Tag Archives: Whitestone

High school teacher from Whitestone busted for setting up teen tryst: DA

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Updated 4:09 p.m.

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 jess_delia@yahoo.com, 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.


Developer to break ground on 45-home Whitestone project this summer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy Frank Petruso Architect PC

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.”

Cresthaven Development Site

Cresthaven site

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.

After negotiations with Councilman Paul Vallone, Edgestone Group, which owns the much larger site, turned away from a plan with 107 townhouses to one with 52 community-supported, single-family residences with a waterfront park, promenade, marina and other amenities.


‘Lost Cat Corona,’ starring Ralph Macchio, films in Whitestone

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association

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.



Whitestone library garden gets $25K from Malba women

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Dominick Totino Photography

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.”


Facing strong opposition, developer to build just 52 homes on Whitestone Waterpointe site

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

52-home plan

Whitestone can breathe again.

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.

Whitestone Waterpointe piece

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?”


Two-alarm fire breaks out at Whitestone shopping center

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos and video courtesy of Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association

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.




More than 100 townhouses, park and ‘eco dock’ planned for Whitestone Waterpointe site

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Joseph Sultana Architects

Many Whitestone residents recently exhaled when they learned the new owner of one of two massive vacant development sites in the area agreed to work with the community’s wishes and construct dozens of single-family homes.

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.”


Two 109th Precinct cops show NYPD’s friendly side in Whitestone

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of We Love Whitestone

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.”


Whitestone students, teachers walk to raise awareness for autism

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

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.”


New owner of massive vacant Whitestone site pledges to stick to zoning with development plans

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

The new owner of a contentious massive development site in Whitestone is going to give the community what it wants: single-family detached homes.

Tim O’Sullivan paid $13.6 million at an auction on April 10 for the 6-acre site near at 150th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, which is zoned for smaller residential properties, and hopes to build two-story, single-family detached homes on the land. The property was previously known as the Cresthaven Country Club and was used for years by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) as a summer day camp.

Residents and community leaders were planning to fight any development on the property that didn’t meet zoning, such as high-rises or other large properties, hoping to protect the character of the residential neighborhood.

O’Sullivan, who grew up in Whitestone, said he understands what the residents are feeling and wants to be on their side.

“We are looking forward to working with the community, state Sen. Tony Avella and our architect, Frank Petruso, to produce a development befitting this beautiful Whitestone neighborhood,” O’Sullivan said. “I grew up in Whitestone and I am happy to contribute to the neighborhood in a positive way.”

The site was part of the former Cresthaven Country Club and then was owned by real estate firm Whitestone Jewels LLC, but has been in foreclosure since 2007 after the firm defaulted on its mortgage.

Whitestone Jewels LLC purchased the site in 2006 for $23.3 million from the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn, according to city records.

As the April 10 auction date was approaching, Avella and residents began to warn potential buyers about overdevelopment, and the new civic group We Love Whitestone was hoping to convince the city to purchase the property and transform it into parkland.

“Whitestone is a residential area dominated by one-family homes,” Avella said. “This lot sits immediately across from homeowners who do not want their community to be overtaken by large buildings that tower over their houses. I am happy to support a project that will preserve the look and feel of the surrounding community.”



Whitestone community group wants park on vacant sites

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

What Whitestone wants is more green.

We Love Whitestone, a new civic organization that has been gaining popularity, is going on the offensive against possible overdevelopment of two massive vacant Whitestone sites, and hopes to convince city politicians of a plan to buy one and turn it into a park with ball fields.

The group recently voted to oppose any plans of development on the sites that don’t suit the area’s current zoning for smaller residential houses. It also began a petition on Change.org, which will be sent to elected officials, to have the city purchase a six-acre site near 150th Street and Fifth Avenue and transform it into a park. The petition is quickly approaching its goal of 500 signatures.

“It wasn’t dumped on or anything,” said Alfredo Centola, a founder of We Love Whitestone. “So have the city buy it back and turn it into something like Padavan-Preller Fields with on-site parking, a soccer field and an actual [full-size] baseball diamond.”

We Love Whitestone, which came to the resolution against overdevelopment during its March monthly meeting, has been quickly gaining support as a civic organization since its inception about five months ago.

