Tag Archives: Rego Park

Queens magician to perform on ‘America’s Got Talent’


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC / Below photos courtesy of Roger “Rogue” Quan


Will Briarwood resident Roger “Rogue” Quan be able to work his magic on the “America’s Got Talent” judges this Tuesday night?

The 35-year-old owner of Rogue Magic and Funshop in Elmhurst will appear on the July 1 episode where he will perform a “dangerous magic” act.

Quan is not only aiming for the reality competition’s $1 million prize, but also hopes the show will help him become a world-known performer.

His passion for magic started when he was 6 years old and saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear.

“After that I guess I got bit by the magic bug,” Quan said.

He was soon asking his family to buy him magic tricks, reading books on the art and started performing for whoever wanted to watch, even charging for the shows.

Growing up in Queens, where he lived in Jackson Heights most of his life, magic was just a hobby for Quan.

Following college, the art major had several jobs, but “nothing made me totally happy but performing,” he said.

Quan then took to the streets to sell magic tricks out of a backpack and perform. He later moved the operation to his parent’s home, where people would also come to learn from him.

But Quan knew he needed a proper space and in 2000 found a Rego Park bookstore that had a counter he could use for his burgeoning business. After seven months, the store had to close down, and he decided it was time for his own store. But it wasn’t easy to find someone who would rent to a young man with a magic shop.

He eventually found an affordable space at his current location at 85-08 Queens Blvd., and opened his store in August 2000.

“I was like the king of Queens,” Quan said, describing his business when it first started.

With the Internet and competition from other stores, business is much tougher for his magic shop today, he admits.

“As technology progresses people have seen the bigger things in the world, and magic is pushed aside. It is hard to really impress people nowadays.”

In addition to selling magic tricks, magic performance DVDs, spy equipment and costumes, his store also provides magic classes, entertainers for hire, and has magic and comedy shows.  But he is now trying to transition the business into more of a magic school.

He also has another venture, the Rogue Magic Bar, which opened inside of Panda Asian Bistro in Rego Park this March. The bar, which is about “bringing Vegas to Queens,” features magically-served drinks, magic shows and other entertainment.

As Quan tries to promote his businesses, he is trying to boost his magic career, and “America’s Got Talent” could be his way to do it.

Friends and family were telling him to try out for the show for a long time, but a tweet from the show, saying they were looking for unique talent like him, finally persuaded him to go for it.

“I’m not a very competitive person,” he said.

Quan does everything from close-up to stage magic, including card tricks and illusions with levitation, but excels at magic that has an element of danger to it, which he performed for “America’s Got Talent” judges  Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.

“I really enjoy the danger magic because of the way people react. It’s priceless,” Quan said.

Quan is not the first Queens resident to appear on “America’s Got Talent” this season.

Mike “Mighty Atom Jr.” Greenstein , a 93-year-old Rockaway man, performed his strongman act on the season nine premiere last month, where he earned three out of four yeses from the judges.

To see how Quan did on the July 1 episode of “America’s Got Talent,” click here

 

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Astoria-based Stitchin’ Queens brings together members with a love for crafts


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jaime Burger

An Astoria-based group is knitting together women of all ages from throughout Queens who share a love for crafts.

Stitchin’ Queens is a knitting, crochet, needlework and general craft group that gets together every two weeks at the Astoria Panera Bread, located at 38-01 35th Ave., to practice the craft, eat and socialize.

The group originally began in 2007 under a different name and in 2012 Danielle Burger, who was a member of the group since it started, took over and changed the name. Since then, Burger has started to advertise the group and establish a Facebook presence as well, in order to attract new members.

“I really enjoyed [the group] because you get to meet other people you wouldn’t otherwise meet,” said Burger, who moved to Rego Park from Astoria in 2008. “It’s not a place to come and put your head down and just knit or crochet. It’s a social experience.”

Burger has also created a group on Ravelry.com, a website for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to share information and research projects, patterns and much more.

Stitchin’ Queens, which varies in the number of members because some move or can’t make meetings, according to Burger, not only brings together people who share the same love for the craft but also opens doors for members to socialize and learn from each other.

Cheryl Pasternack, 67, from Kew Gardens has been involved in Stitchin’ Queens since 2008 and found it to be a great outlet to pick up knitting once again since stopping in her college years.


                                 Cheryl Pasternack knitting 

“I wanted to start knitting again and I knew that unless I got involved in a group I wouldn’t do it,” said Pasternack, who is currently knitting a sweater and hat for her nephew who will be born in August. “I am older than most of the people in the group and I find that it is amazing because it opened a whole new world for me.”

