Dec. 17, By Christian Murray
Get ready for the latest round of No. 7 train weekend service cuts.
The MTA released its schedule for the first five months of 2015 and the No. 7 train will be out of service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for nine weekends. Five of those weekend will see cuts between Queensboro Plaza and 74th Street.
In addition, there will be weekend service cuts between Willets Point and Flushing-Main Street on three other weekends.
The first weekend of the Times Square/Queensboro Plaza cuts is scheduled to take place January 17-19, which will be the first of four weekends in a row that it will be down.
The MTA says that the cuts are in order for it to install a new Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signal system; replace elevated tracks; and for the reconstruction and fortification of the Steinway Tubes (which connects Queens to Manhattan).
The MTA, which is a state-run agency, claims that majority of this work has been scheduled over weekends when ridership is lower than normal.
Van Bramer said that it was unacceptable that the MTA would close service for several weekends in a row in January and February—during the coldest month of the year.
He said that residents might be a little more forgiving about the closures if they had seen improved service as promised. However, “the truth is that over the past few months No. 7 train regular service has been poor and there have been lots of delays.”
He said that on December 11 the delays were so bad that the overcrowded subway platforms put commuters at risk.
Dec. 16, By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside Greenmarket, which had been operating from May through December, has been approved to open all year round.
The coordinator of the program received word about 10 days ago–after putting in a request earlier this year to open every Saturday for the entire year.
Greenmarket representatives started a petition drive in August calling for a year-round market. More than 1,000 residents signed it. The community board then sent a letter of support.
The market operates every Saturday from 8 am through 3pm and is located on Skillman Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets.
“I think the neighborhood is ready for it,” said Jessenia Cagle, the coordinator of the market, in September. “There are a lot of people in the area who like fresh, local food—and they don’t want to have to go too far to get it especially in winter.”
The market, which opened in June 2007, has proved to be a success. Presently there are 16 farmers/vendors out each weekend selling vegetables, meat, fish and bread.
Most of the vendors will continue to operate during the ice-cold winter months—with only the wine and fish vendors unlikely to participate.
The move to open a year-round is not unprecedented in Queens. Cagle said the market in Jackson Heights, which was once seasonal, now operates all year round.
Dec. 15, By Christian Murray
The owner of Sunnyside Center Cinemas has rejected the six-month lease extension that he was offered by the building owner last week —saying the extension is just too short.
Rudy Prashad, the owner of the Center Cinemas, said it was not worth hiring new staff or unpacking his equipment for six extra months. His last day remains January 4.
“My bags are packed and are pretty much sitting at the front door,” he said.
Prashad said that he mulled over the offer over the weekend but decided it didn’t make sense. “I’ve been making preparations, dealing with staff and it just doesn’t work for me to go back for that short of time.”
Prashad said that he had been trying to reach the owner for the past year to work out where he stood with his lease. He said that if he had been offered the extension three months ago then it would have worked out.
However, at this point, he would be only be willing to stay if he was offered at least 12 months.
Prashad said that movie theaters like his tend to make their money in summer and scrape by in winter. A six month lease would end just before the summer peak seasib kicks in.
Several residents are hoping that the property owner John Ciafone will offer Prashad a longer lease.
Many want to know if Ciafone is able to build the apartments above the theater without completely demolishing it.
A rally is scheduled to take place between 12:30 and 1:30 pm in front of the theater this Sunday and is being organized by local residents Ty Sullivan and Jon Storck.
“We hope it might help open up a discussion between the landlord and the theater owner,” Sullivan said, who believes the rally will be worthwhile.
Sullivan said the loss of the theater would hurt low-income families the most– since many would be unable to afford going to the big multiplex cinemas in Astoria or elsewhere.
The rally, Sullivan said, also aims to show that Sunnyside is a community and that people care.
“This is a neighborhood that is made up of independently-owned and family-owned businesses,” he said. “It’s family-friendly and affordable and we don’t want to lose that. We want to tell buildings owners that is who we are and that’s how we would like to remain.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he supports those involved in the rally—such as Sullivan and Storck.
