Tag Archives: Queens Economic Development Corporation

All-Star Game makes millions for city, benefits borough


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The 2013 MLB All-Star Game and weekend events were a home run for businesses in and around Citi Field.

The major sports event pumped $191.1 million into the city, according to Rob Mackay, director of marketing, events and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

“In general it’s good for the city,” Mackay said. “so if it’s good for the city, it’s good for Queens. The entire event was very good for hotels and quite good for taxis.”

Mackay added that the All-Star Game introduced Queens to fans around the country and the world, which could lead to increased tourism.

“It put Queens in everyone’s living room,” Mackay said. “It was very good for our image.”

The All-Star weekend kicked off on July 12 with Fanfest in Manhattan. It was followed by the Celebrity and Legends Softball Game, the All-Star Futures Game, the State Farm Home Run Derby and the main event on July 16.

Hotels around the borough and near Citi Field were at or near capacity during the events. Corona Hotel, which is located a block away from Citi Field, was at 80 percent capacity. The hotel is normally around 60 percent at this time of the year, according to manager Chatn Patel.

As an official sponsor and MLB All-Star retailer, Modell’s Sporting Goods was allowed to set up shop right in front Citi Field to sell merchandise. The tent-like store sold baseball equipment, New Era fitted caps and Majestic All-Star players’ jerseys, among other items. The pop-up store sold so well that employees had to go to local Modell’s locations and pull more items.

“The fans of the city have really embraced everything that is going on here,” said Kelly Harvey, senior manager of brand and event marketing. “MLB has been great getting fans to come here. We’ve done better than we expected to do.”

Restaurants inside Citi Field, some of which had experienced lower sales this year due to low attendance at Mets games, saw an explosion in sales during the All-Star festivities.

Union Square Events, which manages Shake Shack, Blue Smoke, El Verano Taqueria and Box Frites in Citi Field, said the eateries had the highest volume of sales since opening in 2009. The game itself had 26 percent higher sales than any game over the last three years.

“Union Square Events feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in such a momentous event,” said Ron Parker, Union Square Events managing partner. “Citi Field was in all its glory and the Mets really showed everyone what New York hospitality is all about.

 

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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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82nd Street Partnership unveils new look for Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of 82nd Street Partnership

Take a look at what the 82nd Street Partnership has in store for Roosevelt Avenue.

On Wednesday, June 19, the group revealed streetscape renderings for public spaces within the Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District (BID) expansion area.

In March, the 82nd Street Partnership announced plans to expand its BID to include corridors of Roosevelt Avenue, Junction Boulevard, 103rd Street and National Street. This expansion will become a community-driven effort including property owners, businesses, residents, public officials and other stakeholders. The goal is to improve the strip’s sense of place.

In the past four months, the 82nd Street Partnership has met with businesses and collected more than 300 surveys from residents as well as property and business owners. The undertaking received support from community and economic development groups including the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Queens Economic Development Corporation, Corona Community Action Network (Corona CAN), Make the Road NY and Immigrant Movement International.

After gathering the information, the partnership created conceptual renderings depicting the vision of the community for the Jackson Heights-Corona commercial district once the BID gets underway in 2014.

In the renderings, Roosevelt Avenue is shown with improvements including new planted trees, street tables and chairs, flowers, outdoor café seating, lighting, banners, benches, bicycle racks, brighter lights and renovated storefronts with new awnings and swings.

“The business community envisions sidewalks and public spaces along the commercial corridor to be inviting, enjoyable places where people of all ages and backgrounds can relax and feel comfortable – as is depicted in the rendering,” said Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership. “The community envisions a commercial corridor where people can comfortably and safely stroll all hours of the day and night.”

The BID hopes to improve the quality of life and support the local economic activity in the neighborhood by making the area cleaner, safer, brighter and more enjoyable.

“The Jackson Heights – Corona BID looks forward to helping the community realize its exciting vision for the future,” said Taylor.

For more information, visit www.JHCoronaBID.org.

 

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Op-Ed: More airport terminal gates = More Queens jobs


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY SETH BORNSTEIN

In late May, Delta Airlines officially opened nine more gates at JFK’s Terminal 4. This is great news for the borough of Queens and our on-going efforts to create, retain and attract jobs.

