Tag Archives: bushwick

Ridgewood street renamed for beloved local activist and educator

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Elected officials, civic leaders, neighbors, friends and family gathered at the corner of Suydam Street and Cypress Avenue on Saturday to honor the legacy of longtime neighborhood activist, teacher and Ridgewood resident Ann Maggio.

Maggio, who died in 2013 at the age of 90, moved to Suydam Street as a teenager with her parents back in 1939, and went on to teach at the former St. Aloysius School from 1967 to 1983. However, Maggio is perhaps best known for her tireless efforts and commitment to improving the neighborhood in which she lived.

In 1984, she partnered with former Borough President Claire Shulman and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan to renovate the Grover Cleveland Park Athletic Field and help rid the area of chronic drug use and illicit activities. She co-founded the former Suydam Street Block Association in 1985, and went on to establish the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood civic group nearly a decade later. Maggio also served on Community Board 5 for many years.

During Saturday’s ceremony, City Council member Antonio Reynoso shared his memories of Maggio as both a community leader and personal hero.

“She was as pure-hearted and as great a person that you could ever find here in the city of New York, but especially in this community. It really breaks my heart that she’s no longer with us,” he said. “She was part of a system of politics here that wasn’t always the greatest. She said, ‘Antonio, don’t let that be who you become. Be better and do well.’”

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan remembered Maggio as a longtime friend, educator and role model. Long before their collaboration on improving the Grover Cleveland Athletic Field, Nolan had Maggio as her fifth-grade teacher at St. Aloysius School.

“She made a great impression on me, and particularly so many women and girls, because she held herself to a very high standard,” Nolan explained. “She was showing us that you could be a mom, a teacher and a wonderful, compassionate person. She never stopped using her education to help other people. She was really a pioneer in many ways. I feel a great personal debt to her.”

Ann Maggio's grandson Andrew, son Anthony, daughter-in-law Tracy and daughter Joann holding up the new street sign as a tribute to their mother

Ann Maggio’s grandson Andrew, son Anthony, daughter-in-law Tracy and daughter Joann holding up the new street sign as a tribute to their mother

“She may have been a petite lady, but she was a giant on the issues that mattered to her,” added Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “At a time when the country is so divided, people like Ann reminded us that we need to do better. We are a better place, right here in Ridgewood, because of people like Ann Maggio.”

Rev. George Poltorak of St. Aloysius Church offered a blessing shortly before Maggio’s family addressed the crowd, thanking them for the moving tribute. Young children pulled the string to unveil Ann Maggio Way as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played. A random group of butterflies flew over the crowd as a sign, some believed, of Maggio’s presence.

“Our mom, Ann, always gave and did her best and encouraged those around her to do the same,” daughter Joann Maggio said. “She was someone who shaped many lives. She was a compassionate person and woman of integrity. She always put others ahead of herself. All have been made better by knowing her. I’m proud to call her our mom.”


PHOTOS: Fourth ‘Bushwig’ drag festival celebrated in Ridgewood

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


The sleepy, bucolic lawn of Ridgewood’s Vander Ende-Onderdonk House was awash in an array of sequins, sparkles and sky-high wigs as the fourth annual Bushwig drag festival sashayed into town over the weekend.

The festival was founded in 2012 by NYC-based drag queens Babes Trust and Horrorchata in celebration of Bushwick’s growing drag and music scene. Bushwig was originally held at Secret Project Robot on Melrose Street in Bushwick before moving to this year’s venue at the Onderdonk House.

Bushwig was inspired by pioneer drag festival Wigstock, an annual outdoor Labor Day drag festival co-founded in 1984 by Lady Bunny in Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Park. In its 20-year run, Wigstock grew in size and popularity, and was the subject of the 1987 and 1995 documentaries “Wigstock: The Movie.” The festival ended its run in 2005 as part of the Lower East Side’s Howl Festival, but returned for one night only with a Wigstock: The Cruise aboard the Sea Tea in August 2015 after a 10-year hiatus.

Wigstock co-founder and drag icon Lady Bunny was the headliner at this year’s Bushwig festival. In a symbolic gesture during her live performance, Lady Bunny passed an illuminated torch to Bushwig co-founder Horrorchata, praising Bushwig’s success.


