Tag Archives: the Rockaways

Elmhurst woman writes Queens walking tour book


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Adrienne Onofri

One Elmhurst woman is hoping her new book will help readers step out their doors and take a stroll while exploring all that Queens has to offer.

Adrienne Onofri is the author behind “Walking Queens,” a new book that features 30 detailed walking tours through the borough exploring architecture, distinct cultures in different neighborhoods, historical landmarks, celebrity homes and natural scenery.

“There are one or two books about neighborhoods in Queens but really no guide book completely dedicated to Queens,” Onofri said. 

The opportunity to write this book came after Onofri, a licensed New York City sightseeing guide, wrote “Walking Brooklyn: 30 Tours Exploring Historical Legacies.” 

Her publisher became interested in doing a version for Queens, and Onofri said she jumped at the idea because a lot of people had asked her to write a walking tour book for the borough she has called home for decades.

“I liked the idea because I can say I live in Queens,” Onofri said. 

To compile the book, which took about a year to finish, Onofri traveled the borough on nothing but her two legs and public transportation. She sketched out routes based on what she already had in mind or knew she wanted to include. Other locations, she said, she roamed and discovered in order to create the detailed walks. 

“There are a lot of people that drive around and don’t get around in public transportation much,” Onofri said. “[The book] is just encouraging them to go a few neighborhoods over, which they would normally drive pass on the highway.”

The neighborhoods featured in the book go from Long Island City and Astoria all the way to Howard Beach and the Rockaways. Along with these, Onofri also spent time in the borough’s parks such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Alley Pond Park and Rockaway Park. 

The book, with photographs taken by the author, includes maps of the area that will be walked, nearby trains or buses, points of interest in the neighborhood, historical facts and detailed directions of how to get around. 

Part of the Hunters Point Historic District on 45th Ave. in Long Island City (Photo by  Adrienne Onofri)

Part of the Hunters Point Historic District on 45th Ave. in Long Island City (Photo by Adrienne Onofri)

“There are things you walk past and don’t notice,” Onofri said. “This book has the discoveries of things that you might not take the time to notice regularly.”

While working on the book, Onofri said she realized there were instances where she noticed things she hadn’t before. Also, one of the issues was trying to fit as much as she could in the 254-page book, with some things just not being able to be included. 

“There was a lot of stuff to learn, whether it was just some place I had been only a couple of times or a place I really didn’t know much about before,” she said. 

Onofri said she is still conducting tours in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. 

To contact Onofri to schedule a tour, email walkingqueens@gmail.com.

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Sandy recovery process highlighted at town hall in the Rockaways


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy ravaged southern Queens and though the recovery process is slow, it is moving in the right direction, city officials said at a town hall meeting in Rockaway.

“We are approaching the two-year anniversary of Sandy and still people are struggling,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “We wanted to give the community a chance to hear about the recovery process and ask their questions directly to the city agencies.”

The meeting, which was hosted by Ulrich and Councilman Donavan Richards at Beach Channel High School in Rockaway on Oct. 27, provided updates on the state of the Rockaway boardwalk, ferry service, street and light repairs, Build It Back numbers, FEMA insurance and other programs presented by representatives of the DOT, EDC, DEP, Parks Department, Build It Back and the Mayor’s office.

“Sandy highlighted many of the vulnerabilities that we had in the city,” said Dan Zarrilli, director of Recovery and Resiliency in the Mayor’s Office.

He added that his agency is working on strengthening coastal defenses through sand replenishment and bulkhead expansion while also lobbying the federal government to keep FEMA insurance at an affordable price for residents.

Amy Peterson, director of Build It Back, said that even though the agency is not where it needs to be, much progress has been made. Since January, there have been 750 construction starts and 1,000 checks issued throughout the city.

When it came to the DEP, Emily Lloyd, director of the agency, said they inspected 51 miles of storm sewers on the Rockaway peninsula running from Arverne to Neponsit and added that there was minimal damage to the water mains in the area.

