Tag Archives: Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights to host 22nd annual Queens Pride Parade


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The streets of Jackson Heights will be filled with pride this weekend as the borough comes together to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community.

On Sunday, elected officials as well as supporters and members of the LGBTQ community from throughout the city will gather for the 22nd Queens Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival hosted by the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee.

Celebrating the accomplishments of the global LGBTQ community, the theme for this year’s event is “A World of Pride.” The theme will also emphasize the need to continue the attention on the struggles that still have to be addressed in regards to human rights, according to organizers.

Grand marshals for the parade include Queens council members Daniel Dromm, one of the founders of the parade in 1993, and Jimmy Van Bramer, who was the first elected official in the borough to get married after New York legalized same-sex marriage. Manhattan council members Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez, Brooklyn Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres will also join the procession.

“Our grand marshals reflect how far we have come to be integral in our government, community and our visibility,” Queens Pride co-chair Chris Calvert said.

Melissa Sklarz, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, will also be honored during the event for her leadership and as a transgender member of the community. Founded in 1986, the Stonewall Democratic Club is the first citywide LGBT Democratic organization in New York City.

The parade kicks off Sunday at noon at 84th Street and 37th Avenue and ends at 75th Street. The festival also begins at noon with about 100 vendors along 37th Road from 74th to 77th Street, performances and family-friendly entertainment.

For more information on the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee visit www.queenspride.org.

 

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Jackson Heights native creates website to prop up short men


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Harold Everton

There is a now is place for every guy who has gotten the short end of the stick because of his height.

Jackson Heights native Harold Everton created AtEyeLevel.co, a website billed as a community forum for men 5’7” and under, last month to educate people about heightism and create a community where short men can give tips to overcome discrimination. The site already has about 300 registered members, active forums and articles.

Everton, who didn’t reveal his height but calls himself a “statistically normal short guy,” said that men are often stigmatized for their height and face prejudice in various situations, including their financial, romantic and professional lives.

“Every short guy I know has had an experience where someone makes fun their height,” Everton said. “You are taught when you are out of the womb that taller is better.”

Studies, such as “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income” by Timothy Judge of the University of Florida in 2004, revealed that taller men make more money on average than shorter men. There are also studies that show women are attracted to taller men. Everton believes there is a social negative stigma of short men, which for now is generally accepted by society.

Even the success of some short men is still riddled with negative references to their height, Everton said.

“Kevin Hart is a perfect example. He’s a very funny guy but jokes are always based on his height,” Everton said referring to the 5’2” actor and comedian. “Height is just an arbitrary trait, and it should not be indicative of someone’s character or success.”

Everton’s idea came after reading studies about heightism and blogs dedicated to it. It made him think back to times in his life where he felt slighted because of his height, including once losing a job to a taller person.

Everton, a graduate of Brooklyn College, has a bachelor’s degree in music education and an MBA in media from Metropolitan College of New York. He is a 10-year veteran New York City high school music production teacher, and has made a name for himself on online marketplace Fiverr. He has made commercials and voice-overs for hundreds of clients on the website for nearly two years, and earned the ranking of top-rated seller on the website within a year.

He doesn’t want AtEyeLevel.co to be a site for negativity, but one that gives confidence for short guys and tries to open society’s eyes to height discrimination.

“You’re never going to eradicate heightism in the same way that you’re never going to eradicate racism,” Everton said. “The goal is to provide a community where short guys can get together and exchange tips. You are who you are and you can’t really change it.”

 

 

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FBI seeks ‘Gatsby Bandit’ in Queens bank robberies


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of FBI

A man the FBI is calling the “Gatsby Bandit” is wanted in three bank robberies around western Queens.

The suspect, who was given his nickname because of the hat he was wearing, last robbed the Astoria Federal Savings Bank on Broadway near 73rd Street in Jackson Heights on May 16, according to authorities.

He is also accused of robbing an Investors Bank on Broadway at 31st Street in Astoria on May 13 at 4:40 p.m., and a Santander Bank, on Roosevelt Avenue near 84th Street in Jackson Heights on May 7 at 3:30 p.m., where he may have pulled out a black handgun, the FBI said.