Lady Bunny passing the torch to Bushwig co-founder Horrorchata. Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

The rainy weather did not put a damper on the weekend’s festivities. An impressive roster of 150 drag and musical performers took to the Bushwig stage to perform in front of a packed house. Both performers and festival attendees donned an array of fashions, from Lady Bunny’s retro frock to Lady Quesa’Dilla‘s pink polka dot wiggle dress and towering crimson wig.

2015 Brooklyn Nightlife Drag Queen of the Year and Bushwig host Untitled Queen reigned supreme in a modern white ensemble complete with a mythical horned headdress and sultry black eyeliner. Dancer and performer January Bones was ethereal in white lace and pearls during her riveting performance, while Jojo Lime Green Jello looked fierce in a slinky lavender catsuit during her rendition of an Azealia Banks song.

The picnic area and trees were decorated with bouquets of large tissue paper flowers and handmade patchwork banners as a nod to the outdoor folk festivals of past generations. Festivalgoers sipped glasses of sangria and Pabst Blue Ribbon while browsing through racks of Alotta McGriddles‘ carefully curated unique vintage apparel, otherwise sold at the monthly Alotta Stuff Live Auction at the Metropolitan Bar in Brooklyn.


Bushwig revelers and performers in the picnic area of the Onderdonk House. Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso.

The 2015 festival kicked off with the glamorous Bushwig Ball at LoveGun, and was also celebrated with a series of after parties at Brooklyn venues Happyfun Hideaway and Metropolitan Bar. Bananas bearing arrows and directions to Bushwig were taped up around the neighborhood as cheeky guides to the Onderdonk House.

Director Nicolas Heller and his film crew from the critically acclaimed “Queens of Kings,” a six-episode documentary web series that follows Brooklyn-based drag queens, were also on hand to film the festivities. Watch the first season of “Queens of Kings” here.


PHOTOS: Good health and cheer found at Wyckoff Hospital street fair

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Eddie Torres/

The community was invited to come out and enjoy a day filled with fun, entertainment and information during the annual Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Health Fair on Aug. 15.

More than 70 information booths from the hospital’s departments as well as community vendors lined Stockholm Street between Wyckoff and St. Nicholas avenues on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border. Ramon Rodriguez, the hospital’s CEO, was on hand to greet guests.

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Many of the booths provided presentations and educational materials as well as free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, bone density and blood glucose to more than 500 visitors throughout the day. There were also activities for children including face painting, music and raffles.


Wyckoff Heights Hospital working to affiliate with North Shore/LIJ system

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

File photo

America’s health care industry is changing, and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border is looking to partner with a regional health care giant to expand and enhance its services.

According to Wyckoff Heights CEO Ramon Rodriguez, the hospital is in discussions with the North Shore/LIJ Health System regarding an affiliation agreement designed to retain Wyckoff’s independence while also providing additional health care options and “support for quality of care and clinical decisions.”

Serving tens of thousands of patients annually from both sides of the Brooklyn/Queens border, Rodriguez said, the hospital needs to transform its services to keep up with the national health care trend that has seen the rise of urgent care centers and outpatient/ambulatory services along with a reduction in extended hospital stays.

To that end, the board recently authorized Rodriguez to seek out affiliations with larger medical organizations in the New York City area. In responding to a request for proposals, he noted, North Shore/LIJ offered what the board considered to be the best options for Wyckoff Heights.

“We are expecting to continue the services we deliver and expand outpatient and ambulatory services,” Rodriguez said. “We’re trying to figure out how to be more efficient and effective and make Wyckoff Heights a better place for residents to turn.”

The hospital already has a working agreement with Maimonides Medical Center, also a North Shore/LIJ partner, to enhance patient care as part of a transformation plan submitted to the state. Should the state approve the plan, Wyckoff Heights would be in line to receive $60 million in “substantial capital to make improvements to [the hospital’s] clinical services and make it possible to transform to a more outpatient delivery system,” Rodriguez said.

One such plan to enhance care is the creation of a revamped Maternity Department featuring new birthing rooms.

Working with Maimonides, Wyckoff Heights is on target later this year to receive certification to perform cardiac catherizations, a potentially lifesaving procedure among heart attack and stroke patients currently outsourced to other medical centers.

Rodriguez added that Wyckoff Heights is also working with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council to expand health care availability to the more than 6,000 people the nonprofit agency serves in both neighborhoods.

