Tag Archives: Flushing

Street co-named for longtime Bayside school teacher


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Paul Vallone


Family, friends and former students of longtime P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi attended a street co-naming in her honor outside the Bayside school on Friday.

The new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place street sign was unveiled at 214th Lane behind the school. Cilmi, who died in 2011 after battling cancer for four years, taught at the school for about 25 years and was a teacher in city schools for about four decades.

During her time at P.S. 41 she was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden, was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA), and made various science presentations for children.

Photo courtesy Tom Cilmi

Cilmi lived in Flushing with her husband, Tom, and her son. Various elected officials, including Councilmember Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng, were in attendance for the street co-naming ceremony.

“Mrs. Cilmi’s life was dedicated to teaching and showing her students that science was beyond the classroom,” Vallone said. “To co-name the street in front of the school where she spent over a decade is a fitting tribute to her career and tells the community Mrs. Cilmi will forever be in our hearts.”

 

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John Messer stops bid for state Senate


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy John Messer


Oakland Gardens lawyer John Messer is dropping his third bid to unseat 14-year veteran state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky in District 16, which includes Flushing, Bayside, Forest Hills and Fresh Meadows, among other areas.

“I look forward to continuing to work together to make our community a better place to work and live. However, for personal and business reasons, I will not be a candidate in this election season,” said Messer, who announced his decision through a press release on June 9.

Messer, who holds a master’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University, ran an unsuccessful race against Stavisky in the 2012 Democratic Primary, losing the race to the incumbent after receiving 41.9 percent of the vote. The Queens Courier reported in 2012 that Messer spent $351,000 of his own money in the campaign.

Messer hoped two years ago that the redrawn District 16, which included a 53 percent Asian population, would give him an advantage, since his wife is Chinese-American, and because the primary was just a head-to-head battle between the candidates.

Messer’s first attempt in 2010 was a three-way primary election with Isaac Sasson, a retired professor and cancer researcher.

“We’re not ruling out a run in the future,” Messer said. “We have so much support in the community now, everyone knows we are here to stay.”

 

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NYC Dance Week offers free, discounted classes in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo: Anna I. Kuzmina

NYC Dance Week, a 10-day festival of free and discounted dance, fitness and wellness classes from June 19 to June 28, offers instruction in a variety of traditions–from modern dance, bhangra and capoeira to ballet, hip-hop and soca, plus classes in yoga, pilates and zumba.

Studios offering free dance classes in Queens include Dancing Feet in Forest Hills and Vibez Studio and Pilates Bodies NY in Flushing. Dancing Feet is also offering discounted classes.

Click here to see all the free classes and the discounted classes here.

Required registration for NYC Dance Week Passes is open online here.

Sponsor Harkness Center for Dance Injuries is also hosting two informative learning events for Dance Week participants. On Thursday, June 19 at 2:30 p.m., Harkness will offer an Injury Prevention Seminar at the Peridance Capezio Center in Manhattan, and on Monday, June 23 at 4:00 p.m., participants can attend a Health & Wellness Q&A Session at Gibney Dance Center in Manhattan. Attendees may also sign-up for free Injury Prevention Assessments during the festival.

Additionally, participants are also invited to watch performances of new dance works at a special showcase by its sister project, NYC10, at Dixon Place in Manhattan on Wednesday, June 25.

 

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Bayside couple sues TLC after husband accused of being illegal cabbie


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A Bayside couple is suing the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for $3 million, claiming that agents racially profiled them after they wrongfully busted the husband for being an illegal cab driver, according to published reports.

Dan Keys, 66, was driving his wife, Symone Palermo, 53, to her job at Bob’s Discount Furniture store in Flushing in May 2013 when the incident occurred, reports said.

TLC investigators reportedly pulled Keys over after he dropped off his wife in their Lincoln Town Car and accused of him of operating an illegal taxi. Palermo was sitting in the back of the vehicle because the front passenger seat was wet.

Keys tried to explain that the passenger was his wife, and when Palermo arrived to try to help, they were both issued summonses because the car is registered in her name, according to published reports. They also seized the vehicle.

The suit, filed in Queens Supreme Court, claims that Keys was only stopped because investigators “observed an African-American male driving what they thought to be a white female,” the New York Daily News reported.

The suit is also claiming that the city and TLC violates civil rights because they “instruct its employees to target and single out vehicles operated by minorities with white passengers, the Daily News said.

A judge dismissed the summonses, but the couple did not get their car back for eight days, when they won their case, according published reports.

The TLC declined to comment pending litigation, reports said.

 

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Flushing Jewish center to donate $125K ambulance to Israel


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy American Friends of Magen David Adom


This gift is only to be opened in emergencies. 

