Tag Archives: Bayside

Real-life ‘escape room’ to open on Bell Boulevard in Bayside

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Christopher Bride

Now you can be the main character in your very own adventurous escape.

Bayside will be getting its very first real-life, themed “escape room” with the arrival of Challenge Escape Rooms on June 19.

New York City schoolteacher Chris Purcell and his wife, Janice Galizia, a psychologist with experience being involved in live theater, decided to open Challenge Escape Rooms on 40-18 Bell Blvd. after experiencing one for the first time only two months ago.

Galizia’s sister, Lauren, is one of the owners of their unique enterprise, and all three design the fantasy challenge themselves. A place in one of the rooms can be booked at www.challengeescaperooms.com or by calling 516-888-0202, and for a limited time customers can use promo code “CHALLENGE” when booking online for 25 percent off the admittance fee.

Escape rooms were popularized in Europe and Asia, with one company from Japan claiming to have been the first to open one in 2007. While the United States has only recently seen escape rooms gain popularity on its shores, they have quickly proliferated to become a trendy weekend activity for couples and groups of friends.

Purcell said that being trapped together in an impossible situation can be a great team-building exercise for different groups of people, even strangers.

“You come out of it bonded by what you went through,” said Purcell. “Whether you win or lose, no matter what the result is, it focuses on collaborating with your friends, family, strangers, to figure out this challenge.”


Star of Queens: Debbie McCrorie, volunteer for St. Robert Bellarmine and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


BACKGROUND: Debbie McCrorie is a Bayside resident and volunteer at St. Robert Bellarmine and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy since 2000. She runs fundraising events like the Msgr. John B. Lavin Golf & Tennis Outing and the annual Sweetheart Dance. She recently was awarded a lifetime achievement award for her dedication to the school.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: McCrorie assists the board of directors of Divine Wisdom in running fundraising events. She helps to raise money to drive down the cost of tuition for families. Her roles have included office assistant, class mom, president of the Home School Association, and former coordinator for the St. Bellarmine Parish Youth Group.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Having my son go through Catholic education and watching the children receive the education that they are with the Catholic background. [With] Catholic education, the children get such a great set of morals and they are like a family. In the school, the kids, they look out for each other and my son, my school, St. Roberts and it’s just a whole different set of morals that I think is very important and I help with that.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I volunteer a lot and I think my biggest challenge is continuing to do what I do and keeping my health in check. My [other] biggest challenge is to meet our financial goals every year and I help the board of directors with their fundraising and my biggest challenge is meeting that number at the end of every year.”

INSPIRATION: “Other than my son, [someone else who inspires me is] Pastor Geraghty. He is a wonderful pastor and he is such a wonderful man. He takes care of his school community, his church community and I have to say that he is a wonderful inspiration to everyone, the children, the parishioners, everyone.”


Op-Ed: Not all nail salons are equal

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It’s been a long time in coming, but finally, the city and state are working to enforce codes for the nail salon industry.

As the owner of an award-winning luxury salon in business for 44 years in Bayside, I welcome these changes because many others involved in the industry have exploited cheap labor and bent the rules to make a profit.

Our salon employs qualified manicurists (now referred to as nail technicians) to service our clients. New York State requires a license to perform nail and waxing services.

Full-service salons had difficulty finding qualified nail technicians and also found itself competing with smaller nail salons that sprang up across Queens offering cheaper prices for all kinds of nail services. These salons employ unskilled and unlicensed workers.

The beauty industry faced the difficulty of language barriers in finding employees. We have hired a manager fluent in Korean who has helped us attract and train nail technicians for our business.

The nail salon industry today is a billion-dollar business, but questions abound as to who is working at these salons. Who trains them? Are they licensed? Where do the salons hire them? How are they paid?

Recent reports have revealed that many of these small nail salons with workers being paid in cash and kept off the books are denied any kind of benefits and forced to work long hours. Our business abides by the rules; we pay our taxes, as do our employees, and give our employees wages well above the minimum as well as paid vacations, training, health care and retirement benefits, and are provided sterilized tools – all of which I believe these workers are entitled to and deserve.

I do not believe employees should be forced to work more than a 40-hour week. In my opinion, that is an unfair business practice.

Before getting any service, my advice to customers is to ask to see all of a salon’s licenses and sterilized equipment. If a customer goes to a salon offering a $15 mani/pedi, they should probably assume they are receiving services from underpaid, exploited workers.

