Tag Archives: Queens Chamber of Commerce

Queens Chamber of Commerce selects new executive director


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Stephen Vrattos

BY STEPHEN VRATTOS

New Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Grech felt like a certain Mets rookie pitcher in making his debut Tuesday.

“I hope that my rookie season here at the chamber is as good as Steven Matz’s of the Mets… and he’s a lefty, too,” said Grech after being introduced by chamber president Al Pennisi at a small gathering of about 30 chamber members Tuesday evening.

The announcement comes about three months after the sudden death of former Executive Director Jack Friedman in early April.

According to Pennisi, an executive search committee “went through a lot of resumes and conducted a lot of interviews,” before selecting Grech, who has a long, successful career in economic development, as well as being the president of the Alumni Association for Scranton University, where he worked closely with students, and an adjunct professor at the School of Business for SUNY Farmingdale.

A year ago, Grech approached the chamber about forming an energy committee. Working alongside Friedman, the pair established a group of 50 members, which Grech has been instrumental in growing by an additional 20 over the past year.

“We have a unique opportunity here to knock the cover off the ball,” Grech said, referring to the borough’s recent surge in popularity. “I want to make Queens rock.”

Grech further promised to make Queens the go-to place for businesses: “I’m not saying I’ll double the membership in a year, but I want to go out there in the next few months and tap on every single shoulder. If you do business in Queens, I want you in on this thing. The chamber needs to be a capitalistic tool.”

To that end, Grech told the members he expected them to do their part, but he also understood that the chamber would have to deliver in turn, helping members build business by virtue of their participation in the organization.

Grech also stressed the need for diversity in the chamber, noting the predominately white membership: “This is not Queens.”

“Diversity is very important,” Grech continued. “The future of Queens… the future of the East Coast depends on diversity. I want to go out and ask [diverse businesses] what they want.”

President Pennisi summed up Grech’s appointment best: “I know that if Jack were still here today, he would have chosen Tom Grech.”

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Jamaica Hills Merchants Association looks to foster local business growth


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

BY ANGELA MATUA

Businesses in Jamaica Hills have gained new advocates in the Jamaica Hills Merchants Association, a new group formed through the efforts of Councilman Rory Lancman and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

The association will advocate for businesses located specifically on Hillside Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 172nd Street. Lancman secured a $10,000 grant toward the endeavor.

The group will act as a resource for businesses looking to navigate the regulatory structure in New York City and will also connect them with programs like the Department of Small Businesses’ “Small Business First Initiative,” which fosters “cross-agency collaboration to simplify rules and compliance processes,” according to nyc.gov.

Business owners will also be educated on the financing options available through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The Jamaica Hills Merchants Association will organize and advocate for the vibrant businesses in this area,” Lancman said. “Their efforts will make this community a more lively and engaging environment for consumers, residents and business owners.”

The purpose of the association is not only to promote local businesses but also to “improve the appearance, safety, vitality and customer appeal of the area,” according to a press release. Business owners, property owners and residents will work with local leaders and city agencies to enhance public safety, sanitation and traffic.

Exit Alliance Realty, located on Hillside Avenue, has been serving the Jamaica community for almost 16 years. Broker Azahar Haque said the company has always thought about creating some kind of business association, especially since the area has recently experienced a surging growth along Hillside Avenue.

“As we have been doing business over 16 years with this community, we always felt the necessity of some sort of business organization that will only focus to this community for finding its needs, changes and some issues that [occur] on a daily basis,” Haque said. “Tons of businesses are taking over or growing and even in some cases outgrowing due to popular demand and [we are experiencing] one of the biggest traffic around the city that moves around through this area.”

Haque said he hopes this association fosters a community of business owners who are from the Jamaica area and said Exit Alliance will work to keep the community safe and clean. The company is now working with the Department of Sanitation to add more garbage bins on Hillside Avenue to give patrons more options for trash removal.

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Jack Friedman, Queens Chamber of Commerce executive director, dies at 55


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

Updated Friday, April 10 10:47 a.m.

Jack Friedman, who played a big role in generating and promoting businesses in the borough as the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, died Thursday morning. He was 55.

Friedman, who was with the chamber since 2007, had diabetes and was suffering from a “mix” of health problems, according to representatives from the organization. He was also on dialysis. He died just a few days short of his 56th birthday.