The Garden Jewish Center, a Flushing congregation that is merging with the Bay Terrace Jewish Center, is donating a $125,000 ambulance truck to Magen David Adom, Israel’s only emergency medical response organization.

In order to prepare for the merger, the Garden Jewish Center sold its building for about $3 million and chose to donate a percentage of the sale, which includes the gift of the ambulance truck. There will be a ceremony for the donation at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center on June 29.

“It’s wonderful. We are very happy, because it is something that is needed in Israel,” said Marilyn Bitterman, who is president of the Garden Jewish Center and will be co-president after the merger is complete. “As the rabbi of Bay Terrace had indicated, it’s a gift that we are giving, but we hope that it’s never used.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

The ambulance will be assembled by General Motors in Indiana and shipped to Israel six months following the dedication. It is different than an American ambulance in that it’s narrower to fit smaller roads.

Israel is in constant need of ambulances, a representative of American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) said. Every year the organization is faced with replacing nearly 15 percent of its fleet of more than 120 vehicles because the trucks experience significantly more stress and wear-and-tear than most vehicles when serving the country’s 8 million people.

“It’s an extraordinary feeling to save a life in Israel, and with this new ambulance our friends in Queens will be doing just that,” said Gary Perl, the AFMDA northeast regional director. “Plus, there’s the ‘double mitzvah’ of knowing that the [ambulance] was built in the United States by American workers, and will be shipped to Israel to save lives.”

 

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Flushing dance studio to celebrate 50th anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


The Mildred Scilla School of Dance hasn’t lost a step in half a century.

The Flushing studio on 164th Street will turn 50 years old this September and it continues to be a staple in the neighborhood, which has changed greatly during the last half-century.

The school currently has nearly 200 students, and Councilman Paul Vallone recently presented the studio with a citation honoring the upcoming anniversary.

“We represent quality, professionalism, nurturing and caring, and it’s been received that way from the community,” said owner Gary Gendell. “We still enjoy what we are doing. It’s not a business. It’s a way for us to give back to the community based on our backgrounds.”

Mildred Scilla, a member of The Rockettes in the 1940s and 1950s, opened the studio in her Flushing basement in 1964 to teach dance to children in the neighborhood. Her own children grew up learning to dance in the studio as well.

Photo courtesy Sandy Gendell

“We knew everybody in the neighborhood. All the neighborhood kids came to our house,” said Sandy Gendell, Scilla’s daughter. “There was always a lot going on. It was a lot of fun for us.”

Scilla moved the studio to its current location in 1974 after the studio gained popularity. When she died in 1998, Sandy took control of the dance school with Gary. They believe the studio’s tradition and their individual performance experience has helped it thrive.

Sandy followed in her mother’s footsteps and joined The Rockettes in 1970. She performed in the famous shows in Radio City Music Hall until 1978. Gary, meanwhile, acted on Broadway in the original productions of Annie and Chicago, and he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show as a dancer in the early ‘70s.

The pair said embracing the diversity that has come to Flushing through the 50 years has also played a major role and helped them grow with the neighborhood.

“As the neighborhood changes you have to change with it,” Sandy said. “We’re probably the last original people on this block.”

 

 

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Exotic dancers, Flushing strip club manager arrested in scheme to drug men, run up credit cards


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

samantha 4

A manager of a Flushing strip club and four adult entertainers were arrested in a plot to drug wealthy men and run up costly bills at topless establishments, officials said.

The exotic dancers are accused of slipping the drugs, which included cocaine, ketamine and Molly, into the victims’ drinks and taking them to Roadhouse NYC Gentlemen’s Club in Flushing and Scores in Manhattan, according to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.

Photo: Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News

 

During the scheme, between September and December 2013, around $200,000 was charged to the men’s credit cards.

Working together the women would allegedly prey on the four victims, who included medical, legal and financial professionals, in upscale New York area bars and restaurants. After they were drugged, the men would then be taken to the strip clubs, where unauthorized charges were made on their cards, authorities said.

The men reported having little to no memory of their ordeals and when they would try to reverse the charges, they would receive threatening text messages.

Karina Pasucci

Authorities arrested the four entertainers, Samantha Barbash, Roselyn Keo, Marsi Rosen and Karina Pasucci, earlier this week. All of the women were charged with conspiracy, grand larceny and forgery. Barbash, Keo and Rosen were also charged with assault, according to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.

A manager at the Roadhouse NYC Gentleman’s Club, Carmine Vitolo, who was arrested Wednesday morning, was charged with conspiracy, grand larceny and tampering with physical evidence, officials said.

