Tag Archives: north shore towers

Restaurant at North Shore Towers gets million-dollar makeover

| svrattos@queenscourier.com

Photos by Stephen Vrattos

North Shore Towers hosted an event 40 years in the making Tuesday evening with the grand opening of the new Towers Restaurant.

People started lining up an hour prior to the ribbon-cutting, which featured blessings from both a rabbi and a Greek Orthodox priest, and a speech by Mort Gitter, board president, who defied criticism and skepticism in leading the co-op’s pursuit for a new restaurant tenant.

Also in attendance were Assemblyman David Weprin and brother Mark, who stepped down from his seat as councilman for the area (District 23) to become a federal and state legislative deal-breaker for the Cuomo administration, and Barry Grodenchik, one of the Democratic candidates running for the seat.

New proprietors Buffy and Spiros Dimas and Angelo Pantazis took over the eatery’s lease on March 1 from the restaurant’s previous tenants, who ran the business since North Shore Towers opened in 1975. The Dimases and Pantazis took over a 40-year-old business, which had never been renovated and retained a 1970s décor, suffering from two-score years of neglect.

“We moved in Saturday evening, opened on Sunday morning,” said Pantazis, the restaurant’s general manager and business partner. “We spent the whole night cleaning the kitchen, throwing out old food from the previous owner, and prepping as best we could for the residents to eat the next day.”

Buffy and Spiros Dimas were no strangers to many of the residents. Twenty-four years ago, the couple successfully took over the nearby Old Westbury Diner, formerly The Seacrest, which their daughter, Gia, now runs; and 17 years ago, they acquired Williston Townhouse, now managed by their son, Tim.

Pantazis began working with the Dimases about a year ago coming from the prestigious Kellari Hospitality Group, for which he oversaw eight quality restaurants in Manhattan. He brought in eight high-caliber restaurant personnel, including famed Greek American executive chef and restaurateur Gregory Zapantis, who owns lauded Molos Waterfront Estiatorio in New Jersey and whose resume includes New York City restaurants Estiatorio Milos, Avra and Thalassa.

Chef Zapantis has also appeared on such TV channels as WNBC, CBS and the Cooking Channel, and his work has been featured in magazines, including Food & Wine, Food Arts and Neo, and newspapers such as The New York Times, The National Herald and NY Daily News. The famed chef has even cooked for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

According to Pantazis, the renovation cost more than $1 million to date and began in May with the kitchen, which was gutted, updated and outfitted stem-to-stern, including replacement and repair of the gas and electrical lines, sprinkler system and plumbing, and the installation of a new Ansul System, where once there wasn’t any.

Similar to sprinklers, the Ansul System — set above open-flame grills — disperses fire retardant in case of emergency. Top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art, heavy-duty equipment was installed, which would not only service the restaurant with ease, but also facilitate the needs of the adjacent Towers on the Green catering hall during the most demanding events.

The renovation of the dining areas, which began mid-June, is on par with a major resort hotel. Mosaic marble tile covers the columns; porcelain tile is inlaid on the floor entrance with hardwood flooring in the dining areas; Formica countertops have been replaced with quartz; stainless steel subway tiles adorn the walls behind the service counter; and there is new custom-built wainscoting around the dining room.

There will be a new bar, stocked with top-shelf liquors, wine and beer, as well as a barista specialty coffee station, serving everything from chai tea lattes to specialty seasonal coffees. Fewer booths will be replaced, but the capacity will remain unchanged, resulting in wider aisles to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.

A new easy-access storage area has also been included in the design for the aforementioned mobility aids. Television screens, displaying the day’s menu or select shows, are also a part of the new design. And the bathrooms have been completely gutted and rebuilt with new plumbing, tiling and fixtures, including quartz sinks.


District 23 candidates speak on co-op taxes, services for the elderly at Queens Courier debate

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Julie Weissman

Potential voters were in the North Shore Towers Cinema on Wednesday to watch contenders for the vacant 23rd City Council seat tackle the issues in a debate sponsored by the North Shore Towers and The Queens Courier.

Democrats Barry Grodenchik, Bob Friedrich and Rebecca Lynch will be competing in a Sept. 10 primary along with Ali Najmi, Celia Dosamantes and Satnam Singh Parhar, who were absent from the debate. Former NYPD Captain Joe Concannon, the sole Republican candidate in the race, also participated in the forum.

Questions ranged in topics such as the possible tax reclassification for co-ops and condos, the regulation of Uber drivers in NYC, increased services for the elderly and the creation of group homes for developmentally disabled persons across Queens.

Concannon made it clear that he aimed to make public safety a priority as his major platform. He took a stand against a bill passed by the City Council in 2013 to increase oversight of the NYPD and expressed support for the continuation of the “stop-and-frisk” initiative openly criticized by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also spoke out against what he dubbed as the “hug-a-thug” program to eliminate bail for low-level offenders in the city.

