Tag Archives: Sunnyside

Burglar steals electronics, purse from Sunnyside apartment

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating a man wanted for breaking into a Sunnyside apartment on Sunday and stealing several electronics and a purse.

The suspect walked into a residential building located at 43-31 45th St. at 2:06 p.m. on Oct. 4 and entered the victim’s apartment through the front door.

The man stole an Apple Mac Book Pro, a Canon camera and a Coach bag before fleeing.

The burglary was reported to the 108th Precinct.

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


Man in Maspeth gives alias after getting pinched on gun possession charges

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

He tried to run from cops and his past, but he couldn’t get away from either.

A Sunnyside man arrested in Maspeth early Sunday morning on a weapons possession charge allegedly tried to physically assault officers and later gave them a false identity to apparently hide from his criminal record, according to police.

Officers from the 104th Precinct observed the suspect — 35-year-old Jose Cales of Greenpoint Avenue — crouching near the wheels of a tractor-trailer parked on 56th Drive and 58th Road at about 2:45 a.m. on Sept. 27.

According to police, Cales was wearing a ski mask and a red hooded sweatshirt while appearing to be concealing something in the sweatshirt pocket.

When the officers moved in to stop and question Cales, authorities said, the suspect ran and led police on a brief pursuit, during which he was allegedly seen throwing something to the ground.

The officers caught up to Cales in front of a location on Maurice Avenue, where, police noted, he allegedly took a swing at one of the officers and flailed his arms in an apparent attempt to avoid arrest. The suspect was eventually placed in handcuffs.

During a search, police located the item that Cales allegedly dropped: an unloaded 9 mm handgun.

According to the criminal complaint, Cales was taken to Wyckoff Hospital for an examination and told police that his name was Jason Ortiz, but later admitted that was an alias.

Police noted that Cales previously served time in prison after being convicted of a second-degree burglary charge in Brooklyn in 2006.

Cales was charged on Sunday with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, resisting arrest, attempted assault and false personation, and was ordered held without bail at his arraignment.


Corona music store duo get first-ever charges for pirating tunes using memory cards: DA

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

A Corona music store owner and his employee are singing the blues after being charged last week for allegedly selling pirated music stored on memory cards to an undercover investigator.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Evaristo Cruz, 43, of 48th Street in Sunnyside, who owns Poblanos Records at 95-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Corona, and store employee Guevera Rubi, 31, of 38th Avenue in Corona, allegedly sold illegally downloaded music to the undercover investigator on two occasions between July and September 2015.

The agent worked for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which is actively working with law enforcement to crack down on music pirating.

On July 15, prosecutors said, Cruz allegedly sold the undercover investigator an SD media card for $30. The memory card held 609 songs, including music from artists such as Cuban salsa singer Rey Ruiz, Colombian salsa band Grupo Niche, bachata musician Antony Santos and more.

The undercover agent visited the store again on Sept. 2, when Rubi told him that a USB drive would cost $20 — but he could get music on the drive for an additional $20. He was instructed to come back later for the flash drive and when he returned, he was given a flash drive with 512 songs on it, including a new song by Romeo Santos and rapper Nicki Minaj.

Members of the 110th Precinct, joined by the undercover investigator, executed a search warrant at the store on Sept. 16, the district attorney’s office said. A desktop computer was recovered along with 12 different memory devices with storage capacity ranging from 4GB to 16GB. The computer contained more than 1,000 songs that were counterfeit or pirated.

Brown added that the owner and employee were the first people ever charged with pirating music using memory cards.

“In the past, illegally downloaded music was sold on compact discs or CDs. Now songs are being distributed on even smaller devices — flash drives and memory cards,” Brown said in a statement. “While some may ask, ‘What’s the harm?’, the fact of the matter is downloading music without paying for it is a crime.”

Cruz was arraigned on Sept. 17 on charges of criminal possession of forgery devices and first-degree failure to disclose the origin of a recording. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and was ordered to return to court on Oct. 20.

Rubi, who was charged with first-degree failure to disclose the origin of a recording, faces up to four years in prison and was also ordered to return to court on Oct. 20.


