Tag Archives: Rego Park

Panda Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar: More than just great food


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Panda Asian Bistro

Among a plethora of chain restaurants, fast food joints, small eateries and convenience stores, there’s a new player on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park that is looking to change the game.

Panda Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar, which opened roughly six months ago, boasts a fusion of oriental specialties, and owners are considering expanding it as an entertainment venue.

“On Queens Boulevard, there are not many things you could do after night [fall],” co-founder Sam Cheng said. “We are trying to change it into an entertainment place rather than just pure restaurant. That’s the goal.”

The first floor of the restaurant has black and white striped walls and red bamboo sprinkled around near the windows. Every Friday night the eatery features a performer who does magic tricks.
Cheng said since it has been well received by patrons, they are considering expanding the performances.

A 1,200-square-foot, 80-seat party room for private events is located on the second floor of the restaurant. Cheng, who grew up in nearby Elmhurst, also said they are experimenting with turning the second floor into a lounge with live music.

Besides the entertainment value of Panda, the food is worth looking forward to. The eatery boasts a range of Asian specialties, including Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.

Appetizers are a mix of favorites such as gyoza dumplings, crispy duck rolls and Thai herbs calamari with an original spicy duck sauce.

Entrees, such as tender General Tso’s chicken and yaki udon, grace a wide menu, which includes many vegetarian choices as well.

Cheng said the sushi fish is bought from Japanese vendors, and rolled by a Japanese chef. There are plenty to choose from, including Yellowtail, ikura (salmon), ebi (shrimp), and maguro (tuna).

And so customers can fully enjoy the selection, Panda offers all-you-can-eat sushi every day for $19.95 on weekdays and $21.95 on weekends.
On top of the entertainment value and wide selection of dishes, customers should know that meals at Panda are free, if it’s your birthday.

Panda Asian Bistro
95-25 Queens Blvd., Rego Park
718-896-8811
Hours: Sunday –Thursday 11:00 am- 10:30 p.m.
Friday& Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Credit card: yes
Delivery: yes

 

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Parents ‘grateful’ after missing autistic Rego Park 12-year-old found safe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated 4:50 p.m.

An autistic 12-year-old boy who sprinted out of his Rego Park home Thursday was found safe in Brooklyn after a terrifying four hour search, police and family said.

Brandon Betancourt jetted out of his apartment complex on 66th Road near 67th Avenue about 7 a.m., police said.

“He just ran out,” said his father, Joe Betancourt. “He’s very fast. It’s hard to catch him. I’m just grateful he’s home.”

Police brought him to safety about 11 a.m., after a guidance counselor spotted him on the J train platform at the Broadway Junction subway station in Cypress Hills, about an hour journey from his home.

Brandon, who is incredibly smart, functions at a high level and knows his way around the city’s subway system, his father and neighbors said.

The boy also loves trains and has taken off a handful of times in the past, Joe and the building’s superintendent said.

“When I saw cops outside, I knew immediately,” the super said. “I told them to go to the subways.”

Joe said he fears his son does not understand the dangers of running away, even after the remains of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic 14-year-old who went missing in October, were found washed up in College Point two weeks ago.

“We try to tell him not to do this, especially after what happened to Avonte,” Joe said.

Avonte and Brandon are both from Rego Park. They were former classmates, though not at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, where Avonte was last seen leaving, Joe said.

“For parents of autistic kids, I want them to know they are runners. I don’t know what it is about that, but they tend to run,” Joe said. “Always be on alert.”

Though frightening, the situation is common, said Michelle López, who manages autism initiatives at Queens Museum. Similar scenarios are likely to increase as more families push for inclusion, she said. 

“We’re going to see more of these types of situations, where there will be a missing child with autism and people don’t know how to interact, when they see a wandering child who doesn’t respond to them,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware now.”

Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy organization, urges parents to secure homes with battery-operated door alarms, alert neighbors and consider identification bracelets or tracking devices.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer wants the Department of Justice to create and fund a program that would provide voluntary trackers for children with autism or other development disorders.

Councilmember Paul Vallone is drafting a bill, calling for a similar citywide program.

 

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Rego Park group to host 3D printing challenge for students


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Rego Park Green Alliance

The Rego Park Green Alliance, a group that fosters art and technology in Queens, will host a 3D printing pilot contest for children on May 4 at P.S. 175.