“The council has handcuffed and blindfolded our Police Department here across the City of New York, and we only need to look at recent newspapers to have an account of what’s going on,” Concannon said.

On how to better improve senior services, Lynch said that she would have three courses of action. Her top priority in this respect would be to improve affordable housing options.

“If we don’t have people being able to stay in their homes, it doesn’t matter if the services are here,” Lynch said.

Lynch added that accessible transportation is a must for seniors to be able to utilize important services, calling for more reliable bus services and a weekend bus along the Little Neck Parkway route. Seniors also need more funding for existing programs, such as those of the Samuel Field Y and local senior centers, she noted.

As the president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, Friedrich was eager to speak on the issue of tax reclassification for co-ops and condos as single-family homes. He highlighted his time organizing city hall rallies to fight for lower taxes for co-op owners, and said that the valuation of co-ops should be capped to prevent further tax increases.

“I could tell you what I’m going to do, but I’d rather tell you what I’ve been doing,” Friedrich said. “I’ve been the number one advocate in the City of New York fighting to protect our co-ops.”

Grodenchik was supportive of the creation of group homes in Queens for developmentally disabled people. He made a distinction between these facilities and those used to relocate convicted youth offenders, saying that the former population was among the most vulnerable in the community. He also said that in his 10 years of working in the office of former Borough President Claire Shulman, he has found that community complaints submitted after the installation of these group homes are very rare.

“This is about the most vulnerable people in our society,” Grodenchik said. “How a society is judged is how it takes care of its people who are least fit to take care of themselves.”

The candidates are looking to fill the seat that Mark Weprin vacated in June to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Concannon in the Nov. 3 general election.


North Shore Towers to host Queens Courier District 23 debate

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of candidate campaign offices

The Queens Courier will be holding a debate on Aug. 5 for the candidates of the 23rd City Council District election at the North Shore Towers to increase public awareness of relevant issues and platforms.

“We’re delighted to partner with the North Shore Towers to bring the candidates to our readers and residents of the communities that Mark Weprin had so masterfully represented,” said Courier Publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis.

Mark Weprin vacated the 23rd District seat in June to become Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

North Shore Towers Political Action Committee chair Felice Hannah is the debate’s organizer and will be hosting that night as well. She has been working with campaign managers and Courier staff to ensure that the candidates will be comfortable at the forum.

“It’s important for residents to meet the candidates in order to get the best person to represent our district,” Hannah said. “We lost a great person in Mark Weprin, and we can’t say we’ll be able to replace Mark Weprin but we at least want to get the best person.”

The debate will be held at the North Shore Towers movie theater to ensure enough space for attendees from both within and outside the North Shore Towers community, and Hannah expects at least 200 people to attend. The debate will also be captured by videographers from the North Shore Towers’ in-house television station for residents unable to attend in person.

Hannah said that North Shore Towers was an ideal place to hold a campaign event because residents of the co-op are very politically involved, and the community even has its own polling site.

“While working the polling site here, I’m able to see how people come out to vote with such vigor and interest,” Hannah said. “We have a sophisticated voting block of people living here, judges, attorneys and others who just want to make sure they’re being represented by the best person possible.”

Hannah is also in the process of planning three-hour meet-and-greet events for each candidate after the debate that will see them walk around the North Shore Towers to field questions and comments from community members.

According to Hannah, property assessment is a big political issue in North Shore community, which boasts an attached country club and its own restaurant in addition to the movie theater. Residents have been fighting to change the property assessment method from the current model which has lead to a high tax rate, and many North Shore residents are also interested in choosing a candidate who will be supportive of their campaign to get a left-turn signal installed in a nearby traffic intersection.

The Queens Courier Debate for the District 23 race will be held on Aug. 5 at the North Shore Towers Cinema at 272-40 Grand Central Pkwy. The event will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m.


Star of Queens: Felice Hannah, North Shore Towers board of directors member

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Felice Hannah


Background: Felice Hannah was born in North Carolina and raised in New York City. Her father passed away, leaving her mother to raise three daughters by herself. Hannah said that her mother’s advice was to “set goals and work to achieve them, be proud of who you are, take time to help others and get an education.”

Occupation: Upon graduating from nursing school, Hannah received her first job as a nurse. She loved nursing, but soon realized that it wasn’t her passion. She later decided to become a teacher. Hannah retired from the New York City Board of Education as an administrator. Prior to her retirement she also worked as an adjunct professor.

Community Involvement: In 2013, Hannah was the first African-American elected to the North Shore Towers board of directors as the political action chairperson.

“I was lucky to select a group of dedicated individuals to work with me in bringing many candidates for political offices and elected officials to North Shore Towers,” Hannah said.

The group presented monthly seminars and workshops on health, domestic violence awareness, voting procedures, fire safety, understanding co-op abatements and taxes, and avoiding identity theft.

