Oct. 30, By Christian Murray
The revelation last week that Amtrak is considering developing the Sunnyside Yards caught most people by surprise—including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Last Thursday, Amtrak’s Chairman Anthony Coscia spoke at a real estate conference and then told reporters that he had been in talks with the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations about developing the Sunnyside Yards, Capital New York reported.
“I think we are all concerned [about these statements],” Van Bramer said over the weekend. “I am also very concerned that any conversation would have taken place without the involvement of me or the community.”
However, he said, no one knows exactly what has been discussed at this time. “I have requested a meeting with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen [who was involved in the Amtrak discussions] and others in senior positions in the administration.”
A spokesman for the mayor told Capital New York that building on the yards could fit in to the city’s ambitious affordable housing plan—which calls for construction of 80,000 affordable units over the next decade—but cautioned nothing is imminent.
Furthermore, Amtrak is reportedly looking to sell off some of its real estate holdings and views the yards as a big moneymaker.
“Right now I take the de Blasio administration at its word that nothing is imminent,” Van Bramer said. Furthermore, “I think decking over the yards here or anywhere in the vicinity of Sunnyside or Woodside is not in the best interest of these communities.”
He said the decision as to what happens to Sunnyside Yards is ultimately determined by the city. As the councilman of the district where the Sunnyside Yards are located, he said he has significant influence.
“There has been a lot of thinking about the future of the yards for decades,” he said. “People have always been fantasizing over the yards. Ideas have been floated from conventions centers, to stadiums to housing.”
Oct. 29, By Christian Murray
Following a recent spike in burglaries and the assault of an 81-year old, several Sunnyside residents turned out at the 108 Police Precinct meeting Tuesday to ask plenty of questions.
Many residents asked for more cops in Sunnyside, claiming the neighborhood is no longer as safe. Others wanted to know whether more officers could be assigned to the area and whether it made sense to form a neighborhood watch group.
However, Captain Brian Hennessy, commanding officer of the 108 Precinct, started the meeting by providing a rundown of the latest crime figures.
He told the attendees that there had been 9 burglaries in Sunnyside in the past 28 day period—with five occurring on 40th Street (three via fire escapes and two through the front door) and another on 41st Street—between 43rd Avenue and Queens Blvd—via a window.
He said when the police stepped up its presence in the low 40s the burglaries moved farther east, with incidents taking place on 47th Street (btwn 39th and Skillman Avenue); 48th Street (btwn 43rd and Queens Blvd; and 51st Street (btwn 39th and Skillman Ave.). In these cases, the perpetrator(s) broke in through a front window, which included pushing in air conditioning units.
Despite the uptick, Hennessy stressed that “We are a very safe precinct. Bad things happen but they happen less frequently here than in other precincts.”
He said the incident involving the 81-year-old man “was a disgrace and a cowardly crime.” However, although crime statics are flat for the year, he said: “One crime is too many especially if it happens to you or someone you know.”
Hennessy said that there have been two murders so far this year, compared to four for the same period a year ago—and the number of rapes is flat year-over-year. He said that there have been 130 robberies so far this year (about the same compared to the period a year ago) of which there have been 73 arrests, with the precinct close to making another 52 more.
Residents, however, wanted to know why there aren’t more police in Sunnyside on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, some wanted the crime statistic for Sunnyside as opposed to the precinct as a whole. Those numbers were not readily available on the night.
“You need to beef up patrols,” said William McCarthy, a Sunnyside resident. “We want to see more police on the streets especially on Queens Blvd,” he said. “While the neighborhood might be gentrifying, there seems to be more crime.”
Hennessy said the precinct is working with the resources it has. “Sure, we would like to have a cop on every corner.”
However, the precinct—which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Maspeth—is stretched with four or five patrol cars to answer 911 calls at its disposal.
It also has what’s known as an “anti-crime unit” that focuses on burglaries and violent crimes. Then there are units that handle schools and resources needed for traffic accidents.
Residents asked Hennessy how the precinct could get more officers. Hennessy said it is a decision made downtown that is dependent on demographics, crime figures and the number of 911 calls.
Some of the veteran attendees urged the first-time meeting goers to make sure they call in every crime.
“If you call it is recorded and the powers that be know and that is how you get more cops in the precinct,” said Carol Terrano, a Maspeth civic leader who is also an active member of Community Board 2. “Getting annoyed does not help, you have to use the system.”
Meanwhile, a group of women, representing Sunnymoms, a Yahoo group with about 1,000 members, came to the meeting and also sought more officers.
