Tag Archives: Ridgewood

Ridgewood and Bushwick featured at first QNS Real Estate Conference


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Ridgewood and Bushwick were highlighted as up-and-coming hubs of the real estate market during the first QNS Real Estate Conference, hosted by The Queens Courier and the Real Estate Board of New York.

Hundreds of investors, companies and people looking to learn more about the booming real estate market in Queens filled the room at Terrace on the Park, located at 52-11 111th St. in Flushing, for the QNS Real Estate Conference on Thursday, Feb. 26.

A panel of leading real estate experts was on hand to speak about the current state of Ridgewood and Bushwick and the possible future of the neighborhoods.

The panel included Lance Bertrand, licensed real estate salesperson for Halstead Property, LLC; Sal Crifasi, CEO, licensed real estate broker, Crifasi Real Estate; Jamie Wiseman, principal, Cayuga Capital Management, LLC; Mitchell Rutter, CEO and founding partner of Essex Capital; and Tony Argento, the president of Broadway Stages. The discussion was moderated by Liam La Guerre, the real estate editor for The Queens Courier.

Crifasi, having his business established in Queens since 1979, knows the area well. When asked what is the driving force in attracting people to the Ridgewood area, he said, “the driving force, I feel, is what drives most people, affordability and transportation.”

Ridgewood and Bushwick are growing communities, making real estate more affordable than neighboring communities. The L line runs right through the heart of the communities, giving residents easy access to other areas of the city.

Ridgewood is a unique community with 2,100 historic properties. Due to these landmarked buildings, Crifasi said investors should be careful because “you can’t change the facade, but you can do interior work. They’re still a great investment because of the appreciation value.”

“I think that whole area, both along the L train in Bushwick and up into Ridgewood, is an area of focus, particularly the retail district along Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood which is actually, I think, going to change rapidly as that whole area continues to grow,” Wiseman said of the area.

Although, the area is growing, from an investment standpoint there are challenges in investing.

“The ability to actually make rental properties work,” Wiseman said is one of the major challenges facing investors in Ridgewood and Bushwick.

Rutter, with his company, is working on two sites in Ridgewood, at 16-14 and 16-26 Madison St. These old warehouses will be converted into a 90-unit building, creating more apartments for residents.

“We are looking to attract the following: sharers, … new families, or those just out of college looking to start a career,” Rutter explained.

Argento recently purchased a large swatch of land in Glendale for his film production company, Broadway Stages.

“I’m overwhelmed with how great it is,” Argento said of the Glendale community, and Ridgewood as a whole.

Argento said that while looking for warehouse space his company was priced out of many markets, “so Glendale was a natural place to go.”

Bertrand said that rent is going up across the board in both Ridgewood and Bushwick, with Bushwick having a majority of industrial spaces and Ridgewood having more row houses.

The Bushwick native echoed the sentiments of many of the panelists by saying, “the main attractions for these areas are affordability, a lot of people who were priced out of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are now looking for these areas to find a new home, and transportation is a very valuable point in these areas.”

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CB 5 committees pan Cross Harbor Tunnel plans


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

File photo

Building a Cross Harbor Tunnel would shift the tri-state area’s traffic problems into Brooklyn and Queens, members of the Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit committees declared during a meeting Tuesday night in Glendale.

Panelists panned options in the Port Authority’s Cross Harbor Freight Program that call for a train tunnel or a combined train/truck tube through the harbor between rail yards in New Jersey and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The options include increased activity on the Long Island Rail Road’s Bay Ridge line and the connecting Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale — the only freight rail terminal linking geographic Long Island and the rest of the country.

Though the Port Authority claims the tunnel plans would help reduce tractor-trailer traffic on its existing Hudson River and harbor crossings, Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri charged, the proposal wouldn’t remedy congestion, but rather move it elsewhere in the city.

According to Arcuri, the tunnel plans included the creation or expansion of intermodal shipping facilities and warehouses near the Fresh Pond Rail Yard as well as Maspeth and East New York. At these sites, goods would be loaded and off-loaded between train cars and small trucks. Citing analysis performed by the Glendale-based Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), Arcuri stated, the tunnels would effectively add hundreds of truck trips each day onto local streets.