Currently Hannah organizes workshops for her retiree union. She is also a volunteer for the Board of Elections and a volunteer as a state-certified Medicare consultant. Her responsibilities as a Medicare volunteer include assisting individuals in navigating the complexities of the health care system and to access their benefits.

“Nothing warms my heart more than when I am able to access services and benefits that will allow a person who is living alone with a chronic disease to remain in their homes with dignity upon their request,” Hannah said.

Biggest Challenge: “My biggest challenge through all of the adversity has been to keep my eyes on the prize and to maintain a positive attitude about myself,” Hannah said.

Greatest Achievement: Hannah’s greatest achievement was becoming a mother and raising her two children to believe and achieve. “As an African-American woman, I have been faced with many, many challenges,” Hannah said.

Biggest Inspiration: Hannah is greatly inspired by her mother, as well African-American historical figures who triumphed in the face of adversity, such as Sojourner Truth, Dr. Alexa Canady, Janet Collins, Eva Jessye and Shirley Chisholm.


Queens filmmaker wows 2015 indie movie circuit

| svrattos@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Andrew Koss

“Zizi and Honeyboy” has just won the award for Best Biographical Drama at the Manhattan Film Festival,” writer, co-producer and star Andrew Koss announced to nearly 100 whooping and applauding friends and family members shortly before a private screening of the short movie at the North Shore Towers Cinema in late June. Based on “What Zizi Gave Honeyboy,” the autobiography by American trendsetter Gerald Celente, the film stars Doris Roberts, four-time Emmy Award-winning actress for her portrayal of Marie Barone on the long-running hit series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and Koss as the titular world-renowned prognosticator Celente.

In the late ‘90s and early 21st century, Celente was the darling of the financial world, a modern-day Nostradamus noted for his predictions about the global financial markets and other events of historical significance, such as the fall of Soviet Russia. He was a New York Times best-selling author and appeared daily on such high-profile television shows and networks as CNN, “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

But all that success and fame came to an abrupt halt after 9/11 when Celente predicted that the U.S. would lose a war with Afghanistan, flying in the face of the jingoistic fervor that gripped the nation after the attacks. President George W. Bush’s proclamation, “You’re either with us or against us,” made anyone even questioning American retaliation a traitor.

Suddenly, Celente was persona non grata, blackballed by a media that mere moments before his fateful pronouncement were clamoring for the Bronx-born’s attention. Facing sudden financial ruin, Celente sought solace and advice from his aunt, affectionately referred to as “Zizi,” a common term for “aunt” in Italian families. “Zizi and Honeyboy” tells that story.
It was the personal element of Celente’s story that most attracted Koss. “He was so hot,” the Queens native and North Shore Towers resident explained. “But literally overnight, with this one prediction, his life was over. He went from being the world’s adviser, someone whose every word was heeded, to a nobody, ultimately finding answers through the advice of another.”

Before any work on the film could begin, however, Koss had to convince Celente that he would do a good job adapting his story to the screen. Given the trend-predicting author’s history with the media, it was understandable Celente might be a bit resistant to sign off the rights to a part of himself. Koss made frequent trips to Celente’s home in Kingston, New York, detailing his plans for the movie, eventually winning over Celente.

Koss financed the film in part by launching an Indiegogo.com crowdfunding campaign to raise $37,000 little more than a year ago. He completed the 15-minute short in time to make the 2015 indie movie circuit. Submitted and shown in nearly 20 different festivals around the country, the movie has already generated lots of buzz and several awards and nominations, including the aforementioned Manhattan Film Festival award and a Best Actress win for Doris Roberts at the Idyllwild International Film Festival of Cinema, where director Brett Donowho was also nominated. Koss himself was nominated in the category of Best Actor at Cinerockom International Film Festival, competing against the likes of Lou Gossett, Eric Roberts, Michael C. Williams and Jason Patric.

According to Koss, working with Roberts was “a great experience. When she delivered, she really delivered.” The day he met the former sitcom star, he was walking through Manhattan with the beloved actress, amazed at the number of people who recognized her. As they passed a construction site, a hardhat working a crane shouted, “Hey, ‘Golden Girls!’” Unfazed and without skipping a beat, Roberts corrected, “‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ sweetheart!”

Earlier in his career, Koss served as an associate producer and star in the critically acclaimed 1998 HBO feature film “True Friends,” about a trio of kids growing up in the Bronx and where their lives lead 15 years after they grow apart. Koss played one of the children as a young adult. The film was endorsed by directing legend Martin Scorsese and provided excellent experience for the budding filmmaker.

“Preparing for a short is not much different than preparing for a feature film,” Koss said. “The only difference is that you’re on the set longer and there are more actors.”