As for the North Shore/LIJ partnership, Rodriguez is confident that an agreement will be finalized within six months to a year.

“We’re very excited about it,” he added. “Our board, after much discussion, felt that it made the most sense.”

The Ridgewood Times is awaiting a response from North Shore/LIJ to a request for comment.


Cemetery of the Evergreens to get $1.3M grant for storm recovery

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Although Hurricane Sandy happened almost nearly three years ago, a local cemetery is now getting financial assistance to clean up from damages incurred during the October 2012 superstorm.

The Cemetery of the Evergreens, which sits on the Glendale/Bushwick border, will receive two grants totaling $1.3 million as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to restore 16 historically significant properties across New York State that sustained damaged during Sandy.

“Many of New York’s historic properties endured the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy and as a result, have fallen into a state of disrepair,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this funding, we are helping our communities rebuild these New York State treasures back stronger and more resilient than before. In the end, they will better withstand the threat of future storms and continue to serve as economic and educational assets in their communities.”

During Sandy, the 166-year-old Cemetery of the Evergreens, also known as the Evergreens Cemetery, experienced extreme winds that caused trees to topple and destroy several monuments and gravestones. A $1 million grant will aid the cemetery in removing debris from fallen trees, finish landscape restorations and repair the damaged gravestones and monuments.

“The money from the grants will go to pay for new trees that we have to replace. We had a lot of damage done from existing trees,” said Julie Bose, president of the Cemetery of the Evergreens. “Some of it was not immediate damage. We are just delighted and grateful for this grant. I think some people don’t realize that the effects of Hurricane Sandy are still being felt.”

Photo courtesy Cemetery of the Evergreens

Photo courtesy of Cemetery of the Evergreens

The Evergreens Cemetery Preservation Foundation will also receive an additional $320,000 grant to fund an extensive cultural landscape report to assess the damage to the landscape caused by Sandy and provide both short- and long-term treatment plans.

“We are very welcoming to the neighborhood and we want people to come and explore the beauty of this space, not only those that have loved ones buried here, but the community as a whole,” Bose said. “We want this to be a welcoming place.”

The funds for the grants are provided by the National Park Service and administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In total, Cuomo issued $6.2 million in grants for the restoration of historic properties around the state that were damaged in the superstorm, including Lookout Hill, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Jones Beach State Park, among others.

Last year, Cuomo awarded more than $5 million in grants to restore 14 historic properties that incurred severe damage from Sandy.


Youth employment opportunities for Ridgewood teens this summer

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

With the school year coming to an end, many teenagers may find it difficult to find any type of summertime employment, but one youth workforce development provider is looking to help teens enroll in internship programs.

In New York City alone, there are approximately 186,000 youths ages 17 to 24 who are not in school or working, according to Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT). They also believe that employing young adults is a key way to help them stay on the right track, finish school and move on to college.

This summer, OBT is offering teens in and around the Ridgewood/Bushwick area an opportunity to enroll in the Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP) at the Jamaica Y Roads Center, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York, as well as OBT’s Bushwick site.

The YAIP is a 14-week program, three weeks of job skills training followed by an 11-week internship, where participants will learn leadership skills, computer and office-related skills, critical thinking, interview techniques, business etiquette, public speaking and financial literacy. The participants will intern in a corporation, small business, government agencies or nonprofit organization.

“We enroll 40 trainees each cohort and we run three cohorts each year. Each program session is 14 weeks long,” said Baxter Townsend, communications associate for OBT. “In the job skills/training sessions the trainees do team-building activities, learn time management skills, career/college exploration, take classes in health and wellness, healthy relationships, financial literacy, professional development, computer classes so trainees can received their Microsoft Office Specialization Certification and customer service classes so trainees can earn their National Retail Federation Customer Service Certification.”

Some of the internship sites include Department of Motor Vehicles, El Puente-Taylor-Wythe Community Center, Wyckoff Medical Center, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso’s office, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and FSO Outsourcing.

Additionally, participants who finish the 14-week program earn over $3,000.

“The Young Adult Internship Program helps participants get their lives back on track,” Townsend said. “Of the approximately 80 percent of the trainees who complete the 14-week program, 87 percent of them either find employment, enroll in college or a high school equivalency diploma program, or enroll in an advanced skills/vocational training program.”