“Having lived in Queens his entire life, Jack had an intimate knowledge and history, combined with his experience as a small business owner, which allowed him to help countless entrepreneurs,” the chamber’s communications manager said in a statement. “His love of Queens came out in everything that he did and was evident with whoever interacted with him.”

Numerous Queens politicians expressed their condolences for Friedman’s family on Twitter as the news spread.

Before chamber president Albert Pennisi recruited him, Friedman was chief of staff to David Weprin when he was a councilman. And prior to that, Friedman owned a video store business.

As a lifelong Queens resident, Friedman also volunteered a lot of his time to serve on various civic groups around the borough. He was a member of Community Board 13 since 2008 and served as chair of its Economic Development Committee. He also served as president of the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, and was a board member of the Bellerose Jewish Center, Lifeline Center for Child Development and Services Now for Adult Persons (SNAP). 

“Jack Friedman was a beloved staple of the Queens business and civic community,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “This is a loss mourned by the entire borough, and our condolences are with Jack’s family during this difficult time.  He will be very much missed.

Friedman is survived by his wife, Lorie, and his children, Daniel and Cara.

The funeral for Friedman will be on Sunday, April 12 at 12:30 pm at Parkside Memorial Chapels located on 98-60 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park. 

Feel free to share your thoughts on Friedman’s passing and his impact on the Queens business and civic communities by commenting below.

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Queens Chamber celebrates winners of annual building awards


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its 99th annual Building Awards on Thursday, recognizing architecture and design of new buildings around the borough.

Out of 100 total entries, just 19 new construction, interior and rehabilitated use projects were selected as winners from various categories, including public use, office space, commercial and residential.

City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod was the keynote speaker at the event in the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel. The Chamber’s President’s Award was given to College Point-based developer Mattone Group.

In terms of new construction, the modern, glassy, three-story commercial building by K.O.H. Architecture at 215-15 Northern Blvd. in Bayside was among the winners. The building is home to a Tiger Schulmann, a Pizza Hut and a day care.

Plaza College’s newly opened campus in the Forest Hills near the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike was among winners in the rehabilitative use category. The school moved following a devastating fire that destroyed its Jackson Heights campus at 74-09 37th Ave. The new campus serves 750 students and features labs and medical classrooms.

Mediterranean and soul food fusion restaurant Pa-Nash of Rosedale, which opened in April, was also a winner in the rehabilitative use category, as well as the Queens Library’s redesign of the teen space in the Cambria Heights branch.

Pa-Nash 3

Below is the full list of winners.

 

New Construction

Category                                                         Project

Schools                                                            Public School 330Q

Commercial                                                     215-15 Northern Blvd., Bayside

Office Buildings                                             Jackson Heights Office Building

Multi-Family, Low Rise

(up to 3 stories)                                               Xiaoyan Jin Residence

 

Single Residences

(1 family-detached up to 3000 sq. ft.)              Grippi Residence

 

Single Residences

(1 family-detached over 3000 sq. ft.)               Vaccaro Residence

 

Multi-Family, High Rise

(4 or more stories)                                           Multi-Family Residential Building

Mixed Use

(residential/commercial/industrial)                  Antonelli Building

 

Rehabilitation, Readaptive Use, Alteration or Addition

Category                                                         Project

Public Buildings                                             Queens Library @Cambria Heights-Teen Space

Colleges                                                          Plaza College

Schools                                                            P.S. 81Q

Commercial                                                     Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge

Single Residences

(1 family-detached up to 3000 sq. ft)               Annie Hsu Residence

 

Interiors

Category                                                         Project

Colleges                                              Queens College Rosenthal Library

Commercial                                                     Murphy’s Lobster Grill

Single Residences

(1 family-detached over 3000 sq. ft.)               Long Residence

 

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Award-winning Forest Hills Gardens Tudor home sells for $2M


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty

An award-winning Tudor-style home in Forest Hills Gardens has a new owner.

The residence at 60 Greenway North, a house that was awarded first prize in architectural design from the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1928, sold for $2,060,000, according to city records filed Tuesday.

The 2,900-square-foot home, which was listed by Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and an additional two half-baths.

It features a heavy-panel oak front door, hardwood floors, custom cabinetry and a large kitchen.

Take a look at the interior photos below.

 

 

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Community expresses concerns about Astoria Cove development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

The process to bring an approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development to the Astoria waterfront got off to a bumpy start as developers presented their proposal to the local community board.

Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the proposed development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1 Tuesday night as the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for the project.

“Today this waterfront is not accessible,” Valgora said. “It’s really not an amenity or asset for the community and we would like to tie that back in and create a wonderful extension to the community.”

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building and 456-seat public elementary school.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, featuring a waterfront esplanade, children’s playground for various ages and streetscape design through the site.

“We think it’s just going to bring life and activity to this neighborhood,” Valgora said.

However the project was met with concerns from community board members who brought up issues of safety, handicap accessibility, affordable housing, parking, a medical center at the site, and construction and permanent jobs.

Along with the board members, more than 50 people signed up to speak on the project including members of Build Up NYC, an alliance of construction and building service workers. The alliance called on the community board to recommend Alma Realty ensure good and safe jobs with fair wages and benefits, protect workers and the community by removing asbestos and other toxins, create opportunities for local residents and much more.

“Alma Realty has an opportunity to create good, safe jobs with priority hiring for local residents and opportunities for local businesses,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC. “But they haven’t made a commitment to do so. We need good jobs and affordable housing to keep the middle class strong.”

One of the main concerns shared by speakers was the number of affordable housing units at Astoria Cove. The site is expected to have 295 affordable housing units throughout the entire site, down from initially reported 340 units.

“We might be middle class but we’re not idiots and we can see the writing on the wall; we are not wanted at Astoria Cove,” said Astoria resident Tyler Ocon. “The community board is the first line of defense now against these underhanded tactics. Without the originally promised affordable housing units and a guarantee that these units will remain forever affordable, this project will be the first gust of wind that ships Astoria’s middle and working class up the East River.”

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said developers are in talks with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of units but will not have the number in time for the community board’s decision.

Residents also said they are concerned the development would increase rents, pushing out those currently living in the community.

On the other end, some speakers expressed excitement on the idea of the economic benefits and opportunities of the development. Both Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Brian McCabe, COO of New York Water Taxi, spoke on the possibility of a ferry terminal being located at the site.

After the last speaker took the podium, CB 1 Chair Vinicio Donato said the board’s land use committee would vote on the proposal the following week. If the board approves it, the proposal will head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

“Remember, the key word is recommendation. We have no authority to force anyone to do anything,” Donato said.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: P.S. 117 finds its heroes, $7K donated by community organizations


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


 

P.S. 117 may not need to wait for Superman any longer to save graduation.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Briarwood Latchkey Generation Facebook group stepped up to contribute about $7,000 together to help save the cash-strapped school.

Nearly 170 graduating fifth-graders were in danger of losing caps and gowns, yearbooks and a senior prom, which are usually sponsored by the school’s PTA, because the Department of Education is investigating $30,000 missing from the accounts of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. While the investigation is ongoing, the organization is not allowed to fundraise and is barred from all financial dealings.

At a school meeting on Monday, Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Chamber, and Nick Tomizawa, who represented the Facebook group made of Briarwood residents and alums of P.S. 117, announced the donations to a room full of parents and teachers.

“I feel ecstatic,” said Nicole Lopez, a parent from the school. “If I could go to the top of a mountain and scream, ‘Thank you,’ I would. I think it’ll get done in time for them to have a nice prom and ceremony.”

The money will pay for expenses for the senior items and dance. Parents are currently creating a list of needs, which they will present to principal Paula Cunningham for approval.

However, because of the short time the children may still not receive physical yearbooks. Instead, the school is considering CD yearbooks with class pictures, and getting autograph books for the children.

The members of the Briarwood Facebook group donated more than $1,000 through the crowdfunding site Giveforward.com.

The Chamber collected $6,000 in donations from Melrose Credit Union, New York Community Bank, TD Bank, Plaza College, Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association and Thermos & Thomiavia, PC.

The Chamber will hold a press conference to officially announce the donation on Friday.

 

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Katz rebrands Queens as center of the city in speech


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Queens is the center of New York City, according to new Borough President Melinda Katz, and she wants people from the “outer-boroughs” to know that.

Katz gave a patriotic lecture on Tuesday, explaining her economic initiatives and rebranding Queens as the city’s prime tourist destination.

“Manhattan should be known for recommending Queens restaurants and shopping, and all the cultural events that we have to offer,” Katz said.

Katz vowed to restart predecessor Claire Shulman’s “War Room” to help solve overcrowding in school, and also voiced her support for universal pre-kindergarten.