“By taking the largest tractor-trailers off the road and putting [their cargo] on the trains, they’re adding thousands of smaller trucks to our area,” he said. “We need to come up with a comprehensive argument against this current plan.”

John Maier, Public Transit Committee co-chair, echoed those sentiments, noting that much of the tunnel program’s concepts are based in “theory.” Municipal waste and construction and demolition debris from the city and Nassau and Suffolk counties make up the bulk of all local freight rail shipments. Other goods, he noted, are largely shipped by truck.

“The tunnel would do more to alleviate traffic outside of New York City than within it,” Maier said. “It’s not creating a lot of jobs because a lot of [shipping] is automated. It’s not a lot of yard jobs. It’s not a lot of anything, really. It would only reduce 6 percent of traffic on the Hudson River crossings while adding much more than 6 percent of traffic to East New York and Maspeth.”

Jean Tanler of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association stated that companies in the neighborhood’s Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) expressed similar concerns about a Cross Harbor Tunnel, but also pressed for easier shipping methods to reduce costs and travel time.

“There’s definitely demand,” she said. “It would save companies a lot of money to shave off a day of transit, either by rail or by barge.”

Local logistics also make a Cross Harbor tunnel plan unfeasible, according to Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano. The plans indicate a tunnel would bring between 16 and 21 trains through the area each day — and current freight rail facilities are already overwhelmed with traffic.

“Right there, it’s physically impossible to pull that off unless the trains just rolled through at all hours of the day,” Giordano said.

Arcuri concluded that “the current plan is unacceptable” and that the board needed to present at resolution not only dismissing the Cross Harbor Tunnel, but also advocating for increased barge shipments and container float operations across the harbor. The chairperson said a resolution will be developed and considered at the committees’ next meeting on Tuesday, March 24.

Meanwhile, Queens residents will have the opportunity to speak out on the Cross Harbor program during a public hearing on Tuesday, March 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens.

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Fox’s ‘Gotham’ to film in Ridgewood Wednesday night


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co./Jessica Miglio/FOX

Ridgewood will become part of Gotham City Wednesday night.

Crews from the hit Fox drama “Gotham” are scheduled to shoot an exterior scene along Palmetto Street between Cypress and Seneca avenues from about 5 p.m. Wednesday until 1 a.m. the next morning.

Parking will be restricted on the block and several nearby streets beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday in order to accommodate production vehicles.

According to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, crews will dim street lights and use smoke and spark effects. Approximately 16 vehicles will also be brought in as part of the scenery.

“Gotham,” which debuted last fall on Fox, serves as a Batman prequel, depicting the rise of soon-to-be Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon prior to Batman’s arrival. It also presents the evolution of various villains such as Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin).

The show stars Ben McKenzie as then-Detective Gordon; Donal Logue as Gordon’s partner, Det. Harvey Bullock; Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot; David Mazouz as young Bruce Wayne, the wealthy orphan who would become Batman; and Jada Pinkett Smith as nightclub owner and mobster Maria Mercedes (a.k.a. Fish) Mooney.

"No parking" notices were posted near Palmetto Street and Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood Tuesday in advance of scheduled filming for the Fox drama "Gotham." (Photo courtesy of Ridgewood Social)

“No parking” notices were posted near Palmetto Street and Seneca avenues in Ridgewood Tuesday in advance of scheduled filming for the Fox drama “Gotham.” (Photo courtesy of Ridgewood Social)

Parking restrictions will also be in effect on the following blocks:

Palmetto Street between Cypress and St. Nicholas avenues;

Gates Avenue (east side only) between Cypress and St. Nicholas avenues; and

Cypress Avenue (south side) between Grove and Madison streets and (north side) between Linden and Madison streets.

This is Ridgewood’s latest foray into Hollywood, as producers from various major television and film shows — such as NBC’s upcoming drama “Odyssey” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” —flocked to the neighborhood in recent months to shoot scenes.

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State suspends license of Woodhaven day care center following drug raid of basement apartment


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

A state agency suspended a Woodhaven day care center’s operating license less than a week after police raided the apartment below the facility during a narcotics investigation.

The Office of Children and Family Services withheld the license for My Precious Moments group family day care at 85-09 88th Ave. following its own probe into matters unrelated to last Thursday’s raid, according to an agency spokesperson.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Michael Gomez — who lives in a basement apartment below the day care center, which his mother owns — remains locked up on charges after police found quantities of MDMA (Molly) and marijuana in his residence.

Ridgewood’s Selestino Rodriguez of Bleecker Street — a friend of Gomez arrested with him at the scene last Thursday — was released without bail following arraignment.

The NYPD Queens Narcotics Squad, with cooperation from the 102nd Precinct’s Field Investigation Office, executed a search warrant at the location following an investigation in which Gomez allegedly sold quantities of Molly and/or marijuana to an undercover officer on Feb. 3 and Feb. 17.

Both transactions reportedly occurred at Gomez’s residence while children were at the day care center.

During Thursday’s raid, police recovered 7 ounces of Molly, 4 ounces of marijuana and more than $2,400 in cash.

Gomez and Rodriguez were charged with felony counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor count of criminal sale of marijuana. Gomez was additionally charged with child endangerment, criminal sale of marijuana and criminal sale of a controlled substance. Both suspects are due back in court on March 9.

According to sources, My Precious Moments opened in May 2009 and cares for 16 children—12 of whom are between 6 weeks and 12 years old. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown noted that the day care center is located less than 1,500 feet from two parochial schools: St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy at 94-01 85th St. and St. Thomas the Apostle Academy at 87-49 87th St.

No one from My Precious Moments responded to phone calls that the Times Newsweekly made Tuesday morning.

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Selling Point: Retail property in Jackson Heights fetches $16.4 million and more sales


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Scott Bintner/ PropertyShark

A couple of buildings located on the Jackson Heights commercial strip and an apartment building with nearly 50 units in Flushing are some of this week’s big transactions in the borough, based on city records.

Address: 37-46/48 82nd St./37-50 82nd St.
Price: $16,425,000

A group of investors bought these adjoining commercial properties at 37-46 through 37-50 82nd St. for $16.7 million. Clark Stores Inc., a firm based in Manhattan, is the seller. Jackson Heights Retail LLC, one of the buyers, now has a majority stake in the buildings, according to property records filed on Thursday. The larger two-story building at 37-46 82nd St. was once home to a women’s apparel store called Clark’s and later a KB Toys before the company went out of business. Combined, the buildings, which have two floors each, have more than 12,400 square feet of space. The property is part of the Jackson Heights Historic District.

Address: 41-40 Parsons Blvd.
Price: $10,750,000

This corner property is a six-story multi-family rental apartment building in Flushing with 48 units. There is a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments in the building. There is more than 44,000 square feet of living space in the structure, which is a few blocks from Main Street. Wai Realty Corp. bought the property for $10.7 million from Bronx-based Bright & Sunny Corp., according to city records filed on Friday.

Address: 48-05 Metropolitan Ave. 
Price: $7,000,000

WM Capital Partners XXV LLC bought this old manufacturing-zoned building in Ridgewood for $7 million, according to records filed on Feb. 17. The building has nearly 141,000 square feet of space.

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Ridgewood proprietor helps greet France’s chief rabbi


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Victoria Schneps

Ridgewood businessman Herman Hochberg joined the mayor and others in welcoming France’s chief rabbi to Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue last week.

Chief Rabbi Haim Corsia spoke about the safety of French Jews following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in January and other recent anti-Semitic events across Europe. Thursday’s event was reserved “for leaders and representatives of the Jewish community,” as noted on the official invitation.

Hochberg — owner of Queens Wines and Liquors, a staple in Ridgewood for more than 60 years — has served as president of the Park East Synagogue board of directors for the past seven years and previously greeted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his 2008 visit to New York.

Along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Park East’s Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Hochberg presented Corsia with a crystal apple as a token of the congregation’s appreciation and support.

