Tag Archives: Whitestone

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.


Newly constructed Whitestone office building starts search for tenants

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of CBRE

The marketing campaign for leasing in the Whitestone Expressway’s new office building is about to kick off, and real estate firm CBRE was named the quarterback to market the property.

The glassy, newly constructed 16-16 Whitestone Expwy. building boasts about 60,000 square feet for office space, half of which will be occupied by the owner, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 Pension Trust Fund. It is expected to be completed by summer and the asking price is $50 per square foot.

CBRE will be looking to fill the other 30,000 square feet of space in the six-story building.

The new structure features on-site parking, various utilities and is LEED Gold certified, which is the second highest level of green-friendly rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building offers numerous green measures, including solar power. Future tenants can expect about 40 percent energy savings, according to CBRE.

“This state-of-the-art, energy-efficient office property stands alone in the market and serves as a model for new building development in the area,” CBRE’s Roy Chipkin said. “In addition to being the only new construction ‘green’ building in Queens, this exceptional, highly visible property offers convenient access to a number of major roadways.”

CBRE was also the firm that handled marketing for the sale of the property in 2011, which was sold by Skanska USA Civil Northeast for about $12.5 million. Skanska’s old building was partially demolished after the sale.

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

16-16 Whitestone Expwy. when Skanska owned it. (Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark)



Pressure builds to expand school program in northern Queens and Whitestone

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A push to expand programs for gifted and talented students into middle schools in a northern Queens district has the support of local elected officials and at least 500 parents who have signed petitions backing the effort.

“We’re tired of getting the run around from [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] and the city,” said Lisa Fusco, a parent from Whitestone who is leading the charge in an appeal that will now go to Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The program’s fate is decided by each school district’s superintendent. The parents who are signing the petition have children in School District 25, where the program is limited to seven elementary schools. Fusco and the other parents decided to write the letter after meetings with School District 25 Superintendent Di Mango and education officials didn’t produce any results. They expect to send the letter by the end of the week.

District 25 is bordered by Flushing Meadows Park to the west and Bayside to the east, and it encompasses Pomonok to the south up to Whitestone and College Point.

Using the force of 500 signatures, the contingent of parents will be sending a letter to Farina requesting that she support their efforts to expand the gifted and talented program into the district’s middle schools.

Elected officials representing the area have also sent letters to Farina in support of Fusco’s efforts. The list of lawmakers backing the effort includes Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and Assemblyman Ron Kim.

The Department of Education didn’t return  requests for comment.

“Providing students with a challenging curriculum to compete in today’s globalized world is extremely important,” Meng wrote in a letter to Farina advocating for the program to be expanded into School District 25. “We must work together to grant all qualified students equal access to G&T programs.”

Meng pointed out that the program is in the middle schools of neighboring school districts 24 and 26. She also advocated for school district 28 to get the expansion.

The gifted and talented program is currently in district 25’s elementary schools but once students get to sixth grade, the program ends. The program is meant to provide extra services for students with a high aptitude who get bored easily in regular classes, according to the Department of Education.

“They’re dropping the ball,” Fusco said. “And I don’t know why, but hopefully our letter to the chancellor will help create Gifted and Talented in District 25.”


Fire guts Whitestone home, kills family’s beloved dogs

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ray Colalillo

Flames gutted a Whitestone house on Wednesday afternoon, leaving the three-story home a smoldering shell and taking the lives of the owners’ two pet dogs.

“My two dogs were killed and they were the most valuable things I had,” said James King, who with his wife owned the house at 149-61 Powells Cove Blvd.

King and his wife were out of the house when the Fire Department called him about the fire.

But the couple’s shih tzu dogs, Benjamin and Chip, were inside the home, where they died in the blaze.

According to neighbor Ray Colalillo, the fire started in the rear of the home, which faces the East River, at 1:30 p.m. and quickly moved through the front of the building as strong winds stoked the flames. The Fire Department characterized the fire as a “two-alarm” blaze, and it took an hour for firefighters to extinguish the fire. When the firefighters arrived, they swiftly broke through the front windows and jumped into the blazing home, according to Colalillo.

Photo courtesy of Whitestone Civic Association

Photo courtesy of Whitestone Civic Association

“At first I saw smoke from my window,” Colalillo said. “And then pretty soon flames were bursting out of the windows and skylights. By then I called the cops. Within five minutes firefighters were here and they moved quick.”

The Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire. King’s son and daughter, who are now adults and no longer live at the house, looked on as firefighters picked through the wreckage of the home they grew up in.


