Tag Archives: Borough President Helen Marshall

Bowne House restoration breaks ground


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Parks Department

Officials broke ground last week on a $3.2 million project to preserve a historic Flushing gem.

A 17th century symbol of religious freedom, the Bowne House will get a new roof, gutters, pipes, wood wall shingles and steel columns, among other exterior restorations.

“The Bowne House helped to shape our history and now it is time for us to take care of its future for a new generation,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who helped secure part of its funding.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the site is a symbol of tolerance and diversity.

It was built in the 1660s by John Bowne and used for Quaker meetings when religious diversity was forbidden by law.

The city-landmarked house closed for restoration this spring.

“The house is both historically and architecturally significant,” said Historic House Trust executive director Franklin Vagnone, “and this restoration will ensure it is preserved for the thousands of visitors and school children who will visit the house each year.”

Renovations are expected to be complete by the end of the year, a Parks spokesperson said.

However, officials are yet to determine the time frame for interior construction including strengthening the first-floor framing.

 

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Flushing Meadows gets new volleyball courts


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The largest park in Queens now has five new volleyball courts thanks to an assist from the borough president.

“Who would have thought that Flushing Meadows, once a swamp and an ash dump, is now a flagship park in Queens,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who paid for the $450,000 project with capital discretionary funding.

The concrete courts, meant to keep players off the park’s grassy landscape, are the first of their kind on the eastern side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, officials said. Benches and handicapped-accessible paths were also installed near the nets.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski joined Marshall, Parks officials and volunteers at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday to play the inaugural game.

Nearly $89 million in capital improvements have been made to the park, the fourth largest in the city, since 2002, officials said. New additions include a dock, renovated boathouse and rain gardens.

 

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57 NYPD surveillance cameras to be installed around Queens


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Media Group

Smile, criminals. You’re on camera.

Borough President Helen Marshall has allocated $2 million to install NYPD surveillance cameras in 57 locations throughout Queens to help fight crime.

“These new cameras will give police more eyes on the street,” Marshall said. “They will be a fantastic deterrent to crime and greatly help our police to solve crimes and apprehend offenders. After all, the camera doesn’t lie!”

In announcing the initiative, Marshall noted the role of cameras in finding suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. She said she hopes the extra surveillance will help reduce gun violence in the borough.

The Argus cameras, funded through the Fiscal Year 2013 Capital Budget, are expected to be installed within the next 12 months.

NYPD officials selected the future camera locations. The placements are based not only on crime data, but also on other factors such as the best spot for viewing and counterterrorism risk assessment, according to a borough president spokesperson. When factoring in crime data, violent offenses were given top consideration.

The cameras will be installed in 11 of Queens’ 16 precincts, including eight along Roosevelt Avenue.

Locals had mixed opinions about Argus.

“I’ve been living here for several years now and I think crime is getting worse, so I think the cameras are a good idea,” said Maevis Trenton. “It’s not safe to walk around late at night anymore, and if people knew they were being watched maybe they would think twice before doing something stupid.”

“Compared to other parts of the city, I think it’s pretty safe here,” said Jordan Brown. “I don’t think the cameras are necessary in this neighborhood, but [...] I don’t have anything against the idea either.”

Maqueda Tate was wary of the extra surveillance.

“I don’t think it’s right for the police to be watching us all the time,” she said. “I understand that it’s for our own safety, but I don’t think there needs to be so many cameras getting installed.”

-With additional reporting by Johann Hamilton

 

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Mayor’s budget could cut Borough President staff by half


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Half the staff at Borough Hall could get pink slips if cuts proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg go through.

Borough President Helen Marshall’s office is expected to receive about $3.14 million in funding for the 2014 fiscal year—nearly $1.8 million less than last year—officials announced at Marshall’s Borough Board meeting on Monday, May 13.

If the budget is approved, the cuts will result in half the staff’s dismissal, according to Chief of Staff Alexandra Rosa.

There were roughly 88 employees when Marshall was first elected in 2002, according to spokesperson Dan Andrews. If this year’s cuts go through, the current staff of 54 could be reduced to fewer than 30.

“This has somehow become a discretionary item,” Rosa said. “Funding for the borough president’s office should not be a discretionary item.”

Marshall said she is concerned over many of the cuts proposed in Bloomberg’s budget, particularly to her staff and to after school programs.

“We have to justify everything we ask for,” she said. “Our responsibility is to spend the people’s money.

