Tag Archives: christmas

Bloomberg gets ‘#1 Grandpa’ mug at LIC firehouse


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

NYC Mayor's Office's Flickr/Photo by Samantha Modell

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is ready to be the number one grandpa.

A day after his daughter reportedly gave birth to a son on Christmas Eve, the first grandchild for the mayor, Bloomberg visited firefighters of Engine 258/Ladder 115 in Long Island City to thank them for working on Christmas Day.

Bloomberg received a homemade coffee mug with “#1 Grandpa” written on it from the firefighters as a congratulatory gift.

Before stopping by the firehouse, Bloomberg also paid a morning visit to the 108th Precinct in Long Island City to thank the NYPD officers for their work on the holiday. 

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Cloudy with a chance of snow flurries. High of 40. Winds N at 3 mph. Thursday night: Clear to partly cloudy. Low of 30.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Holiday Open House at the Queens County Farm Museum

Tour the historic Adriance Farmhouse, learn about the county’s agricultural and colonial history, and enjoy holiday crafts and mulled cider. Free. Thursday, December 26-Saturday, December 28, from 12 to 4 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Modern day Robin Hood gives to the poor on Christmas

He’s famous for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor… He is known as Robin Hood. And in real life, this modern day hero wears a black hat and aviator sunglasses. Read more: Fox New York 

Hit-Run driver Kills Man, 29, Crossing Queens Street

Police are looking for the driver who struck and killed a 29-year-old man as he tried to cross a Queens street early Wednesday. Read more: NBC New York 

Christmas hit-and-run drivers kill 1 in Queens, seriously injure another in Brooklyn

Two heartless drivers struck pedestrians and fled on Christmas Day, killing one man and seriously injuring another, cops said. Read more: New York Daily News

Healthcare.gov site put to test as deadline passes

The deadline for signing up health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law has passed, but there are still things consumers should do. Read more: ABC 

Last weekend for the LIC Flea & Food Holiday Market


| editorial@queenscourier.com

DSC_0072

It’s not too late to take a trip down to the LIC Flea & Food Holiday Market and pick up your last minute holiday gifts for friends and family. And while you’re there, try the world of different foods and take part in hands-on activities.

Thousands of visitors from near and far have visited the Holiday Market inside the warehouse, located at the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue. It is connected to the original lot, where this summer’s outdoor LIC Flea was held.

The Market features over 80 vendors selling something for everyone on your Christmas list.
New vendors rotate in every day, including at this weekend’s Market.

Along with the collection of unique vendors, LIC Flea also presents Dandy Wellington and His Band, who will be performing live at the market on Sunday. Inspired by the Jazz Age’s Big Band Era, Dandy Wellington has taken the sounds of the 1930s and 40s and created a world of well-dressed music.
JIB Lanes also provides a real bowling alley where visitors can try their hand. And, for soccer fans, the New York Cosmos has professional players signing autographs and offering soccer activities.

After all of the different activities, when you need refreshments, the LIC Flea features a bar, built specially for the Holiday Market and made of wood from the warehouse. The bar serves beer, wine and holiday cocktails.

Filled with the holiday spirit, children can line up to take pictures with Santa Claus. Saint Nick will be back this weekend from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The site is walking distance from the No. 7, E and G trains, and the LIC East River Ferry stop. It can also be accessed directly from Gantry Park’s walkway, along Anable Basin. A parking garage is available on 5th Street.

LIC Flea & Food Holiday Market will be open Saturday, December 21, and Sunday, December 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit www.licflea.com.

So, bundle up and go enjoy some unique food, music, fun activities and fill up on holiday presents.

 

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Workers left unemployed for Christmas after Trade Fair abruptly closes


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of RWDSU Communications

Rafael Polanco might have to tell his two children that this Christmas will come without presents.

The East Elmhurst resident, along with 49 other union workers, all lost their jobs on Dec. 10 when the Trade Fair Supermarket, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, closed its doors abruptly without giving the workers any notice.