She also said that the agency is working on minimizing the crude smell of the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant, located on Beach 107th Street and Beach Channel Drive, via odor control and an upgraded filtration system but said there will never be absolutely no smell.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver gave a much-anticipated update on the Rockaway boardwalk. He said that the construction of the boardwalk, which was started in April, will be finished by Memorial Day of 2017. He added that when finished this boardwalk will “rival all others in the world.”

The DOT, represented by Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall, has allotted $2 million for resurfacing work throughout southern Queens. Hall also said the agency is diligently repairing street lights and traffic signals, which were damaged from Sandy, and is working on getting Select Bus Service to the Rockaways as the need for transportation became so apparent in the wake of the storm.

Finally, Kyle Kimball, president of NYCEDC, gave news that met with much uproar from residents. The Rockaway ferry service, which was put in as a temporary transportation method after Superstorm Sandy, will be ending this month. He mentioned that the $5 million a year it would take to run the service was not in the city’s budget.

Councilman Richards said that even though the city still has a long way to go in the recovery process is still a long way to go, two years after the storm hit, progress has been made.

“Our communities still need repairs,” Richards noted. “But the stronger we remain together, the more likely the entire community will be rebuilt.”

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Take a first look at new interior of Sandy-wrecked Peninsula library as construction is set to begin soon


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Queens Library

The long chapter of devastation is coming to an end for the Peninsula library in Rockaway Beach.

The building on Beach 92nd Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard was “the hardest hit” library in the borough by Hurricane Sandy, according to a Queens Library spokeswoman, and has yet to reopen after nearly two years.

Service has been operating out of a trailer since January 2013, but officials are securing permits and bids to complete reconstruction and hope to open the library by early 2015.

“Beginning to rebuild the permanent library was delayed while we worked with FEMA and the city to establish how to proceed,” a representative for the library said. “Since this library had been scheduled for a complete redesign and renovation prior to the storm, we are taking this opportunity to present the community with a greatly enhanced library.”

The rebuilt library will include a larger multipurpose room for public use, which will allow for community events and meetings even if the library is closed.

There will also be a new adult reading area, children’s room and teen area with furniture and computers. Modern customer service equipment will be added, including exterior machines to return books at any time. And a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will be added throughout the building as well.

Adult reading area

Officials expect the Department of Buildings to issue permits in a matter of weeks making way for reconstruction to begin.

The Queens Library is collecting bids until Oct. 6 for a contractor to provide mechanical, plumbing and flood barrier renovation work, according to city documents.

In June, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder announced that he secured more than $700,000 through the Public Library Construction Grant Program to help renovate the Ozone Park library and the Peninsula library. Goldfeder said $582,654 was awarded to the Peninsula library reconstruction.

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First Queens Art Intervention Day to offer interactive projects throughout borough


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by RPGA Studios

Communities throughout Queens are set for an artistic intervention, looking to inspire, educate and empower residents and feed the pulse of the borough.

The nonprofit studio Rego Park Green Alliance, which uses creative methods to address community issues, will host the first Queens Art Intervention Day on Sept. 27 throughout the borough from Long Island City to the Rockaways.

“We see something that we are not happy with and we try to think about how we can fix it in a creative way,” said Yvonne Shortt, who started the studio and is currently the executive director.

The day-long event, which has a rain date for Oct. 4, will feature a total of 30 projects including murals, art installations, performance pieces, hands-on programs, and many more creative activities taking place outdoors in Astoria, LIC, Kew Gardens, Elmhurst, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Laurelton, Corona, Whitestone and the Rockaways.

QAIposter6

“We want our borough to be seen as a place that people want to come and do interesting things,” Shortt said. “We hope this will help Queens continue to grow and continue to thrive and not just have one spot thought of as artistic and creative.”

According to Shortt, along with being visually appealing, the pieces will also serve to bring about change and to get community members thinking about certain issues.