Whitestone and northern Queens residents push for expansion of school program

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Parents in Whitestone and Flushing are trying to give the city a new lesson plan.

Lisa Fusco, from Whitestone, and 150 parents in northern Queens signed a petition to the city Department of Eudcation demanding the creation of gifted and talented programs for the middle schools in their  district. Several of the parents are also meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz and Department of Education officials on Dec. 10 to discuss the issue.

District 25 is bordered by Flushing Meadows Park to the west and Bayside to the east, and it encompasses Pomonok to the south up to Whitestone and College Point.

The large area has six middle schools, but none of them have gifted and talented programs. For Fusco and others, that’s a problem.

“Our children are in the gifted and talented program in the elementary schools and we would like them to continue this wonderful program into middle school,” said Fusco, whose fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the program in P.S. 79. “It would be such a shame if they had to stop this program.”

The gifted and talented programs are meant to provide extra services for students with a high aptitude who get bored easily in regular classes, according to the Department of Education. Parents must sign up their children for tests to get into the program by November, and children are tested in January and February.

While the program is usually meant for elementary schools, the group’s request isn’t unprecedented. School District 26, which runs along the border with Long Island, and District 30, Long Island City and Astoria, both have middle schools that offer the gifted and talented program.

“I don’t understand why the DOE lacks a citywide policy on [gifted and talented programs] and why it provides [gifted and talented] classes in one district and not another,” said Morris Altman, the president of the education council in District 25.

Justin Chang, from Whitestone, has two boys who are enrolled in the program at P.S. 79, and he worries about what his kids will do if there is no equivalent teaching method being used in the local middle schools.

“They are different and they need help in a different way,” Chang said. “I would just hope they consider opening the program for our district.”


Elmhurst man stabs wife with kitchen knife, fakes her suicide note: DA

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


The estranged husband of an Elmhurst woman was charged Thursday night with stabbing his wife to death with a kitchen knife and trying to make the murder look like a suicide, authorities said.

Luis Paguay, 43, was arrested after police found his wife, 39-year-old Maria Paguay, unconscious and unresponsive with stab wounds on her body inside her 50th Avenue basement apartment at about 6 p.m., cops said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Paguay allegedly stabbed his wife multiple times in the neck and chest with a large kitchen knife sometime between Wednesday night and before 6 p.m. Thursday, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The victim’s 19-year-old son found her as he returned home from school.

After stabbing his wife, Paguay allegedly wrote a suicide note in his wife’s name and then left for his job as a dishwasher at Ducale Restaurant in Whitestone, Brown said. When he arrived at the restaurant he allegedly saw he had blood on his shoes and according to surveillance footage, he attempted to wash his shoes in a sink.

According to the New York Daily News, the couple had recently separated and the victim’s husband had gotten angry that she was in a new relationship.

Paguay, who is awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court, was charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence and criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.


Whitestone family brings the Christmas lights back after winning reality show

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Eric Jankiewicz

The Lynch family keeps on shining.

After winning a reality competition series on spectacular Christmas lights last year, the Lynch family has put up their sparkling holiday decorations once again with a bunch of improvements and a whole new fan base. ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” brought the family a winning prize of $50,000 and a level of fame that stretches past the borders of their Whitestone neighborhood.

“Just the other day I had a tour bus out front that came all the way from New Jersey,” Kevin Lynch said. “And before that we had some people from Norway here asking me for advice about how to do this stuff.”

Along with Lynch’s new fame, he has also upgraded his decorations.

“I did something different this year. I put LED lights in them and it made my display even brighter,” said Lynch, a retired firefighter. “You can see this house from pretty far away now. My goal is to see it from space. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. I’m waiting for that Christmas card from the man on the moon and when we do [get it], I know I’ve reached my goal.”

The house is ready for Christmas, with about half a million lights, according to Lynch, who puts up all the decorations up with the help of his wife, Tina. Thousands of plastic statues are carefully placed on the lawn, roof, balcony, windows and anywhere else he can fit them.

For 18 years, Lynch and his family have been decorating their house for Halloween and Christmas, with work starting in September. Halloween is a much smaller display that goes up even as he’s working on his Christmas lights.

But rather than completely disassembling the Halloween display, Lynch is able to adapt some of the ornaments so that they can be used for Christmas. In one case, a Halloween figure with a severed head is converted into a snowman. After Halloween, he brings down the ghouls and continues the frenzied race to assemble his legions of angels and nutcrackers.

The work is done now. And so Lynch prepared for the other part of the winter spectacle — the arrival of thousands of kids and their families who travel to Whitestone to gaze at his handiwork.

