Citi Bike is slowly pedaling its way into western Queens.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun the process of bringing the Citi Bike Share Program into Long Island City, Sunnyside and now Astoria, by getting community input from Community Boards (CB) 1 and 2.
On Tuesday, the DOT began the first step of a long planning process of bringing Citi Bike to Astoria by introducing the plan to residents and board members during CB 1’s monthly meeting. Officials said this is only the beginning of a process that will take months and various community feedback meetings.
In August, State Senator Michael Gianaris announced he was working with the DOT to include Astoria in the future plans, which initially only included Long Island City and Sunnyside as Queens Citi Bike locations.
“I think it’s a great program that would provide unique benefits to western Queens,” said Gianaris. “I’m anxious to see a good program to include Queens as opposed to just Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Gianaris said his push for the Citi Bike in western Queens arose after receiving a lot of input from residents and businesses. He also said it would work better for this area because although there are mass transit options available, some residents live a distance away from train stations. People from outside the area would be able to get to local restaurants, museums and other western Queens attractions.
The DOT will now conduct public discussions, collecting resident feedback and suggesting possible station locations in Astoria.
The senator said the only big community concern is fear that the DOT could remove parking spaces when they install the Citi Bike stations.
“We have to do the work to get it done now,” said Gianaris.
After the planning process is completed, the DOT will then have to find the funding for the stations.
The DOT has completed the planning process and station location selection with CB 2 for the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Long Island City. Working together with the community, 11 locations have been selected and the DOT is waiting for resources to become available to install those stations.
The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, Sunnyside Chambers of Commerce, local elected officials and community members gathered on Tuesday for the Sunnyside Holiday Lighting Ceremony.
Residents of all ages got the chance to meet and take picture with Santa and listen to the Sunnyside Drum Corps while they sipped hot chocolate provided by White Castle. Bing’s Hallmark, located at 45-15 Greenpoint Avenue, also provided holiday ornaments to hang during the ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Luke Adams
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer led the countdown with the community to light up the holiday lights.
After the lighting ceremony some attendees got together for an Italian dinner at Dazies Restaurant located at 39-41 Queens Boulevard.
Shovels full of dirt hit the ground to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in Woodside.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with city officials and the community on November 15 at the corner of 58th Street and 39th Avenue to break ground on the construction of P.S. 339.
“This new school is going to help so much here in Woodside,” said Van Bramer. “Here in Woodside, in our district, we have a serious overcrowding situation and I’m so thrilled that we’ve had a lot of these groundbreakings and that we’re building a lot of new schools in our district. The children of Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City deserve nothing but the very best.”
P.S. 339 is one of six new schools expected to be fully operational by 2016 in western Queens. Located at 39-07 57th Street, it will serve 472 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
The new five-story building will feature 22 standard classrooms, two special-education classrooms, multiple resource rooms, a music classroom, art classroom and “gymatorium.” The school will also have a library, cafeteria, kitchen, a community room, a general use and early childhood playground, and administrative, guidance and medical offices.
P.S. 339 is slated to open September 2015, with the facility fully operational by 2016.
Along with the new school, Van Bramer also announced the construction of a state-of-the-art extension to nearby P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave, which will add 350 seats and is expected to be open by 2016.
“I am so excited that this is happening,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “It’s for our community. It’s not my school, your school, it’s a school for Woodside children.”
Members of the Woodside community, School Construction Authority representatives and local elected officials broke ground on the construction of P.S. 339, which is expected to be fully operational by 2016. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano)
Cops discovered the bodies of two Sunnyside residents inside their home Tuesday morning.
Police, responding to a the report of a foul odor inside of 43-33 46th Street, entered the home around 12 p.m. yesterday and found 47-year-old Diana Rodriguez and 59-year-old Kevin Flannelly unconscious and unresponsive inside the living room, according to the NYPD.
EMS responded to the location and pronounced Rodriguez and Flannelly at the scene.
There is no apparent trauma to both individuals and medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death, said police.
The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID) is holding its first-ever Sunnyside Restaurant Week from November 4 to 8.
The five-day celebration will offer participants a “culinary journey through Sunnyside,” featuring special three course dinner menus for $25 at 17 participating local restaurants. Six of the 17 will also feature two course lunch menus for $10.
Along with indulging in cuisines from all around the world, Sunnyside Restaurant Week will also feature site-specific art installations, titled “Conveying the Invisible,” curated by No Longer Empty, a contemporary arts organization.
Photo by Bradley Hawks
The artworks for the week will bring visitors a combination of space, food and art.
“This collaboration has given exposure for emerging curators and artists and brings the art experience to new audiences,” said Naomi Hersson-Ringskog, executive director of No Longer Empty.
Three artists will be on-site on Monday, November 4 and the opening reception for the week will be at Venturo, located at 44-07 Queens Boulevard, at 5:30 p.m.