In a phone interview, Hochberg remarked that Corsia held a very positive and hopeful outlook for the Jewish people of France, noting that the rabbi is working closely with the government to ensure that people, synagogues and schools are properly protected from evildoers. Hochberg noted that Corsica — who also serves as chaplain of the French army — worked closely with the government of French President François Hollande to assign 10,500 soldiers and law enforcement agents to protect Jewish sites across the nation.

“The rabbi is a very energetic young man and his objective of course is not to have people leave but have them stay and make sure there’s the proper protection,” Hochberg said. “They consider themselves Frenchmen. For many generations, they’ve been there.”

As quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Corsia told those gathered at Park East last Thursday he witnessed in France “a sense of indifference” toward anti-Semitism and bias crimes prior to last month’s attacks in France at a satirical news magazine’s office and a Kosher supermarket. But in the aftermath, Corsia declared, French people from all walks of life rose to denounce the attacks and other acts of violence.

“[T]he entire society finally rose to say ‘no’ to the terrorist, ‘no’ to muzzling freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” according to Corsia’s remarks published in the Jerusalem Post. “I am of the view that if Charlie Hebdo as such had not happened, I’m not sure that so many people would march in the street.”

Hochberg echoed those sentiments, noting that the rally in Paris following the attacks — which included 4 million people and heads of state from across the globe — showed solidarity for the victims and sent a message that hatred will not be tolerated.

Even so, anti-Semitic incidents occurred in France weeks after the attacks, including the desecration of about 250 tombs at a Jewish cemetery in the eastern part of the country. Citing French authorities, the Jerusalem Post reported that anti-Semitic threats and incidents doubled in France over the last year.

De Blasio, who visited Paris soon after January’s terrorist attacks, reiterated that the city stands with France in opposition to terrorism and anti-Semitism.

“It’s our moment to say we don’t like this trend we see. We don’t find it acceptable,” the mayor said, as quoted in published reports. “As Rabbi Corsia said powerfully, there are no small crimes. No small affront to the Jewish community is acceptable because it will only lead to larger affronts and more dangerous ones.”

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Woodhaven man arraigned after allegedly dealing narcotics below day care, within drug-free school zones


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

A Woodhaven man remained behind bars in lieu of $20,000 bail Friday afternoon for allegedly dealing drugs from his apartment below a day care center his mother owns and operates, prosecutors said.

Michael Gomez, 24, was arrested Thursday morning on drug possession charges after police raided his apartment located under the My Precious Moments day care facility at 85-09 88th Ave. A friend with him at the scene, Selestino Rodriguez of Ridgewood, was also taken into custody.

My Precious Moments opened in May 2009 and cares for 16 children — 12 of whom are between 6 weeks and 12 years old. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown noted that the day care center is located less than 1,500 feet from two parochial schools that serve pre-kindergarten through eighth grade: St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy at 94-01 85th St. and St. Thomas the Apostle Academy at 87-49 87th St. Both are in drug-free school zones.

The NYPD Queens Narcotics Squad executed a search warrant at the 88th Avenue location following an investigation in which Gomez allegedly sold quantities of MDMA (Molly) and/or marijuana to an undercover officer on Feb. 3 and Feb. 17. Both transactions reportedly occurred at Gomez’s residence while children were inside the day care center.

During Thursday’s raid, police recovered 7 ounces of Molly, 4 ounces of marijuana and more than $2,400 in cash.

Gomez and Rodriguez were charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminally using drug paraphernalia, criminal possession of marijuana  and endangering the welfare of a child. Gomez was additionally charged with criminal sale of marijuana and criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Both suspects were arraigned Thursday night in Queens Criminal Court before Judge Toko Serita. Gomez was ordered held on $20,000 bail, while Rodriguez was released on his own recognizance. They are scheduled to return to court on Mar. 9.

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Ridgewood Y director knows community service


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

As the executive director of the Ridgewood YMCA, Lakeisha Harris knows what it means to serve her community.

Serving the community comes naturally to Harris, having earned her master’s degree in social work.

“I have always been interested in giving back to children and families … and it’s exciting to be able to do it in Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and the communities that we serve,” Harris said. “That’s why I became a social worker to begin with, is to work in the community and be able to provide needed services to people who are unable, for whatever reason, to provide it themselves.”