Pasternack said the group members have helped her develop the skill being left-handed and also help her whenever she has issues with technology.

Astoria resident Franchesca Bisignano, 26, has been knitting for the past three years and says she likes the environment of getting together with the members of Stitchin’ Queens and attends the meetings for the social aspect.

“You get to interact and see what other people are working on,” Bisignano said. “It’s a great way to get ideas on new projects. It’s just amazing — the spectrum of women that you meet is so broad and its women that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. We get along so well, we have the same characteristics.”

The next Stitchin’ Queens meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18. For more info visit www.facebook.com/stitchin.queens.

 

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New retail space coming to Rego Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering Courtesy of Winick Realty Group

New retail opportunities are coming to Rego Park just blocks from three major Queens malls.

Leasing has begun on 8,095 square feet of ground retail space at 92-77 Queens Blvd., which is currently under construction, Winick Realty Group announced. The site is expected to be move-in ready by 2015.

“We truly believe that this is an unparalleled opportunity for any retailer to position themselves in front of three major malls, Queens Boulevard, the Long Island Expressway, two subway lines and 10 bus lines,” said Winick Realty Group real estate broker Robert Heicklen.

Located adjacent to Rego Center and blocks away from Queens Center and Queens Place malls, 92-77 offers retailers 35 feet of all-glass frontage on 93rd Street and front- and rear-facing backlit signage.

Deals including one for a 16,000-square foot fitness center and another for a “well-known national coffee brand” are pending for two of the three spaces on the property, according to Winick Realty Group. The overall site features a 400-square-foot loading dock and on-site parking.

According to a Winick Realty Group online flyer, Retro Fitness and Starbucks are expected soon.

“Winick Realty Group is excited to represent this type of high-profile, high-visibility exclusive as we continue to expand our leasing efforts in the borough of Queens,” said Winick Realty Group President Steven Baker.

 

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Suspects try to nab birds from Rego Park pet store: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Two men are accused of stealing an assortment of birds from a Rego Park pet store, minutes after trying to burglarize a dental office down the street.

In addition to taking the animals, the pair also swiped bird cages from the Petland Discounts on 63rd Drive near Saunders Street at about 3:20 a.m. Wednesday before dumping them in a nearby alleyway, cops said.

The break-in triggered the store alarm and the manager was called, according to police. The birds, which included a white ringneck, a red bronze canary and several varieties of finches, along with three cages, were then found next to the store.

Around 2:55 a.m., the suspects also attempted to burglarize a dentist office, located at 94-24 63rd Drive, but fled without taking anything, officials said.

Police describe both suspects as 17 to 20 years old and about 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall.

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

 

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EXCLUSIVE: A new old way to look at the New York State Pavilion


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Natali S. Bravo

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

 

Many people dream of time travel, but Rego Park freelance photographer Natali Bravo has actually completed a photo essay through time.

Using a 1964 World’s Fair Kodak camera and vintage film, Bravo captured the opening of the New York State Pavilion to the public last month through the same lens that people a half-century ago would have been able to use. She developed and released the photos exclusively to The Courier for readers to view.

Bravo, who is also a camera collector, found the old Kodak being sold online from a woman in Virginia in February. It was a bargain at $25, as currently, the rare camera runs for about five times that price on average on eBay.

About two months later, the shutterbug found someone selling six rolls of vintage film for just $35. And a week after that, she learned that the New York State Pavilion — a space-like relic left over from the 1964-65 World’s Fair — would be opening to the public for the first time in decades.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Bravo said. “I had the camera and the film, so the universe was telling me something here.”
She seized the opportunity to capture the event with her vintage Kodak.

With her half-century-old Kodak slung by her side, Bravo shot 39 frames from the camera of the pavilion, politicians and people viewing the wonders of the structure.

The Darkroom, a business in California, developed the images, which revealed rich black-and-white shots of the modern day pavilion opening, making the event look as though it took place 50 years ago.

Bravo felt delighted to know that she was able to shoot photos the same way people did decades ago.

“For a photographer traveling is very significant,” Bravo said. “To be able to travel through time is beyond words.”

 

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‘Dangerous’ Elmhurst intersection to get crossing guard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Pedestrians and school children will soon be able to safely cross a busy Elmhurst intersection.

Last year, state Sen. Jose Peralta called on the Department of Transportation to study the intersection of Junction Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway and restore a school crossing guard to ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially school children, who cross the “dangerous” thoroughfare.

P.S. 206, located at 61-02 98th St., is near the heavily trafficked area. Students cross the intersection on their way between home and school every day.

