Tag Archives: Whitestone

Annual Tour de Queens draws more than 1,200 riders


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Transportation Alternatives


More than 1,200 bicyclists from around the city participated in the 7th Annual Tour de Queens, a 20-mile ride that travels through several neighborhoods in the borough.

The annual ride on Sunday by Transportation Alternatives began in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in the plaza between the Unisphere and the Queens Museum, and took cyclists of all ages through East Flushing, Murrary Hill, Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Beechhurst and Whitestone.

While the event bears a resemblance in name to the rigid Tour de France biking competition, the Tour de Queens is not a race. Participants rode through streets at a leisurely pace with the NYPD and volunteers from Transportation Alternatives acting as safety marshals.

Proceeds from the event will go toward advocacy efforts to enhance public transportation and make the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

 

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Whitestone teen skater lands local sponsor, dreams of making it big


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Stephen Teodoru


Eddie Woychowski’s daily requirements include breathing, eating, sleeping and skateboarding.

And besides his beloved hobby, “I don’t do anything else really,” said Woychowski, who dreams of being a professional skateboarder.

The 14-year-old Whitestone native picked up a local sponsor in Logan’s Café on June 22, adding to his expanding list of supporters. The eatery donated a new board and a hat, and it plans to name a sandwich after the young skater.

Photo courtesy Logan O’Connor 

“The reason we decided to sponsor him is that he’s a good kid, but he’s an amazing skateboarder,” said Logan O’Connor, owner of the café. “He skates in all types of weather and wherever he can. There are no signs of him slowing down.”

During the school year, after the bell rings, Woychowski heads directly to local parks where he usually practices tricks until it gets dark. Another testament to his love of the sport is the 30 or 40 worn boards (there hasn’t been an official count yet) that can be found in his room.

His obsession with skateboarding started about four and a half years ago. After he touched a board, he couldn’t put it down, and now what keeps him going is learning new tricks.

“When I learn a new trick, it’s the best feeling,” he said.

Woychowski, who attends the World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, has won four skating tournaments and has several other sponsors that provide equipment and promote his name, including Blind Skateboards, DVS shoe company, Mass Exodus and LICKNYC, a clothing store and skate shop in Long Island City.

Although it’ll be some time before Woychowski will appear in the X Games, he is undoubtedly excited about the thought of skating as a career.

“To get paid money and stuff just for skateboarding like it’s a regular day job,” he said, “that would be the craziest thing, when it finally happens.”

 

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Star of Queens: Charles Silverstein, captain-commanding officer, Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE: Charles Silverstein is the captain-commanding officer with the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service.

Established in 1947, Whitestone Ambulance is a 100 percent free service consisting of about 75 volunteers. It provides a free basic life support ambulance to all of Whitestone, with a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline to respond to medical emergencies. The service also transports Whitestone residents to and from medical facilities in non-emergency situations, and allows them to borrow walkers, canes, wheelchairs and crutches at no charge.

Silverstein started volunteering with the volunteer ambulance service about eight years ago because he needed EMS experience before joining the city’s fire department.

“I wanted to be a fireman. I just didn’t leave,” he said.

He describes his work as mostly administrative. “[I am] kind of like the manager,” he said. Silverstein handles problems with the ambulances and other issues that may arise, and also conducts the service’s monthly meetings.

BACKGROUND: A Queens native, Silverstein, 30, currently lives in Whitestone. He is a firefighter with the FDNY, working in Brooklyn, and has been a member of that department for the past six years. He started as an emergency medical technician, then was upgraded to hazmat, followed by a paramedic, before becoming a fireman.

“It’s phenomenal,” Silverstein said, describing his job. “I’m like a regular guy with a bunch of regular guys and you get to be something else for a moment.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: One of his favorite memories with the ambulance service was Memorial Day 2012, which was a big celebration for the volunteers. They were commemorating the ambulance service’s 65th anniversary and had redone its building. Every year, the neighborhood has a parade for the holiday, and it “pretty much ended at our place,” he said. “It was the culmination of a lot of years of work.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The biggest challenges Silverstein has while volunteering are people-related. It can take work to find committed volunteers, who must go through a lot of training. Dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis can have its challenges as well, he said.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Instagram cyberbullying rocks students at Whitestone’s St. Luke School


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association


Students at St. Luke School in Whitestone are under a cyberbullying attack.

Recently one rogue Instagram account called StLukeIdiots started posting pictures on the social media service of students from the Catholic school, using vulgar descriptions and wishing for some kids’ deaths.

“These kids are all ugly and fat! I’ll be posting the 6th graders that should die..,” the account StLukeidiots said in its description.

The user behind the account has yet to be found, according to Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association Founder Devon Michael O’Connor, who had parents of targeted students reach out to him.