Koss sees “Zizi and Honeyboy” as a springboard to take the short to the next level — a feature film or TV series — if enough accolades and attention warrant it. “The movie touches upon only a small part of what is possible,” Koss explained. “Celente has a huge following; an incredible fan base, which is crucial. You could have the best prospect in the world. But without the security — a strong fan base — to back it up, it’s much harder to get done.


North Shore Towers residents rally for left-hand signal in Floral Park

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Stephen Vrattos

Residents of the North Shore Towers rallied on June 25 to continue their fight for a left-hand turn signal at a busy intersection near their co-op buildings.

Co-op members charge that the high volume of cars make it treacherous for pedestrians to cross the street at the meeting point of Grand Central Parkway and Little Neck Parkway, but inquiries to state agencies have produced no increase in safety measures. Residents of the building were at the rally, as well at Glen Kotowski, co-op general manager, and Mort Gitter, board president.

“It’s a very dangerous turn onto the Grand Central Parkway side road,” resident Sheila Fejes said.

“We’re not giving up,” added rally organizer Felice Hannah, who serves as both the chair of the Political Action Committee and a co-op board member at North Shore Towers.

State Senator Tony Avella has also been involved in the unsuccessful fight for increased street signage at the intersection.

“Once again, the Department of Transportation is not being responsive to the needs of the community,” Avella said. “Despite DOT denying my request for additional controls, the conditions at this intersection demand further action.”

A representative from Avella’s office said that he previously had put in a request for the installation of a left-hand turn signal in February, but after some consideration the DOT office decided that additional signage was not needed.

To change any existing street sign configuration in New York City, the DOT must complete a study to understand the extent of existing safety risks and determine any possible effects it could have on local traffic. As part of this study, the DOT analyzes reports from the Department of Motor Vehicles on traffic accidents occurring in the last three years in the affected area.

A source in the Queens DOT office said that the agency is currently studying the location after being contacted by Hannah in April, and will share the results with stakeholders once its review is completed.


Comedian Susie Essman headlines North Shore Towers 40th anniversary, talks craft

| svrattos@queenscourier.com

Photo by Julie Weissman

Comedian Susie Essman, best known for her portrayal of the profanity-laced character Susie Green, which she played for eight seasons on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO, performed at a dinner show on June 13 celebrating the 40th anniversary of North Shore Towers in Floral Park.

To watch Susie Essman perform, one would never think the Bronx-born stand-up comedian had anything else in mind as she was growing up.

“I never really wanted to be a stand-up comic when I was a kid. It wasn’t on my radar,” she said. “I wanted to be a comedic actress from the age of, I don’t know, 5, a Broadway musical comedy actress.”

It’s natural to think someone who makes their living being funny came from a funny family, but on paper — as the saying goes — with a father who was an internist and a mother who taught Russian language, frivolity would seem to be wanting in Essman’s childhood setting.

“It was a family with a good sense of humor. Let’s put it that way,” she said. “My father was not funny, but he thought he was. When I was 5, I remember my parents brought home  “The 2000 Year Old Man” album. I used to play that over and over again. They had all the Elaine May and Mike Nichols records and I used to listen to those all the time. They always took me to see Broadway shows and things like that. It wasn’t a funny family per se, but there was a sense of humor there.”

By high school, Essman focused her acting itch toward being more of a comedic sketch artist in the Carol Burnett mode, “but I never did anything about it,” she confessed.

Despite her desires, Essman wasn’t a theater major in college. She attended SUNY Purchase and in her own words was “intimidated by theater majors.” After graduation, she moved to Manhattan and finally followed her dream, taking acting classes.

It was several years before the comedian even set foot in a comedy club and that was through the urging of her workmates. The year was 1983 at a place called Mostly Magic on Carmine Street in the Village: “When I was 28 years old, everybody that I worked with at the restaurant talked me into getting up at an open mic…and I did. But it still never occurred to me to be a comic.”

Fortunately, the thought did occur to a couple of comedy club impresarios who were in attendance that fateful evening.

“There were these two guys there, Paul Herzik and Burt Levitz; they were opening up this comedy club in the Village called Comedy U on University and 13th Street,” Essman said. “They said, ‘We really like you; will you come work at our club?’ I never thought anything about it. Three months later, they called me. ‘The club is open; do you want to come down here and work; come down and do 10 minutes.’ Like an idiot, I said ‘Yeah, sure.’”

Those 10 minutes turned into many performances. The young owners loved Essman and she became a staple of the club: “They had this women’s night on Thursdays and I met all these other female comics; there was a lot of camaraderie. For the first six months, I only worked there, but it was only after three that I thought, ‘All right this is what I was born to do.’”

According to the comedian, her forthright approach was not discovered as much as being a part of her personality from a young age.

“I was always the kid in class that would say what everyone else was afraid to say. I was always a big mouth. And I was never taught, so much, to respect authority,” she confessed with a laugh. “My father was always kind of a rebellious guy. I picked that up from him. I was always the truth teller. Kids would always come over to me and be like, ‘see if we can get this done today from the teacher.’ I was not afraid to say anything. I think more than being funny as a kid, I was more of a big mouth.”