Here at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, where I serve as executive director, we offer numerous business- services programs that provide counseling; train people to get proper licenses and permits; coordinate commercial revitalization programs to upgrade our commercial neighborhoods; operate the Entrepreneur Space, a business incubator for small food businesses; and run the Queens Tourism Council, which promotes our cultural and recreational venues.

However, the most overlooked economic development program in Queens is not offered by my office. Rather, that program consists of our two Queens airports: LaGuardia and JFK.

The two airports are the unsung heroes of job creation and retention in Queens — with over 50 percent of airport employees being borough residents. That’s why so many of us know someone connected to the airports — whether it’s a friend who is a gate agent, a relative who works at a hotel or a neighbor who runs a catering company that supplies an airline.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates LGA, JFK, Newark and two additional regional airports, generates close to 500,000 jobs, $25.6 billion in wages and $65 billion in total economic activity. In Queens, LaGuardia generates over 100,000 jobs, about $5 billion in wages and almost $14 billion in total economic activity. JFK generates more than twice the number of jobs and wages as LGA — thanks to the large cargo presence, with a total of over $30 billion in economic activity.

The simple fact is that more gates at JFK means more jobs for Queens. The Port Authority estimates that for every 1 million passengers the airports serve, 4,100 jobs are created annually in the region. These are direct airport jobs as well as jobs in the myriad of businesses in and around the airport, including restaurants, florist shops, car rentals, gas stations, uniform manufacturers and retail establishments, as well as the tourism industry. And the people of Queens have benefited from this more than any other county.

Additionally, the Port Authority awards hundreds of contracts every year to New York-based firms for work at LGA and JFK. Last year alone totaled $68.5 million. Since the implementation of the Queens Air Service Development Office, which was founded at the QEDC over 25 years ago, the borough has been awarded nearly 7,000 contracts, totaling approximately $1.1 billion to Queens-based operations. Organizations such as All Lock and Glass Service Inc. of Long Island City, Glenridge Fabrications of Ridgewood, Solar Insulation Company Inc. of Maspeth and Capital Contractors Inc. of Douglaston. In addition, many small and minority-owned businesses have taken advantage of the Air Services Office.

Unfortunately, the future of this highly successful airport jobs program is in jeopardy. This is because our region’s airports are facing severe capacity limitations that will only get worse in the coming decades.

A critical component of the effort to increase airport capacity is the implementation of technological advances needed to bring our airspace into the 21st century. This is why QEDC was a founding member of the National Coalition to Advance NextGen. NextGen is a complete overhaul of the national airspace system, from the air traffic control system to its airports, using 21st-century, satellitebased technologies, operational improvements and new procedures. The system includes never-before-attempted innovations designed to ensure future safety, capacity and environmental goals.

Portions of NextGen are already in place or being tested around the country, including in New York. Working together, New York area airports and airlines including United and jetBlue, have initiated improvements that permit some flights to fly more precise, direct paths that preserve safety, save time, save fuel and lower emissions. These changes will help ease delays and cancellations, which will in turn ensure that LGA and JFK continue to serve as engines for job growth for Queens and all of New York City.

Seth Bornstein is executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation

 

 

Rumored NHL outdoor games snub Citi Field


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

It looks like Citi Field has been “shut out” from an outdoor NHL game next season.

The Sports Network (TSN) reported the league plans five outdoor games on top of the traditional Bridgestone Winter Classic – slated between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Day, 2014.

NHL officials first have to ink a deal with the teams before anything is made official.

Yankee Stadium will host two games in New York, TSN reported, with the Rangers facing off against the New Jersey Devils on January 26, and Rangers vs. Islanders on January 29, nearly coinciding with Super Bowl XLVIII, to be played just across the Hudson on February 2.

The Blueshirts played in the 2012 Winter Classic against the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park.

Citi Field is slightly smaller than Yankee Stadium, with the latter able to hold nearly 9,000 more spectators. The home of the Amazin’s can hold 41,800; the Bronx Bombers’ stadium can fit 50,287.

But some Queens officials are already calling the NHL off-sides if Citi Field, which opened the same year as the new Yankee Stadium, is iced out of the plan.

Rob MacKay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism at the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), said he was disappointed the league shot for the Bronx, but is still leaving an open net for a future outdoor game.