“There’s over half a million lights in the house. We like it big and bright. All the cords are buried in the ground so you can come up to the lawn and porch and take pictures,” Kevin said. “Get as close as you want and make sure to bring a letter for Santa.”

The display at Lynch’s home, 166-04, 23rd Ave., Whitestone, will stay up through Jan. 7, when he begins the laborious process of taking down all the decorations and putting them in storage for next year.


Thanksgiving food drive benefits veterans in Queens

| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Eric Ulrich's office

Elected officials and veteran organizations are giving thanks this Thanksgiving by serving those who have served the country.

In Queens, Councilman Eric Ulrich, chair of the veterans committee, opened his doors to collect goods for a food drive for veterans that has been taking place citywide since Nov. 10.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #32, located in Whitestone, joined the councilman in helping those less fortunate who’ve served the country. They have donated hundreds of dollars’ worth of food to the drive and have done their own collection for veteran food pantries and kitchens.

“If you served our country in any shape or form and need help we want to do so,” said Paul Narson, president of the chapter.

All of the food that has been collected by the chapter will be given to Ulrich to then distribute as part of the food drive. Most of the food collected by the organization has been donated from its 252 members in Queens, said Narson.

Moreover, the chapter has also donated 16 turkeys to food pantries around Middle Village and Glendale.

It’s the least they can do for those brave men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect America’s freedom, noted Narson, who has been a member of the chapter for 25 years.

“We try to do all sorts of things for veterans,” he said. “We help out whenever we can.”

Close to 30 percent of New York City’s veterans and their families rely on emergency food to get by, according to the New York City Food Bank.


Queens family to hold fundraiser in Whitestone to fund open heart surgery for infant

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Graham family

A family from Queens is raising money to help fund their infant’s third open heart surgery.

Kyle Graham was diagnosed with a particularly deadly form of a congenital heart defect when he was still in his mother’s womb. Doctors at Westchester Medical Center told Danielle Pechette-Graham and Joe Graham that Kyle had a 30 percent chance of surviving after birth, because half of his heart wouldn’t work at all. If he did survive after birth, doctors said, there would be a 50 percent chance of seeing Kyle graduate from high school, because operations to fix this problem can often lead to death. The doctors suggested abortion since Danielle was still 17 weeks pregnant. Danielle and Joe left and never returned. They chose to go to Columbia University Medical Center.

The couple has been in and out of hospitals since Kyle was born in January. The left side of 11-month-old Kyle’s heart – the side that pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body – doesn’t work at all, leading doctors to turn the right side of his heart into a dual-chambered muscle that can take on the role of the left side. So far, doctors have performed two open heart surgeries on Kyle to reconfigure the heart to this new task. Danielle said that doctors will have to perform a third open heart surgery when Kyle is around two to complete the conversion of the right side of the heart.

“The hardest part of this all was handing my child over to the surgeons,” Danielle said. “And knowing that his life was in their hands and knowing that your child’s chest is about to get cracked open.”

To compensate for Danielle leaving her job to care for Kyle and all the medical bills from two surgeries, the family will be holding a fundraiser at Patsy’s Pizzeria, 21-64 Utopia Pkwy., Whitestone, on Nov. 25. A portion of all sales at the pizzeria will go to Kyle’s family. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

“This is not an easy journey,” Danielle said. “It’s scary. But I have hope and I cling to it at every turn.”



New Bayside Colombian restaurant is instant hit

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Chicken lovers flocked to Mr. Pollo #1 on Friday to try the new Colombian restaurant on Bayside‘s Bell Boulevard.

The eatery was even busier on Thursday, opening day, according to workers.

“They say it usually takes two years before a business becomes profitable, but I don’t think we’ll need to wait that long here,” the manager said as he rushed to answer ringing phones.

The pork loin lunch special

The restaurant’s opening is the latest in a South American food invasion on Bell Boulevard, with a new Peruvian restaurant, Piura, set to open and the Mexican restaurant Cinco de Mayo reopening further down the commercial strip.

The store was packed for the second day in a row. A steady stream of people ordered take-out on Friday afternoon, while others chose to eat inside the eatery. Two delivery boys tried to stay ahead of the lunch rush, while workers ran around like hens without their heads.


The new business on Bell Boulevard claims to be the first Colombian restaurant in Bayside.

There is also a Mr. Pollo #2, owned by the same people, in Whitestone, according to the menu.


Near $4 million Douglaston mansion most expensive listing in Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


A nine-bedroom mansion on 234th Street was the priciest Queens home put on the market last month, The Real Deal reported.