The workers claimed they turned up on Tuesday morning and management told them the store had been sold and they had to go home because they no longer had jobs.

“They didn’t give us an explanation. They didn’t give us a number to call. They didn’t say anything about the new owner. No one gave us an explanation,” said Polanco, who has been a deli worker at Trade Fair for 14 years. “They treat their workers like animals. We are human, they should give us explanations.

Members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, unions representing the Trade Fair workers, gathered with local elected officials and community members in front of the supermarket on Dec. 13 to protest Trade Fair’s actions and to call on the new owner, Amana Key Food LLC, to hire the terminated workers.

According to the unions, Trade Fair’s closing and termination of the worker violates the collective bargaining agreements held with the owner, which demands the company give the union and workers two weeks notice of either sale or closure.

Amana Key Food LLC filed an application or a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority for the site on November 14, showing the sale has been in the works for more than a month, according to the unions.

In March, meat department workers in all nine Queens Trade Fair locations went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices. During the strike the owner was accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time.

“For far too long he [Farid Jaber] has been a bad neighbor,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “This is a clear violation of his contractual obligation and labor law. He has betrayed his employees and the community of Jackson Heights.”

Last week’s termination happened just weeks before Christmas, leaving workers like Polanco looking for jobs and wondering where they will get money to give gifts to their kids.

“Us older people we understand the situation but the children don’t understand,” Polanco said.

According to a union representative, days after the rally Amana Key Food LLC handed out job applications to the terminated workers, but none have been hired yet.

Amana Key Food LLC could not be reached for comment and Trade Fair did not respond.



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Number of Christmas movies drops in recent years


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by KC Bailey/Lionsgate Publicity

DIANA DELLACAVA

Many people welcome the winter months with open arms and ready knit hats and scarves.

A traditional activity during this time is movie-going, for you may relax and immerse yourself in a world of candy canes and mistletoe. Now a days, however, options are much more limited than expected.

The presence of Christmas films has declined dramatically, due to the demand for realism in film by the older movie viewers and the demand for horror films by the younger demographic.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, for instance, opens to the public on December 25. In this film, far from a Santa Claus figure, Ben Stiller is a dreamer who delves so deep into his fantasies he spends half of his time daydreaming.

Teens, in turn will be watching other teens fight to the death well into January when may watch Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

The Hunger Games: Catching fire has reached $186 million domestically and nearly $350 in the worldwide film market by the end of November, according to The Wrap Hollywood News Inc.

The teenage driving force behind the success of first the book trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, and now the Lionsgate films has helped the crude dystopia that serves as the film’s nucleus achieve success in only days after its November 22 opening.

It seems the film industry is trying hard to fulfill the demands of as many viewers as possible in order to increase revenue and attempt to fill theaters in the winter months.

There were 28 films scheduled to release starting on Friday, December 6, according to movieinsider.com. From these titles, 17 are dramas without a holiday theme, thus leaving 11 films in a cluster of thrillers, adventures, documentaries and family films.

Amy Herzog, a Queens College professor and media expert, points out that in the past years some holiday movies have had a darker tone.

“There have been movies like Bad Santa and [more recently] Almost Christmas,” she said. “Which have a very cynical and kind of poignant take on the different experiences people go through during Christmas time.”

In Almost Christmas, released in April 2013, Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd, having moved away from a criminal past, find the Christmas holiday to be the perfect money making machine.

This trend, Herzog said, favored by an older generation, pulls the viewer away from traditional holiday films, disposing of the Santa Claus figure and in addition fostering a fatalistic view of life.

Another way to twist the Christmas story to fit tastes that are more varied is to incorporate horror. The 1974 film Black Christmas for instance, is also available today as a 2006 remake of the same title. In both films, a disgruntled young boy paints Christmas black by murdering his family, and 15 years later comes home for the holidays as a full grown maniac to find his home occupied by sorority girls. The modern version features hot young actors in a film industry effort to follow modern trends in film viewership — thus providing an alternative for horror fans out there.

