t make a decision during the meeting but she remained skeptical that the dealership was sincere about responding to the community’s complaints about broken sidewalks, trash and fixing the fence.
The dealership’s manager, Michael Koufakis, didn’t attend the meeting but his lawyer, Todd Dale, said that all of the issues that the community raised were addressed.
“When presented with these problems, we took care of it,” he said, referring to the broken sidewalks and fence and all of the trash in the area.
“I find that, as borough president, people clean up right before these meetings and then they go back to their bad habits afterwards,” Katz said.
According to Katz’s spokesman, the borough president will make a decision to either allow the variance to be renewed or echo Community Board 11′s decision. She plans on making her decision before the case goes to the Board of Appeals (BSA), the last stop before a final decision is made. The variance allows the business to operate in a residential zone as long as it cooperates with the community board.
Neighbors of the dealership hope that the BSA and Katz will reject the variance application.
Rennie Xosa lives behind the dealership’s parking lot. He, as well as community board members, said that the lot is used by the dealership to showcase cars to customers, an act that would be illegal under the business’ zoning rules.
“I have this beautiful backyard but I often can’t use it because there are people over there checking the car alarm system, honking the horn, testing how loud the radio goes and all of these other things that shouldn’t be going on there,” Xosa said. “I won’t let these people kick me out of my own neighborhood. I’m staying here and fighting them.”
Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $68,000 to contract The Doe Fund to clean up the streets, according to the councilman’s spokesman.
As part of the 2015 council budget, Vallone was given the money to spend on cleaning initiatives in Bayside and the surrounding neighborhoods within his council district, according to a spokesman for Vallone. And he plans on concentrating cleaning efforts on College Point Boulevard in College Point and Bell Boulevard in Bayside, where The Doe Fund will be charged with power washing the sidewalks, sweeping the sidewalks and replacing trash bins.
“Clean sidewalks and litter-free streets are a big part of our quality of life,” Vallone said. “The money allocated for The Doe Fund will go a long way to beautifying and maintaining College Point Boulevard and Bell Boulevard, two of the most important and widely used commercial strips in my district.“
According to Vallone’s spokesman, College Point Boulevard between 14th and 23rd avenues is in particular need of cleaning because of the stained, blackened sidewalks and the abundance of litter. Another spot that they will be concentrating on is Bell Boulevard between 35th Avenue to 45th Drive.
The Doe Fund’s street cleaning crews, made up of formerly homeless or recently incarcerated men, will start the cleaning job on Oct. 1 and continue until June 30, 2015. According to Vallone’s spokesman, there will be four workers covering the areas three days a week.
The Doe Fund’s presence is now in 10 Council districts in Queens, which is up from six in 2013. The increase in the crew’s services comes after the City Council approved $3.5 million for cleaning initiatives.
Vallone is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday, Sept. 22, to announce the cleaning initiative with Doe’s founder, George McDonald.
Community Board 11 unanimously refused to renew a zoning variance that allowed a Bayside Toyota dealership to operate in a residential area after neighbors complained.
Star Toyota and Scion has been operating on Northern Boulevard for 40 years with the variance, but locals want the dealership gone for being, according to one board member, a “bad neighbor.”
“The community wants them removed because they don’t respect us,” said board member Steven Behar. “It’s as simple as that.”
Residents complained that the dealership parked their cars on residential streets and illegally dumped garbage in the neighborhood.
As a requirement of the variance, the dealership must meet with the community board every 10 years so their business can be reviewed.
After reviewing the business this time, the board decided to act on the complaints and vote down the renewal.
There are two more steps in the process: Borough President Melinda Katz is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 18 and, if she supports the community board’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals will make a final decision.
“We’re hoping that with the new [mayoral] administration and a real show of community support, we can have the BSA do what’s right for the community,” Behar said. “We’ve tried to solve this with them but they wouldn’t work with us so now it’s come to this.”
But Michael Koufakis, the dealership’s manager, said he’s open to the community’s complaints.
“I’m here every day. If anyone has any concerns, they can call me and I’ll make a reasonable effort to resolve it,” he said. “We will be addressing some of the issues that came to our attention through the community board.”
Further west on Northern Boulevard, a Flushing real estate business attempted to remove a condition in a similar variance.
