It was a cool day on Monday for 8-year-old Colin Flood in more ways than just the weather.
Flood, who is battling his second round of acute lymphocytic leukemia, received special gifts from the U.S. Coast Guard, which landed a helicopter in a closed off Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village.
The Coast Guard wanted to treat Flood to the helicopter visit because they learned he is a fan of the TV show “Coast Guard Alaska.”
Photo by Lorraine Scuilli
Members of the Coast Guard air crew gave Flood a tour of the helicopter and a picture of it. Flood also received a Coast Guard hat and T-shirt along with unit patches and a personal name tag. Members of the nearby 104th Precinct and the U.S. Coast Guard members then took pictures with him.
“It meant a lot to us to see the happiness on Colin’s face and to be able to fulfill his dream to see a Coast Guard helicopter up close and personal,” said John Keeley, special agent of Coast Guard Investigative Services.
The recreation division of the city agency provided free sleds, hot chocolate, snow shoeing and music for children to enjoy the snow in the park.
“It’s vital to the community to have open spaces where they can come out, play sports, relax, make friends and socialize,” said Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner of the Parks Department. “We want them to do it year round. Snow days encourage people to come out climb those hills, slide down, and come out in the winter time when they might not otherwise be in the park.”
It’s an annual event that the recreation division tries to sponsor on the first sighting of large snow storms.
The Parks Department holds the free activities at just five parks around the city, one from each borough. They chose Juniper because the hilly environment provides a great bunny slope for children, but there also weren’t impediments.
“They don’t have good hills in those locations,” said Iris Rodriguez-Rosa, Queens’ chief of recreation for Parks. “Although it’s fun we want the kids to do it in a location that is safe.”
While the massive amount of snow dropped on the city shut down streets, and made for hellish commutes for some, for others the snow was excellent winter fun.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, it makes the whole day wonderful for the kids,” said Jennifer Suffel, a Middle Village resident. “I think its a great part of our community and I would hate to see it stop. its good clean fun the kids should be having.”
Just because Mother Nature has dropped a few inches of snow, doesn’t mean you can’t put on your snow boots, get the sled and, go out and have some fun.
Keeping in mind to stay safe and bundle up, the Department of Parks and Recreation has declared an official snow day for Saturday, January 4 at five parks across the city. The snow day will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In Queens, the Parks Department will hold a snow day at Juniper Valley Park, at 78th Street and Juniper Valley North in Middle Village. During the snow day, free organized activities include supervised safe sledding, snowman building contests, best snow angel contests, friendly snowball fights, music, and complimentary hot chocolate.
For more information, please call 311 or visit the Parks Department websitefor updates.
Even though Juniper Park will be the only park in the borough to include free activities in the case of a snow day, here are other local parks you can visit for some fun in the snow and suggestions for sledding spots, courtesy of the city’s Parks Department. But remember to stay warm and be safe!
Astoria Park, Astoria, 19th Street between Shore Boulevard off Ditmars Boulevard
Bowne Park, Flushing, Small hillside on the 155th Street side of the park
A Woodhaven resident and long-time Parks Department employee was arrested on Sunday and charged with three counts of sexual abuse of an underage family member, stemming from his alleged actions five years ago.
Rene Herrera, 57, who oversees such green spaces as Juniper Valley Park, sexually abused an 11-year-old female relative on three separate occasions in 2008, cops said.
The mother of the girl, who is now 16, reported the incidents to the police on Saturday, December 28. Police have not released specific details of the alleged abuse.
Herrera has worked with the Parks Department for about 25 years, according to the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), and became a regional manager in 2002. He is married and has three children.
People that worked with Herrera said that he is a good person.
And Herrera has been very helpful and reliable in managing the parks in his districts, according to JPCA.
“He has been efficient and responsive to any issues we may have, always attempting to solve any problems that are reported to him,” said Lorraine Sciulli of JPCA. “He is readily available by phone if we have the need to get in touch with him quickly. He has always been cooperative and helpful to the JPCA.”
Herrera has been suspended without pay, according to a Parks Department spokesperson.
The legendary Middle Village-based Blau Weiss Gottschee Soccer Club is so popular it’s literally outgrown the borough.
The soccer club, which remains one of the shining examples of high-level urban athletic competition, has so many players that it utilizes a scattered combination of public fields across the city and has gotten to a point where the league needs to turn young soccer hopefuls away.
The team’s main field is Brennan Field in Juniper Valley Park, but they also travel to practice at Randall’s Island, located between Manhattan and Queens in the East River, and they rent space for games at Aviator Field Sports & Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, to name a few locations.
“We’ve got [players] spread like seeds in the wind,” said Timon Kalpaxis, a youth coordinator. “Some guys have to schlep up to Randal’s Island just to train.”
The club was created in 1951 by Gottscheer immigrants, an ethnic German-speaking people of from what is now south central Slovenia.
A few decades ago a boom of Hispanic immigrants began entering the club. And as soccer’s popularity began to grow recently in the United States, more and more players have been coming to Gottschee.