Nearly 100 students between the third and sixth grade will learn how to use 3D printing applications and create their own designs for the competition.

“The 3D printing tool is very interesting, because it doesn’t just teach math and engineering. It also teaches art,”said Yvonne Shortt, executive director of the Rego Park Green Alliance.

The organization has been working with the Queens Library to teach students and adults how to use 3D printers since last year. Now they are taking it directly to schools.

The group trained teachers in several local public and private schools, which will educate their students about 3D printing and design for the pilot challenge.

The children are tasked to design play sets on the computer and use 3D printers at school or through the Alliance. The winning designs will be chosen from three categories: innovation, collaboration and presentation. The students can create play sets from any theme that they like, as long as it fits in a 6-by-6-by-6 inch box.

The challenge comes from the idea to teach kids about emerging technology and incite creativity.
Shortt and her group believe that by introducing 3D printers to children, which is relatively new technology, it will help parents learn more about it.

Also, after learning how to make their creations from scratch, students will value their toys and other items more.

“This little toy is not going to end up on the floor, because it would have taken about 10 hours to design,” Shortt said. “It creates value after making it by hand.”

 

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Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

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Rego Park man has heart attack after complaint about neighbor’s dog


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Police, who were initially called to for a noise complaint in Rego Park, sprang into action to save the complainant from a heart attack.

Cops responded to Felix Royzman’s complaint about a neighbor’s dog at about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, when Royzman started to have chest pains and collapsed to the ground in cardiac arrest.

Officers responding to the complaint started chest compression on Royzman, and called for EMS.

EMS transported the man to North Shore Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, where is in stable condition.

The man was lodging a complaint about his  upstairs neighbor’s dog, according to reports, which allegedly makes loud noises as the pet walks through the house.

 

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Avonte Oquendo remembered as smiling, courageous boy at funeral


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Cristabelle Tumola / Avonte Oquendo photo: handout

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA 

After the search for autistic Rego Park teen Avonte Oquendo ended tragically, hundreds of mourners came out to say goodbye at his funeral Saturday, where he was remembered as a silent yet always smiling, courageous boy.

Family and friends gathered at a private ceremony held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home in Manhattan, where a “beautiful silence” took over the room, said Leslie Burch, a close family friend. Also among those paying respects was actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose son has autism.

Avonte’s father is consoled before a service for his son at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home.

Mourners then made their way to St. Joseph’s Church, just a few blocks away, where a public mass was led by former Archbishop of New York Edward Michael Egan.

“He was a strong, courageous young man who handled the struggle with autism with tremendous greatness and true nobility,” said Egan, standing next to a large portrait of Avonte wearing a blue striped shirt, which was also handed out on prayer cards.

Egan also took the time to thank and recognize the efforts that went into the nearly four month search for the missing 14-year-old after he was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

Avonte’s mother waits to place a white rose on her son’s casket.

Officials confirmed Tuesday that remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of Avonte. The cause and manner of  death are pending on future tests, according to the medical examiner.

“Police officers and various agencies of our beloved city made it no less clear that they too knew how precious Avonte was,” said Egan.

Although Avonte’s family decided not to speak during the services Saturday, his mother, together with his brothers and other mourners, laid white roses on top of his white casket following the release of doves outside of the church.

Another family member that attended the service was Avonte’s cousin and best friend 20 –year-old Noah Javan Conti from Woodside who is mildly autistic.

Rocopra Conti, who raised Noah and also attended the funeral, remembers the last time he saw Avonte. That day the teen grabbed Rocopra’s face and gave him one last look.

Noah Javan Conti, Avonte’s cousin and best friend, and Rocopra Conti.

“That was the last moment we shared,” said Rocopra. “I knew how to love him, I knew what he was feeling. I just wish I could have done more.”

Family attorney David Perecman, who spoke at the funeral mass, said that even though the search was concluded, the story is not finished yet.

“I must ask all of you, I ask that this not be the last chapter in this very sad story. We must have at least one more,” said Perecman. “This loss that this family has of Avonte cannot be in vain, we must find out how to fix our schools, we must find out how to fix the system of security that failed this boy.”

