Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, served as the parade’s grand marshal. Sutton hailed Memorial Day as a sacred time.
“It is a day that we come together to commemorate and remember and to think about all that we share in this great country and to remind ourselves that the cost and price of freedom is never free,” Sutton said. “That we are so blessed to be in the land of the free because of the brave.”
Parades were held in Woodside/Sunnyside, Whitestone, Laurelton, Howard Beach, Glendale/Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills, College Point and Woodhaven.
New military recruits, veterans in vintage cars, fire fighters, police officers, JROTC members, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and marching bands participated in the borough’s parades while parents and children donned red, white and blue and waved the stars and stripes from sidewalks.
The sacrifices of American soldiers will be celebrated across Queens in the days to come at various Memorial Day parades and vigils.
Among the celebrations are the following events, scheduled to take place rain or shine:
Residents of Woodhaven will hold an early tribute to America’s fallen troops with a ceremony on Thursday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. The vigil, sponsored by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, will take place at Forest Parkway Plaza, located at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Forest Parkway.
The program includes patriotic music, a color guard, laying of wreaths and remarks from local elected officials and veterans.
The College Point Citizens for Memorial Day Inc. will begin their parade on at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, at the intersection of 28th Avenue and College Point Boulevard. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is set to appear along with other local officials, and veteran Louis A. DiAgostino will be honored as the grand marshal.
Marching bands, drill teams and dance groups will all be performing at the event, and military servicemen and women will march in the festivities. The College Point Citizens for Memorial Day are accepting donations to offset parade costs. For more information contact parade chairman Rev. Adam Crabtree at 718-640-8840.
The Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade hosted by the American Legion and the Forest Hills Kiwanis Club will take place on Sunday at noon. The parade starts from Metropolitan and Ascan avenues and will head westward down Metropolitan Avenue to Trotting Course Lane. From there, the parade will turn right and stop at the landmarked Remsen Cemetery between Trotting Course Lane and Alderton Street.
This year’s grand marshal will be Roland Meier, president of the West Side Tennis Club. Members of ROTC, band, and local civic and children’s organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will march in the parade. Organizers of the parade will hold a ceremony at Remsen Cemetery to honor veterans.
The United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth will honor the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice during their 31st Memorial Day Parade on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Grand marshals James Desio, retired US Army WWII veteran, and William Aronowicz, retired U.S. Marine Corp. WWII veteran, will lead the procession, beginning at Walter A. Garlinge Memorial Park, located at 72nd Street and Grand Avenue. At 2 p.m., there will be a memorial service for the deceased veterans of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The St. Margaret Catholic War Veterans Post 1172 will honor those who died for the nation on Monday, May 25, with a special Mass at 9:30 a.m. at St. Margaret Church, located at the corner of Juniper Valley Road and 80th Street.
Then, at 11 a.m., post members and residents will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Middle Village Veterans Triangle, located at the corner of Gray and 77th streets near 66th Road. The ceremony will include prayers, a military salute and the playing of taps.
The Allied Veterans Memorial Committee of Ridgewood and Glendale, a committee made up of delegates from six veteran organizations, will honor the more than 1.14 million men and women of the U.S. armed forces who died in defense of the country during the 77th Memorial Day parade Monday.
At 11 a.m., the parade will begin at the Glendale War Memorial, located at Myrtle and Cooper Avenues, with a short memorial service to honor the war dead of Glendale. They will then march down Myrtle Avenue westbound to the Ridgewood War Memorial, located at Myrtle and Cypress Avenues, where there will be another short memorial service to honor the war dead of Ridgewood.
The Howard Beach Memorial Day Parade will honor Vietnam War veterans, including the Howard Beach residents lost at war since the neighborhood’s founding.
There will be a memorial day Mass before the parade at Our Lady of Grace at 101st Street on Monday at 9:30 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., there will be a brief ceremony on top of Hawtree-Ramblersville Bridge and the parade will officially commence at Coleman’s Square at 11 a.m. The parade will stop at the Vietnam War Memorial, located at 99th Street and 157th Avenue and then head to the World War II Memorial at Assembly of God Church at 158-31 99th St. They will then march to St. Barnabas Church at 159-19 58th St. before marching back to Coleman Square.
