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Hercules flexing his muscles in first storm of 2014


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Updated Friday, January 3, 7:05 a.m.

The year is starting out with a shot of nasty weather that is predicted to bring near-blizzard conditions to the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a statewide state of emergency Thursday afternoon to prepare officials for winter storm Hercules, which is forecasted to bring five to nine inches of snow to the city.

“To ensure an effective and rapid response to this winter storm, I am declaring a statewide state of emergency, so resources can get to communities where they are needed as quickly as possible,” he said.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter storm warning until 1 p.m. Friday.

Cuomo also announced the Long Island Expressway will be closed from midnight to 8 a.m. on Friday from the Queens/Nassau County border and east. The Northern State Parkway and all MTA bridges and tunnels will remain open.

“As this winter storm unfolds, bringing heavy snow and high winds to many parts of the state, I strongly urge all New Yorkers to exercise caution, avoid travel and stay indoors,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the “forecast could change at any moment.”

“That’s why it’s so important for everyone to pay close attention to updates in the coming hours,” he said at his administration’s first press conference Thursday evening.

Alternate side parking has been suspended Friday to facilitate with snow removal, but payment at parking meters remains in effect.

All express subway service will run local for the start of the morning rush hour, until all stored trains are moved from the express tracks. Riders should expect delays on city buses due to the weather. The Long Island Rail Road is operating on a weekend schedule effective 12:01 a.m. Friday. The Metro-North is running on a reduced schedule after 8  p.m. Thursday, and a Saturday schedule on Friday. To see any additional MTA service changes, click here.

The weather is also affecting air travel. All flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) were suspended as of about 6:12 a.m., but the airport will remain open. Flights could resume in a couple of hours, said the FAA. Thousands of flights have reportedly been canceled across the country Friday, and travelers are urged to check with their carriers before heading to the airport.

City officials have no plan to close specific streets yet, but will monitor that need as the storm progresses, de Blasio said.

The City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has put 2,300 workers on 12-hour shifts, and 1,700 trucks with snow plows will be deployed once two inches of snow hit the ground. To track the progress of DSNY clearing operations throughout the five boroughs, click here.

Kew Gardens and South Ozone Park had accumulated more than 5 inches of snow as of 4 a.m., according to NWS.

Senior centers throughout the city will be closed through Friday, and de Blasio urged city residents to keep a close eye on the homeless population.

Joe Bruno, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) commissioner, said the NYPD, FDNY, EMS and other emergency officials will “work around the clock until this is over.”

OEM has issued a hazardous travel advisory for Friday, and is warning motorists to drive slowly, monitor weather and traffic, use major streets or highways, and have the name and number of at least one local towing service.

Temperatures will be blustery, with a high Friday of 17 and low around 8. Wind chill, however, could make the weather feel as cold as 10 below zero, de Blasio said.

Borough residents hit grocery stores and gas stations Thursday afternoon to prepare for the impending storm. People were piling into the Waldbaums on Francis Lewis Boulevard just “picking up extras,” but said “the crazies” would be sure to clear the shelves in the hours to come.

“I’m getting extras just in case,” said Anita Oberwiler, who anticipated frantic shoppers to come rushing through as the afternoon pressed on.

 

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Watch: Kids “Discover” the Fun of Learning


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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The Queens Library in Jamaica is helping kids “discover” their true potential.
The library, located at 89-11 Merrick Boulevard, unveiled its new, state-of-the-art Helen M. Marshall Children’s Library Discovery Center on September 15. Among the honorary guests at the unveiling were the center’s namesake, Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Leroy Comrie and surprise guest “Discover-E,” a life-sized robot who entertained children and adults alike with his humor and advanced technological features.

 

 

“This unique library is one for the modern age,” said Marshall, who provided over $17 million of the $30.3 million necessary to construct the 25,000-square-foot addition. “Clearly, it is not only a library, but a museum and school that will awaken interests and open new vistas and opportunities for children in search of knowledge and wonder. It will be a borough-wide resource for generations to come. I am delighted that the dream of opening this facility is now a reality and look forward to working with the Queens Library as we focus on helping all children achieve their potential.”
The Jamaica branch now boasts the unique distinction of being the only public library in the country that combines a conventional reading environment with interactive museum exhibits. The center, which is designed for kids between the ages of three and 12, is also original because it does not lighten your wallet. It is the only free children’s educational area in the city that emphasizes science, technology, math and engineering, and it is open seven days a week.

“The opening of the new Children’s Library Discovery Center at the Central Queens Library provides an opportunity for kids to have access to state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and learning labs with skilled professionals to guide them,” said Van Bramer. “Encouraging literacy especially at an early age is an issue I have fought for in the City Council and will continue to do so. When I was a child I loved to visit my local library and read. With the new Children’s Library Discovery Center, kids will have many more options that enhance their ability to research, explore and problem solve.”

Among the facility’s many attractions are computers with educational games, hands-on scientific exhibits, such as identifying the various parts of a cell or using magnifiers to examine insects, and an aquarium with live fish. The library also has a “Discovery Team,” composed mostly of college students, who work with children on experiments.

The center’s most popular feature is located at its entrance. Visitors are greeted by an interactive floor map of Queens, which has motion-activated sound effects positioned at numerous borough landmarks. Walking past JFK International Airport releases the thundering sound of a plane taking off and stepping on the Mets logo discharges the cheers of a Citi Field crowd.

The educational area is designed to make children feel comfortable while they learn. The chairs are meant to lounge on, making them drastically different from those found in schools. The upper level of the building has numerous windows, allowing children to read next to a vista of their neighborhood while engulfed in natural sunlight.

“This is my favorite library,” said Kareena Singh, 8. “It is a really nice place to be. You get to read books and there are games that are actually educational for kids. I love it. It is a great center to learn in.”