Authorities describe the “Gatsby Bandit” as a white man, around 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 45 to 50 years old. He has gray hair, blue eyes and a skinny build, and was last seen wearing black-framed glasses, a tan Gatsby hat, a black coat and blue pants.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI  at 212-384-1000. Tipsters will remain anonymous.

 

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Queens dogs to raise paws for favorite teams in World Cup


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Mauricio Hernandez


This year’s FIFA World Cup is receiving a ‘pawsitive’ reaction from four-legged fans throughout the borough.

Dog owners and their pets will be able to show their love for their favorite soccer teams Saturday in Jackson Heights, just less than two weeks before the big games kick off in Brazil, during an event called “Mi Mascota, Mi Seleccion,” translated to “My Pet, My Team.”

During the event, which will take place from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the garden of St. Marks Church at 33-50 82nd St., both owners and dogs are asked to come dressed in their favorite team’s colors. The day will feature food and treats for dogs, a trainer, entertainment for the whole family and contests for both pets and their owners.

“It looks like we are going to have a large participation of Colombian, Mexican and Ecuadorian pets, which are the majority in Corona, Jackson Heights and Woodside in Queens,” organizer Mauricio Hernandez said in Spanish.

One of the sponsors, who will also be selling dog jerseys at Saturday’s event, is Dalila’s Petwear located at 90-12 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights. Some of the national team jerseys in doggie sizes include the United States, Colombia, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and many others.

“I’m very excited,” said Miguel Rodriguez, owner of Dalila’s Petwear. “This idea came out last year. It’s amazing.”

Proceeds from “My Pet, My Team” will go toward St. Mark’s Church, which recently had to deal with a flooded basement.

After the event, photos of the best-dressed pets will be available on www.MyPetMyTeam.com. For more information call 718-644-7072 or 347-447-4433. To purchase a jersey click here.

 

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Queens man realizes two dreams through film, serving country


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of American Heroes Channel - Discovery Communications


When filmmakers Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler released their documentary “CHOSIN,” on the Korean War’s Chosin Reservoir Campaign, they had high hopes for the film.

In addition to positive reviews, it has received several recognitions, including Best Documentary Feature at the GI Film Festival and Best Documentary Feature from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in 2013.

But the most important approval was from the men whom the pair interviewed for the documentary.

“That review meant more to us than anything else we’ve gotten,” said Sattler, a Jackson Heights resident who co-produced the documentary with Iglesias, who also directed the film.

They were prepared to remake “CHOSIN” following two private screenings they had for the veterans, but the men gave it a thumbs-up.

Four years following the documentary’s debut, the pair is trying to reach a larger audience and share the battle’s story with more people.

This Memorial Day, on May 26, at 9 p.m., “CHOSIN” will premiere on the American Heroes Channel (AHC) and help launch AHC Films, a new outlet for independent nonfiction filmmakers looking for a television home for documentaries.

“We are proud to kick off AHC Films with the critically-acclaimed documentary, ‘CHOSIN,’ giving viewers an amazing, first-person account about a historic battle, and shining a light on the true meaning of honor and solidarity,” said Kevin Bennett, executive vice president and general manager of AHC.

“It premiering on Memorial Day has huge significance for us,” Sattler said. “It will be seen by a larger audience, and the story will be told and these men [will not be] forgotten.”

The idea for “CHOSIN” and Sattler and Iglesias’ filmmaking partnership came out of the battlefield.

The two were brought together by their shared passion for film and service fighting for the country.

Both men served in the U.S. Marine Corps and were deployed to Iraq. After 13 years of service, Iglesias, who lives in New Jersey, joined the reserves and currently holds the rank of major. Sattler, following six years of active duty, transferred to the reserves, where he is presently serving as a major with Marine Corps Public Affairs, NYC.

Sattler, who’s had family members serve in the armed forces, knew at a young age that he wanted to join the military. The Sept. 11 attacks occurred around the time of his college graduation, in 2002, and he enlisted after finishing school.

A film studies major, the Pittsburgh native wanted to pursue moviemaking after his service.

A mutual friend introduced him to Iglesias and about 24 hours after they met, they decided to launch a film company, Veterans Expeditionary Media, and 30 days later they started filming “CHOSIN.”