The Laurelton Lions Club will present the 26th Annual Laurelton Memorial Day Parade, featuring The Queens Area Pathfinders Marching Band and The Black and Gold Marching Elite Band, on Monday starting at 9 a.m. The parade begins at Francis Lewis and Merrick boulevards, and will end at the Veterans Memorial Triangle at 225th Street and North Conduit Avenue.
Sponsors for this year’s parade include the Laurelton Lions Club, American Legion Benjamin Moore Post 1946, Garden Club of Laurelton, Federated Blocks of Laurelton and Concerned Citizens of Laurelton in Conjunction with Col. Edward O. Gourdin VFW POST 5298.
The Whitestone Memorial Day Parade will honor veterans and public servants from the community on Monday, May 25. The event will begin at noon at Whitestone Memorial Park at 149th Street and 15th Drive with a ceremony. Following the ceremony, the parade will commence and follow a rectangular route around the neighborhood back to Whitestone Memorial Park. Jim Dunn, a veteran from The American Legion in Whitestone, will serve as the grand marshal.
The parade will feature classic cars, elected officials, children from local sports leagues, and it will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of Whitestone’s Engine 295/Ladder 144 of the FDNY. For additional, information or to volunteer call Devon O’Connor, parade chairman, at 718-757-8546.
This year the St. Sebastian’s War Veterans will host the Woodside Memorial Day Parade to honor fellow veterans on Monday starting at 11 a.m. Parade participants will get together at the St. Sebastian’s School yard located at the corner of Woodside Avenue and 57th Street.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and John V. Daniels Jr. Post No 2813 in Sunnyside will host a Memorial Day event to honor veterans on Monday at 11 a.m. The event will be held at John Vincent Daniels Square, located on Roosevelt Avenue and 52nd Street. During the ceremony, a wreath will be placed at the flagpole in the middle of the park.
This year’s Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Monday, pays special tribute to Vietnam War veterans. Dr. Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, will serve as grand marshal of the march sponsored by the Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Association.
The march begins in Great Neck from the corner of Jayson Avenue and Northern Boulevard, then proceeds west on the boulevard to the yard of St. Anastasia’s Church, located near Northern Boulevard and 245th Street.
About 125 residents, politicians and activists assembled in front of the 18-acre Whitestone Waterpointe site on Sunday to protest overdevelopment in the neighborhood, venting years of frustration over developers’ plans.
The We Love Whitestone Civic Association-organized rally reflected the unity of neighbors, who have fought against overdevelopment plans on the site at 151-45 Sixth Rd. for nearly a decade, to stay strong and hold current developer Edgestone Group to a community-supported plan for 52 single-family homes instead of one for 107 townhouses.
“We want to make sure what they say stays,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the civic group. “How do we know that they are not going to turn around and pull a fast one by trying to appease the community for now?”
Opponents said the larger proposal would harm the community, because the population increase could put a burden on public services and institutions, such as sewers and schools. Additionally, they want to protect the contextual character of the neighborhood.
“I was born and grew up in Whitestone. It’s a beautiful town and they would destroy it with all this construction,” said resident Donna McCutchen. “This whole area has one-family homes. That’s what we want to keep it like here.”
The 52 single-family residences could retail for about $2 million each, according to the architect Joe Sultana. About 40 will be between 2,000 to 3,000 square feet with private yards and garages. The remaining 12 will be bigger, more luxurious homes, closer to the waterfront.
An environmental cleanup of the site will begin later this year. After the site has been cleaned, Edgestone will reapply to update the original special permit to construct the 52 homes.
That special permit, which expired a few years ago, symbolizes the community’s opposition to overdevelopment of more than just the Waterpointe site.
“The one great thing about this plan when it was approved is it was a template for future development,” state Sen. Tony Avella said. “We’re not going to let that template be destroyed and all of a sudden a new developer comes in and they say, ‘Well they were allowed to do more.’ The line in the sand is here.”
The Whitestone rally against overdevelopment is still on.
Despite developer Edgestone Group’s plan to return to the original 52 single-family home proposal for the massive 18-acre Waterpointe site instead of 107 townhouses, residents will hold a protest in front the site on Sunday, venting years of built-up anxiety of overdevelopment on vacant plots in the neighborhood.
The We Love Whitestone Civic Association is calling for residents to attend the rally to hold Edgestone’s feet to the fire on the renewed promise to build single-family detached homes on the site.
