Tag Archives: Cross Bay Boulevard

South Queens shattered by Sandy


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Around 9 p.m., Lillian Reyes said she smelled smoke in her 95th Street home. She went outside – by that time she said the water was up to her thighs – to see smoke coming from her garage.

The next step was to go to her neighbor’s house to call 9-1-1, but the fire department did not come.

“Response time was nonexistent,” said the Howard Beach resident of the difficulty first responders had in getting to the scene.

Reyes was one of the south Queens residents who felt the brunt of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, October 29 as it devastated Howard Beach – just on the brink of what is labeled Zone A.

So, Reyes said, she watched her home burn down to the foundation as massive winds and flooding swept through Howard Beach.

“I was wet from head to toe,” she said, “They were like ‘come inside,’ but I couldn’t stop watching.”

She said she was wearing her daughter’s shoes, her granddaughter’s pants and was unable to take any personal belongings from her home.

At one point, she said, she held on to the fence and made her way over to nearby Cross Bay Boulevard, wading in close to five feet of water, to try and find help. A passerby with a large truck came by and started to move people out of the area as water surged higher and higher.

Her daughter, Frances Perez, was able to pick her up and brought her to her home in Middle Village.

“I just jumped in my clothes,” Perez said upon getting the call from her mom, “and I said ‘let’s go.’”

Perez said Reyes was calm, considering the circumstances, but “I was hysterical.”

Water from the canal began to flow onto Cross Bay around 8 p.m. on Monday and started flooding some of the landmark stores on the six-lane boulevard. Earlier that day, the stores had been boarded and sand bagged, but it could not stop some of the trauma. Winds swept and howled through the neighborhood, bringing with them water that quickly began to rise.

Michelangelo Turano lives on 97th Street and said water began to pour into his basement between 8 and 9 p.m., just as the lights started to flicker. Turano, 25, said he only had three to five inches of water in his basement, but his neighbors had up to five feet.

“Never in my life did I think New York City would be like this,” he said.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich visited Belle Harbor in Rockaway and the Broad Channel Islands on Tuesday, October 30 to assess some of the damage caused by the storm.

The scene, Ulrich said, was devastating.

Ulrich said Rockaway residents who opted to stay, despite a mandatory evacuation order from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, were now “walking around with a profound sense of sorrow.”

Streets on the peninsula, Ulrich said, had been struck not only by flooding, but fires that broke out in the area.

Fires and riots broke out on the Rockaway Peninsula, an official said, in the days following the storm. He said restoring order was a key priority.

More than 100 homes in Breezy Point caught fire. Officials said firefighters had to wade through chest-high water to battle the blaze. One of the homes belonged to Congressmember Bob Turner.

The next step, Ulrich said, was to assess the damage caused by Sandy — including loss of life — and then clean up and start rebuilding.

“Some of them have lost all of their earthly belongings,” he said.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo said on Tuesday morning that he was out in his district to survey the damage. Addabbo said that it was the worst storm anyone in the area had seen.

Addabbo said he had spoken to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and was coordinating relief efforts as the winds from the storm began to die down. That included working with FEMA to rebuild.

“We’re going to have a grocery list of things to give them,” Addabbo said.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 72. Winds from the SW at 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then mostly cloudy. Low of 59. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: CPR for Everyone

Learn how to recognize the signs of a cardiac emergency and get a hands-on demonstration of basic resuscitation techniques from registered EMTs with years of experience with the New York City Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. This program is presented in partnership with the FDNY. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Stray bullet fired wildly by singing thug hits teen doing homework in apartment

A Queens teenager who got up before dawn Sunday to do her homework was injured by a stray bullet fired by a singing thug, police and witnesses said. Read more: New York Daily News

Pedestrian killed in Queens

The NYPD says a pedestrian was struck and killed by a BMW at an intersection in Queens. Police say the operator of the car was traveling southbound on Cross Bay Boulevard when he struck the male pedestrian crossing from the west side of the street. Read more: Fox New York/AP

Two Queens community colleges fight CUNY changes

The English departments at two Queens community colleges are fighting CUNY’s efforts to reduce their four-hour introductory writing classes to three hours. Read more: New York Daily News

Cops winning underground war

An NYPD anti-crime initiative on trouble-prone Bronx and Queens subway lines resulted in a 20 percent reduction in major felonies — and now it will be expanded citywide. Read more: New York Post

Occupy Wall Street protestor suing NYPD over alleged pepper spray incident

A woman who was pepper sprayed during an Occupy Wall Street protest last year has filed a civil suit against the New York Police Department and the officer involved. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Obama set to address UN General Assembly

Campaign politics shadowing every word, President Barack Obama on Tuesday will challenge the world to confront the root causes of rage exploding across the Muslim world, calling it a defining choice “between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes we hold in common.” Read more: ABC New York/AP

Pols ask for $500G for Senior Housing Development in Howard Beach


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Goldfeder

A senior housing development currently under construction needs more funding to fix its failing façade.

Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder recently sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him for an additional $500,000 from the Port Authority’s Regional Funds Account to repair the Senior Housing Development in Howard Beach.

The project, which is being developed by Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPOP), the affordable housing development division of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ), has received millions in funding and grants, but the cost to fix the façade and rooftop parapet are much higher than originally anticipated.

“There was a lot of façade work that was done improperly in the original construction and they didn’t use the proper ties to place the brick structure,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, Vicar for Human Services for CCBQ. “This is such an important project and at this point we’re just hoping to ensure that the building we developed will be secure and water tight, so we do not run into problems in the future that will be much more costly.”

“Thanks to Monsignor LoPinto and the great team at Catholic Charities the budget for this project has been stretched thin but unexpected damage to the facade needs to be corrected immediately in order to ensure quality senior housing,” said Goldfeder.

Located at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard, construction on the housing development began this January and is expected to finish at the end of 2014.

The structure was built in the 1960s as a hospital. Later it was used as the Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Senior Office and in the 1980s a one-story addition was constructed, making it four stories.

According to the CCBQ, the renovated building will feature easy access for seniors, beautified grounds, a community room and several green elements in the apartments, including Energy Star air conditioning units and appliances.

At least 80 percent of the 96 units will be studio or one-bedroom apartments for low-to-moderate income senior citizens over the age of 60. The remaining units will be one-to-two bedroom apartments reserved for individuals supported by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Fifty percent of the senior apartments are earmarked for Community Board 10 residents, according to the board’s chair Elizabeth Braton.

“Additional funding is desirable because the building is going to serve a population that needs to be served,” she said. “I applaud this request.”

It’s natural that issues like the façade damage are going to pop up when working on an older building, Braton added, and if additional money is needed, then the state should certainly play a role, she said.

In December 2011 CCBQ secured $31 million in funding with a construction loan from JPMorgan Chase and federal and state low-income housing tax credit equity purchased by Morgan Stanley through syndicator Hudson Housing Capital.

Additionally, CCBQ received about $11 million in grant awards from the Housing Trust Fund Corporation, New York State Housing Finance Agency, City Housing Preservation and Development Agency, City Capital Funding, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and a HOME block grant, as well as $3.5 million in discretionary funding from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

When Governor David Paterson was in office, local elected officials sent him a letter requesting funds for soundproofing the building against nearby JFK airplane noise. But a decision about the request wasn’t reached before Paterson left office. The money is still available.

If granted, the $500,000 would go towards covering the façade repairs and soundproofing, said Goldfeder. He anticipates that they will need to request more money, possibly from other places, to help cover the project’s construction because of more unexpected costs.

 

Father who left 10-month-old in car arrested


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DAD ARREST PHOTOw

Someone saw something and said something.

A father was arrested and charged after he left his 10-month-old daughter in the back of his car outside a laundromat in Ozone Park, officials said.

Robert Brown, 37, was picked up by police on Sunday, August 26 near a laundromat on Cross Bay Boulevard. In the back of his red Mitsubishi was his daughter, whom police say Brown left in the car while he was inside. Reports say the vehicle’s windows were rolled up and the air conditioner was off, though Brown had left a fan on.

He was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, according to a complaint from the district attorney’s office.

The owner of Cross Bay Laundromat, who would not give his name, said when he came in, he found a number of police cars at the back entrance. Beyond that, he said he still was not sure what happened.

“He [Brown] was washing in here and that’s it,” he said. “It all happened so fast. The good thing is the kid is okay.”

A woman who works there, who also declined to give her name, said a customer came in saying the girl was crying in the car. After that, someone called 9-1-1 and the police were there almost immediately, she said.

“Someone said the baby was crying,” the woman said.

At Brown’s home, no one answered the door, and as of press time it was not clear from the Administration for Children’s Services what would happen to the child.