There are two comedies available: the Ben Stiller film and the only Christmas film: Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. Aside from the meager number of holiday films available, this film is group specific which defies the scope of a universal holiday films.

Ideally, Hollywood productions for Christmas feature a varied cast as to help the public identify with characters of different backgrounds. This is not to say that someone of a different ethnicity would not enjoy such a film.

Herzog said light-hearted films such as Best Man Holiday, released in November and the upcoming Madea Christmas, are highly appropriate for the holiday season, generally good time to release films.

“From a stark marketing point,” she said. “People try to release films around the holiday.”

The college crowd, in particular does not often plan-ahead when it comes to movie theater trips, often watching what is available, when there is time and if there is anytime. When choosing a holiday film to watch this winter, students will have the choice already made for them.

Not everyone shares the holiday spirit with the same degree of intensity. However, a point of mutual agreement across the generations is the unrequited love for classic holiday films.

In speaking to media professors and students, while some would rather skip the Christmas film altogether, most will find it most enjoyable in the comfort of their own homes and the warmth of their pajamas.

These films are widely available and easily accessible through all kinds of online services such as Netflix streaming, and Amazon or iTunes downloads without having to leave the house.

General audiences and film professionals alike have been turning to the classic holiday films. Titles such as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life fill living rooms with joy higher than a cupful of eggnog.

While others like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and White Christmas extend the offer of a happier life, which we can accomplish by making better choices.

“Our ideas of Christmas are so steeped in nostalgia,” Herzog said. “It makes sense that we revert to the classics when it comes to Christmas.”

Moreover, childhood favorites such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas can take us back to a time of childlike dependency, regardless of how mature our beloved Peanuts characters can be and how cynical Dr. Seuss’s script is.

These films have become unchallenged classics because less of the genre are produced as time goes by, where in 2011 and 2012 there were only three holiday films released but plenty of drama and horror filled the box office.

The type of comfort, whether it be spiritual, or physical found at home is something the movie industry has virtually stopped trying to recreate inside the theater.

 

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Little North Pole Christmas celebration


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo by Vito Catalano

The North Pole came to Neponsit Beach for a night and the community celebrated Christmas in style.

Lights showered Joe Mure’s Neponsit Avenue home where he hosted his annual “Little North Pole” event to benefit juvenile diabetes on Saturday. A Christmas display surrounded the house and close to 5,000 people came to see the show, Mure said, including local elected officials, community leaders and thousands of borough residents.

The spectacle raised roughly $200,000 which will go directly to juvenile diabetes research.

Local joints such as VetroLenny’s Clam Bar and Lucy’s sausage and peppers donated heaps of food and local performers sang and danced through the night.

“We put smiles on every single face that was out there,” Mure said. “We put on a show that was both appropriate and great for both kids and adults.”

Then, Santa Claus came to town, riding a sled perched on a flatbed. Several emergency vehicles followed him with their sirens on and lights swirling.

“If you sat out there, you watched Santa Claus show up with the sirens and lights from the sky, you would have a memory of Christmas that will last you a lifetime,” Mure said.

The Little North Pole, a tradition held for nearly two decades, was put on hold last year after Sandy. But now, Mure said they are back, “stronger and brighter than ever.”

“We live in the heart of Rockaway. A year ago, we had nothing,” he said. “I think the kickoff of the Little North Pole was some sort of proof that we’re alive, we’re back.”

 

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VIDEO: Bayside homes musically light up for holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The Queens Courier found two neighboring houses in Bayside shining bright for the holidays.

The houses, located on 56th Avenue and 214th Street, light up with different colors all around and are synchronized to various holiday tunes, including “Carol of the Bells”  by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

In the window you can find Santa Claus moving about and Frosty the Snowman, together with reindeer, nutcrackers and Santa’s little helpers on the lawn of both houses.

Christmas tree made up of only lights stands tall between the two homes, with Disney characters making their way up the tree to Mickey Mouse topping it off.