We’ve got to spend it carefully and we have got to make sure that it’s going to really help our people. And that’s what we do.”

Cuts to discretionary funds would also result in the reduction or elimination of services to the elderly and the disabled. Five senior centers would have to close, according to Marshall’s office.

The facilities include the Kew Gardens Senior Center, the Forest Park Senior Center in Woodhaven, the SAGE/Queens Senior Center in Jackson Heights, the Korean American Senior Center of Flushing and the LeFrak Senior Center in Elmhurst.

Andrews said the borough president’s office was still performing the same functions it did in 1989, when its role was last updated in the City Charter, but with a significantly smaller staff.

“We are not a city agency,” he said. “We are the office of an elected official with charter-mandated responsibilities.”

 

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Queensbridge Park Seawall restoration breaks ground


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

Local officials, community groups and residents gathered to break ground on the restoration and improvement of the Queensbridge Park Seawall last week.

Along with reconstructing the seawall, the $6.65 million project will include a six-foot wide waterfront promenade with benches and plants as well as a small pier at the north end.

“The much-anticipated repair of the Queensbridge Park Seawall will provide additional storm protection for the Long Island City community, while also improving their access to the waterfront,” Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White said during the Friday, May 10 event.

The seawall protected Queensbridge Park in Long Island City from high tides and covered some of the mechanisms and underwater cables that keep a number of subway lines in order. It is currently blocked off by a chain-linked fence due to deterioration.

“For too long, the only view of this waterfront has been through a chain-linked fence,” said Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. “Queensbridge Park will now be a gateway to the waterfront instead of a dead end.”

Restoring the seawall will serve recreational purposes for residents. It is also designed to guard against natural disasters such as Sandy.

The project, managed by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, will reconstruct the seawall using large rocks. They will protect the shoreline by absorbing and deflecting waves while lessening the effect of erosion, the Parks Department said.

The restoration and improvement is funded through allocations from Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Helen Marshall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the MTA.

“The project will make this area safer, greener and more attractive while providing more protection from storm damage in the event of another hard-hitting superstorm like Sandy,” Marshall said during the event.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of the project as we look forward to its completion.”

 

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Officials to fight Queens Library cuts


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s executive budget includes $100 million in cuts to libraries across all five boroughs, slashing $29.6 million from Queens libraries alone.

“If that proposal were to become reality, the impact [is] unthinkable,” said Thomas Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library.

The cut marks a 35-percent decrease from current funding, will cause 428 layoffs, close over half of Queens Library locations and slash weekly hours from 40 to 21.

“The proposed cut is enormous,” Galante said.

Advocates tout the library as a sanctuary for quiet reading, research and computer use along with opportunities to sharpen job skills. With the proposed cuts, 1.9 million children and teen visitors will lose library access after school and during vacation time, and 28,000 job seekers will lose access to help with job searches, resume writing and interview skills, according to Queens Library.

“These cuts, if they do take place, would be devastating,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “But we still have a little time left. We haven’t given up yet.”

However, Marshall said that even if the cuts are restored, there will still be no enhancements for library programs.
Galante said there needs to be a stable funding stream for the future. Additionally, for services to remain as per usual, libraries must stay open at least five days a week.

Visit www.savequeenslibrary.org to sign the electronic petition. You can also email your elected representative to help.

“You need your library,” said Galante. “Right now, your library needs you.”

 

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Borough President backs National Tennis Center expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Borough President Helen Marshall is recommending the city and state go forward with proposed expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Marshall’s Borough Board was one councilmember short at the Monday, April 8 meeting to take a vote, thus forcing her to give her ultimate “yes” recommendation.

“While the Borough Board is not voting tonight,” Marshal said. “I am submitting my formal recommendation later this week. And I can tell you that I am insisting that any alienated parkland must be replaced.”

During the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the six voting Community Boards were split on the project. The three voting Community Boards that voted yes attached conditions mainly focused on the US Tennis Association being part of a conservancy for the park.

The plan, if approved next by the City Council and the state legislature, could begin this fall, according to USTA officials. Roughly 800 full-time construction jobs are expected for Queens workers over the six-year construction period.

While the project will only eat up about 0.68 acres of green space to the south of the Tennis Center, USTA has now promised to replace that land.

Danny Zausner, chief operating officer at the USTA, said lowering the southern border would ease foot traffic during the US Open. The relocated connector road, currently on the property leased to USTA, would now include sidewalks if the plan is approved.

