Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ranks of officials cut the ribbon Wednesday on the $68 million Queens Museum expansion project.
“There always seems to be something new and magical happening in this incredible space,” the head of the city said. “It really is an experience like no other. This is one of the great cultural institutions that provides art-inspiring experiences that you can find nowhere else.”
The Queens Museum, formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art, shortened its name but doubled its size to 105,000 square feet, officials said.
It will feature new galleries, classrooms, a new wing with nine artist studios and a sky-lit atrium when it reopens to the public on November 9.
“We have expressed openness in this space. We’re open to new ideas. We’re open to the future of arts. We’re open to contemporary. We’re also open to the community, open to the sky,” said Tom Finkelpearl, the museum’s executive director.
Queens Museum will also have its own 5,000-square-foot public library in 2015, library officials said. It will house about 14,000 books.
“The expanded Queens Museum will become an exciting destination for not only our out-of-town visitors but for our residents alike,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “We are going to have something here that will be unique in the city of New York. I can’t see it do anything but be a wonderful place to come for everyone.”
The transformed city-owned building is located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the former space of the World’s Fair ice skating rink.
Its massive facelift, designed by Grimshaw, was largely funded by Marshall, Bloomberg, the state and City Council.
The city may continue to report decreasing crime rates, but its park safety is up for question.
Crime in city parks this spring was 44 percent higher compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD data.
From April 1 to June 30, 128 crimes were reported in the 31 city parks for which the police department reports stats.
During the same time in 2012 there were 89.
It’s the largest jump since 2006, when a law was passed requiring the NYPD to provide the City Council with park crime statistics, said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“[These stats] are obviously cause for alarm,” he said.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park reported the most crimes of Queens parks, with 27 complaints, 12 more than the same time last year. These included 22 grand larcenies, two robberies, two felony assaults and one grand larceny/assault.
It was the second most crime-ridden park in the city, following Central Park, which had 37 complaints.
Six crimes were reported in Alley Pond Park and two in Forest Park during the same period.
In the wake of the crime jump and a rape in Forest Park last week, the second time a female jogger was tasered and then sexually assaulted there this year, there have been calls for Forest and Flushing Meadows to have their own precincts.
Central Park is the only city green space to have a dedicated NYPD precinct. Flushing Meadows, the fourth largest park in the city, at 898 acres, is slightly bigger than Central. Forest Park, the third largest green space in the borough after Alley Pond, is 544 acres.
“These are public spaces and people should feel safe,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.
The jump in crime, he said, is no doubt a result of the lack of dedicated officers assigned to the parks.
The NYPD did not comment as of press time, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has reportedly stated that park crime has been consistently low and only accounts for a small percentage of overall city crime.
Vallone wants to require the department to extend the crime reporting beyond 31 parks to every city park over one acre.
He said the NYPD says it’s only providing data for so few parks because they don’t have to submit the information if they don’t have the technology to do so.
“It’s now been seven years since the law was passed and it’s ridiculous to think that they haven’t been able to come up with this technology.”
Millions of dollars are coming to the Queens Museum of Art.
The city’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Tuesday, August 27 approved more than $18 million in capital funds that Borough President Helen Marshall has allocated to help pay for the expansion of the museum.
The OMB also okayed around $19.8 million for the expansions from the mayor’s office and an additional $6.7 million from the City Council. When added to the approximately $13 million in private funds that have been raised, there is now around $57.5 million authorized for the project, according to the borough president’s office. If needed, Marshall has allocated another $5.7 million in funds that could be approved.
“The Queens Museum of Art has been a crown jewel among our borough’s cultural offerings and this expansion project will allow it to become an even more stunning and engaging facility,” Marshall said. “The doubling of the museum’s size, coupled with the other improvements that are part of the project, will make the museum an even more attractive place for both local residents and out-of-town visitors to explore.”
Once the museum’s expansion into the southern half of the New York City Building in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is completed, the institution will have 100,000 square feet of floor space. The project will also add a new 220-foot long illuminated glass façade and entry plaza on the Grand Central Parkway side of the building, a new entrance and expanded outdoor space on the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park side of the building and a new skylit atrium.