“It’s absolutely disgusting,” O’Connor said. “It’s not nice. It’s cyberbullying. Who knows where this could lead? This needs to stop.”

Welcome to Whitestone posted the Instagram account to its Facebook page on Saturday night, and since then residents and parents have been reporting the account to Instagram administrators to force it to stop.

“Please go on Instagram and report this account: @stlukeidiots. This is cyber bullying and we cannot allow that type of behavior!”, the civic group said on its Facebook page.

While residents and students still don’t know who is controlling the StLukeIdiots account, there has been a friendlier account started called the Stlukebeauties, which has been posting pictures of the students with much nicer descriptions.

The identity of the user behind the Stlukebeauties is also unknown, according to O’Connor, but the account has been posting on StLukeIdiots, asking people to follow it and others have been leaving positive comments to fight the cyberbullying.

 

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New Whitestone barbershop focuses on cuts for special needs kids


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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The new Utopia Barbershop in Whitestone is a special place.

The shop at 20-06 Utopia Parkway is split in two. The left side looks like a typical barbershop, but the right side looks like a mini-Toys“R”Us, replete with bright colors, murals of cartoon characters and video game consoles.

That part of the shop is designed to make it easier to cut the hair of special needs children, such as kids with autism, who usually fuss while getting trimmed, owner Radik “Ray” Khaimov said. With specially trained barbers and calming features, he hopes his barbershop will become a utopia where parents can take their kids without any worries.

“When they look around they’ll feel like it’s a friendly place,” Khaimov said. “Barbershops should be a friendly place. When they walk in, they have to feel at home.”

Khaimov, a Russian immigrant, comes from a family of barbers. His grandfather, father, and uncle were all barbers in Russia, and his older brothers are continuing the family trade in New York City as well.

A 15-year hair cutting veteran, Khaimov wanted to do something different when he decided to open his own shop, because “all barbershops are the same,” he said. His wife, who teaches special needs children, advised him about cutting their hair, and he expanded on the idea for his shop.

There is an airplane and black cab barber chair for kids. Cables, scissors and other equipment are hidden, and customized clippers make almost no sound. The lights are dimmed on the right side, because Khaimov said it could bother the children’s eyes. And while the kids wait for their haircuts, there are Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3 video games and an arcade system that they can play for free. Soon, Khaimov said, iPads will be added for children to watch movies and surf the Internet as well.

Khaimov said three of his six licensed barbers are trained to work with special needs kids and the others are learning. During the cuts, these barbers try to calm the children down by conversing with them, singing songs or counting. Also, the barbers work fast. Haircuts last just seven to 15 minutes so the kids don’t get upset.

“The point is to let them feel comfortable, and let them feel we are friends,” barber Meny Yoshevayev said. “I love to do it, because I feel that I’m helping parents who don’t know where to go. It makes my day.”

 

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Retired FDNY chief, Queens native named fire commissioner


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Updated 7:55 p.m.

A retired FDNY chief and Whitestone resident has been tapped to lead the city’s fire department.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Daniel Nigro as the new FDNY commissioner at the department’s academy on Randall’s Island Friday.

Nigro, 65, who was raised in Bayside, was named chief of department, the highest ranking uniformed position, in 2001 when Chief Peter Ganci Jr., was killed in the Word Trade Center collapse. He retired in 2002 after more than three decades with the FDNY.

The new commissioner will be tasked with bringing more diversity to the department after the city settled an FDNY racial discrimination suit with the Vulcan Society, an association of black firefighters, in March.

“We must no longer wait for a judge’s ruling to tell us what fairness means. We must get out front. We must point the way to change. There is no place in the fire department of our beautiful, diverse city, for injustice and inequality,” Nigro said.

During his time with the department, Nigro oversaw the 1996 merger of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) into the FDNY. That experience was one reason behind de Blasio’s decision in naming Nigro to the position, according to the AP.

“From reducing EMS response time, to fixing our 911 call system, to increasing workforce diversity, especially in hiring more women—we have a lot to do in the fire department. I look forward to working with our new commissioner to make the necessary reforms to keep New Yorkers safe,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, said in a statement.

Nigro is replacing Salvatore Cassano, who has served as FDNY commissioner since 2010.

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Whitestone Bridge art contest draws more than 300 entries


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Drawings courtesy Welcome to Whitestone Civic

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

More than 300 students entered the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association’s Bronx-Whitestone Bridge drawing contest to honor the 75th anniversary of the bridge.

The art competition challenged Whitestone elementary schools students to draw — in any form — a version of the bridge on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper. They also had to include a reference to the 75th anniversary in their artwork.

