Tag Archives: Germany

Influx of hipsters revives 90-year-old Ridgewood German bar


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Gottscheer Hall was on its way to closing down two years ago. But the Ridgewood bar and grill turned a profit in 2012 because of younger, more affluent patrons who began to appear in larger and larger groups.

People packed the Gottscheer Hall on Sunday to watch the World Cup final. The patrons that afternoon were either older and of German descent or younger and attracted to the German appeal of the bar and grill that derives its name from a region in Europe that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

“I like the history of the bar, the kitschiness. The beer is good and cheap,” Jonathan Deentler, 25, said as he ate a German pretzel and sausage with sauerkraut. “I guess you could say I’m being a cultural tourist.”

Deentler and his friends, who all live in Bushwick, began to come to the bar two years ago and have since often frequented it. Around that time, the Gottscheer Hall began to turn a profit, something that hadn’t been seen for 15 years, according to the bar’s secretary Roland Belay.

“The hipsters revived us,” Belay said. The German restaurant is celebrating its 90th anniversary this September but up until recently the business suffered a loss of patrons. Belay attributes this loss to the fact that the German immigrants who drank at the bar are getting older and dying off. The last big wave of Germans to the neighborhood was during WWII when the war displaced many Germans from the Gottschee region, now part of Slovenia.

“Every year we get fewer and fewer Germans coming here,” Belay said. “So we have to look forward and it seems like the hipsters will keep this business alive.”

Brian Questa, 26, lives in Williamsburg but decided to watch the World Cup match between Germany and Argentina in Gottscheer Hall. He, too, was attracted to the bar’s “authenticity,” something he thinks Williamsburg lost when it became gentrified. Questa plans on moving to Ridgewood soon because of cheaper rent and the charm of the neighborhood. He noted the irony of contributing to Ridgewood’s gentrification.

“I concede the fact that because there’s more young people taking an interest in it does make it more attractive to me,” said Questa, who identifies himself as a musical composer. “Unlike places like Maspeth where it’s all families living there.”

When Germany won the match, the bar erupted into cheers and German chants, with both the older Germans and the hipsters celebrating the moment. In the coming years, Belay and the other owners of the bar will have to juggle the necessity to make money with “preserving the German heritage,” as Belay put it. But he will also have to try not to make the bar “very fake,” like Questa said Williamsburg is.

“People come there to live in Williamsburg but it’s full of people just there to see and live in Williamsburg,” Questa said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Holocaust survivor shares experiences through art


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

As visitors walk through the Queensborough Community College (QCC) Art Gallery, they are taken through the experiences of Rosemarie Koczÿ, who at three years old had her life turned upside down.

Koczÿ was born in 1939 in Recklinghausen, Germany and three years later was taken to a concentration camp together with her family. At a young age, Koczÿ witnessed death, loss and the struggle to survive.

Years later, still having the hardships she shared with many others strong in her mind and making it as a survivor of the Holocaust, Koczÿ began keeping records of the memories through different methods of artwork. The artist began with creating tapestries then moved to drawings, paintings and sculptures. Koczÿ died in 2007. Since September, QCC has had close to 140 pieces of Koczÿ’s art, created over nearly 30 years, on display in an exhibit titled “Art As A Witness” at the campus’ historic Oakland Building.

The series of close to 100 drawings, done with ink on paper, involved in the exhibit are called “I Weave You A Shroud.” Koczÿ used each of the drawings to remember those she saw suffer and die while in the concentration camps.

“They are burials I offer to those I saw die in the camps where I was deported…” Koczÿ wrote in an initial description of her series. “In the Jewish burials the dead are washed; a woman washes the body of a dead woman, a man washes the body of a dead man. The body is then wrapped in a shroud. Sewing a shroud is an act of respect and a rite.”

The exhibit also features wood sculptures and paintings titled “Standing Man,” where Koczÿ honors an unknown prisoner who ultimately gave his life to help and protect her in the camp.

Some of the pieces are owned by the QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York, other paintings are loaned by the Stichting Collectie de Stadshof in The Netherlands, drawings from the Musée Création Franche in France and sculptures are from private collectors.

One of Koczÿ’s sculptures is permanently on display at QCC’s Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, while another piece, a tapestry made in 1975, is hung above the main desk in the admissions office.

QCC is located at 222-05 56th Avenue in Bayside and “Art As A Witness” is free to the public and will be up until Sunday, January 5.

The QCC Art Gallery is closed Monday and opened Tuesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and weekends noon to 5 p.m.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Euro Cup nets crowds for Queens bars & restaurants


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Maria Moreira sat at the bar of Lenny’s Clam Bar in Howard Beach and watched in silence as Spain continued to score — and score — on Italy to take the 2012 Euro Cup.