DSNY expanding organics pilot program to southeast Queens

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Five southeast Queens neighborhoods will be included in the Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) latest expansion of the NYC Organics voluntary curbside food and yard waste recycling program this fall.

Ozone Park south of 103rd Avenue and the eastern portion of Lindenwood will begin the week of Oct. 5; residents of South Ozone Park will see their organic waste collection starting the week of Oct. 12; and the collection for Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach will start the week of Nov. 2.

“We are in the process of expanding our organics program,” said Iggy Terranova, DSNY representative, at a Community Board 2 meeting last week. “Queens [District] 10 will be the next one on the market for Queens. We’re going to see that happening … hopefully it moves really well there because we want to use that as our basis on getting it out to the rest of Queens and to the rest of the city. Brooklyn [District] 6 is also getting it, so we’re pushing it as far as we can to try and make it happen for the entire city.”

The organic waste program allows items such as food scraps including fruits, vegetables, egg shells, pasta, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, baked goods, meat and bones, flowers and houseplants, and food-soiled paper such as paper towels, napkins and paper plates to be properly recycled.

“Organic materials make up about a third of our trash,” said Kathryn Garcia, sanitation commissioner. “When you [recycle] your food and yard waste, you decrease the amount of garbage going to landfills and help create a greener and healthier New York City.”

The collected waste materials are managed locally and regionally. Some organic waste is turned into compost, and used locally by greening groups, such as urban farmers, community gardeners and street tree stewards to rebuild the city’s soil.

All single-family homes and buildings with nine or fewer residential units will automatically be enrolled into the voluntary program. Buildings with 10 or more residential units may apply online to participate.

With the organics program continuing to expand into more neighborhoods, Terranova highlighted the DSNY’s need to be prepared to properly pick up the waste.

“We have been thinking about it, logistic-wise, how are we going to pick it up. We just can’t say we are going to start organics in your neighborhood and not have the trucks to come pick it up,” Terranova said. “We have to make sure we have the proper trucks … so look forward to that happening very soon.”

The DSNY previously brought the organics collection program to Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

For more information, visit the DSNY’s website.


Participatory budgeting for District 26 to begin Thursday

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents in Woodside, Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside will get a chance to decide how more than $1 million in capital discretionary funding will be used to improve their communities.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is hosting a kickoff party to celebrate the second year of participatory budgeting in his district. Last year, $1.5 million was used to upgrade the Long Island City Bikeway, purchase a van for seniors living at the Jacob Riis Settlement House and fund playground upgrades in the Queensbridge houses, among other projects.

The kickoff party will take place Monday night at the Sunnyside Community Services located at 43-31 39th St. at 6:30 p.m.

“Last year our participatory budgeting initiative delivered over $1.5 million in real results to neighborhoods throughout the 26th District. This year we are aiming to broaden our outreach efforts to all neighborhoods and build on the success we had in the initiative’s inaugural year,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “Participatory budgeting gives all New Yorkers the ability to participate in a grassroots process that has and will continue to successfully allow residents to allocate millions of dollars directly to the projects they love the most.”

Beginning Sept. 17, Van Bramer will host 10 neighborhood assemblies throughout District 26 to educate residents about the participatory budgeting process and allow them to propose capital projects to improve their neighborhoods.

The following locations will be used for the neighborhood assemblies:

  • Sept. 17, Christ Lutheran Church, 33-57 58th St., Woodside, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Sept. 22, P.S./I.S. 78, 46-08 5th St., Long Island City, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Sept. 24, Community Room, Big Six Towers, 59-15 47th Ave., Woodside, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Sept. 29, Woodside Library, 54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 1, Broadway Library, 40-20 Broadway, Long Island City, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 6, Sunnyside Library, 43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 8, Long Island City Library, 37-44 21st St., Long Island City, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 13, Woodside Houses Community Center, 50-19 Broadway, Woodside, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 15, Ravenswood Houses, 35-40 21st St., Long Island City, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 20, Jacob Riis Settlement House, 10-25 41st Ave., Queensbridge, 6 to 8 p.m.