“So as the biggest Queens fan on this planet,” he said, “I am a bit disappointed that the NHL chose a different, more remote borough for these games, but I still welcome them. Hopefully we’ll see them in Queens soon, as it would be good for the NHL executives, the players, the fans and of course our hospitality sector.”

Queens hotels will already be stacked because of overflow from the Super Bowl, MacKay said, although the game is at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. QEDC is still looking forward to the revenue these additional games could bring to the borough.

There was talk roughly five years ago of the Islanders coming to Willets Point before the team eventually settled on the already-built Barclays Center last year.

Fan group and clothes manufacturer We Bleed Blue – specializing in Rangers gear – is excited just to have outdoor hockey in New York. Founders Brendan Gebert and John Rizzo, while cheering for the same hockey team, vary in their baseball loyalties. Gebert is a Met fan; Rizzo is a Yankee fan.

Regardless, the duo told The Courier any sort of outdoor game within the city will drive more people to hockey and allow for more games of the sort in the area.

“Getting mad at the location would be like getting mad at Jay-Z for having a concert at Yankee Stadium,” Rizzo said.

“Plus we’re willing to bet that if this goes as planned, this won’t be the last time we see something like this in the area. Guess you gotta just ‘save something for tomorrow,’ and the next go around, I’d like to think Citi would get the next one.”

 

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New outdoor market coming to Long Island City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

LICFleaLOGO

A new outdoor market overlooking the Midtown Manhattan skyline will be coming to Long Island City this June, bringing the community the best in food vendors, antiques, collectibles, art, crafts, fashion and much more.

Located in a 24,000-square-foot lot at the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue, LIC FLEA & FOOD will operate every Saturday and Sunday on the waterfront. This market will act as an incubator to help promote and foster businesses, as well as be a fun and vibrant weekend spot for the entire family.

“The addition of LIC FLEA to Long Island City only adds to the eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes, shops and art that are offered here in western Queens,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “I look forward to seeing Long Island City celebrated every weekend that the market is open because I am sure what we have to offer will not disappoint. Just come out and see for yourself.”

LIC FLEA will work as the perfect setting for business owners to grow their businesses and gain prominence, even if they might not be ready to afford a storefront.

“LIC Partnership is pleased to support LIC FLEA, which will bring another exciting fun-filled weekend attraction to LIC’S waterfront,” said Gayle Baron, president of LIC Partnership.

The market will be within walking distance from the No. 7, E and G trains as well as the LIC East River Ferry stop and there is a parking garage right on 5th Street.

“LIC FLEA promises to be a weekend destination this spring. My hope is that residents and visitors from around the city will flock to LIC FLEA and tell their friends about this exciting new market on the Queens side of the East River,” said Borough President Helen Marshall.

In addition to the vast amount of activities LIC has to offer its residents and visitors, LIC FLEA will add onto the excitement of a weekend shopping getaway.

“Long Island City has so much to offer residents and the addition of the LIC FLEA & FOOD is a wonderful example of the endless perks of living here on the waterfront,” said Sofia Estevez, executive vice-president of TF Cornerstone.

LIC FLEA will also create a new destination for visitors looking to get a taste of the beauty of the LIC waterfront.

“We are excited about the LIC FLEA as it will be a fun and attractive destination for one of the communities our ferry serves,” said Paul Samulski, creative and marketing officer at BillyBey Ferry Company. “Not only will it help make the LIC waterfront a premier weekend destination, but it will also offer a platform for local vendors to gain necessary exposure for their products.”

LIC FLEA has partnered with The Queens Courier, as co-publisher Joshua Schneps is leading this new venture. The Courier will list every vendor and will recognize a “vendor of the week” in the newspaper and online at queenscourier.com.

“This is very exciting news and another great example of the borough being attractive to residents and business owners,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

Vendors, from the small to the big, can apply to sell at the market at www.LICFLEA.com. Updates will be available through their Facebook and Twitter accounts at Facebook.com/LICFlea and @LICFlea.

 

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Coalition formed to save Steinway Mansion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gary Vollo

A new group is aiming to preserve the iconic Steinway Mansion for future generations to enjoy the historic local landmark.