Barbash, Keo and Rosen were arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday. As of press time, Pasucci and Vitolo were expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

Roadhouse NYC Gentleman’s Club could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

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Flushing school combats bullying through martial arts


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Chris Bumbaca

CHRIS BUMBACA

As schools nationwide implement anti-bullying tactics, the Veritas Academy in Flushing is combating bullying in an innovative and unique way.

While most schools lecture their students about bullying, the Veritas Academy has started a new way to repel bullying in school: taekwondo.

A moving-up ceremony was held Monday afternoon in the school’s auditorium for students who participated in a Korean elective class, in which taekwondo was held three times a week after school as a supplement to the class. Most students graduated from a yellow belt to an orange belt, while a handful ascended from a white belt to a yellow belt.

The class emphasized Korean heritage and tradition, and as much as the presentation was part of the anti-bullying campaign, it was also a celebration of Korean culture.

The ceremony included a showcase of an early childhood bullying-prevention performing arts program performed by the Korean Traditional Dance and Music Team. The musicians and dancers taught kids about the signs of bullying through an engaging performance filled with music and emotion. The dance, integrated with taekwondo moves, told a story about a girl being bullied by her peers and how she was able to overcome the obstacle through self-fortitude and the help of others.

“If students are educated and feel good about themselves and have self-esteem they won’t feel the need to bully,” founding principal Cheryl Quatrano said. “They’ll know what to do about it and help other students that are being bullied.”

Aside from the self-defense aspect of taekwondo, there is a large mental facet of the art. Regina Im, the executive director of “Korea Taekwondo,” the taekwondo school that taught the program at Veritas, stressed the importance of self-change to her students and the crowd.

She asked the children questions that correlated with the five main principles of taekwondo: respect, humility, perseverance, self-control and honesty, which are all traits essential in the battle against bullying.

“Are we able to change others?” Im asked. “Are we able to change ourselves?”

 

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Queens native has TV plans for Naked Catering business


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Pamela Young

A Queens native is ready to bare it all on television in the hopes of taking his unique catering business to the next level.

Pieps LeBreton (“Chef Pieps” as he likes to be called), is the owner of Naked Catering, a company that combines gourmet food with sexy servers, who are usually decked out in body paint.

Chef Pieps founded Naked Catering in Los Angeles in 2003, after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2000.

He left Queens, where he mainly lived in Flushing, in 1985, around the age of 25, to go to Hollywood and pursue a career as a producer. For about 15 years he worked on everything from music videos to commercials and television shows, but “things got a little tiresome,” and he decided to go back to a passion he had since childhood.

“I’ve cooked all my life,” said Chef Pieps, adding that his father always said he should be a professional cook.

Chef Pieps

After doing on-the-set catering and private cooking, Chef Pieps started thinking about an idea of sexily-clad servers, but wasn’t truly inspired until he saw actress Demi Moore body painted in a magazine. He then thought of painting females servers in sexy tuxes.

He came up with a name as bold as the idea — “Naked Catering” — and in six months launched his business.

“I was ahead of my time … some people thought it was pornographic,” he said.
Chef Pieps said some people were squeamish about the concept, “but when people saw it, it was a wow factor.”

Women are as fascinated with the concept as men, and want to hire his catering service for their husbands’ birthdays, anniversaries; he even has done a wedding.

Naked Catering also has male servers, and women who wear sexy outfits, not just body paint, depending on the type of party the customer wants.

“You’d be surprised, a lot of girls who you wouldn’t think would want to do it, want to do it,” said Chef Pieps, who’s had an attorney, teacher and school bus driver work as body-painted servers.

Though he says his catering service has been a success on the West Coast, and his servers were even featured on E!’s “12 Sexiest Hollywood Jobs,” Chef Pieps is looking to bring it to the next level.

He’s currently trying to launch his business on the East Coast, first in Florida, and soon in New York City.

Chef Pieps is also shopping around a reality TV show that he describes as “Hell’s Kitchen meets Bad Girls” that will document his catering business.

He has also shot 13 episodes of a cooking/talk show program that is set to air in Europe. Chef Pieps calls himself a “Chef Extraordinaire,” and the show, which has plans to also air in the U.S., will showcase other similar chefs.

He explains it as a cook who takes any type of food and gives it a new kind of flavor.

“[A ‘Chef Extraordinaire’] is not afraid to try something different and attack it at a different level.”

 

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Flushing resident to co-produce Asian rapper documentary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jaeki Cho


To Flushing resident Jaeki Cho, rap lyrics were his textbooks.

Born in Korea, Cho immigrated to Elmhurst as a child. He didn’t speak English well, but listening to hip-hop music on media outlets, such as Hot 97 and BET’s 106 & Park, helped with the language adjustment, while inspiring his love of rap.