“The children and the parents are in great danger each time they navigate this intersection because the drivers do not drive with care or follow traffic regulations,” P.S. 206 Principal Joan Thomas wrote in February, requesting to bring back a school crossing guard. “In addition, we have had some instances in which some of our walkers have been harassed on their way to school in the morning and there is no adult present who can assist them.”

The 110th and 112th Precincts had previously told Peralta that a crossing guard was that assigned to the area because  guards are stationed at other nearby intersections.

Now, after Peralta renewed the call for a crossing guard once Vision Zero was implemented, he has learned that the 112th Precinct will assign a crossing guard to P.S. 206 in the upcoming months.

“This is a very dangerous intersection for children and there’s simply no substitute for the direct, hands-on traffic control and help that a crossing guard provides to kids,” Peralta said. ”Thankfully, a crossing guard will finally be reinstated there.”

 

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NYS Pavilion recognized as ‘National Treasure’ on World’s Fair anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

The New York State Pavilion, a surviving relic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, was named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the famed event.

Following the recognition on Tuesday, the Parks Department opened the Pavilion to the public for the first time for decades. The Pavilion recently received a fresh coat of paint from the advocacy group New York State Pavilion Paint Project, but its space-like structures have rusted over and it is in need of repair.

The hope is that the designation, which puts it among nearly 40 other historic places and buildings around the country, would help attract funds — estimated to be at least $43 million — to save it.

“For a long time the future of this building was a question mark,” said Paul Goldberger, a board member of the nonprofit group. “But in time it will not be a question mark at all, I think it will be a different piece of punctuation. It will be a great exclamation point in the middle of a resurgent Queens.”

In its heyday, the Pavilion featured the Tent of Tomorrow, three towers and the Theaterama, which is now the nearby Queens Theatre. When it was constructed, the Tent of Tomorrow had a $1 million map of New York State on its floor, made of 567 mosaic panels weighing 400 pounds each and colorful stained glass panels on its ceiling. Two of the towers had cafeterias for the fair, while the tallest, which stands at 226 feet, was used as an observation deck.

“It’s not what it was,” said Elaine Goldstein of Howard Beach, who visited both 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs. “It’s hurtful to see that it went into disrepair.”

Thousands of people from all walks of life, many of whom had a connection to the Pavilion, walked through the gates with hard hats to tour the aged structure.

“This is the greatest moment of my life,” said Natali Bravo, a resident from Rego Park, who was shooting pictures of the Pavilion with a 1964 Kodak World’s Fair Camera. “This is the first time I’m actually setting foot in here. To actually be photographing this event the way it was meant to be photographed with this camera is a very special thing.”

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Woman throws coffee, punch at F train rider: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A 53-year-old woman received quite a jolt on a Queens subway train last week when a fellow rider threw coffee in her face before punching her, according to police.

The assault happened aboard an F train as it was traveling through the Rego Park/Forest Hills area on April 2, cops said.

The victim received minor injuries as a result of the attack, officials said.

Police have released a photo of the woman wanted in the assault and describe her as about 5 feet 1 inch tall.

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

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Suspect swiping checks from Queens mailboxes


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A suspect has been raiding Queens mailboxes for checks, then cashing them in for larger amounts of money, according to police.

Cops said eight thefts have taken place around Yellowstone Boulevard or 108th Street between Dec. 29 and March 22.

After the checks were removed from the mailboxes, they were each altered to a larger sum of money and deposited into ATMs, officials said. The suspect or suspects then take the cash from the accounts.

Police have released a photo of a suspect taken from a Bank of America ATM taken at 248 East Fordham Rd.

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

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s brother shares family’s experience, thanks volunteers in blog post


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

One of Avonte Oquendo’s older brothers is sharing what his family went through in the four months during the 14-year-old’s disappearance.

“Every minute we spent in the dark about the whereabouts felt like years of torture,” wrote Daniel Oquendo Jr. in a March 21 blog post for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

He recounted the fear and pain his family felt as they tried to find Avonte, who was autistic and could not verbally communicate. He described how during the first few days the family did not sleep, barely ate and felt as if they had nowhere to turn.

The teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

According to Oquendo, Avonte entered a frightened and panic state after running out of his school and possibly jumped into the East River and drowned. The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte’s death as undetermined.

Oquendo wrote that as his family was “overcome with grief and hopelessness,” they turned to the people of New York City to work together and gather volunteers to search for Avonte. As word began to spread, they encountered help through New Yorkers and out of state volunteers, who he thanked for all their dedication and prayers.