There are many salons in Queens offering very high-end, excellent services. Regardless of the culture of salon operators and employees, all businesses must operate under the same laws to make salons safe for clients and competitive. We must all pay our taxes and follow state regulations.

Christie is the president and hair color director of Christie & Co. Salon in Bayside.


Bayside brothers look to ‘bee’ a spelling dynasty

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel / File photo

Being a spelling master seems to be hereditary for Srinath Mahankali of Bayside.

Mahankali, a sixth-grader at Bayside’s Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74, is one of 285 spellers set to compete in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Although this is his first year qualifying for the bee, the 11-year-old Mahankali has already seen what it takes to be a winner. His older brother, Arvind, gained national attention after winning the championship in his third time competing in 2013, and Srinath was part of the process by helping him study.

In person, the younger Mahankali radiates a maturity far beyond his age. He thanks the principal, assistant principal and students at his school for supporting him throughout the regional spelling bee process and the newfound attention he has been getting from the outside world, which he tries not to let get to his head.

“I just want to feel normal,” Srinath said. “I’m not feeling shy, but I am proud of winning the regional spelling bee.”

And he doesn’t compare himself to his brother Arvind, now a 10th-grader at Stuyvesant High School. “I’m not looking at this as a competitive thing,” Srinath said. “He did inspire me to do this.”

The parents of the boys are both employed in professions involving science and technology —mother Bhavani Mahankali is a physician and father Srinivas Mahankali is in the software industry. Srinivas said that his sons are self-motivated to pursue academic prestige even outside of high-profile competitions.

“Both the children made us really proud but the spelling bee is not an end in itself,” Srinivas Mahankali said. “It’s a lifelong thing. It’s a part of the biggest picture.”

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Srinath Mahankali is not the only Queens student gearing up to take part in the bee. Sai Chandrasekhar, a Flushing teenager and an eighth-grader at Hunter College High School in Manhattan, will also be competing for the second time. She said that even though this is her last chance to take home the trophy, she is much more calm this year and feels proud of how much she has already accomplished at the young age of 13.

“It is my last chance but I’m not really that nervous,” Chandrasekhar said. “I’ve done a lot over the past few years, and I’m just going to do my best, and give it my best shot.”

In describing her pre-competition process, Chandrasekhar said that she does not try to cram more words into her head, but instead focuses on relaxing activities to stay stress-free.

The Championship Finals of the Scripps Spelling Bee will air on on May 28 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.


Mixed-use Bayside buildings sell for record value due to rising demand

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield  

Filled with bars, shops and a wide variety of restaurants, Bell Boulevard is the main commercial strip in Bayside.

The thoroughfare is serviced by buses and the Bayside LIRR station on the boulevard, which brings high foot traffic to the area.

For these reasons, and partly because of a spillover from nearby Flushing due to lack of inventory, rising demand for real estate on the Bayside commercial strip is leading to sale prices well above past averages.

In fact, the two attached mixed-use buildings at 39-32 and 39-34 Bell Blvd. recently sold for $3.8 million, which equates to about $731 per square foot and is a record for a residential and commercial mixed-use building sold in Bayside, according to broker Cushman & Wakefield.

“The package provides great upside for the investor in an area that is continuing to see an abundance of attention in the real estate world,” said Cushman & Wakefield’s Stephen Preuss, who handled the transaction for the seller.

In 2012, commercial real estate was selling for an average of $550 per square foot on Bell Boulevard and as much as $600 for top properties. Last year, the average rose to $615 per square foot, according to Preuss.

The two buildings at 39-32 and 39-34 Bell Blvd. have 5,200 square feet of space, in which there are four residential units and two ground-floor retail spaces.

As a side note, one of the retail tenants, Il Vesuvio Pizzeria, is moving a few doors down to the location of the former Okinawa restaurant and expanding to include a bar, restaurant and pizzeria.

Il Vesuvio is also changing its name to Il Borgo and is expected to open in the coming weeks.


Forest Hills residents fighting to keep local Barnes & Noble open

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Support to save the Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills is growing.

Local preservationist Michael Perlman started a petition to save the bookstore on Change.org on May 15, the same day the news broke that the Barnes & Noble may not renew its lease at 70-00 Austin St., which expires in January.

The petition has already attracted more than 2,850 signatures as of the writing of this article. It hopes to attract 5,000 signatures, which will be sent to elected officials, Barnes & Noble and Muss Development, the landlord of the building.

