Tag Archives: Columbia University

Former City Councilmember Juanita E. Watkins passes away


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY SONDRA PEEDEN

Former City Councilmember Juanita E. Watkins passed on Sunday, January 20 after a long illness.

Watkins grew up in Brooklyn, was an excellent student and the first from her family to go to college. She attended the State University of New York at New Paltz, and attended Teachers College at Columbia University where she earned her master’s degree. Upon graduation, she became an elementary school teacher. After several years, she moved on to the field of educational publishing at McGraw Hill.

Watkins also served as a Commissioner on the NYC Civil Service Commission. During her political career, she served in many functions including: delegate and member to the Democratic National Convention, Queens County Democratic District Leader and Queens County Committee Chair.

She became the first woman of color to represent a City Council district, and after her first term of office, she went on to win two subsequent elections and served three terms in the City Council representing the 31st Council District.

While on the Council, often at the detriment of her own health, Watkins was a champion for small business, education, women’s rights, the poor, the elderly and the disenfranchised.

Watkins is pre-deceased by her mother and best friend Floretta Watkins, and is survived by her beloved niece and goddaughters.

Also saddened by her loss are members of her City Council staff and her extended political family in the Assembly and Senate.

 

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“The Pride of Whitestone”: Mike Baxter’s lifelong baseball dream realized in Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

It was late in the game on June 1 when Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina knocked a fly ball to left field. Johan Santana, the Mets starting ace who was still working his way back after missing the entire previous season, was facing a multi-base hit — what could have been the first of any hits that night.

Mike Baxter headed back to the wall, trying to keep the no-no intact. He caught the ball and bounced into the blue padding at a high speed. A few innings later, Santana would go on to record the team’s first no-hitter in a 50-year history.

Whitestone native Baxter, however, would end up throwing his shoulder out during the catch — giving up his own health for the sake of the team he grew up loving and watching.

“It was bitter sweet,” said dad Ray Baxter, who hasn’t missed a home game his son has played since joining the team. “It was great while it happened but all of a sudden, 10 seconds later, you start to worry: it’s your child out there that’s hurt. He’s not getting up, and you see him walk off the field and they’re holding his arm like he’s got a broken arm.”

A few hours after the game, as Santana went through a number of interviews, teammate Justin Turner got to Twitter and dubbed his friend “The Pride of Whitestone.” The nickname has since stuck.

Baxter, 27, has come full circle in his still-young baseball journey. He grew up playing baseball in the Bayside Little League, and then at Archbishop Molloy High School.

From there he went on to play college ball at Columbia University, but found himself unhappy with the program, his father said.

He found a home, to this day, in Tennessee where he transferred to play and study at Vanderbilt University, and still keeps a home today.

Baxter played under long-time Commodores coach Tim Corbin, who said he could always tell the Queens product would make it into the majors based on his all-around abilities and determination.

The young player, his former coach said, could do a number of things at the plate and was resilient in his time at Vanderbilt. It was these factors, among others, that brought Baxter to the majors, Corbin said.

After spending six years with the San Diego Padres organization, Baxter was released in 2011. Nearly instantly, however, the Mets picked him up — making it a bittersweet phone call home.

“It was a tough phone call,” Ray Baxter said, in reference to his son being released from the Padres. “You’ve got to take a breath.”

Baxter acknowledged the same sort of feeling, but went on to say that putting on the Met jersey for the first time was an unbelievable feeling.

“That was just a great day, it all happened so quickly,” he said. “You could say it was a dream come true.”

He finally returned to the team during a series in San Francisco on July 30. A few nights later, against his first big league team, Baxter would tie a team record by drawing five walks. When he returned for his first night back at Citi Field on August 7, Baxter said he was most proud to be back in front of the fans.

“I love playing in New York,” he said. “When you come back to New York and you get back in front of the fans, some of the greatest in the world in my opinion, it’s always exciting taking the field out here.”

The Whitestone native’s future is still to be written and it is unclear what will come in the next few years. His dad, on the other hand, is certain his son will stay in baseball for as long as humanly possible, even after he hangs up his glove.