Expansion at the tennis center and USTA’s community outreach have been questioned by some, however.

Councilmember Peter Koo, one of four city lawmakers at the meeting, told Zausner that small business owners in the past said they were rejected when trying to work with USTA to drive tennis fans into Flushing during the US Open.

Zausner, addressing Koo’s questions, said the association had worked with local businesses in surrounding neighborhoods, including Corona and Flushing, and had seen productive economic revenue to those areas.

But while there had been success, with Zausner pointing to the Sheraton LaGuardia East in Downtown Flushing, he said the USTA could further dialogue with more business owners.

“They [patrons] come for the day session, they run out for dinner either on the Corona side or the Flushing side, and then they come back for the night session,” Zausner said after the meeting. “As I mentioned to the councilmember, I think we’re doing a lot already but there’s no question we could be doing more.”

Borough President Helen Marshall delivers her remarks on expansion at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen)

 

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SculptureCenter expansion breaks ground


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of SculptureCenter/Andrew Berman Architect

Artists and audiences alike will soon have more space at the SculptureCenter in Long Island City.

On Tuesday, April 2, Sascha Bauer, chair of the center’s board of trustees; Mary Ceruti, executive director and chief curator; Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Kate Levin, commissioner for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, broke ground on the expansion that will include a 2,000-square-foot addition to the structure that has been standing since 1908.

(THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)

“We’re really proud to be a part of this really great community in Long Island City and I think this expansion furthers our commitment to the neighborhood,” said Ceruti. “We’re really here for the long haul.”

The front half of the outdoor lot, which the center already uses for outdoor exhibitions, will become a one-story building that will house an entrance lobby providing guests with ticketing, orientation and different visitor services such as restrooms, a seating area and coatroom.

“It will allow us to better serve our audiences and improve the visitors’ flow,” said Ceruti. “It will create a more visible street presence for us.”

Along with the lobby, the finished facility will include an elevator and stairway to the lower level galleries, a 1,500-square-foot enclosed courtyard to be used for outdoor exhibitions and events, some upgrades to electrical and mechanical systems and improvements in office and storage space.

“When the work is completed, the new space will provide the SculptureCenter the opportunity to expand their audience and serve more artists,” said Marshall.

The expansion project was designed by Andrew Berman Architect who has designed projects for The New York Public Library and MoMA PS1. The addition will maintain the steel and brick structure of the present building, yet will create a street presence “through the introduction of a limited vocabulary of new materials including plywood and Corten steel.”

The project is expected to be completed by fall of 2014 with exhibitions still remaining open throughout the construction period, with some changes in the schedule.

In addition, the “Building SculptureCenter Campaign” will provide $4.5 million in building funds and $1.5 million in working capital and term endowment to “position the organization to play a defining role in the neighborhood and contemporary art field far into the 21st century.”

The SculptureCenter moved to the former trolley repair shop in 2002 and has since then presented works by over 700 artists.

 

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Borough President candidates making the rounds


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BP candidates

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Borough President candidates are blazing through Queens, participating in forums and allowing the community to hear their positions.

The six Democrats hoping to replace current Borough President Helen Marshall most recently gathered at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows and attended the Ridgewood Democratic Club’s monthly meeting.

State Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta joined City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, former Assembly and Councilmember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik to speak to members of several Democratic clubs across Queens.

In Fresh Meadows, discussion of mayoral control of the Board of Education (BOE) dominated the forum.
Grodenchik said he has mixed feelings towards the issue, but he wants to “bring some measure of control back to the boroughs.”

The controversy surrounding development of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was also heavily debated. Peralta said he in favor of the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, but would ensure that the park space used not only has to be replaced, but improved.

“It has to be better,” he said, calling soccer “the sport of the world.”

Despite his support for the stadium, he is opposed to the proposed plans for a shopping mall and an expansion of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) center.

Vallone said that he wanted to eliminate overexpansion in the park and bring it to areas in the borough that are “yearning for that kind of development.”

Avella, however, said he is the only candidate that is steadfastly against all three proposals for development.

All of the candidates will continue to campaign and participate in forums across Queens until election day on

Tuesday, November 5. The next forum will be held at St. John’s University on Friday, April 12.

 

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Queens Museum of Art to change name, expand


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Grimshaw and the Queens Museum of Art

The Queens Museum of Art (QMA) is getting a major makeover. This fall, the international art space will double in size and shorten its name.