The troubled bookstore has already closed its Fresh Meadows branch near St. John’s University, and if the Forest Hills location is shuttered, the only Barnes & Noble in Queens will be the one in Bayside. Perlman emphasized the need to keep the Forest Hills branch open to the community in the petition.

“At the request of the community, [Barnes & Noble’s] lease needs to be renewed to the benefit of current and future generations,” Perlman said in the petition description. “This is a store where multi-generational patrons have the opportunity to explore various genres under one roof, feel as if they are traveling around the world and through time, and interact with the physical nature of books in a welcoming and friendly environment.”

Currently Muss Development and Barnes & Noble are still negotiating the lease renewal for the 22,000-square-foot space, where the bookstore has been for more than 20 years.

The problem began after the bookseller declined to extend its lease five more years. Barnes & Noble wants to remain at the location but “at rates very close to what we are currently paying,” said David Deason, vice president of development at the bookseller.

Muss Development agrees that they are hoping to find a solution, but COO Jeff Kay said he has not heard an alternate pitch from the bookstore after they declined the five-year extension, and they have been collecting interest for the space.

“We would like to retain Barnes & Noble as a long-term tenant. If they are interested, we will work with them to come up with a reasonable solution,” Kay said. “Every major national retailer in the U.S. is attending the ICSC meeting in Las Vegas right now. We are there, meeting with several of them who are interested in leasing the space.”

To sign the petition, click here.


Forest Hills Barnes & Noble may close, leaving just one branch in Queens

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated 3:10 p.m.

Bookseller Barnes & Noble could shutter one of its two remaining locations in Queens if it doesn’t renew its lease.

The 22,000-square-foot location at 70-00 Austin St. in Forest Hills, which has been there for more than 20 years, may close when its lease expires in January. The bookstore declined to extend its lease five more years at the location, according to representatives of landlord Muss Development.

If it does close, the once-prominent bookstore chain will have just one location in Queens, which is in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in Bayside. Last year, the company closed its Fresh Meadows branch near to St. John’s University.

Representatives for the firm said they are hoping to keep the Forest Hills location open.

“We’re having current discussions with the property owner regarding an extension of lease at Forest Hills,” said David Deason, vice president of development at Barnes & Noble. “We have clearly and consistently communicated to the property owner that we would extend long term, but at rents very close to what we are currently paying. We have been in business there for over 20 years, and hope that we can come to terms that are acceptable to both parties.”

However, an executive from Muss Development, which is prepared to put the space on the market, confirmed to The Courier that they have not received word from Barnes & Noble representatives that they want to sign a new long-term lease or even a one-year extension.

“I would love to keep Barnes & Noble if they have an interest in a long-term deal,” said Jeff Kay, COO of Muss Development. “We got no indication from them that they want to stay long term.”


LIRR train fatally strikes woman near Bayside station

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A 41-year-old woman was struck and killed by a Long Island Rail Road train just west of the Bayside station Wednesday night, according to the MTA.

The woman, who wasn’t immediately identified, was hit by an eastbound train at about 11:30 p.m. as it was about to pull into the stop near Bell Boulevard, an LIRR spokesman said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what she was doing on the tracks.

The incident suspended service on the Port Washington line until 1:45 a.m.


Congresswoman Meng pushes for EPA action on airplane noise

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Congresswoman Grace Meng has reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to push for an increase in the agency’s efforts to control noise pollution from airplanes and helicopters.

Residents from Bayside, Flushing and surrounding neighborhoods have reported daily disruption from roaring, low-flying planes since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a route change in December 2012 that affected departing LaGuardia Airport traffic.

The new routes adhere to a required three-mile separation between planes coming into John F. Kennedy International Airport and planes taking off from LaGuardia Airport while using a new, precise navigation method.

Meng appealed to the EPA because the agency has the authority to investigate and study noise and its effect and respond to inquiries on matters related to noise under the federal Noise Control Act of 1972. The congresswoman charged that the FAA did not have the resources to properly improve the situation in north Queens, and that a lack of coordination between the aviation authority and airport operators is detrimental to any possible progress.

“[In] order to properly protect human health and the environment from excessive noise, the EPA must fully include flight noise in its jurisdiction,” Meng said. “I have no doubt that its involvement is the best way forward to coordinate the efforts of air carriers, the FAA and airport operators.”

In response to the outcry from the community after the route change, in March 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to double its sound monitors and create an office to address soaring noise complaints.

As part of the ongoing study, the Port Authority has since collected reports in an online noise complaint management system powered by PlaneNoise, an aviation noise consultancy specializing in airport noise complaint management solutions.