“Sunnyside Restaurant Week is an exciting opportunity to highlight the neighborhood as a creative district with great restaurants,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of the Sunnyside Shines BID. “We hope to draw new people to the neighborhood as well as inspire Sunnyside residents to discover new art and restaurants they haven’t tried yet.”
Photo courtesy of Takesushi
The 17 Sunnyside restaurants, which can be found on Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue, include: Arriba Arriba, Bliss 46 Bistro, Bliss Street Station, Bucharest Restaurant, Dazies Restaurant, Dee Thai, I Love Paraguay, Malingo, Mario’s Restaurant, Molly Blooms, New York Style Eats, Nodus, PJ Horgan’s, Sidetracks, Takesushi, Turkish Grill and Venturo.
The six restaurants offering the lunch menus are Arriba Arriba, Bliss Street Station, Bucharest Restaurant, Molly Blooms, Nodus and Takesushi.
The project is partially funded by the Avenue NYC program administered by the New York City Department of Small Business Services.
Nearly a year after Sunnyside resident Lou Rispoli was brutally killed in Sunnyside, police are renewing calls for clues in the case.
Around midnight on October 20, 2012, Rispoli, 62, left his Sunnyside home for a late night walk as he sometimes did to quell his insomnia. At roughly 2 a.m. on 43rd Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street, two unidentified men approached Rispoli, exchanging in a brief conversation before striking him over the head with a blunt object. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he died from his injuries on October 25.
According to an eyewitness, a third perpetrator acted as the getaway driver.
Rispoli lived in Sunnyside with his husband for over 30 years. It was not clear if the victim’s sexual orientation had anything to do with the attack or whether or not he was robbed.
The incident is being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force as a possible bias crime, said police.
In January, the NYPD released sketches of two suspects wanted in connection to the homicide.
Authorities describe the suspects as a Hispanic male in his thirties and a white male in his twenties. The suspects possibly fled in a white or grey four door sedan with a loud muffler.
A $22,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction for the persons responsible for Rispoli’s homicide.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.
Residents and visitors will now have a colorful way to get around Sunnyside.
The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID) and the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce got together with LaGuardia Community College to develop an artistic, colorful map of Sunnyside targeted at both visitors and incoming residents.
At the start of the project, 14 students in the Art and Humanities Department at LaGuardia were asked to submit sketches of a Sunnyside map. They highlighted neighborhood attractions, amenities and landmarks to help familiarize visitors with the area. In July, three students were recognized as the top finalists. Carmen Zhu won first place, Adina Partoi won second place and Miho Nozawa won third place.
Local business owners, elected officials and residents gathered on October 2 to celebrate the unveiling of Zhu’s finished map at Bar 43, located at 43-06 43rd Street in Sunnyside.
“This map is a great reflection of our thriving local business community,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of the Sunnyside Shines BID. “We are thrilled to get the word out about Sunnyside with such a beautiful map to be able to distribute to visitors.”
During the summer, the artwork created by the fine arts student was brought together with a business directory and advertisements from local Sunnyside businesses. Printed maps will now be distributed at hotels in Long Island City, local real estate offices and community events. A new business directory in the map will be updated each year.
“Sunnyside’s businesses are some of the best in New York City – and I’m very happy to say that the design of this map is an accurate representation of the beauty, energy and warmth of the neighborhood,” said Swain Weiner, president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. “We’re proud of the collaboration behind this project, and of this opportunity to showcase some of Sunnyside’s finest establishments.”
An 18-year-old skateboarder was killed Thursday while taking a ride on the side of truck.
Alexander Ciszewski was holding onto the passenger side of the truck while it was driving down 47th Avenue near 32nd Place around 11:30 a.m. yesterday when he lost control and fell underneath the rear wheel of the vehicle, said police.
Ciszewski, a Sunnyside resident, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Police are looking for the truck driver involved in the accident.
His vehicle is described as a white 2005 GMC box truck.
Although he was taken at a young age, Rory Staunton’s dedication, integrity and innocence will continue to live on through a park he fought to save.
Family, friends, students, local elected officials and Parks Department representatives gathered on Monday in Jackson Heights to unveil the renaming of the acquired Parks Department athletic field at the Garden School as “Rory Staunton Field.”
“This is a special day for us because we see Rory’s dream come true,” said Ciaran Staunton, Rory’s father.
“We as a family believe that the Jackson Heights community deserved this field as an open space. Rory was keenly aware of his civic responsibility. He was a true leader. Rory’s favorite poem was a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ The road not taken, this was the life that Rory lived. True leadership demands inspiration, and in Rory many people found inspiration to do good things.”
The 12-year-old lost his life last April due to sepsis poisoning after falling while playing basketball in his school’s gym. What doctors initially believed to be a minor wound became infected and ultimately led to his death.