“This is a time of tremendous change for the Queens Museum,” said executive director Tom Finkelpearl.

Come October, the institution will total 105,000-square-feet. It will have new galleries, artist studios, flexible public and special event spaces, classrooms, a new café, back-of-house facilities and improved visitor amenities. Instead of QMA, it will be known simply as the Queens Museum.

Additionally, the west façade facing Grand Central Parkway has been completely redesigned with a new entrance and drop-off plaza, as well as a tremendous glass wall easily visible from the roadway. This entrance also features a multicolored lighting system and will present commissioned art projects.

The $68 million project also includes another new entrance and expanded outdoor space on the side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which will include a skylight atrium.

“All of this will allow people to still be in the museum, while outside in the park,” said David Strauss, director of external affairs.

Finkelpearl noted that despite the significant changes coming to the museum, what will remain constant is their dedication to “openness and engagement.”

“We designed a dynamic space that reflects our overall philosophy and allows us to broaden our current slate of public programs, introduce innovative initiatives, and create wonderful opportunities for new participants and longtime visitors to enjoy our unique brand of museum experience,” he said.

At a legislative breakfast on Friday, March 22, members of the museum hosted dozens of elected officials and community leaders from around the borough, hoping to galvanize their participation and support for the new project. The expansion thus far is supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Borough President Helen Marshall’s office, the state, City Council and donations from private individuals and corporations.

“It’s up to the business community to step up and help support these institutions,” said Strauss. “[We want them to] understand that a true public-private partnership makes progress like ours possible and successful.”

Congressmember Joseph Crowley recalled growing up in the borough, always enjoying the surrounding park and all that it has to offer.

“This museum is a jewel of many jewels here,” he said.

City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, longtime supporter of the museum, acknowledged the institution’s attempts to think outside the box, bringing new and innovative programs with its expansion.

“You can’t have community without culture,” she said, getting teary-eyed. “We’ve been able to strike up new walls, and put in embracing walls [for all of Queens].”

Following the completion of Phase 1, work for Phase 2 will begin, projected to be done within 12 to 18 months.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art better watch out,” said Marshall.

 

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Approved Willets Point plan to go through rigorous review


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Redevelopment of Willets Point will now go through a rigorous review process after its study was approved by the Department of City Planning (DCP).

The plan, approved by DCP on Monday, March 18, will first go to Community Board 7, which includes Willets Point, for an advisory vote. Borough President Helen Marshall will then get the plan for her own recommendation, followed by the City Council and DCP.

Between development at Willets Point and the addition of the shopping mall dubbed “Willets West,” the mixed use area will include housing, retail, hotels and an entertainment center.

Jesse Masyr, the project’s lawyer, said he’s confident the various levels of voters will jump on board with the plan, citing the environmental clean up that’s first on the project’s steps.

“It is a very, very significant effort and accomplishment,” he said, adding it would “reverse 50 years of unsuccessful attempts” to stop pollution in the area.

If the City Council ultimately rezones the area, the joint venture, between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, would begin by cleaning up the 23 acres commonly called the Iron Triangle. New York City has dedicated $100 million to removing spoiled soil and creating an infrastructure at Willets; the rest of the project is privately financed.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has pushed for the project since updated plans were announced last June — much to the chagrin of some Willets Point business owners.

“This marks a critical step towards beginning the long-needed cleanup of toxic land in Willets Point that for years has damaged the waterfront and been a blight on the community,” a NYCEDC spokesperson said.

Opponents, however, are not confident in a fair process.

Michael Rikon, the lawyer for Willets Point United, said the city would probably approve the rezoning, and the seven-month approval process was merely a formality at this point.

This didn’t stop Rikon, however, from saying there were reasons why the project should be fought — including building Willets West on what is mapped as parkland.

“The whole thing and the whole process is a shame,” he said. “There could be 15 great reasons why there should be a condemnation on the plan.”

 

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Maspeth community welcomes new high school site


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley

A year after its opening, Maspeth High School now has a new, state-of-the art building to call home.

The Maspeth community welcomed the new school building to the neighborhood in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, February 25, with Borough President Helen Marshall, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, various elected officials and school administrators.

“Maspeth is a better place to live and raise a family because we have this high school,” said Crowley. “The new building is providing the facilities for 21st century learning for our students.”