The group had compiled a list among their vast membership of the crimes they were aware of based on news reports and incidents that they had collectively gathered. They talked about robberies, burglaries and stolen bicycles–to intoxicated men with shopping carts in Lou Lodati and Corp. Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan parks.
The women said after the meeting that they will report back to the group to discuss whether to form a Sunnyside Civic Association or a neighborhood watch program. Other ideas, they said, included a letter writing campaign to the Police Commissioner—backed with data—calling for more officers.
Oct. 28, By Christian Murray
The police have release photos of two men suspected of beating and robbing an 81-year-old Sunnysider at the Chase Bank branch at 46-10 Queens Blvd on Sunday.
The two men allegedly approached the man inside the Chase bank ATM area at around 9:23 am, punched him in the face and removed $100 and debit card from his pocket.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477)
Oct. 27, By Christian Murray
An 81-year-old Sunnyside resident was punched in the face and then robbed at the Chase bank branch at 46-10 Queen Blvd Sunday morning.
William Eichhorn, who has lived in the Phipps Houses for the past 50 years, had just finished mass at St. Sebastian’s church and walked up to the Queens Blvd branch to get cash for a newspaper and bagel and get pocket money for the week.
While taking out $100 at about 9:30 am, two men allegedly approached him from behind by the ATM machine and demanded money, the police said. He refused and was punched in the face and thrown to the ground. While on the ground, the men took his cash and riffled through his pockets. They fled with his debit card, the police said.
Eichhorn’s granddaughter Katie Flanagan said that a Good Samaritan came to her grandfather’s aid. She said he picked him up off the ground, called the police and escorted him to the 108 Police Precinct in Long Island City. “We don’t know who the Good Samaritan was but we would like to know and to thank him,” she said.
She also said that the 108 treated her grandfather well by taking him to the station, helping him with his cut check—pierced by knuckles—and by dropping him off at his apartment door.
Nevertheless, Flanagan said that her grandfather is now nervous about going out of the house. She is worried that her grandfather is so shaken that it will stunt his independence.
She said she hopes the police and residents will help her nab the perpetrators.
“I am hoping with enough attention we can find the cowards who beat up and robbed my elderly and nearly blind grandfather,” Flanagan said. “He’s 81 and 130 pounds–who could do such a thing such and elderly tiny man?”
Oct. 26, By Christian Murray
In October 1924, the City Housing Corp unveiled the first section of the Sunnyside Gardens that consisted of houses and coops built on 47th Street between 43rd and Skillman Avenues.
Ninety years later, Herbert Reynolds, president of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, held an event to mark the occasion by placing three signs throughout the district that provides a brief history of the area and a map.
Reynolds led a tour around Sunnyside Gardens and stopped off at various locations to unveil the signs. The signs were placed near the corner of 46th Street and Skillman Avenue; on 47th Street (between Queens Blvd and 43rd Avenue); and near Sunnyside [Gardens] Park.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who lives in the historic district, thanked those who helped make sure Sunnyside Gardens was a landmarked district. “We have the history, the architecture and the urban planning here,” he said.
The three signs (see below) noted that the district was built between 1924 and 1928, and was inspired by the English “garden city’ ideal of the late 19th century. Furthermore, it stated that the Phipps Gardens Apartments, which are part of the district, were build between 1931 and 35.
Sunnyside Gardens became a landmarked district in 2007 after a hotly contested debate. In 2011, brown street signs denoting the historic district went up throughout the gardens.
Oct. 26, By Christian Murray
The gritty entrance to the 40th Street subway station has been transformed into a tidy plaza complete with tables, chairs and planters.
Sunnyside Shines cut the ribbon Friday to what’s now called “Lowery Plaza,” which features planters, tables and chairs. The opening comes just three months after the successful launch of the “Bliss Plaza” at 46th Street that has been well received since it opened.
“This space has been transformed from an underpass to a beautiful pedestrian oasis,” said Rachel Thieme, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines, which is commonly referred to as the BID. “It has seating, tables and colorful planters—a great place to eat lunch.”
The Lowery Plaza was put together quickly once the artwork that had occupied the space was removed Wednesday. The concrete surface was power washed and the planters, tables and chairs were added.
The planters have been systematically placed alongside Queens Boulevard, as a means to create a green buffer and soften the noise from traffic. While most of the planters were in place Friday, more will be arriving.
“We have received such positive feedback from community members and business owners about the success of the Bliss Plaza,” Thieme said, adding that “I’m delighted to replicate this success at Lowery Plaza.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that when people “hop off the 7 train at the 40th and 46th Street stations they will be welcomed by two new beautiful public plazas that have completely transformed the neighborhood’s most underutilized spaces.”