Rory was a student at the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street. Although he lived in Sunnyside with his father, mother Orlaith and sister Kathleen, he loved to help out in the Jackson Heights community. He enjoyed working side-by-side with his dad, a board member of the Garden School who was one of the main individuals who pushed for the field to be used as a park instead of developing it into a 10-story apartment building.
“After every board meeting I would come home and there would be a question-and-answer,” said Staunton. “And Rory would say ‘you cannot let it go dad, you gotta stick with it.’”
Rory Staunton (File photo)
In February, NYC Parks and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Service completed the $6 million acquisition of the 24,600-square-foot asphalt play yard owned by the Garden School.
The proposal of the property’s renaming was inspired by the hard work Rory and his father did to help save the greenspace for future generations.
“They [the Stauntons] were involved with this from the start, all of them, pushing to make it a reality,” said Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “Even when things looked most bleak, they were insistent that it could happen, that it would happen and it did happen. This is why we requested the new park be named after Rory, there could not be a more fitting memorial for him and today we have insured that his name will never be forgotten.”
Rory Staunton Field and Travers Park, located across the street, will undergo a $3.7 million renovation through funding from Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Borough President Helen Marshall.
Since their son’s passing, the Staunton family has worked hard to raise awareness of sepsis. Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed legislation to fight sepsis, “Rory’s Regulations.” On Tuesday, September 24, the family also testified against sepsis in the Senate.
“Rory was a passionate advocate of truth, justice and fairness,” said Staunton. “He was and always will be an inspiration to us all. The name of Rory Staunton will shine and the spirit will be over this park, and this park will be one of everyone enjoying themselves, free of all kinds of bullying and all kinds of whatever else happens because his spirit will see to it.”
Jerry Ingenito devoted his life to young players off and on the basketball court, and now his name will forever live on in one of the many communities where he coached.
Family and residents joined Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer on Saturday, September 21 to celebrate and honor the life of Ingenito, who coached young basketball players in the borough for more than 30 years, by co-naming the intersection of 38th Street and Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside “Jerry Ingenito Way.”
Ingenito coached at Saint Raphael’s Catholic Youth Organization in Sunnyside, Christ the King in Middle Village and Queens College in Flushing. His dedication to his career has helped influence the beginning stages of present and past NBA players including Lamar Odom, Craig “Speedy” Claxton, Derrick Phelps and Khalid Reeves.
Along with the street co-naming, Ingenito has been honored in other different venues since his passing in January. The Sunnyside/Woodside Boys and Girls Club named a summer basketball league at St. Theresa School in Woodside after Ingenito and the Bruns Summer basketball camp in Garden City offers two scholarships in his honor for young players from Sunnyside. The Cathedral High School summer camp, where Ingenito was a founder and director, also offers a scholarship in his honor.
Sandy Hook victim Benjamin Wheeler’s name will live on forever next to the No. 7 train he loved to ride and the Sunnyside street where the world got its first look at him.
Ben, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was one of the 20 children who were killed in the gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. On September 7, he was honored and celebrated during a ceremony to co-name the intersection of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard “Benjamin Wheeler Place.” Ben’s older brother, Nate, unveiled the sign.
“It’s really special that we rename this street ‘Benjamin Wheeler Place’ and the No. 7 train will go back and forth, back and forth and it will be a very beautiful thing,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “They moved to Connecticut but the love they left behind still is so incredibly strong in the community.”
Family, friends and local officials gathered wearing green, Ben’s favorite color, at the corner of 41st Street, where he lived with his parents and brother. His parents, Francine and David, lived in Sunnyside until Ben was seven months old when they decided to move to Newtown.
“We are so incredibly grateful for the chance to thank our former Sunnyside neighbors whom we are very, very lucky enough to still call friends for their love and for their support in the months immediately following last December,” said David. “You quite literally have kept us standing.”
In honor of Ben’s love for The Beatles, Congressmember Joseph Crowley sang “Here Comes the Sun” to the family.
“Nothing more fitting that we can do [today], than honor Benjamin and the entire Wheeler family by naming the street on which he spent his first day and first months, so that we will always remember the valuable contribution that they have made and their love for Sunnyside,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.
Francine was one of the founding member of Sunnymoms, a collective of local parents who share recipes, baby sitter recommendations and parenting tips. In February, Sunnymoms organized a fundraiser and concert for the Wheeler family to honor Ben’s memory and raise money for the family.
“Ben was six, he had just learned how to tie his shoes, that was his major accomplishment but frankly he hadn’t really perfected that either,” said David. “The sign will show us where we can eventually go as people. It is up to us to make our schools, our malls, our offices, our parks, our street corners safer for children everywhere.”
The wheels are turning in the right direction for one community’s push to get more bike lanes.
At a recent Community Board (CB5) Transportation Committee meeting, the Department of City Planning (DCP) revealed a list of streets that could have bike lanes in place by early 2014.
