Tag Archives: Jackson Heights

Queens HS student wins US Congressional Award Gold Medal


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Garden School

One Queens high school student has stood out from the rest for her dedication to serving the community.

Astoria resident Julia McKenna, a senior at the Garden School in Jackson Heights, was one of 13 New York State students to win the 2014 US Congressional Award Gold Medal.

The Congressional Award, this year handed out by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, is given to students who meet goals in community service, personal development, physical fitness, plus exploration and expedition.

Those who are awarded the gold medal are required to have a minimum of 400 hours documented for volunteer service. McKenna managed to log more than 550 hours volunteering at organizations such as the New York Blood Center, Special Olympics, Dellamonica Senior Center, Common Ground Outreach and more.

Along with community service, McKenna is also co-captain of the varsity volleyball and basketball teams and won Academic Honors last year.

According to a statement released by the Garden School, McKenna’s dedication to serving the community “is a great example of Garden’s mission of ‘social involvement’ in action and we could not be more proud of her.”

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Jackson Heights primary care program aimed at low-income, immigrant women


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Grameen PrimaCare

One nonprofit is looking to be the helping hand for women in Queens to lead healthier lives, no matter their immigration status.

Grameen PrimaCare, a New York City-based organization looking to provide high-quality, affordable and comprehensive access to healthcare, has opened its first primary care and health promotion program in Jackson Heights.

The program, called Grameen VidaSana, is open to women 18 years and older living in low-income, immigrant communities in Queens and who have no health insurance. The service at 82-11 37 Ave. opened in September.

“Our vision, our belief is that it’s unjust if all people don’t have equal access to affordable, quality healthcare, so that’s why we were born,” said Brooke Beardslee, executive director at Grameen PrimaCare. “We were born because it’s just clear that there are so many people in this country who, because of their documentation status, don’t have access to the affordable health care and we find that unacceptable.”

Grameen PrimaCare, is a sister organization of Grameen America, which was started in 2008 and is based on the structure of Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. Yunus offers microloans, training and support for women who do not otherwise have access to traditional banking structures. Grameen America opened its first branch in Jackson Heights.

For a monthly fee of $49, women using Grameen VidaSana receive unlimited access to a bilingual staff at the site that includes a doctor and four health coaches, also known as “compañeras de salud” in Spanish, who meet members first and then continue to work with them through their full membership.

Members also have access to group-based health workshops with a curriculum of many topics that the women themselves identified as concerns they need more information about. Some of these topics include diabetes management, hypertension management, obesity, stress, domestic violence, parenting and nutrition.

Program organizers have also been working with health care providers to find discounted and affordable referrals for members.

“Our practice is unique for many reasons: we are truly community based, we’re located in ground zero of the immigrant community,” Beardslee said. “[Jackson Heights] is ground zero for immigrant life and most likely [a large proportion of them are lacking documentation] and that’s who we are here for.”

According to Beardslee, the curriculum and overall program was designed after more than a year of working together with local community groups, such as Make the Road NY, and holding two health care fairs. During the fairs, they handed out 120-question questionnaires to all attendees. 

With their membership, women will also have access to classes such as Zumba, yoga, healthy cooking and ESL courses. For now these classes are free and open to the community as well. 

“We know that there has been such bad experience and mistrust, we know that the community is suspicious,” Beardslee said. “We want you to cross the threshold here and come meet us and then decide.”

Grameen VidaSana will be holding Giving Tuesday on Dec. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. featuring free flu shot vouchers, blood pressure checks, healthy cooking demonstrations, an opportunity to meet the doctor and health team at the site, and many giveaways.

“We’re anticipating health literacy rising with the women who become members of Grameen VidaSana,” Beardslee said. “That through all this talking they’re just going to become so much more informed and feel in control with their health.”

Grameen VidaSana is currently open Monday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday 1 to 5 p.m., Wednesday 3 to 7 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Jackson Heights teen charged with raping, robbing female livery cab driver


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


A 19-year-old has been accused of robbing, choking and raping a female livery cab driver in East Elmhurst this past weekend, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

The 32-year-old driver pulled up in front of 26-24 93rd St. sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. on Saturday when the passenger, Luis Barrija, of Jackson Heights, choked her and demanded her money, Brown said. While demanding the money Barrija said, “I am in a gang that robs and rapes people. I am the leader.”

The victim then handed over about $100 in cash and Barrija allegedly tried to pull her into the backseat of the cab while continuing to threaten her life.