Pesticide spraying across many Queens neighborhoods set for Monday night

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Trucks will spray pesticide across nearly every corner in Queens this Monday night as part of the Health Department’s ongoing efforts to kill mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus.

Weather permitting, the spraying will begin at about 8:30 p.m. Monday and continue until 6 a.m. the next morning. In the event of inclement weather, the spraying will take place on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning at the same hours.

The spraying will occur in four clusters of Queens as follows:

  • Areas of Long Island City and Sunnyside generally bounded by 47th Avenue on the north; Dutch Kills on the west; Newtown Creek on south; and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and 43rd Street on the east.
  • Parts of Astoria and Woodside generally bounded by 20th Avenue and 30th Street on the north; 28th Avenue, 43rd Street and Newtown Road on the west; Broadway and Northern Boulevard on the south; and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, 30th Avenue, 78th Street, Astoria Boulevard and 75th Street on the east.
The northwest Queens spray zones. (Maps courtesy NYC Health Department)

The northwest Queens spray zones. (Maps courtesy NYC Health Department)

  • Areas of Fresh Meadows, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood and Oakland Gardens generally bounded by 73rd Avenue on the north; 188th Street on the west; Jamaica Avenue, 199th Street, Hillside Avenue, 212th Street and the Grand Central Parkway on the south; and Springfield Boulevard on the east.
  • Parts of Briarwood, Forest Hills, Glendale, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Middle Village, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven generally bounded by the Grand Central and Jackie Robinson parkways, Groton Street, Yellowstone and Woodhaven boulevards and Eliot Avenue on the north; Lutheran Avenue, 71st Street, Metropolitan Avenue, All Faiths Cemetery, 76th Street, Cypress Hills Cemetery and Cypress Hills Street on the west; Jamaica and 89th avenues on the south; and 169th Street on the east.
The central Queens spray zones (Maps courtesy NYC Health Department)

The central Queens spray zones (Maps courtesy NYC Health Department)

Though the pesticide used during these sprayings, Anvil 10+10, poses no significant health risks to humans, the Health Department advises residents in these areas — especially those with respiratory ailments — to stay indoors while spraying occurs. Windows should be kept closed; air conditioners may be used, but the vents should be closed to prevent possible indoor exposure to the pesticides.

Any toys, clothes and outdoor equipment should be moved inside prior to spraying; anything left outside while spraying occurs should be thoroughly washed before reuse. Produce grown in backyards should be washed before being consumed or cooked.

Persons exposed to the pesticide should thoroughly wash their skin with soap and water.

For more information, visit the Health Department’s website or call 311.


Sunnyside street co-named after beloved resident who put neighborhood ‘on the map’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

Sunnyside came together this weekend to honor the life of a man who many say helped make the neighborhood what it is today.

Local elected officials, community leaders and residents gathered on Saturday to celebrate the life of Luke Adams – a community activist and business owner who passed away last November at age 76 – by co-naming 46th Street in his honor.

The street was chosen because it is where Adams owned a small business and also where he advocated for the Sunnyside Arch to be built.

“It is important that we never forget the life of Luke Adams,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “His work helped put Sunnyside on the map and has left a lasting impression that will forever be felt in our community. Luke loved Sunnyside and was a neighborhood treasure for decades. By ceremoniously co-naming 46th Street in his honor we help ensure future generations of Sunnysiders remember his legacy and all the great work he did for the neighborhood.”

Adams, who was involved in community work for over 40 years, was the first to receive the Sunnysider of the Year award, which was later named after him.

Photo by Steven Harris

Along with working as a reporter and photographer for the Woodside Herald for many years, Adams was also instrumental in the Sunnyside Woodside Lions Club and the nonprofit group Sunnyside Artists Inc., and was the former president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.

“Luke Adams was an outstanding Sunnyside icon who dedicated his life to making his neighborhood a better place, and he is deeply missed,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “Luke helped to mold Sunnyside into the vibrant, wonderful community it is today. He was a good and honest man who will always hold a special place in Sunnyside.”