The Friends of Steinway Mansion is a newly formed coalition with members including Steinway & Sons, the Queens Economic Development Corporation, local officials and historians.

“It is the stuff of New York legend. Within its walls was ‘the cradle of creativity,’ under its beams lived ‘a household of genius.’ It is cut from the cloth that defines our city,” said Bob Singleton, coalition founder and executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. “It is a place that celebrates something any New Yorker instinctively understands – it is a monument to the unique spirit of New York and its people.”

The coalition will have to raise millions of dollars for the purchase of the house, which has been on sale for about two years at a reported asking price of $2.9 million. Funds are also needed for maintenance, restoration, and conversion into a public facility.

The 27 rooms in the mansion could become a museum space or a teaching and learning center for small concerts and workshops, according to Singleton.

The mansion that sits on top of a hill at 18-33 41st Street in Astoria was built in the 1850s by Benjamin Pike and was later sold to the Steinway family as a summer home around 1870, with the Steinway & Sons piano factory built decades later only a few blocks away. In the 1920s, the home was sold to the Halberian family and has stayed in the family ever since. It was later selected as a New York City Landmark in 1967.

“We fully support the efforts to preserve the Steinway Mansion and its historical relevance,” said Anthony Gilroy, director of marketing and communications for Steinway & Sons. “The Mansion is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the area. It predates our factory by about two decades – and we’ve been in this spot since the early 1870s.”

In a 2006 documentary on the iconic home featuring the late Henry Steinway and Mike Halberian, who died in 2010, Halberian offers a hope that “that generations yet unborn have an opportunity to experience the house and its surrounding property’s extraordinary magic,” said Singleton.

“Steinway Mansion is one of Queens most treasured landmarks. For the past 155 years it has stood as a tangible window into the fascinating past of New York City and its influential residents,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas.

Promising Halberian that his dream would come true, the coalition members are making sure the mansion is preserved with the help of the public, as the Friends of Steinway Mansion will formally kick off its campaign in early May.
“The public can help. Email us or better, drum up public support on Facebook at our Friends of Steinway Mansion page,” said Singleton. “Let your imagination free. Give us your suggestions and ideas.”

Photo courtesy of Greater Astoria Historical Society, Henry Z. Steinway Collection

 

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Change name of Long Island City to LIC, say officials, business leaders


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

In order to separate from the confusion of being mistaken with Long Island, officials and business leaders are looking to change the name of Long Island City to the “hip” abbreviation “LIC.”

After meeting with travel agents from around the world to introduce them to New York, Rob MacKay of the Queens Tourism Council, frequently finds out travelers get thrown off by the city name when searching websites of Long Island City hotels.

“It’s a nightmare! I actually have to show them how close we are to the city,” said MacKay. “The name apparently affects the real estate world and the tourism industry.”

With changing the name, MacKay hopes to distinguish Long Island City, emphasizing its unique businesses and thriving community, being only two subway stops away from Manhattan.

“I’ve been frustrated with this for a while now. A lot of people call us daily and they’re confused because they have a misconception of Long Island City,” said Eric Benaim, owner of real estate firm Modern Spaces.

The change in name does not seem too drastic, as Long Island City is already being referred to as LIC by residents and businesses.

“People here already call it LIC and businesses use it in their names. We always say LIC, we’re trying to get people used to it,” said Benaim.

According to MacKay, the process of changing the name does not follow any legal or financial steps but instead just takes the dedication of the community to begin calling itself “LIC.”

Yet, not everyone agrees with the name change.

“Leave it as Long Island City!” said Manducatis Rustica owner, Gianna Cerbone-Teoli. “People do get confused about it but it’s so great when you have to explain.”

Instead of changing the name, residents believe the community should help others understand the differences and unique qualities of Long Island City.

“I think it’s unnecessary to change it for people that are not well informed,” said Esteban Varas, 23. “I mean we are all on Long Island.”

 

OpEd: Help grow the economy, eat out for Restaurant Week


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY SETH BORNSTEIN

“Let’s go out to eat!”

These words make us very happy. Sharing great food, drink and ambiance with friends and family puts us in a good mood.

