Tag Archives: Kids

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/15/2011: Tibetans in Queens mourn recent spate of self-immolations


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mayor Bloomberg Announces City Will Have Record Number of Hotel Rooms

Overlooking Manhattan, on the Queens side of the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city will reach a record 90,000 hotel rooms by year’s end – a clear message that people still love New York. The mayor made the announcement on the rooftop of the newly opened Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City, where he was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris, NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta and Z NYC owner Henry Zilberman. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Assemblyman Goldfeder Launches Petition To Make Cross Bay Bridge Free

A Queens official is renewing efforts to make the Cross Bay Bridge free of charge. State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder has launched an online petition for residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel to sign. He’s urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Governor Andrew Cuomo to put an end to the toll on the only intraborough bridge in the city. Read More: NY1

 

Tibetans in Queens mourn recent spate of self-immolations in their homeland 

About 50 Tibetans packed a small basement on 73rd St. in Jackson Heights on a recent Monday and set up a makeshift altar. A portrait of the Dalai Lama and Snow Lion flag of Tibet flanked an image of Buddha. Then the mantra of the Sangcho Monlam, a prayer for the dead, filled the room, normally a Burmese center. They were mourning two Tibetans — a nun and a monk — who set themselves ablaze to protest China’s rule. Read More: Daily News

 

Workers put finishing touches on first Fairway Market ready to debut in Queens

Hundreds of workers are putting the finishing touches on the borough’s first Fairway Market set to open on Wednesday. The Daily News got a sneak peek at the new Douglaston store — the largest in New York City — with owner Howie Glickberg as he personally inspected all the aisles on Monday. Read More: Daily News

 

PS 69 and IS 145 in congested Jackson Heights set to open playgrounds for public use 

A congested community in western Queens that fought long and hard for more parks is about to get a little more open space. The city is transforming two Jackson Heights schoolyards into student-designed playgrounds that will be open to the public after school and on weekends. Community leaders were also optimistic that the city will soon hammer out a deal to buy land from a nearby private school to expand Travers Park. Read More: Daily News

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/10/2011:Ex-Queens resident gets 20 years jail term in wife’s death


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Ex-Queens resident gets 20 years jail term in wife’s death

A former Queens resident has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the choking death and dismemberment of his wife, whose parts were stuffed in a suitcase found by teenagers in a park almost a year later. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Tennis might come back to Forest Hills Stadium

A historic Queens stadium might once again serve up tennis. Reports have revealed the latest bid to save the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium is coming from Stadium Arts Alliance, a nonprofit that wants to redesign the site and convert it into a space for tennis, concerts, art shows and possibly minor league hockey. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Salmonella cases in NY linked to chicken livers

Dozens of people in New York have been sickened after eating kosher broiled chicken livers that were not fully cooked. Health officials say the liver contaminated with salmonella was manufactured by Schreiber Processing Corp. under the MealMart brand. They say 89 cases of foodborne illness have been linked to the product, including 56 in New York City and 33 in nine upstate counties. The Queens-based company is recalling the product. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Anti-Gang Forum in Elmhurst

Community leaders in Queens say that gangs are a growing influence on teens, so they got together Wednesday evening to give parents some tactical support to help their children. City Councilmember Julissa Ferraras, who organized the meeting, said that gang problem is getting worse and that they are recruiting in middle school and even in elementary schools. Read More: Fox News

 

Queens Residents Discuss Memories Of Flight 587 Crash Ahead Of 10th Anniversary

It may not look like it at first glance, but Queens’ Belle Harbor is where American Airlines Flight 587 went down. The only recognition is a small plaque that marks the spot, but the memory is still vivid for some. Read More: NY1

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/04/2011: Queens Officials To Stand Against Swastika Graffiti


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Queens Officials To Stand Against Swastika Graffiti

Four swastikas showed up on the walls of the Jackson Heights branch of the Queens Library Thursday. At least one more was painted on the library branch in East Elmhurst, and another was etched on the door of a synagogue on 88th Street. Police believe the incidents in three separate locations are related. They are being investigated by the hate crimes taskforce. Local leaders plan to hold a news conference Friday to denounce this kind of hateful vandalism. Read More: NY1

 

‘Fresh Meadows Rules’ Facebook group unites former residents from around the world in Queens