“It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city,” Oquendo wrote.

 

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LAST COURSE: Patrons say goodbye to Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Rosanne Aliperti celebrated one wedding and 23 birthdays at Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant.

And 84-year-old Nathan Boland sometimes made the trip twice a day, rain or shine, for a good chicken Parmesan.

Thousands of diners like them left with full stomachs and empty hearts Sunday on the beloved Italian restaurant’s last day in business.

“It was like one big family here. It’s a shame,” said Maspeth regular MaryAnn Papavero. “It’s very depressing to think this is their last day when it was such a great institution.”

The neighborhood fixture at 62-96 Woodhaven Blvd. in Rego Park served hungry diners from across the city and Long Island for nearly 70 years. It opened in 1948 under Joe Abbracciamento and was later taken over by his sons, John and Joe Jr.

But after working in the restaurant since they were teenagers, the brothers plan to retire.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling, seeing the thousands of people who showed up today,” John, 60, said. “It’s a tribute to my father and my family, and it will be an everlasting memory.”

The decision to close was heartbreaking until the last hour, said his wife, Marie, after embracing customers — some who had grown into close friends.

“It’s very emotional for us,” said Marie, holding back tears. “We really don’t want to say goodbye to anyone. It’s going to be very hard to leave the people.”

People like Aliperti, 45, who walked into the restaurant on her wedding day on April 7, 1990 and essentially never left.

“I’ve spent every special day here — my wedding, every birthday, bridal showers, every anniversary,” said Aliperti, while wiping away tears. “They’re a part of our lives. I’ve had every beautiful moment here.”

The last day was also bittersweet for 86-year-old Mary Schmalenberger, who associates decades of happy memories with the longstanding corner eatery.

The senior has trouble walking and had not left the house in months, but made the trip from Middle Village to say goodbye.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” she said. “There will never be another Abbracciamento.”

 

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NYC business owner offers to dig out your car for free


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

This season’s snow has left New Yorkers with plenty of winter woes, but one local businessman wants to help ease one.

Bill Lerner, owner of garage firm iPark, is offering to dig motorists parked within a five block radius of any of his 125 parking garages out of the snow for free.

If a driver’s car is stuck, call 917-209-2105 and someone will be dispatched to help.

“We just want to be a good neighbor to everybody in the community,” Lerner said. “I think we all need to help each other out.”

Following one of the recent storms, Lerner was walking around Manhattan, where he lives, and noticed all the cars locked in the “frozen tundra” of ice and snow.

Lerner then realized he had hundreds of men at his disposable who could lend a hand.

During the morning and evening commutes, from 7 to 10 a.m., and 4 to 7 p.m., his garage workers are busy. But in between those hours they have time to grab a shovel and start digging, he thought.

Shoveling out a car is strenuous work, he said, but many of his employees are young and physically fit.

In Queens, there are five iPark garages in Rego Park and Forest Hills, located at 105-25 Gerard Pl., 110-45 Queens Blvd., 98-10 64th St., 98-33 63rd Dr. and 62-60 99th St..

There are also garages throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. For their locations, click here.

It’s best to call between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Lerner said, when his men are likely to be available.

The offer is good “until the snow melts.”

He hopes next year’s winter will not be as bad as this one. But, Lerner said if it is, he is “going to pitch in and help the community” again.

 

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John Messer ‘seriously considering’ another State Senate run


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

John Messer is mulling over another State Senate run, he told The Courier.

“I am dedicated to this community, which is why I have been driven towards public service and am seriously considering a run for New York State Senate,” he said.

It would be the Oakland Gardens attorney’s third try at defeating incumbent State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who has held the seat for nearly 15 years.

Most recently, Messer lost a contentious two-way Democratic primary to Stavisky in 2012. 

The heated race was waged principally on negative campaign attacks. Stavisky won 58 percent of the vote.

But Messer said he has not lost momentum since then.

“I believe now, more than ever, that this is a community I want to represent,” said the 43-year-old small business owner. “If anything, it’s a stronger feeling.”

“There are things you to look at before you decide to run — finances, family,” Messer said. “We’ll make a decision soon.”

Mike Murphy, a Senate Democratic spokesperson, said Stavisky has been a “vocal ally” for middle class families and recalled Messer’s previous losses.

“She enjoys wide support from all corners of her diverse district and has now defeated Mr. Messer twice despite the fact that he has spent over $1 million,” Murphy said. “The voters of the district see Mr. Messer for what he is — a Republican surrogate.”

The district encompasses parts of Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights.

 

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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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