Despite the group’s short history, it has already attracted approximately 500 residents on Facebook, has an email list of more than 1,000 people, and has about 150 paying members. An average of nearly 100 Whitestone residents have been attending regular monthly meetings as well.

The six-acre site that We Love Whitestone wants to see transformed was once owned by the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn, which used the site for various Catholic Youth Organization activities, according to the community group.

Whitestone Jewels LLC purchased the site in question in 2006 for $23.3 million, but the firm couldn’t keep up with the mortgage and it has been in foreclosure since 2007.

The site is up for auction on April 10.

State Sen. Tony Avella already expressed his opposition against overdevelopment or rezoning of the site by potential buyers as well.


Avella hopes to stop plans of overdevelopment on massive Whitestone vacant sites

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark 

Winter may be coming to an end, but state Sen. Tony Avella isn’t planning a warm welcome for anyone who purchases a controversial site in Whitestone if they plan on overdeveloping the property or building something that doesn’t comply with zoning.

The large property, which comprises six acres of vacant land near the intersection of 150th Street and Fifth Avenue, will be up for sale on April 10 in an auction. The site was part of the former Cresthaven Country Club and then was owned by real estate firm Whitestone Jewels LLC, but has been in foreclosure since 2007.

Avella is planning to also contest plans for development that doesn’t meet zoning on another large vacant site near the waterfront, which comprises of about eight lots around 151-45 Sixth Rd., because he and community leaders want to preserve the look of the community. The site is also zoned for smaller–sized residential uses.

“Now that both are potentially moving forward with construction, it is imperative that the developers do not stray from doing what is best for the community,” Avella said. “Whoever decides to purchase and develop these areas must do so in a way that will not damage the character of the surrounding low-density residential neighborhood.”

Whitestone Jewels LLC purchased the six-acre site in 2006 for $23.3 million from the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Brooklyn, according to city records, but defaulted on its mortgage soon after.

It became the subject of a potential new school in 2013, however, residents rallied against any possible School Construction Authority plan.

The second development site, which is bigger and near the waterfront, had approved plans for 52 new single-family houses by developer Bayrock Group, according to Avella. But because of the recession the firm could not complete the plan, Avella said.

Then in 2012 Edgestone Group purchased the site for $11.3 million, according to city records. There is nearly 900,000 square feet of space of the lots that were purchased, records show, but they are zoned for smaller residential uses and Avella and community groups are determined to make developers stick to the zoning.

“We are a small community and do not want high-rise buildings or condominiums,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. For both pieces of property, we want the developers to come in knowing that the community wants single-family homes, and to bring in anything other than that would be detrimental to the community.”


Queens men take home top prizes at sit-down arm wrestling competition

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Even Mother Nature couldn’t keep New York’s strongest from showing what they got at an arm wrestling competition in Flushing over the weekend, the city’s first sit-down tournament in 12 years.

The New York Arm Wrestling Association (NYAWA) held the NYC Sit-Down Arm Wrestling Championships on Sunday at Cheap Shots Sports Bar, located at 149-05 Union Turnpike. The event was the first sit-down arm wrestling competition in the past 12 years, according to Gene Camp, founder and president of NYAWA.

“It’s good to get back and it’s something new for some of [the competitors],” Camp said. “It really brings out the broad strength in people, to find out who the true winners are because people with signature techniques can’t really use them in this event because they are sitting down.”

Although the snow began falling before the competition began, more than 60 men and women flocked to the sports bar to show their strength and make it to the top.

The event, which was opened to all ages, featured individual categories for amateurs and pros, 45 to 50 years old and over, women, and right and left hand classes.

“I thought it was a great turnout. I didn’t expect this kind of turn out [because of the snow]. Some of the best arm wrestlers in the city and state were here today,” Camp said. “It was a good competition; there were some very good matches. It was exciting and the crowd was really riled up.”

Jason Vale, who grew up in Whitestone and now lives in Bellerose, was one of the competitors and top winners of the day. The 47-year-old has been arm wrestling with his right arm since he was 20 and in 1997 won a world championship.

During the sit-down tournament Vale earned two first place awards and was given the MVP Strongest Arm Right. He was also awarded a Captains of Crush Hand Grippers award, along with $100 cash prize, for strongest arm.