More than 150 former Fresh Meadows residents reunited last week to celebrate the planned neighborhood many remember as a small utopia tucked away in Queens. The gathering, organized through a Facebook group called Fresh Meadows Rules, brought residents from all over the country and even overseas back to Queens to meet up with childhood pals and revisit local landmarks. Read More: Daily News

 

Melanie Webb, Long Island City woman, pleads guilty to shooting slay of her sister,Tara, on victim’s birthday

A Long Island City woman pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally shooting her sister on the victim’s 27th birthday.Melanie Webb, 25, also shot Tara Webb’s boyfriend, Terrell Carmichael, on March 26 in the Long Island City apartment they all shared, she admitted. A source close to the case said Webb shot her sister Tara in her bed and turned her gun on Carmichael, hitting him twice in the torso in the shower. Read More: Daily News

 

Queens high school students to help upstate NY rebuild after Hurricane Irene ravaged homes and businesses

Students at a Bellerose high school will soon get a lesson in what it means to build stronger communities — one nail at a time. The Habitat for Humanity club at the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences is raising money and supplies for a trip to upstate New York to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Irene. The group plans to partner with a yet to-be-determined Binghamton high school by the end of the year. It also plans to donate cleaning and school supplies. Read More: Daily News

 

FEMA extends deadline for Hurricane Irene victims

There’s a ray of hope for those affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August. On Oct. 31, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a deadline extension for individuals seeking disaster assistance. The new FEMA registration deadline is Dec. 15. Read More: Staten Island Live

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/1/2011: Queens Library’s busy Elmhurst branch set to be torn down


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up
Queens Library’s busy Elmhurst branch set to be torn  down to make way for new state -of-the-art-facility 

The Queens Library’s second busiest branch is being torn down to make way for a new state-of-the-art facility. The Elmhurst Library, which hosted almost half a million visitors during the last fiscal year, will close on Nov. 7. And even though visitors will have to contend with a makeshift library of modular units for more two years, they say it’s worth the wait. Read More: Daily News

 

 

Attacks on NYC subway workers up 16% this year,  mirroring assaults on bus drivers

It’s not just bus drivers who are getting assaulted more frequently – attacks on subway workers also are up this year, officials said Monday. Assaults on conductors, cleaners and other subway staffers are up nearly 16% January through October compared to the same stretch last year, MTA officials said at a joint meeting of the City Council transportation and labor committees.  Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) urged the MTA to ask the NYPD to target the most troublesome bus routes with uniformed and undercover police officers. Read More: Daily News

 

NYPD combats bullying

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is aiming to take the fight out of bullies.
Officers of the NYPD Community Outreach Division joined Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi at P.S. 144 in Forest Hills on October 24 to present a police program designed to combat bullying in schools across the city. “Bullying is a real problem, and it can’t be ignored,” said Hevesi. “The NYPD did an outstanding job engaging the students in a discussion about bullying. The officers related to the students as they performed, and made them feel the emotional consequences of bullying.” Read More: Queens Courier

 

Richmond Hill Block Association gives residents a fighting chance against attack

Richmond Hill residents now have a fighting chance against sexual predators who have been terrorizing women in southeast Queens. In light of the recent patterns of sexual attacks in the surrounding areas, Sensei Ricky Singh of Dojo Warriors equipped a little more than a dozen women and men with vital keys to self-defense at the Richmond Hill Block Association’s monthly meeting on October 26. Of the countless sexual attacks in Queens, a 44-year-old female was assaulted on September 22 while she entered her home in Queens Village. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Downed Trees, Outages Remain After Weekend Snowstorm

New Yorkers were still feeling on Monday the effects of Saturday’s snow storm. Consolidated Edison said hundreds of city customers remained without power, and most of them were in the Bronx.The utility company said the delayed restoring of power is due to the extent of the damage from downed trees and wires in the borough. Meanwhile, tree cleanup was underway in all of the city’s parks on Monday. Read More: NY1

 

Mets To Alter Citi Field Walls To Try To Increase Scoring

The New York Mets are taking action to increase scoring at their home park, by bringing in and lowering the walls at Citi Field, hoping to turn a pitchers’ park into a neutral one. The new dimensions will add roughly 140 seats to the stadium, including 100 field-level seats in left field. A new left field wall will be about four feet closer to the plate, and the fence in left-center field will be brought 12 feet closer. Read More: NY1

Bayside girl scores 2nd in science challenge


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Discovery Education.

Cheyenne Hua has won national recognition for her innovative inventions aimed at putting the brakes on speeding and getting to the bottom of home flooding — and she’s only 14.