“We want to make sure to let them and any developer that might come in know that we will remain diligent and what was approved for 52 homes will be built there,” said Alfredo Centola, president of We Love Whitestone.
Edgestone Group unveiled plans to build 107 townhouses on the site at a Community Board 7 committee meeting in April. Overall, the plan called for 97 two-family townhouse homes and nine additional single-family houses. In total there would be 203 units and most of the units would be two-bedrooms.
The proposal received immense backlash from residents and politicians, who want to protect the character of the neighborhood and fear the effects of an increase in population.
Councilman Paul Vallone, who will attend the rally, said the pressure community groups such as We Love Whitestone, Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association and the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, put on Edgestone forced the developer to change back to the original plan, and he said the continued effort is necessary.
“The return to the community-approved plan for 52 single-family homes and community park is an enormous win for Whitestone and its future,” Vallone said. “However, winning these battles does not mean that we will let our guard down.”
The rally will take place at Sixth Road and 151st Place on Sunday, May 17, at 1 p.m.
Whitestone is getting supplemental street cleaning through July 1 in an extension of the City Council NYC Cleanup Initiative of 2014, which saw every council member allocate funding to provide cleaning services for their district.
Councilman Paul Vallone was given nearly $70,000 as part of the program to clean streets in Bayside and College Point, but after community input and requests from Whitestone residents, he was able to add select areas in that neighborhood as well.
The cleaning is done by workers from The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides services to people with histories of homelessness, incarceration and substance abuse.
The initiative has been so well received that Vallone intends to work to get funding for it included again in the city’s 2016 budget.
“I’m proud to have been able to work with The Doe Fund to bring this cleanup initiative to Whitestone,” said Vallone. “Clean sidewalks and litter-free streets will go a long way towards beautifying and revitalizing Whitestone Village.”
Whitestone residents said that the extra cleaning makes a big difference in their community.
“Our members have already informed us about the difference they see in the village of Whitestone,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association.
The new routes will be cleaned until July 1. The cleanup area covered in Whitestone includes 149th Street to Clintonville Street; 150th Street between the Cross Island Service Road and 12th Avenue; and Clintonville Street between 14th and 12th roads.
A 27-year-old Whitestone man who teaches at a Bronx high school was arrested on Thursday on attempted rape and other charges after he tried to meet up with a 14-year-old girl who actually was an undercover cop, authorities said.
Jonathan Blum, a history teacher at DreamYard Preparatory School and basketball coach in Queens, was busted after he posted an ad on Craiglist looking for a young teen, student and/or young girl who would be interested in fooling around with a licensed real teacher, according to the district attorney’s office.
An undercover NYPD vice detective answered the ad and Blum started exchanging emails and text messages with the detective, who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.
Those messages, sent back and forth between mid-April and mid-May, were sexually explicit, prosecutors said. After several exchanges, Blum wanted to meet up with the supposed teen and, according to police, arranged a rendezvous at a location on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. But instead of finding the girl there, Blum found himself in handcuffs at about 5:15 p.m. on Thursday.
Blum has been charged with attempted rape, attempted criminal sex act, attempted endangering the welfare of a child and attempted disseminating indecent material to minors, according to authorities. He is currently being held pending arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.
According to the Department of Education (DOE), Blum has been a teacher at DreamYard Preparatory School, located at 240 E. 172nd St., since April 2011 and has no disciplinary history with the department. He has been reassigned away from the classroom pending the resolution of his case.
“While this alleged behavior is not school-related, it is incredibly disturbing,” DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said. “This individual has been immediately reassigned away from the classroom, and he will not be in contact with any students.”
If convicted of the criminal charges, Blum faces up four years in prison and would have to register as a sex offender.
Any parent whose child has conversed with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, which Blum used in his exchanges with the undercover officer, and has concerns is encouraged to call the Queens district attorney’s office at 718-286-6260.
The new owner of the former Cresthaven Country Club site in Whitestone is hoping to break ground on a massive development project of 45-single family detached homes by the end of the summer.
Most of the homes on the six-acre site will have approximately 2,500 square feet of living space with four bedrooms and four full bathrooms, according to Tim O’Sullivan of Fulcrum Real Estate Advisors, which purchased the site in a foreclosure auction last month for $13.6 million.
