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Op-Ed: Recovery through economic activity and investment


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER PHILLIP GOLDFEDER

Last year, the legislature passed a bill, as the first step in the process to amending the state constitution, allowing enhanced gaming in up to seven locations across the state. While this was only the beginning, it was a huge victory for Queens families who have already benefited from the economic development and jobs created by Resorts World at Aqueduct and realize the potential for growth. In his annual state of the state address, Governor Andrew Cuomo shared a vision for the future of our state and I look forward to our continued partnership and collaboration in an effort to boost every community across the state.

In southern Queens and Rockaway, Sandy has left a path of unimaginable devastation and destruction and it will take the coordinated efforts of the public and private sector to fully recover. Now, more than ever, we need to find new and creative ways to help our small businesses to create good-paying jobs and rejuvenate our local economy. Creating a full-scale, enhanced gaming casino at Resorts World would not only increase revenues for the community and the state, but the impact would be felt immediately in terms of economic activity and job creation for southern Queens and Rockaway families.

Expanding gaming also provides opportunities for continued investment in southern Queens and Rockaway infrastructure. I continue to be a staunch advocate for the complete restoration of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line, as it would be the right solution to not only encourage economic development but to increase transit options for all of Queens’ families. Created at the turn of the century, the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, also known as White Pot Junction, was owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road. Strategically placed within a major network of trains throughout New York City, the rail line provided residents with safe, affordable and expedient access to other parts of Queens and the rest of the city.

There is no need to look any farther than Resorts World at Aqueduct, a proven location for enhanced gaming and reliable community partner. Since their first year anniversary, Resorts World has set records in slot machine gaming, beating out the casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, contributing millions of dollars towards the education of our children. Further, Resorts World has been a valuable neighbor that has worked hand-in-hand with elected leaders, the NYPD and our community to ensure a seamless development at the Aqueduct facility. Resorts World is the perfect example of partnership and we need to give them the tools necessary to continue to succeed so that our families and small businesses may continue to recover and become even more resilient.

In addition to their success as a casino, Resorts World is committed to a long term partnership with our community and has continued their positive relationship through vital investments in our local organizations and standing on the front lines of Sandy relief and recovery. Given the right tools, Resorts World will continue to exceed every expectation, expand on our local workforce and stimulate our local economy, in addition to creating opportunities for the continued success and recovery of Queens.

Goldfeder represents the 23rd Assembly District including Ozone Park, Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways.

 

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Commerce Secretary tours Sandy-damaged Rockaways, promising to get businesses back on their feet


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine promises he will take what he saw in the Rockaways back to Washington, D.C. to ensure south Queens continue to get relief as it still reels from Sandy.

On Thursday, January 30 Erskine, along with elected officials, toured the still-devastated areas of the peninsula — including the Madelaine Chocolate Factory, one of the largest small businesses in Queens with 425 employees, which was heavily damaged by the storm. Erskine and the politicians applauded the staff at Madelaine for its efforts to get back to work.

“The president made clear that this was to be an all hands on deck effort,” Erskine said. “And that he was committed to making sure that we at the federal government are going to be with you every step of the way, and we’re going to look for new ways to work more effectively with our state and local partners to get this job done and get it done correctly.”

The visit came just days after Congress approved the second part of a $60 billion Sandy aid package almost three months after the storm swept through the area. Erskine, speaking before local leaders at Vetro in Howard Beach, which was also damaged in the storm, promised President Barack Obama was committed that everyone, from every agency, work together like never before to ensure the Rockaways get all the relief that’s needed.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who toured the area with Erskine, said he too had pressured the president for continued relief.

“Right before we went in for the luncheon on Inauguration Day,” Meeks said. “I mentioned ‘we’re still hurting in the Rockaways.’ And he says ‘I know, and I won’t forget it.’”

About 40 percent of the small businesses in the Rockaways will probably never reopen, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The goal of chamber members, along with local leaders, is to help as many businesses as possible get back on their feet.