For example, posters for one project called “Stat Girl” depict a super hero displaying statistics on traffic accidents that have occurred on Queens Boulevard in the past two years. The posters will be put up all day down the thoroughfare.

stat girl photo by RPGA Studios

“We would love for people to stop and engage,” Shortt said. “It’s really about the communities themselves to find some inspiration and advocate for better communities.”

Shortt said that although there were over 160 submissions this year, funding, provided solely by Shortt, only allowed for 25 projects to be part of the event. In the future, she hopes to expand the event to more days and many more communities in the borough.

“There’s an active pulse throughout the borough of Queens and I’m very excited to help it move forward. I feel that if you have ideas and are willing to push it forward, that Queens is a very inviting borough.” Shortt said. “We’re showing the vitality of Queens.”

For more information and the full list of projects for Queens Art Intervention Day, click here.

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Leaders vow to save and expand St. John’s Hospital at community forum


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

If only one thing could be taken away from the St. John’s Episcopal Hospital forum on March 13, it’s that “St. John’s is not closing.”

The phrase was repeated numerous times by leaders of the hospital during the meet-and-greet event, which featured hospital chair Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, CEO Richard Brown, a representative from the State Department of Health, and Steve Kramer, executive vice president of the hospital’s employees’ union, 1199 SEIU.

State Senator James Sanders put the forum together to allow residents a face-to-face conference with the leaders to answer the community’s concerns about the future of the hospital.

Instead of closing, everyone in the room was focused on how the hospital and health care in the Rockaways would expand.

“My job is to make sure that nobody deviates from the path,” Sanders said. “The bottom line is we are going to save this hospital and we are heading north.”

Brown announced updates on the expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.

The project will cost an estimated $9 – $10 million, and double the size of the emergency department. The construction will be carried out in three phases over nearly two years. The expansion is lengthy because the emergency department will continue to stay open during construction.

Residents, who have complained the department is too small, hope the expansion could happen sooner.

“Yes, it’s terrible,” said Rockaway resident Anita Hunter, who was born in the hospital and whose sister currently works there. “You can barely walk in there. There are so many people lined up outside the examination room.”

Residents also used the forum to hasten the possible merger between the hospital and Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which would allow St. John’s to expand its services and resources.

Brown said the merger was still in the discussion phase. He said metaphorically that St. John’s is “dating” the Long Island organization, but not yet “married” to them.

“What we in this room are looking for is to see St. John’s be a first class hospital,” Kramer said. “We ask you, Bishop and CEO Brown, to make moves as quickly as possible to expedite the merger.”

Perhaps the most exciting statement made at the meeting, though, was Sanders declaring he would like to see the shuttered Peninsula Hospital used as an additional emergency department. The room was immediately filled with cheers.

“I didn’t take this job to lose,” Sanders said. “I didn’t come on to be in charge of the dismantling of health care in the Rockaways. I believe in this place and I believe we can do better.”

 

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Newly opened Rockaway YMCA to boost local economy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Raymond Liang for the YMCA

The YMCA has a new home by the sea.

The YMCA of Greater New York celebrated the opening of its new branch, Rockaway YMCA at Arverne by the Sea, on March 14 during a ribbon cutting with local elected officials and community leaders. The ceremony was originally scheduled a month before but postponed due to the weather.

The 44,000-square-foot facility, developed by Benjamin-Beechwood LLC, faced some construction delays after Superstorm Sandy swept through the city. However, the 207 Beach 73rd St. location opened its doors to the general public on Feb. 18 and had a record of 1,100 new members in its first week of operation.

“For the first time in our organization’s 161 year history, the YMCA has a permanent, brick-and-mortar branch in the Rockaways,” said Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “This new Y is not only bringing vital programs and services to the people of the Rockaways, but it is creating jobs and helping to sustain economic development in the area.”

The site now includes the largest aquatic center of any of the 24 YMCA locations in New York City which features a lap pool, a family-friendly recreational pool with a water slide and much more.