Barrija then choked the victim with one hand and told her that he had a knife and would kill her if she did not listen to his demands, according to Brown. He then raped her.

The cab driver suffered bruising and redness on her neck, chest and wrists from the force used by Barrija, according to the charges.

“The allegations in this case chronicle a frightening ordeal of mental, physical and sexual violence. Hopefully the young woman who was brutally victimized will rest easier in knowing that her alleged rapist has been brought to justice and will be vigorously prosecuted,” Brown said. “However, even after the physical abuse has stopped, the psychological trauma caused by sexual assault can be severe and long lasting.”

Barrija is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on rape, robbery and assault charges. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

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Jackson Heights man offers ‘midnight’ food tours down Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Donny Tsang / Courtesy of Jeff Orlick

For the past three years, one Jackson Heights resident has been showing visitors how delicious his neighborhood is once the sun goes down.

Jeff Orlick has been offering, by appointment, tours down Roosevelt Avenue for people from near and far looking to get a taste of the “real New York.”

The tour, called the Midnight Street Crawl, is one of three tours Orlick gives throughout the year. It is offered Monday through Thursday and goes from 90th Street to 111th Street. A spot on the tour costs $59, and reservations are required.

When he first started the “midnight” crawls, he was able to go from midnight to the early morning, but now, because of a new job, he tends to start the tours around 8 or 9 p.m.

“We basically investigate the street nightlife through food,” Orlick said. “We try to engage a community through the food.”

On the “midnight” tours, Orlick takes groups of two or more participants to street food vendors offering Ecuadorian, Colombian, Mexican, Dominican and sometimes Peruvian cuisines.

Although the route and cultures stay the same during the tour, Orick said he sometimes changes the interaction a bit so the participants and vendors can speak and learn from each other. He tries to make the tour two to three hours long, hitting about eight to 10 vendors.

“It’s like a jazz show: there’s a script and there’s notes, but we definitely go on tangents and explore,” Orlick said. “People definitely like it, they like how real it is. People say it’s the real New York.”

Most of the people who take part in the “midnight” crawl tend to be tourists, with only 10 to 15 percent being New Yorkers, according to Orlick. Others who reserve spots are new members to the community who want to get an idea of their neighborhood.

“I just want them to have a real connection, this is what I want to do when I go visit a place. I just want to come in and have a real connection,” Orlick said. “For me, the best way to connect is through food. It’s a great way to communicate with each other.”

Along with the “midnight” crawl, Orlick also offers a “Tastes of the World” tour and a “Queens Fiesta Crawl.” Both of these events happen during the day and are based on reservations. These tours tend to change depending on where the participants are from, said Orlick.

On Nov. 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. Orlick will also be hosting the third annual Momo Crawl, where restaurants and street vendors who sell the steamed dumpling in the half-mile around the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station will be offering them for $1 each to people who have a 2014 momo map. To pick up a map, participants have to stop by the Jackson Heights Food Court, located at 73-07 37th Rd.

“In Jackson Heights, in Queens, people are proud of their cultures,” Orlick said.

For more information or to book a tour, visit www.vayable.com/users/tastes or www.iwantmorefood.com.

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New precinct captain will start ‘Neighborhood Friday’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Captain Brian Hennessy feels like he is back home, and he’s ready to bring the tools that helped him succeed in the 108th Precinct to his new command.

Hennessy is now the commanding officer of the 115th Precinct, which covers East Elmhurst, north Corona and Jackson Heights. He made the move from the 108th Precinct on Nov. 6, replacing Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, who since transferred to the narcotics bureau.

“The 108 was my first command and the community there was outstanding. To have that as my first command I was very lucky and I was very grateful,” Hennessy said about the precinct, which covers Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and parts of Maspeth. “The community [at the 115] is very involved. It’s going to be good.”

The move for Hennessy is like a return back home, because before becoming the commanding officer of the 108th Precinct in May 2013, he was the second in command at the 115th Precinct for about two years.

“Inspector Cody taught me a lot,” Hennessy said. “He left me in good hands. The community here, just like the 108, is very supportive, very involved. So I enjoyed working here and I’m ecstatic to be back.”

Cody placed an emphasis on community, and Hennessy plans to continue that focus. He hopes to build on relationships with community members and bring in new programs to help strengthen the ties.

One of the big programs he hopes to start up soon is what he calls Community Fridays, which he started at his previous post. Every Friday, volunteers from the precinct and community would address quality-of-life issues such as graffiti and abandoned cars left on the streets. Another issue is homelessness, which Hennessy works closely with the Department of Homeless Services to address.