His attraction to hip-hop ballooned as he grew older.Eventually, he started writing about rap and urban music, most recently as an editor for XXL magazine.

Like Cho, people of various ethnicities besides African-Americans are engrossed in hip-hop, even as performers. Although the genre is heavily dominated by blacks, rappers of other cultures have broken mainstream American and international hip-hop charts, but Asians have yet to have a champion in the U.S. Cho is co-producing a documentary entitled “Bad Rap,” aiming to explain why Asian rappers have not gained that attention.

“For the international spectrum, hip hop has become more global than other [genres],” Cho said. “If you go to Korea, you are going to see Korean rappers; if you go to France, you’ll see French rappers. In terms of how it is in America, there are limitations for rappers that aren’t African-American.”

The film will be directed and produced by hip-hop writer Salima Koroma, who originally reached out to Cho as a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The pair talked about the field of Asian musicians, which progressed to the idea of the film.

In a year and a half, the pair has completed a 40-minute feature and teasers. They have raised more than $14,100, as of press time, on crowdfunding site indiegogo.com, and are seeking to raise $25,000 to complete a full 70-minute documentary, which they hope to premiere later this year in New York.

The film features four Asian rappers, including Queens’ own Awkwafina and Rekstizzy, on the brink of exploding in mainstream hip-hop, but for various reasons haven’t become household names. Cho said the movie will explain the complexity of being an Asian rapper through the characters, as well as their individual struggles. He believes it could get the conversation started on a large scale.

“I think this film could shed light on a lot of things,” Cho said. “If it does well commercially, I’m sure the artists in the film will get recognition from more people.”

He added, “The kids that are going to be watching this of Asian descent … they are probably going to feel, ‘This is the same kind of issue that I face.’”

 

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Free lunches for kids to be distributed at Queens libraries this summer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY PAULINA TAM

Twenty-two Queens Library locations, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education (DOE), will be distributing free summer meals to children and teens 18 years and under starting June 27 to August 29.

Bagged lunches will be served every Monday through Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and each will generally include a fresh sandwich, fruit, milk and sometimes a salad, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.

“The library is an open public space and we want to attract people to come to the library,” King said. “While they’re here they can have free access to other programs. The Queens Library also has a very robust summer reading program and we want to encourage people to get involved with that so they can be better prepared for the academic program in the fall.”

There is no application, qualification or ID necessary to receive a free meal. Children and teens are recommended to arrive early to get lunches, while supplies last. The Queens Library is just one of many agencies collaborating with the DOE, and interested parties could call 311 to get a full list of participating locations.

Listed below are the participating Queens Library locations:

312 Beach 54 St., Arverne

14-01 Astoria Blvd., Astoria

117-11 Sutphin Blvd., Baisley Park

218-13 Linden Blvd., Cambria Heights

1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway

41-17 Main St., Flushing

202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis

89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

134-26 225th St., Laurelton

98-30 57th Ave., Lefrak City

37-44 21st St., Long Island City

40-20 Broadway (at Steinway Street), Long Island City

92-24 Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park

158-21 Jewel Ave., Pomonok (Flushing)

103-34 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill

169-09 137th Ave., Rochdale Village

116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park

204-01 Hollis Ave., South Hollis

108-41 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

85-41 Forest Pkwy., Woodhaven

54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside

 

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Flushing student to compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee, aims for back-to-back Queens champs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


What’s that buzzing?

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is quickly approaching, and Queens could have another student bring back a golden honey-colored trophy from Washington D.C. on Thursday.

In 2013, Bayside Hills resident Arvind Mahankali became the king bee in his final eligible year. This year, Flushing’s Sai Vishudhi Chandrasekhar is back for another round of the contest, but a new challenger from the borough is eager to take the stage as well.

Anil Singh, a fifth grader at P.S./I.S. 499 in Flushing, is set to debut in the National Spelling Bee and battle 280 other young wordsmiths around the country for the crown.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity and I won’t let [Queens] down,” Anil said.

Anil has been participating in spelling bees since second grade when he said his teacher forced the class to engage in the activity, which he thought was “weird.”

“I thought it was some random, weird oral spelling test,” said Anil, a South Ozone Park resident.

The entire class lost on the word “sandal,” and Anil remembers spelling it “s-a-n-d-e-l.” But after that mistake he didn’t miss a word, eventually facing a classmate in a showdown for the second grade title. He spelled the word “pilot” correctly to win his first-ever bee.

“After that I found out what a spelling bee was and I liked it, and I did it the next year, and the next year and the year after that,” Anil said.