Bayside’s P.S. 46 finds success with traffic safety initiative

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

There won’t be any more morning road rage for parents at Bayside’s P.S. 46.

The School Leadership Team of P.S. 46 began restricting street access for non-residents on 218th Street between 64th and 67th avenues in an effort to reduce dangerous traffic congestion. Cones are placed between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. to only allow one-way traffic from 67th Avenue, and the street is blocked on both sides from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m., and parents must find parking in surrounding areas and walk to the school after student dismissal.

On Tuesday, the second day of the school partially blocking street access for morning drop-off, not even one parent seemed to mind the potential inconveniences of the safety initiative.

Parents lined up patiently down the street as school staff, parent volunteers and student council members escorted children from their family vehicles into the school for early morning breakfast.

“This is what happens when the community gets together and makes a decision,” said P.S. 46 principal Stamo Karalazarides. “It’s nice to see that it’s a very collaborative effort.”

Everyone agreed that the new system was better than the previous one, with parents sometimes triple-parking in a row and the 111th Precinct regularly called to issue citations. Children no more than 10 years old would often have to navigate the traffic alone as their caretakers rushed to quickly find space for their cars.

“This is the best situation out of this whole ordeal because it was a nightmare coming to school,” said Linda Ray, who was dropping off her grandchildren. “They don’t even look, they just pull out. It was just chaotic.”

Jeremy Hilaire, a fourth-grader in the student council, took part in the safety initiative to reduce the risk of accidents and prevent younger children from running into the street as before.

“I’m helping out by causing less traffic so that kids will be safer,” said Hilaire.

Fifth-grader Emmi Lu, president of the student council, said that helping out with community safety was a fun way to set a good example for other children.

“You can help them shape into leaders and they can make a change in the world,” said Lu.


Bayside Little League team continues hot streak

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Team Duce

The big bats of Team Duce showed up as they continued their unbeaten streak with a big interleague win over E2 on Saturday.

Charlie Blair, Team Duce’s starting pitcher, not only earned his sixth victory of the season, but also had a three-run homerun and drove in four runs. Tanner Fried continued his hot hitting, going 4-4 on the afternoon with a three-run homerun and a grand slam.

George Diamantopoulos, the cleanup hitter in the lineup, had a double, a single and drove in three runs. Rafael Rufrano and Aris Catehis got on base all six times they got up.

David Castracane got on base in a different way. He reached base twice, both times by getting hit with pitches. Castracane brushed off the pain by scoring a run for his team. The catcher, Bobby Fretwell, threw out a runner who was trying to leg a double into a triple. Fretwell also had a big double in the fourth inning.

Costa Bournias came in to relieve Blair, and was brilliant, striking out five out of the six batters he faced.  Derek McCreesh relieved Bournias and was lights out – striking out the two only batters he opposed. Tino Famiglietti relieved McCreesh in the last inning and recorded the save, pitching a scoreless sixth inning.

The player of the game was John Archbold, who got two huge hits, drove in the winning run and struck out three in a middle relief appearance.

Team Duce is now 6-0 on the season. Their next games are Thursday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Both are at Valle West, which is part of Crocheron Park in Bayside.


Bayside Jewish Center to be converted to high school

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Vallone's office

The School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center and transform it into a new public high school, according to Councilman Paul Vallone.

The new school will go a long way toward solving the issue of overcrowding in District 26 schools, which are at 130 percent capacity and currently short more than 3,400 seats. The new school is set to alleviate around 25 percent of that gap.

Vallone said that he is going to work with residents to lessen the impact that a new school would have on their everyday lives, including potential effects on parking availability and local traffic concerns.

“What is critical now is making sure that the community and community board are involved in every step of the way and that we work closely with the SCA to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” Vallone said.

The SCA has stated that an Environmental Impact Study will soon begin at the site. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an Environmental Impact Study is done to assess significant environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment.

A public review process will be conducted after the study is completed, and then it will come to a vote before the entire City Council.

The Bayside Jewish Center has been at its current location at 32nd Avenue since 1960 and has seen the number of members in its congregation sharply drop in recent years. The center had an estimated congregation of 150 people in 2012 from 250 families a little over a decade before.

The proportion of Jewish households in northeast Queens plummeted by half from 1991 to 2001, from 44 percent of the population down to 22 percent a decade later, according to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study.