“We see that same thing happening all over the Rockaway Peninsula, all over Howard Beach,” Friedman said. “Small business people trying to get through the loss of their homes, the loss of their possessions, the loss of their businesses, looking for help and support from government, private industry, from not-for-profits, just so they can go back to do what they do, which is employ a lot of our residents, make this borough work.”

Newly-sworn in Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park, said it was a top priority to get as many businesses back up and running.

“I’m particularly pleased that [Erskine]’s here today because essentially this is day one of the rebuilding and recovery process from the standpoint that the legislation was just signed into law,” Jeffries said. “And that should open up a level of resources for the city of New York, and the state of New York that will make its way to people who are in distress.”

 

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Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Rosedale added to FEMA flood map


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

fema MAP

Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Rosedale were added to FEMA’s latest advisory map on flood zone elevation in an attempt to avoid the same volume of flooding and damage experienced during Sandy.

“This is the first in a series of steps on what will become the regulatory guidance,” FEMA coordinating officer Mike Byrne told NY1. “We want to give them the most current data we can.”

This is the first map FEMA has made for the New York City area in 30 years, he said.

Byrne said these maps will prompt home and business owners to rebuild higher than before, and it was FEMA’s goal to get some information out as soon as possible as people want to rebuild now.

The finalized map might not come out for another two years, he said, but the advisory map could be used now on rebuilding homes. A future map would be based on the current advisories and not the older maps, he said.

“At the end of the day this is to sort of eliminate some of the suffering we’ve seen as a result of storms like Sandy,” he said.

 

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Grace Meng sworn in as first Asian-American from NY in Congress


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The Courier tagged along on a bus trip to Washington, D. C. as the 113th Congress was sworn in.

It’s five in the morning, and over 100 people gathered outside in Flushing, anxiously waiting to board buses making the trek down to our nation’s capital to watch the 113th Congress — and the first Asian-American from New York — be sworn in.

Former Assemblymember Grace Meng made history last November when she was elected to represent the 6th Congressional District.

Community leaders and constituents journeyed to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, January 3 to witness her, along with Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Steve Israel, officially become members of the 113th Congress.

“We are very proud today,” said Councilmember Peter Koo. “It’s very historic. I hope that she [Meng] will be a role model and a trailblazer for the new generation.”

After the drive to D.C., supporters were able to watch the newly minted Congressmembers cast their first vote for House Speaker, and then be officially sworn in to the new session.

Hakeem Jeffries, Meng’s former colleague in the Assembly, was also sworn in to represent the 8th Congressional District — which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood. Jeffries faced a comparatively lighter general election than Meng, after the Brooklyn-based legislator beat Councilmember Charles Barron in a June primary election.

Incumbent members of Congress Joseph Crowley of the 14th District, Gregory Meeks of the 5th District, and Steve Israel of the 3rd held onto their positions in the House and were also sworn into the new session.

After the swearing in ceremony, Meng joined her constituents and spoke about upcoming plans in her new position. Gun control legislation, immigration reform and passing the Sandy aid bill are at the forefront.

“There are a lot of issues that we need to work on, and I look forward to working with you,” Meng said. “And you all are the eyes and ears of our community.”

 

Howard Beach seniors have reason to smile again


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Sharon Goldfarb was sitting with some fellow members of the Howard Beach Senior Center on a recent morning, discussing the condition of their homes and how the recovery process was going.

Their temporary center reopened December 3 at Father Dooley Hall at St. Helen’s School in Lindenwood. Its original location was just across the street in the lower level of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

When the area started to flood during Sandy, however, much of the center was damaged, along with scores of files and other items. Goldfarb said as regular center members start coming to the temporary facility, life starts to return to normal and they can begin moving forward. “The people are feeling much better,” she said. “Slowly but surely it’s doing better.”

“We’re doing baby steps,” said Judy Ascherman, the center’s assistant director. “We’re working on improving.”

The State Department of the Aging said seniors could not return to the center in its current condition, Ascherman said.

But that hasn’t stopped the staff from getting things back up and running. Monsignor Alfred LoPinto told the staff they could use the school’s gymnasium as long as needed.

The staff members, elected officials and leaders at St. Helen’s worked together to return at least some services to the area’s seniors.

Members and non-members alike can use the new facility, open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone more than 60 years old can enjoy lunch once again, Ascherman said.