The Bayside whiz kid took home a second place victory in the 13th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge — the leading national science competition for students in grades five through eight — on October 5. She also won a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to Costa Rica.

“It feels really good to have won second place because all the other finalists were very, very smart. To have such a high ranking among them is awesome,” said Hua, a ninth grader at Hunter College Junior High School.

Hua landed a spot in the top 10 finals with her “smart speed-bump” idea. Her model essentially places two undetected bumps inside the road. When a car passes over the first bump, sensors in the road will recognize if the car is speeding. Then, a timed lever raises up the second bump which pops up to slow down drivers.

She said she was inspired by a fatal crash caused by drag racers two years earlier outside her home on Francis Lewis Boulevard — which she says is a problematic zone for speeders.

“I just wanted to come up with a better solution than the current ones. Some models of cars can’t go over speed bumps. The ones that exist now just sit there, and every car has to suffer through the giant bump. With my invention, only the cars that speed have to go over it,” she said.

Hua’s second invention — a flood protection system — was what helped her land the runner-up win. She worked with a scientist-mentor from the program throughout the summer to develop the project before her final presentation in October.

The invention equips new homes with an adhesive based sheet of waterproof fabric that goes around the house foundation. A ring floats around the top, and when water from the flood comes in, the ring rises and so does the fabric, Hua said. It prevents water from entering the home.

“This past summer, there’s been a lot of flooding. Even though I wasn’t affected, I saw around the news that a lot of people were,” she said. “I just wanted to come up with a system that would be helpful and that people could use to prevent flood damage.”

Although Hua didn’t take home the grand prize, Mary Rollins, vice president of Corporate Education Partnerships and also one of the judges, said it was a close win.

“The judges deliberated for several hours. We’re saying very honestly and openly that this year’s competition was tighter than ever,” she said. “Cheyenne was a really amazing young lady — very composed and incredibly equipped with a strong science background. She’s exactly the kind of student we want when we think of these contests.”

Hua flew to St. Paul, Minnesota — the farthest she’s ever been in the United States — to present her project to a panel of Discovery Education and 3M judges. She also had to answer a series of questions about her project at the end of her five-minute demonstration.

“It was kind of nerve-racking, and I was really relieved when it was finished,” she said. “But it was a great experience.”

Hua, who wants to be an engineer in the future, said she missed three days of school, and is just about finished catching up on the heavy work load.

“It was definitely worth it — especially meeting such cool, awesome people like the mentors, the judges and my fellow finalists. I made great friends. I don’t think I would have met anyone like that through the normal process of life,” said Hua, who still keeps in touch with the other finalists via email.

Hua said she has more inventions under her sleeve and hopes to expand and improve her speed-bump and flood protection ideas.

“I could see Cheyenne working in the field of science and really focusing on real world science, looking for a way to come up with real solutions for real world problems,” Rollins said. “I could see her using science to solve some of our greatest world challenges in the future.”

Rockaway resident creating cartoon for kids


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of Richard Sirgiovanni

Winston, Mac, Emerson and Moonie — “The Grimps” — may soon be just a band of hairy, scary rock & rollers to the average cartoon-loving kid, but to Richard Sirgiovanni, they’re his two joint passions come to life.

Sirgiovanni — a Rockaway resident who was born and raised in Howard Beach — combined his love for rock & roll and cartooning to create the lovably-grisly quartet.

Cursed by the evil Spectar who was jealous of the band’s music and fame, the four friends are cool and charming musicians on the verge of stardom by night. But by day, they’re nothing but tiny, gruesome creatures.

The kids’ animation show will follow the dual life of “The Grimps” as they battle with only being human from sunset to sunrise, and with always having the evil Spectar at their furry heels.

“There’s bad entertainment out there for kids. We wanted to attract the children to get across positive messages, to give them some fun things to see,” Sirgiovanni said. “We want to reintroduce rock & roll music to young kids. Not that there is anything wrong with the current music today, but music has just changed so, so much. There’s freshness and honesty to good rock & roll music.”

Sirgiovanni plans on luring in more than one generation with his musical monsters.

“We believe that it’s really going to tie in the three generations for kids, parents and grandparents. We have a lot of interest from old pop stars and contemporary comedians that want to do the voiceovers for the characters. It’ll remind the classic rock & roll generation of when they were growing up as teenagers in the 70s.”