The deadline for enrollment for the next session is July 6. Interested candidates can enroll at Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow located at 25 Thornton St., in Brooklyn from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Residents rally against MTA bus reroute on Ridgewood/Bushwick border

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos courtesy of United We Stand Neighborhood Association

In the face of a proposed bus route change by the MTA, members of the United We Stand Neighborhood Association and residents of Bushwick and Ridgewood rallied and marched to oppose the new B26 and Q58 bus routes, which on Sunday started traveling down their blocks on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border.

The march was set to take place Saturday afternoon, but after meeting with a representative from the MTA on Wednesday, the group decided to move the rally to Sunday, the day the bus routes officially changed, in order to maximize the protest’s impact.

“They did not give us any notification that they would be doing the reroute of the buses,” said Flor Ramos, member of United We Stand Neighborhood Association. “The MTA never informed the public that anything was happening.”

“There were around 150 people in the meeting,” Ramos added. “We have support from Councilman Rafael Espinal and from [Brooklyn] Community Board 4.”

On Sunday afternoon protesters marched down Putnam Avenue to Ridgewood Place and up Palmetto Street, the new route which the buses would be taking.

Residents took out their smartphones to snap photos and take videos of the buses trying to turn onto Ridgewood Place from Putnam Avenue. The protesters were not surprised when the buses could not complete the turn.

“This is our concern,” Ramos told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview. “Those buses can’t fit through there. Even if they made it to Palmetto, they couldn’t turn there either.”

Ramos said that both the B26 and Q58 buses failed to make turns onto Ridgewood Place, at which point they were rerouted to another block, where they also had troubles making the turn. In the end, the buses were brought back to their original route, according to Ramos.

“I think the rally was very successful. It brought awareness to people in the area who didn’t know about it,” Ramos said. “We are bringing a lot of light to this issue. These buses turning on small residential streets is dangerous. The narrower streets will cause more accidents.”

According to Ramos, the MTA is looking to implement no parking restrictions on the corners of the blocks on the rerouted bus lines to remove vehicles from the corners, allowing buses to safely turn onto and off of Ridgewood Place, in order to complete the new route.


Community Board 5 still wants funding for Wyckoff Avenue repaving project

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

The Ridgewood Times/Photo by Anthony Giudice

What’s the holdup with fixing Wyckoff Avenue? That’s the question members of Community Board 5’s (CB 5) Transit and Public Transportation Committees asked during their meeting Tuesday night in Glendale.

While the board discussed upcoming and ongoing capital projects, one project that has been on CB 5’s radar for several years now is the repaving and reconstruction of Wyckoff Avenue from Flushing to Cooper avenues, including several side streets along the route, which runs through parts of Bushwick and Ridgewood.

“We’d like to get it because of what’s going on in Ridgewood with our friends on the Queens side with housing and everything. We want the area to be fixed up,” said CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri.

Arcuri said that local elected officials in both Brooklyn and Ridgewood need to get on board with this project in order to get it done because the stretch of road traverses both Brooklyn and Queens.

“No one in [the Department of Transportation], in the Brooklyn borough president’s office, or any local politician is pushing for this project,” Arcuri said. “No one is pushing for it.”

One reason why this project never got off the ground is because, up to this point, there has been no funding for it, he noted.

“There is either no funding or they are waiting for federal funding for this project,” Arcuri added. “I don’t know why it never got funded. We need elected officials on both sides to ask where the funding for this project is.”

According to John Maier, member of the Transit and Public Transportation Committees, the plans for this project were in presented to the committees for review and recommendations several years back.

“We’ve reviewed [the designs] and gave feedback years ago,” Maier said.

This project would be beneficial for both neighborhoods as it would not only repave Wyckoff Avenue and the side streets, but include streetscaping projects that would improve the sidewalks, street lights and other parts of the avenue, as well as replace the water mains and sewer lines along the route.

“In today’s day and age, why would you not want to fix up their neighborhood?” Arcuri told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview on Wednesday. “If you want to talk economics, this project will help businesses prosper. It will make the whole area better.”


PHOTOS: Hundreds of local artists participate in Bushwick Open Studios

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos by Anthony Giudice

Over 600 art studios across Ridgewood and Bushwick opened their doors for Arts in Bushwick’s ninth annual Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) weekend, from June 5 through June 7.