The 23rd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York (HKDBF-NY) roused a rip-roaring good time in Queens.
The two-day event at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on August 10 and 11 was fun for everyone in the family, including pets. Thousands of people enjoyed free giveaways, an arts and crafts booth, various types of food and live performances.
“I heard about it before and we saw it in the paper, so I thought we’d come check it out,” said David Noven, who came from Harlem with his son. “The boat races were really nice, the music was good and there was good food. I had lots of dumplings.”
While being a family-friendly event with ample entertainment, the dragon boat races had fierce competition as the teams sped through Meadow Lake, unleashing the results of more than two months of training.
With 188 teams and more than 2,500 competitors, this year’s festival was the largest ever — an accomplishment that reflects the multicultural support for the Asian tradition.
“Obviously we have a growing Asian-American population and I think [promoting] this multicultural event is very important,” said Henry Wan, chair of the HKDBF-NY.
Teams competed for prizes and bragging rights, but the festival also provided downtime from the everyday stress of life.
“It’s been a true blast to be out here to celebrate and enjoy the festivities with so many different people, so many different cultures, so many different companies,” said Dwight Williams, captain of Standard Chartered Bank’s team. “It’s been nothing but pure enjoyment.”
In celebration of the “Year of the Snake,” the organizing committee of the 23rd Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York (HKDBF-NY) announced that this year’s competition is to be held on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11 in Meadow Lake, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — rain or shine. Admission is free.
It will feature cash and prizes for competitors in this year’s US Dragon Boat Open Championship.
HKDBF-NY is an international, multicultural celebration and sporting event, the largest multicultural festival in New York and the largest festival of its kind in the U.S. HKDBF NY keeps up the age-old tradition of Dragon Boat Racing in colorful, custom made teak boats, which are virtual works of art gliding on water. Custom made by a small coterie of craftsmen in Hong Kong, weighing one ton each, colorfully painted with a dragon head at the front and dragon tail at the rear, the boats are piloted by up to 20 crewmen, including 18 paddlers, a drummer and steers person.
For 22 successful years HKDBF-NY has attracted a diverse, multi-cultural audience of more than 50,000 attendees throughout North America.
With more than 180 well-trained teams, involving more than 2,500 participants competing from across the U.S. and Canada, this year’s festival is expected to be notable in its scale and fierce competition.
With cash and prizes at stake for the US Dragon Boat Open Championships, the festival takes place over two days on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, featuring events for the entire family. The opening day parade at noon on Saturday, Aug. 10and will be followed by the New York City Championship Races. The U.S. Dragon Boat Open Championship will be held on Sunday, August 11 with the teams vigorously competing for their share of the cash and prizes.
Racing starts at 9 a.m. and events last throughout the day until approximately 5 p.m. each day, rain or shine.
Other festival events consist of the media invitational, corporate youth, charity race, women’s invitational, and sponsors challenge, a photo contest as well as presentations on the stage of traditional Chinese arts, martial arts demonstrations, the traditional Dragon Dance, musical and other diverse performances and demonstrations of folk arts and crafts. An ethnic food court and booths staffed by sponsors of the event, many of whom will be giving away promotional items, and many community-based organizations participating help make for a unique, action packed, multi-cultural, New York weekend.
The tradition of Dragon Boat Racing is an annual Chinese rite commemorating the idealistic poet and reformer Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest against his emperor’s policies. The locals raced in their boats in an attempt to rescue the poet. To prevent fish and water dragons from eating his body, the locals beat their drums and splashed their paddles. This was the beginning of Dragon Boat Racing.
Admission to the HKDBF-NY is free, events take place rain or shine.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival 2013Entertainment On The Verizon Fios Stage
SATURDAY, August 10
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM Chinese Music Ensemble of New York
Founded in 1961 this Ensemble is the oldest and only full Chinese orchestra in the United States and the Americas. Its present membership of nearly fifth musicians plays practically every type of Chinese music on Chinese instruments, both ancient and modern. In this performance a smaller ensemble plays a selection of their repertoire complete with drums and cymbals.