Cops urge caution at Cross Bay ATMs


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Police have warned bank users on Cross Bay Boulevard to be careful the next time they go to take money out of the ATM after business hours.

Identity thieves have been using technology to hack into and empty bank accounts, police said. They have done so on at least two occasions at a bank on 156th Street and Cross Bay Boulevard. The first robbery happened about eight weeks ago, police said, with the second incident about a month later.

Police said the thieves have been placing skimming devices on door locks that require a debit card to enter the bank. All ATMs but one will then be disabled, police said, with a small camera focused on the machine’s pin pad. The thieves can then match the skimmer’s information with that of the PIN number.

ATM users are advised by police to take precautions such as covering the pin pad with their free hand when withdrawing or depositing money.

The crimes are classified as a grand larceny, police said, because of the amounts that have been taken out. A spokesperson from the 106th Precinct said the thieves have cleared out bank accounts nearly completely. Bank customers would sometimes not even notice that significant amounts had been taken out, the spokesperson said, until they received their monthly bank statements.

The identity thieves are very coordinated, police said, and will vary the areas they hit to avoid detection. Currently, police said they have surveillance video of the suspects. They are wearing hooded sweatshirts and never look directly at the camera and might be hard to identify, police said.

Twist It Top It Frozen Yogurt opens in Howard Beach


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Twist It Top It Frozen Yogurt, located at 158-18 Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach, celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday, May 22. Featuring self-serve with up to 21 flavors and 40 toppings — from fruit to walnuts to Oreo cookies and marshmallows, even rainbow cookies — customers of Twist It Top It can also enjoy smoothies and espresso, custom cakes to order and even yogurt for home.

They feature outdoor seating, gift certificates and loyalty cards.

No matter what flavor is your favorite, all you have to do is “Twist it, top it, weigh it, pay it.”

Follow them on Facebook. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays; midnight on the weekends. Call 718-323-8947 for more information.

MTA set to roll out bus route changes


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Microsoft PowerPoint - Woodhaven Blvd Route Changes presentation

Commuters relying on bus service may be “en route” for some changes.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that the Q21 and Q52 busses will undergo several service alterations, beginning on Sunday, July 1.

A spokesperson from the MTA claimed these changes are part of the agency’s efforts to renew and improve service in response to changing ridership and market conditions within funding restraints, adding that these particular alterations reflect the continuing growth of longer-distance, limited-stop ridership on Cross Bay Boulevard,

Woodhaven Boulevard and the new residential development in Arverne.

The Q21 will be shortened, operating as far south as 164th Avenue and 92nd Street near Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach and make local stops only between Howard Beach and Elmhurst. Hours of operation and frequency will remain the same as the current Q21 bus, as will service between Lindenwood and northern destinations.
Travelers aiming for Broad Channel and the Rockaway peninsula will be required to transfer to either the Q52 or the Q53.

Due to local roadway layout, customers heading northbound on Cross Bay Boulevard between 160th Avenue and 164th Avenue will need to board a Q52 or Q53 at 163rd

Avenue, take a southbound Q21 around the loop or a northbound Q21 at 160th Avenue and 92nd Street.

The line currently known as the part-time Q21 Limited will be renamed the Q52, continuing to operate full time on the same schedule as the current Q21 and using the same bus stops. Two new limited stops will also be added to this route at Cross Bay Boulevard and 163rd Avenue in Howard Beach and Cross Bay Boulevard and 5th Road in Broad Channel. This course will only see limited-stop access to and from the Rockaways.

The MTA alleged that transportation to the Rockaway peninsula would be greatly improved, including longer-distance service provided by full-time, limited-stop service.

Dan Mundy, Jr., President of the Broad Channel Civic Association, fears bus route alterations will cause delays and be detrimental to those travelling northbound.
“[These changes] will create a worse commute for people with the worst commute,” said Mundy. “We’re getting the short end of the deal here in terms of adequate service.”

Mundy alleged that the MTA had yet to reach out to the residents of both Far Rockaway and Broad Channel.

Betty Braton, Community Board 10 chair, insisted that these bus changes would not affect the people of Howard Beach. Braton added that the MTA also discussed the idea of possibly altering the Q41 bus line at the Board’s May 3 meeting, but they had not set concrete plans.

To get more information about your bus route and how it may be changing, check mta.info or call 5-1-1.

Small business owners air their concerns


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Restaurateur Herbert Duarte cannot undo the headaches, unwind the hours or take back the thousands of dollars he lost, but he can make sure the city council hears his voice.