BOS is the largest open studios event in New York City. The three-day arts and culture festival brings together visual artists, performers, musicians and designers to share their work with the public through studio visits, group shows and creative events.

Many forms of art, including paintings, sculptures, creative furniture, spray paint murals and much more were on display throughout the studios and streets of Bushwick and Ridgewood over the weekend.

Jeff Fichera is a veteran of the BOS scene, this year being his fifth open studios event, but he still finds the event to be exciting.

“It’s both invigorating and exhausting to share my work with so many people over a few days,” Fichera said. “It’s incredible to get so much valuable feedback from all of the visitors, but it’s also a very unusual situation to have so many people in the studio. The studio is almost always a place of quiet solitude and so the frantic activity is exhausting.”

“I think BOS is one of the best parts about the Bushwick/Ridgewood artist scene,” Fichera continued. “It really defines the boundaries of our community and allows everyone to participate and be seen and focuses the attention of the art world on what is happening here. It brings an enormous amount of attention and cohesion to the community.”

While some artists focused on showcasing their art, others, like Rodney Allen Trice, were interested in reaching out to collectors for their work. Trice is an artist and designer who creates new pieces of furniture from found objects.

“I have been doing this over 20 years,” Trice said. “I’m always inspired by objects I fall in love with and want to make useful again. To get an opportunity for this many people to see [my work] is a chance to find those unique buyers and collectors who find the same love as you do for the things I find and build with.”

Other artists participated in group showings, such as those involved with the Ridgewood Artists Coalition who put their art up at the “Ridgewood Represent!” event at the Onderdonk House in Ridgewood.

“It feels great to have my art on display here with everyone else’s for the Bushwick Open Studios,” said Alison Duignan, who was participating in her first art show. “I’m glad it’s less formal because I’ve never showed my work before, so I don’t feel out of place.”

Danielle Draik, co-curator of the “Ridgewood Represent!” art show has had her work appear in several other art shows, but this is her first time at BOS.

“Being a part of BOS is great,” Draik said. “Having an art show at a historic location in the festival and representing the adjacent town is very important. The Onderdonk House, an active arts staple in the neighborhood, really represents Ridgewood Arts Culture and it means a lot that they would have us local artists here.”


Rising rat problems on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Mira (on the wall)

Aw, rats!

Residents of Himrod Street on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border in Brooklyn have noticed an increase in the number of rats they have seen on their block and are looking for a solution.

Pauline Bruscarino, a resident of Himrod Street for 39 years, says she has seen rats roaming the neighborhood almost every night.

“Every night before I go to bed, I look out my window and I see them,” Bruscarino said. “At first I called 911 because I didn’t know who to call.”

“The thing is, we have a lot of kids on the block,” Bruscarino continued. “Yesterday morning, I was outside at six o’clock doing the garbage, when all of a sudden I see this rat. Four times it passed me. Then it jumped…so something has to be done before it bites somebody.”

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Photo by Anthony Giudice

After going through 911 and 311, Bruscarino said that she was told that she had to wait before someone could get down to the area to inspect the problem.

“See, what we’re afraid of is that they’re going to start getting into the houses,” said Marie Lekoski, a resident of Himrod Street for 10 years.

Lekoski, and several other residents of Himrod Street, have also called 311 and logged complaints about the rats.

“Now I just called again this morning,” Lekoski said. “The woman said the status was that the Department of Health had to determine what to do about it.”

On Friday morning, Bruscarino said that a city inspector was seen on the block, investigating the problem.

Himrod Street (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

Himrod Street (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

After going through the area, the inspector told Bruscarino that the landlords of the residents complaining about seeing rats are responsible for getting rid of the rats. If nothing is done by the landlords, then the city takes its own action to wipe out the vermin, then sends the landlords the bill.

“[The inspector] said she would send a notice to the landlords because she checked and there were some droppings,” Bruscarino said. “She said she would send a notice and if it is not done in a certain time, the city would do it and they will bill the landlords.”

Now, residents have to wait and see if the landlords take action before the city sends out notices.