The home, at 39-05 234th St., was listed just shy of $4 million by Laffey, according to data crunched by the real estate website.

Over in Whitestone, a home on Powells Cove Boulevard was listed by TMT Realty Group for under $3 million.




Police push for residents in Whitestone and other areas to lock up their cars

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the 109th Precinct

A group of people walked through Whitestone at midnight, checking for unlocked car doors as they went through the area. They found 62 open vehicles. In them were electronic devices, designer glasses and $3,000 in cash. But the group wasn’t there to steal anything. They were cops urging people to lock their cars.

“We did what the bad guys are doing,” Detective Kevin O’Donnell said.

The 109th Precinct is undertaking a midnight prowl to check for unlocked cars to raise community awareness about leaving their cars unlocked and leaving valuables inside. And they began with Whitestone on Oct. 24. The initiative started after police received calls from victims who had their belongings stolen from unlocked cars, according to O’Donnell. Police plan on doing the same thing in other neighborhoods in the precinct.

“There are people coming to neighborhoods like Whitestone just to check for unlocked cars and steal whatever they can,” O’Donnell said recently during a Queensborough Hill Civic Association meeting. He urged residents to lock their doors even if their neighborhood – like Whitestone – is generally safe.

Cops say they are careful not to touch anything inside the cars. If a car is unlocked, the police will lock it up and then put a piece of paper that looks like a ticket under a windshield wiper. The leaflet instructs people to make sure their doors are locked.

“There have been many arrests all over the [109th Precinct] for this stuff,” O’Donnell said, noting that police have arrested two suspects so far. “Hopefully we prevented people getting their stuff stolen.”


Whitestone community to honor late resident with street renaming

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Lohnes family; THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A street in Whitestone will soon bear the name Robert C. Lohnes in honor of the late resident who dedicated himself to serving his neighborhood.

Community Board 7 unanimously voted to make 145th Street between 15th and 17th avenues Robert C. Lohnes Way. Family members and Boy Scout troop 235 attended the meeting Monday night to talk about Lohnes, who served as the troop’s scout master for over three decades.

“He served because he was needed by his community,” Lohnes’ wife Maggaly said.

She said that her husband helped the community in any way he could, and others who came to speak about Lohnes echoed that sentiment. He worked for the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service and was also involved in the Girl Scouts.

A representative from Assemblyman Edward Braunstein’s office said, “He was an individual who fully dedicated himself to his country and community.”

Lohnes’ son, whose name is also Robert, traced his father’s desire to help people all the way back to the beginning of his career when he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. Lohnes held a master’s degree in criminal justice and social relations from John Jay. He went on to join the NYPD, where he worked from 1962 to 1996.

The street renaming, Lohnes’ wife said, is appropriate for someone who dedicated so much time to the Whitestone community.

“He was loved by everybody,” she said. “He deserves that and more.”


Whitestone church turns to ‘Nosferatu’ for the sake of organ pipes

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Churches and vampires seldom work together. But a Whitestone church will be taking a page out of The Book of Vampires to resurrect a century-old presence.

The Rev. Brian Blayer and music director Nick Myers want to raise money to fix the Grace Episcopal Church’s organ with a showing of the 1922 silent movie “Nosferatu” on Halloween night.

“I really like the film,” said Myers, who made the selection.  He explained that it worked well for October and it was “very Halloweeny.”

The organ itself is older than the movie and the pipe system dates back to 1903. The 1,000 organ pipes are both a blessing and a curse, according to Blayer, and many of the pipes are showing their age.

“We’re getting it to play as best we can but a lot of the pipes are bent,” he said. “Everything we’ve done has been like putting bubble gum and tape on it but now we need a major overhaul.”

Myers, who has been with the church for three years and will be playing a live soundtrack to the movie with the organ, said he’s tried to make as many repairs himself but the major problems require a professional job.

"Nosferatu" screen capture via Wikimedia Commons

“Nosferatu” screen capture via Wikimedia Commons

The estimate to fix everything comes out to $150,000 but Myers isn’t looking to raise that much money just yet. His immediate goal is to raise $30,000 for the more important repairs. After that, they plan on raising the money incrementally.

“There’s been no love to this organ for 60 years and so it’s going to take a while to get everything fixed but it will happen over time,” he said. “ We want to preserve the history of Grace and do it right so that it lasts another 100 years.

Myers wants to hold viewings of old movies regularly and begin to develop the organ’s capability, so it can be part of music festivals that the church holds.

“We want to build up the arts in Whitestone,” Myers said, “and it starts with this organ.”