Famous restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton once wrote that after years of dining at fancy restaurants she couldn’t wait to prepare and consume meals in the comforts of her home. So as her career was winding down, she renovated her kitchen, installing state-of-the-art appliances, cabinets and all sorts of cooking equipment. She even bought new cutlery and chinaware. Upon retirement, she made a delicious meal to share with her husband. Right afterward, she conceded that they enjoyed themselves, but they missed the excitement of eating out. In restaurants there were more choices, their conversations were richer, they liked being around people and of course someone else did the dishes!

Queens is in the center of the foodie map these days with Restaurant Week running October 8-11 and 15-18. More than 100 eateries – from Astoria to the Rockaways – are offering bargains, most commonly an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert for $25.

For Woodside resident Rita Manton, this is the time to get together with some beloved girlfriends at one of her all-time favorites, Dazies in Sunnyside. For Erika Campoverde, a college student from Richmond Hill, it’s the occasion to try some new places that she would never consider patronizing the rest of the year.

“I want to explore new neighborhoods and their food options,” she says.

Sounds like a great plan. As one would expect in the world’s most diverse county, the Restaurant Week options are endless: Thai, Greek, Chinese, kosher, French, Mexican, vegetarian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Argentinean, Cajun, Portuguese, Brazilian, Cuban, Indian, pub grub and of course, Italian.

The diners definitely win. But this promotion is also important for restaurant owners and employees, who work endless hours in an industry that always struggles during recessions, despite the fact that they provide wonderful service and products. Surveys that the Queens Economic Development Corporation conducted after last year’s Restaurant Week showed an average general increase in business of 20 percent at participating establishments.

“[Restaurant Week] gives the mainstay restaurants the opportunity to introduce perhaps a new menu, a renovation or introduce a new chef or concept,” said Laura Altimari, who works for Austin’s Steak and Ale House in Kew Gardens and Bayside’s Bourbon Street. “It is an opportunity for the restaurant to place their best culinary foot forward to impress the customer and gain steady, repeat business.”

Plus, the oft-derided borough across the river from internationally acclaimed Manhattan is finally getting the attention it deserves. The 2013 Zagat NYC Restaurant Survey, which was released last week, reviews 117 Queens restaurants, the highest number ever in this über-popular annual guidebook’s history. We’ve got Mojo!

So it looks like a win-win-win-win-win situation. Have fun, enjoy bargains, spend time with friends and family, help our beloved borough build its reputation as a “foodie paradise” and stimulate the local economy.

It’s Queens Restaurant Week 2012 and the living is easy.

Seth Bornstein is executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation

Ninth annual Queens Restaurant Week offers good food, great deals


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

Queens residents will be able to sample a slew of borough restaurants — and it won’t take a bite out of their budget.

The ninth annual Queens Restaurant Week kicks off next week with many eateries offering prix-fixe menus at $25 for a three-course meal. The focus is on restaurants in the borough that are widely ignored during NYC Restaurant Week.

“Sure, you can get great meals all over the city, but if you want the real thing, the real flavors, the real country you come out to Roosevelt Avenue, or Astoria Boulevard or Jamaica, there’s great places all over,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

That diversity was highlighted at the kickoff event outside Queens Borough Hall on Tuesday, October 2. Rain could not keep scores of foodies from sampling fare from restaurants offering Mexican, Cajun, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines.

“The first thing I did was get some clam chowder from London Lennie’s,” Borough President Helen Marshall said.

As people lined up to get a taste of what was to come, many raved about the wide array of eats.

“The pulled pork mac and cheese was amazing,” said Jamaica resident Betty Bishop about Bourbon Street’s offering.

Queens Restaurant Week had humble beginnings, Marshall said, having only about 10 eateries the first year. That list has now grown to nearly 100 and the positive response has resulted in it being extended to two weeks — October 8-11 and October 15-18.

“Last year was our first year [participating], and we did really well. We got a lot of new customers who kept coming back,” said Patty Medina, owner of Uncle Peter’s in Jackson Heights.

Restaurants from every corner of the borough are involved in the event. For a full list of participating restaurants click here.

Restaurant Week is presented by the Queens Tourism Council and is sponsored by Melrose Credit Union, JetBlue, Resorts World Casino New York City, Restaurant Depot, Tequila Sunrise of Bayside, The Queens Courier and The Best of the Boro.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 77. Breezy. Winds from the West at 15 to 20 mph shifting to the NNW in the afternoon. Monday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 57. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph.