The DCP is looking to add six potential new routes to the area and streets that are under consideration are Eliot Avenue, Juniper Boulevard South, Central Avenue, Cooper Avenue, Woodward Avenue, Onderdonk Avenue, 80th Street and 69th Street.
Currently, there are a few lanes in the district, which encompasses Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village and Glendale, but hardly any at all that connect the bike-friendly neighborhoods surrounding the district to the north in Sunnyside and Long Island City, and parts of northern Brooklyn.
Map courtesy of DOT
“If you look at the bike map right now there is a big hole where Community Board 5 is,” said Donald Passantino, a member of the CB 5 Transportation Committee and an avid bike rider. “Part of this is that these [lanes] are supposed to connect with other neighborhoods.”
The board requested new lanes throughout the community last year through the Department of Transportation (DOT). The request was then turned over to City Planning, which has been assessing streets that the community recommended for new bike lanes.
Now the DCP will review bike planning practices with the DOT and continue to analyze the most practical streets for lanes, and then in the coming weeks meet with the community again to get additional input, according to a DCP representative.
“The real advantage of bike lanes more than anything else is that they calm traffic,” Passantino said. “The [street] looks narrower, which forces cars to drive slower and cuts down on deaths.”
City Planning will meet with the community board members again this month to talk about potential lanes.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McCreesh serves as the president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, which serves to unite and encourage all homeowners and residents to improve and maintain the community. In addition to her duties as president, McCreesh is also an executive assistant for a construction company in New York City. McCreesh is the mother of four children, and volunteers for the alumni association at their school, St. Andrew Avellino.
BACKGROUND: McCreesh has lived in Queens her whole life. Born and raised in Sunnyside, she attended school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and later attended St. John’s University. For the last 16 years, McCreesh and her family have lived in North Flushing.
FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory was when City Planning wanted to upzone Northern Boulevard to allow buildings up to a height of six stories. I had been mostly uninvolved in the community and got together with some friends and we were able to get over 600 signatures on a petition to the city requesting they not change the zoning on Northern Boulevard,” explained McCreesh. “When the executive staff of the BFHA found out what we were doing they contacted me and they explained that we were going about it all wrong. After that meeting the plan changed and we were able to negotiate with City Planning. Even though they changed the zoning, it was such a minor change that the community remained low density with low building heights. It was a great success for our community and I realized people do make a difference,” said McCreesh.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McCreesh says that her biggest challenge has been educating homeowners about the Rickert Finlay covenant that is attached to their deeds. “One of the most important ones is no fences within 20 feet of the property line. The original developers of our neighborhood intended it to have open streetscapes with a suburban feel,” explained McCreesh. “We send newsletters and have regular meetings but there is always a greedy developer/individual lurking in the background trying to make a profit by subdividing lots (which is not permitted) just to get two houses and double their profits.”
INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been the members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association,” said McCreesh. “I have never met a more passionate and hardworking group of people who volunteer their time, money and energy for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining our beautiful community.”
Police have arrested a man for allegedly setting a former councilmember’s vehicle on fire in Sunnyside over the weekend.
Devon Page, 22, has also been charged in connection to four other arson incidents within about a block from the car blaze and from Page’s own home, according to authorities. He allegedly set four trash fires in the vicinity of 49th and 50th streets and 39th Avenue.
All five fires were discovered around 5 a.m. There were no injuries reported.
Johnny Flores, 22, would has lived next door to Page for 10 years was surprised when he heard Page had been arrested for the fires.
“He seemed like a good kid,” said Flores. “I know he’s not like that.”
Gregory Conroy, 21, has known Page for three years and said he was always playing with lighters and fire but he never thought Page would commit any crimes.
“He didn’t seem that irrational to go burn a car especially close to where he lives,” said Conroy. “He was a really nice guy.”
The SUV reportedly belonged to Councilmember Eric Gioia, but police have said there is “no specific evidence” that Gioia’s vehicle was a target.
According to Gioia, he woke up on Sunday morning to a large thump noise which him and his wife thought had been one of their children. As he opened his son’s bedroom door to check on the noise he saw large flames outside of the window. Gioia and his wife, who was six months pregnant, rushed out of their house with their three children.
The windows on the Gioia’s house were cracked and their front outdoor patio received some damages as well.
“This could have been far worse, we feel incredibly lucky, blessed and grateful.” said Gioia. “We certainly feel happy that it’s all over.”
Before setting fire to the car, Page allegedly also began a fire on 51st Street at Donato’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. According to surveillance cameras at the restaurant, Oswaldo Calle, owner of Donato’s, said Page set fire to his garbage can and the outdoor sidewalk partitions.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood, this never happens,” said Calle. “I was happy I had the cameras. Now we can sleep in peace.”