Tag Archives: Flushing

Flushing real estate seeking new heights


| spreuss@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Scott Bintner

Stephen Preuss is a vice president at Cushman & Wakefield who focuses on the Queens market. 

Last year showed us record-breaking pricing of development sites in the Flushing area. This year has taken those numbers upwards and has even left real estate professionals scratching their heads.

The average price per buildable square foot in the fourth quarter of 2014 throughout the city was approximately $303, which is 52 percent higher than the same period last year. Since the start of 2015, we have seen multiple properties sell at more than $300 per buildable square foot.

Just this past February we sold a development site at 142-26 Roosevelt Ave., a prime location in downtown Flushing. The property offered 21,060 buildable square feet and sold at $322.89 per buildable square foot.

Recently we have received several calls from appraisers trying to make sense of these prices where capitalization rates and price per square foot do not make financial sense.

The interest from foreign buyers has kept the interest in an upswing and has since resulted in sale prices comparable to those in Manhattan. Multiple properties especially on Northern Boulevard have sold for above average pricing, and most properties have a retail component with development potential.

For example, 138-12 Northern Blvd. in Flushing sold at $341.27 per buildable square foot. The property consisted of a four-unit retail strip, but allowed for an additional 20,000 buildable square feet to be developed on site.

We have been seeing an exponential amount of interest in development since 2012 and expect the remainder of this year to follow suit.

Stephen-Preuss

Stephen Preuss

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More traffic agents, safety devices near Flushing Commons site


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of TDC Development International

Hoping to ease the pain for drivers and pedestrians, the city is bringing more traffic agents and safety devices to downtown Flushing.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the measures during Wednesday’s meeting of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s Flushing Commons Task Force. The advisory body was formed last year to focus on congestion issues related to the billion-dollar Flushing Commons project, a complex of housing, shops and businesses rising on a former municipal parking lot.

As of Wednesday, teams of two NYPD traffic enforcement agents were assigned to the intersections of 37th Avenue and Main Street as well as Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street. A single traffic agent was stationed at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Trottenberg said the DOT will also create a left-turn-only lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street and install a temporary all-way stop sign at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Each of the measures, she noted, aims to improve traffic flow and increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians traveling through downtown Flushing near the Commons site.

“The task force appreciates the commitment by the DOT, the NYPD and the developers to consider all possible measures to enhance traffic flow and pedestrian safety in Flushing’s downtown core,” Katz said. “These actions are sound steps that demonstrate the DOT’s commitment, and continual engagement by all stakeholders is necessary to keep the economic engine of downtown Flushing running amidst the building pains of development.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim, City Councilman Peter Koo and Community Board 7 Chairperson Chuck Apelian all expressed support for the new safety measures.

Congestion in Flushing has been problematic for years; the downtown area has the highest per capita number in Queens of vehicular accidents resulting in pedestrian injury or death.

Flushing’s traffic woes increased in the area around the Commons site after work started last year. Several entrances and exits on Union Street were shut down, and a bus terminus was relocated onto 128th Street between 37th and 39th avenues, shifting many buses through the neighborhood.

Katz formed the task force last year to engage city agencies and F&T Group, Flushing Commons’ developer, with local business groups and civic leaders to find ways to alleviate Flushing’s traffic problems. Since December, the DOT — at the task force’s urging — amended a pedestrian walkway permit at the Commons site, shifting it into a parking lane. This, the borough president’s office noted, helped improve traffic flow through the neighborhood.

Along with the measures announced Wednesday, Trottenberg said the DOT is contemplating the following additional measures to further improve traffic conditions in Flushing:

  • Reversing the direction of traffic on one-way 38th Avenue;
  • Creating a right-turn lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street;
  • Temporarily removing parking spaces on 37th Avenue and 138th Street immediately adjacent to the Flushing Commons construction site; and
  • Installing new stop signs, traffic signals and/or enhanced street markings at several other intersections, including 37th Avenue and 138th Street, Union Street and 38th Avenue, Main Street and 37th Avenue, 39th Avenue and Union Street, and Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street.

 

Woman pushing stroller steals cash in front of Flushing supermarket: police


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A woman pushing a stroller stole $220 in cash from a man outside a Flushing supermarket last week, authorities said.