“We’re not limiting it to members,” she said. “Because there are people in the community who need us.”

The number of people coming in has not been as high as usual, something Ascherman expects to pick up as the center is able to function completely again.

On Tuesday, December 11, the center’s Chanukah/Christmas party, scheduled before the storm hit, featured dancing and a DJ. The party, among other small things, has been just one way Ascherman said will help get the seniors back on their feet and have something to smile about.

“We need to be happy about something,” she said.

Dolores Tavernese said now that the center has been open for more than a week, and recovery slowly picks up, more people will start coming back.

“They’re just coming out of it,” she said.

Houses of worship in south Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

ST. STAN'Sw

Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park are home to some of the most historic and well frequented holy places in Queens, which serve the needs of the many religions of the region.

Our Lady of Grace, at 158-08 101st Street in Old Howard Beach, is just a quick walk away from Coleman Square and plays host to a number of events in the community. In addition to a number of festivals, the church and school’s parking lot has been home base for the annual JDRF walk.

 

 

 

St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Parish, located at 88-10 102nd Avenue, was established in 1923 and is a part of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Both the parish and school are active in the community. Recently the church hosted an international festival in the school’s playground, where foods from different countries and cultures were enjoyed by all.

 

 

 

The Rockwood Park Jewish Center, located at 156-45 84th Street, is a fixture in the quaint, quiet hamlet of Lindenwood. Not only does the center serve the Jewish population in the area, but plays host to the Howard Beach Senior Center in its basement.

 

 

 

St. Helen’s, located at 157-10 83rd Street in Lindenwood, has been a fixture in Howard Beach for more than 50 years. Several years after it first opened, the adjoining St. Helen’s Catholic School was opened and has been serving and educating the community ever since.

DOT to study dangerous intersection


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will conduct a full traffic safety study of the area around a dangerous intersection after a community request in the heavily residential neighborhood.

DOT officials, residents, elected officials and representatives from the mayor’s office met on Monday, October 15 to survey a traffic triangle in Lindenwood intersected by 88th Street and 153rd Avenue that has long been a concern in the area.

At September’s Lindenwood Alliance meeting, a number of people brought up concerns about the intersection, particularly that it threatened the safety of children and elderly trying to cross the street.

As a result of the October 15 meeting, the DOT has agreed to comb the entire area, said Claudia Filomena, the Queens director for the mayor’s community affairs office. The study will take roughly six months, she said, and will particularly examine morning and afternoon hours when children are entering and leaving nearby P.S. 232 The Walter Ward School, as well as weekends.

Filomena said DOT representatives were not sure if the intersection could meet the need for a traffic light, but other options — such as stop signs or reshaping the intersection into a cul-de-sac — were being explored.

“DOT is going to be undertaking a safety study for the entire area and looking at any number of different traffic calming measures,” Filomena said.

In the meantime, petitions will be collected to request a school crossing guard in the area. By doing so, Filomena said, drivers will be less inclined to speed when seeing a guard and help stop concerns about children potentially being hurt.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed since earlier this year for better traffic safety at the site, said he planned on reaching out to federal officials about some regulations the city is required to follow to amend traffic control.

Lindenwood graffiti cleaned up


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Joann Ariola

Lindenwood residents united to take down a tag.

On the weekend of September 29, vandals hit nearly an entire wall of the medical building located at 82-12 151st Avenue, residents said.

Dr. Anthony Napolitano, who practices in and owns the building, noticed the graffiti, according to Lindenwood Alliance President Joann Ariola.

Napolitano planned to pay to remove the tags out of his own pocket, but Ariola said she advised him there were several options to remove the graffiti: one through the mayor’s office, and another through Councilmemer Eric Ulrich’s office.

Ariola said Napolitano opted for Ulrich’s cleanup program, City Solution — contracted through the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.

By Monday, October 8, City Solution was at the site to remove the vandalism.

The 106th Precinct is investigating this as a criminal case.

Napolitano’s next step is to coat the wall to prevent further marking, along with installing lights and video cameras around the area. He plans on paying for the preventative measures.