EVENT of the DAY

Monday is the opening of a special retrospective exhibit of Swiss abstract artist H.A. Sigg. at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College. The exhibit ends October 26. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Career criminal surrenders in Queens shooting of highly decorated cop

A career criminal who was on the lam for about a month after shooting a highly decorated NYPD sergeant in Queens turned himself in Sunday, police said. Read more: New York Daily News 

Brooklyn, Queens locals clean up damage from two tornadoes

Cleanup efforts continued in Brooklyn and Queens on Sunday, a day after tornadoes roared through parts of both boroughs, and residents were relieved to know that no one was reported injured by the twisters. Read more: NY1

Queens carwash’s employees are first in city to join union

Workers at a carwash in Queens have overwhelmingly voted to join a union, organizers said Sunday, in the first major victory in a six-month effort in New York City to unionize workers in an industry the organizers say is rife with labor law violations. Read more: New York Times

Queens trio to launch co-working space in Astoria

A trio of Astorians are trying to entice local freelancers, entrepreneurs and stay-at-home employees out of their homes and corner coffee shops and into a communal working space. Read more: New York Daily News

Significant help reportedly on the way for those who got sick after 9/11

The 11th anniversary of 9/11 is just two days away, and now help may finally be on the way for those who got sick after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Read more: CBS New York

Obama squeaks out Aug. fundraising win over Romney

President Barack Obama squeaked out a fundraising victory over Mitt Romney in August as the candidates gear up for the final stretch of their closely contested campaign. Read more: AP

 

Competition to help you StartUP! your business


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Have an idea for a startup business? It may be worth $10,000.

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) launched its seventh annual Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition, which will award three businesses $10,000 to get their idea off the ground.

“We are extremely happy to offer StartUP! again,” said QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein.

The competition is backed by a $50,000 grant from the Citi Foundation.

The contest includes a series of free workshops beginning in October at the Jamaica branch of the Queens Library. Running through January, classes can also be taken via webinar.

“Entrepreneurial business is the bedrock of Queens’ economy. Queens Library has so many resources to help businesses grow and succeed,” said Thomas W. Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library.

StartUP! had well over 200 participants in 42 teams submit business plans to the judges last year. The winners included a plan for an all-natural premium ice cream and sorbet truck, Itizy Gourmet; a start-up that eliminates the need to dig through purses for personal items, Seez-it; and an accent-reduction services business, Social Enterprise.

For the first time, this year’s competition will include a $5,000 entrepreneurship award handed out to a Queens College student.

James Muyskens, president of Queens College, said the school’s inclusion this year reflects the “commitment to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit that is crucial to the borough’s development.”

To enter you must live in Queens and want to start a business that will be registered, owned and operated in the borough. Your business must still have less than $20,000 in revenue or still be in a concept phase.

Business plans are due by March 1, 2013.

For more info, visit www.queensny.org/qedc.

The QEDC crowns best in Queens Taste


| jlane@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Gary Leli

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) hosted the tenth annual Queens Taste 2012 festival at Citi Field on May 1. Fantastic food and refreshing beverages happily competed with unique networking opportunities and a festive atmosphere as 47 vendors and almost 1,000 individuals enjoyed at Citi Field’s Caesars Club on May 1.

Roughly 1,000 people attended the event to taste the food and beverages of 47 vendors. Queens Taste 2012 also included an art exhibit by Jackson Heights-based curator Zoescope, a stand up routine by Steve Hofstetter of the Laughing Devil Comedy Club in Long Island City and a special appearance by Mr. Met. During the taste competition, Magna Ristorante of Flushing won the Best Entrée Award for its Penne alla Siciliana and Pollo alla omana, and Bayside’s Papazzio Restaurant won the Best Appetizer Award for its Pasta e Fagioli. The Best Dessert award went to Long Island City-based Tropisec, which creates flowers and other edible designs from dried tropical fruits.

Visa Waiver Program may boost borough tourism


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

One Queens politician is attempting to boost tourism to the borough by opening the nation’s doors to more countries.