If you want to share photos or videos of your home’s holiday lights or other houses you see celebrating the holidays, email ctumola@queenscourier.com. Your photos or videos could appear on our website, Twitter, Facebook or in our paper.

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s mother won’t give up as search headquarters relocate to Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

It has been more than two months since Avonte Oquendo went missing from his Long Island City school, and all his mother wants is to bring him home for Christmas.

“Avonte is still missing. A lot of people think he’s been found and I want them to know that he is still missing and we need to find him,” said Vanessa Fontaine, the autistic teen’s mother. “He has been too long without his mother. I just want to have him home for Christmas.”

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, who family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and drove around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls. Volunteers have posted fliers with Avonte’s photo and information throughout the city.

Family and volunteers searching for the boy were operating out of an RV located on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard, and tents outside of Avonte’s school. Yet, due to the cold weather, the volunteer headquarters has moved indoors to 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria and are in need of more volunteers, said Fontaine.

Fontaine said she believes someone might have her son and is asking for whoever does to drop him off at a public area, attach a note saying “I’m the missing boy, call 9-1-1,” and go on their way.

“I just want my son,” she said. “I’m not going to send any negative vibes to that person. I just want my child, that’s it.”

She also said that if anyone spots Avonte or thinks that it might be him, they should not wait, but should call 9-1-1 immediately and let police know the location.

The new headquarters, which will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, will function as a permanent location until Avonte is brought home safe and sound, said a volunteer. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information, visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Op-ed: The spirit of giving


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Every year, the holiday day season gives us an extra special opportunity to reflect upon our blessings and take time to give back to those we love.

With Chanukah just ending and Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, it’s clear that the spirit of giving is already in the air – almost everywhere you look you see folks with shopping bags full of holiday presents just waiting to bring joy.

While I have always found truth in the age-old saying “Tis better to give than to receive,” I could not help but relish the happiness that one sizable gift brought to our community last week.

On November 26, just days before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of joining Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and representatives from the Queens Museum and the Queens Economic Development Corp. at Corona Plaza to announce an $800,000 leadership gift from J.P. Morgan Chase to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

This gift will not only benefit countless New Yorkers by creating 100 jobs for workers maintaining 20 of the City’s existing plazas, but it will also ensure that the DOT’s community partners in under-resourced neighborhoods, like Corona, will have the support they need to maintain clean, green and vibrant public plazas.

Since 2008, the DOT has installed 22 plazas throughout the City, and it plans to bring another 37 in the near future with the goal of putting all New Yorkers within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.

Corona Plaza is a perfect example of how effective and important these green spaces are to our local neighborhoods. To so many children who grow up in apartments without any front or back yards, neighborhood plazas are the only safe access they have to the outdoors.

Just 18 months ago, the site where Corona Plaza now sits was open to traffic and cluttered with parked trucks, causing a safety hazard for all pedestrians entering and exiting the nearby subway platform. Today, the plaza is a space bursting with activity, serving as the go-to destination where locals can have a cup of coffee, exercise outdoors and enjoy free family-friendly events.

Public plazas go a long way in helping our communities enhance economic activity, air quality, community safety and the overall quality of life.

Although Chase’s gift will undoubtedly go a long way in improving plazas throughout the City, it’s clear that there is still much work that needs to be done. The cost just to maintain Corona Plaza alone ranges between $50,000 and $75,000 every year, not including the hundreds of volunteer hours donated by those who want to add to the beautification efforts.

This holiday season, I urge everyone to spend time at their nearest neighborhood plaza and consider the immense benefits they generate. If you can spend just a fraction of your time investing in your local plaza, you will not only help improve these vital green spaces, but you will also create a better future for generations to come.

In the spirit of giving, please consider volunteering at your local plaza today. The gift of your time will surely be one that keeps on giving!

To learn more about the services offered by the DOT Public Plaza Program, please visit www.nyc.gov/plazas or contact 311 or plazas@dot.nyc.gov.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. Through her leadership, Corona Plaza continues to be a premiere outdoor destination for the local community.