Harris credited her mother for being her inspiration for getting into social work. Having worked hard to be where she is today, Harris emulates her mother and her work ethics.

“Because of what she went through is why I decided to be a social worker to begin with, to really help other kids and families who might also be struggling and need some encouragement, some support to get through. I think I’ve been able to do the things I’ve been able to do because of her,” Harris said of her mother.

“She’s just really resilient, really strong, and really passionate,” she added. “I still emulate her and when I get to be her age, I want to be where she is.”

One of the challenges Harris faces as executive director of the Ridgewood Y is having “high expectations.”

“I think the organization has high expectations and I think it’s making those expectations happen with limited resources,” she said.

But meeting those challenges leads to great success. Seeing and hearing the success stories of the people who use the Y is one of the best parts of her job, Harris said.

Being a prominent woman of color in the community, Harris said, “I love that we have Black History Month. It’s definitely an opportunity for me to hear more about what black people have done.”

“I definitely hope that what I do at the Y is an example for other brown and black children,” Harris said. As a mother, Harris hopes that her son is informed of the people of color who have done amazing things in the past, and even today.

Tucked away off Fresh Pond Road at 69-02 64th St., the Ridgewood Y (formerly known as the Catalpa YMCA) has been there since 1931 and previously served as the Queens County Magistrate’s Courthouse. The YMCA of Greater New York purchased the building from the city in 1965.

Renovations were made to the building in 2011, transforming it into a state-of-the-art facility complete with a gym, an early childhood educational facility and other amenities.

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Ridgewood pol to state: Stop shortchanging public schools


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Ridgewood, along with fellow lawmakers, educators, parents and students, rallied on the steps of City Hall Thursday morning demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers pay $2.5 billion owed to New York City public schools.

Of that $2.5 billion, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equality (CFE), every state Senate and Assembly district is owed tens of millions of dollars in funding for their schools. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s district is owed nearly $137 million, the most of any Senate district.

Historically, advocates stated, NYC public schools have been woefully underfunded, as the NYS Court of Appeals determined in the CFE ruling. The CFE lawsuit was brought by parents in 1993 against the State of New York claiming that children were not getting an adequate education.

In 2006, the NYS Court of Appeals found that New York State violated students’ constitutional rights to a “sound and basic education” by underfunding public schools.

According to the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a 2015 longitudinal study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when spending increases by 10 percent each year during low-income students’ tenure in school (K-12), those students earn 9.5 percent more as adults. Furthermore, graduation rates jump 4 percent, to 26 percent, and the likelihood of adult poverty is reduced.

“It’s very important that we’re here today to keep the focus on fulfilling the promise of CFE,” said Nolan, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. “The court decision … said we have to provide our young people with a meaningful education that equips them for the future.”

“The economy has turned around, the funds are there. It’s time to keep our promises to the children and families of New York and for us, as state Legislatures, to continue to push for full funding for our wonderful young people,” Nolan added.

Currently, there is no proposed increase for school funding in Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget plan, unless the Legislature agrees to a series of new laws put forth by the governor.

The CFE launched a website which breaks down how much each public school is allegedly shortchanged, www.howmuchnysrobbed.nyc.

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Queens film series to focus on immigrant experience of women in New York City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Zahida Pirani

A new Queens film series is giving foreign-born women a voice and showing what it means to be an immigrant within the five boroughs.

The nonprofit organization New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) will be showcasing the series called Immigrant Women: Sharing Our Voice Through Film starting on Feb. 27 in Maspeth and will continue each month through June in other parts of Queens.

The series, which is put together through funding from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley as part of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative, features works of female immigrants and first-generation American filmmakers. The pieces in the series focus on the immigrant experience within New York City.

“The immigrant experience is something really important and doesn’t really have the representation in mainstream media,” said Elizabeth Estrada, executive assistant at NYWIFT and project manager for the film series. “I think it’s great to know the stories of people that you live around and pass on the street.”

The first screening, scheduled to take place at Maspeth Town Hall at 53-37 72nd St. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., will focus on the intersection between immigrant women and activism, and will feature three short documentaries.