The club currently has 30 registered teams in various age and skill divisions, numerous intramural programs and free clinics. During warm months it can accumulate nearly 1,000 players combined, sometimes from the Bronx, Long Island and even New Jersey.
Organizers want more Queens field space so their players can play at a centralized location.
“We not looking for a huge bite of the apple, we’re just looking for a nibble,” Kalpaxis said.
In searching for new fields to expand, Gottschee organizers have identified Grover Cleveland High School Athletic Field near Seneca Avenue and Deklab Avenue as a great location. The field is regulation size and has lights, so night practices and games would be possible.
The Department of Education (DOE) is currently revitalizing that particular soccer field.
“We are currently in the early stages of design with topographic surveys and storm system investigations underway,” said DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg. “Construction duration will be determined after the surveys and investigations are complete.”
The soccer club has reached out for support from local leaders and politicians to help get access to it when it is completed.
“We are always open to working with them and supporting them,” said a spokesperson from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley’s office. “We are very supportive of sports and culture programs that serve kids in the district.”
Gottschee attracts much attention from many top Division I schools.
From 2005 to 2012 more than 80 Gottschee players received scholarships to play soccer at well-known universities, including the University of Michigan, Duke, Villanova, Princeton, St. John’s, Holy Cross and Rutgers, just to name a few.
Coordinators said even with the Grover Cleveland field, their problem is part of a fundamental issue of lack of ball fields in the city.
“We lament the fact that we got kids running around getting into trouble, but what are we giving them,” Kalpaxis asked. “Where is the infrastructure for these kids?”
Tuesday: Partly cloudy in the morning, then overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 95. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Tuesday night: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms and rain showers, then a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 73. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
EVENT OF THE DAY: Summer 2013 Juniper Valley Park Concert Series – Italian Night
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and Juniper Park Civic Association presents the Summer 2013 Juniper Valley Park Concert Series.Playing tonight are Tony Valenti and Chris Macchio. Starts at 7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own
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After completing the Five Boro Bike Tour last year, Astoria resident Jennifer Chakrabarti wanted to do a bike ride with her nine-year-old son Bhaskar.
The family-friendly sixth annual Tour de Queens on July 7 fit the bill. This year, it began in Chakrabarti’s “backyard” at Astoria Park.
“I like that it’s a slow-paced so that kids can do it,” Chakrabarti said. “That’s what really drew us to it, because he wanted to do a ride.”
About 1,250 riders from all over the city saddled up for the annual bike tour to experience a relaxing ride and enjoy unique views of western Queens neighborhoods, which was a major lane change for the event.
For the first time ever, the ride started in Astoria Park instead of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It continued for nearly 20 miles through Long Island City, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Corona and Elmhurst.
The ride also highlighted Juniper Valley Park at the halfway point, where the group gathered to rest, eat and reenergize.
“We change the ride up every year to showcase different parts of the borough, to demonstrate the interconnectivity of the different neighborhoods and to show how easy it is to bike through the borough and to show people the sites,” said event director Ben McRoberts of Transportation Alternatives.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district was included in the tour, hoped the ride could help future business.
“Not only is it healthy for all of us, but it is a great opportunity for people to see sites and small businesses that they never get to see,” said Van Bramer, who participated for the first time this year.
About 100 volunteer ride marshals in orange jackets followed riders to keep them on track and assist in case there were any issues. Paramedics also followed closely behind the bikers in case of medical problems.
The NYPD escorted the ride to manage the crowd and traffic and provide a safe atmosphere. Many participants felt secure with the cops guiding the tour, especially after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon earlier this year.
“With this number of people, I guess there is a little bit of safety concern,” said Astoria cyclist Jonathan Co. “But I feel pretty safe for the most part.”
In 1994, just a few days after his 19th birthday, Darren Alloggiamento was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors discovered a brain tumor after he complained of a headache.
“I was so nervous and depressed,” Alloggiamento recalled.
He underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor a few weeks later. That year, the Queens native attended game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to watch his beloved Rangers win the title.
Since his battle nearly two decades ago, he decided to donate to cancer research. He has attended the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Middle Village every year since 2004.
On June 22, dozens of survivors and about 1,000 other participants joined in the 11th annual Middle Village Relay for Life at Juniper Valley Park.
“My family was very supportive, but you need other survivors,” Alloggiamento said.
Sixty teams of nearly 600 participants total raised more than $184,000 for cancer research as of June 24, coming close to their goal of $200,000.
Communities across the country have held relays for more than 25 years since Dr. Gordy Klatt started the tradition to raise money for his local American Cancer Society office in Tacoma, Washington.
Today the event takes place in more than 5,000 communities across America, including numerous Queens neighborhoods.
“There is no finish line until we find a cure, which is why we walk in circles all night long,” said Leslie Orlovsky, who has directed the Relay at Juniper Valley Park since its inception.
“It’s too late for my son, but there are a lot of people that need the help,” said Maspeth resident Dolores St. Louis, whose son, Paul, died of cancer in 1996 at age 29. “People have to keep contributing so we can find a cure.”