A soccer fan, she said that many Americans don’t enjoy the game as much.

During big tournaments, however, restaurant owners and Queens residents say everyone starts to become a fan.

Joe De Candia, who owns Lenny’s, said there had been consistent crowds around the bar area during Euro Cup games.

After Spain scored its second goal Sunday, July 1, the mood died down “like a balloon deflated,” he said.

Across the street, Saffron restaurant had two Spanish flags flying in front and a sign inviting customers to come watch the game. Inside, only one person sat at the bar.

Herbert Duarte, Saffron’s manager, said that there too there had been crowds.

The cultural celebration that is soccer spans throughout Queens.

As Italy defeated Germany on June 28, German fans at Zum Stammtisch in Glendale donned black or white jerseys with names like “Klose,” “Ballack,” or “Schweinsteiger” on the back.

Werner Lehrner, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother Hans, said fans had been coming regularly for games — especially when Germany was playing.

“We’ve been getting 80 to 100 people,” he said.

Zum Stammtisch’s back room was converted into a viewing area during games with a 10-foot projector screen. As Germany slowly began to fall apart in the semi-finals, that back room was filled with sighs and frustration.

Despite their win over Germany, Azzuri fans were let down by the 4-0 loss to Spain — which claimed its third consecutive major title.

Germany fans disappointed in loss to Azzuri


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


As their team fell to Italy in the Euro Cup semi-finals Thursday afternoon, Germany fans that poured into Zum Stammtisch in Glendale banged tankards of beer against wooden tables as they saw their hopes dashed.

The restaurant has been hosting Euro Cup 2012 viewing parties, to the delight of German-American fans in the neighborhood.

Steve Brunner said Zum Stammtisch has been a meeting place for residents and German fans in the neighborhood to cheer on their team over a few beers.

“[Soccer is] part of the German culture and you get a feel of that when you’re in this place,” he said.

Brunner’s own interest in soccer developed four years ago when he was in the Black Forest for a family wedding. He and his uncle decided to visit Munich, where they saw Germany play Austria — and instantly became a fan.

The restaurant has brought in decent sized crowds for games that are normally played in the late morning or mid-afternoon.

“We’re getting 80 to 100 people,” said Werner Lehner, who owns the restaurant along with his brother Hans.

Lehner said Zum Stammtisch especially gets a crowd when the German National Team is playing, bringing in familiar friends and dedicated fans from the neighborhood.

After Italy scored its second goal, the packed back room – with a 10-foot projection screen – was filled with boos and the sounds of fists banging on wooden tables.

One fan screamed, “Do they have this referee’s family tied to a tree somewhere in Europe?”

‘Draw’ing inspiration from Astoria


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

ROOFTOP Actionw

A blank canvas – lacking a defined identity and purpose – can be a daunting task for any artist. Many grow to hate its vacant stare, praying for inspiration to end the monotony of its colorless complexion. Often, it can lead to hasty or unimaginative work.

Such dilemmas are nonexistent for Louie Gasparro, who adores his canvas as much as, or perhaps more than, his work – because his canvas is his city.

Gasparro, an urban contemporary street artist born and raised in Astoria, found his feet in art in a nontraditional manner.

“When I was a kid, I would ride the ‘RR’ train to Queensboro Plaza and the No. 7 to Main Street, and that’s where I first saw bubble writing and cartoons on the train,” Gasparro said. “The fact that it was moving on a train, it was like a flying cartoon in front of me.”

Following his fascination for the flying images he observed, Gasparro grew to create icons of his own. He began visiting train yards after dark to spray paint – a practice he continued for roughly six years. He would draw his tag name, “KR.ONE,” or whatever images he viewed in his mind’s eye, aiming to evoke the same joy in other subway riders that he experienced as a kid.

“I tried to take this flowing and fantastical lettering and combine it with my graffiti style lettering,” he said. “Graffiti when it began was name based. It was all about how many different ways I could draw my name and bend the alphabet.”

In his early years, Gasparro credits cartoons, comic books and the rock and roll album covers his brothers gave him for motivating his artistic creations. Artists he admired include Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

A classic western Queens kid, Gasparro received his entire education in Astoria and Long Island City schools. His art edification he left to his own studies, having never received any official training.

As Gasparro grew in age, and as an artist, he never struggled to find inspiration – wherever he looked, it was in view.

“I’m inspired by good people, truth, music and nature,” said the 46 year old. “I get inspired easily, I guess because I still have this childlike approach to it all. I get inspired so easily because there are so many things I appreciate that are all around me.”

His greatest inspiration, however, will always be his hometown – where he discovered his craft and found his first professional work as an artist.