There have been conflicting reports on how Avonte, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave his school the day he went missing.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

Perecman also said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education, for wrongful death.

 

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Remains IDed as missing teen Avonte Oquendo


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 4:27

BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO, MAGGIE HAYES, CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE M. CULLEN 

The search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has come to a devastating end for his family who never gave up hope that he would return home alive.

Almost four months after he was last seen at his Long Island City school, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed remains found washed up in College Point are those of the missing autistic teen.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and is pending on future tests, according to spokesperson Julie Bolcer.

After a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday night near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Clothing discovered with the remains seemed to indicate that the search for Avonte could soon be over.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers found with the remains matched those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, including a skull, another arm, jaw and rib bones, as well as a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s older brother Daniel Oquendo Jr. took to Instagram Tuesday afternoon to remember the teen.

“Rest in peace little brother. This world never deserved you. I will long for the day I can join you in paradise. Forever in our hearts, prayers, and mind. Love You,” he said in the post.

Oquendo also took the time to thank all who helped the family search for his brother during the past few months.

“The tenacity the world, especially NYC, has shown in regards to finding Avonte and spreading awareness has been unmatched in comparison to any other missing child investigation. For that we are forever grateful to you,” he said.

At the end of the post, Oquendo asks everyone to respect his family and give them both space and time as they mourn Avonte. 

“Thank you for the prayers. God bless, and may Avonte rest in peace,” he said.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier her son was afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Earlier this month, Perecman obtained a Department of Education occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks. 

Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education (DOE), for wrongful death. 

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña released a statement Tuesday saying the school community is in mourning and extended her deepest condolences to Avonte’s family. 

“Over the past several months, I have been among the countless New Yorkers who have been holding our breath in hope that Avonte Oquendo would be found unharmed. And I am among the many who are heartbroken to learn the news today,” said Fariña. “As Chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again. Let Avonte remind us how important it is that we continue to look out for one another.”

 

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Attorney postpones $25M lawsuit as Avonte Oquendo’s family awaits test results


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 2:52

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

As tests are underway to determine if the human remains and clothing found in College Point belong to missing teen Avonte Oquendo, the family’s lawyer has decided to hold back on the lawsuit until the results are known.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police also found jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said. Another arm and a skull were additionally found over the weekend. As of Monday, the search is continuing at the scene in College Point. 

Police said most of the body has been recovered.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s family is still remaining hopeful, even though the developing investigation have been “weakening” for them, said Perecman.

“They’re a strong group so they’re doing the best they can,” said Perecman. “A small window has opened up of recognition of the grim reality. But they are still holding on hope.”

Perecman said they hope to have the test results by Wednesday.

He initially said on Friday that he would be filing a lawsuit Monday, focused against the Department of Education and school safety, seeking $25 million. Yet now he said he will be holding off with the lawsuit until the test results come in because the “nature of the lawsuit could change.”

The autistic teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

 

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Star of Queens: Aida Vernon, president, Briarwood Action Network


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

aida vernon

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Aida Vernon is the president of Briarwood Action Network, a civic association that addresses problems in the Briarwood community.

BACKGROUND:  Vernon was actually born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rego Park. She has been living in Briarwood since 1996. By day, Vernon is a lawyer, by night she is president of the Briarwood Action Network.

She started the Briarwood Action Network in the summer of 2011.  She wanted to create a forum for her neighbors to voice their community concerns. She formed this group out of the impulse to engage with neighbors.

“I, along with the collaboration of the members of the board, am very passionate to get people involved and helping the community,” said Vernon.

GOALS: According to Vernon, the Briarwood Action Network does not have one single focus.

“Along with the help of the NYC Department of Parks and the event “It’s My Park Day,” we were able to get our community involved in the beautification of [Hoover Park],” said Vernon.

In addition to holding informational meetings for the neighborhood to voice its concerns, the group has also conducted holiday food and toy drives, collecting 1,600 food items this holiday season. In the coming year, Vernon hopes to continue with the projects they have been working on.

BEST MEMORY:  Out of everything the Briarwood Action Network has accomplished Vernon said her favorite memory has to be the It’s My Park Day, which they have been holding every spring and fall.

“Everyone gets involved, from younger kids to senior citizens, they all come to plant flowers, listen to the live jazz music, and the event has proven to be a great way to get people involved.”