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Opening Ceremonies
Lions and Dragon Dancing Teams with Percussionists welcome all and, together with invited dignitaries, officially kick-off the 23nd annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York
1:00 PM – 1:30 PM BAAM
Formed in the summer of 2011 with the stated goal of gathering some of New York’s top young musicians and songwriters into one group, BAAM is an energetic indie rock band with a strong Blues and jazz influence. The seven band members have performed with some of the world’s top musicians.
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM I Giullari di Piazza
Tarantella songs and dances from the rich culture of South Italy.
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Shaolin Masters
Warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple perform martial arts. In the history of the Shaolin Temple, founded in 495 AD, generation after generation of monk generals and soldiers protected the temples from wars and riots of society.
SUNDAY, August 11
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM American Tap Dancing
Professionals and students entertain with the unique American art form of tap dancing, also known as hoofers.
11:30 AM – 12:30 AM The Bailen Brothers
Twin brothers, vocalists and instrumentalists, David (on drums) and Daniel (on bass), lead the band with their pop, R&B, and Rock music. Their albums focus on achieving great songs with sing-able melodies that are both stimulating compositionally and lyrically.
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Mariachi Agulia y Plata.
This popular Mariachi band’s lively and energetic performance will have all dancing
1:30 PM – 2:30PM Mawuena Kodjovi Trio
The music of the African Brothers Collective is a colorful, vibrant and inviting journey into traditional and modern West Africa. Powerful rhythms, soothing melodies and dances from the mother land will move you body and soul.
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Shaolin Masters
Warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple perform martial arts. In the history of the Shaolin Temple, founded in 495 AD, generation after generation of monk generals and soldiers protected the temples from wars and riots of society.
The Balloon Man (Twister) and face painter returns to the delight of all. Find them in the Arts & Crafts Tent.
ARTS & CRAFTS TENT
15+ artists will be demonstrating traditional Chinese crafts including calligraphy, rice doll making, bead stringing, kite making, jeweled ornaments, ribbon flowers, paper cutting and much more. Children will be able to try their hand at making their own crafts.
Visit the non-profit tent for information on programs and services.
Renderings of a possible stadium for the new Major League Soccer (MLS) team, New York City Football Club, made their way onto the Internet yesterday.
The renderings were made in 2012 by the organization, but it is not known who leaked them online.
“This rendering was a conceptual design that Major League Soccer produced when considering Pier 40 as a potential soccer stadium,” said Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications. “On a daily basis New York City FC is working on a long-term stadium solution.”
MLS has considered building a 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was supported by a few politicians. However, recently that idea has seen numerous kickbacks.
About two weeks ago Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his radio show that Yankee Stadium will be the home for the New York City Football Club. This statement was later retracted.
The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park proposal has also drawn opposition from Councilmember Leroy Comrie, chair of the council’s Land Use Committee, and Senator Tony Avella, who suggested the stadium be built in the Rockaways.
“Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is used by residents from all across Queens, and this usage by Major League Soccer would negatively impact park life,” Comrie previously said to The Courier. “While there are many soccer fans here in Queens, there are more appropriate places to build this stadium.”
Avella recently penned a bill aimed at preventing proposals to change parkland use, which would require parkland taken for projects to be replaced with three times the space and within one mile of the project. If passed by the legislature after summer recess, it would lower the chances of getting the stadium in Queens.
The expansion team, which is jointly owned by English club Manchester City F.C. and the New York Yankees, will not begin play until 2015.
Terrace on the Park operators want to upgrade the facility and are looking to get a new lease on the popular and historic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park catering hall to do so.
Their contract with the city’s Parks Department expires next March, officials said.
The department has issued a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 52-11 111th Street site.
“While the current concessionaire has invested more than $8 million in capital improvements, exceeding the requirements of their license agreement, it is clear that additional infrastructure investments are needed,” a Parks spokesperson said.
George Makkos, co-owner of Terrace on the Park, said they have invested $12 million so far to better the catering hall.
But the 100,000-square-foot building needs “millions” of dollars more in capital improvements which cannot be done under the looming lease expiration date, Makkos said.
“Given the size and complexity of the building, the money that we will need to spend will never be recovered in the time, in the lease that we have left,” he said.
Makkos said he and co-owner Jimmy Kaloidis want to retain and upgrade the catering hall.