 

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Santas come to Sunnyside for charity pub crawl


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The Santas arrived in Sunnyside to celebrate a festive night for charity.

Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars, a collective of 10 bars and restaurants on and around Queens Boulevard, held their Second Annual Sunnyside Santathon pub crawl for charity on Saturday.

All who took part in this year’s Santathon were dressed in their best Santa attire, and some even came as Santa’s little helpers.

During the event, participants picked up $10 wristbands from the 10 participating bars, providing them with $3 drink specials.

The participating bars were Bar 43, The Courtyard Ale House, Maggie Mae’s, The Gaslight, Arriba Arriba, Sidetracks, Molly Blooms, PJ Horgan’s, McGuinness Pub and Bliss Street Station.

Brian Scutch, 27, from Bayside heard about the holiday event from his friend Travis Silverstein, 29, who lives in Sunnyside. The two friends decided to put on their best Santa hats and start their crawl at Bar 43.

“Who wouldn’t participate?” said Scutch, 27. “You’re given the opportunity to drink with fellow Santas.”

Silverstein knew he had attend this year’s Santathon after moving in to the neighborhood too late last year to join the inaugural pub crawl.

“I love Christmas,” said Silverstein. “Christmas is one of my favorite holidays of the year.”

All money raised at this year’s festive bar crawl will go to buy toys for local kids in need during the holiday season. During the next few weeks the group plans to go out to buy the toys and personally donate them to local organizations.

“When you see the smiles on kids’ faces, you know it’s all for a good cause,” said Nicholas Murphy, general manager at Bar 43, who hopes to surpass the almost $5,000 collected during last year’s Santathon. “We want to try to keep it clean and no trouble. We want to have fun and raise money for the children.”

Each bar is also collecting new, unwrapped toy donations until Christmas.

“Honestly it’s all for the kids to get toys for Christmas,” said Patrick Burke, owner of The Courtyard Ale House, who saw the amount of participants triple this year. “It’s growing, which is great to see. It’s a lot of fun, I’m really looking forward to the night.”

During last year’s inaugural Santathon, Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars collected almost $5,000 and hundreds of toys. Toys were donated to St. Teresa’s in Woodside, St. Raphael’s in Sunnyside, the 108th Precinct, the Metro homeless shelter on Queens Boulevard, Hour Children Center in Long Island City and more.

For more information on Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars, click here.

 

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Students at Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 celebrate ‘kindness’ with Toys for Tots


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 is getting into the spirit of giving this holiday season.

Marine Corps Sergeants Mike Roy and Miguel Villalobos brought the Toys for Tots donation program to the 88th Street school on Friday.

“A lot of [kids] don’t even know about the program,” Villalobos said. “Doing a little outreach opens their minds.”

In conjunction with the Marine Corps and the Howard Beach Kiwanis Club, P.S. 207 will be collecting toys under its Christmas tree until Wednesday, December 18.

“This community was so devastated after Sandy. They [the students] know what it’s like to lose everything,” said Melissa Martin, P.S. 207 guidance counselor. “Yes, we have come back and rebuilt, but so many people haven’t.”

The sergeants not only brought the toy-giving program to the school, but also addressed the monthly virtue of kindness.

“If you have a lot to give, don’t be afraid to give to someone who doesn’t have anything,” Villalobos said. “They’re going to go from having nothing to just having that coat, that Barbie.”

Each month, a select group of eight middle school students are recognized for enacting the month’s virtue. At the Marine Corps assembly, 6th through 8th graders were selected for showing November’s virtue, perseverance.

Jonathan Durso, a 7th grader, said he “studied hard” and did his best, and was recognized for his achievements.

“I tried my best with grades and homework, and I made sure I got everything in on time,” said Alessia Basone, also a 7th grade winner.

Martin said the virtues “teach kids character development,” and the newly-introduced theme of kindness, paired with Toys for Tots, is intended to promote giving to those less fortunate.