The Briarwood Action Network also received an award for its outstanding participation in  It’s My Park Day.

INSPIRATION: Vernon credits her fellow board members as her inspiration.  “They are all so passionate about what we do, and I could not have done it without them,” said Vernon.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  According to Vernon, their biggest challenge is getting more people actively involved. “Our key goal is to inspire others to do with us,” she said.

KATELYN DISALVO

 

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Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant set to close after nearly 70 years


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A beloved Queens eatery that has fed generations for nearly 70 years will soon be serving up its last course.

Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant, a neighborhood fixture at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, will close March 2, as longtime owners prepare for retirement.

“We just want to sit back for a little while, relax and breathe the fresh air,” said owner John Abbracciamento, 60 . “It’s bittersweet. But, basically, it’s time.”

The Italian eatery opened in 1948 under Abbracciamento’s father, Joe. Over time, it became a staple in the borough.

“We’ve taken care of people from the day they were born,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s a wonderful treat to be a part of their lives and some of the most important occasions that they would celebrate. We will sadly miss that part of it.”

Abbracciamento has known the restaurant life since he was 13.

It was not an easy decision to put it to rest after the baton was passed down to him from his late father, Abbracciamento said. But it was a necessary one.

“It was my father’s dream,” he said. “My brother and I kept it going. But I’ve just come to the point in my life where I just need some time to clear my head and move forward.”

“We had a nice, long run — a very successful run,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s just time to just relax a little bit.”

Longtime patrons said the loss of the local icon is a blow to the Queens dining scene and to the community.

“I’m sad. I’ve known them for 30 years,” said Leon Sorin. “They’ve been working hard for many years. Maybe it’s time.”

John Harrington, 73, has been coming for the “out of this world” lasagna for 38 years.

“I was shocked when I heard it was closing,” he said. “It’s a shame because you don’t have any good restaurants around.”

Ed Wendell, a lifelong Queens resident, called the restaurant “the go-to place” for Italian cuisine.

“It’s one of those places where a lot of people are going to look back now and say, ‘Man, I wish I had gone more,’” he said. “It will be missed.”

 

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Report shows timeline of day Avonte Oquendo went missing


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

It has been almost four months since Avonte Oquendo  disappeared and new information on the day the autistic teen went missing has surfaced, leaving larger questions, according to the boy’s family’s attorney.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on  Oct. 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

According to a Department of Education occurrence report obtained by David Perecman, an attorney for Avonte’s family, a timeline shows what happened before, during and after the boy went missing.

The 14-year-old boy was part of a class with three people watching the group. The number of children in the class is still unknown, according to the report. The group entered the stairwell on the fifth floor and then exited on the second floor, but in the middle of the descent Avonte got away from the group and made his way to the first floor.

The boy then is seen through surveillance cameras walking by the security desk twice before leaving the side door, on Center Boulevard, which had been left opened, according to the report. A few minutes later, a school safety agent closed the door.

According to the report, the boy’s teachers did not notice him missing until 12:40 p.m. and did not notify the assistant principal until 12:56 p.m. who then went to the safety agent at the main desk who told her she had not seen Avonte leave the school. Instead, she emphasized she had seen the boy go up the stairs.

Perecman said the safety agent’s story does not match the surveillance tape that shows the boy leaving the school. He also said the agent initially told Avonte’s grandmother she had not stopped the boy from leaving the school because she didn’t know he was disabled.

“It’s really very distressing to think these are the people watching over your children,” said Perecman. “This place is dysfunctional. These kids should be watching the teachers.”

The timeline report also shows the school administration did not know Avonte had left the building until almost two hours later because they did not have the security codes needed to access the surveillance tapes, according to Perecman.

Perecman also said a lockdown was not put into effect until 2 p.m. because the assistant principal’s initial request for a “soft lockdown” was denied to make sure they did not “upset other students.”

The Department of Education did not respond for comment.

Volunteers and family searching for the boy moved from their outdoor Long Island City headquarters to an indoor one at 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria

The new headquarters will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Star of Queens: Jessame Hannus, Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee co-chair; Biking Public Project co-founder


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

DSC_0408

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jessame Hannus is the co-chair of Transportation Alternatives (TA) Queens Activist Committee and a co-founder of the Biking Public Project.