“Whatever was brought up in a community meeting or a blog or anywhere that we did see a complaint on something that needed to be fixed, we went out and took all the volunteers and did one section a week,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of community first. The relationship between the community and police has to be there in order for us to be successful.”

He also plans to bring in a conditions team to the community in which officers are assigned to different neighborhood and build “personal connections and interaction” with residents.

“They can follow up with any issues. It gives a personal face to the command,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy also hopes to work on the bigger issues in the surrounding neighborhoods such as prostitution and illegally vending on Roosevelt Avenue, gang violence and disturbances that come from the local bars and their patrons.

Working on what he began in the 108th Precinct, Hennessy also plans to start a Twitter account for the 115th Precinct because he said there were positive responses from residents at his previous post.

The next community council meeting for the 115th Precinct, which Hennessy will attend, will be held on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at the precinct, 92-15 Northern Blvd.

“You know when you come to the meeting and you give me a complaint, I’m going to personally address it,” Hennessy said. “I’m excited to be back, and I can’t wait to get out there and work with the community and help in any way we can.”

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Ridgewood couple charged in crime spree targeting moms with strollers


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A Ridgewood couple went on a pickpocketing spree, stealing from women with baby strollers as they shopped, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The married pair, Luis A. Chango, 45, and Rosa Jerez, 37, are accused of working together to distract their victims between August and November of this year.

Jerez would often engage the young mothers in conversation, act as a lookout or shield Chango as he removed the victims’ personal property, including cellphones, wallets and as much as $2,000 in cash in one incident, prosecutors said.

During one of the thefts, Chango even allegedly pulled an iPhone out of the hands of a baby that was playing with it, causing the child to burst into tears.

They not only went after women at businesses in their own neighborhood, but also hit a Jackson Heights Carter’s children’s store on 82nd Street several times, other western Queens clothing stores and a seafood shop in Brooklyn, Brown said.

Chango and Jerez have both been charged with multiple counts of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, endangering the welfare of a child and petit larceny.

If convicted, Chango, who acted alone in six of the 14 thefts, faces up to 38 years in prison, according to prosecutors. Jerez faces up to 23 years.

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9/11 memorial poster of Jackson Heights firefighter torn down; fiancée ‘hurt’


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, Tanya Villanueva Tepper hangs a brand-new poster on a tree in Jackson Heights in memory of her fiancé Sergio Villanueva, a firefighter who perished during the terrorist attack.

Normally, the poster remains affixed to the tree until Tepper replaces it.

But this year, she had to replace it early as it was torn down from its spot in the beginning of October.

“I don’t know or understand why people would do that,” said Tepper. “It hurts my heart.”

Tepper decided to hang the poster in front of the gift shop Inner Peace, located at 79-24 37th Ave., which she once owned with Villanueva, because she wanted people to remember the 33-year-old firefighter as a person and not just a name.

The poster, filled with pictures of Villanueva and his family along with a few words describing the type of man he was, was tied down with rope and string to prevent it being dislodged by strong winds.

But the poster was apparently torn down once several years ago and again last month.

“I’ve never heard any backlash from the community,” said Tepper. “I just want to ask the person who is doing it, ‘Does it make you uncomfortable?’”

Sergio's Poster 2014

Poster courtesy of Tanya Villanueva Tepper

The current owner of the store, Marisol Dittmer, who was also a close friend of Villanueva, said she welcomes the poster and loves having Tepper come and put it up.

“I don’t understand why someone would do this,” Dittmer said. “He was such a great man, always loving, and this poster is meant to show that.”

In front of the tree, there is also a plaque dedicated to Villanueva. Hanging the poster there made it a “little sanctuary” for Tepper during the tender times of the anniversary.
“Life goes by so fast sometimes,” Tepper said. “I want people to see this poster and plaque and just slow down and think about life and how special it is.”

Even though it was taken down, Tepper did not hesitate to replace the poster. Over the weekend, she hung it up to keep Sergio’s memory alive.

She said that she just hopes this would be the last time she would have to replace it until next year on the anniversary.

“I have no malice when putting the poster up, but it’s all malice when they rip it down,” Tepper said. “I just want people to walk by it and realize how precious life is and that the best life you can live is being the best person you can be for others.”

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Man robbed, pistol-whipped at Jackson Heights apartment: NYPD


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo/video courtesy of NYPD

Police are searching for four suspects in connection to the armed robbery of a man at his Jackson Heights apartment Friday night.