Great Neck-based architect Frank Petruso is designing the project. The current plans could change, but the 45 homes in O’Sullivan’s plans would sit on 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot lots, so each could have space for driveways and private yards. And based on the renderings, homes would have garages and basements. They could sell for $1.5 to $2 million each.
Although original plans were for 50 homes, they were shrunk to 45 so each home will have more space.
However, as smart investors do all the time, O’Sullivan is testing the real estate market to see the possible value for the site and has listed it with brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. He is taking offers for the site, but said a potential buyer would have to offer a price that “hit it out of the park” to get him to sell the site.
“Very few people get a chance to make their mark with 45 properties in an area,” said O’Sullivan, who grew up in Whitestone. “Our intention is we are in the ground in the summer. That’s the reason we bought the property.”
He added, “After we got it on auction, I had people coming to me offering me ‘X’ dollars. What we decided to do is put it out there and test the market. But we are continuing with our development plans.”
Stephen Preuss of Cushman & Wakefield, who is handling marketing for the site, said he doubts any potential buyer of the site would try to divert from the plan.
“For them to be in the ground in the next few months, they would have to follow those plans,” Preuss said. “I don’t think any developer would change those plans. It’s been well received by the community.”
While residents and politicos in the area have approved O’Sullivan’s plan, they are starting to warm up to another developer’s plan for the nearby 18-acre Waterpointe site.
A dark comedy about a Corona man played by Ralph Macchio of “Karate Kid” fame was shooting scenes in Whitestone Wednesday.
The film, called “Lost Cat Corona,” as the name suggests, is about a “play-it-safe guy” from the Queens neighborhood, played by Macchio, who is searching for his wife’s (Gina Gershon) lost feline.
According to IMDb, along the way, he is brought “face-to-face with the colorful, wacky, and sometimes, the more dangerous element of his neighborhood, forcing him to confront his fears and rethink his M.O.”
“Lost Cat Corona” also stars Sean Young and Paul Sorvino.
Directed and written by Anthony Tarsitano, according to Broadway World, the movie began filming in Corona on May 6.
On Wednesday, filming was taking place in Whitestone at the End Zone bar, at 149-44 14th Ave., according to Devon O’Connor of the Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association, who captured several shots of Macchio on a bike with a cat carrier on the back.
“Lost Cat Corona” is scheduled for release in 2015.
From cash to container plants, the Women’s Club of Malba is spending some green to keep the Whitestone library green for a very long time.
In their latest charity effort, the club gave the Queens Library Foundation $25,000 to maintain the outdoor garden outside the Whitestone branch at 151-10 14th Rd.
“We are delighted that the Women’s Club of Malba is supporting the reading garden at the Whitestone Library,” said Vincent Arcuri Jr., president of the Queens Library Foundation board of directors. “Through its endowment, the club will ensure that the garden will provide hours of relaxation, literacy, and environmental learning and outdoor enjoyment for generations to come.”
The women’s club is able to give to the community more than ever since the sale of the its clubhouse in the fall of 2012, according to Rosemarie Scarola, who is currently serving as first vice president. The Center Drive clubhouse had been used by the club since its start in 1933, but financial difficulty from rising taxes and other expenses led to the sale, and the women do not plan to buy another headquarters.
Instead, funds from the sale are being given to nonprofit foundations, with the library garden grant following a $100,000 endowment in 2013 to buy a new, state-of-the-art ambulance for the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service.
Scarola said that the organization always chooses local charities for their donations because they want to be sure that the funds will directly impact the community in a meaningful way.
“You give to a big organization, the organization gets like 3 dollars, and you’re paying for the CEOs,” said Scarola, who served as president of the club from 1988 to 1990, “so we try to be a little more careful with that.”
Following unyielding pressure by residents and politicians, including the announcement of a planned protest, developers of the 18-acre Waterpointe site are returning to the original proposal of 52 single-family detached homes instead of one that would have had quadruple the number of units.
Officials from Edgestone Group, which purchased the land at 151-45 Sixth Rd. for $11.3 million in 2012, decided to change course after negotiating with Councilman Paul Vallone. Both parties confirmed exclusively to The Courier that the developer will return to the original proposal the community supported years ago instead of the recently unveiled 107 townhouses — possibly avoiding a war in Whitestone.
“So much has been talked about this site, and now you’ve got a community fearing the worst,” Vallone said. “I’m proud to work with [the architect] Joe Sultana and the owners to get their commitment to go back to the original agreement, because that’s really what everyone has always wanted.”
Also, the developer will keep plans for community amenities, including a much-needed two-acre waterfront park, promenade, a 60-boat marina, and potentially an “eco-dock” from which residents can fish and go kayaking.
In a Community Board 7 (CB 7) committee meeting last month, Edgestone unveiled its updated plan for the property, which included 97 two-family townhouses and nine additional single-family townhouses, for a total of 203 units.
The backlash by residents and politicians was strong. They complained that it would dramatically impact the community and put a burden on schools, roads, sewers and other public systems. Also, they said the townhouses would ruin the contextual character of the neighborhood, which has mostly single-family detached residences.
“[The developer] is doing the right thing for the community,” said Joe Sweeney, a member of the CB 7 Zoning Committee. “He’s basically responding by meeting community wishes and not disrespecting the community. That plan would have had a tremendous effect.”
Edgestone initially turned away from the 52 large single-family homes because they would each have to retail for $2 million, a price tag the group figured would take longer to sell.
However, the developer agreed to the old plan because they’ll be able to begin working faster on the long-stalled development site.
“What it’s come down to is the developer wants to start working on this,” Sultana said. “If we go to the 200 units or anything else but the 52 [homes], we’d have to refile and go through city approval all over again and that’s probably going to take a year and a fight. So the developer is eager to get started. ”
Sultana couldn’t yet give many details about the homes, but said 40 of them will be between 2,000 to 3,000 square feet with private yards and garages. The remaining 12 will be bigger, more luxurious homes, closer to the waterfront.
An environmental cleanup of the site will begin later this year. After the site has been cleaned, the developer will reapply for the original special permit for 52 homes, which has since expired.
Despite this news, residents are still planning to hold Sunday’s rally hosted by the We Love Whitestone Civic Association at 1 p.m. in front the site.
“Absolutely,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the civic group. “How do we know this is not just a ploy to get us to back away, and as soon as we turn away they change again?”
An early morning fire at Whitestone Commons left at least two businesses significantly damaged, reports said.
The blaze started about 6 a.m. at the shopping complex, located on 14th Avenue near Clintonville Street.
Firefighters were able to put out the flames about an hour later, the FDNY said.
At least two businesses were affected by the fire, Bagel Time and a clothing store called Prive, according to Devon O’Connor of the Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association, and photos from the scene. He said they appeared to be badly damaged.
No one was reported injured.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the FDNY would not confirm where it started.
Now community members may start holding their breaths again.
Edgestone Group, which owns the 18-acre vacant Waterpointe site at 151-45 6th Rd., plans to construct 107 residential buildings on it — more than double the number of units that were originally promised for the property years ago.
Plans for the project, which were revealed at a Community Board 7 committee meeting on Tuesday, call for 97 two-family townhouse homes and nine additional single-family houses. In total there will be 203 units and most of the units will be two-bedrooms.
Years ago, developer Bayrock Group, which paid $25.7 million in 2005 for the property, originally had Department of City Planning special permits to build 52 single-family homes on the property. This plan was also supported by the community. However, the company fell apart financially and Edgestone purchased it at a discounted $11.3 million in 2012, city records show.
State Sen. Tony Avella has already declared war on Edgestone’s project, because its much larger than the original 52-home plan, although it still meets zoning regulations.
“This kind of threat to the neighborhood will not be tolerated,” Avella said. “It is time for us to take a stand against overdevelopment once and for all.”
In Edgestone’s plan, there will be two-car parking for the townhouses. Also, the new community includes a park at the waterfront with a walking path, a playground, a marina, a pier and an ‘eco dock’ from which people can go kayaking. There is also a 107th building that residents can use as common space for events.
Members of the community board were very cold toward the plan. Kim Cody, a member of the board and president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, pointed out that the project will flood the community with hundreds of new residents, which will burden schools, roads, sewers and other public systems.
“You’re going to put a lot of stress on our community,” Cody said. “It’s unneeded stress.”
Edgestone representatives said at the meeting that single-family homes wouldn’t “make sense,” because they would have to retail for $2 million each, and that would take too long to sell.
Architect Joseph Sultana, who grew up in Whitestone, added the more affordable townhouses gives younger potential residents the ability to purchase homes in Whitestone, one of Queens’ more affluent neighborhoods, and elderly residents will also benefit.