The overall Rockaways location also includes a full-court gymnasium, fitness center, outdoor recreational field, community multi-purpose space for youth and family programs, and other amenities. Some of the programs that will be available at the new location include after-school and college readiness, youth employment and job training, child care and adult learning.

“The new Rockaway YMCA at Arverne by the Sea is a bright and shining example of our neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization and recovery from super storm Sandy,” Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr. said. “This facility will provide jobs for local Rockaways residents and stand to serve as our neighborhood’s heart –providing a safe, community center dedicated to improving the quality of life for all our families.”

After Superstorm Sandy hit the Rockaways, the YMCA of Greater New York helped distribute cases of water, blankets, clothing and household items to families. The organization also donated backpacks with schools supplies and winter clothing to 1,000 students at P.S. 197.

The new Rockaways location is open Monday through Friend from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information visit here.

 

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Primary guide: City Council District 31


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

31

As the clock ticks closer to city primaries on Tuesday, September 10, The Courier would like to provide you, the reader and the voter, with a fair, detailed guide of who is running. Here is a list of the City Council District 31 primary candidates (Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, the Rockaways), who they are, what they stand for and what they want to continue to do if they go on to the general election in November.

Name: Ricardo Brown

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Accountant, CPA

Personal Info: Brown, a Costa Rican native, went to Hillcrest High School and SUNY Old Westbury. He is currently a member of the Springfield Gardens Rosedale Community Association.

Platform/Issues: Brown believes some of the most important issues to address in this race is modernizing the district’s educational system, rebuilding Sandy-affected areas and providing youth, senior and veteran services.

If elected, he hopes to enhance education amongst his constituents, create a greater collaboration between the community and police, start a civilian patrol team in various sections of the district, support the growing need for social services in Far Rockaway and increase the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to clean up drainage and reduce flooding.

Name: Michael R. Duncan

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Owner & manager of Jamaica Breeze Restaurant

Personal Information: Duncan was born in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated to New York in 1978. Afterwards, he attended Baruch College, CUNY, graduating with a BBA in accounting. After moving to Rosedale, he saw the need to revitalize the Rosedale Soccer Club which had been allowed to fall apart. He got involved and eventually became the president.

As a result of his tireless commitment to the public school system, Duncan has been elected PTA president at P.S. 195, J.H.S. 231 and Springfield Gardens High School. Duncan was the one who led the fight against the construction of the “hot sheets” motel across the street from Springfield Gardens High School.

From 2007 to 2009, Michael Duncan was the Chief of staff of District 31. Currently, he owns and manages the Jamaica Breeze Restaurant on Merrick Boulevard whereby he created 12 new jobs in the community.

Duncan is a community activist and has always put the community first. This is why he has volunteered in the school system, revitalized the soccer club and was the force behind Christmas in the Rockaways to bring cheer to the Sandy victims.

Name: Donovan Richards

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: City Councilmember of the 31st District

Personal Information: From childhood, Richards has been committed to public service both at home and abroad. He served as a missionary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on behalf of his St. Albans Congregational Church highlighting this as turning point in his understanding of what it means to serve the community. Although he admits initially he had no interest in politics, a tragic series of events changed his mind. In March 2003 his childhood friend Darnell Patterson was fatally shot in front of his home. Richards decided he wouldn’t let Darnell die in vain. Councilmember James Sanders Jr. held a meeting regarding gun violence in the community. His testimony and outspokenness at this forum caught the attention of Sanders and he later joined his staff November 2003.

Platform/Issues: Richards was elected to his current seat through a March 2013 special election, and since has fought against the closure of daycares, after-school programs and firehouses. He additionally brought home nearly $10 million in capital and expense funding over six months, and allocated $3 million to expand district libraries. He also recently negotiated with the Bloomberg administration to bring a Workforce Center to the district and voted to overturn the mayor’s veto on stop and frisk and to create an inspector general to oversee the NYPD.

If elected again in September, Richards will continue to focus on education, jobs and affordable housing. He was endorsed by the UFT, SEIU 1199, DC 37, Communication Workers of America and 32BJ.

 

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