The 25-year-old victim had just entered his apartment building on 89th Street around 10:30 p.m., when he found two of the suspects waiting for him, cops said. One of the suspects, who was armed with a gun, then took the victim’s keys and went into his apartment.

Once inside, the two suspects searched the victim’s home and took an undetermined amount of cash from the residence, while two other suspects followed the victim to his residence and acted as lookouts, according to police.

The suspect armed with the gun then pistol-whipped the victim before fleeing the apartment, cops said.

Surveillance video, obtained by the police, shows the two suspects who went into the apartment, as well as the two additional suspects.


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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82nd Street Partnership names new executive director


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Leslie Ramos

The 82nd Street Partnership has welcomed a new face to its family.

After a two-month-long search, the group’s board of directors named Leslie Ramos as the new executive director.

Ramos replaces Seth Taylor, who in August announced his resignation from the position, which he held since 2012. Taylor is now serving as the executive director of the NoHo NY Business Improvement District.

“It’s an honor to join the 82nd Street Partnership,” Ramos said. “To work within such a multicultural and booming community in Jackson Heights is an exciting opportunity. I look forward to continue strengthening the 82nd Street business enclave, which represents the entrepreneurial spirit and diversity of our city.”

Ramos was born in New York but grew up in Puerto Rico until her early teens. She then lived in Chicago and now currently resides in Brooklyn.

“It could not get any better than this,” Ramos said about the opportunity to work in such a multicultural area.

Ramos previously held the position as assistant commissioner for finance at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Other positions she has held include the executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses.

Taylor and the 82nd Street Partnership have been working to expand the business improvement district (BID) to Roosevelt Avenue and tackle issues of graffiti, crime, poor lighting and lack of sanitation.

Yet they have faced a lack of support from residents and business owners in the area — many of whom claim that the change is not worth the rise of costs and would kick out immigrant business owners.

Ramos said that as the group is still counting the ballots of who is in favor or the BID expansion or not, she plans to reach out to businesses and answer any questions or concerns.

“For the most part I find that the businesses are more interested to create an area that is more pleasant for them to come to work and also their customers,” Ramos said. “I want to make sure that their visions and concerns are met because at the end of the day the BID is a community of the businesses coming together to make sure things work out for the best.”

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Jackson Heights man, inspired by own experience, helps teens with cancer stay positive


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Don Kang and Justin Vaseur

Danny Alotta wants to make over cancer.

He is not a doctor finding a cure. But the Jackson Heights native is helping some of its youngest victims in a way that helped him through his own battle with cancer years ago.
Alotta is the founder of Joy Juice, a nonprofit that provides fashion makeovers to teens with cancer.

As a senior in high school, Alotta was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. What started out as a seemingly bad cold ended up as “borderline stage 4” cancer for the healthy, athletic teen, he said. Eleven years later, he was declared cancer-free.

“When you are a young person you are still invincible,” Alotta said. “For your parents they understand the seriousness.”

During his chemotherapy, Alotta would find ways to lift his spirits.

On the way out the door for his first chemotherapy treatment he announced it was time for his “joy juice.”

“It was my way of making it a game,” Alotta said. “The only thing I knew how to do was make it a game.”

He also made himself feel better through what he calls “makeovers.”

Alotta would dress up to go to the doctor, don a nice pair of socks around the house or his cousin Billy would buy him a new pair of sneakers.

“Maybe new shoes cure the blues,” he said, adding that a brand-new pair of sneakers still makes him happy to this day.

danny

Danny Alotta before he was diagnosed with cancer and while he was going through chemotherapy treatment. (Photo courtesy of Danny Alotta)

The chemotherapy mentally and physically affected Alotta, rendering him pale and changing his hair.

“You go through a point where you don’t feel presentable,” he said. “You look in the mirror and you don’t know who is staring back at you.”

In October 2012, Alotta, who is a partner in a clothing line and restaurant, decided to step away from his business ventures and use his branding knowledge to share his experience with cancer in the hope of helping others.

He decided to launch his nonprofit and write a movie, book and a one-man show.

His book, also called “Joy Juice,” was released in January 2014. His show, of the same name, debuted in June at the Kaufman Music Center on West 67th Street. Alotta hopes to perform it in other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., next year, and he has already spoken to a studio about his movie script.

A little over a year ago, he started his teen cancer makeover organization, which received nonprofit status this summer.

joy_juice_las_vegas_june_2014-23

So far, it has held events with the Ronald McDonald House in New York and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation in Las Vegas and has plans to work with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Teen Cancer America.