They were on the road for eight months, visiting 27 cities in 14 states, where they interviewed 185 veterans who survived the battle.

The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, which took place over 17 days in 1950, is one of three pivotal battles taught in boot camps, according to Sattler.

“The odds were stacked against the Marine Corps,” he said. There were news reports saying the troops were going to be destroyed, he explained, but they fought their way out.
Many of the men didn’t even go through boot camp because of post-WWII cutbacks, according to Sattler.

The brutal battle was not only fought in subfreezing temperatures and on rugged terrain, but it also pitted 15,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines against 67,000 Chinese troops.
Sattler and Iglesias felt it was pivotal to tell the story of Chosin and its survivors because it shed more light on the battle and the entire Korean War.

“Hollywood for the most part hasn’t paid attention to Korea since the 60s,” Sattler said.

Their film is the first feature-length documentary on the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

They also felt it was vital to capture the survivors’ stories while they were still alive.

“Decades separated us but there was a ‘two-way rifle range,’” Sattler said, describing the experience of interviewing the men. That ability to relate, he said, helped them with in reaching out to the veterans, he added.

The result was a documentary that tells not only the story of one conflict, but also of “the human experience of going off to war,” Sattler said.

Along with the AHC Films premiere, Sattler and Iglesias are bringing the story of Chosin Reservoir Campaign to a younger audience with a graphic novel, now available in a digital version and soon-to-be print version, and an animated adaptation that is currently in the works.

The filmmakers hope if the stories are engaging enough, maybe younger people will watch the documentary and want to learn more about the Korean War.

 

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Children of America day care to open first Queens location in Jackson Heights


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering by First Class Management


Children of America is opening its first location in Queens, looking to bring its services to parents in Jackson Heights.

The school is expected to open in early 2015 at the brand-new 40,000-square-foot commercial building being built on 87-10 Northern Blvd.

Jim Perretty, president for Children of America , said the location was chosen based on the lack of child care centers in the area and they are excited to open the new site in the community.

“We really felt there was a big demand for it,” Perretty said. “We identified [Jackson Heights] as a place where there would be a need for it.”

The site, which is expected to hold 170 students, will offer educational and enrichment programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners and school-age children. The programs include before- and after-school activities and summer camp.

The “Mind and Body Matters” programs involve a curriculum that allows the children to have flexibility and be part of the course. Students are allowed to learn subjects at the pace they want to, as long all subject areas are covered, according to Perretty.

“We found it engages them and keeps their interest a little more,” he said.

Children of America  also includes a physical fitness program, a healthy food menu for students, and a reading program in which students help write and illustrate a book published online every other month which is read out loud by the school’s mascot, Bentley the Jack Russell terrier.

The school also tries to promote parent involvement in every activity such as reading and taking home healthy meal ideas. The school also offers a video monitoring service called “Always Close By,” which allows parents to see their children throughout the day on their phones, tablets or computers.

“Parents have to have a place where they can trust we will take care of their children,” Perretty said.

A playground for the students will also be located on the roof of the building.

Children of America will share 87-10 Northern Blvd. with other co-tenants such as the first Queens Denny’s restaurant, Red Mango, Dunkin’ Donuts and medical offices.

 

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‘Daily Show’ inspired Middle Eastern newscast turns to Kickstarter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Clarke Leo Michael Smith


Laughter is the basis of a new Kickstarter campaign looking to bring Western attention to Middle Eastern headlines.

Based on the structure of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” a satirical newscast all about the Middle East called “The Mideast Show” was dreamed up by Brooklyn resident Kayvon Afshari earlier this year.

“I thought there was a need to create a space, create a platform where people with a sense of humor could laugh together,” Afshari said.

At first Afshari was going to shoot the show from his apartment using an iPhone, but after receiving strong, positive feedback on the idea he began reaching out to friends and colleagues in Brooklyn and Queens to help create the first episode.

The pilot episode, partially written by Jackson Heights resident Serhan Ayhan, features Afshari as the host of the show reviewing headlines out of the Middle East, a special guest, on-scene reporting and much more.

However, the big challenge for the show is funding. The pilot episode cost about $15,000 to create.