BACKGROUND: By night Hannus is an activist, but by day she works as an insurance broker. “I have no training in urban planning, but have long been fascinated with the correlation between planning community, what makes a healthy neighborhood or shopping district, and how environment contributes to that. I grew up in a fairly suburban community with the amazing good fortune to have free public transportation and moved from there to Los Angeles and then New York,” said Hannus. “I have never actually owned a car! Even in LA I took the city bus.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “Getting involved with TA Queens Committee really changed my life. I got to know a truly phenomenal community of caring and committed people who I now call friends,” said Hannus. Being part of the committee has allowed Hannus to be empowered to become a better public speaker and organizer.

One of Hannus’ favorite events was the “Around the World in Dumplings” ride she led last January. During the ride the group sampled cuisine from eight different countries in a seven-mile ride, and each stop Hannus gave the group some information about ongoing activism in the immediate neighborhood. “I loved being able to share my love of food, the culture of Queens and spread the word about community involvement in a way that was fun,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: According to Hannus, the biggest challenge with complete streets advocating in Queens is explaining the concept to those who are not looped in to the urban planning community. “Time and time again I encounter people who cannot envision a way things could be better. It can be disheartening and discouraging, so I can only imagine how the DOT [Department of Transportation] and City Planning feel when they encounter this sentiment time and time again when presenting their proposals to community,” said Hannus.

INSPIRATION: Living in many neighborhoods in New York City, Hannus encountered a whole new set of transportation challenges when she moved to Rego Park. “Sandwiched between Woodhaven and Queens Boulevard, I quickly discovered that finding safe bike routes would be very difficult. I found TA because I was looking for people to ride with to help me navigate this confusing and dangerous streetscape.”

Then, after a number of years involved in the advocacy, a friend of Hannus, spurred by the lack of representation of minorities and working cyclists in the advocacy movement, started the idea for a group to address that lack. The Biking Public was created.

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s mother won’t give up as search headquarters relocate to Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

It has been more than two months since Avonte Oquendo went missing from his Long Island City school, and all his mother wants is to bring him home for Christmas.

“Avonte is still missing. A lot of people think he’s been found and I want them to know that he is still missing and we need to find him,” said Vanessa Fontaine, the autistic teen’s mother. “He has been too long without his mother. I just want to have him home for Christmas.”

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, who family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and drove around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls. Volunteers have posted fliers with Avonte’s photo and information throughout the city.

Family and volunteers searching for the boy were operating out of an RV located on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard, and tents outside of Avonte’s school. Yet, due to the cold weather, the volunteer headquarters has moved indoors to 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria and are in need of more volunteers, said Fontaine.

Fontaine said she believes someone might have her son and is asking for whoever does to drop him off at a public area, attach a note saying “I’m the missing boy, call 9-1-1,” and go on their way.

“I just want my son,” she said. “I’m not going to send any negative vibes to that person. I just want my child, that’s it.”

She also said that if anyone spots Avonte or thinks that it might be him, they should not wait, but should call 9-1-1 immediately and let police know the location.

The new headquarters, which will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, will function as a permanent location until Avonte is brought home safe and sound, said a volunteer. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information, visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Ben’s Best: A New York classic


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

While many kosher delicatessens around the country have come and gone, Ben’s Best in Rego Park has remained a staple in the neighborhood for nearly 70 years, using one simple rule.

Owner Jay Parker, a Rockaway native, makes certain the restaurant is a master of one trade. The menu at the eatery has not changed much since his father, Benjamin, opened it in 1945 and they have not tried to branch off into other areas of the food industry.

From day one, Ben’s Best has produced high-quality kosher deli sandwiches, sides and classic entrees.

“You come here for a particular item,” Parker said. “People step through the door, they want to step back in time. They want to remember the old days.”

Parker assumed control of the restaurant after his father passed away in 1984. When he was younger he didn’t want to own the deli.

Parker was a bond trader on Wall Street, who was let go after his company was sold. It was then that he had an epiphany and turned down offers from other Wall Street companies.

“I remember walking out of that building and I said I will never ever place myself in a position where somebody else will decide whether or not I make a living,” Parker said.