“Where I grew up was the perfect vantage point for me to view all the different graffiti styles happening at the time,” he said. “From 1974 to 1983, I absorbed all of that which was going on with graffiti. I wouldn’t trade when and where I grew up for anything. I grew up around the corner from Kaufmann Astoria Studios. I met Aerosmith when I was 12. I saw Michael Jackson and Diana Ross making “The Whiz” when I was a kid. I was immersed in art growing up – it was around every corner I turned.”

Beginning in the early 1980s, Gasparro was commissioned to paint murals across western Queens, and he was particularly well known in Astoria. He painted frescoes for neighborhood spots such as the Beebe Diner, Boutique 92 and a schoolyard located at 28th Street and 36th Avenue in Dutch Kills, affectionately known as 204 Park. He has also been featured numerous times at L.I.C.’s 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center – an outdoor art exhibit space considered by many to be the Mecca of graffiti.

Gasparro’s most common graffiti topics are assorted lettering fonts – which he considers the purist form of the art – and subjects pertaining to New York. Along with his urban contemporary street art, Gasparro also enjoys creating abstract and fantasy pieces.

What he relishes most, he says, is the process of combining many genres and forming a free flowing finished product – allowing the piece to come together on its own.

“Fifty percent of the time I’ll be bold, and I’ll look at the canvas and just go immediately. I just go for it,” Gasparro said. “I get in an improvisational flow – like jazz. You have to take chances and you will make mistakes, but you have to make mistakes to achieve perfection.”

Gasparro has also pursued a career in his second passion – music. He joined the band Murphy’s Law in 1982 and traveled the world performing as a drummer. Regardless of where he went, his true love was never far away.

“I went to Europe and I was amazed. Europe really grabbed graffiti and held it to its bosom and nurtured it,” Gasparro said. “Europeans have had art and culture for centuries, so they have more of a vision. America is a much younger country when you compare it to a country like Greece. Graffiti is huge in Greece, Italy and Germany.”

Despite its international popularity, Gasparro is proud that graffiti is from New York, and his neighborhood was a leader in the art’s rise to fame.

“Graffiti is a worldwide phenomenon. It is probably the biggest art movement in the world, and it is from New York,” he said. “The phenomenon that it has become is because of New York. I don’t know of any other art movement that so many people were doing at the same time.”

Gasparro does not appreciate the negative connotations often applied to the word “graffiti.” The art was never about breaking the law for him, but meant something more than the paint in the can.

“When people asked me why we were doing graffiti, I told them we had to express ourselves,” he said. “What we felt was so deep that we had to go big. We were expressing ourselves in a big way. There is the graffiti problem, but what about the art side? We can’t always look at the negative. Why can’t we get kids who are acting out and get them to express themselves through this art form?”

Now an accomplished artist, Gasparro is frequently commissioned to work on clothing, furniture, cars and even private homes. He has been published in several anthologies, and is currently in the process of writing a book of his own – chronicling the life and work of Don 1, an influential graffiti artist.

He was recently re-welcomed to the site of his artistic genesis, when his work was displayed in an exclusive show – Bringer of the Kolor Storm – on March 10 in L.I.C. More than 100 people attended the event – which featured Gasparro’s urban, contemporary, fantasized, graffiti-style art – and every painting was purchased. Due to its success, Gasparro is currently planning a subsequent show.

“For me to come back and do a show in my hometown, where I practiced and started – the place that turned me on to art – was amazing,” said Gasparro. “It is great that LIC has become this artistic place when an artist like me can show my stuff.”

J. Cole earns Best New Artist Grammy nod


| brennison@queenscourier.com

J

In a year that J. Cole released a debut album that reached the top of the Billboard charts, the St. John’s University graduate has been recognized for his meteoric rise with a Grammy nomination.

Cole, 26, was nominated for Best New Artist where he will go up against The Band Perry, Bon Iver, fellow Queens rapper Nicki Minaj and Skrillex.  Acts such as The Beatles, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys have taken home music’s version of Rookie of the Year.

The nominations were announced Wednesday in Los Angeles at a concert hosted by Queens’ own LL Cool J.

The rapper was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where his parents were stationed in the military, but grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina. At 12, Cole began writing his own lyrics. After graduating from high school in 2003, Cole headed to the Big Apple determined to achieve his goals of breaking into the music business and earning his college degree.

In May 2007, Cole graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s and then got a part-time job selling classified ads for The Queens Courier.

The Roc Nation rapper’s debut album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” sold over 200,000 units in its first week.

Minaj also received nominations for Best Rap Album for “Pink Friday” and Best Rap Performance for “Moment 4 Life.”

The award show will be held Sunday, February 12.