The documentaries included are “Judith: Portrait of a Street Vendor” directed and produced by Zahida Pirani; “Claiming Our Voice” directed and produced by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel; and “Living Quechua” directed and produced by Christine Mladic Janney.

Screenshot from the documentary "Claiming Our Voice." (Photo by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel/Courtesy Fine Grain Films)

Screenshot from the documentary “Claiming Our Voice.” (Photo by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel/Courtesy Fine Grain Films)

Following the screening, there will be a Q&A reception with the filmmakers and women in the documentaries.

“I want people to walk away more interested or inspired, and with this specific first screening, for them to be involved in something bigger than themselves,” Estrada added.

The following screenings of the series — dates and exact locations are still to be determined —  will take place in the surrounding neighborhoods of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, each represented by Crowley.

“All of these women and filmmakers have important stories to tell, and I want people to know that,” Estrada said. “Women as a collective, especially immigrant women, have a story to tell and if they are given an opportunity to tell, that might be a way to change the way we think about women and immigrant women.”

NYWIFT is still accepting submissions for the film series and anyone interested can email info@nywift.com.

The first screening, “Immigrant Women Screening Series: Activism,” is free to the public.

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Late night closures on L to affect Ridgewood area


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Overnight service disruptions will hit the L line between Ridgewood and Williamsburg beginning next week, the MTA announced.

L train service will be suspended between Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues and Lorimer Street late nights, Monday through Friday, from 11:15 p.m. to 5 a.m. The disruption begins Monday night, Feb. 23, and will continue for the following three weeks through Friday, Mar. 13, weather permitting.

Free shuttle buses will replace L train service between both points, with bus stops located near all affected stations.

Meanwhile, L train service will operate in two separate sections — between Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues and Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway and between Lorimer Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. However, trains running on these sections will operate every 20 minutes in each direction.

Those wishing to travel between Brooklyn/Queens and Manhattan were advised to use the A or J train, available at the Broadway Junction station, as alternate routes.

According to an MTA spokesperson, crews will upgrade and test the line’s Communications Based Train Control system, which tracks car movements along the line and controls train speed and braking.

For up-to-date information on scheduled train and bus service changes, visit www.mta.info or call 511.

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Brewery in Ridgewood seeks Beer Week prize


| info@timesnewsweekly.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Ridgewood’s Bridge and Tunnel Brewery will be launching a new beer at a gala event next week as part of the annual New York City Beer Week “Rupert’s Cup” events.

The beer, aptly titled “Bound By Chains,” is a tribute to legendary illusionist Harry Houdini, whose famous gravesite is located in nearby Machpelah Cemetery off Cypress Hills Street.

As a tribute to Houdini, the special event — which will take place next Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Houdini Kitchen Laboratory — will also feature local performers from the Coney Island Sideshow. The live performance will include a live straightjacket escape, sword swallowing, The Human Blockhead, various feats of strength and The Human Pin Cushion, which involves a perilous bed of nails.

The event is a collaboration between Bridge and Tunnel Brewery founder Rich Castagna, Houdini Kitchen Laboratory founder and chef Max Bartoli and Nao Matsumoto, co-owner of the Lorimoto Gallery, located at 16-23 Hancock St. in Ridgewood.

“I’m hoping the event will be an introduction to Decatur Street for people in the neighborhood,” Castagna explained.

Bridge and Tunnel Brewery recently found a permanent home on Decatur Street, down the block from Houdini Kitchen Laboratory, and is slated to open to the public later in the year.

“Bound By Chains,” described as a double rye IPA, was created specifically for this special event. According to Bridge and Tunnel, the beer itself is one of many “NY S.M.A.S.H.” (New York State Malts and State Hops) beers launching during NYC Beer Week by breweries in all five boroughs.

“There is going to be a vote at the end of NYC Beer Week for the best event launched. The winner gets a trophy called the Rupert Cup,” Castagna explained. “Maybe we can win it for Ridgewood?”

The Rupert’s Cup is a “people’s choice” voting competition and fundraising event. According to Bridge and Tunnel, participating breweries are required to host a “value-added event during the 2015 NYC Beer Week highlighting something like an extremely rare beer release, a beer dinner or a Meet-the-Brewer night.” The winner is voted “Best Brewery at NYC Beer Week.”