He has never lost a spelling bee—his record now stands at 6-0— and because fifth-grade is the first time he could advance to the borough and city rounds, he was able to beat out students from around the five boroughs to represent the region after spelling “metachrosis” on March 20.

Anil is studying an average of two to three hours a day for the national contest.

Using the list of words that Scripps provided for the tournament, he has divided them into different categories, such as similar origins and definitions, to help remember. He also writes down words numerous times so they will stick in his memory. But he admits he doesn’t know every word and may have to guess.

“Most of it in the spelling bee is guess work,” Anil said. “The hardest part is learning how to guess.”

Catch the preliminary rounds of the bee on Wednesday, May 28 on ESPN.

 

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Seven indicted in Bayside, Flushing fraud ring operations


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Seven members of two organized fraud rings based in Flushing and Bayside were indicted by a grand jury Thursday following a two-year investigation leading to the dismantlement of the operations, officials said.

In one scheme, personal information, including social security cards, passports and drivers licenses, were stolen from legitimate car buyers and used to purchase seven luxury automobiles, according to District Attorney Richard Brown. The information was taken from customers, while one of the alleged ring members, Joung Duck Woo, worked as an automobile broker. Woo, who knew four of the victims through his church, is accused of using the information to also open credit cards and other accounts.

The indicted members in the second ring are accused of participating in a credit card “bust out” scam, Brown said. They allegedly used social security numbers  beginning with the prefix “586” issued by the government in U.S. territories, such as America Samoa and Guam, to set up fake credit card accounts. False identities were used to open bank and department store credit accounts online and in person to make purchases and cash withdrawals. They are also accused of busting out, or draining the available line of credit on each card.

Joung Duck Woo, 45, of Fresh Meadows, Ki Hun Kim, 45, of Flushing, Sang Hun Moon 59, of Flushing, and Ki Bin Lim, 52, of Fresh Meadows, are variously charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, identity theft, criminal possession of stolen property, forgery and scheme to defraud in connection to the first scheme, according to one indictment.  If convicted, each face up to 15 years in prison.

Of those indicted, Ki Bin Lim is still being sought, while the other three are in custody, officials said.

In a second indictment, Jinuk Chong, 24, of Fresh Meadows, Kyeong Joon Kim, 53, of Flushing, and Dong Soo Kim, 60, of Flushing, are variously charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, forgery and scheme to defraud in connection to the “bust out.” If convicted, they each face up to seven years in prison.

Anyone who may have been a victim of these schemes should contact the district attorney’s Economics Crimes Bureau at 718-286-6673.

 

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John Bowne HS renames gym for beloved retiring phys ed teacher


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


A long-time John Bowne High School physical education teacher is hanging up his whistle and putting away his gym shorts.

Chris Englisis, who has been teaching in New York City high schools for more than 32 years, is retiring after this academic year, and the school honored him in a ceremony on Tuesday by naming its gym the Christopher Englisis Strength Conditioning and Fitness Center.

Englisis, 58, is known throughout the school by students and faculty members for fundraising to pay for new equipment for the school gym. Over 15 years, the veteran teacher raised more than $180,000 for equipment, which includes donations from the New York Sports Club.

“He just wanted to provide for the school,” senior Andrei Grant said. “As a teacher, he’s great. He’s hilarious, too. It’s kind of sad to see him leave. It sucks that everyone else won’t be able to take his classes.”

Englisis has been teaching at John Bowne since 1997. Before that he was a football coach and physical education teacher at various city schools around Brooklyn and Queens. Some of his former students have become professional NFL players and wrestlers, including former WWE superstar Tazz.

Because of his background, when he landed in John Bowne he founded the school’s annual after-school fitness and weight lifting competition so kids would be motivated to work out and rewarded for their hard work.

But the Flushing school only had a few old and worn workout machines. So after the first competition, Englisis treated the gym as his “baby,” selling pretzel snacks, water and shirts in the school, year after year to pay for new workout equipment. He even mopped and vacuumed the room himself after school.

Today, the gym is packed with about 55 workout machines and looks like a mini New York Sports Club.

“It’s a blessing for the kids and for him,” said Englisis’ brother John. “For him to give himself so they can benefit is phenomenal. And this is an ongoing thing that will benefit all these kids this year, next year and years after that.”

The remaining physical education teachers promised to continue the annual competition and fundraise for new equipment when necessary. Students and faculty are sorry to see him go, but Englisis believes that he’s done all he can for the school.

“There’s nothing more to do. This is the time to go,” Englisis said. “It’s kind of hard to give it up to somebody else, but you’ve got to know when to stop.”

 

 

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