“In my heart, I believe Michael is not leaving baseball.”

Time to Create: Artist Violet Baxter paints L.I.C.


| smosco@queenscourier.com

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Art is comprised mainly of two elements: time and raw materials. While the art itself is physically constructed with materials – paint, clay, trash, whatever – it is time that decides whether or not the art lives on. Prehistoric people decided to paint on cave walls, and time decided to preserve that work for modern eyes.

Contrary to the process in which art becomes art, an artist becomes an artist through a mix of sheer will and talent. If the artist relies on time, they’ll be left with a blank canvas and a pile of unpaid bills.

Artist Violet Baxter grew up as a shy, yet promising youngster in the Bronx. Her grade school teachers noticed her talents and saw fit to recommend she take art classes on Saturdays. A fourth grade teacher, Evelyn Licht, befriended the young Baxter and helped her score her first “art job” – designing cake boxes on weekends when she was 13 years old.

“We stayed close until her death,” said Baxter, whose studio resides in the Wills Building on 21st Street. “She was responsible for my first job and my first gallery exhibitions.”

An educated and trained artist, Baxter graduated from high school and went on to Hunter College for two years of night classes. She graduated with honors from the Cooper Union Art School after five years of night classes and continued her schooling at Columbia University studying under renowned American artist Ralph Mayer.

In 1983, she took a studio in Union Square, where she stayed until skyrocketing rents drove her to L.I.C.

“Here my windows face a new school called Mason Tenders Training, highways that lead to the Queensboro Bridge, the El train, Silvercup Studios with its sign and a wide sky,” she said. “This is my subject matter. I have made closely observed drawings of this view, that sets it somewhat in memory. From the drawings I made watercolors and oils.”

Baxter said that she doesn’t know what the finished work will look like when she begins a piece. Again, time decides the finished project.

“It can take a long time to resolve a painting, sometimes years,” she said. “It is put aside until I can see if there is something else for it. There are always paintings around my studio in this state.”

The state of Baxter’s ideal painting studio lends to the reflective quality of her work. She seeks a quiet place with a view to achieve the quiet, contemplative narrative revealed in her paintings.

“I keep in touch with myself in my work. Like music, the themes are within the work,” she said. “I need a block of time to get into the work. It starts with problems to solve and at some point time dissolves. I often work at night – night light and self reflections, outside and inside, are what interests me.”

Among LIC artists, Baxter is most interested in Elinore Schnurr, Juvenal Reiss, Karen Fitzgerald and her new friend, Orestes Gonzalez. She feels one of the most important galleries in L.I.C. is the Jeffrey Leder Gallery. Her paintings were shown there through last season, and much of her work will be on exhibit in the upper gallery beginning Sunday, February 19, with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. continuing through Sunday, March 11.

Baxter will continue to share her view and present images in the hopes her work will resonate with viewers. Her hard work – and the hard work of her influences – continues to payoff tenfold. Now she works with time to see her vision through.

“I have hundreds of influences, mostly artists from prehistoric time to the present, from nonobjective to representation,” she said. “My interests are with painting, as a personal touch of the hand. A drawing on a mammoth tusk seen at the Museum of Natural History still resonates, and reaches out through millennia.”

Stanford pulls out of applied science campus consideration


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Stanford University – one of the institutions in the running to build an applied sciences campus in New York City – has withdrawn its application, the school announced in a statement.

“After several weeks of negotiations with New York City, university leaders and the Stanford Board of Trustees have determined that it would not be in the best interests of the university to continue to pursue the opportunity,” the statement read.

Stanford was one of two schools – Cornell University being the other – which if chosen planned to build the campus on Roosevelt Island.

“The university could not be certain that it could proceed in a way that ensured the success of the campus,” said Stanford’s President John Hennessy.

A university is expected to be selected in January.  The candidates include Amity University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell, New York University and New York Genome Center/Mount Sinai School of Medicine/Rockefeller University/SUNY Stony Brook.