“I want them to know I am behind them and I will be amplifying their voices as their council member,” he said
Van Bramer encourages John Ciafone to come back to the negotiating table to see what can be done.
“I will be reaching out to John Ciafone and his family again,” he said.
Dec. 14, By Michael Florio
Two Sunnyside comedians are turning the neighborhood into a go-to place for comedy.
Comedians Lindsay Goldwert and Colin Samuel, who have formed Sunnyside Comedy, have already produced two local shows and are about to put on their biggest event yet.
The two will be hosting “The X-mas Comedy Show” at Murphy’s, located at 48-20 Skillman Avenue, this Tuesday (Dec. 16) and are bringing nine comedians to the venue. Tickets will be $10 and will be sold at the door. The show starts at 8:30 pm.
“We have put a lot of work into the Christmas show and are excited about the comedians who we have performing,” Goldwert said. (see line up below)
The two teamed up and began hosting comedy shows together this fall, after meeting at an open mic night in Manhattan over the summer.
“We both live in Sunnyside and Colin told me he was trying to put together comedy shows in the neighborhood,” Goldwert said. “It is a lot of work for one person and when he asked me to join, I did.”
Samuel hosted one show over the summer prior to teaming up with Goldwert. However, their first show as a duo, took place in October at The Dog and Duck on Skillman Ave.
The two have hosted two shows since– another at The Dog and Duck and one at Marlene Tavern.
Goldwert said that each venue provides attendees with a different experience. The Dog and Duck is a more casual venue, where people can enjoy a drink and the show, while Marlene Tavern has the classic comedy club feel to it.
Goldwert has been doing standup for a year, while Samuel has been in the business for some time.
They decided to host shows in Sunnyside to help promote local businesses, while also fill a void in the community.
“We love living here and wanted to bring comedy to the community,” she said. “There is a growth of comedy in LIC and Astoria and we wanted to add to that by bringing comedy shows to Sunnyside.”
“We like the idea of bringing something new to the neighborhood,” she added.
The pair aims to promote local businesses by having them sponsor shows. Each show will feature giveaways, with prizes provided by local bars and businesses.
Goldwert said Sunnyside Comedy plans to host three shows a month, with each show being free unless otherwise noted. Two shows a month will be at The Dog and Duck with one at Marlene Tavern.
For more information on Sunnyside Comedy, go to Twitter at @ComedySunnyside or Facebook: https://facebook.com/puttinonthebliss
Photo source: ‘It’s in Queens’
The event was originally planned to take place at Marlene’s Tavern but has been changed to Murphy’s at 48-20 Skillman Avenue.
Dec. 11, By Christian Murray
A petition has formed and a rally is being planned as local residents try to save Sunnyside Center Cinemas from the wrecking ball.
An online petition started Wednesday that has already garnered more than 240 signatures. Meanwhile, Ty Sullivan and Jon Stork, two local activists, are already planning to hold a rally outside the theater that is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 21 (details to come).
The petition—called “Save the Sunnyside Theater”– is addressed to the property owner/developer John Ciafone. It reads, in part, “Save the movie theater from demolition and have a new lease extended.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan is reaching out to the media and various community groups as he plans the rally. He is designing posters, fliers and launching a social-media campaign to generate community interest.
This activism comes at a time when Ciafone has just offered the owner of the theater Rudy Prashad a six month extension to his lease. After the six months, he would operate on a month-to month basis.
Prashad, however, seeks a longer lease claiming that he has organized movers and contractors to remove all the seats from the theater as required. Furthermore he has already told his staff about the upcoming closure.
“I don’t want to be in the same position in six months time where I am now,” Prashad said. “Then I’m operating on a month-to-month basis when I can be kicked out any time.”
“I need a 5 year lease–although I would take something in between,” Prashad said. However, he has not dismissed Ciafone’s offer at this point.
Prashad said that he has been surprised by the community’s desire to keep the theater going. “It shows people have a passion for the community and that they are looking out for their children and their neighbor’s children.”
Ciafone said that he decided to offer Prashad an extension since he still has a lot of work to do before he can start construction. Asked if he could do better than offer Prashad a 6 month extension—he said “that’s the best I can do.”
Ciafone plans on building a 5-7 story building with about 60-70 apartments—with about 20 percent of those units being “affordable”. The building will also have ground floor retail and a community center on the second floor.
The building requires new foundations since it was not constructed with 5-7 stories in mind. Therefore, Ciafone said, the theater has to be demolished. Furthermore, there will be a need for underground parking.
“When I finished we could invite him [Prashad] back,” he said.
Ciafone was nonchalant about the “Save the theater” petition. “I could get a petition going with just as many signatures from people wanting affordable housing,” he said.
“The likely closure of the theater is a reflection of changing times,” said Community Board 2 Chair Pat O’Brien. “You want to see small businesses prevail and they are the backbone of the economy but if they don’t have lease then there is not much you can do.”
O’Brien said it is a shame what’s happening since the cinema is one of the last vestiges of old-fashion entertainment in the area. He said there used to be several theaters in the neighborhood at one time and also the Sunnyside Gardens Arena.
Dec. 11, By Michael Florio
A massive two-alarm fire erupted inside a Woodside store yesterday morning, requiring more than 100 firefighters to put out the flames, according to an FDNY spokeswoman.
The fire erupted at Don’s Professional Services, located at 38-05 69th Street, near Roosevelt Ave, just before 11 am on Wednesday morning. It then spread to three neighboring stores through a shared attic, according to the FDNY.
The fire was brought under control just before 11:45 am.
There were no reported injuries and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Dec. 10, Staff report
The borough of Queens was selected as the best tourism destination in the United States for 2015 by Lonely Planet, a leading news outlet that covers the travel industry.
Queens drew praise for its eating and drinking scene (including the four microbreweries that opened over the last 18 months), amazing diversity, high-quality hotels, exciting events, and unique, enchanting neighborhoods, such as art-filled Long Island City and surfboard-friendly Rockaway.
“Nowhere is the image of New York as the global melting pot truer than Queens. Browse New York’s biggest Chinatown in Flushing, shop for brilliantly colored saris in Jackson Heights, and inhale the heady aromas of coffee and hookahs in Astoria,” reads Lonely Planet’s editorial in its Best in the US list for 2015.
“The incomparable array of world cuisines makes Queens a destination for food lovers from all parts of New York City. For your art fix, ogle the new upgrades to the Queens Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, look for the new Emerging Artists Festival (conceptionevents.com) in Long Island City, and stroll Astoria’s new 24-block arts district (kaufmanartsdistrict.org). If you prefer sand and surf to paint and canvas, head to Rockaway.”
“Don’t miss the prime eating and drinking scene that has popped up around the boardwalk — this is no cruddy carnival food: think succulent fish tacos, wood-fired pizzas, and wine bars.”
Western South Dakota came in second on Lonely Planet’s list. The other members of the top 10 were, in order, New Orleans (LA), the Colorado River, North Conway (NH), Indianapolis (IN), Greenville (SC), Oakland (CA), Duluth (MN), and the Mount Shasta Region (CA).
“I have always argued that we have the best hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations, parks, sporting events, and residents in the world and that our prices are very competitive for tourists,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, after the announcement.
“It’s simply wonderful that Lonely Planet agrees, and our hospitality industry is waiting with open arms for all visitors. Come, you’ll like it.”
The annual top 10 destinations list is determined by Lonely Planet’s authors and editorial team to help travelers add to their wish lists for the coming year. Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has the biggest market share for guidebook sales in the world, having published more than 130 million guidebooks in its history. The media company also operates an award-winning website and a suite of mobile and digital travel products.
For the write up on Queens, please click here.
Dec. 9, By Christian Murray
Call it a preemptive strike.
A group of residents have put forward a petition voicing their opposition to the development of the Sunnyside Yards.
A 12-person committee—which includes the President of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce—started the petition last week.
The petition, which is both online and on paper, expresses their concern that plans are in motion to deck the yards. The petition, which is addressed to elected officials, has already generated about 100 signatures.