“It starts them off early with the idea that it’s good to give,” Roy said.

 

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Sunnyside bars, restaurants to host Santathon pub crawl for charity


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map Courtesy of Sunnyside's Boulevard Bars

The Santas are coming to town.

Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars, a collective of 10 bars and restaurants on and around Queens Boulevard, will be holding their Second Annual Sunnyside Santathon pub crawl for charity on Saturday starting at 3 p.m.

Whoever wants to participate must be dressed in their best Santa attire and can pick up $10 wristbands at any of the participating bars. Wristbands will allow participants to purchase $3 drink specials throughout the event. Any Santa can also submit their email address to be entered to win various gift vouchers to any of the 10 bars.

The participating bars are Bar 43, The Courtyard Ale House, Maggie Mae’s, The Gaslight, Arriba Arriba, Sidetracks, Molly Blooms, PJ Horgan’s, McGuinness Pub and Bliss Street Station.

All money raised at this year’s festive bar crawl will go to buy toys for local kids in need during the holiday season.

Each bar is also collecting new, unwrapped toy donations until Christmas.

“We formed Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars to create events as a group that would bring more business to the area, really make it a destination spot and highlight what a great neighborhood we have here,” said Pat Burke, owner of The Courtyard Ale House. “Once we got together, we also saw the opportunity to raise funds for charities, specifically local organizations. Our group is still relatively new, but we are excited about what we have done and will continue to do to promote Sunnyside and give back to the community.”

During last year’s inaugural Santathon, Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars collected almost $5,000 and collected hundreds of toys. Toys were donated to St. Teresa’s in Woodside, St. Raphael’s in Sunnyside, the 108th Precinct, the Metro homeless shelter on Queens Boulevard, Hour Children Center in Long Island City and more.

For more information on Sunnyside’s Boulevard Bars, click here.

Sunnyside’s Santathon is just a week shy from the annual SantaCon which takes place on Saturday, December 14 in Manhattan and hops over to Brooklyn. SantaCon was under some harsh criticisms from residents complaining the participants drink too much and disturb the peace.

Yet, according to reports, the organizers of the pub crawl plan on giving the NYPD and elected officials a map of the event and will have volunteers make sure all participants behave.

 

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Long Island City lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

The Long Island City community came together to welcome the holidays and make the season bright.

Over 100 residents young and old gathered with local elected officials and community leaders on Tuesday night to celebrate the holidays by lighting festive snowflakes along Vernon Boulevard.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked together with JetBlue to a secure a $5,000 grant to bring the holiday lights to the thriving neighborhood.

The holiday celebration included Christmas carols sung by students from P.S. 78, led by Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica located at 46-33 Vernon Boulevard.

The night also included readings of special Christmas stories by the fireplace of LIC BAR, located at 45-58 Vernon Boulevard, and a performance by local jazz group, The Charlie Brown Christmas Trio.

 

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‘Little North Pole’ gives kids reason to smile again


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

SHB_p043.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

Sandy couldn’t stop Santa.

That’s how Joe Mure described the “Little North Pole,” the annual holiday celebration in Neponsit held this year on Sunday, December 23. A holiday tradition in the neighborhood, the original event, slated for Saturday, December 1, had to be cancelled because of the devastation from the superstorm.

But after discussing it with other organizers, Mure said the event had to go on.

“For the most part I think we brought the entire community back together,” Mure said. “There were thousands of people out on the street.”

The afternoon featured free food from places such as Russo’s on the Bay and Ludwig’s Catering. Every kid in attendance got several toys, Mure said. Goumba Johnny and WCBS-FM’s Joe Causi emceed the event well into the night with a string of popular musical performers. But the biggest highlight of the night: a police escort for Santa Claus, much to the delight of the kiddies.

Along with the colossal damage some peninsula residents suffered from the storm, the lives lost from the Sandy Hook shootings were honored with 26 Christmas trees throughout Mure’s home.