“Space is needed, pre-k is needed,” she said. “We need to at least have our children start on equal footing and get the education they need.”

The Borough President pledged that her administration will help future small businesses owners to navigate the process of creating their companies, and she plans to use real estate development projects to spur job growth.

She wants to assist Long Island City become the next major tech hub so more entrepreneurs, especially those graduating from the forthcoming Cornell-Technion school, stay in Queens.

Katz additionally expressed her excitement for Governor Andrew Cuomo taking the lead to renovate the area airports.

“You come to the city of New York, we should have the top flight– excuse the pun– airports in the entire world,” she said.

Turning to the Rockaways, Katz voiced support for permanent ferry service and said she wants reconstruction on the boardwalk “done before 2017.”

She also reiterated in the speech that she will save the New York State Pavilion.

“The speech hit all the right notes,” said Rob MacKay of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “I feel that Queens is ready to steal Brooklyn’s mojo.”

 

 

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Glen Oaks Library branch up for national honor


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library

After reopening a few months ago, the Glen Oaks Library branch has received more than new books.

The new building, which cost $17.1 million and opened in September, has been the recipient of a few honors, including being a recent winner at the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s annual Building Awards on Thursday.

Now the Glen Oaks Library will represent New York State for 2013 Building of the Year by American-Architects.com. Voting will continue online until Jan. 31.

“We’ve contributed to public architecture of the city. This is a public project. It is for the people of the neighborhood,” said Scott Marble, co-founder of Marble Fairbanks, the architect firm that designed the building. “I feel like we are part of the legacy of great architecture in Queens.”

The new library branch was funded by the city and doubled the space of the previous building. With clear panels all around, it is flooded with natural light on every level.

The building is also very eco-friendly. It was certified Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), the second highest level for a standard of environmental sustainability by the U.S. Green Building Councils.

Click here for more information on Building of the Year award by American-Architects.com

 

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Op-ed: Prohibit the installation of tolls


| oped@queenscourier.com

 STATE SENATOR TONY AVELLA

Once again, congestion pricing plans, which include the imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, have been circulating throughout the city.  Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg first began to push his own congestion pricing plan in 2008, I have been vehemently against congestion pricing in any form whether it is through charging drivers a fee to enter Manhattan or through the implementation of tolls on the East River bridges.  Congestion pricing in any form is nothing more than an undue tax on working and middle class families and small businesses. That is why I recently held a press conference with Assemblymember David Weprin, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Civic Congress, announcing legislation I will be introducing in the State Senate that would prohibit the installation of tolls on any bridges controlled and operated by the City of New York, which include the East River bridges.

The imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, including the Willis Avenue, Third Avenue, Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, is not a revenue-generating option that the residents of this city should be forced to endure.  Such tolls would place an unfair burden upon Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan residents who would be forced to pay to travel between the boroughs.  Given the always increasing cost of living in the city and with constant bus and subways fare hikes, city residents are in no position to again face another huge increase in their daily living expenses.

Penalizing businesses, especially small businesses, and individuals for using their cars is not a viable option or solution for reducing traffic.  New Yorkers still need to get to work and conduct business and raising taxes should never be the first option.  It would have a devastating effect on those families near or at the poverty level.  Everyone agrees that we need to address traffic congestion problems throughout the city, but the first step has to be improving mass transit.

A popular plan being circulated by an organization called Move NY, led by former Transportation Commissioner Sam Schwartz, would charge all drivers that enter Manhattan by crossing either the East River or 60th Street a toll, while drivers on bridges linking the other boroughs, would see their tolls go down.  According to Move NY, this would lead to more funds dedicated to transportation in the region, with the majority of it going to improved transit service.

In a perfect world, this plan could work.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; we live in the real world, where the next fiscal crisis could be just around the corner.  What happens to this plan then?  What happens when the legislature raids the funds dedicated to transportation, which has happened time and again? How can this plan guarantee that the tolls for the outer borough bridges don’t go up again, when more funds are needed?  As the saying goes, there are only two guarantees in life-death and taxes.

In the end, congestion pricing and any plan to impose tolls on the East River bridges is merely another revenue generating plan, not a traffic-reducing plan.  It should be the responsibility of the leaders of the city to find ways of decreasing traffic congestion without placing a new fiscal burden upon those who can least afford it.