The two plazas stem from an application the BID filed with the DOT last summer for the two sites to be included as part of the NYC Plaza Program. The DOT approved the BID’s proposal and agreed to help design the plazas and provide the funding.
Both plazas will be open from 9 am until dusk. The Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, a non-profit group that is dedicated to maintaining public plazas, is in charge of putting away the tables and chairs each night as well as looking after the planters at both locations.
During the ribbon cutting a fruit vendor was operating on the periphery of the 40th Street/Lowery Plaza area.
Sources say that the vendors will be left alone as long as they abide by city law.
Oct. 24, By Michael Florio
More than 100 dogs—accompanied by their owners– are expected to participate in the third annual “Woofside” Halloween Pet Parade this Saturday.
The event, organized by Woodside on the Move, is likely to attract pooches dressed as cowboys, pirates, ballerinas, ball-room dancers, hot dogs, bumble bees, commandos and even knights.
The event will kick off at Skillman Pets (49th and Skillman Ave.) at 11 am and parade goers will march from there to Windmuller Park.
Last year, 85 pets, mostly dogs, participated in the event.
“We are expecting more pets this year,” said Adriana Beltran, with Woodside on the Move. “Most likely we will break 100,” based on the phone calls we have received.
There will be several contests for the dogs. Prizes will be awarded for the most originally dressed dog—as well as for the funniest and scariest costumes. An award will be given for the best matching owner and dog costume.
Last year’s winner of the most original costume was a dog dressed as the No. 7 train.
“It’s a lot of fun and a good laugh,” said Adrian Bordoni, Executive Director of Woodside on the Move. “And of course all the pets look adorable.”
The ASPCA, Skillman Pets, Traveling Pet Services and the Queens Animal Hospital are among the sponsors.
The sponsors will be providing goody bags for the dogs, training workshops and grooming demonstrations.
Time: 11 am – 2pm
Date: Oct. 25
Starts: Skillman Pets (49th and Skillman Ave.)
Oct. 23, Capital New York
Amtrak is considering developing Sunnyside Yards in Queens as part of a nationwide evaluation of its real estate portfolio and could turn to investors as early as next spring to find partners willing to explore potential uses for those properties, the company’s chairman, Anthony Coscia, said Thursday.
Executives have been in talks with the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations about the site, Coscia told reporters at a global real estate conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Coscia mentioned the plans during a panel discussion moderated by former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff.
The Sunnyside Yards is one the largest undeveloped parcels in New York City and holds virtually limitless potential to developers willing to build a platform above the tracks. Planners have long dreamed about what could be built on the property, which remains an active rail yard used by several train companies.
Oct. 23, By Christian Murray
An Italian restaurant will be opening in Sunnyside—at the very location where the New Post Coffee Shop was located for 50 years.
One of the two new owners is a Sunnyside resident who lives on the same block as the 40th Street/Queens Blvd restaurant. He is from Milan and has recently sold an Italian restaurant that he owned in Spain in order to focus on this restaurant. His business partner is from Puglia who manages an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
The owners signed the lease Tuesday and plan to spend in excess of $200,000 on gutting the premises—from floor to ceiling—and rebuilding it. The establishment will have a new kitchen, floors, walls and bathroom. It will also come with a coffee station, pastry counter as well as a bar.
Construction is expected to take 3 months. The owners, who have yet to come up with a name for the establishment, are hoping to open the restaurant by February.
The owners also plan to provide outdoor seating on the 40th Street side of the property. The goal is to have it ready by summer 2015.
The Sunnyside owner, Valerio, who elected not to provide his last name since he is working at an Italian restaurant at present, said he wants to change people’s mentality of the location.”People know this place as dirty and I want to change that,” he said.
New Post had been closed by the Health Department several times in recent years.
The Italian restaurant will primarily be a café in the morning, offering coffee and pastries. It will sell items such as paninis, pastas and salads for lunch.
The dinner menu will be comprised of traditional meat, fish and pasta dishes, Valerio said. However, he said he is working on the finer details.
Valerio has lived in Sunnyside with his wife for the past 10 years—although he has spent most of his summers at his former restaurant in Spain. The 34-year-old has been in the US for 12 years.
Valerio said he wants to focus on Sunnyside. He has a 7-year-daughter who attends PS 150 and a 3-year-old daughter who will be going there soon.
“I love Sunnyside, the people make this such a great neighborhood,” he said.
He said the restaurant will be good for neighborhood. “It will improve how the corner looks and will offer great food.”