Ironically, the fearless persona Essman developed in her stand-up routine resulted from sheer unbridled terror. “When you start doing stand-up, you need to develop your persona. For me, it was probably defensiveness, because it’s really scary up there when you don’t know what you’re doing. And in the beginning, you don’t know what you’re doing. The only way to do stand-up is to do it in front of strangers.”

This take-no-prisoners attack mode served Essman well as Susie Green, the profanity-laced character she played for eight seasons on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO. But it has had a weird side effect off-screen, when Essman meets fans, who expect her to scream profanity at them.

“I see sometimes that they’re visibly disappointed when I’m gracious and nice,” she revealed. “It’s hilarious! That’s not me it’s an acting job that I do; I play that character on TV. I see them get visibly disappointed — their faces drop. ‘Sorry.’”

Essman has kept busy since the show went of the air in 2011. Lately, she’s guest-starred on an episode of “Law and Order: SVU,” “Broad City” on Comedy Central and “Weird Loners” on FOX. And throughout, she’s continued to perform stand-up. Her book, “What Would Susie Say?,” recently went into paperback.

When asked her favorite source material, she laughed: “My kids… and my mother. I would say she’s number one; she’s been there since day one. She never disappoints.”




North Shore Towers celebrates 40th anniversary

| svrattos@queenscourier.com

File photo / Gallery photos by Julie Weissman and Stephen Vrattos

North Shore Towers, the best-selling building in 2014 (according to PropertyShark.com), celebrated its 40th anniversary this past weekend.

Originally constructed as rental apartments, the building of the three towers that make up the complex began in 1971 on the highest point of land in Queens, a hill located 258 feet above sea level and part of the terminal moraine (maximum advance) of the last glacial period. The land was the site of the former golf course of the Glen Oaks Golf Club, which was built in 1923 on 167 acres purchased from William K. Vanderbilt II’s country estate. Tower #1 was completed in 1973; Tower #2 in 1974; and Tower #3 in 1975, when the residential complex opened.
North Shore Towers’ conversion from rental apartments to co-ops in 1985 was touted as the most expensive conversion in New York City’s history at the time. The coop is the only gated residential community in New York with its own ZIP code: 11005.

Festivities for the 40th anniversary celebration began on June 12 with the world premiere of a documentary commissioned exclusively for the auspicious occasion, produced by resident Morty Schwartz, whose multi-award–winning career spans documentaries, film and commercials on both the big and small screens and includes the original pilot to “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the popular “Charlie” perfume ads of the ’70’s, which star “Charlie’s Angels” actress Shelley Hack and New York’s own Bobby Short singing the signature theme.

An extravagant dinner show was the highlight of June 13. Nearly 400 residents and friends packed Towers on the Green, the co-op’s catering facility. The menu included a choice of filet mignon or baked salmon and a top-shelf bar. Comedian Susie Essman, best known for her portrayal of the profanity-laced character Susie Green, which she played for eight seasons on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO, performed at the gala.

The weekend culminated in a street fair, which encompassed the entire lower-level arcade, running underneath and connecting all three buildings. Several lounges were “transformed” into casinos, in which residents played for prizes with custom-designed money; vendors participated with carnival games and giveaways outside their stores or offices; jugglers and stilt walkers roamed the halls and courtyard; free cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream and other confections were handed out; and there was even a dunking booth.

As dusk settled and the street fair winded down, the five-piece band Stages, performed in the courtyard, where residents boogied the night away.


North Shore Towers is city’s most popular building complex in 2014

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

There is plenty to celebrate at the North Shore Towers.

Not only will the Floral Park building complex be marking its 40th birthday in 2015, but the towers were New York City’s most popular buildings in terms of sales by a wide margin last year, according to a published report based on data from real estate website PropertyShark.

That’s right, the three-building co-op at 272-40 Grand Central Pkwy. sold 115 units last year, which is 35 more units than the runner-up.

With everything from tennis courts, a pool, a fitness center, a movie theater, a golf course and annual events, the towers attract homeowners of all ages, and that could be the reason for the high number of sales.

To be fair, the median price of an apartment in the complex is about $495,000, which is quite a bit lower than the runner-up, a Manhattan building named The Jefferson, which had a median price of $1.72 million.

Honorable mentions

Some other Queens buildings made the most popular top 10, including Woodside Terrace Condo in Maspeth, which finished in fourth place with 76 units. The buildings, located at 63-14 Queens Blvd., has just 96 total apartments. Nearly 80 percent of its capacity was filled last year.

Coming in at number six is The Vista at 44-15 Purves St, which sold 48 units last year. The buildings are among Queens’ newest luxury residential developments.

And The Bay Club in Bayside took ninth place after selling 44 units last year. But the article points out the condominium has more than 1,000 units, so selling under 4 percent isn’t that much of an accomplishment.