Since Duarte opened up Saffron Restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard a little over two years ago, he said the fire department has visited him over 15 times — pinning him with a $10,000 fine for “having too many seats” back in May.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “When I decided to open my own restaurant, I didn’t realize the big headaches that the city gives you.”

Long an expert in the food industry, Duarte — who previously worked as an executive chef at Marriott Hotels for over 20 years — said he never had to deal with the hassle of city agencies when he worked for a major hotel.

But now, Duarte said he has had to hire a lawyer and cut employee work hours in order to pay for the costs. He said the fine was reduced to about $2,000, but he still had to shell out another grand for the lawyer.

“You’re barely making money as it is,” he said.

From architects and attorneys to plumbers and podiatrists, local small business owners — like Duarte — joined city officials for help with surviving being a small business owner in a struggling economy.

“We are trying our best to help people who have jobs keep their jobs, and to create more jobs for the future to make doing business in New York City just a little bit easier,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who hosted the December 15 event. “We want to make sure we keep people off the welfare roll and keep them on the payroll.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn addressed the concerns of the area’s business owners, briefing them also on recent business initiatives within the council.

“Our job in government should be to help all of you keep your neighbors working, even though sometimes you think our job in government is to put you out of business,” she said. “It’s infuriating when one agency tells you to do one thing, and when you abide by regulations from that agency, you’re violating another agency’s regulations. It makes no sense. They just seem out to get restaurants, and I just don’t get it. I just think we need to make huge changes when it comes to restaurants.”

In order to address that issue, Quinn said the council has created a regulatory review task force in order to help make the city’s enforcement process clearer and fairer to businesses.

“With this panel, we’re literally going through — and it’s painstaking — the entire administrative code to find contradictory rules, rules that don’t make sense and remove them from the books in the city,” she said.

The task force — now meeting issues in its second round of recommendations — also offers increased education and information to businesses pre-inspection to avoid violations.

During the roundtable event, other business owners expressed concerns about parking meter fees and eliminating the Cross Bay Bridge toll.

For more information on the Council’s business initiatives, visit www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness.

DSNY and Goldfeder update Community Board 10


| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Bring on the snow.

During the last meeting of the year for Community Board 10, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) said they were ready for the winter weather and any blizzard it may bring.

According to DSNY Deputy Commissioner Vito Turso, last year’s snow storm on December 26 stopped the city for about 24 hours. There were 2,000 trucks on the streets, he said, but the DSNY was only able to communicate with 365 of them because two-way radios weren’t enabled on the rest.

“We let folks down,” Turso said. “With the help of other city agencies and the New York City Council, we developed a very comprehensive plan that we believe will prevent something like that to occur in the future.”

According to Turso, the plan includes putting GPS systems in city snow removal vehicles and phones to say where and how long they have been in that location. He also said there is now better communication with other city agencies, such as the Parks Department, the Department of Transportation, the police department and the MTA.

The snow plan also includes online services that locate whether people are on primary, secondary or tertiary streets. With six inches of snow or more, the DSNY will hire private contractors to plow the tertiary, small and narrow streets, Turso said.

Later on in the meeting, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder addressed his ongoing project — a petition to end the Cross Bay Boulevard toll.

“It’s only $1.40, but if you rely on that to go to work every day or take your kids to school, that adds up. I was talking to a senior in Lindenwood and she said that she breaks her pills in half when she gets her prescription because she can only afford to get it every other month. A round of trip of $2.80 is a lot of money for people who are on a fixed income and budget,” Goldfeder said, urging residents to sign the petition.

“The more signatures, the better it looks,” he said. “[Governor Andrew Cuomo] will see the tremendous will of the community.”

Patrick Jenkins, a representative of Resorts World Casino, also spoke at the meeting, telling residents that the second and third floor of the Racino would open in a couple of weeks, as well as a new seafood and steakhouse restaurant.

“We had a great month so far, so we thank the people in this room and community. We’re excited,” he said.

Year later, traffic patterns hurt Liberty Avenue businesses


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

New traffic patterns along Liberty Avenue may be driving businesses and customers away.

A year after the Department of Transportation (DOT) installed new traffic patterns at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, stores along Liberty say their business has suffered.

“Whenever you make a change, there is an expectation that there will be some growing pains, but people will learn the new configurations,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “But it has been a year since the changes, and for the businesses along Liberty Avenue, it’s harder and harder for cars and pedestrians to get to their stores.”