Avella represents the 11th Senate District

 

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Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A plan to reduce five Queens bridge fares by nearly half is not worth tolling free city crossings, some borough lawmakers say.

Under a proposal by transportation coalition, Move NY, drivers in the cash lane would have to pay $7.50 one way and $15 round trip to travel across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. 

It would also cost the same amount to cross 60th Street in Manhattan, north and southbound.

As a trade-off, E-ZPass tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges would be lowered by 47 percent. Cash fares on those bridges would go down by 33 percent.

“We toll nearly every single crossing between every borough in the five boroughs of New York City already, yet we’re giving over half a million folks a free ride,” said Move NY Director Alex Matthiessen. “It’s not fair to transit riders and certainly not fair to other drivers, who are paying through the nose in tolls.”

The electronic tolling plan, which would require no booths, would raise $1.5 billion in net revenue toward improving the state’s mass transit infrastructure, create 35,000 new jobs and restore bus service cut in 2010, Matthiessen said.

Motorists paying cash would be billed by mail, easing gridlock by dispersing traffic throughout the city, according to Matthiessen and Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

“I am skeptical about tolling the free bridges because once the free bridges are tolled and the infrastructure is in place, we all know from experience that it would be very hard to reverse that,” said Assemblymember David Weprin.

The plan also failed to get support from Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who have been fighting to eliminate the $3.75 cash toll residents have to pay on the Cross Bay Bridge to enter the Rockaways.

“Imposing tolls on motorists on bridges that are currently free is not the right way to go,” Ulrich said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not ‘take this or that.’”

While the Cross Bay Bridge toll has been a “major thorn” in the community’s side, Addabbo said the swap is not enough.

“At this point, cutting it in half would ease the pain by half,” he said. “It would still be half the pain.”

It also costs residents on the peninsula the same amount to get into Brooklyn on the Gil Hodges.

State Senator Tony Avella said the rates, while discounted in the first year, would only increase annually. He plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit tolls on East River bridges.

“The two things for sure in this world are death and taxes,” he said.

Move NY is led by Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner. The ambitious tolling plan is in its drafting stage, officials said, and still requires public input.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have tolls at all,” Hems said. “But, unfortunately, we do and we have this inequity right now.”

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling

 

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Star of Queens: Maria Odysseos, Greek American Housing Association, Greek Childrens’ Fund, Ronald McDonald House


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

InvstrsBnkMariaOdysseosBrdwyAstoriaBrnch-1

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maria Odysseos lends her efforts and enthusiasm to a number of organizations and causes in the community. She is a dedicated member of the PTA at her son’s school as well as the Pancyprian Youth Soccer League. Whether bank sponsored or by her own individual effort, she allocates time and resources to the Greek American Housing Association, the Greek Childrens’ Fund and the Ronald McDonald House. On November 13 she will be participating in the Long Island City Partnership tradeshow.

“I love to be involved in the community in any way I can. I’m especially drawn to organizations that benefit children.” said Odysseos.

Odysseos is praised by her co-workers and members of the community for her professional excellence and dedication to the community.

BACKGROUND: Odysseos, an AVP/Branch manager at Investors Bank and organizer of the inaugural Investors Bank Queens County Conference for Nonprofits, has been involved in banking for the past 25 years. She previously held posts as VP/Branch Manager at Community National and Sovereign Banks. She has been involved in the Astoria market and a community volunteer for the last decade and is an active member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

INSPIRATION: Odysseos indicates her strong love of helping people as her prime inspiration.

“If I can do something to help someone else better his or her career, to help him or her in any way, I’m happy,” she said. “I enjoy encouraging and mentoring; watching people grow.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: Despite not having a particular memory in mind, Odysseos cites a particularly fulfilling consequence of community service as her “favorite memory.”

“If I see beneficial results come out of an event or organization I committed my time to or help spur, I feel so good,” she said. “It’s deeply satisfying.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Balancing a career and family life,” she said. “You have to work at it. You want to be there for everything.”

RACHEL LANDAU

 

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New mural represents revitalization on Beach 129th Street


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

One Belle Harbor resident has helped her community paint a brighter future.

Local leaders unveiled a new mural on Beach 129th Street on Wednesday to signify the revitalization of the neighborhood nearly a year after Sandy, following the efforts of Colleen Brady, who lives in front of the artwork.

Brady rallied the community to create the mural during the summer on the commercial strip near Cronston Avenue, which replaced an older, smaller one.