“We’re trying to extend the lease for a new term so we can spend what’s needed and a lot more to bring the building to a state which is sufficient so it can compete in the wedding and corporate banquet business as it should,” he said.
The city must launch a procedural public bidding process.
“It’s a huge building. Everything becomes a big deal,” Makkos said. “A simple remodeling could cost a million dollars.”
The proposal process is competitive but open to any entities, including the current concessionaire, the Parks Department said.
Terrace on the Park was built for the 1964 World’s Fair and has been a catering hall for nearly 50 years.
The current contract was scheduled to expire in March 2020 but was amended to expire in March 2014, officials said.
A Parks Department spokesperson said the change is not related to any development proposals at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to pledge more than $10 million to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as part of a deal struck with the City Council.
“This deal was a long time coming,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras. “I can say with confidence that we will all benefit from this expansion.”
USTA officials needed the council’s final vote to go through with the $500 million plan to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the park by 0.68 acres.
They agreed to commit to ongoing community outreach programs, create an annual job fair for Queens residents and give 5,000 free Arthur Ashe Day tickets to Queens kids.
The more than $10 million pledged by the USTA would go toward public safety enhancements at the park, Ferreras said.
“There are still details that we are currently working on and we will work on as a community for weeks to come,” she said.
The plans include hiring more local residents and preventing cars from parking on the grass.
But many in the borough remain opposed to developers taking city parkland.
The USTA was not originally required to give back any land lost in the project. But officials ultimately agreed to transfer ownership of two parcels of parkland the USTA has been renting to the Parks Department.
Park advocates criticized the plan as giving back land that was already accessible to the public.
Ferreras said the project would create $750 million in revenue annually and provide thousands of jobs.
Queens kids, come cruise the Corona Cobra Coaster.
The borough’s only roller coaster, which opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in May, was officially christened July 20 with its new alliterative moniker.
A naming contest this spring drew in more than 500 submissions from city residents, said officials from Fantasy Forest, which operates the five-ride family amusement park.
Officials skimmed through suggested names like Steel Venom, Dragon Trails, Sandy’s Revenge, The Rushing Flushing Coaster, New York Dragon Coaster, Flushing Meadows Monster, The Snake Queen, The Green Supreme, Puff the Magic Dragon, Cecil the Sea Serpent, Jabberwocky, Fanta Sea Coaster, King of Queens, The Green Anaconda and Komodo Coaster.
But Brooklyn residents Elizabeth Holmes, 45, and Aquiles Nunes, 30, who both suggested similar names, ultimately took home the naming rights and family four packs of unlimited ride wristbands.
The park features the historic Flushing Meadows Carousel as the main attraction. It is the largest merry-go-round in Queens.
“Like everything we do at Fantasy Forest, we try to involve the park guests,” said David Galst, director of operations for New York Carousel, which runs the merry-go-rounds at Forest Park and Flushing Meadows.
The Corona Cobra Coaster is 13 feet tall and travels about 16 miles per hour at its top speed.
Riders must be at least 3 feet 6 inches tall to ride alone.
Fantasy Forest, at 111th Street and 55th Avenue, is open daily through September 8 and on weekends, holidays through December 1.
Nearly 7,000 runners took part in the New York Road Runners Queens 10K at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on July 21.
Runners came from all over for the race, which featured about six miles around the park, including in front of Citi Field, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the Unisphere.
“It was fun to run next to Citi Field,” said men’s winner Christian Thompson, who hails from Philadelphia and left before 5 a.m. to make the race. “I’ve never been here and I love seeing places I’ve never seen before. And NYC is just unlike any other place on earth.”
The event was the third race of the Road Runners five-borough tour series. Participants were given discounts to save on food and shows at local Queens businesses, such as The Queens Theatre, The Museum of the Moving Image, Limoncello Italian Restaurant, The Laughing Devil Comedy Club and Donovan’s Pub, among others.
For some of the runners it worked as a stepping stone and practice for the New York City Marathon in November, the Road Runners premier event.
In her first time running in Queens, Jayne Grebinski was the female winner and set a new record, completing the course in 37:20.
“I’m honored. It’s nice to get into a race, to be able to get out there and know that you are on-line with the competition with years past,” Grebinski said.