Among the modifications was converting Liberty Avenue to a one-way eastbound street between 93rd Street and Cross Bay Boulevard — forcing cars to circle around if they want to visit the stores on the block. A concrete barrier was also placed along Cross Bay to prevent Liberty Avenue traffic from crossing through the intersection.

The newly sworn in assemblymember sent a letter to the DOT requesting the agency to review the changes that have adversely affected the stores.
“The new traffic patterns have really hurt the businesses,” said Goldfeder. “We want to make the streets safe, but we don’t want to affect businesses.”

Goldfeder said he spoke with several business owners in the area — many of whom have had to shut their doors or reduce staff.

Kimberly Liverpool, manager of Tommy’s Pizza and Restaurant, said she had to reduce her staff by one, while the manager of Kalish Pharmacy, Joseph Bruno, reduced employee hours.

“[Customers] have difficulty getting to us,” Bruno said. “Sales have dropped tremendously.”

Jimmy Jobah, manager of Fine Food Market and Deli Grocery on Liberty Avenue, started a petition that has received at least 100 signatures in the store to get the changes reversed. Jobah said sales have almost been cut in half in the past year.

The plans were implemented to ease traffic and make the area more pedestrian friendly. From 2004 to 2008, the area averaged over 14 pedestrian injuries a year.

Though businesses have been affected, the changes have made the once-dangerous intersection safer, according to local officials.

“[The changes] have resulted in increased safety in that intersection, and fewer accidents have occurred since the changes were implemented,” said Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton. “On one hand, you’ve got the greater good. On the other hand, you have some individual impact. I don’t want to see merchants impacted, but I don’t want to see pedestrians killed.”

Crashes have declined more than 50 percent at the location since these changes were made, according to the DOT.

“I would say there has been a vast decrease in collisions,” said Lyn, an area resident who often walks to the stores along Liberty Avenue. “It keeps people safer in the neighborhood.”

DOT officials said they will continue to update Goldfeder and work with the community.  Since the changes were implemented the DOT has monitored the area and will continue to as they determine if any adjustments are needed, a spokersperson said.

Goldfeder, who hopes to get a full review from the DOT, said safety and thriving business do not have to be mutually exclusive.

“We can accomplish both,” he said. “If we include more people in the conversation, we’ll come up with a result that really improves the situation.”

– Additional Reporting By Melissa Chan

Snow can’t stop Howard Beach Halloween!


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Howard Beach held a "Post Halloween Festival"

After an unexpected October snowstorm canceled Howard Beach’s traditional Halloween parade down Cross Bay Boulevard, the Howard Beach Kiwanis extended the holiday for an additional weekend to host their “Post Halloween Festival” on Saturday, November 5 at St. Helen School.

“We still had to do something for the kids,” said Howard Beach Kiwanis Club Secretary Dino Bono.

About 100 attendees filled the school’s parking lot for face painting, inflatable rides and a photo booth. A DJ spun tunes all afternoon and 20 kids took home $25 American Express gift cards as prizes for the best costumes.

Southwest Rotary Club ‘stuffs’ bus for a good cause


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan. The Rotary Club of Southwest Queens collected enough nonperishable foods to “stuff” this bus.

The school bus was stuffed and ready to go, only its passengers weren’t students — they were boxes of Cheerios and cans of Campbell’s soups.

During its second annual food drive on Saturday, November 5, the Rotary Club of southwest Queens parked outside of Waldbaum’s on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach for a full day of collecting nonperishable foods for a local food pantry.

The “Stuff the Bus” event took place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., when Rotary Club members were on hand to encourage shoppers to drop off bags of food or donate cash and gift certificates as they left the supermarket. All proceeds were donated to Our Lady of Grace Ministry of Care Services food pantry in Howard Beach.

Rotary Club President Frances Scarantino said the local food pantry greatly needed to be replenished.

“They’re very, very low on food to give to those who need it, especially during the holiday season,” she said. “When we go to the food pantry, we see that the shelves are empty. Our heart breaks for those people who can’t afford a basic need like food. We feel great about being able to put food on the table for them.”

Scarantino said the bus was stuffed for the second year in a row. Aside from the food collected, the Rotary Club raised $185 in cash and gift certificates.

Lenny’s Pizzeria will be back


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Despite a devastating fire that tore through Lenny’s Pizzeria, the popular neighborhood hallmark of three decades will reopen in a few weeks.