“My parents are getting older and they have a nice house in Beechhurst, but they don’t need a big house,” Sultana said. “They need to figure out where to live because they are thinking about selling their house.”
Currently, Edgestone is still working to remediate the site, which is covered by toxic soil that the former owner brought in. Representatives of the firm said they hope to start trucking contaminated soil from the site in September at the earliest.
This didn’t help warm the mood of the meeting, as members of the board are afraid toxic dust from the soil can spew into the community during transport.
“What I learned tonight is this is going to have a much [more] major impact on the community than I originally thought,” said Joe Sweeney, a member of CB 7. “In the end, yes it might be affordable, but at the detriment of the rest of the community.”
While 12-year-old Joseph Prisco was playing basketball alone in a local Whitestone park one day, a squad car pulled up at the curb and one officer approached him.
Joseph thought maybe he was in trouble, but what the officer said shocked him. The policeman asked to “shoot some hoops,” according to the boy, while his partner waited by the car.
As the officer played with the preteen, he asked questions about where Joseph lived, sports he liked and school. When they finished playing, Joseph called his mother, Angela Delli Gatti-Prisco, and told her about what happened. She was stunned, and thought, “Since when does a police officer stop a car to play ball with some kid at a park?” she recalled.
But the men, Police Officers Justin Hubbard and Nicholas Hon, were just making certain the boy was okay when they saw him alone on March 26 at Clintonville Playground. Their actions inspired Delli Gatti-Prisco to write a letter of appreciation to the We Love Whitestone community group, which honored the two officers on Wednesday.
“In today’s day and age, many of us take for granted the protection and service we are provided by our ‘men in blue,’ the policemen of New York City, who day in and day out put their lives on the line for the lives of others,” the mother wrote in a letter to the group.
About the incident, the cops said they were just doing their job and checking on the boy. That humble response resonated with community members.
“With all the bad publicity that cops have been getting, we felt that the majority of them are good and trying to do good things,” We Love Whitestone founder Alfredo Centola said. “And we wanted to acknowledge their going above and beyond their everyday duties.”
Students at one Whitestone school are showing that you can start giving back to the community even at a very young age.
In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, the staff and students at P.S. 209, located at 16-10 Utopia Pkwy., participated in a walkathon at the school throughout the day on Friday.
Each grade at the school, which goes from kindergarten through fifth grade, went out and walked around the building four times.
Weeks before the walkathon, the school raised money to donate to the organization Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) and its day school, an after-school program located in Whitestone. The school set a goal of $2,500 and as of Friday staff, students and their families raised close to $4,000.
“We have wonderful parents and our students are extremely involved so we’re really proud,” said Jacqueline Diaz Fernandez, assistant principal at P.S. 209. “The principal and I, we really feel that education is not just reading and writing and math. It’s so important that they really are well-rounded and ready to provide the community with extra services. I think we’re living in a society where everything is ‘me, me, me,’ and we want to teach the children that it is ‘us.’”
To raise money for the organization, autism awareness T-shirts were sold to staff members, 600 chocolate lollipops were made and sold, and pledges were made by the families of students.
“Autism is on the rise and we have some autistic kids in our building, and we wanted to donate money to something that directly affects our school and the children around us,” said Maria Sperrazza, a teacher and member of the special events committee that organized the event. “It’s fabulous that we can all come together and we always said P.S. 209 is a family.”
All the money raised before May 1 will go toward providing additional support to families at QSAC’s Whitestone location.
QSAC, which was started in 1978 by a group of parents who felt there weren’t enough services for children with autism, serves about 1,700 children and adults with autism in New York, with about 800 clients in Queens.
According to Pat Barrientos, external affairs coordinator for QSAC, events such as the walkathon help raise awareness for a disorder which a few years ago was found in 1 out of 110 cases, but presently affects 1 in 68 children.
“The lesson being taught here is about giving back, and at a very young age they are being taught to give back to their community and that’s a lifelong lesson that they will take with them — that it’s always good to share,” Barrientos said.
According to teachers, the walkathon served as a moment for the students to become aware of autism and also work together for a cause.
“I want to help stop autism,” said fourth-grader Kevin Bracken, who was named by the school as an autism awareness spokesman. “I think that people should fund and help all these diseases and disorders to help people. I love helping people.”