Since the Boston Marathon tragedy the Road Runners have increased security, use bomb sniffing dogs before races and require runners to carry clear bags if they need to carry items.
But many participants weren’t concerned with a terror threat at the event.
“I’m not going to stop living my life or having fun, because stuff happens, Forest Hills native Rahmin Pavlovic said.
A bill introduced in the State Senate would make it more difficult for private companies to get a hold of city parkland.
“Parkland is sacred and should be preserved for generations to come, not given away to private developers, especially without just and equal parkland compensation,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who penned the legislation.
The law would allow for a review process of proposals to change parkland use. It would also require replacement green space to be three times the size of the parcel being alienated and within one mile of that parcel.
Three separate proposals around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are at the root of bill’s target. Developers want to expand the US Tennis Association (USTA) stadium, transform Willets Point and build a Major League Soccer stadium there.
“[These projects] threaten to take crucial parkland from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and together constitute perhaps the biggest land grab for parkland not only in Queens, but also in the entire city,” Avella said.
The USTA wants to lease 0.68 acres of city property to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That would allow them to shift the grandstand stadium and the southern tennis courts.
In exchange, the association agreed to give the city back 1.56 acres it currently leases, though project opponents say a parcel of that land is already publicly accessible.
The state legislature gave its end-of-session approval last month, passing a bill required when municipal parkland is sold or leased to a private entity.
But Avella said the mandated bill is just a legal precedent based on previous court decisions. He added that it only recommends — and does not require — that parkland be replaced.
Park advocates who support the bill say open space is a nonrenewable resource meant for the public and loopholes need to be closed.
“We would like to see park alienation made even more difficult,” said Frederick Kress, founder of Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces. “It needs to be really toughened up.”
Alfredo Centola, founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a group opposed to private development in the park, said the law is “a good idea because it’s going to actually make it extremely difficult for the land to be stolen.”
The Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee will have to decide whether to move the legislation forward to the full Senate after the summer recess is over.
“Unfortunately, once lost, municipal parkland is difficult, if not impossible, to recover,” Avella said.
David Diosa and Sebastián Guenzatti are kicking their way to the top, as both were signed to be part of the returning New York Cosmos.
The Cosmos, which were once based in New York and featured the likes of famed soccer player Pelé, are making a comeback to the North American Soccer League this August.
On the roster, fans will find Diosa, 20, from Jackson Heights and Guenzatti, 22, from College Point.
Colombian-born Diosa started playing soccer at age 4 and came to the United States when he was 10. He played soccer in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on a team called Bolaños and went on to play with other local teams. Diosa also shone bright as he helped Martin Luther King High School’s soccer team win the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) soccer championship four years in a row.
Diosa later became part of the Cosmos youth academy, where he played for the under-18 and under-23 teams.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I was waiting for this moment since the academy, so I feel glad to play here, feel honored to play here, to be part of the team and to be part of the legendary club.”
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese finds it rewarding to have a player like Diosa on the team. Savarese believes the acquisition shows the work that went into the academy paid off.
“Diosa has a great passion for the game, great commitment,” he said. “He has been doing great and he has been growing very rapidly and developing in his game to be a player that can bring things that we don’t have.”
Guenzatti, who began playing soccer at age 4 in Uruguay, caught Savarese’s eye when he played for him at another local academy in the under-17 and under-18 teams.
“He was always a player that I liked. I felt that he had the potential to become a good pro,” said Savarese. “I felt that it was the right time for him to be part of this.”
After playing soccer for Francis Lewis High School for four years, Guenzatti went on to play for two Uruguayan teams.
Savarese then gave him a call to return to New York and try out for the Cosmos.
“I got a little experience over there and now coming here and playing with players I used to see on T.V. and I used to follow – it feels good,” said Guenzatti.
For both Diosa and Guenzatti, it is still surreal to be playing on the same team with players they watched on television for years. But they hope to learn from other teammates and grow together. Both are also thankful to their families.
“I will just work hard [and] listen to the people who are older than me — that have more experience — and get more experience out of this, too,” said Guenzatti.
The Cosmos’ home opener is on August 3 against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium.