Tag Archives: Queens College

Girl, 10, dies after collapsing at Queens College soccer camp


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A South Jamaica girl died on Monday after collapsing during a soccer camp at Queens College, according to police.

Laura Palma of 97th Avenue was participating in the Flushing camp just before 3:15 p.m. when she said that she wasn’t feeling well. Seconds later, according to published reports, she collapsed and lost consciousness.

Officers from the 107th Precinct and EMS units rushed to the scene and found Palma in cardiac arrest. Paramedics rushed her to New York Hospital Queens, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Her body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death.

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Exhibition on World’s Fair architecture at Queens College


| rmackay@queensny.org

Photo courtesy of Godwin-Ternbach Museum

When attendees reminisce about the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, they often think about the Ford Mustang, the Belgian waffle and the Unisphere, which made their United States debuts then.

Similarly, when people discuss the 1939-40 World’s Fair, which took place in the same Queens green space, they chat about the air conditioner, color photographs and nylon pencil sharpeners, which were first unveiled there.

But one of the most enduring legacies of these events — the architecture — was ridiculed at the time and then ignored by critics.

In fact, the first fair’s Art Deco designs, the monumental pavilions of fascist Italy and communist Russia, and the modernist structures of Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer had tremendous, lasting impact on the architectural field, as did the second fair’s corporate modernism and the postmodernism of Philip C. Johnson and Edward Durell Stone.

On June 29, Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum launches Persuasive Images, an exhibition consisting of more than 100 photographs depicting rarely seen images of structures built for the fairs that were selected from an array of local, national and international archives.

With these photos, the show also strives to provide new insight into the significance and power of world expositions.

“An important part of Queens history that has been lost will be recovered in the exhibition,” said Godwin-Ternbach Director Amy Winter.

The show runs until July 27 with an opening reception on July 9.

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Queens College students exhibit artwork at JCAL


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

BY ANGELA MATUA

The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning welcomed a new exhibition by Queens College students on June 4, which was inspired by the Daghlian Collection of Chinese Arts that is being hosted at the school.

The exhibition, titled “Metempyschosis,” was curated by Professor Sin-Ying Ho, who chose artists Cindy Leung, T.J. Meadows and Liza Rong to display their work.

T.J. Meadows — who was inspired by the Daghlian Collection of Chinese Arts, a selection of cups, jars, figurines and other clay vessels from different Chinese dynasties — created and designed his own set of vessels.

“I want viewers and other artists to see beautiful art as something to be looked at and admired, but at the same time the viewers can follow through with their the urge to pick up and feel the work due to the fact that my art is all functional,” Meadows said. “I have a passion for making art that people have a use for.”

Liza Rong, who works with mediums including stoneware, ceramics, cast molding and wood sculpture, made cast-molded guns from porcelain. She decorated each gun with flowers and calls the collection Harmless Beauties Guns.

“In today’s society the image of the gun is so strong and is always used to portray violence, harm and death,” Rong said. “I was hoping to desensitize this image of the gun and give it a vibe of elegance and preciousness by hand-decorating each one with flowers. I wanted viewers to be able to approach my guns with a feeling of trust and comfort rather than fear and terror.”

Rong said she wants her art to show that though guns are usually associated with violence and death, it all depends on how people use them.

The exhibit will be on display until August 25.

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Astoria woman selected as sixth Queens poet laureate


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Borough President Melinda Katz installed Astoria resident Maria Lisella as the borough’s sixth poet laureate in a ceremony on Tuesday after a three-month search, including the vetting of more than 30 candidates.

Lisella, an author and journalist, will use the unpaid position to promote a love of poetry and literature throughout the “World’s Borough.” An author of three books of poetry, Lisella said she hopes to use the position not to market herself, but rather to connect and foster the literature community in Queens.

“It’s a privilege and it’s an opportunity, but I don’t see it as a way to promote moi,” Lisella said. “I think it’s about marketing the borough and the community.”

A south Jamaica native, Lisella’s family moved to Bellerose when she was young and she lived in Flushing as well before settling down in Astoria for the last 40 years. She is an alum of Queenborough Community College and Queens College, and she received a master’s degree from NYU-Polytechnic Institute. Lisella has been a travel writer for three decades, and her work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News and Foxnews.com, among other news outlets.

Like Queens, Lisella has been influenced by a range of cultures. Her family has roots in Italy and she speaks English, Italian and Spanish. Lisella has also visited about 60 countries.

“Ms. Lisella is an amazing writer who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into incredible poetry,” Katz said. “She also has a deep love and appreciation of Queens that comes from being a lifelong resident.”


The Queens Poet Laureate position was initially established in 1996 by Claire Shulman’s administration in partnership with Queens College.

Lisella was one of five finalists selected by a panel of judges. The judges were appointed by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee. Out of the top candidates, Katz ultimately selected Lisella, who has connections with past Queens Poet Laureates.

The first Queens Poet Laureate, Stephen Stepanchev, was a professor to Lisella in Queens College. Lisella and the second laureate, Hal Sirowitz, are both members of Brevitas, an online poetry circle.

As the new Queens Poet Laureate, Lisella will give readings of poetry around the borough in Queens Library branches and conduct outreach programs. Lisella held her first official reading  in the position at the end of her induction ceremony. She read two pieces from her most recent poetry book, “Thieves in the Family.”

To connect the Queens literature community, Lisella has thought of some initiatives including having a book fair, starting a website dedicated to Queens poetry and holding readings in cultural institutions, such as the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image.

She also wants to use social media to reach the Queens poetry community.

“There are a lot of pockets of activity going on [in Queens],” Lisella said, “so I have to plug into that.”

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Flushing native pens modern-day version of ‘Jane Eyre’


| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Photo by Allana Taranto

When Patricia Park would misbehave as a child growing up in Flushing, her mother would say in broken English, “You act like orphan,” Park remembered. “I realized that her definition of orphan meant to act in a disgraceful way that shamed your family.”

While reading Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel “Jane Eyre,” Park said she was “continually struck by these epithets that are thrown at [Jane]: she’s ‘friendless,’ ‘mischievous,’ ‘wicked,’ as if she somehow embodied these characteristics” just because she was an orphan.

Park’s first novel, “Re Jane,” released on May 5, was born when Park “realized that the Victorian construction of the orphan and the Korean post-war one had similarities, and my mind drew that link,” she said.

This modern-day version of “Jane Eyre” begins in Flushing, where half-American, half-Korean orphan Jane Re was raised by her Korean aunt and uncle. “This is my America: all Korean, all the time,” Jane says in the first chapter.

“For Jane, that’s kind of the irony: that she’s living in America but the community she grows up in feels like an extension of Korea,” Park said.

In the novel, Jane journeys to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, where she works as an au pair, to Seoul, Korea, and back to Queens. The author herself traveled to South Korea on a Fulbright grant to research her book.

“It was nothing like the Korea in my mind’s eye,” which was shaped by her parents’ stories, she said.

Queens readers can expect to find familiar places in the book such as Astoria, as well as Flushing staples including Northern Boulevard and the 7 train.

“For me, being a native Queensite, that 7 train has been a rickety racket for my whole life,” Park joked.

Park, who moved to the Douglaston-Little Neck area around age 9, calls Jane Eyre “an early prototype for a feminist” with a “fighting spirit. … She’s unbreakable and I love that, so I wanted to preserve that,” she said. “My Jane might at first read as meek or quiet but deep down she’s quite resilient.”

“Re Jane,” like “Jane Eyre,” is a coming-of-age novel, but Jane Re is a couple years older than her progenitor, just out of college.

“I think that’s a critical time for a lot of young adults because your formal schooling is all complete and then at this point you have to make choices that will shape your future,” said the former Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow, who has taught writing at Queens College.