Queens artists are blossoming in borough elementary schools.
The LeAp public art program took two schools under its wing to help students make large-scale pieces and present them to the community. The works, by pupils from P.S. 9 and P.S. 75, took on current issues such as gun violence and global warming. They went on display at Juniper Valley Park and Forest Park.
“I am so proud of our students,” said program director Alexandra Leff, adding they “have been extremely brave in taking on major issues in such thoughtful, meaningful and beautiful ways.”
The students worked in groups to transform plain lunch tables into works of art relating to social issues. They crafted 3D pieces and other creations.
“My table sent a message to a lot of people,” said Jerome John, a seventh grader at P.S. 75. “It can touch a lot of people’s lives.”
John added that LeAp helped him reach a level of drawing and writing he “never knew” before.
The showcase will continue throughout the five boroughs as part of the largest student art exhibition in the history of city parks. Other issues such as bullying and drugs will be addressed through the students’ pieces.
“It’s time that young people have a voice in their community,” Leff said. “I hope the public will travel to see what young people have expressed on topics we all face every day.”
Juniper Valley Park is just one green space in the borough that will soon get more supervision. The City’s Parks Department is significantly increasing its staff to include 81 new Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers who will protect park rules and assets in Queens and the rest of the city. The new hires will also include 207 city park workers, 96 maintenance and trade workers and 30 climbers and pruners to preserve trees, according to a Parks spokesperson.
The plans received a warm welcome in the southwest community, where many say that their parks, especially Juniper Valley, need extra eyes.
“It’s long overdue,” said Frank Kotnik, president of the 104th Precinct’s Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol (G-COP).
Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said that Juniper Valley Park had “a tenth of the officers that they’ve needed” in the past.
“Any investment in PEP officers is a good investment,” he said. “There’s vandalism in the park, people who don’t respect park regulations. The cops are spread so thinly at this point that they really can’t handle all of the park’s complaints.”
The Parks spokesperson attributed the shortage of PEP officers to the fiscal crisis, As a result, the workforce has not kept pace with its growing infrastructure, the representative added.
The Parks Department said 12 PEP officers and six Urban Park Rangers currently patrol Queens parks, adding that its 2014 budget allows for the additional staffing that will be spread throughout the city.
The specific number of officers coming to Queens this summer is not yet known.
Holden said that however many officers are coming, the community “needs them working,” especially on off-hours such as nights and weekends.
“In Juniper, there are 10 times as many people there on the weekends. If there are no officers, it’s almost a free-for-all,” he said. “We have picnics going on, and people driving through on [illegal] four wheelers.”
“It has been difficult to get an officer there during the evening or on the weekends when the parks really need to be protected,” he added.
When Holden heard complaints in the past, he used his own police connections to attempt to get an officer to the park.
He hopes Juniper Valley Park will see an increase in patrol staff to help alleviate the problems.
“PEP officers are certainly welcome,” he said. “But we need to know where they are going to be deployed. It’s great news, but I’m not going to jump up and down with joy.”
The presents have been opened, the stockings unstuffed and the time is coming to take down the decorations and dispose of your Christmas tree.
Beginning Wednesday, January 2, the Department of Sanitation will collect the Christmas trees that have been placed curbside. All trees should be removed of tinsel, lights, ornaments and stands. The program will run through Saturday, January 12.
The trees must not be placed into plastic bags.
The trees will be chipped and turned into compost and spread throughout the city in parks, ball fields and community gardens. More than 140,000 are “tree-cycled” each year.
“The department is very pleased to offer this special recycling service. Providing collection and recycling options for residents is environmentally valuable and benefits our neighborhoods,” said Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.
The city’s Parks & Recreation Department will also hold a Mulchfest on Saturday, January 12 and Sunday, January 13. Residents can bring their trees to one of the 80 designated locations around the city — 11 in Queens — for mulching. New Yorkers who drop their tree off at the event will also be able to pick up free mulch.
For more information on Christmas tree collection and recycling and/or Mulchfest 2013, visit www.nyc.gov/sanitation, www.nycgovparks.org or call 3-1-1.
Here is a list of Queens Mulchfest locations:
Astoria Park* (19th Street & Hoyt Avenue)
Brookville Park* (Brookville Boulevard between 144th Avenue & Caney Road)
Cunningham Park* (Visitor Parking Lot & 196th Street)
Forest Park Bandshell* (Forest Park Drive, west of Woodhaven Boulevard)
Juniper Valley Park* (80th Street between Juniper Boulevards North & South)
Kissena Park (164th Street at Underhill Avenue)
Land Restoration Project Compound* (Queens Plaza South & 10th Street)
Oakland Gardens/Playground 203* (Springfield Boulevard at 56th Avenue)
Rockaway Beach (Shore Front Parkway & Beach 94th Street)
Roy Wilkins Park (Park entrance at Merrick and Foch Boulevards)
Wednesday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers, then thunderstorms in the afternoon. High of 81. Winds from the SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 80% with rainfall amounts near 0.4 in. possible. Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 75. Winds from the West at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.
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