Among his work for the community, Adams was behind creating the first Sunnyside website in 1991 and has been referred to as the “best promoter in Queens,” because of his various campaigns to increase tourism to the borough he called home.

“The beautiful and diverse fabric of Sunnyside has been woven by a number of wonderful, talented, and committed individuals over the years,” said Pat O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2. “Our friend, Luke Adams, may stand tallest among them, and has left an example in his vision for its growth and success that we will all aspire to continue, and advance, for generations to come.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined others in the Sunnyside community to remember and honor the life of Luke Adams.


Car-sharing company car2go to make its move into western Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of car2go North America

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 11 12:05 p.m. 

Joining Citi Bike, which launched last week in Long Island City, a new company will soon call Queens home, giving residents another quick, easy way to get around.

Car2go, a car-sharing company that launched in Brooklyn last October, has announced that it will expand into Queens — primarily Long Island City and other western Queens neighborhoods – starting Aug. 29.

“Since the twilight of the trolley system many decades ago, there really hasn’t been a reliable option for New Yorkers to travel between Brooklyn and Queens without going all the way through Manhattan,” said car2go Brooklyn General Manager Tom McNeil. “Queens is a bustling hub of cultures, small businesses, international cuisine and affordable housing opportunities that have long been a challenge to access. We believe that with the rapid adoption of car2go in Brooklyn, we can help make it even easier for members to live and explore beyond the reach of the subway.”

The company, which was started in Germany, rents out a fleet of white and blue Smart cars that car2go cardholders can use by either using the company’s app or website, calling the customer call center or spotting one of the cars on the street. Once unlocking the car with a car2go card, users can use them for one-way or round trips at $0.41 a minute plus a $1 driver protection fee.


Once finished using the car, users can park at any unmetered space or residential neighborhood street within the car2go home area. Parking, fuel insurance and maintenance are included at no additional cost.

With the Aug. 29 expansion Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside and Sunnyside, car2go’s home area in the greater New York City area will grow from 8 square miles to 44 square miles. The expansion is expected to bring an additional 25,000 members and will add 100 Smart cars to the 450 in Brooklyn, totaling 550 cars in New York City.

“We’re excited to see car2go bring a sustainable and sensible transit option to Queens, extending the reach of public transit and helping our residents get the most out of our borough,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.

For more information or to register to become a member, visit www.car2go.com or follow @car2goNewYork on Twitter.


Woodside resident to seek Assembly seat and ‘fight for the middle class’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Barnwell

Brian Barnwell is looking to be the voice of a district he has called home all his life and one he says needs a big change and new leadership.

The 29-year-old Woodside resident and lawyer has announced that he will run next year for the seat in the state Assembly representing District 30, which covers the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Woodside, Middle Village and parts of Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City.

The seat is currently held by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who was first elected in 1998.

“I just feel like it’s time for a change. I feel like we need some new energy where people are going to go out and engage the community and bring the community voices into the conversation,” Barnwell said. “Everyone is getting pushed out. The teachers are being thrown under the bus. The students are being thrown under the bus. The middle class is just being destroyed and we can’t take it for granted anymore. So I want to be the voice of the middle class, because I am in the middle class.”

Barnwell’s desire to run for office was fueled recently when he began working as the director of special events for Councilman Costa Constantinides, and experienced many residents coming into the district office complaining about various issues – including affordable housing.

This made him realize that there needed to be a change and he would be that change.

The platform of his campaign will strongly focus on helping individuals in the middle class and those vying to move into the middle class. With being a member of the middle class himself, along with his family, Barnwell said he has personal experience with the issues constituents face.

“The middle class is what made this country great. It’s what makes any country great. If you don’t have a middle class, you’re in trouble,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell’s platform – focusing on taxes, education and affordable housing – includes issues such as lowering personal income and corporate taxes; helping raise minimum wage; empowering teachers, parents and administrators in local schools and creating new curriculum based on districts; building more schools; and increasing the amount of affordable housing in the developing area.

For now, Barnwell will stay at Constantinides’ office until September, then he will hit the streets and reach out to the communities to see what issues the residents are facing.