So far, musical pop icons and contemporary celebrities that have committed to being voiceovers of characters and making guest appearances are Peter Noone, Keith Emerson, Micky Dolenz, Todd Rundgren and Eric Burdon. Sirgiovanni said other stars like Meatloaf, Ringo Starr, Adam Sandler and Jack Black are being contacted, as well.

In addition to the show, Sirgiovanni intends on producing original rock & roll music to be presented to the public as The Grimps – a music entity itself.

Sirgiovanni recently left his Rockaway digs to fly to Los Angeles and begin meeting with major television producers, networks and writers — including Alec Sokolow, who helped write “Toy Story.”

“The ultimate goal is to now secure a development deal and find a network that is interested in putting the show out,” he said.

He hopes the show will hit airwaves in less than a year. There will also be a possibility that the show will turn into a motion picture, Sirgiovanni said.

“We’re hoping to bring back roll & roll for kids and try to get some really funny, positive entertainment for the whole family,” he said. “The project has a lot of potential. There are a lot of influential people behind the music. I’m just looking to have a lot of fun with it and hope the public enjoys it.”

A musician himself, Sirgiovanni is a graduate from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Prior to “The Grimps,” he was a freelance cartoonist for magazines, books and advertising.

To listen to “The Grimps’” theme song — which was written and recorded by Ron Dante and Freddy Cannon — go to www.thegrimps.com.

Astoria school feted for fighting hunger


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Thirteen hundred pounds of food can go a long way towards easing the suffering of poverty-stricken people.

In an effort to aid those less fortunate, P.S. 17 has held an annual food drive for the past seven years, during which students have collected and donated thousands of pounds of food to their community.

In 2010, P.S. 17 held two food drives and gathered over half a ton of food.

In recognition of their work, the elementary school, located at 28-37 29th Street in Astoria, earned National School of Distinction status from the School’s Fight Hunger program, an initiative focused on uniting schools across the country to combat hunger.

“It is an honor to be recognized, but we do it from our hearts without expecting anything in return,” said Constantina Pilios, the organizer of the food drives and the parent coordinator at P.S. 17. “We hold these drives because they teach the children lifelong lessons and show them how to practice good values, and it’s also satisfying helping someone else who is starving and in need of food. As a community, it is our responsibility to look out for one another.”

National School of Distinction status, which is an honor fewer than 2,000 schools across the country achieved this year, is awarded to schools that exhibit an exceptional effort in battling hunger.

Other activities that may warrant the award are volunteering at pantries and cultivating a garden to donate freshly-grown food.

“The students, staff and families of our School of Distinction schools should be very proud of their efforts and the impact they’re making on the hunger cause,” said Tim Sullivan, the founder of Schools Fight Hunger, which is in its second year of operation. “Of course, the short-term results are impressive, but we also love to see how our next generation of leaders is getting active in their communities at such a young age. In a day when so much news about our kids and our schools seems so negative, these schools and these students are well worth celebrating.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 10/20/2011: Suspected groper released from custody


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Former JetBlue flight attendant sentenced to one year of probation

A fed-up flight attendant whose spectacular exit down an emergency chute made him a national sensation completed his court-ordered treatment program Wednesday and was sentenced to a year of probation. Steven Slater avoided jail time for his stunt when he pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief and agreed to undergo counseling and substance abuse treatment. Read More: CBS News

 

Suspected groper released from custody

Police arrested Joshua Flecha, of Queens, on charges of forcible touching and sexual abuse. Flecha was picked out of a lineup in connection with the May 7 incident, but authorities say the woman could not say for certain he was the suspect and police released him Wednesday. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Ex-George Washington Bridge employee pleads guilty to toll theft

A former toll collector at the George Washington Bridge admitted Wednesday that she stole $500 in toll funds to support her prescription-drug abuse. Debbie Rembert, 41, of Queens,  admitted in court that she partly concealed the thefts by falsely reporting that trucks passed through her tollbooth but then turned around and did not cross the bridge or pay the toll. Read More: NJ.gov

 

 

Councilmember Van Bramer Announces Plans To Improve Queens Libraries

City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer announced at the Queens Library of Woodside on Wednesday his plans to fund library improvements, including a teen center, in the 26th District. Watch the video: NY1

 

Man found dead in bathtub in Woodside

Detectives are investigating the death of a Queens man who was found in his bathtub Wednesday with what police described as two puncture wounds to his head. The 62-year-old Woodside man was discovered Wednesday morning after a friend became concerned when he could not reach him, police sources said. Read More: Daily News

 

Astoria Post Office saved

Following months of apprehension regarding the fate of the post office, the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently announced that Grand Station was removed from a list of branches targeted for potential closure. Read More: Queens Courier

Residents and officials fight for Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Resident's Block Association

Local residents and officials hope to save the Forest Park Carousel from the glue factory.