Co-owner Andrew Mastrangelo said the fire was electrical and started because of a neon sign in their front window.

At 7:47 a.m. on October 17, firefighters in Battalion 39 responded to the one-alarm fire at Lenny’s at 164-02 Cross Bay Boulevard.

There were no reported injuries.

The building still stands, but the fire shattered all three major display windows and seared signs, wires, furniture and most of the restaurant’s interior. The front windows have been boarded up, and debris strewn outside the store from the fire’s destruction has been cleaned up.

Although fire officials originally reported massive damages throughout and to the front of the store, Mastrangelo said the damage to the store was not as bad aspreviously thought. He said most of the damage was to the front of the building.

Mastrangelo said he’s still waiting to hear the exact estimate of the damages.

“We thank our customers for their concern and support,” he said. “We are glad our customers are standing by us in this time of need, and we will be back soon.”

With additional reporting by Alexa Altman.

La Bottega in Howard Beach


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

La Bottega may be considered a newcomer to the rivalrous row of restaurants on Cross Bay Boulevard, but it’s no rookie.

Since it opened up on the Howard Beach strip in June, La Bottega has become the neighborhood go-to spot for Italian gourmet. In fact, on a Friday evening, the restaurant is packed way before the dinner rush comes in by 5:30 p.m. — and for good reason.

La Bottega boasts an impressively large menu, with close to 70 different types of paninis and 26 salads — including avocado, roasted salmon and cajun shrimp.

Although La Bottega is a franchise, each restaurant is individually owned, giving customers the best of both worlds — a diverse and changing menu with a name they can trust.

Unique from other restaurants, this La Bottega offers a delicious selection of homemade, mouth-watering, rich and creamy gelato — made fresh every day — and irresistible sangria, courtesy of head server Fabio Urrutia. Comparable to the sangria served in Spain, Urrutia’s recipe keeps customers coming back. In fact, at least half of the tables in the packed restaurant were topped off with the delicious blend of Brandy, Merlot wine, sugar, oranges and grape pears.

As for an appetizer, to rejuvenate your taste buds, try the calamari arabiata. A dish for two, the arabiata is served with onions and hot cherry peppers over a delicious bed of fried calamari. It’s perfect for those who like spice, and for those — including this eater — who usually stay away from fiery foods.

If you’re having an understandably tough time choosing an entrée, try the restaurant’s newest dish, the tonno alla griglia — sushi-quality tuna grilled and served with a vegetable ratatouille, with a basil and homemade pesto sauce. The dish is only a little over a week old, but it has quickly become a best-selling contender.

Other crowd favorite entrees worth checking out include the ravioli d’astic con gamberoni — lobster ravioli sautéed with shrimp and crabmeat in a vodka cream sauce — and the veal gorgonzola, which comes with veal scallopini in a gorgonzola cheese sauce.

The Casella brothers — Salvatore, Jr., Gabriele and Sergio — owners of La Bottega in Howard Beach, said they stay on top of competition by putting in their own flair to the menu. Come for the sangria, for the gelato, the fine food or the friendly and attentive wait staff. The flair at La Bottega is molto bene!

La Bottega Bayside on Urbanspoon

Input sought for new New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Baumann The new center for developmentally disabled children and adults will open in 2012.

A new center for developmentally disabled children and adults is coming to Howard Beach.

New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) looks to offer a number of new programs and workshops to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder and people diagnosed with a developmental disability at a more convenient location.

The center — the first NYFAC center in Queens — is slated to open closer to May 2012, according to spokesperson Mitch Udowitch. It will be located at 164-14 Cross Bay Boulevard, the former spot of Danny’s Szechuan Garden.

“South Queens in general is an area that has not been serviced and is in need of service,” Udowitch said. “It’s convenient for our Brooklyn and Queens clientele.”

The center will provide after-school educational and recreational programs for children, workshops during the day for adults and teen socialization networks. The center will also host support groups, family education programs, speech and occupational therapy.

“We want the building to serve as a community center, so we will be outreaching into the community to share our vision with residents that might want to get involved,” said President and CEO Andrew Baumann.

The center will also have a training area that can provide live web casts for professional development, a full-sized television studio to teach in and a working kitchen for its home economics program.

“We’re looking to especially help the children and improve their lives,” said Udowitch.

NYFAC, a nonprofit organization, is based in Ozone Park. It serves almost 80 families in Queens and Brooklyn. For more information, call NYFAC at 718-641-3441.