The events can be simple as providing lunch and bringing sneakers, socks and headphones so the teens can listen to music during chemotherapy, which Alotta used to do. Sometimes makeup artists and stylists are brought in so the teens can “feel like a celebrity for a day.”

Alotta is also helping those dealing with cancer through the international organization Cancer Positive as its latest ambassador. Cancer Positive, which uses stories, quotes and helpful information to aid people in finding “their own silver lining,” sees Alotta’s story as inspiring because he is using it to encourage others to stay positive.

“They are an organization that sees cancer not only as a diagnosis — it’s about a state of mind,” Alotta said.

“I will never call myself a survivor,” he added. “I call myself a fortunate…because I am fortunate to still be here to tell my story.”

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Public art project to celebrate Queens’ diversity


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Fumi Nakamura

A new public art project is shining light on the diversity of the borough through stories captured in movement.

“MOVE WITH US” is a video created by artists Roshani Thakore from Elmhurst and Fumi Nakamura from Jackson Heights after they visited public spaces throughout Queens over the summer and photographed a total of 167 immigrants creating personal poses.

The final video, set to premiere next week, is a sequence of the images capturing “the most diverse borough in the nation,” according to the artists.

“We try to connect each individual with each pose and I feel like it’s kind of an archive of 2014 in Queens and the people who are making it the more diverse place in the nation,” Thakore said.

The project, funded by the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA), is scheduled to premiere on Nov. 7 at QCA located at 37-11 35th Ave. in Astoria.

Being a dance teacher of an Indian dance class at the Long Island City YMCA, Thakore felt that participants would be able to translate their personal experiences through body movements.

During the summer, Thakore and Nakamura visited public spaces, like the LIC YMCA and Corona Plaza, and spoke with residents in the spaces about living in Queens and their backgrounds. They also received help from a lot of volunteers from local groups.

Once the residents got comfortable, they would be asked to do unique poses expressing themselves and their stories and then Nakamura snapped the photos to capture the movements.

In one example, a man living in Corona shared his story on having worked on a sugar cane field in Mexico. During the conversation he started to do the movement he would do while cutting the canes and this was photographed as part of the project.

“It’s more about listening in a public space to a person’s story. Really understanding who our neighbors are, who are the community members and who makes up Queens,” Thakore said. “In terms of the project, originally it was being proud of your culture but the surprise that came out of it was being proud to be in Queens — Queens pride.”

Originally from Georgia and a daughter of immigrants from India, Thakore said there was not a lot of diversity in Georgia and not a lot of public resources. However, when she made the move to Queens, she said she was able to experience different parts and public institutions of the borough, especially through teaching dance.

“I really feel like in Queens I came home, because of the diversity and opportunities,” Thakore said.

Thakore added that, for both her and Nakamura, experiencing the diversity in Queens daily was what “fired up” the work on the project.

Although the actual video has no music, during its premiere at the Queens Council on the Arts, there will be music and food. All 167 participants of the project were invited to the event.

The premiere, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. To RSVP, click here.

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Decomposed naked body discovered in Jackson Heights


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

POLICE TAPE

A badly decomposed body was found near railroad tracks in Jackson Heights Monday afternoon, police and reports said.

The body was discovered naked in a fenced-off area near Roosevelt Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at about 1:30 p.m., according to authorities.

A worker for CSX Corp., an international transportation company that uses the tracks, was the one who made the discovery, the Daily News reported.

The medical examiner is determining the cause of death.

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LIC, Jackson Heights highlighted in new ‘See Your City’ campaign


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Poster courtesy of NYC & Company

Two western Queens neighborhoods are part of a new campaign encouraging New Yorkers to stretch their legs and explore their own backyards.

NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for New York City, has launched a new promotional campaign called “See Your City” to motivate residents to explore the diverse neighborhoods found in all five boroughs.

The three-month promotional campaign will showcase 10 neighborhoods throughout the city including Jackson Heights and Long Island City.

“For visitors, a trip to New York City is a vacation for a lifetime. For a lucky 8 million, it’s just a subway ride away,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. “We want to give New Yorkers a new perspective on the five boroughs. Start thinking of the more than 250 New York City neighborhoods as 250 opportunities to travel.”

Content featuring itinerary suggestions and video postcards will be included on NYC & Company’s website and five of the 10 neighborhoods, including Long Island City, will be promoted through custom illustrations inspired by vintage travel posters.