Congressmember Joe Crowley recently announced he will introduce a measure in the House of Representatives that would encourage the federal government to expand its Visa Waver Program to include at least three new countries – Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

The Visa Waiver Program currently allows visitors from 36 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Countries included in the program represented 65 percent of all tourists entering the country in 2010, amounting to the largest source of inbound travel that year. Crowley believes expanding the program will be greatly beneficial to Queens.

“We need to do all we can to make Queens a destination point, and not just a gateway to Manhattan,” said the congressmember. “The history and diversity of Queens has so much to offer to travelers, and increasing travel and tourism is one of the most effective tools we have in our pocket to spur job growth and foster economic activity on the local level. It’s simple: the easier it is for international tourists to visit the U.S., the more likely they will.”

Tourism generates $46.5 billion in economic impact for the city and supports over 300,000 jobs. While Manhattan may be the premier destination in New York, 25 percent of international travelers visited the outer-boroughs in 2010, and spent $6 billion there.

“Efforts that can lead to increased tourism opportunities are most welcome,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Congressmember Crowley’s measure will be a great help to maximize tourism and hospitality efforts in our nation’s most diverse county.”

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), which recently revived the Queens Tourism Council in an effort to unite businesses towards supporting tourism to the borough, also supported Crowley’s plan.

“As the most diverse county in the country, Queens has a great deal to offer visitors,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the QEDC. “The QEDC/Queens Tourism Council is supportive of Congressman Crowley’s efforts in showcasing our borough and encouraging more people to ‘Discover Queens’.”

 

From (Rooftop) Farm to (Restaurant) Table


| ddynak@queenscourier.com

Food and real estate. Not always in the same sentence, yet actually always connected. Our food (after it arrives from farms) is washed, sorted, peeled, processed, packaged and shipped from a warehouse in the industrial part of town. It is then sold as grocery or served by a waiter at a retail location near you. Or, for a great number of New Yorkers, delivered via bicycle, trucked by Fresh Direct, or mailed inside a box full of dry ice. It’s been this way for quite some time, ever since the farms of the Long Island began converting into factories and apartment buildings of today’s Queens County.

It seems what we eat, and how it is grown and prepared, is always undergoing transformation. For example, organizations like Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farms and BK Farmyards, among many others, grow food crops on rooftops and inside urban gardens. A growing number of restaurant chefs attempt to grow their own herbs and vegetables in the city. The most ambitious one: Valentino’s on the Green in Bayside will try to “produce 80 percent of the restaurant’s herbs, vegetables, fruits, fish, seafood and mushrooms using stacks of modified shipping containers”.

I myself have noticed increased tenant activity in the organic, sustainable and natural food category. From hydroponic farms inside warehouses to organic stores, neighborhoods like Long Island City and Astoria are slowly catching up to Brooklyn. From BluePrint Cleanse juices on 38th Street, to BAO Foods’s Kombucha Tea on Borden Avenue, ultra-healthy products made naturally or organically in Queens are making headlines nationally. BAO has even initiated a sort of a food incubator inside its factory, offering access to USDA-certified organic kitchen to start-ups and small operators who normally can’t afford access to commercial space or equipment. We’ve also worked recently with a gluten-free commercial bakery and raw cookies manufacturer. It seems everyone wants to come to this part of town because NYC is simply the most exciting market for these specialty foods.

Even the city government is chipping in. On 37th Street off Northern Boulevard, a special kind of Entrepreneur Space sponsored by Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) sits inside a warehouse: a Food and Business Incubator. It features 24/7 access to commercial kitchens, use of professional equipment, commercial refrigeration and office space for food start-ups, offered at below-market rates, allowing small businesses and newbie operations to get started without large capital investment and expensive overhead.

As food consumers, New Yorkers now have a grade system to help them choose a restaurant based on cleanliness. We judge restaurants using “A’s,” “B’s” and “C’s” as if we really understood how these grades are assigned. But looking at store shelves and menus, words like “organic,” “all-natural,” “raw” and “locally-grown” are on the rise and certainly in vogue. And, it is actually quite possible today to eat a whole meal made using ingredients entirely grown and prepared somewhere between 58th Street and the East River, between Bowery Bay and Newtown Creek. It’s come a full circle in a way, because as recently as 100 years ago most of Queens was actually all farmland. Take a trip to the Queens County Farm Museum to see the proof. Bon Appétit!