Bayside’s P.S. 46 beginning measures to reduce local traffic

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The P.S. 46 school community in Bayside is literally putting up a roadblock during arrival and dismissal times to make it safer for children traveling to and from class.

The School Leadership Team of P.S. 46 will begin to block access for non-residents on 218th Street between 64th and 67th avenues in an effort to reduce dangerous traffic congestion.

Cones will be placed on 218th Street between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. to only allow one-way traffic from 67th Avenue, and parent volunteers and P.S. 46 staff will be waiting during this hour to escort children from each car. Traffic will again be blocked off to non-residents from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m., but parents will need to find parking in surrounding areas to walk to the school after student dismissal.

The street safety initiative is the first effort in P.S. 46’s Project Lifesaver, a collaboration from the school leadership team of staff and parents to make sure children stay safe.

“They didn’t want to wait for an accident,” said P.S. 46 Principal Stamo Karalazarides. “We wanted to be proactive and not reactive, and ensure the safety of our children.”

The 111th Precinct required the school to notify residents of their plan in order to legally block off the street to drivers. The proposal was well received by the community anticipating an alleviation of traffic, according to Karalazarides.

People living on the two-way street had regularly complained of P.S. 46Q parents blocking their entranceways and sometimes even parking inside private driveways while they wait for students to be dismissed.

According to Karalazarides, there are no additional steps planned for Project Lifesaver yet but the school would be open to expanding the initiative if other safety concerns arise.

“If this takes on a life of it’s own we’re open to that, because safety is our first priority,” Karalazarides said.


Potential for development and commercial property values rising in Bayside

| stephen.preuss@cushwake.com

Photo courtesy Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

Stephen Preuss is a vice president at Cushman & Wakefield who focuses on the Queens market.

Last year, we discussed the Flushing market driving expansion outwards to the surrounding areas of Flushing.

Not only retail but also development potential has been slowly making its way to other territories. The lack of inventory and constant high demand in the Flushing area has forced investors to expand their area of interest. Since 2012, the cost of retail and commercial property has been gradually rising throughout Queens, most recently in the highly trafficked areas of Bayside.

In 2012, we saw commercial properties including retail and mixed-use selling for an average of $550 per square foot with prime properties on Bell Boulevard selling in the higher range of $600 and secondary areas selling in the $320 range – the same could go for 2013.

In 2014, we started to see the demand for Bayside commercial real estate rising. Prime retail sold at an average of $615 per square foot, a 12 percent increase from 2012. We sold a mixed retail and office building at 39-26 Bell Blvd. for $737 per square foot in 2014, 34 percent above the average for 2012 and 2013. We also currently have a package of mixed-use buildings under contract on Bell Boulevard at over $700 per square foot and a 4.8 percent cap rate.

We have been seeing recently that the awareness of Bayside’s potential has greatly increased with investors. Bayside offers a wide range of opportunity including tremendous development potential on Northern Boulevard as well as Bell Boulevard. Numerous sales within the past year have been transacted with the intentions of redevelopment. For example, 42-21 through 42-29 Bell Blvd., a nine-unit, mixed-use retail strip with multiple credit tenants, sold for $645 per square foot at a 3.98 percent cap with existing income. From a development standpoint, the property can be built up to 28,220 square feet which is an additional 17,510 square feet on the existing building.

We expect to see the action continue in Bayside through 2015 and the coming years.  A large amount of the territory in Bayside has been untapped and holds great potential for development and could lead to a growth in real estate investors, developers and major retail tenants.

Stephen Preuss

Stephen Preuss



Bayside Little League’s Team Duce remains undefeated with big win

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Team Duce.

Team Duce, which is part of the Texas Division of Bayside Little League, continued their winning streak on Saturday and improved their record to 4-0 when they defeated team divisional rival W7.

Tanner Fried hit for the cycle, drove in eight RBIs and earned his nickname “The Sandman” by closing the game with a scoreless sixth inning. He was named the player of the game for his stellar performance.

Charlie Blair, the starting pitcher, earned the win and brought his record to a perfect 4-0. Derek McCreesh came in to relieve Blair and struck out five batters in the relief effort. Bobby Fretwell came in for McCreesh and earned his first strikeout of the season.

Tino Famiglietti made a tremendous play in the outfield by throwing out a runner at second. George Diamantopoulos played great at first base and hit for two doubles.

John Archbold and Rafael Rufrano both played catcher and got on base a combined six times. Costa Bournias got on base three times and also scored three runs.

Duce looks to remain undefeated when they take the field this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Valley West Field, located in Crocheron Park.