Their petition comes in the wake of former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff’s New York Times op-ed calling for the construction of a 3.1 million square foot convention city to be built over the yards, accompanied by nearly 14,000 resident units—of which 7,000 of them would be ‘affordable.”
Furthermore, in October, the chairman of Amtrak, Anthony Coscia, said that the company was considering developing sections of the Yards. The company said that it might turn to investors as early as spring and that it had been in talks with the mayor’s office over its use.
But the petitioners say not so fast.
“Sunnyside and Long Island City’s infrastructure cannot stand what we have now,” the petition reads.
“The subways are overcrowded and our school district is one of the most overcrowded in New York City. There are already 5,000-10,000 units coming to LIC/Sunnyside as it is – and residents don ‘t know how the area will be able to absorb these incoming residents. Therefore, the idea of building over the yards – bringing more residents and commercial tenants – will be an extreme burden on all of us.”
Furthermore, the petition reads: Our “biggest concern of all is that we residents seem be shut out of the process and an inner circle is making all these decisions.”
Patricia Dorfman, one of the committee members and the author of the petition, said: “We are residents and taxpayers. This radical change in land use where we live should not happen behind closed doors and affordable housing should not be used as a Trojan Horse.”
Dec. 7, By Christian Murray
Sunnyside Center Cinemas will be closing its doors on January 4 after screening movies in the neighborhood for decades, the theater’s owner said Sunday.
Theater owner, Rudy Prashad, said he was informed last week that John Ciafone, whose wife owns Broadway Stages, was not renewing his lease. His lease ends December 31 but he has been given to Jan. 10 to clear out of the building.
Prashad said that he had been going back and forth with the property manager for months as he wondered what was happening to his lease.
“They strung me along,” Prashad said, “But I guess it’s their building and they are free to do what they want.”
“It is a very sad day,” Prashad said. “I was hoping that the cinema would stay and one day be landmarked.”
Prashad said that he also felt sorry for some of the families in the neighborhood who will have to pay double to go to the movies elsewhere. “We haven’t changed our prices for years– $5.00 for children and seniors, while $7.50 for adults,” he said.
There is also the ‘kid combo,’ he said, which consists of a popcorn, soda, candy and a movie for $10. Before 5 pm each day, adults only pay $5.
Prashad said that he had no ill will toward Ciafone and Broadway Stages. “I was disappointed with Dime Bank [the previous owner],” he said. “I was negotiating a 20-year lease with them and then they suddenly sold it.”
Dime sold the property to Ciafone for $6.65 million in December 2012.
Prashad had owned the theater for nine years and believes there has been a theater at that location since the 1940s.
He said that he had been paying between $13,000 and $14,000 in rent per month and was always on time.
Prashad said the theater is one of the last independent theaters left in Queens.
There is an independent theater in Kew Gardens, which happens to be owned by Prashad. He thinks that theater might be the only independent theater left in Queens playing American movies. There are one or two others, he said, but they cater to ethnic groups.
Prashad said that he would like to thank the residents of Sunnyside for their patronage over the years and plans on showing a free movie before he leaves.
With Center Cinemas gone, Ciafone is now trying to lease the air rights to a developer to build residential apartments above the ground-floor retail space.
The owner plans to keep the retail space while leasing 52,000 square feet of air rights to a developer. The developer would have to pay a ground lease of $750,000 per year for those rights.
Ciafone plans to keep PJ Horgan’s as an on-going tenant, said Evan Daniel, a broker for Modern Spaces, which has the real estate listing. Daniel said that PJ Horgan’s is the only business with an existing lease and is well regarded by the community.
When Ciafone purchased the building, PJ Horgan’s, Dime Bank, dentist Dr. Arthur Kubikian, and Center Cinemas were all tenants.
PJ Horgan’s, which rents 1,300 square feet of space, has a lease through June 2018. “They are a good tenant that pay market rent,” Daniel said.
The ground-floor retail space is likely to be completely refurbished, Daniel said. However, nothing will change that will impact PJ Horgan’s business.
Correction: The property is owned by John Ciafone whose wife owns Broadway Stages– not Broadway Stages the entity.
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