Paul Luciano, owner of Utopia Real Estate, asked Community Board 7 to remove a restriction contained in the variance that prevents the building’s owner from making any alterations without the board’s permission.
But the board voted to maintain its power over the business, which has been in Flushing since 1957, by keeping the conditions of the variance in place.
“They [the community board] just want to hold the power over us for no reason,” Luciano said.
But locals said they feared changes would alter the nature of the neighborhood.
“If we’re not careful, our area will start to look like Main Street,” resident Terri Pouymari said.
Victoria Schneps, publisher of The Queens Courier, participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at Christie & Co. Salon & Spa, at 23-64 Bell Blvd, in Bayside’s Bay Terrace Shopping Center on Friday afternoon.
A Bayside rabbi violated zoning rules by using his home as a synagogue, city officials said.
Jacob Hasis’ neighbors complained to the city that he was using his home as a synagogue, The Courier reported on Sept. 4.
A day later, the Department of Buildings (DOB) visited the home on 26th Avenue and found that Hasis was in violation of his certificate of occupancy by using the one-family home as a house of worship, according to city documents.
Hassis said that the DOB came to his home on a Friday evening while he was eating Shabbos dinner with his family and a few friends.
“They’re violating the privacy of my home and telling me what I can and can’t do,” Hasis said in response to the city’s findings. “We’re just a big family and we pray often. So this is illegal? I don’t understand why they’re targeting me.”
Hasis will have to appear before the Environmental Control Board.
He denied the accusations at the time and he still continues to deny the city’s findings.
“My family is 12 people and maybe another three or four of my friends come over to pray,” he said previously. “I don’t know why they were complaining.”
The Environmental Control Board scheduled a hearing on Sept. 21, according to Hasis, and he said that he plans on fighting the violation to get it dismissed.
The violation could be dropped if the DOB inspects his home a second time and they find that it is no longer being used as a synagogue, officials said.
A Bayside homeowner is being accused of using his home as an illegal synagogue, according to city records.
The Department of Buildings received a complaint that Jacob Hasis, a rabbi, is using his 26th Avenue residence as a house of worship, in violation of its certificate of occupancy as a residence, a spokesman said.
“This property has many past issues so we take the complaints very seriously,” the DOB spokesman said.
Hasis acknowledged that residents complained to him about loud noise coming from his home. But he said that people mistake his large family of 12 and a couple of friends who come over for religious reasons as a synagogue.
“My family is 12 people and maybe another three or four of my friends come over to pray,” he said. “I don’t know why they were complaining.”
But in a flier that Hasis made, he invites “the whole community” to “Rabbi Yaakov’s shul for the high holidays service,” although the flier does say there is “limited space available” in the single-family home.
Hasis has a history of constructing additions to his home “illegally” and has paid $1,200 in fines to the city in regard to the property, according to the DOB spokesman.
The home also has three open violations relating to construction without the proper work permits. This construction includes creating entry doors for the cellar, two of which the DOB has deemed “immediately hazardous.”
The front yard of the house is filled with bricks, wheel barrels for cement and an abundance of wood.
Community Board 11 and state Sen. Tony Avella’s office have also received complaints about the building.
A spokesman for Avella said that the office was aware of the complaints and that they were in the process of trying to figure out the situation.
Harvey Beringer, who lives near the alleged synagogue, said he tried to complain to the community board, but someone had beaten him to it.
“When I called the community board, they said they had a complaint already about it being used as a synagogue,” he said.
The DOB plans on inspecting the property within the next 60 days, according to its spokesman.
As a new school year starts, students at a Bayside elementary school will find their school shrouded in scaffolding and mesh for a building project that doesn’t yet exist, according to city officials.
The city put the scaffolding up last school year at P.S. 162, according to a DOE spokeswoman, who said the project is still in its planning stage and designs for the project haven’t been made.
“This is really depressing for the children who are just going back to school and they have to go through this ominous entrance now,” said Beatrice Gallagher, who lives near the school. “Why has no work been done but they have the scaffolding up? That’s their job and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing for us.”
The K-5 school, which was built in 1936, was chosen for an “exterior modernization project” that would replace and repair the roof, parapets, windows and exterior masonry.
The DOE spokeswoman said the scaffolding was erected for safety reasons even though the school is “safe” with no danger of falling bricks or debris.
The city doesn’t have an estimated completion date — or estimated start date — and the school declined to comment.