“As a Queens native, I feel like Queens doesn’t have much in the way of media representation and certainly not in literature,” she said. “I would love for ‘Re Jane’ to start that conversation. Queens has such a rich history and you have all these diverse ethnic neighborhoods, so in some ways ‘Re Jane’ is paying homage to the place I come from, warts and all.”

Patricia Park currently lives in Brooklyn. She read from her novel in Bayside on May 9 as part of her book tour, which will include a few more stops around the city later in May. “Re Jane” can be found in bookstores all over. Visit Park’s website for more details.

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Queens College dancers to feature their choreography talent


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Julenphoto/Captions courtesy of Queens College Dance Department

Queens College dance students are ready for their moment in the spotlight.

The annual choreography showcase by students in the Queens College Department of Dance is set to run from May 6 to 10 this year at the school’s Rathaus Hall. The show, dubbed “Figures of 8,” is the world premiere for the work of nine students in advanced stages of study, and will also feature the work of student costume and lighting designers and stage production personnel.

The students involved have been working on their pieces as part of a yearlong choreography elective for dance majors. Presentations will include a diverse range of dance styles, with contemporary ballet, tap, burlesque and modern dancing all represented in the program.

Themes examined within the pieces vary widely in topic as well. A solo piece reflects on a horrific experience in an African slave dungeon, while a female-centric jazz quintet celebrates sexuality, and a group piece examines the positive and negative sides of friendship.

Zoe Padden, a senior who is currently pursuing a double major in dance and mathematics, said that each choreographer had their own vision and method of approaching the process. Some started with vague ideas that they later refined, and others had a very clear vision from the start.

“It’s a journey,” Katsanos said. “You just kind of have to accept that you need to walk through the journey.”

The students all agreed that putting together a show was a challenge that ultimately proved to be a rewarding learning experience.

“On paper it seems easy but as you go through it, things may change,” senior Malcolm Griffin said. “You might not have the same vision as when you started, or you might have to alter things.”

Although the showcase is an annual event at the school, this year is the first time faculty adviser and showcase director Richard Move is involved. Move has previously been a part of productions by such dance superstars as Mikhail Baryshnikov and the Martha Graham Dance Company, so he has plenty of experience with how personally moving it can be for dancers to be onstage expressing themselves with their art.

“One thing that’s inherent with dance is that there’s some level of autobiography because it’s the body speaking,” Move said.

The show will be held at the Rathaus Hall performance space M11 at 7 p.m. for the Wednesday through Saturday presentations, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7 and can be bought at www.kupferbergcenter.com, by phone at 718-793-8080, or in person at the Kupferberg Box Office in the Colden Auditorium.


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Star of Queens: Nan Khin May, CUNY service corps volunteer, New American Welcome Center at the Flushing YMCA


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Nan Khin May

BY ROSS BELSKY

Background: Nan Khin May, 25, was born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar, and now lives in Fresh Meadows. She loves Queens because it is one of the most diverse places she’s ever been and a place where she can taste food from all around the globe. She also appreciates how much time she can save commuting easily to her college and her jobs.

Occupation: May works part time at the office of information technology at Queens College as an assistant, where she learns from her supervisors, coworkers and other students. She also works as an independent financial planner at World Financial Group in College Point, as she would like to become certified after graduating because she wants to help others who are planning to go to college.

Community Involvement: Currently, May is a CUNY service corps volunteer at the New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the Flushing YMCA. NAWC serves the immigrant population by providing a range of services including ESL and computer classes. The goals for the immigrants are English literacy, cultural competence and self-sufficiency. May translates Chinese and Burmese for them, as well as conducts intakes of client information. The majority of students are adults from China, Korea and the Dominican Republic. In addition, May occasionally volunteers for the Mahasi Meditation Group.

Greatest Achievement: “I would consider getting the experiences of volunteering and giving the community what it needs to be both my greatest personal and professional achievement,” May said. “My 4-year-old niece told me ‘sharing is caring,’ and I couldn’t agree with her more.”

Biggest Challenge: “Going to college and getting all good grades because that is an important requirement in Asian families. Also, dealing with my father’s heart disease and elderly health issues.”

Inspiration: “My aunt. She is my mentor and best friend. She is a very strong woman and she takes care of her family. She loves me like her own daughter and has taught me since I was in Myanmar. With my parents’ support and her guidance, I am able to live here and succeed.”

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Fresh Meadows man stars on new reality show ‘Little Women: NY’


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Patrick Eccelsine

Jason Perez may be a little man, but he is representing the biggest borough on a new Lifetime reality show.

Perez, a 27-year-old Queens College student from Fresh Meadows, is starring on “Little Women: NY,” premiering Wednesday night.

Standing at 4 feet 4 inches tall, he is the only male cast member among seven little people whose lives are documented on the series, which takes a look at how the group of friends navigates the Big Apple.

lwny_gallery-jason_150112-pe-021“New York is one big city and we are little women…well, six little women and the one guy that can handle them,” the first episode starts.

“Little Women: NY” is a spin-off of the network’s hit reality show “Little Women: LA,” which just concluded its second season on March 18 and featured New York cast member Lila Call in several of its recent episodes.

A friend of “Little Women: LA” cast member and executive producer Terra Jolé, who is also an executive producer for the New York version, Perez was easily convinced to appear on the new show.

“I think it will be very enlightening, very educational. It will also take the stress of the day off,” he said, promising the one-hour program will bring as much reality show-style drama as its West Coast counterpart and a true look into the world of little people.

Born in Brooklyn to a close-knit Filipino family, Perez grew up in Ozone Park before moving to Fresh Meadows in 2000, where he attended St. Francis Prep.

Though he faced bullying because of his dwarfism and is the only little person in his family, he said his loved ones have always given him strength.

“They just took me as a regular person,” Perez said. His parents always told him to “cry but not for long” and to “just get up and keep moving.”


After high school, he earned a culinary arts degree and started working as a cook. But his childhood love for performing led him from the kitchen to a job as a singing server.

Today, he is studying political science and history at Queens College, but is still pursuing his passion for entertainment through performing, and voice, dance and acting lessons. He has even won several talent competitions, including at the MGM Grand Las Vegas and the Coney Island Talent Show, and has performed in Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular.

Perez is also hoping to entertain viewers on “Little Women: NY,” which he says will step it up a notch from its LA counterpart because of the challenges of fast-paced New York City, such as commuting on the subway, hailing cabs and traversing crowded streets.

Jason Perez with "Little Women: NY" co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

Jason Perez with “Little Women: NY” co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

“New York in itself is an animal and to survive you need to have skills,” Perez said.

The show will also look at some of Perez’s personal struggles — a sensitive issue he discusses with his conservative family while living at home and his difficulties in finding the right person to settle down with.

“We may be small but we have emotions like everyone else, we have ambitions like everyone,” he said. “Just because we look different doesn’t mean we are out of the loop.”

“Little Women: NY” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. 

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Open call for new Queens poet laureate


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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BY LLEWYN SHIN

Borough President Melinda Katz has launched an open call for applications for the next Queens poet laureate, a prestigious three-year position charged with promoting a love of poetry and literacy throughout the borough.

“Because Queens is such a diverse borough, the Queens poet laureate must be a compelling wordsmith who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into poetry,” Katz said.

The Queens Borough President’s office and Queens College have been partners in the Queens poet laureate project since the search for the first Queens poet laureate began in 1996. This year, the Queens Borough Public Library joined the partnership for the first time and will provide meeting space for the next Queens poet laureate to present poetry and conduct outreach to the Queens community.

“As a primary source for culture and literature in our borough, Queens Library is delighted to partner with Borough President Melinda Katz’s office to find the next poet laureate. We look forward to hosting the new poet laureate at the library,” Queens Library Interim President/CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said.

Queens College President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez added, “We are delighted that Borough President Katz is continuing this position and committed to promoting poetry – literature that can touch people of all backgrounds in a profound and universal way.”

The process of selecting the Queens poet laureate is overseen by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee.

Applications are available at www.queensbp.org/poet and must be submitted by April 24. Applicants must have a published portfolio and are expected to submit representative samples of their poetry, including poems related to Queens. This writing sample should not exceed 10 pages per applicant.

A panel of expert judges will review the applications and recommend three finalists to the borough president, who will make the final decision on who will be appointed.

The past Queens poet laureates are as follows: Stephen Stepanchev (who served from 1997 – 2001), Hal Sirowitz (2001 – 2004), Ishle Yi Park (2004 – 2007), Julio Marzan (2007 – 2010) and Paolo Javier (2010 – 2014).

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Queens College recognized as a ‘best value college’ for affordable cost


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens College

Queens College has earned itself a place on the top ten list for the nation’s “Best Value” colleges, according to a new survey conduced by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

The Flushing college, located at 65-30 Kissena Blvd., was named a “2015 Best Value College” by the finance magazine, which ranks four-year colleges that bring together outstanding academics with affordable costs.

Queens College was named among the top ten schools in the “24 Best College Values Under $30,000/Year 2015,” and was included in the category “Kiplinger’s Best College Values (Public Colleges).” The complete list is available at kiplinger.com/links/college.

“We salute this year’s top schools,” said Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Balancing top-quality education with affordable cost is a challenge for families in today’s economy, which is why Kiplinger’s rankings are such a valuable resource. The schools on the 2015 list offer students the best of both worlds.”

Queens College was also selected by The Princeton Review as one of 200 schools profiled in its recent book, “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get In – 2015 Edition.”

“We highly recommend Queens College and all of our ‘Colleges That Pay You Back’ schools,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review and lead author of the book. “They stand out for their excellent academics, impressive career preparation services, and affordability to students with need – via comparatively low sticker prices, generous financial aid, or both. Plus their students graduate with great career prospects.”

Earlier this month, Queens College was also acknowledged as a top producer of Fulbright students by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright Program is the nation’s flagship international educational exchange program in which students, who are selected for their academic merit and leadership, are given grants to study, teach English and conduct research in more than 140 countries.

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BP Melinda Katz delivers her first State of the Borough address


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Borough President Melinda Katz delivered her first State of the Borough speech on Thursday, celebrating the borough’s diversity, its recent prominence as a tourism destination and the nurturing environment that she said has made Queens “the borough of families.”

“If it’s good for our families, it’s good for Queens,” said Katz, repeating what she said is her administration’s motto at Borough Hall and what was the focus of her 50-minute speech at Colden Auditorium at Queens College.

After a five-minute video that included Queens residents talking about the borough and Katz recounting how she grew up here, the daughter of civic-minded parents proud of the borough they called home, Katz took to the stage and welcomed the audience in eight languages.

“My parents believed that Queens held all the elements of any great city, and that no one should need to cross a bridge or tunnel to experience arts, culture, fine dining or great neighborhoods,” Katz said. “I inherited their vision while growing up here, from my childhood in Forest Hills to my education at our public schools to studying law at St. John’s.”

Packed into the 2,124-seat auditorium, filled nearly to capacity, were a host of elected officials, civic leaders and residents from across the borough.

Elected officials Katz mentioned individually included State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, as well as the borough’s entire City Council delegation and state lawmakers.

She made a special point to welcome newly-minted state Sen. Leroy Comrie, who she hired as a deputy during her first year as borough president before he was elected state senator.

And Katz twice asked for a moment of silence, once for the two officers killed in Brooklyn last month and another for former Gov. Mario Cuomo, a son of Queens, who died on New Year’s Day.

While Katz spent much of the time celebrating recent successes, like the borough’s designation as the nation’s top tourist destination for 2015 by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet and its recognition as being “the intersection of the world” for its sweeping ethnic and racial diversity, she also laid out challenges and goals ahead. They included the following:

  • Job creation, especially for LaGuardia and JFK airports and the health sector.
  • Advocating for the return of the Rockaway Ferry, which saw a brief existence during the post-Sandy recovery but was discontinued soon after.
  • Creating more pre-K seats to expand the program’s reach and expanding the Gifted and Talented program. She also emphasized the need to invest in the CUNY schools within Queens “so that folks stay in Queens or they come back and build a family.”
  • Providing affordable housing, especially for seniors, many of whom become the caretakers for young families.

Katz, who is raising her two children in the same Queens home where she grew up, blasted Common Core, the controversial new teaching curriculum being used across schools in the city and state.

“I feel in my gut that there’s something wrong here,” she said. “It’s not a common core. It’s a common problem. We’ve got to do something about it.”

And at the core of all of these issues, Katz said, is the family. Here in the “World’s Borough,” Katz said, the American dream is alive and well. And that’s all thanks to the families.

“Both new arrivals and long-established families create the communities which make it uniquely attractive, for visitors and for investors alike,” she said. “And like generations before them, they come here to work hard and raise their children as Americans. People spend their life savings to come here from all over the world just to educate their children right where we are sitting right now.”

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Construction finally set for $20M Louis Armstrong Museum annex


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Louis Armstrong House Museum 

A $20 million annex expansion of the landmarked Louis Armstrong House Museum, named for the famed jazz musician, is on the way after meeting zoning regulations.

Plans have been filed with the Buildings Department on Friday to construct the proposed educational visitors center on vacant land near the museum at 34-49 107th St. in Corona.

Design work on the new center dates as far back as 2007, but construction on the project was stalled due to a necessary variance application from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

The new two-story project needed approval for a waiver to be built closer to neighboring property lines than zoning laws allow.

The BSA gave the project the green light last year, following support from Community Board 3 and the borough president’s office. Now the project is in the construction phase, according to a representative.

The museum is hoping to build the new 8,737-square-foot annex, which is designed by architecture firm Caples Jefferson, for more exhibit space and a store to better accommodate the more than 12,000 visitors who come to the museum each year.

The center will “create a wonderful cultural campus in Corona that allows us to expand our programming for the community and our visitors from around the world,” said Jennifer Walden, director of marketing at the museum.

The museum is a national historic landmark and a New York City landmark dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of the iconic musician.

Armstrong and his wife Lucille lived in the house from 1943 until his death in 1971, and the house was declared a national landmark in 1976.

 

THE COURIER/File photo

THE COURIER/File photo

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Rockaway train line would serve half a million riders a day, says study


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Throwing a wrench into plans for the QueensWay park, a new study claims the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would generate nearly half a million rides a day.

“The rail line would connect north and south Queens like no other [form of transportation],” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said at a press conference in Queens College Monday.

“The results of this study clearly show that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best, most cost-efficient way to decrease commute times, improve access to existing parkland and grow our small businesses in Queens.”

The study, “A community impact study of proposed uses of the Rockaway Beach Branch right of way,” surveyed thousands of residents and assessed transportation and park needs in the surrounding communities of the rail line.

If reactivated, the study says, the rail line will ease congestion and commute times, and connect north and south Queens in a way that is currently not available with existing subway lines.

The project was student-led under the watch of Dr. Scott Larson, director of the office of community studies at Queens College.

“We did not come to the conclusion of what the best use for the land would be. That wasn’t the point of it,” Larson said. “We did it to add to the debate and provide objective information.”

A summary of the study reads: “The Rockaway Beach Branch line presents a unique opportunity as a potential transportation improvement. The effect would be faster travel between southern Queens, including the Rockaways, and northern/western Queens, Midtown Manhattan and points north.”

It goes on to mention that while ridership in south Queens is low compared to other parts of the city, commute times are long and the restoration of the line could lead to positive savings in travel times for the riders.

The rail line has been out of commission since the 1960s. If the rail line was seen as the most viable option for the land, it would cost about $700 million to fully restore it.

Currently, there is a debate on whether the land should be used to restore the transit line, make access to the QueensWay, or use the land for both transportation and park features.

The QueensWay would cost about $120 million to fully build out. Advocates for the QueensWay say the land would better be used as parkland rather than for transportation.

“The QueensWay would be free to everyone,” said Mark Matsil, a representative from the Trust for Public Land. “We have support from many elected officials. The QueensWay is economically feasible.”

Matsil said they are in the process of raising funds for the design phase of the QueensWay.

But Goldfeder believes that more and improved transit in Queens is a top priority for the borough, and not using this existing infrastructure would be a waste.

“Complete restoration of the rail line will increase transit options for every resident in Queens and NYC, create quality jobs, boost our economic development, ease commutes and congestion and clean our environment by taking thousands of cars off the road,” said Goldfeder. “I urge the MTA to include restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line in their next capital plan.”

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Queens College to stage Bernstein’s ‘Mass’


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Edward Smaldone

Queens College is hosting a full staging of “Mass,” an awe-inspiring musical about the crisis of faith, composed by the legendary musician Leonard Bernstein. More than 200 artists will take to the stage for two performances on Nov. 1 and 2 at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts.

Renowned conductor Maurice Peress, who was at the helm of the musical’s premiere performance in 1971, will conduct this performance too.

Due to the large number of performers required for a full staging, “Mass” is more often performed as a concert piece. It is rare to see a full staging. This performance features Queens College students from the Aaron Copland School of Music, and members of the Queens College Opera Studio, Choir, Women’s Choir, Children’s Choir, Jazz Ensemble, and Orchestra. Victor Starsky, tenor and student at Aaron Copland, has been cast as the Celebrant, the central character in this musical.

Bernstein’s “Mass” was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for the 1971 inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. “Mass” begins by showing performers from different genres being in harmony. However, soon discord sets in and as the crisis of faith hits its peak, the Celebrant sings a solo about losing his faith.
“Mass” was composed in honor of John F. Kennedy. Peress, who was assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein, writes about it in his new memoir “Maverick Maestro,” slated to release in March. In the book, Peress calls “Mass” a “compelling dramatic story” in which “the loss of a beloved leader who gave us hope is honored by a formal Latin Mass, at the same time a young street community asks tough questions as they search for faith.”

He also says that as he studies the familiar piece again, “fresh and deeper insights surface.” He regrets that the message is still timely. “In 1971, the quicksand of Vietnam dominated the news, now it is the Middle East,” he wrote.

Something else has changed in the 43 years since Peress first conducted “Mass.” The stage director then was Gordon Davidsonbut for these two performances, Peress’ daughter Lorca will be the stage director. Lorca is the founder and artistic director of MultiStages, a multicultural, multidisciplinary theater based in New York that has won quite a few awards since its inception in 1997.

Harry Feiner, a Broadway professional and professor of drama at Queens College, is in charge of set and lighting.

Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” will be performed on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. at the Colden Auditorium at Kupferberg Center for the Arts, Queens College. Tickets cost from $15 to $25 and can be purchased online at www.kupferbergcenter.org or by calling 718-570-0923 or at the box office in Colden Auditorium. Additional fees may apply.

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Ridgewood woman recounts childhood abduction to Egypt, escape in YouTube video


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos © Moral Courage Project 2014

She found the courage to escape. She then found the courage to share her story.

Nashwa El-Sayed was abducted to Egypt from Queens at the age of 2 by her father. After suffering from abuse, years of separation from her mother and an impending arranged marriage at the age of 17, she was finally able to leave the country and return to America.

El-Sayed, now 24, and living in Ridgewood, has since graduated from Queens College with a degree in international relations and recounted her tale, hoping others in her situation will do the same.

“Hopefully they see it as something that can change lives,” she said.