Only five of the illustrations will be selected as winners, and the artists will each receive gift cards for an undetermined amount from the civic group.

“I wanted to do something [for the anniversary],” said Devon Michael O’Connor, founder of Welcome to Whitestone. “So I put together this drawing contest, which I thought would be nice, and get the kids involved.”

The winners will be judged by O’Connor, Raymond Webb of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division and Councilman Paul Vallone.

All of the entries will be on display in the Queens Library’s Whitestone Branch for the public to view.

The civic group plans to announce the winners in Vallone’s office next week.

 

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Raccoons a problem in Whitestone


| letters@queenscourier.com

I think something that is wrong in my neighborhood is that there are too many raccoons.  I think this is a problem because they eat through the garbage and it gets everywhere.  I think the city should try to find a new home for the raccoons to live. Raccoons also eat all of your plants that you put in your garden. I think raccoons shouldn’t be here anymore and should go somewhere else.

Dylan Denicker

Holy Trinity School, Whitestone

 

Board approves Greek-American school expansion in Whitestone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Giannopoulos Architects

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Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is planning a $1.5 million expansion of its elementary school in Whitestone, and recently cleared a major hurdle in the process.

Community Board 7 voted almost unanimously, 35-1, on Monday to allow a variance for the planned expansion of the Efstathios & Stamatiki Valiotis Greek-American Day School, which sits on 12th Avenue and 150th Street.

The school currently enrolls pre-K to third grade, but administrators want to provide nursery to fifth grade education.

The building expansion proposal includes raising the ceiling on the school’s attic level to create a full second floor, as well as expanding the side of the building on 12th Avenue more toward the street. Also, the school’s parking lot will be rearranged more efficiently and about half a dozen new spots will be added.

The expansion will include much-needed classroom space and other amenities, including a computer lab. The Greek Orthodox community showed strong support during the vote, and parents and residents said it will benefit the neighborhood.

“It’s great for our families and it’s great for the community,” said Chris Koukounas, a parent of two students at the school.

“Right now we don’t have enough square-footage per child. There are fewer facilities, we don’t have a science and computer lab, the lunchroom is very packed, and it’s not a safe environment.”

The school’s enrollment for its Greek-American day school is about 180 students. The expansion will allow for 250 students.

For the board to agree with the proposal, its Land-Use Committee had stipulations to increase safety. Holy Cross has agreed to the conditions, which include putting a stop sign on the corner of 150th Street and 12th Avenue.

Councilman Paul Vallone is working with the Department of Transportation to have the stop sign added, and the legislator voiced his approval of the expansion.

The recommendation from the board, as well as a letter from Councilman Paul Vallone, will be sent to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say on the expansion.

 

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Cops: Suspect robs deliveryman in Whitestone for $25K in prescription meds


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Sketch courtesy NYPD.

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A man held up a pharmaceutical delivery person in Whitestone, taking him on a wild ride to Yonkers before stealing $25,000 worth of medication, police said.

The perpetrator, while brandishing a gun, approached the 49-year-old victim on April 18 at 8 a.m., as he was making deliveries near 150th Street and 14th Avenue, cops said.

The suspect ordered the deliveryman into the victim’s car, a 2000 blue Dodge Caravan, which contained an assortment of prescription medication, and drove the vehicle to Yonkers, before kicking the man out and driving off, officials said.

Police describe the suspect as a white man between the ages of 25 and 30 years old and bald.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Man charged after abducting children’s mother in Whitestone


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A man was arrested after he abducted the mother of his two children in Whitestone early Friday morning, police said.

The victim, a 37-year-old woman, was taken about 5:45 a.m. near 16th Road and 150th Street, cops said. According to published reports, she was dragged from her home while her children were inside the residence. The father, identified by police as 37-year-old Jose Lopez, then took off with the victim in a gray Mercedes, witnesses told cops.

Responding officers located the car at Colden Street and Geranium Avenue, with Lopez and the victim still in it.

Lopez was arrested and charged with attempted rape, kidnapping, burglary, assault, criminal mischief and harassment, cops said.

The victim sustained minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital.

 

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City Council rejects Whitestone sidewalk cafe bid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The City Council unanimously struck down a controversial bid for a Whitestone sidewalk café Wednesday.

Owners of Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria wanted to wrap an outdoor sitting area around their 22-30 154th St. Italian restaurant.

But a handful of neighbors said the proposal would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

Lawmakers said the sidewalk is also not wide enough and too close to residential homes.

“The impact of this victory should ensure all future applicants make every effort to address the concerns of the community board and neighboring residents,” Councilman Paul Vallone said.

Restaurant manager Joe Lobue recently told The Courier the outdoor area would have let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

The restaurant’s lawyer, who was in court Wednesday, did not immediately reply to a call for comment.