The alleged thief — described as an Asian adult female with black hair who was wearing a white coat and black sunglasses — grabbed the money in front of CJ Supermarket at 40-31 Main St. about 11:45 a.m. on March 19, police said.

She brushed up against the 52-year-old victim before taking the cash from his left jacket pocket.

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

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Flushing middle schooler is a taekwondo star


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Eagles Tae Kwon Do

Uni Ha is an eighth-grader at I.S. 25 in Flushing who travels around the world living her dream, competing in taekwondo competitions.

Ha, 13, has many achievements in the martial arts discipline of taekwondo and is currently ranked a second dan black belt. Last summer she became the youngest athlete to make it onto the USA National Team in taekwondo.

“It is an honor to just place in the nationals,” Ha said. “To be on the National Team and to be the youngest member is an honor.”

After earning a position on the USA National Team, Ha entered the Costa Rica Open Championship, an international competition, in August. At the event, she came away with a gold medal.

In September, Ha flew to Mexico for a competition and brought home another medal. Then in November, she traveled to Canada for the Toronto Open where she represented the USA and won the bronze medal.

The largest international competition, the U.S. Open Championship, was held in January. Ha was at that event and medaled yet again. In February, Ha also medaled at the Canada Open. During the national qualifier on March 8, Ha took home the gold in her division and defeated a 17-year-old fighter to win the gold medal in that division as well. Ha returned from the Mexico Open in Aguascalientes, Mexico, on March 15 with another gold medal around her neck.

“The Mexico Open is a really great atmosphere and very professional,” Ha said. “It was my second time there and I’ve learned so much through it. After finishing with a silver my first time, I wanted to do better this time.”

“This one was really hard for me,” she said. “It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. It’s a great experience.”

Besides being an adept taekwondo athlete, Ha is a great student, earning a 95 percent average on her last report card. She has an acceptance letter from St. Francis Preparatory high school and is waiting to hear from Townsend Harris High School. She is also heavily involved in community service by teaching taekwondo in local public schools, churches and community centers.

Ha’s coach at Eagle’s Tae Kwon Do in Flushing, Andrew Park, said, “She has done a tremendous job. She works real hard and is a great kid.”

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Flushing businessman uses ad to promote stronger alliance with South Korea


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

The Flushing bus shelter where a local businessman posted an advertisement calling for a stronger alliance between the U.S. and South Korea.

After the American ambassador to South Korea was assaulted last month, a local Korean-American businessman found a way to voice his support for a stronger alliance between the two nations. Bridge Enterprises purchased an ad that’s on display at a bus shelter located on Northern Boulevard eastbound at 149th Street in Flushing denouncing the March 5 slashing of U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.

Flushing businessman Ted Han (at left) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Flushing businessman Ted Han (at left) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

According to Han Tai-kyuk (Ted Han) of Bridge Enterprises, the ad is a gesture designed to show a “steady and stable tie” between Korean-Americans and the U.S. government. The area where the ad was posted is home to a large Korean population, “99 percent” of which condemned the act of violence, he added. Lippert — whom President Obama appointed as ambassador to South Korea last October— was sliced across the face and left arm while attending a breakfast forum in Seoul. His attacker — identified as Kim Ki-jong — reportedly is described as a strong Korean nationalist supportive of unifying communist North Korea and democratic South Korea. Han’s ad shows images of Lippert meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye days after the incident. Above the pictures is written, in Korean and English, “We stand together as brothers and sisters!”

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Flushing Mall set for demolition soon, new permits filed for 13-story building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

It’s the end of the road for the Flushing Mall, but the fate of the massive site it sits on is still up in the air.

Developer F&T Group, which is working on the huge Flushing Commons project and constructed One Fulton Square, filed plans Thursday to construct what is being called Two Fulton Square on the site at 133-15 39th Ave. in downtown Flushing.

The development will include a 13-story mixed-use residential building with 192 units, according to the filings. Margulies Hoelzli Architecture will design the building, which will have retail stores in the basement level. A parking facility with about 377 spaces was also recently filed for the site.

The project is much smaller than a September filing on the site for a 16-story mixed-use commercial, residential project that would have housed nearly 400 apartments in 368,868 square feet of residential space and 520 enclosed parking spaces. Those plans were not approved by the Buildings Department.

The developer has been tight-lipped about the plans for the project, and has not returned The Courier’s requests for comments and more information. The change in filing could be a downsizing of the project or possibly just part of the development structure.

But one thing is certain — the current mall is about to come down. Last month the developer filed permits to demolish the old Flushing Mall, and scaffolding has been recently set up around the site.

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First charter meeting for Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

City Council Member Peter Koo swears in the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce board of directors last Wednesday. (photo courtesy of Koo's office)

The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce continued its growth on the afternoon of March 18 with its first membership meeting that attracted numerous civic and business leaders.

The chamber’s first formal task was to elect a board of directors to oversee the organization’s operation under the stewardship of co-chairs Simon Gerson and Chris Kui. The organization also appointed a council of advisers and approved its corporate bylaws and agenda for the months ahead.

“The Flushing Chamber is proud to provide leadership to ensure the continued prosperity of our community,” Gerson said. “Our local businesses will benefit from the networking, education and advocacy opportunities that the chamber provides.”

Greater Flushing looks to replace the void that the 80-year-old Flushing Chamber of Commerce left when it dissolved in 2012. Many blamed the group’s inability to change with the times and neighborhood’s demographics as key factors resulting in its demise.

But Greater Flushing Executive Director John Choe said the upstart group aims to create a “multicultural and modern” organization catering to all businesses and people in Flushing from every background. Greater Flushing already has about 70 businesses as members, and Choe hopes that number will double in the next few months.

“I think Flushing deserves a chamber that will advocate on behalf of the entire community,” he said. “We haven’t had a chamber for a long time, even though we’re the fourth-largest commercial district in the city.”

Greater Flushing already has a “very full plate” of programs aiming to serve and enrich businesses, residents and visitors alike, Choe added, including a free English language program in partnership with Monroe College. The chamber also wants to sponsor several street fairs this summer and launch free financial literacy programs.

The chamber is also considering creating a “formal lending circle” with established credit agencies, Choe noted. Traditional lending circles often practiced among immigrant families involve members donating funds into a central account, with the lump sum then provided to someone launching a business or buying a home, among other purposes.

The formal circle, Choe said, would follow regulations and ensure accountability with the borrowers.

City Councilman Peter Koo had the honor of installing the newly-elected board of directors and threw his support to the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, saying the group would provide “small business owners with the resources they need to expand and grow.”

“We are still living in a climate of over-regulation that remains challenging for many small business owners, so the Flushing Chamber will be a welcomed addition to our diverse business community,” Koo said.

Greater Flushing’s board of directors consists of Gerson, Kui and Don Capalbi of the Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association, Perka Chan of HealthFirst, Michael Cheng of Epos Global Management, Taehoon Kim of Regen Acupuncture, Ellen Kodadek of Flushing Town Hall, Michael Lam of Century Homes Realty Group LLC, Alice Lee of HealthPlus Amerigroup, Alfred Rankins of the Latimer House Museum, Maureen Regan of Green Earth Urban Gardens and Leo Zhang of the law firm of Geng & Zhang.

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Pickpocket targets women at Flushing stores: NYPD


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

A serial pickpocket is going after female shoppers in the busy Main Street-Roosevelt Avenue area of Flushing — swiping their cellphones, cash and credit cards since late January, police said.

Each time, the suspect steals the woman’s valuables from her pocket or handbag while she is shopping or making a purchase.


According to police, the suspect is wanted in nine thefts, all of which took place at the J-Mart supermarket located at 136-20 Roosevelt Ave. or at other businesses within about a few blocks of that store:

  • On Jan. 29, at 8:30 p.m., the suspect approached a 22-year-old woman as she was shopping at a Duane Reade located at 136-02 Roosevelt Ave. and took her wallet containing an undetermined amount of cash and various credit cards.
  • On Feb. 8, at 5:20 p.m., the suspect approached a 29-year-old woman as she was shopping at J-Mart, and removed her iPhone 6 from her jacket pocket.
  • On Feb. 10, at 9 a.m., a 77-year-old woman was shopping at J-Mart when she was bumped into by an unknown person, causing her vegetables to fall to the floor. As the victim approached the checkout counter, she discovered that her wallet, which contained cash and various cards, had been stolen.
  • On Feb. 14, at 5:30 p.m., the suspect came up to a 30-year-old woman as she was shopping at the Jiang City Supermarket located at 40-38 Main St. and removed her wallet from her bag containing $300 and various credit cards.
  • On Feb. 27, at 5:30 p.m., the suspect came up to a 56-year-old woman as she was shopping in front of a market located at 40-34 Main St. and removed her wallet from her bag containing cash and various cards.
  • On March 2, at 2:30 p.m., the suspect approached a 65-year-old woman as she was shopping at the CJ Supermarket located at 40-33 Main St. and removed her wallet from her bag containing cash and various cards.
  • On March 3, at 12 p.m., the suspect approached a 28-year-old woman as she was buying coffee at a Starbucks located at 38-05 Main St. and removed her iPhone 6 with a case containing various credit cards from her bag.
  • On March 3, at 12:30 p.m., the suspect came up to a 41-year-old female victim as she was shopping at EW Studio located at 41-40 Kissena Blvd., and took her iPhone from her bag.
  • On March 8, at 1 p.m., the suspect approached a 65-year-old woman as she was shopping at the CJ Supermarket located at 40-33 Main St., and removed her wallet from her bag containing cash and various cards.

Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic man in his 40s and have released a video from the Feb. 8 incident at J-Mart.

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

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Flushing kindergartners in the middle of overcrowding debate


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library

This isn’t child’s play.

The fate of 120 kindergartners from a school in Flushing hangs in the balance of a vote school officials are scheduled to take later this month.

The 4-year-olds from P.S. 24 are currently educated in the school’s temporary trailers and the city wants to remove those trailers. Meanwhile, officials also want to temporarily move the students to a nearby school, P.S. 107.

“Some parents from P.S. 107 have objected to bringing in this group of students,” said Arlene Fleishman, a Community Board 7 member. “We’re talking about 4- and 5-year-olds here. They need to be put somewhere and it needs to be close to their original school.”

The parents from P.S. 107, Fleishman said, objected to the temporary co-location, claiming that it would increase traffic in the area and destroy the culture of the school. Despite parents’ objections, P.S. 107 can handle the extra five classrooms that would have to be made to accommodate the 120 kindergartners, according to the Department of Education.

The Panel For Educational Policy, a government body of 13 members elected by the mayor and the five borough presidents, will make a decision on March 25. Fleishman worries that if enough community members complain about the temporary co-location the panel will vote not to transfer the kindergartners, resulting in a construction stall at P.S.  24 and a loss of school seats.

“The overcrowding in Flushing schools is disgusting,” Fleishman said. “We are not in a position to say no to more school seats. I understand parents’ concerns but we have to do this.”

The city is in the process of removing external classroom trailers that were deployed more than two decades ago to hold back overcrowding in schools. The trailers, known as temporary classroom units, are being replaced with permanent expansions. These trailers were meant to be a temporary solution, and the city is finally creating permanent modules and attachments to existing schools.

Should the city build an extension to P.S. 24, an extra 500 seats will be created. The new seats will help the overcrowding problems that are affecting Flushing and schools across Queens and New York City.

“The Department of Education is committed to continuing to expand school capacity in Queens, where many communities are in need of more school space,” a spokesman for the Department of Education (DOE) said.

According to the DOE, the expansion of P.S. 24 will result in much-needed new capacity to serve a school where enrollment has been growing at a rapid pace.

The DOE plans on removing all of the trailers throughout the city, but they didn’t have a completion date.

Fleishman recently urged Community Board 11 to write a letter supporting the project and co-location plans. The panel made no indication on its opinion regarding the proposal.

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Police looking for suspect in string of NYC cellphone store thefts


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A cellphone thief has been swiping high-priced devices from stores around the city — including three businesses in Queens — for more than a year, police said.

Each time the male suspect steals a phone by cutting the security wires and grabbing the item before fleeing on foot, according to authorities.

Police say the crime spree started as far back as December 8, 2013, at an AT&T store located at 39-15 Main St. in Flushing, where the suspect took a Samsung Galaxy Note II.

The same man didn’t strike again until August 4, 2014, when he allegedly took a Samsung Galaxy S4 from another AT&T store, located at 30-67 Steinway St. in Astoria.