The Forest Park Carousel remains dark as the Parks Department has received no viable proposal from vendors to run the historic ride.

The Parks Department said it will conduct “extensive outreach” to find a suitable vendor and plans to re-release the Request for Proposal (RFP), though no date has been set.

The carousel has not been operated since 2009 when its vendor, New York One, did not renew its contract.

As local residents eagerly await a new vendor to operate the ride, they are making sure their message is not forgotten.

The 50 “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirts, at $10 a piece, quickly sold out at the Woodhaven Street Fair on Sunday, October 16.

The hot item is a great way to allow the residents to help support the fight for the carousel, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.

Residents that were not able to purchase the shirts there can order them by calling the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association’s office at 718-296-3735.

The money raised from the shirts will be funneled back into trying to get the carousel up and running.

“This is three full summers in a row that it has been closed. People are frustrated now that another year has gone by and there is still no closure,” Wendell said.

Assemblymember Mike Miller is working on a plan that would allow a nonprofit take over the concessions. He has scheduled a meeting with the Parks Department to discuss the plan.

“People within the community have fond memories of the carousel and they want to see it put to good use,” the assemblymember said. “It’s disappointing that we can’t find someone to run the carousel.”

Wendell would like to see the carousel running – even if it is just once a month.

“Turn it on once a month; pick a Saturday,” he said. “We can get volunteers that will work for the carousel. The community will support it.

“It’s part of our shared history; it’s part of our community,” Wendell said. “We’ve come close to losing it permanently twice and people are scared that this is going to be it. Could this be the last we see of [the carousel]?”

DOE cuts leave their mark


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

For Gary Haberski, reporting for his six-hour shift each weekday at Bayside High School was not only a delight, but his daily workout.

“I used to walk to school every day since I only live two miles away,” said Haberski, 62, of Whitestone, one of 700 Department of Education (DOE) employees let go recently. “I would go back tomorrow if I could.”

With the largest number of layoffs at one time in the city during the Bloomberg Administration, teacher aides and support staff have officially been cut in an effort to save $35 million, according to DOE officials.

This is the second time Haberski has been laid off by the DOE, last time spending 11-months on a recall list. Although prepared with a letter explaining a possible lay-off in September, the pink slip letter that came on October 7 prompted him to call all of his elected officials in outrage.

“The first time, I was upset and depressed,” said Haberski, a lifelong Queens resident. “Now, I’m just mad.”

School aides and support staff have many roles in schools including monitoring hallways, creating a more secure environment, observing during SAT and other test taking as well as other functions. It’s those day-to-day interactions with students that he misses the most.

“You establish relationships with the kids. You see them every day and learn what they want to do with their lives. I miss all that,” said Haberski.

Since being put back on the recall list, Haberski has filed for unemployment and is currently looking into food stamps as a money-saving option. He was one of three aides to be laid-off at Bayside High School, each of them in their 60s as well.

“We are hoping they are going to call us back quicker,” said Haberski. “There are not many jobs out there to begin with, especially for a 62 year old. It’s a waiting game.”

The decision to make cuts occurred as a result of failed negotiations between DC 37, the city’s largest municipal public employee union, and the DOE. DC 37 believes the cuts will affect lower income areas the most.

P.S. 159 consistently got an ‘A’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan. Class 3-313 posed with Principal DiDio and Assistant Principal Andrew Pecorella.

The unwavering commitment toward consistency paid off for newly-minted Blue Ribbon school P.S. 159.

The Bayside school was honored for being a high performing school on September 15. According to David Thomas, spokesperson for the United States Department of Education, the school received the award for consistently performing at high levels on New York State assessments in both reading and mathematics. The school’s most recent assessment test scores place it amongst the highest in the nation.

In fact, the school has received an “A” on every state exam for the last four years.

“I’ve been here for 15 years. For a school to do well, perform well, have high performing students for any length of time is a great feat,” said Assistant Principal Andrew Pecorella.

The award couldn’t have come at a better time for Principal Paul DiDio, who took over the post only two months ago. DiDio said former principal Marlene Zucker — who retired after 20 years — deserves due credit.