Though El-Sayed has shared her story before, she is telling it in a new medium: video.

The Moral Courage Project, an educational nonprofit started in 2008, posted a video of El-Sayed’s story, “Forced marriage in Egypt: How I escaped,” on its YouTube channel last month.

The nonprofit mentors, teaches and provides role models for people who want to build up moral courage, or do “the right thing in the face of your fears,” according to Adam Grannick, multimedia producer with the Moral Courage Project.

It showcases its role models through videos it creates for its YouTube channel, Moral Courage TV. They are “everyday people” from a middle-schooler facing a bully to corporate whistleblowers and everyone in between.

Launched in April 2012, the videos are accompanied by related social media posts to bring awareness to whatever issue they highlight and can each have their own look, depending on the story.

Since filmmakers didn’t have footage from El-Sayed’s childhood, her video featured animation.
“Animation usually takes away from the seriousness of a story, but this one was not the case,” El-Sayed said.

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El-Sayed’s story begins on Father’s Day 1993 — the day she was taken. She was living in Richmond Hill at the time, and her Egyptian father and American mother were in the process of filing for divorce.

“[My mother] knew deep down that she wasn’t going to see me again,” El-Sayed said in the video.

A couple of years after landing in Egypt, El-Sayed was living in Alexandria with her father and a stepmother who physically and emotionally abused her. She also had to be “a pious Muslim girl who should not be seen in public, who should not speak in public.”

At around age 9, she found some relief when her father divorced the woman. He soon married another woman who also tried to abuse El-Sayed, but she retaliated and the woman never tried it again.

Also at 9 years old, she saw her mother for the first time since she was abducted. That moment was when she knew there was another place she belonged to and that she could study what she wanted.

Her mother from then on would send her items from the U.S. — media, such as music from the Backstreet Boys; toys, such as Barbies; new gadgets, such as CD players; and school supplies, such as glitter.

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El-Sayed’s father promised she could go to college in America as long as she got good grades. But during her final year of high school, her father told her that he found her a husband and that she was going to meet him on her wedding day in four months.

“All of a sudden there is a major change in plans and that is when I decided it was time to go,” El-Sayed said.

She called her mother in April 2008, who contacted the appropriate authorities, and within a few months El-Sayed was touch with the FBI and American embassy to plan a way out of the country.

But after her father found out about a visit she made to the embassy, she was put on lockdown and became suicidal.

As she recounts in the video, El-Sayed, through luck and bravery, managed to escape while she was at a friend’s house in Cairo.

But El-Sayed’s story and her ups and downs didn’t end with her escape.

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Most of the Moral Courage Project videos are two to three minutes long, but El-Sayed’s is 10 minutes.

“I tried cutting it down but it just felt wrong to leave out a lot of it,” said Grannick, who wanted the video to discuss El-Sayed’s life after she returned to America.

Back living in Richmond Hill with her mother, El-Sayed went through a major depression the first year as she tried to figure out her purpose and why she went through what she did.

Her relationship with her mother, good for the first two years, became fractured when differences began to show between them, and they disagreed over El-Sayed’s publicly sharing her story, including a June 2013 Daily News article.

But she considers herself one of the lucky ones. Children around the world are abducted by parents every year, she said, and she is not only one of the few who has survived and is functional, but is one of the few who has also come out with her story and become an activist.

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After graduating from Queens College in the summer of 2013, El-Sayed now works with the school’s Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Program as the assistant manager. The program gives college students from a variety of religious backgrounds the opportunity to travel to the Middle East to interact with government officials, entrepreneurs, students, educators and philanthropists, create a dialogue and experience what the region is really like.

El-Sayed also works, through the Epic Theatre Ensemble, with a women’s group regarding issues in the Arab American community, and continues to work with the FBI to bring awareness to the issue of childhood abduction by parents.

“It is possible for you to survive,” she says to end the video. “It is possible for you to leave behind the stigmas and actually carry on and make something of yourself.”

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