Former Queens resident selected to create official artwork for Grammys

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Laurence Gartel (c) The Recording Academy 2014 / Photos courtesy of Laurence Gartel

The top names in the music industry won’t be the only ones shining during the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. One former Queens resident has been given the honor to create the official artwork for “music’s biggest night.”

Laurence Gartel, who has been called the “father of digital art” and spent 19 years of his early life living at the North Shore Towers in Floral Park, has created a version of the iconic Grammy figurine that will be used on the ceremony’s program book, tickets, poster and other promotional materials.

The life-sized statuette is wrapped in “psychedelic” imagery known to be Gartel’s style using vinyl, glitter and prismatic materials.

“It’s pretty darn amazing,” Gartel said about how it felt to be chosen as the official artist for the award ceremony. “I’m always looking to top myself and this certainly tops it. It feels great.”

Gartel’s first interaction with digital art came in 1975 when he met Nam June Paik, considered to be the founder of video art, at Media Study/Buffalo in upstate New York.

Although his artistic career began when he was nine at the Pels School of Art, working side to side with Paik was what started Gartel’s electronic career.

“That was sort of the birth of it all,” he said. “Electronic images could take over a painting on the wall.”

Gartel began working on computers the size of rooms, before the invention of personal computers, and started a technique prior to any software being created for painting and photo manipulation.

“You just go up to a machine and just start manipulating things and get images you couldn’t get otherwise,” Gartel said. “When you’re creating things that no one has seen before, that’s amazing.”

Since then his colorful images and pioneering designs have been used in advertising campaigns such as one for Absolut Vodka in 1991, which ran for 10 years. He has also worked alongside musicians such as Sid Vicious and the Ramones, and created artwork for artists such as Justin Timberlake.

One of his collaborative pieces includes partnering with Glen Greenberg of Elmont Glass Atelier for “art on glass” works that premiered at Art Hamptons.

His other individual pieces have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, and in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

In the past few years, Gartel has also taken his artwork and created “art cars,” donning his colorful designs on vehicles such as a Mercedes and Rolls Royce. He was also featured in the 113th Annual New York International Auto Show in April.

With having finished the artwork for the Grammys, which is set to air Feb. 8, Gartel said he continues to move ahead with new ventures and creating unique pieces.

“I’m looking forward to the future,” Gartel said.

For more information, visit www.gartelart.com.


Get your finances and health in top shape

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Queens Courier’s Health & Financial Fitness Expo on Friday, May 16, at Towers on the Green in the North Shore Towers, will help keep you keep your body and your bank account in shape.

The featured keynote speaker, William Rockett of Charles Schwab, will discuss fixed income trends for this year and share how to find real return in today’s challenging market. Ronald Fatoullah, Esq. will discuss putting your trust in trusts.

A special guest appearance by Rose A. Scalia, named “Ms. Congeniality” at the Ms. New York Senior America Pageant, will discuss “the chapter of reinvention.”

Comedian and fitness guru Howard Newman will hold a special performance at 10 a.m. to kick-off the event.

There will also be an important discussion panel of experts in elder law, insurance, home care, Medicare, and much more. Information every senior needs to know.

With many new exhibitors seniors have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with representatives. There will also be blood pressure, vestibular disorder and carotid arteries testing, as well as entertainment, free coffee and cake, and the chance to win great raffle prizes.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Shore Towers, 272-48 Grand Central Parkway, Floral Park in Towers on the Green.

The event is sponsord by Charles Schwab, Aetna Insurance, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation and Ronald Fatoullah & Associates.

Admission and parking is free. No need to register. Walk-ins welcome.

To attend email aamato@queenscourier.com or call 718-224-5863 ext. 201.

Queens co-op launches e-cycling program

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

North Shore Towers (NST) residents can now safely dispose of old and burnt-out electronics without leaving the building.

The new recycling program, e-cycling, is intended to easily and conveniently recycle electronics, which must be handled separately from traditional recycling.

The program, which was created through a public-private partnership between the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), made its first collection at NST, a Floral Park co-op.

“Everybody has something they want to get rid of,” said NST Board President Bob Ricken. “We’ve already sent several bins to be recycled. We’re filling them up like crazy.”

Buildings with at least 10 units can receive on-site pickup of stored electronic devices. Acceptable electronics include televisions, computers, printers, cell phones, video game consoles and hard drives. Electronic shredders permanently erase all of the devices’ data.

“It’s the stuff you really [have] to make sure is handled properly,” said Ron Gonen, DSNY deputy commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability. “The world is changing. A lot of what we do now is electronic, and that means our waste stream is changing significantly.” There are currently 51 sites citywide enrolled in the free e-cycling program.

“We’re sticking to our mission to be a greener facility,” said board member Mario Carmiciano. “We made a commitment a few years ago to start going as green as we can.”