The opening ceremony featured performances by the school’s string orchestra, the International Thespian Society and the dance company.

Maspeth High School first opened for the 2011 to 2012 school year at the Queens Metropolitan High School campus on Metropolitan Avenue. The school’s new site is roughly three miles away, on 74th Street in Maspeth. It was one of the last public high schools in the city to receive local priority zoning, which ensures local residents have the opportunity to attend.

 

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Queens DOT commissioner retires


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Borough President’s office

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Queens commissioner has retired. Maura McCarthy has stepped down from her post after six years of service on Friday, January 11.

The lifelong Queens resident oversaw transportation services in the borough, serving as the community liaison for the agency and working with police to identify accident-prone locations, especially those near schools, according to the city DOT’s website.

McCarthy was employed by several city agencies since 1979, beginning as a 9-1-1 operator for the NYPD.

Borough President Helen Marshall honored McCarthy with a citation one day before her retirement, thanking her for her “invaluable” service and “legacy of care.”

The DOT did not immediately comment.

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NYHQ celebrates ER expansion


| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

DSCN0034w

New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ) just keeps growing.

On Monday, June 25, hospital administrators and elected officials such as Senator Toby Stavisky, Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilmember Peter Koo proudly cut the ribbon to celebrate the completion of the latest expansion of the emergency room.

Earlier this year, NYHQ celebrated the opening of its Urgent Care Center, which allowed the emergency department to expand community access to health care by making more beds available.

HEAL-NY (Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers), a state grant-funding program that supports the restructuring of New York’s health care system, funded the expansion of the emergency room and the completion of the Urgent Care Center for the hospital.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to open this emergency component and we were very fortunate to receive HEAL-NY money for this,” said NYHQ president and Chief Executive Officer Stephen S. Mills. “We try to take advantage of opportunities to provide more access for the population that needs it.”

To go along with the additional space, Marshall is giving NYHQ $300,000 from her capital budget toward the purchase of essential patient care equipment.

“We have increased the number of inpatient beds, have expanded community access to ambulatory care and opened a new urgent care center and today we cut the ribbon,” Marshall said. “I’m thankful to have this medical institution in the borough of Queens and I’ve continued to show my support and appreciation by awarding funding through my capital budget.”

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Heat Brings Outages, Voltage Reductions To Some; Fun To Others

The second day of near-triple-digit temperatures brought power outages and voltage reductions to thousands across the city. As of 10 p.m. Thursday evening, Con Edison is reporting more than 2,500 outages across the five boroughs. 1,019 of those outages are in Brooklyn, while 906 are in Queens. Read more: [NY1]

Cuffs for big bro, 23, who ‘lost’ li’l bro, 5

A Queens boy learned the hard way he can’t count on his big brother. Zackary Nazario, 5, was missing for more than eight hours after he was frightened out of his South Ozone Park home by a cockroach — while his baby-sitting 23-year-old brother was out buying a beer. Read more: [New York Post]

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall launches gun buy-back program 

The all-too-frequent sound of gunfire in one Queens precinct has been heard in Borough Hall. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, responding to an alarming number of shootings in Jamaica’s 113th Precinct, has come up with $50,000 for a gun buy-back program on Saturday. Read more: [New York Daily News]

Queens Residents Complain Horse Manure From Riding School Leaving A Stinky Mess.

In the midst of oppressive heat, a Queens neighborhood with aquaint view of horses has become overwhelmed by the smell of them. Lynne’s Riding School in Forest Hills is a little stable tucked into a corner of the big city. They have been offering lessons for 65 years, but, lately, the old stable has been the subject of complaints from newer neighbors.Read more: [1010wins]

 U.S. Open Holds Ball Person Tryouts

Hundreds of hopefuls tried out to be ballboys and ballgirls at the U.S. Open Thursday. Battling sweltering temperatures, contestants from all over the city lined up outside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for a shot at one of the 80 available positions. United States Tennis Association officials evaluated the competition on their running, throwing and catching skills. Read more: [NY1]

Queens high school violinist seeks to play his way from an F-train platform to a concert stage 

 

At a time when high school students are struggling to find part-time gigs in the tough economy, a 19-year-old Queens violinist is tapping into his pursuit of virtuosity to create a college fund. Yut Chia, who is graduating from Bayside High School this month, has been filling subway platforms with his bitter-sweet classical renditions since he was a junior and hopes to raise funds to keep up his musical pursuit. Read more: [New York Daily News]