A late-night burger run to Duncan’s

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo is courtesy of Galen Duncan / Duncan Burgers


Next Thursday, May 28, is National Hamburger Day and what better way to celebrate than with a free helping of the wildly popular Duncan’s Burgers. The handcrafted creations have gained a cult following in recent months and have quickly become a late-night fast-food staple in Ridgewood and Bushwick.

Owner and chef Galen Duncan will be hosting a grand opening at 1 p.m. on May 28 for the first Duncan’s Burgers food cart, located at the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 12th Street at the McCarren Park entrance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The first 250 patrons will get a free burger, and all patrons will enjoy $1 off all cart menu items, as well as specials released exclusively on Duncan’s Burgers’ social media pages during the four-day celebration.

The Duncan’s Burger craze first began months ago during afterhours at The Rookery Bar (425 Troutman St. in Bushwick). When most people are wrapping up their evenings and preparing for bed, Galen Duncan would get to work, firing up the grill in anticipation of hungry late-night crowds seeking his renowned burgers and hand-cut fries.

His two-week dry aged, grass-fed, all-beef burgers became a beloved neighborhood secret, popular among local night owls and bar patrons. Eventually word spread, and Duncan’s cheeseburger deluxe ($6.50) earned a regular spot on The Rookery’s pub grub menu.
“There wasn’t a lot of late-night fare around here, and not a lot of variety for good late-night food,” he said.

Duncan sharpened his knives and skills as a butcher’s intern at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, located inside the Chelsea Market in Manhattan. All of the meat at Dickson’s is prepared and expertly carved in-house. Their small, family-owned and operated upstate farms are known for their healthy and humane practices.

This emphasis on locally sourced, healthy artisanal ingredients inspired Duncan’s approach to cooking. According to Duncan, his burgers are a mix of “highbrow” ingredients served up in a non-fussy, “old school, fast-food” way.

“The burgers came from a place of really respecting and caring about high-quality meat,” he said. “I figured, why not make the sort of classic style burgers, but use awesome ingredients.”
Duncan continues to use Dickson’s grass-fed, hormone-free, organic dry-aged beef raised locally on a farm in upstate New York.

Prices begin at a wallet-friendly $3.50 for a classic single hamburger served on a potato bun with special savory sauce. For a couple of dollars more, you can get lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles with a side of Duncan’s waffle-style fries. Hungry patrons can choose between the classic, spicy and bacon burgers.

The burgers are available as single, double or triple patty combinations, with prices ranging from $5.50 for a single deluxe on up to $13.50 for a spicy or bacon triple. The Brooklyn Stack ($13.50) is a veritable fast-food feast, packing a mountain of flavor in its generous, three-patty serving.

Duncan’s Burgers will also be available on weekends at Schwick Market, an artisan flea and food bazaar located at Six Charles Place off Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Duncan’s Burgers
425 Troutman St.


City councilman and Uber team up to help L train riders

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Councilman Antonio Reynoso's office.

Riders of the L train are getting some much needed relief from Councilman Antonio Reynoso and car service UberNYC during the final weekend of the scheduled shutdowns of the L line.

The MTA is shutting down the L line from the 8th Avenue-14th Street stop in Manhattan to Lorimer Street in Brooklyn through May 18.

Reynoso and Uber announced during a press conference on Friday at the Grand Street stop of the L train in Brooklyn that stranded weekend riders will be able to get an uberPOOL flat rate cab ride along the L line for just $2.75, the cost of a subway ride, for the duration of the weekend shutdowns.

“I’ve heard many concerns from my constituents, especially people who work on the weekends and small business owners, about the economic impact of the weekend L shutdowns,” Reynoso said in a statement. “I want to thank Uber for providing an affordable alternative for those who depend on the train.”

In order to use the service, riders must download the Uber app to their smartphone, select the uberPOOL option at the bottom of the screen, request a car within the approved limits and wait to be picked up. By using uberPOOL, a rider may be matched with other riders going the same way. Whether or not a rider is matched, the rate remains the same.

Flat rates will run between 11:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15, until 5 a.m. on Monday, May 18. Surge does not apply to these $2.75 flat rates.


Ridgewood getting its first Starbucks

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Dome Poon/Flickr  Creative Commons

Updated Saturday, May 9, 12:36 p.m.

Starbucks is setting up shop in Ridgewood later this year, according to the coffee company.