Votes cost $5 each, with all proceeds going to City Harvest. According to its website, City Harvest estimates that each $5 donation could feed roughly twenty people, with every dollar donated feeding four people per day. Anyone can sign up to vote at www.rupertscup.com.

In addition to the new beer launch, event goers can also sample some of the many unique pizza offerings at Houdini Kitchen Laboratory. For $6 at the door, patrons can choose a 16 oz. pour of “Bound By Chains” IPA or pizza samplers from Houdini Kitchen. The website eventbrite.com also offers a package of four tickets, good for four beer or pizza offerings.

According to Bridge and Tunnel, the event will also include a short presentation on pairing beer with pizza by Braving the Brew founder and sommelier Joanna Carpenter.

“Other surprises are in the works as well,” Castagna said.

The “Bound By Chains in Ridgewood” beer launch event will be held on Feb. 25 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Houdini Kitchen Laboratory, located at 1563 Decatur St. Click here to find out more about this event.

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Developing Queens: How investors are looking at the borough


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Berko & Associates is a 9-year-old New York City-based investment real estate brokerage firm that specializes in investment sales, structured finance and advisory. The firm focuses on the five boroughs and the surrounding Tri-State area, and closed with more than $340 million in financing and sales in 2014. Queens native Alan Simonowitz, a director in the firm and a 26-year industry veteran, spoke with real estate editor Liam La Guerre about the firm’s recent actions in the borough and how they look at the area.  

La Guerre: Looking back at the investment your firm made in financing the Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City, what do you think of what it has become?

Simonowitz: Well, it’s been a great investment. We like the hotel that we see. We arranged the financing for it but the hotel has been very successful. We financed it twice. Once, we did a bridge loan, which functioned as a construction loan for the hotel developer, and once he completed the renovation and opened up, we got him permanent financing. And the hotel is doing very well. The debt on the permanent financing is being paid every month—it’s a success story.

La Guerre: It kind of reflects the ability of what can be done in Queens now that the market is hot, right?

Simonowitz: Absolutely. Long Island City is one of the strong markets in Queens, but all of Queens right now is heating up.

It’s only been very recently that everybody is opening their eyes to Queens. Longtime residents like myself know this, but it’s actually a very convenient place to live. It’s a great jumping off point to go out east to Long Island, to go north to upstate, and there is easy access with public transportation into Manhattan.

La Guerre: And as people make this discovery, it attracts more investors to the borough, much like the case of the rental building called The Roosevelt in Jackson Heights, which your firm was able sell for about $20 million. Before that it was supposed to be condos, but that wasn’t working out right. So what happened?

Simonowitz: We got to the property just when the original developer had it about 98 percent built. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with it, whether he wanted to go condo or he wanted to have a rental building, but he had a 421a (tax abatement incentive) on the building. We had a very intelligent buyer come in and [see] the opportunity, especially the fact that it was by the No. 7 train. He finished the building, and took over and got $43-per-square-foot rents on average for that building, which is a record for the area.

La Guerre: In terms of the approach to Queens, how has that changed within the nine years that your firm has been investing? Is there a realization now that there are some good deals that can be made here?

Simonowitz: Absolutely. We actually brought in someone who is concentrating in Queens right now. As a broker you go where you think the inflow is and where you think the buyers are going. We are a function of what the market place is. And we clearly realized that Queens has heated up. Everyone now knows about Astoria and Long Island City, but the whole corridor through Forest Hills to Rego Park is heating up.

La Guerre: You’re marketing a building right now in Ridgewood, an area that’s seeing some change as well in the market. How do you view that neighborhood?

Simonowitz: There is a lot of demand for development opportunities, which is a little bit more difficult because Ridgewood is a little bit older area in Queens. It’s denser than some of the other areas. So whenever we are finding opportunities in Ridgewood there is very strong interest, because of its proximity to Manhattan, it’s an established neighborhood, and people like the shopping on Myrtle Avenue.

La Guerre: Is there is an area in Queens that you wouldn’t seek to invest in?

Simonowitz: There is no area that we wouldn’t look at all. All areas make sense at a given level.

A simonowitz

Photo courtesy of Alan Simonowitz

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Middle Village bank robber strikes again


| r.pozarycki@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Showing his love for stolen cash, a bandit robbed a Middle Village bank on Valentine’s Day morning — the fourth such heist in the neighborhood since last November, authorities said.

According to law enforcement sources, the crook — described as a black male wearing a green hooded jacket — walked into the Capital One bank at 74-11 Metropolitan Ave. at 10:54 a.m. Saturday morning, approached a teller and demanded cash.

Reportedly, the employee handed over an undetermined amount of cash to the suspect, who fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction.

Officers from the 104th Precinct responded to the scene; no injuries were reported.

Law enforcement sources stated that the suspect allegedly held up the Astoria Bank at 75-25 Metropolitan Ave. — just a few steps from the Capital One branch — on Dec. 30 and Feb. 4.

Police believe the same crook robbed the same Capital One in Middle Village on Nov. 24 and a Capital One branch on Forest Avenue in Ridgewood on Dec. 9.

In the previous capers, it was reported, the crook passed demand notes to tellers.

The NYPD Major Case Squad is investigating the robbery pattern.

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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Community Board 5 nixes Ridgewood street fair’s permit


| info@timesnewsweekly.com

festival-file-photo

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

After hearing complaints from Ridgewood residents, Community Board 5 recommended Wednesday night that the city deny a street fair application for this summer’s Fresh Pond Road Street Festival.

Twenty-two of 34 members voted against the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens’ application for the feast that shuts a five-block section of Fresh Pond Road, from Woodbine to Menahan streets, on four consecutive evenings.

At previous meetings, area residents complained the festival brought quality-of-life problems including increased traffic, fewer available parking spaces and some rowdy behavior.

The board narrowly recommended last year’s street fair permit, 18-15. Wednesday’s vote marked the first time since 1996 that the board recommended the permit’s denial.

During Wednesday’s meeting at Middle Village Christ the King Regional High School, Board 5 chairman Vincent Arcuri said the board’s Executive Committee was deadlocked on making a decision about this year’s festival.

“We had the most information we’ve ever received from an applicant for any event,” he said, “but the committee came up with no consensus.”

Board 5 member John Maier, who sits on the Executive Committee, proposed the motion to vote against the street festival permit: “Since I was unable to be there [last month] due to travel issues, I would have been the deciding vote and there would have been a vote on the table to deny the festival.”

Lifelong Ridgewood resident Margaret Chance reiterated previously voiced concerns over the festival during the board’s public forum.

“For the past 20 years, we’ve had negative impact from the Italian festival,” Chance said. “It’s way too long. Every year, it’s increased for longer days and longer hours.”

Chance also cited the relocation of bus stops and an excess of traffic and illegally parked cars on streets as major concerns surrounding the festival.

“Fresh Pond Road is way too narrow,” she said. “The vendors set up too early and the trucks and rides are way too wide to fit comfortably on Fresh Pond Road to allow two-way traffic to go along while the feast is not happening.”

Board 5 member Lucy Dolce, who is also a member of the Federazione, made an impassioned plea to the board to approve the festival permit.

“We have complied with everything this board wanted and more. We’ve done it all,” Dolce said. “This is a festival for families. These are four days for a working class community to be able to take their children and enjoy something at a very cheap cost.”

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Ridgewood-based nonprofit that provides free services to local senior citizens. According to Dolce, the organization no longer receives city and state funding and uses the proceeds from the festival to offset operating costs.

Dolce refuted the charges of police complaints and crime at prior festivals. “There have been no complaints. The police department would not allow us to continue if there were complaints,” she said.

Dolce abstained from the vote due to her membership with the nonprofit organization.

The 22nd Fresh Pond Street Festival is tentatively scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 3, and run until Sunday, Sept. 6. The Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office will have the final say on the matter.

The board did, however, recommend approval for several other local street festivals scheduled to take place this year on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and Grand Avenue in Maspeth.

Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly stated the vote was the first time Board 5 voted against the Fresh Pond Road street festival.

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