Ariola noted the quick response was thanks to a community effort to keep the neighborhood clean and safe.

“Once again, The Lindenwood Alliance proves that working together gets things done,” she said.

Lindenwood Shopping Center to get better signs, liquor store


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

LINDENWOOD 01

The Lindenwood Shopping Center is bustling.

A bolder fire lane and repainted parking lines were added to the center’s busy parking lot following a number of complaints from residents and elected officials. New, larger signage will be installed soon as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who pushed for clearer lines and direction in the shopping center, said he had only seen pictures of the new lot, but was pleased with how it looked.

“I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to do it the right way,” he said. “The Lindenwood Shopping Center and the management have invested a tremendous amount of money to rebuild, to redo the parking lot so it lasts and it keeps families safe for many years to come.”

Residents and shoppers had voiced problems with handicapped parking, drivers going the wrong way and shoppers parking their cars in the fire lane.

Joseph Trotta, the manager of the shopping center and a member of the Lindenwood Alliance, said the revamp of the lot, which cost an estimated $100,000, would be completely done once new signs were installed.

“Once the signs go up, we’ll hopefully see what effect that will have,” he said. “[We’re] putting all the ingredients together.”

Some new additions, however, were not as warmly welcome by the whole community.

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) approved on Tuesday, September 11 a planned liquor store for the Lindenwood Shopping Center, which had met reluctance by the area’s civic associations.

GNG Wine and Liquor was granted a liquor license after the owner’s primary hearing on August 29 had no result because of further investigation.

Members of the Lindenwood Alliance, as well as Community Board 10 worried that the liquor store was too close to P.S. 232 The Walter Ward School, which is across the street from the shopping center. At the civic’s August meeting, members who were opposed to the store signed individual letters to the SLA in opposition to the shop.

Along with the proximity to the school, residents were worried the store would attract an unruly crowd to the relatively quiet, residential area.

The liquor store’s owner, a liquor license specialist and representatives from the shopping center’s management company appeared before the community at the meeting to make their case for the store. The group told residents that the store would be clean, keep hours that were not late and was legally far enough from the school.

Following the license approval, the specialist, John Springer, said he and the owner were relieved the SLA approved the store. The owner, Springer said, was looking forward to the store opening next month and would be a good tenant.

Joann Ariola, president of the Alliance, said that the community would continue to keep an eye on the store and ensure its owner is living up to his promises.

“We will have an open relationship with the owners of that business,” she said. “If that business is not a good neighbor, it will not be patronized.”

West Nile spraying in Queens today


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of James Gathany/CDC

Today there will be another round of West Nile spraying in Queens to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

Two people in the borough have already contracted the disease as well as four others in New York City.

The spraying will take place from 8 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday morning in parts of Lindenwood, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park. Specifically, 97th Avenue, 93rd Street and Liberty Avenue to the north, 76th Street to the  west, North Conduit Avenue to the south and Lefferts Boulevard to the east.

The pesticide being used, Anvil 10 + 10, poses no health risks when used properly, but the Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

• Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.

• Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.

• Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.

• Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

Residents are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around a home or property, including eliminating standing water in yards. In addition, New Yorkers are urged to:

• Dispose of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects;

• Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall;

• Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use and change the water in bird baths twice a week;

• Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds; and

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and drain water from pool covers.

Parking problems persist at Lindenwood Shopping Center


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Bobby Patel, owner of Village Card and Gifts, said during busy times of year — like during the holidays or when school is in session — it is not uncommon to see cars blocking the fire lane in the parking lot of the Lindenwood Shopping Center.

About twice a year, he said there will be an accident because a driver might be going the wrong way.

Parking, misdirection and the need for better-drawn lines are some of the problems residents run into when using the lot, despite a strict policy from law enforcement on fire lane parking.

One Lindenwood resident said people parking in the fire lane can affect drivers trying to pull in or out of handicapped spots.

“For the senior citizens it’s not good,” he said, motioning toward a section of handicapped spots not far from the fire lane. The resident said he had witnessed several incidents in which an elderly person tried to get out of a spot but couldn’t because of someone parked in the nearby fire lane.