After initially saying that there were no immediate plans to announce a store opening in the area, a Starbucks spokesperson later confirmed to The Courier on Friday that the chain will be opening a location at 329 Wyckoff Ave., on the Bushwick border.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor in Ridgewood and to having an open dialogue with the community,” Starbucks said in a statement. “We look forward to acting as a gathering place for citizens and visitors of the community for years to come as well as sharing strong connections with the community both inside and outside our stores.”

The coffee place will be the first Starbucks in the neighborhood. Currently, the closest Starbucks to the area is in Glendale at The Shops at Atlas Park.

Construction can be seen on the lower level of the Planet Fitness. (Photo by Angela Matua)

Construction can be seen on the lower level of the Planet Fitness. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua)

Ridgewood Social, which first reported the opening, said the Planet Fitness on Wyckoff Avenue near Myrtle Avenue is renting out its space and being converted into the coffee shop. The gym has the same address as the one given by Starbucks for the future Ridgewood location.

“The construction/remodeling is well underway” and has been “confirmed with the manager of the Planet Fitness,” according to its website.

The gym declined to comment on the opening of the Starbucks to The Courier, but said there was construction going on in its building.


It’s Tartan time at The Rookery

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


New York City’s annual Tartan Week, a celebration of Scottish culture and heritage, is in full swing, and authentic British food with a twist can be found close to Queens at Bushwick’s The Rookery.

Located at 425 Troutman St. off the Jefferson Street L train station, The Rookery was founded in 2013 by Jamie Schmitz and his wife, Shana Bellot. Schmitz had worked as a bartender in Bushwick and got to know the neighborhood very well. After years of bartending, Schmitz was inspired to open a place of his own. He relocated to Bushwick with Bellot eight years ago and the couple began their search for the perfect location.

Housed in a former warehouse, the bar itself combines modern, urban elements with a cozy, rustic aesthetic. The industrial loading bay doors flood the bar with light. Soaring ceilings are accented with skylights, vintage pendant lamps and exposed bronzed metal beams. An impressive traditional high-backed oval mahogany bar is the pub’s centerpiece.

The bar, created by a local Bushwick-based carpenter, features a bronzed accent wall and shelves filled with heirlooms, portraits, a taxidermy peacock and an extensive Scotch selection. The rustic booths are complimented by vintage floral block print wallpaper that was transported from the UK and carefully installed by Schmitz’s mother as a labor of love.

The menu itself is a unique mix of Schmitz’s British roots with Bellot’s West Indian heritage. “What we did here came very easily. They work together very well,” Schmitz explained. The British-West Indian fusion comes through in dishes like the Oxtail Sloppy Joe ($8), Curried Goat Shepherd’s Pie ($13), Oxtail Pho ($12), Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts ($8) and Mum’s Chips, a plate of slow roasted potato wedges served with Jamaican dipping sauce and scotch bonnet mayonnaise ($5).

The Rookery is also known for its traditional Scotch egg ($8) which features a soft-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and panko served on a bed of watercress and arugula. The Scotch egg is fried until it is crispy on the outside with a runny yolk at its center.

In addition to pub fare, The Rookery also boasts an impressive collection of British cocktails and beer, including Bellhaven Scottish Ale. The cocktail menu features British classics such as the Pimm’s Cup, as well as more adventurous offerings like The Blackwatch ($12), a mix of Jonnie Walker Black, Becherovka, Sweet Vermouth and Creme de Casis. The Alexander Fleming ($14), named for the Scottish biologist and inventor of penicillin, combines Jonnie Walker Red with triple Laphroaig, Drambuie, honey, ginger and lemon.

The popular Highland Boy ($12) blends Cragganmore 12, Heering, Stones Ginger Wine with Ramazzotti and orange. The cocktail was named after the large painting of Schmitz’s great uncle Thomas Macrae that overlooks the bar.

The portrait, painted by well-known Scottish artist and relative Thomas Austen Brown, is a family heirloom that once graced the dining room wall at Schmitz’s grandfather’s house in Durington, UK. “That ended up being what we built the bar around,” Schmitz said, “It kind of helped set the bar’s identity as well.”

In honor of Tartan Week, The Rookery will feature specials on their Scotch egg, Bellhaven Scottish Ale and Scotch cocktails.