Ricken credited new board member Maria Termini-Miller, a DSNY Deputy Commissioner, for getting NST to be a part of the program.

For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/ecycle.



Get your money in shape at the Senior Health & Financial Fitness Expo

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The word fitness is typically used to describe a person’s physical health, but financial fitness is also important for well-being.

The Queens Courier’s Senior Health & Financial Fitness Expo on Friday, November 22 will feature both — and show how you can keep them in top shape.

At the event, sponsored by The Queens Courier, there will be a panel featuring keynote speaker Ronald Fatoullah, Esq., who will discuss “The Five Essential Documents All Seniors Should Have.”

The speakers will be discussing a range of topics concerning elder law, insurance, home care, medicare and much more.

There will also be networking opportunities, over 30 exhibitors, blood pressure, vestibular disorder and carotid arteries testing, entertainment, free coffee and cake, and the chance to win great raffle prizes.

Admission to the Health & Financial Fitness Expo is free, as well as parking, but limited seats are available, so register today.

To attend or for exhibitor opportunities, please call 718-224-5863 ext. 201 or email aamato@queenscourier.com.

The Queens Courier’s Senior Health & Financial Fitness Expo will be held on Friday, November 22 at 10 a.m. at Towers on the Green in the North Shore Towers, 272-48 Grand Central Parkway, Floral Park.

Courier hosts Focus on Queens Forum with BP, public advocate, comptroller candidates

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The Queens Courier held the Focus on Queens Forum at the North Shore Towers on Wednesday, August 21. Borough President, City Comptroller and Public Advocate candidates from various parties attended and spoke on their ideas for the future of their respective offices.

“Too often, people vote right down the Democratic line on the ballot,” said Bob Ricken, Towers’ Board President. “This gives residents an opportunity to get to know the candidates.”

Felice Hannah, board member and chair of the Political Action Committee, organized the event with nearly every candidate for each office.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., Melinda Katz and Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio came out for Borough President. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, John Burnett and Hesham El Meligy for Comptroller, and Cathy Guerriero, Letitia James, Reshma Saujani, Daniel Squadron and Sidique Wai for Public Advocate.


BP candidates address Queens-centric issues

Queens Borough President candidates continue to push through campaign season and participated in the Focus on Queens Forum at the North Shore Towers.

The three candidates were asked various borough-centric questions by moderator and NY1 anchor Tamani Wooley.

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio came out as the sole Republican candidate and first discussed his history as a businessman, currently working with North Shore LIJ Hospital.

“I thought it was important for the Republican Party to have a voice,” he said.
Democrat Melinda Katz, former assemblymember and city councilmember, said Queens needs a borough president who can “bring equity to this borough.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said he has spent his life “protecting Queens” and will be the “independent Democratic voice for you.”

Proposals currently floating around the borough were first addressed, namely the United States Tennis Association (USTA) development in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park; a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium also in the park; and redeveloping Willets Point.

All candidates agreed that first and foremost, parkland needs to be protected.

“I will fight to get money from private companies that make money off of our public spaces,” Arcabascio said.
All candidates support a soccer stadium in Queens.

Katz supports the Willets Point redevelopment and said “hopefully in January we’ll be able to take a fresh look and put a shovel in that ground.” Vallone said we need development there, but he doesn’t support the current plan, and Arcabascio doesn’t think Willets Point is a good site for the project.

Regarding hospitals and health care, all candidates agreed there should be more emergency care, multi-specialty facilities throughout the borough, and that hospital emergency rooms should not be the first go-to place.

“I do believe we need to take a lot of the pressure off of the existing emergency rooms,” Katz said.

Vallone added that if elected he would work with the district attorney and attorney general to reduce fraud and in turn give hospitals the funding needed to stay open.

Next, Wooley, as moderator, brought up the controversial Community Safety Act. Katz supports the bill that would reform the practice.

Vallone said when the bill takes effect, “judges will take over the NYPD.”

“Then we will turn into Detroit,” he said, and called the bill the “most dangerous in the history of New York City.”

Arcabascio took a similar stance and said you “can’t ask the Police Department to not stop someone based on your instinct as a trained police officer.”

During the September 10 primary, voters can decide between Democratic candidates Katz, Vallone or Everly Brown, not present at the forum. Then the Democratic or Republican candidate in the general election on November 5.


Public Advocate candidates take the stage

All five Democratic candidates for Public Advocate came to the North Shore Towers to participate in the Focus on Queens Forum.

“People in our city are really suffering,” said Reshma Saujani, current Deputy Public Advocate and recipient of the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement.

Candidates were each given the opportunity to answer questions by moderator Tamani Wooley of NY1. First, the five answered what sort of legislation they would first propose upon entering office.

Letitia James, a Brooklyn city councilmember and former assistant attorney general, said she would focus on affordable housing, as well as putting a cap on co-op and condo taxes.