“If you don’t have a good leader, you don’t have a good school,” he said. “She set the bar high, but I’m very happy to have landed in this school. It’s been a really great ride so far.”

DiDio and Pecorella said the award could not have been achieved without the joint efforts between good teachers, an active parent population, students and the community.

“We take a very holistic approach. You don’t win an award like this without a joint effort,” Pecorella said. “We view this school as a family. We’re all working together toward the same goals — improving students’ academic performance and making sure they grow emotionally and socially.”

And more hard work is still to come.

“My goal as a first year principal is to continue the success of the school. I hope to have another ‘A’ at the end of the year, keep with what’s been positive here and keep leading the school down the right path,” DiDio said. “We just need to continue our success and build upon it.”

Input sought for new New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Baumann The new center for developmentally disabled children and adults will open in 2012.

A new center for developmentally disabled children and adults is coming to Howard Beach.

New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) looks to offer a number of new programs and workshops to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder and people diagnosed with a developmental disability at a more convenient location.

The center — the first NYFAC center in Queens — is slated to open closer to May 2012, according to spokesperson Mitch Udowitch. It will be located at 164-14 Cross Bay Boulevard, the former spot of Danny’s Szechuan Garden.

“South Queens in general is an area that has not been serviced and is in need of service,” Udowitch said. “It’s convenient for our Brooklyn and Queens clientele.”

The center will provide after-school educational and recreational programs for children, workshops during the day for adults and teen socialization networks. The center will also host support groups, family education programs, speech and occupational therapy.

“We want the building to serve as a community center, so we will be outreaching into the community to share our vision with residents that might want to get involved,” said President and CEO Andrew Baumann.

The center will also have a training area that can provide live web casts for professional development, a full-sized television studio to teach in and a working kitchen for its home economics program.

“We’re looking to especially help the children and improve their lives,” said Udowitch.

NYFAC, a nonprofit organization, is based in Ozone Park. It serves almost 80 families in Queens and Brooklyn. For more information, call NYFAC at 718-641-3441.

St. Mary’s gets a ‘sweet’ lesson


| mchan@queenscourier.com

doc4e94b860bb7bf026230175

Students at St. Mary Gate of Heaven School learned a sweet lesson — just in time for Halloween.

World’s Finest Chocolate — the leading provider of chocolate fundraising products — made a stop off its national tour in Ozone Park on Tuesday, October 11 to raise the [chocolate] bar in portion control. The chocolatiers came to promote the message of “eating right and staying fit,” bringing the world’s largest chocolate bar with them to Queens.

“We’ve taken it up as our responsibility to raise awareness of the need to have a healthy lifestyle, eat right and stay fit,” said tour director Sarah Lynn Brannan. “The giant chocolate bar is just meant to get the kids’ attention, and it definitely works. After that, we’re able to talk to them about that message.”

Certified by Guinness World Records, the world’s largest chocolate bar weighs 12,190 pounds and has 209,000 servings. It is four feet wide, three feet high and 21 feet long.

“The chocolate looks really good. I want to eat it,” said eighth-grader Miranda. “It showed us that when we eat chocolate, we still have to stay fit, and we have to be active.”

Along with healthy eating and portion control, St. Mary students learned that it’s okay to eat chocolate once in a while — as long as it’s eaten in moderation and not in large amounts.

“I think it’s really important to instill that message in them at a young age when they’re developing lifestyle habits, so they can carry that on with them,” Brannan said.

Before all 500 kids could line up and get a whiff of the chocolate aroma one at a time, they watched an educational video and — after a quick and interactive question-and-answer session to see if they were paying attention — they learned a specially-choreographed exercise dance.

“It’s a good idea to get the kids to know that they need to watch what they eat,” said Principal Patrick Scannell. “That’s part of this country’s problem now – obesity – and that’s because going to McDonald’s and super-sizing your meal is not good for you. It’s quite an idea.”

Scannell said he noticed that the adults were more interested in the chocolate bar than the kids were.

Fifth grade teacher Gina Faraon said she couldn’t stop looking at the massive chocolate bar, not because her sweet tooth was aching, but because she couldn’t believe it was real.

“If they say it’s real, it must be real,” she said. “I’m going to touch it later to make sure.”

The chocolate bar’s national tour will continue until May. At the end of the tour, the bar will be served at a sweets festival in Chicago.

St. John’s students makeover Astoria senior center


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens.