The LIC poster features an art piece at Socrates Sculpture Park overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

“With See Your City, we were challenged with the task of selling New York City to New Yorkers, and our goal was to create inspiration to convince New Yorkers to explore their own backyards,” said Emily Lessard, NYC & Company creative director.

The See Your City campaign will be promoted through bus shelters throughout the city, posts on NYC & Company’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, commercials running in city taxicabs, and through American Express’ digital channels.

Since Oct. 15, social media ambassadors have been promoting the program on Instagram through sharing images with the official hashtag #seeyourcity.

For more information and to check out the featured neighborhoods, visit www.nycgo.com/seeyourcity.

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Op-ed: Roosevelt Avenue needs Street Vendor Review Panel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR JOSE PERALTA 

Walk along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona, and everywhere you go you’ll see small businesses, the vast majority of which are mom-and-pop operations.

These businesses, including the street vending carts and stands, sustain families and breathe life into the community.

From early in the morning until well into the evening, you’ll come across rows of street vendors offering up a smorgasbord of tasty dishes from throughout Latin America, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, books, homemade trinkets and on and on. All this amidst a sea of commuters and shoppers flowing in out of the subway stations and many retail stores along the avenue.

If the scene looks more than a little chaotic, it’s because it is.

The city has a jumble of overlapping and confusing regulations governing the rights and obligations of street vendors. But for all of the rules and regulations, nobody is happy with the system. Not local residents; not brick-and-mortar retailers; and certainly not the street vendors themselves.

Local residents regularly complain to me about sanitation issues and congestion on streets and sidewalks.

Restaurants, diners and fruit stores complain about carts setting up directly in front of their businesses to sell the same kind of food they do.

Other brick-and-mortar businesses complain that the smell and smoke from cooking food in front of their stores, along with the congestion and litter, drives away customers.

And the street vendors complain about petty and excessive city fines and the caps on the number of licenses. Because of the caps on licenses, you have unregulated vendors and even a black market for licenses. I’ve heard of street vendors having to pay as much as $24,000 for an illegal two-year rental of a license.

In order for the street vendors and brick-and-mortar retailers to peacefully and profitably coexist on Roosevelt Avenue and other commercial strips throughout the five boroughs, the city needs to do something, and it needs to start by making sense of the street vending regulations.

That’s why I’m urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconvene the defunct Street Vendor Review Panel and charge it with making sense of the myriad, often overlapping and confusing city regulations governing the rights and obligations of street vendors.

A new Street Vendor Review Panel with a broad, holistic mandate and representatives of street vendors, business owners and community interests is the right entity to study these issues and make appropriate recommendations.

In addition to revising the regulations governing street vendors, I would want the panel to:

• Eliminate the black market for street vendor permits by lifting the current cap on permits and rescinding those of individuals who illegally rent them out.
• Create zoning regulations and incentive structures to reduce sidewalk and street congestion and achieve a more efficient distribution of vendor locations.
• Enact a letter-grade system for mobile food vendors, in accordance with my bill (S. 43-A-2014), to further legitimize the vast majority of street vendors, who sell safe, healthy and delicious food.
• Reduce fines for minor issues and focus enforcement on serious health, safety, traffic and sanitation violations.
• Create and promote designated community spaces where street vendors can congregate to sell food without exacerbating congestion issues.

Inaction on issues surrounding street vendors has allowed enmity and confusion to fester where what’s needed is cooperation, understanding and common purpose.

Small businesses and bustling commercial corridors like Roosevelt Avenue are far too important to the city’s economy for the government to continue to do nothing.

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Real estate roundup: Destruction of Waldheim, Jackson Heights Food Court shut down for mice


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Destruction of what’s left of Waldheim continues

“Another Waldheim gem is quickly disappearing. According to the city’s website, 143-01 Cherry Avenue dates back to 1910.” Read more [Queens Crap]

Jackson Heights Food Court Closed for Mice, Roaches

“The Jackson Heights Food Court, which sells buffet-style food and an array of grocery items, has been shuttered by the Department of Health for operating without a permit and for having mice, roaches and fruit flies, according to the city.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Work moving forward at 27-07 43rd Avenue despite new permits

“Originally filed as a nine-story residential build, the new permits in September called for 108 hotel rooms and nearly 50,000 square feet commercial space. While ‘no decision’ has been made on what the final product will be, that hasn’t stopped construction on the lot. Crews seem to be wrapping up excavation and have moved on to laying the foundation, as seen below.” Read more [The Court Square Blog]