“It felt great competing again,” said Vale, who holds weekly arm wrestling practices at his home. “I just love it.”

Like Vale, Angel Cosme was another returning arm wrestling champ, who picked up the sport 15 years ago. The 48-year-old Flushing resident said he had been out of the game for three years and returned to help referee the match. He decided to compete in both the left and right hand categories and took home two first place awards and one second place.

“I feel good but I’m just tired,” Cosme said. “After being out for three years I know I need to start practicing again.”

David Milburn from Jamaica also took home a first place award in an amateur left hand category.

The NYAWA’s next competition will be the 38th Annual NYC Big Apple Grapple International on May 3. The location has yet to be determined.

For more information visit www.nycarms.com.


At Whitestone bowling alley, senior league flourishes

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

These seniors defy the bingo-playing stereotype of old age.

Every week a group of spunky seniors gets together to gripe about what’s ailing them, talk trash among friends and hurl bowling balls down the lanes.

“It used to be about girls but now it’s about medicine,”  John Murphy, 76, said about the banter among bowlers. He’s been part of what’s become a senior bowling league in Whitestone for a period of time that he doesn’t care to remember. “This is a great thing we have going here. It gives us something to do.”

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, around 40 to 60  men and women haul their bowling balls to Whitestone Lanes, where they put their money where their mouths are and compete against each other in pairs.

“It can get pretty crazy in here,” Murphy said before being yelled at by his partner for not plugging his score into the booth. “I’m being interviewed here. Can’t you see that? I don’t have time for you.”

The league has no official name but wagers are taken seriously and there’s a minimum of $2 to enter any game. Depending on how many people join that day, winners can gain as much as $400. And despite their age, many of the players come close to rolling a perfect 300.

The bowlers are all from around the area, and the only requirement to join the league is being in one’s golden years. The league has been around for almost two decades and with the neighborhood’s high population of senior citizens — 25 percent of people in the area are above 60, according to census data — there are always new recruits coming in.

“We do this 365 [days] a year,” Murphy said. “We’re here three times a week. Summer. Winter. It doesn’t matter.”


Whitestone auto center grooms new generation of tech-savvy workers

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Don’t call these car-loving high school kids grease monkeys.

On Tuesday, students from Thomas Edison High School broke out their laptops to fix a Lexus SUV in a timed competition that pitted them against 12 other high schools in the greater New York area, testing their skills with computers as much as with wrenches.

The event was hosted by the Center for Automotive Education and Training in Whitestone and winners are awarded scholarships for continued education in the auto world. But the center’s bigger goal with such events is to remedy an industry that is facing an aging workforce that isn’t being replenished by a new generation of skilled workers.

“There are more laptops here than there are cars,” said Nick Crispe, a spokesman for the center. “There’s still an engine in there but it’s not the greasy, dirty environment that it used to be.”

Pairs of high school kids rushed from laptops to the cars they were tasked with fixing. The two Thomas Edison High School students Jose Sanchez and Christopher Sookraj hopped between a diagnostics list to their laptop, which was connected to the Lexus that they needed to fix as part of the competition. The event was meant to mimic a modern car dealer shop.

As the technology under a car’s hood continues to look more like a computer’s hardware, the industry’s demand for tech-savvy workers has increased. The old image of a grease-caked mechanic is no longer accurate as cars become more computerized with electric cars and advanced clean-diesel engines.

“I was iffy about this at first,” Sanchez said. “But then I got really into it and now I want to get into this career.”

Even the word mechanic has fallen out of use in the industry for the preferred term, technician. Automotive schools characterize this time period as confusion and the average age of technicians – formerly known as mechanics – is nearing the late 40s in Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Group, according to USA Today.

But Crispe and others believe that as the image of cars in popular culture begins to align itself more closely with technology to become the Smart Car, a new wave of students can be attracted into the industry.

“There was a stigma that stopped the younger generation from joining this area,” Crispe said. “If you love cars and technology this is the perfect career now.”

Thomas Edison’s team didn’t win the competition, but they left the event with new-found inspiration about a career that will be a big part of the future. The winning teamed hailed from Orange-Ulster BOCES in upstate Goshen.