He returned to the same Main Street AT&T store on August 16 and February 4, stealing a Samsung Galaxy S5 both times.

The suspect is also accused of taking an iPhone and iPad from a T-Mobile store at 82-19 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights on Jan. 5, along with an AT&T store on Canal Street in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach in October. Police have released photos from the Jan. 5 incident.

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

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Koo: Mayor broke promise to make Lunar New Year a school holiday


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Flushing’s Asian community feels burned by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failure to make Lunar New Year a citywide holiday.

De Blasio announced last week that two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, would be added to the public school’s calendar as a holiday that will suspend school for two days. But Councilman Peter Koo said that the de Blasio administration promised him the same designation for Lunar New Year, a holiday that was recently celebrated, among others, by Flushing’s Asian community.

“The de Blasio administration did a commendable thing by recognizing the two Eids as important holidays,” Koo said. “What was strikingly absent from this announcement, however, was the declaration of Lunar New Year as a day off for school children as well. My community and I were made to believe that Lunar New Year was going to officially be recognized for the next school year. I was very disappointed.”

He continued, “Someone needs to explain to us why this hasn’t happened, despite being led to believe it would.”

De Blasio and School Chancellor Carmen Fariña have been pushing for Lunar New Year to become a citywide school holiday since the mayor took office, and the two often held rallies in Flushing to promote the idea. With the addition of the two Muslim holidays, there are now 16 official school holidays. State law sets a required number of school days, and the city must rework its school calendar for any additional school holidays.

But students in Flushing, and other Asian communities in New York, didn’t have to go to school this year because of a law that was passed last year.

The law allows the Department of Education to consider closing schools on days where large student absences are expected due to religious or cultural days of observance; it also calls on school districts to consider closing schools on holidays that are important to groups that account for at least 7.5 percent of the local population. According to census data, 57 percent of Flushing population is classified as Asian.

But Koo still wanted an official nod in the form of a citywide public school holiday.

“We worked with the administration when they came into power to work at getting Lunar New Year a holiday designation,” a spokesman for Koo’s office said. “They haven’t given us any explanation. They didn’t tell us why they didn’t do it.”

After last week’s announcement, de Blasio was asked if Lunar New Year would be included in the future.

“I’m going to keep working on that with the chancellor. What we’ve found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year, so it’s going to take more work to get to that,” de Blasio said last Wednesday. “We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.”

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New orchestra wants to become the sound of Flushing


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Joseph

One conductor is about to add some pluck to the sound of Flushing with a new orchestra devoted to bringing classical music to the neighborhood.

“We realized there’s no orchestra in the Flushing and Bayside area,” Dong-Hyun Kim said. The Flushing native is the music director of the Nova Philharmonic and last year several local musicians convinced him to put together an orchestra devoted to central Queens.

“And we said to each other, it would be really great if we can become the official Flushing orchestra,” Kim said. “We want to make a good tradition of classical music in Flushing.”

The group of 35 musicians, called the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, has been practicing every Sunday for their debut performance on March 22 at Mary’s Nativity Church, located at 46-02 Parsons Blvd.

Kim, 40, graduated from Queens College with a master’s degree in orchestra conducting, and after many years of teaching and directing musical performances, he has returned to the neighborhood to try to create an official orchestra for the area after feeling the borough needed more classical ensembles.

“There’s not that many orchestras in Queens so this is a really great thing,” said Paul Joseph, the music director for the Mary’s Nativity. “[Kim] is a very vibrant, passionate individual. The quality he will be bringing is much better than you’d expect from a community orchestra.”

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Two dead in apparent Flushing murder-suicide


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

CrimeSceneTapeHC1010_L_300_C_R-624x416

Updated Wednesday, March 11, 9:22 a.m.

A woman discovered her 41-year-old daughter‘s body in a Flushing home Friday afternoon after she was shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide, police said.

Song Shim was found about 2:50 p.m. at her Beech Avenue residence along with the body of 42-year-old Eunjin Bae, who, according to police sources, was her ex-boyfriend. They both had gunshot wounds to the head and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police sources said it appears that Bae shot Shim and then turned the gun on himself. A suicide note and a firearm were recovered at the scene.