Police from the 106th Precinct are not allowed to enforce moving violations in the private parking lot, an NYPD spokesperson said. They are only allowed to ticket drivers for illegally parking in handicapped spots or in the fire lane. The number of calls for fire lane violations was undetermined but prominent, the spokesperson said. No matter the amount of time parked, or the reason, the spokesperson said, there is a zero tolerance policy for leaving a car in the fire lane, which runs the length of the strip mall.

The Lindenwood Alliance has recommended several options to better the parking situation, said Joann Ariola, president of the organization. One idea is to hire a private enforcement company to monitor the violations in the parking lot.

The center’s management company, Howard Plaza Realty, has been working with the civic group to address these concerns. Ariola said the company plans to repave the parking lot, put up more signs and make sharper lines for the fire lanes and parking spaces.

Joe Trotta, a manager at the company, said paving for the parking lot is planned for September, with new parking lines and one way arrows on the pavement.

“Hopefully with the paving and the new striping and the arrow directions will help to alleviate this problem,” he said.

Private enforcement, however, is not something the company has looked into at this time, Trotta said.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder has also contacted the management company regarding the parking and direction issues in the shopping center. The shopping center was an ideal location that well-served the community, Goldfeder said, but the fading lines and signage needed to be corrected to avoid further problems.

“These problems are simple to fix and should be addressed as soon as possible,” Goldfeder said. “Owners and management at the shopping center have been great community partners and I am confident that they will do everything they can to ensure that shoppers are safe while visiting local stores.”

Calls to Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office and the Department of Transportation were not returned.

Despite getting ticketed, sometimes numerous times, Patel said some people get used to parking in the lane and continue to do so, no matter what.

“They don’t want to walk,” he said.

Lindenwood liquor store meets opposition


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Concerned over its proximity to a school, many members of the Lindenwood Alliance voiced reluctance toward a proposed liquor store in the Lindenwood Shopping Center.

Members voted 20-8 against the liquor store at their August 13 meeting. The primary worry was that the store, which would be located at 82-33 153rd Avenue, would be too close to P.S. 232, which is across the street.

Along with the proximity to the school, residents said they were unsettled about unruly characters coming in and out of the store, late night hours and lewd advertising.

Residents said there were also problems with the shopping center as a whole, mainly regarding traffic. Several people said there had been accidents or incidents as a result of shoppers parking in the center’s fire lanes, and driving the opposite way on one-way streets.

The liquor store’s potential owner, Gurinder Singh, was present at the meeting with an advisor, John Springer, to hear residents’ worries and plead their case for the shop.

Springer said he had walked the distance from the school to the site and determined it to be 338 feet door to door. This, he said, is well over the minimum distance of 200 feet.

“There’s a buffer,” Springer said. “The legislature decided 200 feet was a good enough buffer.”

Regardless of the outcome, Councilmember Eric Ulrich said it was a good sign that the potential owner was interested in the community’s opinion.

“I think it’s an act of good faith on their part,” Ulrich told members.

Howard Plaza Realty, the management company for the Lindenwood Shopping Center, was represented by Catherine Napolitano and Joseph Trotta. Trotta is also a member of the Alliance. The two told members that when searching for someone to fill a vacant store, they look for a suitor who will mesh well with what is already there.

Napolitano said that the liquor store’s potential spot, which had been a bagel store, had been vacant for nearly two years as the management company looked for the right candidate.

Singh is due to appear for his liquor license on August 29, he said, and hopes that it will be approved.

Local officials endorse Jeffries for Congress


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Congressional hopeful and incumbent State Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries received key endorsements from several local officials Friday afternoon on Cross Bay Boulevard as the days leading up to the June 26th primary grow fewer.

“I am honored to have the support of so many distinguished leaders from Queens,” Jeffries said. “Although our district spans two boroughs, we have the same priorities of better education for our children, preserving home ownership and getting people back to work.”

Congressmember Joseph Crowley, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder — Jeffries’ colleague in Albany — endorsed the candidate, citing that despite being a Brooklyn based politician, they had confidence he would best represent the small portion of Queens that is part of the newly drawn Congressional District 8.