With the hopes of producing five more episodes for the first season, Afshari has turned to Kickstarter to raise a goal of $85,000. The money would go into renting a studio, camera and equipment, hire a professional crew involving camera operators, director, audio engineer and graphic designers, and post-production work.

The funds would also help purchase props for the show and pay members of the creative team, most of whom are currently volunteering their time.

The mission of “The Mideast Show” is to create a newscast for people who have a sense of humor about the Middle East and want to laugh together, regardless of nationality, religion or ethnicity, according to the show’s Kickstarter website.

“There is a lack of information on the Middle East that Americans have and among some people there is not even an interest,” said Afshari. “We are embedded in this region. However, [people] don’t know about it.”

The team behind the show is mixed with various Middle Eastern roots, including Afshari who is Persian-American.

Ayhan, who is half Turkish and half Kurdish and one of the writers for the show, came up with the segment on the pilot episode where reporter Rex Huckstable takes a trip to the Little Egypt community in Astoria and speaks to residents about recent elections in Egypt.

In future episodes, Ayhan said he hopes to have the chance to continue doing segments on local Middle Eastern communities.

“The goal is to entertain but also educate. We’re not trying to make fun of people from the Middle East,” Ayhan said. “We want to be that bridge to educate people.”

To donate to the Kickstarter campaign click here. For more information on “The Mideast Show” and to watch the pilot episode click here.

 

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First Queens Denny’s opening in Jackson Heights


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Updated 3:33 p.m.

Jackson Heights will soon be home to the third Denny’s Restaurant in New York City and the first in Queens.

The chain restaurant will be a co-tenant, along with Red Mango, Dunkin’ Donuts, Children of America Day Care and medical offices, at a brand new commercial building coming to 87-10 Northern Blvd., according to commercial real estate management company First Class Management.

The 40,000-square-foot building will have underground parking, with about 5,000 square feet of retail space available for lease on the ground floor and 10,000 square feet of office space available on the second floor, according to the company’s website.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, who confirmed the chain restaurant will open its doors in Jackson Heights, said he is concerned about Denny’s coming into the community because it is allegedly known for paying its employees minimum wage.

“I hope that when they do come that they would pay fair wages to the workers,” said Dromm, who has supported a resolution calling for New York City to raise the minimum wage. “They should be paying [workers] a wage they can live off of, that they can survive on.”

Denny’s is expected to open its first chain in New York City in downtown Manhattan later this summer, after settling a lawsuit with residents who opposed the restaurant claiming it would became a hangout spot for college students, according to published reports. The chain is also reportedly slated to open a location in Brooklyn.

Denny’s did not respond to request for comment.

 

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Queens native explores borough in new children’s book


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Illustrations © Rick Sanders

Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos is taking young readers on a journey around the world with the first magical stop in Queens.

Tsavaris-Lecourezos, who was born in Jackson Heights and raised in Woodside, is the author of a new children’s book and series titled “Young World Travelers and the Magical Crystal Globe,” where a group of kids from Florida are transported to any time period they want, wherever they want.

The first book of the series debuted Sunday at the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival. It takes these young world travelers back in time to experience the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens County Farm, before it was a museum, and a Civil War fort in Fort Totten.

“You pick up books in the bookstore and you are learning about the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, but never about the structures in Queens,” Tsavaris-Lecourezos said.

The concept of the “Young World Travelers” series began nine years ago when Tsavaris-Lecourezos gave birth to her daughter Katerina, the year after marrying her high school sweetheart. Together with her husband, Constantinos (Gus) P. Lecourezos she began to come up an initial concept of writing a movie script that would be educational for children and revolve around traveling to Greece.

After realizing the large costs that involved turning the script into a film, Tsavaris-Lecourezos decided to create a children’s book. She wrote four books in total with the characters traveling to places in Egypt, England, Greece and New York.

In 2009, her husband passed away and Tsavaris-Lecourezos moved to Tarpon Springs, Florida with her daughter.

At the end of last year a friend suggested she take her concept to a publisher and when Tsavaris-Lecourezos approached publisher thewordverve inc. her ideas were accepted.