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Inclusive Queens soccer program teaches kids skills beyond the field


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Soccer Kids NYC

BY ANGELA MATUA

A new soccer program for children in Queens hopes to have kids setting goals on and off the field.

Soccer Kids NYC was created by Noe Canales in September 2014 after he noticed that other programs did not focus on teaching lessons that could translate to all aspects of a child’s life.

Canales said that Soccer Kids NYC strives to teach not only the fundamentals of soccer but also skills that children can utilize off the field like teamwork, respect and perseverance.

Soccer Kids NYC differs from other programs in several ways. Canales, who is a certified special education teacher, integrates children with special needs into all classes. He hopes to remove the stigma that families of special needs children typically deal with.

“Soccer Kids NYC wants to help in getting rid of that pervasive thinking,” Canales said of the three-month course that costs $179. “Our mission cuts across all lines; our program is for children with special needs and typically developing children. We don’t believe in labels except for our kids’ names.”

He believes this inclusiveness contributes to the program’s 99 percent retention rate. The coaches at Soccer Kids NYC also strive to make their classes affordable for everyone, he said. Though children typically attend classes once a week, students are encouraged to join other classes if there is available space at no extra cost. They also provide a refund to all families who are not satisfied with the program.

Scouting the right coaches is important for Canales, who is also a teacher at TheraCare Preschool Services, a preschool in Rego Park that accommodates children with and without special needs. Coaches are trained extensively until they are ready to lead a class. This approach is the reason he can provide a quality program, he said.

“My experience with larger programs has been that they will first find a location to expand and then work on hiring and staffing those classes with a coach,” Canales said. “This approach hinders the quality of a program as many times these coaches are not fully trained to lead a class and consequently, our kids get the short end of the stick.”

Every season, parents are encouraged to leave feedback for the coaches. Canales said they have not received any negative feedback yet, but the coaches still come together to reflect on ways to make the program better.

The feedback has been all amazing,” Canales said. “This is something that we feel extremely proud of.”

Classes are taught in Bayside, Woodhaven, Middle Village, Elmhurst, Flushing, Kew Gardens and other parts of Queens. Canales said they are not in a rush to expand but would like to eventually teach classes in other parts of Queens and New York.

 

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Public transit advocates expand coalition for express bus service in Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated March 3, 1 p.m. 

With express bus service set to be created on routes between Flushing and Jamaica and along Woodhaven Boulevard this year, a coalition of public transit advocates backing the plan is expanding its efforts to win the hearts and minds of Queens community members.

As the city moves ahead with plans to create what’s known as Select Bus Service, the Department of Transportation is holding workshops to gather input from community members living in areas that would be affected by the new bus service. Often these meetings are attended by an overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to Select Bus Service.

But a coalition of transit advocates – BRT  for NYC — recently enlisted interest groups like New York Immigration Coalition to help raise awareness in communities that would benefit from faster bus travel times. They ultimately want to influence the city’s plans to speed up travel time for commuters who depend on buses.

“People who are afraid of this are going to fight harder than people who will benefit from it,” said Joan Byron, a member of the Pratt Center, which is part of the growing coalition.

During a meeting at Kew Gardens Hills last year, city officials were barraged by people opposed to any express bus service plans that would have taken away a lane of traffic from motorists and restricted it to buses only.

“You are wrecking our neighborhoods,” one woman said to a city official during the 2014 meeting. “You’re all morons. We do not want this.”

The community members worried that the city would remove a traffic lane on Main Street to allow express buses to whiz past rush hour traffic. But for Kew Gardens Hills residents, traffic lanes were more important than fast buses.

During a City Council hearing in February, transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the Q44 would be transformed into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island.

Plans for the Q44, which runs mostly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades. The city also plans to create an express bus service called Bus Rapid Transit along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The coalition has enlisted 10 new groups to help what they, according to Byron, see as underprivileged communities living in areas that don’t have train access and have very limited bus access.

But with some of these new enlisted groups, like the Alliance for a Greater New York, Jess Nizar from Riders Alliance and others hope the pro-Select Bus Service side will get a boost with political influence.

“Without having a coalition these plans won’t reflect the needs of the people that need this the most,” Nizar said. “Sure, the city said they’re going to create SBS, but we don’t know what it will look like yet and we want people who benefit from this to give the city their input.”

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