“I’m a resident here, I work on the block and I just thought of what we could do to bring the art back, freshen it up,” Brady said.

This spring she got the idea and rushed to community leaders to get the ball rolling on refreshing the mural. Elected officials acknowledged her plan and quickly contacted New York City Small Business Services (SBS) for financing.

SBS Commissioner Robert Walsh, who secured funding, and elected officials saw the artwork as a symbol for the regrowth of businesses and the community.

“Sometimes you just need a good symbol,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder. “This mural is exactly that, this is a sign to people coming here that our shops are open for business, that Rockaway is going to be back again and that no storm is going to keep us down.”

Officials called local artist Geoff Rawling, who painted the original in 1996, to draw the new mural. Rawling kept the same message as the initial artwork “community minded merchants,” but expanded the mural to use the entire wall and drew a beach theme with surfboards and a child playing with seashells in the sand to represent the seaside neighborhood.

“The beauty of this is now is that it’s beautiful, but in the winter it’s going to make people feel better,” Rawling said.

The mural is also the first project that the new Beach 129th Street Merchants Association helped to get accomplished. The old mural helped businesses owners welcome people into area, but many believe the restored version will help to reenergize them for the future.

“Ten months after the storm there are still businesses that have not reopened,” Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said. “Some have, but businesses haven’t gotten back to where it was before. This lifts spirits.”

Before  photos courtesy of Colleen Brady

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QueensWay study moving forward


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Over three miles of abandoned railway could become the much-debated, yet eagerly anticipated, QueensWay Park for the borough.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land introduced a design team on Tuesday, August 20 set to study the 3.5-mile greenway that was once the Rockaway Beach LIRR line, running from Rego Park to Ozone Park.

If approved and the project moves forward, the QueensWay would be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, The Courier reported in December.

The year-long study, starting after Labor Day, will be conducted by WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio and will look at a variety of ways to convert the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, environmental impact and community feedback.

“The QueensWay is going to be New York’s next great park,” said Marc Matsil, New York state director of the Trust for Public Land. “Our mission is to protect land for people, and this is a perfect fit with that goal.”

The walkway will connect multiple communities and provide green space for 250,000 people in the borough, said Trust for Public Land officials. Art, sculptures and food from around the world will also be included.

Jack Friedman, Queens Chamber of Commerce executive director, said this initiative will provide a “much-needed boost” to the borough’s economy and local businesses.

The study will be funded by a $467,000 grant from Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as $140,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection and private donors.
However, not everybody is on board with the study, or the QueensWay itself.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said he believes local residents would greatly benefit from “a complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line.”

“I am confident that any objective study regarding the best use for the abandoned rail line will conclude that a transportation option is the only real choice,” he said. “The current lack of public transit options in Queens is strangling our businesses and hurting our families.”

 

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Queens expects money boost from All-Star Game


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MLB

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Queens this year, local businesses are expecting a boost from the fans who will attend the game on July 16 at Citi Field, as well as the many events in the days before.

“The All-Star Game brings in more people than just the 45,000 people for the game itself,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “They [fans] use hotel rooms, they use restaurants. And the beauty about the All-Star Game is that it’s not just one game, it’s a whole weekend.”

The Queens Chamber of Commerce created the “This is Queens” app to showcase the restaurants, hotels, sites and events in the borough after receiving $100,000 in state funding. Using the app tourist and fans can search for things to do and places to go in the borough and stay in Queens longer instead of traveling to Manhattan.

“The whole reason we got the money to build the app was because of the All-Star Game and the U.S. Open,” said Friedman. “We wanted to be sure that people coming in from the All-Star Game would find things to do.”
Restaurants around Citi Field are preparing for the influx of customers and hotels are already filled for the All-Star Weekend.

“The Z NYC Hotel is 71 percent filled this Friday [July 12] and 85 percent this Saturday [July 13],” said Lisa Gneo, director of sales and marketing of Z NYC Hotel. “The occupancy at the hotel has been consistent all summer long and as we approach the weekend, we could see an increase in bookings due to the All-Star Weekend.”

Some feel that the economic effects of the All-Star Game will extend beyond the country and have an international impact. With all the media attention the game will get, Queens will be talked about on television sets nation-wide and because of the Internet, around the world.

“In the long run it will be very positive for us,” said Rob Mackay, director of public relations for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “Everybody loves Queens.”

 

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