Students from St. John’s University did much more than revitalize the recreational space at Catholic Charities Peter J. Dellamonica Senior Center – they rejuvenated the spirits of the facility’s visitors.

Ten undergraduates visited the senior center, located at 23-56 Broadway in Astoria, on September 24 as part of St. John’s University’s 10th Annual University Service Day. In addition to cleaning and performing general tasks, the students added vibrancy to the facility by painting the computer lab and its adjacent hallway red and white.

“I’m happy with the paint job, because in this economic crisis, this is something that I wouldn’t have been able to afford,” said Ayana Rush, project director of older adult services for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens. “It proved to be a successful project. We livened up the place by adding some color, and the room now has a contemporary, SoHo feel. As a project director, I got to see a space actually mirror the warmth and caring of the programs we provide.”

Along with invigorating the center, the students also interacted with the seniors, creating a unique dynamic between youthful exuberance and seasoned wisdom.

“This is an intergenerational opportunity for seniors to be around young people, and for young people to learn about older adults,” Rush said. “It is a learning opportunity for both generations, and it is nice that they got to come together. The energy the students brought was refreshing, and they definitely energized the seniors.”

St. John’s students also visited eight other Catholic Charities sites across Brooklyn and Queens on September 24, including the Pete McGuiness Senior Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

“It is important for us as a university to recognize those most in need,” said Angela Seegel, the service site coordinator for St. John’s University Service Day. “Our students recognize that those most in need are part of our community. It is our responsibility to serve them. The great thing about this day is that it happens at the beginning of our school year, so it becomes a spring board for the whole year. It tells the students that service to those most in need is a necessary and essential component of their education. Service day creates an environment that it is not us or them, it is we.”

The senior centers act as piazzas for older adults, and provide them with locations to participate in numerous multicultural activities, such as tai chi, yoga, salsa dancing and art classes.

Rush says that the collegians have already contacted her about volunteering additional time at the center, and she believes the experience proved mutually beneficial for the students and seniors.

“For my seniors, they got to see that older adults are not forgotten about, that people are concerned about them and more importantly, they got a makeover that’s well deserved,” she said. “Seniors also felt that the students were invested in their center, and that they cared about them enough to volunteer their time. The students reported feeling happy to provide the service, and they were happy to engage in conversations with the seniors. Overall it was a social investment for both my older adults and the students.”

Kids, community help create dream playground in Sunnyside


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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The dream of every child is to allow his imagination to run wild while creating his own unique playground.

The students of P.S. 199 are having their dreams come true.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer visited the school, located at 39-20 48th Avenue in Sunnyside, on October 3 to commence his Noonan Park Community Design Initiative. The councilmember has currently secured $600,000 to revitalize the park, which is used by many students from P.S. 199.

In order to truly harmonize the remodeled playground with the neighborhood, Van Bramer is requesting input from all the people who call Sunnyside home.

Beginning October 3 and ending on October 31, suggestion boxes will be present in the Sunnyside Library and at Van Bramer’s district office, providing community members the opportunity to contribute their unique ideas to the design of the playground. Suggestions can also be made by calling the councilmember’s office or emailing jvanbramer@council.nyc.gov.

“The community deserves to have a voice in how their playground looks,” said Van Bramer, who is the first elected official to ask the neighborhood’s residents for their opinions regarding the design of a public space. “The children in the community have wonderful imaginations, and exercising their ideas artistically is a great way to express their vision.”

At the kick-off event, children shared their ideas by submitting drawings and essays depicting their visions of what the playground should look like. The proposal to improve Noonan was originally presented to the councilmember by fourth graders at P.S. 199’s career day last year.

According to Anthony Inzerillo, principal of P.S. 199, the most popular student suggestions are additional swings, lower basketball hoops to allow younger children to play, new playground equipment and an increase in the number of water sprinklers.

Some children also requested tributes to Thomas P. Noonan Jr., the park’s namesake and a United States Marine who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism he displayed while serving during the Vietnam War.

“The renovations to the playground are a welcome addition to the community, and I am grateful that Councilmember Van Bramer requested our students’ input into the design,” said Inzerillo. “I am so proud of the students, because they preserved the memory of Thomas Noonan, and not only did they incorporate their own ideas, but they spoke to neighbors, friends and other people and they incorporated their input into the design as well. The nice thing is that they are going to have ownership over the park. I think they will take much better care of it and respect it, because they had input into the design. They will have a sense of pride.”