“We hope to get a lot of kilted folk through here,” Schmitz said. “I’ll be going to the Tartan Parade on Saturday in my kilt for sure.”

The Rookery
425 Troutman St., Brooklyn



Ridgewood woman gets ‘Married at First Sight’

| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of A&E Married First Sight

One Ridgewood woman said “I do” to her perfect match, but she hadn’t laid eyes on him until moments before her vows — all for the A&E reality show “Married at First Sight.”

Jessica Castro, 30, was having trouble finding the committed relationship she was looking for after her fiancé, who she had been dating for seven years, cheated on her.

“[Dating] really is tiring. You go on a first date, and you go on another first date with a different guy,” she said. “No one really wants to settle down or they think that there’s someone better out there.”

Castro and her match, who will be revealed in the upcoming season of the reality show, were one of three couples to be paired by four matchmakers: psychologist Joseph Cilona, sexologist Logan Levkoff, sociologist Pepper Schwartz and spiritual adviser Greg Epstein. Two of the three couples from the first season are still happily married, while the third decided to get a divorce at the end of the six-week experiment.

This was the second time that Castro had applied to be on the show. Although she had made it through the entire process for season one, including interviews with the show’s experts, they were unable to find a suitable match for her.

“When I heard of season two, I figured, why not give it another shot?” she said. “I had a gut feeling that this would be it for me, that they would find me my match.”

So Castro, a receptionist at a Manhattan law firm, applied again. “I plugged in all my information into the website, and they reached out to me,” she said. First, she filled out “really intense” questionnaires. One took her five hours to fill out, and she had to “be an open book about everything,” such as her upbringing in Bushwick, which at the time was “one of the tougher neighborhoods in Brooklyn.” Then the experts each interviewed her for 20 to 30 minutes.

When Castro heard that she was matched for season two, “I was honestly in shock,” she said. “Dr. Pepper Schwartz called and said, ‘We have some wonderful news for you: we found your match,’ and I think my reaction was, ‘What?’ … She was like, ‘Yeah, you’re getting married next week!’”

“Everything was within days and it was a very intense preparation, but it was so worth it,” she continued. “It was 100 percent worth it.”

MAFS_S2_12122014_0253Going into the wedding day, Dec. 12, Castro’s biggest fear was that the families wouldn’t get along.

“I’m Puerto Rican and my family can be overbearing,” she said. “We’re loud, we can be obnoxious, but we like to have a really, really good time and we are loving at the same time. But you don’t know if the other family is as outgoing or kind of more reserved, so I was afraid to see how the families would mingle.”

Castro said that her parents’ support was extremely important as she prepared to walk down the aisle. When she signed up for the chance to be matched for the first season, her best friends told her, “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said, but her mom “was not thrilled.”

“When I found out the first time around I wasn’t matched, it was a little bit of a relief for all of us because, you know, it’s terrifying,” she said. “But my mom actually got to see season one, we all watched season one, and we realized how much the experts and the couples put their all into this. When I came around and I told them I was doing season two this time around, my mom cried and she said, ‘I know this is what you want.’”

“My mom is my best friend, my right-hand woman, and if she didn’t approve it would be devastating,” Castro said.

She didn’t tell her dad she was applying, though. “We kind of kept him in the dark at first, we told him it was a dating show, just so he wouldn’t freak out, because we didn’t want to give him all of the information and then say I’m not matched. So we figured we’d wait until I got a definite answer, and when I told him his eyes got watery and he said, ‘If this is what makes you happy, I support you.’”

During filming, Castro said that she “blocked the cameras out sometimes, because when you think that they’re there and they’re watching you, you freak out, you get nervous, and you don’t want it to come off as unnatural. You know, this is your life, it’s all real, none of it is fake.”

For her, the experiment was all about just being herself. “Don’t put up a front for anyone or anything. The only way you can truly go through the motions of this process is just to be yourself.”

She loved working with all of the experts, but psychologist Cilona helped her with communication, which she calls her “biggest downfall.”

“[Cilona] gave us some exercises, and when we met with him it was an eye-opener for both of us, like, we both want this and we really just have to put our best foot forward to make this work.”

Tune in to A&E on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. — starting with the season premiere on March 17 — to find out who Castro marries and if she and her husband decide to stay married come the end of the experiment.