 

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Star of Queens: Cookie Marie Kurtz, president, Parent Organization, St. Luke School


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Cookie Marie K 1

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Cookie Marie Kurtz is the president of the Parent Organization at St. Luke Catholic School in Whitestone.

BACKGROUND:  Kurtz was born and raised in Brooklyn and went to Catholic grammar, high school and college.  She graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in education and is currently working at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and also has been a wedding singer for 31 years with a band called The Projekt.

Kurtz now lives in Beechhurst with her family.  She has been president of the St. Luke Parent Organization since 2011.

“I went to a meeting one year and they were looking for people who were passionate about getting involved. I raised my hand and that was it, and I’ve been doing it for three years now,” she said.

Kurtz has also been on the carnival committee at the school for four years. In 2009 Kurtz was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She had 18 months of treatment and five surgeries and still maintained her job and volunteerism.

“I didn’t want to give the cancer any energy,” she said. “I would put my wig or hat on and I went to work.”

She started promoting breast cancer awareness at St. Luke with her fundraiser,“Pink on Purpose” in 2011 where she had sponsors come in, raffles set up, and speakers come and talk about the importance of breast cancer awareness.  “It was a really beautiful event, and it brought the parish together,” said Kurtz.

GOALS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  As president Kurtz has opened up a whole new communication method for parents at St. Luke. The parent organization has six meetings a year for parents to come in and voice their opinions and concerns on things like classes, events, safety and health in the school. They are also using email and Facebook.

“We try to do as much as we can to give parents information they wouldn’t get on a regular basis,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz and the parent organization have created new clubs at the school as well as developing new traditions like the Happy Birthday Jesus Breakfast and the Welcome Parents Breakfast, which she says is wildly popular.

“We’ve established these special events to bring together church, family, friends and fun,” said Kurtz.  In the future, Kurtz would like to see more parent involvement and more performing arts and sports programs developed at the school.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Her fondest memory would be the first Welcome Parents Breakfast, where about 100 parents came to the event. Parents were able to come together and create two new events — the walkathon, where they raised $25,000, and the princess ball for little girls and their parents.

INSPIRATION: Her inspiration is her daughter. “She loves that I volunteer, and I’m teaching her to try new things and be confident,” said Kurtz.  She also said that she was inspired by the Catholic school system, praising the teachers and administration at St. Luke. “Last year 70 percent of the graduating class left with a scholarship to high school; that’s amazing,” said Kurtz.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Her biggest challenge is trying to get more parents involved. She understands that people are busy or fearful of over-committing, and she explains it can be difficult to convince people to take that first step.

 

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Contentious Whitestone sidewalk café bid up for vote later this month


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An application for a Whitestone sidewalk café will go up for a City Council vote at the end of the month without support from the area councilmember. 

“It was pretty clear that the community opposed it, and I will make my case against it,” Councilmember Paul Vallone said. “It’s just not the right fit.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) approved Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria owner’s bid last year to wrap an outdoor sitting area around his restaurant at 22-30 154th St.

City lawmakers will vote on the application March 26, though Vallone says the legislative body will likely follow suit with his “no” vote and shut it down.

The sidewalk is not wide enough for outdoor seating and too close to residential homes, said Vallone and State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents also feared it would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

“A sidewalk café at this location is simply wrong,” Avella said. “If this application is approved by the City Council, abutting residents will suffer significantly increased traffic and noise.”

But Joe Lobue, who manages the Italian restaurant, said the sidewalk café would let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

“I think it would actually help the community,” he said. “It would be a place for them to sit down and relax. I disagree with the negativity.”

Hans Roessel, a 73-year-old regular of the restaurant — who also lives across the street — welcomed the plan.

“It doesn’t bother the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re going to make it nice. Why can’t we sit outside?”

 

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PHOTOS: New NBC show ‘Believe’ films in Whitestone


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Robert Stridiron

A new NBC show, “Believe,” from J.J. Abrams and Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón, was shooting in Whitestone Tuesday.

The TV drama is about a “an unlikely relationship between a gifted young girl (Johnny Sequoyah) and a man sprung from prison Jake McLaughlin (“Crash”) who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power,” according to IMDB.

It also stars Jamie Chung (“Once Upon a Time”), Arian Moayed and Kyle MacLachlan (“Portlandia,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Sex and the City”).

Executive producers include J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón, who just won a best director Oscar for “Gravity.” Cuarón is also one of the show’s creators and writers.

Sequoyah, who plays Bo on “Believe,” took some time out from the shoot, near 14th Road and 150th street, to pose for some photos with staff at a local Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Believe” will premiere on Monday, March 10 at 9 p.m.

 

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