The officials said Jeffries was active in speaking with Queens residents and discussing their needs, despite Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood making up only a small portion of the district.

“Hakeem Jeffries is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress,” said Crowley, who’s chairperson of the Democratic Party in Queens. “Not only will he fight to create jobs for New Yorkers, but he will also work hard to protect middle-class families, seniors and children.”

Jeffries said what he found most energizing about the area was how the various neighborhoods were united and concerned about the same issues.

The Jeffries campaign raised a little more that $250,000 from April 1 to June 6 alone, the campaign announced last week. 947 of the 1,217 donors in that time only gave $100 or less, according to a Jeffries press release. In total, Jeffries for Congress has raised $769,544 from 2,447 donors.

‘Kids Kare 2′ Fight Cancer


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Alexa Altman

The parking lot at the corner of 151st Avenue and 84th Street in Lindenwood buzzed with children carrying foam swords, creating colorful sand art and jumping in and out of the inflatable bouncy houses –all were having fun and all were helping to fight cancer.

Over 1,400 people came out to help the Howard Beach chapter of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at the group’s Kids Kare 2 event on Sunday, April 29, supporting the cause and raising money for cancer research.

“We were so happy that the community came together to have fun and for a great cause,” said Howard Beach Relay for Life co-chair Phyllis Inserillo. “We do whatever we can to support the cause and help everyone have a great time.”

Inserillo began the Howard Beach chapter of Relay for Life in 2009 with co-chair Melissa Schuler Fochetta, a cancer survivor. Forchetta, who was diagnosed in 2003, became good friends with Inserillo when the pair met in 2005 and began a party planning business together.

“We’re used to doing big events,” said Inserillo. “We wanted to do something community involved.”

That day, Kids Kare 2 raised $10,000 for cancer research, adding to the $150,000 to $200,000 the group accrues annually.

Inserillo hoped to thank all the event’s sponsors, most importantly Dr. Anthony Napolitano, who donated the parking lot where the event was held.

Throughout the year, the Howard Beach Relay for Life chapter hosts get-togethers such as a Halloween party and Bingo nights, raising money and spreading information about the cause. Group members also attend local schools, educating students about cancer prevention and the importance of early detection.

Kids Kare 2 is leading up to Relay for Life’s major event, a two-day walk-a-thon at Charles Park, beginning on June 9. Teams of between eight to 15 participants will raise money as they walk the park’s track.

Even Pia Toscano, of former “American Idol” fame, has assembled a group for this year’s Howard Beach Relay for Life.

Olympic events such as a javelin throw and swimming races will fill the day while there will be music, dancing and raffles all night. According to Inserillo, the event is to celebrate cancer survivors while remembering those who have succumbed to the disease.

YouTube video sparks Autism fundraiser


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Sandra Constantino

Several Lindenwood residents are raising money for Autism awareness, sparked by one young girl’s YouTube video.

Sixteen-year-old Shyanna Constantino created an online video about her younger sister, five-year-old Kaylene Vazquez, who suffers from Autism. A friend’s mother saw the video, called “Happy Hope for Autistic Children,” on YouTube, and thought it would be a great way to raise money for the cause.

Shyanna, along with her mother Sandra Constantino, friend Lisa Tazeras and her mother Drena Muniz, who originally spotted the online video, sold chips, cupcakes and toys to attendees at P.S. 232 Park in Lindenwood on Saturday, April 14. Several families with Autistic children came to the event, happy to see the great work being done by the local philanthropists. Cookie Monster and the blue Care Bear came to the event as well, making children smile while posing for pictures.

Over 70 children also participated in a basketball tournament to raise money for Autism awareness, held at the same time. Organized by Constantino’s son, kids donated $5 each to participate in the afternoon’s athletic competition.

According to Constantino, 100 percent of the proceeds are going to help build New York Families for Autistic Children’s (NYFAC) new recreation center in Howard Beach. They were able to raise $1,200 during the fund raising event that took them less than a week to put together.

NYFAC is a non-profit organization that provides various services for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities throughout Brooklyn and Queens. Headquartered in Ozone Park, NYFAC’s most recent undertaking is the construction of a center in Howard Beach.