Brooklyn State Senator Daniel Squadron said he would create new partnerships for local community education councils, because parent groups need a partnership outside of bureaucracy, while Cathy Guerriero, educator, said she would expand her staff and “put a think tank into the office.”

Saujani, similarly, said she would instate four deputy public advocates for jobs, housing, education, and women and seniors. Sidique Wai, a civilian member of the NYPD, wants to help reform stop-and-frisk and be sure police officers wear cameras on their person.

Wooley then brought up the low grades the city school system just received, and questioned the candidates as to how they would work to improve education.

Guerriero, who has an extensive education background and comes from a family of teachers, said first the mayor should prioritize schooling in the city, and Wai said subjects such as science, math, engineering and math should start at the kindergarten level.

“If you don’t invest in children earlier on and train them to be able to compete for those jobs that are now fast going into the technological field, it’s just not going to work,” he said.

Squadron said schools should become an anchor for students, especially during trying times. He hopes to oversee a different approach to teaching special needs and ESL children as well as give parents a stronger voice.

“We have turned schools into test preps we have taken our tax dollars and invested more in technology than teachers, respecting teachers and reducing classroom size,” James said, who hopes to promote art and physical education courses.

Saujani noted her computer science program for young girls, Girls Who Code, and believes computer science education should be taught in every single high school.

“This job has a vital role to play in a city our size,” Squadron said in closing. “They can make a real difference in people’s lives by focusing on things within its scope and within its power.”
Guerriero said she’s the candidate to “come at your straight, not at angles.”

“I run against a set of politicians. I’m not one. That’s kind of the point,” she said.

James, however, said she recognizes the power of government and knows how to work through it.

“This office has got to do something,” Saujani said. “It’s got to change people’s lives; it’s got to create something.”


Comptroller candidates outline plans

Candidates for City Comptroller joined the Focus on Queens Forum at the North Shore Towers and detailed ways they would approach office as the city’s chief financial advisor.

“The economy of the city is going to rest on places like Queens,” said Scott Stringer, Democratic candidate and Manhattan Borough President, at the forum on Wednesday, August 21.

As Comptroller, Stringer said he would put all contracts and subcontracts online for citizens to see.

“It’s time to end this whole notion that the budget is too complicated for New Yorkers to understand,” he said.

Among other ideas, he made note that if elected, he would bring in community people of expertise in a specific area who would review city contract applications, such as seniors and senior housing.

Stringer said he has two skill sets for the job: “somebody who has been able to work collaboratively to get real things accomplished,” as well as being “fiercely independent” in order to hold city agencies accountable.

“You have to root out waste,” he said.

John Burnett, Republican candidate with a heavy financial background, also attended and spoke about various ideas such as unifying the current five-pension system in city finances.

“It’s five redundant costs,” he said. “Each time the pension fund doesn’t earn its discount rate, we have to cut a check with taxpayer money to find it.”

Burnett, who has a 23 years of Wall Street experience at companies such as Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch, said he has the understanding of investments in order to manage the $70 billion annual city budget.

“You have to know how to audit and hold people accountable with respect to the budget,” he said.

Hesham El Meligy is the only Libertarian candidate and also the only accountant, he said. As Comptroller, he would continue current Comptroller John Liu’s participatory budgeting layout as well as take a second look at the MTA, following Liu’s initial audit of the transportation agency.

“It’s taking a look at how the city works,” he said. “The structure of the city itself leads to a lot of waste. We need to put resources in other parts to serve the people better.”

Eliot Spitzer, Democratic candidate, declined to attend the event.



Health & Financial Fitness Expo: Get your finances and health in top shape!

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The word fitness is typically used to describe a person’s physical health, but financial fitness is also important for well-being.

The Queens Courier’s Health & Financial Fitness Expo on Friday, May 17, will feature both — and show how you can keep them in top shape.

At the event, sponsored by The Queens Courier, there will be a panel featuring keynote speaker Ronald Fatoullah, Esq., as well as ones from Turnpike Orthopedic and Queens County Savings Bank.

The speakers will be discussing a range of topics concerning financial fitness, elder law, podiatry care  and home care planning.

There will also be networking opportunities, free coffee and cake, and exhibitors promoting long-term care insurance, health management, estate planning, financial services and more.

This year Dr. Perry Frankel will be performing health screenings for FREE. These include testings for blood pressure, vestibular disorder, carotid arteries and more.

Admission to the Health & Financial Fitness Expo is free, but limited seats are available, so call today to register.

To attend or for sponsorship or exhibitor opportunities please call 718-224-5863 ext. 201 or email aamato@queenscourier.com.

The Queens Courier’s Health & Financial Fitness Expo  will be held on Friday, May 17 at 10 a.m at Towers on the Green in the North Shore Towers, 272-48 Grand Central Parkway, Floral Park 11005.