The deli offers all kinds of kosher overstuffed sandwiches including flavorful pastrami, turkey, roast beef and bologna, among other meat selections. For about 35 years Parkers has been buying these meats from the same vendor.

Crunchy pickles, coleslaw and thick-cut french fries, golden brown to perfection, are popular sides on the menu.

The deli has various soups, such as old-fashioned chicken soup, which are made fresh from scratch every day.

The deli also serves wraps, salads and various entrees, including salmon and steak, but sandwiches are its specialty. In fact, it has unique sandwiches named after community leaders, such as former Congressmember Gary Ackerman, which is corned beef, turkey and onions with a Russian dressing.

The restaurant even offers a special sandwich-eating challenge for really hungry customers or people looking to push their stomachs.

The Ben’s Best Challenge is a whopping pound of deli meat– corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, turkey and salami– on a club roll, a 20-ounce bowl of matzo soup, a half-pound of coleslaw, two pickles and two orders of french fries.

Anyone who finishes the entire meal will receive a mug, be entered in a raffle to win a $100 Ben’s Best gift certificate, and have their picture on the wall of the restaurant and its Facebook account.

Ben’s Best
96-40 Queens Boulevard
718-897-1700
Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
And 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Wheelchair accessible

 

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Op-ed: Proposals for QueensWay project


| oped@queenscourier.com

ASSEMBLYMEMBER MIKE MILLER

I want to take a moment to address the QueensWay project, a proposed public greenway that will transform the Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Branch, which was abandoned over 50 years ago. Specifically, the former railroad extends 3.5 miles from Rego Park and Forest Hills down to Ozone Park. This proposed project is one of great concern to many residents in certain areas of the rail line due to its potential negative impact on the local residents.

Certain sections of the proposed QueensWay, specifically the area of the rail line that runs parallel to 98th Street in Woodhaven, will be adjacent to the backyards of nearly 200 homeowners. Although I have been informed by the Friends of QueensWay that they plan to build the QueensWay completely gated around the entrances and make it inaccessible at night, local residents should not be the ones burdened with the cost of building a more secure fence around their backyards to ensure the privacy and safety of their home.

To find additional evidence of the resident’s safety concern, you do not have to look any further than several incidents that have occurred in and around the vicinity of Forest Park in recent years. I echo the sentiments of residents by asking how can we expect the local precincts to carry the additional responsibility of patrolling and responding to incidents on the proposed QueensWay when our precincts are already being spread too thin within our district as it is? Many of the residents on 98th Street are okay with the rail line being underutilized and prefer it stay that way. I also agree that the rail line from Park Lane South down to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of the local residents.

Further, as per the suggestion of the MTA in its 20-year plan, the rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard should be left as is and eventually be used as a connection for an express line connection into Manhattan.

After carefully balancing the potential positive impact of the QueensWay versus the potential negative impact on certain local residents, I recommend that:

1) The QueensWay be built only on the part of the rail line that stretches from Rego Park to Park Lane South

2) The rail line from Park Lane South to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of local residents; and

3) The rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard also be left untouched, so it can eventually be used by the MTA as an express line connection into Manhattan

In regards to maintenance of the QueensWay, it must be said that this proposed project should not at all be compared to The High Line public greenway in Manhattan. I remain unconvinced that The QueensWay when built from Rego Park to Park Lane South could achieve anywhere close to the level of corporate membership, sponsorship, and support the High Line in Manhattan has based solely on the lack of surrounding businesses in the area and the lower level of tourism that attracts the private funding necessary to maintain a public greenway. Without a consistent level of support and sponsorship from local businesses in addition to private funding, I fear that the QueensWay will eventually become an eyesore for local residents when funding for maintenance becomes an issue.

Additionally, I am interested to know whether Queens-based companies and local businesses will be the ones who are given the contracts to build out this proposed project. I believe that if the QueensWay is going to be built for the benefit of Queens residents and if it will positively impact Queens’ local businesses, then why are there currently no Queens-based companies being sought for the contracts even in the early stages of this project? I can only see a positive impact on the economy of Queens if our own borough’s businesses benefit from building the QueensWay.

Michael G. Miller represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale. He was elected in September of 2009 in the Special Election called by Governor David Paterson.

 

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