“It was all falling into place, I had no idea,” she said. “I’m rolling with it and I’m really excited.”

The “Young World Travelers” series is dedicated to Tsavaris-Lecourezos’ husband and mother. In the book the children receive a magical crystal globe, which allows them to time travel, from Mrs. Eva, who was named and inspired by Tsavaris-Lecourezos’ mother.

The 43-page book’s illustrator Rick Sanders is also a Queens native. Though Tsavaris-Lecourezos and him first met through thewordverve, they were coincidentally born in the same hospital.

During the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival, Tsavaris-Lecourezos held two readings to share the book with visitors of all ages.

“I was so honored to have been invited to such an event,” she said. “It was amazing and an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to debut my book there.”

To preorder “Young World Travelers and the Magical Crystal Globe,” click here.

 

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Jackson Heights filmmaker turns to Kickstarter for new flick


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Alex Webb

Actor Alex Webb has gone behind the camera to write, direct and produce award-winning films. Now, he is turning to Kickstarter to get his new film rolling.

The Jackson Heights resident has worked with actors such Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Ben Affleck and has appeared in the Netflix series “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

Aside from acting, Webb began working on film production with his first picture “The Girl in 2C,” which received a silver medal at WorldFest, an international indie film festival in Houston. His most recent short film “Hove (The Wind)” received the Panavision New Filmmaker Award and was selected for several international film festivals.

“The interesting thing I didn’t realize is that all along I had writing and directing right in my pocket,” Webb said. “I was much happier when those times came to be creative and start creating your own work.”

Webb decided the next step in his production career would be to create a full-length feature and came up with his newest thriller and dark comedy flick called “To The Flame.”

“[I wanted to] try to make a story that is super intriguing, weird and surprising and — on the production end — simple,” Webb said. “Make [a film] that would really lend itself to a micro-budget.”

On May 7, Webb created a 30-day Kickstarter project to help raise $25,000 in funds to make his feature film a reality. The money raised would go toward production equipment and hiring the remaining cast and crew members, as well as helping to keep location and travel needs to a minimum.

“The great thing about Kickstarter is you are raising awareness about your project before even starting it,” Webb said. “You get these people already hooked on the project and you’re getting an audience before it even starts.”

The film, which already has Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis and actor Bob Balaban slotted for cameos, was inspired by the works of directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. It follows two college students, Kyle and Penny, and their interaction with two neighbors, played by Webb and his wife Shirleyann Kaladjian, for a school assignment. The project then takes the students into the couple’s “dark and twisted world,” Webb said.

Shooting for the film is expected to begin in early July, with some scenes possibly shot in Queens, and a release date is slated for late this year or early 2015.

To watch a teaser for “To The Flame” and donate to the Kickstarter, which ends June 6, click here.

 

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DOT to implement Slow Zones on Northern and Queens boulevards


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The city’s Vision Zero traffic safety plan will be implemented at two highly trafficked Queens thoroughfares where collisions have claimed more than 20 lives in the last six years, officials said.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Thursday that Northern and Queens boulevards would become part of 25 planned Arterial Slow Zones implemented throughout the five boroughs.

“I am pleased to bring the Arterial Slow Zone program to Northern Boulevard where long crosswalks and high speeds have been an unnecessary reality for too many Queens residents,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

The first phase of a Slow Zone for Northern Boulevard will run 4.2 miles long from 40th Road to 114th Street. Starting later this month, the speed limit will be lowered to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed.

Since 2008, there have been five fatalities on Northern Boulevard, according to the DOT. One of the recent accidents involved 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, who was fatally struck by a truck on his way to school on Northern Boulevard and 61st Street.

Last month the DOT announced it would install two pedestrian safety islands at the intersection, and remove the westbound left turn bay and signal on Northern Boulevard to eliminate possible vehicle and pedestrian collisions.

“Bringing an arterial slow zone to Northern Boulevard is a huge victory for our entire community,” Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said.

In July, the DOT will implement a Slow Zone on Queens Boulevard, which has seen 23 deaths in the past six years. The Slow Zone will stretch 7.4 miles from Jackson Avenue to Hillside Avenue.

“I am thrilled to be here on Northern Boulevard with Commissioner Trottenberg announcing safety improvements, rather than with a grieving family begging the city to take actions,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said. “Too many lives have been lost on Northern and Queens Boulevard, and many other dangerous roads throughout our city.”

The city agency also announced Slow Zones would go up on Jamaica Avenue later this month, and Rockaway Boulevard in August.

For more information on the Slow Zones, visit www.nyc.gov/dot or www.nyc.gov/visionzero.

 

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Queens nonprofit programs look for new home after 5-alarm fire caused by overloaded power strip


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Riyad Hasan

Lilian Castillo lost what felt like her second home last week after a five-alarm fire, caused by an overloaded power strip, engulfed a Jackson Heights building.

Castillo was a former student at the Queens Community House (QCH)’s Adult Education/English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and is currently an employee for the nonprofit organization.

QCH, which provided four of its programs at the Bruson Building, located at 74-09 37th Ave., lost its home when the building’s third and fourth floors went up in flames the evening of April 21. Various other organizations, businesses and Plaza College were also housed inside the building.

“When I came to this country from the Dominican Republic, Queens Community House was the first place that welcomed me,” Castillo said. “It was where I met the people who became my friends. I feel as if I lost my second home in the fire.”

The Jackson Heights site was home to QCH’s Adult Education/ESOL program, which provides free intensive English and citizenship classes; immigrant services, providing assistance with citizenship and other legal residency needs; a CASP program, helping youth who have obtained a diploma through a non-traditional high school apply to and succeed in community college; and its Queens Center for Gay Seniors, the borough’s only senior center primarily serving an LGBT older adult population.

Also lost in the fire was a computer lab that was used by all four programs, which aided about 300 residents daily.

“The Center was full of many special, shared memories from the past decade,” Program Director John Nagel said. “Photos, awards, artwork…all gone.”

QCH has been able to secure some space at the Sunnyside Community Services for its Adult Education English classes. It’s Queens Center for Gay Seniors will operate out the QCH’s Kew Gardens Community Center.

According to the FDNY, nine people sustained minor injuries as a result of the fire, including seven firefighters and a police officer.

The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical due to an overloaded power strip, according to the FDNY.

Anyone interested in helping QCH, can visit www.queenscommunityhouse.org.

 

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Five-alarm fire engulfs Jackson Heights commercial building, injuring nine


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Riyad Hasan

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO 

Updated 1:55 P.M.

A five-alarm fire broke out Monday night at a Jackson Heights building that houses a college and several businesses, leaving nine injured.

The blaze was reported about 5:45 p.m. on Monday, April 21, at the 74-09 37th Ave. building’s third and fourth floors, the FDNY said. By 10 p.m. it had grown to five alarms, with 44 units and around 200 firefighters responding. It was finally under control at about 11:40 p.m., according to fire officials.

An FDNY spokesman said nine people sustained minor injuries as a result of the fire, including seven firefighters and a police officer. The ninth victim, according to published reports, was a child from a nearby building who was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

The community’s “biggest immigrant service provider,” Queens Community House, an LGBT senior center, Plaza College and about 50 other offices, stores and businesses were located inside the fire-damaged structure, according to Councilman Daniel Dromm.

“This is a devastating fire for our community,” Dromm said. “I have spoken to the business owners, many who I know personally, and the effect on their establishments is truly horrible. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. We will rebuild and come back as a better and stronger Jackson Heights.”

Charles Callahan, president of Plaza College, said classes were not in session when the fire began and he has not been informed of the cause of the fire on the partially vacant floors.

“All faculty, staff and students were safely evacuated from the building,” a post on the school’s Facebook page said. It added there will be “no services of any type” at the college Tuesday.

Plaza College, which has about 750 students, has been located in the building since 1971 and has been planning to move to Forest Hills in September 2014. Classes were expected to begin in May.

However, at the moment, school officials are surveying nearby sites to find a temporary location for the school until September.

“We want to help students ensure that they aren’t misplaced. I’m sure we’ll get through this,” Callahan said. “My heart goes out because this has been my home for all these years.”

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation and firefighters were still at the scene as a precaution as of Tuesday morning, according to the FDNY.

 

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Op-ed: Our children win with universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

After months of rallying for the future of our children, our voices have finally been heard! Last week, our state legislators approved $300 million in funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs in their final budget. This is historic. We are now poised to ensure every child has access to high-quality, full-day pre-K.

The City’s plan is moving forward, and in less than six months, a new school year will begin, giving tens of thousands of our children access to full-day pre-K and thousands more middle-schoolers access to a safe, educational place to go after school.

Imagine the difference this will make for kids who will now start learning a year earlier. Imagine what it means for working parents!

As a former director of a Beacon program at P.S. 19 in Corona, it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records.

With this new, dedicated funding from Albany, the people who win here are parents and children. New York City is ready to move forward. We’ve been moving aggressively to put all the pieces in place to be ready for the fall.

Thanks to the work of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in our city and state government, we are making history. As a new mother, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this momentous change. These are game-changing solutions that will reach every child. They’re the kind of solutions that unite communities and improve our schools.

If you live in New York City and your child is turning 4 years old in 2014, it’s time to think about applying to pre-K. Here’s what you need to know:

• Children turning 4 years old in 2014 who live in New York City are eligible to attend pre-K programs.

• Pre-K is free. You do not have to pay to attend programs offered by the NYC Department of Education.

• Programs can be half-day (2 hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (6 hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon.

• Programs are available at public schools and community-based organizations (CBOs). There are separate application processes for public schools and CBOs.

The pre-K application period has been extended to April 23. The online application for pre-K is currently available in English and Spanish on www.schools.nyc.gov. You can also apply in person at your nearest Queens Enrollment Office, which are listed on the website. If you have any questions or need further information, please call (718) 935-2009. Our children’s future begins today.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Op-ed: It’s time for Congress to raise the minimum wage


| oped@queenscourier.com

U.S. SEN KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

It’s been more than four years since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage. Hard-working families are doing all they can to make ends meet during the worst economy of our lifetime – but through no fault of their own – feel like they are just slipping further behind.

When adjusted for inflation – the federal minimum wage of $7.25 today is much lower than its peak in 1968. Too many working poor families are below the poverty line, which not only holds these families back, but also holds back our local economy from its full potential growth.

New York City is home to three of the nation’s top 10 areas with the highest cost of living, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Queens ranked seventh in the country. For Queens residents, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet with the rising cost of groceries, rent, transportation, and basic necessities.

Last year, New York State passed legislation increasing the wage to $9 an hour by 2015. It’s no coincidence that of the 10 states with the lowest wage gaps, seven have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate.

Now, it is time for Congress to follow New York’s lead and take action. It is simply unacceptable that a single parent working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to support a family, earns just $290 a week. That’s $15,000 a year – without any time off. That salary is $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three in New York.

We need an economy that rewards hard work. Raising the federal minimum wage would give working men, women and families the power to raise themselves into the middle class – and benefit the entire economy through stronger consumer confidence and more customers for local small businesses.

In fact, increasing wages to $10.10 an hour would boost incomes for millions of American workers, and generate billions in new economic growth, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

And let’s be clear, this is not just about teenagers working part-time summer jobs.

• Close to 90 percent of the lowest wage earners who would see their paychecks increase by raising the minimum wage are over the age of 20;

• 62 percent of minimum wage earners nationwide are women, who also happen to be a growing percentage of family breadwinners;

• Nearly one-third of all single parents in America would see an increase in pay by raising the minimum wage;

• Raising the minimum wage would help more than 15 million women in America.

Last year, I stood with State Senator Jose Peralta, Make the Road New York, and Queens businesses in Jackson Heights pushing for federal legislation to help millions of workers move from the working poor into the middle class with more money in their pockets being spent in our local economy.

This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to finally vote on legislation raising the wage to $10.10 an hour over the next 3 years and indexing it to inflation moving forward to allow the rate to keep up with rising costs of living.

The bill has broad support from business leaders – including the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Alliance, and employers like Costco – because they know that strong wages lead to a stronger workforce, higher productivity, and a growing business.

This commonsense measure is long overdue. Boosting wages would not only lift working poor families above the poverty line and onto stable ground, it can also drive economic activity, boost Queens businesses and strengthen local economies.

 

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