“I want people to tell me what’s wrong with this district,” Barnwell said. “You’ve got to lead. You’ve got to be a leader. This why we elect these people to be leaders, not followers, and I want to be a leader. I don’t want to be a follower.”

Barnwell will hold his first fundraiser on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at The Brewery NYC, located at 49-18 30th Ave. in Woodside.

For more information visit Barnwell’s Facebook page or follow @Barnwell2016 on Twitter.


Street to be co-named after architect who helped design Sunnyside Gardens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

Sunnyside Gardens will soon remember one of the women who envisioned the landscape and architecture that make up the neighborhood today.

The City Council unanimously passed a bill last week that would co-name streets throughout the city, including 45th Street between Skillman and 39th avenues, which will be named in honor of Marjorie Sewell Cautley as “Marjorie Sewell Cautley Way.”

Cautley, who died in 1954, was an American landscape architect who was known for her interest in the design of communal spaces and is remembered as being influential in the design of Sunnyside Gardens, along with other neighborhoods – such as Phipps Garden Apartments, Hillside Homes and Radburn in New Jersey.

“From her efforts to help build Sunnyside Gardens – one of our city’s first affordable housing developments – to developing the Phipps Garden Apartments, Ms. Cautley has established herself as one of America’s premier landscape architects,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “It is important that we commemorate her work here in Sunnyside while celebrating the lasting impact she has had on our community.”

Cautley has been credited for the design of Sunnyside Garden’s “superblocks,” where the houses lean toward rear courts, and for her use of native plants in all her projects.

In 1935, she became landscape consultant to the state of New Hampshire and oversaw the construction of 10 state parks, and she also taught at Columbia University and MIT. Later that year she also published a book called “Garden Design.”


108th Precinct sees large crime decrease after new anti-crime team created

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Scott Bintner

Crime in the 108th Precinct — which covers Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Maspeth — has seen a large decrease after a new team of seasoned officers hit the streets, according to the precinct’s top cop.

Captain John Travaglia, who took over the precinct last November, told The Courier that he has seen a 23 percent decrease in crime in the 28-day period ending on July 19 and a 30 percent decrease in the year to date.

Burglaries, which are the main issue the neighborhoods face, have been down 61 percent in the 28-day period and 26 percent in the year to date.

The police captain credits the decrease in crime to the creation of a second anti-crime team at the precinct which is made up of five seasoned officers.

“I inherited a precinct from Captain Brian Hennessy that I thought was working very, very well. The one thing that I noticed was we were missing an anti-crime team. Most precincts function with two anti-crime teams and we only had one,” Travaglia said.

Travaglia added that after going over the personnel background folders for each of the officers in the new team, he noticed they were being underutilized at the precinct and wanted “to get them back in the game.”

Since being formed in March, the team has worked to solve crimes that have been under the radar as well as more prominent crimes, and has helped take down ongoing crimes in the neighborhoods.

“We have put together, to me, one of the best anti-crime teams in the city of New York,” he said. “They’re just very sharp individuals. And I always say that if I was a criminal in this region right now, I’d be very scared of these men.”

Along with helping bring the crime numbers down, Travaglia said the men who make up the team are humble and are always accepting information from other officers and members of the precinct.

He added that they also train other officers around them and many other officers want to emulate these seasoned cops.

“They’re not giants among men. They’re police officers on a team. They don’t take credit for anything. The team takes credit. They’re phenomenal officers and they’re a big component of our crime reduction,” Travaglia said.

The precinct has seen a slight issue concerning Long Island City’s nightlife. Travaglia said that there have been issues, for example felony assaults, that occur late at night surrounding these establishments.

In order to tackle this issue and stop problems from occurring, Travaglia is looking to get together with the owners and managers of local bars, restaurants and clubs during a nightlife best practices meeting.

“We need cooperation because you don’t want to meet me after the situation has happened. You worked hard to get your liquor license, you’ve worked hard to license your establishment, to build your reputation up,” he said. “I want people to be successful here. People are coming to Long Island City to patronize these establishments at night, to visit here, so I want everyone to have a safe experience and pleasant experience.”