“They were in the back of our minds,” Mure said. “[And] all the [superstorm] Sandy victims were in the back of our minds.”

This year was particularly about making sure everyone had a reason to smile, Mure said, especially the children.

“The kids need to be able to go ahead and smile,” he said. “That’s why we went ahead with this party.”

The Courier, Queens Chamber of Commerce & Russo’s on the Bay team up to make Christmas bright for kids


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

047-DSC_2620 (640x427)

Under the sparkling chandeliers and twinkling Christmas lights, seventh grader Maddie McDade smiled brightly.

The St. Francis de Sales student’s Belle Harbor home burned down during Superstorm Sandy, leaving her and her family displaced to parts of Long Island and Brooklyn just weeks before the holidays. She, and students from five south Queens schools, attended a holiday celebration at Russo’s on the Bay on Tuesday, December 18, hosted by The Queens Courier and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re all getting together and I’m excited to see everyone,” said Maddie. “And it’s a nice celebration we’re having after everything and everyone being sad. It kind of brings everything up.”

Over 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade gathered at the event hall for lunch, music, entertainment and gifts. Jugglers and magicians travelled from table to table, showing off their skills to students whose mouths dropped to the floor. Nick the Baloonatic – a renowned balloon artist – created swords, hats and animals out of colorful rubber and thin air for the amazed guests. Even Santa was present, making his grand entrance to the sounds of delighted screams and cheers. Students clamored up to Saint Nick’s gilded throne, posing for pictures with the man in red.

Click here to see all the photos from the event

“For us, this was just a simple way to bring joy to children at this time who really, truly need it,” said Russo’s on the Bay owner Frank Russo Jr.

Jack Friedman, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t have been happier to provide such a wonderful experience for children who have experience such tragedy. The Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation provided essential funding to give each child a gift at the end of the celebration.

“Many of [the children] lost homes, personal possessions, many were displaced or had no electricity for weeks,” said Friedman. “The impact on children, the stress on children is something that’s rarely looked at, so to put a smile on children’s faces today is just a great, wonderful thing. These children missed out on Halloween so we’re going to make sure they have a merry Christmas.”

Callie Todd, a 3rd grader at St. Rose of Lima, is finally back in her Breezy Point home after the storm. The spirited amateur equestrian hopes to get the American Girl horseback riding set for Christmas, but is just ecstatic to be home again with all her toys.

Kindergartner John Anthony Grimes from Ave Maria Catholic Academy was excited for the day’s activities and to meet Santa Claus. After staying in his grandparents’ house for several weeks after the storm, he said he couldn’t wait for Christmas, and hoped to find a toy dirt bike under the tree.

Theresa Andersen, principal of St. Rose of Lima, said the school has continued to carry on holiday festivities, despite the tragic events of Sandy. She thanked Frank Russo Jr. for his immense kindness, stating that the school even switched the date of their Christmas show so children would not miss out on the party.

“This is a wonderful thing that [Russo] didn’t have to do, but he did it from the heart, and the children were so excited,” said Andersen.

Other volunteers who made this event possible were Archbishop Molloy High School Student Volunteers, Consolidated Bus Transit, Inc., Flowers by Brian, Danielle Michaels of Adrenaline Entertainment, Nick the Balloonatic, Magician Lou Johnson, Jack Lasala of Satisfaction Guaranteed DJs, Nicky Guida of 2+2 DJs, Steven Retas of Classie Sounds, Artie D’Alessio, Dan Drennan, Robert Castellano, Scott Nastro, Julian Nardulli of Express It Video, Susan McVea, Party City in Bayside, Mullen Advertising Agency, Lois Christie and the staff of Christie & Co. Salon * Spa, New York Hospital Queens, John and Colette Roe, the Jamaica Rotary, Dr. Mary Andrea, Benefits Advisory Group, All Car Rental Car, Rego Park Forest Hills Kiwanis, the Giving Tree Family, the New York Daily News, and Heskel and Janet Elias and American Car Wash.

- Additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen