Tag Archives: Jackson Heights

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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Queens student treated for tuberculosis as cases rise in city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

CDC/ Melissa Brower

A Hillcrest High School student recently exposed to tuberculosis is receiving treatment and recovering from the potentially deadly bacterial infection, officials said.

The Health Department tested 170 students and six staff members who might have been at risk at the Queens school Tuesday as a precaution.

“Given that the person with TB is receiving treatment, there is no health risk to students or staff currently at the school,” a department spokeswoman said.

Tuberculosis cases are on the rise in the city for the first time in a decade, health officials said. They increased 1 percent from 651 in 2012 to 656 in 2013.

Most people infected were foreign-born, living in Flushing, western Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, according to the Health Department.

Officials said 19 out of 100,000 people have contracted the disease in Corona, Woodside, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Maspeth and 15 out of 100,000 in Flushing.

“Many are likely infected in their country of origin and developed TB after entering the U.S.,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.

Smokers and people with diabetes or HIV have a higher chance of getting tuberculosis and should be tested for the disease, Bassett said.

Tuberculosis, which usually affects the lungs, spreads from person to person through the air.

 

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Op-ed: Why I support Mayor de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten in New York City. Often overlooked is that the plan would provide more than just high-quality programs for our youngest learners, it would also fund after-school programs for every interested middle schooler in New York. As chairwoman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, I support the de Blasio plan because it’s such a cost-effective way to address one of the most pressing challenges the city faces. As the former director of an after-school program, I support the plan because I know firsthand how critical after-school support can be in developing and safeguarding adolescents. It’s inspiring that both the Assembly and Senate have put forward budget proposals that meet these goals.

As you probably know, the mayor’s plan – which the Assembly also supports – would modestly raise income tax rates for New York City earners making more than $500,000 a year, from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for a period of five years. That’s a smaller increase than previous mayors have sought from Albany for key projects, and still would generate $530 million in new revenue for each of those years. Much of that revenue would be used to create tens of thousands of pre-K slots for 4 year olds, but $190 million would be directed to after-school programs. The Senate Majority Conference proposes funding after-school for every middle school student through the budget. Both proposals offer the funding needed to make the historic expansion of after-school a reality in New York City.

The city currently offers a little more than 45,000 after-school slots, which serve 56,300 students (not every student goes every day) in 239 schools. Fully, one in four children are left alone and unsupervised after school ends, the time of day when juvenile crime and violence are at their highest, and there are 237 public schools in which middle-school-age children don’t have access to comprehensive after-school. The funding from the de Blasio plan would allow the city to increase the number of after-school spots to 95,000—an addition of about 68,800 new slots—across 512 local schools, serving 120,000 children. The goal is for every child who’s interested to be able to participate. Programs would be free, run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and mostly be run by local organizations experienced in working in the community.

As a former director of one such organization, I spent years running after-school at P.S. 19, a Beacon program, and 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. After-school programs also help kids identify subjects and disciplines they enjoy and in which they can excel.

The expansion of after-school programming under the de Blasio plan would be a win for everyone. Far more children would have access to programs that would help cultivate their interests and improve their performance in school, all while ensuring they’re under supervision and avoiding the kinds of trouble that can derail a promising young life. The Legislature must work with the governor to ensure that the funding needed for expanded after-school and universal pre-K is part of the State’s final budget.

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.

Queens reacts to newly enacted paid sick leave law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Jackson Heights coffee bar owner Afzal Hossain doesn’t like the city’s new paid sick leave law, but he believes we should all follow the law, no matter the burden.

His business, Espresso 77, is now required to provide paid sick leave to employees under the city’s newly enacted law, which affects businesses with five or more employees, expanding previous legislation that applied to businesses with 15 or more workers.

“I know it’s going to be hard for us, but I understand if it’s the law, we have to follow it,” Hossain said.

Although he’s willing to comply, he isn’t happy about it. Business owners like him could be financially hurt under it, Hossain said.

Most of Hossain’s employees are part-time and he believes the law should apply to individuals working at least 40 hours a week.

Under the legislation, workers earn sick time for every 30 hours worked, according to legal advocacy group A Better Balance. Part-time workers will earn paid sick time based on hours worked.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a partner at his family’s Astoria law firm and member of the City Council’s Committee on Small Business, voted against the bill when the Council passed it on Feb. 26.

“The continued cries of our small businesses for more support and reduction in the already exhausting fines and regulations that burden them must be heard,” he said in a testimony before the Council.

Some Queens businesses see paid sick leave as a benefit and have already been offering it to employees.

“[Paid sick leave] is something that we felt was the right thing to do,” said Julio Isidor, office manager of Clinica Dental Latina, located in Corona.

The business, which also has a Howard Beach office, Cosmetic Dental Image, has been offering its employees two annual paid sick days for over a year.

As a dental office it’s important that its employees don’t come to work ill and spread their sickness to the patients, Isidor said.

 

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Op-ed: Why we need Mayor de Blasio’s pre-k plan


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER DANIEL DROMM

As chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, it is a priority of mine to see Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten plan enacted. The only viable way to ensure that our children get this extra year of education is to create a tax on the city’s most wealthy residents to help fund it.

Before teaching fourth grade for 25 years, I directed a preschool in Harlem. I saw firsthand how an extra year of socializing and learning helped set up these young learners of all social and ethnic backgrounds for a more productive educational career. Study after study has shown that quality pre-k works.

Pre-kindergarten isn’t just for the children.  It also lends a helping hand to their parents, especially single parents. At the first Education Committee hearing that I chaired on February 12, I heard from parents about how pre-kindergarten combined with after school care allows them to work a full day. Without pre-k, working mothers and fathers have to scramble to find someone to care for their children and often times have to scrape the bottom of their bank accounts to pay for childcare.

I believe it is not too much to ask of those who are making $500,000 or more a year to fund the program with a small tax increase that equals the price of a cup of latte from Starbucks every day. I totally disagree with those who say these wealthy residents may leave the city. New York City is the greatest city in the world and everybody wants to be here. Wealthy residents won’t leave just for the price of a cup of coffee. A tax on the wealthy is the right path.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fund a statewide program without a designated tax has its pitfalls. Former Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson walked 150 miles to Albany to shine light on the unequitable amount of education funding NYC receives and won a court judgment for city schools. A decade later, more than $4 billion of that money has never made it to our public schools. That’s why we need a dedicated tax – a lockbox – to fund this program.

Pre-kindergarten is a win-win plan for everyone. It gives all children a better start with a chance at a better future. It gives parents the support they deserve to further contribute to the city’s vibrant economy.  And, most importantly, it provides New Yorkers with a bright future.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm is chair of the NYC Council Education Committee. He was elected to the New York City Council in 2009 and represents District 25 (Jackson Heights & Elmhurst).

 

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Local movie maker brings piece of Jackson Heights to Queens World Film Festival


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy Walk Up Productions

One Jackson Heights filmmaker is keeping a promise and taking it to the big screen.

Producer and Jackson Heights resident Michael Lieber met screenwriter Joseph P. Vasquez in California during the mid-1990s and started to work on a screenplay called “The House That Jack Built,” written by Vasquez.

But before the project was complete, Vasquez, 32, died. Lieber vowed that he would finish the film.

Two years ago, Lieber kept his promise and decided to begin making the film with director Henry Barrial and additional producers Sam Kitt and Hitesh R. Patel.

“It just shows that the most important thing was starting with a good script,” Lieber said. “Unfortunately, the writer died many years ago and he was not able to see the fruition of this film. This is why it took so many years to make, because I wasn’t just going to get it filmed like that.”

Vasquez’s film, which is almost 90 minutes long, follows the life of a young Hispanic man named Jack Maldonado who tries to build a relationship with his family by buying an apartment building and moving them all there. The story then becomes a combination of escalating conflicts with family members and also “turf battles” as Jack deals with competing marijuana dealers.

“When I look back, I’m kind of amazed we were able to achieve this,” he said, referring to the film’s budget, which was less than $150,000.

One third of the movie was filmed in Jackson Heights and the rest was finished in the Bronx.

“The House That Jack Built” has been picked as one of the 127 films showing at the Queens World Film Festival, which began Tuesday. It has also been nominated for Best Narrative Feature in the festival.

“This festival is very different; this is a film lovers’ festival,” Lieber said. “It’s a warm festival. It’s very New York and yet it has an international scope.”

“The House That Jack Built” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights.

“If you want the feel of New York City, Queens is the borough these days,” he said.

To purchase tickets, visit here. For more info on the film, visit here .

 

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Man wanted in Roosevelt Avenue ATM robbery


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A suspect got away with $200 after he robbed a man at a Jackson Heights Citibank, cops said.

On Jan. 21, at about 1:20 a.m., the suspect entered the bank at 80-19 Roosevelt Ave., approached the 40 year-old male victim and forcefully removed his cash as he was making an ATM withdrawal, the NYPD said.

The victim resisted, but the suspect managed to free himself and flee with the money, according to police.

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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Queens World Film Festival celebrates opening night


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Action! The 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival has begun.

The festival, which brings international and local filmmakers to the borough to screen their works, celebrated its opening night on Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured three films from the United States and one from Kosovo, ranging from animation to short narratives.

FOR MORE OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS CLICK HERE

Borough President Melinda Katz, one of the night’s speakers, said that the festival was not only a great project for all the filmmakers and volunteers involved, but also for helping brand the borough of Queens.

“We are the most diverse place on the entire planet. We are extremely excited by this,” Katz said. “We are telling the international audience that we are here, we are strong. Diversity is the greatest asset that we can give the entire world here in the borough of Queens and this film festival proves it every day that we are having it.”

Organizers Katha and Don Cato, who were introduced by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, welcomed the audience and shared what they’ve done in the 365 days since last year’s festival. They then went on to describe what the next five days would bring for the borough.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and one we are very happy to share it with everyone,” Katha said.

Don encouraged the audience members to go see all the films over the next few days.

“What I want you to experience is the unique opportunity that all of these films have and let them just wash over you,” he said. “Let them inform you, experience them, open yourselves up to them and enjoy them for what they are.”

Before the first block of films was shown, the festival honored Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image, as one of the 2014 Spirit of Queens Honorees for his leadership.

“Something wonderful is happening here,” Goodman said. “New York City is becoming decentralized. Manhattan is a borough, Queens is a borough. They’re all boroughs and there’s no inner or outer. I like to think about it as Manhattan being the shining surface of the city and Queens being the substance.”

Independent filmmaker Hal Hartley was also recognized as a Spirit of Queens Honoree. Before accepting his award, the crowd got a taste of his eight minute short narrative from 1994 called “Opera No. 1.”

The night ended with a party at Studio Square just a couple blocks away from the museum.

Throughout the six-day festival, which goes until March 10, a total of 127 films including short and feature narratives, LGBT pieces, documentaries and animation will be divided into subject blocks and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre and The Nesva Hotel in Long Island City, and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. During the festival there will be 16 films screened from Queens filmmakers.

The festival will also screen the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 69.

Films will also be given awards on the final night of the festival.

For a full schedule of the festival visit here. Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets visit here.

 

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