The precinct hopes to hold the first nightlife meeting in August or September at the precinct house, located at 5-47 50th Ave.

In regards to traffic enforcement, Travaglia said that since he took the post at the 108th Precinct there have been no traffic fatalities in the neighborhoods and he helped engineer a team of officers to follow traffic trends.

He added that although he has gotten some backlash on enforcement on bicyclists, he said he hopes the 364 summonses given out in the 28-day period, compared to the 17 in the same period last year, will control the other thousands on the road.

In regards to vehicles, he said there have been 7,000 moving summonses and 2,500 parking summonses given year to date.

“Someone has to make sure everyone is adhering to the rules of the road,” Travaglia said. “It’s something that I found needed to be addressed. We’re here to make sure the roadways are safe for all.”


Themed popup bar serving craft cocktails coming to Sunnyside

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Matthew Callahan

Something refreshing is popping up at a Sunnyside restaurant looking to celebrate the long days of summer.

Behind The Wood, an Astoria-based beverage consulting company, is coming together with Venturo Osteria & Wine Bar, located at 44-07 Queens Blvd., to bring the Behind The Wood Popup Bar starting this Friday and Saturday.

The popup bar, which will be open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every weekend in the summer, will have a “summer solstice” theme featuring a summer-driven drink menu filled with craft cocktails all created fresh in house, homemade/refurbished décor, music, and different events such as a move night.

The drink menu will feature two parts. The top part will include four original drinks that are inspired by summer and the bottom half will be the “back to basics section” where guests will be able to also try variations of classic drinks.

The idea of the bar came after the owner of Venturo approached Behind The Wood co-owners Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin, who have more than 30 years combined in the hospitality industry, and said regulars to the restaurant were looking for a local place to get drinks.

Behind The Wood co-owners Mashia Baldwin and Scott Scaffidi.

Behind The Wood co-owners Mashia Baldwin and Scott Scaffidi

Behind The Wood — which for the past two years has offered establishments services such as cocktail menu development; staff and management training; juice, house-made syrups and ice; bar equipment and tools; spirits recommendations; and bar design — had worked with Venturo before when it just opened and decided to help create the popup bar.

The bar will remain opened after the summer with the theme changing in the fall and then changing every two months. There will be a holiday theme around November and December, and possibly a tiki bar theme in the winter.

According to Scaffidi, the popup bar will also serve as a way for him and Baldwin to test the waters with future plans of opening their own establishment in Queens.

“The idea is that down the line we would like to open our own brick-and-mortar bar,” said Scott Scaffidi. “We are using this as a test kitchen to see how people respond and in that way it can be exciting for guests.”

For more information visit www.behindthewood.nyc.

Photo courtesy of Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin.

Photo courtesy of Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin


First-ever documentary about Jamaica Bay to premiere in the fall

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Bay Lives

Sunnyside resident Dan Hendrick fell in love with Jamaica Bay 15 years ago, and he’s about to express that love in a new documentary set to debut later this year.

Growing up in Michigan, Hendrick spent a lot of time on his father’s boat, which cultivated his respect for and fascination with nature. After visiting Jamaica Bay, Hendrick went to a local library to learn more about it, but quickly realized that there were no books on the 18,000-acre wetland estuary. He decided to write the first one himself.

“I went around and I searched and searched and searched and low and behold no one had ever written a book about Jamaica Bay,” Hendrick said. “It’s just like this great place and the fact that in a city of millions of ambitious people living here, you think at this point, every angle has been covered and in some ways that just underscores how much Jamaica Bay was not celebrated.”

The book, “Jamaica Bay,” was released in 2006, and in April 2011, Hendrick set out to make a movie, titled “Jamaica Bay Lives.” Though his book is a great resource for facts about the bay, the environmentalist who works for a solar energy company wanted to tell a story about the relationship between the bay and the local community.

“The documentary has a different power than the book does,” Hendrick said. “We really wanted to reach a wider audience.”

Many of the main characters in the film are local civic leaders and residents who have dedicated their lives to preserving the bay. Don Riepe, a Broad Channel resident and head of Jamaica Bay Guardian, an environmental group that focuses on education, community engagement, advocacy and restoration, talks about the diverse wildlife that calls Jamaica Bay home.

“People will be amazed by the beauty of the marshes and diversity of wildlife right here at their back door,” Riepe said.

A crew of five captured around 400 hours of footage that was eventually condensed into a 75-minute documentary. Hendrick also called on the community to provide photographs and footage of the bay.

Much of the footage, Hendrick said, depicted damage from Hurricane Sandy including flooding and fires in the area. Though the hurricane delayed production, the superstorm made it clear how important places like Jamaica Bay are, he said.

“Urban nature is more important now than ever to protect because nature is a refuge for the city,” Hendrick said. “As we saw in Hurricane Sandy, nature plays a role in protecting our communities from storms, from more severe weather. It’s more important than ever.”

Once the film is finished, Hendrick hopes to take it beyond the big screen and television. Schools and community centers are a “critical” part of the film’s distribution plan because of the ability to educate locals about an important national park that is “right in their backyard,” Hendrick said.

The crew is in the process of putting the finishing touches on the film, including the addition of music, sound mixing and color adjustments. After watching the film, Hendrick hopes residents are encouraged to visit the bay and foster a relationship with it.

“All of our cities are urbanizing and you’ve got climate change upon us with big storms like this,” Hendrick said. “We need to reset our relationship [with nature] that we’ve abused over the years.”


Where to celebrate Bastille Day in Queens this weekend

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Aperitif Bistro


Francophiles looking to indulge in French food and culture without the large city crowds can trade the Arc de Triomphe for the iconic Sunnyside Arch and celebrate Bastille weekend (July 11-12) in the heart of Queens.

Several Queens restaurants are holding early celebrations of Bastille Day, the holiday marking the start of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789.

One such location is the Tournesol Bistro Francais (50-12 Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, off the Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave. 7 train station). Tournesol (French for “sunflower”) serves up French favorites like quiche Lorraine ($9), salade Nicoise ($12), brie panini with apples ($9.50) and croque monsieur ($9.50), a decadent grilled ham and cheese sandwich with bechamel sauce.

Adventurous eaters can try the escargots l’estragon ($9.50), a dish of sauteed snails in tarragon sauce. The magret de canard ($22) features succulent duck breast with celery puree in honey sauce.

Tournesol boasts an extensive wine list categorized by region in France. The Cotes de Provence Cuvee du Cep d’Or, a refreshing rose wine, is perfect for summer afternoons ($8/glass).

To celebrate Bastille Weekend, Tournesol will host a free petanque tournament on Saturday, July 11, from noon to 8 p.m. Petanque is similar to horseshoes but is played with metal “boules,” or balls.

Francophiles can also head over to Sunnyside and celebrate Bastille Day at the Bliss 46 Bistro (43-45 46th St. off the 46th St. and Bliss St. station). Bliss 46 was voted Best French Restaurant in Queens for 2015 by Courier readers in the Best of the Boro competition. The family-owned establishment is run by owner Deodoro Monge and his daughter, Melissa.

Bastille Weekend revelers will want to try their classic coq au vin ($15), a savory chicken stew with red wine, bacon and mashed potatoes, or the steak d’onglet ($19) with garlic butter, vegetables and fries.

Those seeking classic French crepes can find them at Cafe Triskell (33-04 36th Ave. in Astoria off the 36th Ave. N/Q station).

Founded in 2007 by chef, owner and Bretange native Phillipe Fallait, Cafe Triskell offers several varieties of both sweet and savory crepes. Standouts include the French aged goat cheese and herbs crepes ($9), banana with chocolate jam ($6) and the poached pear with homemade chocolate sauce, toasted almonds and whipped cream ($8).

The final stop on the Queens Bastille weekend journey is Aperitif Bistro (213-41 39th Ave. in Bayside). Black and gold pinstripe banquets and vintage globe lanterns give this Queens eatery a French flea market flair.

At Aperitif, patrons can indulge on filet mignon sliders ($14), steak tartare ($17) and prosciutto and figs with blue cheese and pears in a balsamic reduction ($7). Mascarpone crepes with fresh fruit ($16) provide a sweet finish to this French feast.


Sunnyside woman talks novel set in Croatia during war

| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of Sara Nović

Sara Nović, 27, of Sunnyside, traveled to Croatia after high school in 2005 because of family ties in the country, and she talked to a lot of people there about the civil war that had broken out in Yugoslavia in 1991, the beginning of the Croatian War of Independence that would last until 1995.

Those who were children during the war told Nović about playing games on a barricade made of sandbags and sleeping in a pantry while air raid sirens blared around Zagreb. Nović wrote everything down.

At the time, she didn’t know that this material would turn into her first novel, “Girl at War,” published on May 12. It’s since garnered praise from major publications such as The New York Times, although Nović avoids reviews and looks at the Internet “with one eye closed.”

“I guess I never considered writing to be a career that a person could have,” she said. “It was just a thing that I always did, but I thought it was a nerdy thing that I always did that I wasn’t supposed to be sharing with others.”

As an undergrad at Emerson, she wrote a short story about a child who grew up during the war. Her professor called her into his office and encouraged her to write a book about the topic, because he hadn’t read anything about Croatia. Nović replied, “Yeah, all right,” not really believing that she ever would, “but then I kind of did,” she said.

She kept writing on and off throughout college and her MFA program at Columbia University, although she didn’t know that she was writing a book “until quite late,” she said, “even after I’d written a lot of it.” Eventually she decided to write the book for an audience partly because of the responses she received whenever she talked with other Americans about Croatia.

“Whenever I talked about Croatia, people didn’t really know anything, like where it was, never mind that a war had taken place,” she said. “So I think the very first impetus was anger, like why doesn’t anyone know about this? I don’t think it’s fiction’s job to educate people. It can’t do that—it would be a really boring book if you wrote a book like a textbook. But I think it can make people curious to find out about stuff.”

“Girl at War” focuses on the war’s impact on one girl, Ana Jurić, moving between her life as a 10-year-old in Zagreb when the war begins and her life as a college student at NYU who decides to return to her country after a decade away.

“I didn’t want the book to be in chronological order,” Nović said. “I think—I hope—the past and present thing shows that for Ana, the war is not over, how these things are still intertwined, always.” It’s also a reflection on memory and fragmentation: “This is a war, so people were under a lot of stress, anxiety, and it changes the way your memory works.”

Nović was influenced by the work of Izet Sarajlić, whose poetry she was translating, although she only realized that he impacted her book in retrospect. His wrote his collection “Sarajevo War Journal” during the first weeks of the war in the Bosnian capital.

“He’s very spare with his language, but he’s also very funny in this black humor [way],” she said. “When you’re amidst this terrible situation, you’re still a person, so still some things are funny. And that was something that I tried to put in the book with the way the kids respond to the war,” playing war games and fighting over the generator bike in underground air raid shelters.

Nović is deaf, and she has written about the experience of being a deaf novelist for The Guardian. She joked that she can “just sit anywhere and write and not be bothered by people,” but she said “’deaf’ is a really negative thing in our language,” with phrases like “falling on deaf ears.”

“It’s sometimes weird to write in a language that’s intrinsically negative about your personhood,” said Nović, who is trilingual in English, American Sign Language and Croatian. Since her hearing loss was progressive, “English is my first [language], just not my favorite anymore. Except when I’m writing. Then I like it again.”

Nović founded the online magazine Redeafined three years ago to combat misinformation on deaf issues. The busy author also teaches writing at Columbia University and at the Fashion Institute of Technology and serves as the fiction editor for Blunderbuss Magazine.

Now Nović is working on a “very new” writing project set in a deaf school in Boston.

“It’s just kind of a short story that gets longer and longer instead of ending, which I eye with suspicion because that’s what happened when I was writing [‘Girl at War’],” she said.

Sara Nović will be participating in a reading along with two other authors at LIC Bar, 45-58 Vernon Blvd., on July 14 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. “Girl at War” can be found in bookstores all over.